"A Royal Affair"
Ezra took a deep breath and walked into the outer rooms of Judge Travis' office. "Hello, Kimberly," he greeted the secretary guarding the judge's door. "I need to speak with the judge. Is he in?"
"Hello, Agent Standish. The judge wants to speak with you as well. Let me call him and let him know you're here." She picked up the phone and spoke to the judge. "Agent Standish is here, sir."
The judge's disembodied voice ordered her to send him in. He took a deep breath and then another. Oh Lord. He was going to resign his job. He was going to leave the best friends he had ever had. Center yourself and then go in there, Ezra. You can't stay here any longer. Kim gave his a sympathetic smile as he started toward the judge's door. "Good luck," she murmured.
Chris slowly put down the phone and walked out of his office. "That was Travis. Ezra has resigned." There was a loud outcry of questions and demands from the other five men in the room. "Hush up, everyone, and I will tell you what I know." He took a deep breath and sank into a chair by Buck's desk. "Ezra apparently walked into the judge's office this morning and handed him his resignation. He says it's due to irreconcilable differences."
"Irre.. what?" Buck exclaimed. "He resigned over that damn picture. He didn't have to. The only reason we recognized him was because of Eva. You can't tell that it's him."
"Yeah. Ez didn't blow his cover of anything. You don't suppose that someone forced him to resign?" JD questioned. "I mean a lot of the higher ups don't like him. Do you think they are using this to make him resign?"
Josiah sad voice boomed out, "I don't think so, JD. I mean, most people won't recognize the man in the picture. I think Ezra may have taken it upon himself to resign."
"But why would he do that, Josiah? We're a team. How can he leave us?"
"I don't know, JD," Vin answered. "We should talk to Ez before we jump to any conclusions. See what he has to say."
"I agree," Chris nodded. "One other person and I should head over to Ez's. The rest of you yahoos stay here and get some work done."
"Can I go, Chris?" asked JD hesitantly. "I really need to talk with him. I don't understand any of this," he murmured unhappily.
Chris took a long look at JD. His turmoil and confusion were obvious. Team 7 was his family and Ezra's actions had jeopardized it. Besides, it was hard to say no to JD. He was so cute, and earnest. Saying 'no' to him made a person feel like they had kicked a puppy. Ezra would be hard put to ignore him. "Sure, JD. Grab your coat and let's go."
Less than an hour later, Chris Larabee, the magnificent steamroller, was pounding on Ezra Standish's door. "Open up, Standish. I know you're in there." He continued pounding until the door was jerked open.
Ezra glared at the man. "Has anyone ever told you that you are an absolute menace, Mr. Larabee?"
"Nope." He and JD pushed their way into the condo. "I'd love a cup of coffee, thanks."
"Get it yourself."
"Why, Agent Standish, that's not very mannerly."
"I don't recall inviting you in."
"Well, we're here now. Thanks, JD," he said to the young man as he handed Chris a cup of coffee. "Now, let's talk."
"And of what do we need to speak, Mr. Larabee?"
"Why did you resign, Ez'?" JD burst out. "How could you do something like that?"
"I had to, Mr. Dunne. My identity was plastered all over the papers. Undercover agents must maintain a certain amount of anonymity."
Chris snorted, "Hell, Ez, we're the only ones who recognized you."
"No, you were not."
"Who else then?"
"It doesn't matter."
"I think it does," Chris said sternly.
"No. It isn't significant. All that matters is that someone recognized me."
"Who?" Chris demanded.
Ezra sighed, "Mr. Larabee "
"Guy Johnson, Team 4."
"That moron. How did he know?"
"I don't know how he knew, but knew he did, and that is all that matters."
"No, it isn't."
"If a cretin like that could recognize me, so could the criminals we chase. You must admit many are much more intelligent then Guy Johnson."
JD had stayed silent watching for the most part. "Did he ."
Chris turned to JD. "What is it, JD. Go ahead."
"Well, did he meet Eva that day she came to the office? The only way anyone could recognize you in that picture is if they knew to link you to Eva. Where is Eva anyway?"
"I sent her to a hotel under a false name, just in case."
Chris nodded. "Good thinking. You too, JD. What you said makes sense. So, did you introduce Eva to Johnson?"
Ezra sank into a chair in his living room. "I ." He stopped, a thoughtful frown on his face. "No, but ."
"I think he was standing nearby when I introduced her to Karen Thompson."
