by tannertexaslady

MCAT: Turbulent Transition #1

Edited by Tonny

Disclaimer: This is entirely a work of fiction for entertainment only, based on the characters from “The Magnificent Seven.” I don’t own them, but if I did I would run away with ‘m and never be seen again. CBS and Co., Trilogy Entertainment, and MGM had ‘em first and don’t want to give ‘m away. No money has been made for having fun writing about them. No infringement of any copyrights is intended.

Warnings: Relationships are or will be established. If you do not like the boys married or involved, in heterosexual relationships skip this AU.

Characters: Focused on Chris, Vin and OFCs, all of the boys are here, though.

Story: Introduction to new AU MCAT (Future stories will have plenty of H/C to go around,)

Transitions, is about the set up for this new unit, as well as their personal lives involving the Larabee 7 Horse Ranch and family life. You will find romance, humor and personal challenges throughout this story.

Transitions is the beginning of a series of stories that involve MCAT. This one centers on the changes taking place in the personal lives of our seven heroes. Our boys have worked together for seven year as Federal Agents and formed their own family of brothers. They have even become partners to establish The Larabee 7 Horse Ranch. A place, set up, to raise horses, for profit and a dream for a secure future for their families. However, after September 2001, federal law enforcement started to change. Old priorities gave way to new challenges and better ways to meet them. When Team Seven is disbanded, Chris Larabee is offered an opportunity to become Unit Commander for a new Task Force, MCAT (Major Crimes and Acts of Terrorism). A unit of federal agents that take on any or all cases, too complex or too hot for other agencies to handle.

Acknowledgments: References are made to the ATF universe created by MOG with my appreciation for drawing me into this fandom. Tonny has been my editor and resident Larabee expert and I know she plans to play in this sand box. Ladyhorsewhisperer has contributed suggestions and helped keep me on track with details concerning Larabee 7 horse ranch. Brigitta, your writing has inspired my work and your support has given me the confidence to pursue it.

Special thanks to Mary for her Beta work and her friendship. In addition, to every writer before me that has shared their work with the rest of us, thank you.

Notes: Any mistakes are mine, as are the original characters I have created for this series. You are welcome and encouraged to play in this AU, but no slash pairings please.

Size: Approx 565K

Chapter 1 - 3 | Chapter 4 - 8 | Chapter 9 - 13 | Chapter 14 - 17 | Chapter 18 - 22
Chapter 23 - 28 | Chapter 29 - 34 | Chapter 35 - 39 | Chapter 40 - Epilogue


The sun was rising over the distant mountains. Last night’s rain had left a clean fresh smell to the air. Chris Larabee, coffee in hand watched as a new day began and reflected on the changes in his life. He took out his journal and began to write.
When I lost Sarah and Adam eight years ago, I thought my life was over and stopped believing in the future. That is, until I became the leader of an unruly bunch of misfits and formed the best ATF unit in the country. People call us the Magnificent Seven, I just call them family. My brothers have become the catalyst to resurrect my old dream of owning a horse ranch.

A year ago, after a long string of dangerous cases, we started to plan for a future that does not include having someone shoot at us several times a week. We needed something to be there, for retirement or if suddenly one of us were permanently disabled and could no longer work. We pooled our resources and invested in good breeding stock to start our new horse ranch “Larabee 7”. Some day the best horses in the country will come from here and our name will be synonymous with quality breeding.

At the rate our family is growing, it has been a wise move.

Josiah met and married Mallory five years ago. She is an ATF agent and the leader of team six. Joanne, their two year old will have a baby brother in about two months. They live just down the road Buck has been married to Inez four years now and now they have two of the most beautiful daughters in Colorado. Their home is finished and only one half mile from the main house.

Nathan finally married Rain and although they keep a place in town, they are building a home on the ranch property. Rain found out last week she is pregnant, so I expect construction will speed up. JD and Casey married a little over a year ago. They live with Nettie. She needs their help to keep her place going and it joins this property so they are still close. Only four days ago, Casey gave JD the news. He is going to be a dad before Thanksgiving.

Who knows what Ezra does with his personal life? The southerner spends a lot of time traveling between the ranch and his townhouse. He never seems to have a problem finding female companionship. Ezra passed the bar and now he is the personal legal counsel for Larabee 7 and the family.

As I watch Vin come up from the barns, I think about the brother of my soul and friend. He moved out here last year to oversee the breeding program and keep an eye on me. We remolded the living quarters next to the main barn to suit his comfort and to make him closer to the horses he loves. Tanner can be one very dangerous sonofabitch if crossed or if his family is threatened, but with women he is painfully shy and more insecure. I hope someday he finds the right woman and settles down, too. His record of success, so far, has not been too good in that department, but if anyone deserves to be happy it’s Tanner. Without him, I might still be stuck in the past, but he has pulled my soul out of a black hole and refuses to let me slide back.

