But since she had returned from her trip with Jasper and Winter, all she had heard about was the ongoing investigation into Jebidiah Wilson's healthcare scandal and her previous ties to the accused man.
"-That was ages ago," Olivia interrupted.
"It may have been 'ages ago,' but because you have a child with him, you are still linked to him. People are gossiping about this entire thing. They want to be told if you knew anything about his dealings. He's going down and I want to make sure you don't sink with him."
"It isn't fair, that's true," Heather agreed. "But you have not made any formal statements about this issue. The Chief of Police has done three press conferences and your silence on the matter is not making you look very good right now."
Olivia sighed, her cheeks flaming red but not from the cold. "I have been tending to my sick daughter."
"I hate to bring this up, but you've been tending to yet another daughter you had out of wedlock. You and Jasper are married now, but tongues have been wagging and your reputation has taken a lot of hits."
Clenching her fists at her side, Olivia threw her shoulders back. "So, I'll have the press conference then."
Heather nodded. "Good. I'll set it up immediately. I've been doing as much damage control as I can, but this is urgent."
"Well, I will do what I can," Olivia muttered. "Right now, I need some caffeine."
But Jasper was incensed. A maid had let him in yet here he stood waiting. Hearing a clatter in the kitchen, Jasper followed the noise.
"I told the maid to have you wait in the foyer."
"Well, I didn't," Jasper responded curtly.
"I was interrogated yet again by the detective on the case and my records were all gone through quite thoroughly. I think the detective believes me."
"Then you delude yourself," Jasper sneered. "We both know you're guilty. Now, why am I here? Do you finally feel the need to get all of this nastiness off your chest? Want to confess to your crimes? It would save the taxpayers a lot of money."
"Confess?" Jebidiah said with disbelief. His voice grew louder as he continued, "Confess? I called you here to inform you that if you don't drop this, I'll bring down your entire world."
Jasper smirked. "And how would you do that?"
"Did you know my wife took our baby and left me?"
"I had heard something about that, yes."
"Well, I think it's only fair that if I suffer, you suffer."
"You lost me and frankly, I"m getting really bored," Jasper said.
"I was with Olivia during the time in question. I'll implicate her complicity; simple as that. Then, the both of you will lose everything you've ever worked for or loved, too."
"I'm telling you right now to back off or I'll do it! I will hold my own meeting with the press and finally tell them my side of the story. How Olivia knew all about what I was doing and how she arranged the cover up."
"Well, I would only do it as a last resort."
Jasper shook his head as he continued to laugh. "This is the stupidest thing I've ever heard. How did you ever make it through medical school, you moron?"
"If they try me and find me guilty, I'll do whatever it takes to bring you and Olivia down with me. You can count on that."
"Yeah, we'll see," Jasper scoffed.
John smiled slightly as she approached. "I wanted to talk to you about Constance."
"Is that all you can say? 'Oh?'" He paused a moment, trying to gather his thoughts. "I love her. You may have guessed that already by how much she's been around and how I've encouraged you to try to get to know her."
She merely shrugged. "It's not really surprising. Like you said, you've been pushing her at me for a while now."
John wiped small beads of sweat off his forehead and considered her outburst. "I would like to. I don't know when, but I was hoping we could be a family."
He frowned as he watched her. "Why? What are you afraid of? I thought you liked Constance."
"Uh... yeah... yes, I can understand what you're saying. Maybe the two of you just need more time to get to know one another."
"I'm trying," he said softly, attempting to hide his disappointment. "Will you try? Try to understand that it would be good for us both?"
As she left the courthouse, several people outside stopped to chat with her. She had always remained open to the public, never minding when the community approached her.
"He's probably just part of the press. Or maybe he's a paparazzi," the other woman suggested.
Olivia was stunned when she peeked around to see who they were speaking about. It was the man she had confronted months ago at the Bistro for standing around and staring at her.
"You and I have met before!" she exclaimed with annoyance as she approached him. "I told you I didn't want to see you anywhere around me again."
