A classic Valentino caressed Virginia’s breasts then skirted over her taut waist, hesitating only a moment at her hips. Piers Wheaton ran his tongue over his lips, arms crossed, as he nodded approval. Virginia pulled up one leg, the split in the classic gown reaching to the top of her thigh. She rested her foot on the chair of the dressing table, slipped her manicured toes into a Manolo Blahnik, did up the strap around her ankle then repeated the process with the other foot.
“This is more fun when you’re taking them off.”
One eye squinted as Virginia Louise Darnell turned to her husband. “Play your cards right…” She crooked her finger at him, urging him closer.
“Are you sure we have time for…”
She grabbed his tie then adjusted the knot. “You would think by now you would know how to dress yourself.” She pulled down, simultaneously kissing Piers’ nose.
His hand slipped into his pocket. “You’re forgetting something.”
Virginia laughed. “Give me a minute. Patience isn’t your long suit today, is it?” She reached into the drawer, pulled out a Glock, checked the chamber then slipped the pistol into the holster on her thigh. “Better?”
“Damn. Gaston gets all the choice jobs.”
She pouted at her husband, lifting her leg higher to show more of what the slit had to offer, running her finger around the gun. “You really shouldn’t be jealous of this.”
It was Piers’ turn to crook his finger. When she was almost touching him, he twirled his finger. She complied, spinning on her toe. In the mirror, he watched her face as he pulled a Harry Winston cluster, one hundred and twenty-two brilliant and marquise diamonds in one long platinum-set string, from his Armani pocket. “I meant you were missing this.” He held the diamond necklace against her throat. My God, I love her smile.
She responded by lifting up her long auburn hair. “They’re beautiful!”
“Only on your neck; anywhere else, they would be nothing more than rocks.” He kissed behind her ear, allowing his lips to travel down to her shoulder. “You can walk with kings, my love… the quintessential blend of Loren breathtaking beauty and Kelly grace and style, the strength and determination of the Iron Lady yet the compassion and understanding of Mother Teresa.”
She laughed. “Laying it on a bit thick, aren’t you, darling? You know, when this is over, I’ll have one glass of champagne then will be putty in your hands.”
He smiled. “Yes, that’s sort of the plan.” He adjusted the hang of his suit jacket, watching in the mirror to make sure his own weapon wasn’t visible in its shoulder holster. “Are we ready?”
“That’s a loaded question.” She looked at her watch. “Shouldn’t you be there already? You don’t want to leave the Prime Minister waiting.”
“He’s not waiting. He is already there, safely tucked away where the press won’t harass him. My finest men are surrounding him.”
She arched her brow. “You want to hope that they’re up to the task.”
Piers chuckled. “They will be. Darling, they know you. They fear you. You tantalize and intimidate at the same time, all while being completely polite and perfectly coiffed.” There’s that smile again!
“They should fear me, especially where my family’s concerned.” Virginia grabbed her clutch then led the way to the carved oak doors.
Piers pulled them open, allowing her to pass. He offered his arm as they went down the stone steps then opened the passenger door to her 1964 Ferrari Spyder. His gaze lingered on her legs as she pulled them into the vehicle. He closed the door gently as she melted into the supple leather seat then walked casually to the driver’s door, his eyes scanning every detail of their surroundings.
“Do I intimidate you?” Her voice was surprisingly quiet.
Piers slipped the car into gear and purred down the driveway to the iron gates of the family compound. “We’ve been married too long for you to have to ask that. I admire you, respect you, love you… but if push came to shove…”
She chuckled. It was a momentary respite.
She forced the left corner of her mouth to rise. “I’m just thinking about Lizzy, wondering if she is doing the right thing, with the right person.”
Piers remained quiet. He knew how this went.
Virginia turned in her seat to look at him. “You say I’m strong, formidable… that’s not what others say. I know how hard it is, yet I want Lizzy to be strong and formidable as well. She needs to be.
\They all need to be.” Her head turned the other way, to look out the window. “I had to be like this. I was raised right in the middle of four brothers and three male cousins. From the time I was thirteen, when Mom and Auntie Yvette were killed, I was the only one with boobs in the bunch.”
“But very fine boobs they were… and still are.”
She frowned at his flippancy.
“Ginny, you have been an amazing role model for all your nieces. The Darnell men have an incredible skill for finding strong, smart women.”
Virginia grunted. “Jimmy will break that pattern.”
Piers laughed. “Cut the man some slack. He’ll be fine.”
“The man is a catastrophe from the word go… typical baby of the family syndrome.” She sat quietly for a moment. “Prince Phillip, for decades, has had to stay two steps behind his wife. We’ve met him. We know that’s not the sort of man he is… yet he has accepted it and just does it. Sometimes you can see on his face that he doesn’t like it, but normally…” She trailed off, seemingly lost in her own thoughts again. “Not many men can control their egos enough to allow themselves to walk two steps behind a woman in the spotlight, not for any length of time. When the time comes, Graham will turn Bhisti over to Lizzy. How will Steve handle that?”
“Neither one will walk two steps behind the other. Hopefully by that time, they will have learned to be like us, walking beside each other instead of engaging in physical, mental or emotional shoving matches to get a nose ahead of the other.”