"Yes. She is always very helpful to me when I need to research a role and we have become more then just colleagues. Sort of friends, I suppose. Eva and I ran into her while we were leaving. I introduced them to each other. I think Johnson was nearby at the time."
"Well there ya go, Ez!" JD proclaimed excitedly. "He didn't really recognize you, just Eva!"
"And unfortunately he managed to put two and two together," Chris added
"And got me," Ezra finished
"So ya don't have to resign now, Ez," JD continued in his excited manner. "Eh - ya gonna come back to work?"
Ezra didn't know what to say, or do. He'd been unlucky that Johnson was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But still, he didn't know.
"I don't know, Mr. Dunne. Somebody else may still have recognized me, and that puts, not only the team, but Eva in danger as well."
Chris had had enough of Ezra's paranoia and slammed his coffee mug down, making the other two occupants of the room jump slightly. "Damn it, Ezra," he growled. "Listen to me! You are almost unrecognizable in the photo and you are not named. If a mark recognized you, he still doesn't know what your real name is and who you really are, so it shouldn't be a problem?"
"But " Ezra tried to protest, but Chris was on a roll.
"How many people know about you and Eva?"
"Erm, in total?"
"Maybe 9 or 10, including the team, Karen and Johnson."
"Who else?" When Ezra did not respond Chris shouted, "Who else, Ezra!?"
"My mother and her father," Ezra said softly
"How does your Ma know her, Ez?" JD asked
"Who is she, Ez?" Chris asked, hoping that Ezra would finally open up, even just a little.
"Mr. Larabee, please, she's just an old acquaintance."
"Ezra, tell me who she is. We just want to help you."
"Please, Ezra," JD implored, puppy dog eyes glistening.
"Oh for ." Ezra groaned and rolled his eyes. "Fine, you may give the eyes a rest, Mr. Dunne. I will tell you. She's my, was my, step-sister."
"She is!?" JD questioned. "Never knew you had a sister, Ez."
"I don't, not a real sister. I've had three step-sisters though, and one step-brother. But Eva was always something special to me, something more than a step-sister."
Chris smiled. 'At last,' he thought. 'A chink in the wall.' Chris felt that a small sliver of light had finally shone through Ezra's protective barriers, that he was finally feeling safe enough to trust them with some information about himself.
"Something amuses you, Mr. Larabee?"
"Well, actually yeah - the thought of Maude surrounded by kids is kinda funny to me." Chris smirked
Era snorted, "Good Lord - Mother's worst nightmare!"
JD and Chris laughed as Ezra's telephone rang.
"Hello," Ezra answered pensively. "Mother!?"
"Speak of the devil," Chris groaned.
"No, Mother. Nothing is wrong. I just took a long lunch and decided to return home for a bit."
Chris snorted. "Short lunch."
"No, Mother, I cannot. No...I don't see why .Mother."
"I don't really understand Ez's ma," JD whispered to Chris.
"Neither do I."
"Mother, I cannot join you. I do thank you for the invitation, but I am afraid I have other commitments. Have fun with Mr. Devoe. Good bye, Mother." Ezra quickly hung up the phone and then took a deep fortifying breath. "I didn't need that."
"What's wrong. You said 'no'. That's the end of it."
"Mr. Larabee, do you think that my mother will accept a simple no? If I get lucky something, will distract her and she will forget about me."
"What did she want, Ezra."
Ezra Standish, master of deception, stared into JD Dunne's wide-eyed innocent face. 'How does he look that innocent?' he mused to himself. "She wished for me to accompany her on a trip to Italy."
"Oh, so are you coming back to work now?"
Ezra closed his eyes. "JD, I ."
The phone rang again. Ezra grabbed it. "Hello. What's wrong? I'll be right there."
"That was Eva. It appears her fiancé has arrived in town."
"Yes, JD. The prince."
Eva paced back and forth. In front of her was a beautiful view of Denver from glass doors leading to the balcony. She wrung her fine boned hands and threw constant glances back to the door to her hotel room. There was a knock on the door. "Finally." She rushed to the door and threw it open. "Ezra."
"Shhh. Calmly, my dear. You mustn't get so excited." He entered the room and JD and Chris slipped in behind him.
"Oh, Ezra. He's here. What am I going to do?"
"Well, of course he came, dear one. You just left. I assumed he would look for you."
"Why would he? I left. That should have told him how I was feeling."
