vanessagalore: (!Precipitation)
vanessagalore ([personal profile] vanessagalore) wrote2014-03-06 09:35 am

FIC: Possibilities (Veronica/Logan) (30a/32) (PG13)

TITLE: Possibilities (30a/32)
AUTHOR: vanessagalore
CHARACTERS: Veronica, Logan, Keith
RATING: NC17 for this chapter
SUMMARY: Sometimes it's best to just get the hell out of Dodge. Set right after 'The Bitch Is Back'.
SPOILERS: Spoilers for the whole series, especially season 3.
WARNINGS: Cursing and sex between consenting adults.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own any rights to Veronica Mars. This story is written as a tribute only. Beta'd by zaftig_darling. All remaining errors are my responsibility.

1~Precipitation 2~Precarious 3~Paranoia 4~Prevarication 5~Probation 6~Predicament 7~Paradox 8~Please 9~Perilous 10~Palpitation 11~Precipice 12~Perspiration 13~Peregrination 14~Pursuit 15~Plexus 16~Pier 17~Perception 18~Phantasm 19~Pendulum 20~Pyromania 21~Prognosis 22~Paternity 23~Premeditation 24~Paralysis 25~Panacea 26~Presentiment 27~Prevailing Winds 28~Pandemonium 29~Paradise

Click here to read a summary of the whole story from the beginning. And for just the last time on 'Precipitation': (Highlight to read ~OR~ click here to skip directly to the new chapter)

They have arrived in the Dominican Republic and have made new lives for themselves: Veronica works in a casino, Logan teaches surfing and sailing, and Keith works as a security guard for a wealthy businessman, Richard Stellner. Everything is going very well, until they see an ad in the New York Times: a message from Cliff McCormack. They make contact and find out Jake Kane is attempting to arrange a pardon for their crimes in exchange for Keith returning to his job as Neptune Sheriff.

For the PG13 version of this chapter, click here.

Chapter 30: Possibilities

We discuss Jake's offer until late at night on Saturday and all day Sunday, and we're no closer to a resolution, with Logan continuing to insist that it's a trap and that he really likes our life here. Dad and Logan are on a knife's edge of a blowout argument, with both of them just barely on the side of rational discourse.

I play peacemaker, begging both of them to try to see the other's viewpoint; in desperation, I swear that if they agree to compromise with each other, I will accept their decision no matter what. But terse words and half-spoken recriminations are the sole result, with the only agreement being that this completely sucks. Sunday evening, Dad leaves for his apartment, and when I return from delivering him to shore in the dinghy, Logan's ensconced in the engine compartment doing some maintenance job and clearly avoiding me.

Dragging the cushions to the foredeck, I lie down, hoping for the blissful nothingness of sleep. I can't imagine leaving the immense beauty of this star-filled sky and the intimacy that Logan and I have achieved here, but I also can't fathom cowering and keeping my head down for the next fifty years. I try to envisage continuing my relationship with him back in Neptune and tell myself it definitely won't blow up in our faces this time. The Caribbean setting helped, the closeness of our desperate situation helped, but we could have ... Maybe it would have ... Certainly we might have ...

Finally I admit it. Maintaining our relationship is a lot easier when we don't have a choice.

I wait, expecting him to join me, but instead I hear a wrench drop with a clang, and a few muttered curse words. I keep sitting up whenever I hear a noise, hoping that I'll see him emerging from the companionway to join me on deck. But the darkness deepens, the stars pulsate ever more brightly, and I am alone.

Exhaustion overtakes me and I allow my eyes to close.


I feel impossibly good. We're in bed, he's touching me, so slowly, so gently, I just want this to go on forever. I want this dream to go on forever, don't stop, don't stop, mmm, so nice.

Not a dream. Prying my eyes open, I see an early morning sun winking over the horizon as a fresh breeze gently rocks Panacea.

He's waking me up the very best way you can wake a girl up. My legs are eased apart and I see his platinum blond hair between them. Soft pressure on my core, the slight roughness of a wet tongue swiping, with no urgency at all, as if this might go on forever.

