snow was coming down hard, quickly blanketing the ground as it fell. Rachel Connors sat on her window sill, watching it fall.
The tears rolled down her face, as the thought of going back home haunted her.
She hadn't seen her parents in five years, and wasn't completely positive she
was making the right decision in going back now. She needed to be near family
now more than ever. Rachel decided to keep her medical problems to herself.
There was no sense in making her parents worry about her. She would tell them
sound of the cab's horn jarred her out of her thoughts. She wiped the tears
away and grabbed her bags. She would be staying with her parents until after
the holidays. The doctors didn't need to see her until the
new year. How am I supposed to
forget everything and enjoy a vacation at a time like this? Rachel sat in
the back seat of the cab as it headed to the airport. It would be a long plane
ride from Colorado to her parents' ranch in Tennessee, an hour and a half
outside of Nashville. It was always beautiful there. They always teased her
growing up about being a singer, but she never had any interest in singing. She
always wanted to be a talent agent. She wanted to be the one who found the
talent, which was exactly what she did. She was very successful at it, until
she received a job offer to manage a friend’s ski resort in Aspen. It was a
great escape from the harsh realities of the past, and she grew to love her new
took a long nap on the plane. She had been under a lot of stress lately. It
seemed like only minutes after her head hit the pillow that she heard the
flight attendant say they were landing. She looked around and saw that they
were coming onto the runway. She rubbed her eyes and stretched her arms before
Landers waited for her in the terminal, holding up a sign for a woman he had
never met. How do I get myself into
situations like this? he thought as he started to pace back and forth. He
couldn't tell Sue and Tom that he wouldn't go pick up their daughter for them
even though he knew he wouldn't like her. He couldn't understand how she could
stay gone as many years as she did knowing her parent's missed her. Kyle would
do anything for Sue and Tom. They took him in four years ago when he didn't
have anywhere else to go. He had no family and them gave him a job on the
ranch. He looked back and forth for Rachel. He had seen many pictures of her
over the years. Kyle decided he didn't
want to give some stuck up, too good to come home to her family, uptight woman
a ride. He dropped the sign into the trash can and walked out. He would tell
Sue and Tom the flight must have been delayed. He felt a little bad lying to
them, but he knew that their daughter could use a good lesson on how you treat
she entered the terminal, Rachael looked for her ride. Her parents told her a
man named Kyle would be picking her up. Not seeing him, she thought he might be
outside, or in the luggage area. As she left, she saw a large cardboard sign
lying in the trash can with her name on it. Where
was he? Why didn't he wait? The plane was right on time.
She collected her luggage and walked out of
the building, hopeful of catching a cab. Rachel walked up and down on the
sidewalk trying to hail someone, with no luck. All the cabs were busy and she
wanted to go home. She grabbed her bag and started to walk. Surely somebody
would give her a ride within an hour and a half’s distance, she thought. As she
looked around for prospects, she saw a young man getting ready to get into his
truck. “Excuse me, sir. My name is Rachel Connors. Can you please give me a
ride to my family’s ranch? I'll pay for the gas and if you can't take me all
the way there, I would be happy with anywhere close. My ride didn't show up to pick me up and I
can't seem to get a cab.”
shot her a look that let her know he wasn't in the mood to talk. He couldn't
believe his luck. Of all the people wanting a ride it had to be the one person
he wanted to leave at the airport. “Let's go. I have a lot of work to get done
back at the ranch.”
didn't know what to think. “Okay,” she said, as she glanced down at the ground.
jumped up into his truck not saying a word. Rachel felt a little uncomfortable
being with him. Once she buckled in, she looked over at him. “Excuse me, but
you haven't even told me your name.”
My name’s Kyle,” he said as he continued to drive.