"You didn't so much as leave him a note, now did you? I know you, Eva. You panicked, packed a bag and ran. Had you told him your reason for leaving, he probably wouldn't have followed you."
"I don't explain myself to anyone."
JD leaned over to whisper to Chris. "She sounds like Ezra. I can see them as siblings." Chris smirked back. The two of them were standing in a corner of the room watching the melodrama take place.
"Sit down, Eva. I will order us some tea and we will deal with this in a calm manner." He strode over to the phone and spoke a few moments then crossed back over to sit beside Eva on the large plush sofa situated in the center of the room. "Now, have you decided what you are going to do?"
"Are you going to marry him or not?"
"I don't know what to do." She jumped up off the couch and started pacing again. "I don't know if I could live like that, but I do care about him." She stopped and her head fell to her chest. "There are so many thoughts spinning in my head."
Ezra reached up and tugged Eva back onto the couch. She fitted her body into his and tucked her head under his chin. They slowly rocked back and forth. "I think it's good that he has come."
"How can you say that?" She raised her eyes to him. "I can't speak to Adair right now."
"I think that's exactly what you need to do. You need to tell him your concerns and fears. If, together, you can't come up with a solution, then you know that you should end the engagement."
Chris and JD had been watching the entire time following them back and forth like a tennis match. "End the engagement?" Chris blurted out. "Is that why you came to visit Ezra?"
"Um, Mr. Larabee. I'm sorry I did not notice you or Mr. Dunne." Eva pulled away from Ezra. "Do forgive my rudeness."
"Don't worry about it. You were distracted. I know this is none of my business, but can I give you some advice from someone who was married. I know I don't know all the facts, but, like I said, I was engaged and married. I can give you the benefit of my experience."
"W..what do you think I should do then, Mr. Larabee?"
"Well, call me Chris to start with." He smiled at her. "Do you love him, Eva?"
"I don't know. I thought I did," she sighed and sagged back against Ezra.
Chris came around and sat in the armchair facing them.
"So, you did love him at one point then?"
"Yes he was so, so," she floundered for the right word. "Mr. Lara Chris. Before I met Adair, I swore I would never get married. I'd seen too many failed marriages and there consequences to ever want to go anywhere near one. But when I met Adair, he was just so right - and I really believed he loved me."
"What happened?" JD tentatively asked. "Oh - sorry"
"That's ok," Eva replied. "I'm not sure when I first felt things change, possibly after the engagement was made public. But things started to get out of control, and I don't like that. The questions, the decisions and the pressure! And Adair, he started to change. He no longer seemed the carefree, loving and calm person I'd agreed to marry. He was becoming more and more short tempered. And, and even slightly critical of me."
"In what way, darlin'?" Ezra asked.
"Just things, am I wearing THAT dress, you can't go there, and don't do that. Things he'd never bothered about before."
"That'll be the Royalty thing though?" JD said thoughtfully.
"Yes, possibly. But that's not how I want to continue living. I want to live the way we lived before the engagement was announced. I knew he was a prince, and we were engaged a while before it was announced, and he hadn't changed."
"Ya know, Eva," Chris said to her. "Adair will be under a great amount of pressure as well. Did you ever talk to him? Tell him you thought he had changed? Asked him what was wrong?"
"No," she said, starting to realize that Adair had no idea until now that she'd been unhappy.
"I think you should talk to him, as soon as you can, Eva. Tell him he's changed, that you love him, but want him back the way he was. He might not realize that he has changed, might not know he's acting differently towards you."
Ezra looked down at Eva, who was snuggled tightly against him, tears slowly trickling down her cheeks "What do you think, darlin'? Do you think it's time to talk to Adair?"
A faint smile crossed her lips, "Okay, Ezra, but just Adair. I don't want any of his little helpers there, getting in the way."
"Don't worry, Eva," Chris said as he stood. "I'll even take care of them personally."
Outside of Ezra's townhouse, the procession of black Mercs came to a halt. The middle cars window slowly came down and a tired but determined Prince Adair stared out of it.
"Javier, go see if anyone is in."
A man jumped out of the car and rushed towards the house. He knocked and waited, tried the bell and waited. He returned to the car to give his news.
"I am sorry, sir. There seems to be no one home."
A deep sigh drifted into the air. "Fine. Leave a car here and tell them to inform me when someone arrives. Come, Manuel, let us find accommodation. I am tired."
