For those reading my Heath/Meg stories here is a little background information which may help picture them as a family.
The stories, many of which are just short ficlets like the ones that will follow here, take place between 1879 when Heath is 27 and 1903 when he is 51. The stories, 'Sunrise', 'Noon', 'Love Across The Miles' 'Heath Attempts A Lie-In' and 'Dining on Jealousy' are set in the earlier years, whereas the other stories tend to cover Heath's middle years when he and Meg are nearing the completion of their family and grandchildren are beginning to appear.
Heath in my stories, came to the Barkleys at eighteen and has been married twice. His first wife, Cate who died in childbirth giving birth to their daughter, is the mother of his oldest children, twins, Sean and Thomas and daughter Cate. In 1899 when many of the ficlets are set, these children are respectively, 25 and 22 years old.
His second wife is Meg. He adopts her children, Samuel and Leah (twins) with whom she was pregnant when they got married. The twins are 19 years old in 1899. Together Heath and Meg go on to have ten children of their own, Heath Jr, 17, Victoria, 16, Josh 15, Rosie, 13, Clara, 12, Nicholas, 6, James, 5, twins George and Anna, 2, and Meggy who is actually born in 1903, six years after the twins and doesn't appear till much later. They also adopt Matty when he is 5 and in the ficlets set in 1899 he is 7 years old.
Supplementing Heath's family are his brothers ~ Jarrod who is married to Felicity, lives in San Francisco and has three sons, all born when he was in his forties and Nick who is married to Jenny, lives in a house he has built on the ranch and has four daughters and a son called Little Heath who in 1899 is about two and a half years old. Audra is married and lives away, whilst Victoria lives with Heath and his family in the mansion and in 1899 is a robust 76 years old.
Please forgive any obvious errors which appear in the stories, I know there are some ~ even I get confused sometimes!
Thanks for reading!
"Dining on Jealousy"
The elegantly dressed lady alighted the carriage and stepped on to the sidewalk. "I shall want the carriage in one hour, Roberts. Don't keep me waiting."
"No ma'am," the put upon coachman acknowledged. "I shall be here."
"Good." The young woman said haughtily, adjusting her hat before stepping through the opened doors of the hotel where she had arranged to meet two friends.
The coachman waited until his mistress had disappeared from view before cursing her under his breath and climbing onto the driver's seat. She was a spoilt one, that Clementine Ravenaux, too much money her family had and new money at that. No class. Not like the classy Stanhopes who he previously worked for. Old money knew how to treat their servants, not these nouveau riche Ravenaux's who a generation or two back were just store keepers and now thought they were better than everyone else. Still grumbling, he flicked the reins and set the horses down off the busy street
"Miss. Raveneax! How nice to see you again. I believe Miss. Stirling and Miss. Waters are in the dining room. I shall take you to them."
Clementine simply nodded her head, the words thank you absent from her lips. Following the fawning hotel manager she swept through the rest of the diners, knowing she was attracting attention from all around her and expecting it. She was wearing the latest fashions from Paris and could feel the envy of the female eyes that followed her.
Greetings exchanged, all three childhood friends sat down exchanging gossip.
"It can't be!" Clementine suddenly exclaimed, her eyes caught by a couple sitting at a table across the room.
"What Clemmie?" her friends enquired, eager to know what had caught her attention.
"My God! That's Meg Stanhope over there she said waving her fan over in the direction of a corner in the room.
"Oh no! It can't be!" Georgia Stirling declared. "Didn't she elope and go out west two years ago? It was quite a scandal at the time. She married her cousin, or something. A cowboy, wasn't he? Not what the family expected." She added disapprovingly.
"And we know why, don't we?" Laurel Waters added acidly. "I heard she gave birth to twins, not seven months after the wedding."
"Indecent!" Georgia Stirling declared. "Such a scandal! No wonder she had to go out west."
"Well that must be her cowboy husband with her," Clemmie surmised, trying to catch a glimpse of the man whose half-shadowed profile could only been seen indistinctly from their corner of the room and who was rumored to have seduced the Stanhope girl before being forced to marry her and take her out west.
Clemmie Ravenaux had always been jealous of Meg Stanhope. The Stanhope's were an old family and well respected in New York whereas the Ravenaux's were not. It had pleased her to see Meg Stanhope's spectacular fall. The Ravenaux's had not failed to express their sympathy at every opportunity and to re-open the wound of their daughters's disgrace.
