Jeff was astonished at how much better Becca appeared. She gave him a weak grin as soon as he entered.
“Hey, baby,” he soothed.
“Where’d you go?”
“Long, long story, but things are definitely looking up.” Wondering momentarily if he should tell her about her brothers, Jeff decided to wait until the story had an ending.
“Relax for me. Let me cast you because I have to get back to Portwood. I’ll tell you everything as soon as we’re done.”
Nodding, Becca studied him as he set his shield over her. “Wow,” she whispered. “Your rhythms feel well you feel like you again. I haven’t felt you like this in a long time.”
“I know. I’m sorry. I let everything get to me.”
She grasped both of his hands with more force than she’d had in the past twelve hours. “I’m just glad you’re back,” she confessed.
“I have to go in just a minute, sweetheart, but I’m glad I’m back, too.” He pushed the guilt away over having to leave her. This was part of being a good husband and a good father. He had to finish this job so that he could be there for her and for their little boy.
After sitting with Becca for several minutes, staring at her stomach as the baby’s energy soothed under his own, Jeff kissed her forehead, promising to be back as quick as he possibly could.
Emily and Mrs. Haydenshire had come to check on Becca. Governor Sapman had called the Crown Governor about his sons being arrested. Governor Haydenshire was waiting with Portwood. Jeff thanked Emily and her mother for sitting with Becca while he worked up the courage to explain what had happened to the Sapmans and the Crown Governor.
He raced back in the conference room meeting expectant glares from his inlaws and curious looks from the Crown Governor. Rainer and Ramier had returned to the room as well.
“This ought to be good,” Governor Sapman huffed indignantly.
“Simmer down, George and let’s figure out what happened.” Governor Haydenshire commanded.
Portwood cleared his throat. “Your son-in-law has proven that Greg and Brent were not actually hacking the Senate Bank so you might start with a thank you to him. Had he not done a phenomenal job and performed feats of technology today that I’ve rarely seen, we would be taking your sons to Felsink right now, Governor.” He stared Governor Sapman down.
“What?” The Governor stunned.
“I believe ‘thank you’ is the phrase you’re looking for,” Governor Haydenshire ordered.
“We didn’t hack the Senate Bank,” Greg huffed. “I wouldn’t even know how to do something like that.”
Governor Sapman turned his glare back on Jeff.
“Someone hacked into a few of your home computers, sir,” Jeff patiently explained to his father-in-law. “They were able to log in remotely and make it appear that Greg and Brent were attempting to steal account numbers from the Senate bank. I figured out where the guy doing it was actually located and he’s been arrested. But your files and any other information on any of your home computers have been compromised. You’re going to need to update all of your security measures, and I would recommend new networking as well.”
“I imagine, if you apologized for being an ass earlier and asked very nicely, your incredibly talented son-in-law might be willing to help you with that,” Governor Haydenshire vaulted. He was clearly just as furious with Governor Sapman as Jeff and Becca.
“I don’t understand. How did this happen? How did someone hack our computer or log in remotely or whatever you said?” Governor Sapman asked Jeff. His tone was concerned but much more kind.
“Uh, well,” Jeff grimaced.
Chuckling, Ramier gave him an encouraging nod. “Tell him.”
“Well,” Jeff drew a measured breath, “Anytime you use an online service, or a pirated game, or any kind of illegal software, you’re opening yourself up to viruses and worms. This was a worm and it appears that it came through a program that was being used frequently.” He glanced at Greg who was slinking further and further down in his seat.
Portwood stepped in effectively saving Jeff. “It seems, Governor, that the majority of this particular computer’s ram,” he gestured to the desktop machine on the table, “Is full of pornography and illegal video games. The hack came via a webchat program that Greg was using. It would appear that he and a busty brunette named Tammy Tungsten have been getting nice and chatty lately.”
Governor Sapman looked mutinous as he glared at both of his sons.
“Right. Like you don’t do shit like that.” Greg glared at Jeff.
“I don’t do stuff like that,” Jeff vowed.
“Right.” Greg rolled his eyes.
Jeff shook his head in indignation.
“And why don’t you have things like that on your computers, Jeff?” Governor Haydenshire asked though he seemed to already know the answer.
