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The Desire to Protect

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Summary

Natalie Howard has had a long and difficult road. She's a single mother to three children, and she has inherited her father's ranch. She moves in with her three children and her mother content to spend her days single. She's putting together plans to turn the ranch into a Bed and Breakfast. While a militia group is pushing people out of their homes.

Genre:
Romance / Mystery
Author:
A. S. Heley
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
55
Rating:
5.0 3 reviews
Age Rating:
18+

Chapter 1

“Natalie!” Sybil yelled, as they exited the courthouse, in a flurry of skirts and long red hair. “Natalie, you stop and listen to me when I am speaking to you!”

“Sybil, I don’t have to do a damn thing you say.” Natalie growled as she continued on her way, pushing back a stray strand of black hair.

“Like hell you don’t! I married your fat ass father and that means I am still your family!” Sybil hissed.

“You’re nothing but a gold-digging whore that married an abusive drunk to get something that you thought you would be owed simply for lying on your back!” She hissed, spinning on her heel towards the woman.

“You don’t even like your daddy! I married him, the land should belong to me.” Sybil hissed.

“I don’t know what to tell you, Sybil!” Natalie yelled, losing her temper. “It’s not my fault he left it to me! Hell, he nearly gave you every penny! Why can’t you be happy with that?”

“I’m his wife! It should go to me goddammit!” Sybil screeched, drawing attention.

“I’m done with this. I don’t know what to tell you, Sybil! Whatever you did to fall out of his grace is on you. I don’t know why he left it to me, but you should take a long hard look in the damn mirror.” Natalie said, shaking her head and turning on her heel.

“I’m not done with you!” She growled, grabbing her by the arm.

“But I’m done with you, Sybil. It’s over. Just accept it.” Natalie growled, yanking her arm away from her stalking to her car.

“What did the judge say?” Theresa asked when Natalie walked through the door.

“The will holds…“ Natalie sighed, running a hand through her medium length black locks.

“You’re kidding, right?” She asked, eyeing her daughter as she packed up another box.

“No.” Natalie whispered.

“The old man actually left you something?” Theresa asked, shaking her head in surprise.

“Surprisingly. Honestly, does he think this fixes things between us?” She huffed, crossing her arms over her chest.

“Natalie, he is your father.” Theresa sighed, shaking her head.

“No. He was a monster. I’m lucky to be able to walk.” Natalie said, fixing her with a glare.

“Natalie…” She protested.

“Look, mom, I know there wasn’t anything you could do against that man. But after everything he’s done, including that whore Sybil, they don’t deserve my forgiveness any more than Nathan does. I mean look at everything that’s happened. To you. To me. The kids! No. He owes me this much. The only good things that man ever did was marry you and leave me his land.” Natalie groused.

“Natalie… I know you didn’t like your dad, but you shouldn’t talk ill of the dead.” Theresa sighed. “No matter how bad he was.”

“Fine. Let’s get the rest of this packed up and in the truck before the kids get out of school.” Natalie sighed, grabbing a few boxes and carting them out to the moving van.

Natalie knew that she wouldn’t miss this town or this small apartment that she shared with her mother. She was happy to finally be able to put some distance between her and her ex-husband who was currently in jail for domestic abuse. Now she would be able to live in peace and raise her children without fear of him suddenly showing up.

“So how much land did you get?” Theresa asked, setting her boxes into the back of the moving van and shutting the door.

“The whole thing.” Natalie said, shaking her head and going inside to collect her youngest child.

“You know what that means?” Theresa asked, turning to face her daughter with a wide grin as she followed her back inside.

“What?” Natalie asked, frowning as she picked him up out of his playpen.

“That means that you can finally open that Bed and Breakfast you’ve been wanting to run.” Theresa said, raising a brow as she helped pack up the playpen while her grandson fussed in her daughter’s arms.

“I don’t know, mom…. That’s a lot of work considering that I have three kids to raise.” Natalie said, shaking her head as they walked out to the car, and she buckled him up in his car seat.

“You’re not alone and you can start out small.” Theresa whispered. “Just think about it.”

“Fine.” Natalie smiled, shaking her head and shutting the door.

“Let’s go get the kids. Time to head out.” Theresa said, jumping into the moving van.

Natalie sighed and shook her head. She knew that her mother was just eager to get away from this awful town where everything bad seemed to happen. The only good thing that came out of living there was her children and the fact that she was able to rebuild her relationship with her estranged mother.

“Mom, do we really have to move out to the sticks?” David asked, speaking over the sound of his brother’s yelling in the back seat.

“Look, I know that you don’t like having to leave your friends behind, but I think you’ll like it out there.” Natalie chuckled as she listened to Liam yell at his brother for attention.

“Really?” David asked, frowning when his little brother threw a stuffed animal at his face. “Liam!”

“What happened?” Natalie asked, looking into the rearview mirror.

“He threw piggy at me.” David grumbled.

