A Shepherd Afield Pt. 05

byBurntRedstone©

"Yes, Tina filled me in on that. I hope you are able to take this bottom feeder down a notch or two," Ben replied.

"Tricky to do but I'm trying," Walter agreed.

"I have some more contract work that needs finalizing and it seems I'm going to need to pay for expediting these. The demand for the device I designed may be larger than I expected," he explained.

Walter chuckled. "Did you invent the proverbial 'better mousetrap'?"

Ben smiled. "No, just a better filter for radioactive particles."

Walter choked a little. "Geezus..." There was a pause as Walter's mind spun at the possibilities. "The military are going to be all over this."

"Yeah, hence the rush. I think the marketing team I picked has already let that cat out of the bag," Ben said with a wince.

"Send me the drafts. I'll get right on it!" Walter said excitedly.

"I also have a manufacturing contract for Sturn Manufacturing," Ben remarked.

"Send it through. I'll get both sent off by expedited courier today. I take it Jerry will handle the accounting for this?"

"Excellent! Yes, I'll be calling Jerry next. Thanks Walter!"

Walter chuckled. "You're my favorite client Ben. Never a dull moment!"

Ben smiled, said his goodbye's then immediately mailed the draft contracts to the lawyer.

He dialed his financial consultant/accountant.

"Ben! Good to hear from you!"

"Hi Jerry! I have another income stream I'll be sending your way for investing."

There was a pause. "You invented something else?"

"Yeah, it looks like it has the potential to be very lucrative."

"Okay, uh, how lucrative?"

"The military are interested."

"Oh! Geezus. Okay... okay. How do you want to handle this?"

"I want to set up trusts for a list of people I am going to send you. The income from this stream will be invested in their names equally. Your name and Walter's name are going to be on that list."

"Ben! I- I don't know what to say!" The man's voice clearly indicated his shock.

"You've always done right by me. I'm grateful and I believe you and Walter deserve it. Let's hope it's as successful as it seems it might be."

Ben said goodbye and disconnected. Next he wrote a document outlining his requirements for Jerry and included the list of names, complete with their addresses so they could receive statements. He signed the document digitally, locked it, and sent it to Jerry.

That done he put his mind towards the idea he'd had earlier about getting a vehicle for Rain and the girls to use for errands. He hoped Rain had a driver's license. The girls he'd arrange lessons for... in the spring.

He pulled up websites for a couple of different automotive brands but was quickly lost. He knew what he liked but he'd have to let them decide. As long as it was a safe vehicle he was ok with it.

Gretchen walked into the living room wearing her second least formal dress. He smiled in appreciation and her responding smile was brilliant. Tina followed on her crutches and Ben had an idea.

"Why don't we go to the mall? We can pick up a couple of casual outfits for Gretchen and then we can have lunch in the food court. You can get your favorites at that Korean place."

"Yes!" Tina exclaimed. "Would it be alright if we had manicures and pedicures at the spa?" she asked.

Ben saw Gretchen's look of surprise and glanced at Tina. She was up to something again. She had that tiny little smile on her lips and he could see the wheels turning but he didn't know what she was up to. Still, the ladies having a little time at the spa being pampered was a good idea. "Sure! Sounds good. Do you need to make an appointment?"

"I will call." Tina picked up the phone and dialed a number. Ben realized she'd obviously had this in mind when she entered the room. He'd stepped right into her trap. He snorted to himself.

Tina looked up from the phone. "Could we get there in the next 30 minutes?"

Ben nodded and she said something into the phone and hung up.

He shut down his laptop and stowed it away in its case. Grabbing their coats and boots they made their way to the garage and got into his truck.

Ben drove them to the mall and once more got a wheel chair from customer services to wheel Tina through the mall. Gretchen's eyes were looking everywhere but she clung to Ben's arm and stayed close.

"You've never been to a mall? Even before you were married?" he asked her.

"No. I lived in a series of small towns in Germany with my parents and met Rainor when I applied for a job in a new factory he was touring. He stayed in town for a week and asked my parents for my hand in marriage by the end of the week. I was with him for the next ten years. He kept me at home."

Ben was disturbed by the picture she was painting of her life of isolation with Rainor. "What did you do to keep your mind occupied?"

