From the looks of things, Rachel made it back just in time. Felicia was doing her best to both entice Accord closer and keep him at arm’s length simultaneously, a rather difficult skill, even for the irrepressible Felicia Gallant. Rachel was grateful her friend was taking one for the team, and relieved that wouldn’t be necessary much longer.
“What the hell do you think you’re up to?” Rachel burst into the dining room, Accord and Felicia having moved from the table to a fainting sofa in the corner.
“Madame Davis,” Accord drawled, barely budging, his French-ness never more obvious, “We are all adults here. Surely, you cannot grow overwrought due to mere….”
“The wine,” Rachel seethed.
And now she had his complete attention. Rachel suspected she was free to insult any and all aspects of his character – except for his wine.
“There is something wrong with my wine?” He leapt up.
“Carl Hutchins.” Rachel could J’Accuse with the best of them.
“He’s my husband,” Rachel said.
Now she definitely had his attention. “I – I did not realize….”
“My husband had a standing order with you for years.”
“Indeed he did, and we always fulfilled our obligation to the letter.”
“Including this year,” Rachel said.
“When he was dead.”
“I wasn’t aware….”
“The hell you weren’t,” Felicia jumped in, happy to finally be acting like herself, instead of a ditzy wine groupie. “If you weren’t aware that Carl was dead, how come you didn’t just ship the wine to him in Bay City, same as every year?”
“I can explain,” Accord insisted, even as Rachel dragged him to the loading dock and confronted Accord with evidence that Carl’s barrels were still there, waiting for their new address.
“Where is he?” Rachel demanded. “Where is my husband?”
“I do not know!” Accord swore.
“Is he still alive?”
“I do not know that, either!”
“Then what is the meaning of this?” Rachel all but kicked the wine in frustration. “If you didn’t know Carl was dead, why didn’t you deliver this months ago to our home? And if you believe that he is dead, why prepare his order in any case?”
“I can explain,” Accord repeated.
“The entire wine world knows you sent out Carl’s shipment on schedule,” Felicia informed him. “That’s how we found out, so don’t you bother lying.”
“The entire wine world believes I sent out Mr. Hutchins’ shipment,” Accord clarified.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means…” Was the man actually cringing? “It means that I – I wanted them to believe I had sold out my inventory, the same as every season.”
“Because, then… then, it would drive up prices on the black market.”
“You sell your own wines on the black market?” Felicia caught on fast.
“It fetches a better price there. Scarcity creates demand. Plus, you understand, no taxes. Our taxation system here in France, it is quite Draconian. They take money from my honest labor and give it to some sow so she can sit at home with her brood of brats. I ask you, how is that equitable?”
“Those brats,” Felicia noted. “Will one day support you in your old age.”
Accord rolled his eyes. “Hardly. The money will all have been spent by then. On them.”
Unfortunately, Rachel was in no mood to discuss French domestic affairs. She cut Felicia and Accord off to stress, “So you don’t know where my husband is?”
“How would I, Madame?”
“Because he could have contacted you, given you a new address to ship to?”
“Do you see an address on the label?” Accord pointed out reasonably. “You say the entire wine world knows that it has been sent, yet, here it is. I merely affixed Mr. Hutchins’ name and allowed a few, key parties to catch sight of it in order to let the gossip disseminate. The wine has been here all along. It isn’t very good business in the long term, after all, selling to the dead.”
“What are you doing here?” Kevin demanded the next morning. Unlike Jen, Amanda or Lila, he wasn’t excited to see Steven waiting in the visiting area.
“I wanted to see if you’d changed your mind.”
“I told you, that wasn’t going to happen.”
“You told me that before you got a look at your deluxe accommodation. I figured now that you’ve had time to think about it….”
“Any accommodations are worth my daughter’s life.”
“Jen is fine now.”
“That’s mostly because of you.”
“It’s because I got her dad killed in order to get Jen her bone marrow.”
“It’s because you make her happy.”
