By: Phaedra Phelan
Summary: It is 2003 and the Steeles are dealing with family issues on several fronts as well as solving a mystery that involves their own family.
The next morning Laura wakened and reached to touch the space beside her but found it empty. She stretched like a cat, remembering the early morning time the two of them had shared. Remington had wakened her with his kisses and without a word they had come together. Afterwards she had fallen again into a deep sleep and had not known when he left their bed. She looked at the clock and realized that it was only . She showered and slipped on a pair of comfortable khaki pants and an oversized olive green tee shirt over her full bare breasts, and twisted her thick hair into two long fat braids. Then she went into the kitchen to make breakfast for herself before nursing the twins, where she found Joanna sitting at the kitchen counter staring into space.
He left a while ago, Mom. He asked me some more questions about that night. And then he left. He said to tell you hell be back in a couple of hours, at the latest.
Did he tell you where he was going?
He went to find out where Jack Steuben could be found, as well as Ziad Hassan, the guys . . . two of the guys they said I was with.
Joanna, do you know these young men . . . well enough for this sort of thing to happen?
Yes . . . and no.
Laura waited for her daughter to collect herself and continue.
Jack is in a couple of my classes. But I never even had a conversation with him till he asked me to come to that party.
Did any of them ever try to make a pass at you . . . you know?
Maybe . . . but I didnt pay any attention to them. They were that way with all the girls. I never took them seriously.
Joanna, I know that you have not really every brought anyone home as a boyfriend. Its not wrong to want to have a special friend. After all youre nearly eighteen years old.
I know, but I just havent. Im not popular like Cassie and Chlöe. It never bothered me. When they invited me to that party, I thought I would finally have a chance to really feel like I was growing up. I didnt even tell you and Dad about it, because I knew that you would never allow me to stay out all night.
So thats why you said that you were going to spend the weekend on with one of the girls from campus?
Yes. And then when it turned out so awful I couldnt bring myself to tell you and Dad what had happened to me. When there were no lights on in that house that night, I should have called a taxi and come home. I never was at a party like that, but I was trying to belong. Then when they gave me that drink everything went black . . . I was so ashamed when I woke up without my clothes.
Who was with you when you woke up, Joanna?
George . . . George Harrelson. He was naked too . . . in the bed. When I woke up, he was trying to put my clothes on me. I think I must have passed out again. When I woke up again, he was gone.
You dont remember him doing anything to you?
No, Im such a mess. I cant continue school like this. Im embarrassed. And yet I dont want anything to happen to this baby inside me. Im so confused, Mom.
Joanna broke down and began to sob in Lauras arms.
Shh, love. You dont have to be embarrassed here with us. We love you and we will love your baby. You are a beautiful young woman and dont let anyone ever make you think anything different. When I was your age, I was totally mixed up . . . unhappy. My father had left us when I was sixteen with no explanation. My mother was caught up in her own problems and useless to look to for any kind of guidance. At least you have your father and me. We will always be here for you.
Thank you, Mom, Joanna said, wiping her eyes as she tried to pull herself together.
Now I want to go over all of this with you again. Were absolutely going to sort this thing out. You were drugged and raped. That is a crime. And we are definitely going to find out who is responsible.
Joanna nodded and attempted a weak smile as Laura hugged her.
Rhett and Reade came running into the kitchen looking for their mom. Laura took Rhett up onto her lap and held him, letting him take his turn at her breast while Reade amused himself playing on the floor with their German shepherd, Ingrid, who willingly let Reade clamber all over her.
Ill make you breakfast, Mom, Joanna said, understanding well that her mothers need for food while nursing twins had been intensified since she was pregnant again.
Youre an angel, Joanna. Eating for three is quite a challenge, even when Im only feeding the twins twice a day. They know I want to wean them, but they just dont want to stop nursing. So Im just being what they need. When you have what they need, you are not going to deny it to them. This is a part of mothering that you will learn when you have that baby you are carrying.
Joanna looked down and put her hands upon her abdomen as if realizing for the first time the weight of responsibility motherhood would bring upon her, and accepting it.
Mom, hold me close, please. Joanna moved her chair close to Laura and drew her mothers free arm around her. I am so scared.
Dont be afraid. We will all get through this together, Laura said as she stroked her hair.
Esperanza came in, and, upon surveying the situation, proceeded to busy herself with keeping the Steele household on even keel, while Laura finished nursing her little boys and comforting Joanna.
It was nearly eleven when Laura went to get dressed for the day. She wanted to be pulled together when Remington came back for her. As she stood in her bathroom and stared at herself naked in the mirrored walls, she took stock of herself. In spite of her belly that was now starting to distend with pregnancy she knew that she was in excellent shape for a woman on the brink of forty-eight. Her hips and thighs were firm in spite of the extra pounds she had begun to put on after morning sickness had abated. Her breasts were soft and slack after the twins morning feeding and fitted easily into the lacy specially designed nursing bra she put on. Pregnancy had not slowed her milk production and she knew that by evening they would be swollen tight with milk again, their nipples standing straight and ready for her little boys. Laura thoroughly enjoyed nursing her twins and did not mind that they were reluctant to be weaned. The ebb and flow of fullness in her breasts along with being pregnant at the same time was a new sensation for her, a constant reminder of her womanliness that satisfied her immensely. She was at the stage in her pregnancy when she felt truly good and had finally come to terms with the fact that she would have three little ones to attend to in the foreseeable future.
Laura put on taupe-colored slacks that stretched easily over the evident fullness in her belly, topped it with a matching sweater and accented it with a chunky amber necklace. She brushed her thick hair out and left it down on her shoulders. (She knew that Remington preferred it that way and she loved seeing his reaction when she wore it like that.)
When Laura went back out to the family room, Remington was just walking into the house.
My, my, I do approve, Mrs. Steele, he said, taking her in with his twinkling blue eyes, and tossing his briefcase onto the sofa as he approached to embrace her warmly while his little boys ran to him.
Remington picked up a toddler in each arm and leaned forward to kiss Laura on her lips, before he sat down on the sofa and kissed and hugged each of his sons.
Well, did you have a profitable morning?
I would say so. Hector and I went back over to the college and talked to a few other people . . . some of Joannas teachers. I wanted to get a feel for the atmosphere there . . . how they have dealt with rape on the campus.
Turns out theyve had a real problem with that sort of behavior in the last couple of years. In fact recently there was that case you heard of, those blokes that broke into a sorority house and raped several young women. No one has yet been charged in that case.
Is it because they really have no idea who did it?
No. Apparently the victims have had such a promiscuous lifestyle that they dont want to go to court and face exposure of all of that.
Well, that certainly is not the case with our Joanna.
And thereby hangs the weight of our case. They thought Joanna was like those other girls, not realizing that she had yet to be deflowered. We are going to follow up on that Jack Steuben. I am sure that Professor Lowery knew what was going on in his house.
