Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Stranger No Longer . . . Part 4

A Stranger No Longer: Part Four
Andi groaned. Riley looked at her, puzzled. “What’s wrong Andi?”
She pointed to the name. “That’s what’s wrong. If Jeffery is driving a wagon, there’s not even a sliver of chance that Chad will agree.”
Riley still looked puzzled. “Jeffery Sullivan? What’s wrong with him?”
A light dawned suddenly. Andi realized that Riley didn’t know Jeffery. She quickly summarized all he had done to deserve a bad name in their family. “And so,” she finished, “now you can see why Chad would never let me drive in the same race with him. He might try to take revenge on me…or something worse.”
Riley gave a low whistle of amazement. “Well!” he said, and then again, “Well!”
Andi frowned in frustration. “Why does Jeffery always have to ruin everything!” she muttered. “I thought he was out of my life forever…and now this!”
Marcus walked over with Chad. “How’s the list Andi?” he asked, his eyes twinkling with excitement.
Andi swallowed. Mutely she handed the list to Chad. Andi couldn’t bear to watch his face, but forced herself to anyways. First, he looked through the names suspiciously, and then he stopped frowning and even began to smile. That’s when he saw Jeffery’s name and immediately stiffened.
“Do you still think I’d let you drive with Jeffery on a different wagon?” he asked. Andi shook her head slowly, hanging her head in disappointment. Of course it was impossible now.
Chad surprised her. “I think I will let you drive the wagon…” he said slowly. Andi’s head jerked up. He continued slowly, a dangerous glint in his eye. “I’d just like to see him try to hurt my sister!”
Andi could barely contain her excitement. “You mean I can drive the wagon?” she asked. Chad nodded. “Oh Chad! You’re the best brother ever!”
Chad chuckled wryly. “Only until I tell you what I walked over here for.”
Andi’s face fell. “Didn’t you come over here to see the list?”
Chad shrugged. “Yes, but I also need to tell you that you’ve got quite a few chores to do out in the barn. With all this excitement over wagon racing you’ve let your regular chores get in bad condition.”
Andi sighed. “I know. I’m sorry. I’ll make sure that I get them done today.”
Chad turned back towards the barn. “No time like the present!”
Andi groaned. Riley laughed. “I can help if you want me too.”
Andi grinned. “You will?” He nodded. Together they walked to the barn, wanting to get finished with the loathed chores as soon as possible so that they could begin getting their horses ready for the race.
*                      *                        *
It was the day of the race at last. Andi and Riley had been working almost non-stop with Marcus and their horses, trying to get them in the best shape for the race. Chad and Mitch had worked together on getting the wagon in perfect condition, and it looked beautiful.
As Andi, Riley, and Marcus rode ahead of the others into town, Taffy and Spy seemed more excited than their masters. It was as if they could sense the thrill of the race as the time grew nearer.
Marcus helped Andi and Riley rub their horses down, cooling them off. Andi glanced up at the sun. It was going to be a hot day for racing horses; the sun was blazing hotter than ever.
Marcus and Riley were hitching up Taffy and Spy to the wagon that they had brought, so Andi told them that she was going to go get a drink of water from the pump while she waited for them to be ready.
Quickly she walked over to the water trough pump and started taking a drink. Suddenly from behind she heard an all too familiar voice.
“May I have a drink when you’re done?” It was Jeffery Sullivan.
“Yes.” Andi replied shortly, biting back a nasty remark. She coldly turned her back on him to finish her drink. Once she finished she backed away and Jeffery took a long drink. He didn’t recognize her it seemed, because he turned to her with a sickeningly sweet smile after he had finished his drink.
“Hot today, isn’t it?” he said conversationally.
“Yes.” Andi said again, wishing herself miles away.
“I feel sorry for all the drivers of the race. It’s going to be pretty uncomfortable for them.”
“I’m going to drive a wagon.”
