The Path to Power

Chapter Fifty One





Cole has the paper spread out over the bar all the prep/book work is done and the place is dead which isn't a bad thing considering he's pretty much focused on the Editorial page of the Herald. Even though it isn't signed, he can tell by the writing Skye has put in an editorial about the potential stadium. Because the news had broken at the planning commission meeting- normally the most boring meeting in city government, the Herald had scooped the local TV and radio stations who'd had to pick it up off the public access feeds. Freaking embarrassing for a television station to be showing public access feed and not on the six o'clock news but the 11pm. Sure the Herald hadn't reported until today but they had more information and more detail.
The sports page is full of it. Commentary not only from Dara and AJ but also from the coach and the, until recently, hold out rookie sensation who had just signed a long term contract with the team. One of the sports reporters had even managed to get a comment from the mayor.
Skye's editorial had stayed away from sports angle and slammed right into the economic impact-- jobs, Port Charles infrastructure, and Quality of Life. Comparing Port Charles to other cities the same size around the country.
I may not know jack about journalism but I think I know about the stadium now. "Everything but where it's going to be. That's about to be some prime real estate." Cole mutters. The phone rings and reaching over he grabs it. "Jakes."

"You son of a bitch!"

"You're going to have to be more specific. Which SOB are you needing to speak to?"

"You, Coleman Radcliffe."


"Where is my money?"

"I don't what you're talking about." Cole states flatly. He knows exactly what she's talking about and has been expecting this call.

"My money!"

"It's not your money Margery, it's child support. Now if you're ready to get your ass back here and start acting like a Mother...."

"I won't let you force me back, Cole. Where is your brother? HUH?!" Margery's tone is bitter and strident.

"I'm not sending him money either." Cole counters sharply. "Tell you what... why don't you go get the money out of him?"

"You bastard!"

Cole can tell she is about to hang up. "Oh and Margie..." He knows how much she hates being called by that nickname. " get the bright idea of borrowing against the house-- Don't. It's Kyle's."

Busted. "It's my house."

"My blood paid off the mortgage. Which is exactly why it isn't your house, Remember?!" Cole reminds grimly of the paperwork that he'd added as a condition of paying off the house. It seemed like a small thing back then. Nothing that would ever be used but it was saving his ass now and Kyle's too. "It's Kyle's college fund, Margie. You need money? Then get a job or come back to Port Charles. But don't screw the kid over more than you already have."

"Screw the kid over?! What about what he's done to me?! I have put my life on hold since the day I found out I was pregnant! While your brother went merrily on his way!" Margery screeches. "Kyle has been the spawn from hell ever since his father left! Drinking, Drugs and now Internet Porn! This is your brother's fault. Kyle is out of control." Margery's voice takes on a sly threatening tone when she says the last.

"Back it up." Cole snarls. "Take that out of your vocab right now cause if the state gets their hands on Kyle because of something you say or do... they will come after you for child support at minimum. I'll make sure of it. So either get your shit together and start acting like a mother or go find yourself and keep your freaking mouth shut." Then all he hears is a dial tone in his ear. He swears and grabbing a bar rag flings it in the direction of the sink. "Bitch."





Bruno pauses to collect his thoughts and then very carefully starts writing. He'd always been more into reading than writing but hell this needed to be done.

...Never thought this would be the letter I'd be writing. The only letters I'd figured on all start with either-- Things like this never happen to me... or I'm 6'4" and hung like a horse. But I was down in The City on business for my boss and was flipping thru the channels at the hotel bored out of my gourd and came across your show and had to let you know.
Now I don't want to start up any east/west coast gangsta thing but I know somebody who while she'd never put a fish tank in the back seat of a car like you did on your show, knows everything about turning a junkyard clunker into a hotrod that would get the ugliest SOB you know laid. And really isn't that the true test of "pimping" a ride?
Alice would kill me if she knew I'd sent this stuff to you. That's the Somebody that can work magic on a car. Her name is Alice and she works for Ned Ashton, being the nanny for his daughter. You might know Mr. A as Eddie Maine or the head of L&B Records. He was in the music biz until he quit to take over the family business.
Anyway here are some pictures of projects Alice has already finished and the one she is working on now. That one is just the before picture cause she's still working on it. Looks like a piece of crap doesn't it? We all thought she was crazy but there is a huge difference already. And yeah, that's Alice in the picture.
I'm just saying that if you're ever doing an East Coast thing you should look Alice up. She'd be a real fan of your work.