“He just wants your attention.” Natalie laughed. “As I was saying, your grandfather left us some land. On it there’s a house and I remember there being a barn and horses and all sorts of cattle.”

“Horses?” David asked, sitting up.

Natalie looked in the rearview mirror and smiled while nodding her head. She knew that would get his attention. David and Rebbeca were similar in that they both loved animals and wanted to learn to ride horses.

“Yes, baby. Horses and so much land you could run for days.” Natalie laughed as his eyes grew bigger.

“Really?” He asked, grinning.

“Yep!” She grinned as she changed lanes.

Darkness had crept over the land and blanketed the world in silence. Natalie sighed as they finally pulled up to the ranch house. It was just the same as the last time she had been there. The white paint was peeling, and the shutters hung lopsided as they barely hung on the sides of the house. Natalie stood there with her children and mother as they stared at the dark house.

“Well, it seems like we’ve got our work cut out for us.” Theresa murmured, taking in the once beautiful house.

“Yes, we do but it’ll be worth it to finally have a place of our own.” Natalie said, smiling.

“Let’s get the camping supplies unpacked and then get some sleep.” Theresa sighed.

“We’ve got a long day ahead of us.” Natalie mumbled, looking up at the night sky that was blanketed with stars.

“I’ve never seen so many stars. ″ Rebbeca whispered as she looked up at the sky.

“It’s always like this.” Natalie murmured, going to the car.

They each grabbed a sleeping bag and filed inside the house. Natalie set up some lanterns to light the house after finding that the electricity was off. The furniture was covered with dust clothes and Natalie sighed as she looked around the house. So many old memories of living there filled her mind and had her shivering at the violence of the memories.

“Everything will be fine.” Theresa whispered after the children were asleep.

“I know. I just hate this house…” She sighed.

“I know you do. This house… it doesn’t hold very good memories for me either.” Theresa whispered, sitting next to her daughter.

Both women were small in stature and slight in build. Theresa, who had survived an abusive marriage to Natalie’s father, understood why her daughter didn’t want to be there. She also understood why they needed this place. It was a fresh start for them. Her long blonde hair was twisted up into a bun on her head and she sighed as she reached up to take it down. Her tired blue eyes spoke of the memories that she had of this place. Even the pensive frown on her face told of the horrors that she had experienced while living here.

“Mom, are you sure you’ll be okay here? Things… with dad they were always hard for you…” Natalie whispered into the darkness.

“I’ll be fine. Just because this place doesn’t have some of the best memories doesn’t mean that we can’t make it into something wonderful for the kids. For you… even for me.” Theresa whispered.

“You know after you and I reconnected… I remember how I told you that you were jaded. I think our roles have switched.” Natalie murmured.

“Maybe. But it was also because of you that I found something wonderful to look forward to. You know I never allowed myself to believe or hope that you might let me back into your life. Now though? I’ve got so much more to be happy for. I have so much to be thankful for. I got you back in my life. I got to be there for my grandchildren’s birth, and I also get to spend these wonderful moments with you and them.” Theresa whispered, brushing out her hair.

“So, what do we do?” Natalie whispered.

“For now? We need to sleep. Then after that we clean up the house and get things running.” Theresa said, smiling softly.

“Honestly? That sounds like a good idea. I didn’t realize just how tired I was until now.” Natalie sighed, yawning and stretching a bit.

“Of course not. You always run yourself ragged. For now, get some rest.” Theresa chuckled, snuggling into the sleeping bag.

“Good night, mom.” Natalie whispered, turning off the lantern and doing the same.

The early morning sky was painted in pale pinks and blues. Welcoming Natalie as she opened her eyes to her new surroundings. Natalie sighed and stretched. She slid out of her sleeping bag and yawned as she scratched her head. She mumbled a little and stumbled outside to look at the sunrise and take a breath of the fresh morning air. After watching the sunrise for a moment Natalie walked out to her car and grabbed the coffee maker and coffee. She carted them inside and sighed with happiness as she set it up. She went out to the moving van and grabbed a box of coffee cups and carried them inside next. The coffee maker was brewing as she rinsed out the cups and she sniffed the aroma as it filled the house.

Once the coffee maker was done, she filled a cup with the rich dark aroma and stepped outside, once again breathing in its heady scent. She sat down on the porch steps and watched as the sun rose in the eastern sky. She took her first sip of the hot liquid and sighed in content for the first time since the thought of moving into the house crossed her mind. Her mother was right. Things could change for them. She didn’t have to live her life in fear anymore. She could finally breathe in peace. Her children could finally grow up without having to worry about the threat of their father destroying their lives. With that thought in mind she took another sip of the cooling liquid and smiled. She wasn’t going to let the memory of her father or her children’s father destroy her peace of mind anymore. She finished her first cup of coffee, went back inside and poured herself another cup. She went back outside and finished watching the sunrise.

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