MM 18: Overwhelmed.

So much has happened I don’t even know where to begin.

It’s just too much, after everything that happened with Albright and Benny and all the others. Lacy is mending. Thank God. We came so close to losing her. And we never even suspected something more was going on.

It all could have ended that night at the hospital.

Houghton and Chance have tightened security overall, which I knew would happen. Houghton is terrified something else will happen soon.

It’s his go-to reaction whenever anything like this happens.

How can I blame him?

We could’ve lost Jillian, too. That night on the road. Jillian, Lacy, and Ari–all three.

If Travis hadn’t been so close… if they hadn’t been able to get Jillian to help, my little sister could’ve bled to death.

I’ll never forget that.

Everyone is quiet now. Just giving the three of them room to heal again. They hadn’t deserved this. None of them had. But Lacy… I’ll never forget what happened to her.

She’s getting out of the hospital soon, and there’s some debate about where she’s going.

It’ll probably be with Travis, of course. That man — Elliot and Chance’s cousin — absolutely adores Lacy. I knew that the night of the banquet.

It was in the way he looked at her.

Of course when a woman gets looked at with that much heat it’s hard not to see it.

I should know, Houghton still looks at me that way. I hope he always will.

We’re headed to the hospital, to check on Lacy for ourselves again.

Rumor has it, they are moving her out of ICU today. We all want to be there, to take turns sitting with her. Maybe someone can actually get Travis to go take a shower.

He doesn’t want to leave her side.

I want to see her for myself, too. I remember what it was like to be lying there with holes in your body. Wondering.

Lacy’s fortunate, they don’t think there’ll be any lasting damage. They don’t think so, anyway.

It could have all ended so differently.

Jillian has been so jumpy, and it’s obvious she hasn’t been sleeping lately.

And how could she?

What she’d seen…I’m not some sure how much longer my little sister can hold on. Can keep going.

Still, Jillian’s one of the strongest people I know. But…

Sometimes I can’t help but wonder what’s going happen next? Who is going to get hurt next?

MM17: Worried…

Ari, Jilly, and Lacy showed up tonight. Something was bothering them but none of them would tell me what it was. They ended up hanging out in Houghton’s music room. I’m not entirely certain why the man has a music room, considering he’s completely tone deaf, but…

It makes a good hang out place with the three of them. The three are remarkably talented, especially when they sing together. Jillian didn’t show a lot of her talents as a kid. She’s always been the quietest of us, and I understand why.

Brynna required a lot of energy when she was a kid. And I was the oldest (at the time) and always doing things first. I was athletic and outgoing. Jillian was usually in the shadow, I guess. If not mine, then Brynna’s.

But with Lacy and Ari, she’s got people who don’t see her as Brynna’s sister, or Mel’s baby sister, etc. I think Jilly needs that.

She’s really been missing our mother lately. I can tell by the way she talks about her. Mom and Jilly had a special relationship. I was always with Dad, you know? And Brynna spent a lot of time in her room, lost in her own little Brynna world.

But Jillian…she and Mom were close.

We lost her when Jilly and Bryn were seniors in high school and Syd was in middle school. We were all so worried about Brynna and Syd we kind of overlooked the fact that Jilly had lost her center, too.

I wish I could be that center for Jilly, but I just can’t.

I wish I knew what was going on with the three of them.

Lacy was quiet. Something weighed heavily on her mind.

Jillian is more short-tempered than she’s ever been. I know something’s bothering her.

Ari…Ari is hard to pin down. She’s our resident space cadet—Jilly’s words, not mine—but there’s something else going on. I’m pretty certain it has something to do with the benefit Margo has talked her into organizing, but there’s more than that…I think.

I wish I knew Lacy and Ari well enough to figure it out.

As for Jillian…I keep reminding myself that she’ll come to me when she’s ready, and if she thinks I can help.

Jilly goes back to work tomorrow and I think she’s dreading it. It hasn’t been easy for her to be around large groups of people since everything happened.

I’m really starting to worry about her…

MM 16: Value Today

There really isn’t much to say tonight. We’re all exhausted after everything that has happened in Value. I haven’t told you much about Value, but it’s just a little town that was once a thriving mining community that started to die off about fifty years ago when the mining boom was over.

