by Grasshopper

Chapter 27

Luc ran to his grandma, his hands pressing against his eyes. "Grandma, Grandpa, hurts bad." He climbed into Albert's lap and snuggled tightly.

"Something's very wrong," Albert called after Sarah as she ran for the phone. "Check on the boys, Sarah."

Wes could hear the phone ringing, but he didn't make a move to answer it. Still sprawled on the floor, he heard Callie say, "Get up, Coley.... Sissy's home." A swift flash of rage ran through his body. Here was the person who'd caused all the pain of the last few years. Here was Callie, back all too suddenly. Jumping up, he moved quickly to stand by Cole's side, grabbing his hand.

"Well, if it isn't Wesley. I'd have thought you'd be long gone from here, you and that miserable gimpy sister of yours, but I guess neither of you can do much more than common labor. You just living off my family like a parasite?"

Cole felt Wes' hand squeeze his, almost cutting off the blood supply. "It's okay, Wes. Don't let her bait you. Why are you here, Callie? You've been gone five years, why now?"

"Oh, I have lots of news. My life has changed since I lived here in this little nothing place. But, save it for right now. I just came by to see how my sweet brother was doing."

"Callie, what happened? What did I do?" Cole asked, his voice low with emotion. "You're my twin sister, for God's sake. We were so close when we were growing up. What happened?"

"You can ask me that? You know, Cole. You know what you did." Not looking at Wes, Callie turned back toward the steps. "I'll see you both soon."

"Not if I can help it," Wes muttered.

"Oh, you'll want to see me. If fact, you'll beg to see me real soon. I don't care anything about you anymore, Wesley Straihan, but I can't wait to hear you beg." Laughing, she sauntered off the porch and climbed into the rental silver blue Mercedes, kicking up clouds of dust as she roared off.

Cole just folded into Wes' arms. "Jesus, what was that about?" he sighed. "I don't want to hate my own sister, but Wes, why is she here?"

"I have no idea," Wes said quietly, "But it can't be anything good." The phone began to ring again and Wes ran to catch it:

"Oh lord, we'll be right there."
"Yeah, put him on."
"Yeah, we're on our way, sweet boy."

"Come on, Cole," he said as he grabbed up the sweat stained t-shirt he'd pulled off before, throwing Cole his. "Luc has a headache."

"Damn. Well, we know why." The truck engine turned over smoothly and they pulled up into the barnyard fifteen minutes later. Luc came barreling out the kitchen door and flew into the first pair of arms available. "My head's all better," he said. "It hurt bad when I was playing."

"I know," Wes said sympathetically. "Mine's been hurting too, but it's gone now."

"Is cause we be strong, right Wes?" Luc smiled.

"Yep, let me feel those muscles," Wes reached to squeeze the little muscle when Luc bowed up his arm and flexed. "Let's you and me go check on Hawk, okay?" Cole watched as Wes dropped Luc to the ground and they walked off toward the barn, giving Cole time to talk to his parents.

"Mom, Dad, you know why they have those headaches, don't you?"

"It's hard to believe, but every time they get them, something bad is going to happen. I hope they're wrong this time," Albert said.

"I hope so too," Cole answered, "But we had a visitor a little while ago."

"Who?" Sarah asked cautiously.


Sarah's hand flew to her mouth as she tried to hold back a gasp and Albert clutched at his chest as he felt a sudden tightness. "Callie? Our baby's here? Why hasn't she come home?"

"I'm sure she will," Cole ground out, angry all over again that his sister had not even come to see their parents.

The hot, dry August wind brushed against the cracked, brittle ground and picked up bits of dirt. The wind blew against the houses and left a thick layer of dirt and grass on the porches and the rooftops. The dust coated throats and nostrils making breathing difficult.

"We need a rainmaker," Cole sighed the next morning as he clicked off the morning newscast predicting zero possibility of precipitation and temperatures in the high 90*s for the forty-fifth day running.

