The Fourth Season

Parental Advisory Rating: L, N, AC

Break out those V-Chips, everyone!


Created, Produced, Directed and Written:

Fanatic and TNovan


Episode Six: Don’t Worry, Be Happy

I like the way water runs over Kels’ body. It could have something to do with my viewing position. I am laying behind her, my back against the tub, our legs tangled together. I lift the sea sponge and squeeze it again, watching the rivulets travel down her chest. My other arm is wrapped around her, snuggled up under her breasts. I lean in and kiss her neck and behind her ear. "This is nice." I breathe in the clean scent of her skin and hair.

"Umm," Kels agrees languidly. She is totally relaxed against me.

I am not a bath person, in general. However, my wife is. And my job right now is to be with her. The twins are asleep in the other room. They are well fed, particularly Collin who has been a little pig lately, clean diapered and content. Once we had them settled down for their nap, I decided to focus my attention on their Mommy.

"Want to go curl up on the bed and watch some old movies?"

Kels opens one eye and regards me sleepily. "We have any Cary Grant ones?"

"We have, in fact, ‘Bringing Up Baby’, one of his best."

"Ooo, with Kate Hepburn?"

I nod and drizzle more warm water over her. "You like her too?" I hum against her ear.

Kels hand comes up out of the water and covers mine, hugging my arm. "I have a thing for strong women."

I flex my arms around her, and then nod to my bicep. "I’ve been working out." I kiss her ear and nibble on it. "I love working out."

Kels turns and kisses me softly. "I’ll be sure to buy you a gym membership here."


* * *


Out of the bath, dried and in our pajamas, Kels and I lay on the bed, the television on in the background. Collin woke up a few minutes ago and is now on the bed too. He is between us, his feet in his mouth. My children could teach yoga. I think they do have baby yoga classes nowadays. I might have to check into that.

"Aaa," Collin warbles happily around his toes.

"Yes, little man, we see you." I give him a wet kiss on his forehead. I pick up the remote control and turn up the television over my son’s vocalizing, so I can figure out what’s on. It’s one of the multitude of cable news channels.

"In a surprise exit at the weekly news magazine Exposure, anchor Kelsey Stanton resigned citing personal reasons," the perky blonde reads from the monitor.

I go to change the channel, but Kels takes the remote from me. "Leave it. I want to hear it."


"Earlier this year, Kelsey Stanton was outted as a lesbian when her mother, Katherine Stanton, kidnapped the twins Kelsey had late last year with her partner, Harper Kingsley. Harper Kingsley is a senior producer with Exposure Productions. No word yet on whether she will resign."

"I will," I yell and toss a pillow at the television.

"Kelsey Stanton," the anchor continues, "came under fire, literally, last year when she was kidnapped by an obsessive fan. When the police came to her rescue, she shot her kidnapper multiple times. No charges were brought after the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office ruled it was self-defense."

Kels scowls. "How kind of them to recap my year. What’s wrong? Hasn’t Robert Downey Junior done anything stupid this week?"

"Apparently not." I lift up Collin and dangle him over his mother. "But we got Super Baby out of it, so they can all fuck off."

"Harper Lee! That’s gonna cost you big!"

I smile. Mission accomplished. My wife is now worried about my foul language rather than the bitch on the television. "I know, I know," I sigh. I zoom Collin toward his mommy. "Look, Super Baby wants a kiss!"

Kelsey starts laughing hard and gives her son a kiss. It’s a sloppy one, more drool than anything else. I lean in and join the fun.

We form a little bundle of happiness, alternating kissing our son and each other. This is the way life should be. Family.

Brennan squawks from her spot in the nearby bassinet. I settle Collin down comfortably on his mother’s chest, and roll off the bed. I pad over to Brennan and scoop her up. "What’s wrong, Miss Cranky? Huh? You want to kiss your Mommy too?" We come back over to the bed and plop down.

Kels lifts her head up and smiles affectionately at her daughter. "She gets this way if she thinks she’s missing something. She is a nosey child." I lift Brennan and put her nose to nose with her mom. "She has the making of a fine reporter in her blood."

I laugh at the thought of anyone trying to stonewall Brennan. "We might have to work with her on her interview technique."

"Hey!" Kels protests on Brennan’s behalf. "She convinced you to get up and get her. I think she’s got it figured out."

