Journal entry Friday January 6-midnight
January 9th is a day I did not think would ever arrive. Doc says I can go back to work Monday. I will still have to use crutches for a couple of weeks and I will have to pass physical requirements to get back in the field, but it is a start. Last November, the first of the year did not seem so far away and I thought it would be easy to recover and return. Ha! The first couple of weeks were not so bad, I felt so awful most days that time was not important, then as I began to improve the days got longer and it seemed that the weeks would never end. Every visit to the doctor ended the same way, one more week and we will see. Hell, is it my fault that my leg was taking longer to heal? I have been good, followed the damn rules, gone to therapy and still had to fight to be released for desk duty.
The best part was spending time with Linda she is a great nurse and has been beside me every step of the way This time has given us a chance to build our own family bond and now she is in full planning mode for our wedding. I love that woman and I know that we will have a good life together. But she needs to make the arrangements and I need to be in the office, at least then we have a chance of surviving all the plans for the nuptials, ideas of how to remodel the house, lawyer pre- nuptial agreements and meetings with the rest of the Dubois family.
Of course, some of the time off was entertaining. Watching JD and Casey deal with twins has been enjoyable; their idea of parenting is the exact opposite from Nathan and Rain. The Jackson’s have read every book on child rearing, have a schedule for everything and Terrell thrives with it. The Dunne’s have more of a free style type of parenting going with the girls, they roll with the flow and it appears to work for them. Christmas with all the kids and their assortment of gifts was great. The best part was having my entire family here to share the fun and love.
Josiah and Mallory are pleased that Joanne has finally accepted Adam. Most of the credit goes to Maria; her love for Adam convinced Joanne he was worth taking a second look at and when she did she discovered that being a big sister could be a good thing. Inez and Buck are blessed with Sarah and Maria; both girls have nurturing souls and hearts full of compassion.
I did get to spend time with Kelli before she went back to work last Monday and I feel that we made good progress on building a relationship .Although I wish that I had known about her sooner, I am just glad that we still have an opportunity to be family now. Besides, as she pointed out maybe we would not have been ready to accept this before; maybe Vin coming into my life was fate’s way of directing the future for all of us. All I know is that claiming Vin as my brother certainly has played a big part in changing the course of my life and her world was changed forever the day she met him. Of course, if we dubbed him the Larabee family angel he would probably want to shoot someone.
We found several things that we have in common, some of which are a love of quarter horses, good books, Native American lore and history, especially of the old west. I educated her about the Larabee family tree, the good, the bad and the ugly, I even told her about my imperfect childhood. I suppose my folks did what they believed was right, but it seemed that we never lived up to their expectations. I vowed at a young age that if I had my own family I would do everything in my power to make sure they knew they were loved unconditionally, something my parents failed to achieve. Kel was surprised to find out that the Larabees were not the perfect family everyone always believed them to be, but I wanted her to know why keeping my family together is so important to me.
I think that I have almost convinced Vin and Kelli to build their home adjacent to the ranch house instead of up on higher ground. I hope so, because I really would like them to stay close to us. They have been giving some serious thought to building sooner rather than later, since they have decided to enter the system as emergency caregivers. Somehow, they have found time to begin courses to qualify as foster parents, in addition to becoming CASA volunteers and Ezra is helping them with all the paperwork to be certified. They even convinced Standish to attending some of the classes and that is something I would have loved to see, although he did not need much encouragement to go with them for some reason.
Buck got the go ahead to return to work last Wednesday and wild horses could not hold him back. He loved spending time with Inez and the girls, but he was more than ready to go back. The entire team has stepped up to the plate and they have done a great job, but Buck is anxious to finish training ‘his’ students.
Vin is coming over in the morning to bring me up to date on MCAT, up until Doc gave me the green light today, he refused to tell me anything on orders from Orrin and the others have kept quiet, too. Tanner has done a helluva job with the unit, but he has been running twenty-four seven for weeks and is due for some down time. At least when I get back in the office I can relieve him of some of the extra responsibility he has been carrying and we can all get back to normal. More soon…
Journal entry completed, Chris closed it and hobbled to bed.
Chris woke up early. As he lay in bed and watched Linda sleep, he thought about how much of a difference she had made in his life.
First, she had been there after his near fatal encounter with a serial killer, not minding the scars that man had left on his body and his soul, taking it all in stride and showing him in every small way she could think off that she loved him.
Somehow, she had helped him keep the nightmares at bay, holding him when he woke up in a cold sweat, needling him until he finally agreed to see a counselor and then making damn sure that he knew he was still beautiful to her.
The only trouble had been about Vin. He smiled, thinking about that, about her unease with the connection between him and Vin. It had worried him, but actually, if he was honest, it had also touched him. It had felt good that a woman like her, smart, sophisticated, mesmerizing, full of joy and life and damn beautiful, could be jealous of him being close to someone else.
Still, these last long weeks while he was recuperating from the attack of another maniac on his life, she had been amazing. She had been with him day and night, helping him, driving him to the doctor, going with him to fun places afterwards to take his mind off things. Kissing his bad temper away or simply bringing him coffee and yet another classical book she had bought for him, leaving him alone when he needed it. So often she had simply held his hand without saying anything on those moments when fighting to get well again became a bit too much.
He knew how much she preferred talking and still she would do that, sit beside him in silence, just holding hands. He'd asked her a few times if she would rather not do something else and she had just smiled and told him she was right where she wanted to be, doing what she wanted to do. One day she had confessed she had never been able to do that before in her life, being quiet for long, but that she loved being quiet with him.
It touched him deeply and still did, just thinking about it.
On the other hand, he loved their talks. He just knew if his friends saw them when they really got to talking their mouths would fall open because they could talk endlessly, about so much and he enjoyed every moment of it. As much as he found pleasure in the kisses, that invariably ended those special talks and the sensational lovemaking, which followed.
Now she was carrying their child and still she put him first in everything. Ever since he was out of that damn wheel chair he was trying to bring the balance back into their relationship, trying to give some caring back to her, but hell, she was stubborn!
She was not going to escape now, he thought mischievously, looking at her relaxed face and listening to her soft, tiny wisps of breath. He would let her sleep for now, but once she was up, he was going to pamper her for the rest of the day! Placing a kiss on her brow, he slipped out of bed and with the help of crutches made his way to the kitchen.
