Chapter Seventy-Six

- Tracer


"Tracer?" Ryan called to me as he walked into the office. "I've been thinking... how are we going to going to fit everyone into the house?"

"I hadn't given it a thought." I was quiet for a moment while I did think about it. "Nine guests? More than we've ever had at once. Hmmm..."

"Well, they aren't arriving all at once. Let's see, Jackson and Christian arrive on the twenty-third and they leave on the second. Kirk and Chet get here the same day and leave on the fifth. Jacob arrives on Christmas Eve and leaves the twenty-seventh. Josh and Chris get here on the...

"Stop, stop..." I kept my tone level. "White board time..."

I grabbed a pen and drew a series of columns with the dates at the top of each. Ryan and I mapped out the dates everyone would be visiting.

"So the for Christmas Eve and Christmas we have seven guests," I said looking that the board. "Then after Christmas we have eight."

"Be careful what you wish for," Ryan said softly.

"Huh?"

"When we were driving back from Nashville, I told Will that it would be nice if folks visited a bit more often. I didn't mean all at once!"

I had to chuckle at that. "OK. How do we fit eight guests into the house comfortably?"

"Two guest rooms, two guests in each room that covers four. Since Jackson, Christian, Kirk and Chet are staying the longest let's give them those rooms."

"Agreed."

"We can put Josh and Chris in the den on the sofa bed. That leaves Jacob at Christmas... do we put him in with Kirk and Chet?"

"Why don't we put him in the family room? Maybe we can borrow an inflatable bed from someone. Then when Scott and Stefan arrive, we have something for them too."

"Let me ask around and see if anyone has one."

We were standing there discussing this in more depth when Erik and Will came into the office.

"Uh oh, a white board exercise," Erik said with a laugh.

"White boards can solve the problems of the world!" I exclaimed.

After looking at the board a moment, Will put in "Ryan's getting his wish."

"Oh?" Erik asked.

"Yeah. I was just telling Tracer that I was wishing more folks would visit when Will and I were driving home from Nashville. But this is overload."

"We think we have it mapped out," I explained. "We just have to find an air mattresses or something."

"Don't we have a cot in the basement?" Erik asked.

"No. I got rid of that rickety old thing during the remodel," I said. "Anyway we need space for two."

"So nine days till the first arrival," Will interjected. "We can make this work. Where do we get the air mattresses?"

"I was going to check with Janet and I thought I'd ask the guys. Worst case scenario WalMart," I replied.

"On to more important things," Erik said. "What's for dinner?"

"Chinese," I replied. "We can either eat at Red Flower or do carry out."

"Let's go into town and eat," Will said. "We haven't really been out in a while."

"Clean up time," Erik called out. "I want a shower before I go to a restaurant."

"Me too," Will chimed in.

With that we shut down the computers, shut off the lights and locked up the office.

"I'm gonna move the laundry along while you get your shower," I said to Erik as we walked into the kitchen.

In the basement, I quickly folded the load of towels that had been in the dryer. I got the work pants from the washer into the dryer and finally got work shirts into the washer.

I got into our bedroom, stripped down and went into the bathroom. Erik was rinsing off the soap as I got there.

"That looks mighty tempting!" I said.

"Huh?"

"Climbing into the shower with you... but, we need to get ready for dinner."

I was about to start some grooming tasks when Erik stepped out of the shower stall.

"All yours," he said.

I took a quick shower, dried off, got dressed and found the guys downstairs waiting on me, even though I didn't think I took that long.

We took the Jeep into town and found a spot in front of the restaurant. It wasn't very busy so we waved to the owner and grabbed a table in the corner. Mr. Lee came over, gave us menus and took our drink orders.

"How about doing it family style tonight?" Will asked.

"I'm willing," Ryan chimed in.

Erik and I nodded our agreement.

"I was thinking about gong bao chicken," Ryan said.

"How about beef chow fun?" Will added.

"Let's see that covers beef and chicken; how about spicy Sichuan shrimp?" Erik asked.

