The Path to Power
Chapter Twenty One
After changing into a casual halter style sundress for the dinner out on the patio. Skye examines the champagne flute that Coleman hands her. "What is this?"
"A little concoction of my own creation." Coleman says polishing his nails dramatically on his open necked shirt. "It's passion orange on ice with a splash of tonic water for bite."
Skye takes a slow sip after sniffing the offered beverage. She frowns but then nods. "It's different."
"Different good, different bad?" Coleman ask.
"I like it."
Checking the coals, Coleman decides they are about right and reverently pulls out the well marbled steaks that had been marinating from the time he'd left Skye in the park. The aroma of cooking meat soon fills the air. Because the steaks are so thick it's going to take awhile. Coleman gets comfortable against the railing. "So how did that doctor's appointment go?"
"I'm fine." Coleman gives her a long look questioning her answer. Skye repeats more emphatically. "I'm fine. Liver, kidney, no sign of ulcer-- all of the things I so totally deserve about now. Five years from now..." Skye shrugs.
Cole shrugs too. "Who the hell knows what is going to happen five years from now. Come here." He holds out his hand to Skye. she takes his hand and allows him to pull her close. She sets the champagne flute on the railing of the deck. Coleman wraps both arms around Skye but leaves plenty of room between the two of them. Skye would narrow the gap when she felt like it. When everything that they did was her idea, or mostly her idea it made his life less complicated. "So we have something to celebrate."
"Am I interrupting?" Jax says coldly from the path to the front door.
Skye takes a step back breaking the connection between her and Coleman.
Cole sighs. "Yeah, actually you are." He looks at Skye and shakes his head. "Babe, why don't you light some of those citronellas it's started to get dark around here and bringing out the bloodsuckers. I'm sure there is something I could be getting from the kitchen."
"Thanks, Cole." Skye says softly. She waits until the door shuts before answering Jax. "What are you doing here?"
"I want to know about this." Jax holds up a check.
"It's the money for my attorney costs. You don't have to pay my bills, Jax. We're divorced. And even when we were married, money was never one of our problems... you being in love with your ex was.
"Don't bring Brenda into this! Our marriage broke up because of your lies!"
Deep Breath. Count to ten. Take a sip of the juice. Deep breath. Just get rid of him. Not worth it. How many times we going to have this scene? Just get rid of him. Skye sets the champagne flute back down. "Yes. It did. I lied to you. I deceived you. I was a horrible, weak, pitiful, pathetic, needy creature who would do anything to stand by her man. I did it. I did it all. So why the hell are you here?! You got what you wanted. You're free of me so why do you keep coming around?"
"I thought you'd quit drinking?" Jax refers to the flute.
"Okay that's enough." Cole comes out slamming the screen door as he does. "You're trespassing; the lady wants you gone."
"What are you doing with this guy?! He's not fit to shine your shoes!" Jax protests. "Really Skye-- this self destructive behavior. You have to pull yourself out of this before..." he shakes his head.
"Jax, we're divorced. Maybe you need to talk to Dara and find out exactly what that means. You don't get a say in what I do and who I do it with. Why are you acting like the dumpee rather than the dumper? You called it quits. You started the divorce. I know you have more experience with fake marriages and dead wives but you have to get how... creepy this is. I know this is a tough one and it took me awhile to figure it out but I don't need you anymore. I'm doing just fine without you."
"Leave before I call the cops." Cole reaches for the cordless phone.
"This isn't over, Skye."
"Yes, it is. That is what Divorce means." Skye watches as Jax turns and stalks away back up to where he'd parked his car. Skye takes a deep shuddering breath. "Sorry."
"You can't help being the luscious sweet strawberry just out of his reach."
"Excuse me?!" Skye turns around with a laugh to face Cole.
"They write songs about it. Don't know what you've got until it's gone..."
Skye laughs again and moves to Coleman's side. She wraps her arms around his neck. His hands go down to her hips resting easily there. "You're sweet. But don't ever sing again."
"You don't like my singing?" Cole nuzzles her neck and nibbles on her earlobe.
From a distance, Jax hears the laughter and turns around in time to see Skye and Coleman standing there wrapped in each other's arms. With a growl he pulls out his cell phone and calls the Quartermaine mansion. "Alan Quartermaine please." As soon as Alan comes on the phone Jax informs him that Skye is in trouble and needs his assistance. That she is drinking again and associating with men that will do nothing for her self esteem and will probably give her a disease. Then he hangs up the phone and waits.
