Saturday, December 16, 2017

A Circle C Milestones Christmas Story . . . Part 6

Here is the final part in the story.
To start at the beginning, go HERE.


-6-

By the time evening fell, Andi was out of the hills and heading for the Circle C ranch. The moment the trail widened out, she pushed the horses even faster. They were badly lathered. She knew Diego would have some harsh words for her treatment of Señor Riley’s horses.
No matter. It couldn’t be helped.
The horses would need a good rubdown after this abuse, but right now Andi had no energy left to worry about them. Only Riley mattered. A stab of uncertainty pierced her heart. Riley hadn’t muttered a peep during the whole long, agonizing journey.
Andi kept the horses going. Thank God that the rising moon was full. It lit the hills in stark, white light. Home, home! Mother will take care of Riley. Chad will race to town for the doctor. And I can rest . . .
Andi’s arms felt like two lead weights. Her fingers were numb from gripping the reins. The rest of her body was wracked with pain from jolting along. Not even the wide valley road felt smooth.
Poor Riley! He must be bouncing all over the place back there, even with the blanket padding. She dared not stop to check on him.
Andi knew the quickest way to her childhood home, and she took it. Half an hour later, the lighted windows beckoned a cheerful welcome when she pulled into the long driveway. She slowed the horses just long enough to cool them a smidgen and yanked them to a shuddering stop in front of the porch. Their sides heaved.
“Sorry, fellas,” Andi apologized then crawled down from the seat.
The instant her toes touched the ground, her legs collapsed. Oof! She sat, cold and weary beyond belief, in the chilly December air.
In the distance, Andi saw cowhands mingling in the yard, but she was too tired to call out. It didn’t matter. They couldn’t help but hear the jangling harnesses and pounding hooves tearing up the Circle C driveway. What’s more, above all the noise, Tucker was frantically barking.
Someone would surely come.
A shout filled the air. Then a babble of Spanish and English voices grew nearer. Sid McCoy led the group. When he saw Andi, he raised his lantern and lit into her like she was twelve years old.
“What in tarnation’s got into you, Miss Andi? Runnin’ those horses like their tails are on fire? You shoulda—”
Riley’s hurt!” She burst into exhausted tears.  
Sid’s eyes grew wide. He passed the lantern to one of the hands, ordered two others to help Miss Andi into the house, and leaped into the back of the wagon to see to his nephew.
“I’m fine,” Andi insisted when Jake and Diego gently lifted her to her feet. She tried to brush them off.
Jake snorted. “Sure you are.” He didn’t let go.
No es la verdad, señorita,” Diego muttered.
Andi gave in. Diego was right. It wasn’t the truth. She felt far from fine. A wave of nausea washed over her. She slumped and let the two cowhands carry her up the wide veranda steps.
Diego didn’t bother to knock. He burst through the doorway yelling in Spanish.
The last thing Andi heard was Sid’s astonished exclamation. “A cougar cub! What in tarnation . . .”
His voice faded, and Andi let sweet oblivion take her away . . .

