Family Feudalism

Chapter 4

“That’s a lovely family portrait you have there,” Janlen Dugray said from his spot on one of the couches in Emily’s living room. His grandson was seated next to him.

“Thank you,” she said. “I’m afraid Lorelai had trouble sitting still that day.”

“Rory looks just like her,” Tristan observed. Then he added, “They must get their good looks from you.”

“You’re too kind,” she said, handing him his scotch and taking her seat in front of the fireplace. It was too late for flattery. He’d already shown Rory his true colors. He was clearly attractive, no doubt giving him the confidence to believe he could get any girl he wanted. But he’d been wrong. Rory was too smart to fall for his insincere charm.

“You were right,” Emily heard Lorelai say. “It was his car.”

Lorelai and Rory were hovering at the entrance of the living room. They were gawking as though they were at the zoo. Emily was exceptionally happy to see them and eyed Rory expectantly, restraining herself from running to her for a giddy hug. Impatiently, Emily said, “Well don’t just stand there. Come in and sit down. I want you to meet Janlen Dugray. And Rory already knows Tristan, of course.”

“Nice to meet you,” Lorelai said, shaking their hands before taking a seat.

Rory exchanged pleasantries as well, though raising an inquisitive brow at Tristan, to which he grinned and raised his glass to her. He watched her sit down and his eyes lingered on her legs, which were exposed from her knees down. Emily narrowed her eyes at him. Ogling—though incredibly distasteful in her opinion—was all he was ever going to do.

Satisfied with that thought, she turned her attention back to the rest of the group. “We’re just waiting for Mason and Cecilia.”

“My parents,” Tristan explained, tearing his eyes away from Rory. “Dad keeps late hours at the office.”

Emily stood and moved back to the drink cart. “Would you girls like martinis?”

“Yes, please,” Rory answered.

“Shaken, not stirred.”

With a crease between her brows, Emily asked, “What?”

“Yes, I’d love a martini,” Lorelai said.

“Now tell me,” Janlen started, “are you the same Rory Gilmore of the astronomy building at Yale?”

Rory took the martini offered and nodded. “The one and the same.”

Emily added, “Richard and I donated money to the university in her name.”

“It’s an excellent building,” he complimented. “Quite an improvement over the old astronomy building.”

Lorelai took a sip of her martini and asked, “Is the font large enough though? We really want it to be visible from space.” Then she asked her mother, “Is that why you picked astronomy? Because it was the department that could appreciate it from a distance?”

“No Lorelai,” Emily said impatiently. “We didn’t get to pick the department.” She couldn’t keep her excitement in any longer. “Rory, why didn’t you tell me your wonderful news?”

“What news?”

“I spoke with Francine this week, and she said you’re seeing Logan again. When can he come to dinner?”

“Logan?” Janlen asked.

Emily nodded at him eagerly. “Huntzberger.”

“That’s quite a catch,” he commented.

She smiled and said, “His internet company is doing extremely well in California.”

Lorelai, unable to keep her comments to herself, said, “I swear, you said the same thing about Chris once.”

Tristan choked on his drink and started to cough. If he couldn’t handle his scotch, he should have asked for something else, Emily thought. A Shirley Temple, perhaps. Apparently he found his sputtering funny, because he was smiling.

“Are you all right?” Janlen asked him.

Tristan nodded, his eyes twinkling at Rory in a way Emily didn’t care for. “I’m fine.”

For her part, Rory was rubbing her forehead, not returning his eye contact. When she looked back at Emily, she was cringing. “I’m not dating Logan again, Grandma. I haven’t even talked to him in years.”

Emily felt the disappointment wash over every part of her. Coldly, she asked, “Why would Francine say such a thing?”

“Well, since she was trying to set us up,” Rory said, pointing to Tristan, “Dad mentioned Logan and made it sound like we’re together.” She went on hurriedly, “He said it so she’d back off, that’s all. I’m sorry you had to hear about it second hand.”

Not as sorry as Emily was to hear it wasn’t true.