The man hurried to the last car and issued orders before returning and getting into the car he'd came from. The procession moved away from the house, leaving one behind, and headed towards a hotel.
"Sir," A dark haired man spoke quietly to the prince, a cell phone in hand. "Sir, I have made you reservations at the Charleston Trident Hotel. You have the penthouse suit. Will that be acceptable?"
The prince turned his head to look blankly at the man. "Yes. That will be fine. I'm tired, Manuel. Let's hurry this along. I wish to rest."
JD watched from his seat in a chair out of the way as Ezra gently plied Eva with tea. He watched as Chris paced back and forth. The sound of a phone ringing broke the hush that had settled over the room. Ezra reached into his blazer pocket for his cell phone. "Yes .Really. You're Sure? .Alright. Thank you very much." He closed his phone and laughed softly.
"What's up, Ez?" Larabee asked.
"Ah, I am reassured that the universe is indeed a sentient being with a sense for the absurd."
"What?" came the exasperated reply.
"Eva dearest, your affianced has taken a room at this very hotel."
"What? But I can't. It's " she stuttered to a stop.
"Calm yourself. I doubt he knows that you are here. It is simply one of the best hotels in the city. Now, I shall arrange a meeting between you and the man on the morrow. That will give you a bit of time to collect yourself."
Eva let out a shuddering sigh and nodded. "But how will we get rid of all his secretaries and the rest of his entourage? He is never really alone anymore."
"Don't worry about that." Chris smirked. "I'll go with you to the meeting and clear them out for you if it comes down to that."
Ezra shuddered with horror. Chris Larabee alone in a room with royalty? The mind boggled. "I'm sure that won't be necessary. I will inform him that the meeting will be contingent on your terms. I'm sure that he will agree. He did come here to see you after all."
"What if he's not? What if he's here for something else?" JD mused. He blushed realizing he had spoken aloud.
"I doubt it, Mr. Dunne. The timing indicates that he is here for Eva."
"Come on, JD. It's time you and I got out of here." He turned to his recalcitrant agent. "You can have tomorrow off, Standish, but I expect to see you to work on time Friday. Got it?"
"Yes, Mr. Larabee, I will be there at my customary time."
"I said 'on time' not 'your time'."
Ezra smiled and turned away.
The next morning a phone rang in a dim room at precisely 8 o'clock. A man rushed to answer. "Hello"
"Hello. My name is Ezra P. Standish. May I speak with the prince, please?"
"I'm sorry, that will not be possible. You have a wrong number. There is no prince here."
"I think not. Please inform Prince Adair that Mr. Standish wishes to speak to him at once."
"As I said before, sir, you have a wrong number."
"Who is it, Javier?" came a whisper.
"A man named Standish is asking for you, sir."
"Standish. I've heard the name."
"It is the name of the man who owns the townhouse where Miss Lanelle is staying."
"Give me the phone."
"Hello. This is Adair Movari. With whom am I speaking?"
"Ezra P. Standish. I am calling on behalf of Miss Eva Lanelle. She wishes to speak with you."
"I do not believe you."
"And why is that."
"She would have no need for an intermediate to speak with me. I don't know what you want, but do not call here again."
"I am indeed calling on her behalf. She left you for a reason and is not happy to have been followed. She is willing to give you a reprieve since you have journeyed so far to see her. Eva will meet you under certain conditions."
"I still don't believe you."
Eva came on the line. "Adair, if you wish to speak to me set up a meeting with Ezra."
"Eva. Why are you ?"
"She's gone. Now shall we get to it?"
Adair stared at the phone with a grimace. "Alright. What are these conditions?"
Eva looked at her watch again, and then sighed again.
"Darlin', no matter how many times you look at it, it isn't going to get any faster." Ezra smiled at her.
Eva was not amused, and glared back at him.
"Don't look at me like that," he said. "You had to see him sometime, and it's better off being sooner rather than later."
"But not this soon!" she retorted, and then looked at her watch once more.
"Eva," Ezra moved towards her and took her hands in his. "Please, Eva. You need to tell him how you feel. That you still love him "
"Ezra, I "
"No, Eva," Ezra stopped her interruption. "I know you still love him. Don't try and con a con man. And don't ruin your future happiness because of past hurts."
Ezra clasped her hands to his chest and looked into her teary blue eyes. "If ever someone deserved to be happy, loved and cared for, it's you, my dear. Now, why don't we have a cup of tea while we wait, calm the nerves, eh?"