"Well that covers the world of meat," I laughed. "I was thinking... the bok choy in garlic sauce?"

"Wontons? Dumplings? Egg rolls?" Ryan queried.

The waiter delivered our drinks and took our order. Soon we had a table covered with food. Will and Ryan tackled dinner with chopsticks, but Erik and I stuck to forks.

With a small piece of diced chicken held between the two pieces of wood, Ryan looked at Erik, "you should give them a try!" he said.

"Well considering I've eaten most of my dinner, I won't go hungry at this point," Erik admitted.

Ryan started showing Erik how to hold and maneuver the chopsticks. The demonstration wasn't lost on Will who began a similar one for me.

"I doubt I'll ever be proficient enough with these things to eat a meal," Erik said.

"You'll be surprised how fast you pick it up," Will replied. "Four years ago I couldn't manage them at our first meal. A few meals later I was eating faster with these than with a fork."

We finished dinner, paid the bill and walked out to the Jeep.

"Need anything from the store before we head home?" Will asked.

"Naw, we have everything for now," I replied.

Will got us home in short order and we said our goodnights retiring to our respective bedrooms.

Erik and I got undressed, hung up the relatively clean clothing, and each brushed our teeth. All our preparations complete, we climbed into bed and each grabbed a book to read. I'd gotten through a couple pages when Erik put his book on the nightstand. I figured he'd turn his light off and get into position for sleep... but he didn't.

"Tracer?" he queried.

I flipped my book over onto my chest. "Yeah?"

"Are we an old married couple?"

"Why do you ask that? Why would you even think that?"

"We seem to be in a rut. Oh, I'm not complaining about sex or anything, but well..."

"We don't have monkey sex every night. Or even just plain old sex every night..."

"Exactly. Have we become an old married couple? A bit complacent and not too adventurous?"

"I don't think we're an "old" married couple. Maybe it's fairer to say we're comfortable. You know, it's not about monkey sex, basic sex or any of that... it's about love. We love each other and express it every day. If you want the monkey sex more often, I'm game. Sometimes you're tired after a long day, sometimes it's me... we just have to ignore that a bit..."

"Sounds like a good idea, Mr. Monkey."

"Come here you big ape."

Erik rolled over closer to me and I put my hand behind his head pulling him into a deep kiss.

"I think it's time for a little monkey sex!" I admitted.

Erik's movements became a bit wilder, grabbing me, pushing and pulling me into the position he wanted. I was on my back, ass high in the air with my legs spread wide.

"You know, monkeys are all about fucking. So, I'm gonna prime your ass and fuck it till it falls off..."

With that he plunged his tongue into my ass and started... best to say attacking it. It was clear he wanted to pack as much spit into my hole as he could and open it up good! Erik's tongue worked around my hole a bit more, then I felt him put a finger at each side and spread my ass as his tongue plunged in deeper.

"Fuck ME!" I begged.

"Oooo, ooo, ooo," Erik's impression of a monkey was an octive lower than expected.

He stood up on the bed, put the head of his cock at my hole and slid in with on long, forceful push. His knees were rubbing against my sides as he drove in.

"Umph," I grunted as he bottomed out.

Having hit bottom, he stood up, vacating my hole. Before I could catch my breath, he plunged in quickly.

My dick, that had been mostly hard while he rimmed my ass, was now harder than I ever remember and oozing pre-cum down onto my chest.

Erik's monkey noises quickly turned into primal grunts as he long dicked my ass. Each time his cock pulled out, I did my best to tighten my hole so that he'd get maximum stimulation.

"Fuck, this is good," he roared.

I was concerned that he was going to blow quickly if he kept up the pace.

"Own that ass!" I growled back at him.

"Damn right!"

With that he slammed deep into my hole and held still. I couldn't feel any twitches so, he wasn't cumming... yet.

His hands grabbed my legs put them on his shoulders and he dropped down onto his knees, all the while his cock remained buried in my ass. With us in a more traditional position, he pushed my knees back towards my chest and started fucking at rabbit speed.

