With this segment of Chapter Five of Repairing the Legacy, we continue the serialization of Repairing the Legacy. This is a rough draft work in progress and may not reflect the final form. Time period: set after the ending of The Martiniere Legacy main trilogy, before the Epilogue (for this chapter). I’m breaking longer chapters into sections for readability. This is the second part of Chapter Five. There will be three parts to this chapter.
CONSPIRACIES AT THE RODEO
Most Grand Entries simply involved riding around the arena at top speed. But Thunder County Days included a pattern with the Thunderheads, the rodeo drill team. The patterns hadn’t changed since Ruby’s tenure as Queen when she was sixteen, but all the same, as she rode Star toward the arena, she was glad this first run was on Star and not Legacy. The stallion was better at patterns, something she hoped he would pass on to Legacy’s foals.
Gabe, Alexander, Carl, and Serg walked alongside her, Gabe holding the furled Martiniere Group flag that Ruby would be carrying. The rest of their security sat with the family members watching tonight’s performance. Ruby wore her old Thunder County Days Queen outfit—or at least as much of it that still fit her. Even though she was still lean, she’d been a lot skinnier at sixteen.
Vickie met them near the gate. “You got the pattern down?”
“Me and Star both.” Ruby patted the stallion’s neck. “Big circle, serpentine, crossover, crossover, serpentine, then line up with the rest of the sponsors. National Anthem and prayer. Going out, spiral, serpentine, big circle, exit.”
“Watch your timing,” Vickie said, squinting at the stud. “He likes to run.”
“He rates pretty well. I’ll have more challenges with Legacy. Just like I did with Sunshine.”
Vickie rolled her eyes. “You and your palomino mares. All right. You’re the first sponsor rider, after the Court and the Thunderheads. Got it?”
Ruby nodded. She liked the way Star felt underneath her. He was alert and focused, attention on the arena, but didn’t have that coiled-spring reactiveness that Legacy—and Sunshine before her—possessed. Vickie moved on to talk to the other riders. Gabe unfurled the Martiniere flag and handed it to Ruby, helping seat the pole in its holder. He scratched Star’s forehead once he was done.
“You do right by her, fella,” he said softly to Star, resting his forehead against the stallion’s for a fleeting moment. “I’m trusting you to take care of my lady.”
Ruby blinked. No one ever seemed to catch a picture of the two forehead-to-forehead, though she’d seen it many times. Gabe and Star had a special connection. Star would go to Gabe before her, and always greeted him with a friendly nicker. Gabe rode Star at the ranch. But when it came to performance—it was Ruby in the saddle. She knew the nuances that Gabe lacked.
Alexander, Carl, and Serg remained alert. Ruby didn’t think they’d have any issues at the gate, but one never knew.
And then it was time. She moved into line. Star leapt forward a split second before Vickie hollered, “Ruby, go!”
“And here we have the 2024 Thunder County Days Queen Ruby Barkley, carrying the banner of our lead sponsor, the Martiniere Group!” she barely heard the announcer say as they charged into the arena. She caught snatches of the rest of his spiel—”—2031 Miss Rodeo Oregon, 2029 Pendleton Round-Up Princess—”
Star snorted as he galloped. But he let Ruby keep him in place behind the rider ahead of them. Big circle to serpentine. Serpentine to the first crossover, loop around for the second, then line up behind the Thunderheads, anchor for the row of other former queens carrying sponsor flags. Ruby exhaled. Star blew and shook his head.
“Good boy,” she murmured.
National Anthem. Prayer. Then it was the last pattern elements and another race around the arena.
“Ruby! Need—” She only caught a snatch of that voice, but it was enough to send chills down her spine.
Mariah Meyers. What the fuck was she doing here?
No time to think about it. Ruby fixed her eyes on the gate. Star slowed easily as they approached it. Ruby looked around for Gabe—Alexander—somebody once they were out of the arena.
Then Gabe was there, easing the banner out of her hand, Alexander, Carl and Serg with him.
“Mariah’s here,” she told him grimly. “North side of the arena, east end of the covered stands, by the fence. Yelled something at me about need on that last circuit.”
“That can’t be—” Alexander frowned, then whirled away. “I’ll look for her.”
Gabe jerked his head at Carl. “Follow him. Have Al bring his mother to the RV. And have someone send Justine over as well.” He walked alongside Ruby as she rode away from the arena, Serg on Ruby’s other side. “That bitch. That damned bitch. Why the hell is she popping up here and now? I thought things were settled with her! She shouldn’t be anywhere near Thunder County!”
