MM10: Weepy Ol’Me

I spent the day at Dad’s, wanting to be close to Jilly. She knew what I was up to. She called me on it around lunch time. “Shouldn’t you be at home, working in your office next to Brynna? Thought you baby-sat her during the day now?”

“Ha-ha.” Hell, it was the truth, though. I did keep an eye on Brynna during the day while Houghton and Chance were off doing Houghton and Chance things. I didn’t mind—she was my sister. We’d been together practically since the day Brynna was born.

Except for those dark months I was in St. Louis in a hospital bed or in a wheelchair. I don’t think of those days often if I can help it. I am grateful I was close to Carrie, though.

She visited me every chance she could. She’s wonderful, and I am glad I got a chance to know my older sister now, too.

But it wasn’t my older sister who worried me, though she was determined that she would be coming down for Dad’s birthday next week. The first week of April was too darned close to Carrie’s due date for her to even be considering it.

But Sebastian said she was insistent.

“Earth to Mel. Focus.”

I looked at my sister again. Jillian had lost some weight, hadn’t she? It wasn’t hard to see—she had always been the smallest of all of us, and the lost weight really showed. “I’m worried about you.”

“I’m fine. I’m dealing with what happened, Mel. Same as everyone else.”

“When are you going back to work?”

“I’m not sure. As soon as I graduate, I think. They won’t hold my job forever—no matter how big of a donation Houghton made.”

She sent me a pointed look and I shrugged. “You know how he is. Said we spent so much time there, the wing should be named for us. Thankfully, Fin didn’t agree. But the hospital was grateful.”

“And I’ll have a job there when I’m ready to go back. I know that. For now…I  need to focus on getting my degree, and finding a new normal around here. It’s…quiet here. Syd…she’s gone more often than not, now. I see her moving to St. Louis someday, Mel. She and Gracie Reynolds…they want to form a band, and I think they’ll manage it somehow. With Brynna across the street it’s a little different, but she’s still here a lot. But…we miss you.”

“I’m going to try to be around here more often.” Somehow. I wasn’t entirely certain how, but I was going to try.

Truth was, I missed having a large family around, too. I love my husband and the life we are building together. I will never deny that.

But…I miss my family, too.

Damn it, why do I feel so weepy today?

Previous Post: MM9 Goodnight, Laptop!

MM9: Good Night, Laptop

We ended up at Dad’s for dinner again. It was beginning to be an every other night occurrence. It took me a while, but I finally figured out what my husband was up to. He was bringing me here because he knew, didn’t he?

He knew I was missing this, and bringing me home a few nights per week was his way of making the world right for me.

Sometimes I just love him more and more. Dinner was a typical dinner at my dad’s, with loud conversation, people everywhere—Jarrod and Lacy joined us this time—and simple food.

I am still getting used to having a chef on call twenty-four hours a day. I don’t think Houghton has eaten Sloppy Joes even once in his life.

But he did tonight. Jillian made home fries with it. Houghton acted like he was in heaven.

I shudder to think what kind of Sloppy Joes version he’ll have the chef coming up with. I like the chef, his real name is Jason, but sometimes…he just tries too hard.

A hamburger should be a hamburger, after all.

Nothing more.

Houghton just rolled over in the bed, his arm flopping around like he’s looking for me in his sleep. If I scoot closer, I can guarantee I’m going to get some serious cuddling. If I don’t, he’s going to keep flopping around like a fish.

What is a woman married to the hottest man on the planet supposed to do? Good night, laptop. My man is waiting.


Previous Post: MM8 Brynna is Brynna-ing Me Again!

Next Post: MM10: Weepy Ol’Me

MM8: Brynna is Brynna-ing Me Again.

BRYNNA IS being particularly Brynna this morning. I try to remind myself that she doesn’t intend to be annoying, but…she’s twenty-five now.brynnagoofie

I’ve had twenty-five years to get used to it. So far I haven’t.

Still, she looks seriously cute today. She’ll make me an aunt again in less than fourteen weeks. She’s wearing one of the hats I knitted her (ok, so it was meant for the baby, but I did something wrong and it fits Brynna and looks like it’s supposed to, but…I’m going to make the baby a better one soon) and she waddles. So cute.

