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Chapter One

Crump was pleased to see Makenna smile, and he was even more pleased to see that it was Tandy who made her smile. The two women had become fast friends since Makenna was captured by Damien and almost killed. It was little Tandy who went after her, and who risked her own life to rescue Makenna. It was very brave, and at the same time, very foolish. The palm of his hand still itched to give Makenna the spanking of her life for going after Damien alone. What the hell was she thinking? Crump was a bit peeved that Sam only gave Tandy three smacks on her fanny for risking her life by going to help Makenna. At least if Sam had spanked Tandy, then Crump could set fire to Makenna’s butt for doing something so damned stupid!

“Well?” Tandy was speaking to him and he didn’t have the first clue what she’d said. “I think it would be a lot of fun, and it would mean a lot to me. Please?” she asked sweetly, and the eyes in the room were on him.

“He wasn’t paying attention, Tandy. Just say yes, Crump. Tandy asked us to attend a concert she is giving this Friday evening. We are to babysit Sam in the audience and then join them for a late dinner afterwards. Everyone else has other plans.”

“I would love to come to your concert, Tandy. It will be a lot of fun. Where would you like to go to dinner? I’ll make the reservations,” he offered.

“Wherever you and Makenna wish to go would please Samuel and me.” He could see she meant the words and really wanted him to decide.

“Makenna loves Italian. Would that please you, Tandy?” Crump asked, hoping she would agree. He would love to please Makenna, and what she needed more than anything was a fun evening. How like Tandy to think of something like this to please her.

“Yes! Sam and I love Italian. Do you know of a great restaurant?” she asked.

“I do. I’ll take care of the reservations. What time will your concert be over?” It was going to be a very late night, but Crump had no problem securing the reservations. He’d wanted to take Makenna there for some, and this would be perfect opportunity. Crump knew she would love the food at Mama’s, but he couldn’t bring himself to ask her to join him. It would seem disloyal to Lauren, his late wife. Crump would never forget how she suffered because of her love for him. In his sleep he heard her screams as they hurt her over and over, and how she called for him. James! James, help me! James, I love you, darling. Not her, not my baby! James, stop them! He dreaded night time most of all. He shook off the memories and smiled again. “I’ll ask Mama to fix up something special for us to celebrate your concert, Tandy. What’s wrong with you guys? Why can’t you come?” he turned to Amos Linville and John Morris to inquire.

“I already promised the pastor that I would do something for him, and after the man took me into his home and cared for me, I can’t tell him no. I just won’t do that. Tandy, you understand, don’t you?” His big chocolate eyes begged for understanding.

“Yes, Amos, I do understand, and I will invite you another time, I promise.”

“Well, okay, then.” Crump excused the man. “What about you, John?”

“Jenny is in a play at college, man; her very first. I’m not going to miss that, no offense to Tandy, but Jenny needs her dad in the audience.”

“Of course she does,” Tandy agreed, and was relieved to see Crump was nodding, too. “I’ll make sure to get tickets for you another time, John, and for Jenny, too, if she is home.”

“What role does she have, John?” Crump asked, and the conversation was centered on that for a few minutes. “Sarah, what about you and Joel?” He knew that Joel’s health was sometimes not good.

“Joel isn’t doing well, darn it. Another time, because I would love to hear you sing, Tandy!”

Tandy smiled, and then sang an impromptu number for them. She was bowing to their applause when the telephone rang.

“Yes, Sam. Everyone is right here. I’ll put you on speaker.” Sarah pushed a button. “Go ahead, Sam.”

“Hi, team. We have a situation, and I believe we all need to put on our thinking caps. Our client is receiving death threats, and he has no clue who to suspect. The threats are varied. I’ll let you all look them over when you get here. Sarah, is there anything else on the books for the next couple of days?” he asked.

“No, Sam. No protection services promised.”

“Fine. If we get any calls, direct them to me before you say yes or no. This man, his name is Robert Lincoln, is scared. I’m hoping we can figure out who is threatening him. Crump?”

“Yes, Sam?”

“Bring the limo. We’re going to move Bob to the lake, while pretending he is still at his home. I’ll see you all in a little bit.”

“Okay, Sam.”

“Are you coming with us, Tandy, or do you need to rehearse?” Makenna asked.

“I’ll come with you. I want to help.”

Makenna smiled at the tiny woman. Hard as it was to believe, Tandy was full of courage. Makenna would be injured, or dead, if not for Tandy’s bravery. Mak had been wrong about her; Tandy proved herself one of the team, and had earned the respect of every last one of them. “Do you want to ride with me?” she offered.

“Yes,” Tandy agreed, happy to be asked. It wasn’t that long ago that Makenna had truly hated her.

