I wrote this A MILLION years ago.. and I'm cringing as I read this. But due to several requests that I post an addition - here it is. I highly doubt I will continue though.


It had been hours since they had set out, and the three friends rode abreast each other down a comfortable path of Crimson Vale. Darby rode in the middle, chatting with Megan as she dropped her reins and began to text.

"Oh, Megan. You're going to get yourself killed."

"Naw." Cade slipped in again.

Darby shook her head and grabbed Megan's reins for her. Still, she again gazed in awe at her best friend's appeal on a saddle. Megan rode effortlessly, never losing her balance, her fluidity moving in time with the horse's steps. Even without reins, she guided Jewel along with light touches with her knees, as her thumbs continued tapping a reply. Then again, Megan had been riding since she could sit up straight. Still, Megan was an amazing athlete, soccer captain, Darby's goal was to be able to ride like Megan.

"There!" Cade's voice was so startling that Darby almost dropped her reins.

"What?" Megan turned, her phone safely in her pocket again.

Darby saw what Cade meant instantly and pulled Navigator to a stop. A few yards away, was the wild horse herd of Crimson Vale. The stallion, whom they had named Luna, stood majestically drinking from one of the forest's many waterfalls.

"Ann would love that peach one." Megan's voice said. "She's still a filly too, so she'd be easy to saddle-break. Can you tell if she's weaned?"

Darby shrugged. "How are you supposed to know?"

"Her mouth, and how near she stands to her mother." Cade replied softly. "She looks weaned to me."

Megan nodded. "You throw lucky loops, Cade."

It was true. Darby had never seen Cade miss, no matter how far his target was.

He nodded, thinking. "Megan, you can ride Jewel into the clearing, which will spook the older horses. The young ones won't skitter away, their curiosity will make 'em stay. I'll throw a loop from over here, and Darby will back me up with another one in case I miss. If mine makes it, Darby will leave Navigator and approach the filly with a blanket. If I miss, and hers does make it, then I'll come up with the blanket."

Darby nodded. "Sweet. Let's hit this."

Minutes later, Megan rode in silently, and as Cade had predicted, the horses all followed Luna out back into the forest. The little peach filly ventured closer to Megan.

"She's young. Doesn't know fear yet." Cade commented.

As Darby expected, Cade's loop settled easily over the young filly. Megan flashed a look at Cade, and mouthed the word, "Loose."

He nodded. Tightening the loop would cause the filly to panic and run. Right now, the filly barely noticed and continued to sniff the air in front of Megan. Darby reached the little filly and held some sweet grass in front of her. The filly came close enough and Darby tossed a blanket over her back. As she nibbled on the grass, Darby saw Megan nod slightly and Cade began to tighten the loop.

"How are we going to get her back?" Darby asked.

Megan pursed her lips. "She's young and wild. You're the horse charmer Darby, and Cade's a natural with horses. Here," she offered a hand to Cade. "I'll ride Joker, and pony Navigator and Jewel on down. Unless you two want to take turns?"

Cade shrugged. "We don't need two to handle a young filly."

"I'll take first." Darby said excitedly.

Megan nodded. "Okay." She faced Cade. "Are you feeling up to a challenge?"

Cade shot her a confused look. "What for?"

"The Keiki Rodeo is coming up, and you know Jonah wants us to take part again. We aced that Gretna Green race, so how about trying for the double-riding?"

"In the forest?" Darby asked.

"I don't see why not," Megan replied. "We're on a beaten path, anyway."

Cade rubbed his neck. "I don't know, Megan. No fences, if the horses go wild, we're…."

"Dead?" Darby said helpfully. "Megan, double-riding is so dangerous."

Megan tossed her hair. "Not for expert riders," she winked. "I'm not backing down."

Darby sighed and threw her arms in the air. "I'm out of the argument. Nobody's going to change her stubborn head. Which may pretty much end up on the forest floor."

Megan turned her defiant look on Cade. "Well?"

"Do I have a choice?" He asked.

Megan grinned. "Of course not." She leaped onto the saddle with such easy grace that Darby would bet anything Joker didn't even notice. She settled neatly into the saddle and adjusted her reins.

"Are you riding in front, or behind, Cade?" She teased.

"You'll get killed if you ride backseat," a smile broke out on Cade's face.