What about that Ziad Hassan? Joanna
said that he is here on student visa from
He could be an Al Qaeda operative for all we know. He is older than the general run of students there, and it is known that he is a contact for drugs. Hector found that out when he browsed about the campus. If he is found guilty of a felony, he could find himself on a plane back to papa in Jordan given our present-day state of war in that part of the world. And I, for one, will see to it that it happens.
You would have dealings with INS again, no less?
Absolutely, no question about it. By the way, where is Joanna now?
She was so upset that she went to lie down. She is beating herself up over this.
Ingrid put her huge head on Lauras lap and Laura rubbed her affectionately. She had always been Lauras dog first of all and was especially sensitive to any change in Lauras mood.
Ingrid, I know. Im all right, she cooed, reassuring her dog that she was not in any trouble.
Your dog probably has morning sickness, Remington quipped. Personally I think shes rather old to be with another litter.
Well, I understand her situation . . . for obvious reasons. She was just doing what came naturally. Well take good care of her and then have her spayed.
Breeding with that big Lab, she will be carrying quite a load of pups.
Ill keep one this time; perhaps a male would be less trouble.
Ingrid had become an important part of the security of the household but at twelve years of age Remington and Laura had to begin to think of the prospect of losing her eventually and having to replace her.
Its your call, darling. House pets are your department.
Even after this dog saved your life, it did not endear her to you, did it?
I am truly grateful for Ingrids service to this family. I just dont get attached to animals the way you do.
Well, she loves you, Laura said defensively.
And if it will make matters better, I love her too, darling. But not exactly in the same manner that I love you.
At that moment the doorbell rang and Esperanza went to answer it with Ingrid trotting behind her.
There is someone called George here to see Joanna, Señora Laura.
George. Who can that be?
Joanna mentioned that the boy she woke up with after her encounter was a George. I wonder . . .
Well, Ill take care of this, Remington said his disgust evident in his voice, as he strode to the front foyer to handle the visitor.
He saw a tall, slightly built young man with brown hair and gray eyes shifting uneasily from one foot to the other. He perfectly fit the description of what his teen-age children characterized as a geek. Remington became immediately angry at the very sight of the hapless young fellow.
Im George Harrelson, sir. You must be Joannas father.
That I am. I am shocked that you have the temerity to come here in view of what happened to her.
I . . . Im sorry, sir. I . . .
I dont want to hear anything from you! Remington stepped forward and cuffed the young man, knocking his horn-rimmed glasses to the floor.
Ingrid jumped immediately to confront the visitor, growling menacingly.
Hearing the words between them, Laura ran to the foyer and caught Remingtons hand.
Leave me, Laura. This is between this George and me.
Dont hurt the boy, Remington! Its not worth hurting him. Hes probably not even twenty years old. Laura took Ingrid by her collar and led her back into the house.
At the sound of arguing Joanna ran from her room. She took one look at George Harrelson, crawling about the floor looking for his glasses, and ran crying back to her room and slammed the door shut behind her.
Get up! Get up, you insolent prick! Remington shouted at the boy.
George scrambled to his feet and put his glasses back on and lifted his arm to shield himself from any further blows from a very angry Remington Steele.
Sir, please, please let me . . . let me apologize. I . . . I am really sorry. I . . . I had no idea what they were doing. I was drugged as well.
You, you were drugged? Remington stopped short.
I should have known. I take responsibility. I knew they were passing ruffies around, but I didnt think someone would slip one in my drink.
Step outside my house, Remington said and held the front door open. I have to get to the bottom of this sordid mess. My daughter was raped and impregnated by a gang of thugs and I am going to find out what happened.
George rubbed his jaw nervously. I deserved to be hit, sir. I should never have been there, and I should have protected Joanna when I saw what was going on.
And just why were you so concerned with protecting Joanna?
I kinda liked her, you know. The guys on campus knew it. They knew Id never had sex before. I think thats why they put me onto her. I dont know why they did it to her. I guess theyre just bad news.
So you were drugged when you had sex with my daughter?
I dont remember anything about it. The last thing I recall is being given a Coke with rum in it. The next thing I remember is waking up in bed with her the next morning. They were passing out, uh, condoms, at the party, but I didnt take one. If Joanna is pregnant, I realize that I could be the one responsible.
And what do you propose to do about that?
Im going to leave school and take care of my responsibilities. I have a full scholarship, but that means nothing if I had a part in something like this.
And your parents?
I have only my mom. My dad left
us when I was a baby. Shes a secretary, works for the city
The set of Remingtons jaw relaxed as he contemplated the young man and realized the courage it must have taken to come and admit his culpability in the situation.
Your mother must be incredibly disappointed in you.
Yes, sir, she is. I had to tell her this week.
You have been quite stupid, George. And I am sure that you realize that.
Yes, sir, I should never have been there in the first place.
Part of being a man involves knowing how to manage your own reproductive equipment. Obviously you were not in control of the situation. And now you must pay the price for that.
Im terminating school. Ill find a job and pay for Joannas medical expenses and I will support that child. I came here to tell you that, to assure you that I am not the kind of guy that would do something like that to anyone and just walk away from it.
Remington was silent, his back turned to George for a long moment. Finally he sighed and shook his head.
George, I see my shy lovely daughter traumatized by her situation, and find myself helpless to change that. I feel that somehow I left her unprotected. Being a parent is rapidly becoming the most difficult part of my life. I . . . Im sorry that I struck you.
You sure do pack a punch, sir. I understand that you must be upset. I just wonder if I might speak to Joanna. I want to tell her personally what I plan to do.
Ill see if she wants to talk to you. Come inside.
Remington held the door open allowed George to go inside the house, as Laura looked from one to the other trying to assess the situation.
This is George Harrelson. George here wanted to apologize for his part in what happened to Joanna. It seems that he was drugged as well. However he intends to take full responsibility for . . . for what happened to her.
Laura recoiled at the mere thought that this was the young man who had violated Joanna.
I . . . I dont know that Joanna wishes to see you.
Id understand if she didnt, maam, George said humbly, but Id sure appreciate it if youd ask her for me.
Lauras eyes met Remingtons and it was clear that this was a decision that she would have to allow Joanna to make. She turned and went to find her and came back in a few minutes with a very red-eyed Joanna.
You might want to talk to George in here. Your mother and I will be out by the pool.
George and Joanna sat down on a sofa in the living room. At first they were unable to look at each other.
Finally George spoke. His most outstanding feature was his grey eyes, but they were mostly obscured by heavy black horn-rimmed glasses.
I am really sorry about what happened, Joanna. I just wanted to tell you myself.
You dont have to say anything. Nothing is gained by talking about it, Joanna said bitterly.
No, Im going to say this. I dont want you to think that Im one of those guys that just goes around doin this to girls. Joanna, Id never been with a girl before that night . . . not sexually. I was a virgin too. Sure, Ive thought about it but you know Im not exactly the type the girls are running after. I know they call me a nerd behind my back.
