Dan relaxed as he pulled the armrest between he and Aida’s seat up. She laid her pillow in his lap and fell asleep cradled against him a few minutes later. He turned his attentions to Fionna before dozing off himself. He was exhausted from his long night.
“So, Mrs. Vindico,” he sighed.
“I know you’re not telling me something.”
“I wasn’t trying to keep anything from you, baby. I haven’t really had an opportunity to tell you,” he gestured his head to their baby girl in his lap.
“Whatever it is just tell me.”
“I talked to Adeline before I left Georgetown….”
Fear broadcast from her beautiful face. He wrapped his arm over her shoulders.
“Everything’s going to be fine. I promise. You’re going to stay in Kauai for the next several weeks. Your blood pressure is constantly reacting to the fluctuations in your rhythms. It’s not good for Halia and it’s not good for you.”
She started to insist she was fine.
“It’s not a choice anymore, sweetheart. I’ll hate every minute that I’m away from you but I’ll call dad when I get there. I’ll either take off the whole week or at least part of it. I don’t think Aida missing a few days of second grade will be that detrimental. Halia needs you to stay where the Hawaiian energy can regulate your rhythms and hers. Adeline says if you can do that for two or three more weeks then she’s comfortable inducing but not until then.”
“We don’t do so well apart, Dan.”
“I don’t want to leave you there but whatever time I take off now will be less time I can stay home with you after you deliver. It’s just a few weeks.” The words tasted like battery acid on his tongue. He couldn’t stand the idea of being five thousand miles away from her.
He assumed Aida would want to stay with Fionna even if it meant missing a week of school. They were his baby girls and truthfully, even though he would miss all three of them, he knew he would feel better knowing that they were all safe together.
Fionna fell into a fitful sleep. Dan tried to conceal his worries and his grief over leaving them, but she felt him more easily than anyone else, and he was doing nothing to quell her fears.
As she slept, he debated. Fionna was still six-weeks from her actual due date. Being back on Kauai would regulate her rhythms. That coupled with being on her family’s farm and away from the majority of society for a while would mean that her blood pressure and rhythms would remain stable. He refused to believe she would go into labor early as long as she remained on Kauai.
He didn’t want to think about doing nothing but work and then going home alone. He’d lived that life for ten long years and that was doing a job he loved not one he hated. He’d spent two nights in the last ten months alone since he’d followed Fionna Styler home from a bar. The night before their wedding she’d stayed with her best friend and her grandmother. The other she’d spent with Garrett Haydenshire terrified to tell him she was pregnant with their child.
Both nights, Dan hadn’t slept at all. He needed her. Needed to know she was safe in his arms. Needed to feel her rhythms rolling through his skin as he cradled her closely.
Two or three weeks. He could do that. When the girls got home they could spend all day tucked up in their house together. Then they would need to get everything ready for his precious little girl to make her arrival.
If he decided to stay in Kauai, he knew his father would take the heat for his decision. It would be painted to appear that Governor Vindico had allowed his son an extra week of vacation in Hawaii. No one would ever equate a Hawaiian vacation as a need instead of a want. Clearly, the other mentors were already gossiping about Dan not working for Venton all summer. Mentor Bryant had pulled that information out of her arsenal quickly. He was certain she wasn’t the only one that felt it was an injustice.
As Governor Haydenshire often said, “People only ever see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear.” No one wanted to remember that Dan had taken down a massive criminal organization or that the love of his life had been nearly fatally shot in the process.
None of that fit well into the stories they were crafting about his family. No one wanted to read about Aida almost being kidnapped in Paris or the multiple complications and hospitalizations Fionna had endured during her pregnancy.
No one was willing to take any of that into consideration. No one wanted to know the real circumstances of another man’s grief and responsibilities. They would much rather whine and complain that Dan had spent four months on a beautiful Hawaiian island instead of attending faculty meetings and seminars that were nothing more than a cover up for the chancellor’s affair. It was far more appealing to complain about what they didn’t have than to appreciate what they did.
Jeff held Becca’s hand watching over her obsessively as she slipped into a deep drug-induced sleep.