I done something to offend you? I don't even know you, but you seem to dislike
me for some reason.” She said, as she
played with her hands nervously. “Wait a minute. Are you Kyle Landers? The same
Kyle Landers that works for my father? Why were you going to leave me here at
the airport? I wasn't late.”
really didn't want to get into it with her right then, but it was going to be
an hour and half ride back to the ranch. He knew he would have to talk to her
at some point in time. “Why don't we stop to eat? I haven't had lunch yet.”
wasn't sure if he was trying to be nice now or if he was just hungry. “That sounds good to me,” she said even
though she was still angry at him for leaving her there.
drove for another thirty minutes in silence before turning into the parking lot
of a small restaurant. Rachel had eaten at there before and remembered them
having good food although she hadn't been eating much of anything lately. She
hoped the trip back home would take her mind off her problems, but not bring up
bad memories in the process. They found a table in the back away from everyone.
sat down and picked up a menu without speaking. When the waitress walked by he
waved her over to him. “I'll take a cheeseburger, fries and a coke please.”
saw the waitress look over at her. “I'll take the same. Thanks.” She looked
over at Kyle. “How long have you worked for my father?”
years.” He said without adding anything more.
great. My father really needed help after Bobby. . . . Well, never mind. I'm
glad my father has you.” She took a sip of her soda trying to hold back the
tears as she thought about her brother.
looked surprised to hear that Tom had somebody else work for him. He hadn't
ever heard them talk about anyone else. “Who's Bobby? I've never heard the name
looked surprised by the question. “Oh, well. . . Bobby was my brother. You would
have liked him. He died six years ago in a car accident.”
sorry to hear that.” He felt bad for asking now.
food came and they ate in silence. When they were finished, they started back
to the ranch. Neither of them spoke. Rachel couldn't help but wonder why Kyle
seemed to dislike her so much. How could he make a judgment so fast without
even knowing her? She sat there staring out the window thinking about when she
was younger. She remembered how her and
Bobby would go on long walks exploring the entire ranch or taking the horses
out across the range. He would run the horse like he was in a race that he had
to win. She could remember staying back, watching him go. He feared nothing and
embraced life to the fullest. Rachel could feel the tears starting again. She
hadn't been home in so long that she had buried the memories deep down. She
always thought about Bobby during the holidays, but more so this year. Bobby
would have handled the news from the doctors better than she did. Rachel wiped
a tear from her eyes.
glanced over at the saddest person he had ever seen. He was beginning to think
maybe he misjudged her. Could she have good reasons for not coming around? Did
it have something to do with Bobby? He knew that he didn't know anything about
her, but the same time he knew that he wanted to. “Is everything all right?” he
wiped her eyes and sat up straighter. “I'm fine. Just memories catching up,”
she said with a little smile.
could tell that she didn't really want to talk about it and he wasn't sure that
he did either. “It's not much further,” he said as he wished he could take the
words back. Of course she knew it wasn't much further. She grew up there. He
always got flustered when he got nervous. He stared at the road, trying to
focus on his driving.
could see her parents’ house coming into view as she got more excited. She
couldn't wait to see her mom and dad. It had been a long time. They had visited
her two years ago in Colorado, but she just couldn't bear to come back home
after Bobby died. She’d stuck around home for about a year after his death and
then she had to get out of there. He was not only her brother but also her best
friend. She didn't know how to live without him. She knew that learning how to
was one way she could remember him.
truck stopped and Rachel jumped out as fast as she could. She saw her mother
standing on the porch with a smile on her face. Rachel ran to her and threw her
arms around her. “I missed you,” she said to her mom.
missed you too, baby. I'm glad you're home, even if it's only for the
holidays,” Sue said, hugging her tighter.