"When I was alone I had the books he gave me to read. Sometimes he would let me watch the news with him. That's how I learned about you," she said as they arrived at the spa. She looked at the women having their treatments and she clung tighter to his arm. Tina climbed out of her chair and took her crutches back.

Ben turned to Gretchen and gently held her face so he could look into her eyes. "This is a spa where women go to pamper themselves. It would make me happy if you let them treat you well. Follow Tina's lead."

Gretchen's eyes dropped to his mouth and Tina was nodding when he glanced at her. He leaned forward and tenderly kissed the woman's mouth. Her eyes closed and she swayed slightly when he pulled back.

Ben released the woman's face and leaned down to speak into Tina's ear quietly. "We need to have a private talk about Gretchen when we get home," he said gruffly. He kissed her, making her squeak in surprise at his need. When he pulled back she nodded to him as she looked through her bangs at him. His heart made a zing sensation and he shook his head at her with a slight grin. She smiled at him as a woman approached them.

"Welcome to Transcendence Spa. Are you Tina and Gretchen?" the woman asked taking in the casts the women were wearing and glancing nervously at Ben's imposing size. He sighed and moved off to sit on the bench by the front door. He wasn't visible to passing mall shoppers so he was left alone. He got the occasional glance from spa customers coming and going but he was able to ignore that.

He pulled out his cell and reviewed his messages, browsed the web, played some solitaire, then put it away and leaned his head back with his eyes closed.

"Ben?"

He jolted awake to see the two beauties standing before him. Gretchen was fretting nervously and he blinked his eyes as he realized she was wearing makeup. Not a lot but more than he'd seen on her before. Most dramatic was the deep red, almost burgundy, lipstick that drew his attention to her sensuous lips. He couldn't get over what a difference it made to have such a dark and bold color on her mouth when her skin was so fair. Then he noticed she was fidgeting with her hands and saw her manicure was an even deeper shade of red. He glanced down and saw she was wearing disposable flip flops and her toenails had the same dark polish on them.

Tina was also wearing red lipstick but not such a dark version. Her nails were painted black and she was grinning at his look of delight.

"You both look lovely!" he gushed.

Gretchen smiled in nervous relief and looked at her nails as if she couldn't believe they were hers.

"That is a very good color for you!" Ben said as he saw her unease. "What color do you usually wear?"

"Rainor never allowed me to paint my nails. He said it would make me look like a cheap whore," she said with a strained voice. Tina looked at her in dismay.

"Nothing could be further from the truth! You look beautiful and sophisticated! Very classy. One more of his vicious lies exposed," Ben exclaimed. "He really was a mean spirited coward and the world is better off without him," he grumbled then glanced up at Gretchen. "I'm sorry. I should keep those opinions to myself." He felt bad about speaking ill of the dead before the widow.

"No, please. It helps to know your honest feelings." Gretchen said.

"OK, then I honestly think you both look delightful! Ready to do a little shopping?" he asked and they both gave him wide smiles. Ben picked up the bag containing their boots and the purchases they made, makeup, nail polish and lipstick. He looked at Tina.

"I still have the bank card," she explained as she eased herself back onto the wheelchair.

"Ah," he said and they headed out.

Tina pointed them to a shop for casual clothes and they picked out some leggings and a few casual tops. Tina whispered in Ben's ear that she'd given Gretchen a pair of Lucy's panties so they could try on the clothes.

They bought the items and Ben pushed Tina's chair into a lingerie shop so the ladies could select some comfortable underwear for Gretchen.

Once they left the store Ben pointed them in the direction of the food court. He made sure Tina got her Korean food. Gretchen was almost salivating as she passed the Mexican restaurant so Ben got her some beef tacos, nachos, and salsa. He sat them down at a table while he went to pick up a sub. He placed his order and picked it up after he paid for it. Carrying his tray he was headed back when he found his way blocked by two large men. Two large, vicious looking men.

"Mr. Shepherd. I think it's time we had another talk."

Ben glanced to the side and saw Wendy's lawyer standing on the other side of a row of tables. Ben scowled at the man. "Seriously, goons? You brought goons? You have to stop stalking me or people will get the idea that you're some kind of bottom feeding, parasitic criminal. Oh wait! Too late."

"Very funny, Mr. Shepherd. My associates are merely here for my protection against your violent intentions," Holland said.

