Dan drove the Ferrari home in a vicious mood. He’d called Fionna as soon as they’d landed. She didn’t sound any happier than when he’d left six hours before. Between that and the press meeting his plane and gathering photographic evidence that he’d flown home had made him seethe. When they’d begun screaming out questions about Fionna’s whereabouts and if he had, in fact, filed for divorce, he’d been out for blood.
Driving his fist through a wall sounded far too appealing. His heart seized as he turned into the driveway. Scanning the yard methodically, he eased his pistol from the glove box as he tried to determine why there was a man lying face down in Dan’s front yard.
He slid carefully from the car, leading with his gun. As he eased closer, he heard the guy moaning.
“Sir, are you all right?” There didn’t appear to be any sign of struggle. No one else was nearby.
The gentlemen eased himself into a seated position. He blinked rapidly and then swayed. As he didn’t appear to be armed, Dan offered him his hand helping him up. He slipped the pistol in the back of his jeans.
“Wow.” The guy brushed the grass from his clothing. “That was something.”
“I’m Dan Vindico. Is there any particular reason you’re lying in my front lawn?” His cautious mood turned back into irritation in a matter of moments.
“Oh, uh, yeah,” the man rubbed his head and managed to stand. He was rather short only coming up to Dan’s chest. Dan assumed the thick mustache was to make up for his three strand comb over.
“I’m Fred Sheckles. We just moved in across the street.” He pointed to the home across the street from Dan and Fionna’s. “I was just coming over to introduce myself. My wife made you some cookies,” he gestured to the yard which contained several shattered pieces of a pottery plate and cookie shrapnel. “I started to walk up your steps and it was the strangest thing. Like being electrocuted or something. Threw me backwards. Maybe I got struck by lightning.” He stared up at the clear blue sky set off by the sinking sun.
“Maybe so,” Dan swallowed down his panic. It never occurred to him a Non-Gifted neighbor would approach the house while they were on vacation. The shield he generally set on his home or on their cars while they were away would most certainly have thrown the guy backwards. It could have killed him. Dan began amending his policy on casting the house so thoroughly while they were away.
“Anyway, we just moved in, like I said. My wife, Betty, and our boys, Walter and Wendell. We just moved from Sioux Falls.”
“Like I said I’m Dan Vindico. My wife Fionna and our daughters are visiting her family in Kauai. Maybe you’ll meet them later.”
Fred elbowed Dan’s forearm and waggled his eyebrows. “Maybe we could fix up your girls and my boys. The girl next door and all that,” he chided with a hearty horse laugh.
Dan narrowed his eyes. “How old are your sons?” he demanded.
“Walt’s sixteen and Wen’s thirteen,” he announced proudly.
Dan rolled his eyes. “My oldest is seven. And I need to get in. I have to get a few things done before work tomorrow.” Dan gestured his thumb towards the house.
“I’m real sorry about the cookies,” Fred lamented as he stared in shock at the remains of the plate and the cookies his wife had prepared.
“Don’t worry about it. I’m just glad you’re all right,” he offered truthfully.
“I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot of each other, neighbor,” Fred proclaimed.
An ominous sense of dread swirled in the pit of Dan’s stomach as he nodded his begrudged acceptance of what he considered to be Fred Sheckles warning.
He quickly cupped his hand and pulled the shield off of his home and back into his body.
“I blew up our new neighbor’s cookies” was the text he sent Fionna as soon as he threw his suitcase upstairs in their room and fell dejectedly onto the couch. A second later, his phone rang. A broad grin spread across his face as he answered to hear his wife’s hysterical laughter.
Dan considered Googling how to deal with an annoying neighbor as he drove into work the next morning. The customary metallic rattle between his legs as he steered the Augusta onto Venton’s campus did nothing to ease his irritation.
Fred had knocked on the front door at five-thirty in the morning to deliver the paper. Dan had gotten up at five to go for a run and when he hadn’t answered Fred had taken it upon himself to walk around the perimeter of the Vindico’s home. When Dan returned covered in sweat and checking his watch to get the time on his seven mile run, he’d entered the house through his front door and found Fred peeking through the back. As Dan was downing a protein shake, he’d nearly shot Fred as he saw his shiny head reflect off the glass on the back door.
Dan had promptly informed his new neighbor that he and Fionna really just liked to keep to themselves and never ever to come in their backyard again unless they were invited. Fred had left with his tail tucked between his legs and a dejected frown on his face.
As Dan sped towards the faculty parking lot his stomach twisted uncomfortably.
“Oh no,” he hissed into his helmet. “Fuck.”
Yanking off his helmet, he let his head fall as he took in a large display set up by Mentor Hannon denouncing Amative Energies week. She was joined by a very small portion of the student body who were holding up signs declaring that anyone participating in sex before marriage was doomed to hell.
