Return of the Prodigal Son, Part I
Repairing the Legacy, Chapter One, Part One
With this segment of Chapter One of Repairing the Legacy, we begin 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.
NOTE: The book version of Repairing the Legacy, The Enduring Legacy, is now available on Amazon, Apple, Kobo, and others. Look at the bottom for the link.
Ruby Barkley scowled as she held up one of her favorite nice winter sweaters, a green cashmere that she’d splurged on three years ago, studying it closely. Was this going to work for her first official Family functions in Paris, as the Matriarch of the Martinieres? Or was it too worn and shabby? Could she get away with wearing it over one of her nice snap-button Western shirts?
Trying to figure these things out was hard, damnit. She had some appropriate clothing, but those were mostly for official and/or formal gatherings, or summer business casual dress. The jeans and Western snap-button shirts she regularly wore around her Double R Ranch and for other occasions were too informal even for at-home in Paris, she suspected.
And she definitely didn’t want to come off as a hick hayseed rancher. It wasn’t just Paris. Ruby needed to up her game for business purposes as well. Paris was the beginning of an entirely new life.
A huge sigh from her husband distracted her, and she put the sweater down, glad to think about something besides appropriate wear for a few minutes.
“What’s wrong, Gabe?”
Gabriel Martiniere looked up, face solemn. He sat at the end of their bed, gazing at his interlocked fingers.
She sat next to him. “That sigh didn’t sound like it was nothing. Damnit, Gabe. You promised to stop hiding things from me. What’s wrong?”
Gabe shook his head, a smile quickly twitching his lips before fading. “You caught me, Ruby.” He sighed again, but softer. “It’s—it’s just become real for me. This is the first Family Christmas I’ve been to since my testimony against the Group thirty years ago. And I’m returning as the Martiniere. Not the rebel I used to be.” He waved a hand. “All that’s happened until now hasn’t hit me like this. I’m the Martiniere. I have the authority—and the responsibility.”
Ruby absorbed this information silently, putting her arm around Gabe and giving him a squeeze. When they were here in Northeastern Oregon, either at her Double R or Gabe’s Moondance Ranch near Pendleton, it was easy to forget that Gabe—once a flat-broke saddle bronc rider on the run—was now one of the richest and most powerful men in the world. The Martiniere, head not only of the interlocking structures that formally made up the Family—with a capital F, always—but of the Family’s privately held conglomerate, the Martiniere Group.
“I’m quaking in my boots, myself,” she said finally. “I don’t have the right clothing, and I’ve never done anything like this. Two weeks in Paris. Yeah, some of it is business, but you know what really scares me? Will I measure up to everyday clothing and manners? I don’t have the right casual wear, and as the Matriarch, I know I can’t come across as a hick hayseed rodeo queen.”
Gabe’s grandmother Donna had dropped the title of Matriarch of the Martinieres on Ruby when Gabe and Ruby had remarried a few short months ago. Besides providing Ruby with the authority to manipulate Martiniere mind control programming, being the Matriarch gave her power over the Family structures, including advisory boards of assorted charities and nonprofits that she was still learning about. And that was in addition to her duties for the ranch and the businesses that she ran in collaboration with Gabe.
Gabe laughed softly and slid his arm around Ruby, pulling her close. “Clothing can be remedied pretty quickly in Paris, Ruby.”
Ruby rolled her eyes. “Duh, damn it. I should have been thinking about that. Too accustomed to not having money. Another attitude I’ve got to work on.”
“It takes some getting used to. I’m—” he hesitated, frowning thoughtfully. “After thirty years away from the Family, there’s still some things I’m readjusting to. Even though my marriage to Rachel brought me into some money, that went away after her death. And her money was—nothing—compared to the resources we have now.”
“Yeah,” she said slowly. Her encounters with Gabe’s second wife had been brief, and tied to Brandon, the now-adult son she and Gabe had as part of their first marriage. But it still hurt to know that there had been someone else Gabe had loved enough to marry. And mourn, when she died. Still mourned, at times.
Gabe hugged her, then kissed her temple. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t bring her up.”
