Shine Not Burn
Author:Elle Casey

Mack spun the horse so sharply at the summit that the gelding reared up and let out a whinny that echoed all over the valley. All in a day’s work for Mack, he leaned forward casually, waiting for the horse to get back on all four feet and calm down. He patted his horse’s neck, whispering his thank yous for the excellent work he’d done.


Ian came galloping up, sweat running down his beet-red face, his horse with white foam gathering at the sides of her bit. “Goddammit, Mack! Why the hell’d you go and do that? You know I have to get to Portland before the tenth!” His horse had slowed to a trot and Ian bounced uncomfortably in the saddle, never one for the work of a rancher.


Mack smiled again, feeling sorry for the horse. “Don’t be a sore loser. You know Mom’ll be thrilled that her baby boy’s staying. Just don’t tell her it’s cuz you lost a bet though or I’ll pound your ass.”


“I should, but I won’t.” Ian scowled. “You suck, you know that? How am I supposed to have a good time at my bachelor party if my best man isn’t even there?”


“You’ll find a way, I’m sure.” Mack wheeled his horse around and pointed it downhill. “Listen, I gotta go find some strays. You want to earn your keep around here and help me out?”


“No, I don’t want to help you out. I’ve already earned my keep and I have to go take a shower now, my second one of the day, thank you very much. I have a plane to catch.”


“See you when you get home,” said Mack, not even looking back.


“The ticket’s non-refundable!” Ian yelled at his brother’s back.


“Shouldn’t a-bought it in the first place!” Mack responded.


Mack pushed his horse into a trot, now in a hurry to get the job done. If he was going to make that plane for his little brother’s bachelor party, he needed to hit the shower by no later than eleven-thirty.


He smiled, picturing the look Ian would have on his face as he watched Mack walk onto the plane. He and Ian weren’t kids anymore, but that didn’t mean Mack didn’t still enjoy a good opportunity for teasing when it presented itself. Vegas was definitely not his idea of a fun place to go for any reason, but he couldn’t very well abandon his kid brother on the last party night of his single life, now could he? Besides, he’d be out there and home again in two days, back in the saddle without a hitch. All he had to do was keep his headstrong little bro out of trouble and make sure he got back home in time to marry his childhood sweetheart. And staying out of trouble should be easy enough. He’d managed to do it his entire life.






Chapter Five






“OH MY GEE WHIZ, WOULD you take a look at this place,” said Kelly. She spun around to face Candice, a barely controlled grin making its way to the surface. “Did you do this?”


Candice grinned like the cheshire cat. “Of course I did. Who else would think to put you up in a gorgeous high roller suite during your bachlorette party, other than moi?”


I slapped her lightly on the arm. “What’s that supposed to mean?” I dropped my bag just inside the door.


“Oh nothing … other than the fact that if the planning had been left up to you, we’d probably be eating dinner at the Olive Garden right now and going home by ten.”


I shook my head at her. “You are so lucky you’re in heels right now.”


She put her fingers up in the shape of a cross. “Stay back. I don’t want you shaking my uterus around. I have plans tonight.”


I barked out a laugh. “Your what?”


She sniffed, lifting her chin a little. “My uterus. I’m due to start my period any day, but I want to try and hold it off for as long as I can. I don’t like having one night stands when I’m on the rag.”


I grimaced, trying to make my way through the quagmire that is her mind so I could figure out what she was actually thinking. “So your theory is that if I tackle you, I’ll … jiggle your uterus and start your period?”


“Exactly.” She smiled with self-pride.


I shook my head in disbelief. “You really should have gone to medical school. With theories like that, you would have been something else.”


“Andie, don’t make me take my scissors out.”


“That’s not a very good threat,” I said, wandering through the room, checking it out. “I’m due for a haircut.”


Candice may be a totally brainless twit sometimes, but she was a hell of a beautician. Top of her class in coloring and styling. After making her parents pay for a four-year fashion degree at UF, she’d blown off the job market to go to cosmetology school. They’d loved that one, but no one can say no to Candice when she’s on a mission. I really should visit her salon more, but I was always too busy. Boring ponytails had been my go-to hairdo for the past three years since graduating law school.


She quickly grabbed her bag off a nearby chair. “Go wet your hair. I’ve been dying to get my hands on that mess of yours for weeks. No, make that months. Years.”


Kelly laughed. “I just love how much she enjoys her job, don’t you?”