Just then the doorbell rang and the maid walked by to greet the final two guests. Moments later, Mason and Cecilia Dugray joined them. Mason wasn’t as tall as his son, and with his graying dark hair, his eyes were the only visual trait he passed on to Tristan. The woman next to him, in a skirt and blouse, had her blond hair pulled back in an elegant up do.

Emily introduced the couple to everyone in the room and prepared their drinks. Janlen stood to offer his daughter-in-law his place on the couch and instead went to join his son, who remained standing.

“I hope coming to dinner wasn’t inconvenient tonight.”

“Not at all,” Cecilia said. “We were happy to get the invitation.”

“I just wanted to clear the air after this business with Francine,” Emily explained after she’d taken her seat again. “I don’t know if you heard, but I had words with her about how I’m not in favor of a match between the kids.”

“Kids?” Lorelai said, nonplussed. “They’re adults.”

“You see,” Emily continued, “she and Straub never took the time to get to know Rory. They’re little more than strangers.”

“They didn’t buy her a building or anything,” Lorelai added.

Ignoring her, Emily went on, “I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. It’s nothing against Tristan or your family, Francine just crossed a line. She really has no business using Rory like she tried. Straub’s firm is nothing to us.”

Mason, who still hadn’t taken a seat, said, “There’s nothing to worry about, Emily. It turns out Tristan and Rory already knew each other. And Lorelai’s right, they’re adults. They can decide for themselves what they want to do.”

Luckily, Emily thought, Rory already knew she didn’t want anything to do with Tristan, even if she wasn’t with the best thing that’d ever happened to her. After tonight, they could put this all behind them as though it’d never happened.

“We’ve already decided,” Tristan said. “It was the epitome of bad matches.”

“It’s really too bad,” his mother lamented. “I’ve been looking forward to getting to know you, Rory.”

“Oh, you have?” Rory asked, though why she sounded surprised, Emily couldn’t fathom.

“Yes, I’ve heard such wonderful things about you. I was hoping you and Tristan would have hit it off.”

Emily glanced at the blond man disapprovingly. He wasn’t even paying attention to the conversation, like a person with proper manners would do. Instead, he had his eye on his father and Janlen, who were still standing near the entrance of the room, having their own discussion.

“I’m afraid we’re being rather rude, Emily,” Janlen said. “Would it be all right if we stepped out into the hall?”

“Yes, that’s fine,” she answered. “In fact, you can use the study straight through there,” she said, pointing the way.

Tristan didn’t go along, but he watched them leave. His brows furrowed just slightly and he drummed his fingers on the arm of the chair in agitation.

“I guess we were wrong about the Navy theory last week,” Lorelai commented to Rory. “The timeline doesn’t fit any more if he went to law school.”

“No, we were right,” Rory said. “Weren’t we?” She looked at Tristan expectantly, but he wasn’t listening. He was as rude as his father and grandfather, Emily thought. But at least he wasn’t looking at Rory like she was a main entre anymore.

“Tristan,” his mother prodded. “Rory asked you a question.”

He turned to the brunette. “Oh sorry. What?”

“You are in the Navy.”

He nodded and took a drink. His eyes darted quickly to the hall again before he said, “I’m a Navy JAG officer.”

“Ooh, JAG, like the show?” Lorelai asked.

“Yes, except I was on a base, not a ship.”

Emily frowned. Rory hadn’t known what he did the night after Francine’s dinner. How could she and Lorelai have come to a correct conclusion about the Navy of all things? Unless . . . no, Emily rejected the idea. Rory wouldn’t have had a reason see him again. Emily hoped her granddaughter would forgive her for throwing them together one last time. She glanced at him, and again, he was barely paying attention to them.

Next to him, Cecilia added, “He was just released from active duty. Mason and I are so happy to have him back.” Tristan glanced at her suspiciously, as if he didn’t believe what he’d heard. “Actually, I wanted to talk to you about that.”

“About what?” he asked.

“The four years you have left on your commission.”

“We already talked about it, remember? You said I should resign and I said no.”

“Yes, but I was hoping you’d changed your mind now that—”

“Tristan,” Mason said from the entryway. He gestured with his index finger for his son to join him. Tristan complied without protest, if anything, he looked happy to leave the room. Whether it was to escape his mother’s conversation or a fondness for business talk, Emily wasn’t sure.