No, youre really an interesting person, George. Youre so intelligent. I always . . . admired . . . you.
Really, you do . . . did?
Yes, Joanna said, blushing suddenly and casting her eyes downward again.
Oh, Joanna, I am so sorry for all of this. I should have been able to protect you from those creeps, and I cant even remember any of what happened. They drugged me. I woke up and it was nearly dawn. You were there . . . with me. You were still mostly out of it. I . . . I tried to put your things back on you and you fell asleep again, so I left. I was so ashamed I didnt want you to ever know that I was with you like that.
Joanna looked at him directly for the first time.
Im sorry. I just wish Id never gone there. I was just trying to show that I was regular, you know. I was so tired of being . . . like invisible.
You were never invisible to me, Joanna.
It was Georges turn to blush at this point.
I want you to know that I will take care of all your expenses and I will support the . . . our baby. Georges voice broke slightly.
How do you know this is your baby? Those girls said that there were . . . a . . . a lot. Joanna started to sob and turned away, falling over the arm of the sofa.
George did not know what to do. He risked moving closer.
Im so sorry. I know because all those guys were using condoms. They offered one to me before they gave me that drink that put me out. I didnt take it. I wasnt planning on having sex with anybody.
George reached out and touched Joannas shoulder and Joanna turned to look at him again.
I always liked you, but I just didnt know how to approach you. I would never have hurt you like that. Please believe me, Joanna.
You liked me? Joanna said incredulously.
George just nodded. You are the prettiest girl that I have ever met. I know Ive messed everything up and you would never have me now. But Im not going to leave you in the lurch. I just wish . . .
How will you take care of this?
Ill get a job. I was working as a computer hardware serviceman last summer. They will take me back on a permanent basis. I already checked it out and its settled. I just wanted to tell you myself. I guess Id better go.
George stood somewhat awkwardly to leave and Joanna stood up as well.
Thank you for explaining things.
Gee, you do look pregnant. He stared at Joannas gently rounding midsection.
Do you want to feel . . . the baby? Joanna asked softly.
Yes, I would like to.
Joanna took both Georges hands and placed them on the barely perceptible swell of her belly for a long moment. They were both transfixed as the fact of the life they had created seemed to come full force upon both of them and, almost involuntarily, they moved toward each other, before catching themselves, and moving apart again.
Remington and Laura sat at a table beside the pool while Joanna was with George.
I dont know whats best in situations like this, Remington said. I fear that I am at a loss. I didnt think she would want to see the bloke. Neither even remembers bein together for Gods sake!
He seemed very contrite. I think he is as much a victim as Joanna. I think that we should let Joanna follow her own mind and heart as far as George is concerned.
I hit him before I knew it, Laura. I just saw red. Hes twenty years old and doesnt know how to manage his own prick. I know that I shouldnt have lost control like that, but she is truly ours, just as much as Cassie and Chlöe. Coming face to face with the blighter who did that to her was just too much. Remingtons blue eyes filled suddenly and spilled over. God, when something happens to your child, it simply rips your heart apart.
Laura moved her chair closer so that she could rub her husbands shoulders as tears slipped down her cheeks as well. I think that all the things you experienced as a child made this even more painful to you. I wish I could help you.
You do help, by simply being you, Laura. I guess that the idea of forcing oneself on a woman is just so repugnant to me.
Is that why you never pressed your advantage with me when we were going through those four long years? Sometimes I wondered how we didnt do it when we got all tangled up together.
You always held me up, and I had to respect that, no matter how tortuous the consequences. I didnt want you to be terrified of me.
I wasnt terrified of you, Rem. I was terrified of myself. You could have had me anytime you wanted me if you had forced yourself on me.
No, I forced myself on him, Laura said with a wry smile.
I believe you.
See, you were just too much of a gentleman to get what you wanted.
And why didnt you force yourself on me, my dear Miss Holt?
After what happened with
So would you have wanted me to force myself upon you in one of our more heated encounters, Laura?
I dont know. That is what confuses me even now. I would have capitulated. Im sure of that. But what would it have done to us in the long run? I cant imagine our life being better together than it has been, can you?
No, I cant. Remingtons eyes were pensive as he stared at Laura, trying to understand the enigma she still was at times.
Well, Im sorry Joanna is in this situation, Laura, Remington said after a long moment of reflection on the revealing conversation they had just had.
She wants her baby. And she has a right to have her child.
We both know that with the trust fund she has, money is not the issue. Remington added.
But her self-esteem is at risk. When I was her age and my dad had left us, I just felt worthless. Thats when I went on binges having sex with one boy after another. The fact that I was getting a four point average at Stanford did not validate my own sense of self-worth.
But you were a brilliant beautiful young woman, Laura.
It means nothing if the people you view as important dont see you that way, Rem. Dad had left, and mother . . . she stayed mostly in her room with the blinds drawn. The rest of the time she just criticized everything I did.
And so you gave your beautiful arse to whomever wanted it.
Yes, I did. I kept trying to find the right one and it just wasnt working. It was fine on a physical level till I would get to the point where I had to . . . surrender emotionally. I was like the diver standing on the diving board, too petrified to take that jump.
And then . . .
Then one day you walked into my life, Laura said, smiling through tears.
If these kids find half the happiness I found in you, we shant have to worry, love, Remington said simply, taking Lauras hand and kissing it.
That is how Joanna found her parents when she came out to the pool area and sat down with them after George Harrelson left. She looked very much like a child this day, wearing a soft cotton pink cotton dress with sunflowers embroidered on it, her curly brown hair down on her slender shoulders.
Be careful of the sun, Joanna. You know how easily you burn, Laura said.
Hes gone home. He told me what happened . . . to both of us. Now he wants to take care of me, my baby. His plans are ruined; my life is ruined.
Joanna . . . Laura tried to interrupt.
Mom, I have to say this now. This baby inside me, Id rather it be George Harrelsons than any of those other creeps that . . . that did this to me. Do you understand me?
Well, when the wee one comes, well have blood tests done and you will know for sure, Remington said gently.
Wait a minute! Are you saying that you harbor feelings for George? Laura asked her daughter.
I think that Im confused, really. But I liked George from our first day at Briarcroft. And today he told me that he had liked me as well. I didnt tell him that I have a trust fund coming to me when I turn twenty-one.
Actually if you marry or have a child, the trust is activated, just as in Jonathans case, even though he was just nineteen when he married Ileana.
Theyre really happy. Its been more than a year. Ileana wants to have a baby, too, Joanna said wistfully.
Yes, she does.
I want to marry George Harrelson.
Take it easy, Joanna. You dont have to marry anyone. You have a family that will support you through whatever comes. How do you know that it would be a good idea to marry George? You dont know anything about him really. Sure, he was a straight-up chap to come here and face the music, but that doesnt mean hes husband material, Remington stated matter-of-factly.
