Notes Part 2: Spoiler alert: This story is an AU version to "Mutant X" episode, "A Breed Apart" and it takes place after "He's Gone" and "Foundations".
Prologue [Amazon Village, c. 82 AD]
Gabrielle, Bard-Queen of the Amazons, writes...
The four communities, after a period of rebuilding, have never appeared stronger. Cybelle has Althanorian crafts and skills flourishing. Nick has settled matters down within the vampire Community. Dave's experiment with his extraordinary students proceeds at a wondrous pace for both himself and the students. Finally, the Amazons are living in harmony with nature and our neighbors.
However, as is often the case with us, this is only the calm before the storm. As this scroll tells, old hatreds threaten to tear apart what has been so carefully constructed....
Chapter 1 [Genomex]
Lionel Luthor sat in his dark leather chair and surveyed the latest market reports from his investments. Profits were soaring across the board as LuthorCorp gobbled up greater and greater chunks of the corporate landscape. Well almost across the board. The plant in Smallville is down five percent. Lex is doing charity work again. Damn him! No matter how often I tell the boy not to do it, he still ignores me. Blast those friends of his for making him soft with the underlings and more resistant to me! Well soon I'll deal with that situation. Then, Lex, you will listen to me.
Getting up, he walked down to the conference room where several area heads for the GSA awaited him. He smiled and signaled for everyone to sit down around the large meeting table. At least you trained them well, Mason. "Report," he ordered.
One of them, a rather stocky man with dark brown hair, stood up. He said, "Mr. Luthor, we haven't brought in any more new mutants over the last few weeks. Everywhere we turn, Mutant X is one step ahead of us."
"I see," Lionel noted. Mutant X. Yes, the ones who assisted the Duboises in getting Clark Kent out of Smallville. Interesting. Apparently, they're going to be difficult. No matter, I have just the thing to deal with them. "Ladies and gentlemen, I want to meet our new ally." Pushing a button on the chair, he requested, "Mr. Ashlocke, can you come in please?"
The door slid open and Gabriel Ashlocke strutted in, a cocky smile visibly on his face.
The department heads gaped and protested, "Sir."
"Is there a problem?" the administrator asked, not caring about what these underlings thought one way or the other.
Ashlocke savored their discomfort. They deserve to sweat a bit after leaving me in that prison for all of those years.
"Sir, he's a menace!" Sanderson challenged. "Haven't you seen his file?"
The businessman glared at Sanderson. As if I haven't looked into all of the possibilities! Vile slug. "Yes, Sanderson, I have seen his file. That brings up a subject I was going to touch on later, but now seems to be as good a time as any. First, as much as Mr. Eckhart was my friend, I'm not him. As such, I don't believe in wasting valuable resources such as Mr. Ashlocke here. If you want to continue working here, I suggest you get used to that change in our corporate operating policy. Understand?"
Around the table, the air seemed to warm considerably as the heads chaffed at this new directive. They didn't like new mutants because they were trained to hunt down and imprison them as menaces. And this idiot wanted them to work with new mutants openly and as equals? At some point, this head would have to be "instructed" in the proper etiquette of dealing with the anomalies.
Taking the silence as at least unwilling compliance, Lionel continued, "Over the past few weeks, we've been having difficulties detaining new mutants. Therefore, I'm stepping up the pace a bit. If you want to deal with the enemy, you find where his or her weaknesses are, and strike out."
Charles Delay, another operative, asked, "With all due respect, Mr. Luthor, what are you planning? Who are you planning to strike out against? We have several enemies."
"Very perceptive," Lionel complimented before continuing. "In this case, we need to find a common denominator. I suggest we strike at the troublesome professor." Walking over to the whiteboard, he wrote even as he spoke. "That way, we get to everyone in one fell swoop: quick, deadly, and efficient. In war, people, one never attacks an enemy's mind or body. You go after the heart."
Since Ashlocke had heard this plan twenty minutes earlier, he grinned. As long as it pains Adam and his precious team, I don't care.
"In this case, I propose a two-fold assault. Through my sources, I have learned that there will be two big affairs in which the Duboises are involved: a class reunion and a gathering for their long lost niece, Miranda. One of our agents, Adrienne Mitchell, will also be at the former event and has agreed to coordinate the attack there. Meantime, several of our agents will go with Mr. Ashlocke to 'prepare' the other facility for our...little surprise," Lionel continued.