Now if she’d just get out of my hair and back to her own office…

I have a book to write. Houghton’s found the Barratt family journals and I’m reading my way through them. The history is so rich it’s amazing. And I don’t mean money.

The Barratts seriously believed in documenting everything. As far back as settlement in the area.

Finley Creek, Value, and Barrattville are named for Houghton’s family and their connections.

Finley Creek…well, it’s definitely an ironic story, that’s for sure.

Just after the Civil War a family named Finley had relocated to the Barrattville area to escape a horrible neighbor who wanted to hurt a widow. She and her brother and their combined children (twelve girls!) settled on a small ranch right in the middle of the current Barratt’s property. Unfortunately, the Finleys had bought it illegally.

The Barratt at the time had six marriage-aged sons. Four of them rode over to the Finley’s ranch and basically took four of the older daughters. They married them that night and they all literally lived happily ever after. (Trying to wrap my head around that one, but…well, after what Houghton did, how can I say that it can’t work?)

The story doesn’t end there, though. The older Barratt man was also a widower, and he decided he wanted the girls’ aunt!

I have to say that I’m truly enjoying reading both their journals. Jude, the girls’ aunt, was wounded before coming to Finley Creek and struggled to walk and faced daily pain. I have to say I’m definitely identifying with her. (Physical therapy did not go well today!)

I want to explore who she was. By the time she was a year older than I am now, she was widowed with four daughters. I can’t imagine how frightening life must have been for her back then.

I can’t help but look around at what her family has built since then.

Houghton wants me to rewrite the journals into a novel form. Just to see what happens.

Even if I never publish it, I think it will be fun. A good way to practice writing romances–I used to write horror when I was younger–and I think it’ll be something fun for him. Fitting that my first romance be about his family, right?

And I’m a Barratt now, too.

Anyway, I’m putting the chapters up here on my blog. Take a look and tell me what you think. I’m really trying to capture a historical voice.

Brynna’s over in her office, finally. She should stay there for a while. We both have a lot of work to do.

Gabby may come over later. I need to call her and confirm. If she is, I may call Dad and get the girls over here.

We can have dinner out by the pool. It’s unseasonally warm today (not that that matters, the pool is heated and enclosed!) and I want to celebrate.

Carrie is supposed to call soon, too. Something about coming down for Dad’s birthday next week. Though I don’t think she should.

She’s weeks away from delivering, after all.

Not that I can talk any sense into her. She’s as stubborn as Brynna sometimes.

Seems like stubbornness is a real Beck trait, after all.

Previous Post: MM7: Handley Barratt Strikes Again!

Next Post: MM9: Goodnight, Laptop!

MM7: Handley Barratt Strikes Again!

AFTER THE therapy session that wasn’t really a therapy session–none of us wanted to talk about what the guy did except for Gabby, who had rambled in true Gabby fashion–talk turned to more interesting things. Like Lacy’s ranch and who was the latest hospital chief of staff at Finley Creek General, where Jilly and the other two worked.

The former COS was on medical leave for a few more weeks. He’d been shot when Lacy had been beaten in the hospital parking lot.

We just couldn’t escape reminders of it, could we?

The hospital had had trouble finding someone to replace Lanning, ever since, I guess.

Jilly wasn’t going back. Not yet. She’d decided to take the time to finish her advanced nursing degree. She’d gone to the Bursar a few weeks back to pay the Spring tuition and someone else had paid the rest of her degree off.

I strongly suspected my evil father-in-law was the culprit, so I’d had Dad check.

Someone had provided a full-ride scholarship for Syd, too.

Houghton and Luc both swore that it wasn’t them, and I believed them. Houghton wouldn’t lie about it.

Handley Barratt strikes again.

Is it wrong to admit that the idea that no one had ever caught him freaks me out a great deal?

I can’t help but wonder if he’s going to come back around again, totally turning my life–and his son’s–completely upside down.

If all goes according to plan, Jillian will graduate at the end of May.

She deserves it, she has worked so hard to get to where she was. She’d even doubled up on some of her earlier classes to get ahead. Not too shabby for a woman who’d struggled with moderate dyslexia her entire life.

Did I mention how proud I am of my little sisters?

