?Seat belts on??
Courtney Abrams-Thompson asked as she placed the last bag in the back of the
Diego,? Jeremy said. ?I don?t think his?ll fit.?
Bernard wagged his tail in Jacob?s direction.
?I?m counting on
you two to keep him calm during the trip,? Court said.
?We will,? Jacob
said as he pointed down. ?Sit, Diego.?
across the boys? laps.
exactly what I had in mind,? Jacob said as Diego?s rear end settled itself in
?I like it. I?ve
got his head,? Jeremy said with a grin.
?Are we all
set?? Brad Thompson asked, venturing around the van, checking the tires.
third time you?ve done that. The tires are fine. The brakes are fine. The oil?s
?I just want to
make sure we get the boys to the ranch safely. Bobby and Meg will have our hide
if anything happens to them.?
Courtney wrapped her arms around her husband of eleven months. ?I love how much
you care about them.?
?Yes, they are.?
Their lips met as time slowed and a rush of warm heat slid across their skin.
they?re kissing again. Maybe we should have gone with Mom and Dad.? Jeremy
looked at Diego. ?How can you stand it??
them in the side mirror, hoping to pick up a few pointers from Brad. There was
one girl he knew from school that he thought he might like to kiss. He?d
probably never do anything about it, but if he did, he wanted to know he was
doing it right.
Brad had one
hand in the middle of Courtney?s back. His other hand was at the base of her
neck, his thumb mixing with her hair. She had both her arms around his neck.
There wasn?t a speck of space between their bodies.
He had kissed
her lightly at first, then he thought he saw them open their mouths. It sounded
kind of gross, but everyone he?d seen doing it seemed to like it. It was stuff
like that that he needed to get right or he?d seem like some kid who didn?t
know what he was doing.
Court said as she opened the passenger?s side door. ?Anyone need to pee? Last
chance until we get to Alene.?
that?? Jeremy asked.
?One hour and
ten minutes, give or take.?
?Me, too,? Jacob
?I?m glad to
know you can hold it for an hour, honey.?
Brad chuckled as
he buckled his seat belt and started the engine. ?Double Y Ranch, here we
really going to be cowboys at this ranch, right?? Jeremy asked.
Want to see the brochure again??
The boys nodded
their heads. Courtney passed back the brochures and then found the ranch?s
website page on her iPad. ?There?s a virtual tour on here. Just tap that
The boys used
Diego?s back as a table as they watched horses being groomed, cows rounded up
and weathered old men eating beans around a campfire.
?There is going
to be something to eat besides beans, right?? Jacob asked.
hamburger,? Brad said.
Brad?s arm. ?They believe you, you know.?
?It?ll do ?em
good to wonder for a few hours.?
close to Jeremy. ?They?re kiddin?. There?ll be all kinds of good food to eat.?
?How do you
know?? Jeremy whispered.
?Do you think
they?d eat beans for two weeks??
what?s goin? on back there?? Brad asked.
boys said at the same time.
?I?m an old cowhand
from the Rio Grande,? Brad sang. Courtney joined him, ?But my legs ain?t bowed and
my skin ain?t tan.?
?You got a
message, Court.? Jacob handed the iPad toward the front seat.
?It?s from Meg.?
?I want to talk
to Mom,? Jeremy said.
driving, so Meg?s hands are free. Let?s call her.?
Meg?s cell number.
?Hey, I just
sent you a message.?
?Yeah, the boys
saw it and Jeremy wanted to talk with you.?
?Are you on the
?We are, right
?I know I?m a
bit over-organized, but I like having a plan.?
?I didn?t say
?I know you?re
thinking it, though.?
laughed. ?Here?s Jeremy.?
?Hi, honey. How
are you doing??
Diego?s got his butt in Jacob?s face.?
?I?m sure he
?I got the good end.?
?Lucky you. You
guys are on your best behavior, right??
?Of course, Mom.
It?s Court and Brad. They know how we are.?
them like you would Dad and me.?
sweetie. Let me talk to Jacob for a minute.?
?She wants to
talk to you.? Jeremy handed Jacob the phone.
only been gone five seconds, how could anything be wrong??
If you need us for anything, just call.?
?I know Mom.
?I love you,
?I love you,
handed Courtney the phone. ?She?s already worried about us.?
?It?s her job,
she?s the mom.?
?She ought to
know we?re safe with you guys.?
California? She has reason to worry. It scared her. It scared us all. We never
want anything like that to ever happen again,? Court said.
Jacob said. He put his hand in his jacket pocket and felt the cool metal
beneath his fingers. ?It?ll never happen again.?
?I?m just glad
they?re all behind bars and we can put it all where it belongs, in the past,?
?Can we stop for
a snack?? Jeremy asked.
?We just had
breakfast,? Courtney said.
?I?m a growing
Court burst out
laughing. ?Nice try. You can have a snack in Alene. Unless something drastic
happens, this van ain?t stoppin? until we get there.?
his shoulders and he and Jacob went back to surfing the internet on the iPad.
?Do you have the
map?? Brad asked.
kidding? Meg practically sent me two inches of information about the ranch.
I?ve got directions, history and profiles of the staff. I mean, I know she
likes to be informed and organized, but she could work for the CIA.?
?So, do you have
?Yes, I have the
highlighted and color coded.?
?It?s Meg, did
you expect anything less??
?You got another
message, Court,? Jacob said. ?It?s from Purity.?
Courtney tapped on the message, but didn?t say anything as she read it.
okay?? Brad asked.
a late start. Morning sickness. The timing of this vacation couldn?t have been
worse for Pure.?
?I don?t know.
Maybe all the fresh air will do her good. Do the baby good, too.?
?That?s a nice
thought it would be great to live on a ranch: milking cows, gathering eggs,
fixing fence posts??
?Swimming in the
pond, sitting around the fire and having a real brick oven that you cook
about to find out if the dream is as much fun in real life as it is in our