Shasta smiled at Dan. It was nice to have someone to cuddle with when things seemed overbearing. She wondered how Nattie was doing. Momma was worried about them both. Neither Momma nor Daddy had meant for Nattie to leave. They had tried to understand what had happened, as horrific as it was, but could not wrap themselves around it. And Nattie had misunderstood their intent.
They had been shocked by her state the night she came home, her innocence having been ripped from her. The sight on Nattie standing there in the door, battered, bleeding and bruised, her blouse ripped to shreds had devastated them. Her hysterical crying rattled them. It had stunned Shasta to see her sister in such shape.
The rape had shattered what resolve, what stability, Nattie’d had. It had sent her into an emotional nosedive. Watching her slip hurt Shasta very much. Daddy had vowed to destroy Tobias after that, but never got the chance.
Toby, knowing he was outnumbered, entered the service and went to Vietnam…never to return. Those who’d helped him rape Nattie had also fled to the conflict with him, only to die as he did. not one of them knew how to follow orders. some reports had said that they had all been shot by their commanding officers, but that was unlikely. It was more likely they had tried to rape some local woman and the villagers had killed them.
Marissa French had tried to help Nattie as well, but Nattie took her advice as a threat. Not as it had been meant. Toffer’s wife had vanished shortly afterward, her car being found in a wooded area with a body in it a couple months later. Everyone speculated about it, but Shasta knew the body wasn’t Marissa’s. Even Daddy had told her it wasn’t.
Still, as long as Toffer believed her to be dead, Marissa was free of him. Shasta hoped that she was happy in her life now. She deserved it. She had only been another victim of the French family’s crimes.
Toffer hadn’t lasted long after Marissa disappeared. It wasn’t more than a couple months after she vanished that his body was found at the bottom of the Des Moines River, a cinder block tied to his ankle. Not that a cinder block had really been needed to sink the body to the bottom. Toffer was a fat man.
It had appeared to be a mafia hit, so the police did very little to find a killer. French Industries closed upon his death and some of the workers set about getting the company up to code. Daddy helped them the best he could, but the war with the French family had depleted his accounts. The name “French” had been removed, replaced by the word “Consolidated”, and the business reopened with new owners.
The new owners were Frank and Allan, the two who had helped Daddy in the fight against Toffer. As they got started, Daddy helped them with legitimate contracts with reputable dealers. He even helped them revamp their accounts. They repaid him his kindness through collaborating on projects and combining efforts to make advancements in the industry.
In essence, they had become a subsidiary of Morrow Mill Works. Their success was almost immediate. At the same time many politicians were indicted, and later convicted, with corruption and numerous ethics charges. All fell from grace in the public eye. Des Moines was cleaned out of its less desirable leaders. Even the police department saw big changes in personnel.
Everyone who’d had ties to Toffer or the French family were immediately fired. A firestorm of change swept through the city, leaving no one untouched. Many who had been wrongfully accused of crimes that Toffer had perpetrated were exonerated. People whose reputations had been destroyed were given belated restitution. Yet all knew that things would never be the same.
Trent had gone to work. Natalia knew that he worked for his father, but she had no idea what he did. All she knew was that he worked hard and made a lot of money. Still, it didn’t really matter. He loved her and Matty. That was the most important thing.
His desire for her to be happy had made it easy for her to quit working. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to, it was more the fact that working demanded she sacrifice time she would much rather spend with her son. After all, he was just a small toddler and needed his mother more than she needed to work. Matty was her only thought. He was the most precious thing to her.
Besides. She liked domestic life. She liked playing the dutiful wife. She loved making Trent happy.
Tonight, she would make him even happier. Tonight, she would let him make love to her. She had held off long enough. Now she only wanted to make their relationship stronger. The only way she could think of doing so was to give herself to him completely.
She knew she could trust him. He had proven that more than once. She loved him dearly and she knew that he loved her. Hell. He had told her that he wanted to marry her. If that wasn’t love, what was?
She smiled contentedly. God, how she loved that man! She knew it was too soon, in the eyes of many, for her to feel this way. But they could go to hell. She wanted to build a future with Trent, and he had told her much the same. Who cares what others might think.
She opened the curtains and let the Omaha sun flow into the apartment. She loved it here. Maybe, just maybe, she would settle here. All she knew at the moment was that she was going to settle into a life with Trent.
Here, her past meant nothing. What had happened back then, was not an issue. The only thing that mattered was the here and now. And part of that was her life with Trent.