They have both overcome some seriously crappy odds to become the bright, wonderful women they are today. And Syd?

Syd is awesome. (Of course, I did have a huge hand in raising her to be that way!)

Brynna will be here in about an hour. She and Chance usually arrive around nine-thirty and we share a late breakfast. Houghton hits his office around seven in the morning–he’s an early bird who loves to snuggle in the mornings–but will come up to greet them.

Then he drags Chance off somewhere, most days.

When I need to go somewhere Chance is expected to accompany me. Brynna usually tags along, unless she’s knee deep in computers.

Talk about the one thing that annoys me about this whole gig.

My brother-in-law takes overprotective to the extremes.

But I’m dealing. Better than the alternative, right? And Houghton…

He’s terrified something will happen to me. I don’t like seeing my husband afraid.

The murder of his mother still weighs deeply on him. I wish…

I wish there was some way to find out who was responsible. Give him that, at least.

Maybe I’ll talk to Elliot about it, see if he can justify putting the Cold Case Division on it.

My former partner Jarrod is the head of the new division at the TSP. He’ll kick ass and take names. I know he will.

Yes, I’m going to talk to Elliot.


Previous Post: MM6: Therapy!

Next Post: MM8: Brynna is Brynna-ing Me Again!

MM6: Therapy

Well, I did it. I went with her to the therapy group. No surprise, it was me, Jilly, Ari…Lacy and Gabby. Brynna hadn’t wanted to go. Therapy terrifies Brynna, especially after a bad experience she’d had as a kid with a behavioral therapist who hadn’t fully understood Asperger’s. So it was just the five of us.

And a therapist that Ari had rounded up named Margo Chelsey.

Margo seems nice; competent as a group therapist, at least. She and Ari are apparently good friends. Margo is a volunteer with a Texas organization–based in Finley Creek–that fights to promote women’s issues in the state, and in the nation.

She didn’t sugar-coat. Of course, I think it helped that we all were a part of the same acts of violence. Perpetrated by the same group of men.

Still, we all knew each other, we all had similar issues, and we were already there for each other if needed. I’m not sure how this group is going to be any different now that we’ve added a therapist to the mix.

Lacy was obviously there just for Jilly and Ari. Lacy and I are a lot alike, I think. We prefer to just deal with things ourselves. But, like I do for Brynna and Gabby, Lacy keeps an eye on Jilly and Ari, at times. Protects them from the world when needed.

I’m not even sure she realizes she’s doing it, honestly. And it’s not like the other two aren’t capable of handling themselves; far from it, though sometimes Ari gets lost in her head at times, and doesn’t quite seem to know what’s going on.

I’ve seen her play an imaginary violin when she thinks no one is looking. She’s a phenomenal musician.

Ari had planned on a career as a concert violinist until…

Until the man who had orchestrated my getting shot had tried to have Ari kidnapped to get back at her older sister Paige.

After that Ari had transferred to the main campus of Finley Creek University, to study to be a counselor.

She works part-time at the hospital in the mental health department. The rest of the time I’m not certain exactly what she does. Her brother Luc flies her up to St. Louis on a regular basis, though.

Ari apparently helps his wife organize charity events. Ari’s good at planning parties.

I need to keep that in mind and give her name to Pippa, Houghton’s personal assistant.

Pippa is a godsend. I’d honestly lose patience with my husband if I had to get him out of the inventor clouds and back to the real world forty hours a week, that’s for certain.

As much as I love my husband, I could not work with or for him. I’d strangle him first.

Instead, I spend my time in the office he created for me. He’d made it just perfect and every time I look around it, I’m reminded of that fact.

The first ‘therapy’ session was mostly just us sitting around looking at each other like idiots. Then Lacy rocked back in her chair and flapped her hands helplessly.

“Well, here we are. Got a raw deal by the creep of all creeps, and now we get to find a way to get over it. Mel–you still pissed over what happened?”

“Yep.” Leave it to Lacy to get to the heart of the matter, right? “Sure am. Probably will be for a very, very long time.” Of course I was. When I think of what my family has gone through because of him, how can I not be?

Traumatic events are traumatic because, hell, they are trauma.