* * *

“Riley!” Andi shot up from a terrifying nightmare. She had missed the shot. The cougar was mauling Riley! He was screaming . . . screaming . . . begging Andi to shoot the—
“Shhh, darling.” Firm but gentle hands caught Andi before she could leap out of bed. “It’s all right. Riley’s fine. Chad fetched the doctor hours ago.”
Andi threw her arms around Mother and took three long, deep breaths. “Really? Promise me he’s all right.”
Mother drew Andi’s arms away and looked into her face. She was smiling. “I promise. Dr. Weaver said he’s weak as a kitten from blood loss, but the cat did not tear into anything vital.”
Tears of relief dripped down Andi’s cheeks. “Thank you, God,” she whispered.
“Yes, indeed,” Mother agreed with a nod.
Andi threw aside the bedcovers. “I want to see him.”
“It’s the middle of the night.” Mother replaced the covers.  “He’s sleeping peacefully”—she paused—“which is more than I can say about you.” Her expression changed to one Andi knew well.
A scolding was in the making.
Mother sat back in the overstuffed bedside chair. “I would like to know, daughter, what Riley was thinking today—letting you go off into the middle of nowhere. I always thought he was a sensible young man, but . . .” She clucked her tongue, just like Aunt Rebecca used to do.
Uh-oh. Mother sounded angry at Riley. Very angry.
Andi reddened. “What do you mean?”
“Do not give me that innocent look, Andrea. You know exactly what I mean. I asked Dr. Weaver to look at you also.” She paused.
Andi felt her cheeks explode in heat.
“I was worried,” Mother said when Andi kept quiet. “You looked ghastly when Diego and Jake brought you inside. It’s not like you to react like that—fainting and ill—from an all-day adventure in the mountains. Even if you did have to shoot a cougar.”
“How did you know I shot the cat?” Andi asked in a tiny voice.
“Oh, it wasn’t hard for Chad to figure out. The used rifle, Riley’s condition, an orphan cub.” Her blue gaze bored into Andi. “Do not change the subject.”
Andi swallowed. Did mothers know everything? Apparently so. Or . . . they had ways of finding out the things they wanted to know.
Like Andi’s secret. She’s sneakier than Justin. And just as relentless.
Andi ducked her head and fingered the blanket binding. “Riley doesn’t know,” she whispered without looking up. “I wanted to surprise him on Christmas Day about the baby.”
“I see.” Mother paused. “Well, that’s the only good thing in all of this. My faith in Riley’s good sense is restored.” She shook her head and sighed. “But what were you thinking, daughter? You wanted a tree in the Circle C tradition. I understand that. But not at the expense of your little one.”  
“I felt fine,” Andi protested. “And I’m—”
She broke off. She wanted to snap at Mother, to say she was a married woman now and could make her own decisions.
Andi knew better. She’d felt fine, true, until the adventure had turned upside down and demanded all of her strength. What if I’d ended up reacting like Lucy did when she was carrying Gracie? Lucy could hardly function at times. What if I couldn’t take another step? What if I had keeled over halfway home? What if—
She shuddered.
Mother caught Andi up in a tight embrace. “It’s all right, sweetheart. All’s well that ends well. But please, let this be a lesson to you.”
Andi nodded.
Just then, Chad poked his head through the doorway. “Riley’s awake. He wants to know if Andi’s all right. I told him you were fine, but he’s a stubborn one, that boy.” He grinned. “Better haul yourself out of bed for a few moments, little sister, and assure him you’re none the worse for your adventure.”
This time Mother did not prevent Andi from flying out of bed. She drew on a housecoat and hurried to Riley’s side in the guest room three doors down.
Riley’s eyes lit up when he saw her. “You’re okay.”
“Yep.” Andi smiled and sat down beside him.  
Riley looked much better now. Almost as good as new, so long one only looked at his uninjured head and hand.  
Andi picked up his hand and squeezed it. Then she kissed his cheek. “I wanted to wait until Christmas, but I have something to tell you. I think it will help you heal faster.” She glanced toward the doorway. No one—not even Chad—was lurking around.
“Good news, I hope?”
“Oh, yes.” Even though nobody was spying, Andi couldn’t bring herself to shout her news out loud. She whispered in Riley’s ear.
The tight squeeze on Andi’s hand and his murmured “best Christmas gift ever” was music to Andi’s ears. If he was angry that she hadn’t told him before they left for their adventure, he was gentlemanly enough not to bring it up.
Andi sat holding Riley’s hand until she felt his grip loosen. She tucked his hand under the covers and brushed a final kiss across his forehead. He was sound asleep, a contented smile on his face.
Andi suddenly felt more than fine. She tiptoed out of the room and made her way downstairs for a midnight cup of chocolate. To her surprise, Chad and Ellie were already there, sipping tea and chatting.
“I couldn’t sleep,” Ellie confessed.
“Been waiting for you to wake up,” Chad said. “The men are in a quandary. They want to know what in blazes they’re supposed to do with that cougar cub you hauled home.”
Andi’s mouth dropped open. Oh, dear! What am I supposed to do with it?
Then a delightful idea tickled her thoughts. She knew the perfect recipient for that little Christmas cat. She smiled at her brother. “Merry Christmas, Chad!”

The End

53 comments:

  1. That was a wonderful story! Thanks for posting it, Mrs. M!! : D

    ReplyDelete
  2. AMAZING! I love it although it will take a while to get used to Andi being a mom in my mind Andi is still a kid so it's a little weird. I wonder if Chad will keep the couger cub?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I liked this story just as much as the books! Thank you so much for writing it! When will you be posting the next Slice of Life?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, you gotta let me catch my breath, LOL.

      Delete
  4. Thank you! Great story Mrs. M!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I loved it!!! Oh, I can just see Chad's face when Andi gave the cat to him. Lol. I loved Mrs. M. It is kinda weird to think of Andi being old enough to have a kid..Thanks again, Mrs.M.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Love it. So sad the story's done. Will there be more andi's journal posts that will follow up on the new baby??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. See comment above. LOL
      Gotta catch my breath . . . and I have TWO CCAdventures to update. Like . . . right away. My publisher is OUT of Dangerous Decision, so the anniversary edition needs to be finished ASAP.