He flopped back down on the bed, soaking in as much air conditioning as he could for the day ahead. Watching Wes sitting at his drafting table, his latest drawing clipped at the angle he liked best, Cole thought, for the millionth time, how beautiful he was. The streak of white hair just added to the sexiness. When Wes scooped that long swath of hair back out of his eyes with his strong fingers, Cole would always feel the wanting begin to build.

Cole knew it had been so much easier for himself, the growing up part of their lives, than for Wes. Wes had had to endure pain, terror and humiliation at the hands of a madman who called himself Father. What a different life Wes would have had if he had grown up in Thistle with Billy and Kat for parents. If only Karl, Mercy and Wes had been given the chance to grow up in a happy, loving family. Now Karl was dead, Mercy was crippled and God only knew the demons that all three of them had wrestled with when they lived in that house.

Cole was so proud of Wes. He had overcome impossible odds to become the man that he was today. He was a talented artist who, given the freedom he needed to create, would have pictures hanging in museums one day. Cole had all the faith in the world in Wesley.

It was amazing when he thought about it. Luc had been born, an unwanted baby, his father a tragic brutal man, his mother a spoiled selfish girl. Luc was Wes' nephew and Cole's nephew. He was blood kin and they would raise him as their son. The connection between Wes and Luc was so strong, their bond unexplainable. Perhaps, one day, they would find out what the headaches and the silver eyes meant.

"Cole, where did you go?" Wes asked, stretching out on the bed to lay his head on Cole's belly. "You were a million miles away."

"I was just thinking..... about you and Luc and how we'll make his life full of happiness."

"Of course we will," Wes smiled, "And I was just thinking that I want to make your life full of happiness right now." Lifting his head, he licked his lips and brought them down to claim a bit of happiness for them both. Cole groaned deep in his throat, "Ahh, yes, past happy."

Pulling on jeans and work boots, Cole reached for his shirt. Wes watched him as he slid one arm into the sleeve. "Cole?"


"What are the two stones on that chain?"

Cole froze. He wasn't ready for this. "These?" he asked, lifting the two hematite beads from their resting place on his chest.

"Yeah. You always wear that chain and they look like the beads on that bracelet you gave me years ago."

'Not now', Cole thought frantically. "I... uh...."

"What is it?"

Cole turned away, pulling the chain from his neck swiftly and throwing it on the dresser.

Wes frowned. "Come here, Cole. It can't be that bad. Tell me." Wes suddenly felt scared. Did someone give Cole those beads and they meant something to him? What was the secret? "You're starting to scare me."

"Oh no, there's nothing to be scared of. I just.... I just..." Damn, why had he kept wearing that chain? What an idiot! Of course Wes would ask.

"Cole, there's nothing you can say that will make me love you any less. You know that. We said we'd always tell the truth and talk everything out." Wes looked away, out the bay window, and mumbled, "Did someone give you those beads? Is that why you can't tell me?"

"What? No! Oh, God, no! Wesley!"

"Then what?"

"Okay," Cole sighed, and then looked into Wes' silver eyes, "I found the beads from your bracelet and I kept these two. I started wearing them on that chain when you left hoping they'd keep you safe."

"Oh, Love, what's so wrong with..................... Wait! You found them? I lost them... I lost them the night Karl died. I looked where I lost them but I couldn't find any of the beads. There was so much going on that I forgot about them."

"Well, I found them and gathered them up."

"Where? Where did you find them?" Wes already knew the answer, but why was Cole so nervous?

His voice barely a whisper, Cole said, "I found them in the garage where Karl died."

"Okay," Wes replied, "But why are you shaking? I had a fight with Karl and he broke the bracelet cord. The beads flew all over the garage floor. I was so angry when I left that I didn't even notice until I got to the cave. What are you thinking, Cole? Cole?"

