~The Binding~

Chapter 16

Mc had spent the entire ride into Lexington ignoring Bron and speaking only to Kaylin. They parked next to Suzie in the parking lot and charged into the mall. They walked around the mall fighting the holiday shoppers as they decided where they were going to go first. Kaylin had her list and Bron had to finish some shopping.

Mc walked too fast for Bron and Kaylin. She stopped and he kept walking as Suzie chatted away at him about the bed and breakfast. She had found a caterer for the party. She thought that this business would work out as a permanent caterer for all of their parties. The company had a small glitch; they were losing their lease. Suzie came up with the idea of letting them use the bed and breakfast as long as they took care of the guests first.

Bron shook her head as she watched them walk away, she was here to shop not talk 'shop'. She had listened for the last half hour of Suzie pitching this idea to Mc. In a way she was glad, she didn't know what to get Suzie for Christmas, later she would speak to Mc about it and by the look on his face, he would be all for it. If Suzie had known Mc a little better, she would have known he wasn't listening to a word she was saying as he continuously scanned the crowd. However, she was good enough to distract him so Bron made a left into Dillard's. "Come on baby, let's go in here and do some shopping." Grabbing Kaylin's hand, she pulled her into the store.

"I want to get Daddy some perfume," Kaylin made a beeline for the fragrance counter.

"Men call it cologne, not perfume." Correcting her as she managed to follow her daughter to the men's section of the counter.

Kaylin picked up bottle after bottle off the counter and smelled them. It surprised Bron that she could reach them on her own, she had grown so much taller this year. Bron held back a little tear, it had been a long time since they had gone shopping for a Daddy, whether C.W. or Kevin.

"I like this one," Kaylin held the bottle up for Bron to smell.

Bron sniffed and frowned a little. "I don't like it. Find another one."

The pout came on quickly, "I like this one!"

"I have to live with it more than you do, it's too girly." Bron pushed the bottle away from her. The scent was floral and she couldn't imagine Kevin wearing it, then she giggled, well maybe, as her mind took a wicked little left on her. Her sweet visual was broken up by the words. "Thank you so much. Do it again and we leave."

Bron shrugged her shoulders, "You were busy talking business. I'm here to shop." She looked at him with a smirk that faded quickly when she saw his face. Oh, she knew that face, it was time to chill. "Sorry."

"Uncle Mc, do you think Daddy would like this?" A bottle was almost jammed up his nostril. He couldn't help but get a whiff, it was nasty, too pansy for him and he didn't mean in a floral sense either. "I think he'd love it." It delighted him to see the look on Bron's as she would have to smell the overbearing floral fragrance mixed with something that reminded him of the smell of rubbing alcohol. "Why don't I pay for this one and you can save your money to get something else."

"Thanks," Bron frowned.

"You're not teaching her anything about money Mc if you buy that for her. She needs to learn how to spend her money wisely and the value of it." Suzie voiced her opinion.

When Mc slowly turned around, she looked at the floor.

"If I wanted your opinion, I would have asked for it. Come on Bounce, you and I are going to shop, just to annoy your mother because she annoys me."

"Now wait just a damn minute." Bron stood glaring at him in the middle of the store.

Two elderly women walked by them, one spoke loud enough for both all of them to hear. "Really, in my day, Moms and Dads, never fought in front of the children."

Bron's teeth grated together, she took one step, only to have a hand latch on to her arm and turn her around. It was Mc with a disgustingly pleased smile, "Really honey, we shouldn't fight in front of the children."

Suzie giggled and Kaylin frowned, "You're not my Dad! Kevin is my daddy, my second daddy."

Bron turned red and shut up as the two women turned to look at the four of them. Bron just walked away shaking her head, embarrassed as to what the women were thinking and so hoping that they didn't know her or any of Kevin's family. She could see that old Kentucky gossip mill just cranking out the rumors.

She walked around the store, knowing that they were behind her. She entered ladies wear hoping Mc wouldn't follow her, no such luck. Mc called her and she stopped. Turning she looked, "Yes?"

"What do you think?" Mc stood holding up a pale pink angora sweater.

Bron moved towards and touched the soft fabric. "For Janey?"