It may be early on a Saturday morning, but that was not going to stop Larabee from catching up on what he had missed for the last few weeks. Chris poured a cup of coffee for Vin, knowing that his brother was on his way over and he was more than ready to discuss business. Travis had made sure none of the guys gave him any bits of information on what was happening in the office and the withdrawal from work was the hardest part of this recuperation.
The back door opened and a very cold Tanner came in, brushing snow off his shoulders before he entered the kitchen. “Damn it’s cold out there.” He set a stack of files on the table, along with today’s newspaper and grabbed the cup of hot coffee that was waiting for him. “I want you to know I left a warm bed and a willin’ woman to make you happy this mornin’.”
Larabee grinned, “I’d think that you would be anxious to turn things over as soon as possible.”
“Hell Chris, after all this time one more day won’t make a lot of difference.” Vin took one look at the expression of eagerness on Chris’ face and sighed. “Okay Cowboy, these are the finished cases and final reports on ‘em.” He began to separate the folders. “This one is open and that last one is in the assessment stage with Raphael and Justin as lead investigators.”
Chris opened one of the folders and was immediately impressed. “Damn, you never gave me reports that looked this good before. You’ve been holding out on me Tanner.”
Vin laughed, “Not likely, I just never had a secretary before and she has made a helluva difference in the office.”
“Well, I am glad you were the one to break her in, I hate trying to train new administrative help.”
Hiding a smile behind his cup Vin agreed. “It has been an interestin’ experience.” He knew that when Larabee met Gunny, the battle of wills that was sure to come would be fun to watch. Hell, the entire team was looking forward to what they knew was coming and Ezra was taking bets on how long it would take Chris to explode. As far as Vin was concerned his money was on Gunny. He knew Larabee and his glares would not stop the woman from fussing over him, come to think about it, he was not sure if anything stopped her when she had her mind set on something. “Come on Lar’bee, fire away with your questions, the sooner we start the sooner we finish and I have plans for the rest of this weekend.”
Two hours later, when Linda came in they were still at it. “Good morning beautiful.” Chris pulled her down to sit across his lap, nuzzling her neck just to hear her delightful laugh, forgetting about the work folders and concentrating on the woman before him. “We are done and I am all yours for the rest of the day.”
Vin smiled thinking about the difference a couple on months could make. Since Chris and Linda had spent so much time together during his recovery, they had found a new level for their relationship. Linda had matured and settled into the role of mother-to-be and Chris was learning how to have fun again. Together they had formed their own bond and the Texan knew they would be good for each other. “Good mornin’, Linda.”
“Hey Vin, how is our girl this morning.” The last few months had given her time to get to know Tanner better and she had discovered some of the reasons why Kelli loved him. Next to Chris, he was probably one of the most decent men she had ever met and Linda regretted the time she wasted resenting his presence in Chris and Kelli’s life. Looking back, she realized how foolish she had behaved and she was grateful that he had a forgiving nature. At least now, they were friends and they had a better understanding of each other.
“Kel’s doing okay, she still has a couple more weeks of therapy, but she’s getting’ there.” Vin laughed,” She still has to wear that walking boot, but she has not let it slow her down all that much.”
Chris gave his opinion. “I doubt that there is anything that Kel lets get her down for long.” He was a bit surprised to feel a fleeting sense of sadness from Vin. Whatever it was disappeared as quickly as it came, but Larabee filed it in his mind to look into later.
*Everything okay, Vin?*
*It’s nothin’ for you to worry over, just let it go for now.*
“Why don’t we shut this down, so you can go home and spend some time with Kel?” Chris smiled, “That way I can spend some time with this one, before the rest of the family comes tomorrow.”
“You don’t have to say that twice.” Vin gave Chris a lighthearted grin, put on his coat and was headed for the door before he could change his mind. “See y’all later.”
Once Vin was out the door, Chris did what he wanted to when Linda first came in the room. Running his hands over the soft curves of her body, he bestowed a long passionate kiss upon her that held promise for more. A tender pat to her butt and he sighed,” The rest will have to wait because right now I am going to fix your breakfast while you sit and enjoy the paper Vin brought up when he came over.”
“Chris, I can…”
“Oh no you don’t, today it’s my turn to take care of you. Besides I have everything ready to go and will have it done before you have time to argue with me.” Chris grabbed the pancake batter and eggs out of the refrigerator. “Read and tell me what’s going on in Denver while I cook.”
Linda sighed and opened the paper, reading aloud all the major events of the day. When she reached the lifestyle section, she stopped. “You wouldn’t be interested in the rest.” She tried to get rid of the newspaper.
Chris set a plate in front of her. “What is it I would not be interested in?” He picked up the discarded paper and easily found what Linda did not want to read. “Did you know about this?” The half page article gave an in-dept profile of socialite Linda Dubois and her fiancé Christopher Larabee.
“No I didn’t.” She looked over at Chris. “I’m so sorry, I know how much you hate this stuff and I promise I will find out who gave permission to run it.”
“I suppose some of this is to be expected; at least they didn’t put our address in this one.” Chris grinned, “Great picture of you babe.”
“Chris I… I love you.” Linda felt bad and vowed to find out who was behind this.
“It’s done, now eat. I have our day planned and I don’t want to waste any of it worrying over this.”
When they finished breakfast, Linda helped to clear the table. She took the time to study the man that she loved, even with all that he had been through and being off his feet for the last two months he was still fit. He carried not one ounce of excess fat on his entire body, just pure muscle and gorgeous looks. What’s more, he had the best-looking ass she had ever seen.
Linda made a spur of the moment decision. Chris stood at the sink and as she brought the last dish from the table, she reached around him and grabbed the crotch of his pants, squeezing gently while she blew in his ear.
Chris was instantly hard. “Damn woman give me some warning.” He turned around to find she was already half-undressed.
“Okay lover, next time.” One slender hand slipped past the waistband of his sweatpants, grasped the smoothness of his shaft and she smiled when she heard the passionate groan her action evoked from her man. His head dipped to her exposed breast and took a hard nipple in his mouth, sucking until he heard the same groan from her. Huskily he whispered, ‘Let’s move this to the bedroom.