“Yes! I’ve got the best one by far. It was bought from a dealer who made it specifically for racing, so it’s lightweight and drawn by the best matched team in California.” He motioned to a wagon that was parked right outside the Blake’s livery stable. Andi tried to keep her face expressionless. Jeffery hadn’t changed at all. He still thought he was the best thing since sliced bread. He’s so full of himself. Andi thought to herself. But he does have a good team of horses. I’ll need to make sure I stay clear of that wagon.
“It’s a good team of horses and wagon.” Andi finally admitted out loud. Jeffery smiled, pride oozing from every pore.
“Which is why you should bet on my team, darling.” He said, sidling up next to her and putting his arm around her waist.
This time Andi didn’t even try to keep control over her emotions. She slapped Jeffery across the mouth three times as hard as she could. She yanked out of his grasp and spun around, quivering with fury.
“Don’t you EVER speak or act towards me like that again, Jeffery Sullivan.” She said. “You already did enough damage to our family when you tried to court my sister.”
Recognition dawned on Jeffery’s face and his face grew even redder. “You-You’re Andi aren’t you?” he asked angrily. “I should have known.”
Andi glowered at him. “Just wait until Chad hears about this.” She said.
Jeffery shrank away from her like the coward he was. “No.” he whimpered, sliding onto his knees. “Please, no, Chad would kill me.”
“You probably deserve it.” She replied grimly.
Just then Riley came running over, breathless. “Andi! Where have you been?” he noticed her angry countenance. “What’s wrong?” She pointed wordlessly at Jeffery. Immediately Riley yanked Jeffery to his feet. “What have you been doing to my Andi?” he demanded.
Jeffery quavered under Riley’s fury. “I didn’t do anything to her!” he gulped. “Honest! I didn’t know she was “your” Andi! In fact, I didn’t even know she was Andi at all!”
Riley snorted. “Oh, I suppose that makes what you did alright then.” He replied sarcastically. “I’m going to give you one warning: If I catch you so much as TOUCHING Miss Carter, I’m going to make it so that you won’t even be able to recognize yourself! Understand?”
Wordlessly, Jeffery nodded. Riley dropped him back onto the ground, and he took off running as if he was trying to outrun a stampede of cattle.
Andi looked after him until he was gone, then collapsed into Riley’s arms to cry. Her emotions proving to be too much for her to handle. Riley patted her gently on her back until her uncontrollable sobs had turned into occasional sniffs. Wiping her eyes she stepped back away from Riley, apologizing.
Riley grinned. “You don’t need to apologize. I kind of enjoyed it actually.”
Andi laughed. “We should get back to Marcus. He’s probably worried sick about us. Besides, it’s only a few hours until the race!”
Riley nodded, and offered Andi his arm. “Shall we go then?”
Andi took his arm and smiled up at him. “Yes.”

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Stranger No Longer . . . Part 3

Thanks, Jesseca and Rebekah, for this fun story! 

A Stranger No Longer: Part Three
“Mitch. Boy you scared me!”
Mitch grinned at her. “Really? You did seem like you were in a pretty important conversation with Taffy. What’s the matter?”
“Riley and I would like to race Taffy and Spy as a team in the 4th of July race. I had hoped to be able to drive, but Chad won’t even consider it.”
Mitch frowned. “Those races can get pretty dangerous and I can see his point. But on the other hand, you would be lighter than Riley and give the horses a better chance at winning.”
“That’s what I told him, but I don’t think he even heard me. Sometimes I just don't understand Chad at all. A couple weeks ago, he gave Riley permission to marry me, then helped me make my decision by just talking to me. Like Justin would. But now he is bossing me again.”
“Chad is only worried about your safety.”
Andi sighed, “I know, I just wish there was a way to convince him that it’s safe for me to race.”
Mitch got a thoughtful look in his eye. “That’s not a bad idea. If you could convince Chad it was safe, he’d let you race.”
Andi glanced at him doubtfully. “Convince Chad it’s safe? Sounds impossible.”
