Word Count: 2,649
Angela knew how to be discreet. She'd had years of practice and it was something she excelled at. A shopping trip was nothing out of the ordinary for her so the cover was a sound one. She could be gone for hours and no one, not even her driver, would think to come looking for her.
Arranging for the hired car to pick her up was easy enough. Some might wonder if she was out of her mind coming here, setting these wheels in motion. Angela had each and every one of her wits about her, but she also knew that her son would need some help if his political aspirations were to come true. A bid for the presidency didn't come cheap. Or without help.
With Daniel gone, Angela had to look to others with deep pockets. She'd been amazed when someone associated with Benny Demarat had practically fallen into her lap. Not only had he fallen into her lap, but he'd gotten close to Claire. There'd been potential there.
And then he'd, disappointingly, been cut loose.
She still couldn't believe the bad luck there. No one had consulted her, of course. They weren't thinking of the big picture, acting rashly as if her age was really a big deal compared to other things. No matter what Noah believed, there was too much to be gained from the bodyguard's association with Claire. She would never stoop to arrange a marriage, but as a relationship had already happened. Emotions had already become involved.
Well, now all she needed to do was push it along until it blossomed into something more.
Something to help Nathan.
Certainly, Claire could do far worse. He was rough around the edges but had grown up accustomed to many similar things that Nathan and Peter had. Those things just happened to be obtained differently.
She'd been away at college for a year now, having split the summer after her freshman year between New York and California. The bulk of the time was spent in California unfortunately. Angela had hoped for more time to provide a logical reason for the two to run into one another. It hadn't happened, but Angela was confident enough time had passed to prevent Noah from interfering should the couple resume their relationship.
She stepped out of the car, looking at the building with distaste. She was here to do what needed doing. One of them needed a push and Angela believed she was choosing the right one to do the pushing.
She entered the gym, removing her sunglasses as the sounds of boxers using various exercise equipment bombarded her ears. Punching bags, free weights, sparring in the ring. She was familiar enough with what she saw to know that this place could use a little financial boost to buy some better equipment.
Something Angela Petrelli could provide. Discreetly of course. If Taylor Reese went along with her plan.
She found her target and walked determinedly toward him. If he'd been in the ring sparring she'd have been forced to wait. Fortunate for her, it appeared he'd gotten done not too long ago so was free to talk.
"Mr. Reese," she said simply. He'd noticed her not long after she'd come in and she couldn't help but think he would have done well protecting Nathan. And would do very well doing so for Claire. And when all was said and done, she wanted Claire safe even if some might question her methods.
"Ma'am," he said, taking a sip from his bottle of water.
"I was wondering if you had a few moments. Perhaps I can give you a lift somewhere."
"I've got my own ride."
"Of course you do, I didn't mean to imply."
"Yeah, right," he said simply, eyeing her cautiously. He wasn't stupid, she'd give him that.
"Very well, join me then for a few moments."
"All right. Give me a few minutes to get my things."
"I'll be outside."
It took him about fifteen minutes, judging by the smell of soap he'd taken the time to shower before coming out here.
"So, what's on your mind, Mrs. Petrelli?"
"I want you to go to Iowa."
"I'm sorry," he said, sounding confused.
"Iowa, you do know where that is."
"Yeah, I do, but why would I want to do that?"
"Because that's where Claire is."
"Oh, come now, Taylor, we both know you'd still be with her if her father hadn't interfered."
"We'd gotten into a fight the night he found out. So, I'm not so sure."
"So, I'm wrong? You wouldn't have moved heaven and earth to be with her? The argument was that insurmountable as to have you end it."
"I didn't say that either," he said. "Just saying our future wasn't cast in stone or anything."
"So, you would have let her get away otherwise?"
"Not to the best of my abilities, no."
"She's going to need protection."
"You're trying to hire me to protect her? What about her eternity guy?"
"Mr. Monroe? Yes, well, I'm coming to you."
