The Third Season

Parental Advisory Rating: L, N, AC

Break out those V-Chips, everyone!


Created, Produced, Directed and Written:

Fanatic and TNovan


Episode Seven: The Naked Truth

I take the final step and lean against the doorframe with a cold drink for Harper. I can’t help but smile while I watch her. She’s tackling the cribs today. They’re the last of the baby furniture to be put together.

"I went to college…" she mumbles, her back to me, unaware I’m at the door. "I have a degree. I can put together a crib."

"Who are you trying to convince, Tabloid? Yourself or the crib." I chuckle, moving into the room and handing her the drink.

"Thanks, sweetheart." I’m rewarded with a kiss on the forehead. "I’m not sure who, to be honest. I think I’m just trying to intimidate it." She hands me the instructions. "Would you look at this? It’s ridiculous. Please note that the instructions are printed in German, Spanish and Japanese, but not English."

That’s true. Very weird. "How many parts to this thing are there?"

"I’m not sure." She digs her hand in her jeans, rocking back and forth, surveying the scattered debris and sipping her tea. "But I’m sure it’s going to be a case of, as I start it, it’ll look like there’s too many, and as I get close to the end, it’ll look like there aren’t enough."

"Just as long as there aren’t any left over," I tease, with a wink.

"Oh, don’t worry, there won’t be." She grins and nudges me with her elbow. "Even if I have to throw them away before you come do the inspection."

"Very funny." I take a deep breath and look at the room that will eventually be our babies’. I know they’ll spend the first few weeks in our bedroom due to all the feedings they’ll need. Even when it gets a little easier, though, it’ll be a real battle to get Harper to move them in here. You’d think we were moving them to another state to hear her tell the story.

She has done a beautiful job of decorating the nursery and putting all the furniture together. I suggested we hire someone to do it, but she completely refused, letting me know there was no room for argument. She wants to do it. She doesn’t want a stranger preparing a room for our children. That’s one of the things I love about her: family first and always.

What scares me is the realization that my own mother probably hired people to do my nursery. Mistake number one, Kels. Never use your family as a standard for normal.

What Harper and I have done in this room is really beautiful. Though my participation has been limited due to Doogie’s orders for me not to lift anything. Our babies will love it here. There are so many bright and vibrant colors for them to look at, and I think Harper has found about every soft toy on the planet for them to play with.

I tried to explain that toys wouldn’t be on the top of their priority list for a few months, but it didn’t matter. If another stuffed animal finds its way in here, the floor may collapse.

"Kels, can you hand me that screwdriver?"

I retrieve the tool in question, then take a seat in the rocker my darling spouse bought for me. It’s very comfortable; she has great taste in furniture. I foresee spending a lot of time in here with them. "Harper?"

"Hmm?" She’s studying the instructions, moving the parts into place while holding the screwdriver in her mouth by the handle.

"I know it’s a little late to worry about it, but what if I totally stink at this?"

"At what, hon?"

"Being a mom." I let my hands travel gently over the babies. "I mean, you’ve got lots of experience to draw from, but what have I got? Not much, except for random memories of all the nannies and nurses that floated in and out of my life."

She looks at me, dropping the screwdriver to the floor and leaning the headboard against the wall. She comes over and kneels down in front of me, taking my hands in hers. "Sweetheart, being a mom isn’t about following some memory, but following your heart. I trust your heart implicitly. Brennan and Collin are lucky to have you."

"You know I love them, right? And I only want what is best for them? You won’t let me make stupid mistakes, will you?"

"Chér, we’re going to make lots of stupid mistakes, together. It’s okay. They aren’t fatal. What we will be consistent on is loving them. Everything else will come out in the wash. No matter what, I’ve got your back, just as you have mine."

I take a deep breath and nod. "I guess I’m getting a little nervous, Tabloid. I mean, we may only have a couple of months until they get here. Every day I feel them moving more, and I know very soon two tiny lives are going to depend on us."

"I know." She gets a wistful expression on her face. "I can’t wait to see you with them."

I laugh a little. "Like you’ll let me hold them." I lean forward, caressing her cheek. "Aren’t you even a little scared?"

"Terrified, but I figure we’re in this together. And if Robie can be a parent..."

I smile and shake my head. "Be nice. Robie is the father of my first Kingsley love," I tease. "I fell in love with Christian the moment I laid eyes on him."

