The Client

Chapter 30

The house hunt was zero for four. Yesterday's houses turned out to be busts. Charlie's first choice this next day didn't really speak to her either so they moved onto a house that Johnny put on the list since it was the closest. They pulled up to the address. There stood a cute brick and stone house with a well-kept front yard. The realtor got out of her car ahead of them and went to unlock the door.

Johnny whipped around to Charlie's door before she got the chance to open it. She looked around as she stepped out. He had chosen a good neighborhood. They joined the realtor as she opened the door. She motioned them inside.

"How old is this house?" Charlie asked.

"It was built two years ago," the realtor answered, "It comes with a security system."

"Where is the console?" Johnny inquired.

"Right over there," the realtor pointed toward the wall with the thermostat. Johnny went over and studied the interface.

"This is in a great school district- has many of the top magnet and private schools in the area," the realtor said.

Johnny rejoined them and they went on the tour of the house, starting in the bedrooms first. "This would be your master suite," the realtor indicated the room at the end of the hallway. She opened the door. Charlie looked around, stepping into the middle of the room. It was spacious and had a well upgraded ensuite complete with walk in closet.

Next up were the two other bedrooms. Both were pretty much the same size. "So would this be your office?" Johnny asked.

"I think I'll let Hannah pick her room out before deciding on what the other would be," Charlie said. Either one would work.

They moved through the house and into the kitchen. Charlie's hand traced over the cool marble counter top. She admired the work on the cherry colored cabinets. The kitchen was clean, definitely a cook's kitchen which she liked. It held a bit of old world charm as well as offering all the modern amenities. She had a sight line to the dining and living rooms. Charlie could keep an eye on Hannah from the kitchen cooking while the little girl played.

"Why don't we check out the backyard?" the realtor suggested. It was right off the dining room. The woman opened the sliding door and the three walked out onto the deck.

Charlie walked up to the railing and took in the yard. The sellers already installed a privacy fence. It was a good size yard with plenty of green space for Hannah to play in. There were even a couple of mature trees for her to climb when she had recovered. "This is nice," Charlie smiled.

Johnny stepped out from behind her. "What do ya think?" he asked. Charlie's face hadn't lit up this way with the last house and from what Dale had told him Charlie had been pretty disappointed yesterday.

"We can add a ramp for Hannah's wheelchair," Johnny offered.

"That would be perfect," Charlie replied. She went over to the opposite side of the desk's stairs. "Here?" Charlie asked. Johnny nodded. She looked back at the door. "This sliding door threshold does worry me a little," Charlie said.

"I was planning to change all exterior doors," Johnny offered.

"You don't have to do that," Charlie shook her head.

"And upgrade the current security system," Johnny added as if he hadn't heard her.

Charlie crossed her arms over her chest, "It already has a security system."

"I need to know you're safe," Johnny insisted. His job made him a lot more security conscious than the average person.

"Is this the one?" the realtor asked.

"I think I want to put an offer on the house," Charlie nodded.

"Great, why don't we sit down and talk some numbers?"

The fragrant smell of flowers grew strong as Abby led Mike over to a wrought iron gate to the garden. They entered together and began to enjoy the various plants in bloom. It was especially beautiful in the summer. Walking hand in hand with the man she was falling for made it even better. The couple kept it at a leisurely pace. "This is nice," Mike said.

"Do you like to garden?" Abby asked.

He bent down to smell one of the roses. "I can grow basil and cilantro and that's about it," Mike looked back at her with a smile.

"The cook is afraid to let me near our herbs," she laughed, "I have a black thumb or something."

"I know it's too late to take out the horses, but a swim would be nice," he offered, "What do you say?"

"Absolutely, any reason to get you in swim trunks," Abby smirked.

"As long as you pull out that little black bikini again I'm good," Mike returned.

"You like that one, huh?" she raised a playful eyebrow.

"Yes, I do," he crooned.

"Well, I have another little number that you will love," Abby said saucily.

"Race you back to the house," Mike challenged.

"Catch me if you can!" Abby took off. He went running after her.