No, I want to get married, right out here on our back lawn with just our family present. I want to wear a cream tea-length lace dress and put flowers in my hair. Thats what I want.
Remington was stunned into silence.
Its June 6th. I would like to be married on Saturday, August 2nd, at three in the afternoon, Joanna continued.
Remington and Laura looked at each other. Suddenly their shyest child was transformed into a determined young woman making specific plans for her life.
Joanna, you must face the possibility that George will not prove to be the father. What then?
It wont make any difference to me and I dont think it will make any difference to George. Im not your biological child, but I am your child. I belong to you and to Mom and I know that it couldnt be stronger if I was yours like Cassie and Chlöe are yours. You have taught me that. And I love you so much because of that.
Joanna ran to her father and he took her onto his lap just as he did when she was a little thing and hugged her and patted her, seeking to console her while Laura stroked her hair and wiped the tears from Joannas eyes.
Yes, you do belong to us, Joanna, Remington said. Ive never told you about the day we brought you home with us, have I?
No, not really.
Well, I dare say its time. Remington paused for a moment and cleared his throat before continuing. Your mother and I had just rescued you and Jonathan from the house where you had nearly been kidnapped by the man who murdered your father and mother. The police were going to take the two of you to some sort of child welfare shelter, but Laura looked at me and I knew that she didnt want to see that happen. Cassie and Chlöe were just two months old and we really had our hands full. When we got into the car to leave, Jonathan settled down straightaway, but you were cryin your eyes out. Thats when Laura took you to her breast. You latched on and suckled to your little hearts content. It was . . . beautiful.
When you began to cry, my milk came down for you. From that moment I loved you like my own little one. And I will always love you, Laura whispered.
Mom, Dad . . . I love you both so much, Joanna cried as she sat on her fathers lap being embraced by both her parents.
* * * * * *
After Laura and Remington had gone through meeting George Harrelson and then coming to terms with the fact that Joanna now wanted to marry him, they were both drained emotionally.
I think that I will call it quits for today. I dont think we would profit from going into the office at this point. Its nearly three oclock on a Friday afternoon, Remington said as he loosened his tie, walked into their living room and sat down on the large sofa upholstered with slate-colored tapestry that dominated the furnishings of the room.
I hope that Joanna is lying down for a rest. Shes been through a lot today.
Youve been through a lot, darling. When they give out Mother of the Year awards, you should surely get one. You saw what was happening to her right away, didnt you?
I guess being a woman helps in a situation like this, Laura smiled down at Remington as she got up to leave the sofa.
Wherere you goin, woman? Remington said softly.
Just to the kitchen. Im ravenous. Between the nursing and being pregnant, you know I have to eat constantly. And with all the excitement I forgot to eat lunch. I need to take advantage of the fact that Rhett and Reade are taking their nap.
Stay here with me . . . please. Remington held his hand out to Laura and pulled her down onto the sofa with him. Ill make you lunch . . . I just need you close to me for a few minutes.
Remingtons cobalt gaze captured Lauras soft brown eyes. The faint creases that had begun to show on his forehead and at the corners of his eyes as he turned fifty only enhanced his striking masculine appearance. His body was still hard and fit even though he had no set exercise regimen and as he drew her onto his lap, the sensation of his frame against hers took her breath away.
Youre an amazing woman, Laura. I know that you dont need this kind of stress right now. Joanna is not just another case. Here you are carrying . . . Remington rubbed her belly. . . . and still nursing twins mornings and evenings.
Well, the twins are at the age where they come and get what they want, Laura said.
And they know how to find Mums lovely udders, eh? Remington winked. Even with all the drama in our lives today, I find myself quite distracted by your beauty at the moment, Laura. Thank you for loving me early this morning. Id be hard pressed if you had not attended to me.
You are very welcome. I dont remember when you got up. I must be getting old.
You become more and more sensual the longer that we are together, Remington said, brushing her lips with his. Are you sure you dont remember what you said to me this morning . . . before you passed out?
Umm, Remy, Laura sighed and smiled, running her fingers through his thick hair, and then yielding completely to the strength of his arms around her. I think that you will just have to tell me what you remember.
Darling, Remington whispered the graphic words into her ear, his hand brushing her thighs, then circling around her hips.
Yes, love, thats what I said. Laura flushing deeply as she traced the outline of his lips with her fingertip. You have this . . . amazing effect upon me.
You are most descriptive when you are in the throes of passion, darling. And I have a memory like an elephant for things like that.
Among other elephant-like aspects, Mr. Steele? Laura winked seductively, completely rattling Remington.
Id . . . Id better fulfill my promise about lunch. I am becoming rather distracted here and I know that you are still hungry. Remington was struggling to maintain his composure.
Yes, I am. You are stimulating my other appetite, love.
Well, we will get back to that other subject later. In the meantime we need to think about what we should do about this case at this stage of the game. It is becoming quite complicated with these latest developments.
Remington and Laura disentangled themselves from each other and Remington eased Laura down onto the sofa as they drew their collective intellect to the case that had victimized both Joanna and George and resulted in Joannas pregnancy.
Laura followed Remington into the kitchen.
What are you craving, love, besides a private hour or so with your husband?
I want nachos with lots of cheese and hot, jalopeña peppers and black beans and chicken. You know I love the way you make them.
Remington grinned. My, that wee one in you is making all sorts of demands, isnt he . . . or she?
The Steeles were deep in conversation over a huge platter of nachos made to Lauras specifications when their other children made their way in from school.
You guys are home, Michael said, surprised to find them there, as he and Harry sat down with them.
Yes, we got tied up here this afternoon, son. Remington said, as he started another platter of snacks for his hungry teenagers. Your sister, Joanna, had quite a day. A young man came here to see her.
Was it the creep that did that to her? Michael asked.
He isnt exactly a creep, Michael. Turns out they were both drugged by the others at the party. You see that can happen when you dont control what you drink.
I hate him.
That is why I am telling you lads about this. Your sister needs our support. This is a difficult time for her.
Whats going on? Cassie and Chlöe asked, practically in unison, as they arrived at home and found everyone around the kitchen table.
Well, Im making your mother something to eat, for one, Remington said, and Im taking orders.
Where is Tabby? Laura asked for her seven-year-old.
Here I am, Mommy, Tabby said coming to sit on her sister Chlöes lap. Im so tired from school. Im glad its almost over.
Take her and put her down for a nap, please, Chlöe. She looks worn out, Laura said taking in Tabbys flushed face.
I dont want to miss anything. May I take her in a few?
We were just explaining Joannas situation. Some things changed today, Laura said.
Changed? Cassie asked. She didnt lose the baby!
No. She wants her baby and we are all going to support her through all this. But you children know that she was attacked and raped at that party she went to.
Raped? Harry asked. Whats raped?