I guess Kyra Dillon, a woman who works with Paige and Carrie—well, rather, Paige’s husband Mick—got herself into some seriously nasty trouble. It took far too long for her to be found, and she’s still not doing too well.

I couldn’t do much to actually get out there and help, but I could help those who did. I helped coordinate rescue efforts, with the TSP. Daniel, Jarrod, as well as both Callum and Evers worked around the clock.

Houghton was out there, and Chance and Elliot. I have never been prouder of our guys; they did what they could to help.

We were all exhausted when it was over.

But it was even harder on Lacy. She’d been out with the search groups and then went in to the hospital to cover a shift for someone else.

She was there for Dr. Dillon when the time came.

Jillian had Dad go back in to pick Lacy up at the hospital after her shift was over. Jillian was worried about her and didn’t want her driving out to her ranch so late. Lacy’s ranch is thirty miles past the Barratt Ranch, down an isolated road. And not that far from Value. If anything ever happened…

Dad ended up asking Mick and Paige to drive Lacy back to his house. Someone he knew from the TSP asked him to sit with a young woman who had been injured. She was a deputy for the TSP, I think. I’m not too clear on the details, just heard that she is TSP and has no one close to her. Just her boss.

I just know my father was very angry when he finally made it home. At least, he was according to Syd and Brynna, who’d both seen him.

I’m just not all that sure what had happened out there in Value. I just know that people, women, had been hurt.

It makes me wonder…

I talked about it with Ari. She surprises me sometimes. Most of the time she seems like her head is off on Pluto, but then when I really talk to her I see the truth. She’s just very complex. And she’s almost driven in her quest to help those who have been victims of extreme violence. Especially women who have been vulnerable at the hands of men.

I understand it, too. How can I not? The same week I was shot, the man responsible was going to kidnap and kill Ari. Someone else stopped him by taking Ari first and keeping her for days. He had managed to stab Cam Lake, the agent involved with Dr. Dillon, a dozen times. Cam was lucky to survive that man. Just like I was. Like Ari was.

She’d never spoken to me about what it was like, what had happened. Until today.

She’d gone from dreaming of being a concert violinist to wanting to help those who had been hurt. She shared a lot with me, until we were both crying.

That’s what she does for Luc. She works with his assistant and one of his bodyguards to help those women and girls who have been victims of extreme violence. She helps survivors.

I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe that’s because she hasn’t quite dealt with what she has been through.

How could she? First she was kidnapped because of a sister she hadn’t even met, then she was shot because of her association with my sister.

Just thinking about it makes me angry. Ari hadn’t deserved any of it. It’s hard for me not to want to protect her. I spent five months living with her brother, being a part of his and Payton and Paige’s family. To see her hurting…

I’m sore today and my physical therapist will be here in about an hour. The thought of going through ninety minutes of torture after the night I’ve had makes me want to cry. But I’m not about to tell Houghton that.

He looks exhausted and some of the optimism I’m used to seeing in his dark eyes is missing today. I think what happened has made the evil part of the world all that more real for him.

I hate that. I like the dreamer in my husband. I don’t like it when the realities of the world hit him. I…

Damn it. I’m feeling a bit emotional this afternoon. You’ll have to forgive me.

MM15: I Have My Pride

I was fine and Houghton knew it. He just didn’t want to admit it. Sometimes I think the man likes to worry. Sigh. But I do love him. So much.

Paige and Mick had to leave early. There’s been some trouble over in Value. It’s just south of where we live. Of course, Dad lives on the edge of Finley Creek. We are just over the Finley Creek/Barratt county lines in Barratt county. (Houghton’s ranches cover almost a good half of the county line, though). Value is fifty-five miles south of our Barrattville home.

Apparently Kyra Dillon, a woman who works for Mick, is from Value. She’s had a bit more trouble than what just happened at the hotel.

Mick and Paige are really worried. And I can’t say I blame them. Whatever is going on is bad.

I just hope they find the answers they need.

As for what’s going on around here…

Lacy’s having some troubles with a neighbor of hers. Apparently he wants her ranch. I know what that ranch means to her.

The guy is just not going to get it.

I’m done with therapy at this point. I don’t think it’s going to do a darned good for me. I’m angry, but I’m working through. Time is going to help and I’m good with that. Gabby still goes, but Gabby has always benefited from therapy. Since she was a kid and everything had first happened.

