Mercy was not certain what time it was. After dark, for sure, but other than that, she had lost count of the hours. She went from the old man in the bedroom who was still sleeping, that worried her, to the woman on the sofa in the living room. Grace stayed next to her mother’s side, just holding her hand. They had managed to get a few sips of some herbal tea between her swollen lips, which was more than she could say for Ignacio Garcia.
Anna had left hours ago, mumbling something about needing to get everything ready. Though what everything was, Mercy had no idea. The woman had assured her that Cassie McBride would be okay. She just needed to rest. But given Anna’s precarious hold on reality, that was far from reassuring.
The rumble in her stomach reminded her that she had not eaten since that morning. She had been about to prepare lunch for Grace and herself when Roberto had brought the girl’s mother to them. Grace must be hungry too.
She watched the girl tenderly brush that hair back from her mother’s face. Mercy fought back her own guilt and self-loathing. She better than anyone knew precisely what Grace was going through, thinking, and feeling. Even now, a quarter of a century later, she held onto the anger at that little girl, who just wanted a candy bar.
The adult woman recognized that men like Earl Kerr would always find a way to get what they wanted. That if Miss Patsy had not caught them shoplifting and called the police, if Laura had not insisted on taking the blame, the man would have found some other way to manipulate her mother. A parking ticket she could not afford? Speeding? Hell, jaywalking. His badge gave men like him virtually unlimited power to abuse, especially the vulnerable.
But they were not weak. The Reynolds women had survived. And she was determined that the McBride women would too.
“Hey, sweetie, I’m gonna make us something to eat.” She wanted to scoop Grace into her arms and hug her, tell her everything would be alright, but she settled for gently squeezing her shoulders. They trembled with the soft sobs.
The girl shook her rainbow. And Mercy hoped they could somehow all manage to find those mythical pots of gold. “I don’t want anything.”
It was only one word, but it was the first sign of hope. Mercy knelt next to Grace, “Don’t worry about her. I’ll take care of your daughter. You just focus on resting and getting better.”
She brushed hair out of the woman’s face, but her purpose was to feel her skin temperature. Anna had warned her that infection was the biggest worry now. Dammit, the woman needed a real doctor, preferably a hospital.
She could tell it was a real struggle, but Cassandra McBride finally managed to open her eyes. “You look just like her. You know she’s worried about you.”
Mercy shook her head. The woman’s words made no sense. For a moment, she worried that blood loss or infection had made her delirious. Her next words seemed to confirm it, “What time is it? How long have I been out? Are they here yet?”
“I don’t know – late. It’s been dark for awhile. Let me get you something to drink.”
“No, I’m fine. Help me sit up. We need to be ready. They should be here soon.”
Grace was sobbing still, “Mama, you need to stay there. They hurt you pretty badly.”
The woman turned to her daughter, “Your father is coming for us.”
The tears ran faster, “My father is dead, remember?”
“No, Gerald McBride is dead. Chad is out there somewhere, and he’s coming for us. We need to be ready, Grace.”
Mercy was more focused. Nothing the woman said made sense. Then again, she had been through so much. “Your daughter’s right. Let me get you something to help you rest, Mrs. McBride.”
“No. Stacey came with them.”
Before Mercy could respond, the front door opened, and a frantic looking Bebe slipped inside. “Do you know a man named Rex Ranger?”
Mercy’s head was spinning so fast, her thoughts in a million different directions. “Rex? You mean Ryan?” Then, it clicked. Ryan’s cousin. “Yeah, why? How do you know about Rex? Did you talk to Will?”
“No, the man, this Rex guy just came up to me. He asked me all kinds of questions. Said to tell you that they were here. Who are they?”
Mercy opened her mouth to ask that same question, but she closed it quickly when the door opened again. The last person she wanted to see at the moment entered. Well, next to the last. Diego Garcia would be worse than his mother.
“Consuela,” on this rare occasions that she interacted with the woman, Mercy always used the woman’s first name. Simply because she knew it irritated her. “What are you doing here?”
The woman shoved past Bebe, her dark, soulless eyes taking the girl in from head to toe. “What are you doing here? I sent you back to the brothel. Where you belong.”
“Roberto sent for me. He said that Mercy needed my help.”
“My son is not in charge here. Go back where you belong. Now.” Bebe shifted from side to side, but in the end, she just nodded her head.
Mercy could not let her go without some answers. “Please, Senora Garcia. Your son sent me Callie McBride and now her mother to care for. In addition to my father. The woman is injured. Just let the girl stay and care for them, long enough for me to make us all something to eat. That’s all I ask, please?”
She knew from the set of the woman’s face that she wanted to argue, and for a moment, Mercy was sure that Consuela Garcia would. But finally, she inclined her gray head just slightly, “Fine, but only long enough for you to cook, understood? Make me some broth. I am going to sit by my husband’s side. I will feed him myself. So, you will not have to care for him as well.”
In all the weeks that Mercy had been there, she could remember only a handful of times that the woman took any interest in the man’s care. And each time, Ignacio Garcia had sickened afterward.
She looked around the room at the woman and her daughter huddled together and Will’s cousin slinking in the shadows. She had so many unanswered questions. She needed to speak with Bebe before the girl went back to the village. Cassie McBride too.
While the man who had sired her had become a tragic figure over the past few weeks, Mercy knew that her loyalties in this situation must lie elsewhere. “I’ll send Callie in with a bowl as soon as it warm, Senora.” She nodded her head and lowered her eyes. The words of deference stuck in her throat like bile.
But she did what was best for all of them. Because for the first time since she stood on that veranda and faced this woman and her half-brother, Mercy felt genuinely hopeful.