"Wes, I love you more than anything in this life. I'd never hurt you or betray you. You know that, right?"

"Yes, yes, I know that, but what's going on in your head? You don't think I killed Karl, do you?" Wes grinned, but the grin faded quickly when Cole didn't laugh at the absurdity of that question. "You don't, do you?" he stared into Cole's honest blue eyes, "Oh My God! You Do! You think I killed my brother." Wes jumped up off the bed and stalked across the room, putting the drafting table between them.

"I don't want to think it and I would never tell anyone. I love you, Wesley.

Whatever you did, you had to do." Cole's eyes filled with tears. "Don't be angry."

Wes stood very still gazing out the window. Then, turning back to look at Cole, he said softly, "So, you've believed all this time that I killed my brother and you've kept it all bottled up inside. Why would you think that? Is it because of those beads? I told you they broke in the fight."

Cole couldn't stand the look on Wes' face. It was as if, suddenly, they had become strangers. Taking a deep breath, Cole said, "I went to the garage looking for you. I knew there'd been trouble and I wanted to be with you."

He gulped in air, "I walked in and found Karl.... found Karl speared on that tractor pinned to the wall. I ran over to him and he was still alive, just barely, but he said something."

Wes walked back across the room and took hold of Cole's arms, "What? What did he say?" He realized he was squeezing Cole's arms roughly and let loose.

Cole could remember it like it had happened five minutes ago instead of five years. "Wes, he said:

"Wes Killed Tell Wes"

"You took that to mean that I killed him and for you to tell. Is that what happened?"

Cole nodded his head and wrapped his arms around Wes' waist.

"And you were never gonna tell anyone?" Cole shook his head against Wes' chest, muttering, "No, never."

"Okay, shhh, look at me, Cole." He lifted Cole's chin so they were close enough to kiss. "I didn't kill Karl. He needed killing, but I didn't do it. When I left the garage, he was alive and working on that tractor. I don't know what he meant by those words unless he thought you knew who did that to him and for you to tell me. I didn't kill him."

Cole felt the sun break through his storm gray thoughts. "Of course you didn't kill Karl. All this time, I've been worrying and scared to ask you , while all the time, I should have just known. I'm sorry."

"Okay, this is the second time we've hurt each other by not asking, not talking things over. You didn't cheat on me and I didn't kill my brother. Maybe we could work on this? We need to trust each other unconditionally and, if something happens, dang well ask."

"You're right, I messed up big time."

"Well, come kiss me and we'll start trying to unmess the mess." Wes laughed and Cole sighed in relief.

Sarah looked out the kitchen window when she heard a car door slam. "Oh Albert, it's Callie." They both rushed to the door and flung it open wide. "Welcome home, Callie. We've missed you so much."

Callie brushed by their out stretched arms and walked quickly across the floor. "Hello, Mom, Dad," she said turning to face them. "I trust you've been well."

Sarah felt tears burn her eyes and Albert stood up straighter. They'd talked long into the night about Callie and what had happened to make her turn away from her family and her home. Sarah had been awash with tears for the daughter she seemed to have lost. Albert, on the other hand, had watched this coming for years, growing slowly. "We'll let her say her piece, Sarah," he'd said last night and that was still his decision today. If Callie wanted to be forgiven, of course they would forgive her. If not, then so be it. There was so much they didn't know; the pregnancy, turning away from her own child, leaving Cole to go to Paris when he was devastated over Wesley's disappearance. How could the beautiful little girl she had once been do the things she had done? There was unconditional love and then there was stupidity and one thing Albert Hewett wasn't was stupid.

"Yes, your mother and I have been fine these past five years. I take it you've been fine too?" Sarah started to speak, but Albert shushed her before she could say that he had had a heart attack.

"Oh yes, I've been absolutely grand," Callie said looking around the kitchen. "I see the place hasn't changed much. You always were happy with such simple things."

"Would you like something to drink? Or eat?" Sarah asked.

