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The snow was coming down in blankets covering the ground as quickly as it fell. Rachel Connors sat there in her window sill looking out. 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 that year more than ever. Rachel made the decision to keep her medical problems to herself as she needed a break from reality. She knew there was no sense in making her parents worry about her. She would tell them nothing.
The 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 January. How was she supposed to forget everything and enjoy a vacation at a time like that? 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. It was always beautiful at her parents’ ranch, which was about an hour and a half outside of Nashville. 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 from a ski resort in Aspen. She moved there to be the manager of her friends resort. It was a great escape from reality, and in the process she grew to love her new life. Rachel took a long nap on the plane ride to her parent's house. She had been under a lot of stress lately. It seemed like only minutes after her head hit the pillow when the flight attendant was saying they were landing. She looked around and saw that they were coming onto the runway. She rubbed her eyes and stretched her arms before standing up.
Kyle Landers stood there holding a sign for a woman who he had never met before. How did he get himself into situations like that? 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 no place to go until he got the job on the ranch. He looked back and forth for Rachel. He had never met her but he had seen many pictures over the years. Kyle decided he didn't want to give some stuck up, too good to come home to her family, up tight 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 people. She hadn't treated her parents very well not even visiting over the years. He turned and walked away.
While walking down the aisle, Rachel saw her name written on a sign lying in the trash can. That was strange since her plane was right on time. Her parents told her a man named Kyle would be picking her up. Where was he? Why didn't he wait?
She walked out of the airport and tried to catch a cab, but there weren't any in sight. Rachel walked up and down on the side walk 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 she thought. She made it down to the end of the parking lot when she saw a 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.”
Kyle 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.”
Rachel didn't know what to think. “Okay” she said, as she glanced down at the ground.
She jumped up into his truck not saying a word. Rachel felt a little uncomfortable being with him. Once she got buckled into his truck she looked over at him. “Excuse me, but you haven't even told me your name.”
“Kyle. My name’s Kyle.” He said as he continued to drive.
“Have 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 just going to leave me here at the airport? I wasn't late.”
Kyle 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.”
Rachel 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.
They drove for another thirty minutes in silence before turning into the parking lot of a small restaurant. Rachel had eaten at that place 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 walked into the restaurant and found a table in the back away from everyone.
Kyle 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.”
Rachel 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?”
“Four years.” He said without adding anything more.
“That's 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.
Kyle 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 before.”
Rachel looked surprised by the question. “Oh, well Bobby was my brother. You would have really liked him. He died six years ago in a car accident.”
“I'm sorry to hear that.” He felt bad for asking now.
The food came and they ate in silence. When they were finished eating they started on their trip back to the ranch once again. Neither of them spoke. Rachel couldn't help but wonder why Kyle seemed to dislike her so much. She had done nothing to him and he didn't know her. How could he make a judgment not to like her that quick? She sat there staring out the window thinking about when she was younger. She remembered the way her and Bobby would go on long walks exploring the entire ranch or taking the horses out across the range. He would take off across there 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.
Kyle 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 alright?” he asked.
Rachel wiped her eyes and sat up straighter. “I'm fine. Just memories flooding me,” she said with a smile.
Kyle 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 emotionless as he drove.
Rachel 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 since she had seen them. They had visited her two years ago in Colorado, but she just couldn't bear to come back home after Bobby died. She stuck around for about a year after he died and then she had to get out of there. The memories hurt too much. He was not only her brother but also her best friend. She didn't know how to live without him.
The 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.
“I missed you too baby. I'm glad you're home, even if it's only for the holidays.” Sue said to her daughter as she hugged her tighter.
“Where's dad?” Rachel asked as she looked around.
Sue pointed into the house. “He threw his back out again. That's why Kyle had to pick you up.”
“Is he alright now?” she asked as she walked in the house. Looking back at Kyle she said. “Thank you for driving me home.”
Kyle nodded his head. “No problem. I'll talk to you later. I'm sure.”
Rachel walked on into the house to find her father lying on the couch with a heating pad behind his back. “Dad, how are you feeling?”
Tom sat up with a smile. “You made it. I'm glad you're here. How was the trip?”
“It was fine. I don't think Kyle likes me much, but the trip was fine.” she answered.
Tom gave her a smile. “Kyle just takes a little getting used to. He's a good man.”