“Easy, Gabe,” she said softly, as Star tensed under her, reacting to Gabe’s angry tone.
Gabe patted Star’s neck. “Sorry, fella. But damnit, Ruby—” He exhaled.
“I know,” she said, halting Star at the Fortress, as she was starting to call the formation of RVs and trailers. Ruby dismounted and let Gabe lead Star inside the enclosure to untack and get the stallion settled. Give Gabe some time with Star to calm down about Mariah’s reappearance in their lives, apart from Family Christmas because she was Al’s mother and technically Family.
The man needed horse time as much as she did.
By the time the others converged on the RV, Ruby had showered to wash off the arena dust and pulled on leggings and a t-shirt. No going back to the rodeo tonight, not with this to deal with. She took the bottle of Gabe’s favorite whisky out of a cabinet, along with several glasses.
Gabe appeared more relaxed as he and Serg came into the RV. Good. Ruby poured both of them straight shots without being asked, then one for herself, and yet another for Justine. They settled into the L-shaped booth around the kitchen-area table, Ruby in the corner, between Gabe and Serg.
Alexander, Mariah, and Justine arrived together, Mariah entering the RV before the other two. Justine picked up the waiting glass of whisky and leaned against the kitchen counter. She glared at Mariah as she sipped her whisky.
Mariah looked nothing like she had the last time Ruby had seen her. Her hair was dyed black, face thin and haggard. Instead of her usual immaculate designer clothing, she wore faded jean capris and a t-shirt two sizes too big for her, with tattered sneakers. She shivered as she huddled in the center of the kitchen area, arms wrapped around herself, focused on Justine.
“Should I stay?” Alexander asked, glancing from Justine to Gabe.
“Outside the door, Al,” Gabe said, voice harsh.
Justine gestured to one of the swivel chairs as Al left. “Sit there, Mariah.” Her cold, flat tone sent a chill up Ruby’s back. Justine dropped gracefully into the matching swivel chair after Mariah sat, not disturbing the level of her drink. Mariah’s gaze followed Justine’s movements, almost like a snake-entranced mouse.
“What’s this about, Mariah?” Gabe glowered at her. “You yelled something at Ruby about need.”
Mariah swallowed hard, not looking away from Justine. “I—what are you planning to do with me?” Her voice grated on Ruby’s nerves, atonal and not right.
Gabe twitched, forehead wrinkling in worry.
Justine took a swig off of her whisky and set the glass carefully on the side table. Then she uncoiled from her chair like a striking rattlesnake and grabbed Mariah’s chin. “Knock it off with the vocal tones, Mariah.” Her voice dropped, silky yet menacing. “Daddy-fucking-dearest is no longer alive to protect you, and Gabriel isn’t under your spell. What. The. Fuck. Is. Going. On?”
Mariah gulped, staring at Justine as if she were hypnotized. “Programmed again.” She half-choked. “Beat it—maybe.” Her eyes darted to Gabe and Ruby. “Plot to kill—Ruby and Gabe—capture clone.”
Ruby flinched, wanting to check on Mikey.
He’s with Brandon, she told herself. And guarded.
“And just who is doing this?” Justine’s voice dropped to an even lower, malevolent register.
“B-Brent Colfax.” Mariah winced as Justine’s fingers tightened on her chin.
“Are you sure of that name?” Oh, the compulsions in Justine’s voice—Ruby had never heard that intensity from her before now.
“Y-yes. With—Heaven’s Reach.”
Justine released Mariah’s chin and straightened up. “Is that all?”
Mariah cringed as Justine towered over her. “There’s—there’s fresh captives. Taken with me. Young girls—women. Over the state line.”
“Washington or Idaho?” Gabe asked, his voice steady even as his free hand fumbled for Ruby’s underneath the table and grasped it tightly.
“Idaho,” Mariah whispered. “I—I—it was all a mistake! I heard about these girls and I thought I could—but I got caught, too—”
Gabe exhaled hard, closing his eyes for a moment, then opening them again. “You were supposed to stay in Chicago, Mariah. Where it’s safe for you to be. Not go chasing after redemption, damnit!” His voice cracked like a whip, making Mariah huddle into an even smaller shape. “What the fucking hell did you think you were doing? I—”
“Gabriel!” Justine snapped. “Stop it. This isn’t useful right now. We have bigger issues.” She glanced at Serg. “Secure Mariah. Get Piotr over here to interrogate and deprogram her. Leave Al at the door, take Carl with you.”
“Got it.” Serg rose. Justine stepped back as he escorted Mariah out of the RV.
