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Christmas At Moon High Ranch

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Crystal Cortraya is stuck going to yet another horse ranch as she does every year. This year, however, everything is different. A handsome muscular man named Dender Harke comes into the picture and now Crystal must deal with her emotions. To add to the confusion, a mysterious threat lingers, waiting to be uncovered. Who could possibly be behind the mysterious candy cane gifts and what do they want with Crystal? If Crystal chooses to fall in love with Dender, will it even be a satisfying relationship?

Romance / Fantasy
4.0 1 review
Age Rating:

Welcome to Moon High Ranch

It has been snowing off and on since October, it feels. As of right now, I sit on my porch, an ungloved hand on the lumpy, gritty, snow crystals that have accumulated since last night. I close my hand, compacting a bit of it into a useless lump that I promptly chuck aside. I like snow a little, I’ll admit, but it gets boring, just like everything else in my life.

“Crystal, did you finish packing your things? We need to get going soon!” my mother calls out, opening the door to our house slightly.

“I don’t WANT to go, mother! Why can’t we just stay here?!” I yell back.

Every year, my family makes a trip to some stupid ranch up north. We pick a different one each year as there are so many. This year is different, though. I have zero desire to leave my house as I just want to sit on the porch, awaiting the return of a particular man I love.

“He’s not coming back, if that’s what you’re thinking. You can’t just spend your whole life dreaming about some boy you barely even knew!” my mother calls out.

I begin to tune her out, staring at the scenery around me. Even if he’s not coming back, I prefer the scenery around my house to any of the ranches we ever visited. Across the street from my house, there are the towering pine trees rattling in the wind. Almost every nettle has a tiny icicle hanging from it and almost every bough has snow accumulated on it.

Just beyond the towering pines is a little pond that has since frozen over and has barely thawed at all since late October. The frothy white color of the ice surrounded by pure sparkling white snow and shockingly green pines is exactly what I need. As I am staring at the beautiful scenery, my view is rudely blocked by a rickety old red car that slowly drives past. I sigh in annoyance and turn back around to see my mother is still standing there waiting for me to reply to a question or comment I did not hear.

“Well?” my mother prompts.

“…yes, my suitcase is packed…” I reply.

“Great, come on before the snow picks up again. I saw the snow plows just cleared the road to the ranch we are going to this year,” my mother says.

“What’s this one called? Lousy Donkey Ranch?” I ask, rolling my eyes.

“Moon High Ranch,” my mother corrects me.

“Please tell me this is not some stupid Goth place…” I say with a groan.

“No, dear. It’s a lovely place. I’ve read all the reviews and looked at all the photos. They have the prettiest horses we’ve seen so far, plus lots of livestock…” my mother says.

“So it will stink terribly. Got it,” I say with a heavy sigh.

My mother looks like a grandmother, but she’s not. She’s got light skin like me, but without freckles and she has a crease along her forehead, on both cheeks, and crinkles near her eyes. She’s got super curly blonde hair and green eyes. Today she wears a magenta knit cap, a magenta coat with a fluffy black faux fur trim, a long yellow dress, and tall brown boots.

The wind blows, howling through the trees. The icicles on the tree branches shiver, clinking against each other musically. For a moment, I think I hear sleigh bells already even though we are not at the ranch. Every ranch I’ve been to has had a horse drawn sleigh ride with magical twinkling bells that’s supposed to get you in the Holiday Mood.

“We’re going to have a great time this year. Your father has already spoken to the ranch owner and he says we’ve rented the best cabin on the entire ranch! There will be a view of the woods and just a dirt path walk to the nearest convenience store…” my mother rambles on.

“And we have to survive until next year?” I ask with a groan.

“Yes. Hey, maybe you will make some new friends while we are out there?” my mother suggests.

“Friends that I’ll never see nor talk to again after the vacation is over,” I mumble.

“And I even bought you some Christmas presents even though you are an adult and don’t deserve presents! I’m so excited to see your face when you open my gifts!” my mother says.

I get up, very reluctantly, and enter the house, brushing the excess snow off of myself. Inside, my mother has just finished burning some incense cubes and the odor is incredible strong. It smells like someone walked into a craft store and lit the decorative scented pinecones on fire and then tried to cover up the stench by lighting all the scented candles at once. My mother giggles cheerfully as she checks that her incense burner has cooled off.

“Did you mix the scents again?” I ask, sneezing dramatically.

“Yes. I thought I could get the perfect Christmas scent if I mixed a few of my favorite fall and winter sticks. I like it. I hope the house will stay this fragrant when we return!” my mother says, “If not, I’ll burn some more.”

“It could be better. I’m thinking subtle is better,” I say.

“Well, when you get a decent job and buy your own house, you can choose how much incense you burn. This is our house and I like it,” my mother says.

“And what’s this? A before trip snack?” I ask, picking up a cookie from a plate.

I put the cookie in my mouth, of course. It’s a delicious gingerbread cookie. The warm spicy flavors make my tongue tingle. At last, I relax a bit, enjoying a few cookies.