"Taylor. You are aware that my son is going to be running for president."
"Yeah, I heard talk of that."
"Before he announces his candidacy, it's going to be leaked that Claire is his daughter."
"If you know that, why not just stop it from coming out?"
They were both silent, streetwise eyes assessing strategizing ones. She saw when the pieces fell into place for him.
"I see," he said simply. "And you want me to what?"
"I want you to be with her, of course. Help her through the difficult time. And be someone who knew her before her name gets splattered all over newspapers and websites. And protect her. Only a select few know what she's capable of, you're one of them, and I feel confident that you'd die before allowing someone the opportunity to get close enough to do what they need to in order to kill her."
"I have a home. My mother's here. I'm working at boxing."
"The home will still be here. She's in college, not in Iowa forever. The job," she shrugged, removing an envelope from her pocket. "You do this and you might be surprised the equipment this facility is outfitted with upon your return."
"You could hire someone who doesn't have something personal at stake."
"And I think the personal stake will drive you, that's why I chose you over Adam. He doesn't love her, not yet. One day I'm sure that will be there when she allows it. There's a very good gym in the town where she's going to college. I know you have an agent, so I can't tempt you with that. I can, however, tempt you with a manager and topnotch trainer who will be transferring to that gym as soon as I know you've agreed. With him will also come a corner team better equipped than the one you have currently." She paused, regarding him for a moment. The year hadn't exactly been horrible to him, but there were scars where there were none before. A drawback of the job, she imagined. "A team who will see to it that you get what you so deeply crave."
"Legitimate fights. Isn't that what you're aiming for here?"
"Yeah," he said.
"Any financial backing you need will be taken care of."
"Has other clients and you'd be more of a charity case to him. I want my granddaughter safe and away from people who would go after her for who she is. A Petrelli."
"Why out her then?"
"It's a necessary thing. Better now than when Nathan's campaign is really underway."
"So, you're outing her but arranging for me to be there at the same time so she's not without protection."
"Something like that."
"I don't get it. Again, you're not asking me to do anything Monroe can't do. Not to mention, I know how you Italians work, you wouldn't want a Jew sullying your good name or pedigree bloodline."
"Well, I guess I was wrong about you."
"Why, I thought you loved her."
"One sided I think."
"Why do you say that?"
"If she loved me she would have fought."
"Rebelled against her father you mean? The man who took her in as an infant, raised her as his own, protected her at all costs even going so far as risking his wife's health, his marriage to ensure she remained safe. A man who risked his life for her? Chosen you over him when I'm sure you made it blatantly obvious that you wanted her for the long-term."
She'd scored a point with that one. She didn't have to know the specifics of the conversation to know he'd said probably more than a few unkind things to her. It was what men like him did when they found themselves with their back against the ropes. He'd lash out, fight back to prevent getting ensnared in a potentially life threatening trap. Prison time to someone like him would be life threatening.
"Looked alive enough to me."
"That isn't to say he didn't risk everything for her. As far as your religion, that matters not to me. Arthur, perhaps, but he's gone. She's a female child, wouldn't carry on the name regardless, and trust me when I say her mother in no way added anything to the Petrelli bloodline you speak of."
"From what I gather, Claire was an accident. What you're doing here, intervening, sending me there, you're plotting, pushing for a future. No accident if kids come out of that type of arrangement."
"A woman who puts your wellbeing above her own is difficult to find these days. Girls aren't taught to do that anymore. How many other girlfriends have you had who've bandaged you up after your fights? For that matter who even wanted to touch you when you're in that condition?"
He scoffed, probably wondering how she knew Claire had done that. Then again, maybe he realized Angela knew a lot. "As if that was why she did anything she did."
"That is very much the reason she did the things she did, Taylor. Not that it matters. The desire to protect and nurture is very strong in her. She learned from her father, you see, and would do anything to ensure those she loved are safe."
"So you could find anyone else to do this."
