Seven Brides for Seven Brothers Part 3/7
Chris couldn't wait any longer. He'd driven to the gym
and disappeared into the sauna, hopping out the back into his spare clothes
and catching a bus. He eventually arrived at a detached red brick house in
the middle of a tree-lined street. He moved down a side alley and crossed
a small paddock before climbing the fence into the back garden. He made his
way up the steps and let himself in through the kitchen door.
He was last to arrive. The others were crowded into the small den set back
along a tiled corridor. JD was glued to the computer screen and the others
were playing poker.
'Mr Larabee, good of you to join us Sir.' Ezra twinkled at him from his seat
on the daybed. Groomed despite the disfiguring swelling, he was casually
dressed in a cream cashmere sweater over a black silk shirt and slacks. Someone
was looking after him.
'Standish.' Chris leaned over, gripped the back of his neck and whispered,
'Ya had me worried there little Bro, Good to have ya home.'
The dimples re-appeared and he performed the familiar two-fingered salute
as he was released.
Hearing movement above them Chris drew his weapon. The others just looked
'Dad's kinda twitchy tonight fellers doncha think?' Tanner.
'It's just the elf, old Buddy and she's kinda cute without ventilation.'
Ezra gazed blankly at Buck but otherwise didn't react.
'Mr Larabee, kindly do not shoot the lady of the house. She is merely giving
us privacy. Gentlemen, we have business to discuss.'
Chris relaxed and pushed JD's files onto the floor to get a seat on the window
ledge. He opened the beer.
'Ok, let's hear it. JD? You with us?'
The youngest swivelled to face them on the desk chair, keeping the movement
going by swinging side to side until her caught the glare directed his way
and came to an abrupt halt. 'Sure Chris. What happened Ez?'
'Tweedie happened.' There were exclamations at this.
General Theodore Tweedie was the Senior Military Hardware Advisor to all
the Federal Bureaus. Any Military large-scale-attack weaponry, able to demolish
anything bigger than a city block, was subject to scrutiny from the MHA Office,
or Military Hardware Advice Office. Items ranging from airborne bombs to
missiles capable of carrying nuclear and chemical agents came under their
umbrella. Tweedie had been in Denver 'Advising' on their operation from the
'He has a core of Senior Feds working coast to coast. There are also numerous
small fry. In total, including Tweedie, 46 Agents. The names, dates, contacts
and payoffs are all listed on the disk. I copied it straight from his personal
laptop. I have it on good authority that he has a back up at his house in
'The bust itself is supposed to go ahead on a tip-off coming through the
FBI. 40 Agents from ATF and FBI with a few local DPD are expected to attend.
It's a ruse. The intention is to wound and confuse us.'
'The weapons and buyers will never show. The whole area will be flattened
by remote. The actual transaction will then take place while the various
Agencies are busy scraping their agents into matchboxes. 200 Million Dollars
of hardware will change hands, with an additional 30 million going in payoffs,
the bulk of which is to Tweedie himself. That's quite a pension. He also
gets to press the button for the remote bombing. I understand he has a penchant
for loud bangs.'
'We'd need National clearance on this Mr Larabee, were we to try to attempt
an arrest but given the size of the 'bad element' we'd never keep a lid on
it. I have been giving some thought to this conundrum while I recuperated.
I think we need to allow things to progress and then pre-empt the detonation
by extracting the fuse.'
'I agree.' Chris.
'This guy plans to take out 40 agents and an entire city Block as a distraction?
Jesus, and Travis thinks we're bad.' In his agitation, JD was swinging his
chair from side to side again, risking his leader's wrath, but no-one called
him on it. They felt it too.
'A more accurate assessment would be three blocks Mr Dunne.'
Vin had been watching Chris. 'Gotta plan Cowboy?'
'Yup. When we have details of the 'bust', we pre-empt with our own, just
like Ezra said. We sting the stinger in the ass.'
'Crush the keystone and the walls of the fortress will tumble unto dust.'
'A very accurate analogy Mr Sanchez, but rather too picturesque to be tasteful
under the circumstances.'
