From the Back Cover
What would you do if your daughter is beaten and gang raped? What would you do if you were restrained and forced to watch? What would you do if the police department have no leads? Would you go hunting? HELL HATH NO FURY LIKE A MOTHER SEEKING JUSTICE FOR HER CHILD! A story of rape, gang violence, religion, and a mother’s revenge. Adult fiction, rape of a child, RomanceAbuse by religious fanatics.
Genre: Adult Fiction, Mystery Thriller
Below you can read the first 10 pages of Kelli’s War, by S. J. Barthel
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If you get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence, try orderin’ somebody else’s dog around.
“Kelli, why don’t you sell all those damn acres and move in with me?” Luke asked her the same question time and time again. He knew the answer, but he was not about to give up. He figured he may well wear her down one of these days.
“You damn well know why, Luke. I can’t figure out for the life of me why you continue to hound me.” She responded. Sure there are days when it all seemed to get the better of her. There are those days she would lie down the mantle and allow someone else to take it up. And, being very attracted to this man did not help matters in the least. Ever since Patrick got his damn fool self-killed, there was no desire to go down that road again. These cowboys think they’re indestructible. Patrick died five years earlier, left her with one hundred-fifty thousand acres and a seven-year-old child. Luke and his family held more land than anyone on the west side of Texas. He was not after her land, her money, nor anything else. He is thirty years old and never married. Tall at about six, three. She was not sure if he wore his shirts small or if he could not find one to fit over his muscles, he was very fit. He was the most handsome man around these parts. She could do a lot worse. She respected him more than anything else. He has a great reputation, gave back to the community, unlike some in the area, always willing to lend a helping hand in most anything. He was well mannered, loved God and his mother, in that order. Damn, but he sure filled out a pair of jeans. “Look, Luke, I need to go now. I have cowboys coming over to help with the hay, they come at the same time every year. I also think their English is getting better,” She said with a chuckle.
Everyone knew the Mexicans came through every year looking for work. She had been fortunate, the same ones came back every year. She treated them with kindness and respect; they returned it in kind. She had resident Mexicans staying year round; she paid them well. Kelli was sure the immigrant Mexicans are kin to her permanent help, but she never asked and they never said. As long as they completed the work they’re paid for, she had no problem with them. Her Spanish had improved over the years and insisted that her year-round help learned English. It is a good fit. Her other cowboys went along with her as well they should. Yet, the one Comanche refused to learn Spanish. As she turned to walk towards the door, Luke called her back.
“Do your hired help carry their guns with them all the time?” Luke asked.
She glanced up to look him directly in the eyes, expecting something suggestive, but the look in his eyes told her that was not the case. “Of course they do. The Rattlers are awful this year, I insist on it. Why do you ask?”
“Well, I heard a rumor the government is bringing more refugees into this area. I also heard horror stories about a few of these people. I want everyone to stay safe. How many hands do you have on your place?”
Still, he had such a serious look in his eyes, she couldn’t help wonder where all this was stemming from. “I have about twenty hire hands. Sometimes more, sometimes a little less. Look, Luke, don’t worry about me, I am well protected, and I know how to use a firearm. Or have you forgotten my father after all this time?” Her father was a crack shot and insisted that his little girl knows about weapons. He had been in the Army and his MOS was weapons.
Luke shook his head as he remembered the Master Sargent. No one within miles wanted to tangle with this man. He was a gentleman but could be meaner than a rattlesnake when pushed. “I remember him well.”
“I gotta go, I need to pick up Aislyn in about five minutes. It was good to see you again, Luke. You can make to our barbecue this year, hum?”
“Oh, yeah, that is coming up in about two weeks, ain’t it? Well, I’m sure I can make it.”
“Bye, Luke, see ya around.” She said as she made her way to the door. She enjoyed coming to this little cafe, have coffee, catch up on the local gossip. She especially enjoyed it today, Luke was not usually here this time of day. He had the warmest smile she had seen in years. As she crawled up into her truck, she saw Aislyn walking down the sidewalk, coming her way. Aislyn’s hands were empty, that meant she had passed out all the fliers they had brought to town to post. She also felt someone watching her. She divided her attention between her daughter and the window of the cafe. There was Luke with his face pressed against the window. A huge smile on his face. She had to chuckle as he crossed his eyes and gave her a goofy grin. Kelli put the truck in gear as her daughter climbed into the cab with her. “Put your belt on, honey. Glad to see that we got all the fliers done.”
