“Dan, tell me what’s wrong.” Fionna eased beside him on the bed. Before he could protest she’d filled his shield and his body with her calm, soothing energy.
“I need to talk to Governor Haydenshire before I go down there.” Dan’s explanation was haggard. He had to get it together. Driven solely by his shield, he kept the confusion and anger at bay.
“Okay. What were you looking at on your laptop?”
He’d never kept anything from his wife and he had no intention of starting then, even if he loathed what she was about to read. Opening the screen, he eased the computer towards her.
A range of emotions flickered across her features. Disgust, annoyance, anger, disbelief, and then finally, as she neared the end of the article, complete and utter shock. “Oh my God. There are pictures. How are there pictures?”
“Fi.” Dan drew a deep breath, filling his lungs with her warm coconut scent. “You would know if this was true, right? The same way you knew with Wilshire?”
The golden flecks in her sienna eyes dimmed slightly. She squeezed his hand. “Not necessarily.”
“Can you explain that, please, honey? It’s taking everything I’ve got not to go downstairs and demand some answers.”
“An affair can fracture the energy of anyone involved. But energy can also be restored and healed. Things in all of our pasts can be absolved. Couples can heal from the pain of an affair and build a stronger bond than they ever had before. Your rhythms ran in jagged arcs, several of them almost shattered, when we met. Now, for the most part, it runs smooth and whole, in complete waves. You healed.”
“You healed me.”
She offered him a sweet grin. “Okay, maybe we healed together. This was so long ago, and I didn’t know your parents before this happened. We weren’t even born when whatever happened, happened. I didn’t know their energy before so I can’t tell you if it’s different now. Their marriage has always been strained. You and your mom can barely be in the same room without blowing up at one another. Sometimes your dad struggles with her as well.”
“This explains why he’s so hellbent on me figuring out if Wilshire is actually having an affair. He wants proof.”
“Maybe that’s because he was accused and it wasn’t true.”
“Maybe, but Governor Haydenshire said there was just enough truth in this article to make the rest seem plausible.”
“That’s how all of those ridiculous articles are. They bait people with things they know are true and then lead them to conclusions that are completely insane. Pictures from Rainer and Emily’s honeymoon were all over the place in April. Obviously everyone knows that. If that’s true, then everything else they said about them must be also. It’s sick the way people do this. Profiting off of other people’s pain.”
“If I go down there right now and have to deal with my mom and my sisters, I might lose it.”
“Okay, why don’t you call Governor Haydenshire back. He can calm you down better than I can sometimes. I’ll go downstairs and ….” She considered for a moment before crawling out of the bed and turning on the shower in the master bath. “You’ve been working outside all day, got a phone call before you could take a shower, so you’ll be down when you’re cleaned up.”
“Babe, you’re a terrible liar.”
She wrinkled her nose. “I know, but no one’s going to call me on it. Even if they know I’m lying, I’m taking one for us.”
“I love you so freaking much. I’ll get it together here in a minute.”
“Take your time. Lindley and Tuttle aren’t even here yet.”
“Fuck, Tuttle’s coming?”
“Yeah, she texted me a few minutes ago.”
“Just not my night. I’ll be down there as soon as I talk to Governor Haydenshire.”
“Do not come down until you’re sure you won’t lose your temper.”
Dan’s phone rang before he made his call. “Hey,” he sighed.
“About how badly do you want to put your fist through a wall right now?” Garrett eased.
“Pretty fucking bad.”
“Had a feeling. Want to go get a beer or seven?”
“Can’t. My entire family is downstairs in my living room waiting on me for dinner.”
“Well that sucks. I started out pissed to hell about all of that shit about Fi. By the end, it took me ten minutes to remember how to shut my own mouth.”
“Yeah.” Dan had no idea what to say, how to explain what he was feeling, but Garrett’s voice and comradery kept him relatively calm.
“You have any idea who she is? She’s like a distant cousin or something, right?”
“Never seen her before in my life.”