“Later, for now don’t move.” Letting go of her treasure briefly, she grabbed a kitchen chair and was back in a flash. Pulling at his clothes to expose his bare skin, she undressed him; raining kisses over his magnificent body in the process and then urge him to sit. “Relax Larabee and enjoy. “Once he was down, she slowly and seductively undressed for him, the blaze of desire in his beautiful eyes delighted her.
She straddled his lap and settled herself over him, splendid bliss filled every part of her; she moaned and began to move. Chris took a firm hold of her bare ass with his hands and moved with her as his mouth captured hers and together they found a passageway to ultimate pleasure.
On the other side of Denver.
The sound of newspaper ripping filled the small motel room, along with angry shouting. “BASTARD! So he thinks his fucking life is so perfect, him and his damn ranch. Big boss of some fancy government agency and gonna marry some socialite bitch! NO! Not this time Chris! This time I ‘m gonna be the one to come out on top and you are gonna be the one to pay!”
The sound of a whimper in the corner of the room drew the man’s attention. “You shut that brat up! I’m going to the post office and when I get back I want this mess cleaned up or I’ll take it out of your hide.”
“Yes sir.” The door slammed and the boy did what he could to calm his sister. “It’s okay Andi, I’ll find us something to eat and take care of you.”
Somewhere on the streets of Denver
“What do you mean you can only give me two hundred for each one? You gave me five for the rest of them.”
“Jack, this ride is getting close to the end. After three months of this, it will all catch up soon and then the shit will hit the fan. Get another mark.”
“NO! I want Larabee to pay, not someone else!”
The man laughed. “Oh trust me he will. His life will be so fucked up from this that it will take years for him to get out from under the fallout.”
“So, why can’t we keep adding more?”
“Anymore and we risk having it traced back to us somehow. Now take the money, grab your kids and move on. Within the next few days, Chris Larabee will begin to find out how much trouble he is in.”
“I think I will stick around, when Chris starts his fall, I want to be here to see it happen.”
Chris was ready for work by five-thirty and now was waiting on Vin to get his butt into gear to drive him to the office. He was on his second cup of coffee before Tanner came over.
”Thought you might need a hand this mornin’, but it looks as if you’ve got everythin’ covered.”
Larabee grabbed his crutches; “I’m ready when you are.”
“Slow down, Cowboy, we still have to wait on Kel and you could offer me some of that stuff you call coffee.”
Chris sighed, “Couldn’t you speed her up instead and have your coffee at the office?”
The kitchen door opened and Kelli came in balancing two travel cups. “I figured the old man would be chompin’ at the bit to get movin’, so I hurried.” She handed a cup to Vin and read his look. “I have my damn walking boot on and I made it all the way across the yard without fallin’. Quit worryin’ Tanner.”
Vin took in Chris’ crutches and Kelli’s boot, shaking his head. “I still think y’all need to be home for a couple more weeks.” He raised his hands in surrender at the looks her received from both of them. “I’ll go warm the truck up. You think you two invalids can manage on your own?” He laughed, grabbed the folders from Chris and Kelli’s cup, as he headed out the door. “Stay put, I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
“Ornery ass Texan,” Chris grumbled.
Kelli grinned, “Be nice Lar’bee, that’s my Texan’s great ass you’re talkin’ about.”
Chris saw the amusement in her eyes and could not help but laugh. “If Tanner ever forgets how fortunate he is, let me know so I can set him straight.”
“Yes Dad.” Kelli laughed heading for the door and Chris stood in stunned silence. This was the first time he had heard her refer to him as Dad and until this moment, he did not know how much he had wanted to hear that.
Tanner walked back in and was not sure what had happened, but he knew it was something important.
*You okay Chris*
*Yeah…yeah I am…Kel just called me dad.*
The Texan smiled and nodded, he knew Chris had been waiting for that for a long time. He decided that his brother needed a couple of minutes. “Come on Kel, you first.” He walked with her out to the truck just to make sure she did not slip and fall. After he helped her inside, he kissed her and said, “Thanks, you might not realize it, but you made Chris’ day when you called him dad.”
“I suppose I should have said it before, but…it just never seemed like the right time until now.” She smiled at him, “Go on and help him so we can leave.”
When Tanner reached him, Larabee was already out the door and half way to the truck. Vin followed him, but he made it okay on his own. After they were on the road for ten minutes, the Texan was sure it would have been a quieter ride with Maria and Sarah than with Chris and Kelli. He was excited about returning to work and he kept up suggestions about shorter routes that would make their drive faster. His good mood produced a stream of banter with Kelli, most of which consisted of the two of them picking on Vin. The Texan had the start of a ‘Larabee’ headache.
Finally, Tanner had heard enough. “We will be there when we get there and if y’all don’t sit back and be quiet, I might just let you both walk!”
Chris was quiet for all of two minutes until Kelli could not hold back any longer and started to laugh. Vin knew when he was beat, he could never resist smiling when he heard Kelli laugh, his building tension melted away and his impending headache vanished. All three of them were in a great mood by the time they reached the Federal Building.
MCAT Office- 6:30am.
Gunny Montgomery had an uncanny ability to know the right time to be the first one in the office. Today was no exception and she had been busy. Coffee was made for Vin in his office, just the way he liked it, along with a plate of fruits and muffins for a healthy breakfast. Larabee’s office was prepared with his own coffee, breakfast and a place to rest his leg while he worked at his desk.
“Commander Larabee, I am Gunny Montgomery and have everything ready for you in your office. You need to get off that leg so don’t dawdle about getting in there.”
Chris was speechless when greeted like this on his first day at the office by someone he had never seen before in his life. Before he could think of something to say, the formidable woman was already talking to Vin.
“Good morning, Captain Vin, your office is ready for you. There is plenty of time for you to share breakfast with Kelli and both of your cups are next to the coffeemaker. As soon as I get Commander Larabee settled I will bring this morning’s work to you.”
She noticed that Chris had not moved. “Commander, this way sir.” Larabee saw the smirk Vin threw his way and had a feeling that there were some things the Texan might have forgot to mention about his new assistant.
“Mrs. Montgomery…” Chris started.