“We? Mom, I seem to remember you sat in the cafe while I passed out the fliers. So, where did this we come from?” Aislyn replied all the while with a grin that mirrored her mothers.
“Well, I drove here. I paid for the printing. So, yeah, we.” They both giggled as they drove out of town on highway 193. Still, Kelli had the feeling someone was watching her. She checked her rearview mirrors and saw she was being followed. “Oh, hell no you are not following me.” She said out loud. Not realizing her daughter was looking at her rather strange.
“Mom, who’s following us?”
“Luke is right behind us.” She responded through gritted teeth. Mentally she cursed him to the seven hells. “God damned macho man. Thinks a woman cannot protect herself.” She continued to curse in her mind as she pulled over on the shoulder. Before she could get the seat belt off, he was at the window. “Luke, what in the hell are you doing, following me?”
“Now, Kelli, don’t get all upset. I am not following you, just going in the same direction. I have to go over to Gordon and look at some bulls that are being auctioned off. So, you see I am not following you. Damn, woman what has you so defensive?” Luke was looking at her with his eyes all scrunched up. He glanced over at Aislyn, took off his hat, and nodded to her. He also noticed that she was about to bust a gut trying to keep from laughing, he could not help a grin. “But hey, while I have your undivided attention, how about you two fine ladies escort me to Dallas this weekend?” Luke saw an argument brewing in those lovely eyes and help his hands up, palms outward. “Before you say no, hear me out. I have business to attend Saturday and thought we could go to that Medieval dinner/Tournament show, you know where you have dinner all the while the knights are jousting or something. And Sunday we can go to the Lake Carolyn Lear boat cruise. Two things I have always wanted to do, and I can’t think of anyone I would rather share that with. Whadda ya say? Please?”
Kelli looked at him, felt Aislyn bouncing on the seat beside her. “Come on Mom, it would be great fun. You know you promised me a trip to Dallas before school starts. While Luke is taking care of his business, we could go shopping.”
“Luke, is she old enough to go to this Medieval Dinner?”
“She is, I wouldn’t ask otherwise.” Luke tried to put as much pout in his response as he could muster.
“If we go, it will be as friends, and I will pay our way. Is that acceptable to you?”
“Yeah, it is. But, you must let me pay for the hotel.”
“Deal. What time do you wanna leave?
“How about seven Saturday morning? I’ll drop by and pick you up, ladies. We can stop for breakfast before we get there.” Luke smiled the whole time he was walking back to his truck. “Damn, that was easier than I thought it would be,” he said to himself.
Kelli was shaking her head as she pulled off the shoulder and back on the road. There was not much traffic out here, her wait to get back on the road was short. “How did I get talked into this?” Aislyn talked a mile a minute about the shopping trip all the way back to her house.
It didn’t take long to reach her spread, her house sat back off the road a good piece. The lane leading up to the house is gravel. The bunkhouse sits back behind the main house. As she approached, she noticed most of her help was talking, waving their hands in the air, around the front porch. Before she could get the truck out of gear, Aislyn jumped from the running board and headed towards the crowd. They all turned at her approach. “What is going on?” she asked everyone as she glanced at all the cowboys gathered. Hell even Martha and Kate was on the porch. Her foreman stepped forward with his thumbs hooked in a belt loop, his gloves dangling from work calloused fingers.
“Senora, we have found immigrants on the ranch, they were not passing through, as they do most of the time. They were camping out on the banks of the lake. We convinced them it was best for them to move on. But, I must tell you, some of them were not Mexicans. These non-Mexicans looked rough.”
“Thank you, Pedro. Thank you everyone, please be extra vigilant for a few days. We want to take Pedro’s warning to heart. Stay armed and stay safe. Watch each other’s back. This could all be for nothing, or not. Best we keep watch. I would like volunteers to stationed around the ranch for a little extra security. Pedro, please organize the men and rotations. I am sure it is only temporary.” As she turned to enter the house she caught Chaska’s eye and asked him to follow her with a nod of her head.
