MERCY

**This story takes place immediately after "Wildfire"**

CHAPTER 1

"Okay, Roy, I'll tell him if he calls. Take care." Chris hung up the phone and put Roy Houston's message on top of the stack on her desk. The stack had been growing because the boss, Matt Houston, had taken a few days off after being shot in the arm by a man seeking revenge. Matt had testified at the man's trial a couple of years earlier. He had been convicted of smuggling diamonds and blamed Matt for all of his troubles.

It was just too quiet. The office was normally a very busy place: clients coming to meet with Matt and CJ, Lt. Hoyt dropping by to discuss a case. There was always something going on there. And now Roy, Matt's uncle had just called in to get Chris to cancel his appointments. He would be attending a funeral today instead. There had sure been a lot of those lately. Chris was thinking about that as she picked up the phone and called the clients that Roy was supposed to have met.

At the same time Chris was cancelling appointments, Matt and CJ were having coffee out by the pool. CJ looked across the table at her husband of just over three months. He was staring at the mountains lost in thought. As she watched him, she thought about how much he had changed. He was enjoying the married life these days. But not too long ago he was a playboy heartbreaker who was rarely seen without a woman on his arm.

But as the saying goes, "the more things change, the more they stay the same." She and Matt had been best friends since the day they met at the age of ten. Over the years friends and family had tried to point out to the pair that they were in love. CJ's boyfriends and Matt's girlfriends always ended up alone if either of the pair needed the other.

Matt turned and looked across the table at his beautiful bride. "So what are you thinking about? You've been staring a hole through me for the last five minutes." He gave her a big smile.

"Oh, nothing." She looked down at her coffee cup and discovered that it was empty.

"It sure looked like a lot more than nothing." Matt got up and walked around behind her chair and began massaging her shoulders.

"Careful now, cowboy. You're supposed to be taking it easy for a few days. Remember?" She leaned her head back against his firm belly.

"Well then maybe you should give ME a massage." He wiggled his eyebrows at her, making her laugh.

"You're rotten." She got up out of the chair and Matt pulled her into his arms. The pair kissed. Suddenly Matt picked her up in his arms and carried her, protesting and laughing, into the house.

Ten yards away, Matt's ranch hands, Bo and Lamar had been about to ask their boss a question. "Dang it, Lamar! I told you we shoulda come up here twenty minutes ago, but NOOOOO! Now we'll be lucky if we see either one of 'em before sundown!" Bo kicked at the gravel.

Lamar looked at his friend. "You just don't get it, do ya?" He turned and pointed in the direction of the house. "That's how it's supposed to be, Bo. Stop and think about it. Besides…" the pair turned and headed back down to the barn. "You know he would just tell us to use our best judgment."

"Yeah, like you have any good judgment. Look how many times you been married!" Bo started laughing. "Like Beulah for example!"

"That's low, Bo." Lamar took his wounded pride back down to the barn, with Bo following and laughing.