'We take Tweedie and the rest will fall Brother Dunne.'
'We have to have a concurrent search done on his DC House to get viable evidence.
We'll need Travis to liaise with the bomb squad once we have determined where
the device is to originate. Just in case Tweedie is trigger happy.'
'Where is he likely to go to see the fireworks? And how do we get to him?'
'He has a heavily guarded property overlooking the City. As to how, well,
that's the good part Mr Larabee. It will enable you to demonstrate your personal
inimitable style, 'Crude but effective'.
'We go in shootin'.'
'Succinct and to the point as ever, Mr Tanner.'
They continued to scheme, fetching snacks, drinks and bowls of thick meaty
stew from the crockpot in the kitchen, until they'd ironed out most of the
It was after midnight when Kezzie arrived to throw them all out.
'All Right Gentlemen. Visiting hours are over.'
'I thought you said
'There's no food left, JD, and Ezra needs to rest.'
'God, I'm sorry ma'am we'll go shopping
'Relax JD. I have 5 brothers, I knew what to expect and stocked up. I was
just kidding. Actually you didn't get though as much as he said you would.'
JD glared at Ezra who smiled back benignly. 'Ya really have 5 brothers?'
'Got any sisters?'
Shaking her head at Buck she answered JD, 'Yes kid, all older than me and
with much sillier names.'
'Aloysisus, Jonquil, Tarquin, Jolyon and Connolly. Wild huh? Much as I loved
my parents, they were very odd.'
JD continued to question her about her family all the way to the back exit.
They were to leave in ones and twos to avoid unnecessary attention. Ezra
leaned against the stair bannister, earning a frown from both Nathan and
Kezzie and both of which he ignored.
Josiah and Buck were arguing. 'I still stay we steal a tank.'
'No Brother, they move too slowly. We need an armoured car. There's this
'No, Josiah. No stealing military equipment. We'll work it out.' Chris.
'You need an armoured car? What for? Are you boys planning on invading the
'We need to run a gauntlet, My Dear, without encouraging miscreants to place
additional orifices in our persons.' Grey eyes met green as Chris started
Ezra couldn't believe it. Smug. She looked smug.
'Stop.' Everyone did, Chris shut the door. 'Ezra?'
Ignoring his audience Ezra walked up to Kezzie and lifted her chin with his
'Do we need to leave?' JD's stage whisper earned him a cuff on the head,
Ezra continued to study the grey depths. He smiled and she poked her tongue
out at him, making him laugh and grab his ribs.
'I'm Sorry, I'm Sorry. I didn't mean to make you laugh.'
'Yeah Ya did. 'Ass OK Kez, we do that all the time.'
She glared at Vin. 'I hope not.'
'Am I missing something here?'
'Yes Mr Jackson. Gentlemen if we may retire back to the den I believe Miss
McCormac has something she wishes to share.' Tucking his arm firmly around
Kezzie's shoulders he led the way.
They all resumed their seats, with the new arrival sitting on the arm of
the couch at Ezra's side. Everyone looked at her expectantly. She looked
only at Ezra.
'How did you know?'
'Sugah, I told you, never attempt to dissemble. I am able to read you like
the proverbial book. Now. Would you care to elaborate on the information
I see in your eyes?'
'I've got a bullet proof car.'
Silence. Chris looked at Ezra, was this for real?
Ezra just shrugged and then narrowed his eyes as he looked back at her. 'I
see. Would you care to enlighten me as to why you found it necessary to acquire
such an unusual mode of transportation?' He couldn't prevent the slightly
snappish tone of his question. If she'd needed such a vehicle she'd been
in danger. He didn't like the thought of that at all.
Kezzie never took her eyes of him. 'Tell me what you know about the 8th Earl
Ezra raised a characterisic eyebrow and searched his memory. 'He was a Lord
of the Realm, reknown as being a shrewd businessman and political strategist.
He built bridges between opposing states within the European Union and behind
the Iron Curtain, particularly in the 70's and 80's. He dealt directly with
both Governments and anarchic factions of all persuasions and was known to
enter into political and non-political hostage negotiations. He died 18 months
ago and his eldest son became the 9th Earl. Have I omitted anything?'
