Nataliya Savchenko is a foreign exchange student to a small town in the middle of nowhere South Dakota to a family of horse ranchers. Nataliya has never once been around a horse, and they scare her half to death, but what happens when she falls in love with the wild Bronte?


3. Catching Feelings

I sat down slowly on the couch, my lower back down to my feet hurting so incredibly bad. Letting out a hiss between my teeth, I opened my phone and went to WhatApp to see multiple texts from my mom and then many more from Derek, my boyfriend. I sighed and called my mom. 

"Nataliya, what's taken you so long to call me? I was worried sick!" she yelled at me in Russian. 

"Sorry Momma, we got home late, and then all of this morning we were out riding." I replied. 

"You do know that it is almost midnight here?" My mom questioned and I hummed in reply. 

"I'm sorry Momma, I can call back later if you want." I said and my mom let out a long sigh. 

"No, no, tell me about America," she said and it was my turn to let out a sigh. 

"It's amazing Momma, Shanna and Rusty are so nice, though they live in the middle of nowhere. I haven't been able to see much of a town or anything because of that fact, but I've met a lot of cool people. Shanna and Rusty also raise horses and I went on two different rides today, one on a horse named Orpheus and then the second on a horse named Zev. Zev is a jumping horse and runs super fast, I learned that the hard way-" 

"What do you mean you learned it the hard way?" my mom cut in sounding worried. 

"I fell off, but I'm fine, my friends made sure of that." I answered. 

"You sure, because I will force you to come back if you aren't honest with me girl." My mom threatened ad I sighed dramatically. 

"I'm fine." I repeated. "Oh, and then this horse, Bronte, oh my goodness Momma, he is the most beautiful horse I have ever seen." I told her and couldn't help but stand and look out the window at the stables. 

"You need to be safe, Nataliya, I wouldn't have sent you all across the world if I would have thought you were in danger-"

"I'm not in danger Momma, Shanna and Rusty are the safest people I know." I said, "Okay, I have to go, you should go to bed Momma, I love you." 

"I love you too, have a good rest of the day baby." she hung up and I sighed. I pressed my hand against the glass as I stared out at the stables. Max raced by on Duck followed by Henry on Lucas, Henry's dog barking and following behind. 

My phone started to ring, and I looked down to see Derek calling me. I smiled and sat back down, answering the phone. "Hi!" 

"Hey." He answered, sounding cold. 

"What's the matter? You okay?" 

"Yeah, yeah, just sick." he answered, "How are you? How's America? I miss you." he whispered the last part and I smiled. 

"I miss you too." I took a deep breath and started telling him about my day so far. "And I didn't tell my mom, but I want to ride Bronte." I said then covered my mouth as though the words were a death sentence. 

"Why would you want to ride a horse?" he asked, and I had forgotten about his viewpoint on animals. 

"Oh... um..." I said, trying to figure something out, but I couldn't. That horse was so beautiful. "I bet you are tired..." I said after a bit, "I should let you go to sleep." 

"Okay, well, I miss you, text me Nataliya when you can." he said before hanging up, not even giving me an opportunity to reply. I let out a sigh and set down my phone. I so wanted to go see Bronte, but was afraid that Shanna or one of the others would stop me. But I had to take that chance. 

I quickly pulled back on my boots and limped outside, every step was agony, but I needed to see Bronte, something about him drew me to him. I couldn't explain it. Entering the stables, I walked to the very end and looked through the opening to see Bronte in the corner, eating some oats. I clicked my tongue and he came to me right away, nudging me with his head. "You are such a gorgeous horse." I whispered petting him. Every word I spoke was in Russian, it seemed to calm him down, make him trust me more. I whispered sweet nothings to him while petting him. 

I didn't even notice Henry until he was right there next to me, "You are amazing," he said, making me jump. "Oh, sorry, didn't mean to startle you." 

"No its fine." I said, my speech coming out in a thicker accent sense I had been speaking Russian for a good hour, hour-and-a-half. "And what makes you say I am amazing?" 

"The way you have handled yourself today, from riding Orpheus, to getting thrown off Zev, to now this - talking to Bronte like he is the most tame horse in the world." Henry leaned against the wall and just looked at me. "Bronte is... how can I explain this to you, because you don't seem to realize how dangerous he is... he once kicked my father so hard his leg was broken and he couldn't work for close to a year." 

"Wow, when was that?" I asked looking over at him. 

"Last year, he just started working again, and wont go anywhere near this horse." I looked at Bronte at Henry's words and tried to imagine it. I could in a way, imagine any horse kicking someone, but Bronte did seem like the type of horse to do it and brake someones leg, and yet for some reason, I was falling in love with him. "I bet you will ride him in no time." 