      Delete
  7. Right next to the true Christmas story (of Jesus's birth), this one is my favorite! It's even better than the Christmas story you posted a while back (when Andi got scarlet fever). As I said on Sunday (I was the one who posted the comment of the story being exciting with uncountable exclamation marks along with the guess of Andi's secret) I could hardly sleep at night--literally--because of excitement over the next day's post. I love Andi and Riley, and now Andi is a mother! Wow! The whole story is amazing!
    Thanks so much, Mrs. Marlow--for everything! Have a Merry Christmas!

    ~Ellen (the same one who emailed you the other night with suggestions)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a nice compliment. Thanks!
      And I'm on chapter 7 or 8 of revising Dangerous Decision. :-)

      Delete
    2. That's fantastic! Like I said before, I can't wait to get "Dangerous Decision"! When do you think it'll possibly be ready for purchasing?
      Isn't it nice how "great minds think alike"? The Christmas story I was working on had Andi announce that she's a mother as a Christmas surprise for Riley :-). However, I like yours much better! I can't wait 'til you catch your second wind (as Andi would say *wink*) and start posting journal entries again. In the meantime, I will continue to pray for help for you in finishing your books.
      I know this might sound kind of awkward, but do you have any plans for conventions in the upcoming years? I'd really, really, REALLY like to meet you in person.

      ~Ellen

      Delete
    3. The new anniversary edition of Dangerous Decision will probably be ready by the end of January. Sooner, I hope! I turned in the edits tonight, hoping they can get going on this.

      I go to conventions every year, Ellen. Where to you live? I've probably been at a convention near you at one time or another. I usually announce them on the blog. I used to do up to 11, but I've cut back to 7 the past couple of years. I go to the east coast every three years or so, and the Midwest much more often. This next year it's time for the west coast.

      Here is the schedule for 2018:

      North Dakota

      Kansas City (the MPE)
      Cincy (GHC)
      New Mexico

      Seattle (the WHO)
      Boise, ID (CHOIS)
      Phoenix (AFHE)

      Delete
    4. Are you seriously coming to North Dakota again??? That's so exiting!

      Delete
    5. Ohh you're coming to KC!!!! Oh my word!! So excited! I loved the story too! A baby!!! Wow! Time flies!!

      Delete
    6. Aww...I actually missed you this year, and where you're going in the upcoming year isn't anywhere close to where I live. My mom had figured out she was pregnant in May with her 8th (awesome, isn't it?), therefor she was too sick to go anywhere, or else we'd maybe have been at the convention in Virginia. Oh, well. Maybe in 2019...

      ~Ellen Senechal

      Delete
    7. Lexah, it is not in Bismarck this year. It is in Grand Forks. Not sure where that is.

      Delete
    8. That's so exciting! Has the baby been born yet?
      And yes, I was in Richmond, VA, last year. And North Carolina, and Lancaster, PA. Very close to you. I remembered after I posted where you live. :-)

      Delete
    9. No, it hasn't yet; January 4th is the due date. Really exciting, though a little worrying. This is my mom's 8th C-section, so please pray that all goes well! (It's kind of nice, too, that Mom is pregnant at such a time; I could relate so well to Andi, as I have to lend a hand when Mom has morning sickness :-)
      What do you mean "posted where you live"? Are you talking about the emails I've been sending you? I'm a little confused by what you mean.
      Thanks...and I'm looking forward to getting a copy of Dangerous Decision.

      ~Ellen

      Delete
    10. Ellen, I remembered where you live (regarding conventions) after I posted my response, because I'd initially forgot that your little sister wrote me a letter and I wrote back to her. But of course I didn't want to say where that was on the blog. :-)

      Delete
    11. You are going to Bosie, Idaho??? Yay!! I hope I can go:) last time you were there is when I first I got the books and I LOVE them!!

      Delete
    12. That's too bad. That means I will probably not be seeing you next year. Grand forks is a LONG ways away.

      Delete
    13. Well, Marissa, it's really Nampa, but you know what I mean. *wink*
      Yep, see you then?

      And Lexah, I'm so sorry! Too bad it's not in Bismarck this year, but ND does move the convention around the state a bit. :-(

      Delete
    14. I hope I can meet you at the CHOIS convention, Mrs. Marlow! That would be amazing! :) -Mae

      Delete
    15. I plan on being there, Mae.😉

      Delete
  8. Lol. That was awesome Mrs. M. Thanks for this series. :D

    ReplyDelete
  9. Oh, boy, I don't even want to imagine what Chad said about his "christmas gift"! That was an AMAZINGLY well written story Mrs. M. Loved it!

    ReplyDelete
  10. WOW!!! Its kinda hard to think of Andi as a mother, but I am SO excited for the new baby! Great job, Mrs. M!!! Amazing! One of my favorite Christmas stories ever!!!

