Chapter 9 – Reflections

"Ah, summer, what power you have
to make us suffer and like it."

~Russel Baker

The view of Central Park from Gidget's terrace was spectacular, but she'd give it up in a heartbeat to be free. It was almost dinnertime in Manhattan and her fancy peep toe heels clicked against the marble steps as she stepped back into her private suite. She had lived in Wallace Monroe's penthouse for almost three years now, but it wasn't without a high price.

"The rent is due," she said sadly, crossing the floor to the free standing mirror. She thought about what that meant as she checked her appearance in preparation for the opera.

Gidget wasn't very tall, about 5' 2", but she was well proportioned and had no trouble wrapping the mob boss around her finger. She looked far younger than her middle age years, with the face of a queen and big green eyes that sparkled like gems. Her high cheekbones and long lashes added to her regal appearance and her voluptuous figure had men half her age falling at her feet.

Her rich brown hair cascaded to her low back when it was free, but tonight it was in a lovely French twist and adorned with a jeweled comb to match her ruby earrings and choker. The scarlet gown was exquisite, a little flashy for the opera, but Wallace insisted on showing off her assets to the dons of the Families.

The silk skirt was slit to her thigh and swept the floor behind her in a dramatic fashion. The sleeveless bodice fit like a glove and was covered in crystals. It pushed up her cleavage and dipped low in the center to show a generous amount of flawless ivory skin.

"It's too bare," she sighed.

Gidget retrieved her clutch and a matching silk wrap from the massive four-poster bed, draping the material over her shoulders for a little modesty. Wallace wouldn't allow it once they reached The Met and would force her to drop it to her elbows, but it made her feel better for the moment. Finally, she slipped off the gold chain from her neck and took a moment to gaze at the jeweled ring that she kept above her heart.

The phone on the desk rang and she turned around to check the call. It was his private line. Her gown fluttered behind her as she gracefully crossed the lavish suite to answer the phone.

"Hello Wallace. I'm almost ready. How are you, dear?"

"You're wearing the gown I sent you?"

"Yes and it's spectacular. You have such wonderful taste my love," she purred. "Thank you."

"I understand you went out again this afternoon." His tone became accusatory and short. "Gidget, you didn't tell me of your plans. That is unacceptable. Don't forget your place."

"I'm sorry if I've upset you, love. I'll make it up to you." She fidgeted with the ring and said, "I simply had to have my hair done for the opera. I found a lovely pair of heels at Bloomingdale's to match the gown and it took longer than I expected. I was famished so I stopped for tea. I hope that's all right. I know how important this evening is for you and I wanted to look my very best for the dons."

She could imagine the sick grin on his face. His property was expected to be exceptional, but submissive.

"Yes, baby. I will expect you to make it up to me. We'll discuss it later. I have a surprise for you after the opera. I'm going to give you some additional responsibilities."

"Additional responsibilities?" Gidget lowered to the wingback chair.

"Meet me in the foyer in thirty minutes. Don't be late, Gidget. You know I don't like it when you're late. After the opera, you'll come to my room. Tell your personal assistant that you won't be back tonight. You'll be staying with me."

The phone went dead and she felt sick to her stomach as she put the receiver back in place. Additional responsibilities. Trouble was brewing. Either way it was sure to be another night of humiliation. She hated sleeping with him, but the information she gleaned from the pillow talk that followed was worth being used.

Travis understood and when this was over, she would leave the past behind and they could finally be together. For now, satisfying Monroe allowed her to keep the MacFarlands protected and alive, that's all that mattered. It was almost over. Travis would get her out once their colleague delivered the evidence.

Gidget found proof that Wallace Monroe had killed six agents in a safe house, but she prayed someone hadn't caught her making the handoff to her colleague at tea. He'd have her killed, but he was just the type to bed her one last time and kill her in the process.

Her hands trembled when she opened the small clutch and she paused a moment to look at the stone setting on the ring before she place it inside, chain and all. She never thought her life would end up this way and she yearned for the security of days gone by. Being in Monroe's suite tonight meant she'd have no way to reach Travis if something went wrong.

It's just one more night.

Perhaps her additional responsibilities would allow her to stop whatever plan Wallace had in the works for the MacFarlands. He was up to something. When she learned he was sending Steven Cunningham to Hazzard, she knew it was starting again. At least the MacFarlands would be long gone by the time he arrived.

Gidget smoothed her hair and dabbed a little perfume behind her ears. She would keep going and do her best to stop Monroe from causing more harm.

