Marti McClain got out of her car and slammed the door, more than a little annoyed. Another long day of job hunting, and there was nothing. The economy was bad, but surely someone needed a bright young managerial type to work for them. She wished her power would work for telling her what she was supposed to do now. Four years of college and graduating with a four-point zero GPA should be enough to get a job.
She walked into the house where she’d grown up and kicked off her gray heels that went with her gray power suit—the suit that was supposed to land her a job in whatever company she wanted to work for. Stupid suit. Stupid shoes. Stupid degree that was getting her nowhere.
She walked to the back of the house, to the family room where she’d spent so many fun nights playing games with her sisters and parents. What was she supposed to do now?
As soon as the question popped into her mind, a flash of her oldest sister was there. Their mother was with her, and she was surrounded by babies. Four baby girls, and one of them seemed to be looking into her eyes through her vision.
Marti blinked as she had her answer. She needed to fly to Idaho and help her sister out. It wasn’t a long-term solution, but Heather needed her. Maybe that’s why she hadn’t been able to find a job. Because fate knew she was needed elsewhere.
She hurried to her father’s office. “I need to go to Idaho and help Heather with the babies. Would you make sure my car is ready for the drive?”
Bob McClain looked at his youngest daughter for a moment before shrugging. “Yeah, sure. Send your mom home, would you? She’s been there forever!”
“Two weeks isn’t forever. Heather’s needed help with the quads. You know that.” Marti shrugged. “I’m going to pack!”
“I guess the job hunt didn’t go well today!”
Marti didn’t bother to answer as she rushed to her childhood bedroom and started packing her things. She was an expert at packing after four years of college, so she would be ready to go in a jiff.
Two hours later, she went into the kitchen and found her father leaning against the counter. “I miss your mother’s cooking,” he lamented.
“I’m sure you do. How’s my car?”
“Oh, it’s fine for your drive. Do you have a map?”
“I do. I have a US Road Atlas from that drive I took to Branson a couple of years back. Remember?”
“No, but that’s okay. I have seven daughters.”
Marti shook her head. “Help me carry my suitcases out, would you?”
Bob nodded. “Sure. Nothing better to do until I go find myself some supper.”
“You could take this opportunity to learn to cook, Dad . . .”
As soon as the words were out of her mouth, they both laughed. “That was a good one, Marti!”
Minutes later, she was on the road. She swung by Taco Hut before leaving town, though, because Heather had talked about the lack of good tacos in Idaho. She’d get one last fix before she ran away.
As she drove through Bagley, she could still see a lot of the damage the flood had done the month before, but it looked so much better than it could have. She was so glad her sister Candice had worked so hard to save the town from devastation.
* * *
Three days and many stops later, Marti pulled into her sister’s driveway in Muir, Idaho. The place was even more rural than Bagley, which surprised Marti to no end. She looked around her at the ranch her brother-in-law ran for a moment before getting out of the car. She was surprised there wasn’t snow everywhere already, but apparently winter was starting late. She’d thought there would be snow by October in Idaho.
She got out of the car and pulled one of her suitcases from the trunk, carrying it to the door. Knocking loudly, she waited for someone to come to the door. She had never been to Idaho before, so it was all a new experience for her.
Her mother came to the door, looking a bit harried, which was very unusual for Barbara McClain. She had raised seven girls and had never seemed to be out of sorts in any way. Now she looked positively frazzled. “Hi, Mom!”
“Come in. I’m not going to stand here holding the door when I have babies crying in the other room.” With that, Barbara hurried away, leaving Marti to bring her own things in and figure out where the “other room” was.
She stood in the kitchen for a moment, which was where the door she had gone to opened into. It was a beautiful, modern kitchen, and she was sure Heather adored it. From there, she stepped into a large dining room, and she was able to hear the cries. Then it was easy. She simply followed the sound of crying babies into the living room, where her sister sat nursing a baby, while her mother paced back and forth with two more.
Heather looked at Marti. “Reinforcements! Wash your hands and take a baby from Mom.”
Marti dropped her suitcase and hurried into the kitchen to obey her sister. She’d never been the most obedient of sisters, but for some reason, she knew this time she had to listen. And listen good.
