Olivia, Darryl and one of their colleagues, Marcus Anderson, stood near the TWA ticket counter, while uniformed cops led a handcuffed suspect away. The three police inspectors had appeared at the San Francisco International Airport to prevent a murder suspect from leaving the country.
"How did you two know that Gregor Cutter was the killer?" Marcus demanded. "And how did you know that he was leaving the country for Bangkok? Carlotta and I had Klebb down as the one who killed Peter Zoukov. How did you . . .?"
Darryl sighed. "It's called good old-fashioned detective work, Marcus. You should try it sometimes. Olivia and I finally discovered that Klebb actually had an alibi."
"And we checked the airlines to see if any of Zoukov's partners was leaving the country," Olivia added. She shrugged her shoulders. "Cutter turned out to be the guy. Even better, he had the murder weapon on him. Which goes to show that even killers can be idiots." She glanced to her left and spotted a familiar figure striding along the airport terminal with a small entourage.
Darryl also noticed. "Hey, isn't that Jason Dean?"
"That's Jason all right," Olivia answered. "I wonder where he's going."
"I'd be leaving the country too, after yesterday's publicity." Darryl shook his head. "Frogs and some badly-dressed French woman at a business conference. I wonder how that happened."
Olivia straightened up. "I don't know. Maybe I'll find out. Excuse me." She walked away from her colleagues. It took her over a minute to catch up with the self-made billionaire. "Jason?" He and his companions paused in their tracks. "Leaving the country, already?"
Jason's handsome face relaxed into a slight smile. "Olivia. Arresting someone?"
"Of course. Are you going back to Hong Kong, so soon? You and Phoebe haven't been back that long."
A heavy sigh left the billionaire's face. He turned to his assistants and said, "I'll meet you on the plane." Then he said to Olivia, "There's a bar over there. Let's get a drink."
The couple made their way to an Oriental-themed bar. While Olivia sipped from a bottle of water, Jason nursed a glass of bourbon. "I suppose you've heard about the frogs and the French lady at my conference, yesterday."
"Yeah. I . . ."
Again, Jason sighed. "That woman . . . was Phoebe. Apparently, she didn't react very well to me breaking up with her."
The news stunned Olivia. "You and Phoebe broke up?"
"And she was the . . . the badly-dressed French woman?" Olivia shook her head in disbelief. "Where did the frogs come in?"
After taking a sip of bourbon, Jason stared directly into Olivia's eyes. "I don't know if I should tell you this, but since your brother Harry already knows . . ."
Now Olivia understood. "Oh, I see. You finally know about Phoebe and her sisters. About them being witches. Well, after a fashion."
"So you do know. Funny . . . I just found out two nights when they all magically appeared in the . . ." Jason paused. "What did you mean by 'after a fashion'?"
Olivia explained, "Well, the Halliwells believe that since they have magical abilities, they're automatically witches. But in order to be a real witch, one has to be initiated - like a priest or a priestess. I was initiated as a witch when I was seventeen."
Jason's eyes widened in shock. "Wait a minute! You mean to say that you're like Phoebe? A . . ."
"A witch. Yep." Olivia took a sip of water. "In fact, my entire family are witches."
Still dazed, Jason asked, "And you have magical abilities . . . like Phoebe and her sisters?"
Olivia nodded. "That's right. Only, my natural abilities are a little different."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"Because we were never serious about each other," Olivia calmly replied. "As I recalled, we only dated for barely two months."
A heavy sigh followed before Jason leaned back into his chair. "And if we had been serious about each other?"
"I would have told you."
The billionaire remarked sarcastically, "That's good to know."
Olivia hesitated before she asked, "How did this whole mess with the frogs and Phoebe's French accent begin, anyway?" Jason told her about a spell cast by Richard Montana - one that had turned Phoebe into Mata Hari. Olivia frowned. "A French Mata Hari? I thought she was Dutch."
Shaking his head, Jason replied, "Yeah, I didn't understand that either."
"So, you had broken up with Phoebe because of the spell?"
Bitterness crept into Jason's eyes. "No. I broke up with her, because she had been keeping a secret from me for nearly a year. Phoebe had claimed that she loved me. But apparently, she couldn't trust me with her big secret." He took a big swig of bourbon. "What about Turner? I suppose that he knows about you."
