Fiona took Sienna out at a gallop across the meadow, as the sunlight of the mid-summer day blanketed them. Behind her, rode Jed and a couple of other ranch hands. They had left the ranch house to seek out the boundary lines between their ranch and the bordering properties as part of a survey process.
"It's a great day to be riding," she said when she pulled up by the cluster of trees which rested next to the stream which led to the great lake. She dismounted and pulled her lunch from her saddle bag. The others followed her and they all sat under the trees listening to the birds twittering in the trees and smaller creatures scattering themselves among the tall grass.
"Hey Fiona," Reed said, taking a bite from a sandwich, "When's that kid of yours getting in tomorrow?"
"She's not my kid," she said, "Cassidy's been staying with my friends Christina and Dan but they've got their hands full trying to figure out whether or not they need to add more rooms to their house now that a little one's on the way."
"So they hoisted her on you to babysit?"
She shook her head and took a sip from her thermos.
"No, Cassidy's a good kid, actually she's a teenager now but I love spending time with her. I think the ranch's a good place for her."
"Does she know how to ride," Jed asked.
"A little, after all she's in Texas but I think she's a natural. She'll have plenty of opportunity out here to work on it."
"Pair her up with Sangria," Jed said, "She'll love a chance to get out again."
"Don't worry I plan to keep her very busy with helping me on this case," Fiona said, "She's discovered boys and Christina' already worried she's growing up too fast."
"Uh huh, good luck with that," Reed said, "My little brother's been useless as a ranch hand since he figured out that girls aren't so bad after all."
"What about Chance," Jed said, "When is he getting in?"
Fiona made a face.
"He's backlogged with tons of cases in L.A.," she said, "No telling when he'll have time to drop by."
"We can use his help," Jed said, "We've just gotten started with this and we could use his investigative skills."
"He knows where I am if he wants to get in touch," she said, biting into her sandwich.
"What's going on with you two?"
"Nothing," she said, "Montana is and always has been my best friend. He's got his life in L.A. and I have mine in Dallas."
"Do you ever see each other?"
She studied Jed to see where he was going. She didn't think she liked it.
"I've been busy working my new job, what with the training and the workload and he's been busy with the agency in L.A. but we do visit each other once or twice a month when either of us can get away."
"Do you miss him?"
"Of course I do, what kind of question is that," she said, "But he's happy with the way things stand and I like what I've built for myself."
Chance and Brody sat in the car, waiting for their mark to walk out of the building. Chance looked through a pair of binoculars but the place looked quiet. Brody wondered if their guy was still in the building.
"Are you sure he's inside at a meeting?"
"Yes I'm sure," Chance said, "He went in the back way about two hours ago."
"Must be a long meeting then," Brody said, picking up his Hoagie and biting off the end of it.
Chance watched him, marveling not for the first time at the ingredients which Brody packed into his daily sandwiches. Anchovies, pickles and horse radish, all living together under the same roof. Still, Brody's skills as an investigator since he retired from the Los Angeles Police Department as a top homicide detective went unrivaled and Chance was always looking for people to add onto his agency to handle his increasing caseload. His good buddy, Capt. Linc had handed out his business cards to a couple good cops at their retirement bashes and now some of them worked for him.
"So when you taking a vacation?"
Chance looked up from his surveillance at his partner.
"You know, heading to that little spread out in the Rockies to do whatever it is people like yourself do when you're chilling out."
"I'm too busy to have a vacation," he said, "There's an assignment out there but I have to finish up some jobs here first."
"Why," Brody said, "You have four investigators now, and another new guy from Newport Beach starting next week."
"I have to train them all."
"You haven't even trained me," he said, "We've all got law enforcement experience, something you don't have partner."
"Okay, there's the books to keep updated," Chance said, still keeping an eye on the building, "My uncle can only do so much in between engagements in his active social life."
"I met her," Brody said, "She seems like a very nice woman."
That diverted Chance's attention away from his surveillance.
"What? You mean Fiona," he said, "Of course she's nice. She's my best friend."
"If I weren't married…" Brody said, "Hell, maybe I will…"
Chance glared at him.
"Knock it off with that talk," he said, "She's been through a very rough year. She doesn't need that."
