The Gifted Realm: Academy - Volume 1

Chapter 52 - Mother Dearest

By Friday afternoon, Dan was feeling distinctly odd as he climbed in his Ferrari to go home. He had to get ready with his wife to attend a Venton Fall Formal. The last Fall Formal he’d attended he was a junior. Naturally, Amelia had been his date. His senior year Dan had been far too busy with his final defense training classes and then Special Ops school to attend any of the dances.

As he drove the winding lanes off of campus, he tried to take in the stunning fall foliage of the Maple and Pine trees that lined the lanes of the Academy. Momentarily wondering if he would ever see another Virginia autumn, Dan pulled onto the interstate.

Late at night, in their bed, they often talked of moving to Kauai permanently. The evening before he’d finally confessed that he wanted to be moving to something and not running away from something else. With everything his family was embroiled in at that moment, Dan just couldn’t be sure which he was doing.

He let his mind review the information Jeff and Logan had shown him Wednesday night. There were at least twenty websites with multiple exams from Venton classes. They’d even located three of Dan’s that he’d submitted just before school started. Wilshire was supposed to approve a sample examination for each mentor for each class they were teaching. 

The websites were all selling exams with answer keys and they were all heavily encrypted. Jeff had worked for hours and only ended up in loops that ultimately linked to faulty scripting. Whoever was stealing and selling the exams knew what they were doing. Jeff explained that they were moving the sites to different servers every few hours to make certain that no one caught them.

With every mile he drove, the tension knotted in his gut. He eased into the garage with a sigh. He didn’t want to attend the formal that evening. He just couldn’t quite figure out why.

“Hey good lookin’.” Fionna gave him her sweet, sexy smile as she stood at the kitchen island making sandwiches.

“Hey baby.” Dan moved to her with magnetic need. She drew him in and soothed his soul.

“Lunch?” she offered after he kissed her cheek and inhaled deeply of her.

“I’m starving.” He carried the roast beef sandwiches and chips to the table for her. Fionna grabbed two cans of Dr. Pepper and joined him.

“Work any better?”

“Come on, you know the answer to that. It’s the day of a formal.” He chuckled.

“Ah,” Fionna nodded and took a large bite of her sandwich. She swallowed it down with a sip of her Dr. Pepper. “So, everyone was talking about who they were going with. What they’re wearing. What that bitch so-and-so said to that other girl that’s going with the guy she likes. Who’s riding with whom. Who has a hotel room afterwards. And there were a dozen girls in the bathroom crying because they don’t have a date.”

“Precisely but you forgot the dozen or so guys that were debating whether or not so-and-so would still go with them if they asked today and whether or not they might get laid.”

“Are Jeff and Becca coming?” The kitchen light shimmered in Fionna’s sienna eyes.

“Not sure. Becca was sick this morning. Jeff missed part of class.” He was trying not to panic over just how many times Jeff had come in late. Keeping the Iodex internship meant always being in class.

Concern etched Fionna’s beautiful features. “I was worried they may not come because she wouldn’t have a dress,” she confessed.

“I never thought of that,” Dan admitted as he stood to make himself a second sandwich.

Aida burst through the door at 3:15. Fionna was in the shower so Dan made her snack and snuggled his baby girl on the couch watching several Supernova’s with her while Fionna got ready for the formal.

The time together seemed to delight Aida as much as it delighted Dan. While Dan took a quick shower, Aida excitedly watched Fionna apply makeup and pull the clips from her hair releasing the waves she’d created. “I have to hurry my date’s supposed to pick me up at six,” she teased, making Aida giggle.

Kissing her cheek, Dan pulled on a suit and tie and then returned to the Ferrari to acquire the wrist corsage he’d left in the front seat for Fionna.

The Stylers arrived at a quarter to six carrying dinner in with them to begin their evening of doting on Aida.

Fionna eased down the stairs slowly, holding her belly and her back.

“You look phenomenal,” Dan gushed trying to keep the lust and hunger from his voice in front of her father. She was wearing a deep peach halter style cocktail dress. The top put her heaving cleavage on jaw dropping display. There was a delicate rhinestone detailing just over Halia’s bump and the hem was shorter in the front than in the back showing off her luscious legs. Dan wondered how long she would last in the heels she’d chosen, but she looked gorgeous. He also wondered how long she would want to stay at the formal before he could bring her home and work her out of the gauzy dress.