Dan stomped towards his office. He flung his helmet in the cushioned chair in the corner and marched into his father’s office.
Governor Vindico was sporting quite a smirk as he took in Dan’s expression.
“Please, for the love of God, tell me it isn’t Amative Energies week.” This was what he’d forgotten. He hadn’t put it on his calendar because he’d wanted to will it away.
“Not only is it Amative Energies week, son, but this,” Governor Vindico held up a student request form, “Is the one hundred and forty seventh request I’ve received for you to be their health and wellness mentor for the week.” He fought hysterical laughter.
Dan’s eyes goggled as he took in the stack of requests.
“What?” he demanded. “No, wait. Better question. Why?”
“Well,” Governor Vindico drawled. He was enjoying this just a little too much. “I’d say your reputation precedes you. I would venture to say seventy-five percent of these young men are really hoping you might jgive them a brief overview of what it’s like with the beautiful and extremely famous woman you share your Amative Energies with, and the other twenty-five, I suspect, are hoping you might give them a few pointers.”
Dan let his head fall into his hands. “I should have stayed in Kauai with Fi.” Nausea roiled in his gut.
“The question is, should I just give you all one hundred and fifty young men and set you up in a lecture hall or am I going to be nice and divide them up the way we’ve always done at Venton?”
“This isn’t funny,” Dan growled.
“I found it rather humorous,” Governor Vindico chuckled.
Dan stomped back to his office and pulled up the curriculum on Amative energies for the Junior and Senior Ioses, Valeduto, and Vis Virres predilects that he’d negotiated with his father to teach each afternoon all week long. The morning classes remained the same, not that his students would learn anything at all that week. Amative energy weeks typically had the students of Venton Academy extremely amorous all week long.
The young ladies would be learning how to cast themselves to prevent pregnancy. The first three days the female mentors and nurses would cast them, allowing them to learn how it should feel when they were closed off. Thursday and Friday the women would cast themselves. The entire female half of the student body being casted generally made the already overly hormone-driven young men on campus fly into overdrive. Students that hadn’t yet consummated their relationships, in light of not knowing how to prevent pregnancy, saw all of their less than patient waiting as over.
Portwood knocked on Dan’s door a few minutes later. Jeff followed Landon in looking thoroughly annoyed.
“Amative Energies week,” Portwood chuckled. “I cannot tell you how happy I am that I do not have to deal with this week every freaking semester ever again.”
“Believe me, this is yet another thing I will not miss about being in school,” Jeff huffed.
“So, Mentor Vindico, your dad says the entire male half of the Academy is hoping you’ll educate them in all of your well known skills,” Portwood goaded Dan.
Rolling his eyes, Dan shook his head in defeat. “Is there anyone my father isn’t announcing that to?” He checked his watch again. It was the middle of the night in Kauai. He fervently hoped his girls were sleeping, even if he longed to talk to Fionna before he tackled a horny group of Academy upperclassman.
Portwood continued, “Rainer, Logan, and John will be here at eight. We’re gonna put on a big show of investigating the test vault. Obviously, we’ll be asking the staff to let us know if anyone acts overly nervous. We’ll also let it fly that we’re suspicious of Mr. Strenton here,” he slapped Jeff on the back.
“Jeff, I really am sorry about all of this,” Dan offered. “This was entirely my doing and I will make it right.”
“It’s fine, sir. I can take care of myself. As long as Bec’s okay, I’m good.”
“How’s she doing?” Dan urged concernedly.
The smile that formed on Jeff’s face automatically told Dan and Portwood everything they needed to know. “She’s loads better. Adeline let her be up and around a little yesterday. We went out for pizza. She was craving that Hawaiian pizza from Musconi’s. But she was pretty tired when we got back home. Still, she’s so much better. I’m just afraid to let her do much.”
As all of the wives of the men currently in Dan’s office were pregnant, this was something they all understood only too well.
“Any idea if she’ll be coming back to school?” Portwood quizzed.
“Honestly, after everything, I kind of wish she could just finish at home. I’m worried sick about her.”
“I won’t let anything happen to her. And Dad’s already approved her staying home the entire time I’m out after my little one comes. She won’t even be here if we’re still dealing with all of this by then,” Dan assured Jeff.
“I’m gonna get started on the test vault. Think I’ll see who turns up first,” Portwood explained.
“Good luck,” Dan waved his goodbye. “Have a seat, Jeff. Clearly people already know you’re a close friend of mine so no need to hide out.” Dan continued going over the information he was to present for his Amative Energies class that afternoon. He scowled as he landed on one of the items listed. “I’m supposed to teach twenty-year -guys how to put on a condom?”
Jeff chuckled. “Guess so.”
“How the hell am I supposed to demonstrate that?”