Not a dream.

Don't stop, don't stop. So nice.

"Morning," I whisper.

He hauls himself up to my face and says quietly, "No talking, no thinking." A quick kiss, and then he's back between my legs.

No thinking—the impossibility of our situation and yesterday's heated arguments come flooding back, and I tense. His hand draws lazy circles on my belly, and his tongue continues its quiet quest, gentling me back to relaxation and oblivion. I focus on my breathing, making it as deep and slow as possible, and concentrate on that spot where his mouth suckles my body, and the utter nowness of it. There is no future, no past, just togetherness in the most intimate, infinite way.

When I'm limp and helpless again, he urges me further apart, further exposed. All of me is completely open to him, and his tongue now presses harder, pushing me to fly. Fingers caress my breasts, mine and his together, brushing against each other. And then his hand clasps mine, holding on tight, and he pushes me toward the edge, his tongue now insistent and furious, pent-up energy released in an effort to break me.

I shatter into a thousand pieces, Veronica is gone, Vicky is gone, this is just cells struggling for cohesion and he is everywhere, everything, everyone. He looms above me, floating just beyond my consciousness. Arms, forceful and merciful, pull my legs onto his shoulders and he is within me. He is me.

I want this moment to go on forever ... forever ... forever ...

He is watching me as I return to coherence. His gaze is not embarrassing, not prurient, not even loving. Something is different, a visage I've never seen on him before. His expression tells me not to ask.

His hand caresses my cheek, and he mutters, "You'll never know—" and then he pushes himself off the deck and disappears down below.

And I am afraid.


I go to work at the casino, and all of a sudden the job seems interminable. I'd mostly enjoyed the work up until now, which consists of encoding club cards and running the computer software that assigns each gambler a number that determines what free 'comps' they're eligible for. For people that are interested in a line of credit, I direct them to the 'casino cage' on the main floor, but frequent customers are already set up, with their bank accounts linked to their club card, and these gamblers are assigned a higher frequency of comps.

Big losers are big profit for the casino, and management pays for greens fees, hotel rooms, spa visits, and lots of free meals and drinks to keep happy gamblers shelling out money, with each bet tracked with the club card. Today, my job seems sordid and futile, a legalized means of exploiting human frailties. I feel like shaking some of the customers and explaining to them that the cost of their free drinks was the hundred dollars that they'd lost at the blackjack table. But the clients love comps, and comps drive repeat business, as I'd been informed in my orientation.

I'm good at my job. We use a computer algorithm that maximizes casino profit by strategically using comps as players' 'discouragement index' rises. Plastering on a smile, I can make a gambler think that he is the only one to whom I've ever gifted a luxury hotel suite. It's always been easy for me to associate names with faces, and the clients are ridiculously flattered when I call them by name, sidling alongside them at the craps table and offering yet another free drink coupon. They smile at me and throw the dice—snake eyes yet again—and their comp number and value to the casino rises. Ka-ching. I've done it hundreds of times, and everyone from the lowly slot machine player to the casino's chief of operations seems to see the comp system as status quo.

But today I feel dirty. It's true that Mars Investigations saw the seamy underbelly of Neptune, but we always could delude ourselves that we were helping somebody: to tweak their divorce settlement, to satisfy their fears about a possibly cheating spouse, to find that long-lost uncle. We even got justice for a few victims and maybe even revenge. And the ends always justified the means, and, damn, it felt good.

At least it did, until I stole Jake Kane's hard drive and completely screwed up my life and that of my friends and family.

Here at Casino Paradiso de Puerta Plata, I'm just one cog in the wheel designed to efficiently loot the unsuspecting gambler of all his funds. I'm a grifter, the roper who pulls in the mark for the ultimate scam. Maybe this is what I deserve after what I did back in Neptune: judgmental, out-of-control Veronica Mars, finally taken down a peg and exiled to the Dominican Republic.