"You're certainly touchy today," Brody said, finishing his Hoagie with relish, "this week…"
" Fiona 's taking a break from her job and helping some folks out in Colorado who helped her last year," Chance said, "She's working on filing some briefs for them in federal court with other attorneys."
"Why aren't you helping her?"
"If she needed my help, she'd ask for it," Chance said, "She's more than capable of working on a lawsuit on her own and she's got help there."
"That's not what I was talking about, Chance," he said, "You obviously need a vacation and she probably would like it if her best friend visited her in beautiful mountain country."
"I'm not sure about that," Chance said, quietly.
"Ooooh, okay did I miss something?"
Chance sighed, then returned to his binoculars, putting an end to that discussion.
Fiona laid back in the tall grass and looked at the wisps of clouds traveling across the blue sky. Summer was her favorite time in the valley. Days that basked sunlight with any heat relieved by afternoon thunderstorms leaving behind nights which were pleasantly cool. Unlike Dallas where nights were only a bit less layered in a blanket of humidity than the hot days and where hurricanes always threatened this time of year.
She had been back in the valley for two weeks and quickly felt as if she had never left it. Now was different because she had returned with her own name and her own life. Alice had embraced her and welcomed her back into the fold, taking good care of her and making sure she felt comfortable. She didn't ask any questions about the last year for which Fiona was thankful.
She had arrived in response to the request for help from Alice and the other ranchers about how to protect the area's mustangs from a business group that had purchased a parcel of property to build a ski and summer resort, bordering federal land where the mustangs spent a lot of their time. So she packed up her bags and brought her legal skills to the ranch and worked with other attorneys on legal arguments to produce to both the state and federal courts. Her new job licensed her to practice in federal court and she did a lot of the writing for the state court arguments as well. But she also spent a lot of time taking Sienna out and riding around the valley with several of the guys out to survey the valley and to track the movement of the bands of mustangs. She loved being back on the ranch. It allowed her to not have to think about other areas of her busy life.
"Ready to go," Jed said, walking up.
Fiona stood up, brushing her jeans.
"Yeah, we should check out the other side," she said, "Thanks for signing on for this. I know how busy you are on the ranch."
"No problem," he said, "I'm not about to let anything happen to our horses. They belong here more than we do."
"How does Bonnie feel about this?"
"She doesn't mind," he said, "As long as I come home with some new poetry at the end of the day…"
She smiled as she grabbed Sienna's reins.
"I'm glad you two figured it out and got together."
"I didn't think I'd get married again in this life time," he said, "But I'm glad I did."
She swung up on her horse and chirped to her. Sienna took off loping. Jed joined her riding alongside her.
"What about you," he said, "You deserve to be happy with someone."
"I'm just happy to be back doing what I love to do," she said, "And to be back here in better circumstances than my last visit."
"And that Montana guy?"
"He's the best friend a woman can ever have," she said, "He's also doing what he loves and makes him happy."
Chance looked at his watch. Two hours had passed and still no sign of the mark. Brody had knocked off a couple more Hoagies, each more outrageously constructed than the last and the odor of Anchovies permeated the car.
"You ready to go?"
"Not yet," Chance said, "We'll give him 20 more minutes."
"He probably left the same way he came in," Brody said.
"He could still be inside," Chance said.
"You have that big party you have to get to tonight," Brody said.
"The bachelor auction," he said, "I'd almost forgotten about it."
"Come on, it's for charity," Brody said, "The children's hospital, you can't let them down."
"I should have just sent them a check this year," Chance said.
"You're one of the big draws this year," Brody said, "How much do you think the highest bid will be?"
"I don't know," he said, "I haven't given it any thought."
"I can tell," Brody said, "What are you offering as a date?
Chance looked back through the binoculars.
"There he is," he said as a man left the building after talking with two others.
"Son of a gun," Brody said, "We'd better get this show on the road."
"We'll tail him and see where he winds up," Chance said, starting the car which he did after several tries, "Where'd you pick up this heap anyway?"
"Impound lot," Brody said, "It's old but it's a beaut, isn't it?"
The two of them followed closely behind the Cadillac as it left the parking lot.
"Look at that," Fiona said, pointing to the two mustangs grazing near them.