Justine tapped her comm. “Shanice. I need Donald here, immediately.” She took a big gulp off of her whisky.
“What the hell is going on, Justine?” Gabe’s vocal pitch was only slightly softer than it had been.
Justine snapped up an image. “Is this the man you asked me to find and take care of back in January?”
Gabe’s nostrils flared as he studied it. “Yes.” He took a drink.
“Donald and I have history with him as well,” Justine said.
“What the hell?” Ruby asked, her gut tightening. This was bad.
Gabe gestured at the image with his glass. “That man beat the crap out of me when my fucking sperm donor demanded that I divorce you. That man beat the crap out of our son at age ten, during the water rights fight. He will pay for that, more than he already has.” He took another sip, his voice rising as he continued to speak. “If Mariah’s telling us the truth about his connection with Heaven’s Reach, and he wants to fucking kidnap Mikey—that man is going to fucking pay for that, as well.”
“My job, not yours, Gabriel,” Justine’s voice went harder than ever. “We agreed on that back in January. You cannot afford to be connected with this sort of personal vengeance as the Martiniere. Not unless you want to be viewed like our fucking father.”
“His connection to Heaven’s Reach—”
“I’ll take care of it,” Justine snarled as Donald entered the RV. “Your hands are already sufficiently bloody when it comes to Heaven’s Reach, Gabriel!”
“That was Gabe Ramirez, not Gabriel Martiniere.” Gabe glowered at his sister.
Justine exhaled, not flinching away from Gabe’s glare. “Damn it, Gabie. You already damned near beat the man to death once. This is a matter not just for me as Director of Security, but those girls—that’s a Rescue Angel project.”
Donald raised his brows as he studied the projection. “So Colfax has reared his ugly head again, hmm?” His steady voice projected an aura of calm. Justine shivered and her face softened. Gabe’s grip eased on Ruby’s hand.
Justine nodded. “Mariah Meyers has provided the missing link between him and Heaven’s Reach.”
“Finally.” Donald crossed his arms. “What’s the situation, my falcon?”
“Piotr is interrogating Meyers as we speak. She claims to have been programmed again, and resisted. There’s a plot to kill Ruby and Gabe, kidnap Mikey. Plus a group of young women being held in Idaho. All connected to Colfax and Heaven’s Reach.”
“The prostitution gig we’ve been watching?” Donald asked.
“I suspect so. It fits the profile.”
“Tine, Don, what the hell is going on?” Gabe asked.
Donald eased himself into the chair that Mariah had vacated. Justine handed him her half-drunk glass and he sipped from it.
“Brent Colfax was the head of the security team that your father forced on us when we were living at Mist Knoll, before our divorce,” he said. “We had problems with him even then.”
“He kept tagging after me. I think he suspected that you were in the area and wanted to catch me talking to you,” Justine added. “He’s also been involved with a host of shady activities tied to Daddy-fucking-dearest. But he’s one slippery fucker, and we couldn’t make the final connections.”
“Justine and I have been tracking Colfax as part of our Rescue Angel activities,” Donald continued. “He’s been tied to recruitment efforts for Heaven’s Reach, and trafficking of their victims. We’ve never been able to make that final connection. Until now, thanks to Meyers.” His eyes met Justine’s. His brows lifted. Her lips tightened and she arched one brow in return. He nodded. “Rescue Angel will take it over,” he said firmly. “I’ll coordinate with Piotr and Kevin once we get that information from Meyers.”
“What about security levels here?” Gabe asked.
“It’s under control, and it’s not your job, Gabie,” Justine said. “It’s mine. Shanice will talk to Sharon Wilhite, and I’ll synchronize with Vickie and the Home Guard. Everyone continues with planned activities, and I’ll bring more staff in tonight from JSM Corp.” She got up and took the glass from Donald, finishing the drink. “I’ll begin the process. Dearest, please calm Gabie down and explain things further.”
Ruby slipped her hand out of Gabe’s, picked up her drink, and followed Justine out. The tension was just too damned much, and she wanted to check not just on the horses but Smudge and the other dogs.
Justine exhaled after Ruby closed the RV’s door. “Ruby, you can’t be part of this, either. Same reasons as Gabie,” she said, her words brittle and sharp.
Ruby raised her free hand placatingly. “I know, Justine. I’m not arguing for that. I’m just—it’s intense in there.”