"Bad day, Vicky?" Angel, a security department employee, asks as he adjusts one of the cameras behind my workstation. Every customer and employee is surveilled by thousands of cameras throughout the casino, and my usual location at the main entrance is the first opportunity for security to identify potential problems. When I'd realized that my job would be so extensively documented, I'd almost bailed, but the job was far better paying than anything else I was eligible for. Usually I can ignore the Orwellian surveillance, but today it's making me as tense as hitting on sixteen at blackjack.

I can't hold back a sigh even as I obfuscate. "I'm just a little tired. I didn't get enough rest this weekend."

"Still celebrating your honeymoon, huh?" Angel says. Everyone knows that 'Randy' and I are newlyweds—it's a convenient excuse to not hang out with the other employees.

"You bet." I click a few keystrokes, desultorily checking up on the losers du jour. "Um, Angel? Don't you ever feel a little funny about all these people gambling away their hard-earned money? It's a little dreary."

He frowns. "I don't ever think about it." Whistling tunelessly, Angel replaces the one-way mirror covering the camera behind my desk. He triggers his walkie-talkie. "How's the video now?"

Over the walkie, we hear, "All clear. Check on camera number five by craps table number one."

Angel says, "Hey. I know what will cheer you up. Come take a tour of security. It's really cool, very high-tech. You won't believe it." Angel's been telling me for the last few weeks that I'm too smart for hospitality and pushing me to apply for a job in his department.

I've been putting him off because I know there are a few ex-cops from the United States working in the department. The likelihood that they'll know me is remote, but prudence has gotten us this far.

But today, I throw caution to the winds. Fuck hospitality. Since day one, I've been telling myself—convincing myself—that this is a good job, but now...

There are possibilities.

Maybe I won't have to sweet-talk degenerate gamblers for the rest of my life. My old life is waiting for me back in Neptune, if Logan would just see reason—

It's just a tour. I'm not doing anything wrong.

But ... his face this morning.

I need this. I need this!

I put on a smile. "Okay. After work. I'm off at five. Thanks."

"Excellent! I'll come find you."


I practically moan with pleasure when we walk into the security department. It's soundproofed, the interminable ka-chunk and ding-ding of the one-arm bandits and the constant crowd murmur silenced by thick walls and lush carpeting. Air-conditioning blasts, cooling the computers that are everywhere. I recognize a few of the programs running on the screens as ones we'd used in Mars Investigations. Employees are monitoring cameras, running data analyses, and investigating the nefarious motivations of the casino's clients.

It's like coming home.

Angel walks me around the room, introducing me to people. "About two-thirds of the security department works on the floor, either in uniform or undercover. The rest collect data and monitor the cameras. Me and Rick," he nods at a guy fumbling with wires under a desk, "work IT support. Three shift supervisors, day, evening and night. A lot of the guys working out on the casino floor are ex-cops from the United States, guys who put in their twenty-five years and wanted an easier job in a warmer climate before they retired."

I sincerely hope that none of these guys are California or Arkansas cops who might've heard about that Neptune sheriff who went rogue.

We stop at a monitor and watch the casino cage, where players cash out or add a credit line to their club card. Angel says, "It's the most documented area of the casino. Two armed guards at all times."

The next monitor we visit shows one of the roulette wheels. We watch as the dealer spins the roulette wheel and then tosses a white ball around the rim in the opposite direction. The ball goes around and around as players place their bets on odd or even, the different colors, or the numbers themselves. The dealer sweeps her hand over the numbers on the table.

"That's the signal to stop betting," Angel mutters.

But just before the ball drops, a player wearing a tan suit leans forward and drops a pile of cash on one of the numbers. The dealer, a brunette girl in her twenties with a severe hairstyle, looks aggravated, and she picks up the bet and tells the gambler that his bet was too late. The man argues, but she is adamant. She then starts to pay off the winning bets on the table.

"Damn it. It's a past-post scam," the man watching the monitor says. "Raquel knows better than that. He picks up his walkie-talkie. "George. Roulette number two. Escort the gentlemen in the black shirt and the tan suit to the security office."

"Wait ... what happened?" I ask Angel.