When he slid the white orchid and ginger corsage he’d chosen from its plastic container, Fionna beamed. Those were the flowers she’d put in the lei Dan had placed on her at their wedding.

“You do look beautiful, Maylea,” Gretta hugged Fionna.

“Thank you,” Fionna beamed.

“I miss everybody calling mommy Maylea,” Aida confessed. “It makes her smile.”

“I promise to do it more often,” Dan vowed.

“You wear your seat belt, Maylea,” Mr. Styler ordered. “And you go straight to this dance and straight home. No stopping and no stay out too late.”

Choking back laughter, Dan shared a wry glance with his wife.

“Daddy, I’m thirty years old, married, and pregnant. I’m not certain what you’re trying to prevent now.”

Gretta rolled her eyes. “Samuel would you please detener,” she switched quickly to Spanish. Turning back to Fionna, she smiled, “Maylea, you two have a wonderful evening. Because your father and I both know how very much Dan loves and adores our Maylea.” She shot a warning glare at Fionna’s father daring him to argue. “We will take care of our sweet Aida. And I brought some pictures of your mommy when she was a little girl, that we can look at,” Gretta produced several photo albums from a large straw back and offered them to Aida.

Aida crawled up on the couch and spread the first album out in her lap, completely enthralled. “That is mommy’s other mommy.” She pointed to a photo of newborn Fionna. Gretta smiled sweetly and nodded. Dan often wondered how Gretta was so accepting of Fionna and of her Hawaiian heritage. It had come solely from her mother. But as he stared at Aida he knew precisely how you could love a child that wasn’t yours biologically just as much as you loved one that was.

“And you’re her mommy, too. Just like she’s my mommy and I love her so much and I love my other mommy so much even though she went away,” Aida’s statement was a test and everyone knew.

“That’s right. And I think you and mommy are very special girls because you have so many people that love you so much,” she squeezed Aida’s hand.

“I’m gonna want to see those when we get home,” Dan pointed to a picture of his wife as a toddler covered in what appeared to be saimin noodles she must’ve been eating with her hands.

“Mommy, you have noodles in your hair!” Aida giggled.

“She still does that whenever I take her out for Italian,” Dan mocked. The Stylers laughed as Fionna popped Dan’s stomach with the back of her hand.

“We’re leaving. You be good my sweet girl and don’t let Pops and Abuelita spoil you too much,” Fionna leaned with Dan’s help to kiss Aida’s cheek.

Dan opened the Ferrari door for his wife before joining her on the other side.

“So, are you gonna try to get me to go to Great Falls Park with you after the dance?” She teased.

He shot his wife a cocky grin. “I don’t know, baby. Your dad said we weren’t allowed to stop anywhere on the way home.” Fionna rolled her eyes. “So, to me, that meant, bring my naughty girl home and take her straight to bed. I wouldn’t want to break your dad’s rules.”

“No. We certainly wouldn’t want to do that.”

Dan pulled into the main parking lot of Venton. Half-haunted memories shuddered through him. He opened Fionna’s door for her, trying desperately to halt the remembrances of Amelia entering the Venton banquet room on his arm.

“You okay?” Fionna soothed. Dan felt her warmth and her love move through his hand. She knew he wasn’t. She could feel his every emotion.

Shaking himself, he guided her through the entrance doors. The only way out was through. “Been a long time since I walked under a balloon arch.”

Fionna nodded as they moved under the plastic archway that had been covered in yellow and orange balloons. The room was lit by the candles on the tables and by a rented mirror ball complete with a spot light. Dan’s jaw clenched and Fionna turned to study him as Fergus Sherman approached them.

“Well, now, here we have two Venton alumni,” Sherman drawled stupidly into the pink orb held in his hand that he’d summoned to project his voice. Students and faculty were meandering around the room decorated with cheaply crafted paper flowers and leaves. “Tell everyone, Mentor Vindico, how you met Fionna Styler here at Venton and then after dating for years finally married her,” Sherman encouraged stupidly.

Dan scowled.

Fionna’s eyes goggled. “Uh, we didn’t meet here,” she stammered. Fergus held his orb of sound energy in front of her mouth.