'Yes. He had four more sons and a daughter. Me.'
'Indeed? That would explain your 'plum', Lady Keziah.'
'You've lost me. What has fruit go to do with it?' Buck was confused. Josiah
explained the term 'plum in the mouth' as referring to an upper class British
'My brothers and I were each given cars by my father. He was often threatened
and he wanted to reduce the risk of us getting caught up in his less savory
deals. I used to have bodyguards too.'
Ezra felt himself relax. As far as he could recall, the 9th Earl did not
partake in any business which would require protection for his family members.
'The car's in the garage. It's a seven seater, 4 by 4. It looks like a regular
SUV but the handling is different. You have to allow 25% extra stopping distance
because of the increased weight. You are welcome to it, I don't use it anymore,
too heavy on the gas.'
'Are you going to need it back?'
'Am I going to want it back? You are planning to get shot at aren't you?
I don't think I want to see any more evidence of what you do for a living
Gentlemen.' She looked at Ezra's injuries as she spoke and a brief expression
of distress crossed her face along with another, unidentifiable emotion.
'Help yourselves to anything you need. I have appointments scheduled for
early in the morning so I'll bid you goodnight.'
' She'd gone. Ezra sat still.
He'd seen her distress, they all had, but he'd also seen something else.
Maybe I imagined it, it's too soon, it only happens that fast in the movies.
No, it was there. I want it to have been there. I need it to have been there.
It was there. Wait, what if I'm wrong? I could get hurt, again. Do I want
to make myself vulnerable?
Chris looked at Vin who looked back with a faint smile.
I think our family is about to get an Elf.
All'ays wanted a pet.
Wonder what ya feed 'em on?
Ezra seemed oblivious to the people around him. He sat staring at the door.
'You boys head off. Me'n'Vin'll check the car over and leave in half an hour
or so. Ez, ya look beat. Turn in, we'll lock up.'
With that they all split up towards the various exits.
Thursday 6.30 am
Kezzie moved around in the kitchen, trying to be as quiet
as possible. She needed to get to the hospital early to prepare for a new
admission. More importantly she needed to get away from her houseguest before
she did anything foolish.
Kicking shut the refrigerator door, she turned, keys in one hand and juice
in the other, and let out a strangled gasp as she collided with Ezra. Managing
to keep the juice in the glass, she glared at him.
'What the hell are you doing? You nearly gave me a heart attack.'
The suave undercover agent inwardly chuckled at the 'deer caught in the
headlights' expression and shifting eyes.
'You forgot to say goodnight Sugah, do not compound the insult by failing
to offer a farewell this morning.' He made to pull her towards him but she
held him off with gentle pressure of her index finger against his sternum.
'Back off babe.'
'Keziah? What is the source of your disquiet? I thought we'd conquered the
awkwardness the first embrace?'
'That was before.'
His breath hitched. Is she going to tell me?
'Before you started prying into my thoughts. I don't like it. I feel like
there's nowhere to hide. I'm going to work. Take the tablets Ezra.' She started
to duck past him and then turned back for a bruising kiss. He made no move
to take control. She needed to have the power. Breaking away without looking
at him she left, muttering under her breath about 'Losing her mind.'
Ezra grinned. God he felt good. His smile slipped slightly as he remembered
he had yet to introduce her to his mother.
Four Weeks Later - Team 7 Offices - November 4th 4.30pm
Everything had gone according to plan. It happened
occasionally. There weren't even any casualties, unless you took into account
Looking at the photos of a car-sized sieve on the conference room table AD
Travis shook his head and looked up at his top team. 'Who is going to replace
the Her Ladyship's vehicle?'
'She doesn't want it back, Sir. Right Ezra?'
'Correct Mr Larabee. Lady Keziah suggested we consider it a donation.'
'I see. How generous.' No-one missed the sarcasm. He sighed. This was going
to cause some questions from the higher-ups. 'Very well Gentlemen. I will
expect your reports by Monday. Good Afternoon.' Indicating to Larabee they
disappeared into Chris's Office.