"Oh, really?" Megan gave him a pitying look. "Want me to ride sidesaddle and set Joker on a lope?"

"If you die, Jonah's going to kill me."

Megan laughed. "See you in heaven, then."

Cade slid into the saddle right behind Megan. "Not too fast, eh?"

"I do gallop, gallop, and lope."

"No problem. Darby?" Cade called.

"Yeah?" Darby looked up from putting up tack on Navigator.

"My will and testament is under my bunk. Make sure Jonah gets the letter."

Darby flashed him a shaka. "Nice knowing you guys."

And with that Megan snapped the reins, and kept her word. Gallop, they did.

3

Darby staggered into the kitchen as soon as she finished polishing all the tack from the horses they'd used. Megan and Cade were still gone, but Darby had worked with the little filly until past supper. Now her stomach was complaining, and as she searched for something to eat, she wondered where the two had gone. Jonah and Cathy, hadn't worried that much. After all, they might have decided to camp out at Tutu's house, Darby's aged and kind great-grandmother. As she sat seated at the table eating a bowl of cereal, the door swung open and Megan walked in.

"You're back." Darby smiled.

"Yeah, I'm so sore though," Megan rubbed her back.

"Obviously. Riding a horse at a gallop for," Darby glanced at her watch, "5 hours should have killed all three of you. Joker's probably half-dead."

Megan rolled her eyes. "As if we'd let that happen. Cade would have personally ripped me to pieces, if Joker had gotten so much as a pebble in his hoof."

It was Darby's turn to give Megan a pathetic look. "Totally. Cade likes you."

Megan straightened. "No way. He loves me like a sister, which, I basically am."

Darby could hear the disappointment in her voice. "You don't blush for a sister."

Megan sighed. "True, we had a great time. He never spends time with me. I mean, we never spend time together. You know, with so much ranch work. He always works with the cattle, and I work more with the horses, so we hardly ever work together. And- " She patted Darby's hand. "Thanks by the way for you know, taking care of the filly and ponying the horses back."

"No big deal."

"And you know, just letting us run off like that, you doing all the work."

Darby grinned. "No problem, I've got no chores for two days."

"What? Oh, you!" Megan said and shook her head laughing. "Fine, I'll do it."

"So how was the adventure?"

"Oh, not much. A break from all the ranch work these days though. We galloped only for around five minutes, and Joker was sweating barrels in this hot sun. We slowed him down to a walk and just strolled. We stopped at Tutu's and she fed us dinner, we talked to her a while, then we spent some time down where the young horses were, because Cade wanted to check on the one that had colic a couple days ago."

Darby nodded. "Romantic."

"Oh, shut up." Megan slapped Darby's arm playfully. "He had his arms around my waist when we rode double."

"For five minutes."

"And when we rode down to the pasture."

"Ten minutes."

"Still, ten minutes."

Darby shrugged. "Whatever you say, sis."

Jonah walked through. "What is this, now? I had to deal with mares screaming all morning, and now I have girls gossiping and clucking like hens in the night."

Megan laughed. "Go back to bed, Jonah."

"Not until I see you two, off." He herded them toward their rooms.

"I'll see you in the morning, Megan."

Megan nodded and winked before heading to her own room.

3

Darby curled into bed with a book like she always did, and sipped her cold iced tea. The filly had shown good signs of recovery, she was playful and hungry. Obedient, too. Darby knew that it would only take days to saddle-break her, if Cade worked with her.

Whether she liked it or not, Darby was good with feelings, and horses tended to love her more than obey her. The filly already recognized Darby as a friend, but things would speed up under Cade's expertise.

Darby smiled again as she thought of Cade. To think that Megan and Cade had been the worst of enemies! Then that day whenmCade rescued her from drowning during that tsunami last summer, Megan had been so jealous. Honestly, even sixteen year olds could be so immature.

Well, Megan didn't have to worry all that much, Darby thought. It's not like she has any competition. Darby thought of Cade as a brother, and a brother he would stay. Cade was never around any girls his own age other than Darby and Megan. And Ann. But after Ann had been her own wild and unpredictable self and asked Patrick to a ride down the beach, she was pretty much taken. Cade had always loved and sheltered Megan, anyway.

Darby shut her eyes and snapped her book shut. She'd read tomorrow, if she had the energy. But, remembering she had no chores for two days, Darby fell asleep with a little grin on her face.


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