She clutches her heart and falls over backward at my feet. The ham bone. If she keeps it up, Kam will start chewing on her. She lifts her head. "Even before me?"

I give her a little shove with my foot. "Yup, even before you."

There’s a loud thud when she drops her head back to the floor. "I’m so wounded. Here I thought I was your first true love in the Kingsley family and now I find out I actually came in second. Oh, the shame of it all," she adds for good measure before throwing her arm over her eyes. I hear a loud sniffling noise to indicate the crocodile tears I’m sure she’s shedding.

"You are a total goof."

She lifts her head, smiling broadly. "Hey, I’m moving up in the world. Last week I was merely a Goof. Now I am a Total Goof. By the time the babies arrive, I’ll be Emperor Goof."

I’m sure of it.


* * *


Looking around our own bedroom, I’m almost satisfied with it. I know I’ve done this a hundred times since we put the bassinets and the changing table in here, but the need to nest, as Harper and the pregnancy books call it, is driving me nuts. I can’t shake the feeling that I’m not doing something I should be.

I run my hand over the pile of blankets on the changing table and then turn to the bassinets. Very soon, they will hold our babies. I can’t help but smile. Our son and daughter. Who would have thought?

This time last year, I couldn’t decide on whether to kill Harper or kiss her. I’m glad I went with the kissing option.

I settle down in the recliner and get comfortable. I focus on my children. "You wouldn’t believe the things we’ve gone through to get here. Someday when you’re old enough, I’ll tell you the whole story. But let’s just say, for right now at least, that we are the three luckiest people in the world. Your Mama really is something special. Of course, you’ll get to figure that out for yourself."

Kam trots in and, as usual, he inspects the bassinets, sniffing the air around them and apparently making sure everything is prepared to his liking as well. Then he wanders over to his bed, gives a great, big, dog yawn, turns a few circles, and flops down, curling into a tight ball.

"Oh, of course, she’s as stubborn as any mule that your great grandpa Stanton used to keep on his farm. And she can be down right scary when she’s good and mad, but luckily this is something we won’t see a lot of. And I’ll save you the embarrassment of telling you how very special she makes me feel. But you have to know: it’s because of the way that she made me feel that you guys even came along. Once she showed me how much family meant, there was no way I could deny the fact I wanted one of my own. So, here we are."

I glance out the window, wishing we were in New Orleans.

"Let me tell you, the closer your arrival time gets, the more scared I get. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I love you both with all my heart and I’ll die to protect you, but I’m scared witless. The only thing that keeps me grounded and focused and believing I may stand a chance of being a mom for you is your Mama. She seems to have some deep seated belief that I have a clue as to what I’m doing." I chuckle a bit. "Boy, do I have her fooled, but let’s keep that our little secret."


* * *


"I’ve got a couple of friends to help me, boss. This shouldn’t take too long."

"Take your time, Brian. Harper and I aren’t doing anything but hanging out and relaxing." I pour myself a glass of juice while conversing with our soon to be moved in nanny. Then I hear a crash from the nursery and I’m really glad the twins aren’t close enough to hear the French their Mama is spouting now. "Well, that’s not quite true. But I’m hanging out and relaxing."

"Is today a bad day?"

"No. Just make sure you have your key. If things get to out of hand, I may have to take her into our room for a little chat." I snicker a bit, wondering how Harper will handle making love in a house where another person will soon be.

"You can’t chat with your mouth…"

"Hush!" I warn him, a laugh slipping into my admonition.

"Well, I should know," he teases back.

I lean against the counter and give Kam a dog biscuit. "Brian, that was far more information than I needed to know, thanks." I watch Kam trot out of the kitchen. I’m sure he is taking the biscuit to show Harper. Ever since the day she tormented him by eating one, he has taken great pleasure in showing them to her before he chomps them down. He’s too smart for his own good.

I made Harper brush her teeth for twenty minutes before I’d let her kiss me again. It didn’t really bother me she’d eaten a dog biscuit. The part that grossed me out was she had taken it from Kam.

There are just some things you shouldn’t do with your mouth.

"So, we’ll be there in a couple of hours. I really don’t have a lot of stuff. I put some of it in storage and the rest of it my friendly, neighborhood, pack rats have made off with."

I glance at my watch. "So you’ll be here around three?"

"Yeah, I think that’s about right. I have to feed these queens," I hear a round of catcalls and tormenting in the background, "before they’ll finish helping."

Okay, that gives me time to mellow out the Lord of the Manor.