"Oh, FUCK!" I groaned as we both vibrated rapidly from the quick, short strokes.

As he kept up the fuck, I realized that Erik's sweat was dripping down on me.

"That's it Erik, pound my hole!"

"Oooo, ooo, ooo," in his deep tone, was his only reply.

His rapid strokes worked my hole good and my cock continued to leak its goo down my chest.

As he continued to saw my ass he pulled me into him a bit, then moved back. His movements puzzled me till he grabbed me again and dropped his legs off the bed. The movements were a bit rough on my ass; but, he ended up standing with his dick buried up my hole.

"Put your arms around my neck," he ordered.

As soon as my hands were clasped behind his neck, he lifted me up off the bed.

"Be care..." was all I got out before he started bouncing me and I lost my breath. I was concerned for his back as I wasn't really much smaller than him. But he seemed to be handling it.

"FUCK!" Erik moaned.

My body settled down on Erik's dick as I felt it explode in my ass. He kept thrusting into me as he planted his load deep.

He stood there for a moment and then let me drop back onto the bed, his dick still buried in my hole. I went to grab mine for a quick jack-off, but he swatted my hand away.

"We're just getting started," Erik warned. "Load one of Operation Monkey Sex is done, but I plan on adding more."

With that he started fucking his dick back and forth in my hole. It was gonna be a long night, but I was looking forward to finding out how many loads Erik could produce in one night.

The next morning I was dragging my ass in the office. Well, my ass was pretty sore after Erik's Operation Monkey Sex. He'd shot three loads and I'd sprayed two onto my chest which he claimed were the most delicious head ever eaten off me.

As we were gearing up for the Christmas closing, and things were very hectic on the farm. Everyone was good about making sure all the work was done so that the reduced staffing wouldn't have a big impact on us. I was sitting in the office that afternoon reviewing invoices, when Noah walked in.

"Tracer, have you got next week's schedule ready?"

"Yeah, with the four of us home we figured we could handle most of the work so it's a light schedule for everyone else."

"Oh."

"Problem?"

"Well, it's just Momma and me and she's gotta work..."

"So you wanted some hours to keep you busy."

"Yeah. Plus I spent a lot on her Christmas present..."

"What did you get her," I interrupted.

"I got her a new car stereo. Her radio gave out and she's been saying how hard it is to get off work at 7 a.m. and drive home half asleep without music. I finally have money to spend on her!"

"Off at 7 a.m.? Eeek..."

"She got switched to the night-shift and is working eleven to seven at the moment. The night differential on her pay is good, but our shifts are so far off we don't see much of each other."

"What are you two doing for Christmas?"

"Well, I figure we'll have dinner after she gets home from work. I'll throw something together, we'll eat and then she'll probably crash."

"She's not off?"

"Naw. In fact, she's pulling a double Christmas Eve at eleven to Christmas Day at three. She's said it was better to let some of the nurses with little kids get a chance to see them open their presents."

"That's nice of her. How about the two of you join us for Christmas dinner? We're gonna eat at four."

"I don't wanna intrude on your family time," Noah said.

"It's an extended family thing and two more folks aren't going to be an issue. We've got seven staying with us, plus my folks, Patrick and Tiffany are coming down. So that's eleven adults."

"You sure?"

"Yes. Two more won't be a problem."

"Let me check with Mom. Either way it's very nice of you to offer."

"Kirk and Chet will be here. You'll get to catch up with them."

"That would be nice," he admitted.

"I'll see if any of the guys want more time off and switch you into their slots."

"That'd be great. Let me get back to work."

"Sounds good."

I put a note on the staff board for everyone to check in with me before they left and got back to work. By the end of the day, I'd picked up a good number of hours for Noah over the holiday.

I was off the next day and decided to finish up my Christmas shopping. Unlike Erik, I didn't like doing my shopping through catalogs or like Ryan through the internet.