“No,” Dan spat as he quickly scooted Fionna away from Fergus and guided her to a table in the back of the room.

“Dan!” Fionna admonished in a huff.

“Fi, please.” The night was already getting to him. His parents approached before he could say more.

“Daniel,” his mother admonished. “Everyone heard you being rude to that mentor.”

“Mom, I’m not really in the mood to go over my life story with Sherman and the entire Venton student body, okay?”

Fionna wrapped his right hand up in both of hers. Her soothing cast worked through his skin.

 “All right, you two. Can you please get along tonight?” Governor Vindico tried to smooth the tension between his wife and son. Dan recalled the last thing his newly acquired aunt had accused him of. Perhaps she was why his mother always worked so hard to make sure no one ever tarnished the Vindico name. Perhaps she knew from early on someone out there would like to.

It was still more than Dan could grapple with. He wasn’t accustomed to giving his mother understanding.

“May we join you?” the Governor asked politely.

“Of course,” Fionna gestured to the closest table and they all sat down.

Students, that seemed to travel in packs, entered in steady streams.

“Fionna, dear, you look lovely this evening.” Governor Vindico smiled.

“Thank you. I’m feeling some better lately. Not so many of those Braxton-Hicks contractions.”

Dan kissed her. She had been more herself lately. The last scan showed that the scar tissue had improved some. She chuckled as a few students passed by their table.

“Well, hello Jared,” she called with more than a note of sarcasm in her tone.

“Oh, uh,” Jared Coker choked. Dan chuckled under his breath.

“Hi… uh… Mrs. Vindico,” he managed.

“Ah, Mr. Coker,” Governor Vindico turned in his chair to view Jared. Dan couldn’t quite hide his smirk as his father narrowed his eyes. “Tell me how is that little bet of yours going, son?” the Governor demanded hotly.

Choking back hysterical laughter, they watched Jared Coker, pale and trembling, offer an apology. “I’m sorry I said that, sir.”

“Find a seat, Mr. Coker,” the Governor commanded.

“Yes, sir,” Jared fled the scene as quickly as he was able to maneuver through the seating area of the banquet room.

Mentor Sherman moved to the dance floor to welcome everyone to the Venton Fall Formal. “I want to thank everyone for coming to the Fall Ball,” he laughed at his own joke. “I’d like to thank my lovely fiancée, Tilly McIntyre, for attending this evening with me. I won’t tell you how I’ll be thanking her for that later.”

Dan rolled his eyes. Fionna’s mouth fell open. The Governor shot a furious glare at Fergus.

He moved on quickly. “Uh, we’d also like to thank Auxiliary Order for putting our formal on this evening. Please remember to be respectful of your dates and those around you as is Venton’s policy…” he managed to get through the required speech before he high-tailed it back to his seat beside Tilly McIntyre.

With that, people began lining up at the buffet tables located on the west side of the large room. Still concerned that Fionna really should be home on their sofa, sipping water, while Dan rubbed her back instead of dressed in a cocktail dress and wearing heels, Dan offered to get Fionna’s plate for her.

“Thanks.” She relaxed slightly. He supplied her with a large glass of water first then moved to the line for the mentors and staff.

Governor Vindico made the same offer for Mrs. Vindico and followed after Dan while Fionna and her mother-in-law.

Dan nearly dropped the two plates he was balancing when he reached the end of the line and studied the table he was returning to.

“Oh good grief,” Governor Vindico spat angrily. “She’s got nerve. I sure as hell will give her that.”

“If she’s making Fi or Mom uncomfortable, I’m asking her to leave. Fair warning.” Dan commanded.

“Of course, son, and thank you for being defensive of your mother. I appreciate that.” They both watched their wives edge closer together and away from Katherine Bryant who’d taken it upon herself to sit at the table with the collective Mrs. Vindicos.

Fi was trying to be kind. Dan could see the struggle in her eyes as he moved to her quickly.

“Here, baby.” Setting down their plates, he grasped Fionna’s hand. She drew from him instantly.

“Mentor Bryant, how are you this evening?” the Governor offered politely though he shot her a look that told her to tread carefully.

“I’m fine, Governor. Since I can only see my children every other week, I’m sure you understand that I’d rather not be here chaperoning a dance,” she sneered vengefully.