"Tell her, Lou."

Lou stretches with a grimace. "It's the oldest trick in the book. You see—"

"Wait. Run the video again," I interrupt. "I want to see if I can figure it out."

I watch closely as the ball is put into play and the dealer stops the late bet just before paying the winners. "At the bottom of the screen," I point. "The guy in the black shirt is colluding with the guy in the tan suit who made the late bet. When the late bettor drops the cash on the table, he distracts the dealer, and the guy in the black shirt slides a winning bet into place."

Lou nods appreciatively in my direction. "Very good. Past-post scam is what we call it."

Angel nudges me. "See? You should be working here."

It's hard to suppress the thrill that runs through me. "Lucky guess," I reply.

"No, not luck," Lou says. "Good instincts. You said your name was Vicky, right?" He makes a little notation on his desk blotter.

A little fear niggles at me. Was it a mistake to let them see how smart I am? What if they decide to check me out? A lot of these guys are ex-cops—they'll see right through my bullshit resume. I resolve to keep my mouth shut until the tour is over.

Lou says, "I bet these guys have tried that trick in other casinos. He's probably on the watch list. The guy in the black shirt looks familiar." He opens up a file on his computer and begins scanning surveillance photos. I can't help myself: I look over his shoulder at the miscreants.

Lou stops on one of the photos, and we see the guy in the black shirt from the tables, although here he's wearing a white shirt open to the navel. "Here he is. Danny Rosario. He's bad news. I've had my suspicions that he's been running a scam, but we haven't been able to catch him. Until today." Rosario has a smirk on his face, full, dark eyebrows and gelled hair. He sports a gold cross with a large diamond in the center around his neck, above a very hairy chest displayed by the open shirt.

"Wow, look at that diamond. What's going to happen to him?" I ask, deciding that it's a completely normal question.

"We'll offer to drop the charges if he'll return the payoff and then we'll ban him from the casino. It's not worth prosecuting, which is what these guys count on. Rosario will just move on to the next casino. I'll let the other casinos know, but there's about a thousand guys on the watch list at any one time. He'll manage to do this scam twenty more times before he moves on to something new."

We move on to another station and watch a blackjack dealer on the monitor. After the hand is over, the dealer pays off the winner one chip at a time, side by side.

Angel teases, "So, smarty-pants, notice anything about how the dealer makes the payout?"

It's completely obvious to me that the dealer is demonstrating for the camera that he's paying off the correct amount. A stack of chips could conceal a higher value chip on the bottom, passed to a confederate. But I play dumb. I'm sure now that it was a mistake to show off about the roulette scam. "Gee, I don't know. Is there something wrong with the chips?"

Angel seems disappointed. "We have a rule here that the dealers have to show the cameras that they're not concealing any higher value chips when they pay out. Hey, I'm sure you would've figured it out eventually."

"Maybe," I say.

Angel grabs my elbow and guides me over to a lanky blond man staring morosely at a computer screen. "Chip, this is the woman I was telling you about."

Chip rouses himself to shake my hand. "You're younger than I'd thought," he says absentmindedly. "You're over twenty-one?"

My identification claims that I am, so I nod yes. "Vicky," I say, sticking out my hand to shake.

Chip grasps my hand. "My name's actually John, but they call me Chip because I used to be a dealer in Las Vegas. Now I do loss prevention. We get a lot of slip-and-fall type claims in the casino, and I run background checks and try to determine if they're fraudulent or truly victims. My assistants review the footage from the incidents, and then we settle with the claimant or bump it up to legal. About one in five claims are fraudulent. We're looking for someone who can analyze data and occasionally do a little undercover surveillance. And Angel seems to think you're too smart to be coding club cards and schmoozing the guests."

I'm practically drooling. Analyzing data and undercover surveillance—that's basically my dream job. But—

Fuck. They'd run a full background check for a job like that. I can't risk it.

I plaster on a smile. "I'm not sure that's really the job for me."

Chip cocks his head. "Really. I thought—"

I hasten to add, "Let me think about it. It sounds interesting but I like my job now."