Dad?” Rachel asked as she looked around.
pointed into the house. “He threw his back out again. That's why Kyle had to
pick you up.”
he all right now?” she asked. Looking back at Kyle, she said, “Thank you for
driving me home.”
nodded his head. “No problem. I'll talk to you later, I'm sure.”
entering the house, Rachel found her father lying on the couch with a heating
pad behind his back. “Dad, how are you feeling?”
sat up with a smile. “You made it. I'm glad you're here. How was the trip?”
was fine. I don't think Kyle likes me much, but the trip was fine,” she
gave her a smile. “Kyle just takes a little getting used to. He's a good man.”
talked for hours, sitting in the living room around the fireplace. Her mother
had made hot chocolate and apple spiced cake. Her mother always made the best
cakes in the world. At least that was what Rachel always thought. She loved
being home again and hated to think about leaving. She decided to go take a
nice long, hot bubble bath before going to bed. She needed it after all the
stress she had been under lately. She planned to get up bright and early to go
riding on the ranch. It had been too long time since she’d had the chance.
next day Rachel got up and dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. She walked in to the
stables to pick out her horse, and saw Kyle brushing one of them.
morning,” she said.
“Hi,” he said. “Going riding this morning?”
It's been a while. I can't wait. Would you like to go with me?” she asked, then
blushed. The words came out of her mouth without thinking.
didn't know what to say. “Sure. I have time. Let me saddle up a couple of horses.”
went over to one of the stalls and started brushing a midnight black horse. Its
coat was shiny and smooth. “This is my horse, buttercup. I haven't ridden her
in a while. I'll get her ready for me to ride. If you don't mind?”
Go ahead. I'll saddle up Ranger for me.” He walked over to the brown horse in
the last stall and started getting the horse ready.
minutes later, they headed off across the land. Rachel loved the feel of the
wind hitting her in the face as she galloped across the fields. Thoughts of her and Bobby racing their horses
flooded her mind.
pulled up at a creek to let her horse have some water and a rest. Once
dismounted, she looked back to see if Kyle was still there. He was coming up
behind her at a slower pace.
ride great,” he told her as he jumped off his horse.
smiled. “I love to ride. I never get a chance to anymore. The only thing I ride
now is a snowmobile.”
walked over and sat down on a big rock and watched her horse drink from the
creek. Glancing up at Kyle she said. “It's okay though. I get paid good money
to do what I do.”
isn't everything though. You need family too.” He still wasn't sure why she
moved away, but he was starting to think she had reasons, and maybe he was
wrong to misjudge her the way he did. He could tell that she loved her family.
Why did she leave? He wanted to know, but didn't want to come right out and
sighed. “I know, and I do miss my family. It was really hard on me after Bobby
died. I stuck around for about a year afterwards, but then I had to get out of
here. Now I don't know what has been keeping me away. I wish more than ever
that I lived here near my parents.” She
looked away with a tear in her eye. She didn't want to cry in front of him, and
she didn't want this complete stranger to know anything about her medical
sorry if I upset you. I didn't mean to do that.” Kyle felt horrible.
wiped a tear away. “You didn't upset me. I always get emotional around the
holidays. More so now than before.”
didn't know what she meant by that, but he could see a sadness in her eyes. He
stood there staring at the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She was about
five foot, five inches tall with long brown hair. She couldn't be more than a size
six. He couldn't believe that he was looking at her that way. It was only a day
ago that he had decided that he didn't like her. Things were changing for him
too. He looked over at her. “I guess you and your brother were close?”
smiled as the thoughts of Bobby came back to her. “Yes, we were like best
friends. We did everything together. It was really hard for me when he
died. We had spent the whole day
together that day at a baseball game in Nashville. That night Bobby wanted me
to go to the store for him and get him some ice cream, but I was tired and said
I didn't want to. He left to go get it himself, and on his way home he was hit
by a drunk driver. I can't help but blame myself. If I had gone to the store,
then maybe he would still be here with us. It's my fault he’s dead.” Rachel
couldn't stop the tears from falling. They were coming down like rainfall.
went over to her and took her into his arms. “It's not your fault, Rachel. You
can't blame yourself. Is that why you have stayed away so long? If it is, then
I think you need to come home to your family.”
wiped the tears away and walked back to her horse. “You don't understand. I
can't leave Aspen right now. I have to be there. I wish I could, but I can't.”