"All right, we’ll see you then."

"Bye, boss."

"Bye, Brian."

I hang up the phone and move through the apartment to the bottom of the stairs. "Harper?" I lean with my hands resting on the side rails, waiting for her to answer.


"What are you doing?"

"Trying not to lose any vital body parts while creating living space for my offspring."

I laugh again. She is losing her ever-loving mind.

"I don’t suppose you’d like to take a break?"

"For what?"

"Three words, Tabloid: You, me, chocolate."


* * *


Lying on my stomach across the bed, near the foot, I watch Kels lean back against the headboard, pulling the sheet over her body, obstructing my view. She gives me a very happy, little grin. I can tell she’s quite pleased with herself. She always enjoys it when she leaves me a quivering mass of putty.

"Nothing like being a Saturday afternoon sundae." I reach out and flick the now empty chocolate container off the bed. "We need to get more of that stuff."

I watch as she uses the nail of her little finger to remove a trace of chocolate from the corner of her mouth and I groan. She smirks at me as she puts her finger in her mouth. I groan again. "Stop teasing me, Little Roo."

"I’m not teasing you, Tabloid." She motions me up next to her and I crawl slowly up the bed.

Crawling is about all I can manage at this point. My legs are still pretty weak and I feel the muscles in my thighs threaten to give out. As I reach my pillow, they do just that and I collapse next to my girl. She takes the time to stroke my back, massaging muscles that were working really hard a few minutes ago. "Oh, that feels good." I don’t think I’ve ever heard a moan come out of my own body quite that low or quite that satisfied before.

Kels may have only had four people in her life before me, but that doesn’t seem to matter, she certainly seems to have honed her craft. I’m about to slip into a content little nap when I hear something from the front of the apartment. My head snaps up and I’m about to get up when Kels rubs my back again.

"Relax, sweetheart. That’s only Brian and a few of his friends."

I groan, pulling a pillow over my head. I forgot the little nutcake was moving in this weekend. "I’m never gonna survive this."

"Harper, it was your idea to…"

"I know." I bring my head out and roll over to face Kels. "I know. I’ve got to get used to the idea of there being a third adult in the house with us."

My wife snuggles down next to me. "I suggest we stay here and let them get him moved in."


"Yeah, he has a few friends helping him."

"Oh, this I’ve got to see." I laugh, getting out of bed and pulling on clothes.

"You want to watch? That’s certainly kinky, sweetheart." Kels laughs with me, sitting up and reaching for her robe.

"Ah, Mrs. Kingsley?"

Kels smiles at me. That’s not a phrase I use very often, but she certainly does seem to enjoy it when I do. "Yes?"

"If you’re planning on going out there, put on more than a robe, please."

"Harper, these are gay men. They’re less interested in me than…"

I put up a hand to forestall her argument. "Please?"

"All right. Actually, I think I’ll have a shower first." Kels decides, then give me a lingering kiss before heading to the bathroom.

A shower? I give going out to see Brian and his little friends about a half-second of consideration before I decide a shower would be a good idea for me too.


* * *


Brian and his friends are having far too much fun. People shouldn’t enjoy moving this much. Then again, if I were moving out of that rat hole he was living in to an apartment like this, I’d be delirious too.

Kels gives me an amused smile and heads for the kitchen as I watch one of the guys pack another box up the stairs. I thought they passed a law against shorts that short or that shade of pink. If they haven’t, they should.

I feel something lick my hand and look down, hoping it’s my dog and not one of Brian’s weird, little friends. Thank you, God! "Hi ya, buddy." I give Kam a good scratch. "What’s up?"

He turns and looks up the steps. "Don’t worry, boy. They’re not all staying." I give him another scratch. "Come on, let’s find your Mommy."

He takes off so fast, his nails scrape against the floor, and he looks like a dog out of a cartoon with his legs falling out from under him. I follow him to the kitchen, where I find Kels staring into the fridge.

"Why don’t we have any food in here?" she grumbles as I lay my chin on her shoulder, peeking in from behind her.

"Sweetheart, it’s full of food." We can feed a small third world nation with what we have in here.

"Okay." She closes the door, then turns in my arms. "There’s nothing in there we want to eat."

Ooo, I feel a walk coming on for Kam. The wife is about to send me out to satisfy some sick, little craving. Wonder what it’ll be this time?

"How about one of those pizzas you’re so fond of?" She nuzzles my neck. "Hmm? Sound good?"

