My name is Riley and I was born on January 13th, which makes me a Capricorn – practical, disciplined, and ambitious. Some say I'm stubborn and rebellious, but I just ignore them.
I was blessed with a happy childhood in a middle class suburban home in Denver, Colorado, with two hard-working and loving parents, and my sister Tara, who's two years older than me. She and I couldn't be more different. In fact sometimes I wonder if one of us was switched at birth. She's a typical type 'A' personality and gets upset at the smallest thing and goes into panic mode without provocation.
When we were kids, she went to ballet and music lessons while I spent every spare moment at the local riding school. My parents could only afford for me to take one riding lesson a week, but I didn't mind. I just enjoyed being around the horses, and almost every day, as soon as my homework was done, I would get onto my bike and pedal the three miles to the stables, where I helped groom, clean tack, and even muck out the stables.
When I was home, our yellow Lab, Muffett followed me around everywhere and slept on my bed. I loved animals and dreamed of having my own horses one day. Lots of them, and a rich husband, so I could live in one of the beautiful estates that sprawled across the foothills on the other side of the riding school.
That dream changed the day Muffett was hit by a car while following me to the riding school.
I threw my bike onto the ground and ran over to my poor, beautiful dog, who was lying on the pavement gasping for breath. The man who had hit her was on his cell phone, while I cradled Muffett's head on my lap and wished I could do something, anything to help her. The man asked if he could call anyone for me and I gave him Mom's work number.
By the time she got there, I knew Muffett was dead. Mom told to get into the car but I refused to leave Muffett, and when she tried to pry me away I screamed at her. Eventually I allowed her to pick up my poor dog and put her on the back seat of the car. I sat in the back beside her and cried and cried all the way home. I didn't stop crying until the next day and I just didn't have any tears left. It was my fault. If I hadn't allowed her to follow me she would still be alive.
That's when I decided I was going to become a veterinarian. I never ever wanted to experience that feeling of helplessness again when an animal got hurt, and somehow I felt that saving animals would be some sort of atonement for Muffin's death.
I worked hard and got good grades at school, and managed to complete the required bachelor's degree with a 3.7 grade average, enough to get me into Colorado State College of Veterinary Medicine. My studies took up most of my time, and on the odd occasion I did manage to take a little time away, I helped at a nearby horse therapy facility for mentally and physically challenged kids.
That's when I realized how much I liked kids, and I knew I wanted to have lots of them when I got married.
I was in my second to final year of studying for my DVM, still living at home with my parents because I couldn't afford not to, when I met Richard. I was driving on a remote mountainous road, having been out to help investigate an alleged case of neglect of some horses. My car just decided to die for no reason. I tried to start it over and over until the battery began to lose its charge. Then I remembered that Mom and Dad had kept me on their Automobile Association membership. I dug around in my purse until I managed to find the card, and called for help.
The mechanic who responded got my attention immediately. He was tall, with dirty blond hair and a rakish grin. My hormones reacted and I hoped he couldn't see how hot I was getting. He got my car going with apparent ease. "Thank you," I said.
"Wait. I want to see you again," he grabbed onto my arm. "Want to go out this Friday?"
His touch was making it hard for me to breathe. "Y . . . yes," I managed to stammer.
Richard filled a void in my life I didn't know existed. He moved with a hip crowd who partied hard, drank hard, and were not averse to trying out different drugs. I desperately wanted him to keep wanting me, so I drank too much, and even tried some of the drugs, which was totally out of character for me.
I couldn't believe this older man, who also happened to be the hottest guy I had ever met, was interested in me. I mean, this was insane. I was totally smitten, and when he took me home to his apartment and insisted on keeping the lights on...
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