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.”