She watched the couple with interest, curious to see them both interact. What a comedown! How embarrassing for the girl who had been expected to make a good match. Wedded to some poor rancher, her fine complexion no doubt ruined by the harsh sun, her body wearied prematurely by childbirth, her mind starved of intellectual stimulation and her figure of fine, couture clothes.
All the time she was articulating sympathy, she was secretly gloating inside. It would be her, Clementine Ravenaux who would now make the fine match and the society pages. All of a sudden, she saw the cowboy move out of the shadows and reach across the table to take his wife's hand in his own, bringing it slowly to his lips and kissing it, not minding who saw. Oh my God! He was handsome, unbelievably handsome with exquisite manners to match. Was this the uncouth cowboy Meg Stanhope had married!
She watched open mouthed and very unlady like, as the cowboy stood up, tall, graceful and attentive as he helped his wife with her chair, taking her arm in his and escorting her out of the room, eyes only for her. The couple swept by, not noticing the three ladies who by now all sat open mouthed as they saw Meg Stanhope and her handsome cowboy exit the dining room. Far from ravaged by sun and children, Meg Stanhope Barkley glowed with being in love and being loved and it was the three women who found themselves jealous and bitter that a handsome cowboy hadn't also swept into their lives.
"The Search Party"
Meg learned long ago that once you had a family, you never stopped worrying. She and Heath had been married for nineteen years and she worried for him now as much as she did when they were first married.
"It's alright Mother," Sean reassured her, taking her in his arms. "We'll find them. They're together, remember that."
Meg wiped the tears from her eyes and nodded, dabbing a wholly impractical lace handkerchief to her nose. "Be careful," she said, "I want you all home, safe and sound."
Sean stepped back to let Thomas and Samuel embrace their mother and took the opportunity to reassure his Aunt Jenny that they would find their father and Uncle Nick. Jenny held back her tears and nodded, biting her lip so as not to reveal her worst fears. "Thank you Sean," she said with heartfelt thanks. "Don't worry. I'll look after your mother. She'll be alright with me."
Sean took his leave and patted his brothers' shoulders to indicate that they needed to leave. They moved out on to the verandah and passed their younger siblings who had been left ignorant of the fact that their father was missing and so were playing happily outside. Swiftly the senior Barkleys were mounted and on their way, leaving Jenny and Meg Barkley to link arms and comfort each other with Victoria Barkley, veteran of many years of worry concerning her sons, to take charge. As James sought some time with his mother, Victoria was quick to intercept and sit down on the Verandah steps with him on her knee. Together they sat watching the last vestiges of dust settle over the ranch as Sean, Thomas and Samuel rode out of the compound. "I want Mama," James appealed, "Why can't I go to Mama?" he continued, not understanding.
"Your Mama's just resting at the moment," Victoria explained. "Why don't you and I play a game?" James looked over her shoulder and stared into the house, trying to find his mother. Slowly he turned to his grandmother and nodded, though his sad face, so reminiscent of his father's in features, answered differently. "Good boy," she whispered into his ear, acknowledging that whilst his heart wasn't really in it, like a Barkley he was still willing to give it a try.
Sean led the search party of his brothers through the woods, using tracking methods learned from his father. He was the man of the family now, the one the family depended on to find their father and Uncle Nick. He had to suppress the worry he felt himself in order to keep his thoughts clear, asking himself - what would his father do?
He brought his mare to a halt and dismounted, his hands searching the recent tread of the ground. They were on the right track, he was sure of it, 99% sure. He couldn't afford to make a mistake. If his father and Uncle were hurt, they had to get to them before nightfall. He kept his worries to himself, showing only confidence to his younger brothers. He mounted and they continued into the thicket letting the forest swallow them up.
Heath roused, hearing his brother's commanding voice.
"C'mon boy, wake up!"
"I'm cold," Heath protested. He was hurting and at forty-six, not fond of still being called boy.
"You can't go to sleep. How's your arm?"
"Broken. How's your leg?"
"Hell! We make a pair!" Heath observed dryly, despite the throb in his arm. "I can't rightly remember what happened? Can you?"
"I told you before."
"You did? Well, tell me again."
"Well the rock fell on you. You fell on me and we all fell down here." Nick said dryly.