God, yes. She normally gives me hell for my pizza. To get her to eat it is a major victory, one I need to thank my children for. "Sure, we could order in." I hear cackles coming from the upstairs. God, it sounds like the Kitchen Conspiracy. "I think we’d better get couple."


* * *


Kels seems satisfied now, having eaten more pizza than I have ever seen her eat before. At least the kids aren’t totally being denied good food. She’s content laying here with her head in my lap. I’m amazed at how relaxed she can be even though we have new people in the house with us. This however is what makes her a good reporter, her ease with people in general.

Brian and his friends are scattered around the floor of the living room. He’s all moved in now and they’re taking advantage of our generosity. Well, I have to be nice. He is the one I trust enough to let care for my kids when Kels and I can’t be here to do it.

"You know, just when you think things can’t get any stranger," Steve, a good looking redhead, says as leans back on his elbows, "your best friend ends up moving in with two high profile lesbians to be nanny to their children."

"Well," I offer, sipping from my beer, having decided to indulge a bit tonight. There’s a law against eating a pizza this good and not enjoying a cold one with it. "We’re pretty sure Brian can handle it. If not, I’ll toss him off the balcony."

"Won’t work," Mark, the one in the pink shorts pipes up, "fairies fly."

The entire room bursts into laughter.

Brian shoves his friend. "Bitch!"

"Pay up!" Kels snaps her fingers and hold her hand out to our nanny.

"Oh, shit, I forgot."

"Run that man a tab!" I lift my beer to Brian. It’s nice to know my kids will be able to go to any college they want.


* * *


There’s a knock on my door. If it’s not important, I’m gonna kill someone. I’m buried up to my neck in work right now. "Come in!" I yell, closing one file and opening another, as I turn to make a note on a storyboard behind my desk.

"You Harper Kingsley?"

I swing around to find a man in an ugly brown suit standing in my office. "Yeah, who the hell are you?" How the hell did this putz get in here? Talk about security.

"That doesn’t matter. I’m merely a delivery boy." He drops a thick, yellow envelope on my desk. "Enjoy those," he pauses and grins at me, "I did."

I’m so taken aback for a moment by the whole encounter, he manages to get out of my office without further questioning. I shake my head and pick up the envelope. Slicing it open with a letter opener, I empty it to find pictures of Kels. There are about two dozen pictures here.

I cock my head slightly. I look at pictures of my wife and she’s mostly nude in all of them. She has a sheet draped around her body, but a lot of the important parts are still showing. Several of my favorite parts, in fact.

This must be a joke. They’re fakes. They have to be. Kels wouldn’t pose nude … or even mostly nude. I dig through a drawer for my magnifying glass. Studying them carefully, I don’t think they’re fakes. But you can do anything with computers nowadays.

Well, that’s interesting. I sort through the stack. Now, that’s a nice one. Hmm, my wife has a way of making a sheet look good. This one’s a keeper even if they are fakes. Lying back like that, all stretched out, back arched, with the sheet just barely draped over her…

Oh, boy! I’d better put these away before I have to go lock Kels and I in her office for an hour or so. We’ve never had to have a closed-door conference before. Now would not be a good time to start.

I gather up the pictures and tuck them back in the envelope. I have no desire for anyone else to get a gander at these. I’d have to gouge their eyes out. Those assets belong to me now. Next stop, Kels’ office. Right after I find something really cold to drink and maybe a bucket of ice water for my head.


* * *


I hate computers, and the fact that they do what I tell them to do and not what I want them to do. I growl at the computer again when I hear my door close. I look up to find Harper standing in front of my desk. For the first time, I can’t really read the expression on her face. "Hi?" I prompt, waiting for her to say something.

"Hi, Sweetie. Got a minute? I have something you need to look at." She’s cracks the cap on a bottle of water and drains it in almost one long drink.

"Sure." She hands me an envelope that is tucked under her arm. I take the contents out. "Oh my God! Where did these come from?" Oh boy. I glance up, checking to see if she’s going to go off the deep end. So far, she looks pretty calm. That water must have been laced with a sedative.

"Are they legit, Kels? Or is someone trying to pull a fast one?"

"Unnn…well…" I stammer a bit. Oh shit. "They’re real." Why do I feel my marriage is about to take a major hit?

She taps one of the photos of my nude torso. "I know they’re real, but are the pictures real?" I can hear a hint of amusement in her voice. That’s a good sign.