"True, except she lacks a certain subtlety."

"That, my dear, she gets from you."

My wife is smiling, looking happy and carefree for the moment. "No need to rub it in." I lay on my side, looking at the two babies now flailing on their mommy. "We did good, chér."

"We certainly did, and I dare anyone to say differently."


* * *


I pull my legs up under me and inhale the slight scent if mint in the tea. No wonder I like my doctor. He definitely knows how to make a person relax.

"How do you feel today, Kels?"

"Overall, not bad. I already feel more relaxed simply being in New Orleans."

"Even with the press your departure from Exposure has caused?" He sips from his own mug and prepares to make a note in my file.

"I’m a member of the press and part of the media. I have a certain celebrity I have to live with. You can do one of two things: deal with it or let it make you crazy."

"And that’s why you came to me? To learn to deal with it?" He grins and winks.

"Actually, that’s probably a fair question." I sigh and look into my mug, then back to him. "I don’t feel like I’ve handled some things very well."

"Such as?"

"Like killing a man. Shouldn’t I feel more guilty over that?"

"It’s not my job to tell you what you should feel. It’s my job to help you accept how you feel."

"Spoken like a true therapist."

"Good, because I knew there was a reason I went to college for those degrees." He grins again and gets up to refresh his tea. "Why do you think you should feel ‘more guilty’ for killing that man?"

"I don’t know. Maybe it has something to do with the whole ‘Thou shall not kill thing’."

"You don’t strike me as being particularly religious."

"I’m not. Let’s say, I’m comfortable with my own spiritual being."

"Yet you quoted one of the Ten Commandments. Are you afraid you’re going to go to hell?"


"Then why be worried about the Ten Commandments?"

"Good point."

"It’s a socialized reaction. You’ve heard about them, listened to people refer to them all your life, it happens. Do you think you saved your own life by killing that man?"

"Yes. The one thing that does bother me, though, is was there some revenge factor when I killed him? I thought he had hurt Harper. I wanted him dead for that. Isn’t that wrong?"

"Kelsey, I can’t tell you what to feel. That man killed a lot of people, and hurt a lot of people. There were dozens of victims. From the people he murdered to the family that survived them. I’m sure to some of the parents and friends of the women he killed, you’re a hero."

"Oh, don’t say that." I really have to choke down a sick feeling. "I don’t want to be a hero for killing someone."

"Okay, then, let me merely say, I personally think the way you’re feeling and are dealing with what you did is perfectly healthy and normal. It’s okay not to feel guilty for saving your own life."

I nod and sip my tea. I’m not so sure about that, but I’ll go with it for the moment.

"How do you feel about leaving your job now that you’ve been away from the grind for a few days?"

"Actually, right now, I’m enjoying it. I’m reading and relaxing and being with the babies and Harper, and settling into the house. It’s wonderful. I know myself well enough to know that eventually I’ll have to find something to do here. I’ll go crackers if I don’t work. But I have lots of options. I’ve gotten lots of offers too."

"That must make you feel good."

"It does. It’s nice to know people are still interested in working with me despite the problems I’ve had, and the things that have come out."

"Well, it seems to me it wouldn’t be a big deal."

"You’d think that, but if numbers are lousy and advertisers threaten to pull their dollars, the powers that be get twitchy."

He nods his understanding, taking his seat again. "What’s Harper going to do?"

"She’s quitting and coming back to New Orleans too."

"Do you feel like you forced the issue?"

I sigh. "I’d like to think no, but deep down I know she’s giving up her career to be with me and the babies. Harper is an adult and sometimes adults have to do things they don’t like. I can’t let myself take the blame for a decision she made. She could have stayed in New York and finished out her contract. It wouldn’t have been fun to be separated, but we could have worked it out. You know what I mean?"

"I understand. My wife and I had to be separated for a time when she was getting her degree. She was going to school in Georgetown and I was setting up my practice here. You’re right, it wasn’t fun, but we managed."

"Family is very important to Harper and she wants to be with us. She’s a very talented producer; it won’t take her long to pick up another job. It’s not as if we have to worry about money, so that helps a great deal too. It gives us both time."

"You’re very fortunate in that area. Most people don’t have that luxury."

"I know. We are also lucky to be surrounded by family."