“She shook her head. “Just Gunny will do, sir. Now let’s get you settled, I checked with Miss Linda and she told me what your doctor’s instructions are for the duration of your rehabilitation. I think you will find I have procured all the essential items, but if I have missed anthing please advise me and I will make all the corrections necessary.” She followed Chris into his office. “Now you sit and prop that leg up so you can enjoy your breakfast.” She poured him a cup of coffee and kept talking. “I have these records separated so you can take your time with reorientation, if you have any inquiries just hit that intercom and I will be right here. The war room is ready for your meeting at 0800 hours and your notes are there in your top drawer. I will be back as soon as I get the rest of these yahoos going.”
Chris felt as if he was back with his old Navy Seal trainer and wondered what other surprises were in store for him.
*Tanner, you should have warned me!*
*What, and miss all the fun, no way.*
The rest of the team made their way into the office and all stuck their heads in to say hello to Chris.
Buck came in, sprawled in the chair opposite Larabee and grinned. “Welcome back Boss, I see you and Gunny have met.”
Larabee smiled, “Yep and I am sure Travis is in his office now having a good laugh over it”
“She kinda grows on you after a few days. I will say she stays on top of everything around here and I was thinking that maybe you could tell her it was okay to help me on my reports, too.”
“What’s wrong Buck? The Wilmington charm not working on my assistant.”
“Well... she… Hell Chris, she flat told me no. Said her duty was to you and Vin and that I was on my own.”
“She did? Then I guess … you’re on your own Big Dog.”
“Thanks, old friend.” Buck walked out and Chris had a few minutes to read over the notes for the meeting.
Chris made sure he was the first one in the room so he would not have to make an entrance on crutches. Gunny had his place ready, complete with a stool to rest his leg on. All the folders placed neatly at each agent’ chair and the coffee was hot. Yep, Tanner was definitely holding out on him, all this time he worried about the Texan being overworked and he had a secret weapon.
The agents filed in joking and talking among themselves. Once everyone settled, Larabee started. “Okay Monday morning status report.”
Justin was closest so he started. “Raphael and I are going over surveillance footage from three building sites. There have been an unusual number of fires at construction location around Denver, possibly related to an anti-government group called the Ledger Militants. So far, nothing substantial has come of our investigation. Buck and Mark are going with us this morning to the location of the latest incident.”
Paul, Ross and I have a meeting with the federal prosecutor concerning the Barnes case we worked last month.” Josiah added.
“Forensics is working on evidence we have collected on our current case. Thus far we have four murders and can only link two of them, but we are still on it.” Bones explained. “I firmly believe there is only one man responsible for these deaths, however until we can identify a weapon we cannot rule out a copycat.”
“Ezra and I have an interview scheduled with the husband of the last victim. Then we are going back over the crime scene on the off chance we might have missed somethin’. Ramsey is gonna meet us there at noon.” Vin looked over at JD.
“Pam and I are running all the data a second time and cross checking with similar crimes throughout the rest of the country”
Nathan sighed, “I have to complete our medical evaluations and there are a couple of you I still need information from. Coulter and Wilmington, you both owe me some paperwork and I need it today.” He gave them both a stern look. “Kat is helping with the reports and with a little cooperation we will be done by tomorrow.”
“Not me, I left it on your desk on my way in here.” Buck informed Jackson. “I should be all caught up with you for another six months.”
Chris noted the look that Vin gave Kelli. She had stayed quiet and he decided to discuss her failure to supply Nathan with the necessary paperwork in private. “Okay people let’s move. Nathan you stay.”
Chris waited until it was just him and Jackson. “What paperwork does Kelli owe you?”
“You issued the order that we all have an alternate POA and so far Vin is the only one listed for her. In addition, according to the insurance reports that I get, she is seeing another doctor and refuses to let me access those medical reports. I need to keep everyone’s files up to date, just in case … Hell Chris, you know better than most that anything can happen anytime.”
“Give me the papers you need and I’ll see that it’s taken care of today.” Chris grabbed his crutches and headed for his office.
Larabee waited until Vin and Ezra left before he called Kelli into his office. He sensed yesterday that something was going on from Tanner and now he was determined to find out what it was.
When Kelli came in, he told her to sit. “You want to tell me why you are giving Nathan a hard time?”
He sighed, “Kel, you need a second person to hold a medical POA and if you don’t want it to be me, fine. Pick someone else, but there might come a time that Vin is out of town or not able to be there and you should have an alternate in case you are injured or ill in his absence.”
“I realize that but... “She got up and went over to the window. “Hell, I don’t mind you doin’ it. I just don’t want to put you in the middle of a disagreement that Vin and I are havin’ about a health issue that has created a little stress between us. Besides, if you held a medical POA for me you would have to know my complete medical history and ‘m not sure about that.”
Chris’ parental instincts went on full alert. “Okay, we are off the record; it’s just you and I talking. I have seen what Marissa gave you for medical information on her side of the family and Vin told me about the rest. What is it about your medical history that you think I don’t already know?”
“I know Vin told you what happened, but he never let you read the doctor’s report from when they found me, did he?”
“No he didn’t. Look, whatever it is I can handle knowing without going back over the ‘what ifs’. That is your concern right?”
“I not tryin’ to hide anythin’ from you, I just don’t want to go backwards. If you’re sure, then okay, but you’ll have to get the files from Vin to read it. He keeps them locked in his desk and I don’t have the key.”
Chris reached in his pocket for his key ring. “I do, go get it and we will go over it together, then we will discuss this disagreement.” he was determined to help one way or another.
Kelli was only gone for a few minutes and was back with the file.” This is all up to date and I really do not want this information in my permanent record.”
She handed it over to Chris and then waited in silence for him to read it. She knew when he got to the parts that he had only been told about and saw the pain in his eyes as he read the details. Then when he got to the latest reports, she knew exactly when he put all the pieces together.
When he looked up at her, he studied her for a full minute before he spoke. “I knew we were fortunate that you survived, but I had no idea how close you came to not making it or the affect it would have on your current health.” Chris composed himself. “There is no need for this to be in your records and I’ll take care of letting Nathan know that. But we do need to talk about these latest reports.”
“I am sure you will agree with Vin so what’s to talk about?”
“You both have insisted for months now that you are not ready to start a family. Wouldn’t the truth be easier?”