"Where's here?" Heath asked, not aware of their true surroundings.
"We're caught on a ledge."
"We're what!" Heath exclaimed, trying to sit up and almost dislodging them both in the process. "Sorry Nick," he said apologetically, realizing their precarious situation.
"Well, I reckon if we don't move much, we're pretty safe."
"With a broken leg and a broken arm, there is not much chance of us doing anything else." Heath retorted, his voice weary. And then with some annoyance, "Did you have to break your leg Nick?"
"Well which limb would you prefer me to have broken?" Nick replied sarcastically.
His words were lost as his brother's head sunk against his chest and he realized Heath had fallen asleep. He wrapped his arm protectively around his bother's neck, avoiding the broken arm and ruffled his brother's hair, hoping that a search party of Heath's sons was heading their way soon.
Together the brothers dozed, Nick's head dropping to his brother's and that was how they were found. Sean, Thomas and Samuel finding them not long afterwards, their search a success.
"The Uncle Judge"
Jarrod finished dictating his letter to his secretary and asked her to read it back. Sitting back in his leather chair he listened to the Scotswoman's soft-spoken accent make melody of his legal words and deemed himself satisfied with the letter's content.
"Will there by anything else Mr. Barkley?" Flora Drummond asked of her employer. Again, the melody of her words beguiled him with its Scottish lilt.
"No, that will be all, Miss. Drummond. Thank you." Jarrod replied as he was caught staring.
She stood up and with her pencil and pad and left the room as silently as she entered it some fifteen minutes before.
"Jarrod, remember you're a happily married man," he cautioned himself, smiling at the momentary infatuation of a fifty-five year old man for a girl of twenty-two. "No not infatuation," he corrected himself, "He was beguiled, that was it." There was absolutely no danger of him falling in love. His wife, Felicity, held his heart and had done so since they had met on that long ago night when they had both hailed a cab in San Francisco and ended up sharing not just the cab but their future together.
His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of children outside. Happy to be distracted he got up from his chair, put his jacket on and walked over to the window.
Looking out he observed the line of children that were his youngest brother's small children and their father bringing up the rear, holding on to Little James who typically distracted was a step or two behind and being pulled gently along by his understanding father. Jarrod tapped on the window to gain their attention and was instantly met by little excited faces pressed up against the window and eager smiles.
Missing his own family in San Francisco and glad of the distraction, he beckoned the family to come in. Naturally the children were eager but Heath held back, not wanting to disturb his brother whilst he was working. Jarrod soon dispelled that thought by quickly leaving his office and going out on to the sidewalk to fetch them in. Instantly, he felt Nicholas leap into his arms and his ears assaulted with his nephew's chatter.
"Hello Uncle Judge! We've come to town!" he announced, as Jarrod settled his nephew more comfortably in his arms and Nicholas put his arms around him.
"So I see." Amused at his new monikor. "For anything special?"
"New boots!" Nicholas replied.
"What! All of you?" Jarrod quizzed. He looked around at his young nephews who all nodded.
"Papa, says we've grown!" Matty explained.
"That you have." Jarrod agreed looking at all three of his youngest nephews. "Meg and the girls with you, Heath?" he quizzed his brother, happy to see him.
Heath nodded. "They're over at the dressmakers, Jr and Josh have gone visiting their friends for a few minutes and are joining us at the store.
"Have you arranged to meet up with Meg?"
"Yep, in one hour."
"Well you can spare a few minutes to catch up with your old brother can't you? With this trial I've not had a spare minute to get up to the house."
Heath smiled. "Can't promise you'll still have an office if we do," he joked, indicating towards his sons. Jarrod laughed and swept the family inside without hesitation. "Miss Drummond, can we have some coffee please?"
"Certainly Mr. Barkley."
"Oh and some orange squash for the children please," he added. "Say howdy to my new secretary boys,"
"Howdy!" the boys chorused as instructed, taking off their hats as they had been taught.
"Well, howdy to you too," the young woman responded, instantly charmed by the row of blond haired children and the one brown one."
"Pretty," Heath commented as he closed the door behind them on entering Jarrod's chambers.
"You noticed, huh?"
"Couldn't fail to.... Felicity know?"
"Now what are you suggesting, little brother." Jarrod smiled, going along with his brother's teasing. "I'll have you know my wife has no cause to worry in that respect." The Barkley brothers were fortunate in their solid marriages and all knew none would be tempted to look anywhere else.