"Harper’s family. Correct?"

"Yeah. I’ve only recently started mending fences with my own father. He lives in New York. Besides, he’s remarried and has a baby of his own now. While I’m delighted we’re talking again, he has a new family and I’m not really a part of it. Or, at least, I don’t feel a part of it."

"Do you feel like a part of Harper’s family?"

"I do. I always have. They made me feel welcome from the first time I was here."

"You like that, don’t you? Feeling like you belong somewhere?"

"It’s the first time I’ve ever really felt like I belonged."

"Mind if I play Devil’s Advocate for a moment?"

"I thought that was your job."

He smiles and shakes his head. "I can see treating you is going to be a challenge."


"Do you think there’s any chance you let yourself fall for Harper because you liked the feeling of belonging?"

Ouch. Wow. When he plays, he plays hard. "I… I don’t know. I suppose it’s possible. But I love Harper. I love her family and I feel complete. Isn’t that important?"

"It’s the most important thing. I know you love Harper; I have no doubt about that. I was just curious if you had ever examined that possibility."

"No, and I’m not sure I need to. I love Harper. We have a wonderful family and a beautiful home. That is what matter’s in the here and now."

"What about in fifteen years?"

I have to laugh. "In fifteen years, I’ll be too busy keeping Harper from killing whatever boy Brennan is trying to date to worry about it."

He laughs with me. "I have a teen daughter and let me tell you, that first date is terrifying. You want to follow them around, hiding behind bushes and stuff."

"I’m not sure Harper will survive it."

"She’ll be fine. She’s got a few years to adjust to the concept."



* * *


I am waiting for Kels in the backyard. While she’s been with her new therapist since earlier this morning, Robie and I hung up a porch swing. I am now stretched across it, a book on my chest and the sun on my legs. The twins are over at their cousins’ house next door, so we can have a little quiet time together. If she ever gets home.

I lean over and pick up a glass of iced tea from the deck. Through a curtain of hair, I see a pair of sneakers.

"Hiya, Stud." Kels’ voice is warm with affection. "Looks like you’ve been busy. Want some company?"

I straighten up, glass in hand, and smile. "If it’s yours, then absolutely." I swing my legs around so she can join me. I hold out my hand and beckon to her. "How are you, gorgeous?"

"I’m good." She glances around and lifts an inquiring eyebrow. "Where are the babies? Did you finally sell them off to the band of roaming gypsies?"

I shrug melodramatically. "They offered a good price. Until they come pick them up, Brennan, Collin and Aunt Brian are over at Robie and Rene’s."

"At least you got more than a handful of magic beans for them." She comes over and drops down on the swing beside me, then snatches my tea.

"Hey!" I mock protest. I follow my tea over to her lips and welcome her home.

"So what’s the plan for the rest of the day?"

I lean back and tug on her gently to rest against me. "I thought we could spend a little time together. Then we can go pick up a video, get the kids and snuggle on the couch."

"Hmm … a woman with a plan. That’s good." She settles against me, keeping hold of my glass. "My brain is mush. How about Chinese carry out for dinner?"

"You got it." I take a deep breath and decide to wade into deeper waters. "How did it go today?"

"It went really well. I like him." She hands me the glass so I can take a sip. "He makes me think, but he doesn’t push me. He also lets me know it’s okay not to be one hundred percent sure of how I’m feeling. I thought I was supposed to have it all worked out. I’m glad to find out that I don’t need to, and that I have time."

I let my fingers gently caress the skin of her arm, trying to convey concern and affection. "What were you supposed to have all worked out, chér?"

"I don’t know. I had this feeling that I was somehow supposed to have all the answers. It’s nice to know I don’t have to."

"Yeah, because then you’d really be showing me up," I tease.

"Don’t worry about it. It’s not going to happen. I’m going to take things one day at a time. Work through the things that lurk in the shadows of my mind, and get on with my life." My girl snuggles closer against me, wrapping an arm around my waist. "I’ve got to find something to do to keep us busy now that I’ve all but managed to unemploy both of us."

"Don’t you want me here?" My throat is tight around the question.

"Of course, I do. But I know I need to keep you busy. Otherwise, it’ll be like living with Calvin when he’s hopped up on sugar covered cocobombs."