Back in the living room, she took one of the babies from her mother and started pacing with her. “Which one do I have?” she asked.
Heather looked up, a bewildered look on her face. “I don’t even know which one I have. Just pace, and we’ll figure it out later.”
Marti bit back a giggle. She knew now why she was there. Her sister really did need the help. She paced back and forth, surprised when an older woman she recognized as Michael’s mother walked into the room with the fourth baby. “I can’t figure out if it’s better they’re all on the same schedule or if I wish they were on different ones. This way we all get breaks, but the time when they’re all awake is exhausting!” She looked over, as if noticing Marti for the first time. “You’re one of Heather’s sisters. Glad you’re here.”
Marti nodded, used to being just one of the sisters of any of her siblings. “I’m Marti.”
“I remember you vaguely from the wedding.” With those words, Mrs. Muir went back to bouncing the baby in her arms. “Melanie had a dirty diaper.”
Heather looked at Marti, shaking her head. “You’re not holding Melanie, so it must be one of the others. For some reason, Michael’s mother is the only one who can tell the babies apart. I think she must be part witch.”
Marti bit back a giggle. With the powers she and her sisters had, some people might consider them witches, and here her sister was calling her mother-in-law a witch. Of all people! She must have lost her mind.
Forty-five minutes later, all four babies were sound asleep, and the four women were left sitting in the living room, exhausted. “Is it always so tiring?” Marti asked.
Heather nodded, hiding a yawn behind her hand. “Yes! Four babies at once is no sane person’s idea of fun.”
“And you don’t even have the excuse of resting for five anymore . . .” Marti said, a twinkle in her eye as she teased her sister.
“That was a good excuse, wasn’t it?” Heather shrugged and got to her feet. “I’m getting some water. I’m supposed to stay hydrated for the little vampires . . . er . . . hungry babies! That’s it! Hungry babies! Anyone else thirsty?”
“I am!” Marti said. She hadn’t stopped for anything to drink since Salt Lake City, and that was three hours ago.
As soon as she left the room, Barbara McClain looked at her youngest daughter. “If you’re going to stay here, you need to be clear on the fact that you need to be helping your sister out. She doesn’t have the time or energy to play hostess.”
“That’s what I’m here for, Mom. I promise.”
“That means you’ll be doing laundry for others and not having someone do it for you.”
Marti smiled. “I’m happy to do it.” She knew she was known for never doing her own laundry, but that had been to make her mother feel useful. Her mother felt very useful now with grandbabies all over her.
Amy Muir got to her feet. “I’m going to start a hot stew. The boys are coming for supper tonight.”
Marti frowned. “You’re going to make my sister play hostess with four brand new babies?”
Amy shook her head. “I’m cooking. I’m playing hostess. I’ll even clean up. I’m just using her kitchen and dining room.”
“I guess that’s all right then . . .”
Heather walked into the room, handing her sister the water. “Mom is going to have to show you to your room. I’m going to sit here and nap in my chair until the babies start crying again. I’m on the night shift by myself, and it’s grueling.”
“Then that’s where I’m needed,” Marti said. She’d had little sleep herself, but if her sister needed her for the night shift, that’s when she’d be available to her.
Heather looked at her sister in surprise. “Really? You’d get up during the night to help with the babies?”
Marti looked over her shoulder to make sure Amy was out of hearing. “I had a vision that showed me here with you, helping with the babies. I figured that’s why I haven’t been able to find a job yet. I was needed here.”
“You had a vision about me and my babies? That’s so sweet!” Heather grinned at her youngest sister with a dopey expression on her face, and after a moment the tears started. “Sorry, still hormonal. Thank you for driving all this way to help me.”
“You’re family, and those are my nieces. I love them with everything inside me.”
Barbara McClain got to her feet, a little teary eyed herself. “My babies are all growing up!” She held her hand out to Marti. “Is that all you brought?”
Marti laughed. “Are you kidding? I have two more suitcases in my trunk, and I stopped in Salt Lake and bought four Cabbage Patch Kids for my brand new nieces. I can’t wait until they are old enough to enjoy them!”
Heather groaned. “Those dolls are so creepy!”
Marti stuck her tongue out at her sister. “Creepy or not, your girls each have one!”