"You look tired, Jarrod," Heath observed, settling into a chair and accepting a needy James on his knee. With the onset of school James had become clingy to both his parents. Matty and Nicholas by contrast struck up an independence and looked around the room inquisitively, taking in the long row of shelves stacked full of important and leather bound books.
"That's my homework boys," Jarrod joked noticing their interest and deliberately ignoring Heath's astute observation about his health.
"You get homework too!" Matty gulped out between a sudden attack of hiccups, thinking all of a sudden that it perhaps wasn't that much fun being a grown up and he wouldn't be in so much of a rush to grow up.
"Well not quite like the teacher gives you. No, the law is my taskmaster here, boys."
"But you're a judge, Uncle Jarrod." The boys protested. "You shouldn't have homework. People have to do what you say or else you send them to jail!"
"Well it's not quite like that boys," said Jarrod laughing, amused at how his nephews perceived him. "I need the law to guide me when I make my judgements and in order to do that I need to make sure I study it hard and understand it well. Just like you two do when you study your letters at school."
"Gee! Uncle Jarrod!" Nicholas exclaimed. "I never knew grown ups had to learn too. I always thought grown ups knew everything like my Pa. I reckon he's just about the smartest man I know. Ifn'n you're still needing more learning Uncle Jarrod, do you reckon you ought to come back to school with Matty and me? You learn a whole lot in school, don't you Matty? You'll soon get the hang of it."
Matty readily agreed as he moved over to his father, a little jealous of the attention James was getting and wanting some for himself. He stood by his father's chair and held onto his father's knee. Heath picking up the signal, ruffled his son's hair, the single contact enough to reassure Matty that he was not missing out on his father's love.
The door opened and in walked Miss. Drummond carrying a full tray of beverages. Jarrod instantly cleared his desk and made way for the array of drinks which she had brought in. "Thank you Miss. Drummond," he said appreciatively.
"Yes, thank you," Heath echoed, standing up and putting James down as she entered the room. The young woman blushed as the handsome blond spoke. She fumbled with the cups and saucers and glasses before stealing a shy glance at the younger of the two Barkleys as she left the room, her heart taking a single leap to her throat and rendering her temporarily speechless.
"Aha!" Jarrod observed, wryly, as she closed the door behind her.
"Aha what, Judge?" Heath shot back, seeing the mischief in his brother's eye.
"Oh nothing. Just that I see my secretary's interest lies elsewhere, that's all."
Heath threw him a good-natured look and a disarming smile. "Just show's the lady's got taste, iz all. C'mon boys, drink up. Your Uncle Jarrod here's going to help buy us some boots and then treat us all to lunch."
"Oh I am, am I?" said Jarrod already reaching for his hat and welcoming the opportunity to spend more time with his brother and his young family. Just for a couple of hours he left the worries of the courtroom behind him and the break, as Heath calculated it would, did him good.
An hour later, Heath met his wife in the hotel dining room where they exchanged a quick kiss before sitting down at the table with their children and Jarrod.
"Jarrod, it's good to see you. We've missed you." Meg said warmly, accepting an affectionate kiss on her cheek from her suave and sophisticated brother-in-law.
"My apologies, Meg, dear. This trial has kept me in town and tied up far longer than expected. How's Mother? Well, I hope."
"Well. Very well. Of course, she would love to see you. We all would. Won't you consider coming out to the ranch before you leave for San Francisco?"
"Oh please Uncle Jarrod!" her children echoed. They were deeply fond of their Uncle but saw him only rarely because of his judicial responsibilities. Sometimes they got to visit him at his large house in San Francisco which had many servants and many rooms, and he and their Aunt Felicity would take them out on special outings on the brightly colored and noisy cable cars which they loved, each one of them fighting to toot the trolley whistle when it was time for them to stop."
"I will get out to visit before I return to San Francisco," Jarrod said, his promise sincere. He looked with gusto at the menu and encouraged everyone to choose whatever they wanted as he was paying. Being with his brother's family had rejuvenated his spirits, liberated him from his judicial chambers and made him quickly forget the tiredness of before.