"It's a mare and her colt," Jed said, "The rest of them are probably close by. Watch out for the stallion if he's nearby."
Fiona got off of her horse, took the camera out of her saddlebag and approached the pair.
"Which ones do you think these are?"
"They're pinto and look at the mark on the hindquarters of the mare," Jed said, "I think it's Lola. She's about 10 years old."
She snapped their photos. Neither horse looked up while they nibbled on the grass.
Jed dismounted and walked up next to her.
"They are beautiful," Fiona said.
"When we have time to go to the south valley, we'll see more of them."
"I'm looking forward to that," Fiona said, then looked at the sky, "We'd better head back now before the daily monsoon hits."
"Bonnie's coming home early tonight," he said, "You're welcome to come to dinner."
"I'd love to."
They mounted their horses and rode back to the ranch house, making it there just ahead of the summer storm.
"I told you to turn left on Olive," Brody said.
"No, you said to keep going," Chance said, "Now I have to go and shower before I can go home and get ready for this damn auction."
Mac looked up from where he sat at his computer as both men exited the elevator into the penthouse office.
"Rough day," he asked, sipping from his brandy.
"Brody and I were tailing the target on the Myer case and we took a wrong turn," he said.
"You look like you fell into a mud bath," Mac said.
"That was after the car stalled and we had to push it out of the mud."
"It's my fault, Mac," Brody said, "I shouldn't have reminded Chance about the charity auction."
"Oh yes, tonight at the Hilton," Mac said, "I have to say I'm looking forward to it. I think my offer of an evening with me at the Palm Springs Film Festival will attract some good bidding."
"I haven't figured out what entertainment I was planning to offer up," Chance said.
"That's not like you Matlock," he said, "Usually you're on top of these charity events especially this one."
"I know Uncle Mac but I've been so busy," he said.
"I thought hiring more investigators was going to help lighten your work load," Mac said.
"That's what I hoped," Chance said, "Listen has anyone called?"
"Anyone like who," Mac said, "You know you get a lot of phone calls during the day. Business is booming even in a recession."
"Any calls from…"
"You mean has Fiona called asking you to run over to Colorado to help her?"
"Has she called?"
Mac winked at Brody.
"No, any special reason why she would?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means that she invited you to come out and help her out in that ranch in Colorado," Mac said, "But she didn't beg you to come, she left it up to you."
"She made it clear she could handle it on her own," Chance said.
"She said she could, doesn't mean that she wanted to," Mac said, "But that's not your problem, getting ready for this charity auction, now that's a problem."
"I've got to hit the shower and get this mud off me before I can even go home and change into that penguin suit."
He walked off and both Mac and Brody watched him go.
"Looks like he's really looking forward to tonight," Brody said.
"As much as he would a root canal," Mac said.
Fiona walked into the cabin and turned on the lights. The living room awaited her and she sank on the couch and picked up her phone. She had opted for the two bedroom cabin because it included office space and also a loft. In the back was a kitchen with a breathtaking view of the mountains from a window but she ate most of her meals at the ranch house with the hands.
She called Christina back in Montana.
"Hi, how you doing?"
"When I'm not throwing up, pretty good actually," Christina answered ruefully.
"Is morning sickness really that bad?"
"The doctor says I've only got maybe a month to go before I'm in the clear."
"I'm really happy for you and Dan," Fiona said, "How's Cassidy taking it?"
"She's on the fence I think," Christina said, "Happy one moment, snappy the next."
"It's called being a teenager," Fiona said, "I'm looking forward to seeing her. I'll be out at the airport to meet her plane."
"Thanks loads for this," she said, "Her grandmother's getting frail and can't keep up with her so she's living here now and after that whole thing with her boyfriend…"
"We've all been there," Fiona said, "Some of us more than once."
"She's upset that she can't see him anymore," Christina said, "She'll probably tell you all about it when she gets there."
"She'll be busy enough on the ranch helping me with this case," Fiona said, "I know she loves horses."
"Do you think this is going to be that easy," Christina said, "Going against major developers? I've heard in other places that can get pretty rough."
"We'll be fine here," Fiona said, "Nothing's happened yet."
