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 third part of Chapter Five. There will be three parts to this chapter.
CONSPIRACIES AT THE RODEO
The next afternoon and evening featured rodeo events for local contestants, including the championships for the junior rodeo entrants. Old Timer’s ranch saddle bronc riding for men and women. Wild cow milking. More mutton busting for the little kids. Wild horse racing. Barrel racing. Team roping.
Ruby and Legacy placed in the afternoon barrel racing, which put them in the evening performance for the Old Timer’s championships. Barrels happened after the men’s ranch saddle bronc riding—she was not going to compete in the women’s bronc riding.
She walked Legacy around the warmup pen after a few laps at a gallop, ready to compete again.
To her surprise, Charlie rode Pard into the pen, along with Gabe’s old friend Monty. She’d have thought he was tired out after a day’s haying, not compete in team roping, his usual event. Charlie broke away from Monty.
“Thought I’d better give you a heads up,” he murmured. “You seen the late entries for the men’s ranch saddle broncs?”
“No.” Her heart sank. Brandon wouldn’t, would he? Or Gabe—damn it, Gabe.
Now she understood that sudden twinkle in his eyes last night.
Charlie snapped up the entry list. “Take a look.”
Second on the list. Gabe Ramirez, Skydancer’s Repeat.
“Oh, fuck,” she growled, and spun Legacy toward the gate. “Can I borrow Pard? Need to talk to the pickup riders. I’m gonna pick him up, damn it!”
They rode to the entry gate. Charlie handed her Pard’s reins while he talked to the gate crew. Ruby squinted. She couldn’t see Gabe in the lineup, but there was a chestnut and white Paint in the second chute who resembled old Skydancer.
Charlie came back with one of the pickup riders—Larry, someone she knew, from Thunder County, and an old friend of Gabe’s.
“All set, Ruby,” Charlie said.
“You want to ride pickup?” Larry asked.
“Yeah. For just one rider. My fool of a husband’s in the damn competition,” Ruby said. “Second slot. I want to pick him up and start chewing on his ass right then and there.”
Larry laughed. “Not a problem, as long as you’re on an experienced horse.”
Ruby got off of Legacy and handed the reins to Charlie before checking cinches and stirrups, then mounting Pard. “I’m up on Pard.”
Larry tipped his hat to her. “Then you’re good.”
“Will you pass this message on to the announcer—Repeat’s rider is not Gabe Ramirez. It’s Gabriel Martiniere, and he’s in a world of trouble right now.”
Larry laughed again. “Will do, with pleasure, Ruby!”
She suspected that Gabe was due for some teasing from the gate crew, from Larry’s smirk.
The other pickup rider nodded to her as she rode into the arena, not someone she knew. “I’ll get the flank cinch, Ruby. Second ride?”
Too damned easy, she thought as Larry rode over to the chutes, yelling up at the announcer. Yeah, sponsors had privileges, especially sponsors who dropped the amount of money the Martiniere Group had on the rodeo, but all the same…something was up.
She kept an eye on that second chute. No sign of Gabe yet.
Oh. Wait. There he was, on the fence, focused on his mount as the first horse and rider combination exploded out of the chute. That rider went flying before the buzzer sounded.
“And now here’s Gabe Ram—excuse me, Gabriel Martiniere, who’s in a world of trouble with his wife right now, on Skydancer’s Repeat, out of chute number two. And Ruby is ready to ride pickup.”
Gabe looked up and smirked at Ruby. She scowled and pointed an index finger at him. He laughed and yelled something up at the announcer.
“Hey Ruby, Gabe says you’d darn well better not drop him.”
The crowd laughed, and once again Ruby had the feeling that this was a setup.
But no time for that now. The gate swung open and the big horse launched himself into the air. Gabe grabbed his hat—his old black Stetson from years of rodeoing—and fanned Repeat with it while he braced against the horse’s thick cotton halter rope. Even as Ruby angled to be in place once the buzzer sounded, she had to admit it was a showy ride. A winning ride? Too early to tell. And would Repeat take off running at the buzzer like Skydancer used to?
The buzzer sounded and Gabe jammed his hat back on his head. Pard, like the experienced former pickup horse he was, sped up alongside Repeat. Ruby braced herself and reached out to Gabe with her right arm.
“I’ve got you, damn it, you son-of-a-bitch,” she yelled.
Gabe laughed. Instead of letting her ease him off of Repeat and onto the ground, he reached further and pulled himself onto Pard, behind her.
“Gotcha, Ruby,” he chuckled into her ear. “And I won the bet with Brandon and Donald. They didn’t think you’d be mad enough to ride pickup. Charlie and I did.”
“This is a fucking setup?” Oh, she was pissed now.
“Exhibition ride, Rubes. Old Repeat is showy but not a hard bucker. Not like his grandsire. Contractor uses him for show rides, not real competition. No score for me.”
