Cheverly lived on one of the largest cattle ranches in Cheyenne. That’s what Dervinias had told them on the ride over. Suitably named after their family, it was called The Hartford Ranch. It’d taken almost an hour to get out there, but once they arrived, Venus saw it’d been worth the wait. Vast was the one word that described the ranch.

It spread out over hundreds of acres. Two training corrals were out in front, each enclosed by a wooden three-rail fence. Behind those sat a gigantic south-looking mansion. Made of wood, it’d been painted yellow. White columns stood grandly on either side of the front steps. 

The door looked unyielding as a thousand-year-old Wekking tree from home. It’d been stained a beautiful dark color. The porch stretched the length of the house on both levels. Dark green shutters framed the windows. There were eight on top and six on the bottom.

Pine trees adorned the landscape throughout the ranch. The top layers of the branches were covered in snow. It looked like a picture she’d seen in her Earth Studies book on different holidays celebrated by diverse religious sects. The only thing missing:  a horse-drawn sleigh decorated in red bows.

There hadn’t been any snow within the city of Cheyenne. Up here, drifted snow rested against fence posts and trees. A crisp layer crunched underfoot as they made their way to the house. Cheverly didn’t give them a chance to go inside. Instead she met them on the porch.

“Hi guys. You ready to ride.” Chev beamed excitement, though Venus sensed an underlying nervousness.   

“Absolutely,” Venus said. Zaren and Dervinias agreed, too. Venus had noticed right away that Michael’s car wasn’t there. She wondered if Cheverly told him she’d be coming and he’d declined. Nausea hit her stomach. The eggs and toast she ate for breakfast rolled around.

After what Zaren had shown her, by entering her mind, and the plan they’d discussed on the drive over to help Chev and Michael get together, Venus had a lot to think about. She’d seen so much and realized how little time she had. The Gods . . .

Dervinias turned to face her. She closed off her thoughts the best she could, reflecting instead of pancakes, pretty clothes, and the radiant sun overhead.

He smirked. 

Exactly. She glared.  

“If looks could kill. Cheese, Vinny. What’d you do?” Cheverly asked.

Dervinias scratched his nose with a gloved hand, faking innocence. “No idea. V is in a mood.”

“Oh.” Cheverly had on a red puffer jacket and a red and black scarf wrapped around her neck. A black cowgirl hat adorned her head, making it difficult to see her face, but her long black hair curled down the back of her red coat. She had on black jeans that said Wrangler with a black leather belt. It’d been braided and held together by a huge silver and gold belt buckle. A rider held tightly to a bucking bull with one hand while the other was raised in the air. On her feet were red cowboy boots. She looked completely at home here on her ranch.

Venus, on the other hand, wasn’t nearly as prepared. Zaren had tried to warn her that it’d be cold, but at the time she figured she’d be fine. Such a doof!

Her boots were great for horse-back riding, and she had on a pair of jeans, but she didn’t have a coat warm enough. Nor did she have a hat, scarf or gloves. By the time they reached the barn, Venus couldn’t stop shivering.

Zaren, on the other hand, looked cozy in his black parka. Gloves had appeared from somewhere and were now on his hands.

Where’d he get those?

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