"Well, maybe you should call Chance…"
"I asked him to come if he wanted to and he said he's tied up with lots of clients in L.A."
"You know you mean much more to him than any of those clients do."
"I know that, but I'm not going to push him to come out here if he's really busy."
Chance fiddled with his tuxedo tie and tried to remember how to tie it. Uncle Mac looked at him and smiled.
"You mean you made it up to now without ever learning how to tie it?"
Mac had dropped by to share a ride with Chance in a limousine to add ambience to the event. Although Chance could afford dozens of limousines, he hated riding in them. He had wanted to take his new Corvette but the auction organizers nixed that preferring that all of the bachelors and event sponsors step onto the red carpet outside the hotel from limousines for the paparazzi.
"Ready to go," Mac said.
"Let's get going," he said, picking up his formal jacket.
"You know you could act more like you're going off to have a great time," Mac said, "It adds to the experience."
"Don't you think it's a bit dehumanizing to be auctioned off like a slab of meat," Chance said, slipping on his jacket as they left the beach house. The limousine and a bored chauffeur waited for them.
"It's for a good cause," Mac said, "And you'll attract a lot of attention after making PEOPLE's Sexiest Businessman Alive in last year's issue."
He had missed that because he had been recovering from when he and Fiona had been trying to bring down a notorious human trafficker. They had spent some time in Montana after returning home and Fiona had remained there starting her training for a new job and recovering from her ordeal. He had hated returning to Los Angeles but he had to take care of his business and she had told him to go do what he needed to do. But once he got back to town, he soon found himself inundated in cases. If possible his long absence and the aftermath had put him in even bigger demand as a private investigator.
But his uncle had laminated the full-page photo of him standing on his yacht from the magazine and placed it in a place of prominence in the lobby of the penthouse office in Century City. Fiona during one of her rare visits had raised an eyebrow at it and chuckled with several of his office assistants to Chance's chagrin.
He and his uncle stepped inside the limousine to head off to the auction. Chance pulled on his bow tie most of the way while his uncle sat back with his eyes closed listening to jazz music from the speakers.
Fiona knocked on the door. Bonnie opened it and let her into the small house.
"I brought something," Fiona said and handed her the wine bottle. Bonnie inspected the label.
"That's good vintage. It will go well with the beef," she said, "I turned that over to Jed to handle and stuck with the side dishes."
Fiona walked through the living room.
"It smells good," she said.
They both walked into the kitchen where Jed carved a slab of meat onto a large plate which he set next to the salad bowl and vegetable and rice dishes. They prepared their plates and took them to the living room to enjoy.
Bonnie poured the wine that Fiona had brought into glasses.
"So how the mustangs doing," she asked.
"The ones we saw today looked really good," Fiona said, slicing her meat.
"Do you really think that this development firm can be stopped?"
"I think if Jason and I file the papers in both the federal and state court in Denver, it should look pretty good."
"You like Jason?"
Fiona looked at Bonnie, quizzically.
"Of course I do," she said, "He's an excellent attorney and we both share the same alma mater. He was third year when I started."
"Bonnie…" Jed said, shaking his head.
She feigned innocence.
"Why are you always trying to set people up," Jed said, "Watch out, she's hooked three couples together so far this year."
"Two are going to the altar…eventually."
Jed laughed at his wife. Fiona looked at the both of them and knew it was all in fun.
"Wait a minute," Fiona said, "You're the local matchmaker?"
"Actually, it's just a hobby of mine," Bonnie said, "I might start my own business some day with a couple more successful matches of course."
Fiona looked back and forth between Jed and his wife.
"You can be perfectly happy on your own," she said, "Women don't have to even have relationships with men let alone get married these days."
"Oh I know," Bonnie said, "it's just that I believed that too until the day I met Jed and just knew I had to have him in my life and I've never regretted it."
Jed smiled at his wife. He couldn't argue with that.
Chance mingled with the other guests in the spacious ballroom, tugging at his tie most of the time. He found himself by the bar ordering a gin and tonic.
A blond woman standing next to a nearby ice sculpture of a man had been watching him. She flashed a smile at him when he looked over at her. He smiled back wondering if he was supposed to know who she was and deciding he didn't. She walked on over, still wearing her smile.