Heath's children were attracting stares from around the room which caught Jarrod's attention and he raised his eyes to discover the source of their interest, not having to look far. Children provided wonderful entertainment and Heath's children were no exception. Little James had dropped his napkin which had been tucked into his shirt only moments before and in the process of reaching down to retrieve it had nearly toppled off his seat. Heath's hand had instinctively reached out for the small child and he was now holding him by the belt keeping up his pants.
"I can reach it Papa," James said trying again, his attempt guaranteed to fail as Heath was still holding him.
"Want me to get it Papa?" Matty asked, already getting off his own chair and bending down to the richly red carpeted floor to pick up the mislaid napkin which James needed to preserve his shirt from his forthcoming lunch. "There you go James," he said happily giving it back to his little brother.
"Thanks" James beamed, his smile showing a missing front tooth. The little one turned around to his father who was still holding on to him with fatherly care and sat down. Tucking his napkin somewhat haphazardly back into the top of his shirt, he announced with a sense of achievement, "I got it back, Papa."
Heath released his hold and thanked Matty who went back to his own chair again. As he did so the little boy noticed and returned the kind smiles of an old man and woman sitting at a nearby table and leaned into his mother shyly, burying his face. Meg's hand instinctively went out to him and she put an arm around him, looking round to see what was distracting him. Seeing the man and his wife smiling she acknowledged them with a nod and a kind smile and whispered to Matty to sit down. Matty nodded and obeyed, his feet dangling from the chair. Ever curious, ever gregarious, Nicholas, who was sitting next to his brother, looked around and unlike his shy brother beamed widely at the couple with a lop-sided smile, charming them even more. "My name is Nicholas," he announced, sure that they would want this information. "And this is my brother Matty and this is James."
Meg and Heath exchanged parental looks.
"Well how do you do, young man," the well-dressed woman expressed, duly charmed.
"I'm doing fine, thank you," Nicholas answered, thinking it an appropriate and grown up answer. "I got new boots today, see" he said warming to the couple's interest in him, kicking out his little legs to show off his new boots.
Now it was Heath's turn to turn around to the couple and acknowledge the couple with an apologetic smile for the disturbance his son was causing them. "Howdy!" he said softly. A quick look at Nicholas told the young boy to turn around and stop disturbing the diners.
Seeing the father gently chastise his son, the woman interrupted. "Please don't apologize. You're children are charming. They remind me so much of my own grandchildren." her explanation continued.
Meg turned sideways on her chair to face the couple better and small heads followed her, craning their necks. "How many do you have?" she asked, her good manners and friendliness instinctively coming to the fore. She was far more outgoing than her husband and sensitive to how to make him relax in company. "Seven the couple answered, introducing themselves as Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Nelson of Denver.
"Meg Barkley," Meg said, introducing herself before congratulating them on their number of grandchildren. "Please will you join us," she encouraged, her statement natural and unforced. Immediately, Jarrod and Heath jumped to their feet and moved in two extra chairs for the couple, who after a some hesitation happily accepted their invitation and the joys of being with a family.
"You do have lovely children, Mrs. Barkley," Mrs. Nelson enthused again taking in all the children. "Thank you." Meg said. Indicating to her husband, the younger of the two men sitting at the table, his features so clearly evident in the children, she continued, "We're very proud of them."
"And if I may say," Eloise Nelson expanded, comfortable enough in her years to be able to say such a thing to a much younger woman. "You don't look old enough to have had so many,"
Meg laughed, undeniably flattered. "Well, thank you. Actually, these are our younger children. We have four grown up ones at home and twins who are just two." Eloise quickly did her sums, "Fifteen! Oh my, how wonderful! Goodness, how do you remember all their names?"
"That's easy!" Nicholas piped up with childish logic. "We all have different ones!"
"The Morning Ride"
"George sit still now," Heath cautioned his six year old son who was sitting on his horse, a grandson of Charger.
"I am Papa," George defended. "Look it's Anna who feeding him sugar!"
Heath gently pulled his daughter's hand away from the horse's mouth and the sugar she was holding. "C'mon honey. Time to go."
"But Papa, I just wanted to feed him some sugar." Anna explained.
"Well honey I reckon he's had his full now. Besides, it's oats from the bucket he was suppose to have."
"Just one more, please Papa!"
"Enough's as good as a feast, honey," he said, kissing the top of her head.