“No one in the other’s shadow; Steve wants to remember that, or I will make a point of reminding him.”
He chuckled at the visual she left him with. A lull allowed Piers to take another mental inventory. He considered where his men were, what challenges they would face, what unforeseeables he had missed.
“You ran everyone through your system?”
He nodded. “Yes, dear, everyone attending and participating has been cleared through security. We have several ‘unplanned’ changes to the schedule as well, just to catch up anyone who might be playing us, and to help identify anyone who might have been vulnerable enough to allow playing.” Piers turned into the parking lot and slipped into one of the reserved spaces by the door. “You ready?”
She leaned toward him, kissing him playfully. “You know it. It’s time to get to work.”
He held her for a moment longer. “For what it’s worth, you will be the sexiest person with a gun in the whole building.”
An eyebrow arched in reply.
“Okay, the sexiest person, with or without a gun, in the whole place.” His hand caressed her thigh then did a quick exploratory up the length of the slit.
Virginia’s head tipped to one side. “Seriously? We’re going into a church. You need to behave, and to focus. You also need to get it right.”
He laughed. “Fine, you are the sexiest person in the entire city of Ottawa, and beyond.”
She smiled. “Don’t forget it. Let’s go see if there are any bad guys to shoot.”
Piers opened the door for Virginia then held out his hand to help her from the car. She gave a nod to one of her men standing beside the church door before leaning closer to her husband. “You have the roof?”
His eyes shifted up to the top of the neighboring building. “This isn’t my first gig, sweetheart. By the way, you do realize it’s in bad taste to be more stunning than the bride, right?”
“Are you going to try that old ‘there’s a security issue in the confessional you need to check out’ thing again?”
“Will it work again to get your panties off?”
She winked at him. “I’m not wearing any.”
Piers chuckled as she led him up the stairs.
As they walked through the main doors to the church, Virginia’s hand was guided onto a young tuxedoed arm. “You look amazing, Aunty Ginny.”
She smiled at her nephew. “You clean up wonderfully, too, Ward.”
He ushered her to the second pew from the front. “Almost the best seat in the house.”
Piers sat beside her then spoke in a quiet, conversational voice. “Have there been any more threats?”
She didn’t turn to look at him, answering in kind. “If I asked you that question, how would you answer?”
“I need to know, Ginny. You have an obligation…”
“No, I don’t. It’s company before country.”
“Only in the dictionary. You can’t make that distinction anymore anyway, now that one of your family members is also the leader of the country.”
“I work for Bhisti; you work for the Prime Minister.”
“Today our interests collide, dear heart. If I fail, or am not told something, it impacts both of us and our charges.”
“There’s been nothing new received by the company, but that doesn’t mean…”
Piers squeezed her hand. “Your team is ready, my team is ready… everything will be fine.” He nudged her. “Look at them.” He dipped his head toward the pew in front of them. “Do they spend time planning that shit, or does it just happen?”
Virginia scanned the row then covered her mouth to hold back a giggle. “What a bunch of morons. Only my brothers would line up in order in the damned pew.”
“Aiden has his news anchor face on.”
She shrugged. “He always does when he knows Mickey will be in the room. He probably has his favorite microphone shoved in his pocket too, just in case. I think the CBC programs that into them.” The sacristy door opened. “Speak of the devil…”
She sensed her husband tense, his eyes darting around the room. The Right Honorable Angus Michael Darnell stood in the center aisle while his wife, Gemma, and son Kevin, slipped into the pew. He then sat at the end of the bench.
The groom and ushers walked out to take their place in front of the altar, followed by the altar boys. Father Wayne brought up the rear, taking his position front and center.
“Steven looks very handsome.”
Piers grunted. “He looks like he’s about to throw up.”
Virginia waved the comment off, distracted by something that caught her eye. What’s wrong?Something’s not right here. She searched the faces at the front of the church. “Get someone to Mickey,” she whispered sharply. “We need to delay this thing.” Without waiting for a response, she slipped from the pew and quickly covered the ground to the main entrance where the bridal party was now assembled. “Sorry, Lizzy.” She grabbed the bride’s arm and turned her back. “You need to wait a minute.” She turned to an usher who had miraculously appeared. “Take her and her parents – you know where. Wait there for word from me and no one else. Have them ready to slip out if need be.”
The usher started to speak towards his shoulder. “Get the car ready.” He nodded to Virginia.
She turned to her brother, knowing he was struggling with fear for his daughter’s safety and rage at the audacity of someone to disrupt her day. “Sorry, Graham. There’s a glitch that I need to check out. I’m probably just being the over-protective aunt, but it’s not worth taking the chance.” She quickly gave the bride a peck on the cheek then watched as they were escorted toward a back passageway.
Turning on her heel, she strode up the main aisle, smiling encouragement at the groom before slipping into the sacristy. Michael and Gemma were already there with Piers. “I’m sorry, Mister Prime Minister, but we need to take care of a little development.” The fact that she addressed her brother formally was her indication to them that she was acting in her professional persona as opposed to her familial one. She nodded to her youngest sibling, Nolan, to take a position beside their brother. She then led Piers away.
“Did you get a name change for a security check?”
“I didn’t either, so it’s time to circle the wagons.