Andi could feel her heart beating in her chest as she lined the wagon up for the race. It was already well over 90 degrees and the weather was going to be hard on the horses as well as the drivers.
Andi glanced over at Jeffery. The hatred in his face made her blood run cold. She only hoped that Riley’s threat, as well as the fact that Chad was watching his every move, would keep him far away from her.
Mr. Goodwin, who was the announcer for the races, stepped up to the podium. “On your mark, Get set, GO!” The gun went off and the horses leaped forward. Andi cringed when she saw Jeffery repeatedly whip his horses trying to increase their speed. She lightly snapped the reins across the back of Taffy and Spy. They responded with a burst of speed that quickly put her wagon in the lead…well, almost. Jeffery Sullivan, still violently whipping his horses, had pulled in front of her. Andi once again snapped the reins and Taffy and Spy lengthened their stride, putting almost a wagon length of distance between Jeffery’s wagon and her own.
Suddenly, Andi felt a burning sensation across her back. She stumbled and fell against the side of the wagon still holding the reins. Taffy and Spy slowed down to a canter, and Jeffery’s wagon shot ahead. Andi, finally realizing what had happened, stood up, loosened the reins, and let the horses fly. The finish line was less than 3 wagon lengths away, the Jeffery was still ahead. The horses pulled even, then, as they crossed the finish line, Andi’s horses pulled away.
The crowd cheered, and Andi, after walking the horses around the wagon track to cool them down, slumped down in the wagon.
“Ladies and Gentleman! It was a close race, but it has been decided that Andrea Carter is the winner!” As Mr. Goodwin made the announcement, Riley rushed over to Andi.
“Are you alright? What happened out there? Why’d you slow down?” Riley took a close look at her face and stopped asking questions. “You’re hurt!” He reached down and helped her out of the wagon, then slipped his arm around her waist to help her stand.
Andi groaned. “Not bad, but I think Jeffery’s whip accidently hit me instead of his horses.”
Riley gasped. “Accidently? I’ll bet it was on purpose!”
Chad walked up. “What’s happened here?” He slid his arm around Andi on the other side. He and Riley made a chair with their arms and carried her toward the shade of a tree
“Jeffery Sullivan, that’s what.” Riley said between clenched teeth.
“It was an accident. Do you think he’d be stupid enough to hurt me with you and Chad around?”
Chad and Riley set Andi down under the tree. “Even if it was an accident-which I doubt- you’re hurt pretty bad. You’ve got blood on the back of your vest.
Andi reached behind and felt her back. Sure enough, it was wet and sticky.
“Riley, let’s get Andi over to doc’s office. Then I’m going to have a little talk with our friend, Jeffery.”
Riley nodded and they once again made a chair with their hands and took her across the street to Doc. Weavers office.
* * *
Chad sat down on the bed next to Andi. “Feeling better?”
Andi nodded. “Doc said I had to get a few stitches, but I’ll be able to go home today. What did you find out about Jeffery?”
Chad sighed. “Well, it seems it was on purpose. I never thought he’d be capable of something like that. Especially after what he’s already done to our family.”
“Where is he now?”
“At the sheriff's office. Since he didn’t exactly break the law, he’ll probably be let go.”
Andi smiled as Riley came into the room. “Well, he can’t ruin this day. We won!”
Riley grinned. “We sure did!” He sat down on the other side of the bed. “Your mother can’t wait to see you. Mitch took back the news of what happened and she’s been worried sick.”
Chad stood up. “I’ll go get the wagon, then come and pick you two up.”
As Chad left the room, Riley leaned over and whispered to her. “I’m glad chose such a smart and plucky girl to marry. I can’t wait till our wedding.”
Andi just smiled.
* * *
The wedding day dawned bright and clear. Andi and Riley were married outside, beneath the big oak tree that had shaded the lane for years. Justin was the best man and Jenny Grant stood right behind Andi. They recited their vows, then, as Riley lifted the veil, they were suddenly doused in cold water. The both gasped and looked up. There, on a branch directly above them, sat Mitch with two pails, now empty, in his hands. Andi and Riley both laughed as the preacher said “I know pronounce you man and wife!”