The others squirmed uncomfortably. While they had been branded as such, the GSA didn't consider themselves as terrorists nor did they relish willingly endangering normal people to get at their quarry. But, as Luthor had pointed out, this was war, and perhaps they might need to break a few eggs to make the desired omelet. One way or the other, this was definitely a different tact for them. This would take them further into the public eye than they had already gone.
Additional notes: Spoilers-Mutant X Series Premiere. Also, the incident referred to at the end is from Kidnapped! (An earlier entry in the Dubois Chronicles)
Chapter 2 [New Sanctuary]
Early the next morning, Adam stood in front of the computer screen scanning the progress reports for the members of the Tucson Underground. Across the board, everyone was making noted improvements with their abilities. Their grades were holding steady. Best of all, Dave and Nick had reported no incidents with this group. This is everything we hoped for. Maybe that day has come when new mutants can live side by side with their neighbors. We just need to be vigilant in case the GSA tries something.
Running his fingers over the keyboard, he saved the files for future examination. His watch said that it was 8:30. Just enough time to get a cup of coffee before the group gets here for their session.
"Hey, Adam, how's it looking?" Shalimar inquired, wearing a whimsical smile on her face.
"Reports look great. Thanks. I was just about to hit the kitchen and get some coffee before the others show up. Can you keep an eye on things here for a couple of minutes?"
"Absolutely," she assured him. "There's a pot brewing in the kitchen right now."
He nodded and walked off toward the kitchen. Along the way, he noted how the new facility was shaping up. For the previous two months, he and the others had been putting things back in position, setting up equipment, and arranging the dÈcor. It's finally coming together...our new home. He still dreamt of the GSA's attack. I'm glad we have our friends. Without them, this wouldn't be possible. Helping with our common dream is the least we can do. Glancing at the dry basin area of the fountain, he had hoped that the old facility's plumbing would have accommodated it, but that wasn't the case. Shaking his head, he continued on his way.
Meanwhile, the other three Mutant X members sat in the dining area waiting for the coffee to perk. As with their leader, they awaited the others' arrival.
"How do you think it'll go today?" Brennan asked, allowing his fingers to fidget and shoot off small sparks between them.
"Same as always," Jesse assessed. "We'll put them through some training exercises. Maybe we might get to work with them individually this time. Adam's really protective of them."
"As he was with me and all of you, I'm sure," Emma pointed out. "For many of them, this is the first real experience with their powers. They have to learn how to deal with their abilities. It's not easy."
Her teammates considered this statement. When they had first met her, Emma's psionic talent had surfaced, yet she couldn't really control it. Only after training with them could she harness that ability.
Brennan had honed his elemental abilities in secret, afraid to tell anyone. Eventually, his "edge" and his own troubled adolescence pushed him into a life of petty crime, allowing him to use his ability, but not ingratiating himself to society.
Jesse also needed practice to hold his own molecules together when he phased and massed. As with Emma, Adam's guidance had helped him in this regard. "That's true," he admitted.
"And they are doing well enough," the electrical mutant concurred, getting up to get the coffee pot. "Give me your cups." Bringing the pot over to the table, he poured them each a cup and returned the half-full container to the hot plate. "Hey, how's Dave handling this? He hasn't flared up in a while."
"He's been doing better," she stated. "Stability's the key for him, but he's still fragile."
"Fragile? Him?" Jesse asked. "His file would disagree with you."
"I'm not talking about him like that, Jesse. Rather, think about the balance between him and the Child. If something should happen, normally he can handle it. And he's been getting better in that regard. However, if we face something terrible, I'm worried that he could still flip out," she explained, trembling slightly at the memory of their first meeting in the UMC. The pain and anger...the Other feeds off of them.
"That's why we need to keep an eye on him," Adam pointed out as he fixed himself a cup of coffee and joined them. "We can't expose the students to the Child in that state."
"Several of them have already seen him like that, Adam," she argued. "Mika, Miranda, Clark, and Lana have witnessed the change firsthand. Martin has asked me about it repeatedly. Face it, guys, the Child's a part of Dave whether we like it or not. We have to help them to coexist."
The leader smiled. How far she's come since we first met. I knew she had that inner strength. "She's right. At the right point, I will arrange a way to have Dave trigger the change inside of the dojo. Meantime, let's get the students to that point where they're ready to deal with it. Well, it's almost time to greet everyone. Shall we?"