Bruno C

Before Bruno can change his mind he encloses the pictures and seals the envelope that is already addressed to Pimp My Ride care of MTV. He'd mail it when he's in town.





Helena leans in to sniff the fresh flowers that decorate the entryway to the Cassadine Summer House in Port Charles. The flowers were delivered the day before. Ari would have done a better arrangement. Helena thinks critically as she adjusts a few blooms. But there is no use crying over spilled blood. She'd been fond of Ari and made it quick. "Did you make sure that you told the florist no orchids? In this part of the country sudden orders for large amounts of orchids attracts attention we don't desire."

"Of course, Madam." The manservant stands to the side breaking out into a cold sweat wondering of this is the day when he is going to be providing for his family with that overly large insurance policy.

"It's adequate." Helena finally says. She comes over to the manservant and gives him a firm pat on the cheek.

"Thank you, Madam." The manservant releases the breath he'd been holding. "I was able to pick up your correspondence."

"Lovely. I would prefer to be in Europe and handling it directly. But Nikolas needs me here. Even if he doesn't know it yet. And the lab?"

"It's been... closed per your instruction, Madam."

"Excellent." Helena walks away with her correspondence. She'd finally managed to infiltrate the Swiss lawyers that managed the Cassadine Estate. She is receiving copies of everything Nikolas is getting. That had cost a very fine emerald. Now just to find the perfect opportunity... the perfect opening.

The manservant shudders. He can still hear the screams of the scientists in his dreams as the building had gone up in a sudden inferno. But he would live another day... evidently.





Javier leaves his room above Jakes and is heading out to get lunch before resuming his surveillance on Sonny Corinthos.

"I was hoping to run into you today." Cole stops him in his tracks.

"Yes?" Javier asks.

"Been missing you but I wanted to thank you for helping Skye out with her flat. Out in the parking lot?" Cole reminds as if Javier might have been changing more than one flat.

"It was my pleasure." Javier practically purrs.

"You remember how I told you I'd stay out of your business if you stayed out of mine?"

"Claro." Javier nods.

"Skye is my business. Come near her again and we're going to have a problem. Have a nice day." Coleman goes back to polishing one of the highball glasses before putting it away.

Javier shrugs. No point in protesting his innocence. That would only draw attention. While observing Skye Quartermaine is a personal pleasure, Alcazar's more interested in Corinthos, Jacks and Lansing. "You are a lucky man, Coleman. If I have trespassed please accept my apologies." He leaves.

"Trespassed my ass." Coleman mutters. That guy had put the hair up on the back of his neck from the first minute he saw him. And the way the guy had started practically drooling when talking about Skye was enough to put every instinct on red alert. Now he knows for sure that Javier is gone, it's time to take a look around upstairs and find out what the hell this guy's agenda is.





"What the hell is AJ thinking?" Jax slams the paper down on Ned's desk. He'd managed to get past Ned's secretary with a wink and a pearly smile. "No, let me rephrase that. What on earth is the Herald thinking backing any of AJ's schemes?! Haven't they figured out that anything Junior is planning is eventually going to bite Port Charles in the ass?"

"I can't believe I'm saying this." Ned mutters. "Have a seat."

"You can't believe that you're telling me to have a seat?" Jax knows better but still flips it back at Ned as he pulls up a chair across the desk from Ned.

"That too." Ned says wryly. He leans back in the big comfortable leather chair that went along with being president of ELQ. "I guess you haven't heard?"

"Heard what?"

"There has been a change of management at the Herald. Skye owns it now." And while he is waiting for Jax to pull his jaw off the floor, Ned keeps the hits coming. "I'm going to support this stadium proposal too."