Overall, I would say, I am a damned lucky man to be surrounded by men like these. I may never marry again, but that does not mean I will not look. In addition to three nieces and soon to be new babies, we have several mares due to foal. I hope that my neighbors will retire soon and offer their place for sale. That property would be a perfect fit with this one and would give us the room we need to expand. We will all still be working for a few years, but the future is looking good.

A ringing cell phone startled Chris from his reflections.

“Larabee.” He listened to the voice of his boss, “Yes, Orrin I can be there in about forty five minutes.” A meeting in Travis’s office was such a great way to start the day!

Federal Building 8:00 a.m.

Chris Larabee entered Travis’ office unaware that his life was about to change again.

Facing the window looking at the Denver skyline, Orrin was searching for the right words to say. Turning to face the man, he has come to think of as a son, he prayed that the younger man would see the opportunity he was offering.

“Chris take a seat.” Travis sat across the desk and looked Larabee in the eye. “Seven years ago you sat in that chair and we discussed the formation of a new team. I admit, I had my doubts about the men you brought together and was not sure they could ever work together as a unit. You have proved me wrong. I am pleased to say. Your team has done an outstanding job and the results have made me proud.”

“Orrin just get to the point.” Chris was beginning to get an uncomfortable feeling in his gut.

“Yes…well, team seven is being disbanded.” Holding up his hand to stop any reaction, he continued, “Hear me out before you say anything please.”

After jumping up at Travis’ words, Chris slowly sat down again. He nodded for the AD to continue.

“The world has changed in the last few years and law enforcement needs to change with it. We will still have a few teams remain in place for our routine cases and Riley from team eight will be in charge of those. However, we are forming a task force that will handle special assignments, beyond what is typical of the cases we have handled in the past. We will take cases from several different agencies and assist with others.” Orin stopped to sip some water. “The new task force will be called MCAT which stands for Major Crimes and Acts of Terrorism. This is an independent unit. We will be flexible enough to work any case that lands in front of us. Working under my direction, I want you to be the man in charge. As unit commander, you make the plans and you head the action. You would answer directly to me.”

Silence hung in the room for a few minutes before Larabee spoke. “Orrin, how long have you known about this?”

“I have known long enough to have some details and suggestions for you to consider if you are interested.” Orrin saw a glimmer of curiosity in the younger man’s eyes.

“Go on.” Chris was not prepared to commit, but did feel the need to hear the man out.

“I would suggest Tanner be in charge of the daily activities of the agents and rank directly under you, as your squad captain, he has the leadership qualities for the job. It is your choice entirely of course and you may keep all members of team seven that choose to stay. The benefits are greater but so are the risks. Mallory Sanchez will be in the unit as an agent, if she wishes, however, her team would transfer to another office. Initially, you would get four new agents, with others joining in the weeks to come. After six months, you will be free to replace any or all of them, if you decide to. The unit will be under your command and you will have a lot of freedom to run it as you see fit. My position would be Deputy Director and you would only have to answer to me.”

“How long do I have to consider this offer and what happens to my team if I refuse?” Chris asked.

“I’ll give you a week to think it over before I offer it to anyone else. I have only six weeks to make this operational. MCAT will be the best of the best because this unit will model the ones to follow. The old team units will scale down in number and some agents will transfer out. The remainder will handle only small cases and stake out duties. As for your team, that would be up to the new unit leader, if you decline to take the position. He or she may or may not accept them. They are the best at what they do, but I am not convinced they could be effective with a more ‘conventional’ supervisor. My best guess is whoever it will be would bring in their own people.” Orrin was relieved to have it all on the table.

“I’ll let you know.” Chris rose to leave and turning to Travis, he had one last question. “Am I free to discuss this with the boys?”

“As long as they realize it is all confidential, I don’t see why not. This will affect their future as well. Just one thing, Mallory is due in here in the next hour and I ask you to wait until I have talked to her. In the meantime, team seven will stand down for this week. Take the time and use it wisely.”

The two men shook hands and Chris left with more on his mind to consider than when he entered. He headed for the elevator and pushed the button to floor seven.

Team 7 office

Larabee entered the bullpen and without a word went straight to his own office slamming the door behind him.

“What do you suppose put him in a bad mood?” JD was curious.

“Vin, didn’t he have a meeting with Travis?” Buck glanced at Larabee’s door then to the sharpshooter.