Careful not to dislodge her new cowboy hat which she was so proud of, he scooped her up and placed her carefully on Meg's horse where Meg was waiting to take her in her arms and hold her securely. Then Heath walked over to his own horse and mounted behind George, placing his arms securely around his son in the same way, pulling him back into the protection of his own body so he would not fall. "Can I ride, Papa?" George asked excitedly, wanting to take up the reins.
"Sure can, son," said Heath letting George take a hold of the reins whilst making sure he was still holding it, guiding the horse with his expert horsemanship.
Gently he nudged the horse into a gentle trot, Meg doing the same and side by side their horses ambled out of the Barkley gates and out into the rich rolling fields; father and son, mother and daughter taking a morning ride and enjoying the warm spring day. Slowly, they wound their way down to the river and along the path that followed its gentle flow, the embankment covered in spring flowers. At one point Meg's and Heath's hands met and held onto each other briefly, their other hands still holding on to their precious twins, the love between the couple deep and stretched throughout the years.
They'd taken this ride with all their children over the years, it's well-traveled path as familiar to their horses as to them. Life had pushed them together in uncompromising terms but what they had done with their lives afterwards, falling in love, raising a family and living and working at the ranch had been life choices neither one of them regretted. Letting his wife's hand gently slip from his as he took up the reins of his horse once again, Heath knew he would always have Meg by his side and contentment and love filled him up as they began their journey home.
"The Protective Father"
Meg came down the stairs carrying Meggy who she had just fed and came across her husband staring out of the window. She kissed Meggy and then positioned her on her shoulder in order to carry on winding the little one who still had hiccups following her hasty feed.
Looking at her husband quizzically, who was leaning almost out of the window, a crease furrowing his handsome, but obviously worried brow she whispered into her daughter's ear. "Now what's troubling your father?"
"Heath!" she exclaimed, making the man jump, his face flushing quickly with embarrassment at being caught. "For goodness sake! What are you doing?"
"It's Leah and that Clay Addams!" he said by way of explanation, indicating through the window to where the young couple were talking to each other.
Instantly Meg understood.
"Oh Heath!" she rationalized. "You know how they feel about each other."
"Well I do now!" The indignant father stated, glaring out of the window again. Suddenly, he looked as though he was about to leap through it and out on to the verandah. "He's kissed her!" he said, turning round to Meg, his eyes an unmissable shade of wounded blue. "He's still kissing her!"
"Oh Heath, she's not your little girl anymore. Leah is a young woman. She's twenty-three and I suspect she truly loves him."
"She's said as much!" Heath said with a look of betrayal, his eyes returning to the young couple, wishing them three feet apart if not three states apart!
"Well, we've had our little talks."
"And I hope you talked her out of it! She's too young, Meg. Why Clay Addams is the first man she's shown an interest in! She can't trust her feelings so quickly. You'll have to talk to her!"
Meg sat down in a chair and continued to tend to Meggy whose eyes were growing sleepy. Then she decided the protective father needed distracting. She stood up and placed Meggy in Heath's arms, forcing him to pace the room with her as she in turn discreetly closed the shutters affording the young couple privacy. Just as she did so, she saw Leah and Clay share another kiss, her mother's heart leaping for her young tom-boy daughter.
When Clay had first come to the ranch some five years before, it was thought his interest lay with Cate and the two had dated for a while fueling that belief. But it soon became apparent they were more suited as friends, only drifting away when Cate met and married a young doctor who had spent a summer helping Doctor Merar and Doctor Lewis with their practice.
Clay Addams subsequently went on to date a few women in town but there had been no one special who had captured his heart and before long people were beginning to think the thirty year old was destined to remain a bachelor, the catch who got away.
Then Leah had revealed to Meg one day that she had been seeing him and it was obvious she was in love.
Poor Heath! He always found it hard to let go of one of his daughters and having so many he was going to find it increasingly difficult in the years ahead.
Meg placed a blanket on the floor and indicated to Heath to put Meggy down on it. Together they sat on the floor watching their daughter for a while, enjoying the child who had surprised them six years after the birth of the twins.
A silent understanding was communicated between them both - enjoy them whilst you can, because one day they will give their heart to another. They paused to enjoy a kiss, a kiss that easily deepened between the two, and it was in that loving embrace they were discovered as Leah and Clay entered the room.
"Father! Mother!" Leah exclaimed, deeply embarrassed. "Don't you know we have company!"