"Why?!" Jax finally asks. "Oh I get it. It keeps AJ out of your hair. AJ does his own thing and he's not coming after ELQ. And when it blows up in his face you get the pleasure of the I told you so."

"With Skye out of the family and running the Herald that puts her out of the running too. It's actually going to make dealing with Grandfather easier-- or rather not dealing with him."

"Unless he ropes your Mother... nah that would never happen." Jax snaps his fingers. "Justus! That's who Edward will be going after to unseat you."

"Don't mention that around my wife." Ned says with a shake of his head. He isn't particularly fond of Justus but he doesn't hate him either. "It wouldn't be fair to Justus. Besides Justus knows the score with the old man."

"That he's been kicked out of his own company?"

"Nah, that Edward will turn on him like the scorpion in the old story. So did you come here just because of the front page?"

"Front page, business section, sports page... Skye really bought the Herald?!"

"That's what Faith told me." Ned shrugs. "Don't ask me how Faith found out. But since she wants AJ successful away from ELQ she's probably already looking at logical properties to turn a profit on...." The light dawns. "You too?"

Jax grins. "Don't see why I shouldn't do a quick flip before Junior crashes and burns. I think there is going to be a land rush here in Port Charles. By the way, how do you know that Edward won't come to me to get AJ reinstated as president?"

"Because he knows you'd just be supporting AJ in order to get your grubby paws onto ELQ-- same reason he wouldn't touch my Mother with a ten foot pole."





"What the hell we doing down here, Faith?" Bruno goes cruising along Courtland street. He keeps vigilant. This isn't the part of town where you wanted to let your guard down. Some banger might see the shiny car and get stupid. At least Faith isn't in the Porsche.

"Going into the real estate business." Faith muses. She keeps an eye on the run down tenements as Bruno slowly drives by.

"You figure this is where they are going to put in the stadium?" Bruno looks at some of the boarded up apartment buildings. Mr. A's grandmother had made a start with that park... and that end of Courtland street is looking better but this side is still a place where he is more comfortable with his pistol, safety off. And he sure as hell wasn't going to stop... unless Faith said to.

"Hell no. AJ and the City will probably find some piece of shit neighborhood that is convenient to everything. Level it and build his stadium."

"So why are we here? We going to visit the park?" Bruno says hopefully ready to pull a u-ie and head for the Chloe Morgan Memorial park.

"Where you think all those people whose places are leveled are going to live? Up by the Quartermaines? Over on Charles St.? I don't think so."

"Oh yeah. That makes sense. I don't know, Faith. These are really dumps."

Faith reaches over and pops Bruno in the back of the head. "Think! Between the sudden rise in the need for low income housing... you got that park you like so much down the road. Slap a little paint on them. Double the money before the first brick is even laid for the stadium. Besides we can use some of the fronts for the remodels and do a little laundry at the same time. It'll make Ned's Grandmother happy if she thinks we're playing along with her little project; I make money on the real estate and on the laundry too. Win, win, win."

"And it would really tick off Sonny too. He thinks he owns all this part of town." Bruno suggests helpfully.

Faith smiles even bigger. "That's my Bruno." She croons. "Guess it's a go all the way around." Win, win, win... Win.





School's barely out for the day and he'd rushed across town only making one quick stop. "I did exactly what you said, Uncle Cole. Course they think I'm nuts down at the store now. I used one of their cameras to rewind a roll of film that I exposed and then the other roll I just advanced thru with the lens cap on. What do you need two ruined rolls of film for?"

"The guy who slashed Skye's tire."

"You know who did it?"

"I know who fixed it. Which means I'm pretty sure on who slashed it."

Kyle's eyes narrow. "So what do you need the film for?"

"To replace these." Cole pulls out two rolls of film that are the same brand and number of exposures that Javier had in his room. Probably a good thing that the guy hadn't gone digital. "I need these developed. I want to know how long he's been watching Skye."

"I've got to get to soccer practice but I can drop them off at the one hour place on the way. You can pick them up when you're done."

"Yeah, that'll work." Coleman nods. Cole pulls a ten dollar bill out of his pocket.