The four of us had agreed that this would be a smaller Christmas we had a lot of folks visiting and we didn't really need much. Instead of everyone buying a ton of stuff for each other, we drew names and were buying only for one. I'd gotten Ryan which had left me baffled at first, then a light bulb went off over my head.

So far, I'd bought an MP3 player, an arm band to hold it, and some new CDs that he could rip to as he started to build a digital music library. I knew he liked listening to music; but didn't really get to listen as much as he'd like. With the little MP3 player strapped to his arm he could listen while he worked, rode or other times. In addition to the player, I decided to check Belk to see if I could find a few nice shirts for him. I'd keep adding from there.

"I'm dreaming of a white Christmas," the mall's speakers were pumping holiday cheer as I walked from K-Mart to Belk.

As I walked down main hallway, I noticed this younger guy heading towards the bathroom. He was looking around and his actions made me remember something Will told me... a conversation he'd had with Kirk... that the mall bathroom was cruisy. I'd told Will that I knew about cruising, hell I'd done it myself. Well, best of luck to the guy. Then I noticed one of the security guards heading for the bathroom as well. Shit! I thought fast and sprang into action. I took a firm grip on my bags and ran for the bathroom. I got to the outer door just as the guard arrived.

"Sorry, Officer. I'm gonna burst!" I stated very loudly as I pulled the door open. As I entered the bathroom, the young guy and another man were quickly separating and trying to make themselves presentable. My movements blocked the guard from seeing what was going on.

The young guy moved towards the sink and I took his place at the urinal. The other man flushed, and headed for the sink while I took a piss.

By the time I finished, washed up and was ready to leave, I was the only person left in the restroom. The two guys were nowhere to be seen when I got back out to the hallway. I just hoped they realized how close they'd come.

I finished my walk to Belk, found a three polo shirts and then drove over to the grocery store to pick up a few items.

When I got home the house was empty, so I took the opportunity to get Ryan's presents wrapped and stacked in the great room. We were planning to cut, light and decorate a tree on Saturday.

Everything else done, I went into the kitchen to see what I could do towards dinner. I lifted the lid on the slow cooker and got a better whiff. Beef, mushrooms, scallions, small potatoes, and carrots were sitting in what appeared to be a red wine base.

Knowing that Ryan had gotten the main course going, I dug through the fridge for a green vegetable. I didn't find anything that piqued my interest, so I grabbed a bag of Brussel sprouts from the freezer. I grabbed a cookie sheet, covered it in foil, spread the sprouts on it, and coated them with olive oil and a little salt and pepper.

I checked the bread box to see what we had and found it bare, so I decided to make some biscuits. I pulled out the self-rising flour and heavy cream, mixed eight ounces of each in a bowl and then once the dough was ready formed sixteen small biscuits and placed them on a baking sheet. With everything ready, I checked the time then turned the oven on to bake the biscuits. Dinner was quiet conversation and compliments to the chef on the food.

We closed the farm down on Wednesday the twenty-second to give us time to get things ready. We'd been able to borrow the spare beds we needed for our guest, but needed time to get the house organized. Noah was on each day, including Christmas to help out with the basic chores and the weather forecast looked cold and dry. Chet and Kirk called just after dinner Wednesday night to let us know they'd be leaving about six a.m. I told them I'd have lunch waiting for them.

Thursday morning Will and Ryan headed south to Tri-Cities to pick up Christian and Jackson. They were supposed to return in time for lunch. About eleven thirty, I was in the kitchen starting to prep things for the first big meal.

"Need help?" Erik asked as he came inside.

"Always glad for assistance."

"What can I do? What are we having?"

"We're having chicken and bacon hoagies with warm German potato salad, chips, and pretzels. For desert I've got brownies with your choice of chocolate or vanilla ice cream, plus caramel, chocolate ganache and whipped cream."

"And I'm not going to get one hundred pounds this holiday?"

"Lots and lots of exercise," I replied. "You know... Operation Monkey Sex."

"I see. So this is just energy, huh," he teased.

"Yeah!"

