Authors Note: This is the ninth and final story in a series using the same main characters. The others in order are: Wolf Creek Pass, Silverton, Canyon Trilogy, Las Vegas Nights, Amarillo by Morning, Hello New Orleans, Country Roads and Annie's Song. I suggest you read the previous stories for background of these characters.
We didn't get back to the coach until very late that night, but with good reason. First, my sister had thrown a dinner party to celebrate Mickey's birthday, then my proposal to her.
Carol had immediately started to plan our wedding. Her friends in the New Orleans's society had already decided that it should be a "Grand Affair" (you could almost hear the capital letters in their voices).
Henry and I adjourned with the rest of the male guests to his study. This was part of their private quarters and a mixture of Victorian architecture and modern conveniences. Henry went into a cupboard and pulled out a bottle of brandy. "Gentlemen, this occasion calls for something special."
As he poured I noticed that it was one hundred year old brandy. Jerry Miller, one of the guests raised his glass in a toast. "May you be always be as happy as you are now."
We all raised our glasses for the toast, and then conversation turned to more mundane things. We joined the ladies once again, and the party started to wind down. After all the guests had left after many more congratulations, Mickey and I made for our bed as well.
We opened the door to find that Trouble, Mickey's kitten had made herself busy with the roll of toilet paper in our absence.
"Damnit, Trouble! Just look at the mess you have made!" Mickey was clearly irritated. For her part, Trouble did peer out from under the pile of paper before she ducked back in to shred some more of it.
I surveyed the mess then turned Mickey toward me and gave her a kiss. "Go and get ready for bed, sweetheart. I will take care of this."
She smiled back and headed into the back of the coach. I pulled the kitten from the pile and held her so she was looking directly at me. "Well Furball, I think you ticked your mistress off. You had best be good to get back in her good graces." I sat her down on the couch where she watched with keen interest as I stuffed all the pieces of paper into a bag. She must have thought it was amusing to see a full-grown man in a tuxedo on his hands and knees picking up shredded toilet paper. After all the evidence was cleaned up, I put a new roll in the bathroom and headed for bed myself.
Mickey was already under the sheet. She was on her side, once again examining the ring that adorned her left hand. She looked up at me with her eyes brimmed with tears. "You can't believe how happy you made me... Dave. I was so happy to just continue to stay with you. I had always dreamed of marrying someone kind and sweet, and now it will come true."
I laid my pants over the back of the chair and crawled in beside her, taking her in my arms. She snuggled up close and laid her head on my chest. "You have made me a very happy woman tonight. I had hopes of this soon after we met, but I was always afraid that you wouldn't want someone so young and inexperienced."
"And I was always afraid to ask because I thought you might one someone more your own age."
She pushed herself up on her elbow to look me right in the eye. "Dave, I was with a few other guys, ones that were my age. They were self absorbed, petty, and in bed they only thought of their pleasure. Then you found me and showed me that I didn't have to settle for something like that. I knew from the first that you were the one I wanted to spend my life with. I was content just staying with you for as long as I could. Now I know that all my dreams are coming true."
I felt a tear fall onto my shoulder. There were no words to express how I felt about her right then so I pulled her down and thoroughly kissed her. We were both exhausted from the day's events so we feel asleep in each other's arms content in the thought that we would never be apart again.
The following weeks were filled with Carol and Mickey (with Kait's help) planning a wedding that would be a social event to rival all others. I would have been happy to just have a small ceremony and then leave for a honeymoon, but I figured I owed it to Mickey.
Since I did not have to be involved except to agree with their ideas, I spent a large amount of time playing with my soon-to-be niece. Annie was a joy to be around. She never cried without reason and was content to be held or played with. I quickly learned to change diapers and to burp her after Kait had fed her. The rest of the time, she would stare at my face and react when I talked to her.
I was doing just that one afternoon when Kait walked out into the back yard where we had adjourned to get away from the confusion that was deciding on the wedding colors.
"I swear - you are going to spoil her rotten Dave." Kait said with a grin.
"I thought that was what uncles were supposed to do." I replied without looking away from the cute little face that was watching me and moving her lips.
"I suppose so." Kait then set down next to me. "You are so good with Annie. Do you and Mickey plan on having any of your own?"
"Well Kait, we really haven't talked about it. I know that I would like to have children. My first wife couldn't carry to term so after a while, we quit trying for any. But it really will be up to Mickey."
"Then you probably will have a bunch. Mickey loves kids." Annie started to fuss a bit, so Kait took her from my lap. "I bet this little one is hungry. I'll just feed her." She stood and headed into the house. I sat back and took a sip of my beer. Even with the preparations that were going on, I felt relaxed. I know there was supposed to be some 'pre-wedding jitters' but I didn't feel anything other than peace that we were going to be together.
I finished the beer and went through the kitchen to deposit the empty in the recycle bin, and then out to the coach to do a bit of work.