The three team members followed him out of the kitchen, eager to get started with the day's events. The dream was coming true, but it was still a work in process. As such, it required their attention....
An hour later, Adam stood at his main computer keyboard on the mezzanine overlooking the dojo. Beneath him, the Tucson delegation awaited his next test of their abilities. For most of the morning, he had run the students through a battery of tests, examining their individual capabilities to focus in adverse situations. To their credit, their ability to maintain control had improved tremendously from their first workouts. Of course, that comes from having used their abilities before. Still, one never knows what they will have to face.
The teamwork between the students pleased everyone most of all. In one test, the shape shifters fought holograms in their animal forms with Mika coordinating the efforts. While the students' technique needed work, their effort was extraordinary, and they helped each other through the conflict, leaving the prefab agents in the dust. In another snap exam, Sebastian used his elemental control over water to create an icy prison for his attackers out of thin air. In the day's final test, Lana used her psionic abilities to tip Clark off to the imminent danger coming their way. While she needed to develop some fighting ability of her own, the brunette proved her worth as a member of the team.
Likewise, Dave and Steve had been equally as impressed by their young friends. In just three months, they had mastered the basics of their new lives. With the threat of the GSA looming out there, these kids needed to be ready.
I'm glad I assigned those group projects in the World Civ. class and asked Eve to do the same thing, Dave mused. The kids trust each other and know how to stick together as a team. I'm really proud of them all.
"Okay, one more test, guys," Adam announced, a grin forming on his face. "Students' revenge."
"Students' revenge?" Samantha responded curiously.
"Yes. Your professor gets to try his luck against the agents in the dojo without his powers," the team leader continued.
"Without my powers, huh?" the medievalist asked, shooting the test administrator a curious look.
"Is there an echo in here?" Brennan cracked.
Dave shrugged. "Do I get some help?"
"One person. Damper situation," Adam stipulated.
"Fine," Dave agreed. "Steve, you're looking a little flabby there, Chief. Let's go."
"Me?" the agent doubted. "Oh no! I didn't sign up to get my butt kicked this morning."
"Think of it as the academy all over again," his friend told him.
That's what I'm afraid of. "You owe me dinner for this."
"Put it on my tab, Big Shot. Let's go," Dave cracked, grabbing his bow and quiver.
"Where's Singleton when we need him?" Steve groused, priming his two .357 Magnums.
Angie approached Adam, wondering, "What's the point? They've done this before."
"I know," the former geneticist replied. "A little practice never hurts anyone. Besides, it shows the students what happens if the GSA's equipment blocks the use of their powers." Seeing the duo standing in position, he asked, "Ready?"
"As we'll ever be," Steve conceded, looking around them anxiously.
Adam flipped a switch on his console.
Around the two men, the backdrop blurred and reformed around them. They were in a large echoing room with only one door leading outside. Massive wooden crates ate up some of the space.
"Is this it?" the agent wondered.
"Knowing Adam, I'd say no," his friend advised. "Stay on your toes."
As if on cue, fifteen agents seemed to come out of the walls surrounding them. The suits were all well built, carrying a variety of hardware.
"Crap! He's twisted!" Steve protested.
"Told ya. Hey, life sucks," Dave grinned.
[Within his head, the Child offered, "Lemme at 'em. Ah wanna kick some ass!"]
["Let me take first shift, okay? I want to see what I can do," Dave told him.]
[The Dark One snickered. "Fine. Just call an' Ah'll be ready."]
"Uh, Dave?" Steve cut in. "We're in a fight, remember?"
"Yeah, tell me something I don't know!" The professor ducked beneath one agent's blow, allowing it to crease the air above his head before delivering a right hook to the assailant's chin.
As that one fell, another charged him, dropping his shoulder, and ramming him into the crates.
Crap. That hurt. Sonnuva... Blocking the next blow with his forearm, Dave twisted the second's arm behind his back and smacked him between the eyes.
Meantime, a third and fourth zapped him from behind with electro probes.
Wussies, Dave noted, dropping to the floor in a "possum maneuver". Although the voltage stung him, it wasn't enough to bring him down, but it did serve to tick him off. As the two agents swung their probes again, he rolled out of the way, grabbed their forearms, and forced them to shock each other into unconsciousness. "Hey, Steve, how're ya doing?"
"Oh, you know me," the agent cracked, elbowing one attacker in the face while kicking another in the solar plexus. I'm at three. And you?"