“Those were for Santa, actually,” my mother says, teasingly.

“Oh, stop! Santa isn’t real,” I say, “I was what, two? Three? When I found out he was fake.”

“I know, honey… Lighten up. It’s the Christmas season,” my mother says, giving me a hug.

“These are good cookies, mom,” I say.

“I’m glad you like them. Your dad’s sister gave me the recipe and I thought I would try it out,” my mother says, “She’s a nice woman, your aunt; it’s a shame she’s always too busy to visit.”

“Yeah,” I say, resisting the urge to take a fifth cookie.

“We better get moving. They’re predicting the snow will pick up again soon,” my father says, taking a cookie from the plate.

My dad is a 6 foot tall tan-skinned guy with your typical dad-bod. He wears his dark brown hair in two thick braids, though, I’m starting to notice some gray in his hair. He’s got white framed glasses that surround his dark green eyes. Today, he is wearing a white as snow button up shirt over Christmas red pants and dark brown snow boots.

“Are we just going to leave these cookies to go bad?” I ask.

“No. Take them. It’s going to be quite the long car trip with how slow we’ll have to drive,” my mother says.

I take the cookies and put them in a baggy to eat later. My dad eyes the bag, but I’m sure he ate plenty of the cookies while I was outside. We get into our car and drive into the snowy madness that is the outside world. There isn’t much traffic, because, of course, who would want to be out in this snowy weather?

The only reason it is taking us so long to get anywhere is because there is the risk of skidding out of control if there is ice under or on top of the snow. We slowly drive into a road that is surrounded on both sides by pine trees. It’s a long narrow road and, on the side, there is a deer crossing sign. Typical Christmas music plays on the radio and I settle into my chair, trying to enjoy the scenery.

Out of nowhere, a large furry creature dashes out into the road in front of us. My dad tries to step on the breaks as no one is behind us anyways. It’s too late, we crash into the beast and the car shudders aggressively, spinning off to the side of the road. My dad mutters under his breath and gets out to see what it was that we hit.

“What is it, honey? Is it a deer?” my mother asks.

“I… I don’t know… It’s a wolf, I think…” my dad says, “If I didn’t know better, I’d think we just killed Big Foot…”

“Is it dead?” my mom asks.

“Very much so. The edge of the car skewered it,” my dad replies, sounding disgusted.

Before we head back on the road, my father buries the body on the side of the road under a tree. He kneels, placing a woven cross on the body as though it were a human he struck. Then, he gets back in the car. I don’t know why, but the event is seared into my mind.

“Dad…?” I ask as we get back to driving.

“Yes, honey?” he asks.

“Why do creatures have to run in front of cars…?” I ask.

“…I don’t know… Animals do things differently than we do,” my dad says, “Perhaps something in the woods spooked it or it was chasing after a mate?”

“…I wish it didn’t die…” I say with a heavy sigh.

“Hmmm, let’s think about something more cheerful. No need to dwell on the past…” my dad says, turning up the Christmas music.

The rest of the trip goes smoothly. No more animals dash in front of our car and we don’t spin out again. We are considerably lucky, as that could have been any of us, dead from the crash. As we pull up the snow encrusted road to the ranch, I begin to notice that it isn’t as bad as I had expected.

The gates to the ranch are tall and marked with a full moon and wolf howling crest. The gates are currently wide open so we are able to drive on in. Though snow covers almost everything, I can just make out the stables and barns littered across the property. The main cabin and office are the first building we arrive at.

“Welcome, welcome in! I hope the snow wasn’t too much of an issue for you all!” the gentleman at the front desk says.

“Are you the owner?” my dad asks.

“Yes, that would be me! We spoke over the phone. I’m Gradon Moon,” the man says, “Moon High Ranch appreciates your stopping in and renting a cabin.”

Mister Moon looks like he stepped off the set of recording a futuristic TV show or something of the like. He’s the tall lanky kind with short thick dreads that are auburn, but dyed light green on the tips. Just barely, I can see a golden charm earring dangling from his right ear. He has very light skin, dark brown eyes, and has a bushy mustache, a tiny beard, and stubble. As it is cold outside, he is wearing a puffy brown quilted coat over his black shirt.

“Well, we’re hoping this will be the best Christmas season in a long time,” my dad says with a grin.

“If we can make this a good season for you, that’ll make us happy. Oh! I suppose I should lead you all to your cabin! This way, this way,” Mr. Moon says, emerging from behind the counter and revealing that he is wearing jade green sweatpants with bright green shoes.

We trudge through the snow, listening as it crunches beneath our feet. The sound of snow still whirling through the air sends shivers down my spine, or, perhaps, I am not dressed warmly enough. Our cabin is pretty far back on the property, out towards the woods. As we were told, the cabin DOES come with a great view of the woods.

“Alright. If you need anything, the nearest store is just a walk away. Any issues that arise, I beg of you, please report them to my office immediately. Thanks,” Mr. Moon says and leaves.

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