'Anything I should know Chris?'
'She's Standish's girlfriend. Nothing more to it than that.'
'Should have known he'd go for class. I suppose that explanation will appease
the powers that be. Good job Chris. It's the biggest single bust I can recall.
There will be commendations from this one. More ammunition for next time
you boys tread on someone's toes. I am grateful there will be no repercussions
from using civilian vehicles. I don't think I would have appreciated having
to deal with the British aristocracy.'
'Try to keep them out of mischief Chris.'
'Should be able to manage that, Orrin, at least for the weekend.' The two
men smiled at each other.
Kezzie's House - 6pm
Pulling up behind the black Jag, Kezzie laid her head
on the steering wheel of the VW Bug and breathed deeply. He was home. He'd
survived the bust.
Grabbing the Doctor's bag from the passenger well, she made her way inside.
'Ezra? Where are you babe?'
20 minutes later she started to worry. When she found fresh blood on the
back porch and his broken watch on the path she panicked.
'Angel? It's Kezzie.' Angel raised her eyebrows at Vin who was sitting Indian
style on the countertop eating potato chips. He grinned lopsidedly at her
and reached back into the bag. She sighed. At least he'd remembered to take
his boots off this time.
'Hey Kez, what's up?'
'Oh God, Oh shit. I can't reach Chris, is Vin there? Oh God.'
At the change in Angel's body language Vin stopped eating and looked at her,
a question in the blue eyes. He reached over and flicked the speakerphone
'Kezzie, calm down. He's here. What's happened?'
'He's gone. His car is here and the house is open. There's blood on the step.
I found his watch
Oh God, why the hell does he DO this to me?'
'Don't touch anything. Go into the bathroom and lock ya'self in. Take the
phone with ya. We'll contact the boys and be there soon.' Vin was on his
feet gathering his keys and flipping open his cell even as he finished the
sentence. 'Nathan's closest he can be with ya in 10 minutes. Ez'll be OK,
Kezzie. Keep it together.'
Sure enough Nathan arrived first with Josiah in tow. They were quickly followed
by Buck and JD. Vin and Angel brought Chris with them.
'What happened?' They had been unable to reach Standish on his cell or at
home and Chris was worried. When he worried he got mad. Someone was going
to pay. 'Vin?'
'Looks like two. One heavy, big feet, probably Josiah's size.' Vin was crouching
over the churned up earth to the left of the back step. 'He put up quite
a fight but was unconscious or
unconscious when they took him away.'
'You mean dead don't you? Don't you?' Kezzie was getting worked up.
'He's not dead Kez calm down.' Chris indicated to Angel who took Kezzie into
'Nathan call Travis, tell him we've got an Agent missing...' he sighed and
ran a frustrated hand through his hair. '...AGAIN, and then get crime-scene
down here. Vin, check the perimeter, take JD with you. Buck, Josiah, talk
to the neighbours.'
Chris followed the ladies into the kitchen. Kezzie was sitting at a large
scarred oak table. Angel was rubbing her back. Meeting two pairs of worried
eyes he pushed his hand through his hair. Damn Standish, this was the second
disappearing act in less than 6 weeks. He was going to put him on a
Ezra's Townhouse - 16th November 7.30pm
It had been 12 days. 12 Long days and even longer nights.
Kezzie had stayed with the Tanners for a while, watching the frantic activity
and scanning the worried faces for news. Eventually she'd discovered that
they had keys to Ezra's townhouse and had moved in there. She couldn't stand
to go home and felt less bereft surrounded by his stuff. Throwing herself
into her work, she managed not to call for updates more than a half dozen
times a day.
Wandering around the house like a lost waif she finally fell asleep in Ezra's
bed, tears drying on her face.
They'd decided not to tell Kezzie about the lead. They
didn't want to get her hopes up and they definitely didn't want to give her
Earlier, at the office:
JD had been unable to sit still. Without any specific
task to occupy him, he started re-checking Standish's old cases and known
associates. By chance, AD Travis was in the office. Standing behind the young
computer whiz, sipping from a bottle of mineral water and getting steadily
dizzier at the speed at which the information was being flashed onto the
screen, he suddenly caught sight of a name he'd seen recently.