When both men were gone, Cecilia said, “You’ll have to excuse them, they can’t get through an evening without talking shop.”

“It’s quite all right,” Emily said in an understanding tone.

“Tristan is getting to be just as bad about it. When he was younger he always asked to go along with Mason when he traveled for business, ‘So Dad won’t get lonely’, he’d say.”

“That’s sweet,” Lorelai commented. She and Rory both smiled at the story.

Cecilia continued, “One day he stood up and announced, ‘When I grow up and get married, my wife is coming with me when I go places’.” She took a sip of her martini before she went on, “I nearly died of laughter when the nanny told me about it.”

Lorelai and Rory’s smiles faltered.

“He must have sounded like a little cave man, wanting to drag a woman by her hair everywhere he went,” Cecilia said with a shake of her head. “I can’t imagine going with Mason when he travels, I’m far too busy. You know what it’s like, Emily. We both have such full schedules.” She turned to Rory, “But don’t worry, I’m sure he knows now that isn’t realistic.”

Rory glanced from side to side. “Uh, okay.”

Cecilia wasn’t actually trying to push this ill-fated match, was she? What could she be thinking?

The maid appeared then and announced that dinner was ready. As the four women stood, the phone rang, and Emily frowned in distaste. “Who would be calling now? Go on to the dining room, I’ll be right there.”


On their way to the dining table, Rory and Lorelai saw the two elder Dugray men already approaching the dining room. Rory frowned and wondered where Tristan was. She wandered away from her mother and found who she was looking for. He was standing by the grand piano, sliding back the protective covering off the keys.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

His head came up in surprise. He looked at her for a couple seconds before he grinned slowly. “I’m by a piano, so clearly I’m trying to lure you in to see what’ll happen.”

When her expression turned impatient, his smile just grew as he looked down at the keys to play a few chords. “Seriously, what are you doing in here?” She took a few steps closer to him to watch.

He held up a finger. “Wait for it.”

So Rory did. But after a few seconds ticked by, she raised her eyebrows, silently asking what they were waiting for. Then his mother appeared at the entryway, looking slightly harassed. “For goodness sake, Tristan, resolve that chord progression before we all lose our minds,” she said before walking away.

He smiled at Rory, saying, “She hates that. It’s like nails on a chalkboard for her.”

“So you do it to torture?”

“I’m just messing with her. Other people hug their mothers, I like to think outside the box,” he said as he looked back down at the piano and furrowed his brows. “Shoot, what key was I in?” He quietly played a chord, then nodded. “That was it.” He closed the keyboard and straightened.

“You have an odd way of expressing affection,” she commented.

He nodded as they headed for the dining room. When they reached the table, his family members had already claimed seats on the side across from Lorelai. With Emily’s place at the end, there were only two chairs left.

Tristan looked at Rory with a grin, “Look who I get to sit next to.” He pulled out the chair next to Lorelai and gestured for Rory to sit in it. She complied, and he sat down next to her. “I hope we make it to dessert this time.”

Emily returned to the dinner party and addressed the group as she took her seat, “That was Francine, and once again, she claimed this was all a misunderstanding. She just wanted to get to know Rory better.” There was a sadistic gleam in her eye as she continued, “In fact, she’d like to throw you a birthday party.”

Rory pointed to herself, bewildered. “Who, me?”

“Yes,” Emily said with a smile. “At the end of April.”

“But her birthday was in October,” Tristan said absently, putting his napkin on his lap and picking up his fork.

Emily’s eyes flashed to him and narrowed. “How do you know that?”

He turned to her to say, “I came here for her party once. You invited me.”

Emily blinked. “Oh. Yes, yes of course,” she said. She turned her attention to Lorelai. “She must have confused your birthday for Rory’s. Isn’t it wonderful?”

“I’m a little flattered she remembered by birthday—sort of—but how is it wonderful?” Lorelai asked, taking a bite of his eggplant parmesan.

“Don’t you see? She’ll look like a fool in front of everyone,” Emily said.

“That’s awful,” Rory said with a frown. “We have to tell her the truth.”