Dan braced certain his father would have something to say to that. “Seems to me you didn’t have too much trouble taking time away from your kids to attend educational seminars out of town, so I’m certain they’ll manage for a few hours one evening.”

Dan chuckled under his breath as he draped his arm over the back of Fionna’s chair keeping her tucked closely to him as they ate.

The mentors that volunteered to be official chaperones at Venton formals were paid for their time. Other mentors attended to try and communicate to their students that they wanted to be a positive influence in their lives.

Dan wondered if perhaps Katherine Bryant volunteered to be at the dances with the Chancellor before their affair wasn’t outed. As they ate, Dan watched his mother work. She was, after all, the wife of a Realm Governor. She could make small talk with anyone and generally made people feel that she cared about them.

Mrs. Vindico considered it part of her job to paint her husband and family in the best possible light for the American Realm. She was the model Governor’s wife, Dan supposed. “I think we’re having a lovely autumn this year. I suppose all of the rain over the summer was worth it now. The trees are just beautiful,” she vowed.

 Fionna joined in. “They really are lovely. Dan raked the back yard when he got home yesterday and Aida jumped in the leaves. She had a ball.”

Chuckling as he recalled his baby girl’s exuberance over something as simple as leaping in piles of leaves, Dan pulled his cell phone from his pocket to show the pictures of Aida buried in fall foliage.

The Governor beamed at the pictures as he handed the phone to Mrs. Vindico. “She’d never done that before,” Dan added.

“She’s such a sweet girl,” Mrs. Vindico grinned. “Our family really wasn’t complete without her.”  She politely turned the phone to Katherine Bryant. “This is Dan and Fionna’s little girl, Aida. She’ll be eight at the end of the month,” she explained kindly.

The Governor stared Mentor Bryant down daring her to make a derisive comment. “Daniel adopted her back in the spring,” Mrs. Vindico couldn’t quite help but boast there at the end.

“You can’t seem to stay out of the papers, Mrs. Vindico so I recall hearing all about that,” Mentor Bryant sneered. “She’s very cute,” she offered half-heartedly.

Fionna narrowed her eyes and bit back whatever comment begged to spill from her mouth.

“Yes. She is,” the Governor commanded as Dan’s phone was returned to him. Fionna scooted her chair back. Dan immediately helped her up and offered to walk her to the restroom not having to ask where she was going.

Fionna shook her head. “I’ve got it.” Dan watched her walk down the short corridor right off of the banquet room.

“Mentor Bryant, what classes are you teaching this semester?” Mrs. Vindico tried again.

Fuming, Mentor Bryant had been ready for a fight, Dan realized. That’s why she’d seated herself with Dan and the Governor. She was out for blood. Polite civilized dinner conversation hadn’t been in her plans. But she stuffed in a well-mannered cornered by not only a Realm Governor’s wife but her boss’s wife no less.

“Oh uh,” she drew a deep breath, “I teach three administration junior and senior classes and then several freshman level classes. I taught creative writing for years but Dean let me move to more advanced levels.” She shot again.

 Having realized what Mentor Bryant was trying for as well the Governor nodded but didn’t comment. “Someone has to teach the entry level classes we can’t all pick and choose the senior level classes simply because the students are easier to teach.” This time she took aim at Dan.

“Well,” Mrs. Vindico narrowed her eyes, letting Mentor Bryant know that she had her number as well, “When you’re as talented and work as hard as Daniel then I suppose you get first choice,” Dan’s mother offered politely though her tone was laced with menace. Fionna returned as Dan gave his mother an appreciative grin. That might have been a first.

The meal dragged on with Mentor Bryant making snide comments occasionally. Fionna and Mrs. Vindico discussed the weather, Aida’s upcoming birthday, Dan and Fionna’s trip to Kauai, and Halia’s baby shower.

A group of students took the stage carrying guitars. One took a seat behind a drum set and began playing. Dan was impressed. They weren’t half bad. A slow song began and Fionna gave Dan a hopeful glance using the full power of her beautiful sienna eyes.

“Would you like to dance, sweetheart?” He grinned.