The couple were completely unaware of a new arrival at the estate. A rented Subaru pulled to the guard station and rolled down a window as an on duty guard approached.

"Name," the guard inquired.

"Agent Piper Harris," the blonde handed out her FBI badge.

"What brings you to the Sinclair residence?" he asked.

"The Bureau sent me to back up Agent Frisco," Piper covered.

He called in to verify her FBI credentials then opened the gate for her when they cleared. The guard handed back her badge, "Have a good day."

"Thanks, you too," she smiled. Piper drove up the long drive then parked the car at the end. When the car stopped, a little girl with black hair popped her head up. "Where are we, Mommy?" she wiped her groggy eyes.

"Remember I told you we were going to visit one of Mommy's friends?" Piper explained. She got out and retrieved her daughter from her car seat.

Piper began to head to the front door, but heard noise coming from out back. She changed course. They were coming around into the back yard as a woman's squeal cut the air. Piper looked up from her daughter in time to see Mike scoop up Abby into his arms.

"I caught you," Mike laughed.

Abby angled back to him, "Now you have to kiss me."

Mike leaned forward and teased her soft lips with his own, "If you insist." Abby opened her mouth and the two came crashing together.

Piper's heart sank. She had convinced herself the reported romance between the two was smoke and mirrors. The whole flight from California, Piper had spent explaining away the photographs from the gala. There right in front of her was living proof Mike had moved on. Piper shook it off. It had only been a month since the gala. They couldn't be that serious.

She took a breath before stepping forward. Bringing her daughter was a risky opening gambit, but Piper had to try something big. She shifted her daughter's weight to her other hip. Piper approached the couple with a feigned sheepishness. "Mike?" she greeted. Mike set Abby on solid ground, but did not let go of her. Abby caught the air of expectace that Piper looked at Mike with. There was some underlying longing there on the blonde woman's part.

"Piper," he straightened fully. Mike kept his tone neutral- no warmth, but no anger either. "This is my girlfriend Abigail Sinclair," Mike looked to the woman in his arms, "Abs, this is Agent Piper Harris…"

Abby could read between the lines. So this was his ex. She had a name and a face now. Abby tipped her head in greeting. Piper was beautiful Abby noted, in a vixen type of way. Dark blonde hair and the greenest eyes Abby had ever seen. Those green eyes were duplicated in the little girl Piper held on her hip. Little Callie had her father's black hair and tan skin, but her features were definitely a smaller version of her mother's, a perfect mix of the two.

"It's been a while," Piper batted her eyes.

Mike wasn't giving anything back, "Yeah." This was the last thing he needed. It was bad enough having to deal with Grant coming.

Piper angled down and addressed her daughter, "Callie, can you say 'hello' to Uncl…"

"Don't," Mike cut her off, "Just don't." He forced a smile so not to upset the child Piper held.

Abby felt the growing tension and intervened. She locked eyes with Callie, "I bet you would like to find your dad." The little girl responded with a nod. "He's in the living room," Abby pointed to the double glass doors.

When Callie looked over and indeed spotted Grant through the glass doors she began to wriggle. "Down, Mommy!" the three-year-old demanded.

Piper reluctantly set the child on her feet. She watched her little girl race off. Callie went running for the house calling for her father. Grant saw his daughter coming and opened the door for her. He squatted down and she ran into his arms.

"Hey, you," Grant stood and spun her around. He kissed the top of Callie's head.

"I misses yous, Daddy!" Callie wrapped her arms around Grant's neck.

"I missed you too, Munchkin," Grant returned the hug. He glared out at Piper. Piper shook her head. She could tell Grant was pissed at her, but she really couldn't care.

Piper turned her attention back to the real reason she had come cross country. Mike's ocean eyes were latched onto Abby. Mike whisper something to Abby that made her chuckle. "Little rich girl," Piper snipped under her breath. She sized up her competition. Competition was a strong word. What did Mike see in the little mouse? Ok, so Abby was fit and had nice hair. That Piper could admit, but not much else. Time to start making friends Piper decided. It would be much easier to take muffin face down from the inside. "Any progress in apprehending Bello?" Piper inquired. The sooner she could get Mike away from Abby the better.