“Rachel gave you and Brandon joy, and she wasn’t the one who broke us up,” Ruby said tartly. “Her memory has a place in our lives.” She had to be fair. Rachel had loved not just Gabe, but Brandon. Had been a good stepmother to him.
“Oh, Ruby.” Gabe kissed her again. “In any case, I’m planning to do some shopping, because I’m in the same position of needing to upgrade my wardrobe. I’d say just pack light, with plans to invest in high-quality winter business and casual attire.”
“I know that fussing about clothes is silly, next to your worries.”
“Your concerns aren’t silly. Just new experiences for you—and I’m not that worried, really. It’s just—I suddenly realized that thirty years ago, the last time I was in Paris for Christmas, I showed up late, and between Serg and Piotr; Kendra and Scott and some of the other cousins, I was shambling, staggering drunk for the whole three weeks I was there. When I wasn’t fighting with Philip and Joseph. This time is going to be so different.”
Gabe had originally thought Philip was his uncle, until his grandmother revealed just before he and Ruby remarried that Philip was his father. Philip was the former Martiniere, with a legacy of corruption and exploitation that Ruby, Gabe, and their allies inside the Family were only starting to ferret out. Joseph had been Gabe’s cousin and Philip’s adopted son, now dead as well.
Ruby leaned into Gabe, providing comfort through contact.
He continued after a significant pause. “It’s the contrast. If it hadn’t been for my allies dragging me out to get drunk back then, things could have gotten pretty ugly. Philip and I nearly got into several fistfights, as it were.” He shivered. “And honestly? I’m afraid that if I had started beating on him, it wouldn’t have stopped until he was dead. If he hadn’t locked me down with the mind control vocal tones and killed me first, that is. It was too damned close for comfort at times. One or the other of us would have died. It was just that bad that final Christmas. My first Christmas here at the Double R, rough as it was, was still pleasant by comparison.”
Gabe exhaled. “I haven’t missed that experience.”
“And then there’s going to be wondering who’s on our side and who isn’t.”
“Mmm, that’s always been part of Family life. Factions forming and breaking. Except for our closest kin, and even that’s not guaranteed.” Gabe rubbed his face. “I keep being struck by the difference. Thirty years in between. Coming back as the Martiniere, not simply a high-level heir. That’s going to be different. Starting with the accommodations. Before, I had a junior suite on a lower floor. Now we’re in the penthouse.”
“Penthouse? Junior suite?” Ruby’s voice almost screeched out of control. Just how big was the Martiniere mansion in Paris? Big enough to hold at least fifty or more family members easily during the holidays, from the way both Gabe and his sister—originally thought his cousin—Justine talked.
She hadn’t had time to discuss their housing with Gabe after he’d told her he would take care of it, and she trusted him to advise her of any special considerations. Her life had become crazy busy over the past six weeks. Brandon and Kris getting married; Kris’s difficult pregnancy. Her and Gabe’s adopted son Mikey, Philip’s five-year-old clone, had contracted strep throat after Thanksgiving. Setting the spring release dates for new versions of the biobots both strictly hers and those she shared with Gabe and their business partner, plus Gabe’s microbials. Since Gabe was buried in Martiniere business connected to the change in leadership for both the Group and the Family, Ruby was managing those distribution agreements, plus orders and plans for expanding their labs. While handling a miserably sick five-year-old and advising a nervous son about his pregnant wife. And while Charlie Thompson was an excellent ranch manager and they were in winter mode, she still needed to keep track of events on the Double R.
That initial flood of work tied to the biobots had diminished to a manageable level, only requiring a couple of hours a day to check in as she hired subordinates. And, fortunately, Mikey was pretty good about keeping himself entertained. Almost too good—if anything, Ruby had to keep an eye on him to ensure he wasn’t concealing how bad he felt.
She hoped—probably futile, but a woman could dream—that Paris was a chance to take a holiday from business. Gabe had promised that this would be their belated honeymoon, but Ruby knew their businesses too damn well to imagine that they could completely get away from work. Even in Paris. Especially in Paris, with Gabe’s responsibilities as the Martiniere.