"Thank you, Ezra."
Ezra smiled, and then motioned for Eva to sit while he made the tea.
Just less than an hour, and two cups of tea later, there was a sharp knock at the door.
"Oh God, Ezra!" Eva cried as she practically jumped from her seat. Ezra was there though, and took her in his arms.
"Eva, relax. Just breathe slowly and relax, everything's going to be fine," he whispered to her.
Eva closed her eyes, and took a few deep breaths.
"Thanks Ezra. I'm okay now." Pulling back from him, she straightened her clothes. "I'm ready. You can let him in now."
Ezra nodded and headed to the door. He looked through the spy hole to make sure his instructions had been followed. When he was satisfied, he opened the door to the waiting man.
"Prince Adair, I presume? I'm Ezra. P. Standish. Please, won't you come in? - Eva is waiting."
The prince entered the room, then upon seeing Eva by the balcony doors, he hurried towards her. "Eva, my darling, I'm so relieved to see you again!"
"Adair," Eva replied evenly. "Please, take a seat."
"Eva, please," Adair started towards Eva again, only to have Ezra step into his path.
"Please, sir, do take a seat."
Adair glared at Ezra, but sat down on seeing that he would get nowhere fast through not complying.
"Drink?" Ezra asked
"No, thank you, Mr. Standish."
"No thanks, Ezra."
"Ok, Eva, please, talk to me. Tell me what is going on," pleaded Adair, never taking his eyes off Eva as she slowly sat in the seat opposite him. "And who on earth is he!?"
"Adair, this wasn't exactly the way I wanted things to go. I I do love you, Adair. Let me make that clear to you first."
"Then why this affair?" Adair demanded.
"Affair?" Eva and Ezra both asked, followed by a quiet, but audible snort from Ezra.
"And just what is so funny about having an affair with MY fiancé?" Adair jumped from his seat, demanding answers.
"Please, Adair, I'm not, nor have I ever been, involved in an affair. And certainly not with Ezra."
"But " Adair's confused query was cut short as Eva continued her explanation.
"Ezra is my, was my step-brother. I needed breathing space and an understanding shoulder to cry on and confide in. I knew I would get that from Ezra."
"Step-brother?" Adair repeated.
"Yes - step-brother," Eva confirmed, then turned to Ezra and said, "I think we need to talk alone now, Ezra."
"Of course," Ezra agreed, "but I'll just be in the bedroom in case I am needed." With an encouraging smile to Eva, and a nod to Adair, Ezra retreated to the bedroom.
Eva returned to her seat, and started her long explanation to Adair.
Several hours later Eva entered her bedroom to find Ezra asleep on top of the covers. A small smile crept across her beautiful face as she quietly made her way around to the edge of the bed. Knowing from experience not to touch him, she softly called his name until his eyes fluttered open.
"Eva!" Ezra sat up and blinked away the sleep. "I am sorry, I guess I got a little bit tired. How are things?"
"Things are good, Ezra," she answered. " I told Adair everything. Feelings, fears, worries and hopes."
"And I've agreed to go back to him. The weddings back on. Although, the date will change," Eva continued as she made herself comfy on the bed. "He apologized and was quite upset with himself that his behavior had forced me to run from him, instead of to him. He asked me to come back to him, that he will change the things that were upsetting me. That he loves me, more than anything in the world. Can you believe that Ezra? He loves me!"
Ezra hugged Eva close to him and said, "Of course he loves you, Eva. Who wouldn't?"
They stayed in the hug until Eva's tears dried.
"So, what now, darlin'?"
"Now, Ezra," Eva spoke as they exited the bedroom, "now we have a drink. Later, we celebrate. Adair has invited you, and upon my request, your teammates for a meal tonight."
"What!?" Ezra stopped in his tracks and stared with disbelief at Eva. "No. Never. That lot, with Royalty? Are you out of your mind!?"
"I must be, Ezra." Eva laughed at Ezra's face. "I'm marrying a prince. Besides, I like your friends, they're fun."
"Fun?" Ezra shook his head. "They will not only ruin the evening, the meal and the reputation of an heir to a throne, but they will also embarrass the hell out of me!"
Eva just continued laughing though and grabbed Ezra by the arm, dragging him towards the door. "Come on, let's go give them the good news."
"Good Lord, Eva," was the last thing heard before the door closed behind them.