Thats when a man, or a boy, forces himself on a female. . . forces sexual intercourse on her, Remington explained. Either he beats her up or gives her drugs or just uses his strength to hold her down and force her to accept his penis into her. Now we have carefully explained to Joanna, Chlöe, and Cassie what to do if someone tries this.
You said to kick them in their balls, Dad, Chlöe said.
In a word. In the groin, or testes, would be a more ladylike way of stating the matter, love.
It seems that not only was Joanna drugged and raped, Laura said. One of the other young men at the party was drugged also. He doesnt remember any of it, but he knows that he was taken advantage of in that way.
And he feels certain that he is the father of the baby that your sister is carrying. He came here today to beg us, and especially Joanna, to forgive him.
He had nerve! Cassie said. What did you tell him, Dad?
Unfortunately, before I heard all of his case, I struck him across his face.
Good, Dad! Michael said.
No, it was not good, but it happened. If you ever impregnate an unmarried girl, you can expect her father to probably do the same to you. And if he does, you will just have to accept your licks like a man who has put his cock where it doesnt belong. It is not a situation you want to find yourself in by any means.
Wow! Harry said as he took it all in.
There is more, children, Laura said.
Yes. He appears to fancy Joanna. And she fancies him as well, Remington continued.
What! Chlöe practically screamed. Is she crazy?
She wants to marry him . . . soon, very soon, Laura added.
What does Dad mean fancies him? young Harry asked.
It means she digs him. She likes him, Harry, Michael said.
Here, have some nachos, Remington said as he sat the platter in the center of the table, and watched his children attack the food.
Laura reached for Remingtons hands and drew them forward on her shoulders.
The lunch was just what I needed.
Why, thank you, Madam, Remington sat down next to her to watch their brood devour the food he had made.
Joanna ran into the kitchen, very upset, nearly distraught.
Dad, I just spoke with George. Hes scared. Those guys were just there. The told him that hes going to pay. There was noise and he dropped the phone. Im so scared . . . scared. Joanna fell upon her fathers neck in tears.
Whats going on, Dad? Michael asked, with a seriousness that went far beyond his thirteen years.
Im going to have to check on young George.
Im coming with you, Laura said.
I dont want you in danger, darling.
Cant we call the police, Dad? Joanna asked tearfully.
There has been no crime as yet. You call the police in when there is imminent threat of danger. Come along, Laura. Joanna, you are sure that you want to come?
Yes, Im sure.
Girls, take care of things till we get back. Be sure that you keep Ingrid in the house. Your mother has called Esperanza and shell be back shortly. She will stay with you till we get back.
The big German shepherd stood up and wagged her tail in response to Remingtons charge. In reality, Remington and Laura felt much more confidence in Ingrid to protect their children than in the sophisticated security system they had installed in their home.
* * * * * *
Remington and Laura did not talk as they drove Joanna to find what had happened to George. There were so many factors racing through all their minds. It was Joanna who spoke first.
Mom, Dad, I dont understand what Im feeling. Why do I feel so drawn to George? I should hate him, but I dont.
Dont try to understand this kind of thing, love. Lets just see what has happened. We will support you, no matter what you choose to do, Remington said.
Mom, did you ever have such a mix of feelings about Dad?
Laura smiled and reached for her husbands hand.
Oh, yes, Joanna, there was such a time. One of these days I will have to share that with you.
Darling, what are you saying? You know that you always loved me, Remington teased.
At that moment they pulled up to the low-income apartment building near the campus where George lived. It was nearly dark and the street was strangely empty for a weekday evening.
Theres someone on the ground, Rem! Laura said.
Its George! Joanna cried out. Hes been hurt!
Keep calm and stay in the car. Ill check this out, Remington said, as he got out of the 2002 small black Mercedes SUV they were driving these days.
Laura was on his heels, but Remington turned to her.
Laura, stay in the car. I cant have you hurt in all this. His tone made clear his concern and Laura reluctantly dropped back and watched at a distance as Remington went to attend George.
Mom, Im so scared, Joanna said tearfully.
Keep calm and let your father find out whats going on, Laura said with her arm around her daughter.
Remington bent to examine George.
Here, here, young fellow.
George moaned in response and tried to move.
Call 911. Hes badly hurt, Remington called to Laura. Who did this to you, George?
It . . . it was Jack and, and Ziad. They were waiting here when I got back. Told me not to say anything about what happened to the police.
And of course you told them that you had already told me what happened?
They beat me . . . tried to kill me, but someone drove up. They said they were going to get Joanna, Mr. Steele. George coughed violently and blood gushed from his mouth.
Remington signaled to Laura and Joanna that it was safe to come forward.
Oh, my God! Joanna cried, sinking to her knees, taking Georges head upon her lap, trying to comfort him as sirens announced the approach of the ambulance and police.
Paramedics began to work on George immediately and Joanna stood back.
I have to go with him, she said.
Well go along, Joanna, Laura said. Just try to keep calm now.
What happened here, sir? It was the detective who had come along in response to the 911 call.
The young chap here was victim of an assault. There was an altercation and this was the result.
Did he say who did it?
As a matter of fact he did . . . apparently fellow students from the campus here. Excuse me for a moment. My wife and daughter need to accompany young George to the hospital right now. I must call for another car for myself. Give me a moment.
Of course . . . you, you look familiar. Youre . . .
Steele, Remington Steele.
Yeah . . . the PI. Youre famous. My names Woodley, Lt. James Woodley.
Well, Lieutenant, I try to do my best, but this case is very personal.
Yes, a group of young toughs drugged my daughter and gang-raped her. The young fellow there was also drugged and became an involuntary participant in the crime.
Now I suppose he wants to come clean and they want to keep him quiet, the detective said somewhat sanguinely.
You have it, Remington replied, in a nutshell.
I believe you and I need to have a detailed conversation on this with you and the young fella, Steele.
To be sure. Perhaps we can meet tomorrow at the hospital. You will want to interview young Harrelson.
Yes, how about . That should give him time to come round.
Sure thing. My car is arriving now. See you tomorrow at .
Remington got into the agency limo and it eased from the scene of the crime, leaving Woodley and his men to finish their work.
Where to, Mr. Steele? Fred asked.
Remington was about to tell Fred to head to the hospital when an alarm went off in his head.
<i>He said they were after Joanna. Dear Lord, theyre headed to my house.</i>
Turn around and stop by the police car, Fred!
Remington jumped out of the limo and called to Lieutenant Woodley. Theyre headed to my home. My children are there alone! He hastily scribbled his home address on the back of his card and handed it to Woodley before jumping back into the limo.
Head to my house, Fred, and dont spare the rubber. My family is in danger.
Tires squealing, Fred led the way with the police cruiser in tow.
Remington started to dial Laura on her cell phone, but thought better of it and dialed Jonathan instead.