"Really?" she demanded. "Where's your notepad? Your camera? You don't have anything on you! Show me your press badge!"
"Who are you and why are you sneaking about?"
The man looked terrified. "Please, don't tell your husband you saw me. He'll have my hide."
Her eyes narrowed. "What does Jasper have to do with you..." Her words trailed off as it the reality of who he was hit her like a brick. "He hired you to keep an eye on me. Why?"
The man was visibly shaking now. "Listen, he can't know you found out or he will seriously hurt me."
Olivia glared at him, her voice a little too calm. "I'm only going to repeat myself this once. Why did he hire you to spy on me?"
"I'm - I'm your bodyguard," he sputtered. "When you saw me before and confronted me, I always made sure it was someone else tailing you from then on. But tonight, I was the only person available."
Bodyguard? She turned away from him abruptly, not yet certain what she was going to do about this. Jasper had crossed the line but she already knew he would say he had done it for her own protection and that she would have refused a bodyguard, so he'd had to hire him secretly. The problem was not just that he'd gone behind her back and in turn, lied to her. The issue was also that in not knowing about this, she had lost an amount of control over her life.
"Honestly, are you really my cousin? Because I'm not feeling it right now."
Blessing's lower lip puckered out. "Well, what does that mean?"
"I guess you're better at being sneaky than I am."
"That's for sure," Lacey agreed. "Okay, here's the thing. If my dad marries Constance now, I will lose any advantage I have. Right now, she's all worried that I won't like her. Now, my dad's worried about that, too. Get it? There are more things I want. I'm not going to have any way of getting what I want if I can't use them against each other. How do you think you finally got driving lessons? It wasn't Constance's idea, that's for damn sure!"
"OMG, yes!" Lacey yelled. How dense could her cousin be? "I swear, sometimes I feel like knocking on your head to see if you're actually in there!"
"You don't have to be so mean," Blessing sniffed.
"I'm sorry, it's just that it's so frustrating planning all of this on my own. I need Constance to worry that I won't like her. I need my dad to worry the same thing. There are things I want."
Lacey's smile was sickeningly sweet. "Well, for starters, I want a car. It's not like my dad doesn't have the money."
"I want a car, too, but my dad said I had to work for it," Blessing pouted.
"Well, I probably can't get anyone to buy you a car, but maybe there are other things we can squeeze out of this. Like jewelry and stuff."
Blessing bit her bottom lip as she thought; a habit she had picked up from her mother. "I'm not sure this is all a good idea. It just doesn't seem right. I mean, driving lessons were one thing. This just sounds... I don't know... wrong."
"This is the exact reason I never tell you the details. You're too wimpy to handle what has to be done."
Blessing shuddered. "Yeah, I guess I'd rather not know."
"I'm really sorry," John said with genuine disappointment. "I'm sure she'll come around quickly."
"Hello, Constance," Lacey said without expression although her voice was very sweet sounding.
"Hi, Lacey," Constance said quietly.
"It sure is quiet here. I thought we were eating at six."
John cleared his throat. "Uncle Jasper is in his study and Aunt Olivia should be home any minute."
"She's still cooking isn't she?" Blessing asked.
"Yes. Jasper told me she put dinner in the oven this morning."
"Oh good," Blessing said with a saccharine smile. "I sure hope it isn't macaroni and cheese."
Stunned into silence, John stared after her as she glided up the stairs.
He shook his head. "No, she doesn't. But she was being rude. I'll have a talk with her about it."
"No, please don't. She's probably upset about your talk with her regarding our relationship and where it's heading. She's just acting out a little."
"She can be upset all she wants and still be civil."
Constance shook her head. "Let me talk to her later, John. Please. Let me try. I think the harder you come down on her, the more she'll act out."
John considered what she said. Although he wasn't in complete agreement with her, he relented. "Okay. But if she doesn't straighten up, she'll be dealing with the consequences I give her."