“Yep.” Vin answered as he reached for another doughnut.

“Well, do you know what the meeting was about? JD asked.

“Nope.” The sharpshooter picked up his coffee.

“Aren’t you just a wealth of information?” huffed Buck.

“I feel confident gentlemen, that if it was a grievance about us we will soon find out,” stated Ezra.

“You’re right about that. Now who did what to whomever that they weren’t supposed to?” Nathan inquired.

A chorus of not me filled the room.

“Josiah, you’re not saying much, any ideas? JD was determined to find out something.

Josiah just shrugged and turned to the paperwork on his desk. He knew Mallory was going to see Travis too. However, he was not ready to speculate about what that meant.

“Tanner! My office now!” Larabee shouted through the close door. All eyes turned to the Texan. He shrugged his shoulders and headed to the boss’ office.

“Close the door behind you.” Chris said without looking up. When he heard the door close, he turned to the sharpshooter and met his eyes.

“What’s up?” Vin could read Larabee like a book and what he saw was a brother in conflict. From what, he did not know yet, but eventually he would.

“Not now.” Chris stood and came around the desk. “Meet me at home as soon as we leave here and tell the boys conference room in five minutes.”

Tanner was intrigued with the look Chris had in his eyes. It was not anger or hurt, but something he had not seen before. He knew the older man would tell him about it when he was ready. Therefore, he nodded in agreement and proceeded to carry out his order. “Conference room boys,” ordered Tanner.

Five voices threw out five different questions. Vin raised his hand in a stop motion and herded them to the right room. They were just in their seats when Larabee walked in and went straight to the head of the table.

“As of now team seven is on stand down status,” announced Chris

“Why?” JD asked

“How long?” Josiah wanted to know.

“What did we do now?” Ezra inquired.

“With or without pay?” Nathan needed to know

“Damn.” Buck simply stated.

“Enough!” Chris silenced them all with one word. “We are officially down until further notice.” Larabee raised his hand to stop further questions. “This is not up for discussion at this time.” He continued, “Unofficially, I want you all at the ranch house at five, minus spouses. We will discuss this then.” Once Chris left everyone sat in stunned silence, until Vin got them to moving.

“You heard the man, go home. See you boys at five.”

Larabee 7 Ranch 1:00 p.m.

Chris had time enough to change clothes before Tanner drove in. He met the younger man on the deck, handing him a cold beer. They sat in silence for a while then Chris decided it was time to talk about it. “Team seven as we know it is history. Decision time brother, we move up or out.”

“What’s our choice?” Tanner now realized what he had seen in the older man’s eyes. Indecision, something he was not used to from Larabee.

“There are few options. We go with the new program, stay and possibly have to spilt up and transfer or we find some others way to pay for all this.” Chris swept his hand across the horizon.

“I can always go back to bounty huntin’, which should keep us and the horses from starvin’.”

“Then what happens to your breeding program?”

“Hell, I don’t know.”

“What about the others?”

“Lar’bee, you think too much.” Vin drained the last of his beer. “So what’s Travis want us to do?”

“Travis wants me to take on a new task force. MCAT, it stands for Major Crimes and Acts of Terrorism. He offered me the job of unit commander and picked you to ride herd on the agents, as squad captain.

“Lar’bee, I love you like my brother and would walk through hell for you, if you asked, but I ain’t wearin’ a suit everyday for nobody.”

Chris laughed so hard he had tears in his eyes. “Your only complaint is about wearing a suit?” Vin could always lighten a situation and drain away the stress, Larabee absorbed like a sponge.

“You want to tell me more or stand there and laugh all day?”

“Just so you know if we do this, right now I can only say for sure that you and I will be working together.” Larabee got his laughter under control. “If the rest of the seven decide not to come aboard, we may have to go with all new people.” He continued, “The rules will be flexible, which means you probably won’t have to be in a suit every day.”

“Let’s do it.” Tanner would support his brother no matter what. Chris nodded and with their hands extended, formed their warrior’s grip sealing their commitment.

Larabee Seven 4:40 p.m.

It was only twenty minutes to five, but all of team seven was present and accounted for. They were anxious to get to the point of this meeting. Seven men took seats around the den and waited for something, which they sensed, was a major announcement.

“Chris, I think you have made us wait long enough,” Buck said, what they we all thinking. “Either tell us or shoot us, but do something.”

“I need to ask some questions first and want you to all wait until I finish.” Chris turned to Ezra with his inquiry. “Ezra, you are the financial associate of Larabee 7. Can you tell me how long before this place can carry its expenses independently and turn enough profit to support all of us?”

