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.

 

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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.

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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?

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“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

MM3: Dinner at Dad’s

THE LIMO barely fit on their street. Houghton ordered the driver to park it directly in front of Brynna and Chance’s place. They lived in the larger house across the street from the one where Brynna and I had grown up. My sister had always loved that house. I liked that she was right across the street from my father.

It was hard not to want to keep an eye on Brynna, wasn’t it?

I have been responsible for her for almost her entire life. It was a hard habit to break. Even though Chance took it to the extremes. If Brynna even hiccupped my brother-in-law was right there.

My sister Jillian was already hard at work at the stove when we walked in the back door.

I took a moment to check on her. Her hair, so dark red it almost looked unreal, was pulled back in a French braid. I was glad to see that—for the first month after the day she’d almost died Jillian had kept her hair down.

Jillian

Jillian

Covering the scar where that bastard had almost slit her throat right in front of me. It wasn’t a large scar, but no one would miss it. It would remind my sister of what had happened every time she looked in a mirror.

Jilly, the sweetest, kindest of the lot of us. The one who had had the least to do with what had happened at the end of last year.

I hugged her impulsively. I will never forget how it had been, watching her and Houghton fighting for their lives.

For mine.

I pushed the anger and hatred for the man responsible aside. Now was not the time for that. Now was the time for my family.

“Hey.”

“Glad to see you’re back,” Jillian said. “Can you make the salad? Chance and Brynna are coming over soon; Elliot and Gabby are with them now.”

I’d spent the past six years cooking in this kitchen for my family. To tell you the truth, I kind of missed it since moving in with Houghton. He had a cook, and six different places inside the house where he could get food. Yet somehow we ended up eating here at Dad’s at least three nights a week.

I think Houghton enjoyed the time at the family table as much as I did.

I looked over at him. He and my father were speaking quietly. They were still a little uneasy with each other. But it had only been a bit over a month and a half since everything had happened. They would get used to each other eventually.

Houghton looked at me and smiled. Just like that, I forgot what I was doing.

“Focus, Mel. You can stare at Houghton later.” Jillian snarked at me, like she’d used to. Jilly is four years younger than I am, but we have always been close. We’d tag-teamed taking care of Brynna and Syd between us for years. I depended on Jillian, same as she had me. I half feel like I abandoned her recently.

She and Syd were left at the house with Dad, but Brynna was right across the street. Things had changed like crazy since October. Jillian, especially. “You ok, Jilly?” I asked quietly. “Tell me the truth.”

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