“But the risk—especially when you won’t get on the green broke horses at home—”
Another laugh. “Mikey wanted to see me ride, Rubes, especially since we won’t let him try mutton busting. I talked to folks about Repeat to see how crazy he was. Calculated risk, and eight seconds on an experienced old bronc used for exhibitions is different from an unpredictable greenie. Pulled a few strings as a sponsor. Borrowed a saddle from Charlie so you wouldn’t see mine gone.”
That softened her slightly. Since Mikey had asked—well, that was the sort of request Gabe would do his best to indulge. Mikey rarely asked for much.
“Ladies and gentlemen, Gabriel Martiniere on an exhibition ride with Skydancer’s Repeat, picked up by his wife Ruby. Let’s give them both a hand,” the announcer intoned.
Gabe reached around her to take Pard’s reins and grab the saddle horn. “Gimme a kiss.”
“I should deck you instead for being an idiot.”
“But you won’t. Gimme a kiss to finish off the show, warrior woman.”
Ruby sighed and turned in the saddle as they approached the gate. Gabe’s eyes smoldered at her, along with that devil-may-care smirk that had always seduced her. He pulled off his hat and kissed her hard enough that she had to grab for her own so he wouldn’t knock it off. The crowd applauded.
Then she turned forward, picked up Pard’s reins, and rode through the gate.
Brandon held Mikey a short distance away.
“Gabe! That was great!” Mikey bounced as Brandon laughed.
The huge happy grin on Mikey’s face cinched Ruby’s reluctant approval.
“As long as you don’t do something damn fool like this again,” she muttered to Gabe.
“Oh, I’m already paying for the recklessness,” Gabe said as he slid off of Pard. “Hurting. But one last go-round—totally worth it.” He laughed again.
Another conspiracy at the rodeo. Well, at least this one ended pleasantly.
Who knew how the other one would unfold?
The rest of the rodeo was uneventful. Ruby and Legacy placed second in barrel racing—at least Legacy didn’t emulate her great-granddam and break into bucking.
The Swait kids did well in the junior rodeo, Rae ending up in second place overall, first place in her age division.
And the resolution of the other conspiracy came clear Sunday night back at the Double R, after nearly everyone had gone home. Justine herded Ruby and Gabe, Donald, Brandon, and Eliot into Ruby’s office.
“Here’s what happened,” she said. “The young women have been retrieved and are safely reunited with their families.” She nodded at Donald.
“Courtesy of the Rescue Angel,” he said. “The girls were coerced into faked indenture contracts that bullied their parents into letting them—Heaven’s Reach—take the girls. All underage.”
Ruby swallowed hard. “And the kidnappers’ goal?”
“Prostitution,” Donald said, his voice the sharpest Ruby had ever heard it. “Until they were beat down sufficiently to cooperate with the Heaven’s Reach body modification and experimentation programs.”
“What about Colfax and Heaven’s Reach?” Gabe asked.
“Dear, dear Brent,” Justine said sardonically. “He seems to have been driving too fast on a forest road. Car went off a sharp point on a high ridge, driving way too fast, spun out on gravel, ended up two thousand feet downhill. Identity confirmed.”
“That’s—anticlimactic,” Gabe said.
Justine bared her teeth at him. “Nothing says the fall caused his death, Gabie.”
Gabe raised his brows at that.
Donald flicked a file over to Gabe and Ruby. “Rescue Angel, using JSM Corp resources, identified and closed down two illicit Midwestern laboratories that were primary Heaven’s Reach facilities. Those present chose to shoot it out rather than surrender.”
“Nothing in the news,” Brandon said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.
“That’s been taken care of,” Justine said.
“One lab had conclusive records showing that it was the location where Mikey was created,” Donald continued, waving a hand at the file. “That lab—unfortunately—caught fire. Nothing remains.”
Gabe whistled, and reached for the file. “You two don’t mess around, do you?”
Justine interlaced her fingers, gazing steadily at Gabe. “I meant it when I said that it would be either you or me succeeding Daddy-fucking-dearest, Gabriel. Donald and I have been doing this for quite a while.”
Ruby studied her sister-in-law.
No, she didn’t want to cross Justine, especially in combination with Donald. Ever.
Though if it came to Gabe versus Justine—she’d bet on Gabe winning. But perhaps she was biased.
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.
Want more? How about an alternative Martiniere world where Ruby and Gabe meet in a different manner and meet more challenges?
DEBUTING THIS WEEK ON KINDLE VELLA—A DIFFERENT LIFE—WHAT IF?
One of the turning points of the Martiniere Legacy series is the death of Gabriel Martiniere's family in a plane crash when Gabe was twelve. That put Gabe's biological father, Philip, into the leadership of the Martiniere Group and the Martiniere Family, and expedited Philip's megalomaniac ambitions. But what if that crash hadn't happened? What would Gabe's relationship with Ruby, the love of his life, look like?
UPDATES ON A DIFFERENT LIFE HAPPEN EVERY WEDNESDAY, CURRENTLY SCHEDULED THROUGH MID-JANUARY.