“Yes…well I don’t have the exact figures with me but I would have to say, to be independent, at least six to eight years. When it could support seven families? At least ten to twelve years.” Clearly, Ezra was surprised by the question, but he continued. “We need to expand our acreage so with a note for the land add on another year at least. Understand most of our investments are tied up in assets and there is not a lot of cash on hand.”

“Thanks, that’s good for now.” Chris turned to the others “I wanted you all to know where we stand here before I told you the rest.”

“You’re not quitting are you?” JD was on his feet.

“Sit down, JD and no I am not quitting.” Chris prepared for the explosion to come. “Our team is to be disbanded within the week.” A chorus of voices, some questioning, some curses and yells, assaulted the room. Chris waited for calm and suddenly a shrill whistle silenced them all.

“If you wanna know more sit down and hush!” Tanner took control and when the rest took their seats, he turned to Chris and nodded.

Chris took them through the same basic explanation, which Travis had given him few hours earlier. “Josiah and Mallory have already discussed this. She is leaving in two weeks and taking maternity leave to be home with the babies. Josiah is joining the new unit.” He turned to Sanchez and nodded his approval. “As for the rest of you, this is a decision you will have to think about. The alternative is to find a new line of work or stay on in the old ATF units with the risk of transfer.”

“You have already decided to do this, haven’t you Chris?” Buck knew his old friend would not leave them to chance with someone else, if they decided to stay.

“Yes, I intend to tell Travis tomorrow.” Addressing the others, “You have time to think this over discuss it with Inez, Rain and Casey. As your friend and brother, I want you to take the time to consider how this will affect your future and your own families. This is an opportunity to be part of something new, but will have greater risk and at times keep you away from home, for longer than you have been. It is also an opportunity to make changes in your life and do something else if you choose. Bottom line, it is your decision.” Vin has already told me, he is staying. He will become squad captain for the unit, but I do need an answer from all of you, before Monday.”

“Since I am single and have no one else to consider. May I give you my affirmative answer now?” Ezra sought Larabee’s acceptance and got it with one look.

“Now, since I am sure your ladies are waiting to hear from you, go home. Talk to your wives and tell them family BBQ on Sunday,” Chris tried to dismiss them. They were not ready to leave what was the last meeting of team seven, as they knew it. Eventually he and Vin got them out the door, except for Buck and Ezra. Once they were gone, Standish discussed with Chris their options for the Larabee 7.

“Do you want me to continue pursuing the property next door or put it on hold for now?” Ezra was curious.

“With at least four of us still working I don’t see why not. We need the property and we could handle the note, if the others are strapped for cash.” Larabee explained and then Ezra said good night.

“Buck, I know you, what’s on your mind?” Chris had known this man for over twenty years.

“Just want you to know I’ll support whatever you do. I know Inez will agree.” Buck wanted his oldest friend to have no doubt, about his support, before he left for home.

“Well, the herd is movin’, all we gotta do is keep ‘em in line,” the Texan drawled.


The next morning the sky was grey with the promise of rain before the day was over. The chores were quickly finished and after breakfast, Chris called Travis and gave him his decision. Orrin was relieved to know Larabee was staying and offered to send over the files for the new transfers. The promised files would be couriered over within two hours. Larabee and Tanner were working in the barn when they heard a car in the drive. Vin, thinking it was the courier, offered to meet him, but to his surprise, it was Ezra.

“Ez, didn’t expect to see you this early.” Tanner moved closer to the car. “You don’t look so good pard.”

“Would you and Mr. Larabee please join me on the deck?” Ezra headed in that direction.

Both men joined Ezra, after a few minutes. Seeing the look on Ezra’s face, Chris decided to get some refreshments before hearing the man out. He disappeared into the kitchen and came back with three bottles of beer.

Standish grabbed one and drank quickly. The fact he never looked at the label had the other men concerned. “I want to assure you, Mr. Larabee, I will not hesitate to file a law suit, if needed. This injustice will not be tolerated!” Ezra angrily paced the deck.

Vin and Chris exchange a look that said, What in the hell is he talking about?

“Furthermore, I intend that every reputable business, in Denver, will know how unscrupulous and underhanded that man is.” Ezra finally found a chair and sat down.

“That’s fine, but do you mind telling me just what in the hell you are talking about?” Chris asked.

“This property, this land, our future!” Standish was not making much sense as he waved his hands through the air.

“’Ez, calm down and start at the beginnin’.” Vin was trying to understand why the southerner was angry.