"This for the film?" Kyle asks.

"It for the drive thru so you can get something to eat. But you're right." Cole reaches in and grabs some more money. "I do owe you for the film."

Kyle pockets the money. "You going to warn Skye?"

"There is nothing to warn her about... yet. If she's on these..." Cole refers to the rolls of film he'd taken from Javier's room and hands to Kyle. "...then yeah, we're going to have a talk. Kyle?" Cole stops Kyle from leaving.


"We need to talk too."

"About the guy stalking Skye? Sure seems to get stalked a lot-- this guy and before that her ex."

"No, about a call I got from your Mother. She's not back." Cole adds quickly. "I just got a call from her. We can touch base on it tonight when you get off of soccer."

"Is she okay?"

"Pissed at me but what else is new?" Cole shrugs. "Yeah, she's fine. Go to practice... and don't forget the film."

Kyle reluctantly leaves.




"Let me guess... you want me to cook? For the guy who screwed Skye over and then started stalking her? Oh no. Don't worry. I'm fine with it. Bring him on over." Faith shuts her cell phone and hands it back to Bruno.

"Umm Faith..."

"Shut up." Faith complains. "I know. I can't kill him even if I decide that I'm on Skye's side. You really need to find Helena. This being nice crap is cramping my style."

"The fence is getting pictures of everyone who is bringing in high ticket big gems and going to have them messenger'd up to you."

"Oh really?! And is it going to have their address written right on the bottom of the picture?" Faith asks sarcastically. She puts back on the ear protectors and picks up the 9mm from in front of her. She looks down the alley and bringing the firearm up she supports it with her off hand and starts firing. She doesn't stop until the clip is empty. Leaning down she picks up the spare clip and slams it into the pistol. Switching hands she starts working her off hand. The firing is a fraction slower, less automatic, but just as accurate.

Bruno steps back from Faith and just lets her go until her arms get tired. He goes over to Sam and leans on the counter. "Howzit going?"

"Good. Haven't seen much of you guys." Sam slides shut the latest edition of Guns &Ammo.

"Faith's kinda on her honeymoon you know."

"Right." Sam says knowingly. "She was on her honeymoon when she was coming around with the kid-- real regular."

"Well..." Bruno kinda rocks his head from side to side.

"Faith having more problems with Sonny?" The old man asks, concerned about his best girl.

"Nah, no more than normal. This is someone who is actually after Ned's side of the family. So Faith's been staying pretty close to home keeping an eye on the baby and the kid. It's a serious threat. Ned knows it and is leaving everything to Faith." Bruno finally blurts out keeping an eye on Faith to make sure she doesn't catch him spilling the beans.

"Civilians." Sam sneers. "Probably just like Dillon was at the start. Wouldn't know which way to point a firearm. They're lucky to have her looking out for them."

"Right." Bruno nods. "Ned knows enough to not play where the kids are concerned." Bruno sees Faith is done firing and putting everything away and falls silent. He doesn't like the look in her eye. Faith might not be able to kill anyone right now but that didn't mean she couldn't make mischief.

Faith reaches into Bruno's inside pocket and grabs the cell phone. She dials a familiar number from back in the day when she and Ned were doing nooners on a regular basis and then asks for a room number. "Mother Quartermaine? It's Faith. Ned is having a small dinner party this evening. I was wondering if you wanted to come over to even up the numbers? It'll just be Ned and me and then Ned's friend Jax? Do you know Jax? Is seven good for you?"

Bruno is just shaking his head when he takes the phone back. "That's just plain evil, Faith."

"Nah. Evil would be inviting Skye and Cole over." She starts reaching for the phone again.

Bruno takes a step back and quickly stuffs the phone back in his pocket and then covers it up with his hand. "Um... Faith..."

"Oh spoilsport." But Faith doesn't reach for the phone. "Fine, you call Dillon and tell him to bring home something for the table. His mother is coming to dinner." Faith stalks out of the shooting gallery.

"Boy, my advice to you would be to lock up the guns and bring out the kevlar. I've seen Faithie around Dillon's mother. It ain't pretty."

