Chapter 28

Sam was more than happy to take Queen Clarissa up on her offer to 'do something' about the threat to Mia. And as it turned out, the perfect environment for that work existed two stories beneath their feet.

"It's called the Dungeon," Queen Clarissa commented as the two women approached an elevator flanked by security. The two guards stood a little straighter at the Queen's approach.

They stepped in front of the elevator doors, but nothing happened.

"Security scan," one of the guards offered. Sam scanned her surroundings, quickly spotting the well-concealed camera. The camera must have liked what it saw because, in the next moment, the doors to the elevator parted, allowing them access.

The Dungeon turned out to be a state of the art operations center and the twin to the ops center beneath the Royal Palace in the capital city. Despite being underground, the Dungeon was a large, well-lit space with an industrial-chic design. Sam immediately spotted H.G. and Mika sitting in a bull-pen area deep in conversation. They were greeted warmly by the pair before being offered a seat around a large conference table.

"Congratulations on your engagement," Mika said, getting a concurring nod from the other woman.

"Thanks," Sam responded, unable to control the smile that spread across her face.

Getting down to business, Helena asked, "We were waiting for you to arrive before we started our briefing."

"But before we get started, I believe a little background about how we are organized would be useful."

Sam nodded; she knew more than a little about how Genovia's government was organized. Not just from her conversations with Mia, but from her own research while the Sach's Company was considering doing business with the constitutional monarchy

"As you know, Genovia is a constitutional monarchy with a congress and a judicial system. This means that Congress and the Crown work together to set domestic policy though ties favor the Crown. When it comes to foreign policy and security matters, her Majesty has broad powers."

The Genovian government is not as large as you Americans have, but what we lack in size we make up for with speed and flexibility. For example, my position is a combination of the American Secretary of State and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. While Myka is the chief law enforcement officer, much like you FBI. She is also responsible for her Majesty's and now your security."

"Like the secret service," Sam added, to show that she was indeed paying attention.

Helena nodded her agreement before continuing, "I am currently filling in as defense minister as well, until the Queen names a replacement."

Sam also knew that Mia had recently dismissed the defense minister, feeling that he was a little too close to Viscount Mabrey.

"Our constitution is clear; once you and the Queen are wed, you will become co-rulers of our country. It will be up to you, the two of you, to decide how you will make decisions, and should you two choose to have children; your firstborn will replace Dutchess Alexandra as third in line to the throne.

Sam, who very much wanted to have Mia's children, took a moment to absorb the magnitude of Mia's proposal. Not only was she entrusting Sam with her heart but literally with the present and future of her country and its people.

Sam, who had never expected to find herself in this position, decided that she could do this. She would never fight Mia for control but be there to support the other woman and contribute in the ways that she knew best.

"What's the latest on Nichole?" Sam asked, sensing H.G.'s presentation was nearing an end.

H.G. nodded her head, prompting a redheaded woman in uniform to step forward.

"This is Major Claudia Donavan. She is an Intelligence Officer who specializes in cybersecurity."

Sam eyed the sharp-looking woman, easily interpreting Helena's words. Claudia Donovan was a hacker just like she was.

Major Donovan, this is Samantha Dean, the Queen's fiance. It was Claudia's turn to eye the other woman. She had only been vaguely aware of the Queen's alleged romance.

"The Queen is a lucky woman," Claudia thought but was smart enough not to say. Instead, she turned her attention towards briefing the future Queen.

Claudia used a remote in her left hand to activate two large screens. One screen displayed an article from the New York Times documenting the murder of Greg Brant. The other showed a world map with two dots, one in New York and the other in the Alps, but Sam couldn't tell if it was the Swill or Italian side.

"We intercepted a call from Nichole to her uncle that took place around the time of Mr. Brant's death."

The women listened as the conversation was played over hidden speakers.

"I just ended things with Greg, a little sooner than anticipated. I got away clean.

Good, his usefulness was at an end. Now we must take more offensive actions. You know what needs to be done next.

I understand, and I can be there this time tomorrow."

After the call, Ms. Deveraux deactivated the phone she was talking on, and we lost track of her.

At this point, we can only wait for her to make contact with one of the lines that we are monitoring,

Sam didn't disagree, but she didn't have to like it.

"We have another problem," H.G. added, prompting Claudia to pull up another image.

"Four hours ago, Franklin Davenport failed to report for assignment as ordered. Before officially going AWOL, he made two calls on his personal cell phone. One to a Genovian number and the other to a number in the States. After that, he also deactivated his phone. We put a flag on his passport, but if he has inside help, it won't be hard for him to leave the country."