Mc nodded a yes to her.

"It's pretty but she has gorgeous dark eyes, try this one." Bron picked up the same sweater in a blue that would almost match Janey's eyes.

"Do You think so?" Mc looked at the sweater carefully.

Bron reached around and found a skirt made of the same fabric. She glanced to see that Suzie and Kaylin were in the sleepwear section. "With this and this," Bron handed him a long cardigan and skirt to match. "Anything else?"

"Jewelry, she doesn't have any?" Mc held onto the clothing.

"How about a ring?" Bron smiled.

"Cool it," Mc warned her.

"Just a suggestion," Bron mumbled.

"I hear another Carter disaster was averted thanks to your husband this morning." Mc looked at the jewelry display in the back of the store.

"Yes he did, and don't even look there. We'll go to the jewelry store at the other end of the mall. What kind of sparkly are you looking for? A friendship sort of thing?"

Mc shifted in his shoes and gave Bron a half frown, half smile. She knew him better than anyone, he was toast now. He had tried for so long to avoid this conversation with her, but in the end it was her that he was seeking approval from. In his entire life, she was the only one that he really gave two shits about, her and her family.

"I really think you should get engaged. You're happy with her Mc, the first person since… well, since me, and I didn't make you very happy." Bron watched to make sure he was listening. There were times that it looked like he was listening and he wasn't, like what he had done with Suzie earlier in the mall. "You love her and Logan to death so what is stopping you from doing this. Things are different here; people aren't looking to put you in a body bag. You can make a commitment to someone besides me and the company." Both of them watched Suzie and Kaylin as they talked.

"I'm really angry that you didn't tell me what was going on with you. I could have gotten to the bottom of this a hell of a lot faster." Mc leaned on the rack of clothes.

"Don't change the subject." Bron pretended to look at some sweaters hanging nearby.

"We are going to talk about this but not with Kaylin around. As far as the other, I'm not sure… It's a lifetime commitment."

"Well, thanks to you, I'm spoken for once again. So you better find someone to grow old with." Bron knew he was sitting on the fence. "I like her; I didn't at first because I was jealous. I've always come first with you, always, even when I shouldn't have. Don't string her along. You've done things for her that you wouldn't even do for me." Her hands slid over the soft fabric of the angora sweater done in muted grays. She smiled when she heard him sigh loudly.

Mc knew that what he was waiting for was to talk to Bron, but no ring would be big enough for Janey. He had thought about flying to New York to get one. He could still do it but time would be a factor. He already knew her ring size, thanks Logan.

Suzie kept Kaylin away from the two adults as they talked. They looked pretty intense as they spoke. Sticking Kaylin in the middle right now wouldn't be a wise thing to do.

"I want to get this for my Mom," Kaylin held up the outfit.

Suzie's face turned red, "Why would you pick that out for your Mom?" She couldn't get over Kaylin's pick, it was a corset type thing with red fishnet stockings and garter straps. The fabric being bright red velvet with blatant fake white fur trim and a Santa stocking hat was included.

"It's like Mrs. Clause," Kaylin smiled.

"For a perverted Santa," slipped off Suzie's lips before she could stop it. Two bells strategically placed, complete this garish ensemble. "I really don't think that is an appropriate gift for your Mom Kaylin. Let's go look at the flannel pajamas."

"Dad said no flannel," Kaylin frowned.

Suzie's was puzzled about the comment, "What?"

"Before I left Dad said Mom needed new pajamas. He said no Cookie Monster, Elmo, or flannel."

"OH," Suzie thought that maybe Kevin had meant something tasteful.

"He said is should be soft and sexy." Kaylin grinned.

Suzie jaw slid open, 'What a jerk, having a conversation like that with a kid. If he wants sexy, he'll get it,' she screamed in her head as she closed her eyes.

Mc walked up to them as they stood there staring at each other. Bron was going to pay for her stuff and the items Mc needed. "Kaylin, what are you doing with that?" He pulled the garment from her and hung it back up on the display.

"That's for Mom," she whined.

"Your Mother will freeze her butt off in that. Go find something in flannel for her." Mc frowned at her choice and then pointed, "Hey look, they have those character dorm shirts. She loves those."