"Are you joking?" I asked and he shook his head. 

"You are a natural, and Bronte seems to love you - which is amazing." Henry said and leaned down to pet his dog who I hadn't noticed was there. "Oh, this is Duke." he said following my gaze to his dog. I reached down and pet him when Bronte nudged me. 

"Are you jealous that I'm petting the dog? You better be good then, or I won't pet you anymore." I threatened the horse as though it understood. Bronte let out a snort and he kicked the door as if to say 'no fair!' I laughed but went back to petting him. I looked over at Henry, "How old are you?" I asked. 

"17, and you?" 

"16," I answered and looked back to Bronte, "How old is Christine and Max?" 

"Christine is 15, and Max is the oldest out of us bunch, he is 18," Henry answered. 

"So what grade are you in?" 

"Max and I will be seniors, and Chrissie is a Sophomore." I nodded, petting Bronte, so none of them were in my class. "Don't worry about being lonely, I have study halls most of the day so you might be in one with me, so does Max." 

"How do you two have so many study halls?" I asked kissing Bronte's nose, he snorted but didn't move away. 

"We take dual credit, which means I get a college credit and a high school credit by taking one class." He explained. I looked over and studied Henry, he had dark black curly hair and blueish grey eyes. He was slender, but I could tell had a lot of muscle. I always wondered what people thought of me, with my dark brown hair and hazel eyes, wondered if they ever noticed the scar on my cheek, if they wondered what it was from. I would lie of course if they asked. I didn't want pity. Bronte nudged me, knocking me out of the state I was in. "Max and I are headed to town, if you want to join." Henry said petting his dog. 

"Uh, I'll have to ask Shanna first, but sure." I replied and Henry smiled brightly.

"Okay, we are leaving in around 10 minutes. Max's truck is in front of the hay barn." Henry said with a smile before backing up and walking out of the stables. 

Speaking in Russian again I told Bronte to be good and that I would be back later, hopefully with an apple. Then after finding Shanna and and asking her if I could go with the boys I limped over to the hay barn, where an old looking truck sat. Duke was in the bed of the truck and wagged his tail seeing me approach, "Hi buddy," I said petting him. 

"You can come! Great! Oh, do you have basketball shorts and a shirt?" Henry said walking out from the barn carrying a gym bag in his hands. 

"Uh, I think so, should I go get them?" I asked and he nodded. As fast as I could, I walked back to the house and grabbed a bag to put my clothes in, and then grabbed my clothes before rushing back out to Max's truck. That's when I realized that there was no back seat in the truck. Max and Henry were laughing, talking about something when I came up. "There is no back seat..." I said and Max nodded like it was nothing new. 

"You will sit in the middle." Max said and opened the side door for me. I slid in and Henry got in after, Max walked around the front of the truck and got into the drivers side. The truck roared to life and we were off. The ride to town was around thirty minutes long, and everything was beautiful country. I looked over at Henry who was looking out the window, then at Max who was humming along with the song that was playing.

Seeing my attention, Max looked over at me briefly then to the road, "I have a sister who is in your class, you would like her, though it might be confusing when you two are around. Her name is Natalie." 

"Does she ride horses too?" I asked. 

Max nodded, "Yeah, but not competitively, but she will be around most days. Just today she was taking care of our bum lamb Dorothy. She will be there at open gym today." 

"Open gym?" I asked and Henry looked over at me. 

"That's where we are going. Why did I said bring your gym clothes?" I shrugged and both the boys laughed. 

"Don't worry, you don't have to do anything if you don't want to, we just thought that it would be nice for you to meet some others in the school." Max said patting my leg and I smiled. We turned on a paved road and picked up speed. "Do you play any sports in Ukraine?" 

"I played basketball for four years, but I don't think that I can really play right now - not after the fall." I said and Max looked over at me sadly. 

"I hope you aren't hurt badly." Henry said and I looked over at him, but his eyes weren't on my face, they were on Max's hand which was still on my leg. I blushed, and wished I wasn't sitting in between the boys. Max finally took his hand off my leg as the town came into view. I had never seen anything like it, it was almost beautiful in a way - the simplicity of all the houses. Dogs barking, running through the streets after children. Two cars were parked in the middle of a side road, the drivers just talking to each other like they weren't sitting in the middle of the road, but in a living room or a park. I let out a laugh and both boys looked at me confused. 

We drove down main street, and it looked like it was the only street that was paved fully. Towards the end of the street was a large building that I assumed to be the school. Kids were getting out of their cars or trucks and walking into the school. Max pointed to a blue car, "That's Natalie's, she's probably inside already." He parked the car and we got out. Henry let Duke out of the back of the truck and let him run down the street. 

"Aren't you afraid he won't come back?" I asked and Henry shook his head. 