Son, get over to the LA General as soon as you can. Your mother and your sister Joanna are there in the ER with a young chap. You need to be there for them. I fear the fellows that hurt Joanna are on their way over to the house looking for her. She isnt there, but the other children might be in danger. Im on my way home now with the police.
Dad, are you sure you dont want me there?
Im sure. I dont want you in the middle of this. Youre too close to the situation. Call Hector and tell him I need him up at my place.
Sure. But whats with this guy in the hospital?
That is a long story which I havent the time to tell right now, son. Check with you later.
* * * * * *
At the Steele home in the Hollywood Hills, the boys were lying about in the family room watching television and Chlöe and Cassie were in deep conversation in the kitchen when the doorbell rang.
Dont answer that. Well get it, Cassie called out.
It might be Esperanza, Michael said.
She has her keys. Its not her, Chlöe said as she came out of the kitchen. Mom and Dad said not to let anybody in here.
The bell rang again more insistently and Ingrid growled softly and sat up at attention.
went to the door and looked through the peephole and saw two young
men. At the same moment Esperanza
What you want here? Go away! Esperanza said firmly.
The young men wheeled to face her and grabbed her, pushing her hard against the door as she screamed in protest.
Dont open! Dont! Esperanza screamed.
Michael pushed Chlöe aside and opened the door and Ingrid sprang out and into the face of Jack Steuben who fell back and released Esperanza.
Close the door back! Michael yelled at his sister, but not before his younger brother, Harry, had run behind him out to the front of the house.
Cassie and Chlöe took one look at the situation and were at a loss as to what to do. Ziad was pummeling their brother Michael, and Harry could not pull him off him. Ingrid had Jack on the ground shaking him like a rag doll. Suddenly Ziad tossed Michael aside, leaving him doubled over in pain, and then knocked Harry out cold with a blow of his fist. He approached Cassie menacingly.
So, which one of you will I have today?
Cassie stood her ground, taking in the situation.
You get off our property right now. The police are on the way.
You got a lot of fire, come here, you!
He grabbed Cassie around her waist and, jerking her roughly to him, tried to kiss her. Cassie seemed at first compliant and then kneed him hard in the groin. He crumpled to the ground in pain.
By this time Esperanza had picked up one of the large ornamental vases from the porch and stood over Ziad.
At that moment Remington came up in the limo with the police right behind. They ground to a halt in front of the house and jumped out of the car.
Gracias, Dios. Esperanza cried, falling onto her knees in tears.
The police took the situation in hand and cuffed Jack Steuben and Ziad Hassan.
ran to Harrison who was still out cold. Ingrid was whimpering
and licking his face as Michael attempted to revive him.
Remington easily picked up his son in his arms and carried
him to the porch where
My God! What happened here? Remington said in anguish.
They had Esperanza! Cassie said.
They had her hostage! And Michael let Ingrid out to save Esperanza! And he went out to help. Chlöe said.
These were two grown men. What were you going to do?
I had to do something. Harry was helping me, but then he threw me over some kinda way and knocked Harry out.
He come after Cassandra, Señor Steele. I think he try to do something to her, you know.
I knew what he was going to do. I let him think I was afraid of him. Then I did what you told me to do. I let him have it in the balls.
In a word. I get the picture. I must say that you all acquitted yourselves quite well in a very bad situation. These two are very bad chaps and you were all in danger here. These two were among the group responsible for the attack on your sister Joanna and they tried to kill young George Harrelson earlier this afternoon.
I tell them dont open door, Señor Steele.
But they couldnt leave you there at the mercy of those thugs. They did the right thing. Sometimes a rule has to be broken.
Mr. Steele, is everything all right here? Were going to run these guys in now. The one is a Jordanian national. Well see to it that he is deported.
You will find that he is involved in drug trafficking as well. There is another unlikely one involved in this, one who definitely will not want to go to jail. Give me a moment to stabilize the situation with my children, and then I would like you to come with me, Lieutenant Woodley.
Just then the Steele family black Mercedes 320 SUV rolled up behind the police cars and Laura got out and ran toward Remington. Remington immediately rushed to meet her. He knew that she needed no shocks on this day. As strong as Laura was, Remington was keenly aware that she was carrying his child and his protective instincts came through powerfully.
What, what happened here? Laura was trying to control her alarm for the sake of the baby in her belly, but her legs went weak at the sight that greeted her.
Its all right. Everyone is all right, darling. Dont rush. Everything is going to be fine. Remington caught her up, supporting her with his strong arms.
Suddenly the children were all around them, trying to explain what had happened. Laura took Harrys face in her hands and saw the black eye he was sporting and hugged him to her.
My baby, my son, what happened to you?
I was protecting our family, Mom. I wasnt gonna let those guys come in here like that. The one guy was beating up Michael.
Michael, let me see you. Her oldest sons shirt hung open, revealing the bruises on his rib cage. My God!
Its all right, Mom. Im okay.
And then Cassie kicked that guy in the . . . in his crotch, and that was that, Chlöe said proudly.
Dont forget Ingrid. She held the other one down the whole while, Cassie said, reaching down to pat the German shepherd, who simply thumped her tail happily.
Well, I guess we had enough children to do the job, eh? Remington quipped, with his arm around Laura.
The children, they fight good, <i>muy bien,</i> Señora Laura, Esperanza said, smiling proudly with one arm around the waist of each of the girls.
And where are my little ones, Laura asked.
Oh, they slept through it all, Cassie said.
Tabby opened the door and came out rubbing her eyes.
Whats going on?
Everything is fine, lovey, Remington said, taking his six-year-old up in his arms and pursing his lips to kiss her soundly on both cheeks.
Wheres Joanna? Chlöe asked.
I left her at the hospital with George, Laura said. He took a pretty bad beating from the same fellows that came here, but he will be okay. Jonathan is with her there now. She sighed wearily. I feel like the old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children she didnt know what to do, Mommy, Tabby said. Do you have too many children, Mommy?
Tears sprang to Lauras eyes and Remington took her into his arms and held her.
I think that everyone should go inside the house and try to settle down. Harrys eye needs attention and Michaels midsection is pretty well bruised, but I dont think they are in any danger if we keep an eye on them. And our girl, Ingrid, did her job again for us.
Ingrid sat at Remingtons feet waiting for her commendation from him and danced about when he patted her and rubbed her head. Laura just watched as Remingtons eyes filled when he knelt and hugged his loyal canine friend.
You dont think they should go to emergency, Rem? Laura whispered softly to him as they watched their family go into the house.
I want them to grow up to be men, not wusses, Laura. They acted like young <i>men</i> today, defending hearth and home. I am really quite proud of them. A man has to learn to take his licks like a man or hes useless. You watch them, love. You will know if either of them needs to go to hospital. Well take them in for a checkup tomorrow.
Laura smiled, sensing that he was right on this count. Well, youd better see to it that your sons have boxing lessons if you expect them to act like the Kilkenny Kid when theyre attacked.
