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!

MM11: Carrie Wins.

I’m beginning to think I’m spending far too much time in front of this screen lately. I’m making progress on Jude and Hughes’ story. (Check out the next few chapters here!),

But I’m starting to stiffen up after too many hours at it. There’s always speech-to-text software, but to be honest, talking out my stories weirds me out. I’ll try it eventually.

Imagine it, me spread out over the chaise, talking to my computer clear across the room. Then Houghton will come in, decide the software or my tech set-up isn’t the best possible there is and he’ll play around with it.

Then he’ll want me to demonstrate a scene or two…and of course, I’ll pick the hotter ones.

It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve tried out the chaise, now would it?

Anywayyy…

Off of me and Houghton and back to what’s going on around here…

Carrie won.

They’ll be down here—with the beautiful baby Maddie—first thing in the morning two days from now. They are bringing Simon, Ari’s younger brother, to hang out with Syd for a few days.

Ari has me almost as worried as Jillian. She’s jumping at shadows and so, so quiet. I’m convinced that they both have some PTSD going on, but they won’t let me help them. Not at this point.

All I can do is be here for them, right?

Why is it so hard to just sit by and do nothing when the ones I care about are hurting? Why can’t I just bundle them all up and make the world better for them?

I’m trying not to dwell too much on what happened myself. I’ve been through some crappy times over the past two years, I can get through this too.

Maybe they aren’t the only ones still screwed up by what happened?

I had another nightmare this morning. In it, Jilly and Houghton both died, bleeding out from that damned knife.

Whenever that happens I feel shaky for hours.

There’s another ‘therapy’ group tonight. We’re all going, Jilly, Brynna, Lacy, Ari, and I. Gabby, too. We’ll see.

That’s all I am going to commit to.

Houghton has a full schedule today. There’s still an FBI conference going on at the hotel today. He’s giving them his special presence after the trouble Dr. Dillon experienced.

I may take a car to the hotel and join him for lunch today. Or have Chance drive me. Maybe I could convince Brynna to step inside the hotel this time.

If it has been hard to get Jillian into the hotel, it was next to impossible to get Brynna anywhere near it.

I’ll get her inside eventually. But I get it, I really do. Brynna and Jillian both almost died in the hotel. It makes sense that they don’t want to go there.

I’ll admit, I haven’t gone there without Houghton yet.

Perhaps it is time I do?

I am not going to let what happened keep me from doing anything ever again.

Previous Post: MM10 Weepy Ol’Me

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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!

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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!

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