Suzie leaned over to Mc, "Kevin said no character shirts or flannel."

"Really?" Mc grinned. He looked at Bron who stood at the register. Turning to Suzie, he whispered. "Go pick out something appropriate from a daughter. If he wants sexy, let's turn the tables on him and have a little fun with him." Mc grabbed Kaylin's hand, "Come on, I know exactly what we need."

Suzie watched them head in a different direction, towards the mens' department, and then she headed to the flannel.

Bron joined her after a ten-minute wait in line. "What did you get?"

"Stuff," Suzie smiled.

"Oh, stuff for me?" Bron tried to peak in the bag. Suzie slapped her hand away, Bron frowned.

"You're too nosey, it's a surprise." Suzie stood with her as they waited for Mc to catch up to them.

"Newsflash, I hate surprises." Bron's stomach growled. "I have to eat, I'm hungry."

Mc strolled up with a smile that made Bron do a double take, "What are you up to?"

"Shopping," Kaylin smiled.

"That's just so not good, I can tell," Bron laughed. "Let's go eat."

The shopping was finished after a fast food meal in the food court. Mc didn't say much as he looked at the jewelry store across from the food court. When Bron stood up and began to walk towards the store, his instincts kicked in and he followed.

Too late, Bron barreled into the store and began talking. "Hi, I need an engagement ring, the best and the biggest you have." Bron cheerily spoke to the clerk.

The clerk tripped over Bron in her glee to nail the sale.

"I really don't like it when you make my decisions for me. I think this is something I should do on my own," Mc admonished to a set of deaf ears.

"You've been waiting for my opinion and we both know that. Right?" Bron's face was lit up as bright as the store displays.

"I think New York would be better…." Mc stopped as a beautiful ring was set on the counter.

"My boss has been saving this one for someone special." The salesclerk turned the box so the ring sparkled in the lights.

"You mean someone who could afford to pay for it," Bron laughed. "It's beautiful and perfect. He wants that one."

"Will you stop steam rolling over me, I can make my own decisions." Mc grabbed at the box, "It is nice, very nice, comparable to what I would get in New York."

"The stone was bought in New York and my boss did the setting. He thinks he's an artist of sorts."

"Give it to her Christmas Eve, at the party, make it special."

Mc thrust the box at Bron, "Why the hell don't you propose to her?"

"You don't have to get grumpy," Bron smiled as she looked at the ring. "It would be so romantic and sweet."

"Jesus, get the book shit out of your head. I'm not a romantic." Mc's face soured.

"You could be if you tried dammit! What did you plan to do? Throw it at her and tell her to set the date and let you know. Now you sound like Kevin."

Mc didn't answer her, so she knew she was close. The way the man thought would drive a sane woman nuts. Bron snagged the box back from him. "He'll take it… Wrap it very nicely. I'll wrap it in another box when we get home. You can ask her on Christmas, at the party."

Mc was not himself, he crumbled like a cookie, "What if she says no?"

"She won't, she loves your stupid ass for some reason."

"Same reason you used too," Mc's eyebrows shot up after he said. Mc handed over his credit card.

Bron laughed, "Hurts not to have that fat wallet, doesn't it?"

"I have a fat wallet but I don't carry it with me, like you do." Mc laughed back.

Suzie stood way back with Kaylin she had a feeling she knew what was going on by the dinner conversation. Kaylin couldn't find out, she would tell everyone. Once Bron and Mc rejoined them, they hit a few more stores and said good-bye to Suzie. Kaylin was tired and starting to get miserable as they headed out to the parking lot.

Bron tried to keep her awake until they reached home, but it was pointless, she dropped off before they even hit the edge of town.

Mc adjusted the mirror to see if she was sleeping. "Now we can talk," he glanced to Bron.

"About what?" Bron looked out the window.

"You need to get a handle on this. We need to find out who is doing this and why."

"You know who it is and so do I. It's Stevie, but I don't understand why he would do this."

"I'm sending him back home for Christmas," Mc spoke his plans.

"What's the point? Wouldn't it be better if he were here and we could watch him." Bron stared out the window as she chewed on her fingernails.