"You were a little rough on Dillon." Ned says from his side of the bed where he is reclining.
"He was eavesdropping on a private conversation." Faith comes out of the bathroom switching the light off after her. Although it is still light outside, She and Ned are already dressed for bed even if the plan didn't include much sleeping. Faith sighs. "You remember when you'd shove me up against a wall and bang away like a sailor after a six month cruise? That spot down on the elm street pier..." Faith smiles nostalgically at the memory. "And now this. Early to bed, early to rise. Don't make too much noise might wake the baby. Next thing you'll want to go missionary position only while watching the Leno monologue... over before the Leno monologue. Marriage sucks."
Ned laughs but decides to play along. "Come here; I don't have too much time. I still have to pickup some lunch before heading back to the office."
"ohh. A nooner I like." Faith hangs back from the bed but runs a hand down the front of her skimpy garment. "I think your wife is getting suspicious. I think she's having us followed."
"Aw she doesn't understand me. Not like you, baby."
"I think she understands you perfectly that's why she's having you followed." Faith says with a laugh. "Didn't you meet her while she was taking dic... tation."
"Yeah, and ever since we got married, dic...tation has gone out the window."
"Is little Nedly feeling lonely? Does he want to come out and play." Faith reaches down inside Ned's pajama bottoms, sliding them down his trim hips. Why the man bothered to wear anything to bed was a mystery to her. The only thing Ned needed to be wearing in bed was her.
Ned winces. "Hey lay off the little Nedly comments or this isn't going to go far." Faith giggles at that one and leans in to whisper naughty things in Ned's ear that has him ready to spring into action. With a growl he grabs Faith and pulls her roughly across him positioning her above him. Faith bites down into his shoulder as Ned slams her onto him. Ned grunts at the pain of the bite and grabs Faith by the hair at the back of her head peeling her from him. Faith practically purrs as she tightens around him and Ned's grasp eases on her hair and tightens on her hips urging her forward and faster.
Bruno does the introductions to the two other guys that are in the common area of the bunkhouse. "This is Dillon, Ned's brother."
"Figured it would be safer down here than at the house." One of the wiseguys nods. "And you're right cept for the whole new guy cleans the bathroom rule."
Bruno warns. "He ain't no flower but just remember if you mess with the kid you're going to be having a conversation with Faith."
Dylan winces. Great blow the chances of making friends here. He decides to gut it out. "Yeah, she'll probably pin a medal on you."
"Faith doesn't like surprises." Bruno tells Dylan. "You were a surprise."
The other guys nod emphatically. "No surprises. Unless she is giving them. She's okay with that."
"Come on. I'll show ya where to plant your stuff." Bruno goes walking down the hallway. "This is the bathroom. We keep the first aid supplies in there too." They continue on. "This is the library."
"The library?" Dylan looks at Bruno in disbelief.
Bruno walks into the small room one wall is lined with shelves loaded with DVDs. "Yeah, Got all the latest here. Matrix reloaded, Italian Job. That was a great movie. Not as good as the original of course but lots of action. Pretty good caper."
"But this is still out in the theater. You aren't supposed to have this."
"Faith always gets the first run movies. She knows people."
"At the studio?"
"Nah, at the theater."
"That's illegal." Dylan informs Bruno.
Bruno shrugs and laughs. "Yeah, like you've never downloaded music off a computer before." Bruno walks back out of the library, Dylan follows him but grabs the Italian Job from the shelf as he does so. "This is your room.
"It's a stall."
"It used to be a stall. The guy who lived here before-- this was all a stable. But, you know, put in some real doors and windows, drop in a floor, use up a lot of lysol... it starts getting real homey. Besides I was here first so I got dibs on what used to be the hayloft."
"Why would you want to convert a stable..."
"Cause it was more comfortable then leaving it a stable. That main living area-- that used to be the tack room. It was in the best shape. And there was already a bathroom there. But then Faith wanted 24 hour security going. Needed to have guys round the clock. That takes some doing, ya know? But all of Roscoe's guys came up thru the trades. Not that they actually did them but, you know..."
"They know people."
"Exactly." Bruno cracks a proud grin and gives Dillon a pat on the back that sets him rocking on his heels. The kid is catching on. "I'll let you get settled. Don't stay up all night. I figure as soon as Ned is at work tomorrow you and Faith are gonna get better acquainted."