"Four," the professor reported, a mischievous smile on his face as he heard another enemy try to sneak up on him. Idiot. The floorboards squeak so loudly that I can hear you coming from a mile away. Whirling, his foot connected with the agent's shoulder, stunning the man, but not knocking him down. Oh, tough guy, huh?
For five minutes, the two opponents exchanged blows, neither one gaining the advantage.
"Dave, quit screwing around!" Steve complained.
Spoilsport. He's right though. Time to deal with these asswipes. Reaching into his pocket, he produced an orange ball and pulled the pin. "Steve!"
The agent saw what he was doing. About damn time! Ducking into the corner, he took a deep breath.
Seeing that, Dave threw the weapon into the air. As it exploded, it showered the room with a thick, cloying gas, knocking out the remaining agents. Nightie night.
At that point, the air shifted around them and the Sanctuary blurred its way back into view. They could see the students staring in awe at them.
Adam looked at his readouts and stated, "Eight minutes. You need to get faster."
"Hrumph," Steve said under his breath. "Surprise test and we need to get faster. Geez." He poured himself some Gatorade and took a couple of gulps from it.
"You could be dead if that were real," the leader protested.
"Adam, we've done that for real before. Still, practice is always good," Dave surmised, toweling off his face.
"You betcha," his wife concurred. "I don't want any of us ending up dead."
"The Turkish guys were tougher," Steve pointed out.
"And the Mexican guys were as well." Dave shrugged. "Mika, you know the big brown bear in your room?"
"You mean the world's biggest teddy with the patch in its middle?" Samantha cracked.
"Samantha!" Mika protested. "The bear was my mom's."
"There's a story behind that patch, Samantha," the professor continued. "The bear was a gift from me to Mika's mother. Well, one day while she was playing with it, I guess several gangsters broke into your house. They took it, stuffed a bomb into it, and left it as a housewarming gift for me at the library. It blew a hole right in the side of the building."
"Where were you during all of this, Auntie Angie?" Miri wondered.
"The goons kidnapped me. They took me to Belgrade, thinking that your uncle and Steve wouldn't find us. But they did," the oncologist related, a smile coming to her face. "They disguised themselves as a Bedouin and a rabbi."
"I was going harem shopping," Dave teased, grinning at his wife.
"Yeah. And you nearly blew it," Steve interjected.
"Hey, it was your gun that set the detector off. Anyhow, we had to fight our way out. You should've seen Guisanto's face when I blew open the door with my touch," Dave continued, chuckling as he produced one of his incendiary arrows.
"Wait a minute!" Mika recalled. "In my parents' room, there's a picture of them with you, Auntie, and two Middle Eastern guys. You mean that's..." She gaped.
"Guilty as charged." Angie giggled. "My sultan, the ham."
Jesse rushed up to the keyboard and accessed Dave's file. Locating the Belgrade incident, he scanned the file from the account. "It's here, Adam."
"I don't doubt it," the leader indicated, smiling in admiration at the account.
"You're kidding," Shalimar exclaimed. "They really did that?"
Emma glanced at the account over her teammate's shoulder and indicated, "It's all here, guys. If you want to take a look."
The students took another look at their professor. While he had never used his powers in front of them at the university, several knew he had been in his share of fights. That fact confirmed it.
Dave looked at Angie again with concern as he recalled those events. How close I came to losing her. After everything we had been through, I could have lost her. Never mind that the bomb in the library could've killed me. Adam's right. We can't afford to get sloppy. The price is way too high. Looking at Miri, Clark, and Lana, he recalled how the GSA had nearly taken them as well. No, we have to be vigilant.
The doctor made her way to her husband's side and assured him. "It's okay, Dave. We're both all right. We'll survive and keep moving forward. Both ourselves and our friends will make sure of it, okay?" She hugged him tightly. Gosh, I love him for feeling like that though.
"On that note, I think some lunch is in order," Adam broke in, changing the subject. "Let's get something in the kitchen."
With that, the group left the practice facility heading for the kitchen and a well-deserved meal. What they couldn't have known was how prophetic those last words would be for them all.
Two days later, Dave sat in his office, checking his date planner. I can't believe it's already November! Where does the time go? Even as he thought about the question, he already knew the answer. Between grading papers, working with his new students and everything else, the months had sped by. Soon, it'll be Thanksgiving. At least we'll get to spend it with the families this year. He smiled at the thought of spending the holiday with his in-laws, not to mention the Alvarezes and certain select members of his own family.