"My violent intentions? You're the one who brought the psych ward rejects to a family mall." The goons shifted closer as his words seemed to piss them off. "Careful boys, looks like your happy meds are wearing off."

Weapons appeared in hands as their agitation grew. The guy on the left had brass knuckles while the one on the right had a short section of pipe. Ben had a plastic tray, a bottle of water, and a roast beef sub.

"Put those away!" Holland barked hoarsely as he tried to regain control of the situation. He just wanted to deliver his ultimatum and leave but the situation was escalating quickly. When the men he'd hired ignored him he caught motion over their shoulders. He turned and walked away quickly.

Ben grinned at the two thugs. "Don't look now losers but it looks like your boss is making a run for it. I hope you got paid in advance."

"You got a pretty big mouth for someone about to lose all his teeth!" Mr. Brass Knuckles said.

"Drop it!"

The thugs looked back to see police rushing up to the food court. They bolted. Ben watched them trying to navigate through the tables as they ran. Two large mall security officers were waiting on the other side and didn't look intimidated at all. Ben walked over to sit next to Tina.

"Did you call the police?" he asked.

Tina smiled and nodded.

"Nicely done! Thank you," Ben said and gave her a kiss.

He opened the wrapping on his sub and took a bite as the ladies went back to their meals. The police had the two men in custody when they walked by. Ben smiled at them with a nod.

He was finishing his lunch when one of the officers came back to get his statement. Ben made sure to mention Terrance Holland's role in the meeting. The officer took Tina's statement next and she confirmed Holland's presence at the start of the confrontation. When he was done the officer thanked them and turned to leave. Then he stopped and turned back to Tina.

"You couldn't have known we had a cruiser close by," he said.

Tina smiled. "I did not but I was prepared to call for an ambulance for the two men."

The officer blinked at her then looked at Ben who was doing his best to hide his grin.

With a final smile and nod the officer headed back to his cruiser.

Ben pulled his cell out and called Walter. He filled him in on the latest development.

"Geezus, this man is a menace! I'll get in touch with the police to get their report. Thanks for calling, Ben!"

Ben tucked his cell away and looked at the ladies. "Ready to go?"

Gretchen smiled and nodded so Ben dumped their trash. Gretchen and Tina put their boots back on then Gretchen got behind Tina's chair to push while Ben carried the bags. They stopped to drop off the chair then made their way outside to the truck.

"Mr. Shepherd!"

Ben sighed and looked across the aisle to see Terrance Holland standing between two cars.

"The police would very much like to speak with you Mr. Holland," Ben said.

"Yes, I'm sure. If you had simply listened this mess could have been avoided," the lawyer growled.

"If you had a shred of integrity you wouldn't be here," Ben said opening his door.

"She's going to do the televised interview! We found a network not afraid of your lawyer's tricks," Holland called out before Ben stepped inside the truck. He looked back at the man.

"Your wife is desperate and she has nothing to lose. You could save yourself a lot of embarrassment and her a lot of pain if you'd stop being so stubborn."

Ben scowled at the man then got into his truck and closed the door. When he looked back Holland was gone.

"Ben?"

He looked at Tina and saw the concern in her eyes.

"Let's go home."

Chapter 38

Tina sat in Catherine's living room with Lucy at her side. She'd got Ben to take some strong pain killers and go to bed for the tension migraine he'd developed over the afternoon after they'd returned from the mall. She'd asked Gretchen to stay with Ben and he'd only put up a token amount of resistance.

Catherine and Chanel were sitting together with worried looks on their faces. Trish was pacing and grumbling under her breath. Hannah was sitting in a chair facing Tina and Lucy.

"Has Ben's lawyer been updated to know they're going ahead with the TV interview?" Hannah asked.

Tina nodded. "Yes. I called him after Ben went to bed. He said he would do what he could to find the network and serve them with a notice of our intent to sue if they proceed."

"Did you get the impression that he thinks this will be successful?" Hannah asked.

"He sounded angry with the other lawyer. Mr. Holland is not serving Wendy's best interests." She sighed then looked around at the others. "I am more worried about Ben's state of mind. What that bad man said to Ben has really affected him. He said Wendy had nothing to lose and Ben was causing her pain by being stubborn. I could see the doubt and pain in Ben's eyes. It tortured him all afternoon until I finally managed to get him to rest."

"God damn it!" Trish growled and her pacing sped up.