Gabe nodded. “Yes. We’re in the penthouse. Have our own primary suite. I invited Brandon and Kris; Justine and Donald; and Donna-gran to stay with us, in the junior suites.”
“Oh.” She could handle seeing their son Brandon and his wife Kris, Gabe’s sister Justine and her ex-husband Donald, and his grandmother Donna in a casual setting. Justine and Donna had stayed at the Double R and Moondance, already knew Ruby and how she did things. Ruby still didn’t know about the dynamics between Justine and Donald, but they seemed to be amiable, and the two were a couple at Family functions, ever since Gabe had become the Martiniere.
So we see Donald and Justine together in a Martiniere setting, both public and private. That will be interesting. When the two of them had come to the Double R, they’d been much more lovey-dovey than they still were in public. Something was happening there. She just didn’t know what.
“The penthouse is private, for the Martiniere and his chosen family members. Has its own kitchen and cleaning staff. Secure entrance. Secure locks on each suite in the penthouse.”
Ruby raised her brows at that. “Are things that difficult?”
“The reasons for the layout are based on Family history over more than four centuries. Not just me and Philip, or Philip and his brothers.” Gabe nuzzled her temple and cheek once more. “But it also allows for privacy and a chance to relax.”
“Now that sounds promising,” Ruby said. She turned her head just enough to capture Gabe’s lips in a long, lingering kiss.
“Temptress,” Gabe murmured against her lips.
“Always,” she purred back, as his hands slid under her turtleneck and they flopped onto the bed.
It was a long flight from the Double R to Paris even on a private jet, one of the fleet maintained by Justine. Before landing in Paris, Gabe, Ruby, and Mikey changed from the sweats they had traveled in to more formal attire—slacks, collared shirt and tie with a jacket for Gabe and Mikey, a dressy skirt suit for Ruby, and good overcoats for all three of them.
“So here’s what to expect,” Gabe said. “Mikey, listen close, too, because you’re a part of this.” He rubbed his face, sighed, and continued. “When we arrive at the house, there will be a reception. The whole damn Family in residence by then. I’m not sure what my uncle Gerard has in mind—I asked him to keep it simple because we are going to be jet-lagged. No food or formal reception—we’ll eat once we go to the penthouse. It will be a good excuse to break free sooner. But it’s not just my return to his house after thirty years, I’m returning as the Martiniere. There are Family heads for us to meet, possibly even oaths to swear.”
“And all of us need to go through it?” Ruby glanced over at Mikey. His face had gone tight and pale. He chewed on his lower lip. “Mikey’s going to be really tired.”
“The initial greeting, yes. It will be carefully choreographed. First us, then Brandon and Kris, then Justine and Donald. The Martiniere and his close family. There will be photographs.”
“It sounds like a royal function,” she said.
“Don’t kid yourself—if France had gone back to a monarchy while Philip was alive, he’d have been agitating to become king, in spite of his US passport. As Martinieres, we descend from Charles IX through a cadet branch connected to his illegitimate son, Charles de Valois. And a very distant connection to Napoleon Bonaparte.” Gabe fixed Mikey with a stern look. “Philip took that descent much more seriously than he should have. It fueled his ambitions to be the dictator of the United States.”
Mikey nodded, his face mirroring Gabe’s solemn expression. Gabe smiled and ruffled Mikey’s hair, then straightened it out.
“The cyborg brothers will be there, Mikey, and they’ll be taking care of you. You won’t have to do much besides the initial greetings and photographs.”
Mikey didn’t look quite as scared after Gabe mentioned his former protectors.
“But where am I staying?” he asked.
“You’ll be in the penthouse, with us. The brothers are serving as our protection, so they’ll be in and out.”
Ruby contemplated that. She was still adjusting to this new life, not just the money but the other parts of being a Martiniere.
“Meanwhile,” Gabe concluded as the plane descended. “Just remember this. I’m proud of you. You are my family, and to hell with anyone who has a problem with any member of it.”
The book version of Repairing the Legacy, The Enduring Legacy, is now available!
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