I'm glad that Mama and Papa B. agreed to host Miri's party. It's always so scenic up in Wabash, he mused, taking a sip from his tea. And that follows the class reunion that afternoon. By that time, we'll be ready for some celebrating.
Hearing a knock at the door, he called, "Yes? Come in."
Steve stuck his head in. "Hey, Dave, what's going on?"
"Oh, just prepping for the class reunion and the Miri's party," the professor replied, scribbling notes in his book.
"Yeah, it's coming up fast, isn't it? Speaking for myself, it'll be great to see everyone again. Natalie's really looking forward to going with us."
"That's nice," the professor concurred, taking another sip of his tea. "I'm sure she'll enjoy herself there. Besides, Angie's folks will finally get to meet her."
"Too bad we missed the fight with Divia and Hope," Steve sassed, taking a seat. "I was still dealing with Ares, Alti, and those Roman soldiers around the library."
The medievalist chuckled. "The big bad agent can't handle a little excitement. Spare me."
"Yeah, like that book by your computer is knock' em-out stuff," Steve shot back, grinning as he looked around the room.
"Actually, this tome has some stuff about Nick in it," the other deadpanned, logging into his computer.
"I'm serious. This is an account of the fall of Acre. Nick was there," Dave maintained, opening the book and flipping pages. Placing the text before his friend, he continued, "Middle of the page."
The agent strained his eyes trying to scan the Latin mess in front of him. I wonder if he knows how illegible this crap is. Man, no wonder he was always cloistered like a monk in school. "So, where?"
"Nicolas, milites Francorum et Christi," Dave said, still typing away on the computer.
Sonnuva...there he is! "So you can tell that from this piece? Interesting," Steve conceded.
"Tony always said that the original language told the story. You always lose part of it in the translation," Dave theorized, hitting the enter key and saving his work.
"If you say so. Better you than me. Were those accounts in Orleans like this?"
The professor smirked. More challenging. "Worse, they were in the scribe's hand. That text is printed at least."
The agent took a deep breath and put the book back on his friend's desk. Better you than me. "Do we have an itinerary yet?"
"For next week?"
"No, for our trip to Pago Pago. Of course I mean next week, Knucklehead," Steve chided with a bit of mirth in his voice.
The professor smiled at him. "Angie spoke to her folks yesterday. With Francesca, the Alvarezes, my mom, Cybelle, Deirdre, and Miri to help set up, everything should be fine. Miri also wanted Chloe to come. Meantime, we're going to Amherst for the reunion."
"Ah. I see. So, will I have time to give Nat the tour?"
"I don't see why not. Personally, I was hoping to drop in on the Cappuccino Express anyhow," Dave noted, taking another sip of his tea.
Figures. Just as with our friends from Smallville and their ties to the Talon, he can't resist his mochas. "Great. I'll let Natalie know." Then, he remembered the other element of the puzzle and a frown creased his features.
"Now what?" Dave wondered. "Steve, what is it?"
The other leaned against the bookshelf, chiding himself. Damn, I slipped. "I didn't want to bring it up."
"Bring what up?"
"What about the GSA?"
"What about them?" Dave asked. "They've been too quiet since Eckhart's death for my taste, but there's been no activity that Adam or the others can tell. Besides, Steve, we have to live our lives and deal with things as they come up."
Spoken like a true guerrilla fighter. "Can't let them stop us, huh?" the agent inquired.
"Nope. If we stop living, then they win. Period. Let's not worry about it, okay? Hey, it's not like I'm not planning for something anyhow. Karen, Angie, Garth, you and I will be at the reunion. Cybelle, Francesca, Deirdre, Miri and I believe Clark and Lana will be at my in-laws. Besides, Dee-Dee or Cybelle can bring help one way or the other if needed." Dave explained.
"You always have a plan," Steve stated with relief.
You'd be a fool not to have one. Still, he's right. The GSA could strike at us while we're away from here. It would be the perfect opportunity. "I'm going to get a hold of Frank as well. We'll need to whip up a couple of those blocker devices in case the Suits show up. Does the Bureau have any info on Genomex?"
"None. If they're planning something, they're keeping an airtight seal on it," Steve commented.
That's what I was afraid of. "We'll just need to be extra careful especially with Lionel Luthor running things up there," Dave added.
Since when? "When did you hear about this, Dave? You know this could affect my case!" the agent exclaimed, pacing about the room.
