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The Shortest Distance

Summary: When Kris and Junior’s fairy tale ending hits a snag, they return home to Raintree to find themselves again.

Chapter 2

“Kris! Junior! Stop hiding inside the house!” called Matt’s voice from the foyer.  He had spotted Junior’s new Prius in the yard when he came back from his ride with Light in the Meadow.

Matt was sure that his newest prospect was going to take the California racing circuit by storm next fall.  With Kris riding, he dared to consider the possibility of a Triple Crown win.  How had he possibly gone almost half a year without seeing his friends off the track?  He was thrilled that Kris and Junior were going to spend their week in Fremont at Raintree instead of Davis or at a hotel.  Since they had moved around so much, they hadn’t taken the time to look for a permanent place in town, though most of their belongings were collecting dust on the Davis property.  Matt could hardly believe it when they accepted Jean’s offer to stay at Raintree.  It was going to be an interesting weekend.

“Just in time to save me from Todd’s massacring me in Titan Fall,” said Junior as he emerged from the living room.  He smiled and hugged Matt.  “This week is going to be amazing.  We’ll take Todd and his friends out camping, then we’ll grab drinks at Bobby’s and haze Dani’s latest dream guy – Edgar?”

“Ethan,” Matt corrected him.  “Ethan Cooper, a promising young dentist who just came to town to fill in for Dr. Michaels.”

“Wait, what happened to Dr. Michaels?” asked Junior.  “He’s been my dentist since like… forever.”

Matt laughed.  “He retired a couple of months ago.  Ethan’s been a… decent replacement.”

Junior shook his head.  “It’s not a trip to the dentist without the shadow puppets.”

“Well, at least he doesn’t seem dumber than a shadow puppet…” said Matt, then he and Junior burst out laughing.

“Like her pretty boy NASCAR driver last year,” said Junior.  “I’ll have to admit that he was a nonstop party.  Do you still have his number?”

“Nope.  I’d rather not risk your sister’s wrath,” laughed Matt.  “Dani’s just trying to figure out what she wants.  Not everyone knows who they’ll end up with at seventeen.”

“No one knows anything at seventeen,” said Kris, who had entered through the front door behind Matt.  She smiled when she saw him.

“Hey you,” Matt turned around and hugged her.  “Visiting Wildfire?”

“Of course,” Kris answered.  “I can’t believe how much I missed him.  I’ll have to make it up to him this week.”

“Now all we need is for Dani to get here for dinner.   Then band will be back together and ready to rock n’ roll again,” said Matt.

“Matt, it is way too early for dad jokes,” said Junior, putting his arm around his friend.

“I just want it to be like old times.  How often do we get a chance like this?” Matt asked, looking at his friends.

Kris and Junior exchanged unreadable looks.  No one could really turn back time.  And if they could, would they want to?  There had been good times, but there had also been bad times.  Both had made them who they were today, for better or worse.


“All right, spill it.  I always know when something’s bothering you, big brother,” said Dani after she had dragged him off to test ride her latest horse purchase.

“Color me shocked to hear you say that,” Junior replied sarcastically as they trotted on their horses.  “Then I guess you should know that I saw through your little ruse to get me out here.”

When Dani had arrived at the ranch that afternoon, she immediately could tell something was amiss with Kris and Junior, and it was something big.  Her brother would surrender his secrets more easily, since he wore his heart on his sleeve too much for her taste.  Dani was also excited to show off her new horse, Rumor of War, which was stabled at Raintree Farm. They had ridden together since they were kids.  This trail ride would kill two birds with one stone.

Dani rolled her eyes.  “What’s wrong with you and Kris?  The married life not quite what you expected?  Not all rom-com fights and kissing to make up at the end?”

“Did you come out here to find out what’s wrong with my marriage or tell me what’s wrong with it?” Junior demanded.

“A little bit of Column A and a little bit of Column B.  It’s ridiculous that every time I see you in town you’re either at dad’s place or Raintree,” said Dani.  “The two of you still haven’t gotten your own place yet and it’s been four years.  We retire horses by then.”

“We rented a place the first year.  Since then, we haven’t had time between my job and her job,” Junior told her.  “There’s no point paying rent when we’re barely in a place more than a couple of months at a time.’

“You ever ask yourself why that is?” Dani replied.

“The first year and a half, I stayed in California for her to make it to the Kentucky Derby twice. Calvin and I even got another project off the ground.  The next year, we went to Alaska for my geothermal project.  After that, she got an amazing offer in Australia and I followed her there.  We were here this year, but Dad was in New York the whole time.   It seemed like a waste to leave the house empty, especially since Kris was training for Davis,” explained Junior.

“So you both married your jobs, not each other?”

Junior slowed his colt’s pace as he absorbed Dani’s comment.  “These days, it feels like it…  We’re only going to be together here for a week before I go to a tech conference in Las Vegas and she goes to Arkansas with Matt to check out horses.”

Dani shook her head and slowed her horse to stay beside her brother.  “What happened to the two of you?”

“I suppose we got married before we were ready.  We thought we could still chase our dreams without losing each other…  Now there’s so much distance between us.”

“You think the two of you are going to split up?” Dani asked point blank.

“Just because we hit a rough patch doesn’t mean we should quit,” Junior snapped.  Then he quickly regretted his tone.  He let out a sigh.  “I’m sorry.  You struck a nerve.  This investor’s daughter was a bit too friendly with me recently…  She kissed me at a party in front of Kris hoping to cause trouble…  I set her straight the moment it happened, but Kris shut me out.”

Dani winced.  “Maybe all everything’s just gotten to her.  Moving around so much, the accident, now her husband is kissing other women?  Have you tried taking some time to yourselves?”

Junior bit his lip in frustration, and then turned to look at his sister.  “I think we’re both afraid of what might come out of that…  I think the accident was partially my fault…  We were arguing over the kiss right before the horse threw her…  She claims it had nothing to do with our fight, but I can’t believe her.”

“Oh Junior,” Dani sighed.

“Do you mind talking to her?  See what’s going on in that head of hers besides horses?”

Dani grinned.  “The only thing on her mind besides horses is you.  She’s not the most complicated person in the world.”

Junior gave her a serious look.  “Dani, I’m out of options here.  We can’t go on like this.”

She looked away from him and at the woods ahead.  The gravity of the situation hit her.  Then she nodded.  “Okay, I’ll do this for you on one condition.”

“Name it.”

“You and Matt lay off Ethan.  No seeing how he handles riding Flame, no sending him off on trick errands, no posting his info on a cougars dating site, none of it,” Dani told him.  “I’m done with you idiots scaring off any half decent guy I bring around.”

Junior sighed.  “Fine.  I’ve got bigger fish to fry than chasing off guys that even the basset hound can’t stand.”

Dani glared at him.  “Elliot’s a beagle, not a basset hound.”

“Could’ve fooled me,” mumbled Junior.  “So you’ll talk to Kris?”

“Of course, I will,” Dani said, turning her horse to lead them back to Raintree Farm.  “Now let’s get back to the ranch so I can save your ass.  Again…”