She walked over and got up on her horse, riding away without looking back.
she returned to the stables, she removed the saddle and brushed her horse down,
thinking about how great it would be if she could move back to the ranch now.
But no—she needed to hear from the doctors first. Rachel was snapped out of her
thoughts by the sound of Kyle walking in with his horse.
sorry I upset you. Sometimes I put my whole foot in my mouth,” he said as he
walked the horse to the stall.
laughed. “You’re fine. I just get a little emotional sometimes. It's not your
about you let me take you out tomorrow night for dinner to make up for it?”
Kyle had no idea where that came from. He was usually a little on the shy side
looked at him with a little surprise in her eyes. “I would love to go out with
you tomorrow night, but I can't. Mom and Dad are going out of town to the
cattle sales, and I promised that I would get some baking done for Thanksgiving
for her. You’re welcome to come over and let me cook you something if you would
like. We can watch a movie while the cakes are baking.”
good to me.” Kyle said. “I'll see you then.
couldn't believe she had made a date with him. She barely knew him, but she
couldn't help but think how great looking he was. He was six foot tall with
sandy blond hair and a great complexion. She could tell that he worked long,
hard hours out in the sun—he was well muscled and tan. She walked in the house
and saw her mom over by the stove cooking. She went over to her and gave her a
hug. “Something smells good.”
smiled over at her daughter. “It's beef stew. One of your many favorites.”
laughed because she loved to eat. She told her mom. “Guess what I'm doing
have no idea, dear.” Sue answered.
cooking dinner for Kyle while you’re gone. He asked me out and I told him I had
to do the baking for you, but that I would cook him dinner. He said yes.” She
seemed to be talking a mile a minute.
hadn't seen her daughter look that excited about anything in a very long time.
“I'm glad honey, but I would be careful not to lead him on. You’re still
leaving at the end of December aren't you?”
Mom. We won't get serious. It's just one date.” Rachel tried to make herself
believe it more than her mother. She went over to the cabinet to get the dishes
down to set the table. Then she went to get her father for dinner.
all sat down at the table together to eat. Rachel made small talk with her dad
about the ranch and the horses. “How's it going around here lately?”
looked over at his daughter. “Well, I could sure use a good manager to run this
ranch. Do you know anyone that can run a whole business, like maybe a huge
resort, that might be interested in the job?”
had no idea that her dad wanted her to run the ranch with him. “Dad, I can't
believe you are asking me this. I would love to, but I can't right now. I have
some stuff that I have to take care of back in Aspen. Hopefully I can get that
all taken care of in a few months and then I would love to move back here.”
face could have lit up the whole room. Happy didn't come close to the way she
felt at that very moment. She would do anything to have her daughter back home.
“What do you have to take care of?”
nearly choked on her iced tea. “What? Oh, I just need to give a notice at work.
Help train somebody. That could take a few months. Then pack everything that I
own and move it here. It might take me some time to get things in order, but I
will work on it as quickly as I can.”
they all finished eating, Rachel went to take a long hot bubble bath. She
filled the tub to the top, and then sank down in the steaming hot water. She
felt so relaxed for a few minutes. She laid there in the tub, and before she
realized what she was doing, her hand reached up and fell on her breast. She
couldn't help but touch it, but when she did the tears came flooding from her
eyes. The doctors had found the lump in a routine exam. They told her that it
may be nothing but they would have to run some blood tests and CT scans. If
that didn't give them the results that they wanted then she would have to have
a biopsy. Rachel laid there in the bathtub crying until her water went cold on
her. She didn't know how long she had been in there but she knew she didn't
want to get out.
what seemed like hours, Rachel got out and dried off. She stood there looking
at herself in the mirror for a few minutes. How could somebody as healthy as
she had always been be sick now? It didn't make sense, and it didn't seem fair.