'STOP! JD, go back. There.' He pointed to the name on the screen. Samuelson.
'Got something, Sir?' Chris came out of his office.
'Maybe. Call up the file on that one JD.'
'Yes Sir. You know he's dead don't you Sir? It can't be him.' The file appeared.
'Not him no but, maybe, there
' He pointed to the screen again.
The three men stood and took in the details. 'What do you think Chris?'
'It's a slim chance, but a slim chance is good when it's all you have.' Go
to work JD, I'll fill in the others. Thank you Orrin.'
The AD left and the others gathered around waiting to hear the new development.
Marcus Samuelson had been a big time smuggler of black market cigarettes.
Standish had been the key player for the ATF. It was not Team 7's case, they
were nearly all carrying injuries. He had been working with Team 2.
Ezra's 'in' had been through dating Samuelson's sister.
During the original trial, Maria Samuelson had tried to cajole Standish into
getting the charges against her dropped. When that tactic failed she'd accused
him of Rape. The undercover operative had denied the charge and volunteered
for polygraph tests to prove his 'lack of intimacy with the Lady'. When her
allegations were dismissed she'd vowed to carve up certain parts of his anatomy.
The smuggling ring had been completely destroyed. With Samuelson dead and
his associates doing time, the file was closed.
Maria Samuelson had been released on a technicality. She'd then been picked
up a scant 3 weeks later on an unrelated charge and spent 3 years in prison.
Notification of her release on Parole had passed over the AD's desk in October.
It was a fairly remote possibility but a possibility nonetheless.
It had taken JD just 20 minutes to find her. They'd then spent hours watching
her apartment before she emerged and took off for the warehouse district.
'Funny place to go for a walk.' Buck watched as Maria Samuelson climbed out
of a cab and sauntered down an alleyway between an abandoned brewery and
an empty meat processing plant.
'I don't think this is getting us anywhere. She's way too comfortable for
someone who's kidnapped a Federal Agent.' As JD spoke Samuelson stopped in
a doorway, scanned the alley in both directions and disappeared inside.
'Or perhaps not Brother.'
'Vin get up top and see if you can get a visual. Buck, JD, go round and check
out the other exits. Josiah, Nathan, with me. Stay in Radio contact.' Grabbing
his vest, Chris climbed out of the van followed by Sanchez, Jackson and Tanner.
The van disappeared down the street.
Heading inside they crept cautiously forward, past old crates and aluminium
barrels. They had cleared the ground floor when they were joined by Buck
and JD. Signalling silently that they should go up, Larabee, Sanchez and
Jackson started towards the basement.
They were just fanning out at the bottom of the stairs when Tanner broke
radio silence. 'I got 'em Chris. Third Floor west corner. Three hostiles.
One female. Two Male. All armed. Over.'
'We're on our way. Buck?'
'We'll wait on you. Vin? Can ya see him?'
'Yep. I ken see more 'n I wanna. He's chained to a pipe an' talkin' up a
storm. Don't think I's ever seen his mouth move that fast a'fore. He must
be cold though, only thing he's wearin's his poker face.'
Below the other agents exchanged looks. They couldn't laugh yet.
'I ken take 'em Chris. I got a clear shot.'
'Wait. We're nearly there.'
There was a pause as everyone moved into position.
Vin took out the woman as she pulled a knife on Ezra. Chris and JD took care
of the goons, both of whom had stood their ground.
As the dust settled Ezra looked up at Vin mouthing 'Thank you Vin'. Vin waved
back and began clambering down the building's metal framework.
'Good evening Mr Larabee, Gentlemen.' Despite his nudity, Standish maintained
his aplomb. 'What brings you to this disreputable section of our fair
'Well ya see Ez, there's this cute little Elf
.' Grinning, Buck filled
him in on what he'd been missing as he worked to unchain his colleague.
Josiah offered Ezra his Kevlar vest. The nude agent gaped at him.