Chaska is Comanche, he explained to her when she was a little girl his name meant: firstborn son. He is the best she’s ever seen on or with a horse. He’s gentle with them and there was not one he couldn’t break or train. He’s a permanent fixture on the Lazy P. She could not remember a time when he’d not been around, but he never seemed to age. He has other skills, he can hit a bird’s in the eye, in flight, with his knife. “What do you think of this threat?” She asked him, she respected his wisdom, he knew things no one else did, but she knew he never watched the news, yet he was up on current affairs.
“You are a wise woman. I would have made the same decision you have. One can never be too safe these days. I did not see these trespassers, but I trust Pedro’s word. What you need is a man to help you make these decisions.”
“In case you haven’t noticed, I have about twenty men. Aislyn and I will go to Dallas this weekend with Luke. I will depend on you and Pedro to see everything runs as it should. How is that new foal doing?” She was more comfortable with this man than any she knew. However, he had been after her to find a new husband for the past three years.
Chaska had known Luke since he was a small boy, he respected the man he’d become. His girls would be safe with him. Chaska was happy that she was not going alone as times were changing and not for the better. “The ranch hands are not what I meant and you know this. The new foal will be a great addition to the ranch. He will father many champions, he is strong. I will let Pedro know of your plans for the weekend. We will handle anything that comes about.” He finished as he turned to the door to leave her study, at the same time her daughter came bounding through the door.
“Mom, you need to see the new foal. He is beautiful, I can’t wait till he grows up and I can ride him.”
“You know we won’t geld him, right? He may not be gentle enough for you to ride. Time will tell and we’ll let Chaska determine if he is suitable.” It broke her heart to see the smile faded from her child’s face. Aislyn was her saving grace when Patrick had gotten himself killed, trying to break a damned horse, a horse they no longer had. One toss in the air and he broke his neck. Kelli knew if it hadn’t been for Aislyn, she would not have survived. She had loved Patrick since they were children. He was her friend, confidant, and lover. He had been strong when she thought she did not want to live after she had a miscarried their son. She’d carried him six months when that damned drunk driver hit her. She saw the hurt in Patrick’s eyes, when she lost the baby, she never felt more empty than at that loss. She saw Patrick’s eyes every time she looked at Aislyn.
“But, Mom, Chaska can break him, he can train any horse that ever lived. I’m sure he can do the same with this one.”
Kelli saw the gleam return to the child’s eyes and was happy to see it. Aislyn is so full of life she’s bursting with it. “As I said, time will tell. Now, what should we take with us to Dallas? We need to figure it out, we will leave early day after tomorrow. Go pack. I need to take care of business for two hours.” She knew the packing would not take long, then Aislyn would be right back out there with that new foal.
As Kelli finished up her business she realized the time, time for dinner. Martha and Kate would have a spread for the hands. She enjoyed it when people were all around the big table. She made her way out to the kitchen in time to see one of the ranch hands giving Kate a hard time. “Rooster, don’t make me hurt you. Leave that woman alone.”
“I can’t. I am in love with her, she makes me weak in the knees.”
“You say the same about anything female. I still think you’ve been playing fast and loose with my heifers. You have even said the same to Martha, knowing Pedro will cut your balls off if you touched her. Now get ready for supper.” She knew he was on only joking around. Rooster loved women. Kelli gave Kate a wink and chuckled as he walked towards the dining room, mumbling under his breath.
Dinner passed all too soon. The Cowboys were all trying to talk over each other. Her five migrants had shown up before supper, Pedro had gotten them all situated. The north fence needed repaired. A well on the west side of the ranch needed inspected, the inspector should show up any day now. Then it was time for everyone to go find their beds. This was the time Kelli dreaded. At night is when she is most lonely. She often dreamed of Patrick. Sometimes her dreams had been so real, she could almost feel him next to her in bed. She could feel his arms around her, feel him touching her skin. But, lately her dreams had changed, it was not always Patrick that she felt in her bed. She had dreams of Luke instead. She could not deny the fact she’s attracted to him. She enjoyed his company; he is funny, caring, and had great life values. As she drifted off to sleep, he appeared in her dreams once again. These dreams were not of friendship, but carnal.