Olivia suppressed a smile. "He found out about me, five hours after we first met."
Nodding, Olivia added, "He knew about her before their marriage." She added under her breath, "And she found out about him, too."
Apparently, Jason had not overheard Olivia's last remark for he retorted, "I wonder how long it took Phoebe to be honest to him." He drained the rest of his bourbon. "I suppose that her . . . um, abilities had led them to a divorce? Or was it something else?"
Olivia hesitated. "It was something else. You'll just have to ask Phoebe one day."
"Fat chance of that happening," Jason muttered. "I don't plan on coming back."
"Hmmm. May I assume there won't be a chance of a reconciliation between you two?"
Jason's blue eyes narrowed bitterly. "Worried about your husband and Phoebe getting back together?"
A dismissive snort escaped from Olivia's mouth. "I believe those fears had disappeared after what happened, last summer." Then she paused and gasped aloud, realizing that she had said more than she had intended.
"Last summer?" Jason frowned at Olivia. "What happened last summer?"
For the umpteenth time in her life, Olivia understood why her family and friends have complained about her big mouth. With a sigh, she said, "It's nothing."
But Jason refused to be deterred. "What happened last summer?" he demanded in a hard voice.
Might as well tell the truth, Olivia decided. She took a deep breath. "Cole and I had something of a breakup, last summer. Around July. It's a long story and Piper's ex was involved. Needless to say that at the same time, Cole and Phoebe had finally reconciled over their divorce. After my break-up with Cole, they dated for a while. Three weeks."
Jason scowled. "Great! That's just great! Another secret kept from me. What happened?"
With a shrug, Olivia replied, "It didn't last. Apparently, Cole and Phoebe couldn't go back to the way it used to be between them. So . . . Cole broke it off."
"He . . . broke it off with Phoebe?"
Olivia murmured, "Yeah. Anyway, Cole and I reconciled after that. And the rest is history. So to speak."
Jason's mouth tightened into a grim line. "Remember when you had asked if there was a chance of a reconciliation between Phoebe and me? Well that chance has disappeared for good." He shook his head in disgust. "I can't believe it! All those secrets she had been keeping from me! I can't be with a woman like that."
"Jason, everyone keeps secrets. Even from loved ones."
The billionaire retorted, "Not secrets that important!"
Olivia sighed. "I guess you have a point." Her cell phone rang. She answered it. "Hello?" It was Darryl, demanding to know of her whereabouts. "I'm in a bar, Darryl. Sorry about that. I'll see you in a few minutes." She hung up. Smiling wistfully, she stood up and added, "I've got to go. Look Jason, I'm sorry that it had ended badly between you and Phoebe. I guess you're serious about not returning to San Francisco."
Jason nodded. "Yeah, I am. I bet that Elise Rothman will be relieved. I won't be peering over her should anymore."
Olivia bent down and planted a light kiss on the billionaire's cheek. "Don't be a stranger, okay? And don't stay away from San Francisco too long."
Miraculously, a smile curved Jason's mouth. "Hey, give me a call if you and Turner ever pop up in Asia."
"I will." Olivia gave her former boyfriend a quick wave and walked away. Before she left the bar, the redhead shot one last glance at the billionaire. His morose expression had returned. Poor Jason, she thought. He deserved a better ending than this. And then she left the bar to find her colleagues.
The rain continued to drench San Francisco, as the black Porsche made a left turn on Prescott Street. As Cole continued down the street, Phoebe broke the silence between them and startled him with a question. "Why are you driving?"
"Huh?" The half-daemon shot a quick glance at his ex-wife.
Phoebe repeated, "Why are you driving? Why don't you just shimmer or however you teleport these days?"
Cole cleared his throat in his usual manner. "First of all, I don't need to teleport. I have a car. And I'm not in a hurry. Second, I like driving my car as much as I possibly can."
Another bout of silence followed before Cole added, "Listen Phoebe, why don't you tell me what's really on your mind?"
A sigh left Phoebe's mouth before she continued, "What did you mean by . . . 'If you say so', when I told you that Jason was upset over what happened with Richard's spell?"