'Take it brother, you wouldn't want us to arrest you for indecent exposure.
I'd offer my jacket but it's cold and I know you'd refuse it,...'
'Yeah Ez,' Tanner had rejoined his team and slapped Standish on his bare
back, hard enough to leave a handprint. 'We didn't know to bring ya any spare
clothes and we know how ya'll feel about off the peg merchandise...'
'...Wouldn't be seen dead...' Buck
'...My tailor would have appoplexy...' JD
'APPEARANCES ARE EVERYTHING.' A chorus.
Ezra Scowled. 'Payback gentlemen....' He snatched the proffered vest before
it could be withdrawn. '... will be brutal.'
Chris grinned. Back to normal. That didn't take long.
Ezra's Townhouse - 2.30am
A smiling Vin had dropped him outside his front door
just before midnight. It was pouring with rain. Chris had winked at him and
told him to have a good evening. It was not to be.
He slouched wearily on the leather couch and reached for the phone. Again.
Ring, ring, ring. The answering phone was still picking up.
'Dammit Keziah, this is ridiculous. Do you know what time it is? Where are
you? I'm at home, call me please.' This was all delivered in German. On the
few occasions they had yelled at each other it had been in German. They both
agreed it was the more expressive language, the guttural undertones lending
themselves to anger. He paged her again.
He sipped his cognac and waited. No call.
Now he was starting to panic. Where could she be? He reached for the phone
'Chris. Ezra. I'm starting to get worried about Keziah. I can't reach her
on her cell or at home and she's not answering her pager. Did she go away
There was silence for a moment and then the sound of laughter. 'Mr Larabee
I am concerned for her safety. I do not consider that cause for amusement.'
'Sorry Ez. I'm told Elves always head for high ground when it rains, so they
'Mr Larabee have you been drinking?'
'For God's sake Ez. Look upstairs.' The line went dead. Ezra looked at the
buzzing phone and then raised his eyes to the ceiling. What? Did he say
upstairs? My upstairs?
Ezra threw down the phone and bounded up the stairs, three at a time. He
checked the spare rooms and upstairs lounge before stopping in front of his
bedroom door. Holding his breath he slowly pushed it open with his fingertips.
She lay tangled in his sheets, face down, her black hair in stark contrast
to the white silk. The material had slipped to her hips and he had a good
view of a pale back. Obviously not a pajama person.
Moving closer he could see she had her face buried in a towel. She hiccupped.
Oh lord. He knew what that meant. She'd cried herself to sleep.
Debating how best not to startle her he sat gingerly on the edge of the bed
and trailed one smooth fingertip down her spine.
.ra?' Her voice was husky and muffled by the towel.
'Hello Snow White, or perhaps Sleeping Beauty would be more appropriate?'
'Ezra?' She tensed but didn't raise her face. He allowed his finger to trace
small circles at the base of her back.
'In the flesh petite. Did you miss me?' She lifted her head and turned it
'We have established that. Are you alright?'
She bolted upright and clutched the sheet to her chest in one swift movement.
Too swift. Staring at him she reached a shaky hand towards his face.
'Are you OK? What happened? Does the team know?'
'It was they who effected my emancipation and yes, I am perfectly sound.'
He smiled softly at her, attempting to reassure and comfort her with his
She punched him.
'Fuck you Standish.'
He raised his eyebrows at her. 'Such vulgarity from a gently bred lady, I
am shocked. Abusive language is an abuse of language, my dear.'
'Don't get prissy with me you asshole. You scared the shit out of me. When
I came home
when I couldn't
when you weren't
stopped as her voice broke and she started to cry. He reached for her and
cuddled her up against his chest as she put her arms round him. He handed
her his handkerchief.
'No Gentleman likes to see a lady cry. Stop it Keziah, I'm fine.' He looked
down at her and kissed the tip of her nose. Continuing on to her eyelids
and brows he waited until the storm abated. 'Better?'
She nodded and sat back, still gripping the sheet. They regarded each other
for a moment in silence.