 “I mean unless Jared asks.” She giggled. The Governor joined her laughter. Shaking his head, Dan led her to the dance floor. He chuckled as a few of his favorite upper level Ioses students offered them wolf whistles and several rather overtly dirty comments as they made their way by.

He wrapped her up in his arms with Halia between them.

“In a few months, hopefully, we can dance a little closer.”

Dan kissed her cheek. “I like dancing with all of my girls but I do miss being pressed close to you.”

“Just a few more weeks.”

“I can’t wait,” he assured her.

A mischievous grin creased her features. “I’ve never been to a formal here and had my date’s parents sit with us.”

“They’re killing my mojo. I’m going to have to put a stop to them interrupting us.”

“Oh, so you mean you weren’t planning on showing up on Aida’s dates?” Fionna continued to tease.

“That would mean at some point I will allow her to go out on a date,” Dan feigned confusion.

Feeling Halia move between them as Fionna continued to giggle, he smiled. “Somebody else wants your attention,” she whispered with a replete grin.

Slipping his hand discreetly to her bump Dan rubbed his hands over her until Halia responded to the pressure.

“You know the first time you asked me to dance at Anglington’s that night you slipped your hand somewhere else.”  

Chuckling, he remembered well. “I’d been staring at your gorgeous ass in that tight leather skirt all night. A man only has so much restraint.” He could feel her energy rolling in satisfaction and contentment as he cradled her head on his shoulder.

“Look at where your roving hands got us.” She gestured to her bump.

“Let me see if I can remember everything I said to you that night to get you to leave that bar and take me back to your place. We can go home and do it all over again,” he whispered in her ear.

Fionna’s heartbeat picked up pace and Dan felt the familiar longing he always felt when she was near take up residence in his groin. He’d never get enough of her. He would always want her.

“Why does Katherine Bryant hate us so much?” Fionna whispered suddenly.

“She doesn’t hate you,” Dan immediately vowed.

Fionna’s head lifted off of his shoulder. Her left eyebrow lifted. “Are you actually telling me what she does and doesn’t feel?”

Hate was a strong emotion and emotions were something his wife could read and understand more than anything or anyone else. “Sorry,” Dan grimaced.

“She’s angry at the whole world. I don’t have to be a Receiver to figure that out,” Fionna tried to soften her question. “But she just seems to particularly hate us.”

Dan felt fury begin to course through him. “I told you what she said to me when Dad sent me to check on her after that fight. She’s angry and jealous of you. She’s furious with me because she blames me for getting Wilshire suspended, and her kids taken away from her.”

Dan felt his shield spin uncomfortably under his skin. Hatred led to many places. None of them were good. And people that felt they had nothing else to lose were the most dangerous.

Fionna’s sobbing in their bed laying against Dan pleading with him not to get himself in a situation where he could be in danger and his reassurances that he’d never put her or his girls in danger again worked through his mind.

Katherine Bryant’s daughter screeching that she hated her mother and that she’d ruined her life shattered through his conscience. “Don’t think I don’t know who found all of that for them.” Wilshire’s implicit threat formed a knot like enclosure around his throat as he wrapped Fionna up tighter in his arms. “Let’s go home,” he begged not certain why he so desperately wanted her away from Katherine Bryant but the fear was palpable in his gut.

“I’m fine.” She soothed him with her voice and then her energy. The song ended and he guided her back to their table.

Keeping his glare leveled on Katherine Bryant, Dan tried to stop the thoughts of Wilshire alone in a cheap hotel room asking his wife for money and what vengeance may surface from living that way for too long. Fionna’s hands moved to her bump. “She has the hiccups,” she whispered with an adoring smile.

The Governor looked genuinely thrilled. “How can you tell that’s what it is?” he asked as he watched her abdomen move slightly.

“Arthur, you remember when I was pregnant with Daniel. He had them all the time. It’s when they move rhythmically,” Mrs. Vindico recalled. “We worried they were making him miserable he had them so often.”

Dan was suddenly reminded of the fact that his mother loved him and his wife, even if she was often overbearing.

“Yes, let’s all stop and worship the mighty Vindicos and all their heirs to the throne,” Mentor Bryant quipped.

The Governor narrowed his eyes. “I believe the Crown Governor ordered you to work, Katherine. If you intend to remain employed here, you’ll keep your opinions to yourself about my family.”