“She’ll be out for several hours. I need to regulate her rhythms. We’re going to have to figure out some way to ease her stress levels. If we don’t, she’s going to lose the baby,” Adeline explained as she lowered the lights in the room.
Feeling his lungs beg for air, Jeff nodded his understanding. “This is all my fault,” he admitted in a choked whisper.
“No.” Adeline shook her head. “It’s not all your fault. Now we know we have a little complication so we’ll deal with it.”
“I’ll do whatever she needs.”
“Right now, she needs to sleep. For the next week, she needs lots of rest. After that, we’ll see what we can add back in.”
A timid knock sounded on the door startling him. He headed towards the door while Adeline made some notes on Becca’s chart. The Sapmans weren’t coming in. One of the last things Becca had decreed before she’d fallen asleep was that she didn’t want to see her father. Jeff would be her shield in every possible way, even from her own family.
“Oh, hey, Mom. I’m sorry. I meant to come back out and see you.” Another layer of guilt added its crushing weight to his shoulders.
“It’s fine, sweetheart. I’m heading on to work. I’ll come back this evening and bring you some supper,” Jeff’s mother promised.
“You don’t have to do that, Mom.”
“I know but I want to.”
Jeff hated to admit that knowing that his mother was coming back to check on him and Becca gave him a great deal of solace.
“Jeff…I know you’re upset with the Sapmans,” his mother eased. “I just don’t think he meant that quite the way it sounded… maybe.”
“That’s exactly what he meant, Mom. He doesn’t want her to be married to me and he certainly doesn’t want us to have a baby. That’s precisely what he wanted to happen.”
His mother gave him a consoling nod. “I just don’t want you to carry that around with you. Being mad at someone really only hurts you and being mad at her parents will hurt Becca. I don’t ever want either of you to hurt.”
“I know but right now, I am mad. I’ll get over it,” he tried to reassure the one woman that had made him everything he was.
“I know.” She squeezed his hand. “Tell Becca I love her. If she wants anything from your house just make me a list and I’ll pick it up on my way back tonight.”
He waved to his mother and then returned to his post beside his wife. The color began to come back to her cheeks as Adeline worked over her.
“I’m going to check on a few of my other patients. She’s already much better. Look, these are her rhythms and those are the baby’s.” She showed Jeff the printouts on the scans of Becca and the baby. They were steady and healthy. “It really is amazing what rest will do for the body. She’ll be out most of the day. Cast her for a few minutes in a couple of hours. Let the baby know you’re here,” she instructed.
“Of course,” Jeff agreed immediately. He’d always be there. They were his and he would always take care of both of them. He would never do what his father had done.
Adeline slipped quietly from the room. Jeff placed a gentle kiss on Becca’s forehead.
“I love you so much, baby,” he whispered, not knowing if she could hear him at all but he needed to tell her. “I’ll take care of you and our little guy. I swear I’m going to make this work.”
After he carefully heat casted all of the blankets over her languid body, Jeff settled on the bench seat in the back corner of the small room.
Drawing a deep breath and letting stubborn determination work through his veins, he opened the laptop and switched it on.
It was always distinctly odd to fly a Gifted commercial flight from D.C. to Kauai. The six-hour flight coupled with the six-hour time difference meant that they arrived at the same time they’d left.
The Senate flights flew faster. They arrived in four and a half hours instead of six but with the cries of nepotism and favoritism floating around his father, Dan hadn’t wanted to ask his dad to get them tickets on a Senate Jet.
Leaning forward, he rubbed his eyes as he heard a coolant officer’s voice project through the plane announcing that they would be making their arrival at Lihue International in fifteen minutes.
Aida was playing with the Disney App on his iPad. Dan grinned as he took in the neatly colored picture of Ariel and Prince Eric’s wedding. She labeled Ariel as Mommy and Eric as Daddy, still coping with the tabloid she’d seen that morning.
“We’ll be there in just a little while.” He grinned at her.
She loved Kauai and Fionna’s family farm. They’d lived there all summer and Aida had healed and grown just as much as Fionna and Halia. She gazed out over the mighty Pacific. But a moment later, she gripped his arm. “I forgot to remember something! I’m sorry.”
“What did you forget?”