"Why don't you grab the big plastic container of potato salad out of the fridge, then scoop out nine good servings into a glass bowl? We'll get it into the microwave as folks arrive. Then you can put the chips and pretzels into serving bowls, set the table, get all the fixins for the hoagies ready and finally slice the hoagie buns."

"What are you doing during all this?" he laughed.

"I've got to get the chicken and the bacon cooked."

"Ah!"

I grabbed a cutting board, knife and the bag of chicken breasts. I started cleaning and cutting the breasts, then cubing the chicken for cooking. I cleaned my hands well, grabbed two jelly roll pans which I lined with aluminum foil then set two wire cooling racks on top. I then laid out strip after strip of bacon.

"What are you doing?"

"Well, I bought this thick cut bacon and I'm going to bake it. I'm making praline bacon."

"Praline bacon?"

"Yes. See with all the bacon laying on the cooling racks, the fat drips into the jelly roll pan. Well, actually into the foil for easy clean up. I'm going to cover all the bacon with brown sugar, black pepper and a bit of finely chopped pecans."

"Yumm..."

We got busy preparing for lunch and were nearly done when the driveway alarm went off.

"Any guess?" Erik asked.

"I'm thinking Ryan and Will with Jackson and Christian. It's a bit early for Kirk and Chet."

Erik was looking out the kitchen window as he washed up. "Wish I'd bet you on that," Erik said.

"What's mine is yours baby."

"True, true."

His hands dried, Erik grabbed his coat and headed out the back door. Moments later, he walked in carrying several large bags. Behind him, Kirk and Chet came through the door.

"Either you flew or you go a really early departure!" I stated.

"We were in Richmond last night, so that cut an hour off the trip," Chet explained. "We took my folks to the airport for their flight and stayed at the house. That cut more than an hour off the trip."

"Where are they going?"

"They're going to Fort-de-France on Martinique," Kirk said.

"For Christmas?"

"Yeah. With the kids all grown up, they wanted to do something different this year," Chet explained. "Escaping to the beach is their idea of different."

"How are they getting there?" Erik asked. "Through Miami?"

"No. They are flying Richmond, DC, Montreal, Martinique. They were having problems getting a flight out of Miami on American Eagle so they just did Air Canada instead. It's only going to take about two hours more."

"Weird." I put in.

"Yeah, layovers..."

"Let's get your stuff into your room," Erik said.

"Where do we put the presents?" Chet asked.

"In the great room," I indicated.

As Chet, Kirk and Erik started carrying bags and boxes out of the kitchen, the driveway alarm went off again.

"Next load of guests," I said.

A few minutes later, there was a knock at the back door. I went over and found Janet. Opening the door, "Hey, to what do we owe the honor?"

"I brought the inflatable mattress."

"Super."

I followed her out to her car and grabbed the box. We chatted about our plans for the next cooking class. We were standing by her car when I saw Ryan's Jeep start up the driveway.

"Well, this time I know who's arriving."

"Huh?"

"Well, I figured it was Ryan's Jeep arriving earlier, but it was Chet and Kirk. Then it was you. This time I get it right!"

With that Janet started laughing at me. She was still chuckling when Ryan pulled the Wrangler into its parking space. As everyone climbed out, Ryan called out, "Janet!"

"Ryan, Will, Christian, Jackson, good to see everyone. I was just dropping off some air mattresses."

"Want to stay for lunch?"

"No, I need to get home before my kids show up."

"Aw," Will groaned. "Well, if we don't get to see you before have a merry Christmas!"

"Same to all of you," Janet replied.

As she drove off, Will grabbed the mattress while Ryan, Jackson and Christian carried the suitcases.

"I hope everyone is hungry," I stated as we went through the kitchen door.

I got a chorus of agreement.

"Put your stuff in the blue guest room, get freshened up and by then I'll have lunch ready!"

The conversation around the table centered on catching up. E-mail conversations were between specific pairings Ryan and Christian, Kirk and Will sometimes Ryan so the rest of us had a lot to catch up on.