Angel stares at me, remembering my earlier comment about the dreariness of my position and my stellar performance discerning the past-post scam. I realize that I've really screwed up. If Angel analyzes my performance during the tour with some of the other employees, maybe he'll— They'll figure out that—

Remember, Veronica. You're an offender. A miscreant. A desperate criminal. And ex-cops and security guards are your enemies. Careful ... careful!

Right now, I'd give anything to get the hell out of the DR and go back to my old life. I'm tired of watching my words and pretending to be something I'm not. I hate my short hair and my dead-end job. I hate this.

Angel escorts me to the employee locker room. "Vicky. I'm not sure what's going on with you. But I think you could be a good fit with our security team."

Fix this. Fix this!

"Randy and I had a terrible fight over the weekend. He wants to get started on having a family. And I'm not ready." It's close enough to the truth that I sell it easily, with my voice cracking a little.

"Oh, man," Angel replies. "I'm sorry, Vicky. No wonder you're distracted."

"It's just that, well, until we figure out what we're doing, I think I should just stay in my current position. The job you're talking about—it sounds like fun, but also a lot more responsibility, and that might not be the best move if I end up having a baby." The lies roll off my tongue. I'm pathologically good at dissembling.


Logan's waiting for me outside the front entrance.

"You didn't have to pick me up," I say, kissing him on the cheek.

"Yeah, well, I don't like you out after dark alone." He nods at the setting sun and puts his arm around my shoulders. We begin walking toward the parking lot entrance to wait for a bus back to the marina.

It's almost as if we didn't argue all weekend. And whatever the hell that was this morning.

As usual, he reads my mind. "We'll figure it out. I'm sorry I got so mad at your dad. He's right that we need to look at all our options."

I hug him, truly happy. I'm still worried, but he seems to be acting more rationally. Looking closely at his face, I realize that he has dark circles under his eyes. "Did you sleep at all last night?"

"Not really. I was thinking about things." He falls silent.

I hate it when he doesn't tell me what's going on, and I think there's a lot he's not telling me. We walk through the parking lot as the darkness descends.

A car pulls into a parking space, and a woman gets out. She paces by her car, tapping a cigarette pack viciously against her open palm, and then pulling out a cigarette and lighting it with a deep drag.

"Whoa, somebody's having a bad day," Logan mutters.

"Some people smoke because they enjoy it," I reply. "You know?"

"Pfft. She's definitely not smoking because she enjoys it." He pretends to lean down to kiss me, but instead plants a wet raspberry on my neck.

"Stop," I protest. And because I'm nosy, I keep watching the woman as we approach. She seems familiar. Maybe she's one of the casino's frequent flyers, someone I've comped. She's still pacing, checking her watch in between frantic puffs on her cigarette.

It feels good to watch her, to surveil her. To figure out what's going on. It's almost as if the security tour flipped a switch in my brain, and now I'm having a hard time shutting it down.

A man steps out of a car and walks toward her. She drops her cigarette and grinds it out with her shoe as he approaches.

And now I recognize her. It's not someone I've comped. It's Melissa, Stellner's assistant, who'd been so cool and efficient when I'd met her a week ago. Right now, she seems totally rattled.

And the man approaching her? His outfit is dark, and when he turns to Melissa I see the reflection of something shiny at his neck. I can't see his face, and I tug on Logan's arm, urging him toward the couple. "Walk this way, okay?"


"When we get a little closer, I want to look at the guy. Turn me and kiss my neck so I can see him without attracting attention."

"Hah. Kiss you? Well, I never!"

"Shut up and do it."

After five paces, Logan stops me and kisses me on the lips before concentrating on giving me the hickey of a lifetime. Meanwhile, I'm looking at the man. He's grasping Melissa's upper arm, and not gently. I can't hear the words, but I can discern stress in her body posture. The man turns his face a little, and I see the dark, thick eyebrows and slicked back hair above a gold cross. Danny Rosario.

