Dan studied the woman. Without her red dress, dark sunglasses, and oversized hat she seemed far less Hollywood elite and more like a fallen star.
“Dan.” Fionna grasped his arm. He turned to her. “Her energy is very similar to your father’s,” she whispered.
“This must be the former Angel the press can’t seem to get enough of,” the woman sneered. “The famed Receiver capable of destroying liars and thieves with the wave of her hand.”
Dan’s shield pulsed in the air around them. “Garrett, take Aida to the Iodex wing. We’ll be there in just a few minutes.”
“Yeah.” Garrett shot the woman a warning glare. “I was just thinking the same thing.”
When they were out of earshot, Dan turned on the woman. “I don’t know who the hell you think you are and quite honestly, I don’t care, you can either speak to my wife with respect or you won’t speak to her at all. Let’s go, Fi.” He wrapped his arm around her shoulders.
“Do you really not care who I am, Daniel? Not even a little. Thought you were the American Realm’s greatest detective.”
The world seemed more than willing to test his vow to tame his temper.
“Just come on. Don’t take her bait.” Despite her size and heels, Fionna picked up the pace.
“I had no intention to.”
They’d made it almost to the door to the Iodex wing when the woman caved. “My name is Carla Renfroe. Renfroe is my mother’s name. Vindico is my father’s.”
Dan flung open the door in front of him and let it slam shut before he processed her declaration. Aida wiggled out of one of the desk chairs and raced into his arms. “What’s wrong with that lady, Daddy? She’s so mad.”
“Some people are just like that, baby,” Fionna soothed. “It’s not your fault she’s not happy.”
“Maybe we could be nice to her and make her happier,” Aida offered hopefully. Dan’s shield moved of its own volition to cover his daughter. Receivers thrived when the energy surrounding them was even-keeled and calm. Happiness gave them peace. Of course his daughter would want to appease the woman.
Her energy is similar to your father’s. Fionna had spoken volumes with only seven words. Similar energy strains ran through familial DNA, certainly. But the most similar were between direct siblings.
“I heard what she said,” Garrett huffed. “You think she’s telling the truth?”
“We saw it for ourselves didn’t we? That’s precisely what the facial recognition software said.”
“So, what? She’s your aunt or something? Your grandfather had an…? Damn.” Garrett shook his head. Aida started to scold him again for his curse word but buried her face in Dan’s neck instead.
He couldn’t go there. His grandfather was the only other Ioses predilect in the Vindico family. He’d taught him to shoot. Taught him to throw his shield. Taught him to protect others at all costs. He’d been Dan’s hero. He always would be.
The familiar creak on the hinged door jerked Dan from his downward spiral. His parents stepped inside. Governor Vindico offered him a sympathetic gaze. “Heard you met Carla. Pretty sure my expression matched yours the first time she showed up in my office three months after I’d been sworn in as one of the youngest Governors in this Realm.
“What did she want from you?” Dan barely recognized his own voice.
“She’d gotten into some trouble with her creditors. She needed money.”
“Why didn’t she ask Gramps?”
His father’s eyes closed in an extended blink. “Dan, son, I didn’t want to tell you because I didn’t want to tarnish your memories of him. He was a good man. He just didn’t always make the best choices.”
“We’re not either all good or all bad,” Fionna summed for him.
“I’m sick to death of men that can’t keep their vows.” Dan was past being told his grandfather was a good man. “How is it Gramps was still good and Wilshire isn’t? How does that work out?”
His father drew a measure breath. “Bad decisions will always be bad. There’s no getting around that. This is why it’s not a good idea to put men up on pedestals so high they can’t fall without taking down an entire empire. You can’t throw a rock in a pond and not expect ripples. Your grandfather refused to bail her out again. He’d done it several times in the past. When he refused, she decided to make trouble by showing up in my office. When the press turned it into me having an affair she thought it would all play in her favor. But, she’s going through the twelve steps with the Auxiliary Department. She’s to the apologize for your past misgivings step. That’s why I invited her today. I know she’s a little brash but I try to remember that she didn’t get to live the life I did.”
“You all can deal with whatever you’re going to do with Carla later. Right now, we need to get Lindley in her gown and everyone lined up. The flowers are going to start wilting,” Dan’s mother was in typical form. Never let any ruffle show or tarnish the Vindico family name.
Fionna barely managed to conceal her eye roll. Dan focused only on Aida and the steps he would have to take to get through this ridiculous ceremony.
As they headed out the opposite door from the Iodex wing into the Governor’s corridor, Portwood met them. “Dan, Garrett, you mind giving me a hand?”
“Sure, man. What’s up?” Garrett halted.
Dan set Aida on her feet. “What’s going on?”
“Well, I’m pretty sure you’re going to want to see this. The press certainly already has.”