“We don’t have to do any such thing. It’ll serve her right after the way she used you. Misunderstanding my eye.”

“Your suspicions are well founded, Emily,” Mason said. “We all knew she had ulterior motives. It’s why she kept pestering Tristan at his office.”

Cecilia added, “I don’t know what she’s so worried about, she should be grateful. Straub’s firm is in good hands with Tristan.” She was pushing the linguini around her plate more than she was eating it.

Tristan looked up from his plate to his mother. He whispered to Rory, “Did you hear that too?”

She inclined her head toward him to ask, “Hear what?”

“What she just said. It sounded like a compliment.”

“It was.”

“I just wanted to make sure someone else heard.”

Rory frowned at him as he kept an eye on Cecilia, waiting for her to continue. When she did, she said, “He studied international affairs, so he’s very well equipped to practice law in that office.”

Rory did some quick math in her head. Four years away, seven in school. There was a gap. “You’re missing a year,” she whispered to him.

“What?” he whispered back, leaning closer.

“You’re missing a year. What did you do right after law school?”

“JAG, you know that,” he said, spearing an asparagus with his fork. He added, “I had to take the bar first. And go to officer training school.”

“But there’s still eight years between that and high school. What are you, a doctor?” she asked sarcastically.

He grinned and said, “I’m a kind of doctor. Are you due for a physical?”

She rolled her eyes, but he didn’t seem to mind.

“So since Tristan knows all about international affairs and you write about them,” Lorelai said, “you guys should team up and go on the Amazing Race.” She glanced at her mother and smiled slowly.

“Now you sound like Francine,” Rory said.

Tristan asked Lorelai, “Are you re-setting us up?”

“Of course she isn’t,” Emily said quickly. “That’s just her idea of a joke.”

From across the table, Mason said, “Rory, I understand you were in Uganda recently.”

“Yes, I was,” she said. “My articles were in the Courant this week.”

Tristan muttered to her, “And we’re back to you.”

“Terrible what’s happening over there,” Janlen added.

“It is,” she agreed. “I might end up going there again. I’ll be keeping an eye on the situation.”

“I’m sure her blog will have a new entry with all her thoughts by tomorrow,” Lorelai said. “So we can all look forward to that.”

“I do look forward to it,” Emily said proudly. “I keep all of Rory’s work. It’s all in Richard’s study.”

“We’re keeping it for a big Rory shrine,” Lorelai quipped.

“You’ll have to tell me all about your career sometime,” Cecilia said. She took a sip of her wine, having abandoned her plate. She’d barely eaten half.

“Yes, well, she’s very busy,” Emily said. “She barely has time for Friday night dinners as it is.”

“It’s something I’ve always envied about her,” Lorelai said.

“Another joke?” Janlen asked with a raised brow.

“If only.”


“All right,” Rory said as she carried a try to the living room the next night. “We have Pop Tarts, pizza, Red Vines, popcorn, and leftover chocolate cake from the diner.” She put the full try on the coffee table in front of the TV and sat on the couch.

“That’s all?” Lorelai asked, frowning down at the food. “I thought we had some donuts in the galley.”

“The what?”

“The galley,” Lorelai said again. “It means kitchen. It’s a nautical term.”

Rory stared at her mother for a few seconds, wondering if this needed to be addressed. She let it go for the time being. “I didn’t see any donuts.”

Lorelai snapped her finger. “Oh I remember, I ate them already.” She picked up a stack of movies, displaying them for Rory one by one. “This evening’s features are A Few Good Men, Anchors Aweigh, The Social Network, and On the Town.”

“I see a theme,” Rory said dryly. This new fascination would definitely need acknowledgment if it continued beyond tonight. “Except one of these doesn’t belong.” She held up The Social Network.

Lorelai put A Few Good Men next to it and pointedly said, “Aaron Sorkin.”

“Ah, I stand corrected.”

Lorelai looked down at the cover. “Do you think Tristan has a uniform like this?” she asked, pointing to Tom Cruise.

Rory shrugged. “I don’t know, I guess.”

“Are you sure you’re not interested in him? Because I might be.”


