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RedeemedThe Quartus Family Saga Book 3
By Kerr Barkley
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Kerr Barkley
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTen Minutes
It is 3:22 a.m. when the cell phone rings and Adam rolls across the silk sheets to grab it. Katie snatches the phone, wrapping it tightly in her long slender fingers. "Don't you dare!"
"It's probably nothing, now give me my phone, please." His tone is steady.
She throws it at him. As he opens it, she wonders which of his sixteen languages he will speak in.
"Hello, Harvard here."
"Harvard, my butt." Katie mocks.
He begins speaking briskly in a foreign language that sounds Middle Eastern. Then he is out of the king-size bed and pacing, then dressing. Katie slides out of bed and follows him across the room and into the large dressing room. There he gathers odd-looking things out of the safe, puts a few guns with the various unknowns in a duffel bag, and finally says goodbye to the caller. He closes the phone and faces Katie.
"You said no more missions," she accuses.
"I said no more assassinations."
He laughs. "I told you it isn't cut and dried. I can't stop being James Bond overnight any more than you can instantly stop being the Great Miss Susannah. Baby-steps mostly, giant ones when we can. I'll be gone two weeks at most." He combs his jet-black hair with swift, repeating strokes.
They head back into the huge black and gold sparsely decorated bedroom. Every move his muscular frame makes is with military precision. He's already in government mode. "Is it espionage? Overseas?"
"You know I can't tell you."
Her head droops in frustration. "Say no. You promised me you would be the best husband and father you can be. If you leave here tonight you're breaking that promise." Tears stream down her face. "I'm sick of living alone, of being strong. I need you. The boys need you. Every time you leave I worry you'll never come back. I'm tired. Please don't go. Let someone else."
Gently he lifts her chin with his index finger and stares into her eyes. "I'm sorry. I'm the only one qualified."
His dark eyes mesmerize her. "You're the only qualified husband and father this household has. Does that mean anything?"
He kisses her. "Everything. Two weeks."
"Last time you said two weeks, you left me standing at the altar and I ended up marrying Wes."
He grins briefly. "Fourteen days. Don't marry anyone else while I'm gone. I'll be back, I promise, and I don't break promises.
Made my first one at five and ruined my life to keep it. I haven't broken one since." His eyes close and reopen as if remembering.
That promise must be bothering him. That's three times he's mentioned it recently. He's never told her what it is. "You're breaking a promise by leaving tonight."
He lifts her long auburn hair off her shoulder with a quick sweep of his hand. "No, dear. I promised to be the best I can be within the limits of who I am and what I do. My ride's here. Fourteen days. Now come, let me love you, love of my life. Etched in my soul, forged in my heart – all that I am. God, Katie, I love you."
"Then don't go," she pleads.
He holds her tightly, kissing her lips firmly, then her forehead, and then he is gone.
It is 3:32 a.m. when he kisses her goodbye. Ten minutes between the ringing phone and goodbye.
She tosses in bed. The dry night air smells stale and she considers opening a window but rules it out knowing there is no breeze. She wishes he had worn cologne; then his scent would have lingered. Fear thumps behind her eyes, promising a headache. She has to keep her eyes open to watch the nothingness of the night.
She prays for his safety. Her brain searches for a Bible quote for comfort. Her Bible, like her bicycle, is the history of her childhood. Her mind wanders to the last visit to the ranch when she saw her bicycle in the trash, its chain hanging carelessly, its tires flat, its spokes poked out where colorful little straws once twirled when the wheels headed on endless adventures.
She feels old in her mid-thirties tonight, sick of endless escapades. She was looking forward to their retirement to the ranch, but tonight he chose to ride away on another adventure and leave his sidekick behind. Again.
She prays for his safe return and that this will be the end of his need to venture off. Like the bicycle chain, her faith has grown rusty. Still she knows she must have faith and finally Hebrews11:1 comes to sooth her. Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Adam will return safely. She must, absolutely must, believe he will be home in two weeks.
She repositions herself again, still in search of sleep. She wonders if morning will ever come. After hours of clock surveillance, daylight arrives. She stumbles down the long hall lined with mirrors and heads down the stairs, her mind heavy with questions.
Is he winding down? Can he ever stop responding to the call to action? That powerful draw charges his life battery the same way walking out on a stage and hearing thousands of people cry "Susannah" charges hers. On stage her heart beats thump-thump-thump in the air surrounding her rather than inside her body. She's not sure she could describe it to someone who never stood in front of 20,000 screaming, adoring people at a concert.
She begins her descent down the spiral staircase with the seven-foot wide steps and recalls strutting the red carpet at the Academy Awards, as she does every year. Millions of people tune in to see the spectacle and to see her. Every aspect of that night is planned months in advance, what designer for her dress, who will get the exclusive interview, and oh! The thrill of the acceptance speech. And I'm worried about Adam's call to adventure. Can I give all that up to stay home and perform for an audience of one? Her stomach churns and a wave of nausea travels right up to her throat.