"Okay, let's keep walking now," I whisper. "Pretend you're hot for me. Wandering hands, you know the drill." I set a quick pace, pulling him along toward the main gate as he mauls me. We step outside the parking lot gates and I pull away.

"Um, not that that wasn't fun, but what the hell is going on?"

"That guy. He's bad news. I watched him get tossed out of the casino today. And the woman is Stellner's assistant." I can't keep the excitement out of my voice. I peek around the gate. They're still discussing something very intensely, Rosario's hand still clasping Melissa's arm with a vengeance. And then he twists her arm, her hand flying to her mouth to stifle a scream. He slaps her face hard and she sags against the car. Rosario looks around to see if anyone noticed, and I pull my head back behind the gate.

Logan's right behind me. "What's going on?"

I peak again, and I see Rosario walking toward us. It would be very bad to be caught watching him. "Let's get to the bus bench, hurry up," I whisper tersely. Logan beats me with his long legs, but a few seconds later I'm on his lap and we're making out like teenagers at prom.

Logan whispers in my ear, "He's checking us out. I think he saw you."

"Uh-huh." I run my fingers through Logan's hair and pretend to kiss his neck. "Now what's he doing?"

"He's walking back into the parking lot."

I try to remember what his car looked like. But I'd been focused on Melissa and the security lighting didn't do much to illuminate his car. He probably parked far away from a light on purpose, I thought. "Don't stop. Keep making out."

"Yes, ma'am."

A few moments later, a car exits the casino parking lot at high speed, the tires whining as it turns onto the road. Logan says, "Pretty sure that was him," and I break off kissing him.

"Let's get a cab. I want to tell Dad what I saw. I think Melissa's in trouble. And that means Dad might be in trouble. Stellner's an attractive target. That lowlife might be using Melissa to get to Stellner."


Dad sighs. "Veronica. It's an awfully big leap. What did you really see? Two people having a fight."

I counter, "A known criminal slapping the trusted assistant of one of the richest men in Puerta Plata. I think it's worth a second look. What business would he have with her?"

"What would you have me do?"

I fume. "I don't know. Investigate her. Follow her, run a credit check."

"You can't be positive that it was Melissa. You met her once, and you said it was dark. And you know I don't have access to those kinds of databases anymore."

"You could follow her! Tomorrow, you could ask her what she did the evening before and catch her in a lie."

Dad grimaces. "People are allowed to lie. They're also allowed to have inappropriate relationships with sketchy dudes. Maybe Melissa met this guy in a bar."

"So that means he assaulted her tonight. Call your friend Miguel on the policía and see if she reported it. The guy's name is Danny Rosario. Maybe he even has a record or an outstanding warrant."

"Veronica ... he slapped her. I'm not saying that it's okay, but Melissa might not have wanted to get the cops involved. Especially if she was embarrassed about having a relationship with this creep."

"My instinct says something is going on," I say through gritted teeth. "There was a time when you trusted my instinct."

"That was before we had to be careful to keep our heads down."

"And I'm worried whatever this is will make your job even more dangerous."

Dad stands up and paces around the studio apartment. "How would you suggest that I follow her? I don't have a car."

"Surveil her apartment!"

He rolls his eyes. "Take a cab to her apartment, hide in the bushes and watch her. Right. Melissa probably lives in one of the gated communities, Veronica."

Logan has kept quiet until now. "I think you should listen to Veronica. It felt pretty wrong to me. It felt ... scary. Not just bad boyfriend scary. And Veronica has a good instinct about these things."

He always has the capacity to surprise me. And it surprises Dad too.

Dad says, "All right."

"Jeez, you listen to him," I mutter.

"Veronica, I'm listening to you. I'll call Stellner's chief of security and mention that you saw Melissa in an unusual situation and you were worried about her."


When we get back to the boat, I'm completely wired, jazzed by the security tour and the parking lot incident. The small boat can't contain my nervous energy, so I put on a bathing suit and swim around the boat ten times. Finally, I'm panting with exhaustion and Logan helps to pull me up the swim ladder and wraps me in a towel. I cling to him and he draws me into a tight hug.