"Duke knows when to come back," he said unconcerned and picked up his gym bag. We walked into the school and into the gym. I gripped onto the back of Henry's shirt as we walked toward a group of kids talking near a stage looking thing with gym equipment on it. Henry looked back at me and smiled, and I thought he was going to tell me to let go of his shirt, but he didn't. Max waved over a girl with blonde short hair, and I assumed it was Natalie. 

I let go of Henry's shirt as Max introduced me to his sister. "Natalie, this is Nataliya, Nataliya, Natalie." I smiled and shook her hand. 

"This is going to be a fun year," Natalie with a laugh, then she turned to her brother, "Oh, bro, Callie texted me earlier and told me Ben proposed!" 

Henry leaned down and whispered, "Callie is Natalie's best friend, they met when Nat was an eighth-grader and Callie was a Junior. Callie is now in Oklahoma attending college and apparently she just got engaged." 

"I'm guessing you are going to be her maid of honor?" Max asked and Natalie nodded with a smile. 

"Anyway," Natalie turned to me, "You need to change." she motioned me to follow her, and so I did. 

"So do you play basketball?" I asked. 

"Oh, heck no. I play volleyball and run track, Max plays basketball, and football, and runs track, and I suppose you know that he jumps as well." I nodded as Natalie spoke. 

"How does he have time for everything?" I asked and Natalie shrugged. 

"I don't know... my theory is that he doesn't sleep." Nat said with a laugh. We entered a locker room and I started to change. There were other girls in there, but they didn't come over and introduce themselves - which I was slightly thankful for. 

When we arrived back at the gym, I saw that Henry and Max had started a game of basketball with some others. Natalie went over to the ball rack and picked up a volleyball before passing it to me. "Oh, I don't know how to play..." I said passing it back. 

"That's fine, just hold your hands like-" she moved her hands in a way and hit the ball, "-this." I did as instructed and she threw the ball again at me. I hit the ball, and it went left, right into the basketball game. I squeaked and covered my mouth, eyes wide as a boy nearly tripped on the ball. "Sorry, sorry, that was my fault!" Natalie said running over to the boy who picked up the ball. 

"Watch it Chapman." the boy said and Natalie just laughed, and bit her thumb at him. I almost laughed, and Max did so outright, slapping the boy on the back and starting the game again. Natalie walked back over. 

"I'm so sorry-" 

"Don't be," Natalie said cutting me off, "Its not your fault that he's an ass." I was about to protest, and say that it was indeed my fault but she threw the ball back at me. I hit it, and surprisingly it went straight back to her. I let out a laugh. "Nice," Natalie said, hitting the ball back. I supposed this wasn't so hard... wait, never mind. I hit the ball to the right this time and tried to run after it - but my lower back and legs still hurt, and bending down was especially painful. But I did it and walked back to Natalie. "Are you hurt?"

"I fell off a horse earlier, I'm fine though." 

"You did!" Natalie exclaimed and I let out a sigh. 

"I did, but I'm fine, just a bit sore." Max was at my side instantly, hearing his sisters exclamation. 

"Are you okay?" Max asked me and I rolled my eyes. 

"I'm fine, go back and play," I pushed him back toward the group of boys who were waiting for him. 

"You sure you are okay?" I nodded and pushed him a bit harder. He finally let out a sigh and walked back to the group of boys. 

"Man, I've never seen Max that worried." Natalie said, hitting the ball to herself. "Was he there when you fell?" I nodded, "It must have been bad, if he's still worried about you." 

"I told him I'm fine though." I said and Natalie shrugged. She was still hitting the ball to herself, and so I sat on the edge of the stage. A girl sat next to me and looked over at the game that was still going on.

"Henry hasn't taken his eyes off you yet. Who are you?" the girl asked. 

"Nataliya Savchenko." I replied. 

"Oh, you are the foreign exchange student. Who are you staying with?" the girl looked over at me. She was an alright looking girl, dyed black hair, a fake tan. 

"Shanna and Rusty." I said and the girl bit her lip. "What?" 

"Oh, nothing," she said and I let out a sigh. 

"What's your name?" 

"Hannah." she answered plainly. "That's probably why Henry is watching you, he's probably wondering if you can ride." 

"What makes you think that?" I asked. 

"He's all about horses, I've been hitting on him sense eighth-grade, and he hasn't taken the hint." Hannah said with a sigh, still watching the game. Henry had the ball, and he drove it to the hoop before missing the layup, I let out a laugh. 

"Maybe he's just not into you," Natalie said sitting on my other side, I covered my mouth to keep in another laugh. 

Hanna rolled her eyes and continued to watch Henry. They broke for a drink and Henry and Max walked over. "Wanna shoot around Nataliya?" Henry asked and I smiled. 