“What about me?” Steven realized he sounded petulant, but maybe that would work where logic and insistence hadn’t. “Do you think I’m happy living like this? Knowing that I let some guy do the time for my crime?”
“You let me because I begged you to. For Jen’s sake.”
“I realize that. I always knew you’d have the harder end of our bargain.”
“What bargain? You went ahead and pled guilty. You didn’t give me any choice in the matter.”
“I appreciate everything you’ve done for Jenny, Steven.”
“A real man takes responsibility for his actions.”
“A real man puts the needs of others ahead of himself. And that’s what you’re doing right now. Jenny needs you. With her. If you went to prison, you’d be punishing her along with yourself. And I know you don’t want that.”
“You expect me to live with this for the rest of my life? You expect me to keep it a secret from Jen forever?”
“Do you expect to be with my daughter forever, Steven?” Kevin asked gently.
Steven startled, but then, without a second of hesitation, he nodded his head fervently. “Yeah. I’d like that. I’d like that more than anything.”
“Then the answer is, yes.” Kevin rested his hand on Steven’s shoulder, squeezing it lightly. “I’m sorry about how this turned out, son. I truly, truly am.”
“Grant!” If Frankie had been asked to make a list regarding whom she expected to find on her doorstep, Senator Harrison wouldn’t have even been a consideration. And yet, there he was, looking haggard and desperate and not at all like the put-together image he usually preferred to project. “Come in,” Frankie said. “What can I do for you?”
Grant asked, “Are you still in the investigation business?”
“Well…” she demurred. “The last time Cass and I took a job, it ended up keeping us out of Bay City and away from our kids for almost half a year, not to mention nearly got us killed in the Dubai desert.”
“I don’t have time for riddles, Frankie,” Grant snapped. “Is that a yes or no?”
“What’s going on?” she wondered, leading him to take a seat, wondering if all of Grant’s nervous energy would even allow him to do so.
“It’s Sarah,” he said. “You know, Daisy’s mother?”
“I know Sarah.”
“What do you mean, gone?”
“She just took off. She left me a note. Didn’t even tell me in person. She had Allie deliver it, and you know how pointless it is to try and pry any kind of useful information out of Allie. Sarah left Bay City.”
“And took Daisy with her?”
“No,” Grant admitted. “She left Daisy with Marley and me.”
“She said she wanted what was best for Daisy. Sarah didn’t want to end up resenting her, she… It doesn’t matter what she said. She wasn’t thinking straight, that much is obvious. Sarah loves Daisy. It must have killed her to leave.”
“And you want me to find her?” Frankie guessed. She’d been in the investigative business for a long time. Everyone thought their case was unique, but it rarely was.
“Yes,” Grant exhaled in relief. “I went to Iris, but she claimed not to know anything. It’s probably the truth. Sarah wasn’t exactly close with any members of her family. That’s one of the reasons why she gave up Daisy. She didn’t want a repeat of what happened with her, Olivia and Dennis. She wanted better for her.”
“With you and Marley?” Frankie repeated, trying to keep the disbelief out of her voice.
She obviously failed, because Grant only looked at her knowingly and said, “Exactly.”
“It sounds like Sarah doesn’t want to be found,” Frankie pointed out the obvious, wondering if Grant had even considered the possibility.
“Isn’t that where you come on in?” he snapped.
“I just want you to think about what you’re really asking me. And about what I might find out. It might be something you – and Daisy – don’t really need to know.”
“I need….” Grant cut himself off the moment he realized what he was saying. “Daisy needs her mother. I need you to find her for me.”
“I knew you wouldn’t be able to stay away,” Morgan informed Amanda when he came upon her at the gym, riding a stationary bicycle that just happened to be next to the one Morgan planned to occupy.
Amanda’s only response was to put her head down and pedal harder.
“Or get away for that matter,” Morgan teased. “I don’t think that thing is going to move, no harder how frantically you try.”
Amanda stared straight ahead, pretending she hadn’t heard.
Morgan smiled, unoffended, and climbed onto his own bike, sitting up straight, hands off the bars, and making polite conversation, as if he and Amanda were pedaling side by side on a country road, taking in the sights.