"Yes, Harper. The pictures and everything in them are real. I did them for a friend."

Her face clouds with anger. Oops, my big, bad protector has arrived. "Not that good a friend for him to be screwing you over now. Who is this jerk so I can go deal with him?"

"Harper, I did these for Erik. When he was in college, he took a photographic art class. He needed a model and I did it. I had forgotten all about them, to be honest. Where did they come from?"

"Shit." She glances at the pictures again, her voice now carries a worried tone. "Some guy came in and gave them to me. That’s all I know."

"Ah, wonderful. So, somewhere out there, someone has the negatives for these things and decided you needed a set? Hmm, wonder how fast I can kiss my career good-bye if they decide to go public with them?"

"I dunno, chér. You might get quite a few work offers with these." She smirks a bit, picking one of them up and studying it. "And, don’t be silly. These scream heterosexuality. Langston might demand we air them."

I drop my head and groan. "God, I hope not." I look at one of them again. "Sure would like to get that body back after the babies are born. Or at least something close to it."

"Oh, darlin’, I have no worries about that at all. I’ll help you work it off." She leers at me and I feel myself blush. "I’m going to hire someone to find out who sent these. I don’t want anything to bite us in the ass, so to speak."

I look at the pictures again. "It’s my ass I put out there. If it gets bit, I have no one to blame but myself."

"Sweetheart," Harper takes one of the pictures, "ain’t no one biting this ass but me. So let me make a few calls and see what we can come up with. I’ll start with that sorry excuse for a security desk and see if they at least made the guy sign in."

"Good idea. I’ll also put in a call to Patrick and see if he knows if the negatives were in the apartment when he packed up Erik’s things." Now here’s a suggestion that might not go over big, but I need to make it. "I could put in a call to CJ and have her check into who handled the crime scene."

"Or, ah, Bear could do it." She gestures around a little, refusing to meet my eyes. She keeps looking at the picture.

I grin, and scratch my neck. Me thinks someone is still a little jealous of CJ. No need, sweetheart. "Ah, well, there’s a good compromise. Why don’t you give him a call?"

"I will. I needed to call him anyway."

"Okay." I gather up the pictures, including the one Tabloid is very nearly drooling over. I want to offer her a bib but refrain, tucking them back in the envelope, putting them in my desk drawer and locking it. "We’ll burn those when we get home tonight."

She follows my hand from desk drawer to my purse. "Burn them? Darlin’, one of them is going in my wallet. I especially liked that one when you were leaning back. Ooo la la. Mais, sa c’est fort quand même."

"Yeah, it’s really something all right, but not something to go in your wallet." I laugh at her and put my keys away in my purse.

"Ooh, I know so."

"Only if you can come up with a really good bribe between now and the time I get the fireplace going tonight." I look at her and give her my best smile. "And food and sex aren’t gonna cut it for these."

"Uh huh... we’ll see about that, darlin’."


* * *


I take the time to head down to the street vendors and grab a hot dog. I can’t bring Kels with me anymore. She either eats my sandwiches or torments me until I can’t enjoy them.

I settle down on the steps with two perfect creations and a cold soda. I’m about to take my first bite when the sun is suddenly blocked. I look up and see my worst nightmare.

"Miss Kingsley, did you get my gift to you?" Why it’s Mother Stanton and she has a completely wicked sneer on her face. Where is my cross, garlic and silver bullet when I need them?

"Gift? I don’t know what you’re talking about." You old shriveled up hag. Shouldn’t you be in your coffin until the sun goes down?

Bad manners or not, I take a bite of my sandwich. I know this is going nowhere but downhill and, dammit, I want my hot dog! What is it with the Stanton women not letting me enjoy my lunch?

"Of course you do. I know my man dropped off those perfectly wonderful photos of my daughter this morning. What would your mother think if she knew you had taken up with someone capable of such a thing? Certainly this is something that wouldn’t be condoned in your circles. I know they aren’t in mine."

I roll my eyes. "Lady, you don’t know a damn thing about my family, so I’d appreciate it if you’d refrain from bringing them into this conversation. They love Kelsey, no matter what. I love Kelsey, no matter what. So, I suggest you take the negatives and shove them up your ass, because no one cares, Mother." I watch her bristle when I call her that. Ooo, Kels you’d be so proud on me.

"Love is never that unconditional, Miss Kingsley. Has Kelsey told you about her past? Has she told you about Bennett? Did she tell you they had a wedding date set?"