“What?” Lorelai said defensively. She held up a hand. “I don’t see a ring on this finger.”

“That’s because it’s your right hand.”

Lorelai put the first disk in the player and took a seat next to Rory on the couch. While the previews played, she asked, “So what are you going to do about this ‘birthday’ party?”

Rory shook her head and sighed. “I don’t know. What if Francine does want to get to know me? I mean, making up an excuse for using me is a horrible reason to get to know me, but maybe she really wants to,” she said. “It’s just a party, it wouldn’t hurt anything to go along with it.”

“Because you’re the nicest person on the planet. Seriously, I don’t know how you do it.”

“I’ll call Dad tomorrow and see what he has to say.”

“At this point, I don’t think Mom will let you cancel it. She’s feeling vengeful. Did you see the look in her eyes? I think the idea of getting back at Francine might have made up for the false alarm about Logan.” She selected a chocolate icing covered chocolate Pop Tart from the plate and took a bite.

“Dad owes me for that one.” Rory thought of Tristan’s accusation about her so called issues. “Big time.”

They settled back into the couch with their pizza as the overture of On the Town started. The movie hadn’t quite reached half way when Rory’s phone vibrated inside her pocket.

“Hey, no phone calls during movie night. You know the rules,” Lorelai protested.

“I seem to remember a similar rule in the diner that you have trouble following.”

“Movie night is different, it’s sacred.”

Rory stared down at the display, confused by the information. “It’s Tristan.”

“You gave him your number?”

“No,” Rory deadpanned. She answered the phone and asked, “How did you get this number?”

“That’s your telephone greeting?” he asked. “It needs work.”

“I’m going to delete your number.” She stood up, unable to sit still.

“That’s fine, but I’ll still have yours.” He went on before she could counter, “So today I’ve been wondering, why don’t you do more broadcast journalism?”


“You’ve written tons of articles, but you don’t have as many video pieces.”

“What are you talking about?” She stopped where she was, next to the stairs.

“Your work, obviously.” She wracked her brain, trying to figure out how he could possibly have found her stories. He cut into her thoughts, “Emily wasn’t lying about keeping everything you’ve ever done. She keeps amazing records.”

Rory gasped. “Did you steal from Grandma?” She returned to the couch, glaring at the television screen.

“I’m just borrowing it.”

“So you asked if you could take it?”

“Not exactly,” he admitted. “Smuggled is more like it.”

Lorelai paused the movie and turned to look at Rory. “Tristan stole?” She shook her head. “I wish you could find a guy who doesn’t steal from Mom.”

Tristan apparently heard, because he asked, “Who else took something?”

“No one,” Rory said.

“Don’t worry, I’ll take it back so it can go in your shrine,” he said wryly.

“Mom was joking about that.”

“Your portrait and building says otherwise. I’m going to have to let you go. I want to read what you wrote about Libya—you’ve seriously been everywhere. I’ll get back to you if I have any more questions.” He hung up.

Rory looked down at her phone again. “He took that box of stuff from Grandpa’s study.”

“What box?”

“The one with all my work. He’s at his house looking through it right now.”

“Oh, that wouldn’t be my first choice of things to take,” Lorelai said, pressing play.

Rory crossed her arms and sat back on the couch. She tried to watch the movie again, but had trouble concentrating on the song Frank Sinatra was singing. She tried to think about all the stories she’d covered over the years. She thought about what Tristan would criticize—probably for his own amusement. And she was sitting here, letting him.

“I mean, I know it isn’t private. Everything I wrote was printed for public viewing, but still. He just took it without Grandma’s permission. She already isn’t his biggest fan.”

“Not that it matters since you two aren’t interested in each other,” Lorelai pointed out. “Right?”

“Right,” Rory agreed. “Absolutely right.”

“So it doesn’t matter.”

“Right,” she said again. But it kept bothering her. She shook her head and stood up determinedly.

Lorelai glanced up at her. “Where are you going?”

“To get my stuff back from Tristan.”

“What about movie night?”

“I won’t be long.”

“Mm-hmm. Here,” she said, holding up a half empty red package.

“What am I going to do with Red Vines?”