“Uh, there’s a model thing in the classroom, Mentor Vindico.”
“Tell me you’re kidding,” Dan pled.
“But most of you know how to do that right?”
“Uh,” Jeff’s face colored rapidly. He’d only ever been with Becca. He knew how to cast his wife but he probably had no idea how to prevent pregnancy or the spread of disease with a Non-Gifted girl.
“Never mind. It’s fine,” he offered Jeff an out.
“Believe me, I’m with you,” Jeff pled. “I have to lose ten hours of work this week so I can take this class because it’s required to graduate, and currently my wife is home pregnant with my son. So, it kind of seems like sex ed. might not really be something I need a class in.”
“Maybe I’ll let you teach,” Dan chided.
“At least, this year, it’s you and not Mentor Sherman. I don’t think I could take that again,” Jeff rolled his eyes.
“What’s Becca’s plan for this since she can’t be in the class?” Dan sent copies of a worksheet for his first period class to the printer from his laptop.
“Your dad said she could do that paper on the Gifted female body. She obviously can’t be casted and it seems fairly obvious to everyone that she’s had sex so I don’t think she’ll really be missing too much.” Jeff gave an abashed shrug.
“I heard you got your father-in-law to apologize,” Dan decided changing the topic would be the way to go.
“Yeah.” Jeff sighed.
“Seems like that would be a good thing.”
“It is. I mean I’m glad he’s trying to be human or whatever because he was really stressing Bec out and obviously that’s a bad thing. It’s just…I know this is awful…”
“Want me to take a guess?” Dan smirked.
Jeff shrugged. “Sure. I guess.”
“You’re happy the Sapmans are coming around, and that the Governor has admitted you’re a great guy who loves Becca, and you’re thankful that Mrs. Sapman is taking care of Becca so you can finish school and work, but you could do with seeing less of them.”
“How do you do that?” Jeff gasped. Dan laughed heartily. “It’s way better like this though. I mean Mrs. Sapman’s been great and Becca is a million times better. I shouldn’t complain. I just kind of wish when I get home that she’d go home.”
“Believe me, you are not the first guy to feel that way and you certainly won’t be the last,” Dan assured him.
He marched into the expanded lecture hall prepared for battle. His father had laid it on the line for him.
“These kids look up to you, Daniel. You need to show them respect and you need to teach them. That’s what you were hired to do. Suck it up and get it done, son,” he’d ordered.
Dan flung the door open and proceeded to the front of the class. He tried not to see the plastic models of the Gifted male and female reproductive organs that had been placed in the room.
Nervous energy flowed throughout the room. It was so palpable and coming from so many sources, Dan felt it instantly. He let his gaze cover the room. With a sigh, he seated himself on top of the mentor’s desk.
Jeff was positioned near the front with the other Ioses predilects. The room was full of young men looking to Dan to make an extremely uncomfortable topic a little easier to understand.
“Okay,” he began in a more pleasant tone than he normally used whenever he began any class. “Obviously, this is Junior/Senior Amative Energies.” He received a few nervous chuckles as the students settled in. “Few things.” He edged closer to the young men seated on the front row. “Some of the stuff we have to go over is a little uncomfortable but I’m more than willing to give you a little leeway if you’ll extend me the same. Here’s the deal, you’ve all been in attendance for these classes for the last several years. There is information I have to present and there is a question answer portion of each class this week. I’m fine answering your questions, but,” he paused dramatically making certain every eye in the room was on him, “Try to ask questions that actually pertain to what we are discussing. Try not to be crude when you ask and here’s my one rule so listen up,” he commanded, “I will not, under any circumstances, discuss my wife or our physical relationship. Nor will I discuss any relationship from my past,” Dan vowed adamantly. “Anything else, within reason, I will do my best to answer for you,” he gestured his hands out to the young men staring back at him. Disappointment was evident on many faces.
An audible huff echoed from a rather large guy on the front row. He was a Vis Virres predilect so Dan wasn’t shocked that he was going to challenge the rule.
“Man, you’re boning Fionna Styler and we’re not allowed to ask you about that.”
Dan narrowed his eyes. “First of all, I just asked you not to be crude. Second, the physical parts of your relationship is an extremely important part of any union. So, no I will not discuss it with any of you or any one at all for that matter. That would be incredibly disrespectful to my wife, disrespectful to the things we share together, and disrespectful to my marriage. Precisely the same way it is disrespectful if you share something intimate with anyone and then discuss it outside of that relationship. So,” he went on driving the point home, “Regarding my beautiful wife, the things that she shares with me I will quite literally guard with my life just as all of you should guard the things that are shared with you in any intimate setting.”
“But, as long as we don’t ask stuff about a specific person you’ll answer?” rang from the back of the room.
“I will do my best but I think I will reserve the right to refuse a question, as well.”