I sigh, both in relief and in desire, "God, I wish they made those." I kiss her temple and breathe in the clean scent of her shampoo. "Do you need anything from me? Is there any way I can help you, darlin’?"

"You’re doing just fine. This is about me, Harper. I’m learning to get a grip and not let everything build up until I feel like I can’t take it anymore. Therapy is good for me. It’s where I need to be right now."

"You could take up boxing."

"I may do that." She thumps my stomach as a joke. "I need to start working out on a regular basis again. I may start taking kick boxing lessons or something. Who knows? We’ll see what happens."

I give my best rakish grin. "We could have lots of sex. It’s a good workout. And it’d sure keep me happy."

This time I receive a teasing elbow to the ribs. "Yeah, we could do that too." Huh, given her tone of voice, I think not. "I’d like to see if I could get you to beg for mercy again."

"Won’t it be fun trying?" I kiss her, but pull back, sobering, remembering why we’re having this conversation in the first place. "Look, I just want you to know that I am here for you, with you, by you. All of that, okay? You are not alone. And you mean the world to me, Fuzzy and our baby with no nickname." I figure I may as well say everything I had in mind today. "If you need to talk, or a shoulder to cry on, I want to do that for you. We’re in this together. Got that?"

"I know that. I never doubted that for a moment, Harper. Of all the things I have been concerned about, the fact that you’ll support me in any way you can has never been one of them. I trust you’ve got my back, and if I stumble you’ll be there. But I want you to remember that you’ve got two others who need you more than I do. You need to put them before even me. I’m a big girl, but they depend on you for everything."

"Speaking of them, want to go rescue Robie from a house full of six children?"

"Sure. Should we invite Clark and Christian over for a little Chinese and a movie? Maybe give Robie and Rene a little break too?"

I am disappointed. Kels didn’t get my joke. "I said six kids," I prompt.

"You know, you should be nicer to Brian." I chuckle, pleased she’s gotten it now. "Besides, it’s not like you have a lot of room to talk Miss Ooo Look At The Video Games We Can Play In The New Van."

I laugh fully, recognizing the truth of her statement. "Ooo, burned. Do we take Kelly too? I don’t know if Christian will leave his Kelsey, truth be told."

"Sure. Why not? Let’s see what it’d be like to have a house full. Then you’ll have a real feel for what you put Mama through all those years ago. You may even want to send her flowers and apologize by the time the evening is over."

I tap her nose. "Tsk, tsk. I already do better than that. On my birthday every year, I send Mama a huge bouquet of flowers. They always have a balloon saying ‘It’s a girl!’ and a card congratulating her on newborn."

"That’s very sweet, Tabloid."

"I thought that was a real nice thing to do."

"It is." My girl is laughing a bit as she slides off the bench. She holds her hand out to me and tugs me to my feet as well. "Come on, Stud, let’s go get a herd of children."

"I love you, Little Roo."


* * *


We have a quiet moment in the household. Collin and Brennan are stretched out on the blanket, chewing on toys. I am laying beside them, in case either need attention. Resting on my stomach, in the meanwhile, are Kels’ feet. Apparently, I am a good footrest.

Kels is up on the couch, reading a thick ass book. I think that Kels is planning on reading all of the greatest books ever written now that she’s a free woman. I still need to get up to New York tomorrow so I can quit. I also need to start arranging for our household items to be moved down here.

Brian enters the room, humming happily. "I think I’m going to run down to the Quarter for the afternoon, if that’s okay with you guys."

"Sure," Kels replies readily, but frowns slightly. "Don’t you want to come over to Mama and Papa’s this afternoon?"

"Ooo, Mama does have impeccable taste."

I snort.

He nudges me with his foot. "Your Mama does!"

Kels rubs her feet on my belly, tickling me. "You better watch it, Harper. He’ll rat you out to the Kitchen Conspiracy, and what he can’t find in the truth, he’ll make up."

I sigh and raise my hands in mock surrender. "Fine, fine. Of course, Mama has impeccable taste. She had me." Brian and Kels both erupt into laughing fits. Brats.

"Right," Brian chortles. "I was just thinking that." He smiles over at my girl. "I’ll stop by later in the afternoon."

"Brian, before you go, do you have a minute? Harper and I want to talk with you."

"Okay." He looks nervous. "Is everything okay?"