'What are you doing here?' He had a good idea but wanted to hear her say
'I'm sorry. I didn't mean to intrude.' He placed a finger over her lips.
'Don't apologise. It's fine. I just wasn't expecting it.' He glanced over
her shoulder. 'Is that my bathrobe?' She nodded, handing him the crumpled
towelling. He looked at her questioningly and she flushed, looking at him
through her lashes.
'I'm sorry. It's just
I was worried and
of you.' The flush got deeper.
Ezra felt his heart flip-flop. The dimples appeared and he twinkled at her.
'Snow White, that's the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.'
'You must have led a sheltered existence, Prince Charming.'
'Not, I suspect, as sheltered as you, Petite. N'est pas?' He looked inordinately
pleased with himself.
She blinked. He couldn't know.
'Ezra! I'm 27 years old for God's sake.' He stifled the laugh fighting to
erupt. Goodness, if she got any redder she'd explode.
'And the point of that pronouncement is what, exactly?'
'Not nothing, Sugah. Never.' This was accompanied by a smug look. He definitely
knew. Bloody intrusive, smart-assed mind-reader.
She squirmed and got defensive. 'So what? It's my business not yours.'
'Are you attempting to terminate our liaison?'
'Then it would seem it is my business.'
She suddenly switched tactics, defence to offence. 'So what do you intend
to do about it?'
'Be careful, Sugah. I never back down from a challenge.' Ezra was hoping
she didn't either.
She took a deep breath and shifted to her knees, carefully keeping hold of
the slippery silk. She stared him straight in the eye.
He swallowed. 'Are you ready to throw down the gauntlet, so to speak?'
Ezra nearly cheered when he saw the determination in her eyes. He held his
breath, lungs burning as he waited for her to make a decision.
Dropping the sheet, she achieved what many had attempted before and failed.
She rendered him speechless.
Chris Larabee's Ranch - Saturday December 28th
The babyshower had been fun. Going against tradition
the men had been dragged along, kicking and screaming all the way.
In the kitchen, Chris was thinking he was going to need an extension on his
house. It was still considered 'base' and all the boys, and now their wives,
had a place in it. They treated it much like grown kids returning to the
home in which they were raised.
He needed more space to accommodate them all.
Vin and Angel were about to become parents with Rain and Nathan following
in the Summer. Ezra and JD had both announced plans to marry in the New Year.
His family was growing.
Looking around the table at his brothers he smiled. Four years earlier, when
the team was formed, they had been a bunch of screwed up misfits with attitude.
Though still frighteningly efficient, they had somehow evolved into the weirdest
family he'd ever seen. Sometimes he felt like he was a big brother and sometimes,
well sometimes, he was Dad. Scary thought.
Ezra was dealing, again. The women had drifted off to the living room to
coo over Angel's shower gifts and the men had escaped to play poker.
His eyes came to rest on the receiver part of the baby-listening device,
which Buck and JD had been messing about with earlier in the afternoon. His
eyes met Vin's.
Chris leaned over and flicked the switch.
just so embarrassing! I thought I'd die!' Mary's voice filled the
room, followed by a good deal of giggling. Chris raised his eyebrows. All
the men at the table had stopped and were looking sheepishly at each other
but nobody tried to put an end to the eavesdropping.
'What about you Rain?'
'Nathan. In the laundry room at the hospital.' Nathan cringed and made the
first move toward the receiver. Josiah stopped him and the seven men made
a silent pact not to give in to embarrassment and spoil the fun. Let's just
see who cracks first. They pointed to each other as they made their bets,
Ezra taking notes of the wagers. They settled back with their beers to listen
to the entertainment.
'No way! In the hospital? Couldn't you have gotten caught?' Casey.
'I think that was half the fun. Well maybe not half. Nathan didn't realize
and nearly passed out when he saw the mess, and I thought he was used to
the sight of blood!' They all laughed. Nathan buried his head in his arms.
'Come on Casey, spill.' It was JD's turn to cringe.
'I can't. Oh all right. Yes, it was JD, a couple of years ago. Nettie went
away to visit her sister. We got cosy and one thing led to another. Anyway,
Nettie came home early and JD climbed out her bedroom window.' Laughter.