John and Amos decided to ride in one car, and with the limo, that was three more vehicles, although the limo would leave eventually, and Sam would probably use his car to take Bob to safety. The limo would be used as a decoy.

“Are you nervous about the upcoming tour?” Makenna asked the redhead.

“No. I’m actually sad. I’m going to miss Samuel, and I am going to beg you and Crump to look out for him, and if anything goes wrong, I want to know right away. I am his wife first, and an entertainer second. He is my life, Makenna.”

“It makes me happy to see that Sam is loved for himself. He deserves it, Tandy. Thank you.”

“You deserve it, too, Mak,” Tandy insisted.

“No, I don’t.”

“Why don’t you?” Tandy asked the brunette.

“I have killed a lot of people; some of them were probably innocent, but I killed them.”

“You were working for the government, taking orders, just as Samuel and Amos did. You were following orders.”

“Does that make it right?” she whispered. “I had to attend the funeral of a captain I shot. I saw his widow and children crying, and his parents and siblings, and I realized he wasn’t just a captain, he was a man with a family who loved him. What if the government was wrong? What if he was only trying to make things better for the country, and not selling us out to the enemy? I felt guilty, and asked questions of my own, and then they sent someone to silence me.”

“Oh no!”

“I met Samuel and Amos, and they believed in me, and helped me. I resigned. That is when I took some time to wander around, and then I settled here. Sam and Amos got out too, looked me up, and asked me to work with them. I agreed. We brought in Crump when he was through drinking and able to function again, and then we helped John. We decided we didn’t need anyone else, except Sarah. She needed a job, and Sam asked her if she could handle us, and she said she could. Then you came along, and have proven that we do need you.”

“I want to be part of the team.”

“You already are,” Makenna said softly. “You have too much courage for your own good. Seriously, you need to think first, and tell us before acting.”

“I have heard that lecture from Samuel and from Crump.”

Makenna nodded. “They are right. Don’t get me wrong. I love you for coming to my rescue. I was terrified of that man, and you were so calm, and you did what needed to be done. None of us wanted you to need to kill, to feel the pain of it, but you saved my life, Tandy. I’m not so sure I deserved your help after the horrible way I treated you.”

“You helped me find Samuel, Mak. You believed me when I said that I felt he was in danger. You didn’t call me silly, or hysterical. You believed me and helped me. You got involved in the whole thing because of me, and to help Samuel and Amos. Of course I was going to try and save you. I prayed and prayed. I’m not strong like you, and I didn’t know if I could pull it off, but I told myself he would think of me as nothing, and he did. I do not regret it, Makenna. I did what needed to be done. I defended you and the team.”

“You are stronger than you think, and that is one of the reasons why Sam loves you so much. You get in his face, and you chew him out when he needs it. You dare him, and no one does that!” Mak giggled. “You are perfect for Sam.”

“What about you? Don’t you want to find love?”

“What man would want me?” she scoffed. “I am not the sort of woman a normal man marries. Can’t you hear it? ‘What did you do after high school, Makenna?’ Oh, I joined the military and became an assassin.” She giggled, but Tandy could hear the hurt behind her words.

Makenna pulled in beside Sam’s car, and then used her phone. “We’re here, Sam.”

“Come on in.”

John and Amos arrived too, and parked on the street. They walked inside with Mak and Tandy. “You are here, too?” Samuel said in surprise as he greeted his wife.

“I was in the office when you called, so I came. I want to help.”

“Good. Would you be insulted if I asked you to whip up some food for us? Bob doesn’t cook, and he won’t let his housekeeper come in since it is so dangerous, and you know I can’t cook.”

“Do you need for me to sit in on a meeting first?” she asked.

He smiled. “You are learning, sweetheart. We’ll wait for Crump to get here before we do that. Go ahead and start, and I’ll call you when we start discussing matters.”

Tandy went to find the kitchen, and Mak looked up at him and shook her head. “You got lucky with that girl, Sam. Most women would have smacked you for sending them straight to the kitchen.”

“I know, but Tandy loves to cook, and it is what needs to be done. I’m impressed with her attitude.” He grinned at her. “Never fear, I wouldn’t do that to you.”

“I can cook,” she admitted to his surprise, and then said, “Crump is already here. I’ll get Tandy.”

They all gathered in the living room, and found that Samuel had already closed the drapes so that no one could see inside. “I have called the post office and had mail delivery stopped, and told them that any packages should be screened immediately. If anything untoward appears, the police or feds will get involved then. We will cooperate with them, while keeping our client safe.” The team knew those words were for Bob’s benefit, to make him feel he was protected and safe. “Tandy, you are already fixing us something to eat, thank you. When you are finished with that, I would appreciate it if you would work with Makenna. She will be exploring Bob’s friends and family, and looking for something out of place. This is a good time for you to learn how we do that, and Makenna is good. Crump, you are going to take John and drive around for a long time, letting John be the decoy. John, I don’t need to tell you to stay down. Be careful, both of you. Amos, I’m taking you with Bob and me. That way, one of us can be awake all the time and aware of what is happening.”