Ari has been asked to help the charity our therapist works with. It’s for women who have been victims of extreme violence.

Getting nearly killed by a crazy murderer would do that. It seems like a better use of our time then sitting around talking about what happened.

I’m going to speak with Margo tomorrow about seeing what I can do to help.

Houghton tossed me a checkbook and said do whatever I wanted.

I wanted to clobber him. I am so not used to having unlimited resources that I didn’t work for. But he doesn’t see it that way, apparently. To him, it’s only money. He has plenty. And he wants me happy.

Sigh. How can I not love that man? He doesn’t understand that this woman has her own sense of pride though.

I need a job. Something to do that means I am contributing.

I’m going to talk to Gretchen Reynolds again. I really liked the older woman when I met her. She’s spent almost twenty years looking for lost loved ones. Her brother’s children were taken years ago and have just been found in the last few years.

Kind of like how my family was with our Carrie.

If the position is still open, I’m going to take it. If she will allow me to work remotely. If I can keep a family from hurting the way mine has, why shouldn’t I?

MM14: I Scared Him…

I scared him. Houghton found me curled up in my office at almost six tonight. I could tell by the look in his brown eyes that I had worried him. “I’m ok, Houghton. Just took a nap after last night.”

“I’ve been texting you for fifteen minutes.”

“Don’t you think it’s a bit ridiculous that we text each other in the house?”

“But at least we’re still the same zip code.” He grinned at me, and he stretched out on the chaise right next to me. His arms went around me. “Our guests will be arriving within the hour. I figured you’d want to be there when they get here.”

“I do.” Paige and Payton—Luc’s wife—are close friends of mine, and have been since I was shot. I am anxious to see the two of them. I like the rest of their group, as well. “I need to take a shower and change.” I always feel so grubby after a nap.

“In a minute. I’ll wash your back…first, come cuddle me. I’ve been lonely downstairs all day.”

“Uh huh, with Pippa and your lackeys all around you? Somehow I don’t think so.”

“None of them are you, Mrs. Barratt.”

“You’re full of it, Mr. Barratt.” I slipped out of his arms. If I don’t get away from him now it’ll be a while before I do. I don’t want to look rumpled when our guests get here. Luc will tease me mercilessly if I do. “I—“

Before I even realized what was happening, everything around me went dark and my head swam.

Houghton caught me as I fell.

**

 

Well. Houghton was staring down at me the moment my head cleared. “I’m ok.”

“Sure you are. I’ve called for a car. We’re taking you to see Lacy right now.” He lifted me off the chaise and walked from my office.

“Houghton, I’m ok. I just didn’t eat much today.” Come to think of it, I didn’t eat anything more than a vending machine muffin at the hospital this morning. “It’s probably the meds and a lack of food. I’m ok, I promise.”

“Melody Beck Barratt doesn’t faint. Even if she hasn’t eaten.”

Houghton, I’m just fine. Put me down. If I feel sick, I’ll talk to Lacy tonight, ok? Or Jilly.”

“Don’t, Melody. Just don’t.”

I knew what he was thinking—Houghton’s biggest fear is something happening to me. I knew that; he’d told me so himself. Multiple times. I put my hands on his cheeks and forced him to look at me. “I’m ok. I promise. I think I just stood up too quickly. Sometimes…the pain pills can cause dizziness. Loss of equilibrium. You know that.” I’m not on a lot of pills now—nowhere near what I used to be—but I still took some for pain management. I will always hurt—or so I have been told.

Sometimes the side effects were worse than the original condition, though.

“I’ll talk to Lacy tonight about the pain pills. See what other options are out there. I promise, I will. Ok?”

He stopped walking. I know what he was thinking. He was thinking he could just carry me out to the car and to the hospital and get every answer he demanded.

Houghton tried to control everything, didn’t he? “Put me down, Houghton. I need a shower.”

“I’m sticking by your side until Lacy gets here. Just deal with it, babe. I’m not taking my hands off of you until she’s here.”

MM 13: Malcolm Kevin Sebastian Lorcan

Seven pounds, thirteen ounces, and twenty-three and a half inches long!

And I got to hold him first, after his parents, of course!

Carrie went into labor fifteen minutes after the last guest left Dad’s party. Less than four hours later, at 11:54, Lacy delivered the baby via C-section at Finley Creek General Hospital. Malcolm is the fourth generation Beck to be born at Finley Creek Gen. Even his mother was born at FCGH.