“Maybe I still have it,” she announced as she threw Sophie in Dan’s lap along with the iPad and began going through her duffle bag. “I hope I didn’t lose it.”
“What are you looking for? I’ll help you,” Dan offered.
“I found it!” She pulled a sheet of paper out of her backpack.
With all of Aida’s jostling, Fionna awoke with a deep yawn. Dan kissed her forehead before he took the paper from Aida’s hands.
“What is this, baby girl?” Fionna grinned as the plane began its dissent.
“Grandma said for me to give it to you last night but I fell asleep. I think it’s things she wants you to bring back for her from Tutu’s store,” she explained. “She said for me to tell you that she would write you a check when you told her how much it was. I know how to write a check but I don’t think it’s money.” She used a pencil from her backpack and demonstrated drawing a check mark.
“There’s a different kind of check. Daddy will show you what Grandma was talking about later,” Dan assured her.
Fionna chuckled and Dan turned back to her. His brow furrowed as she bit her lips together to keep from laughing hysterically.
She showed his mother’s hand written list to Dan. “Really. She couldn’t just order that so I don’t have to play delivery boy.”
“I promised we’d get more for Meredith and Tim, too,” Fionna informed him.
The lubricant that Fionna’s grandmother made from the Ohia Lehua trees on the farm and spun into a liquid lotion that was made to enhance the sexual experience was something Dan was extremely fond of as well. He and Fionna used it regularly.
It caused their energy to bond more readily and not only felt incredible when he was inside of her but it allowed him to pound into his wife just like she liked it without any fear that she might be rubbed or sore the next day. The friction was perfection and Dan found himself anxious to get to their cottage on the farm and to spend a few hours caught up in their bedroom, just the two of them, enjoying an erotic night.
But his mother’s list requested three large jars of the Ohia lehea lube and Dan couldn’t seem to get his face to return to its normal shade. He was momentarily lost in a sea of desire and repulsion.
Fionna laughed at him outright as he continued to scowl.
“I can’t believe your mom wants stuff from the farm,” she finally confessed. Dan nodded his understanding. His mother certainly had several less than kind things to say about the farm. It appeared she’d come around when she’d seen that the products Fionna’s grandparents grew and produced actually worked. It was a relatively short list but it was something.
“Is it okay that I just remembered that?” Aida quizzed.
“It’s fine, baby. We have all week to get these things for grandma,” Fionna assured her. “Why don’t you get Sophie and all of your things all packed up because we’re about to land.” She turned to Dan. “I don’t want to talk about you leaving until next week,” she ordered.
“You got it.”
“And I want you take a nap with me on the porch bed this afternoon.”
“Been looking forward to that for weeks,” Dan assured her.
A little while later, Dan, Fionna, and Aida spilled out of Malani’s jeep. Dan drew a deep breath of the Kauai-an air. It stirred and soothed his soul. He never wanted to leave. In that moment every question that had been floating between he and Fionna about moving was answered. They were home.
“Tutu, I’m here!” Aida called excitedly.
The slap of the screen door preceded Tutu and Papa’s appearance on the old front porch. “You are here my precious little Hanai.” Tutu hugged Aida fiercely.
Fionna handed Kai and Malani’s little girl, Lanie, to Dan so she could hug her grandparents. Dan was shocked at how much Malani’s little girl had grown in the last three months. It felt quite natural to cradle her on his shoulder and brush a kiss on her sweet head that she was able to hold up on her own now.
“Maylea,” Tutu shook her head as soon as she embraced her granddaughter. “Your rhythms.”
“I know,” Fionna sighed. “I’m staying an extra week or two if that’s okay.” She knew her grandmother, who was a Receiver of equal power as her own, had picked up on her harrowed emotions and her chaotic rhythms.
“You know you don’t even have to ask baby girl,” Papa scoffed. “But from the looks on your Tutu’s face maybe you better stay longer than that.”
“Maybe,” Fionna fussed.
“I take it Dan isn’t staying an extra week or two,” Tutu chided as Dan leaned keeping Lanie cradled to him and kissed Tutu’s cheek.
“I have to go back to work but I’ll stay as long as I can.”
“Doesn’t feel like that’s really what you want to do or what your rhythms are telling you to do, Daniel,” Tutu scolded.