“Let’s go get your suitcases and get you settled. The dolls can stay in the car for a little while longer.” Barbara led Marti outside. “How was your drive? Your dad called last night and said you’d be here soon. I didn’t even know you were planning to come!”
“It wasn’t a planned thing. I had that vision, and I got up and started packing while Dad made sure my car was ready for the long drive. It was as simple as that.”
“I’m proud of you for dropping everything to come help your sister.”
“What did I have to drop?” Marti asked. “I can’t find a job to save my life!”
Barbara just smiled, grabbing a suitcase from the trunk. “Hand me that other small one. You can carry the heavy ones.”
Marti nodded. “Drive was long. I don’t know what I would have done without my tape deck in my car. So glad you had that installed for me as a graduation present.”
“So am I. It’s what you needed.” Barbara led her through the house and up the stairs to a small bedroom overlooking the east. You could see mountains out the window. “This will be a good room for you. You can watch the sunrise over the mountains.”
Marti smiled. “That sounds wonderful. Dad said to tell you he misses you.” Marti walked to her mother and hugged her tightly. “I missed you, too.”
Barbara smiled. “I missed you, too, baby. Now let’s get you unpacked.”
Together the two women made short work of unpacking. “Is it all right if I nap until supper?” Marti asked. “I have to admit I’m exhausted from the drive. If it’ll make it look like I won’t pull my weight, I won’t, though.”
“No, you nap. I’ll help Amy with supper.”
Marti didn’t have to be told twice. She climbed into bed, fully dressed, and was asleep in minutes, strange visions of a man who seemed vaguely familiar floating through her mind.
* * *
Joshua Muir frowned at the unfamiliar car in his brother’s driveway. A car with Texas plates? Again? Heather and her family were descending a little too quickly for his tastes.
He walked into the house without knocking, knowing no one would ever expect him to knock. “Hey, I’m here!”
A young girl with dirty blond hair and big blue eyes rushed into the kitchen holding a baby. “Hush, you! There are babies just about asleep in here!”
Josh stared at the girl’s back as she rushed straight out of the kitchen. Who was she? And more importantly, where could he get one?
No one else was in the kitchen, but he could smell the stew in the Crock-Pot, and there were dinner rolls tipped onto the counter on a towel. He licked his lips in anticipation. He knew both of their sisters had begged off family night, but he and his brothers would be there. It was going to be interesting.
Walking into the living room, he spotted his mother holding one of the quads. “Hey, Mom.”
She glared at him much like the girl had. Obviously, it was a no-talking zone until all four babies were asleep. He still couldn’t believe his brother’s wife had given birth to quadruplets a little over ten months after they’d married. Who did that anyway?
He sat quietly, watching all four women with the babies. Heather sat in one chair, obviously nursing one of the babies discreetly with a blanket pulled over her. His mother paced with another. Barbara McClain, whom he’d met twice now, was sitting in a rocking chair humming softly to the baby in her arms, and the girl who had shushed him was holding the fourth baby, rocking her back and forth in her arms.
He had no idea which baby was which, and as far as he knew, no one else did either. How was anyone supposed to keep track when there were four of them?
Finally, one by one the women left the room, each coming back with empty arms. They all sagged onto the furniture. “One more round over?” he asked.
Heather nodded. “Thanks for being so quiet while we got them back to sleep. I swear, if one wakes up, it’s a cry-fest. If one falls asleep, the room is silent as they all sleep. You’d think they were Siamese quadruplets joined at the brains.” She yawned. “Michael’s not back yet?”
Joshua shook his head. “Nah. Didn’t see him at all today.” He and his two brothers each had ranches that were close, and they sometimes all joined together for a big job. They had ranch hands as well, but many of the jobs, they preferred to do together.
Heather nodded, bringing her legs up in the recliner and tucking them under her. Barbara grabbed a blanket and covered her up, and Heather closed her eyes, drifting off to sleep. “She may not be sleeping for five anymore, but she’s still exhausted,” Barbara said softly.
“Let’s get supper on,” Amy suggested, and all three women left the room. Josh sat there, wondering who the girl was. Someone was bound to introduce them . . . eventually.
In the meantime, he’d sit there quietly and think about the beautiful girl who had just come into his life. And she was in his life whether she knew it yet or not.