Terri Farley
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Phantom Stallion #19: Secret Star

A movie star horse and his trainer are coming to River Bend Ranch, and Samantha can't wait. But when Bayfire shows up, something is obviously wrong. The famous stallion has lost his sparkle.

Bayfire has to get ready for his biggest, most dangerous scene of his new movie. If Sam can't help bring back the stallion's fiery spirit, his career could be over -- and someone could get hurt.

Chapter One

Tempest had discovered her own neigh, and she wasn't afraid to use it.

Sam tried to escape the blast of high-pitched sound by pressing her spine against the wooden boards of the box stall and her palms against her ears. It didn't help much, but finally, the black filly stopped to draw a breath.

"Enough, baby," Sam crooned. 'All the other horses can hear you. They know you're the princess of River Bend Ranch."

Sam wished she could make Tempest understand, because any minute a movie star horse and his trainer would be driving over the bridge to River Bend Ranch. For a few days, Tempest wouldn't be the center of attention, even though the filly really was River Bend's princess. Tempest's sire was the swift and powerful silver stallion known as the Phantom. No one could deny he was a king among wild horses.

Tempest's mother, Dark Sunshine, had roamed free as the Phantom's queen until she'd reluctantly chosen the ranch as the safest place for her filly.

Sassy and proud, Tempest seemed totally aware 0f her heritage, and with two celebrities on the ranch, the filly might not get all the attention she thought she deserved.

Now, even Dark Sunshine had had enough of Tempest's shrill neighs.

"Hey Sunny, you're not leaving me here alone with her, are you?" Sam called after the buckskin mare.

Dark Sunshine didn't glance back. Shaking her black mane so hard that half of it flipped from the right side of her neck to the left, the mustang mare slipped out of the box stall into the corral.

Sam told herself she only imagined Sunny's sigh at the peace and quiet of the grassy enclosure.

Hands on her hips, Sam surveyed her morning's work. She'd cleaned all the stalls in the barn, raking out the soiled bedding and replacing it with sweet-smelling straw. She'd paid special attention to the big box stall where the star stallion would stay when he wasn't in the corral adjoining the one Tempest shared with her mother.

Inez Garcia an Bayfire. Excitement sprinkled down on Sam like bright confetti. Having two Hollywood celebrities right here on the ranch was almost unreal. She could hardly believe Maxine Ely, her friend Jake's mom, actually knew Inez Garcia and had recommended she and her stunt stallion stay at River Bend Ranch for a few days before shooting a scene in Lost Canyon.

Just two nights ago, Inez Garcia had called after talking with Jake's mom. Sam wished she'd been the one to answer the phone, but Brynna had left the dinner table just as the phone rang, so she'd been the lucky one.

"The rest of the crew is staying in Alkali," Brynna had said, after she'd explained the other details. Then she'd looked at Sam and added, pointedly, "But Inez would like Bayfire's time here to be private."

Sam knew she'd sucked in a loud, disappointed breath before she blurted, "Does that mean I can't tell anyone?"

There hadn't been a minute for negotiation.

"That's right," Brynna had said. "Not even Jen."

"Where on earth will we put a movie star?" Gram had said. She'd bolted to her feet and begun gathering dishes and clearing the table as if she needed to start preparing that instant.

"She'll stay in her camper," Brynna had said. "And she made it very clear, she's just a horse trainer. In fact, her only concern is for her horse. She obviously loves him."

At that, Dad had laughed. "Who wouldn't? If I owned the highest paid stunt horse in America, I'd love him, too."

"Oh Wyatt," Brynna had said, making a gesture to brush aside Dad's cynicism.

Now, as fresh straw rustled under Tempest's hooves, Sam wondered if Dad was right.

"Well, I love you, whether you can do anything or not," Sam told Tempest.

She bent, grabbed a handful 0f straw, and waved it to amuse the filly.

With a side swipe 0f her black muzzle, Tempest knocked the straw from Sam's hand. Then she stamped a front hoof, lifted her chin, and tried to stare over Sam's head.

"Don't talk back to me, young lady," Sam said, trying not to laugh at the filly's pose.

Maybe Tempest was bored with Sam's lecturing. Maybe she'd snuffled up dust that hadn't settled from Sam's raking. Whatever the reason, the filly began snorting and rolling her eyes.

As if he thought the foal's shrill neighs were about to start up again, Blaze, the ranch Border collie, gave a quick yap and bounded out of the barn.

In response, the filly gave a teeter-totter kick toward the barn's rafters. When Sam didn't scurry away too, Tempest's ears pricked forward and her brown eyes turned studious.

Sam tightened her stubby ponytail. Then, arms hanging loose from the short sleeves of her faded pink T-shirt, legs relaxed in her jeans and boots, she tilted her head to one side.

Loosen up and settle down, her body language told the filly, and as she watched Tempest watch her, Sam fought back a yawn.

Tempest wasn't the only noisy one today.

The morning sky had been more black than blue when Sam had first looked out her bedroom window to see why a blue jay wouldn't stop squawking.

Finally she'd spotted a winged shadow dive-bombing Cougar, her tiger-striped cat, as he tried to slink across the ranch yard.

Cougar must have slipped outside at Dad's heels without him noticing, because the cat wasn't allowed outside the house during the hours coyotes might be around. But the ranch was a compact little world of its own, and nothing stayed secret for long.

"You're caught," Sam had said through the windowpane, though there was no way the cat could hear her.

As the cat and bird had moved farther from the two-story white ranch house, Sam had climbed back into bed, hoping for a few more minutes of sleep.

It hadn't worked. Just seconds later Brynna's hair dryer began howling from the bathroom down the hall.