“No, they aren’t,” Dan agreed, “But I guess someone needs to go home and get our house ready to go on the market, if we’re gonna move out here after graduation.” Fionna’s entire body lit with glee as Malani began jumping up and down.
“My baby girl finally coming back home to me,” Papa choked as he blinked back tears. Fionna fell into his powerful embrace both of them crying.
“I knew it would happen someday. I could feel it but it’s so good that now I know when,” Tutu joined in her husband’s delight.
In the midst of her overjoyed celebration Malani slipped a burp cloth on Dan’s shoulder under Lanie’s head. He was patting her back gently and she was almost asleep.
Suddenly she jerked her head back and spit up, that had completely missed the protective cloth and oozed down Dan’s chest. He mopped himself up and cleaned up Lanie’s mouth.
“You still have to love her because Kai and I want you and Maylea to be her godparents,” Malani begged as she helped clean up her little girl. “I wanted to have the blessing while you’re here this week. And now you’re going to move back and I can see you every day and our girls can grow up together. And you are never, never moving away again!”
Fionna was thrilled as she gave Dan a pleading gaze.
“Of course, baby,” he agreed.
Kai pulled up in his truck a moment later. He’d been out on the back fields planting from the looks of it.
“There’s my baby girl,” he sang to Lanie who gave a drooly smile to her daddy. Dan passed her off. “Ah, she got you,” Kai shook Dan’s hand and the gestured to the spit up mark on Dan’s shirt. “She’s quick with that.”
“All right, Miss Aida, Aunt Malani is going to make lunch do you want to help While Mommy and Daddy unpack?” Malani offered.
“And Papa made Aida’s panipopo,” Papa added.
“I want to help,” she assured everyone.
Though Aida was most certainly not conceived on the island of Kauai, Dan noted that her trepidation caused from the tabloid article seemed to melt away in light of being home.
Papa loaded Dan and Fionna up in his truck, along with all of their luggage, and drove them to the guest cottage on the farm where they stayed when they visited.
“You know, Maylea, we’re gonna have to build you something bigger when my little Halia comes and then your next little surprises,” Papa commented. A broad grin lit Fionna’s face as Dan tried to hide his own.
If Tutu had already informed Papa that there would be other additions to the Vindico family, Dan was certain it was true. She was never wrong and her powerful Predilect coupled with her ability to read the rhythms of Hawaii made her a force to be reckoned with.
Tutu would never have let that slip. Emotions certainly changed and she never wanted her feelings to shadow others decisions but for the moment Dan was thrilled.
“What other additions, Papa?” Fionna quizzed excitedly.
Chuckling, Papa shook his head. “’Spose we’ll see now won’t we,” he chided cryptically.
After Dan helped Fionna unpack for the week and then ate the lunch prepared in their honor, he corned Tutu in her kitchen. Fionna and Malani had taken Aida to see her garden. Papa had kept it up for her after they’d gone home back in August.
Giving him her wise knowing smile, Tutu chuckled. “You want to ask me something, Daniel?”
“That saves me from having to ask if I can. I know that you don’t like to tell people what the island rhythms tell you but I need to know that Fi isn’t going to have the baby while I’m gone. I’m not leaving if that’s even a possibility.”
“Maylea will be fine. I am making her my ginger and clove bath mixture now. Her rhythms are quite concerning but your girls will not be born here on the island,” she explained with a twinkle in her eye as she placed heavy emphasis on the word girls. “Halia will be born in D.C.”
Dan’s brow furrowed.
“But my boys will be born here?” He quizzed trying to envision that. He and Fionna had discussed having three children never more than three.
Tutu gave him a grin as she patted his hand. “You said that not me.”
“Just how sure are you about that,” he demanded. Tutu laughed at him outright. “Do you mean like boys plural. Like more than one boy?” He started to panic.
“Relax, Dan,” Tutu soothed wryly. “The island will guide you. And right now Maylea is a mess,” she reminded him of the very reason they were there. “And we have but one week to make her whole. She will feel lost when you leave but it is still better than what she’s experiencing in D.C.”
Feeling like he was being rent in two Dan nodded his acceptance of the next few weeks of his life.