"She's dating someone," she continued as if he hadn't said anything. "Has been since last spring. Before that she went through a bit of an adjustment period, perhaps trying to get over you or just testing her wings without her father or Nathan nearby. I'm not sure, but she's found someone and seems to be settling into a routine with him."
"So, why not just let him be the guy you want me to be. He doesn't know she's a Petrelli either, so she'll already be protected from what you're afraid of."
"Not all of it. And you know that. You know full well what I want her protected against."
"I do," he said and she knew it wasn't easy for him to admit that.
"It would sit well with you once Claire is outed and she becomes fodder for gossip rags seeing her picture splattered all over on someone else's arm? Perhaps I can arrange for a wedding invitation to be provided you."
"Because you can't tell me that you don't realize once this young man finds out just who she is, he's going to hang on for dear life. Probably move very quickly, in fact, propose before she has time to realize just what having that name attached to her could mean to her."
"So, you think she's going to what? Just welcome me back and dump him? Just like that. I don't buy it if she's been with him for a few months now."
"Certainly not if you don't try."
He opened the envelope and looked over the information she'd compiled. He'd no doubt heard of the manager, though would wonder what he was doing in Iowa. And the trainer? He was someone who'd worked in Boom Boom's camp, nobody to snub his nose at the possibility of working under. Angela saw when he'd processed it all.
"So, I move to Iowa. That's it? That's all you want from me? What happens if I try and it doesn't work? Maybe she loves this new guy."
"Mm, one only has to look at her to know that's not the case, not to say she's not going through the motions. Go check it out before you decide if you want to. There's a plane ticket in there for tomorrow, roundtrip, but should you decide to stay that'd be fine."
"What do you get out of this exactly?"
"Yeah, because I know I'm not damage control. If anything I'd be fuel to the fire as far as causing problems with Nathan's campaign. I'm not exactly parade in front of the paparazzi material. I'm a thug with mob ties."
"Let me be the judge of that and concerned with what benefit I will get out of this arrangement. You go get the girl."
"And if it doesn't work out? She doesn't want me or I discover I don't want her anymore?"
"Well then, I can at least say I tried. No stone unturned."
"Still going to expose her?"
"Of course, dear. The sympathy card and the family man card is a heavy hitting combination."
He chuckled a little.
"I make no promises."
"That's why there's a return flight booked."
"What makes you think I won't tell her you're planning on using her as some pawn in a game to get your son elected president? Even if I don't have your whole plan that is what you're doing."
"Does it really matter what my motives are for getting you there?"
"It might matter to her."
"If she refuses to know what her heart tells her to do because of me there's nothing I can do."
"And you think her father - both of them - are going to stand by and let a thug like me legitimately go after her?"
"Well, now, she's in Iowa by herself. Nathan nor Noah are anywhere near her. If you work hard and fast they won't find out until it's too late. And there's nothing they can say or do to drive you apart. And as formidable an opponent as I can be when I set my mind to opposing something, Taylor. I can also be the exact opposite and a cause's biggest champion."
"Didn't see her burning up my telephone when she turned eighteen."
"And you called her, of course."
He was quiet, assessing the information again.
"Well, I guess I better go pack a bag then."
"Good luck, Mr. Reese."
"Yeah, thanks, you too. How quickly do I need to work anyway?"
"By Thanksgiving. Christmas at the latest, it will make a good holiday story, I think. Man reunited with the daughter he thought was dead."
Taylor reached for the door handle, shaking his head a little but he took the envelope, including the plane ticket, with him.
Her driver pulled away from the curb as soon as Taylor was out of the car. No goodbyes were said by either of them and she didn't look back to see what he was doing. He wouldn't fail and Angela knew. She'd seen it. It was unfortunate they'd been caught and Angela had to let some time pass, let Claire do some maturing before sending him after her. It was time, though, she wouldn't be able to wait if Nathan was going to make a go at it in the next election. And with Taylor Reese on her granddaughter's arm, the support of Benny Demarat couldn't be too far behind.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com