Cactus Jack by Brad Smith

 Cactus Jack

Cactus Jack by Brad Smith
English | 2020 | Contemporary Fiction | ePUB | 4.2 MB

Billie Masterson is a thirty-something chronic underachiever, drowning herself in alcohol and bad relationships in Ohio. She hasn’t been home to the family’s broken-down thoroughbred farm in Kentucky since college. Her mother committed suicide when Billie was a teen and she blames her father, Will Masterson. When Will drops dead while working on the farm, Billie returns to rural Kentucky for the funeral, intending only to pay her respects before high-tailing it back to Ohio.

However, she’s informed by her father’s lawyer, the garrulous David Mountain Clay, that she now owns the farm…and all the debt that goes with it. Determined to sell everything, settle the debts and get out of town, Billie discovers that her father’s colt, a horse named Cactus Jack, is the object of obsession for billionaire Reese Ryker, the louche scion of a department store dynasty and now owner of Double R Racing, one of the top thoroughbred stables in the world.

Billie is willing to sell everything to Ryker—until she realizes that he’s an entitled misogynist and a not-so-subtle racist. Against her better judgment, she decides to keep the farm and the untested horse. To do that she needs to race the animal—and beat Ryker at his own game. Assisted by a team of misfits, including a washed-up trainer with whom she has a bit too much history, the horse-crazy little girl next door, and her father’s ex-girlfriend, Billie and Cactus Jack take the track by a storm.

He shrugged. “That’s cool by me.”

She didn’t bother to try to dissuade him. Such attempts in the past had only made him more possessive and suspicious. He didn’t like her being on the team and had taken to asking her to do things on Thursday nights, hoping she’d choose him over softball. He rarely asked her to do anything the rest of the week, other than drink beer at his place and fuck. They’d been seeing each other for six months; she’d agreed to go out with him during the winter, when she’d been particularly bored with her lot in life. He was good-looking and physical and had come off at first as supremely confident, all things she liked in a guy. His insecurities had revealed themselves over time. Of course, that was the way it was in most relationships, but Billie had to wonder why it was always bad things that eventually came to the fore. Just once she’d like to date a guy and find out he’d been hiding the fact that he was really Francis of Assisi.

Rory, clearly not of Assisi, wanted to be around her whenever he could, even though he didn’t want to do anything. He didn’t have many friends of his own. Even the piston heads in Chillicothe avoided him once they realized he wanted only to talk about his own car. Theirs were of zero interest to him.

In the bar the team sat at a long table in the rear. They ordered beer by the pitcher and wings by the dozen. Rory sat beside Billie with his arm around her. She could actually feel herself cringe when he first did it and wondered how he didn’t notice. His sole contribution to the conversation was to mention every ten minutes that Billie had struck out to end the game. The mentions got progressively less funny as the night moved forward.

Billie decided early on to have a couple of beers and a few wings and then leave. Then someone suggested the drinking game, and soon the shots arrived. After that, things grew real fuzzy real fast. For the game, teams of four were made up; each team wrote down ten names on slips of paper and threw them in a hat. As each slip was drawn, an opposing team had to guess the name from clues given. The losers chugged tequila.

The competition—what Billie could remember of it—required a certain level of intelligence as well as general knowledge, and as such Rory hadn’t done well, especially considering that none of the names in the hat happened to be Corvette or Stingray. Fueled by the Cuervo, Billie had begun to mock him, paying him back for his comments about her striking out, and he’d gotten pissed off, cracking back at her. The spat carried on when they got back to the house. The only reason she’d gone home with him was that she’d been too drunk to drive herself. When they got there, he started in on how she’d shown him up in front of her friends and how she had no respect for him. Finally Billie had told him to fuck off and said she would walk home. He’d caught up with her as she was going down the front steps.

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