"I can't take it anymore," I whisper. "I hate hiding. I don't want to do that job forever, I hate it."

"I know," he replies.

"What are we going to do? I know you don't want to go back."

"We're not going to figure it out tonight. Do you think you're going to be able to sleep? I'm pretty wiped out, and I need to go to bed before I pass out."

I nod. "Yeah, I'm tired too. I think it's going to rain tonight."

"Yeah, the V-berth it is."

We're awakened by the radio. "Panacea, do you read me? Panacea." A series of clicks, and then the message repeats.

Logan strides to the comm station and clicks on the radio microphone. "This is Panacea."

I squint at the clock as I throw on some clothes. 6:30am.

It's Dad. "Randy, can you pick me up at the dock?"

Logan glances at me. We've changed our code words, and now we say 'nice weather we're having' to indicate that all is well. 'I don't know, sometimes I miss snow,' means prepare to run. 'I hear there's a snowstorm up north' means drop everything and go. Logan asks, "Everything's okay? How's the weather?"

"Oh, I'm sorry—the weather is excellent today. See you in a few minutes."

I can't wait the ten minutes it'll take for Logan to ferry Dad to the boat, so I jump in the dinghy too. Logan guns it, making a comical wake with the dinghy as we weave between the moored boats.

Dad has a broad smile. As soon as we leave the dock again, he says, "Guess who's been arrested for conspiracy and attempted kidnapping?"

I gasp. "Rosario?!"

"Yeah. Rafael, Stellner's chief of security, ran Melissa's credit report and was pretty surprised to find that she's completely broke despite a very generous salary. So we paid a visit to Melissa last night. She's got a huge bruise on her cheek and her wrist was sprained. And she'd obviously been crying. After questioning her for hours, she finally admitted that she owes a lot on some gambling debts. Rosario was planning to use Melissa to kidnap Stellner's kids. He'd threatened to kill her if she didn't cooperate. So guess who's a big old hero?" He points his thumb at his chest. "I smell a promotion!"

I clear my throat. "You're getting all the credit?"

Dad chuckles. "Stellner wants us to come for dinner tonight. He'd like to thank my delightful 'daughter-in-law' who was smart enough to put two and two together. And her husband of course." He grabs me around the waist and pulls me into a hug, kissing the top of my head. "Sorry I doubted you, honey."

"Don't let it happen again," I retort.

"She'll be insufferable now," Logan remarks.


I'm wearing a new dress, and Logan splurged on a new tie and dress shirt with a pair of his khakis. Dad looks nice too, and we arrive at Stellner's mansion right on time for dinner.

We're escorted to the dining room, and Stellner toasts me and Dad, his 'heroes.' We make small talk about Dominican and U.S. politics and the weather during a meal of roast beef with new potatoes and asparagus in a creamy garlic sauce. Stellner decants an excellent red wine and it all feels quite unreal, after all these months of tuna casseroles, meatloaf and peanut butter sandwiches. And for dessert, we have a wonderful fruit preserve called casquitos de guayaba served over ice cream.

Dad leans over to me and whispers, "Mr. Stellner's chef is incredible, right?"

I can't even speak with the delectable fruit melting in my mouth.

Stellner seems pleased that we're enjoying the meal. When we've finished, he pats his mouth with his napkin and says, "Let's go out to the veranda."

He leads the way to a stone and wood structure off the back of the house. Exotic plants and torches ring the upholstered seating area. I catch Dad looking at something off to the side with a frown. Turning, I see Rafael, Stellner's chief of security, standing with his arms crossed behind his back. He nods to me, remembering me from when I visited Dad when he'd been hurt in the burglary attempt. I try to catch Dad's eye, but he won't look at me.

Stellner walks to a bar and pours himself a drink, ice and whiskey of some sort. "Anyone else like a drink?" We all shake our heads, and he sits down. We follow his lead. The executive takes a sip of his whiskey before placing it on the table in front of him. Interlacing his fingers together, he says, "So, who are you people really?"

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