"I know." Bruno says grimly. He pulls an envelope out of his pocket. "You mail this for me?"

"Your last will?"

"I hope not."




Luke squats down leaning his elbows on his knees as he surveys the scene. Once upon a time it had been a small thriving lab. Now it's a crater. He pulls out a cigar and lights up narrowing his eyes to look thru the smoke. Helena isn't above blowing things up although she preferred to work up close and personal. It would all depend on what boytoy she had working for her. Or could be maybe she'd been taking lessons from Faison... Faison was the one that liked blowing stuff up: boats, motorcycle shops. But the timing is right. Luke pulls out his hated cell phone and calls his son. "Cowboy?"

"Dad, where the hell are you?"

"Hell is about right. I'm at a wide spot in the road off of US 90 down in Pennsylvania. Northeast of Erie. There used to be a lab here." Luke starts rattling off the specifics that he'd found in the local phone book. "They were working on legit stuff as far as I can tell. But the timing is interesting. The gal that was bitten by a spider?"

"Yeah. Nik said she was on Helena's list."

"This place blew the same night as that gal checked herself into the hospital." Luke lets the silence grow on the line. "About two and a half hours away."

"The place blew?"

"They brought in fire trucks from all around. Nobody got out."

"That's what they always say." Lucky's quip is bitterly wry. "Whoever she still needed-- you can bet they found a body that will be misidentified. And it's right on the water. If Faison was involved they probably escaped by Lake Erie."

Luke can hear the clacking of fingers on a computer keyboard as he is talking to his son. "You researching?" It had been a long time since he'd heard that around his son. Whatever Helena and Faison had done to his boy had taken a long time to work out of Lucky's system. And even though he hated the freaking things it's a welcome sound.

"Yeah." Lucky's tone is absent. "You going to be around for awhile?"

"I'm not going to have my phone on. But I'll call you back." Lucky would understand why. There were times when a phone ringing could be damn inconvenient not to mention ending up a dead giveaway.

"Right." Before Luke can hang up, Lucky adds. "Be careful, Dad."

"Just check up on the women. Lesley isn't used to this kind of thing."

"I will. But Grandma can handle it."

"Didn't say she couldn't. Just that she isn't used to it." Luke hangs up. Casting the still smoldering cigar into the crater as his own burnt offering to the funeral pyre of all those poor saps who'd gone down with the lab, Luke rises to his feet and walks back to his car.





The front door is locked when Skye gets home. But Cole's car is out front. And it looks as if there had been some big truck four wheeling along her side yard. "Cole? Is anyone home?"

"Out here, Babe."

Skye follows the voice back toward her bedroom. One wall is a picture window that looks out over the lake. On either side of it are windows that open. "Cole?"

"Out here." Cole repeats louder.

Skye looks out the window and sees Coleman outside. He is dressed in cut off shorts and not wearing a shirt. His hair is tied back in a stubby pony tail and he is wearing a red bandana around his forehead. "What on earth are you doing?"

"Getting the area level for your hot tub deck."

Skye laughs in disbelief. "You're putting in a deck? Now?"

"Nah. We are. The guys down at the lumberyard say it will be a weekend project." Cole leans on the rake that he'd been using to spread the gravel out. "Why don't you change into something a little more comfortable and you can give me a hand."

"Cole, I wouldn't know a hammer if one hit me in the head." Skye says honestly.

"And that's good to know, Babe." Cole laughs. "Don't worry. Kyle and I will do the heavy lifting. But no reason why you can't be marking off where everything goes-- figure that way it will end up square. I need to talk to you about something anyway."

Skye can tell he's serious and nods. "I'll be right out." True to her word, Skye is soon out back with Cole dressed in her gardening grubbies complete with hat. If she didn't wear a hat she'd be a crispy critter in nothing flat even using extra strength sunblock.

"Here are the plans." Cole unfolds them for her and shows her the details.

Weirdly enough after staring at it for a few minutes, Skye can start to picture how the lumber that is laying at the side of her house would end up being a deck. "There is no door to the deck."