”What reason did he give for not allowing you to race?”
“Well, someone puts winning higher than the safety of the other wagons.”
“Right.  But who are the other contestants this year? If we could get Chad’s approval of everyone driving, he’d agree it’s safe.”
Andi glanced up at Mitch, a slow grin spreading across her face. “Mitch, that’s a great idea! I’ll just ask Marcus to ask the Judge who has signed up to race so far.”
Mitch playfully pulled her braid, “Well, you better hurry. He’s leaving.” Mitch pointed across to the barn where Marcus was hitching his horses up to the buggy.
Andi hurried over to him. “Marcus, did you hear what Chad said about me racing?”
Marcus nodded, “I did. I’m sorry he won’t let you. He doesn’t think it’s safe.”
“But that’s it! If we find out who the other contestants are and they all check out with Chad, then he’d let me race!”
Marcus turned to her with a twinkle in his eye. “And just who are you planning to ask to find out?”
Andi grinned sheepishly. “Well, I was hoping you'd ask the judge when you had him over for dinner.”
Marcus laughed. “Is that what this brother-in-law is good for? Asking question?
“Well, no. You’re also good for training horses, talking to, teasing with and...well, you get the idea!”
“I do. And, yes, I’ll be more than happy to ask the judge about the contestants.”
                                           *                      *                        *
Andi groaned as she flung herself across the bed. Since the announcement of her and Riley’s engagement, Mother had been going nonstop trying to get ready for the wedding that was planned to take place in October. Today Mother had insisted she try on the wedding dress to make sure it fit. Andi still wasn’t sure she would be able to walk down the aisle in all that lace.
Mother had declared it beautiful, a perfect fit.  Andi wasn’t so sure. The scalloped collar was offset with blue ribbon. As was the sleeves, bodice, and hem of the dress. And the entire dress was a cream lace.
That was just a little too many frills for Andi.
She rolled over and glanced out the window. The blue, cloudless sky was offset by the deep, red paint of the barn. The majestic green trees that had stood there for years still shaded the lane. And, down at the barn, Chad still worked: training the horses, organizing the ranch hands, and managing the many heads of cattle.
Andi sighed contentedly. This was home. Not matter where she went, this would always be home.
A movement off to the side caught her attention.
Riley, riding Spy, galloped up to the ranch. Andi smiled; she couldn't imagine living without Riley.
He was always there. A part of whatever she was doing. She got off the bed and hurried down the stairs.
“Riley! Is Marcus here yet?”
Riley smiled. “Not yet. He should get here soon, though. He knows we need all the practice and training we can get for the race.”
Andi stroked Spy gently. “How’s Spy doing today?”
Spy nickered as though answering her question.
Andi laughed. She looked up and caught Riley staring at her. “What is it? Is something wrong?”
Riley shook his head. “Nothing’s wrong. I was just thinking how much I love you.” Andi blushed and dropped her gaze.  Riley hadn’t said much since their engagement other than what they had usually talked about. Riley grinned. “I mean it, Andi.”
Andi nodded and looked up at him “I…” She was saved from having to say anymore by the sound of buggy wheels on the lane.
“Marcus is here.” Chad announced from the barn.
Andi grinned at Riley, and then hurried over to where Marcus was tying the horses to the hitching post.
“Marcus, did you find out who the contestants are? Did the judge give my permission to race...if Chad agrees?”
Marcus laughed. “Yes, the judge gave permission for you to race. And here,” he reached into his pocket, “Is a list of the contestants.”
Andi hurriedly opened the paper and read down through the names. Riley came and stood behind her, reading over her shoulder.
Andi’s excitement grew as she read down the list. These were all people Chad knew and trusted. She was about to yell with excitement when she read the last name on the list.
No, it couldn’t be. The smile faded from her face.
There is was in big, black letters:
Jeffery Sullivan.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Stranger No Longer . . . Part 2

Tag-Team writers Rebekah and Jesseca present part 2!