“I am referring to the broker that Mr. Anderson hired to handle his property. His name is Simon and I have been working with him for months to secure the property for Larabee 7. This morning I received a phone call at the ungodly hour of eight. It was Simon telling me the property was no longer available. Well we had an agreement that I would have first bid on the land and when I reminded him of that he just laughed and said that’s the breaks!” Standish was pacing again.

“Are you saying he sold it to someone else?” Chris could feel his own temper growing.

“I believe, that is what I just expressed quiet plainly!” Ezra’s own anger had not waned.

Vin decided now was the time to calm the waters and suggested they take a ride over there and see if the sign was still up. He was hoping this was all a misunderstanding. Just then, the courier from Travis drove up. Signing for the package it was quickly set aside and forgotten. The three men loaded in Chris’ truck and headed to the Anderson’s place. When they got there, they found the gates locked and chained. The “For Sale” sign had sold plastered all over it.

“A ‘pears we have new neighbors, Cowboy”

The trio made their way back to the ranch and the phone was ringing as they walked in. Travis wanted Chris to know there was no rush now to set up the interviews. The remodeled offices for the new task force, on the twelfth floor would not be ready until the middle of next week. Orrin told him to enjoy the next few days off because the upcoming weeks would be a challenge. Larabee was glad to hear it. Now they would have the chance to tie up loose ends on the property, before they started on MCAT.

Southern Breeze Horse Ranch

“Why do you think this is necessary?” Linda asked for the third time.

“I explained my reasons. I need a place closer to work and it’s not as if I will never be here.” Kelli explained again.

“You could quit and help me here full time. It’s not a necessity that you work and what about your horses?” Linda pointed out.

“You won’t throw my horses out, we both know that. It has been four months since your father died and I have stayed long enough to help you move in here. You will do just fine. The horses will keep you busy and I will be around. I am startin’ a new job and need to focus on it.” Kelli hated to do this but knew it was best and Linda needed to move on with her life.

“It just seems like we are always going in different directions.” Linda sighed.

“Well, tonight at least we will be in the same place. You do remember we were gonna to try that restaurant down the road?” Kelli decided her friend needed a diversion. “I promise, you can help me decorate my new place.” She knew how much Linda liked to take on a new project and spend money.

Different as night and day, Linda and Kelli had met ten years ago in Louisiana and instantly became friends. Then Linda and her father moved to Colorado for his health and Kelli moved back to Texas. Over the years, their friendship remained steady, in spite of the fact, that they rarely had time to visit. When Linda’s father died four months ago, Linda called and asked her to come. Kelli took a leave of absence from work to help her with the horses. Linda’s father had planned this move before he died, so it was with Kelli’s encouragement that Linda followed through with it.

The Dubois families had been raising thoroughbreds since 1939. They had produced some of the top racehorses in the country over the years. Of Linda’s four brothers, only one stayed in the family business. She spent most of her life working with her father to compensate for it. Brought up with in affluent lifestyle and with the constant excitement of the world of horseracing, she was usually outgoing and loved to have fun, however, this last year she had stayed close to home to care for her dad.

Kelli Coulter was more reserved and spent much of her time in the outdoors. Growing up in the system, courtesy of the State of Texas, she had no known relatives. Linda was the only person she was close to and she had become family to her. Kelli discovered, at an early age, life was tough and she had learned to be tougher. Her work was an important part of her life and by her own choice left little time for personal relationships. Trusting others with her inner feelings was something she did not do. She loved a challenge and looked forward to her new assignment. Starting a new life in Denver could be a good thing.

Friday Morning

“JD just called, said he and Casey talked it over and decided he’s stayin’ with us.” Vin informed Larabee. ”That makes six.”

“Good, Nathan called earlier and said the same thing.” Chris was relieved they were all staying. He could not help but worry about his family. He handed Vin a cup of coffee and they both went out to the deck.

“We need to make a grocery run before Sunday or we may have some hungry people here.” Chris noted. “Guess I should make a list and see what everyone else is bringing.”

“I’ll do it, ol’ man, know how much you hate it.” Vin volunteered and acknowledged Larabee’s nod of thanks with his own. “It’s only fair since your payin’.’’ Tanner grinned as he headed for the kitchen.

Later in the afternoon, Ezra showed up and Vin roped him into helping. Standish planned on staying the weekend and spending time with the family on Sunday and since none of the three had plans for tonight they decided to go out for dinner. They chose to try the new restaurant down the road. The meal was good, but the scenery was better. Most of the other patrons were families, but two women sat on the opposite side of the room. Chris noticed the beautiful blonde-haired woman right away. She had an elegant look that appealed to him. He thought about it and for a brief moment considered trying to talk to her, but decided against it. Larabee, you are so out of practice.