"That we're going to have to hire a pro for. That and wiring things: lights, the tub etc. Figure leave the railing off one side too... to get the hot tub on the deck."

"And you don't want to wrap the deck around to the front?"

"Hell no!" Cole protests. "This is the private deck and we're talking a small hot tub-- not one of those orgy models."

"Gotcha." Skye walks over to the lumber carrying the plans. Reading thru the supplies list she starts slowly identifying them and getting the picture of how everything would go together. It's kinda like a jigsaw puzzle really. Once she's got it figured out, Skye comes back over to where Cole had resumed raking every once in awhile testing the ground with a ruler looking thing. "What's that?"

"A level. There is a bit of a drop off but that's okay. I figure that way rain will run off toward the lake like it's supposed to but want the side to side to be the same." Cole pulls out a tape measure from a back pocket. "You okay with figuring out where the footers go?"

"The concrete thingees?"


"Show me where you want the first one and I'll have it from there." Skye nods. Coleman goes over and grabs one of the concrete footers and walking it over plants it about three inches from the house and in the corner where the wall of the master bedroom meets the master bath. Once Cole goes back to what he is doing, Skye goes over to the pile and picks up one of the concrete footers. It's heavy and a bit awkward but not more than what she'd lifted at the gym. She puts it down roughly where she thinks it should go and then starts using the tape measure to get it precisely right. "What did you want to talk to me about?"

"A couple of different things but I wanted to talk to you about one thing before Kyle gets home from soccer practice. I got a call from Kyle's Mother today."

Skye straightens. "Is she coming back?"

"Not right now." Coleman says. "And Kyle knows she called. He stopped by Jakes between school and soccer practice. I let him know she wasn't on her way back."

"Poor Kyle. But if you've already told him that, then what haven't you told him?"

"She was calling because she's run thru the money in her bank account and was wondering where the rest is."

Skye turns around from getting another of the footers. "Excuse me?! She takes a walk and she doesn't ask about her son? How he's doing? Why he isn't living at the house? Why you both aren't living at her house?!"

"That was another thing brought up, Babe. It's not her house. It's Kyle's. Margery was in a panic when my brother split... thought they'd lose the house for sure and they would have. He and Margery used to play keeping up with the Jones with money they didn't have. Everything was mortgaged to the hilt. I paid off the house but only on the condition that it was in Kyle's name. I figured Margery would eventually hook up with some other sucker and I never wanted Kyle to feel like he didn't belong you know?"

"You paid off the house." The time it takes for Skye to haul another footer and plant it in roughly the right spot and Skye has it figured out. "You took that job stalking Courtney for AJ to pay off the house. You got shot to pay off that house! And Kyle doesn't know this?"

"Hell no! And he's not going to find out. Kyle figures out he owns the house and he'll be throwing parties and renting out rooms to buy pot. He's a teenager for Goodness sake! This guy came into the Oasis one time, financial planner, should have been blowing off steam and getting his rocks off instead he was yammering away about the ways to pay for college. One way is to buy a place in a college town, have the kid live there, rent out rooms to pay expenses and then when he's done with school, sell the house and use the profits to pay off school. The house is Kyle's college fund. Nobody is touching it. Not Kyle and sure as hell not Margery."

"WHERE IS EVERYONE?" Kyle calls from inside the house.

Skye and Cole look at each other. Skye says hurriedly in a low voice. "Lie. Tell him his mother asked about him. Don't mention the money. Say she tried to call the house and couldn't get hold of him there so she called you at work."

Cole nods and then calls out. "We're out here, Kyle. Come around to the side of the house."





Dillon and Bruno walk up to the cottage from the bunk house. Bruno is already practically salivating and feels like he should tell Dillon why. Imparting some words of wisdom, "There are two basic ways a woman gets loyalty from a man."

"Oh?" What brought this on?

"Sure. His dick and his stomach. I've heard women tell that joke before when they thought no men were around... you know... How is man like a carpet? Lay him right the first time and you can walk on him for years. Guys don't think it's funny mostly 'cause it's true. After Roscoe bit it and Faith was trying to keep things together, she could have played the guys but she didn't. Instead every once in awhile, Faith would have them all over for dinner. Sure, it's a risk cause you know if Faith doesn't like you..."