A Stranger No Longer: Part Two
“Hi, Andi!” Riley said as Andi suddenly careened into him around the corner of the barn. “Where are you going in such a hurry?”
Andi gulped some air back into her lungs and tried to calm her thoughts. “To find you, actually.” She replied, panting from the exertion. “I’ve thought about, you know, our conversation at lunch this morning, and…” she stopped, feeling her face go red.
Riley encouraged her with an understanding smile. “Yes?”
Andi swallowed. This was harder than she had thought it would be. “I do want to marry you Riley. And I do love you…” she trailed off. “I’m sorry, Riley. I can’t even begin to tell you my feelings right now…they’re so, well, I haven’t even figured out what they are yet. But this I know: I do want to marry you, and I do love you.” She shrugged, hiding her embarrassment with a quick smile. “I guess that’s all you need to know anyways.”
Riley had been patiently waiting for Andi to finish her somewhat muddled speech, and with a grin at her last remark, he spoke. “You don’t know how happy you’ve made me by accepting my proposal.” He stopped, gazing across the fields at the hills beyond. “How soon can you marry me?”
Andi shrugged. “Oh, I don’t know…probably not until after summer. You know how much we have to do right now, and then Mother and Melinda will want lots of time to fuss over my clothes for the wedding.” She groaned. “I bet they’ll have me make my own wedding dress…how I wish I could just get married in overalls!”
Riley laughed. “Poor Melinda would faint if you even mentioned that option to her!” he said.
Andi grinned. “I know…still, it would save me a lot of trouble.” She sighed.
The slow dong, dong, dong of the dinner bell sounded across the barnyard, and Andi turned towards the house, a mischievous smile dancing on her face. She turned her laughing eyes to meet Riley’s. “Race?” she asked.
Riley grinned back, nodding eagerly. The two of them took off across the field towards the house, laughing all the way.
*                   *                  *
A few weeks went by, and as Andi had predicted, their family was kept busy with chores, both inside and outside. Riley helped as much as he could, and Marcus Knight came by as well with Melinda. Andi never felt so grateful for all the things Melinda did around the house. Since her sister had been married, Andi had been given so much more to do around the house, and most of the sewing and mending was put on her shoulders. Andi hated the work, but nevertheless put her mind to do it.
As he had promised, Marcus helped Andi and Riley train their horses for better speed and stamina in races. Andi loved these times with her brother-in-law, and admired his common sense and judgment as he worked with her on Taffy.
During one of these special times, Andi brought up an idea that she had been thinking about for a few days. “Marcus?” she asked as he came over to the fence wiping the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand.
He looked over at her with a cheerful grin. “Yes?”
Andi looked over at Taffy and Spy who were resting in the shade of a tree. “I was wondering…Taffy and Spy seem to get along together so well, and enjoy working as a team…so, well, I was hoping to have them be one of the teams at the wagon team race coming up this month. Do you think it would be possible?”
Marcus frowned thoughtfully, rubbing his newly grown beard. “Well, they do work together nicely…and they both have the speed.” He paused as Riley came over, standing next to Andi. “Do you think Spy would enjoy pulling a wagon with Taffy in the wagon team race?”
Riley arched a suspicious eyebrow. “Did Andi come up with this idea?” he asked. Andi grinned, proving his suspicion correct.
Marcus laughed. “Yes, she did. But I think it’s definitely worth a try. I just need permission from both horse owners before giving them the special training it will take.”
Riley shrugged helplessly. “I guess we can at least try.” He looked at Andi. “I suppose you’ll want me to drive the wagon?”
Andi smiled. “No, actually. I wanted to drive if the judge will let me. I’m lighter, so it will be easier for Taffy and Spy to pull me.”
Riley shrugged again, and Marcus grinned. “I’m sure he’ll let you Andi. After all, you know how to drive a wagon just as well as any of the other drivers. Better than some of the city slickers who are coming out to see it.” He paused, taking his wide-brim hat off and running a hand through his hair. “In fact, I’ll have a little meeting with the judge tonight and see if I can talk him into letting you drive.”