The wedding date had been set for August 18. I was not sure of the reason, but I decided that as long as it happened, it was fine with me. The ceremony would be in the main hall of Henry and Carol's house. One of the judges that Henry knew well would perform the ceremony, and since Kyle and Lisa were going to fly in, I convinced Kyle to stand as my best man.
Kait was to be the Maid of Honor with Carol and a few other friends Mickey had made as bridesmaids. Other than that, it was up to them to finalize the plans. My part was to set up a honeymoon. I made all the arrangements, but kept it a close secret as to what our destination was.
One afternoon during the height of the arrangements, I was on the back deck in my usual chair reading a novel. Mickey had come out to ask my opinion on some matter about what we should have for the reception dinner. When I answered for the fourth time that day "Whatever you want is fine with me.", Mickey sat down next to me.
"You aren't all that excited about this whole thing are you?"
"Honey, I am very excited about having you as my wife. As long as I get that, all the rest is just dressing."
"Would you rather just elope?"
I reached over and laid my hand over hers. "Mickey, I really think you should have a fairy tale wedding. After all, every woman deserves the wedding of her choice, and you most of all."
She leaned over and gave me a kiss. "I was afraid that you were getting tired of all the commotion."
"Not at all. You just go ahead and get it all set up. If there is something I feel strongly about, I'll let you know. Otherwise, it is your day. You set it up like you want."
She leaned in for one more kiss (that turned into several) and she went back inside to continue the plans.
We had one spot of trouble late in July. I heard the doorbell and went to answer it. Standing on the steps were two women. One was tall and thin while her companion was short and rather 'dumpy' for lack of a better term. Both were dressed well in a business style.
When I asked their business, the stated that they were from Child Protective Services and they had a complaint that a child at this address was being neglected and abused. I immediately called out for Henry and Kait who both arrived at the same time, Kait with Annie in her arms.
Henry started the conversation. "Just what is the basis for these complaints?"
The taller one did the talking. "We received an anonymous complaint that this child was being neglected. Accusations were made that the child was being left alone, as well as some vague suggestions of abuse. We have to check any complaint so here we are."
Kait was outraged, but held her tongue. The women checked Kait and Annie's room, took all the names of everyone in the house for background checks, and then asked to take Annie to a doctor to check for any kind of abuse. While they were looking around, Henry called Brenda Taylor, the lawyer that had helped Kait earlier in a custody suit. She arrived just before we left for the hospital to have Annie checked.
It did not take long for the doctors to confirm that Annie was indeed in perfect health and there were no signs of abuse. The shorter of the case workers then spoke up saying that this was definitely a case of someone just wanting to cause trouble, and that their report would reflect that. Brenda then let them know that any other reports would result in their records being subpoenaed to get the information as to who was making the false claims. The taller of them did say off record that the call came from out of state from 'concerned grandparents'... Brenda made a note to check into it and we all went home.
Kait was alternating between fear that someone thought she was a bad parent, and anger that they could do such a thing. It took a while for her to calm down enough to quit transferring her emotions to Annie. She sat down and we discussed just what we could do about the harassment. With the way Child Protective Services works there really wasn't much we could do, except keep an eye on happenings. Kait and Mickey had both decided that they would not return to Amarillo unless they were forced to do so. The threat of abuse with the parents, and the fact that rape charges could still be filed on Jerry Manis should keep a direct confrontation from happening.
Everyone calmed down over the next few days. Things went back to a more normal routine. The women were still planning and I was doing some major exploring of the area in and around New Orleans. I had been here many times and loved the City, but I had really not taken the time to enjoy the surrounding areas. Rather than using Henry or Carol's cars, I decided that we needed something we could get around in easier than a 60 foot long converted Trailways bus. After talking to Mickey, she agreed with me.
The trip to the dealerships was interesting. We were both dressed in very casual clothes. The first one, a salesman came out and proceeded to ask if I was buying a car for my daughter. The next one didn't make that mistake, but he would only talk to me, completely ignoring Mickey except to show her the vanity mirror. On a whim, we pulled into a dealership that was known for the luxury cars they sold. The salesman made the assumption that we could not afford the price and rudely snubbed us. By now, I was getting tired of the attitudes that we had encountered all day.
Mickey must have seen the look in my eye, because she whispered, "Oh my God, are you as pissed as I think you are? The last time I saw THAT look, you were ready to pound on my father."
"Don't worry, sweetheart. I just want to chat with the manager." Then I flashed what must have been a very evil grin. We walked to the front desk and asked for the person in charge.
The lady behind the desk was very polite and within a few minutes, a distinguished gentleman in a fine three-piece suit was standing in front of us. After introducing himself, he asked if there was a problem.