"Trish, please! Sit down before you wear a hole in Catherine's carpet!" Hannah gasped.

The redhead threw her a frustrated look and dropped down on the ottoman next to Hannah's chair. "We need to find this crook and make him cough up the name of the network willing to air their crap about Ben. Or cough up blood. Either one works for me."

Chanel smiled at Trish's passion. "As fun as that sounds it would just lead to more bad publicity Ben is trying to avoid. Has he thought of giving an interview before Wendy can spill her lies about him? I think most networks would leap at the chance to interview him now."

"Ben does not want to speak to the press. We must avoid that option if possible," Tina offered.

Catherine's cell rang and she glanced at the screen. "It's Gabriella!" she said in surprise. She answered it as everyone waited.

"Gabriella! You're up late!"

"Hi Catherine! I was trying to reach Ben but his number just goes to voice mail. I heard some news about his ex and I was trying to reach him or Tina to see if they were aware of it," Gabriella said in a worried tone.

"Tina's here with us. We're having another strategy meeting. Can I put you on speaker?" Cat asked.

"Sure!"

Catherine pressed the button and put the cell on the coffee table. "Can you hear me Gabriella?"

"Yes, can you hear me?" the woman replied.

"Yes, we hear you fine. I have Chanel with me, Hannah, Trish, Tina, and Lucy," Cat said.

"Hello everybody!"

A chorus of hellos were returned then Catherine leaned towards the phone. "We were just talking about Wendy's lawyer telling Ben today that they found a network to broadcast their lies. He told Ben that Wendy had nothing to lose and Ben was hurting her by being stubborn."

Gabriella gasped. "That fucking bastard!"

Catherine leaned back in surprise, hearing the language coming out of Gabriella's mouth but Trish was all grins.

"We don't know what network it's being broadcast on so Walter has to hunt-"

"It's Mediastar here in Italy!" Gabriella exclaimed excitedly.

"What?" Catherine blinked in surprise.

"That's what I was calling Ben about. I got a call tonight from a friend of mine in the press, Monique Lemoine. She's a reporter and was at a press dinner tonight which included a bunch of television executives. One from Mediastar knew Monique had written a nice piece on Ben and rubbed it in that they'd landed an exclusive with Ben's ex-wife. They're going to run it prime time. Monique told me we can expect them to license the rights to other networks shortly afterwards. They have connections to other major networks in Europe. Once the first network broadcasts it the threat of legal action is probably no longer a consideration for the others so you can expect the American networks to pay anything to get it."

Tina was already dialing Walter's number. She spoke with him quietly as Catherine let Gabriella know they were passing the information to Ben's lawyer.

Once Tina hung up she spoke to the group.

"Walter was surprised that it would be aired in Italy first. His ability to prevent the broadcast is severely limited there. He is advising us to get Ben to speak to the press first to minimize the damage."

There was a disappointed groan from the others.

"How- how is Ben?" Gabriella's voice wobbled a little.

Looks were traded back and forth before anyone spoke.

"That bad," Gabriella said, pre-empting their response. "Tina, what happened with Margaux?"

"He won't talk about it but Gretchen told me Margaux became very jealous when Ben went with her to the hospital," Tina said sadly then saw the confused faces. "Oh! I am sorry. I should explain who Gretchen is!" She proceeded to fill the group in starting with her conversation with Ben at the hospital and with what Gretchen had told her at the breakfast table this morning. While not a complete picture of what had happened with Margaux it painted a clear picture that the visit had gone very bad for Ben.

"Thank you Tina," Gabriella said softly.

"I do not believe Ben is very happy with taking on another Sub," she sighed.

"Who told him to bring her home?" Gabriella asked.

Hannah cleared her throat. "Ben was in a catch 22 situation. He didn't want the responsibility but he also couldn't abandon her. Dr. Granger suggested he bring her with him until he could find a solution for her. The doctor said she will work with her to rebuild her sense of self."

"Couldn't she have gone to a hospital in Australia or Germany to seek help with that?" Gabriella asked.

"She does not have the capacity yet to be on her own without a Dom... or another Sub to calm her. Her husband was a very bad man who was very abusive," Tina explained. "In Ben she saw a man stronger than her Dom and she knew from TV that he was a protector so she fled her husband for Ben. She risked being beaten to death to do it. She was that desperate."

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