"You suspected that he's part of the conspiracy against Mia?" Sam asked.

Against you both," Myka responded, reminding everyone, including Sam, of her new role.

"Last night, I received a call from Andy Sachs informing me of an attack against herself and Miranda's daughters. NYPD officers, with assistance from the FBI, were able to thwart the attack, and Ms. Sachs reported that she and the girls were never in any real danger," Myka continued.

"We believe, with some confidence, that at least two of the attackers can be linked to Frank," Claudia added.

Sam could literally feel adrenaline hit her system as she listened to the dispassionate description of an attack on her best friend and Miranda's girls. She took several deep breaths, forcing herself to remain calm. She had no idea what kind of people thought so little of human life. What she did know was that she needed her wits about her if she was going to fight back. So she turned her mind towards the things that she could do. That started with a list of information that could help them determine the opposition's next moves.

First, she wanted footage of the attack. She knew that there were security cameras all over Teterboro, including several with good views of their corporate hangar. Next, she'd want to see what the NYPD and the FBI had learned both about the attack and Greg's murder. Finally, she'd take a look at U.S. Customs and Immigration records to track the movements of the dead guys and to see if she could locate good-ole Frank.

She refocused on the conversation just as Claudia began to check through a similar list of unknowns.

"She's bright," Sam admitted, already working through the steps she would need to take to get the answers they needed. After Cladia finished her presentation, all eyes turned towards Sam.

"Has Mia, I mean Her Majesty, been briefed?" Sam asked.

Despite the serious topic, the other women couldn't help but smile at Sam's unnecessary correction.

"She was updated just before the Ambassador arrived. She suggested that we consult you on the matter. While it was left unsaid what her role would be, Sam got the distinct impression that this was her show now. Which meant she would do whatever it took to neutralize the threat against her friends and future wife.

"Claudia, do you have a computer I can use?"

"I might be able to dig something up for you, Ma'am," Claudia responded, eyebrow raised.

Andy was fighting back tears as she watched Miranda reunite with her precious girls. Miranda's face was a study of how grief and sadness could be transformed into pure joy and relief. The two women made eye contact giving Miranda the opportunity to mouth, "Thank you."

"You're welcome," Andy mouthed back as her heart swelled with joy and something else. She'd kept a promise to the woman that she loved, which gave Andy a sense of deep satisfaction. She knew that they were not completely out of the woods yet. The attack at Teterboro was proof of that. But for now, under the watchful gaze of Queen Mia's security forces, they were safe.

For a moment, her mind drifted back to New York, wondering if she had done the right thing in sending Kate into the lion's den. On the flight, she'd briefly considered having her former assistant stand down, but she could not bring herself to do it. There had to be a price to pay for playing fast and loose with people's lives. Today Irv Ravits was going to learn that lesson.

Andy was pulled from her thoughts as Miranda, and the twins approached her. The twins hung back as Miranda stepped into Andy's personal space. Andy opened her arms, and the two women embraced. Miranda let out a contented sigh as she laid her head onto Andy's shoulder.

"The twins aren't the only ones I've missed," Miranda whispered into Andy's ear.

"I've missed you too," Andy said, placing a kiss on Miranda's forehead.

"How did you make this happen?" Miranda asked, turning to look back toward the twins.

"Later," Andy said, not wanting to rehash the story in front of the girls.

"Where's Emily?" Caroline asked, pulling the women from their conversation.

She is visiting the town with Queen Mia's cousin Alexandra.

The girls both lit up at hearing Queen Mia's name.

"Is Queen Mia here?

"Are we going to meet her?" both girls asked in rapid-fire.

"I am certain that a proper introduction can be arranged," Miranda responded to the girls' delight.

"But for now, why don't we get you girl's inside," Miranda offered.

With a twin under each arm, Miranda led them into Aren Hall. The group was met by one of the members of the staff who introduced herself to the girls as Mrs. Landers.

"I bet you two are hungry?" the kindly woman offered.

Both girls nodded before looking back at their mom.

"Oh, Andy. I didn't know these two were with you," Mrs. Landers said, spotting Andy.

"Audrey, it's good to see you too. We just arrived from the states, and some lunch sounds excellent."

"What can we have?" Cassidy asked.

"Anything you want," Audrey said, looking down at the two girls fondly. It had been too long since there had been children in Aren Hall.

With so many choices, the girls had a hard time deciding what they wanted. Taking pity on the pair, the grandmother of two offered, "We make the absolute best grilled cheese, and we just pulled a loaf of bread out of the ovens."