"No, I'm staying at the Campbell's with Lily. I just came by to say hello. We'll only be here for a few more days."

Albert put his arm around Sarah's shoulders and he could feel her shaking.

"Grandpa, help me," Luc called from the living room.

"I'll be there in just a minute," Albert said loudly.

"Okey dokey," the sweet little voice replied.

Callie's expression changed slightly. "The boy. He stays with you?"

"We watch him during the day, yes. Would you like to see your son?"

"No, I've got a lunchdate. I have to be going. I just wanted to pop in and let you know I was here." She walked to her mother and air kissed her on both cheeks. "Goodbye. I'll see you before I leave if I have time." The door slammed, the car door slammed and Callie was gone.

"Oh, Albert."

"I know, I know," he soothed as he patted her back. "Our little girl is gone. I just want to know why she's here at all." He thought of Luc and the pain in his eyes and Wes' headaches. Something bad usually followed. Please Lord, don't let it be Callie's doings.

Callie had lunch at the Campbell's with Lily, her latest lover, Philippe and a very handsome older man. They discussed this and that and some bits of business. After the food had been eaten and the wine drunk, Callie and her friend left in the Mercedes.

"I cannot picture you living here, Cherie. This is so.... so provincial. You are made for big cities and fine wine."

"I know," Callie answered. "I never liked it here and always felt there was something calling me. I found it when I left. I would never come back. There is nothing here for me."

Driving down the road that cut through the southern section of the Hewett Ranch, Callie drove fast, too fast, kicking up dust as if the car was aquaplaning. "You seem in a great hurry, my dear."

"I am. I have one thing to do then we can return to Paris. Ah, there he is," she said when she saw Cole riding along the fenceline. Stopping the car with a jerk of the brakes, Callie and her friend climbed out and waited for Cole to approach the car. Her dark glasses hiding her eyes, Callie watched her twin ride toward them. "Such a shame he's gay. What a waste," she said contemptuously. "He's almost as pretty as I am."

Cole climbed down from Angel's back and walked up to the two standing by the car. "What are you doing out here?"

"Looking for you. Cole, this is Bernard Labatierre, my attorney. He has some papers for you." She stood by while Bernard opened his briefcase and handed Cole a folder with the name 'Lucas William Hewett-Straihan' written across the cover.

"What is this? What do you want, Callie?" Cole felt a horrible sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. He wished his sister and that smirking lawyer would just disappear.

"Mr. Hewett, your sister is here to take custody of her child. She appreciates the fact that you cared for him while she underwent treatment in Europe for her condition, but she is in excellent health now and wishes to take the child back to her home in Paris."

"Over my dead body!" Cole growled. "You don't touch that boy! You didn't care about him before he was born, when he was born or anytime after. Don't try to feed me any shit about missing him or wanting him. It's all a goddamn pack of lies. You will never get your hands on Luc." He stepped up close and shoved his face close to hers. "You hear me, Callie? Get the fuck out of here. You left once.... Do it again!"

Callie just stood letting him rant. Finally, he ran down and she nodded to the lawyer, "Explain, Bernard."

"Ms. Hewett WILL get custody. She is the child's natural mother. She was devastated by the circumstances by which the child was conceived and it caused her much mental stress, but now she is capable and ready to raise her child. I must emphasize the words Her Child. She is very grateful for your help and will glad to compensate you for any monies spent on the child."

"Fuck this," Cole raged, "I will NEVER let you have Luc. He belongs here. Compensate me? COMPENSATE ME !!! I love him. You can't give me money for that. Get off this property. You don't belong here. Don't even TRY to touch him, Callie, or so help me......................." He turned on his heel, swung up into the saddle and raced for the house. Take Luc! No way in Hell was she taking him!

The hot wind claimed more and more of the ground cover, the wind break trees were dried and dying. One spark, one lightning strike, one thrown cigarette was all it would take.

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