Vin was watching her dinner companion. The auburn haired beauty, for some reason drew his attention and he was surprised to feel a stirring of lust course through his body. Damn, Vin, tell your boys to control themselves. As the women left the restaurant, he mentally shook his head. You just need to get laid, Tanner, been too long

Outside the two women walked toward their car. “You look like the cat that just ate the canary,” Kelli observed her friend and was please to see her in good spirits. “What’s put that smile on you face?”

“How could you miss that gorgeous blond with the green eyes?” I may be out of practice but I am not dead. Linda grinned, “Don’t tell me you missed the one watching you. It was pretty obvious he was interested.”

“Really I didn’t notice.” Kelli headed for the truck A man looking that sexy ought to be outlawed. Linda was still laughing when she caught up with her.

Larabee 7

Larabee and Tanner sat on the porch and watched the night sky. Everything else might change, but the bond that brought these two men together was rock solid. They had been through many difficult times in the last seven years and no doubt would face more, in the future. However, whatever the challenge, neither man would have to make a stand, alone.

“You havin' second thoughts, Lar’bee?”

“Never have been one to like change and this will definitely be a change.”

Silence hung in the air for a few minutes. “Could work out.” Vin thought for a minute, “Hell, everyone reckoned Team 7 would fall flat and look how good we turned out.”

“Now that is a scary thought.” Chris found a smile, he knew what Vin was doing and appreciated it. Yeah, they had turned out okay and found a family in the process and he had come to love them all. Admittedly, at times they could still act like a group of schoolchildren, but this band of misfits, was the best response team in the country. If there was any group of men, that could make this new unit work, they could. Monday would be the start of a new chapter, in all of their lives and he had confidence in these men, that he called brothers. “Thanks to you and the boys, I have had plenty of practice dealing with overgrown children. Maybe this new group will already be grown-up when we get them”

“Your life would be dull and borin’ without us around.”

“That it would be, my friend”

Thanks Vin.

You’re welcome

Larabee 7 - 6:00 a.m. Saturday

Chris was pouring his first cup of coffee when he heard Vin approaching, swearing a blue streak.

“Damn ornery, no good, hard headed mule, I should just shoot the sonofabitch and get it over.” Tanner was still muttering curses when he ran into Chris on the deck.

“Sounds like somebody got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.” Chris laughed

“Laugh all you want to Lar’bee, you won’t be laughin’ long.” Vin smirked.

“Why?” Chris was starting to get one of those feelings. “What’s wrong?”

“Peso’s gone, along with Pony and Chaucer, all three broke out of the damn barn last night.” Vin was understandably angry.

“Get Ezra and I’ll saddle the other horses.” Larabee was not laughing now.

”Standish, get yer ass outta bed now!” Vin was banging on Ezra’s door.

“Vin, the house better be on fire for you to wake me at this hour of the morning,” grumbled Ezra.

“Chaucer’s gone and he took Pony and Peso with ‘em!” Vin was still yelling.

“He would never… oh, never mind, I will be right out,” replied Ezra.

Standish and Tanner met Chris at the barn. Grabbing some rope, they mounted up and headed out to find the missing horses. It did not take long to find them, but they were amazed at the scene before them. There they were acting like lovesick schoolboys. On one side of the fence, there were three mares. A palomino, that had Chaucer bucking and running, just like a colt. Peso was acting the same with a black beauty and even Pony was cutting up for a chestnut Arabian. What happened next had to be unreal.

Chris, Ezra and Vin shook there heads and tried to catch their disobedient horses. Chaucer eluded Ezra at every turn and Peso kicked out at anyone near by. Pony was staring at the Arabian, as she appeared to smirk. When Chris approached, she took off shaking her head and snorting with her tail flipped over her back. Pony watched her trot down the boarded fence and tore after her with a whinny. Chris was astonished. Then Tanner running to stop Peso, tripped and fell into a pile of horse manure.

“Dammit! Enough of this!” Vin mounted his borrowed horse and pulled out his rope. He happened to be on Wilmington’s horse, Bear and when he threw the rope, Bear crow hopped and began to buck. Chris and Ezra began to laugh. While Vin and Bear were tearing up the ground, two huge clods of mud splattered them both. They stopped laughing and started cursing. Tanner went flying off the mule-headed horse, landing in the mud.

In the meantime, Peso, Chaucer and Pony trotted back to the barn as if nothing was wrong. Bear, who wanted to be unsaddled, soon joined them. Returning to the paddock three angry, mud caked men just stared at their innocent looking horses. Tanner limped to his place for a shower and Ezra and Chris took care of the horses.