Just two doors down from Ruebottom's, Enos walked out of Mr. Worthington's store while on his dinner break. Ryan Worthington thought he was nuts when he placed his order this past June, but Enos knew what he wanted. He was just waiting for Jenny to return. Now she was back and he was elated that the shipment arrived before they left for Wyoming in the morning. He was eager to get on the road.

Boss wasn't too concerned about him taking the time off work. It surprised him. Enos almost broached the subject of repairs on Old County Road, but Boss's new bodyguards arrived and he became pre-occupied with moving his office. Realistically, Enos knew he'd have to appeal to the County for the funds. It would be a big project to repair twelve miles of potholes and washouts, not to mention the rickety one lane bridge over Craggy Rock Creek. Maybe Jenny would help with the proposal. After all, she was the business major and had exceptional PR skills.

With a broad smile, Enos adjusted his hat and slipped the tiny box in his pocket before turning towards the station. When he looked up, the smile died on his lips. He hadn't moved quick enough to avoid Jesse Duke's sharp intuition. The look on Uncle Jesse's face took him back to childhood, when one glance warned of a weekend at home with his mother instead of in Aunt Lavinia's comforting presence.

"Son, we need to talk."

"Yes sir."

They walked in silence along sun-bleached sidewalks, Uncle Jesse's hands in his pockets, the lines near his eyes creased deep with worry. He stopped at a bench on the edge of Hazzard Square and said, "Jaxon dropped by the farm."

Enos gripped his gunbelt, squeezing the leather until it creaked under the pressure. Jaxon had found Enos earlier today, too. "Uncle Jesse, I heard about what happened last night with Daisy. Jaxon feels plum awful and-"

"I ain't here to talk about that," he said, waving a dismissive hand. "Jaxon apologized and after everything Chuck Ferguson told me, I understand. That boy is carrying some serious pain around, son. He's sharp, wise beyond his years, but there's a sadness in his eyes that makes my blood run cold. Can ya' see it?"

"Yes sir. I've seen it." Enos had seen it in all of the MacFarlands at one time or another. It was most prominent in Drake, until this morning when Jaxon eclipsed him. "He's a good man, Uncle Jesse. Did he tell ya' he's been taking turns with Drake to keep an eye on Daisy? They've been watching her twenty-four hours a day for th' last two weeks to keep her safe."

Jesse blanched at that, then slowly shook his head before sinking to the bench. It was an uncomfortable moment of silence. There was no breeze to cool the air or to disperse the heavy fumes from a passing car in need of Cooter's expertise.

Eventually Enos grimaced and said, "I reckon I wasn't supposed to tell ya' about that. We were afraid if Daisy knew they were there she'd ditch 'em."

"She probably would. I ain't gonna tell her. It was hard enough to convince her to go to Wyoming." Jesse's shoulders dropped and he appeared far older than he did just moments before. "Your pa was like a brother to me. Lord knows I miss his company. I see him you know, every time I look at you." He rubbed his palms against his jeans and looked up with moist eyes. "If I send my baby girl to Wyoming, are you gonna take care of her?"

"Yes sir. I'll-"

"I don't mean just keeping her alive." He gestured to the bench and Enos sat down, leery of what was coming next.

"Daisy needs to know ya' still care about her. I reckon she'll be just fine handling Jaxon and Drake, but hearing all these rumors about you and the MacFarland girl, that ain't been easy. She's never had competition before. What she needs is-"

"Uncle Jesse, there ain't no truth to them rumors. Jenny ain't like that and neither am I."

Jesse twisted his features, "You don't have to tell me that. Don't ya' think I know? Gossip is a vile thing with a low common denominator, but ya' should've known folks would talk. It's just like the tongue-waggers not to mention th' fact her brother's are staying in the same house."

Enos sat stiff as a board, his hands on his knees as the evening sun beat down in blistering rays. "I was wonderin' why that was myself. It's a big house, Uncle Jesse. They ain't had a home in a long time. Besides, Drake would break me in half if I…" He cleared his throat. "H-he'd break me in half."

With a hint of a smile, Jesse retrieved his bandana to wipe his brow. "Have ya' asked her yet?"

"Huh? I mean, beg pardon?"

"I saw the box ya' put in your pocket and it's written all over your face, son. You're plannin' to marry that girl."

As if the sun wasn't hot enough, Enos's face felt like it was in flames. "If Jenny will have me. Please don't say nothin', Uncle Jesse. I ain't asked Drake for her hand just yet and there's a few more things I gotta do first."

"I won't tell a soul and Mr. Worthington don't participate in the gossip. You're secret is safe enough, but I need a favor." Uncle Jesse turned slightly to face him. "Daisy thinks she's lost you completely. She's grieving more than she's letting on and this trip is gonna be tough. Putting two women who want the same man in a small space is a recipe for disaster. Are you prepared for that?"