Josh, Chris and Jacob arrived early on Christmas Eve. That evening as Christian and Ryan teamed up to make dinner, I sat at the island chatting with them. I knew that Ryan wanted to continue helping Christian get completely comfortable cooking.

"Have you thought about cooking classes?" I asked Christian.

"I thought about it, but that means dad taking me into town a lot." Christian replied.

"Well, once you get your license, you can drive yourself," Ryan pointed out.

"Yeah. That will be a big help."

I looked at Ryan who had a big grin on his face. I gave him a puzzled look and he shook his head no. I let the matter drop.

I helped Christian and Ryan get the food on the table and we called everyone for dinner. The nine of us got settled and I passed the sparkling cider around the table. Once the glasses were filled, Erik offered a toast.

"Here's to the holly with its bright red berry. Here's to Christmas, let's make it merry. Here's wishing you more happiness than all my words can tell, not just alone for Christmas but for all the year as well!"

We all clinked our glasses, drank a sip and went to set them down. Before we did, Jacob cough a little and raised his glass. He looked as if he was about to cry.

"I'd like to offer a toast... to Erik, Tracer, Ryan and Will in less than a year, you've taken in Kirk and I; welcomed us; treated us like your own; and given us a real home where we are loved. Through you, I've learned the real meaning of family. Thank you from the bottom of my heart."

"Hear, hear!" Kirk chimed in, his eyes turning damp.

Again we clinked our glasses, drank a bit and went to set them down. I looked at Erik and noticed his eyes were getting wet as well.

Before any of the four of us could say anything, Josh raised his glass.

"Here's to the Double Trails, the true home of wayward strays, love, joy and happiness abounds. Thanks for adopting me too!"

Erik took a long drink this time, set his glass down and smiled. "It seems a bit odd, reflecting on the early days of this farm. Ryan and I making a life after my ex disappeared. I truly thought when he graduated high school, I'd be alone for the rest of my life. The love in this house multiplied after I met Tracer; then Ryan met Will. Now our unusual, extended family has gown and I'm happy. Happy that you think of us as family. Happy that we have Jackson and Christian in our family. And tomorrow, even happier that more of our family will be present. Thank you." He paused. "Now, before the food that Christian and Ryan worked so hard on gets cold, let's EAT!"

"Hear, hear..." rang out from several of us.

Christmas morning, Noah was in early to help Erik, Will and I with chores. Jackson, Josh and Kirk joined us which helped make quick work of it.

"Join us for breakfast?" I asked Noah as we finished up.

"Sure!"

When we got into the kitchen, we found the rest of the gang putting the finishing touches on a tremendous breakfast. After eating, I cornered Noah for a moment.

"See you around three thirty?"

"Definitely," he replied. "Mom and I are looking forward to it. She's heard me talk about work and folks, but since she worked the day of the Thanksgiving party, she hasn't met everyone."

"Sounds good. See you then!"

After Noah left, the kitchen cleaned up we all went into the den for the present exchange. We'd decided to go around the room focusing on one person opening their stuff at a time.

Ryan really liked the MP3 player and was really siked about creating a digital music library with the CDs he had and the ones I'd bought him. Christian gave him a new cowboy hat. Josh and Chris gave him some new tack accessories. And Jacob, Kirk and Chet added to the pile of CDs and clothing in front of him.

Erik handed me my boxes and I was a bit confused when the first had a pair of swim trunks. The second box confused me a bit more a snorkel. Then Erik handed me an envelope, opening it I found an itinerary.

"Holy cow," I exclaimed.

"What? What?" Will asked.

"He's got us booked in Key Largo, flight, bed and breakfast, and snorkeling at John Pennekamp Coral Reef!"

"Look further down," Erik pointed out. "We're going swimming with the dolphins too!"

"Wooo hooo!" I shouted.

After I calmed down a bit, Will gave Erik his presents and Ryan gave his to Will. We also had presents for Jacob, Kirk, Chet, Josh and Chris. Ryan gave Jackson some nice clothing and Christian added to the pile with some things for his dad. Finally, it was Christian's turn.

