Rewrite du jour

With a father-in-law like Parker Landreth, who needs enemies?

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What. The. Hell? Will wouldn’t have set up a solo meeting with the Coalition if he thought his father was involved. Diana glanced about. No sign of Landreth Technologies Security.

“Let me check with Residence Security to ensure the conference space is secure and your Security is assured it’s clear.” She tapped her alert code into her wrist sensor, acutely aware that Parker’s eyes followed her fingers.

Damn. He’s even more alert to possible sensors than Will is.

“I came without Security,” Parker said.

Her glass confirmed it when she blinked the inquiry. “I’m surprised.”

Parker smiled but the smile didn’t touch his lizard-like eyes. “Let’s just say that I saw an opportunity to get to know my son’s wife a bit better.”

Diana tagged another code to alert Residence Security. “I guess I’m flattered. How long has it been since Will and I got married–five years? I’d have thought curiosity would have sparked an interest in me sooner.”

Parker offered his left arm to Diana. “Then it’s even more important that we talk.”

She’d have to give him her right arm. With her wrist sensors. Not a good idea.

Diana let her bag slide off of her left shoulder. “Darn bag,” she muttered, catching it with her right hand and swinging it over her right shoulder. “Sorry.” She offered Parker her right arm, the arm without sensors. “My bag’s more stable on this side.”

A brief scowl tightened Parker’s lips before his face went expressionless. Without comment, he delicately twined his right arm with her left, bringing his left hand over hers to keep Diana from feeling for his sensors.

Diana stifled the absolutely inappropriate giggle. God, Parker’s everything Will said he was. But she couldn’t keep the corners of her mouth from turning up.

“Something amuses you?”

Was that irritation in his voice? Almost too easy to provoke him if that was the case.

“Just the delicate dance there,” she murmured, glancing sideways at him with faked demureness.

“My son taught you well.”

Was that a hint of admiration?

“Don’t assume I learned everything I know from Will,” she snapped. They reached the house.

To Diana’s surprise, Brenda, her personal head of Security, opened the door. She’s not supposed to be here until Conclave.

It didn’t matter. Brenda was here, and a welcome sight with Parker Landreth on her arm.

“Brenda, could you please escort Mr. Landreth to the conference room?” Diana deftly untangled herself from Parker. “Please give me a moment to freshen up,” she said to Parker.

“I came here without Security,” he growled, glaring at Brenda. “That implies a level of trust.”

“I understand.” Diana exchanged a glance with Brenda. “Please make Mr. Landreth comfortable, then return to stations, Brenda.”

Brenda nodded twice curtly, acknowledging the phrase stations, their code for remain out of sight but be ready to move. “We just got here ourselves,” she said. “I believe we’ve got fresh coffee made, brought the beans with us from Brazil.”

Fresh coffee. Code phrase for urgent summons in this context, brought the beans identifying Will as the one issuing the call. Cold prickles danced down Diana’s spine. Something set Will off. But why didn’t he say anything about it last night?

“Fresh coffee from Brazil?” Parker’s voice was noticeably much more cheerful. “I definitely can’t pass that up.”

“Right this way,” Brenda said, guiding Landreth toward the kitchen.

Diana hurried into her bedroom and grabbed her tablet. A message from Will came up. Forgot to tell you last night. Too much. Sent for Brenda and Tony. Should be there by midmorning. Something about this ranch situation doesn’t feel right.

Diana snorted. “I’ll say,” she said out loud. A second, urgent message flashed on the tablet, from Will.

What’s going on? MESSAGE ME.

Had she sent him her schedule this morning? She’d been in such a hurry to meet Joaquin that she couldn’t remember if she had done that or not. And she hadn’t sent an explanation with Joaquin’s file. Met with old friend Joaquin who’s the tribal contact, she typed. He’s the source of the file I just sent. Brenda and Tony are here. So is your father, claiming to be the rep for the Coalition for Environmental Responsibility. What the hell is going on?!

She slid out of her riding clothes and popped into the shower for a quick cleanup, then pulled on the formal suit she’d brought for meetings like this. After dressing and scowling at her lanky form in the mirror, she picked up her tablet again.

Dad’s had many interests over the years but this is new to me, Will had texted back. ¬†Confirms my suspicions about CER, but I’m not certain of all the linkages. He could be drifting in the same direction as your mother. Damn glad I got Brenda and Tony there. You be careful. I’m on my way.

“Now what the hell does that mean?” Diana whispered, staring at her tablet.

Whose game am I playing?

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