"Sure, I'll show you up. I saw the way you were shooting earlier-" I tisked my tongue "-and it wasn't good." I slid off the side of the stage and limped over to where the balls were. 

"Alright, smart mouth, lets play PURPLE." Henry said dribbling the ball a few times. 


I won, of course, and Henry was being a sore looser, but open gym was over, and we were headed home. "I could totally win next time." 

"Sure you could," I said sarcastically and Max laughed.

Henry, looking out the window dramatically, let out a sigh, "One day, I will show you all, I will beat you at PURPLE." Max and I laughed again. 

It was starting to get dark, and I was tired. The next thing I knew I was being woken up by Max. "Hey, we're home."

I opened my eyes and looked around, Henry was nowhere to be seen, and we just turned on the road to the house and stables. "Where's Henry?" I asked, rubbing my eyes. 

"I dropped him off at his house," Max said stopping the car outside the house. "Thanks for coming with us, it was a lot of fun." I smiled over at him. 

"Yeah, I agree, it was fun." 

"We are having practice tomorrow, come and watch."

"Practice?" I asked, thinking he meant basketball. 

"Yeah, show jumping practice, I thought sense you are thinking about being on the team..." He said with a sheepish smile. 

"Of course, I'll be there, Shanna is coaching anyway, right?" I asked and he nodded. "Well, I will be there, see you tomorrow Max." I jumped out of the truck and grabbed my bag before limping inside. I was starting to really hurt, and probably needed to take some aspirin. 

Shanna and Rusty had dinner ready at the table and were just filling up cups with water. "Hey, Shanna, do you have any aspirin?" I asked and she nodded not even looking at me. 

"You hurting?" she asked and I hummed in reply. She went over to a cabinet and pulled out a bottle of aspirin before handing me three. "You sure you are okay? You don't have to ride if you don't want to-" 

"I want to." I cut her off before she even had a chance to finish the sentence. I limped over to the table after taking the medicine and washing my hands to sit down. "So what are we having?" I asked. 

"I made steak, hope you like it." Rusty said with a smile. 

"Sounds perfect." I said and was about to dig in when Shanna cleared her throat. 

"We say thanks around here, if that is alright with you." 

"Of course, sorry." I set down my fork and Rusty said a quick prayer before he started to pile potatoes onto his plate. I followed suit and soon my plate was filled with food. 

"I saw what you did with Bronte earlier today, you were amazing." Rusty complemented and I shrugged. "Don't just shrug, if you don't remember, last night it took Shanna and I to get him back into his stall, and actually Christopher was there too, so it took three of us to get him back in his stall, and it took only you today." I blushed at his praise.

"He just likes my accent," I said trying to brush it off. 

"It could be, or it could be that you two have a real connection." Rusty said and Shanna let out a laugh, nudging him lightly. 

We continued to eat, talking about small things, and then Rusty went to go feed the bum calves. I helped Shanna with the dishes and went to my room. Turning on my phone, I saw there were numerous texts from Derek. 

*Hey, I'm sorry for how I spoke to you earlier* 

*Are you mad at me?* 

*Come on, talk with me*

*Nataliya, this isn't funny*

*Talk to me*

*I said I was sorry* 

It went on for awhile until he was basically yelling at me through text. I cringed at a couple of the texts and quickly called him. He picked up on the third ring. "So now you want to talk to me." He spat. 

"Oh, I'm sorry that I can't be by my phone every second you want to talk." I replied angrily in Russian. Derek started to yell at me, and I held the phone away from my face. When he was done yelling, I said "Talk to me when you've calmed down," then hung up. I let out a sigh and changed into my pj's slowly, my lower back hurting as I bent down and when I lifted my legs to put on my sleep pants. My phone buzzed once, and I picked up my phone expecting another angry text from Derek. Instead, I found a text from a new number, opening it up I read: 

*Hey this is Henry, this might be creepy, but I got your number from Shanna, I just wanted to say: I'm glad you came with Max and me today. That's all. Night.*

I smiled, rolling painfully onto my back, holding my phone above my head. I typed a quick reply and sent it. 

*I'm glad I did too, thanks for inviting me. And you could have just asked for my number when you saw me ;) * 

His reply came less than a minute later. 

*Last time I saw you, you were asleep on Max's shoulder* 

I shook my head smiling, and thought of what to say. Instead of replying, I ended up falling asleep, my phone falling next to my head.



Authors Note: 

Hey everyone, its me Ashme! I would so enjoy your feedback. Who do you want Nataliya to end up with? What do you think of the horses? and anything else you want to comment on! I hope you all enjoy the story, and please give a big 'Like'! and see you in the next chapters!                  

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