Her sister-in-law’s expression softened. “There are times when Gabie is too much like our fucking father—just now, for example.” She shivered. “I get it. He spent years working with Rafe Alvarez as a part-time mercenary. His emotions are involved with this case due to who’s involved. But Donald and I have dealt with these situations plenty of times in the last fourteen years. Let us handle Colfax.” She grimaced. “I’ve been lying in wait for that fucker for years. If this allows us to move in on Heaven’s Reach, all the better.”
“I will be oh-so-happy if the two of you wipe that abomination off the face of the earth,” Ruby growled.
“That is my full intention,” Justine said.
Ruby sighed. “I’m checking on the animals. I think Mikey needs to have Smudge at his side at all times.”
“Wouldn’t hurt,” Justine said. “And now, I have things to do.” She walked away.
After checking on the dogs, Ruby went to the horse pens. Star, on the end, stood next to Casey and Legacy in the adjoining pen. Ruby slipped in with the mares and buried her head in Legacy’s neck, straightening up only to take a sip off of her drink. In the distance, she heard the closing comments from the announcers.
Star raised his head and chuckled a welcoming nicker to Gabe. He patted Star, then joined Ruby. That dark glower still lingered on Gabe’s face, one she recognized from that awful period before their divorce. It tightened her gut, even though she knew that look wasn’t directed at her but at memories of the dilemma he’d been wrestling with then, whether he should reveal who he was—until that choice had been taken from him.
By fucking Mariah, no less. Acting for Philip, but still—her actions.
Therefore, the expression now. Remembrances of a very bad time.
“Aw, Rubes,” he said, putting an arm around her shoulder. “I’m sorry. This mess is exactly why I didn’t say anything all those years ago. What I hoped to avoid. My family. My fucking family.”
“It’s not your fault, Gabe.” She sighed and leaned into him. “It comes with who you are—who we are. And this time I went into it with full knowledge.”
His arm tightened around her even more. “My beloved warrior wife. Have I told you how much I love you, Ruby Barkley?”
“Not within the last half hour.”
Gabe laughed and his expression lightened. “I love you more than I can ever say, Rubes.” He exhaled, kissing her forehead. “Tine is right, damn it. I can’t do this myself. Those days are over. I have to be the Martiniere.” His face twisted. “Boring.”
“Too many people depend on you, Gabe. Including me and Mikey.”
“I know,” he said softly, leaning his forehead against hers. “But sometimes I strain against the leash. Being here brings back memories of our wild days.”
“They were fun, weren’t they? But we have to be responsible adults anymore.”
Approaching voices startled them. Brandon, carrying Mikey, and Kris, carrying Lily, flanked by Eliot and Nick, and the remaining cyborged brothers, entered the enclosure. Mikey raised his head from Brandon’s shoulder.
“Ruby! Gabe! Can I enter the mutton busting tomorrow?”
“No,” Ruby said firmly.
“I should say-ay not,” Gabe echoed.
“But why?” Mikey’s voice carried a rare whine, something that only happened when he was overexcited and overtired.
“Hey, didn’t I tell you so?” Brandon said soothingly. “Ma never let me do the mutton busting as a kid, either.”
“Get bigger, and we’ll talk about broncs. Maybe,” Ruby said.
Gabe laughed at that. Ruby eyed him, as his glower was replaced by a mischievous twinkle.
“Gabe,” she said in warning.
“Oh, I agree with you about the mutton busting,” he said. “Come on, Mikey. Let’s put you and the dogs to bed, okay?”
Ruby followed Gabe out of the pen. He took Mikey from Brandon.
“Night, Ma,” Brandon said, as he and Kris headed for their RV.
Ruby let the dogs out of their pen, deep in thought. She didn’t trust that twinkle in Gabe’s eye. He was up to something, but what?
Like what you’ve read so far? Check out the other stories in The Martiniere Legacy—all links here, both Amazon and other sources.
What’s it about?
EVEN THE MOST POWERFUL PEOPLE HAVE TO START SOMEWHERE....
Over the years, Justine Martiniere has become the fixer for the Martinieres. Have a problem? Go to Justine to get it remedied.
But it wasn't always that way.
First, Justine needed to escape the abuses of her father, Philip. She didn't expect to fall in love with the man she married, Donald Atwood. But she did–and then she faced the choice between remaining married to Donald, or stopping her sociopathic, megalomaniac father.
Justine Fixes Everything is in part the unusual love story of Justine and Donald–and in part the saga of her rise to power, viewed in retrospect as she tells the history to Philip's clone Mike, as he recovers from surgery. It's about what she sacrificed to become powerful—and, at the same time, how that past comes to haunt the challenges she faces toward the end of her life.