'NETTIE'S bedroom window?'
'Yup. My first could have been his last. He was in the buff on a ledge
in December!' Laughter, then, 'Holy shit! I never thought about the mess,
Nettie must have known
' This time the laughter was uproarious. In the
Kitchen JD was scarlet and Vin was on the floor, rolling around holding his
'Vin. Last year, night before the Agency Party. He came home late and I'd
gift-wrapped myself in a sheet and a ribbon. He knew ya see. He'd been waiting
for me to be 'ready', making grumbling noises about being carted off to the
asylum. Funnily enough I don't remember the mess. We got engaged the same
night. He had the ring in his pocket.' Vin smiled around the table, that
wasn't so bad.
'That's cute, Angel. But just look at you now. Looks like you ate your horse.
'Do I really want to share this? You know Ezra, one look and he'll know exactly
what I've been up to.'
'So keep your eyes closed.'
'Heightens the senses.'
'Darling, any higher and I'd ignite.' More laughter. Ezra smiled smugly at
the looks he was getting.
Okay. Tell me, what is it with these men? Do they have Snow White
Detectors or what?' Ezra grinned at the stunned expressions around the table.
'Are you serious? Ezra? Honey, weren't you a bit long in the tooth?' Rain.
'I represent the epitome of an English Lady. Anyway. He'd disappeared. Again.
I was worried and camped out in his house. He re-appeared and the rest, as
they say, is history.'
'Did he know before?'
'Have you met Ezra, Casey? He knows most things before I do. He says it's
the real reason he calls me Snow White.'
'After your earlier comment, perhaps it should be Snow Scarlet.' Mary.
'Kinda cute name. Course not as nice as 'Angel-eyes'.'
'Nathan calls me 'Kitten'.'
'But does he make you purr?' Kezzie again. 'Casey? What about JD?'
'Usually, just 'Sweatheart'. Sometimes he calls me 'Honey'.'
'Chris doesn't use pet names.'
'Sure he does. Ladies, may I present, 'God Dammit Mary!' Chris scowled
as the men grinned at Kezzie's quip.
There were a few minutes of inconsequential chatting before things picked
'So tell me, Snow White, which dwarf is which?' Angel.
'Funny you should mention that, I have given it some thought.'
'Well, I think it's fairly obvious really. Nathan is Doc
. Chris is
'Ain't that the truth!' Angel again. In the Kitchen, Chris glared at Vin
who grinned back until
Vin is a sucker for Bashful
' The smile vanished.
JD is Happy
Josiah is Sneezy, although I think 'Foghorn' would
be more appropriate
She was interrupted by Mary. 'Ezra's Sleepy
'Only in the mornings, Darling. He's known for his staying power at night,
and not just to play cards I can tell you
' Ezra was flashing the gold
tooth at the others who were groaning.
'Buck is DOPEY!' Buck smiled self depreciatingly at the chorus.
'Care to elaborate, Mrs Standish-to-be? Mary's voice broke through the laughter.
Buck looked worried again.
'Think about it, Mary. He's test driven nearly every woman in a thirty mile
radius and still can't make up his mind. It's obvious. He can't find it!'
All the women thought this was hilarious. JD was prodding an embarrassed
Buck in the ribs. He was slapping the hands and telling Ezra to get his woman
'I have drawn the inevitable conclusion
' Kezzie was still talking and
the men stopped wrestling to listen, 'that he has been looking for it TOO
That was it. The kitchen was in uproar.
Angel, choking through the tears of mirth suggested, 'perhaps I should offer
him an Anatomy lesson next time he comes in for his Physical! Can you imagine
Buck flipped the switch on the monitor. Money changed hands.
Drawn to the kitchen by the sudden noise the women trooped in. Ezra met Kezzie's
eyes. He winked.
Oh God. Not again. How does he do that?
Resigning herself to having no secrets, she smiled at him and sank down onto
...To PART Four: The Other Side
of the Coin
Squeakypeep@hotmail.com - be