Kels smiles. "Everything is fine." She pats the cushion next to her. Brian plops down and puts his feet on my thigh. I barely refrain from slapping him off. "We want to know if you’ve given any thought as to whether we should be looking for a new nanny. Moving to New Orleans would be a big step for you."

"I know. I am looking forward to it." He looks over at my children fondly. "I have no intention of leaving until Brennan and Collin’s eighteenth birthday."

Eighteenth birthday? They need a nanny until then? I’m going to be feeding and housing Brian for eighteen more years? At least if I pass out, I’m already stretched out on the floor. "That long?" I croak, forgetting to censor myself.

Kels’ heel digs into my tummy. "Be nice!"

I look at my wife, my eyes pleading my case. "Eighteen years, Kels. If our kids still need a nanny then, we’ll have huge problems. Huge."

"Relax, sweetheart. I’m sure Brian is simply being nice." She glances over at our nanny to confirm her statement. He gives a coy look which does not reassure me. "What he’s trying to say is he loves our babies and he’s not leaving them."

I fan myself. "You sure?" I look over at Brian. "You’re being polite?"

"You know, Stud," Brian replies, "sometimes you take things too literally. What would you say if I told you I was madly in love with your wife too?"

Oh, God, what a day! "You’re trying to kill me."

"No, Stud." He climbs off the couch and kneels beside me. Closely. Too close, actually. "If I were trying to kill you, I’d do this."

Before I realize what is happening, Brian is kissing me.

On the lips.

I grab his lips between my thumb and forefinger, surprising him. "Don’t. Do. That. Again."

Brian nods.

And I begin laughing helplessly. The next eighteen years will certainly be interesting.


* * *


The KC is in full attendance this weekend. Oh, it feels like it’s been forever since we were all together like this. I didn’t realize how much I missed this until now, sitting and laughing with my family. Rachel has us all in hysterics relaying Luc’s attempts at adjusting to fatherhood. In truth, he’s doing fine, but since Stevie is the one who walked around most of the morning with his sneakers on the wrong feet until Rach noticed, he might want to argue the point. Seems Luc has a bit of trouble telling where the arch is on the small sneakers his boys wear.

"How’s Harper with that kind of thing?" Katherine grins at me expecting that I’ll dish some dirt on my dear spouse.

"She is an absolute whiz." I have to laugh though. "There are times, however, when I believe she thinks diapering is a rodeo type competition and it’s a matter of how fast she can get it done." I sip my tea and look over at the twins sleeping so peacefully in their stroller despite the noise in the room. "Then again, it could be survival instinct. Some of the stuff they produce is truly toxic."

"Speaking of Harper," Mama says very seriously as she takes a seat. "I think it’s time we invite her to join us."

You can hear a pin drop. Somehow, while that would be wonderful, it doesn’t seem right. It makes sense, though. In some weird, twisted way. Mama looks at us all in turn, lifting a brow when she comes to me.

"Hey, don’t ask me. I’m all for it. Ask Harper Lee. It’s her decision."

Rene gets up from her seat and goes to the kitchen window. "Oh, Harper Lee, would you come in here, please?"

We hear the boys groaning and teasing her, and all the kids are singing that she must be in trouble. Robie yells, "Watch out for Mama’s wooden spoon."

We have to laugh when she comes in and just barely sticks her head in the door.

"Collin giving y’all trouble?"

"No, Harper Lee." Mama stands up and pats the back of her chair. "Collin Lee is sound asleep. Come in her and have a seat."

"Why? What did I do?"

I snort and hide my grin behind my hand. I lower my eyes, but still manage to keep one on Harper. Man getting called to the kitchen is apparently not a good thing. Harper looks like she might burst into tears if we don’t let her off the hook soon.

"Come in here and sit down." Mama’s voice is firm. Harper immediately takes her seat.

Poor thing. She looks like the puppy who got caught stealing dinner from the table. I’m not sure if I can take much more if it. I shoot daggers at my sisters who are chuckling like there is no tomorrow.

"Harper Lee, we think it’s time you came to join us here in the kitchen," Mama tells her from her spot near the stove. She pours herself another cup of coffee and watches Harper’s reaction over the rim.


I can tell be the look on Harper’s face, she thinks this is a joke. I reach out to take her hand to let her know it’s not.