"Hi, you look lost here," she said.
" No, I'm just trying to figure out what the ice sculpture is supposed to be. Is it Michelangelo's David?"
She eyed it carefully.
"No, it can't be because it's missing something."
"Ah yes, indeed it is," he said, "My mistake. Art History wasn't one of my better subjects in college."
"That blush puts a nice color in your face," she said, "Actually it's Adonis."
"Now I see it," he said, nodding.
"Hi, I'm Ginger, Ginger Winslow," she said, extending her hand, "I work for the art museum in West L.A. in marketing."
He took her hand.
"I'm Chance Montana," he said, "I own and run a private investigation firm in town."
"Oh yes, you're the multi-millionaire who took his corporation public to focus on investigations."
"Actually, the company's profits all go to my charitable foundation," Chance said, "It's based in Montana."
She looked at her program.
"And you're on the list of eligible bachelors to be auctioned off tonight," she said, "I'll remember that when it's time to bid."
"You might want to save your money and bid on my uncle," Chance said, "He's offering an evening at a major film festival."
"What are you offering as a date for the lucky bidder?"
"I'm not sure yet," he said, "I haven't given it much thought."
Her eyes narrowed.
"How long did you know about this auction?"
"A while," Chance said, "But I've been really busy."
She looked him over with a skeptical eye.
"Are you sure you're up for this?"
"No…yes, I've done this every year," he said, "I've always enjoyed the experience."
"I can tell," she said.
Uncle Mac walked over with a martini in hand to check on his nephew.
"The auction's just about to get started," he said, looking at the attractive woman standing with Chance.
"I won't keep you," Ginger said, with a smile as she walked off.
Fiona sat on the sofa in the living room with Jed and Bonnie, finishing up the rest of the wine.
"That dinner was delicious," she said, "And your key lime pie, is the best I've ever tasted."
Bonnie smiled and put her plate down.
"So how are things going with Jason?"
"We're just working together on this case," Fiona said, "He's a really nice guy but that's all there's to it."
"Are you sure?"
"Definitely," she said, "I'm just not at the point in my life when I'm looking for a relationship."
"I know you've been through a lot," Bonnie said, "But I just want you to be happy."
"I am," Fiona said, taking another sip of her wine, "You don't need to worry."
"Uh huh," Bonnie said.
"Look, it's getting late and I'd better head back," Fiona said, "Jed and I have to head out early tomorrow so I can meet with Jason and his legal assistant in town later on."
Jed walked in and sighed at his wife.
"I'll walk back with you your place," he said, "After what happened last week, I don't want you walking home at night."
"We don't know if anything did happen," Fiona said, "It could have been someone with too much to drink."
"Maybe," Jed said, "but better to be safe than sorry."
Chance lined up with the other bachelors and watched his uncle step up on the stage and be introduced to the audience. Once the auctioneer pounded the gavel, the signs went up immediately. The bidding became fast and furious, so much so Chance could barely keep up.
"Going, going gone, for $10,000," the auctioneer yelled slamming his gavel as everyone applauded.
Chance looked up in shock as his uncle stepped down from the stage with a spring in his step and looking very pleased with himself. As he passed his nephew, he winked at him, daring him to try to beat that winning bid.
A well-known news anchor and a television actor preceded him in line. He began pulling on his collar again since his tie was a mess. He turned to look at the audience, the massive wall of well-dressed and coiffed guests and his eyes caught Ginger's. She smiled for him and gave him a little wave.
Suddenly, his phone vibrated on his belt. He flipped it open and saw Brody's name on his Caller ID. He sighed, watching as the auctioneer closed the bidding on the newsman.
"What's up Brody," Chance said, "You picked a great time to call. I'm just about to be auctioned off."
Laughter filled the phone on the other end.
"This isn't funny," Chance said, "My uncle raised $10,000 for the hospital."
"You can raise a bid higher than that my friend," Brody said.
"I should have given them a check this year," Chance said.
"And pass up a chance to have a crowd of attractive women bid on a chance to go out with you," Brody said, "Did you ever figure out where you would be taking the lucky winner?"
"Never mind," Chance said, eying the auction, "Why are you calling me?"