Mrs. Vindico shifted uncomfortably. She laced her fingers through her husbands. Dan couldn’t recall another time his mother had appeared put off in public.

Dan was suddenly aware that Katherine Bryant did not only frighten his wife. She frightened his mother as well. His mother watched her husband go off to work each day and interact with a woman that certainly hadn’t shown good moral fiber and appeared to have a thing for older men with powerful positions.

Dan had seen the disgust in his father’s eyes when he’d shown him evidence of Katherine Bryant and Dean Wilshire’s affair. He would never cheat on his wife but Dan supposed he understood the concern. It had to be difficult to see the blog headlines declaring that Governor Vindico had cheated years ago with the lady in red on top of what was going on now.

The Governor wrapped his arm around his wife’s shoulders and drew her close. He whispered something in her ear. He’d seen the fear as well and in that one simple move Dan wasn’t certain he’d ever realized the depth of love that his parents held for one another. Or how much he deeply admired his father.

“Been a long time since we danced at a Venton formal but I’m game if you are,” the Governor asked in an audible tone now.

Mrs. Vindico smiled. “We didn’t use to dance quite like that.”

Everyone turned to see numerous Venton students grinding into their dance partners provocatively. The Governor shook his head. “Mentor Bryant, I believe your name was at the top of the list of chaperones for this evening and that isn’t appropriate.”

With an audible huff, Katherine stood and moved to the students. Dan watched them tone it down slightly. But the derisive eye roll from the majority of the students she’d reprimanded after her back was turned spoke volumes.

After several faster songs, Fergus approached the dance floor again. “All right, students, it’s time for the faculty to show you all a thing or two. All faculty members and your dates please make your way to the dance floor,” he instructed.

Fionna giggled at Dan’s disdain. “Come on Mentor Vindico,” she whispered in his ear. “Dance with me and then I’ll let you take me home for a few private tutoring sessions.”

“That a promise?” He helped his wife out of her chair and guided her to the dance floor.

“It’s easier not to like her when I can’t feel how miserable she is,” Fionna glanced towards Mentor Bryant as she walked the perimeter of the dance floor. Dan understood only too well.

“Look at me,” he commanded. His wife’s beautiful brown eyes gazed up into his own. “I love you. Dance with me. Just you and me. Forget everyone else and then I’m taking you home. I plan to spend all night making love to you.” Dan cradled her as close as he could get her on the dance floor wrapping his long muscled arms around his beautiful wife.

She laid her head on his shoulder and tucked her face into his neck. She wanted to be shielded from the world, to hide away for just a little while. She wanted and needed her husband to stand between her and the cold, cruel, corrosive world around them. Dan would never let her down.

They began to sway and he kissed her temple. “Think about it for me, baby.” Her breath picked up pace. “Think about my hands all over your luscious body.” Her pulse quickened. “Think about me tasting you, drinking you, then laying you out in my bed and filling you so full of me all you can do is scream out my name and beg me for more,” he murmured softly making certain she felt his strain against her.

He slipped his hand down her side letting his thumb just barely caress the side of her swollen breast making certain no one saw his quick move.

Tempting her, building the need, kindling the fire that he planned on letting consume them for the next several hours. Fionna panted. The storm of passion and desire swam in her eyes as she lifted her head to stare him down.

“That what you want, my Maylea?” he whispered as she brushed his cock discreetly with her hand. She moved it away a split second later. Giving a heavy nod, her eyes begged on behalf of her mouth.

“Good because I’m gonna make you take it,” he assured her as she trembled slightly in his arms. Dan pulled her back in so he could continue building the passion inside of her. “I’m gonna make you feel it, and suck it, and then I’m gonna bury it so deep inside of you that you come undone for me over and over again,” he growled furtively.

With that, she lifted her head her eyes dark and filled with ardent need. She leaned and Dan met her swollen lips with his own. He dipped his tongue in her mouth, pulling the erotic energy from his wife’s mouth as she began to suck his tongue. She was showing off her skills and making white hot fire ignite from his groin so anxious for her mouth to pull him deep and her tongue to lap at his need.

Dan laced his hand in her hair and pulled her in harder as he devoured her mouth. Suddenly a spotlight landed on them shining brightly in their face. Fionna jerked away and tried to shield her eyes.