Kelli took a deep breath, “No. We can handle the jokes and the ribbin’, but you know what it would be like if they all knew we have been tryin since the very beginnin’ and now find out that there is a problem. The advice and the well-meanin’, but hurtful comments about knowin’ how we feel is more than I think I could take. They all have kids and there is no way they could understand how it feels not to be able to get pregnant or how it feels to be in the middle of all those baby conversations.”
Chris thought about some of the conversations and the comments over just the last month. “I don’t suppose it’s easy to see your best friend get pregnant without even trying either. But you cannot ignore what the doctor is saying.”
“I am happy for you and Linda, but I admit that I have mixed emotions watchin’ her go through this pregnancy. Still, in spite of what this last doctor has recommended, I am not ready to give up yet.”
“I take it that Vin does not agree.”
“Vin says it is not worth riskin’ my health or my life to try. I know we can adopt and we would love any child the same as our own. Being foster parents and volunteerin’ as child advocates helps ease some of the pain.” She sighed. “We probably will adopt in any case, but I still want the chance to have Vin’s child and I will not have any surgery that will end that possibility. Not just now anyway.”
“So you want everyone to continue thinking that you are not trying for a family. How long do you believe you can keep this illusion going?”
“Unless you plan to tell them, until I am ready to give up and have that damn surgery.”
“For what it’s worth, I do understand. Sarah and I tried for four years before she got pregnant with Adam and we faced pretty much the same thing that you and Vin are facing. Each month brought new disappointment and it was not always easy, especially when the doctors kept saying there was not much chance of it happening. I will tell you though it was worth every tear we shed to have him and I would go thorough it all again for the same result”
“I had no idea about Adam.”
“Not many people did, like you and Vin we felt the less people knew the better. I do not want you to risk your life, but I do understand your desire to wait for a while. Let me talk to Vin, maybe it’s time I shared with him what Sarah and I went through, it might make it a little easier for both of you.”
Kelli was not sure she could trust her emotions and did the only thing that felt right to do. Getting up, she went around the desk and hugged her father, realizing that for the first time that she could remember that there was someone other than Vin on her side. Having a parent there that was willing to listen was a new experience for her, but one she was sure she could get use to.
Chris hugged her back and after getting his own emotions under control. Larabee the CO returned. “Now, sign this damn POA and get back to work. I’ll take care of the rest.” He handed her the file to return to Vin’s desk.
“Yes sir.” Kelli started for the door and he stopped her.
“This all stays between you, me and Vin, but I will be talking to him as soon as we get home.” She nodded he head in agreement and walked out.
Chris felt good about the progress he and Kelli were making; he had a daughter that still had need of a father in her life. Talking about Sarah and Adam did not produce the pain it once did; instead, it left him with a good feeling to share that part of his life with Kelli. She was right, only someone that had been through the heartache could really understand what they were facing and he did know how hard it was going to be for her and Vin, but now he could at least be there for both of them.
The rest of the day flew by and all the agents returned one by one. After receiving their reports, Chris realized it was quitting time and sent them all home. The ride back was quieter than this morning, but comfortable.
When they reached the ranch, Larabee made sure the Texan knew he wanted to see him and they agreed to meet at the barn and talk while Vin tended to the horses. Vin had already started by the time Chris got there.
“You sit and talk while I work, I don’t want to have to carry you back to the house.” Vin knew from experience that horses and crutches did not mix well.
Chris sat on a hay bale and stretched his leg out. “I want to share something with you, which until today only Sarah and I knew about. I told Kel earlier and now it’s your turn,” he told him everything up to and including Kelli’s reaction this morning.
Vin pulled his thoughts together. “I ‘preciate you tellin’ me Chris and I do know how important it is to Kel to try, but I will not risk losin’ her.”
“I’m not suggesting that you take that kind of risk, but don’t rush into making that decision out of fear. Get a second or hell even a third opinion first and then go from there. Sarah was just as stubborn as Kel and she just would not give up without trying everything possible. I know now that if she had given in to my fears without trying everything first that would have been far worse for us in the long run, than any risk we took. Just think about it.”
“Good, I know Linda has dinner ready and you’re through so why don’t we get out of this damn cold?”
They walked out together and Tanner waited until he was sure Chris made it back to the house okay before he turned and headed home. Kelli was in the kitchen and had changed her clothes, too. She knew Vin believed she was just being stubborn about this surgery thing and she hated having this between them, but until her heart agreed with him they would be on opposites sides of this particular fence.
Vin watched her for a few minutes before making his presence known, thinking about what Chris had to say.*He is right, you know. Hell Vin, all she asked for is a little more time, and both of you deserve to know for sure before you do anthing permanent. If you push it now, it might be too costly to your relationship down the road and that Tanner is just to high a price for giving in to your fears.*
Quietly he walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. Pulling her close, he lowered his head and spoke softly in her ear. “I won’t risk your life, but ‘m willing to give us a fair chance. If you’re determined to wait this out for a while, then we will wait. If the time comes when we need to do more, then we will make that decision together, but we will get more than one opinion. Agreed?”
Kelli turned around, leaned into him and she felt all the stresses between them disappear. “Agreed,” she brushed his hair back with her fingers. “I’ve missed us.”
Vin reached around her and turned everything off.” Food can wait, we can’t,” taking her hand, he led her into the other room.
Supper would be a very late tonight.
The Texan took in the vision of her standing in front of the fireplace, barefoot and no make up, just natural beauty. The firelight bathed her skin with a warm glow, while her hair hung loosely over her bare shoulders, the shirt she wore tied in the front and he knew she wore nothing under the skirt that flowed over her hips. She was sexy as hell. Just looking at her, he knew he was lost in her graceful presence and he felt currents of desire ripple throughout his body.
Vin drew her to him for a slow kiss, his tongue exploring and claiming every part of her mouth. A soft moan escaped her throat as he trailed kisses down her neck and he felt the tremors of desire that flowed through her. Kelli’s hands slid down his muscular back to caress his firm ass, which only made him want more. One look in her darkened blue eyes told him passion now controlled her movements.
“Slow and sweet, baby, we have all night.” Vin dropped to the cushions piled on the floor in front of the fireplace and pulling Kelli down with him, he rolled over, pinning her beneath him.