“That wasn’t what you were supposed to say, man.”
“If I fucking knew who she was, I wouldn’t be hiding up in my bedroom like a coward. I’d be on the phone pressing charges for libel on his behalf.”
“You aren’t up there because you’re a coward. I know you. You’re up there because if you go downstairs you’re gonna start yelling and things get ugly when you yell. But if you want to know who she is without asking your old man, I know how we could make that happen.”
“I was going to ask your dad, but whatever you’re about to say sounds better. Keep talking.”
“Even if Dad knew, he wouldn’t tell you. He’d want you to ask your father. But about ten minutes from your house there sits a state of the art machine with the very best in Gifted facial recognition software on it. No reason we can’t make use of it.”
“No reason except neither of us are Iodex officers anymore and neither of us know how to use it. That was always Ramier’s job.”
“No one’s going to bat an eye if we go up there. Portwood conveniently forgot to deactivate my badge. I can still walk in. Besides, we’re privileged Governor’s sons, remember?”
“Don’t remind me.”
“Ramier would never agree to help us off the books. Too much of a rule follower for my liking. Hey, what about that Jeff kid? Logan says he’s a tech guru or whatever. Bet he could figure it out.”
Possibility stirred through Dan’s blood. Being back in Iodex solving a case was far too tempting to be denied. He had to know who the woman was. His entire family was under attack. The best offense was a good defense. Justifications tallied in his mind. “That’s not a … terrible plan.”
“Why don’t you go endure dinner with your fam. Keep your shield and you temper under control. You scare my girls, I’ll beat you senseless. Call Jeff. Meet me up at Wyogo’s Pub around ten. We’ll grab a beer and hang there long enough to make sure we’re not being followed for photo ops. Once we’re clear, we’ll head to the Senate and see what we find.”
“Hey, Garrett,” Dan sighed.
“You don’t have to thank me.”
“Actually, I do.”
“Fionna, dear, I need to get this salad on a platter. When will Dan be down?” Mrs. Vindico’s demand was the first thing Dan heard as he headed down the stairs.
“I’m right here, Mother.”
“It is extremely rude to be in the shower when guests arrive, Daniel.”
“I feel certain you’ll get over it.”
“Uh, I’ll just get you a platter for that, Mrs. Vindico.” Fionna shot a pleading glare to Dan.
His mother held up a large can of what appeared to be a peeled and cored whole pineapple, a bag of wet wilted lettuce wrapped in a paper towel, and a small container of mayonnaise. Dan made no effort to hide his scowl.
Being in the kitchen with his mother was somehow preferable to being in the living room with his father. Until Dan knew what had happened all those years ago, he wasn’t certain he could be around his old man without saying something he’d regret.
Fionna tried to hide her confusion as his mother laid the wilted lettuce in a glass platter then held the can of pineapple in her hands as she summoned a heat cast over it. She opened the can and Fionna covered her mouth in horror. A cored pineapple covered in a green gelatinous goo slid onto the lettuce.
“What is that?” Dan tried not to gag.
“I used to make this for your father, when we first married. He loves it. Always bragged about it. Kara suggested I just cut a few pineapple rings, but I thought this was more festive for the holiday we’re celebrating.”
“I didn’t know Jell-O was standard fare for Grandparent’s Day.” Dan rolled his eyes.
As usual, his mother completely ignored him.
“You buy a number two can of pineapple, pour out half of the juice, and fill it with a lime gelatin packet and let it set up. Then you just lather it in mayonnaise,” she continued as she went about her mayonnaise lathering.
“Dear God.” Dan shuttered.
“I swear I will never make anything that involves mayo and Jell-O,” Fionna whispered. She led Dan into the laundry room and out of earshot.
“Every single day I love you more.” Dan drew her into his arms and clung to his saving grace. “Uh, after this is all over with I’m going to go out with Garrett. I’ll be back late.”
Fionna shook her head at him, a knowing grin stamped on her face. “Gonna go figure out who the lady in red is?”
