“Dude.” Will Haydenshire followed his father into Iodex. Dan watched him stalk quickly to Garrett and yank his Senate I.D. badge out of Garrett’s back pocket.
“This brings back far too many memories. Officer Ramier and Officer Strenton, if you will see your way out immediately, I’ll see if I can’t forget to mention to Chief Portwood that you were here,” Governor Haydenshire sighed. He shook his head at Dan.
Dan wasn’t terribly concerned, but a bizarre wave of familiarity coupled with the nervous energy that spun in his shield.
“I’ll take Logan’s badge back as well, Garrett,” the Governor demanded.
“He deserves to know, Dad,” Garrett admonished as he slapped Logan’s badge into his father’s open hand.
“Daniel has the good fortune to not always get what he deserves. All of you in my office. Now.”
“What did I do?” Will quizzed.
“I feel certain the three of you did something as teenagers that Arthur and I somehow overlooked. Consider this me making up for lost time.”
The Governor directed all of them into the Governor’s corridor. He summoned and slipped his badge in his office door, and then pointed to three chairs arranged in front of his desk. Dan begrudgingly sank into the middle seat. The Haydenshire boys beat him to the ones on the sides.
“Look, I’m sorry. It’s my fault. I asked for Garrett’s help. That what you want to hear? I’m a grown man. You want to lock me up for breaking in? Go for it,” Dan snarled.
“Mind your temper, son. I just want to talk. Did you find what you were looking for?”
“Just a family match and that was sketchy,” Garrett supplied. Dan recognized the eager edge as he stared his father down. He was still after the woman’s name. True to his word always. He’d promised to help and he’d never let Dan down.
“And what was the potential Gifted familial match, Dan?”
“It was only a 34% match to my family. She might be related. She might not. It wasn’t a good enough picture to get a solid reading.”
“And does that slight chance make you feel any better about any of this?”
“Not sure yet. Maybe.” Dan wasn’t in the mood to give Governor Haydenshire much of anything.
“You mad at yourself for getting caught, or mad at your father for making you look in the first place, or mad at me because I was the one doing the catching?”
“All of the above.”
“Come on, Dad, who is she? Garrett was right about that. He deserves to know.” Will switched sides quickly. Another wave of nostalgia worked through Dan.
The Governor touched his fingertips together as he considered for several seconds. Finally, he raised his head to look at Dan. “I want to ask you a hypothetical question and I want you to really consider before you answer. And I do want an answer, Daniel.”
“Do I have a choice?”
Leaning back in his chair, Dan gestured for the Governor to get on with it.
“You and Will have been very close friends since birth. On occasion you shared a crib or playpen. If you were concerned that something unspeakable had happened between Will and Brooke and you suspected there’d been infidelity, what would you do?”
“Dad. That’s not even funny. Don’t make me your example.” Disgust perforated Will’s rebuttal.
“I need him to really consider where I was all those years ago.”
“I’d ask him about it, see if there was anything I could do to help. Take him out for a beer. I don’t know. I’d do something. Beat the shit out of him if that’s what he needed.”
“If I ever cheated on my wife I’d deserve a hell of a lot more than getting my ass kicked.”
“That’s not the point.” The Governor shot a quick glare at Will. “When I became concerned that your father might not be making the best choices I did precisely as you said you would do. I tried repeatedly to talk to him. I took him out for a beer, everything but kicking his ass, as Will so eloquently stated. He assured me that he would never cheat on your mother. He’s one of my best friends. I chose to believe him. He’d never lied to me before. I helped him out when he needed some help. I banned the images from the press. I still, to this day, do not know who the woman was. But there is someone who does and I strongly suggest you talk with him.”
“And say what? If there was some explanation for this why wouldn’t he have fought it all those years ago? He’s already getting slaughtered by the press for everything going on at Venton. If he could disavow himself from an affair, why wouldn’t he?”
“Are you asking me or are you asking him?”
Dan spun in his chair as soon as he heard his father’s voice.
“At some point, son, it would be nice to be invited to a dinner in your home where you don’t leave before the second course.”
“Did you call in reinforcements, Dad?” Garrett rolled his eyes.
“I did not call, Arthur. I assumed he had enough to deal with this evening.”