"We think you should join us in the kitchen," Mama says again, giving her youngest a knowing grin, waiting for her answer.

"Why? I thought the Conspiracy was to keep us in line."

Rachel leans forward and rests her chin on her fist. "Who’s ‘us’, Harper?"

She scowls at Rachel and growls, "The kids."

Katherine stretches back in her chair and tosses her napkin to the table. "Why, Harper, you know the Kingsley grandchildren are some of the best behaved in the state. Why would we need to keep them in line? Could you be talking about someone else?"

Man, the KC is in full viper mode today. It’s getting harder and harder to hide my grin.

"First generation kids," Harper clarifies unnecessarily. We all understood. "Me and the boys. And you know darn well what I meant."

She looks to me for help and it’s all I can do to keep from laughing. Poor thing is scared witless. "Harper, the offer is sincere. Mama thinks that since we now have Brennan and Collin, and you’ve become a full time Mama yourself, that it would be nice for you to join us."

"Can I think about it?" she stammers.

Mama nods. "Absolutely, you have thirty seconds."

This causes another round of the giggles. Jesus, Harper, don’t be stupid and challenge Mama on this. An invitation to the KC does not come lightly, you have to earn it.

She thinks for a long moment and then blows out a deep breath. "I think I should pass then. I feel a lot safer outside." She says this glancing around at the other members of the Conspiracy. She knows they love her, but she knows her brothers do more. "Besides, in a couple years, Collin won’t be welcome in here. Someone will need to keep him company."

With that, she snatches up our sleeping son and makes a rather hasty exit. She’s going to regret it when Collin wakes up hungry, and she finds out she forgot his bottle.


* * *


I check Robie and pass the ball to Luc. He goes up for the shot. Two points. I pat Robie on the butt teasingly. "Nice try, bro."

I get a pat back. "It ain’t over ‘til it’s over, little sis."

"Younger!" I shoot back and glance over at my son, safely ensconced in his Uncle Gerrard’s arms. He has Collin turned around so that he is facing the action; he can watch me win a basketball game. "I won’t let Brennan be this mean to you, Fuzzy!"

Gerrard waves his little fist at me.

Luc takes the basketball out of the circle and bounces it a few times. Jean lumbers over to guard him. I have to chuckle at the sight. Jean needs to work out a touch more. You’d think five kids would keep him in better shape than this. Lord knows, Elaine looks amazing.

I break free of Robie, get the pass from Luc and do my famous spin. Oh yeah, works like a charm. A step, a jump and two points! Luc and I exchange high-fives.

Robie and I go back to the line where I laugh at him. "You’re getting old and slow."

"Bite me," he growls, wiping sweat from his forehead.

"Nah," I shake my head, getting my bangs out of my eyes, "I don’t like pork."

Even as he protests, I toss the ball inside. Luc is on it, but goes for a lay up which even Jean can stop. Damn.

Robie snickers, even though he had nothing to do with his change in fortune. I guard him, being sure to get a couple extra bumps in than are needed. "Come on, ol’ man, get the ball."

When Jean passes it to him, I easily steal it and pass it to Luc before Robie can even protest. I celebrate our next couple points until Robie says, "So what’s up, Harper Lee? Normally people put in change of address cards with the post office before they up and move."

I know he’s teasing, but it cuts. Especially since I didn’t know we were moving until we landed in New Orleans. Or, at least, I didn’t know we were moving so soon. "We like to keep folks guessing." I snatch the ball out of the air, pass it back to Luc, who’s easily broken free of Jean, and pump my arm wildly when we win.

Four sweat-soaked Kingsleys hug briefly, and wander off to check on kids, wives and food. Not necessarily in that order.

I do take Fuzzy back from Gerrard and nestle him against my damp chest. "Hi, Little Man. Did you see your Mama whip your Uncle Robie’s behind?"

"Phwft," is my older brother’s only comment. He grabs a sports bottle and squirts the cold water on his head, sprinkling my son with his runoff.

"Hey!" I protest on my boy’s behalf.

"He’ll live. It’s water. Right, boy?" He tickles Collin’s cheek and my son smacks his lips. Don’t remind him it’s nearly suppertime, Robie.

Robie inclines his head and I follow him over to a bench as requested. "Everything okay, Harper?"

