Shine Not Burn
Author:Elle Casey

“Weeeee!” she squealed, taking me into a brief but strong hug. “Andie the party girl is now on board, airplane people.” She smiled as she stepped into the front of the plane, looking out over the seats in business class. “Now someone show us to the vodka.” She left me standing there, taking a seat next to Candice. They both squealed together like teenagers.


I followed along slowly, not looking forward to getting reacquainted with Andie the party girl. I’d left her behind in college and hadn’t seen her in a long, long while. Andie the party girl did not fit into my plans of making partner, getting married, and having two point five kids by the time I’m thirty-five.






Chapter Three






IAN MACKENZIE SADDLED UP ONE of his father’s quarter horses and took off down the trail that would lead him to the back part of the far pasture. His older brother Gavin, otherwise known as Mack, was working there. The MacKenzies had a big herd that needed to be moved to higher ground because of some forecasted heavy rains, but it had to be done slowly. They didn’t want the cattle to burn off too much weight before being sold by the pound. Loss of a single pound per head could mean the difference between feast and famine on the MacKenzie ranch.


Thirty minutes later, his older brother’s musical whistling cued him in to where he was, just behind a large rock outcropping, under some tall trees. Mack had gotten farther in his mission to move the cattle, and the ride had taken Ian much longer than he’d anticipated. He allowed his horse to pick its way around the scrub brush and larger rocks, its sturdy legs and muscular frame well adapted to the area’s rugged terrain.


“Yo, Mack!” Ian called out, making sure to announce himself so he wouldn’t spook his brother or his brother’s horse.


The whistling stopped abruptly. “Yo, Ian,” came the response, albeit in a decidedly less enthusiastic tone.


Ian rode around the side of the large barrier, finding his brother sitting in the saddle and staring out over the gorgeous valley below, his reins loosely wrapped around the saddle horn. His leather chaps that he wore over his jeans looked as old as the hills themselves. Ian made a mental note to buy his brother new ones for his birthday.


“I’ll never get tired of that view,” said Mack, reaching up to rub his sweaty head by wiggling his cream-colored cowboy hat around, his longish dark brown hair curling up at the nape of his neck. The strong muscles of his arm flexed and moved, calling attention to the deep tan he’d acquired from working without his flannel shirt on. “Why would anyone ever want to live anywhere else?” He abandoned the head scratching and rested his hand on his thigh. Turning to his younger brother, he gave him the look that used to make Ian beg for forgiveness when they were younger.


Ian breathed out a sigh of annoyance. “Some people find other things to live for besides ranching and carrying on old and tired traditions.”


Mack turned more fully to face his brother, his glowing, light blue eyes shining out from under his hat. This was the classic-old-West-cowboy-meets-GQ-model look that always got the girls in town all hot and bothered. Ian had spent a lifetime watching his brother duck and run from almost all of them. It was a damn shame, as far as he was concerned, that his brother was not only damn ornery but way too picky to boot. None of the girls in Baker City had measured up so far, and he’d pretty much run out of candidates. Even Hannah Pierce who’d been circling his brother’s ankles and making herself a complete nuisance since junior high wasn’t really in the running, much as she might like to think she was.


“Old and tired traditions?” Mack scowled. “Come on, Ian, that’s not fair. Those traditions put you through school, not to mention set you up to get married to Ginny in style, just like she always wanted.” He faced the beautiful view again and adjusted his seat in the saddle, the leather creaking as it moved. Reaching down to gather up his reins in his gloved hand, he began whistling again, doing a unique rendition of the song I’m Movin’ On by Rascal Flatts.


Ian knew the tune well. Their mother had been playing it everyday at home, wallowing in the sadness of losing her younger boy to the big city. Ian shook his head. Portland, Oregon was as small-town as a big city could possibly be, but his whole family was acting like he was going to the Big Apple never to be seen again. He and his soon-to-be wife Ginny had already promised to visit on every major holiday and two weeks during Christmas, but it hadn’t done anything to ease his mother’s suffering. All she could talk about was the grandchild who didn’t exist yet that she’d almost never see.


“I bought you a ticket today,” said Ian. “I came to tell you so you can pack and get in the shower before we leave for Boise. Plane takes off at four so we have to be there by three, no later.”


“I told you, I’m not goin’. Gotta get the herd moved before next week.”