By the time we wrote up the letter for Robert’s gift and made it back to the living room, everyone was waiting; even Randy and Jake.

“Merry Christmas, baby sis. I love you,” Randy took her into his arms and hugged her.

“Merry Christmas to you too, bro.” She was backing back into my arms, “I love you, too.”

“Okay, big bro and Allie take a seat and let’s get started,” Half-Pint was under the tree pulling presents out. Family tradition worked for the youngest. They had control of the gifts and who got what when.

“Okay, this year we will start with Randy,” She took him the gift Al and I had bought for him. Then on and on it went.

I noticed Robert standing in the back and motioned for him to come and sit by Al and me.

“Next is Allie from Mac,” She smiled, “it’s a little heavy. Maybe it is a copy of the ‘Joy of Sex.”

I laughed out loud, then moaned because I had moved my shoulder wrong, “Half-Pint,” I tried to say between laughs, “That book would be for you, so  you’ll know how to make out with Jake,” Who was sitting not far from her on the floor, “Al and I graduated to the ‘Kama Sutra’ in high school.” I took the gift from Half-Pint, looked at Al as she was trying hard not to laugh.

The room stayed quiet for a few minutes, “Come on, y’all, if you’re going to dish it out, you have to be able to take it back.” At that, Al lost it and started laughing.

“Oh, you are a bad one big bro,” Sam replied.

I just smiled as I gave Al the gift. I leaned into her ear, “More like ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’” I kissed her neck, “Merry Christmas sweetheart.”

She started opening the paper, “When did you have time to shop for me?”

“You slept very late in the mornings,” I replied.

Jason had the book in an acid-free box and a pair of white gloves on top, “Gloves for the box?” She asked.

Everyone was watching, “Put the gloves on and open the box very carefully.”

I was watching her face as she put the gloves on her shaking hands. She lifted the top and sat it next to us. Still, I was watching her face as she pulled the acid free tissues away and the book was uncovered. “OH MY GOD! Mac, where’d you find such an old copy of ‘Bram Stokers Dracula’?”

She was smiling as she ran her hand over the cover, it was a yellow cloth cover, stamped on the spine and front panel in red.”

“Open it,” I whispered in her ear.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

                           May 1897

                           Archibald Constable and Company, Westminster

“Mac, this is a first edition. How…” She looked up at me, “I love it.”

“Good,” I kissed her. Catcalls went up all over the room when I released her. I looked around, “Move on, Half-Pint.”

Al laid her head on my chest. “Thank you, this is the most beautiful gift I’ve ever received,” She had tears in her eyes.

“Shh, no crying,” I wiped the tears away.

She sat up, covered the book, and put the top back on. Taking off the gloves, she moved everything to the coffee table.

“Last but not least, Mac from Allie,” Half-Pint brought me a box.

“And just when did you have time to shop, sweetheart?” I asked.

She smiled, “I didn’t shop.” She looked over at Randy, “I had someone make it for me.”

I tore into the paper like a small kid to get to the surprise inside. I lifted the top to the box. Inside was a pair of the most beautifully tooled leather spur straps I’ve ever laid my eyes on.

On the front of one, read:

Marshall Daniel


Allyson Marie

On the other was a date:

December 31, 2014


Now tears were falling out of my eyes, “Al, they’re perfect.” I kissed her again, forgetting that my deltoid muscle had been shot yesterday. “I love you.”

I looked at Randy, “You did a great job, bro, thanks.”

“No problem, bro,” He smiled.

“Okay, that’s all,” Half-Pint said with a giggle, “Matilda, Anna, and I will be in the kitchen working on dinner until we go up to help Allie with a few things.”

Everyone started to get up, “Wait, I have one more thing. Then Al has something she wants to give.”

They all sat back down.

Garth said, “Did you get Allie pregnant?”

“Oh yeah, for Patty and me it’s always, ‘don’t come home pregnant.’” Anna echoed Garth.

I hung my head and shook it, “No, that’s not it.” But I looked at Al and mouthed ‘Are we?’

She smiled and took my head in her hands and kissed me, “No.”

“Oh well to bad. We can work on that later. Now on to my last gift,”

I took a small black velvet box out of my pocket, “With everything that’s been going on, I haven’t gotten a chance to give Al her engagement ring.”

She turned in my lap, “I just thought maybe they couldn’t get it done on time.”

I put my good hand on the side of her face, “Delivered, just like promised.”

She took the box from my hand and opened it, “Oh! It’s perfect.”

I took the ring out and slid it onto her finger, “Thank you for coming back to me.” I raised her hand to my mouth and kissed it.

Cheers rang out over the room. Then I kissed her.

After we recovered, I turned to Robert, “Ranger Clark and some of his friends have offered to extend our security through January 1st.  Robert, we are all to call him Robert, has no family.  So, Al and I have adopted him into ours. Angus, he would like to help on the ranch while he’s here. So, I’ll let you assign him a job.”

“Mac and I have a gift for you, Robert. Though you may need to have a little patience as it’s not been created yet,” Al gave him the envelope.

Robert opened and read it. As he read, he smiled just a little, “How’d you know?” He asked us.

I smiled, “Well, I’ve been watching you, and Angus told me you were spending a lot of time with Bullet.”

Everyone was watching us, but it was Randy who spoke, “You can’t give him Bullet.”

He was now standing and walking to us, “Easy Randy, we’re not giving him Bullet, but we are going to give him his choice of any of his babies.”

Randy sat down, “You’re going to breed him with the mares?”

“Yes, we’re going to turn him out tomorrow with ‘She Who Is The Wind’ and let her introduce him to the others,” Al replied.

Robert smiled, “Those two will make some beautiful babies.”

Anna nodded, “So will the other mares. The Nokota is a breed on the brink of extinction. ‘He Who Runs With The Wind’ was going to be the stallion we used to help bring them back,” She looked down at her hands, “but Cindi but a stop to that.”

“Are their others trying to help in the breeding?” Robert asked.

“Yes, some of the Nokota tribes are working on a breeding plan. We have a working agreement with them to share breeding stallions,” I replied.

“So, if I take a stallion, I’d have to agree to loan him to the Nokota for breeding?” Robert had a smile on his face, “Who’s going to oversee the two breeding operations. It takes a lot to keep track of all the horses and who their sires are.”

“Yes, any stallion would need to go to Montana to stud, and any mares would need to come home to be bred here,” Al explained. “When Bullet goes, we go, too,” She pointed to me, “we’ll go with him. So, you could also go with any stallion you might choose.”

“We have no one set up to keep the records yet. Angus could do it, but I’m really hoping to turn the ranch operations over to him in July,” I looked at Robert, “Do you know someone who could help?”

He looked around the room, “Maybe you and I can talk later about someone I know. Then you and your family can talk about it.”

“Okay, we’ll talk tomorrow. Matilda, sandwiches in our living room for the game lunch, to give you time for dinner. Anna and Half-Pint can help with that,” I helped Al stand, “Football doesn’t start until noon. So, do your remaining chores and meet upstairs in 90 minutes. The door will be locked until then.” I picked up our gifts, “Thank you, everyone, for the gifts.”

We walked to the stairs that would take us to our suite of rooms and the gift we had both been waiting to open…again!”

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