“But, maybe it isn’t me you’re trying to get away from,” he mused. “Maybe it’s that bum you married, the one who preferred the comforts of prison, to you.”
No response, though Amanda’s cheeks did flush crimson. And it wasn’t merely due to the exertion.
“Of course, if I were him, I’d never have turned my back on you.”
“I wish you would,” Amanda finally snapped. “Like, right now.”
“She speaks!” Morgan did his best Romeo expression. “Speak again, my angel!”
“You really think you’re funny, don’t you?”
“No. I know I’m funny. I think I’m charming.”
“You’ve been tragically misinformed.”
“And you are being tragically misguided. How long do you plan to keep up this charade of being faithful to ol’ Kevin?”
“What are you talking about?” Amanda leaped off the bike, shoving Morgan’s shoulders with both hands. “I haven’t – “
“No,” he agreed, grabbing her wrists, kissing first the back of one palm, then the other. “But, we both know you will…. Eventually.”
“I’ve thought about it,” Zeno told Allie as they sat eating dinner at Carlino’s. “And, even though it was nice of you to offer, I can’t take your money.”
“Because you think I’m acting too much like Frankie?”
“No. Because I don’t want things between us to turn out like between me and Frankie.”
“I’m not going to blackmail you into dating Charlie,” Allie teased.
“I didn’t think you would,” he smiled in return.
“But, I get why you can’t trust me.”
“It’s not that. It’s just…. I care about you, Allie, I really do. And we’ve got enough crap to deal with after everything that’s happened. I mean, you could have easily blamed me for what Charlie did.”
“It wasn’t your fault.”
“Yeah, well, maybe if I’d told you that Charlie and I had slept together earlier….”
“What would that have changed?” she asked reasonably.
“Nothing, I guess. But, I’d have felt better about it.”
“My grandfather, Carl… Well, he’s not really my grandfather, but I did call him Grandpa when I was little. I used to be crazy about him. Anyway, Carl once told me that people who insist on telling the truth at all times are doing it to make themselves feel better, not someone else. He said that most people actually enjoy wallowing in blissful ignorance.”
“Maybe that’s why I didn’t tell Kirk about Charlie and me, even though he practically flat out asked. I just figured it wasn’t the time or place to get into it. Though considering what went down later…”
“Yeah. You get used to it. Remember Thanksgiving at my Grandma’s?”
“My mom would have hated it, though. She thought telling the truth was a karma thing.”
“Good thing your mom didn’t live in Bay City.”
“Actually, Oakdale has its share of intrigue, too. There’s this family, the Snyders, their farm is a couple of miles down the road from ours; one of their sons married his niece or something. Not once, but I think three or four times.”
“Doesn’t Frankie believe you’re her dead son reincarnated?”
“So what you’re saying is I shouldn’t be casting stones.”
“Or spells either, for that matter.”
Zeno grinned. “I really like you, Allie.”
“I really like you, too.”
“So you understand about me not wanting to take your money?”
“Sure. And if you ever change your mind, the offer stands.”
“Thanks.” He leaned over the table to kiss her.
Failing to notice Charlie at the back of the restaurant, watching their every move.
Dennis had tried to be good. He’d tried to call first. But, when Olivia didn’t answer either at Russ’ house or on her cell, Dennis decided to drop by Matt’s office.
He figured, despite their inability to utter a civil word to each other over the past twenty-plus years, Dennis and Olivia probably should still discuss their daughter, and what – if anything – they should be doing about Sarah’s abandonment of Daisy, and pretty much her entire life, to boot.
Dennis came into C-Squared after hours, finding it deserted, except for some sounds emanating from the direction of Matt’s office.
Dennis approached quietly, already having a suspicion of what those sounds might be, hardly needing the visual confirmation, yet still taking a good amount of satisfaction from it.
He watched just long enough to make sure Dennis wasn’t mistaken, and to confirm the players in question. Players being the operative word.
Dennis smiled – and reached for his phone.
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