They gathered on the deck for lunch and discussed the escape artists, residing in the barn. “I think you need to go meet our neighbor and see what you can work out about the fence line. If the man plans to keep the mares on this side, we might have a bigger problem. Hunter gets wind of ‘em and that stud will be jumping fences. We have too much invested in him to let that happen.” Vin was concerned about, ‘Bounty Hunter’ their founding stallion.

“I’ll go talk to the man, either of you want to come?” Chris questioned.

“No!” Ezra and Vin both said.

Ben Watson greeted him, believing him to be the owner; Chris started to question him about the mares.

“We have just about everything ready for the fencing, just a few minor things to work out. The boss is particular about details.” Ben explained.

“You are not the owner?” Chris was surprised, by this revelation.

“Lord no, I‘ve been working for the family for twenty-five years and know every single one of the horse and their sires, but I don’t own them.” Ben stated. “Here comes the boss now.”

”Hello, I’m Linda Dubois and you are?” The blonde beauty inquired.

Chris had to give himself a firm mental shake before he could answer. “Larabee, Chris Larabee. I am your neighbor and I am here to talk about our horses, yours and mine and how to keep them separated. Damn, Larabee, it is the same woman from last night.

About five minutes later Chris left in a daze. Somehow, their talk had gone from fences, toward getting to know each other and now he found himself leaving with an invitation for dinner in two days.

Don’t lose it, Larabee. She just wants to get to know her new neighbor. He could not help the anticipation he felt though.

Linda was starring after him, not believing she had just invited a man like that for dinner. Her heart still had not settled from the fact he had accepted.

Larabee 7 - Sunday morning

The morning sky was ablaze with the sun’s first light. Vin Tanner stood on the deck and soaked in the sunrise. Watching the world wake up was his favorite time of day. He felt, rather than heard, Larabee approach. The two men stood in comfortable silence for a good while.

“You might want to keep the stud on the east side for a while.” Chris explained, “May take some time to get the mares situated.”

Vin nodded, “I’ll move him today,” he was curious. New owner?

“Female, blonde, 5’6’ with green eyes,” Chris smiled. Lady from the restaurant.

Vin finished his coffee and left to tend the horses. Chris followed a few minutes later. He was just in time to hear Tanner yell, “Damn stupid, ornery no good, sorry sonofabitch!” Larabee shook his head and went for some ropes. Peso and Pony were at it again.

+ + + + + + +

Josiah and Mallory arrived first and Joanne toddled straight to her Uncle Ezra. Buck, Inez and the girls arrived shortly thereafter. Little Maria ran to her Uncle Vin and little Sarah was whisked up by her Uncle Chris.

“You okay stud?” Buck questioned.

“Tell you about it later.” Chris answered while swinging Sarah onto his shoulders.

JD and Casey arrived next along with Miss Nettie. Casey and Nettie headed for the kitchen to join Inez. Arriving last, Rain joined the women and Nathan went to check on Josiah and the BBQ

Inside the women were discussing babies and men. They decided to commit to finding suitable mates for the three single men of the family.

“I say, if they don’t do something soon, we have no choice.’ Inez voiced her opinion.

“Chris has been alone long enough and Vin’s getting older every day.” Rain offered, “Ezra, too”

“Well, if they won’t, guess we’ll have to.” Nettie agreed

“I say, we make a plan,” Casey thought they all should be married or at least involved with someone.

Today they decided to put their plan in motion. Outside, Ezra was relating the events leading up to the escape fiasco. When he finished the other men were laughing so hard there were tears in their eyes. The children joined in, not understanding why but enjoying the sounds of laughter. That is how the women found them, when they brought out the prepared food.

“It seems you are enjoying yourselves,” Inez smiled and Buck retold Ezra’s story getting the same reaction from the women.

“Glad y’all think it’s so funny.” Vin glared hard enough for all three of them.

“So are we going to check out their stock?” JD decided it best to change the subject.

“I hadn’t thought much about it.” Chris was noncommittal. Right, going back over there is all you have thought about, Larabee

Josiah indicated the meat was ready and the next hour was filled with good food and family talk. The babies were all down for a nap and the adults were relaxing. Talk turned to work.

“When do we get more information on this new job? Nathan asked.

“Monday I meet with Travis and lay out the particulars.” Chris explained. “Then we start the interviews with the new transfers.”

“Do we know who they are yet?” JD was curious, as usual.

“I have the files but have not looked at them,” said Chris. “I will handle the interviews and Tanner will be keeping you guys in line.”

“What do you need the rest of us to do?” Josiah was ready to get started.