She enters the kitchen on auto-pilot and grabs a bowl with a gaudy design and some utensils for making eggs. When she opens the stark white refrigerator she is met with a cool blast that settles her nausea.
Her eldest son joins her. "I heard him leave. When is he supposed to be back this time?" Weston Allard Reese, Jr. asks. It's just in time to spare her from her own insanity.
"You know his research, Allard, it's so unpredictable." She noisily whips the eggs.
"You're really upset."
"No, I'm fine dear." She kisses his cheek and gently tugs his wavy blond mid-length hair.
"Really? Then would you mind making some scrambled eggs without the shells? Or maybe I can make them today? What's going on Mom? You don't usually act like this when he leaves? You look like you're falling apart."
Suddenly Katie realizes she is near tears. She excuses herself and hurries back to the bedroom.
How can she possibly go to work like this? Because she's the Great Miss Susannah Archer, that's how. If Adam Bromwyn can go from being her incognito husband to Dr. Jack Harvard, CIA agent, in ten minutes, she can go from being plain basketcase Katie Quartus to the world famous Queen of Hollywood in ten minutes, too. Be tough, Miss Katie.
Into the shower, fancy clothes, makeup, and jewelry and whoa! The transformation is complete and the most famous female entertainer in the world darts down the steps two at a time to join her sons in the kitchen.
Allard has made scrambled eggs for his brother, Little Adam, who proudly shows off the two bucks he scored from the tooth fairy. Both boys are spitting images of their arch-enemy fathers.
Katie kisses Allard's cheek and raises her eyebrows at him. He raises his eyebrows back and they both know all is now well. She kisses Little Adam and then rocks him in a hug.
"Can you come on my field trip to the zoo next week, Momma?"
"Get real," Allard snorts. "If mom goes, there will be hundreds of people. You little first graders will be trampled to death by her fans. Mom can't go anywhere with us, ever."
Katie swallows hard. She wants to tell Little Adam that she and his father have plans to build a house on the ranch, retire, and live normal lives. And that.... he left. He left last night and he took their dream. She tries to think of something positive and focuses on the zoo.
She smiles. "Remember last year when Wes rented the entire zoo for us? Wasn't that fun?" She sits down at the six-person snack bar.
"Can we go up to the ranch this weekend?" Allard asks hopefully as he rinses dishes off in the stainless steel kitchen sink.
"I'm working, but if it's okay with your Uncle Nick, you two can go."
"I mean you, too." Allard says firmly. He slips a plate of eggs in front of Katie and she is compelled to look into her young son's blue eyes. He is so much like Wes in the good ways, sensitive and caring. His beautiful aristocratic features, long thin nose, firm chin, prominent eyebrow bone are perfectly balanced. He is extremely handsome, like his father, and will have the ladies interested as well. He has started to grow and is at that stage where his legs and arms are too lanky for his body. When he grows into them, he'll be six feet tall. He'll have his father's famous voice as well. Heart-breaker, no doubt. But now he is nearly fourteen and insists his mother take a break from the stress of Hollywood because she needs it.
"I'll see what I can do," she says as she picks at her perfectly scrambled eggs. "Thank you for making breakfast."
When the white limousine comes for Katie she notices there are only about 20 fans at the gate at the bottom of the driveway. Adam has chased them away every morning, and the result is evident today. It is nice not to have herds of peoples hang on her property, drooling her name. Some of them can be quite demanding.
Seeing her chauffer makes her want to cry. Adam always poses as her chauffer or her bodyguard. Only her inner circle knows they are married. The rest of the world thinks she is single. Like so much of her life, she is a contained mystery. Their Nevada wedding seven years ago was celebrated without the press ever getting word of it.
With Adam gone, Katie now has to walk away to catch her breath. She heads toward the fans at the gate. They cheer with excitement as she gets closer.
Not all fans are bad. In fact most are good, gentle of spirit. A couple jumps up and down, yelling that they have come from across the country to catch a glimpse of her. She goes to them first, lets them take her picture through the wrought iron gate. Long ago she learned not to go outside, no matter how safe it seems. Actually, she is lucky that her fans don't rip her clothes off the way Wes's fans do. Adam prefers that she doesn't visit the gate at all, but Adam isn't here.
She heads back up the decorated concrete driveway to her waiting chauffer and sees Little Adam waving out the window.
As the day passes Katie has trouble focusing. Twice on the movie set she doesn't answer to Susannah. She has used that name since she was 18 and first came to Hollywood. Only her family and her inner circle know her as Katie, and most of them have surrendered to calling her Sue out of necessity. Today she seems to be Katie, a frightened young girl overwhelmed by the uncertainties of life.
By the afternoon she can't take it anymore and decides to call Adam. She has only done that a handful of times, never out of sheer loneliness, and not in the past two years. She knows he won't be pleased, but she has to hear his voice. She scrapes her teeth across her lip.
His deep voice answers. "This is Doctor Harvard. I am out of the office for an extended period of time and will not be taking messages. You can reach my supervisor, Jacob Baron, at extension 210. Thank you." After listening to his voice message for seven calls she hangs up. Only thirteen days to go.
