Breaking Down (Breaking #4) - Juliana Haygert



“Hey, pretty boy.” I reached over the stall door and rested my hand on Tostado’s muzzle. “Did you have a good night sleep?”

My horse neighed, bobbing his head up and down. I smiled. If only he could really communicate with me. But maybe he could. I had had him for more than three years now. If he did understand, he would be the only one lately. Horse or human.

My phone beeped. I fished it from my jeans' back pocket and checked the message.

Priscila: Practice is canceled.


Me: Why?

Priscila: The other girls are not coming. It would be just you and me.

Me: But the tournament is coming up.

And I would be away for the next ten days. We had to practice now, and then hard once I was back, or we would lose the tournament. Badly.

Priscila: That’s the other thing. The club is canceling the women's tournament. They didn’t get enough registrations, so they are only going to have the men’s tournament.

A wave of rage swept through me.

Me: That’s bullshit.

Priscila: I’m with you, but unless we come up with at least three other teams before next weekend, there will be no tournament for us.

Man, this sucked. We had barely four permanent girls to play on our team. We actually had six because one or more never could meet up for practice or games. Time and time again, there were two or three of us who showed up, and we had to forfeit games because of it.

Women’s polo was the worst, especially in Brazil.

I sighed.

If only I had someone to help me. Someone who had some influence and could talk to the club and ask them to keep the women’s category, even with only two or three teams signed up.

The person in my mind walked into the stable and a conspiring grin spread across my lips.

Me: All right. I’ll talk to you later.

I stashed my phone back into my pocket and turned my smile to the man approaching me.

“Oi pai.” I greeted my father. Like all Fernandeses, my father was tall with broad shoulders and bright green-blue eyes. Although, now in his mid-fifties, he didn’t have as much hair as my brother and my cousins.

“Bom dia, Gabi.” He glanced at my horse, then at me. “Going out for a ride this early?”

“No. I have to finish packing.”

His brows furrowed. “Oh, yes. You’re going to visit your brother. You’re leaving tonight, right?”


“Don’t your classes start soon?”

I groaned. “Sim. In two weeks.” All I wanted was to forget about that for now. I wanted to go to Santa Barbara, have a great time with my brother, cousins, and friends, and enjoy my freedom before college life tied me down. I shuddered. “I’ll be back in ten days. Four days should be enough to get ready for college.”

There was nothing else to do, really. I was signed up for my classes, I had all the material I needed, and my accommodations and transportation were all set up—I would stay in our townhouse in the city during the weekdays and come back to the ranch on the weekends.

“That’s good.” He reached over and rested a big hand on my shoulder. “Finally starting college. It’ll be a big day.”

“Sim …” I pressed my lips into a thin line, trying to come up with the right words. “Pai, hm, you know the country club has a polo tournament coming up, right?”

“Yes, we’re sponsoring it, as always.”

“So … they said they don’t have enough women’s teams signed up so they are thinking about canceling the women’s category. I was thinking that maybe you could—”

“That’s good,” he interrupted me.

I gaped. “W-what?”

“Isn’t the tournament right when your classes start?”

It would actually be a week later. “Yes …”

“It would be hard to play the games and attend classes. This way, you can focus on college. Besides, we both know that there’s no future in polo for you. You’re a great player, Gabi, almost as good as your brother and cousins, but you know that women’s polo isn’t going anywhere. You can fight for it, but you’ll only be wasting your time. Better to focus on college, which is a more concrete path.”

I clamped my mouth so the words of outrage and frustration didn’t spill past my lips, and clenched my fist. I knew he wasn’t trying to be harsh. He was just stating the facts—and he was right. I knew he was right. But that didn’t mean I had to accept it.

If I had to go to college to satisfy my parents while I