As the sun peaked through her bedroom window, Kelli awakened to tangled sheets and sweat running between her breast. She never had such a vivid dream before, she felt sated throughout. Now she needed to figure out how she would face Luke tomorrow, without blushing. As she dressed for the day, her mind kept returning to her dream. She wondered if he really is that passionate in bed. Patrick had been the first and last man to touch her in this fashion. Is she dreaming of Luke because she’s so damned lonely? Lonely and he’s alive? She knew if she doesn’t deal with this, she could well ruin a great friendship. She was not sure of Luke’s intentions; he had always flirted with her, even when Patrick was alive. She could never tell how serious he was. Most likely if she returned his attention, he would run for the hills. “Damn, I need a cold shower.” She mumbled to herself as she dressed for the day.
It don’t take a genius to spot a goat in a flock of sheep
Kelli finished putting her sandals on, grabbed her overnight bag and headed downstairs when she heard voices in the foyer. Luke is here to collect her and Aislyn. It will be a long drive before they reach Dallas, and she was comfortable. She wore a simple yellow sundress that sported tiny pale pink flowers. The dress came just below her knees, and two inch shoulder straps. Most of the time she wore her hair in a bun or a single braid down her back, a lot of the female rancher, around this area, wore their hair short. Patrick always liked her hair long, she could not bring herself to cut it now. When brushed out it hung down to her hips. Today, she wore it hanging straight down her back. As she reached the middle stair, Aislyn came barreling past her, jumped that last two steps and stood staring up at Luke with a huge grin on her face. Aislyn was wearing the ever present jeans, blouse and boots. “Thank God she left her hat upstairs.” Kelli thought to herself as she reached the last step. “Good morning, Luke.”
“Good morning, Ladies.” Luke spoke to both, but couldn’t take his eyes off Kelli. He could not remember a time when she looked as beautiful as she did this moment. The sun was shining through an upper window and haloed her head, it looked as if flame surrounded her. Come to think of it, he had never seen her hair hanging down her back, shit since they were children. She either had a large bun at her nape or a ponytail. He found himself speechless in this moment. Goddamned she was beautiful. He found himself jealous of Patrick, for the time he got to spend with her, even though he was long dead.
Aislyn opened the front door and was bounding down the steps towards his truck. “Ma’am, your chariot awaits.” This was all he got out. When she stepped towards him, her scent engulfed him. He needed to get control of his senses if he would escort her and her daughter for an entire weekend. As Kelli stepped passed him, he could have sworn she blushed. “Could she read his mind?” He asked himself. Mayhap, that is where that blush came from. It sure looked good on her where ever it came from.
Aislyn sat in the back of his crew cab, Kelli sat up front with him. Her scent filled the truck, surrounding him, he could breathe her in, all, day, long. The trip to Dallas was a long one. He could make in two hours and fifteen minutes, but stopping for breakfast took away time, no problem, he allowed for the time. They stopped in Weatherford for that breakfast.
Aislyn talked the whole time. Chattering about shopping, friends, school, you name it; she talked about it. He can tell the kids excited, he remembered the first time he went to Dallas, his excitement over flowed. He knew this was not her first time to Dallas, but you would think so, with the way she carried on.
“When we get to the big city, we can register at our hotel. I hope you don’t mind, but I took the liberty for making reservations. Then I need to get to my appointment.” He glanced at Kelli to see how she had taken his announcement about the reservations. She did not appear to mind. He had to smile, what is this world coming to, she had not gotten pissed at him the whole day, so far.
He saw Aislyn’s mouth drop in awe when he pulled up in front of the Ritz-Carlton. Kelli turned to him with a scowl on her face. “Why, Luke? Why this hotel?”
“I use this Hotel every time I come to Dallas. Most of the time I get the same room. They have my credit card on file and I need only to stop and pick up the key-card. Why would you ask that question?” He knew why, but was going for innocence. He must have pulled it off because she stopped her scowling. Everything he told her was the truth.
“I was only wondering. I have never stayed in such luxury. Thank you for being honest with me.” She remembered her dream last night, combined with this place, her mind went right back where it started, in the gutter. “Then let us get checked in.”
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