"Dude, there's some serious action outside the Marriot," Brody said, "Your mark on the Martin case showed up. I've been tailing him for over an hour."
"He showed up here?"
"Just outside the front door," Brody said, "Are you coming?"
"I can't," Chance said, "I'm up next."
"This might be our only chance," Brody said, "but don't worry about it. I think I can handle him on my own."
Chance looked up and saw an attractive woman escort the actor off stage to a sea of more applause.
"I'm up right now," he said, preparing to walk up on the stage.
Suddenly a woman screamed and he looked across the room and saw her wrestling with a man who was stealing her purse. Chance jumped off the stage, taking a couple people down with him. He pushed his way through the crowd towards where he had heard the calls for help. He ran and towards the end of the crowd, people began getting the hint and parted before him like he was Moses and it was the Red Sea. Suddenly right in front of him popped up the table with the Adonis ice sculpture. With no time to avoid it, he jumped on the table with his hands in front of him and just missed Adonis as he leapt off the table onto the floor.
Unfortunately, Adonis wobbled and tipped too far in one direction and toppled right off the table, shattering into millions of small shards on the ballroom floor. Men and women started screaming and running for the exits, while the emcees of the auction plead with them to calm down. Chance reached the man and woman who were struggling and jumped onto the man, knocking him into the buffet table, which collapsed to the floor sending stuffed olives and pigs wrapped in a blanket flying like missiles into the guests' faces. The two of them rolled on the floor, knocking over the punch bowl and sending it on its side, splashing the city's mayor and his wife with a rainbow sherbet and club soda concoction that an elderly woman had covertly spiked with some vodka hidden in her large purse.
Finally, Chance pinned the guy on the ground, and pulled the purse out of his grasp. Brody came running up, out of breath.
"Did he get the flash drive," he asked.
Chance dumped out the purse and falling out of one of the pockets was the flash drive in question which Chance and Brody knew contained valuable information about some of the local business proposals that unscrupulous developers were after to get the upper hand in the bidding processes for those projects. He knew that the little device in his hand was easily worth high six-figures.
He looked up and saw a crowd of guests gathering around them. He stood up, dragging the man up on his feet with him. Brody grabbed his other arm.
Suddenly, one person in the crowd started clapping and soon enough, so was everyone else.
Fiona and Jed walked down the dirt road back to her cabin. The night was pleasant, and not too chilly. Stars filled the sky and silence surrounded them, except for the movements of animals through the brush.
"Thanks for rescuing me," Fiona said, with a laugh, "I know Bonnie means well but this isn't the easiest subject for me to discuss."
" Fiona, you'll know when you're ready to have a relationship," Jed said, "It has to be on your own time table, no one else's not even my wife's."
She looked at him.
"You understand, don't you," she said, "Was it like this for you after your wife died?"
"I couldn't even think of going out with any woman for years after she died," he said, "I felt like I was betraying her memory."
"Sometimes I think I'm ready, but then I realize I'm just not there yet."
"You've been through a lot in the past year," Jed said, "You need time to feel like you're ready to put that all behind you and are ready to open up again."
"I hope I get to that point," she said, "I've been working really hard at it."
"You will," Jed said, "I did and I'm a much harder case than you. Just don't beat yourself up about it and accept that some things have their own time lines."
Capt. Linc looked at Chance and Brody.
"I should have known when I got this call about chaos at the downtown bachelor charity auction, your prints would be all over it."
Chance looked at Brody.
"We caught the guy who was after the information on the development projects at the marina."
Linc waved his hand.
"He's in the car waiting to be taken to the station," he said, "But look at this place."
They all did and indeed it looked like a tornado had gone through the ballroom.
"Adonis was the only real casualty," Chance said, looking at the huge puddle of water which was all that remained of the sculpture.
"Those ice sculptures don't come cheap."
"They can bill me, Linc."
"Maybe they can continue the auction Chance and whatever amount you bring in, can be used to pay for the damages," Brody said.
Chance glared at his partner.
"Just kidding," Brody said, backing off.
Ginger walked up to the two men.
"Nice performance," she said, "When they said that entertainment would be provided, this wasn't what came to mind."
She gave Chance her card.