Andi’s eyes sparkled happily. “Would you?” she asked. She had been dreading the possibility of having to ask the judge’s permission.
Marcus smiled. “Sure. ‘Linda and I were planning on having him over for dinner tonight anyways. I’ll talk to him then, and tomorrow morning, when I come over to train again I’ll let you know how it went.”
Andi gave Marcus a quick hug. “You are such a wonderful brother-in-law!” she exclaimed.
Marcus smiled back, though a little surprised at the hug. “You’re…welcome.”
Andi took off towards the barn. “I’m going to tell Chad!”
*                   *                  *
“No!” Chad glowered at Andi. “I won’t have my sister driving a wagon in a race! Who knows what sort of things people will try to do to win!” His eyes softened. “I don’t want you to get hurt Andi.”
Andi shoved her hands in her pockets, returning her big brother’s glower. “What if the judge allows me to drive?” she asked, stubbornly refusing to allow Chad to have his way easily.
“No.” Chad said again, the decision in his voice making it clear to Andi that there would be no way he would change his mind. “Andi, people have been hurt seriously in races like this because some person has wanted to win so badly that they put winning above the possibility of hurting other wagons. Please trust me with this and ask someone else to drive for you. Isn’t Spy racing with Taffy?” Andi nodded, brushing tears of disappointment from her eyes. Chad smiled. “Can’t you just let Riley drive?”
Andi sighed heavily. “I know he could…but Chad, I wanted to drive in this race so much! Couldn’t I just try? I’ll know most of the other drivers anyways from our town.”
Chad crossed his arms. “No. It doesn’t matter how many of the drivers you know. I still won’t let you.”
Andi stomped back through the barn, angry thoughts swarming in her mind. Why does Chad always have to say no to everything I really want to do! Why can’t I drive in the race? I’d be perfectly safe. I know everyone who’s driving the other wagons anyways, and they wouldn’t hurt me. Why do older brothers always have to be so protective!
She walked over to the corral. Marcus and Riley had apparently decided to go back inside or into the barn. Andi was grateful for the time alone, time to cool her anger. She walked over to Taffy who was contentedly munching hay in the shade under the tree. Talking to horses always calmed Andi down, so she began now.
“Taffy, sometimes I really don’t understand Chad. A couple weeks ago he was giving permission to Riley for my hand in marriage. Now he’s not letting me drive a wagon for the race. Why?” She rubbed Taffy behind the neck, her favorite spot to be scratched. Taffy muzzled Andi affectionately as if to say “Whatever Chad does, I’m still you’re friend.” Andi smiled.
Suddenly, Andi felt a hand on her shoulder. She froze, and slowly turned around, expecting the worse.


Monday, November 17, 2014

A Stranger No Longer part 1

We pause once again to welcome tag-team writers, Rebekah E. and Jesseca Dawn. They have teamed up to bring us a 5-part Fan Story. I'll post one part every day this week.This story is the sequel to "The Stranger" fan story from a few months back. If you want to read that one, here are the parts:
part 1; part 2; part 3; part 4; part 5.

(Sequel to “The Stranger”)
A Stranger No Longer: Part One
18-year-old Andi gasped. It wasn’t possible! Riley Weaver, one of her very best friends since she was a child, had just asked her to marry him!
She looked nervously around the hotel dining room. When Riley had invited her to lunch, she hadn’t suspected a thing. After all, it wasn’t like they had been actually courting. Sure they had spent a lot of time together the past few months, but nothing big. Just riding, talking, and being in each other’s company...suddenly she realized that they had been courting.
Riley’s voice brought her back to the present. “Well, Andi?”
Andi turned toward him, completely certain that her face couldn’t get a shade redder than it already was. All she wanted at that moment was to get home. She had never felt so mixed up in her life.