No, you harpy, she told me you and the idiot boyfriend had a wedding date set.

"Has she told you how she threw him over for that roommate of hers in college?"

Yeah, she mentioned that. I really should send Beth a thank you note. No, that’d probably be in bad taste. I’m betting Hallmark doesn’t print a ‘Thank you for turning my wife onto lesbianism’ card.

"My daughter really is nothing but a common whore and I can’t believe that you’ve decided to spend your life with her."

Keep it up, you old bat, and we’re going to see what the braking time for a New York City bus driver is. I’m betting it’s not good.

"You know, it would probably be best for you if you took these children after they are born and left her as fast as you can, getting as far way from her as possible."

Like hell that will happen, you bitch. I’m going to hold tight onto her and our children and pray to God they never leave me. "Let’s cut the crap. What do you want? You’ve gone to a lot of trouble here. You don’t strike me as a woman who does something without a plan. So, cut to the chase, you’re interrupting my lunch."

I take another bite of my hot dog before it gets any colder. One of the hazards of being around Mother Stanton is everything within fifteen feet slowly freezes to death.

"No chase. I wanted to give you fair warning, to give you the opportunity to salvage your life. I mean, look what becomes of the people my daughter gets involved with. She either sheds them when she’s done with them. Or in the case of that poor, unfortunate boy in California, dead."

I finish my hot dog deliberately, crumble up the paper that held it and toss it into a trash can. Slowly, I rise to my feet and stand as close to her as I can stand to be. I speak softly, slowly, wanting her to understand everything I am saying to her. "His name was Erik Collins. He was Kels’ best friend and he died trying to protect her, which is more than you’ve ever done. You couldn’t even be bothered to come be with her when she was so close to dying. Don’t you get it? Your daughter nearly died … she was…" I can’t continue, not if I do I’m going to keep my lunch down. I take a deep, calming breath. "So now you can consider me warned. And let me return the favor: stay the hell away from me and my family or you will regret it. I don’t play fair when it comes to them. I guarantee that you will lose." I start to walk away but turn to add so it’s perfectly clear. "For the record, there’s absolutely nothing in the world that could ever make me stop loving Kels or our children."

"We’ll see, Miss Kingsley, we’ll see." She slides on her sunglasses and turns to walk away.

"Bitch," I growl before heading back into the building, taking the steps to the door two at a time.


* * *


My first call is to my father-in-law. He married the viper, he is the best person to get advice from on how to handle her. Matt seems like a pretty nice guy, now, at least. Too bad he wasn’t there for my Little Roo while she was growing up. Hopefully he will do better for little Claire.

I call his office and am pleased when he comes on the line quickly. "Harper? To what do I owe the pleasure of this surprise?"

"I need some advice."

I hear him lean back in his chair and I imagine him in his office, king of the financial domain. "I’ll do my best."

"Your ex-wife paid me a visit today. She’s going after Kelsey and I want to know how to stop her."

"A silver bullet."

I laugh. "I already considered that. Believe me." If it wouldn’t mean a likely jail sentence and missing my children, I would do it in a heartbeat. Hell, I should be given a Nobel Peace Prize for such an act of kindness to the world.

"What is she doing to Kelsey?"

I hope you don’t mind me telling him, hon. "Apparently Kels did some artsy poses for Erik while he was in a photography class." I leave it to Matt to understand what I mean. "Somehow those negatives have walked over and put themselves into her hands. She made some pretty copies of them and sent them to me."


"She said I should take the twins and leave Kels."

I hear him take a deep breath. "What did you say?"

"I told her to fuck off. Matthew, Kels won’t get rid of me even in death. I’ll haunt her if I have to." No need to have any confusion on this point. "So, I need to know how to take your ex down without any harm to my wife or children."

"My guess is this is about money. It always is with her. Would you prefer I handle it? I have attorneys who are accustomed to dealing with the Ice Queen. They know all her vulnerable spots."

That’s what I want, someone who knows her soft belly. So they can drag the knife through it, spill her intestines out for all the world to see. "What’s your advice, Matt? Will that get her more worked up? I don’t want any of this to come bite Kels in the ass. She just took the desk, she’s due in a few weeks. This is so not a good time for this."