Once he had her there, a tug at the tie of her shirt allowed him access to her beautiful breasts, teasing her nipples with light strokes of his tongue before suckling each one. Kelli moaned as the effects of his tender touches raced through her body. His hand slid under her skirt, gently caressing his way up her leg and over a silky-smooth thigh to reach the moist heat that called to him
Writhing in pure bliss, her hands sought to caress his golden shaft, but the Texan stopped her with his words. “Easy baby, you’ll get your turn, but I get mine first.” Again, he claimed her breast and long lean fingers stroked firmly and rhythmically, stoking the fires of passion inside her. Vin made love to her with his mouth and his hands, continuing his sensual assault until her felt her quiver and cry out his name capturing her cries with an insatiable kiss that stole her breath. Her response pleased the Texan and he was ready to possess her completely.
Quickly all remaining clothes disappeared and he heard her indrawn breath at the sight of his naked body glistening in the firelight. His tanned skin slid over the shapes of his mature muscles like water over rounded stones. With a lazy pantherlike movement he cloaked her with his presence, moved his mouth close to her ear and whispered softly, “It’s still my turn, baby.”
Her reactions spurred him on, gentle hands caressed her hips as he eased into her warmth and when he felt her close around him, he groaned with pleasure. Vin ceased his movements to savor the feel of being inside his woman, until her body demanded more. The Texan took his time and with slow powerful strokes, buried himself inside her again and again. Their lovemaking intensified until nether of them could hold back the flow of ecstasy that consumed their passion.
For a long time they stayed in front of the fire, holding on to one another and the pleasure that their love had created. Kelli raised her head from Vin’s chest and smiled. “You’d better prepare yourself Tanner, ‘cause now it’s my turn.”
The Texan grinned, “Bring it on baby, ‘m ready for you.”
Linda noticed the satisfied look Chris wore as he helped her set the table. “You look like a man that had an exceptional day.”
“I did, being back at work felt great, the team is running smoothly, I am with the woman I love and I was able to help Kelli and Vin work through an issue they were having trouble with.” Chris pulled Linda to him for a hug. ”Kel even called me Dad today. Yep, life is good and it can only get better from here on out.”
She sighed and leaned into his embrace. It was good to see Chris happy and Linda knew they had a wonderful future waiting for them with the new baby coming. Being a father was as natural to Chris as the sun coming up in the morning. For the first time since her own father died, she felt safe and content with her life.
“Oh, I almost forgot to tell you, I have a meeting in the morning with the family lawyers. Sure you don’t want to be there?”
“Hell no, you take care of the Dubois affairs and I’ll concentrate on taking care of you.”
Jack had been busy. He found a place to stay; paid cash for three months rent in advance and was using an alias. No one should be able to track him down. As long as he could keep the brats out of sight, there should not be any questions asked. Now all he had to do was to wait.
*Chris, this time old son, you are the one that will have hell rain down on him. Maybe you will finally know what it feels like to have nothing and nowhere to go for help. If this does not bring you down, then I guess I will have to use measures that are more drastic.*
MCAT Office-Tuesday Afternoon
The office was fairly quiet with only the hum of CASSIE processing and Ezra’s pencil tapping on his desk. Larabee and Tanner had a meeting with Travis and had been in there for two hours already. Gunny had immersed herself in paperwork and most of the other agents were out in the field. JD and Pam were the only exceptions and they were so wrapped up in computer programs they did not notice how empty the office was.
“Ez, do you mind?” Kelli pointed to the pencil drumming on his desk. “Keep that up and you might be missing some fingers before the day is over.”
“Earth to Ezra, where are you?”
Standish mumbled something about hell and then leaned back in his chair. “What do you know about Identity theft?”
He had Kelli’s complete attention now. “I know it can be a bitch to untangle and make your life hell. Someone hit you Ez?”
“No! Anyone but him, he will go ballistic. Are your sure?”
Ezra waved his hand toward his laptop. “Look for yourself. I was running some numbers on Larabee 7 and this popped up,” Kelli looked over his shoulder. “I began a search and so far, I have found ten Chris Larabees. All of them using our Chris’ information and the inquiry is not even finished yet.”
“Uh oh. You do know what those little black marks mean don’t you?” Kelli heart sank. Lord how could this get any worse?
“Hell, yes! I’ll keep this program open and printing, use your badge number and your computer to check the tag.” She moved back to her desk and began punching in information on her keyboard. After a few minutes, she started cursing. “Hell’s bell’s! Oh Ezra …” She reached over to the printer and caught the paper as it spewed out. “There are six warrants, all felonies rangin’ from check kitin’ to fraud. Chris is gonna have a cow.”
“Yes…yes he will. According to this he is now over one million dollars in debt, and now there are twelve stolen identities.” Ezra studiously thought about the consequences
“How are you goin’ to tell him, Ez? There was no way in hell way Kelli going to tell him.
“ME! Oh no! I do value my existence.” Ezra dropped the reports as if they were on fire and then pushed his chair away from the desk
“Now wait a minute, you found it, you tell him!” Kelli was incredulous; he did not really expect her to tell Chris.” Uh uh Ezra, not me!” She picked up the offending papers slapped the reports in his lap.
“As senior agent, I have the right to delegate, but I will however watch your back.” Ezra emphasized his point with a stern look.” You may inform him and do not worry, it is improbable that he will injure his own offspring.” He threw the reports back on the desk and shoved them toward her.
Chris and Vin had returned and took note of the animated discussion between Standish and Coulter.
*They’re up to somethin’, Cowboy.*
*Shouldn’t we find out what it is?*
Vin sighed, “Your office?”
Tanner walked over to Kelli’s desk. The fact that she had not noticed his arrival told him that they were discussing something important. The guarded look in her eyes when she did see him spelled trouble.
“Chris wants to see you both in his office.” Vin did not miss the indistinct curses they both were mumbling and his senses were on the alert, he knew that whatever was going on, it was not good. He was sure of it after Ezra’s next question.
“Do you happen to know if our beloved boss is armed?”
“Come on Ez, ‘m sure Vin won’t let him shoot us, at least not more than once.” Kelli grabbed the papers and Ezra his laptop. The trio headed for Larabee’s office with Vin last, he wanted to make sure there were no detours. Once inside he shut the door and sent Chris a message.
*Whatever it is, it’s probably gonna give you a headache.*
“Who wants to start?” Chris almost laughed when he saw Standish lightly push Kelli in front of him and the scathing look she gave him in return. “Kel?”