Skye brings out all the fixings to dress up the baked potatoes. Coleman is convinced that his steaks are so juicy and tender and so perfectly done that anything as mundane as steak sauce would be a sacrilege. And the very last thing that Coleman had done before pulling the steaks off was to grill a few veggies: some asparagus, peppers and squash. "Everything looks amazing." Skye compliments. "You are a man of hidden talents."
"Nah, just something about you brings out the caveman in me." Cole brings over the last of the dinner from the grill and covers it so that the coals will go out. Setting the platter on the middle of the table on the front patio, he comes around to seat Skye before dragging his chair and place setting next to her and taking his own seat.
They are just serving up the dinner when Alan walks up the path to the lake house.
"Oh he didn't." Skye mutters.
"Jax called my father. I cannot believe this."
"Maybe the guy just stopped by."
"He never has before."
"How do you want to handle it?" Cole asks.
"How should I know?" Skye's smile is forced. "Father, what brings you out here?"
"I didn't know you'd be having dinner." Alan hesitates before walking up the stairs to the deck. He'd been preparing himself since the call from Jax to walk into a drunken orgy.
"Jax didn't tell you that part?"
"Skye." Cole says warningly. He rises to his feet and extends his hand to Alan. "Cole Radcliffe. We met at the trial and then for that shindig at your place around the holidays."
"Yes, of course." Alan nods as he shakes Cole's hand. "You and Skye were doing some business deal..."
"Actually I was blackmailing your son after he burned down my club. But then I met Skye..." Coleman looks down at Skye who is biting her tongue.
Alan winces and drops the handshake. "Really."
"Blackmail is such a harsh word, Cole. Father, think of it as a civil compromise. It'll make you feel better."
"Stalking Courtney for AJ?" Cole offers helpfully.
"Cole, you are really not helping. Why don't you get my father a drink, exactly what I'm having. In fact I think I need another."
As soon as Coleman goes into the lakehouse. "Skye, I really think you should come back to the house with me. Living out here on your own really is not safe. Not a good idea."
Skye hands Alan the last of the her drink in the champagne flute. "Try it."
"Neither do I. Try it." Skye demands.
Alan takes a hesitant sip and then frowns. "What is this?"
"Passion Orange with a splash of tonic water. Because Cole thinks I'll get sick of bottled water with a slice of lime and I'm really not the cola type."
"It looks like a mimosa."
Coleman comes out carrying two more champagne flutes on a plate. "Presentation is everything. Are you staying for dinner? We made plenty."
"I really shouldn't." Alan takes one of the flutes.
"I figure you got some things to say. You're going to say them. You might as well be eating cause I'm not going to let this get cold."
"You're sure?" Alan pulls up a chair across from Coleman's and on the other side of Skye.
Coleman takes Skye's drink off the plate and hands Alan the plate. "I'm sure."
Jax watches from a distance as Alan sits down at the table with Coleman and Skye.
The next morning, Faith lets herself into Dillon's room. She starts sorting thru his clothing and rolls her eyes. Looks like Ned wasn't the only one that needed a wardrobe.
"What do you think your doing?" Dillon demands from making sure that he's covered. Mornings play havoc on all guys but especially the young ones.
"Do you drive?"
"Meet me up at the cottage in twenty minutes. Do you drink coffee?"
"Don't keep me waiting." Faith walks out of the room.
"What the hell?" Dillon mutters but rolls out of bed. Twenty minutes. He grabs come clothes and his toiletries. and heads to the shower. If she asked about coffee she must be planning on making sure he had some.
Eighteen minutes later, Dillon is walking in the back door of the cottage. He is greeted with the aroma of fresh brewed coffee. He starts opening cupboards looking for a cup and as soon as he has doctored the brew to his liking he collapses into a chair in the breakfast nook. Bruno had told him to not stay up to late but he'd gotten hooked into a movie and hadn't fallen asleep until like 2am. Coffee was a must.
Faith comes back into the kitchen already wearing her coat and carrying her purse. "Bruno has errands today. You're with me."
Faith grabs the coffee from Dillon searches the cupboards until she finds a travel mug and transfers his brew while handing him the keys to the Lincoln town car. "Here."
"I don't know if this is such a good idea." Dillon sees the word Lincoln on the key ring and remembers the car that Faith had pulled in the day before. It was a freaking land yacht. The next thing to a limo.
"Can you hit what you're aiming at from a moving vehicle?"