When she gets home the boys have finished their homework.
Katie walks into Adam's cluttered sports-theme mini-suite and smells a slightly familiar, offensive odor, she doesn't immediately recognize. Adam is already in bed, but still awake.
"Momma, where's Daddy?"
"He had to go back to New York, sweetie."
Adam nods. "How come he doesn't leave during the day?"
"Some airlines have cheaper flights if you fly at night," she says, absently kicking action figures about the floor. She hopes she doesn't step on them on the way out.
"How come he doesn't tell me goodbye?"
"Sometimes he has an emergency." Adam looks so innocent, a carbon copy of his father with jet-black hair and deep brown eyes that mesmerize her. His features are well defined but softer than his brother's.
"He has an awful lot of emergencies that require him to take cheaper flights."
"Yes, dear, he does." She moves a soft stuffed dinosaur to the other side of the bed and sits down on the baseball bedspread. "Tell me about school today."
"Landon told me I didn't have a dad, and he called me illiterate again."
She doesn't tell him the word is 'illegitimate.'
"One of these days I'm either going to bring dad to school and prove that I do have a dad or I'm going to bring a gun to school and kill Landon."
Katie froze. How should she react? He is only six, but such comments need to be dealt with. "Adam I know you're angry at Landon, but you don't really want to hurt him, do you?"
"Sometimes I do, Momma. He makes everybody laugh at me. I wish I could throw him in the washing machine on spin."
She pulls her long hair back into a ponytail and then releases it. She's sick of this Landon kid harassing Adam about his father, and her talk with the teacher obviously did no good. "I'm going to school tomorrow and talk to the principal."
Adam sits up quickly. "Please don't. I was already there today."
"You were? Why?"
"'Cause I told Landon what Allard told me to and I got sent to the principal for being nasty and I have to go there for recess all week because of Allard."
"Why didn't they call me?" Katie brings her fingers to her forehead and traces the creased frown above her nose.
"They did, but you were busy, so your manager took it. He must have forgot to tell you."
"What did you say to Landon?" She nudges him back down and pulls the sheet up to cover him, hoping he doesn't sense her anger. After all she is angry at her manager and Landon, not at him. What is that smell? Food, definitely food. Old food.
"Just what Allard said."
"What was that?"
"If I had a dog as ugly as you I'd shave its butt and walk it backwards, roof, roof."
At first Katie thinks she can control the giggle, but it escapes into a full-fledged laugh that turns into a cough of anger. Her life is so messed up. Her thirteen-year-old is trouble-shooting for the six-year-old, not her. Her manager handles the principal, not her. Other people are living her life and it has to stop right now. Her children are her most precious gift and she is not about to lose that.
"Tomorrow I am going to school and have a talk with the principal. And don't repeat what Allard tells you without asking me first." She bends over and kisses him. "I'm sorry you have to keep so much of your life private, but maybe that's only for now and it won't always have to be that way."
Pizza! She smells old pizza but doesn't see any evidence anywhere.
"It gets worse when you get older because girls want to have your baby?"
"What?" Her throat closes so suddenly she almost chokes.
"I heard Allard tell Nathan that a girl wants to have his baby. He told Nathan he's scared to be with a girl. Why? Why is he scared? I mean I don't like girls, either, but they don't scare me." Adam pulls a die-cast helicopter from under the sheets and begins to zoom it around.
Katie stands up. "Don't worry about it. Please try and keep our life private and understand that Landon pokes fun at you because he knows it bothers you. If you didn't let it bother you, he'd stop."
"If Dad came to class with me, they'd all shut up."
"Pray to God for an answer."
"Momma, I don't want to get you or God mad, but I did pray and I didn't get any answer."
She kisses him again, "Yes, you did, but it's not evident yet, sweetie. She tugs up the covers and kisses him good night one last time. He continues flying his chopper.
"Where's the pizza?" she asks.
"Aw, Momma. It's in the nightstand, but I was going to throw it out tomorrow."
She opens the drawer and pulls out the crumpled paper plate with the crusts glued to it by old melted cheese. "No eating in your room."
"No TV tomorrow."
"I mean it" She steps over action figures on her way out.
"Love you, baby. Good night."
She makes her way down the hall and hears the sound of a guitar. His father has been the self-anointed King of Variety for over 20 years and young prince, Allard, is even more talented. She taps on the door. The music stops.
She enters guitar haven and raises her eyebrows. "Walk it backwards? This is what you tell your brother, Mister? How long should I ground you for?"
"Aw, Ma, I said it once. I can't believe he remembered it and got it right. I think he's like his dad, some sort of genius. I can hardly remember a joke." Allard puts his favorite Gibson guitar back in its rack next to the others. An upright piano graces the other wall of his immaculate bedroom; it looks like a musician's studio more than a teenager's hangout.
Excerpted from Redeemed by Kerr Barkley Copyright © 2012 by Kerr Barkley. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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