The Prodigy

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Chapter 22

Thursday evening Branna meets Jax for dinner in Tribeca. The dynamic between them has definitely changed since Ziva had to leave the city. Even though it is a cover story, just pretending to be in a relationship with Jax causes her to feel uneasy. Brianna has to admit, at least to herself, that Jax is good looking and actually interesting. It has been a long time since she has spent extended time with an attractive man of the opposite sex. A large part of her apprehension revolves around seeing her husband for the first time in fourteen years.

They meet at a trendy restaurant in Tribeca, known as much for its’ clientele as its’ menu. In some ways she is similar to Analia. She rarely went out socially the entire time they lived in California. In fact, in the past two months she has gone out more than she had the prior fourteen years. It is nice to dress up and also work among people, but the work she is doing in public relations is mind numbing. She has never admitted to anyone else how much she misses delivering babies and working in the academic field, but sometimes the loss overwhelms her.

“Hello Branna.” Jax comes up behind her and when she turns to greet him, he kisses her on the lips and then pulls her close. He whispers in her ear. “Relax, that is for the benefit of the table in the corner, but don’t look.”

The maitre’de leads them to their table and a waiter immediately comes to take their drink orders. After he leaves, Jax starts to hold Branna’s hand. Branna gives him a giant smile, starts talking animatedly about how much she loves the restaurant and starts scanning the room. Jax is right, the mayor and Katharine Lucas are seated at the corner table with several other local politicians whose names Branna can’t place.

Still smiling, she remarks. “I can’t seem to ever get away from that woman.”

“Forget about her. Let’s enjoy our meal and talk about the weekend. I was thinking about driving to Westport Saturday morning and seeing a good friend. Would you be interested gorgeous?” Jax raises an eyebrow as he says this.

“Sure. That would be a great way to spend the weekend. I look forward to it. Will we be staying the night?”

“Possibly, so pack a bag. Will that be a problem with your daughter?”

“No. She is going down to the beach with Josh.”

“I like that kid Josh. I found it surprising that I did. So, he and Analia are going to Milan on a conference?”

“Yes, Analia just applied for a passport. Josh is sending his brother to Brazil this weekend.”

The waiter comes and takes their order. Branna is relieved to stop holding his hand and collect herself. The candlelit lighting is making the entire dinner entirely too romantic. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Katharine Lucas walking towards the table. The mayor is following in her wake. Branna can’t imagine a more effective appetite suppressant.

“Good evening Jax, Branna. Have you met Mayor Koppelman?” A shark’s smile would be less menacing than what is plastered over Katharine’s face. Jax and Branna stand up to greet them.

“Good evening Katharine, Mayor. I hope you enjoyed your dinner.” Jax says smoothly. Branna realizes Jax would make an excellent politician.

Mayor Koppelman offers his congratulations and recommendation. “It was superb. Try the trout. The chef did wonders with preparing it. Oh, and congratulations on the corruption case you oversaw this week.”

“Thank you sir. I will certainly consider that. Have you met my friend, Branna Christiansen?” Jax motions to Branna who steps forward to shake the mayor’s hand.

Branna and Mayor Koppelman exchange pleasantries and then he and Katharine depart the restaurant. Branna lets out a sigh as she watches them depart and sits back down.

“You can relax now. I swear that woman is ubiquitous.” Jax gives her a smile. Just then the waiter comes over to take their order.

“So how is our mutual friend?” Branna asks.

Jax drops his voice to a whisper and leans over. “She is holding up well, although frustrated that she had to leave the city. Her frenetic energy is making her drive those workers to finish the tunnel. I hope they don’t mutiny. Our friend also talked to the nurse who works at Rosewood. The nurse said that the tracking devices were implanted in the left forearm of all the detainees and should be easy to remove although somewhat painful because they will have to quickly cut them out.”

“Do you think anyone suspects you’re involved in the underground?”

“No. I am pretty sure they don’t, although that will change after the breakout. Why do you think I kiss ass around the politicos? To maintain my cover, I plan on going to your apartment after the breakout occurs and act as if you jilted me for the night. Of course, plans will probably change the closer we get to the escape. I would take off with the rest of you but someone has to feed the media campaign.”

“You will be under enormous scrutiny after this. Anyway, how can you run the media campaign while you’re in hiding?” Branna asks.

“Are you beginning to care about me Branna?” Jax is staring at her intently. Branna is acutely aware of how conflicted her feelings are becoming. The moment is luckily interrupted by the arrival of their meal.

“Of course I care about you. How could I not? A situation like this just throws our emotions in sharp relief. I wish you wouldn’t stare at me like that.”

“I just find you very attractive.” Branna feels humiliated as her face turns a cherry red color. Jax instantly notices. “Hey, I am sorry. I didn’t mean to embarrass you. I know you don’t want to get involved and you don’t have to worry that I will try to make a move on you this weekend.”

“I’m sorry. It’s just that no one has noticed me in a very long time and I am not used to attention.”

“Branna, I am positive you were noticed. You just didn’t let anyone in. This is an awful amount of pressure you are under. How are you holding up?”

“I am ok. I run to relieve the stress. My biggest concern is my daughter. I wish I could send her away ahead of time but it would be too suspicious. Besides, Analia wants the opportunity to see her father. Josh is taking her to Brazil the night of the breakout right after we cross the Hudson.”

“I think Josh is decent. He’ll take good care of her.”

“I know. I spent time with him last weekend. I am quite confident he loves her and will take care of her. My other major worry is that I will never see her again.”

“That’s understandable. I think this plan will work although someone may get hurt or arrested. So, you run? Have you always been a runner?”

“I ran in high school and college. I did a few marathons in my twenties. Now I just run because I enjoy it. Do you run?”

“Actually I do triathlons, so the answer is yes. Do you want to run tomorrow night?”

“I can do that. How about I make you dinner afterwards. We just can’t talk in my apartment. Its’ bugged.”

“I take it you are not referring to six legged creatures.” Branna rolls her eyes at this statement and Jax laughs. “Dinner would be great. It’s been a long time since I have had a home cooked meal.”

They finish their meal and Jax sends her home in a taxi despite Branna protesting that she is perfectly fine with taking the subway. He kisses her goodbye on the cheek and they make plans to meet at her apartment the following night.

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