Andi slowly regained consciousness and opened her eyes to see the concerned faces of Chad and Cory looking down on her. She sat up, nearly blacking out again with the effort, and looked over to where Jack was, his pistol at the convict’s head. Cory offered her a drink of water and she accepted it gratefully.
“Is he okay?” she asked, nodding in the direction of the guilty man.
Chad smiled at her, an answer in itself.
“Are you okay?”
Chad gave her a quick nod. “I wasn’t a prisoner for more than half an hour.” He laughed. “I was just starting to think that my hands hurt when you and Cory and Jack rescued me.”
Andi looked over at the convict.
“Where did I hit him?” she asked.
Chad chuckled. “You missed, actually. The sound was what scared him, and he dropped his gun. Jack had got my ropes cut, and I grabbed both his guns, and hit him on the head. He’s fine Andi, just a few bruises.”
“Well, I’m glad of that. I didn’t want to hurt him. I never like to kill people.”
Chad shook his head. “You’d never make a good deputy, Andi,” he said, passing his hand through his hair.
Andi grinned. “I don’t want to be one,” she replied, and now fully recovered, stood up. “I need to find Taffy. She ran away.” She looked at Cory with a frown. “This joker dropped a snake in front of her and made her bolt. I’m not going to forget that for a long, long time, Cory.”
“I told you it was a joke!” Cory said. “You said you would forgive me!”
Andi glowered. “I said I would forgive you, I didn’t say I would forget it.”
Cory hung his head.
Chad chuckled. “Andi must be feeling better,” he informed Jack, his blue eyes twinkling with good humor. “She’s arguing again.”
Jack laughed, but his eyes stayed on the convict who was fuming silently within, tied securely with Chad’s rope. “What are we going to do with him?” Jack asked. “We can’t just leave him here while we search for Taffy.”
Chad nodded. “I’ve thought of that. You and Cory are going to take our friend here back to town, and Andi and I are going to continue the search.”
Andi mouth dropped open. Chad? Giving up his work on the ranch to help her find her horse? She rushed up to him and hugged him tightly.
Chad was taken by surprise and nearly fell over backwards. “Not so tight!” he managed to gasp out.
Andi stopped, but she was still grinning. “Thanks!” she said. “You’re one of my best older brothers!”
Chad raised an eye brow, but said nothing.
The rest of the day was spent helping Cory and Jack get the convict back to town. As it turned out, the convict was an outlaw, accused of theivery and murder. There was a reward out for his return, and Andi, Cory, and Jack all decided ananomously that Chad should have it. He accepted it gratefully, and promised to use it well. Andi and Chad went to the ranch for a quick lunch, and then gave a quick goodbye to their family, and set out again to find Taffy.
* * * * *
After a few hours, Andi looked over at Chad. He met her eyes, and then looked away again. Andi shook her head; it puzzled her that Chad would give up a whole day of ranch work for her.
“Why?” she asked.
Chad looked over at her. “Why, what?”
“Why did you do it?”
“Why did I do what?”
“Why did you sacrifice a day of work to help me get my horse back?”
“Because…who gave you Taffy in the first place?” Chad answered her question with another.
“There you are,” he stated triumphantly. “Taffy is almost as much my horse as yours, you know. A six-year-old couldn’t train her horse by herself, you know. I can’t let her leave our ranch. Besides, you are my youngest sister, and you are stubborn, I can’t let you go after her yourself.” Andi grinned.
“Thanks for Taffy, thanks for training her for me, and thanks for helping me; I really did need your help.”
“I know. This is sort of my way of apologizing for being so bossy all of your life. It is a terrible habit of mine.”
Andi laughed. “Don’t I know it!”
“If anyone would, it would be you,” he agreed. “You were the youngest, so all my bossiness sort of fell on you, sorry.”
Andi shrugged. “I’m over it now. I can understand why.”
“You’re growing up,” Chad stated unbelievingly.
Andi grinned. “Did you think I wasn’t?” she asked.
Chad just returned her grin and ran a hand through his hair. “No,” he replied slowly, “But it came on my mind so suddenly.”
Andi laughed, and the two continued over the grassy plains.