“Because.” Jeff was certain his cheeks were going to catch fire. “The entire industry is chocked full of women who are being forced to be on camera, aren’t being paid, aren’t given the option of using birth control, and some are being abused. Plus, it’s not respectful to Becca. She’s my wife. I don’t want to see other women like that. It’s not even real. I would never do anything that would make Bec think she wasn’t enough for me. I have the most beautiful girl in the whole world. She’s everything to me. And even if I didn’t, I’m sure as hell not going to find anything worthwhile on an internet porn chat room,” he spat viciously.
Nodding his head, Governor Haydenshire shot Governor Sapman a derisive glare. “Very impressive thing to have realized at barely twenty years old.”
Governor Sapman was rubbing his temples. “So, you put something illegal on your computer and then it infected every computer in the house?”
“We’re not certain of that, Governor. This is the only one we’ve booted and casted, but for safety purposes I would say that is probably the case. And if I may,” Portwood continued, “Some thought might be given to the fact that your sons were using a porn chat room with their web cams. There is video evidence of them doing or saying whatever it is they were doing or saying and if the press ever got a hold of that, I can’t say that would be good for your governorship or your family.”
The Governor paled considerably as Mrs. Sapman’s head dropped into her hands. It shot back up a moment later. Jeff watched defiance light it’s blazing fire in her eyes.
“You know, I think I’ve had just about enough, George,” she declared. “Our sons clearly need a little more to do with their time. Therefore, you two will go out and find yourselves full time employment next week. I would look hard because if you wish to stay at home then you will begin paying rent for your room, board, and food. Otherwise, it is time for you both to move out and make it on your own,” she informed the room at large, daring anyone to argue with her.
Turning on her husband she narrowed her eyes. “You have treated our son-in-law with no more regard than you give a common house fly for the past four years that he has been with our daughter. He has loved and adored her and has taken care of her and he still does. But you can’t see that can you?” She began shouting much to Jeff’s shock. “Becca loves him George. And now, after you let your childish temper get the better of you and said some unforgivable things about both my son-in-law and my grandson, I can’t even see my little girl who is lying in there in a hospital bed. I’m certain she’s feeling many things right now, but I know that she is scared, George. She’s scared for her child. She’s a mother now and you really just need to get over yourself and get on with life because God willing in a few months we’re going to be grandparents. She is a mother and she loves her little boy and she loves her husband. How could we ever ask for more than that? I’ve kept my mouth shut for far too long because the fact that she loves this man with all of her heart should be enough for you to love him as well,” she threw her hand out to Jeff.
Wanting desperately to melt into the floor, Jeff braced his hand on the table. She didn’t appear to be finished. “Not only that but I really believe we should be thanking him for being the kind of man that will always love and respect Becca and will always take care of her. This isn’t going away. I honestly don’t know why you want it to so badly. This is life,” she shrieked. “Jeff and Becca are married and they’re going to give us a grandson. And you know what, if you can’t support them and show them that you accept and love them and their children, then I think we have a very serious problem, George. Not Jeff and Becca. You and me,” she menaced. “Jeff,” she turned to him with tears leaking down her cheeks. “Sweetheart, I am so sorry for the way George and our sons have treated you. Please believe me when I tell you that I will not allow it any longer. And I will not allow any of them in to see Becca either. I don’t blame you for keeping us away. That is precisely what you should have done but please, please may I go see her? She’s my little girl,” she began to sob.
“Let me talk to Bec first,” Jeff eased hoping that his mother-in -aw wouldn’t begin to cry harder. She nodded her understanding as she gave Jeff pleading looks.
Portwood gestured his head down the hall and Jeff whisked quickly from the room.
A few minutes later, he sat holding Becca’s hand as she and her mother talked.
“I had the same thing when I was pregnant with you, sweetheart,” Mrs. Sapman reassured. “I was on bed rest for several months. I was so scared I was going to lose you. But here you are. My precious little girl getting ready to have my precious grandson.” She brushed Becca’s hair away from her face.
“I never knew you had placenta previa,” Her mother’s words gave her a great deal of comfort.
“I was just so glad you were here I didn’t want to remember that part. If it’s all right with you, I’d really like to come over next week and take care of you while Jeff is at work. You know, that’s when I started doing crosswords. When I was on bed rest with you.” She smiled.
Mrs. Sapman was very rarely without a crossword book. They’d always been a part of Becca’s life.