"There is a reason they call it shotgun. You drive. We've got a lot to get done before meeting Alice and the baby in the park just before noon." Faith starts walking toward the door and Dillon scrambles to keep up with her. Ever the gentleman, he gets the passenger door for her and then goes around. It takes him a few to figure out where every thing is and to get the seat situation where he is comfortable since Bruno was the last one driving the car.
"What could possibly be open this early?" Dillon finally asks.
"First stop shooting range." Faith gives Dillon directions and they are soon at the back door to the shooting range. Faith knocks on the door and waits patiently for it to be open.
"Faith. Babe! I'm sorry about Fowler. He was a damn good customer; Can't believe someone got the drop on him." The proprietor shakes his head and changes to a more cheerful subject. "Hear you got married." The guy holds Faith's hands away from her so he can get a look at the whole package. "Still looking good. So is this your new mister?" He gives Dillon a grin and a wink.
"My husband's little brother, Dillon, so yeah, I guess that makes him mine." Faith shrugs. "He's going to be hanging with the guys for the summer. Dillon, this is Sam. Sam, this is Dillon."
"Ah." The man says with a nod. "You got one?"
"I have to talk to Ned first but I at least need to know he's not going to do anything stupid like shoot a toe off."
"What did you have in mind?"
Faith brings out a case and opens it in the direction of the proprietor. "This. Not like it's being used."
"So that's how. He didn't have his piece on him."
"Yeah." Faith says bitterly. "Believe me I'd like to bring him back to kill him for that piece of stupidity. Bruno took it from his place yesterday. Yesterday was not a good day."
"What is it?" Dillon comes over to look in the case. He was getting the feeling that this little trip wasn't about Faith getting in some target practice. "You don't think that I'm going to..."
"Nothing to it, Kid." Sam tells him. "Three pounds of pressure on the trigger. Any idiot can fire a gun. That's just the problem. And if you're hanging around Faith's guys you're going to be around guns. Best you know which end to point and to be able to hit what you're aiming at."
"I couldn't to it. I mean I'm no killer."
"It's a paper target." Faith sighs. "Once again proof of why I am riding shotgun and you are driving. Shoot or don't shoot I don't care." Faith moves down the row to the furthest spot and sets up her target. The sound of the gun report would echo in here and make a person deaf in no time so she puts on the ear protectors and pulls her 9mm out of her purse. She drops the purse to the floor and takes up a stance. Not rapidly but steadily she puts the bullets thru the target. Too many of the thugs these days are wearing the Kevlar so she goes for the head shot on the target.
"Faith shoots as therapy." Sam informs Dillon. "And losing Fowler... she might go thru a couple of boxes. Why don't I show you how to break this puppy down. Even if you never fire a pistol... you need to know how to handle one safely." Sam starts walking Dillon thru Fowler's handgun showing exactly where the safety is, how the clip works, how to ratchet the slide to get the bullet out of the chamber. As soon as the glock is unloaded Sam starts going thru the procedure for cleaning the gun all the while walking Dillon thru it. Dillon pays attention but is distracted by Faith's almost continuous firing from the end of the line. There are only pauses to reload or to change the distance to the target. "You sure you don't wanna..." Sam tempts. "Need to get this gun dirty again so you can clean it."
"You sure it would be okay?" Dillon asks curiously picking up the glock.
"Come on over here. Let me set ya up." Sam places his hand over Dillon's to ensure that the pistol is pointing to the floor. "Never point a gun at anybody you ain't trying to take out. There is no such thing as an unloaded pistol."
"But you just... I saw you. It is unloaded."
"Yep, this time." Sam rolls up his sleeve and points to a puckered scar that goes thru the meat on the side of his arm. "Damn lucky it was just one of those .22s. Was at a gun show and some idiot thought he'd be cute and put a bullet in one of the guns. Next idiot that picked it up decided to give it a squeeze figuring that all the guns would be unloaded. I'm damn lucky it wasn't one of these." Sam refers to the glock with an affectionate pat. "Could have lost my arm up to the elbow. Same problem with cars and guns. There is always some idiot with something bigger than he can handle. And it's up to the rest of us to not just drive but to live defensively."
"What happened to the guy that shot you?" Dillon asks curiously.
"Kicked his ass." Sam shrugs. "That's the other piece. TV and movies make you think you shoot someone and they'll fall down. Not the way it works. Very few people are that good with a firearm to take someone out with one shot. You fall down if you figure you ought. Not when the pain is too much, or you've lost too much blood and go into shock." Sam taps the side of his head. "If you don't mind, it don't matter. Just keep on going."
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