Rachel visited with her parents 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 the way it felt being home again and almost hated to think about leaving. She decided to go take a nice long hot bubble bath before going to bed. She needed it after the stress that she had been under lately. She planned to get up bright and early to go riding on the ranch. It had been a long time since she had been out on the ranch.
The next day Rachel got up and dressed in jeans and a t-shirt to go riding. She walked up to the stables to pick out her horse. When she walked in she saw Kyle brushing one of the horses.
“Good morning.” she said to him.
Kyle looked up at her. “Hi. Going riding this morning?”
“Yes. It's been awhile. I can't wait. Would you like to go with me?” she asked not knowing where that came from. The words came out of her mouth without thinking.
Kyle didn't know what to say. “Sure. I can go riding with you. Let me saddle up a couple of horses.”
Rachel went over to one of the stalls and started brushing the black stallion. 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?”
“No. Go ahead. I'll saddle up Ranger for me to ride.” He walked over to the brown horse in the last stall and started getting the horse ready.
After a few minutes of getting the horses ready, they headed off across the land. Rachel loved the feel of the wind hitting her in the face as she rode quickly across the fields. She hadn't done that in a really long time. Thoughts of her and Bobby racing their horses flooded her mind as she raced her horse to the back part of the land. She wanted to stop at the creek to let her horse have some water. When she stopped and got off, she looked back to see if Kyle was still there. He was coming up behind her slowly.
“You ride great.” he told her as he jumped off his horse.
Rachel smiled. “I love to ride. I never get a chance to anymore. The only thing I ride is a snowmobile now.”
She 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.”
“Money 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 find out, but didn't want to come right out and ask.
Rachel 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 it's been all this time and I don't know what has been keeping me away. Now 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 problems.
“I'm sorry if I upset you. I didn't mean to do that.” Kyle felt horrible.
Rachel wiped a tear away. “You didn't upset me. I always get emotional around the holidays. More so now than before.”
Kyle 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 with time. He looked over at her. “I guess you and your brother, Bobby, were close?”
Rachel 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 went to the store then maybe he would still be here with us. It's my fault that he is dead.” Rachel couldn't stop the tears from falling. They were coming down like rainfall.
Kyle 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.”
Rachel 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. She rode across the land without looking back.
When they got back to the stables she started brushing her horse. Rachel loved that ranch and missed it every day. She would love to move back, but knew she couldn't until the doctors said she could. The waiting for the test and then the results were going to be the hardest thing she had ever had to do. The doctors couldn't get her in for her test until January. Rachel was snapped out of her thoughts by the sound of Kyle walking in with his horse.
“I'm sorry I upset you. Sometimes I put my whole foot in my mouth.” he said as he walked the horse to the stall.
Rachel laughed. “You’re fine. I just get a little emotional sometimes. It's not your fault.”
“How 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 with women.
She looked at him with a little shock in her eyes. “I would love to go out with you tomorrow night, but I can't. My 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 are welcome to come over and let me cook you something if you would like. We can watch a movie while the cakes are baking.”
“Sounds good to me.” Kyle said. “I'll see you then.
Rachel 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. 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.”
Sue smiled over at her daughter. “It's beef stew. One of your many favorites.”
Rachel laughed because she loved to eat. She told her mom. “Guess what I'm doing tomorrow night.”
“I have no idea, dear.” Sue answered.
“I'm 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.
Sue 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 are still leaving at the end of December aren't you?”
“Yes, mother. 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. When she was all done setting them out, she went to get her father for dinner.
They 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?”
Tom 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?”
Rachel 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.
Sue’s 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?”
Rachel 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.”
After 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 bath tub 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.
After what seemed like hours, Rachel got out of the bath tub and dried off. She stood there looking at herself in the mirror for a few minutes before getting dressed. 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 things.
Then next morning Rachel 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 to wear. When she finished getting dressed she walked slowly downstairs. 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.
“Didn't I hear voices down here a few minutes ago?” Rachel asked as if she hadn't seen Kyle sitting there.
“Yes, 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.
“It's 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 sight-seeing. It's been a while since I've been home.”
“That 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.
Rachel 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 could 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 she headed back home. Rachel 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.
She 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?”
“I'm 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 list.
“Wow 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 trip”
“We will. You have a good weekend too.” Sue hugged her daughter and then turned and walked out to the truck.
Rachel 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 cut 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 quickly to spray her favorite perfume on before he walked in. She double checked her hair in the mirror and then walked back to the kitchen.