“Hell, there is no easy way to do this so here.” She handed him the copies of the warrants and waited for the explosion that she knew was coming.
Chris looked at them and did laugh. “If this is your idea of a joke, I expected something better from you two.”
“It’s no joke Chris, Ez accidentally came across some information that led us to findin’ these. “Chris stopped laughing and Kelli now had his full attention. “Identity theft and it gets worse.” She sighed and realized Ezra was going to let her tell him after all.” We found twelve Chris Larabees, all using your social security number and…you are indebtoveramilliondollars.” She raced through the last part and stepped back.
Larabee was silent, while Vin stepped forward, pick up the warrants and turned to Kelli. “You want to repeat what you just said Kel, only slower?”
“No.” She faltered while trying to find the right words to explain.” You…Someone…Oh hell!
Standish decided to help his partner, she did after all say we. “It would appear that your identity is being used by at least a dozen different offenders and they have put you in debt over a million dollars, as well as made you a wanted man.”
“I am afraid it will not be that easy, Identity theft and Identity fraud is the fastest growing crime in the country. Under the Identity theft and Assumption Deterrence Act, the Federal Trade Commission is responsible for receiving and processing complaints from people who are victims. Then you need to contact the Postal service, the Social Security Administration, the three principal credit-reporting agencies, the seven major check-clearing houses, and of course, we need to get your current credit report. We also need to address these felony warrants to make sure you do not end up in jail. Your bank should be advised and …”
Chris stood up, leaning on the desk for support. “Do you mean to tell me that I am responsible for doing all this?”
“Unfortunately and this may be only the beginning of your problems. It will take…possibly years to rid your credit standing of this and it will certainly take the expertise of an attorney that is familiar with all the ramifications of this type of criminal act. Larabee 7 is incorporated so it cannot be touched and I can protect the business operation, but my proficiency may not be enough for what you will be facing personally.”
“Personally! Ezra, tell me that this can all go away.”
Ezra took a deep breath. “I am sorry, but this could get worse before it gets better. We need to ascertain the depth of this difficulty before I can give you even an educated guess as to how we proceed.”
“I’ll take care of these warrants and advise Travis of what’s goin’ on.”Vin started for the door.
“Send JD in on your way to Orrin’s office.” Chris looked at Ezra, “Tell me where to start and who I need to contact.” He sat down and ran his hands over his face.
JD came in and Ezra filled him in on the problem. Dunne immediately went back to CASSIE to start a more thorough search. On Standish’s advice, Chris contacted his bank only to find that his accounts had already been tampered with. An assortment of ATM withdrawals here in Denver left him with only a small balance.
“I can go to the bank and get the film from the ATM”s, maybe we can catch the man on video.” Kelli offered.
“You are not released for field duty yet.” Chris saw her argument coming. “No, I’ll send Nathan over there.”
Kelli stood. “Fine, I’ll be at my desk.” As she walked to the door, Chris stopped her.
“Thanks for offering.” She acknowledged his appreciation and left.
JD came back with CASSIE”S report and hesitatingly approached Chris. “Just spit it out JD.”
“I found twelve different Chris Larabees in twelve different states and combined there are over one hundred credit cards issued in your name. The strange part is all the credit cards came to a post office box here in Denver. Therefore, we must assume that the cards were sold along with your information and one person could be responsible for all of this. The earliest activity I could find was three months ago and I already checked out the PO box, it was rented by…Chris Larabee on October 15th of last year, paid for in cash for a year in advance.”
“Hell, this keeps getting better and better.” Chris shook his head, “What happened to criminals that were happy just to shoot at you?”
Gunny came to the door. “Commander Larabee, Miss Dubois is downstairs and needs your permission to get through security.”
Chris picked up the phone and called the security desk advising them to allow Linda access to the elevator for the twelfth floor.
Ezra picked up his laptop. “I think I will work from my desk so you and Linda may have some privacy.”
Standish passed Linda on his way out the door; she did not speak or look happy.
Linda started when she walked into the office, “Chris you will not believe what my family is doing, I am so angry I could spit nails! They …They...Hell!” She finally sat down. ”They investigated you! Now they come up with a load of bull about you being in debt, broke and some kind of BS about fraud. They’re cutting me off from family funds until I give them proof that you are not taking money from me and my brothers are having the ranch books audited.”
“I am sorry Linda that you have to be involved. I just found out this morning about all of this and I still don’t know everything.” Chris stood and started around the desk.
“Larabee sit down and get off that leg.” Linda was up and met him before he took another step, making him sit back down. “Why don’t you start at the beginning?”
“It appears that I have been a victim of Identity theft and there are now twelve Chris Larabees running around out there using my information to run up over a million dollars of debt.”
Linda began to laugh and Chris thought she had lost it. “What is so damn funny?”
“Oh Lord, twelve Chris Larabees, I don’t know if the world is ready for that.” She grinned, “You think they all have a cute ass like you do?”
“This is not funny, someone has invaded my personal space and now it will take months, maybe years to straighten this out. Look what it has already done to you.”
“Don’t worry about me, I will handle my brothers and it they want to stay stubborn, then I still have my trust fund. I personally own fifty of the horses on the Southern Breeze and the breeding right for Hunter’s brother alone is worth a small fortune. Besides, I don’t plan on living at the Southern Breeze after we are married anyway.”
“This could get ugly.”
“You can’t scare me away, Larabee. You are stuck with me, so what do we need to do now?”
Chris pulled her close for a kiss. “You can park your pretty butt right over there in that chair for about an hour and then my rich fiancée can take me to dinner.”
“You darling, have a deal.” Linda moved to the chair and sat watching Chris work.
After twenty minutes, Vin walked in. “Hi Linda.”
*It’s okay Vin, she knows.*
“We have all the warrants located and noted, just for the record there were seven, not six. Travis has sealed your personnel records and given MCAT the authorization to investigate this one. So at least we can keep your ass out of jail. Now we have to find the bastard that set you up.”
“That we will do, but we do it tomorrow. Tonight, I have a dinner date with a beautiful blond and if I am not mistaken you and Kel have a meeting at seven.”