"Because I think you're just fooling yourself," Cole answered in a matter-of-fact tone.
"Excuse me?" Phoebe's voice rang with indignation.
Cole repeated, "You're fooling yourself, Phoebe. And you know it."
"What the hell do you . . .?"
Sharply, Cole interrupted. "C'mon Phoebe! You know damn well why Dean had really broke it off between the two of you. You had lied to him about being a witch. Or to put it another way, he's probably pissed that you had kept this a secret from him."
"Since when did you become a telepath?" Phoebe retorted bitterly.
"Actually, one of my powers is telepathic manipulation."
The black Porsche came to a halt in front of a stop sign. Several people crossed the street. Cole realized that he had forgotten about Phoebe's tendency of deliberately blinding herself from reality. Which was not surprising, since he had not seen her in nearly two months. "Phoebe, when you had first told me about the whole Mata Hari mess, you made it clear that you and Dean had broken up before Montana had cast his little spell." Once the intersection was cleared, Cole continued driving.
The Charmed One glared at him. "So?"
"You don't get it, do you?" The Halliwell manor loomed into sight. Cole guided the Porsche into an available parking space. "I suspect that Dean would have eventually tolerated you being a witch, if you had told him a lot earlier. After all, he loved you enough to stay with you for nearly a year. But during that same period, you had kept a secret from him. A big secret. What did you expect?"
Phoebe's face trembled with anger. "This is pretty rich coming from a guy who had lied to me during the first two months we were together!"
Cole rolled his eyes. "Yes Phoebe, I had kept my identity a secret from you. As I recall, we were both keeping secrets. I didn't lead on that I was a half-daemon, sent to kill you and your sisters. And you three were determined to keep your identities a secret from me. Come to think of it, the same happened when Piper and Leo first dated." Phoebe glared at him. "Leo told me," Cole continued. "Some time after Prue's death."
"Okay, so we both had lied!" Phoebe retorted. "But still . . ."
Switching off the car's engine, Cole turned to face his ex-wife. "But what? C'mon Phoebe! Paige had been nagging you to tell Dean the truth about yourself for months. In fact, she seemed to be the only member of your family who doesn't keep secrets from guys she is serious about. She had told both her old boyfriend and that guy, Nate that she was a witch. Whereas you, Piper and even Prue . . . well, your histories with the men in your lives in that regard haven't been all that great in the past few years."
Anger glimmered in Phoebe's dark eyes. "I don't think you even have the right to tell me . . ."
"Phoebe, this isn't about my past fuck-ups," Cole retorted. "This is about yours. Why don't you just admit that you had fucked up a pretty good thing with Dean? From what you've told me, it all went to hell even before idiot Montana had cast his spell. I hate to say this, but maybe you're just paying the consequences for your lies. Hell, I have."
From the corner of his eyes, Cole saw Phoebe's face become a mask. He could almost hear her teeth grinding. Then he glanced ahead and saw his brother-in-law's Mazda parked several yards ahead. "Hmmm, I didn't realize that Harry was here."
"I better get going," Phoebe suddenly announced. She opened the door. "Thanks for the ride."
A sigh left Cole's mouth. He knew that tone from long experience. Phoebe was pissed off. Not because she believed that he had committed some contemptible act. She was pissed because he had exposed a truth about her and her family that embarrassed her. Even worse, an ex-husband, whom she had once viewed as nothing more than an evil bastard, had exposed her. And Phoebe has always been a person who preferred to live with her illusions - if possible.
"Glad to help," Cole murmured. Phoebe climbed out of the car. "And Phoebe?" She paused, as the rain began to soak her hair and face. "I'm truly sorry about you and Dean. I mean it."
Something like a stiff smile barely cracked the Charmed One's lips. "Yeah. Thanks. I'll see you around." She slammed the door shut and marched toward the manor's front stoop.
Cole watched his ex-wife climbed the stoop. For the second time in his life - the first time occurred last summer - he pitied Phoebe. But what could he do? Only she could help herself. One day, she would have to realize that she was her own worst enemy. Hell, he had to learn that hard lesson, himself. In fact, he still might be learning hit.
The half-daemon heaved one last sigh, switched on the engine and drove away from the Halliwell manor.