Trauma: a deeply distressing or disturbing or damaging experience.

Lacy smirked. “Good. That’s normal. We’re all as normal as we can be. I’ve got nothing else. Let’s party.”

Leave it to Lacy, right?

We aren’t going to be able to forget that one of my sisters was impaled because of someone’s greed, were we?

Previous Post: MM5: Definition of Trauma

Next Post: MM7 Handley Barratt Strikes Again

MM5: Definition of Trauma

DINNER AT my father’s was just as chaotic as usual. It didn’t help matters that Chance’s brother Elliot  brought the governor of Texas to my dad’s house tonight.

Governor Deane–Marcus–is Elliot and Chance’s slightly older cousin. He is widowed with two kids. The kids are awesomely adorable–but slightly diabolical.

They are fascinated with our house and our father, for some reason. Dad just eats it up. He has always been great with kids. Somehow, Marcus Deane keeps finding his way to Dad’s place lately.

Ever since…

He’d knocked me out of the way the day Jillian and Houghton had almost been killed, had covered me with his own body to protect me.

Houghton is ready to erect a shrine in the guy’s honor. And they are becoming friends, too, though Houghton was definitely not the kind of man to get involved in politics.

That day has reshaped our lives too damned much. We were all affected by it.

Some days I had a harder time than others getting it out of my head. I knew what the therapists would say–about all of us.

Traumatic events, PTSD, anxiety, loss of security, vulnerability, etc., etc. I’d heard it all before after someone shot me, thinking I was my older sister Carrie.

I hate how I felt back then. It has taken me a while to get myself back to who I want to be. To see Jilly and Brynna–and even Syd–go through similar emotions hurts.

I hate feeling helpless where they are concerned.

Brynna is coping far better than I thought she would, though. She has regressed a bit on wanting to do things outside of her routine, though. Nothing I haven’t expected–the same thing happened after we lost Mom. Brynna likes to be in situations where she feels some control.

Chance understands that, too. Thank God. He is helping her get through it by keeping her focused on their life and their future now.

I just wish…wish Jilly wasn’t hurting so badly. Maybe this therapy group of Ari’s will help her?

Maybe I’ll go with her myself. Just…to show her that she isn’t alone?

Previous: MM4: Jillian Lied

Next: MM6: Therapy

MM4: Jillian Lied…

SHE LIED to me. I knew she did. She knew that I knew. But I let it go. As much as my heart hurt for her, Jilly had to find her own way to deal with what happened.

But I couldn’t look at my baby sister and not want to help. “I still have the nightmares, Jilly. It’s going to take me a while to learn to deal with them. Everytime I touch Houghton’s scars, I remember. I’m afraid that I probably always will. But…none of us went through this alone. I’m here, even if you just want to yell about what happened.”

She stared at me out of eyes that looked just like mine, like Brynna’s, and Syd’s, and Carrie’s, too. The sadness in Jilly’s broke my heart. “I know. I’ll be ok, Mel. You don’t have to worry about me, or fix me, or anything like that. I’m…not going to let him win.”


“Ari’s starting a therapy group at the hospital. She somehow talked Fin into getting the board to approve initial funding. For now. I think she asked Luc to subsidize it.”

Ari–Jillian’s best friend, and younger sister to our friend Luc. Who was almost as wealthy as my husband. And just as incorrigible. He and Houghton seemed to search out ways to push boundaries–at least in their shared field of tech development.

I have no doubt that some of Luc’s designs had made their way into the infamous drones Houghton and Chance had been playing with.

“For those who have been the victims of violence against women.” Jilly slammed the bottle of Brynna’s favorite salad dressing down on the table. I jumped. “I hate this, Mel. I hate being a victim. It’s not right, and when does this feeling end? I’m not sure how much longer I can take it!”

I didn’t know what else to do–I wrapped my arms around her and just hugged her tight.

Jillian was the smallest of my sisters. She was almost four inches shorter than I was, and tiny. Dad often called her his evil little leprechaun. It was a nickname that fit. Jillian was quiet and sweet most of the time. The rest of the time she was a real terror.

I would give anything to have her back to being a terror. Rather than being constantly terrified.

I pushed my own anger at the bastard who’d hurt us all aside. I’ll have to deal with that anger someday, and I know that.