Christian opened a few parental gifts from his dad shirts, pants and such. Then Ryan handed him a large manila envelope.

"This one is from your Dad and me," Ryan explained.

He opened it, reached in and pulled out several pieces of paper. He set them down in front of him. Each sheet had a single letter on it. E R R W G L N A

"I'm confused," Christian said.

"Make a word out of them," Jackson nudged.

Christian started moving the letters around, but he obviously wasn't good at anagrams. Suddenly he got a weird look on his face. W R A N G L E R he laid out on the table. He looked up at Jackson and Ryan who were now holding a set of keys.

"Holy..." he started and stopped. "You mean..."

"When we get home there'll be a Jeep Wrangler sitting in the driveway for you," Jackson explained. "Of course you'll have to have me in the passenger seat until your sixteenth birthday. It's used but in really good condition and has been in the Smith's backyard across the street."

Jackson handed Christian a few photographs of the Jeep. After he stared at them a few moments, Christian bounced up and hugged both Jackson and Ryan. I noticed tears running down his face.

"You're the greatest!" he exclaimed as he broke the hug.

"Well, you'll just got your permit and your license should come in March. You need to be able to get around without me being a chauffeur," Jackson said.

We pulled together a leftover lunch a bit before noon. Everyone was eating when the driveway monitor rang. A short time later Patrick, Tiffany, Dad and Mom came in; of course Mom was carrying Micah.

I hadn't seen Tiffany in about a month, but she looked a little plumper than I remember. She caught me staring at her.

"What?"

"Hmmm... do I ask the question?"

"What question?" her voice hovered between amused and irritated.

"Are you?"

"Spoilsport."

"What?" Will asked from across the table. At this point everyone was looking at us.

"Congratulations!"

"Pregnant?" Will finally got out.

"Yup. I'm on track to have another at the end of the school year again."

"Wooo hooo!" Will let loose. "Uncle Will two times..."

"We told Mom and Dad earlier today," Patrick admitted. "We were going to tell you at dinner."

"Gonna keep adding to the flock of grandbabies?" Erik asked.

"As of now," Tiffany said. "Two will be it. We can afford the two, but I don't want to be `child poor'."

"We can completely understand that," I put in. "Any preference?"

"Healthy," Patrick and Tiffany answered in unison.

"Agreed," Erik put in.

We got all the presents into the den and then went back into the kitchen. Tiffany peeked into the dining room.

"That's one full table," she indicated.

"Yup, we had a good discussion last night about how the family that continues to grow. It's not a traditional family in any sense of the word... but it's full of love."

"Amen to that," she replied.

"We even have Noah and his mom coming for dinner today," I explained. "She's worked a double so we didn't want them to have to worry about dinner."

"That's sweet of you."

Dinner that night was a raucous event. A table full of people meeting for the first time, catching up, and learning about each other. As the holiday advanced our visiting family came and went.

Ryan, Christian and I teamed up to put together a big New Year's Eve dinner. At eleven we got everyone on the flatbed wagon and pulled it up to the picnic area. We were lucky that it was warmer low fifties than usual. As we got up there all the staff was pulling into the parking area. Erik had put a lot of bottles of champagne on ice in a water trough, along with a few bottles of sparkling cider. I took a torch and lit the bon fire. We cranked up the tunes and had a grand ole time.

By the end of the week, everyone had headed back home and the farm settled into its winter routine.


Chapter Seventy-Seven

- Ryan


"That was a marvelous dinner Tiffany. I can't remember a turkey that was moister!" Will praised.

"Thanks. But you know I'm not half the cook you or Ryan are or Shirley was."

"Stop being modest, it was really a good meal," I put in.

I looked over at Will to find him a bit misty eyed. It had been a rough year on us. Shirley's death over the Labor Day weekend had been the last of a series of unpleasant events. Fortunately, she had died peacefully in her sleep a few weeks after her ninety-seventh birthday.