“Starting Monday, I want to get our office ready to move. We get the entire twelfth floor and it should be ready by Wednesday. JD will be in charge of packing and setting up our files. Nathan and Josiah, I want you two to help him. Everything should be finished and ready to go within the week. I thought later this evening, we would start evaluating the files and Josiah, your input would be appreciated.” Chris planned to expand on the explanation but Mallory stopped him.

“Enough about work, Josiah and I would like to tell you something.” Mallory took Josiah’s hand and indicated he should take over. “We have an announcement to make.” Josiah stood up. “We wanted to let everyone know we have decided on a name. Chris already knows, but we wanted to share it with all of you. Our boy will carry the name of Adam Josiah Sanchez.” The news pleased everyone.

“Speaking of babies, has everyone noticed how these little ones dote on their uncles?” Rain looked directly at Chris, Vin and Ezra.

“I know Maria and Sarah think the sun rises and sets with their favorite single uncles.” Inez grinned.

“Joanne certainly has their number,” Mallory added with a smile.

Chris’ gut was talking to him and Vin was starting to get an uneasy feeling. Ezra had paled slightly.

“You do remember, I introduced Mallory and Josiah.” Rain was pleased to add.

“Children are such a blessing, don’t you think Vin? Casey was no to be left out of the plan.

“I think you guys just became targets.” Buck laughed. “Once these gals set their mind on something, they can be relentless.”

The Texan jumped up saying something about checking on the horses. Ezra immediately offered to help. They left, for the barn with Chris glaring holes in their backs.

“So Chris, when was the last time you had a real date?” Nettie asked.

Chris’ rescue came with the ringing of his cell phone. “Larabee,” he snapped at the caller. After listening to the person on the other end of the line he responded, “Yes of course, I can do that now.” Addressing the others, he explained about the file he had to fax for Travis right away and excused himself. In the barn, Tanner closed his cell phone and grinned.

+ + + + + + +

After cleaning up outside, they all went inside, to continue their family time. The babies were still sleeping and thankfully, the conversation moved back to work issue. Tanner and Standish returned and tried to stay clear of the interfering females.

Vin was daydreaming about the woman that he could not shake from his thoughts. For some unknown reason she seemed familiar, but he knew they had not met before. Just your imagination, Vin. Every time he tried to read, he saw blue eyes, soft curves and red hair. His body was reacting just thinking about her. Hell, Tanner, you’re acting like a fourteen-year-old kid. Stop it!

Chris was thinking about their new blond, sexy neighbor. Truth Larabee when was the last time a woman affected you this way?

Buck watched the two of them and after a while had to ask. “Hey, you guys okay?”

“Just thinking.” Chris answered

“’M fine, Buck, just readin’.” Vin replied

“Well, you have been looking at the same file for forty-five minutes and no one has commented on the fact, that three of the new transfers are women.” Buck laughed.


“Are you sure?”

“Yep, that’s what I thought.” Buck just shook his head

Meanwhile, in the barn seven horses were restless as they watched their owners disappear into the house. Chaucer could not wait another minute to visit their new neighbors again. He tried to open the gate, but now it was tied shut. This was not a problem for Peso because he had a gift for untying ropes. With Pony on lookout, Peso had the gate open in record time. Chaucer took the lead, followed by Peso, Bear, Milagros, Ben and Quincy, after all, they wanted to have some fun too. Pony waited until they had all passed and then nudged the gate shut.

Chaucer led the seven horses by the back of Larabee’s house. As soon as Pony was free and clear, he arched his neck and pranced his way to the fence. The others followed. Bear made the mistake of sniffing the mare Pony had his eye on and got himself nipped for it. Pony swung his hindquarters around to deliver a kick, but Bear took the hint and moved on down the line to visit a beautiful blue roan mare. The rest of the horses wasted no time in getting acquainted with the other mares.

Sarah was the first to wake from her nap and went straight to her father. “Hey darlin’, did you have a nice nap?” Buck said to his oldest.

“Daddy, why is Bear outside?” she asked, rubbing sleep from her eyes.

“Baby, Bear is in the barn with the other horses.” Buck said confidently.

“No daddy, I saw him out my window, they all run off.”

Everyone looked expectantly at Buck, except Vin, as he hurried to the barn. This time all the horses were gone. Everyone had followed him out and had no trouble hearing him curse.

“Aww Hell!”

Chris was sure the damned ornery animals were back with the mares. Seven frustrated men each grabbed a bucket of oats and a rope, planning to retrieve their missing horses. The women of the family went inside with the children and started to reheat the food for supper.

“You know girls, I think those horses have more sense than at least three of their masters.” Nettie laughed. A chorus of, “amen to that” was heard throughout the house.