“We do .Why don’t you two take off, I’ll pull together what we need and have everythin’ ready for the mornin’.” Vin thought dinner with Linda would be good for Larabee and there was something he still wanted to check.
Chris stood up and grabbed his crutches. “We are out of here, see you tomorrow. Come on babe, let’s go.”
Vin watched them leave and then sought out Standish.
The Texan pulled up a chair. “Ezra, talk to me as someone that knows the ins and outs of the con world. What would someone gain by settin’ Chris up?”
Ezra thought for a minute and then sighed. “Money of course is the obvious motive, but selling the cards is small change to actually taking on Chris’ identity. To sell over one hundred credit cards tells me that someone wanted to make him suffer a financial loss and humiliate him in the process. Perhaps cost him his job, his home and possibly his marriage to Miss Dubois.”
“Well, we know his job is secure, the ranch cannot be touched because it is incorporated and Linda is still his fiancée. He may have hell getting’ everythin’ straight, but overall he will be fine. What does this guy do now?”
“I wish I could answer that Vin, but I cannot. I suppose it depends on how badly this person wants to hurt Chris and why.”
Vin nodded, “Then I reckon we should find him and ask him, up close and personal.”
“I already have put the word out on the street; all we can do now is wait for some results.”
Kelli joined them. Are y’all ready? The meetin’ starts at seven and I want food first.”
“Food I think we can manage, right Ez?
“Most assuredly and since it is my treat I get to pick the place.”
“Just make sure, I can read the menu and identify the food and you’re on.” They were still discussing a place to eat when the elevator doors closed.
Colorado CASA Organization Meeting
“My name is Barbara Lindsey. I am an attorney with the Children’s Law Center of Denver and a volunteer for CASA. Court Appointed Special Advocates is a Child’s voice in court. Colorado CASA advocates for the best interest of abused and neglected children by promoting and supporting the development, growth and continuation of quality CASA programs and services to benefit children throughout Colorado. CASA volunteers work one-on-one with abused children, gathering information and presenting it in an objective report to the court. Serious questions must be answered; whether a child can return to a formerly abusive environment or whether the right of a parent or parents will be terminated with the child then available for adoption I am looking forward to meeting each of you individually and working with you in the interest of the children that need…”
Ms. Lindsey spoke for thirty minutes and after a short orientation for the new people the meeting was over and refreshments served.
“Come on, Ez, I promised you an introduction and now is as good a time as any.” Kelli took his arm and led him over to meet the beautiful brunette.
“Kelli, hi and where is that handsome husband of yours?”
“He’ll be along in a minute, but there is someone I want you to meet. Barbara Lindsey, Ezra Standish.”
“It is a pleasure to meet you Ms. Lindsey.”
“You too, Mr. Standish and call me Barbara. I believe I have seen you at some of the foster parent classes haven’t I?”
“It’s Ezra and yes I have accompanied Vin and Kelli on a few occasions. I assisted them with the official procedure for their certification and wished to gain firsthand knowledge about the programs for myself. They graciously agreed to let me join them tonight.”
“Kel told me about your help. You are an attorney aren’t you?”
“I am, perhaps you will allow me to buy you a cup of coffee once you are finished and we can compare notes.”
“Perhaps, I will…Ezra. I am almost through here. Why don’t I meet you at the coffee shop down the street say in twenty minutes?”
“I will be there.”
“Great, I have one more person to speak to, so if you will excuse me, I will see you there.”
Vin had joined them and observed the conversation play out before him. “I don’t think you need us hangin’ around so we will say goodnight.”
Ezra nodded his agreement while he watched Barbara gracefully cross the room. “See you two in the morning.” He never saw them leave; he was too busy keeping his eye on Ms. Lindsey.
Once they were outside Kelli leaned into Vin as they walked to the truck. “I think Ez likes her.”
“You introduced ‘em and the rest is up to him. Now, let’s forget about ‘em and concentrate on more important things.”
Kelli laughed. “And what would those things be sir?”
“You, me, alone and a beautiful moon, I bet we can think of somethin’” He opened the truck door for her to get in, gave her a long leisurely kiss and softly caressed the back of her neck before closing it.
Tanner walked around to the driver’s side, got in and Kelli snuggled close to him. Another slow passionate kiss almost made them forget where they were. “I think we’ll take the long way home tonight, maybe drive up to the cabin and watch the moon cross the sky over the lake.” Although he doubted either of them would actually notice because he planned on some hot lovemaking before this night was over.
These were the moments of their life that she loved the most, putting the world on hold and taking time to make memories. It was too easy to let the real world get in the way and lose these chances forever, if you let it. They promised themselves from the beginning that they would keep their priorities straight and adding to their book of memories was a priority. “It’s probably gonna be cold, you’ll have to keep me warm, Tanner.”
“Count on it, Texas.”
At the restaurant
“Chris, do you realize that we have been here almost three hours?”
“I know that times flies out the window when I listen to you talk.” Linda laughed, which was just what Chris loved to hear. He could listen to her talk all night and not get tired of the sound of her voice. That was only one of the things that amazed him about her; she was the only woman besides Sarah that could get him to talk this much. “Of course if we go home now we can do more than talk.”
“In that case, Larabee I suggest we go home because I most definitely want to do more than talk.”
“Lead on Lady.” The walked slowly due to the crutches but enjoy just being together. When they reached the truck, Linda waited while Chris got in and then shut the door.
Before she started the engine, she leaned over, kissing him long, and slow. “Just so you know, I love you and no one will ever change that.”
Neither of them noticed the man that had sat next to them inside. He stood in the doorway of the restaurant, watched them drive off, and then pulled out his cell phone, punching in a number he knew from memory.
“Jack? I followed them like you wanted, but you ain’t gonna like what I found out. He knows about the cards, and the other Larabees, but he still has his job and the woman. I heard them talking, aside from the pain in the ass of getting his finances straight, none of it is gonna hurt him. His team has even started an investigation. I think we should just forget him and move on.” The man listened. “Yeah I guess I can do that, but I’m not going to jail over this guy. I’ll watch him tomorrow and see what happens.” He closed the phone and went to his car.
Jack was furious and threw his phone across the room. “Damn you Chris! What does it take to make you pay? Whatever it is I will find it!” He paced the apartment thinking about what he needed to do while his two small children huddled together in the closet trying not to draw his attention.