Excellent suggestion, Laura, Remington said with due seriousness but with a twinkle in his eyes. Now I have to go with the Lieutenant here and pay a call on Professor Lowery. He has quite a bit to answer for and I dont intend to see him squirm out of this.
He knew they were dealing drugs to students, was bankrolling the little drug-trafficking business that Jack Steuben was running on campus, according to George Harrelson.
And probably adding handsomely to his professors salary in the process, Remington said sanguinely. I dont want Steuben or Hassan to have a chance to call him and tip him off before the police get to interview him.
You know that I want to go with you, Laura said.
But you must stay and handle things here, darling. I will be with the police and I will call you the minute things are nailed down. Would you please restore our household to order? I fear Esperanza had quite a fright from those buggers. I dont believe being attacked like that is within her job description. And I dare say that wee one in your belly wonders what gave Mum such a start. Remingtons blue eyes locked with Lauras and he knew that he was absolutely right in his assessment.
I nearly fainted. If you had not caught me, I would have gone down to the ground. Pregnancy changes everything, doesnt it?
Yes, darling, it does, and we both realize it. I want nothing to harm you or the wee one. Id sooner die than let that happen.
Laura nodded, accepting his words, knowing that he meant them with all his heart.
Remington hugged Laura with both arms and kissed her lightly on her lips before going to join Woodley in his cruiser.
* * * * * *
Lieutenant Woodley stopped his unmarked car in front of Leonard Lowerys comfortable home just a few blocks off the campus of Briarcroft.
Youve filled me in, Steele, and I have enough to take Lowery downtown for questioning. If he resists, Ill take him in anyway.
There is also the distinct possibility that there are drugs stashed in the house. Young Harrelson said that they were going to the study and coming out with ruffies. Apparently he was one of the few who was sober enough to know what was going on that night . . . at least before they drugged him. Now Steuben may have brought the drugs there that evening, but we know, at any rate, that Lowerys house would have been a safe stash.
You stay here, Steele. My men and I will take care of this.
A second car, a cruiser drove up behind them and stopped. Two officers got out of the car and walked up beside Woodleys car. Woodley got out of his car and joined them.
While Woodley and his men were knocking at Leonard Lowerys front door, Remington saw a male figure ease out of the glass doors to the solarium at the side of the house and attempt to stealthily slip away. Without hesitation Remington quietly opened to door to the car, eased out onto the sidewalk and up onto the grass of the lawn.
Going somewhere, Lowery?
Lowery stood startled.
What do you want, Mr. Steele?
I want to know why you are leaving in such a surreptitious manner, when the local constabulary is knocking at your door, Remington said, leaning casually against a tree with his arms folded.
Out of my way, he fairly hissed.
No, you are going to go back up there and face the music. You are, as they say in the parlance, in hot water, professor.
You cannot force me to go.
Actually I can do that. I would prefer that it not be necessary. Your nefarious activities have fairly worn me out today. Your goons, Steuben and Hassan, tried to beat young George Harrelson to death. He is in hospital now. Then they went to my home, looking for Joanna, I dare say. There they attacked my childrens nurse trying to force their way into my house. Only she and my children were there. They had to defend themselves with only the family dog to help them. Hassan even tried to assault my fifteen year old daughter and was only stopped in his attempt when she planted her knee quite forcefully in his genitalia. So you will understand my impatience with you at this point.
I had nothing to do with any of that, Lowery protested.
Youre a liar. You had everything to do with all of it and you are going to jail . . . for drug trafficking and conspiracy to attempt murder.
You . . . You . . . you have no proof!
I have all the proof needed. And Ill wager the police will find a stash of ruffies and ecstasy somewhere in your house . . . perhaps in your study where your wife would not stumble across them.
Lowery looked for an escape.
Please try something. I would be delighted to land a couple of solid punches in your solar plexus just to repay you for the bruised ribs that bully Hassan gave my thirteen-year-old son earlier today and the black eye he gave my ten-year-old boy. Im certain that I am in much better physical condition than you are.
Lieutenant Woodley and his men were approaching Lowery from both sides as Remington kept him engaged in conversation.
Youve got nothing on me! Nothing!
Come with us, Mr. Lowery. Were takin you downtown now, Woodley said, approaching Lowery. You can make this easy or you can make this hard. Either way, its gonna happen now, the soft-spoken black officer said.
Lowery tried to bolt and the two officers grabbed him and thrust him to the ground and handcuffed him, while Woodley read him his rights.
We got a search warrant. Were gonna go through the house now. I think we can safely say the profs goose is cooked. But its going to be a long night here. Can we take you somewhere?
If someone could drop me at the hospital, Ill pick up my daughter and check on young Harrelson. My son is there. Hell take us home from there. Remington sighed and stretched wearily. Woodley, my wife is pregnant, my daughter is pregnant. Even the family dog is pregnant. I find myself somehow inundated and challenged by all of these pregnant females.
Man, you got it! I dont envy you that kind of excitement.
Im sure you dont, Lieutenant, Remington said, but nevertheless I must somehow get through the next few months and retain my sanity.
Well, its been a pleasure, Mr. Steele. You made this case really open and shut for us. Thanks for your help.
The two men shook hands and Remington said goodnight.
* * * * * *
found Jonathan in the waiting room at
Dad, I hope everything is okay.
How is your sister faring?
She seems to be coping quite well. She told me . . . everything, including how she thinks she is beginning to feel about George Harrelson there.
What are your thoughts?
I dont know. I have this anger at him for being so stupid. But he was honest about what happened. And I guess he had feelings for Joanna already. I just want my sister to be happy.
And Harrelsons condition?
Hes stable. Joanna is in with him now. He has several broken ribs, a broken clavicle, both eyes blacked.
Speaking of black eyes, the same thugs that did Harrelson went to our home lookin to grab Joanna to keep her from talkin. When the cheeky blighters tried to break in, they took Esperanza as a sort of hostage and the children . . . the children defended themselves with some help from Ingrid. Harry has quite a shiner; one of those thugs knocked him out cold. Michael has some serious bruises on his rib cage and the whole family is in quite a state of jitters. Oh, and the Jordanian bloke tried to take advantage of Cassie, obliging her to knee him in the groin.
Jonathan swore softly. Excuse me, Dad. I just cant believe this. Our whole family was in danger.
Thank God everyone is all right. I would like to collect Joanna and then we can all go home. Ill fill you in on the further developments on the way.
There is more!
Lord, yes. Theres more.
Remington went into Georges hospital room. Joanna was sitting beside Georges bed holding his hand, but she jumped up and ran to her father and hugged him tearfully.
Its all right, lovey. Everything is going to be all right, Remington said softly, smoothing her hair, trying to soothe her jangled emotions.
Did they catch those guys?
Yes, we caught them. Or I should say your brothers and sisters caught them.