“Could...could you give me some time. Just to think it over?”
Riley smiled. “Of course.”
Andi hurriedly stood up. “I’d...I’d like to go on home now. I’ll see you tomorrow?”
Riley stood as well, and then turned to Andi with a twinkle in his eye. “Do you intend on walking all the way home? I brought you here in my buggy, remember?”
With a sinking feeling she realized he was right. She would have to ride home with him. There was no other choice. Much as she enjoyed riding with Riley, she had looked forward to the long ride home as a chance to clear her thoughts.
                                        *                   *                  *
Once home, Andi hurriedly thanked Riley, then dashed into the barn. Even though she was 18, Taffy was still her very best friend, and she was something familiar.  Walking into her stall, Andi felt as though she were 12-years-old once again. Life had been simple and uncomplicated back then. She smiled as she remembered the time she ran away thinking her family didn’t love her. How wrong she had been!
Taffy nickered and nuzzled Andi as though saying “Do you have a treat?”
Andi grinned. “No treat today girl; just me and my mixed up thoughts. Riley asked me to marry him. I was so surprised. I hadn’t thought of myself old enough to get married, but guess I am 18. Oh, Taffy, how could I ever leave the ranch? How could I ever leave you?” She reached up and put her arm around Taffy’s neck.  “I always thought I’d just grow up and live here at the ranch forever.”
Taffy, seeming to lose interest in Andi’s problems, walked to the other end of the stall and thrust her nose into a bucket of feed.
“Andi, Andi? Are you in here?”
Andi turned as Chad entered the barn.
“Over here, Chad, in Taffy’s stall.”
“I figured I’d find you here. I saw Riley driving down the lane. How’d your lunch go?”
“Oh, it went well.”
“Anything...unusual happen?”
“Oh, Chad, did you give Riley permission?”
Chad sighed. “Yes, but it wasn’t just me. Justin and Mitch gave their permission as well. So what was your answer? Will you be leaving us?”
Andi looked up to see if Chad was teasing. He wasn’t. In fact, she had rarely ever seen Chad so serious and calm at the same time.
She sighed. “I don’t know, Chad. I just don’t know what to think. My life was all planned out, under control until today. I mean, I was just going to stay here and work on the ranch with the horses. You know that. Now today, everything has changed. I just don’t know what to think.”
“Andi, life is never ‘planned’. Of course we can set a goal and work to achieve it, but sometimes in life things don’t work out the way we wanted them to. It says in proverbs 16:9 A man’s heart devises his way, but the Lord directs his steps.  Ultimately, God is in control of our lives. Our prayer to him should not be that things go our way, but that His will be done in our lives.”
Andi smiled. “I think this is the first time that I can remember you talking like this with me.”
Chad grinned. “You mean without us arguing.”
“Right. You’re beginning to sounds like Justin.”
Chad laughed. “Since he isn’t here right now I felt a need to take his place.” Then he sobered. “Andi, do you love Riley?”
The question caught Andi off guard. Sure she had spent lots of time with him, and she genuinely enjoyed his company. But did she love him? Suddenly she knew the answer.
“Yes, Chad, I do love him.”
“Well, then. I think you might have just made the decision.”
Andi reached up and gave Chad a hug catching him off guard. “Whoa! Careful now!”
“Thanks, Chad. Thanks for talking with me. I needed it.”
“Well, if we’re done here, I need to remind you...The horses stalls still need mucked out before supper.”
Andi laughed. “Ol’ bossy Chad is back. I suppose I can get them done.”
“Before supper?”
“Without Mitch?”
“Well...where is Mitch anyway?”
Chad laughed. “He’s out on the range. You won’t have him around to do your chores today.”
Andi grinned and started to walk toward the pitchfork that was leaning against the wall. It’s a good thing I went to town in my riding skirt instead of a dress. Now I won’t have to change before chores.
Chad stopped her. “Andi, when will you tell Riley?”
Andi grinned “As soon as possible!”