“Senator? Your brother is here to see you.”
Damian Desmond, senator and assassin, looked up from the papers covering the entirety of his desk. “Demetrius?” he repeated.
His assistant nodded, “Yes, sir. Shall I send him in?”
Confused, but curious, Damian waved, “Yes, that’s fine.”
He started organizing the papers around him, in an attempt to look composed. He was taken aback at the sudden mention of his older brother. A combination of the age gap and how their parents raised them contributed to the distance between them. They saw each other during holidays and occasionally at public events, and Damian was confident neither would claim to be close to the other.
Just as he was putting some files away in his drawers, the door to his office opened again.
“Sir? Your brother.”
“Thank you.” Damian stood up, as his brother approached his desk. “It’s nice to see you, Demetrius. To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“I won’t stay long,” he started, looking down at his watch. “I have lunch plans with Bea and the children. But I thought I should let you know Mother and Father are back in town.”
The smile on his face fell, quickly replaced by apprehension. “Are you sure?” he blurted out. “I didn’t…I thought they were happy wherever they were.”
“Quite sure. They came by the house while I was at work. Bea told them to piss off.”
Damian snorted, “That was generous of her.”
“It was very… in character for her.” There was the faintest of smiles on his face, at the mention of his wife.
“What do you think they want?” he asked.
“I’m not sure. They’ve always been hands-off when it came to us.” Demetrius paused. “Maybe they saw the news that you got married.”
“I don’t think that would be enough of a draw for them.”
Demetrius shrugged, “Your guess is as good as mine. I just wanted to warn you.”
Damian appreciated his brother’s concern, maybe not all was lost on the brotherly relationship front.
But it seemed the warning had come too late.
At the same time, across Berlint, a certain Westalian spy and psychiatrist was holding her sleeping son in her arms. Anya had gotten a call from the nurse at Eden, saying that Loid had an abnormally high fever and should go home immediately. Like any good spy and mother, she wrapped up her mission in record time and made her way to Eden without breaking a sweat.
Of course, there would be no taxis near such a prestigious school, Anya thought. How irritating. She wished she had called Jeeves to ask him to have one of Damian’s cars meet her at the school. If she was going to be a Senator’s wife, she should at least reap the few benefits associated with it.
She sighed, as she adjusted Loid in her arms once again. The bus stop wasn’t too far away, and then she would have the doctor (an actual healthcare practicing doctor) come over to check on him.
“Would you like a ride home, dear?”
Anya glanced over to find a nondescript black car pulled over a few feet ahead of her. A woman’s head hung out of the backseat window, a vaguely ominous smile on her face. Anya shivered and pulled Loid closer to her, “No, thank you,” she answered, a polite smile on her own face.
“Damian must not have mentioned me much.” The smile on her face grew strained. “I’m his mother, Melinda Desmond. I heard he got married recently and wanted to meet his wife… and stepson.”
“It’s nice to meet you, ma’am,” Anya said. She knew who Melinda and Donovan Desmond were. Estranged parents to both Damian and Demetrius Desmond, they had been apathetic to both their sons, only caring that they maintained the good reputation of the Desmond name.
In the last update she had received, the two had been abroad and weren’t expected to return to Ostania or Berlint anytime soon.
Clearly, this was a last-minute decision.
“You must let me give you a ride home,” Melinda insisted.
Anya kept her guard up, regardless of how friendly her mother-in-law seemed. Something seemed off . And yet, despite her better sense and out of concern for Loid, she found herself getting into the car, with Loid asleep on her lap.
“Anya, was it?” Melinda asked.
She nodded, “Yes, I’m Anya and this is Loid. He just started at Eden.”
“How lovely. Just like his stepfather.”
The alarm bells were ringing in her head, especially as Melinda reached over to brush a strand of Loid’s hair off his forehead. Anya fought the urge to slap her hand away.
“He must take after your first husband?”
“Yes, he does. In many ways.”
“How sad you were widowed so young.” Words that were supposed to be sympathetic just sounded like mockery from her, and Anya bit back a snarky response.
The rest of the car ride was silent until they pulled in front of the Desmond home. “Thank you for the ride,” Anya said, “I’ll let Damian know we ran into you.”
“Please do.” There was another forced smile on her face as Melinda waved at the two of them.
Once she was certain she was gone, Anya let out a heavy sigh and relaxed her shoulders. She made her way up the steps and knocked on the door. Jeeves opened it almost immediately.
“Madam,” he greeted, politely. “Master Damian is home as well.”
“Oh, good. We just met his mother.”
“Mrs. Desmond?” he asked, shocked.
She nodded, kicking off her shoes and stepping into her fluffy slippers that Damian hated (but always stole). “She’s interesting. Anyways, do you mind calling the doctor? Loid has a bit of a fever.”
“Of course. Would you like me to bring anything to his room?”
“Maybe some hot water. Is Damian in his office?” she asked.
Jeeves nodded, “He said he wanted to speak with you.”
These Desmonds were going to be the death of her, wouldn’t they? she thought as she climbed up the stairs. She took her time changing Loid and putting him to bed. Jeeves had dropped off a thermos of hot lemon water and some rags while letting her know the doctor would arrive shortly.
She figured it was best to just rip the bandaid off and make her way down the hall to Damian’s office. She knocked out of politeness, but opened the door without waiting for his response.
“Jeeves said you wanted to speak with me?”
Anya was shocked by the scene in front of her. Instead of her usually put together husband, with his hair slicked back and clothes neatly in place, Damian was pacing back and forth, while running a hand through his hair, leaving it ruffled in his wake. His jacket and tie had been abandoned on the back of a chair, and his sleeves were rolled up just enough to expose his forearms.
“Damian?” she said, shutting the door behind her.
He jumped at the sound. “I didn’t hear you come in.”
“You had something you wanted to speak with me about?” she prompted.
“I heard from my brother our parents returned to Berlint, and I don’t know-“
Anya cut him off with a grimace. “Well, Loid and I already met your mother.”
“Yup.” She nodded, taking a seat. “She picked us up from Eden and drove us home.”
Damian was at her side in an instant, “Are you okay? What about Loid?”
“We’re fine. I mean, Loid has a fever, but he had that before,” she reassured him. It felt like her words fell on deaf ears, as Damian eyed her carefully, looking for anything out of place on her person. Anya pushed his head away, “I’m fine, really.”
He stood up, turning the ring on his finger. She noticed that, unlike her, he always wore his fake ring. Hers’ rarely left her (otherwise empty) jewelry box. Damian mumbled something, and she looked up at him confused.
“Did you say something?”
Damian turned back to her, his cheeks bright red, “I said I’m glad you’re both fine.”
“Oh. Thank you.” She didn’t know why, but she felt her cheeks grow warm as well.
“You said Loid had a fever?”
Anya was grateful for the redirection, “Yes, the nurse at Eden called me, so I went to pick him up.”
“Is he sleeping?” Damian asked.
“Yes, oh, and Jeeves also called the doctor. He should be here soon to check on him.” The two started to make their way out of the room.
“I thought you were a doctor?” he teased.
She ignored that, just like she ignored how warm his hand felt on her back.