"I am afraid there is. Seems one of your salesmen just lost a sale from us. In addition to being glared at from the time we walked on the property, we were told that there was a dealership down the street that would have vehicles more in our price range." I wrote a name and phone number on a piece of paper. "If you would be so kind as to talk to the gentleman at this number, we can resume our talk when you are done."
He looked at me suspiciously, but took the paper. He walked over to the receptionist and asked her to place the call. We followed him to a private office and when the call came through, he put it on speaker.
"This is Miles Carlton of the First Financial Bank. What can I do for you, Mr. Lucas?"
The vice president of the dealership answered. "I have a man here named David Robbins. He says he was shopping for a car, but felt insulted and suggested I talk to you."
"Is he there with you Mr. Lucas?" As he answered in the affirmative, I greeted Miles.
"Mr. Lucas, I would suggest that you speak with whoever was rude to Mr. Robbins. He has enough money in my bank to buy your dealership outright. Or worse, buy a competing dealership and put you out of business. His accounts just at this bank total over ninety million, and I have no idea how many other banks he works with. And in business dealings, he is ruthless. You are lucky you have only lost a sale."
I had Mr. Lucas staring at me by this point. When Miles asked if there was anything else, I asked that he fax over a letter of credit to the dealership since I had neglected to arrange for one. We ended the conversation and got ready to leave.
Walking out with a blubbering Mr. Lucas trailing behind, I picked up the letter of credit and stopped in front of the salesperson that had started the whole thing. "I decided to take your advice and go down the road. I will let your boss explain things to you."
We walked out to the car and looked back to see a very irate Lucas practically jumping up and down yelling at the hapless salesman. I smiled and started the car, then noticed Mickey just staring at me.
"Was what Mr. Carlton saying true? You are worth that much? I know we haven't talked about finances, but I thought you had a few hundred thousand at the most."
I pulled back over to the side of the road just out of sight of the dealership. "Mickey, I just never thought about telling you. It didn't seem important. You seemed to love me just for me, not how much I am worth. Does it make any difference to you now? Do you love me more since you know what I am worth?" I was getting just a bit angry.
"I don't give a damn how much money you have. I love you just for you. But I can't wrap my mind around how much that is. I just can't understand why you would want me when you could be with some playmate or something."
"Because I am not in love with a playmate. I am in love with you, however." I took a breath to calm down. "Look, I am sorry that I didn't discuss this with you before. In the first place, the money is not important to me. As long as I can live comfortably, that is all I care about. I just never think about it unless there is a need. And you do have a right to know, since I don't think about it much, I neglected to tell you."
I could see she had calmed down as I explained it to her. "I forgive you, honey. It was just a shock to my system. I was afraid you hadn't told me because you thought I was a gold digger or something."
"I promise I never thought any such thing. Unless I am dealing in business, I just never pay attention."
Mickey leaned over the console and gave me a kiss. Then she let out a giggle. "You know this is the first real fight we have ever had. And like all couples it was over money."
"Yeah, but usually it isn't because a couple has too much of the stuff."
Sitting back in her seat, she laughed at that thought. "One last question. Just how much are we talking about here? Mr. Carlton said ninety million."
"Last I checked, it is just shy of 150 million, including holdings in other companies."
"Wow." And the subject didn't come back up. We did find a nice sporty car that we both felt comfortable with. I wrote a check for the entire amount and Mickey drove it back to Henry and Carol's house. However since the subject had come up, as soon as we got back, I phoned my personal attorney and made the proper changes in my personal affairs where Mickey would be set for life if anything happened to me.
The wedding was just a month away when I borrowed Mickey from the final preparations. She was dying to ask where we were headed but held her curiosity when I told her it was a surprise. An hour later, we pulled off a two lane paved country road into a long drive. At the end was an old mansion that had stood there since the Civil War. It looked like something that would have been in Gone with the Wind. Massive oak trees, their lower branches covered in Spanish moss overhung the drive that ended at the large front porch. There was a car already in the drive and as we pulled up. A woman in a nice business suit stepped out of it.
Mickey turned to me. "Alright Dave, spill it. What are we doing here?"
"Well, I figured that you wouldn't want to live in the coach the rest of our lives. Mrs. Evans there said that she thought you might like to look at some houses. This is the first one."
We got out and greeted Mrs. Evans and stepped inside the double doors. By the end of the tour, we both liked this house very much. It had been upgraded with all the modern conveniences, but still had the feel of an old house. On the way to the next one, we discussed our likes and dislikes. We looked at five different places, but Mickey kept commenting on the first one. It was set on 20 acres with several out buildings, plenty of space for horses and the other animals that Mickey had found she loved at Kyle and Lisa's small farm.
Later that night, we were in bed, with me on my back and Mickey leaning on her elbow above me. Once again, she was talking about the first house we looked at that day.
"The only drawback I can see is that it has an awful lot of room for just us."
I rolled over to where I was facing her. "I was thinking that it wouldn't seem so big if we had a couple of children running around in it. That is if you want children.