They went to our house!
They were looking for you, to harm you. They are all in custody now . . . including your Professor Lowery.
Oh, Dad, Im so sorry to cause all this trouble.
Not to worry. It wasnt your fault, Joanna. You just came up against some nasty fellows who were involved in some very nasty business. The assault upon you revealed the serious drug trafficking involved. It is good that it is over.
Thank you, Mr. Steele, for coming to help me, George said.
Remington sat down near Georges bed, crossed his legs, and drew a deep breath before continuing.
It seems that the recent circumstances may have brought to light feelings that already existed between you and my daughter.
Young man, I want you to know that I do not want my daughter to enter into marriage with you unless you both have the deepest possible feelings for one another. She does not have to marry you to retain the love and respect that we all have for her. Do you understand me, George?
Dad, I want to marry George . . . soon . . . three weeks from now at the latest.
Wait three months . . . till September. Find out if you really care enough about each other to marry. That is my recommendation. You will do what you want to, but I feel that precipitous action is not warranted.
Joanna looked at George with a question in her eyes.
Three months will not change how I feel about you, Joanna. Do what your father wants. I love you and I will take care of you for the rest of my life.
Joanna leaned over and kissed George lightly on his forehead.
George, I am going home to see about the rest of our family. Police will be here tomorrow morning to get a statement from you. They say you can go home in a couple days if you dont develop an infection, Remington stated as a matter of fact.
George smiled weakly. He was fading with the medication he had been given.
Remington put his arm around Joanna and they left the room.
* * * * * *
Later that night the Steele household was finally settled again. Michael and Harry were resting comfortably. Joanna was in her bed, trying to calm down and absorb what had happened to her on this most unusual day in her life. Cassi and Chlöe were in their bedroom, still keyed up over the events of the day, talking to one another late into the night.
Remington and Laura sat on the sofa in their living room and he took Lauras feet and legs onto his lap and gently, but thoroughly massaged them.
Relax, darling, this has been quite a day.
I really need a drink. Do you think it would really hurt this baby if I had one glass of wine?
No chances, love. Were working with too many risk factors as it is, dont you think?
Youre right. I still cant believe those goons came here to our home and attacked our children.
Well, Lowery and his young friends are all in custody now. And Hassan will surely be deported. He is here on a student visa. And he was using the campus as a drug market it appears.
Do you think Joanna and George should marry?
I dont know honestly. Im not clairvoyant. Maybe these events just catapulted them into a relationship that they would eventually have entered anyway. We shall have to wait and see. I tried to convince them to wait three months, but I dont know. That was a very tender kiss that Joanna planted on young Georges forehead before we left him. It truly raised my parental ire, but I had to face the fact of it.
I dont envy them . . . they are so young. Laura yawned and sighed.
I think that I will put you to bed. This has been an absolutely exhausting day for you.
Remington picked Laura up in his arms and carried her off to bed. He helped her undress and pulled one of her favorite cotton nightgowns over her head.
Remy, thank you for taking care of us today. I am so very tired.
And I am going to let you sleep tonight, darling, Remingtons blue eyes twinkled as he drew the covers up to her chin and kissed her good-night.
Remington undressed, showered, and put on a pair of dark blue silk pajamas. He walked through his house, and Ingrid roused to dutifully follow him as he checked the security.
So, old girl, you and I, we have to take good care, dont we? he said to the dog as he knelt to pat her, and then spontaneously hugged her tightly for the second time that day. <i>Me huggin a dog . . . Im losing it for sure.</i>
He went into the room that Michael and Harry shared and carefully examined his sons injuries. They were both fast asleep. Harrys black eye was still badly swollen. Remington drew back the covers to look at the black and blue bruises on Michaels belly.
Damn, he swore softly, shaking his head. Tears filled his eyes as he tucked the blankets back under Michaels chin.
His sons green eyes opened wide.
Its okay, Dad. Ill be all right.
Yes, son, you will be just fine. And I am very proud of what you did today. I just want nothing to hurt you. I love you, son.
I love you too, Dad.
Remington kissed his son on his forehead.
When Remington went by Cassie and Chlöes room, he heard them still talking. The door was ajar and he looked in on them.
I think you lassies need to go to sleep now. Tomorrow is a school day after all.
Dad, you know that we just will so not be in any shape to go to school tomorrow. It has all been so exciting, Cassie said, pulling her father down to sit on her bed with her.
Chlöe sat on the other side of him and it was obvious that they both were in high gear.
Dad, Cassie did just what you taught us. Can you believe it?
Yes, I believe it. It was a very dangerous situation and fortunately all of you rose to the occasion. I just never wanted you to have to be faced with anything like that. You are both so very precious to me . . . Remingtons voice went hoarse with emotion, and he was unable to continue.
I was scared, Cassie stated matter-of-factly, but I just did what you always told us to do when that, that man grabbed me. He was a man, wasnt he?
Yes, love, he was a man . . . not a boy, and he could have violated you. I should never have forgiven myself if that had happened.
Thats what happened to Joanna, Chlöe said, and now she is going to have a baby. Oh, my God!
Please, be careful, my darlings. You are growing up into very beautiful young ladies and you will have to constantly be aware of what is going on around you. Try very hard not to let any man get close enough to hurt you like that. You as young women possess something precious that you give willingly to the one that you will love hopefully for the rest of your life, not something to be taken. I just cannot be with you all of the time to protect you. You go to school. Youre with your mates in other situations. You just must always have your wits about you. That is your greatest protection. No drugs or alcohol. You dont drink anything that you have not had in your control at all times . . . not in the school cafeteria, not in a restaurant, not at a house party. Do you understand me? Its a terrible world out there. There are blokes who would knock you out with drugs just so they can have their way with you.
Suppose we find someone . . . that we want to have sex with, what should we do? Cassie asked innocently.
Remington was stunned momentarily by the question, but recovered.
You come and talk to your mother and me. Dont rush into anything. No snap decisions about something that serious. If some chap wants you, I guarantee what hes carryin is not goin anywhere. You dont let yourself be pressured to go that route. I promise that your mother and I will try very hard to be understanding of your situation.
The girls sat quietly for a few minutes absorbing their fathers words before Chlöe spoke again.
Do you think that Joanna is really going to marry George? Chlöe could not understand what had happened.
That is a mystery that perhaps only Joanna and George understand. And they may not even understand it. Lets just wait and see.
Remington hugged and kissed each of them goodnight and headed back toward his bedroom. Remington looked in on the little boy twins where they were sleeping side by side in their crib, and adjusted their covers. Then he poured himself a glass of single malt scotch from the crystal decanter on his dresser, downed it neat, and lay down beside Laura. She was sleeping soundly, exhausted by the emotional and physical demands of the day. He gently put his arms around Laura in such a way as to not waken her, and then held her close till he finally fell asleep.
(End of Part B)