The girls' eyes lit up, causing the older woman to laugh.

"Two grilled cheese's no crust coming up. And for you, ladies."

"Did Henry catch anything in his pots this morning?" Andy asked, referring to Audrey's husband, who served as gamekeeper.

"He does, more times than not."

"Then I'd love one of your delicious lobster salads."

"That sounds divine," Miranda added.

"Fantastic, Her Majesty is still in consultations with the foreign delegation, and the other members of her staff are having a lunch meeting, so you'll be on your own for lunch.

We can bring everything up to your rooms if you'd prefer that to the dining hall.

"That would be wonderful," Andy responded, thankful for the woman's kindness.

"Ok, You get settled, and lunch will be ready in twenty minutes.

The girls were thoroughly charmed by Aren Hall, as Miranda relayed the history she'd learned during her brief stay. By the time they made it up to her rooms, they found the staff in the process of setting a table for four. They were informed that lunch would be up soon and that the girls' luggage was in the smaller bedroom and Andy's was in Miranda's room.

Andy thanked them as she walked them to the door.

"Can we see our room?" Caroline asked.

"Of course, sweetheart."

They soon learned that smaller was a relative term as the girl's room was bigger than both of their old rooms combined. Miranda and Andy left the girls to unpack their things. Alone in their bedroom, the two women exchanged another long hug followed by a brief kiss. They both knew that they had a lot to talk about, but with just a few minutes before lunch, there wasn't enough time. So instead, they just held each other.

Lunch came even sooner than promised. The lobster salad was as good if not better than anything that Miranda could remember having back in New York, and the girls raved over the grilled cheese and the accompanying chocolate milkshakes. By the time lunch was consumed and the plates were taken away, both girls were subdued. Sensing her charges hadn't slept enough in the last 24-hours, Andy suggested the girls try out their new beds and take a nap. It was a measure of just how tired both girls were that they only put up token resistance.

With the girls down, Andy suggested that they also retire to their bedroom.

"I feel like the sword of Damocles is poised over my head," Miranda said, unnerved by the grave look on Andy's face.

"I didn't want to tell you over the phone, but Greg is dead."

Miranda's hand came up to her mouth. It wasn't as if she still loved the man, but she had once, and he was the girls' father.

"How... Where…. How did it….?" Miranda began unsure which question to ask first.

Andy held up her hand before saying, "I'll tell you everything, but there is more. The girls and I were attacked on our way to the airport, but we managed to get through it without a scratch."

Tears sprang to Miranda's eyes as she contemplated having everything she had left in the world taken from her. She shuddered, not sure she'd have the strength to come back from such a loss. Sensing the other woman's thoughts, Andy put her arms around Miranda.

"I would have never let anything happen to those girls, and nothing else bad is going to happen to you."

"I need you too, you know," Miranda said, making it clear that Andy needed to consider her own safety as well.

"And nothing is going to happen to me either," Andy assured, holding on even tighter.

They sat down on the bed, and Andy began to talk. She told Miranda everything that had happened since she'd put her lover, Emily, and Sam on a plane to Genovia.

"You went there to blackmail him?" Miranda asked.

"Not exactly. I hoped that he would do the right thing, but I was prepared if he didn't."

Miranda wasn't sure that she cared if Andy had blackmailed her ex-husband, but it comforted her that the man had chosen to do right by his girls. It also wasn't lost on her that she could have lost them all over again if they had been in the house when Greg was murdered. The attack on her girls and her lover only made her angry. She was tired of this game and tired of people treating her life and the lives of those she loved like pawns. Expendable.

Andy checked her watch before saying, "Right about now, Kate Janeway is informing the entire board of directors at Elias Clark that their services are no longer required."

Miranda knew that this was bigger than her feelings about her former employer, yet she could not deny getting some level of satisfaction from Andy's words.

That's when it hit her. Andy Sachs had kept every promise she'd made. She brought her daughter back to her, kept them safe, and gone after those who had wronged her. If that wasn't love and devotion, then the words held no meaning. She touched the younger woman's cheek fondly, causing Andy to lean into the touch and close her eyes. The kiss she placed on the other woman's lips was soft and sweet, conveying everything she felt for the woman that had restored her faith in the world.

"Will you marry me, for real this time?" Andy asked.

"Yes," Miranda said, no doubts at all in her mind.

AN: I really feel like I have this story back on the train tracks. Thanks to all of you for your continued encouragement. Happy Holidays to all of you. Stay Safe and Healthy.