"Not yet, but you can get more information about that from Grant," Mike replied trying to distance himself from his ex.

"Lauren and Briggs have been working closely with him," Abby added. She knew what the other woman was doing. Abby would have to keep an eye on Piper while she was there. Not that she was worried Mike would leave for Piper, but that didn't mean Piper wouldn't make a play for him anyway. It was hard for Abby to feel jealous of the other woman while in Mike's embrace and with his attention focused on her. After all history is a strong bond, but so is trust and Piper broke Mike's with the lie about Callie.

"Why don't we all go get an update?" Piper suggested.

"Actually Abby and I already have plans," Mike said.

"Ok," Piper replied.

"Excuse us," he led Abby into the house and away from Piper.

Tara led Charlie back to her desk. "Have a seat, Dr. Demarco," Tara indicated as she sat behind her desk.

Charlie did as she was told, "I hope you aren't too angry with me."

"For going behind my back for the petition?" Tara turned on her laptop.

"I'm sorry- I had to do something," Charlie said.

"Believe it or not I understand," Tara offered, "Hannah is a special girl."

"She is," Charlie affirmed.

"I see your friend Johnny is here with you," Tara noted.

"Yes, he's here for emotional support," Charlie admitted, "I am a little nervous, but I have a great group of people around me." She was going to sell that as hard as she could.

"So will Johnny be a part of Hannah's life?" Tara inquired.

"I hope so," Charlie answered.

"In what way?" Tara questioned, "Are the two of you starting to see each other in a romantic sense?"

"No," Charlie shook her head, "We just discovered Johnny is my half-brother."

"Really?" Tara raised an eyebrow.

"Yeah, I talked him into sending in a DNA discovery project and surprise," Charlie smiled, "I have been looking for him since I found out the doctors were able to save him after the accident that killed our mother."

"I am glad you found your brother," Tara replied.

"Thank you," Charlie licked her lips.

"I will probably need to speak with Johnny," the redheaded social worker advised.

"I am sure that will be fine with him," Charlie nodded.

Tara looked over the information on her computer screen, "Are you still living with the Sinclairs?"

"For now- I just put in an offer on a house today," Charlie answered.

"So another month before you're ready?" Tara assumed.

"I put it in for closing in a week- I am hoping that will give some extra incentive to accept the offer," Charlie stated.

"Will you be moved in before Hannah is due out of the hospital?" Tara inquired.

"If I get the house, yes," Charlie nodded, "I will want to remodel a bathroom for Hannah and paint, but there doesn't seem to be much more to do to the house."

"I have caught up on news of the ongoing harassment your friend Abby is going through," Tara said.

"It's awful," Charlie replied.

"Her driver was shot to death is that correct?" Tara asked.

"Yes," Charlie admitted.

"This situation with your friend gives me a get deal of pause Dr. Demarco," Tara stated.

"Abby didn't go looking for trouble- I do not choose to put myself in dangerous situations," Charlie answered.

"Yet you are in one," Tara countered.

"They are not after me," Charlie explained, "The FBI has become involved. They know who it is."

"So the police have a suspect?" Tara asked.

"It's just a matter of time before they catch him," Charlie said.

"I should hope so," Tara nodded.

"Then we all can just put this behind us," Charlie added.

Charlie's phone rang as Tara walked her out to the waiting area. "I'm sorry, it's my realtor," Charlie checked it.

"The sellers countered your offer," the realtor explained. Charlie listened as the realtor laid out the counter offer.

Charlie thought for a moment, "It's worth it."

"So you're accepting the offer?" the realtor asked.

"Yeah, I am not losing the house over five thousand dollars," Charlie answered.

"Congratulations," the realtor replied, "I will call and let the sellers know and get you the paper work to sign."

"Thanks," Charlie said.

"Talk to you soon," the realtor ended the call.

Charlie turned back to Tara with a wide grin, "I got the house!"

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