“I recommend eating them, but don’t let me stifle your creativity if you think of something better.”

“I’m going to be right back. I don’t need to take snacks,” Rory said as she headed to her room for shoes.


Tristan was sitting on a futon in front of his flat screen television. He’d just finished reading a few of Rory’s articles and switched back to a disk filled with reports. He glanced out the window and saw a car pulling up in his driveway. He recognized the silver Volt. It was Rory, again.

Incredible. At this rate, he’d never need to ask her to come over, she’d just invite herself. He grabbed an empty bowl from the futon and took it to the kitchen to refill it with grapes. He opened the refrigerator to retrieve a couple containers of yogurt, then got spoons from a drawer. He rounded the corner in time to hear her knock.

He opened the door. “Can I help you?”

“I want my stuff. I’ll take it back to Grandma’s.”

Her rogue bangs had escaped from her pony tail again. The impulse to push them away from her face was only hindered by his full hands. “I’m not finished with it,” he said as he headed back to his room. He left the door open so she could follow—which she did. He took a seat and put down the provisions.

“You really took it all,” Rory said as looked at the newspaper clippings and internet print outs spread around the floor.

“Yeah, it was right where she said it was,” he said with a nod. “I was supposed to pick out paint today, but I ended up going through this stuff instead.” He pointed to a stack of school newspapers. “No offense, but I skipped over those. The first one was about a parking lot and I couldn’t bring myself to read it.”

“That’s a good article,” she protested. “Paris assigned it to me. She was mad at me about something. And Paris, being Paris, means it was probably over nothing.” A couple seconds later, she pointed at him angrily. “It was you!”

“What was?”

Wide eyed, she continued, “It was the end of sophomore year. She was mad at me because you said we were going out.”

To a concert. He remembered.

“She must have stewed over it all summer.”

Tristan had done some stewing himself.

“It was so dumb,” Rory went on. “You and I didn’t even like each other.”

She was half right. “Sorry about that,” he said. “I didn’t know she’d take it out on you.” He looked at the empty space on the futon. “You can sit.” She did so and he offered the bowl of grapes. “You don’t have to feed them to me—unless you want.”

She started at him warily and snatched a container of strawberry yogurt. She took off the top and he handed over a spoon. After she took a bite, she commented, “You know what would make this better?”

“What?” he asked, eating a grape.

“If it was pudding.” She muttered, “I should have brought the Red Vines.”


She shook her head. “Nothing.” She glanced over the newspapers stacked up on the floor. “Did you skip over the stuff from the Yale Daily News too?”

“A lot of it,” he said, picking one up and pointing to her byline. “I think you kind of sugar coated this one a bit.”

She took the paper and skimmed her article, then frowned at him. “I infiltrated a secret society. What did I sugar coat?”

“The reason those societies aren’t a secret.”

She ate a spoonful of yogurt. “Yes they are. They had to be persuaded to let me observe their event. I had to wear a blindfold, so I don’t even know where we were. Clearly, they wanted to keep things a secret.”

Tristan shook his head. “You’re missing my point. They have secrets, but they want people to know their special club exists.”

Exasperated, she insisted, “No they don’t.”

“Then how will the non-members know they’re being excluded?”

“They don’t care about that.”

He countered, “All of Yale cares about that, it’s why they have all those wrought iron gates—to keep everyone else out.”

She crossed her arms. “And where did you go?”

“Somewhere equally pretentious.” He waved a hand indifferently and put the paper back on the floor. “Don’t worry about the article. I read between the lines. They wouldn’t talk to you directly. I don’t suppose they invited you to join after your story, did they?”

“No—but I participated in their stunt. And I hung out with some of them a lot after that event.”

Tristan couldn’t imagine why she would. He’d never have thought a bunch of rich kids who played with death to feel alive were Rory Gilmore’s sort of crowd. But then he considered her high prized college boy toy, and he supposed it made more sense—though marginally.

She scowled at him. “I knew you were sitting over here, just criticizing my work.”

“And you wanted to come to defend yourself?” he asked. He rocked his head back and forth. “That’s fair.” He pressed play so they could hear her coverage of the earthquake in Haiti.