"My bet is this was an attempt to break you and Kels up. Or for one of you to make an offer for the purchase of the negatives." I hear him tapping his fountain pen on his desk. I do the same thing when I’m thinking. The rhythm helps. "I can have my people make the offer and I’ll bet she snaps it up. You just concentrate on keeping my little girl happy and content until the babies come. I have a granddaughter and a grandson depending on you." He pauses for a long moment. "And, Harper, we might want to keep this between us. Do you see any sense in upsetting Kels? You know how she gets about her mother."

Hmm. I don’t quite buy that line of reasoning. "I don’t know if I can agree to that, Matt. I don’t want to keep secrets from Kels. That’s a bad habit to start. But I don’t mind telling her it’s taken care of already." I think I’ll tell Kels when we’re in the relaxing on the balcony or laying on the couch together. "I appreciate the help, Matt. And I guarantee you that I won’t let anything happen to Brennan or Collin. Just tell me what figure she comes up with and I’ll wire the money to you."

"Okay, I’ll trust your judgment in dealing with Kels. You’re married to her, I’m not. But I’ll pick up the tab on this one. I have a few choice things to say to the old witch." Go, Dad. "While I have you on the phone, is there anything Kels or the babies need? Amanda is wracking her brain trying to come up with a gift."

"There’s not a blessed thing these kids lack. Tell her to not worry about it. Kels is feeling very sentimental nowadays. If there’s anything that communicates being a Stanton, that would be great."

"I’ll have to give that some thought, but I bet I can come up with something. If you need anything else, or if you hear from my ex again, let me know. I’ll let you know how we do with her in a few days."

"Matt, be careful. It’s Kels who can get hurt here. I’d die if that happens."

"Oh, I won’t let anything happen to Kelsey. I’ll bury the bitch first. I know low people in high places."

"I’ll bring the shovel. Thanks, Matt. I’ll talk to you later." Gotta like having a father-in-law who is willing to crush the evil mother like the bug she is. I figure the one person in the world who must hate her more than Kels and I is the man who shared her bed. I wonder if he has frostbite on his privates?

My second call is to my eldest brother. He’s in chambers, which is unusual. His secretary puts me through to him immediately. Normally, I have to leave a message and wait a few hours. A glance at my watch tells me the reason – it’s lunchtime. I bet he’s eating something good too.

"Is that my little sister?"

"Younger," I correct automatically. "What are you eatin’?"

I hear his fork clink against his plate as he sets it down. "Oh, don’t torture yourself, Harper Lee."

Dammit, I knew it. Why can’t anyone cook here in New York City? I sigh. "It’s so not fair. I had a hot dog."

"I’m sorry."

I sigh again at my brother’s patent insincerity. "Oh well, I will survive, I suppose. How is your family?"

"Running me ragged, as usual. Never have teenagers, Harper. You tell your children to go straight from twelve to twenty, it’s your only hope. Joseph is only one year into his teenage years and I swear I have one year less on my life expectancy. Laurent is a teen next year. Will I survive until Danielle and T-Jean are that age?"

"You’ll make it and love it. Fortunately, you have Katherine."

"Ainsi soit-il." I picture Gerrard crossing himself after his amen. "So, I am willing to bet that you did not call to hear about my heart palpitations. What’s going on?"

"I want to make someone’s life miserable."

"Haven’t you then already achieved your life’s ambition, hein?"

We share a hearty laugh. I love Gerrard. "Kels’ mother has reared her ugly head and is threatening my wife."

"What type of threats?"

"She has some pictures of Kels that it would be better if they weren’t released."

"Le Bon Dieu, nudie baby pics?"

"Art house pics from a few years ago. Nothing ‘Hustler’ worthy, but something our network might not be thrilled to see of their new anchor." It sure sounds nice to say that. My girl is wonderful. I am so proud of her.

"Has she made any demands?"

"Not explicitly." I blow out a deep breath, clearing my lungs of the stench that lingers of Mother Stanton. "I know right now I don’t have shit. But there are certain agencies in the U.S. which can make people’s lives miserable. I would like them to become interested in her. I know that you have friends at the federal level, that’s all."

Gerrard begins laughing. "Subtle as a sledge hammer, Harper. What do you have in mind for your mother-in-law? Maybe an ouanga?"

"Nah, I don’t know if a magic spell works against the undead. Well, the IRS would be a good start. The only thing in this world she loves is money. I’d like her to lose every last bit of it. Besides, the IRS are mean fuckers."

"Ah, well, my friend Jack is a pretty good guy."