“Yes, Sam.”

“We’ll wait until dark to move everyone. Can you feed us all by then, sweetheart?” Sam asked.

“Yes, I will.” Tandy rose to her feet. “Is there anything else I need to hear, Samuel?”

“No. Go on.”

Tandy wasn’t surprised when Makenna joined her, and gave her a big smile. “What can I do to help out?”

“There wasn’t a lot here to work with. We are having spaghetti with a salad. Do you want to work on the salad, Mak?”

“Sure.” She found bagged lettuce in the refrigerator and dumped both bags in a large bowl. She chopped up tomatoes and onions and added them, “How does love feel, Tandy?” she asked out of the blue.

“Glorious! And it catches you off guard! When I first looked at Samuel, I thought him so damned handsome, especially his eyes – until he referred to me as Miss Bainbridge. Then I was mad. Even when he dragged me into a room at the airport and spanked me, all I could think of was that it was a shame that such a handsome man was such a bastard. Of course, it wasn’t Samuel, it was the situation. When I stopped acting like a spoiled brat and really talked to him, I found him sexy and smart, and I realized that for the first time ever, I felt safe, truly safe. And, I realized that feeling was love. Once my father tried to kill us, and the case was closed, I was afraid I would never see Samuel again. I threw that party at the hotel to keep him close, and earned myself the spanking of all spankings. Then I was afraid he would be disgusted with me. Love can hurt. It makes you doubt yourself. You put the other person on a pedestal, and think you aren’t good enough for them. Sometimes I still wonder if I am good enough for Samuel,” she admitted.

“You are perfect for Sam,” the brunette insisted. “Please forget all of the bad stuff I said. I was so wrong about you.” She was sincere and humble, not at all like the Makenna who first ignored her as much as possible.

“I think you are pretty perfect, too, Makenna, and your salad is beautiful. Let’s put all of this on the dining room table and they can come and sit down.” She carried the platter of spaghetti and meatballs to the table while Mak carried in the salad and salad bowls.

“The food is on the table,” Mak called out, and then smiled as Crump appeared first. “Are you hungry, Crump?” she teased him.

“Starving,” he admitted. “Thank you Mak and Tandy for feeding us.” He watched as Makenna blushed with pleasure.

Amos was enjoying his food. Their client was trying to eat a bit, but he didn’t really have an appetite. “Having all these threats takes away my appetite, ladies, but thanks for helping me by feeding everyone. I don’t know how to fix even a simple salad, and especially not one this beautiful.” His gray eyes were looking at Makenna like a puppy dog, and Crump was ready to punch him for flirting with her!

“Have you had a driving incident recently, cut someone off, a case of road rage? Or ticked someone off in a store?” Crump demanded.

“I rarely go into stores. I shop online when I can. My housekeeper buys groceries. There isn’t much that I like, mostly pasta, ground meat, and salads. She’ll sometimes get me some cookies and some milk. I drink soda and eat chips. I don’t even take my car for gas; she does it for me. I don’t drive much.”

“Has she asked for a raise?”

“No, but maybe I should pay her more? But, she wouldn’t me send death threats. She would come into my office and say, ‘Bob, I haven’t had a raise for a while. I would like you to increase what I am paid.’ I would ask her how much, and then turn it over to my accountant to see that it was taken care of. I am not stingy.”

“Do you have a teenage niece or nephew?” Crump asked. “Kids can be a real pain if they want some money for something and they think the adults in their lives are miserly.”

“My niece is only nine; my nephew is seven. They are sweet children, and my little sister tells me I spoil them.”

“Let’s all take our dirty dishes out to the kitchen and take some of the work from Tandy and Makenna,” Sam said. “This was a great meal without any advance notice. Next time I’ll put John and Crump to cooking.”

“Only fair, Sam,” Crump insisted. “In fact, I’ll take care of these dishes right now. Not fair to our ladies to expect them to cook for us and do the cleanup.” He got to his feet and carried his plate to the kitchen.”

“I’ll give you a hand, Crump,” Mak volunteered and Sam shot his wife a meaningful look, indicating that she was not to do any matchmaking. He was afraid his wife could be right. And, he didn’t want to see Mak get her heart broken. Crump was still grieving for his wife.

“Nice of you to help me, Makenna. It will give us a chance to talk.”

“I am fine, and I don’t want to discuss it any further,” she stubbornly declared.

“Okay, then what would you like to talk about?” Crump asked.

“You. It’s been three years since you lost Lauren and Hannah. Have you been able to stop blaming yourself yet?” She wanted to know.


 


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