“I came up here to get some work done. I can’t quite navigate this wedding your sister has cooked up. Your mother’s damned and determined to force Lindley’s wedding to the front pages to try to save me.”
“I seriously doubt a wedding at a hedonist camp is going to get you better press, Dad,” Dan huffed.
“I’m not an idiot, Daniel. This may come as a shock to you but I have dealt with bad press before, and I’ve dealt with all of the things your sister has put our family through for the last twenty-five years. I’ve also stood by my son while they buried his childhood girlfriend. I stood by him when he turned to drugs and alcohol to cope. I stood by him when he took a life he had no legal right to take. And I’m still here standing by you. I will always be here no matter what any of my kids do. I guess it’s too much to ask for the same from you?”
Fury and shock roiled in Dan’s gut. He wanted to demand answers but the humility in his father’s tone robbed him of breath. Gritting his teeth until his molars ached, he managed a nod. “That your confession then?”
“No. It isn’t.”
Spurned on by his anger or perhaps by his own guilt, Dan stood and paced the length of the Crown Governor’s office. “Then who is she, Dad?”
“I do not want to tell you that, son. As hurt as I am that you honestly believed for one moment that I hadn’t been faithful to your mother, the woman in that photograph’s identity will hurt you more. I’ll get over you not believing in me. I’m not sure you would get over the truth.”
“How many times do I have to remind you two that I’m a grown man?” Dan roared. “If you cheated, just fucking tell me. If you didn’t, say it.”
“I did not cheat on your mother.”
“Then who is she?”
“Dan, deep breaths, okay?” Garrett eased. “You have that vein popping out of your head thing going on. Want me to get Fi up here?”
“No. I want to know who she is!” Dan thrust the photo in his father’s face.
“You don’t want to know that. As much as I appreciate your misguided attempt to make the Realm like me again, you do not want me to answer that.”
“Because even if I did answer you, I’m not going to go to the presses and tell them who she is. I won’t. If you’re so interested in my fate as a Governor, figure out what’s going on with Chancellor Wilshire, Dan. That’s the information you need. That’s the information we all need.” Governor Vindico turned and marched out of the office.
Dan’s long legs ate up the distance between them quickly as he followed after his father. “Dammit, Dad, stop.” Governor Vindico slammed his own office door in Dan’s face. Undeterred, Dan flung it open. “Who is she?”
“You know, along with every other thing wrong in that article your mother was not pregnant with you in that photograph. That was Kara. I wasn’t a Realm Governor when you were born. That happened two years later. Before that, no one gave a damn who I was or who I was sleeping with.”
There, on his father’s desk, was a photograph of Dan and Fionna. Staring at his wife’s face, Dan located a semblance of calm. “You’re right. I didn’t even think of that.”
“No, you didn’t. For as long as you can remember I’ve been sitting at this desk, walking into that courtroom, trying to do what’s right for the people who put me here. Not for one moment, Dan, not one moment have I forgotten where I came from or what I was put here to do.”
“Fine. I’m sorry. There. You want an apology you got it. I should’ve known you’d never cheat on mom. I still want to know why they thought you were.”
“Yes, you should have known that. Only believe half of what you see. My God, you of all people should know that.”
Dan held up his hands in surrender. “Yeah, I should know that, too.”
“That article said some pretty awful things about you and Fionna and Garrett. Is any of that true?”
“No,” Dan’s back was instantly back up and his father had made his point.
“No. It isn’t. And even if there was photographic evidence of the three of you somewhere together I would not believe you were in a romantic relationship that involved Garrett Haydenshire without at least asking you about it.”
“I said I was sorry. Fucking things up seems to be my M.O. lately.”
“That happens when you let your temper overrun your brain, Daniel. Now, I asked you to do a job. Can you do that or are you going to use the privileges extended you because of my job to do anything you damn well please?”
“I will figure out everything going on at Venton. I swear to you. And despite everything I screwed up this evening I will not let you go down for Wilshire’s mistakes.”
“Do you have any idea how many lives can be torn apart when you make accusations without evidence, Daniel? Have you forgotten that part of the deal since you left Iodex?”
“No. I haven’t forgotten.”
“Good. Then find me the truth and do it quickly.”
“Tell me who she is.”