I really do. But…Jilly needed me to be strong again. So that’s what I am going to do.

Houghton came in when I was still holding her. “You two gorgeous women ok? Do I need to send the driver out for chocolate? Ice cream? A big shiny bauble the size of Jillian’s fist? There’s this little place over on Summit that sells those ring pop suckers. Even in cherry…”

Jillian laughed and I smiled at my husband, knowing exactly what he was up to. He could be really sweet sometime. Especially with my sisters.

Previous Post: MM3: Dinner at Dad’s

Next Post: MM5: Definition of Trauma

MM2: My Family

WHEN WE were finished, I curled up against his side and he held me. Big dork. I’d missed him, too. If my sister Carrie wasn’t nine months pregnant with her second child, I wouldn’t have left him for so long. We’d spent over a year and a half apart before finding each other again—now I hated to be away from him for even one day.

“How is Carrie?”

“Doing ok. This pregnancy has been harder than her last.”

“And Bryn? Did she drive you insane?”

I had to smile at that. Both my older sister Carrie and my younger sister Brynna were high-functioning autistic and had their own particular little quirks. “She and Carrie spent most of the time talking about pregnancy. And diapers and baby food and books on babies and pregnancy and motherhood.”

Which I’ll admit, had hurt a bit. Thanks to my physical condition, I would probably never have a successful pregnancy. It was just a fact. And something I was learning to deal with. It hadn’t bothered me too much before Houghton and I married…but he was meant to have a family, to be a father.

We’d discussed it, of course. Adoption was probably the path we were going to take once we’d been married for a while.

It was still hard to have two pregnant sisters around, though. “Truth? They drove me nuts. But I’m used to the two of them. And happy I still get the chance to be driven nuts by them.”

After what my sisters—my entire family—had gone through in recent years, I would never forget that.

But…I was back with my husband. It was time to push the memories of everything that had happened away and focus on the future. “So…other than giving the hospital a scare, what did you do while I was gone?”

“Chance and I kept your father company at Finley Lake. He wanted to go fishing.”

Something Houghton thought was barbaric. I didn’t agree with him on that. Some of my best memories of my childhood involved hanging out at Finley Lake with my mother and father. “He goes there sometimes when he’s really missing mom.”

Houghton rolled me carefully on top of him. There was a lot of him to be on top of. My husband was tall and muscled and put together in a way that had to be unreal. For as good as he looked in his clothes, he looked even better out. “Your father needs his own woman.”

“Ok. Why?” I hadn’t thought about that. For the past six years, my father had focused on me and my sisters. And like it or not, we were enough to keep him busy, even with the youngest of us being full-grown at eighteen now. Since my mother died six years ago we’ve found Carrie who had been kidnapped when she was nine, I’ve been shot and paralyzed and learned to walk again, Brynna was kidnapped, stabbed, held hostage and nearly killed in an explosion, and Jillian had almost had her throat cut by the man responsible for the infamous Marshall Murders. The only one who hadn’t caused problems for my father was my youngest sister, Syd.

Oh. Yeah. There was also the fact that I was kidnapped right out of my father’s kitchen and held in Mexico for three days.

My father was finally starting to forgive Houghton for that one.

“You have any women in mind?”

“Not a clue. What would your father even like?”

“Redheads. Dad has always had a thing for redheads.” Every member of my family was redheaded, including my father. But my mother…her hair had been the deepest red that only my sister Jilly had inherited.

“I know the fascination.” He had his hands in my hair again. I often thought of cutting it; then I’d remember this…

Houghton was enthralled by my hair. Especially in our bed.

It was a long time before he let me out of bed. And he’d extracted a promise that no more being away from him so long.

When I finally made it out of the bed, he rolled on his side and watched me move. I didn’t feel awkward with him watching. Not like I would have once before. The crutch I used was just another part of my daily life.

I have adapted to my new circumstances rather well, I think. It hasn’t always been easy, though.

I don’t fall nearly as often as I did even six weeks ago. Houghton hired the best physical therapist in the city to come to our house four times a week. I now had an entire regimen of therapies, including those that occurred in the pool.

I loved the pool. It was a love we shared. I grabbed my robe and wrapped it around myself.