"Don't reckon I got much choice in th' matter. We can't leave Daisy here."

"Son, I ain't gonna send Daisy with ya' unless you give me your word, on your daddy's honor, that you'll be sensitive to her feelings." He paused a moment and adjusted his cap. "Now, Luke is going along, but she's still outnumbered. I know she can have a sharp tongue, but she needs you. I ain't askin' ya' to take her side if she's in th' wrong, but I gotta know you'll have her back."

"Ya' got my word, Uncle Jesse. I'll do everything I can to make things better between us. I'll take good care of her." Enos stood, spat in his hand and held it out. "Pa's honor."

Uncle Jesse whisked a tear from the corner of his eye. He stood, spat in his hand and sealed the Ridge Runner's agreement. "Deal. When ya' get back, I expect to be introduced to Jenny properly. I'm happy for ya', son. Make sure ya'll come back in one piece."

Nightfall in Hazzard County brought little relief from the sweltering heat and Daisy's bedroom felt like a sauna. The glowing hands of the alarm clock indicated 12:45, but Daisy was still staring at shadows cast on the ceiling by the moonlight. The events of the day had left her exhausted yet she was unable to sleep.

She couldn't believe it. Tomorrow morning she was driving to Wyoming…with the MacFarlands. During Jaxon's visit, he again assured her that they would protect her, but she was filled with trepidation over the poor relationships she had with his family. In fact, with the exception of her cousin, she wasn't in good graces with any of her traveling companions.

Drake was still MIA. Jaxon was being cold and distant, despite his sincere apology, and she hadn't seen Enos since the day Jenny returned. That cut her deep. Enos had always been there, but she doubted he would even look at her tomorrow and she ached over spending the next few weeks watching him with Jenny.

"I'll get through it," she said to the ceiling. "All I gotta do is get to the Rafter G, then I'll be okay."

Daisy had a good relationship with Emily and Gus, so the three-day drive out would be the worst part. In fact, it would be the roughest couple of days since she watched Enos charge across a meadow on horseback to catch Jenny in his arms. Maybe Luke was right. She should just forget about love and stay away from men while she focused on staying alive.

Her heart would always belong to the boy with hazel eyes and brown hair, even if he never spoke to her again, but now that her life was in danger, the loneliness was magnified. Daisy missed what they once shared and yearned for a relationship with a man she could truly count on. She supposed she could forever martyr her heart to Enos, but she was perplexed by her inability to wipe the brawny Highlander with the half smile and strong jaw from her thoughts. Drake MacFarland had walked out of her life repeatedly and she still wasn't sure if he was helping his sister when he kissed her in the barn. So why was she so attracted to him!?

Maybe it was the heat.

Her nightgown was stuck to her back and she kicked off the sheets to click on the fan. She stood by the dresser, allowing the breeze to blow across her skin and thoughts of Drake's breath on her neck played in her mind. Her blood pumped a little faster and his husky voice echoed, "Kiss me."

Daisy drew a deep breath, pulled her damp hair off her neck and wondered if he felt the earth move that day, too. There was such passion, such fire between them. And his hands…those should be illegal. The way he touched her was like a skilled musician with his favorite instrument, playing her body until she nearly sang with desire.

She flopped down on the bed and pouted. Bear Creek. This all started at Bear Creek. She had put Drake on a pedestal when he came to her rescue. She even called him a gentleman. Well, he was behaving like one at the time. Drake was also very sweet to her when she took care of him after the shooting. Would he really stoop so low for his sister? Or was that kiss real?

He was such a complicated man. What was underneath that rugged exterior of his? He didn't like to be touched, but was confident in how he touched her. Why was that? If she hadn't reached for him during that kiss, if she had surrendered all control, would he have backed away in the first place or would he have taken her right there?

Would he still be with me?

"What's wrong with me?" Daisy scolded herself in the mirror. "You need to stay alive and are swearing off all things MacFarland, remember? Especially, Drake. He's…dangerous."

Instantly she expected her reflection to reply with the same words bouncing in her mind. You'll never forget his kiss. Not the one at Bear Creek and especially not the one in the barn. He touched more than your body that day. You're just upset because he hasn't been back. Do you really think Jenny needs his help?

"Oh be quiet."

Daisy needed some fresh air. She was going for a walk, better yet, a swim in the pond to cool her overheated body and clear Drake MacFarland from her mind. After pulling on her jeans, a pair of sneakers and a lacy white tank top, she pushed back the curtains and climbed out the window, oblivious that the very person she hoped to avoid sat watching her from the hill above the farm.