Andrea Carter walked down towards Justin’s office after finishing her mother’s shopping for her. She had just finished a whole week of summer holiday and was feeling generally nice to everybody in the world. The sun was shining, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and Cory had lost again to her in a race.
Suddenly, she jolted out of her daydreams by bumping into someone. She uttered hasty apologies and looked up.
“I’m so sorry,” the stranger was saying, a warm smile on his face.
He laughed, touching his hat in a mock salute. “At you service.”
Andi grinned, looking him up and down critically. “You’re different.” She observed.
He laughed again. “As I should be.” He looked at Andi. “You’re just the same, only a little taller.”
Andi punched him in the shoulder playfully, rolling her eyes. "What are you doing here anyways?” She asked.
Riley shrugged. “I’m old enough to work now, and the only place I could want to work would be with horses or at the Circle C. That’s why I’m here. Speaking of which, have you seen Chad around? I’d like to have a talk with him.”
Andi nodded. “Yes, I have, he came with Justin and I into town so he could pick up some things for the ranch. I’m just now heading down to Justin’s office if you want to come along. I know he’ll be just as pleased to see you. It’s been twelve years!”
Riley grinned. “Sure! I’d like to see Justin again too. It has been a long time.”
Andi led Riley to Justin’s office, and they stepped inside it.
When the door closed, a whiff of stale tobacco smoke and cooler air greeted Andi’s nostrils, and she sighed. That smell always brought back memories that she would have preferred to forget: all the times when she had to wait, shrinking under Justin’s glare when she had done something wrong.
Tim O’Neil looked up from the letter he was writing. “And what may I do for you, Miss Carter?” he asked.
Andi rolled her eyes. “Could you let Justin know that I’m ready to go home?” she paused, and Justin’s clerk started to get up. “Oh, and Tim?” he stopped. “Let Justin know I have a surprise for him.”
Tim raised his eyebrows, glancing at Riley, and left the room.
Andi stood still, although she was wishing she could pace in her excitement, and watched Justin’s door. Finally, in what seemed ages, it opened, and Justin came out with one of his biggest smiles on his face.
“Finished with shopping already, Andi? Well I must say…” but whatever he must say was never said, for he stopped in shock at the sight of Riley standing awkwardly next to Andi. “W-what…w-who?” he fumbled for words.
Andi grinned. “Justin, meet Riley Weaver, Riley, meet Justin Carter.” She said, rattling off the introductions.
Justin’s face cleared and he grinned widely. In a few long strides he was in front of Riley, pumping his arm up and down. “It’s good to see you again Riley.” He said with a warm smile. “It’s been much too long. How long are you going to be staying?”
Riley shrugged. “As long as your brother has work for me. That’s what I came here for.”
Justin laughed. “There’s always enough work at our ranch. It’s just that Chad is picky about who works for him. I’m sure he’ll let you though, since last time he told me once you had left that you had been the best help Cook had and ever will have.”
Riley shuddered. “I don’t think I’d be helping Cook again, best help or not best help.” He looked over at Andi. “Remember how scared we were of him?”
Andi laughed at the memory. “I certainly do, and I’m not going to forget either! Which reminds m. Taffy’s all grown up now, Riley, and she has two foals of her own, Sunny and Shasta. They’re beautiful, you’ll love them.” Her eyes brightened at her favorite subject. “Oh, I hope Chad lets you stay!”
Justin glanced out the window. “Well, it won’t be long before we find out. Here he comes!”
Andi ran to the door, and all three waited anxiously for Chad to arrive.