"You could end up having a previously unknown fatal heart ailment. Yeah, I've heard."

"She doesn't like to do it often-- 'cause then people would expect it, but Faith can cook." Bruno's eyes narrow. "All those nights when Roscoe was out doing his thing you know it wouldn't surprise me if Fowler was the one dining at home." Bruno gives Dillon a stern look. "And I mean dining. Faith never played around on Roscoe and it wasn't like she didn't have offers. You know who taught Faith to cook?"


"Roscoe's mother. All her son's favorite dishes. But neither here nor there. Things were rocky after Roscoe disappeared. Faith was a zombie. Fowler was trying to hold things together. He snapped her out of it. Faith had all the guys left over for a big powwow. All the guys Fowler could hang onto that hadn't jumped ship to Sonny or to the Five Families. Had them over for dinner, sat them down like family... With Faith sitting at the head of the table and Fowler right there at her right hand. Letting the whole table know who was in charge, and if anyone crossed her then they'd have to deal with her right hand. Fowler was a pitbull. But what I'm saying is that Faith would lay out this spread and she wouldn't talk anything important over the main course, just family type stuff you know... but by the time dessert rolled around all the guys were hanging on her every word and ready to take a bullet for her. And then after the first one you know..."


"Yeah, and the guys saw how she handled everything... really took care of them-- personally, not just throwing money around. They would never get that from Roscoe, from the five families."

"So you're going to be at the dinner too tonight?"

"Hell no. I'm going to hang in the kitchen and grab the leftovers." Bruno says cheerfully. "You're the one that is going to be going to the dinner and paying close attention. The guys are going to want to know everything: what was served, where everyone sat, what was discussed-- the total picture."

Dillon opens up the back door to the cottage and walks in. He is hit by the aroma of the food cooking and almost drops to his knees. Now crack made sense. Things inhaled went straight to the brain. Yeah, if Faith did this all the time there would be some serious addictions built.

"Bruno, open the wine for me. It needs to breathe. Hell pour me a glass. I need some now." Faith demands from in front of the stove, not even turning around.

"You got it. You want both bottles, Faith?"


"Oh yeah. You're going to need both."

"You heard the man, Bruno. Dillon, would you check the table and fill the water glasses?"

Dillon goes out to the dining room after grabbing a water pitcher from the fridge. Alice had been on a cleaning jag when he'd got home from work with the flowers. Faith had shoo'd him out of the house after grabbing the flowers from him and told him to get changed for dinner. He hadn't even gotten to see the table. As he is filling the glasses he checks out the place settings, Faith had put Ned at the head of the table and her at his right hand. After what Bruno said that made sense. Specially since this dinner was for his mother to see. Mom would find out soon enough that Ned and Faith are a united front and if Tracy went after Ned she'd be coming thru Faith too. I wonder how the table would be set if it was Faith's party? Would she be at the head? Would Ned be at her right hand? Bruno? Dillon notices for the first time which vase Faith had decided to use for the table. It's the one he had bought for her to get out of the doghouse. Me? Then he realizes from the place settings that he is the one that is sitting at Faith's right hand.

Ned comes into the house followed by Jax. "Is the coast clear?"

"For what?" Dillon asks as he shrugs. "I think Alice is up getting Kristina settled. Bruno is opening wine bottles for Faith. Mom isn't here yet if that's what you're asking."

"Mom?" Ned blinks.

"Yeah, Faith had me bring flowers home from work because Mom is coming to dinner."

"Excuse me." Ned says to Jax. Then remembering his manners he quickly says. "Jax, this is my brother Dillon. Dillon, this is Jax. I'll be right back."

"May I get you something to drink?" Dillon offers playing host.

"Tracy is coming to dinner?" At Dillon's nod, Jax sighs. "Scotch if you have it."

Dillon goes over to the liquor cart and examines the bottles until he finds one that he thinks looks right and pours a healthy amount of the liquor into a tumbler. "I take it you know my Mother?"


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