"Everything’s great. Why?" I bounce Collin causing him to gurgle happily.

He shrugs. "Coming home in the middle of the night, tail between your legs. That’s not you. Never has been. Are you all right? The kids? Kelsey?"

I sigh, not knowing how to really answer him. "I’m fine. The children are perfect. Kels will be fine. She merely needs a little time to regain her balance."

"What does that mean?"

"It means she needs a little time to regain her balance."

"My problem isn’t my hearing," he mutters.

"Just your comprehension." I feel all my protective instincts well up. I may have a slight issue with how things were done, but it’s not my brother’s place to have one. Except, I know he loves me. And Kelsey. "Let me recap Kels’ last eighteen months for you. She was held hostage in Omaha, threatened with death. Fell in love with me. Saved New York City from biological warfare. Was stalked. Was kidnapped. Had her best friend murdered. Had to kill her kidnapper to stay alive. Changed jobs. Moved across the country. Moved in with me. Got pregnant. With twins. Reconciled with her father. Found out she has a little sister, and a step mom. Gets married. I go blind. She goes into early labor. Nearly loses a child in birth. Is blackmailed. Has her children stolen from her. Both by her mother. And I get held hostage and temporarily blinded again."


"Exactly. That’s off the top of my head. I’m sure there’s more."

He rubs my shoulder. "It’ll be fine."

"I know. Rob, I didn’t like how she did it. I didn’t like waking up in New Orleans and hearing that my wife and my children are moving here, and I can see them on weekends if I want. I didn’t like not being consulted on that major of a life choice." I kiss my son, my heart hurting at the thought of even being away from him for a few days, as I need to be starting tomorrow. "God, that pissed me off. But what was I to do, Rob? Drag her back to New York? Force her to go to a place where her kids were kidnapped from her?" Now that I’m talking about this, I can’t seem to quit. "I wouldn’t have cared if she just quit. That wouldn’t have bothered me. It was the ‘I’m moving to New Orleans and you can see us on Saturday and Sunday’ which hurt."

"At least, she came home to New Orleans. She could have decided they were living in Los Angeles or Bumfuck, Wyoming."

"I know. Thank God she knows she’s family here. I am glad when she thought to run home, she thought of next door to you and less than a couple miles from Mama and Papa."

He bumps shoulders with me. "We’re glad to have you home, Harper Lee. I’m glad. Rene is glad. Our kids are ecstatic."

I snort, immediately disbelieving him. "Excuse me, but your children aren’t glad I am here; they’re glad she is."

"Nah, Christian still loves his Tante Harper. And you are the bees’ knees to Clark. He worships you."

"He has good taste."

He smiles and glances across the yard to his son. Clark lifts up a pail of sand and dumps it on Geoffrey. "Elaine won’t like that. Oh well. Clark is my boy, and he and I think you are wonderful."

Sometimes, all you need is one person to say that. "Thanks, Robie."

"It’s easy, Harper. I’ve known you all your life. Kelsey is the best thing to happen in it. I know this will work out for the best of your entire family. You included. Sometimes spouses do unexpected things. It keeps you light on your feet."

"No shit." Collin burps and I am reminded of my transgression. "Sorry, bud. Harvard, here you come."


* * *


I don’t want to leave tomorrow morning. With Kels in a fragile state, I don’t want to be away. Every protective instinct I have is aroused by her. Of course, almost everything about me is aroused by her. I wander out of the bathroom, rinsing out the toothpaste in my mouth, and find Kels stretched out on the bed, clad only in one of my T-shirts.

I move slowly, consciously drawing her attention to me, and join her there. "I love you," I whisper and then kiss her passionately. My right hand travels up the side of her lithe body, stopping and caressing all the interesting spots along the way. As always, there are many. My hand slides along the back of her thigh, the skin silky smooth. I growl against her neck. "Sweet."

Her back arches and she presses her breasts into mine. Nice. I take a nip at her throat, tasting the tender skin. More. I want more. My need for Kels is always insatiable.

"Come here," she guides me with a gentle finger under my chin to kiss her mouth once again. Her tongue swirls against mine, tasting me, sharing herself. I groan into the sensation, which only encourages her. Her hands trace gentle patterns on my scalp and back. That’s nice.

Ooo, it just got nicer.

<fade out>


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