“Ugh, turn that off,” she said with a cringe, looking away.

Tristan glanced at her. “Why? Don’t you like the sound of your voice?” Then he smirked and said, “I’m powering through.”

She glared at him again. It was really too easy. “I hate these videos. They’re so amateur, they belong on YouTube.” She added dryly, “Everyone is a journalist.” She finished off her yogurt and sat the empty container on the floor.

He smiled a little. “No, everyone’s phone has a camera. Your reporting is professional.”

Rory watched some of the video and listened to her voice over. “You don’t really like this better than my articles, do you?”

“Yeah,” he said. “You’re not a hardened reporter. You saw horrible things happen to people. Your writing pants a vivid picture, but I don’t know, hearing you report on it adds something.”


He shifted his eyes over to hers as he thought about the right word. “You sound . . . companionate.” He didn’t take his eyes off her.

“Oh.” She paused, then, “Thanks.”

He nodded at her slightly. “You’re welcome.” He gazed at her longer than necessary, and her eyes fell to his lips for a moment. She must have realized it, because she quickly shifted focus back to his eyes before turning to the television. He did the same and cleared his throat. “But I’m just a lawyer, so I don’t really know much about it.”

“Newspaper giants don’t know everything either.”

“Kings,” he corrected. “We call them kings around here.”

She laughed lightly as they watched her next story. Her self-critique was harsher than his. Her phone buzzed from her pocket and she took it out to answer. “Hello?” She turned to Tristan with a frown and covered the bottom of the phone. “It’s your mom.” He paused the video as she continued to listen. “Oh, uh, I’m not sure. I’d have to check my schedule . . . Okay, I will. Bye.” She hung up and looked at him, incredulous. “You gave your mother my number?”


“Then who did?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. What did she want?”

“She invited me to go to the opera with her. I’m supposed to get back to her.”

Tristan tilted his head thoughtfully. “The Hartford Opera just got a new tenor. And they’re going to be doing La boheme. Maybe you should check it out.”

She blinked. “What?”

“It won’t be bad.”

“No, how do you know all that about the opera?”

“That stuff is all my mom cares about,” he said. “If she hadn’t been on a Wagner kick when I was born, she might have named me Rhadamaz.” He shook his head. “Either way, I was destined to be a tragic hero.”

“You really think I should go?”

“Do what you want,” he said as he took a new disk out of the box and went to the television to make a switch.

“Why does she want to spend time with me?”

“Emily only told Francine to cease and desist. I guess my mom decided to pursue you herself since I’m not going to,” he said, moving back to the futon. “I suspect she’s ready for a daughter.”

“Lucky me.”

“That’s the spirit. And there’s a bright side here, she obviously doesn’t think you’re inadequate for me.”

Rory sighed and put her head back on the cushion. For the first time since she’d arrived, she slowly looked around the room. Like the rest of the house, it needed fresh paint and light fixtures. Tristan could feel her eyes on him as she slowly said, “I should be the one to take this stuff back to Grandma. I could visit for a while.” Rory paused. “She might get lonely in that big house all by herself, with no one else around.”

Tristan glanced at her and nodded. “It’s possible.” Probable, more like it, he thought.

Rory continued to look around the room. She peered through an open door and saw a bathroom. Then she looked at the piece of furniture they were sitting on. “Is this your bedroom?”


“Why are we in here?”

“Because it’s the room with the TV,” he answered. “It’ll go downstairs when the basement’s finished. The futon is only temporary. I’m going to get a real bed.” He added, “Not that you’d ever need to worry about that.”

She sat up straighter. “I think I should go. I’m missing movie night.” She reached down to pick up a stray newspaper, but he snatched it away. When his fingers brushed hers, she quickly pulled her hand back.

“I’m not finished yet,” he said. “Let me watch the videos, you can summarize the articles, and then you can take it all.”

She exhaled heavily. “We can watch the videos, but that’s it,” she said. “And you have to read the parking lot piece.”

“Fair is fair,” he said. He’d already read the articles he was interested in anyway. Pleased with the evening, he grinned to himself as he turned back to the television.

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