I smile. This is Gerrard’s way of telling me that Jack will put the screws on Mother Stanton. Now, for my next request. "Yeah, I think both the IRS and the INS will be interested in her household help arrangements. I don’t think there’s anyone who is supposed to be in the country working there." Actually, I have no idea, but I am willing to make an educated guess on this one.

"I thought that was the case for anyone with household staff," he chuckles.

Okay, I can count on the INS as well. "Also, I heard that she has a weekend home on the Jersey shore. New Jersey is notorious for the environmental waste …"

Gerrard begins howling with laughter. I hear him nearly choke on his food. "Que diablo, Harper! I hope you never get mad at me!"

"As long as you never threaten my wife and kids, you’re safe." It’s amazing what being married and having kids has done to me. I never thought it would ever be possible for anything to separate me from my brothers. But, if I had to choose between them and Kels, they would lose each and every time.

"Whew! I’m glad that’ll never happen. I mean, I’d hate to think that I was living on top of a leaking oil tank, or something awful like that."

"Or growing pot for medicinal purposes in the herb garden."

Gerrard begins laughing again. "‘A ca oui!"

I won’t cut it out … unless it’s her heart. So now Gerrard is going to sic the IRS, INS, EPA and DEA on Mother Stanton. One last federal agency to go, for now. "I hear Mother Stanton has been sleeping with the head of an investment bank and that her portfolio has been doing better ever since." Go, SEC!

"Is her dog unlicensed?" Gerrard snickers.

I join him. "Well, if it is, I’ll report it to the NY authorities."

"You take care of yourself up there, Harper Lee. When you poke a sleeping cocodrie, you get trouble."

"Yes, my mother-in-law is about to find that out." Because I am the biggest gator in this here pond.

One more call to make.

An old buddy of mine from Tulane has always operated a little bit to the left of the law. He’s a hacker by trade. Of course, his day job is internet security for a New York firm, but his real love is the type of stuff I want him to do. I look up his number on my Palm Vx and punch it into my cell phone.


"Isn’t it Hayseed?" I tease. We always gave him a hard time for being from Alabama.

"Well, slap my mama! Is that Harper Kingsley?"

"That it is."

"How the hell are you? I haven’t heard from you since the last time you needed a favor." I hear him click away on his keyboard.

"Yeah, well, remember who sent you a big ass gift and tickets to the Bahamas for that favor?"

"Hmm, and let’s remember that little pest known as Hurricane Floyd."

"You got out in time," I protest. So I won’t mention that it was the last flight out. And he did throw up on it the entire time. Hayward hates flying to begin with, this nearly sent him to an early grave. Literally.

"Europe this time."

If he can make Mother Stanton’s life miserable, Europe is the least I can do for him. "Deal. In fact, pick three cities."

"Ooh, you must have something big you want me to do. Out with it, Kingsley."

Hayward makes it sound like he might refuse, but I know him. He lives for this stuff. I’m about to make his day. "You see that movie ‘The Net’ with Sandra Bullock?"

I hold the phone away from my ear as Hayward nearly passes out from laughter. I yawn and roll my eyes. "Okay, knock it off," I growl. "I know … I know -" I repeat "that it wasn’t very realistic. But I am trying to convey a concept here."

"Do tell," he chortles.

I’m gonna kill him, making fun of me. "I want someone’s life to disappear. I want their credit cards, club memberships, driver’s license, passport, utilities to all go poof in cyberspace. I want her to not be able to gas up her car or check out a library book."

"Her? What happened, Harper? I thought you were always good with the ladies and none of them ever got under your skin."

Oh, that’s right, Hayward doesn’t know about my recent life changes. "This is my mother-in-law."

"I thought you were gay!" Hayward explodes. "I mean, shit, Harper, you had more girls than I did in college."

"Coeds, not girls," I correct. I would hate to get arrested for something he said.

"You got married? Does your husband know?"

Are all men this stupid? "Hayward, I married a girl."

"That’s not a marriage."

"Don’t tell my wife that." Or Mama, for that matter.

"Does she know you are going after her mother?"

That is, of course, the million dollar question. Do I tell her all the joy I have planned for her mother? About my plans to cancel her country club membership, post fake personal ads on her behalf, list her homes for sale, and file a change of address form with the post office? Or do I allow her to enjoy the fun as it unfolds? I wonder if she would be upset about all the shit I am hoping to rain down on her own mother. "I take the Fifth."


<fade out>


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