“I won’t let your father come if you don’t want him there. But I would really love to spend the week with you. We could look at baby books, and nursery catalogs, and get you ready to be a mom. I’ll take as much time off as I need to,” Mrs. Sapman pled. “Please.”
Nodding, Becca smiled through her own tears. “I would really like that.”
“Dan.” Fionna seated herself back on the swing bed on the screened in porch where they’d been napping. She shook him. “Honey,” she urged. Letting his eyes open hesitantly, Dan wrapped his arms around her backside making her smile. “Landon’s on the phone. He needs to talk to you.” She held up her cell phone.
As he realized that he’d turned his cell off and Portwood had been desperate enough to call Fionna’s cell, he began to panic. “What’s wrong?” He jerked Fionna’s phone to his ear.
“Nothing immediately,” Portwood assured him.
Dan sat in stunned disbelief as he listened to the long sordid tale of how Jeff had located the Senate bank hacker and the discovery that he was being set up.
“Look, man, I know you want to help Jeff. We all do,” Portwood began and Dan felt his heart sink as he began to realize the kind of trouble he’d caused Jeff by asking him to help with the cases at Venton. “But I’m the head of Iodex now and he’s one of my officers that you’ve put in quite a bit of danger.”
“I’m sorry. I never imagined this would get so out of hand. Truthfully, he’s so good I’ve been relying on him too much. I wasn’t careful enough and clearly people figured out that he was helping me.”
“You’re gonna have to keep him safe and Becca as well. If whoever is after him is willing to go to these lengths to get him in trouble, I’m not certain where they’ll stop. And these are kids that already have no conscience.”
“I’ll keep them safe. You have my word, whatever good it’s worth at this point. I should never have agreed to doing this on the side, and I should never have asked Logan and Jeff to help me. I really am sorry. I’m not trying to intrude.” Customary guilt settled in the pit of his stomach. Fionna picked up on his distress instantly and he felt her soothing cast move over his body.
“Like I said, I would’ve done the same thing if your father had asked me instead of you. But I think this may be more than you, or Jeff, or either of the Governors were thinking. And now we have to get Jeff out and graduated and keep Becca safe. I want Jeff on Elite before graduation. He’s clearly proven his worth but he needs an Ioses diploma. I plan on helping him get that as soon as possible.”
“Hey, I’m about to spend a few weeks at home without my girls so send him over. I’ll get him through his Ioses exams. I owe him a hell of a lot more than that,” Dan vowed.
Portwood seemed relieved that Dan agreed with his assessment.
“I don’t really think he could ask for a better tutor,” Portwood tried to soften the dressing down Dan had just been given. Knowing he deserved the reprimand, Dan didn’t feel the comment was necessary. He’d learned a great deal since he’d taken over Iodex and since he’d taken down Wretchkinsides. But asking two current Iodex officers to help him on the side certainly hadn’t shown Portwood that he’d learned his lesson.
He needed out of D.C. The reality of that was abundantly clear. It was too easy. He was too accessible his father and Crown Governor Haydenshire. They all had to rely on Portwood to do the job they’d appointed him to do. Dan couldn’t be option anymore.
“It was all me, not Jeff and Logan,” Dan vowed.
“I’m more worried about what other kinds of shit these kids might pull than I am about whose idea this was. Call me a chauvinist but I’d say Becca makes a very appealing target. Anyone that’s ever met Jeff Strenton knows that hurting Becca would be the quickest way to get to him,” Portwood concluded morosely.
“I won’t let anything happen to either of them. According to Jeff their little boy is set to make his appearance around exam time. We need to get both of them through their senior years before they become parents.”
“Then let’s get it done,” Portwood agreed.
“I’ll be home Sunday night,” Dan sighed as Fionna’s face fell and deep disappointment contorted her features.
“Fi feeling any better?”
“Still working on that.” Dan sighed.
“Won’t be too long til your next addition is here and she can get a break, hopefully.”
“Yeah.” Dan pulled Fionna back onto his chest. “Just need to get through the next few weeks.”
“She’ll be fine, Dan. She’s tougher than you give her credit for.”
“Yeah, well, she’s my baby,” Dan vowed more for Fionna’s benefit than Portwood’s.
“I take it she’s right beside you so I’m gonna let you go. Have fun in Hawaii. I think I’ll be making an appearance at Venton Monday morning.”
“I’ll see you there,” Dan concluded.