"Since Lex told Angie and me up at Cornell. Adam knows about it." Man, Dubois, you really screwed up in not telling him. Damn! "I don't suppose there's anything else that I should know, is there?"
"There is, actually. Dave, just before you folks came back from Smallville, Eckhart's body vanished from the morgue. The lock on the freezer door was shredded," Steve started. Seeing his friend about to comment, he put his hands up. "Wait. It gets better. Nick told Natalie that he was brought across by Ali."
"Ali...as in the Enforcer? The master of Dijon? The scum that wants us all dead? That Ali? Oh, this just keeps getting better and better. Well, we'd best be prepared for something on all fronts. We need to talk with Nick and the others before we leave. For now, let's get some lunch and try to cool off, okay?"
"Your treat this time," the agent reminded him.
"Ah, yes. You're still sore about trudging through the sewer, aren't you?" Dave jabbed playfully. "C'mon, let's go."
The agent would have retorted
with something equally as comical, but his mind had too many things spinning
around in it. As much as I hate to admit it, Dave's right. We'll need to
be ready for anything. Anything at all.
While her friends were planning for their trip back East, Chloe typed madly away on the computer. She had an eight page paper due for her World Civ. Class, not to mention a last minute article for the school paper. Mandy, you're really cool, but you owe me on this one. She really hated being here while her classmates were out at the pre-Thanksgiving mixer. Not that she cared that much about football or the jocks that played it, but she wanted to be somewhat socially accepted. If I keep missing these events, nobody's going to want to hang out with me. She looked at the floral display on her bureau. The flowers had just arrived that morning straight from Lex's private florist. How considerate of him. She smiled warmly, recalling how he had come to visit her about three weeks earlier. And what a wonderful visit it was!
As if on cue, the phone rang. Who? "Hello?" she answered.
The voice on the other end chuckled warmly, asking, "Hey, if I needed an expose for the Ledger, where can I find a reporter to write it?"
Nice timing. "That depends. If you want an honest, slam to the gut piece, I know a certain blonde who would be happy to do it," she teased.
"If I want that, I could go to the Inquisitor," the other cracked. "Can't I entice the reporter with anything?"
What does he think I am? She mused over his words even though she knew he was kidding. "I don't know, Lex. I'm a sucker for visits...and romance. Of course, you understand that I have to report the truth."
She never changes. "Of course, Chloe. I wouldn't expect any less from you. How go the assignments?"
"This article for the school paper will be done tonight. Then, I have the paper for the World Civilizations class that's due on Wednesday. I'll have that done tomorrow," she sighed.
"That's another thing I like about you, Ms. Sullivan, you don't procrastinate," he complimented. "By the way, wasn't that the class that Professor Dubois spoke to?"
"You mean with the Bluto triplets? Yeah, it was. Both Professor Miramoto and he have helped me a lot," she replied.
'Bluto triplets'. Hah! Leave it to her to stand on her tiptoes and spit in their eyes! "I'm sure. Hey, I'm going to be in your neck of the woods again next week. You want to go out again?"
Darn. I would love to, but Miri's party is at that point. "I...can't, Lex. I promised Miranda that I'd be at her party in Wabash."
"Well, I got invited too and that's where I'm heading. I need a date, if you're interested?" he offered.
"I'll have to check my calendar to see if it's free," she jabbed.
"Do that," he chuckled. "I'll check my dance card as well."
"Just meet me up there, okay?" she requested. "Granted, there will be plenty of people to talk to, but...well...I have a confession to make...it wouldn't be the same without you."
He shook his head as he felt his heart pitter-patter a bit. Nothing's going to keep me from there. Nothing. "Thank you, Chloe, I really appreciate that. Besides, I can't miss Miranda's big moment, can I? By the way, did the flowers get there?"
"They're beautiful, Lex. Thank you. You shouldn't have gone to so much trouble," she expressed.
"It wasn't any trouble, Chloe. My florist thought you'd like them. Besides, the blue bells match the color of your eyes," he assured her. "Well, my Dad's got a meeting in just a bit so I need to get going. I'll see you at the Blackwell farm in a week."
"I'll keep busy until then," she cracked. "I love you."
"And I you," he concluded, hanging up the phone. It's going to be a long week considering how much I have to put up with my father. Oh well, might as well see what the old bastard wants. Getting up from his desk, he left the office determined to make it through the intervening period or die trying in the process.