Was she being punished for something? That was all that she ever thought to
herself. She got dressed and crawled into bed. Maybe thinking about spending
time with Kyle would help take her mind off other things.
woke up to the smell of bacon cooking. She had truly missed being with her
family. She usually grabbed something quick and easy for breakfast. It had been
a while since she had a nice home cooked meal like the one she smelled
downstairs. She threw her robe on and headed down the stairs. When she made it
to the bottom, she saw Kyle sitting at the table. She turned around and ran
back up the stairs as fast as she could. She couldn't let him see her like
that. She had to make herself beautiful. She ran over to the dresser and started
combing her hair and putting some make-up on. She grabbed a red t- shirt and
some blue jeans. When she finished getting dressed, she walked into the kitchen
to find only her mother there. Her father and Kyle had already left to get
started on the ranch work.
I hear voices down here a few minutes ago?” Rachel asked as if she hadn't seen
Kyle sitting there.
you did. Your father and Kyle already went out to the back field to gather the
cattle for tonight’s sale. They will be gone for most of the day. I'm sorry
that you missed them,” her mother told her.
no big deal. I was just wondering.” Rachel said as she acted like she wasn't
really interested. “I think I'll go into town today and do some sightseeing.
It's been a while since I've been home.”
sounds like a great idea, dear.” Sue was glad to see her daughter thinking of
it more like home. She had wanted her to move back for many years now.
spent the whole day in town going from store to store looking around. She went
into the music store and spent hours in there. She remembered going there with
Bobby many times. It had a new owner now, but everything looked the same.
Rachel picked up a couple of CDs to buy. After she left the music store she
went into a small general store. The first thing that grabbed her attention was
a pink ribbon pin for sale for one dollar to help promote breast cancer
awareness. It seemed like she noticed more things like that now then she ever
had. Rachel walked past the pin without picking it up. She didn't need any
reminders telling her that she might have cancer. It was scary enough thinking
about it on her own and knowing that she was going through it alone. Rachel
couldn't tell her parents they could lose the only child they had left. She
spent the rest of the day in town and then headed back home. She wanted to say
goodbye to her parents before they left for their three day trip. They had
asked her if she wanted to go with them, but she didn't want to leave the
ranch. It had been too long since she had been back there. Rachel didn't want
to think about leaving. She only had six weeks before she had to go back home
for her doctor visit. That's when she would get the results to the CT scan and
blood work. She didn't understand why the doctors couldn't get the results
before the holidays, but they said the lab was overloaded with work and they
were way behind. She didn't like it, but she understood.
pulled into the driveway and saw the cattle trailer hooked up to the back of
her father’s truck. She had made it just in time to say goodbye before they
left. Rachel walked in and found her mother in the kitchen making notes. “What
are you doing mom?”
making you a list of pies, cakes, and breads that I would like you to make for
me while I'm gone. I'll be delivering them to the church when I get back. They
are making baskets for needy families.” Sue told her as she handed her the
Mom. You have enough stuff on this list to feed the whole state. I'll be busy
all night and tomorrow too.” Rachel pretended to be angry, but the whole time
she loved every minute of it. She hadn't done any baking in years. She used to
love making things with her mom. It was going to be fun being in the kitchen
all weekend. She walked over and gave her mom a hug. “I love you. Have a good
will. You have a good weekend too.” Sue hugged her daughter and then turned and
went out to the truck.
went back into the kitchen to try to figure out what she wanted to fix for
dinner that night. She wanted it to be perfect for Kyle. She put some chicken
breasts in the oven to cook. Then she peeled some potatoes to make mashed
potatoes. She sliced one of her mom's fresh loaves of bread and put some butter
on the table. Rachel had everything almost finished when she heard Kyle pull
in. She ran upstairs to spritz on her favorite perfume before he walked in.
After double-checking her hair in the mirror, she hurried downstairs to the