“What the hell?” Dan spat.

“You’ve been caught on the kiss cam!” Mentor Sherman chanted. Suddenly a picture of Fionna sucking Dan’s tongue was projected up on a blank wall in the room. The students went wild. Fionna’s blushed violently. The Governor shook his head but was trying not to laugh. Mrs. Vindico looked appalled.

Since Sherman was the one running the kiss cam, Dan glared hatefully at him. “Take that down now,” he demanded.

“Dan,” Fionna pled but suddenly everything went black. Not only was the picture off of the wall, every light in the building was out along with the speaker systems. Panic lit through the room now only lit by tiny votive candles on tables. Dan immediately lit a glowing light from his hand and wrapped his powerful shield around Fionna.

Students and faculty followed suit and Dan searched the room. Nervous energy trilled around the room.

“Dan, what happened?” Fionna panicked. It was a Gifted university. There was certainly public electricity running to the school to keep the Non-Gifted from being too curious but every light was casted, every breaker held a drawing charge, every fuse held the power of the electrical energy surrounding it.

The power did not go out at Venton Academy. Suddenly, sirens from the security system began blaring. “Daniel, take her home. I don’t know what’s happening but you need to get her out of here,” the Governor commanded. Panic etched his tone.

His father was absolutely right. If panic set in and people began fleeing, Fionna could easily get caught up in the mob. She couldn’t move very quickly.

“Get all of the chandeliers casted,” the Governor ordered the students and staff.

“Come on,” Dan rushed Fionna out of the room. Flashing blue lights lit the night sky. Iodex SUV’s were flying into the parking lot.

“What the hell happened?” Portwood rushed towards Dan as he hurried Fionna out the doors.

“I don’t know. Something must’ve tripped the security alarm, but even that shouldn’t have knocked out the power.”

“Get Fi out of here,” Portwood commanded. Dan had to smile as he let the order wash through him. Lately his life had taken every available opportunity to remind him that things had changed. It was still distinctly odd to have a man that had been his subordinate giving him orders.

“Fergus probably broke Venton,” Logan huffed as he met Rainer. They both raced from their cars and towards the building. They must've been off duty that night. Rainer laughed out his agreement. They both halted at Dan and Fionna. “I’m gonna go with you can get her safely to your car?” Rainer checked, clearly not certain how to both follow protocol and not offend his former boss.

“Yeah, take your baby-mama home, Vindico,” Logan tried to soften the blow with a joke.

Fionna giggled in spite of everything. “I got it,” Dan assured them.

“You know I had to ask,” Rainer hesitated.

“I know,” Dan vowed as he guided Fionna into the parking lot. He heard Portwood’s voice project throughout the banquet room. “We’re going to get the students out first. Please proceed slowly to the nearest exits. Make certain that you give your name and grade to one of the officers posted near the doors so that we know we’ve gotten everyone out,” he commanded.

 Dan opened the door to the Ferrari and tucked Fionna inside.

“Dan, I just have one more question,” Fionna gasped for air now that she was finally seated.

He handed her a water bottle he’d stowed in the back seat. “Ask me when you can breathe, sweetheart.”

A full minute later, she settled. “I’m good now but where was Katherine Bryant? She wasn’t in the ballroom when the power went out and she wasn’t in there when we left.” 

New to the Gifted Realm? Check out the handy Reference Guide

Want to go back to where it all began? Read 'Within the Realm', for free on Kindle, Nook, or iPad.

Tip Cup

I hope you are enjoying reading. Feel free to throw a little bit in the tip cup to keep me caffeinated and cranking out new chapters. Just click the coffee mug to donate.

Don't miss a thing!
Enter your email and we'll notify you each time Jillian posts a new chapter or blog.
Thanks! We'll email you when ever there is a new chapter or blog to read.
Get a Free Book
Sign up for Jillian's mailing list and try one of her books for free!
If you already signed up, just enter your email to verify and we'll get you your free book.
Thanks for joining the mailing list. Check your email inbox to confirm your subscription and to download your free book!

Everything on the site except individual users’ comments and where exceptions are explicitly noted is Copyright © 2013-2021, Jillian Neal. No reproduction, copying, plagiarism, or reselling of any kind is allowed.