"Give me a call sometime and we can continue this auction of sorts in a more private venue."
She walked off and both Linc and Brody looked at Chance.
"Hot damn," he said, "That's one fine looking woman."
"Well, she might have bid on me and gotten a date with me if it hadn't been for you," Chance said.
"A date where," Brody said, "You didn't even have that decided before the auction."
"I had a couple of places in mind," Chance said, "I just hadn't settled on any one of them."
Brody rolled his eyes.
"Come on, we both know you had no clue where you were going to take the highest bidder," Brody said, "You're going to go home and call FIONA and tell her all about it."
"She's been too busy working on her case to return my calls."
Linc looked at the both of them.
"I think I'll leave you and take this man into custody," he said, then wagged a finger at them, "And if I could go more than a couple of days without receiving a call about the destruction of private or public property that has your names on it, I could toss out my antacids."
With that, Linc walked off.
"Chance are you ready to go home," Mac said, "The limousine's waiting for us."
"Oh yeah, Uncle Mac, I'm more than ready to get out of here."
Brody looked at the both of them.
"Look I got to get going," he said, "Remember stake out tomorrow morning, six sharp at the marina."
Chance nodded, wondering if he really needed that vacation that Brody always nagged him to take and if so, would he ever take it.
Jed and Fiona reached the front door of her cabin and she said goodbye to him. She walked inside and closed the door behind her.
The evening had relaxed her as she felt comfortable hanging out with Jed and Bonnie who she counted as among her closest friends in the world. Bonnie had meant well, but when she brought up Jason, Fiona found her walls going up again. The walls that she still often built up to guard her against any questions about whether or not she was interested in pursuing any relationships with Jason or any man. She had made tremendous progress in rebuilding her life in the past year but still, thinking about building intimacy with the opposite gender made her uncomfortable. That had already gotten her into trouble once.
On her way to her bedroom, she passed her phone. She thought about calling him, but dropped that thought and headed off to heat some water for some chamomile tea before going to bed. After she boiled water and used that to steep her tea, she headed back to the living room and picked up her phone.
Chance and Mac rode back to the beach house in the limousine, both lost in their own thoughts. Mac basked in the enjoyment of the bachelor auction and his future outing with an attractive and intelligent woman at the upcoming film festival while Chance considered the disastrous end to the auction to be anything but a bad end. He actually felt relieved that he hadn't gone through with the auction which struck him as strange because usually, he enjoyed the event or at least he had in past years. And he always showed the women who bid highest for a date with him a good time. Just not this year.
His phone rang. He picked it up and looked and saw that the area code was from Colorado. He held it to his ear.
"Hello Fiona," he said.
"Hi Montana," she said, "I hope I'm not disturbing you."
"No, no you're not," he said, "It's always nice to hear from you."
"I just wanted to tell you that things are going smoothly out here and I might not need an investigator after all."
"Not need an investigator," Chance said, "So you don't need me to come out there and help you?"
"If you want to come out to the ranch, you're more than welcome," she said, "But I don't want you to rush through your caseload on my account."
"Meaning you can handle things without me," he said.
"Jason and I are almost ready to finish up our initial brief for federal court," she said, "Jed and the other hands are helping me with the mustang surveys."
"I was kind of looking forward to going out there," Chance said.
"Brody said I needed a vacation but I've got to get a handle on these newer cases until my new hires are trained."
"I understand," she said, "Don't worry about it. I can handle things fine on this end. Good night."
" Fiona wait…"
"I just want to say I really miss you," he said, "And I've been thinking about you since you left."
"I've been thinking too," she said. "Well, I better head off to bed. I have an early day tomorrow."
"So do I," he said, "Good night."
He clicked off the phone and caught his uncle looking at him.
"Don't start," he warned.
"I wouldn't know where to begin," Mac said with a sigh.
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"Oh…nothing," Mac said, "I think it's time to play some music."
He reached for the stereo system and soon jazz music filled the car. It didn't do much to soothe Chance's bad mood which continued all the way home. And when he got home and his uncle had left, he found himself standing on the balcony of his beach house looking at the sliver of moon which hung over the horizon. He listened to the tide of the ocean lap on the shore and he felt lonely.