“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: