Tenacious Love (Banished Saga, Book Four): Banished Saga, Book Four (7 page)

She stroked a hand down his arm, her gaze taking in the subtle changes wrought by his thirteen-year absence. “Where have you been?” she asked, batting him on an arm in frustration.

He laughed, and another tear slipped out as she remembered their youth. “Here and there and everywhere in between.” His deep voice was raspier, quieter. “I never thought to see you here in Montana, Rissa.”

“Did you think I’d remain in Boston, living the life deemed appropriate by our stepmother?” She cleared her throat to forestall any more tears. “When you left, with only a note, I thought Da’s heart would break.”

Patrick’s mouth tightened at her words, before he forced a smile. “Well, I needed to begin again.”

She saw a flicker of something in his eyes but was prevented from questioning him further when Savannah interrupted them.

“Patrick, I can’t believe it’s really you,” Savannah murmured, gripping his hand.

“Hi, Sav,” he said, shaking his head. “I can’t believe so much of my family is in Montana.”

“Sav and I married two men from Boston with a penchant for adventure. We’ve lived here for years. Colin’s with us too.” Clarissa’s breath hitched at the thought of them all being together again.

“I thought he’d stay with Da,” Patrick said. He frowned as he watched Savannah. “I never would have thought Jonas Montgomery was adventurous.”

Savannah blanched at Jonas’s name.

“Have you had no news of Boston? During all those years away?” Clarissa asked.

“I moved around a lot. I ceased learning the latest news from a city I knew I’d never return to.”

“Da died, Patrick. He had a heart seizure at the forge. Over ten years ago now.” She paused, blinking away tears. “And Jonas died too. Savannah’s here with her second husband.” She saw Savannah half-smirk at Clarissa’s whitewashed rendition of Savannah’s tale.

“And you live in Butte?” Patrick asked as he smiled at an acquaintance. When the man approached, Patrick introduced Savannah and Clarissa, instantly reducing the intrigue surrounding them. “This is a good friend of mine, Mr. Samuel Sanders. He works at the Company with me and has helped me learn my way about.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” the women said in near unison.

“I hadn’t realized Patrick had family,” Samuel said. “Did you travel all this way for a mere concert?”

Savannah bristled at his tone. “The concert was reason enough as my brother is Mr. Russell.”

“How proud you must be.”

Clarissa gripped Savannah’s arm—to prevent her from doing Mr. Sanders any bodily harm at his dry, condescending tone—and pasted on a smile. “You sound as though you are from the East.”

“I’m originally from Massachusetts.”

“How fascinating,” she said as she passed Savannah another glass of champagne and took one for herself. “We are from Boston, as are our husbands.”

“I know quite a few people from there.” He nodded his head at her as though commanding her to speak.

Clarissa shared an amused yet affronted glance with Savannah. “My husband is Gabriel McLeod, and my cousin is married to Jeremy McLeod. We reside in Missoula.”

His smile dimmed for a moment before he shook his head. “No, I’m afraid I’ve never met them. They must not have been successful businessmen.”

Clarissa turned to Patrick for support and to escape his friend, but he was occupied speaking with a pair of well-dressed men. “I believe we have different ideas of what constitutes success.”

“Yes, I can imagine we do, seeing as you’re content living in the backwaters of Missoula, rather than in the only place in the state where anything of import occurs.”

Clarissa replied before Savannah said something untoward. “Again we must disagree.”

Mr. Sanders sipped his champagne and smiled magnanimously at a group of people across the room. “I’d say your one good fortune would be to have a famous cousin, able to dredge you from obscurity.”

Clarissa leaned forward, now ready to verbally battle with him, but was pulled away by Savannah who forcibly introduced Clarissa to Patrick’s business associates and Lucas’s benefactors. Clarissa watched as Samuel Sanders moved away, mingling with others not of their immediate group, finally taking a full breath when he was some distance from them.


my Missy coming home?” Mr. Pickens asked, perched on his stool, leaning forward on his cane, seated in his now-customary spot near the workshop door where he greeted all those who entered, seeking to purchase furniture or cobbling. A.J. spent at least three mornings a week at the workshop, imparting advice, telling tall tales or encouraging the locals to purchase more than they’d intended.

“Either today or tomorrow,” Gabriel said, the scraping of sandpaper sliding against wood sounding in the room.

Jeremy sat on a stool near Ronan.

“I’d think ye’d know when yer wife was expected home. Seems
not to meet her.”

Gabriel paused, frowning as he thought through Mr. Pickens’s words. “Unchivalrous? Cavalier?”


“You know, as you age, you’re getting worse with your words,” Ronan said, where he hammered at a shoe sole off to the side of the shop.

“Just ’cause I’m old, laddie, doesn’t mean I can’t continue to learn.”

Ronan winked at Gabriel, who shook his head, a whisper of a smile flashing before he sobered and resumed his sanding.

Mr. Pickens slammed down his cane as he peered through the open door to the downpour outside. The mud streets were nearly impassible after a few days of steady rain, and few carts or horses passed by. “Reminds me of the time before the flood.
Whoo whee
!” he exclaimed with glee. “That was a sight to see. All that water an’ muck pourin’ into downtown. Never thought I’d see the day a bridge would wash away.” He attempted to whistle, but it came out as a blowing sound. He waved his arm in front of him to demonstrate the destruction of the bridge. “Like a pile o’ toothpicks. Broke up an’ floated away.”

Jeremy squinted as he watched Mr. Pickens and opened his mouth to speak but yelped instead as A.J. whacked him on his shin with his cane. A.J. nodded to Gabriel, who shook his head as though to silence Jeremy.

“Better a little rain than the infernal heat two years later in ’10. Hard to believe all the forest that burned in a few days.” Mr. Pickens slapped his palm on his thigh. “They even let the men outta jail to fight in that fire. The valley filled with smoke so thick ye couldn’t see.” He blew out a breath, shaking his head in wonder. “I’d hate to see another summer like that.”

Gabriel slammed down his sanding paper. “Old Man …” He paused as he took a deep breath and spun to face A.J. “We, all of us here, lived through the flood and the Big Blowup. Why talk about it again?”

“’Cause I think ye’ve failed to learn what ye could, Sonny, from those disasters.” He pointed his cane at Gabriel, smacking his lips together, discontented that his cane couldn’t reach far enough to poke Gabriel in his chest.

“What could I possibly have learned from two natural disasters?” Gabriel’s voice rang with a resigned disinterest.

“Life continues, and only a fool, or an old man, remains in the past.” He glared at Gabriel. “Set yer past to rights, Sonny, and move forward with yer life.”

Gabriel shook his head, muttering about interfering old geezers. Jeremy nodded, watching Mr. Pickens with respect. Ronan threw down a pair of shoes, glaring at Gabriel as he ignored Mr. Pickens’s advice.

“Be thankful ye got an ol’ geezer who cares about a young whippersnapper like ye,” Mr. A.J. said. “Yer hurtin’ my Missy.” He slammed down his cane with such force he bounced on his stool. “No one has a right to hurt my Missy.” When Gabriel turned his head to meet Mr. A.J.’s glowering gaze, he added, “Ye make it right, or ye skedaddle, ’cause all yer doin’ is causin’ more pain. Day by day.”

* * *

ow clouds blanketed
the mountains while a fine mist fell when Clarissa reached Missoula. She spoke with the porter about sending her trunk to the house and boarded a streetcar. Savannah had been convinced by Lucas to travel with him as far as Seattle before returning home. Lucas had hoped for her company to San Francisco and beyond, but she refused to leave Jeremy and Melly alone for that long.

As Clarissa walked up the front steps to her two-story house, it was nearly time for dinner. She entered the front door, hanging her coat on a peg in the front hall. She glared at the empty space where Gabriel was to make a hallstand but then moved on. She sniffed in appreciation as her stomach grumbled. Araminta had cooked dinner. Clarissa moved through the living room, filled with comfortable furniture, on to the dining room and paused outside the kitchen door, listening to laughter and voices a moment before she entered.

“I tell you, it’s true,” Colin said, his arms crossed over his chest, his steel-blue shirt opened at the collar and highlighting the blue of his eyes. He sat at the kitchen table while the woman in the room worked.

“No, your eyes are sparkling like they always do when you’re in the midst of a great fib,” Araminta said, shaking her head with disgust. Her thick sable colored hair was tied back in a braid, and her light brown eyes shone with exasperated humor. She walked with a barely discernable limp while moving around the kitchen.

“Cross my heart and all that.” Colin had his innocent-but-guilty-as-sin look on his face. “Just ask Mr. A.J.”

“As if I’d believe anything that old goat said,” Araminta muttered.

Colin chuffed out a breath, and Clarissa knew he was trying hard to swallow a laugh.

“What’s he convincing you of this time?” Clarissa asked, entering the kitchen.

“Rissa!” Colin said, rising and grabbing her in a tight hug and twirling her once before setting her down. “Why didn’t you tell me that you were coming today? I’d have met you at the station. When’d you get back?”

“Just now, and it was easier to catch a streetcar in this rain than worry about having a wagon stuck in the mud.” She smiled away a frown as Colin sobered. “Araminta, what are you making for dinner?”

“A simple pot roast. I thought you were expected back and wanted to have something for you and the children.”

“Where are they?” she asked, looking around, expecting to hear their excited voices.

“They wanted to spend the day with Gabriel.”

Clarissa instinctively tensed at the thought.

Colin reached forward and stroked a hand down her arm to calm her. “Instead they decided to go with Jeremy.” He pushed a strand of her hair behind her ear. “I’m hopeful he finally wore them out.”

“Have they been running you ragged?” Clarissa asked with an impish smile.

“First it was the time you spent in DC. Then it was Butte. I hope you’re here for good now, Rissa,” he said, no teasing in his voice.

“I am, Col. My children need me, and I need to be home.” She gripped his hand. “The most wondrous thing happened in Butte.”

“Besides hearing Lucas perform?” Colin asked.

She brushed a hand over his shoulder. “I’m sorry you couldn’t attend. We only had two tickets.”

“I know. I’ve promised myself that I’ll hear him next time.” Colin pulled out one of the chairs at the kitchen table and sat.

“Col, I found Patrick.” She blinked away tears, watching as Colin jerked backward in his chair.

He raised a hand to his head and massaged his temples as though trying to understand what she’d said.


“How is that possible? I’ve thought, for so long, that he’d died too.”

“I know, but he didn’t. He’s moved around a lot. Changed professions and is now working in Butte.”

“Why’d he leave? Why’d he never say good-bye to us?” Colin asked, an old anger simmering in the depths of his light-blue eyes. “Why did he never write? He knew where to find us, at least in the beginning.”

Clarissa sat across from him and covered his gripped hands, easing them open to clasp them. “I don’t know. He wouldn’t say, and then we were surrounded by his friends and Lucas and Sav. We didn’t have time to talk.”

“When’s he coming to visit?”

“I don’t know,” she whispered again. “I … I know he was excited to see me. But there’s something holding him back from wanting to be with us again.”

“He’s been away for over a decade. He missed his own father’s funeral. He missed …” Colin broke off as he saw tears coursing down Clarissa’s cheeks. “Dammit, forgive me, Rissa.” He leaned forward, reaching across the table to first rub her cheek and then leaning farther to rub her shoulder.

“I want my family together again. I’m tired of strife.”

Colin sighed, glancing around the kitchen, noting Araminta had slipped out at some point, unnoticed. “Then you’ll have to forgive him.”

She knew instinctively Colin wasn’t referring to Patrick.

Clarissa shuddered out a sob, her shoulders bending forward as though to ward off a blow. “How can I forgive a man who won’t ask for it?”

“You can’t, not until you mean it,” he whispered. He gripped her arm, his touch both soothing and irritating. “I know you, Rissa. You have a forgiving, loving nature. But you’ve held on to this hurt for far longer than is healthy. Neither of you can move forward until you confront what happened last October.”

“I want … I want …” Her voice broke. She raised her hands, scrubbing at her face as she battled tears.

“Rory’s never coming back, Rissa, no matter how much you want him to return to you.”

Clarissa flinched as Colin said the name that was rarely spoken. She met Colin’s implacable blue eyes and gave a nearly imperceptible nod.

“Your strength has always been a blessing. It helped you survive the torment of living with Mrs. Smythe and the abuse at Cameron’s hands. But now that strength is turning you into someone who’s untouchable. As though you no longer need anyone.”

“That’s ridiculous,” she sputtered.

“No need to be indignant, Rissa. Just make sure that one of the things that Gabriel always loved most about you, your resilience, doesn’t form an impenetrable wall around you. You have this ability to carry on when most would have cowered in a corner, and it’s part of the reason you’re so dreadfully lonely now.”

“I don’t know how
to be strong, Col.” Her voice trembled at that admission.

“I know, Rissa. But letting Gabriel understand you need his support, his love, isn’t a sign of weakness.” He gripped her hand. “Forgiveness can be the greatest show of strength you ever do.”

“I’m so filled with anger. I don’t know if I’ll be able to survive without my rage.” She flushed at that admission.

“Think about your life in a year. In five years. Is this the woman you want to be? Is this how you want your children to remember you?”

She blanched. “Of course not. I’d want them to remember me like I remember Mama. Always laughing. Always encouraging my escapades.”

“Not held so tight that they’re afraid to do anything without looking to you for approval.”

She flinched, acknowledged his just criticism. “Stay for dinner?” She rose, filling a glass of water.

“Please, Rissa. Don’t keep ignoring your family’s advice. We love you and want to see you and Gabe happy again.”

She closed her eyes as she stared out her kitchen window. “I don’t know as I’ll ever be fully happy again, Col.” She met his worried gaze. “But I’ll try. For the children’s sake.”

He rose and brushed away an errant tear on her cheek. “For
sake, Rissa.”

She set down her glass and wrapped her arms around him, welcoming his embrace, but unwilling to allow any further tears to fall.

* * *

wo weeks
later in early May, Jeremy sat on a chair in the room he shared with Savannah and traced the stamps on Savannah’s trunk at his feet, picking at a faded stamp from her honeymoon trip to France with Jonas.

“What has you so pensive?” Savannah asked as she swept into the room, her arms filled with folded linen.

“We never took a proper honeymoon.” He flinched as he ripped a corner of the stamp.

“I’ve had no need of one. Why would you think, ten years later, that I’ve been pining for a honeymoon?” She set the linen on a chest and faced him.

“We spent one night at the Florence Hotel, and then we returned to my uncle’s house to live with Melly, Colin and Amelia’s family. We never had time alone,” Jeremy said, his green eyes lit with a fierce intensity, and she moved to stand between his legs.

Other books

Hellfire Part Two by Masters, Robyn
Fire On the Mountain by Anita Desai
Gabriel's Bride by Amy Lillard
Hunter by Adrianne Lemke
Virtually Hers by Gennita Low