As she walked into the kitchen, Laura wore nothing but a smile and one of Ryan’s dirty shirts that she had found on the floor next to the bed. Once this was all over, they needed to have a long talk. Negotiate some things. She had put in her time cooking and cleaning for her sisters. She had no intention of doing so for a man.
She opened the refrigerator door and was peering inside for a snack. She had left Ryan and Chloe napping, but she was too hungry to sleep. It seemed even quickies with that man worked up a real appetite, and food was just the beginning of it.
She smiled as she noticed Jaycee had left a plate of sandwiches with a sticky note and smiley face. ‘Thought you might need something to keep up your energy.’
Laura was beginning to like having a friend. She had not had time for friendships in years. Besides her sisters, she had only ever had two what you could call friends. Jack and Jolene Monroe.
Jo, her little brother, and Mama lived in the trailer just down the dirt road from them. They were poor relations of the Monroes – the ruling family of Sebida. When Jo’s daddy had tired of her mother and divorced his first wife for his younger secretary, his lawyer made damned sure that his ex-wife got as little as possible. Even then, the man rarely paid court-ordered child support. That was what motivated her best friend in high school to become an attorney – money and power. Of course, she practically worshipped her older friend and had eventually followed in her footsteps.
The two women had even run into one another once. Stephen had got into a bit of a sticky situation when one of his personal assistants accused him of sexual harassment. Laura knew the woman was telling the truth, but it was her job to get Stephen and McBride Industries out of it anyway. Jo was one of the best corporate discrimination litigators there was, so she called in an old favor and got her friend to consult on the case.
She still felt guilty about the low settlement and non-disclosure agreement they had bullied the young woman into signing. But that was a different lifetime. Still, karma had a way of coming back to…
Her thoughts were interrupted by the ringing phone. She debated whether or not to answer it. But if she didn’t, then it would likely wake up Ryan and Chloe. Besides, she could just pretend to be Jaycee, right? She picked up the phone on the third ring, “J. Ranger, Esquire.”
“Laura, is that you?”
Her shoulders sagged when she realized it was Jack on the other end. “Yeah, Jaycee, Rex, and Grandfather have taken Angel on a picnic. Can I give them a message when they get back?”
“Shit, piss, cock, cunt, mother-fucking son-of-a-bitch.”
Laura stifled a giggle. She had never figured out how Jack could get so many curse words out in a single breath. But she also knew that if he was ‘fuck, fuck, fuckety, fuck, fucking’ something was seriously wrong. “What is it, Jack?”
“I need to speak with Grandfather. Now. Reb just called me. Will has kidnapped McBride’s daughter.”
Her head spun, and she held onto the countertop. “Jack, none of that makes any sense. I thought Will was with Mercy in Torreon. And no one knows where Cassie and Callie are. Mercy and Will don’t even have Reb’s number. How could they contact him?”
“It’s a long story, and I don’t want to tell it more than once. Is there any way you can reach them? I’ll try their cellphones, but reception on the ranch fucking sucks.”
She was about to answer him when Ryan walked into the kitchen, a bit bleary-eyed with a cranky Chloe on his bare shoulder. Even with all that was happening, she could not help but appreciate the sight of the man in nothing but his boxer briefs. “Who is that?” he frowned as he passed their daughter to her.
“Jack, something’s happened.” She could not get her daughter latched on to her breast and hold the phone simultaneously. She hit the speaker button and laid it on the counter as she sat down in a chair and lifted the shirt. “You’re on speaker, Jack. And Ryan is here.”
“Hey, buddy. Laura says that Grandfather and Rex are on some god-damned picnic. I need to talk to them as soon as possible. When will they be back?”
“Another hour, maybe,” Laura answered as Chloe latched on to her nipple and began to suckle. She winced at the sharp needle-like pain as her milk letdown.
“Shit, piss, cock…”
“Okay, buddy, enough with the cussing. I don’t want my daughter’s first words to be fuck. What’s up?” Ryan reached for a sandwich on the plate next to the fridge as he spoke.
“I got a call from Reb a few minutes ago. I’m gonna kick his ass when I see him. What he had not told me was that he had a Marine buddy in East Texas that was hiding McBride’s wife and kid.”
“The agency has been looking for them for weeks.” Ryan’s words were garbled around the half-chewed sandwich. His daughter slurped loudly at the breast. Laura shook her head; it seemed table manners were an inherited trait. Maybe she should have considered that before. She just hoped politics was not.
“I don’t know the whole story, but the dude called Reb asking for his help. Because get this, Will has kidnapped McBride’s daughter.”
Ryan half-swallowed, half-chocked on the sandwich. “That does not sound like Will.”
“He’s with my fucking sister,” Laura stared right back into those baby-blues. She could appreciate the necessity of toning down the cussing as much as any parent, but sometimes that word was the only one that fit. And now was one of those, as Jack spoke again.
“That’s just it. According to Reb, this is all second or third hand. Will said he had no other choice. Diego Garcia had his cousin and Mercy.”
“Fuck,” it was Ryan’s turn to cuss. Yeah, her daughter was doomed. She only hoped they could dismiss it as duck or something.
“Garcia kidnapped the girl to lure Cassie McBride to him. He wants his money.”
Laura shook her head as she spoke, “There’s no way. Even if there is any money left, Gerald McBride would not have shared that information with his wife. Hell, the woman was always so withdrawn I wondered if…”
“Yeah, I figured that. Men like McBride don’t share their confidences with…”
“With women, counselor?” Ryan had never betrayed the agency, but she had often wondered if the McBrides had indeed shared more of this mess with him as General Counsel than they had her.
“Okay, no time for fighting, kiddies. I need to get ahold of Grandfather A-S-fucking-P. Reb says Cassie McBride was given coordinates to go to. Alone. Of course, this Marine dude is with her. I don’t know. Anyway, Reb has convinced them to speak with us. That they need our help against Garcia. He wants us all to meet here cause he says we don’t know who might be watching the border.”
“He’s right about that. If the Garcia Cartel has infiltrated the agency, they certainly have the Border Patrol as well. I can saddle up a horse and have them back here in less than half an hour.”
But before the words were out of Ryan’s mouth, Grandfather and Ryan’s cousin walked into the kitchen. She quickly pulled a very unhappy Chloe off her breast and tucked the shirt done to cover – well, every-fucking-thing. Had she just flashed Ryan’s cousin and the old man? She knew her cheeks were flaming.
“Do not worry about such things, child.” That shit still freaked her the-fuck-out. Grandfather and Rex turned towards Ryan and the phone, “Tell them all to come here. It is time.”
How he knew that, Laura no longer even questioned as she ran for the privacy of their bedroom to finish nursing her child, get a shower, and put on some clothes. Before who knew who or what trouble showed up. It looked like the quiet of the past few weeks was broken. The question was – was that a good thing? Or a bad?