“Something like that.”
“You know figuring out her name isn’t going to solve anything.”
“If I have a name and a little information, I can figure out what happened.”
“Dan, putting pieces of a puzzle together isn’t going to help. You need to talk to your dad.”
“Please remember getting caught out with Garrett doing things you probably shouldn’t do is only going to make your family look more suspicious.”
“I won’t get caught.”
The doorbell rang again and Dan groaned. Governor Vindico was closest as he was walking with little Aidan discussing the upcoming football season with his three month old grandson. He opened the door to reveal Tuttle and Lindley making out heatedly. “Excuse me,” he demanded.
“Oh, sorry sir,” Tuttle wiped the back of his hand over his mouth only serving to smear the remnants of Lindley’s black lipstick over his chin. The Governor looked bereaved. Dan swallowed down the burning desire to remove Tuttle’s sac via his throat.
“Deep breaths.” Fionna squeezed his hand. “Let’s get this dinner over with.”
Dan placed the platters of food on the table. He’d grilled steaks and Fionna had baked potatoes with all of the toppings. He begrudgingly added his mother’s strange pineapple experimentation to the table as everyone began seating themselves.
“Before we eat can I just do something?” Whatever it was Tuttle wanted to do.
He was far too excited for Dan’s liking. “That depends on what it is.”
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I met her in rehab.”
“Then I’m going to go with no,” Dan huffed.
Ignoring him, Tuttle turned to Lindley who looked equally as thrilled. “You know you’re like the girl out of my wildest wet dreams, right?”
“Oh fuck,” Dan choked.
“Yeah.” Lindley waggled her eyebrows.
Dan felt all of the blood in his body slither to his feet. Kara’s eyes goggled as she placed her hands over Aidan’s tiny ears. The Governor looked like he might keel over in the platter of steaks.
“And you know that I’m like jacked off crazy about you?”
Audible gasps flew around the table. Mrs. Vindico’s china plate hit the floor with a crash.
“Uh… yeah,” Lindley laughed in delight.
“So, baby, I…” Tuttle reached in his back pocket.
Dan felt Fionna grasp his bicep and cast him immediately.
Tuttle fell to his knee and Dan shook his head in horror. “I want to ask you if you’ll marry me.” He opened a black velvet jewelry box to reveal a silver band laced with diamonds.
Lindley jumped up and down and squealed, “Yes I’ll marry you!” She plucked the ring from the box and hoisted it on her own finger.
No one seemed able to formulate words as they tried to envision not only a wedding but a marriage between Lindley and Ryan Tuttle.
“Get up and hug me,” Lindley ordered. Laughing, Tuttle stood and lifted Lindley off of the ground in the exuberance of his embrace.
“Oh my God,” Dan finally managed as Fionna tried to keep him calm. The news sites would eat this up with a fork and spoon. Governor Vindico’s wild child marrying an Elite Iodex officer known for his disdain for rules. Dan turned to his wife his eyes pleading as he continued to shake his head.
“It’s okay,” Fionna concentrated and forced her energy through his hands.
“Mommy.” Aida tugged on Fionna’s sleeve. “I think Grandma’s tummy hurts.”
This had everyone turning towards Dan’s mother. “Marion sit down,” the Governor ordered.
Dan moved and guided his pale faced mother, who appeared to be in utter shock, down into a chair.
“Here, Mom.” Meredith grabbed her water glass, dipped the cloth napkin in it, and began blotting Mrs. Vindico’s face. She seemed to jolt back to life a moment later.
“I’m getting married!” Lindley finally announced once she and Tuttle stopped sucking each other’s tongues vulgarly.
“Mrs. Vindico, would you like a glass of wine?” Fionna offered. “No wait, I know.” She raced to the pantry and retrieved one of the brown paper lunch sacks. “Breathe into this.”
“Daniel, I need something a little stronger than wine,” the Governor pled.
Managing a nod, Dan popped open the liquor cabinet and poured his father a glass of Scotch.