    I LOVE Andi and Riley and all the books. Your Andi Carter series's are my favorite books in the world. I read each one millions of times. Thank you for writing this Slice of Life! I enjoyed reading them and looking forward to reading them. :)
    ~Ella

    ReplyDelete
  11. For the Christmas writing contest what kind of information do we have to include? (Name, email, number, age, etc)

    ~Leah

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just email to circlecadventures@gmail.com
      If you win, I'll email and can get the rest of your mailing information. :-)

      Delete
    2. Okay! Thank you!

      ~Leah

      Delete
  12. will andi's baby be like her?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, my. I have not thought that far ahead. :-)

      Delete
  13. Uhhh....Apparently I'm not the only one, so this isn't gonna sound very original, LOL. :D
    But I LOVED this story! Thanks so much for writing it, Mrs. M!!! It's so sweet! Riley is the best guy ever...too bad guys aren't actually like that in real life, huh?
    Muchas, Muchas Gracias, Senora M!
    ~Hope

    ReplyDelete
  14. I loved your story!!!:) When will Riley’s rambling come back?!:)

    ReplyDelete
  15. That was a really good story! When will Riley’s ramblings come back ya think?!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Sorry.... I posted the same thing twice!

    ReplyDelete
  17. First off this story is so sweet.
    Second, are they going to keep the cub? Have you thought of any names yet? Jasper first came to mind. I also think more of a funny nick name would be cute. <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She gave the cub to Chad, if you read it right. LOL
      Yes, Jasper is a cute name. Maybe I will have to write a spring sequel to this story. Hmm, maybe call it "Here, Kitty Kitty" or something. :-)

      Delete
  18. Hahahahahahaha, Chad, you got yourself a new pet! XD Have funnnn! I finally finished this story and I loved it. XD Thanks so much for writing it, Susan, it was so enjoyable. :)

    ReplyDelete
  19. Mrs. Marlow, how does Chad find out about the baby? I mean, he, especially, should know that Andi is not one for keeling over, so was he told about the baby before she came around? She just didn't want to tell Riley when there were eavesdroppers around?
    BTW, have you thought of names for the baby(ies)? I suggested this before, in a long-time-ago journal entry (I was Anonymous then) and I thought it'd be cool if Andi had twin boys and named them Justin and James, after father and brother ;-).

    Thanks and may God bless you,

    ~Ellen

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Okay... Where in the story does it say that Chad knows anything about the baby? Andi's baby, that is...

      He doesn't know. Unless the can point the place out where it's stated that he knows....🤔

      Delete
    2. It does not say that anywhere, Mrs. Marlow; I just think Chad (or Ellie) would have been inquiring about why Andi had been insensible. So...nobody knows about it but Mother, Andi, Riley, and Doc Weaver? I wonder how Andi breaks the news to the rest of her family...
      Thanks so much!

      ~Ellen

      Delete
    3. That's right.
      Good question. Got any ideas about that? 🤔

      Delete
    4. Well, that's a hard one...really hard. I mean, it's her BROTHERS. Nowadays, when I move away and get married and find out I'm pregnant, I can just call my own siblings on a phone, but here, in the 1880's, you have to tell them face to face...maybe Ellie, after Andi gifts the cat and sits down with her cocoa, asks how she feels? Then Andi answers, "I'm just fine, thank you, Ellie. It's hard to imagine, though, that in 8 months your baby will have a cousin that lives only 30 minutes away."
      "What?" says Ellie, bewildered, and Chad stares at his sister.
      Nonchalantly, Andi lifts her cocoa to her lips while her message sinks in. When Ellie fully grasps it, she smiles.
      "Congratulations, Andi," she says, softly, and Chad...hmm, I don't know...what could you picture him doing after that?

      ~Ellen

      Delete
    5. Sweet! I like it. I would think of Chad's reaction if I wasn't so tired. Up at 2am to get out of Grand Forks before a snowstorm and now in Montana, where there is more and more snow. Took us a long 12 hours to get this far. 😂

      Delete
    6. Oh, I'm sooooo sorry, Mrs. Marlow! Cold, snowy weather and long travel (especially when you have to get up so early) are so yucky!!!
      I thought of some more for how this whole thing unravels and Chad's reaction, though I remember in "Courageous Love" that, back then, nobody talked about people in the family way, so I must keep this simple:
      After Ellie congratulates Andi, Chad is still staring at his sister. Then he smiles himself and says, "Just make sure you have a son and name him after me, Andi," with a teasing wink.
      How's that?

      ~Ellen

      Delete
  20. PLEASE!!!!!!tell me chad's reaction to his Christmas present!!!

    ReplyDelete
  21. That will have to wait until I write the sequel. 😀

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll check EVERY day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!LOL

      ~Laisa

      Delete

Let Andi know what you think!