Malcolm will share his grandfather’s birthday. My dad is pleased as punch.

Carrie is doing well. Sebastian wasn’t too happy that she went into labor in Texas, but Carrie said that it was meant to be. That she is perfectly happy her son got to come into this world with his family all around him. The rest of their family—meaning all those Lorcans and Brockmans—will be here in the morning.

We’re going to be hosting most of them in our guest wing. Luc and his wife, Paige and her husband, Seth Lorcan and his family, and Sin Lorcan and his wife and children.

It’s going to be a busy, busy place around here.  With plenty of babies and kids around to keep Houghton entertained.

Ari’s going to come stay with us to help out, and to visit with her brothers and sister and their families. Her position with the counseling department at the hospital had only been part-time. When she’d been hurt back in February, they hadn’t held the position. In fact, the entire department had been downsized to two full-time counselors.

Ari seemed ok with the change, but I have to admit I don’t know her all that well. Still, Luc has her doing something on his payroll. I’m not sure what exactly it is, but she flies back and forth between St. Louis and Finley Creek at least twice a week.

It’s going to be great to have everyone here. Carrie’s going to be released in two days, and she and Sebastian are going to spend a week or so at Dad’s; Dad turned mine and Brynna’s rooms into an actual guest suite, complete with bath. It’s perfect for Carrie, Sebastian, and the babies.

Babies.

I’m trying not to get all gooey here. I’m not the extra gooey type, but we missed seventeen years of Carrie’s life. We will never have the childhood memories of her, but we can be here for this part of present, right?

Brynna is going nuts over the baby, cooing and ahh-ing. Of course, she’s been fascinated with Maddie since the kid came into the world, too.

She’s going to be such a great mother. Carrie certainly is.

I can’t wait to see them both with their babies, to see Jilly happy again and Syd working on her own future.

I’m starting to feel all matron-y, settled with my husband, our family all around us—doing what I can to make sure they are all happy.

Gives a  woman something to do with her time, doesn’t it?

Not like I’m getting any actual work done. The book isn’t going quite as well as I like. I think I’m starting to hit what’s known as the ‘saggy middle’ or something. I’m going to keep writing through it, of course, but I’d forgotten how hard it was, writing. The horror stories I wrote in high school were a lot shorter and a lot less detailed.

Slash and suspense, that’s what they were.

I can’t bring myself to write a horror, mystery or suspense right now. Maybe someday, when I can put the memories behind me. In the meantime, I’m going to finish this historical I’m writing.

I want it ready and in paperback before Houghton’s birthday in October.

We spent most of the night at the hospital and I am tired. Exhausted, actually.

It’s only two in the afternoon, but…the chaise looks really nice right now.

I think I’m just going to grab a blanket and take a nap. Just for a little while.

Previous Post: MM 12: Sixty!

MM12: Sixty!

My father turns sixty today, and for a man of six decades I think he looks pretty good. I watched him laugh and talk with his friends and our family, but I saw the sadness.

He misses my mother. I have no doubt about that. They loved each other so much.

Carrie and Sebastian and Maddie made it down from St. Louis. Carrie has less than two weeks before her due date. I can’t help but remember the last time she was this close to delivery. Remember the night Maddie was born.

It was weeks before I was able to even see my only niece. Hell, it was weeks before I was even cognizant enough to know what was going on for more than half an hour at a time. They kept me pretty doped up for a while there.

But this time will be different. I am going to be there for the baby’s birth, just like I am going to be there for Brynna’s baby. And Jillian and Syd’s when they have them.

I am going to be the best aunt possible. And I’ll buy them as many expensive presents as I can get away with.

It’s my aunt privilege, isn’t it?

I’ve sit here too long. I need to either get up and move around or I’m going to pay for it later.

I’ve been rambling again, haven’t I?

Dad’s party was a definite success. Brynna hid inside for most of it, but Chance stayed with her, of course. She reemerged in time for the cake and ice cream, at least.

Lacy sang a sexy song, just for my dad. He blushed. Everyone enjoyed it.

I’m glad he’s doing ok. I know what happened weighs on him, too.

We’ll get through this. I know we all will. We’re Becks after all.

Previous Post: MM11: Carrie Wins!