Mc hadn't seen her do that in a long time, a very long time. "Something is wrong, very wrong with him. If I talk to him, it will blow up. If I act like business as usual, he'll go home and give you some space. I want to see everything that has been sent to you tomorrow."

"You can't keep him away forever."

"Do you want to bet on that? Maybe forcing him away from you will cause him to make a move." Mc had turned this problem over and over in his head since this afternoon. Stevie was being sneaky about this and had played it right under his nose because he had let his guard down the minute Kevin had come back to Lexington. It wouldn't happen again. "You don't think it's Jake?"

"Come on," Bron looked at him like he was crazy, her face scrunched up so strangely in the dark.

"Yeah, I think you're right. What do you think caused all of this?" Mc asked as he drove down the country road.

"Kevin of course. I think Stevie thought that was I was going to be nothing more than a flash in the pan for him, a piece of ass." Bron frowned at her own statement.

"Something turned him though, he has never been like this. He was always close to you but not obsessed."

"I don't know. I've tried to think of a million reasons why he would do this. I just got a feeling that there is something more than an obsession thing going on, it's really twisted."

"The trial?" Mc spoke what he was thinking.

"What the hell would that have to do with him?"

"Did this start when the grand jury stuff went through?"

"Around then and when you brought Webster into it. I don't even want to know why you brought Webster back home."

Mc answered carefully, very carefully. "I wanted it done right, not sloppy."

"You mean you didn't want someone not to follow through just in case they decided that they could nail Lenny and Solarez for something bigger." Bron's skeptical eyebrow went up, "And you?"

Mc nodded a yes to her as they turned up her driveway. Pulling up to the front door, he parked, and turned the van off. "I'll carry her in." Mc did as he said he would and then helped Kevin carry packages in while Bron settled Kaylin.

Mc stood in the foyer ready to leave, "I need my box."

"I told you, I'm going to put it in a bigger box." His flat palm waited in the air for the merchandise.

"Come on, let me have some fun," Bron balked at him.

Kevin watched the two behave like little kids, of course the two of them always behaved like little kids, instead one adult in early forties and one in her late thirties. "What does he want?"

"Janey's engagement ring," Bron smiled as she danced a little. "Dufus is going to propose."

"Congrats Dufus," Kevin smiled, something inside him let loose with a flood of relief and happiness about this. His face was literally glowing.

"Kevin you can wipe that Cracker Jack ass smile off your face. This doesn't change anything between Bron and I."

Kevin's grin grew wider, "It sure does buddy."

"Yeah, yeah," Mc mumbled and headed for the front door. Kevin was right, it changed a lot of things. "I'll see you tomorrow Spark."

Bron giggled a 'Love You' as he headed out the door.

Kevin followed locking the door and turning the security system on. "Why do I think you had something to do with that?" he grabbed Bron's hand and they climbed the stairs together.

"Why does everyone always think it's me?" Bron laughed knowing she was busted.

"You're always playing matchmaker, but you shouldn't do that. Look what happened with A.J. and Mary. Next you will have Suzie and Nick getting married."

They walked hand and hand down the hall to check on Cooper and then Kaylin. Satisfied they were sound asleep she continued the conversation, "Nick and Suzie are going to take awhile. He's a little slow sometimes on the uptake. He just doesn't get my hints."

"He gets your hints, he's just ignoring you. Trust me, he's been doing it to me for years." Kevin hesitated as she walked towards Andrew's room. "He's not home yet."

"Oh," Bron frowned while she looked at her watch. "It's late."

"He's on vacation," Kevin would stick up for the kid but he had better be home soon with no dents in his truck. Andrew was as confusing as Kaylin sometimes, two kids raised to be instant adults, but at times they still let you know they were kids.

"He better not be with a girl," Bron huffed as they went into their bedroom.

"Oh Bron, let it go woman. He's a man," Kevin's hand waved in her face.

"Is not," Bron went into the bathroom and started stripping.

Kevin stood for two seconds before his clothes started landing on the floor and made a path to her.

"You didn't ask if you could join me," Bron wore a fake pout that was about as transparent as plastic wrap.

"Ha, ha, ha," Kevin laughed as he turned on the water.

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