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Josh felt relaxed for the first time since Danny had been taken. When they found the person responsible he would feel even better. But for today, they had two kids who were so excited about getting new horses that worry was impossible.
“How much further?” Danny asked.
Josh chuckled and tussle Danny’s hair. “Not too much further.”
Danny crossed his arms and flopped against the seat. “Seems like forever.”
Before Josh could say anything, Sammy reached over and patted her brother on the shoulder. “I’m excited too, Danny. But we’ll be there soon. Maybe we could look for the ranch entrance. It’s got that fancy gate, remember?”
Danny twisted his lips and stared at Sammy. After a minute, he slumped and crossed his arms over his chest. “Alright, but I think we should be there already.”
Josh couldn’t suppress a grin, but Danny quietly watched the scenery slide past. Josh was enjoying the silence when sudden squeals almost sent him through the roof.
“That’s it! That’s it!” Sammy yelled.
“That’s the gate! Turn there. We’re here!” Danny shouted.
“Okay, okay. Everyone calm down. You have to be calm around the horses. Don’t forget.”
The twins quieted, but were focused on everything around them and fidgeting in their seat. The excitement became more palpable as they drove up the long driveway and rolled to a stop in front of a huge arena.
He spun to the kids and wagged his finger at them. “Alright. Quiet voices. We don’t want to scare the horses.”
They nodded their agreement, but he could tell they are about to burst with excitement. He waited another moment and realized they weren’t going to calm down. He shook his head and motioned the two out the door. “Remember. No yelling.”
“Oh, they won’t scare any horse we have by making a little noise.” A trim and energetic seeming woman leaned in through Josh’s open window.
“Mary. It’s good to see you again.” Josh jumped out of the pickup and wrapped his arms around the woman. After a few seconds, he released her and spun to introduce the other members of his family.
“This is my husband Trent. And these two excited people are Danny and Sammy, our twins.”
Mary held out her hand and shook hands with each of the kids and then pulled a surprised Trent in for a hug. She stepped back and made a motion that seemed to encompass the entire ranch. “Welcome! I hope the trip was okay.”
“It took forever,” Danny said.
She chuckled and ruffled Danny’s hair. “Well, hopefully it will be worth it. I think we have a couple of great horses for you.”
“I’m sure you can’t tell, but we’re excited about seeing the horses.”
“Let’s get started then. Just follow me.”
She spun and beat a quick path to the open stable door. When Josh walked into the heavily shadowed interior, it took a few minutes to acclimate. But then he realized how large the building really was, with a large dirt arena in the center flanked by row after row of stalls. The occupied stalls closer to them had curious occupants watching them closely.
“I’ve got the horses we talked about out back,” Mary said.
The group followed quietly, more than a little overwhelmed by the enormity of the place. But eventually they emerged back into the brilliant sunshine, and an exercise pen with two horses. Mary spoke quietly with a couple of ranch hands, and in only a few minutes the horses were saddled and ready to go. They led out a beautiful Palomino, and Mary motioned to Sammy.
“I think this one will be perfect for you young lady. Sugar really loves running barrels.”
Josh watched his daughter for a moment as a smile grew across her face, stretching almost from ear to ear. They walked around the horse, who seemed unaffected by the strangers.
“Would you like to ride her?”
Sammy nodded enthusiastically. Josh was less enthused as he looked over the full sized horse. Both kids had ponies for several years, but these animals looked huge in comparison. But in less time than Josh would have liked, they were watching Sammy get ready for her ride. Her horse worked beautifully, and the way she rode the mare showed she was ready to compete. She skimmed across the area, pivoting around the barrels and making it look effortless. At the end of her run, she walked the horse over to where they were standing, her face beaming with excitement.
“She’s perfect! And beautiful. I have to have her Da.”
“She did slip around those barrels like a champion,” Trent said.
Josh nodded thoughtfully as he considered Sammy. His daughter sat regally on the horse, and he could tell it was a match.
“Okay, I think you two work together great.”
Sammy squealed with delight and reached down to pat the mare. In a few minutes, Danny was trying out his horse. A black gelding, he was just as excited as Sammy.
“He’s great, Da! I’ll win everything.”
Mary smiled at the family. “Sounds like I’ll be sending a few of my babies home with you. Let’s go do the paperwork and get some lemonade to cool down.”
Before anyone else could comment, Danny slipped off his horse and stood holding the reins. “I want to brush him. He needs me to do that.”
Josh looked at Mary who smiled and nodded. Josh turned to his son. “Okay, but be careful.”
Danny grinned from ear to ear and took off down the aisle toward the horses stall. Mary led the rest of the group into the house and made good her offer.
Josh glanced at his watch. “Danny should be here by now. I better check on him.” Josh almost bolted from the house, running to the horse’s stall. He walked to the side of the stall and peered inside—to find Danny sound asleep cuddled against his horse.
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