We’d end up in that pool within the hour, I suspected. We somehow always did.

“Did you send the staff home already?”

“Other than security.”

Of course. Just like the crutch, Houghton’s security team are a part of our life. One that would always be.

I had once thought it had to be like living in a cage, but now…It wasn’t like that at all. I wasn’t contained in any real way.

The head of that security brought his wife to work with him almost every day, after all. I didn’t spend my days alone while Houghton worked. Not at all.

Brynna even had her own office right next to the one Houghton had decorated just for me. She hung out in their all day writing computer programs—many intended for either Luc’s company or Houghton’s—and I hung out in my own office, writing.

There was a connecting wall between the two spaces. If we wanted to, Bryn and I could open the wall and have one large office space. We could each do our own thing, while still being together. We did that a lot.

Sometimes Gabby showed up to work with Brynna or to have me edit her cookbooks she was creating. We were a team, just like we had always been. Marriage hadn’t changed us that much, though we didn’t see Gabby as much as I would have liked.

My best friend had married Elliot the week before Brynna and Chance had eloped. They lived a ways outside the city at Elliot’s family ranch.

Life had changed for Gabby, Brynna, and me, but strictly for the good.

It was my sister Jillian who worried me, though.

For all the good changes that had come mine and Brynna’s way, Jillian seemed to be the one who had paid the price.

And I don’t quite know how to help her. Yet. I will. I’m not going to stop until I do.

Previous Post: MM1: Houghton, Chance & the Drone

Next Post: MM3: Dinner at Dad’s

MM1: Houghton, Chance…and the drone.

IT WAS the drones that did it. I hadn’t even known what the man was up to. I guess I should have. I just didn’t know that he was going to involve Chance in it. You would think my sister’s husband would have at least had more sense than mine, right?

Thankfully the complaint had gone into the Finley Creek TSP post. After a strict warning to keep their toys in their own backyard, Chance and Houghton were fined. With a ticket signed by none other than the Chief of the Finley Creek TSP himself.

Elliot, Chance’s brother, had probably enjoyed that moment, hadn’t he?


“I didn’t mean to get Chance in trouble,” my husband said as he wrapped his arms around my waist. “Do you forgive me?”

I wasn’t angry with him, to begin with. But I wasn’t about to tell him that. I’d been gone for three days—Brynna and I had flown to St. Louis to stay with Carrie while Sebastian did a conference at Quantico—and I had missed the feel of the man’s arms around me.

“You’re corrupting my brother-in-law.” Not that it would have taken much. Since he and Brynna had married and Chance had taken the job as Houghton’s—and the entire family’s—Chief of Security, Houghton and Chance had gotten into tons of trouble.

Supposedly all in the name of developing safety measures for one of Houghton’s businesses.

I knew the truth—they were two little boys enjoying coming up with new toys. Add in their friend Luc, who flew down regularly from St. Louis, and they were almost incorrigible. Almost. Elliot rode heard on them pretty well, at least.

I didn’t care. It made them happy.

Just like it made  Elliot happy to bust them.

They had all been unhappy long enough.

“I’m sorry. But in my defense, it was Chance’s idea to fly the drones over the hospital. I didn’t know one would land in their heat vent.”

“Uh-huh.” Thankfully the hospital in question was the one where Houghton had already made many generous donations. The hospital admin had seemed amused by it. “Got to be more careful with your playthings.”

“I know what I want to play with now.” His hands snaked around my waist, and he grinned. Houghton had the best smile of any man I had ever seen. But I might be a little bit partial. “You were gone for an eternity.”

“So was that what it was? You and Chance missed us so you thought you’d do something to get in trouble?” Gabby, Elliot’s wife, had called me to tell me exactly what the men had been up to.

“Hardly. Come here.” He scooped me up. Carrying me around was a thing of his. One I indulged.

He carried me through the monstrosity of our house and toward our suite on the fourth floor. I clutched his shoulders tightly when he bypassed the elevator and headed for the stairs.

“Houghton, if you drop me, I’ll make you pay for it.” The stairs were marble, for heaven’s sake.

“I’ll never drop you.”

And he didn’t.

Next Post: MM2: My Family