To bring the family together, Tiffany and Patrick had volunteered to host Thanksgiving and their house was packed to the gills.

The three of us continued to clean up in the kitchen while the rest of the family spread out throughout the house.

"It's a shame Tracer couldn't make it up," Tiffany added.

"He said he's coming up for Christmas," I replied.

"When do the movers arrive?" she asked.

"They come on the first of December to pack and should head south a day later," Will answered.

"I can't believe you two are leaving Double Trails."

"Well, it's been home for a long time," I said. "Hell, I've lived there for sixty-seven years."

"Have you two found a place?" Tiffany asked.

"No," Will answered. "We're going to put most of our stuff in storage and crash with Tracer until we find something."

"Actually, Tracer called yesterday and said there were a couple two bedroom condos that opened up in his community," I added.

"I don't know if I see you two as beach bums. Key Largo is a nice place, but I'm not sure it's right for you two."

"Well, we've enjoyed it all the times we went to visit," Will answered. "I think we'll fit in well. Plus, Tracer needs some company."

It was my turn to get misty-eyed. Dad had passed on back in March, but it was still hard to think about. The funeral had been in Key Largo and then a memorial service held at the farm. After everything was over, Tracer and I had spread Dad's ashes along the trails.

"Well, we will miss you," Tiffany said.

"We expect you to come visit regularly," Will replied. "I know you're not leaving the area Grandma."

"Not a chance I'm going to leave my babies!" she finished.

"Uncle Ryan, you got a minute?" Micah asked, peeking through the door from the dining room to the kitchen.

"Sure!" I walked over and into the dining room, leaving Will and Tiffany to finish the last of the cleanup. "What's up?"

"I wanted to ask you," he started, then paused.

"You want to talk about the sale of the farm?" I finished for him.

"Yes."

"Let's go take a walk outside."

We walked out of the house and into the side yard. I could hear all the kids out in the back yard playing. I turned us towards the front - heading us down the long gravel driveway.

"What's bothering you?" I asked.

"I just wanted to make sure you didn't feel pressured about the sale," Micah answered.

"Look, I'm very happy. You should know after all these years that I don't do what I don't want to do."

"It's just that," he started, and again he paused. I could tell the even the conversation wasn't easy for him.

"It's just that you were concerned Tracer or Will pressured me into selling," I finished. "Not in the least."

I paused for a moment as we continued to stroll down the drive.

"There aren't any more Chamberlains to take over the farm. One disadvantage of Will and I never adopting. But the Klein family has been tied to us since Dad and Tracer got together and the bonds strengthened when I found Will. That farm is aptly named - two trails wind through the woods and two couples running it in partnership since we changed the name."

Micah started to say something.

"Let me finish. Your brother and his wife have been great partners since they bought out Dad and Tracer nearly twenty years ago. Will and I talked it over with them - they agree that having a younger couple partnered with them would be a good thing. And honestly, I can't think of any couple I'd like to own it more than Micah Junior and Thomas. Something very appropriate there. He's my grand-nephew after all! Plus, they've both worked on the farm so, so long... I remember the first time Micah Jr. got on a horse."

"Yeah, he seemed so happy."

"He reminded me of me. The first time Dad put me on a horse, I knew that the farm was gonna be home for a good, long time. And it has. I saw the same thing in your son's eyes when get got on a horse. When he went off to Tech, got his Ag degree and of course met Thomas, so much the better. Hell, we had their wedding at the farm, Micah. Trust me when I say there was no pressure on me to sell. Will and I want to spend time with Tracer, and slow down a good bit."

"Well, I just wanted to make sure," Micah said. "He may be my son, but I don't want any ill will."

"Trust me, I believe Double Trails will be in good hands. With new members of the family to continue the traditions."


Copyright 2008 - 2016 BndgDawg (BndgDawg@gmail.com). Do not reproduce or distribute this story without the author's permission.

This is the end of Double Trails. I hope to start writing a new story soon. You may contact me at: BndgDawg@gmail.com

A huge amount of thanks to Rock who made the story more readable for years.