All the King’s Queens – Chapter 5: Meet and Greet

No matter how many hundreds of times Dylan has invited a female bodybuilder over to his home, he always gets butterflies in the stomach right before she arrives.

For the first time ever, he’s hosting three beautiful ladies all at once, which only adds layers upon layers to his current state of anxiety.

Before becoming a social pariah, Dylan frequently hosted dinner parties with high-level Perseus Analytics executives, lawmakers, media personalities, celebrities, athletes, and friends (the ones who didn’t object to his work with the U.S. military and government). But since then, these kinds of gatherings have become few and far between. In his estimation, which Lawrence confirmed recently, his last dinner party was more than a year ago. He was celebrating his older brother’s 40th birthday party with nearly three dozen guests – his parents and three surviving grandparents among them. Nothing too crazy happened (he comes from a Japanese-American family, so the bar for “craziness” is set pretty low) and it was a nice reminder of a time when life seemed normal. For Dylan, those days are getting further and further away. There was no talk about his past scandals, dead civilians in the Middle Eastern, or controversial government contracts. It was great.

Right now, Dylan is pacing around his living room, pretending to be looking at a picture book sitting on the coffee table. The photographs of boathouses in Maine, beaches in the Florida Keys, and horse stables in Utah are pretty to look at – but he’s not interested in them at the moment. Dylan estimates he’s burned at least 500 calories just pacing back and forth. Perhaps this should be the start of a new workout routine.

For security reasons, non-employees aren’t allowed to bypass the front gate without requesting access. There’s a callbox right outside the gate that visitors can use to communicate to someone on the inside. There are transistor radios strategically placed throughout the house, with a security room located on the second floor. This makes it easy for Dylan or Lawrence to speak to and let in visitors. Once the gate has been opened, they can go park on the driveway. Lawrence, Henry, and Joey have their own keycards so that they can come and go as they please. Uber/Lyft and taxicab drivers must instead drop off their passengers at a nearby public park (a dog park that’s mostly used for pooping and scooping purposes) and either walk up to the gate to request permission to enter or wait for Lawrence to personally escort them to the house. It’s rather bothersome when a large number of guests come over, but that’s the way it is. Being a billionaire has its drawbacks (in addition to a few perks). The dog park runs along several blocks of 43rd Avenue, with Dylan’s home located at the end of Winchester Drive.

“I just got a text from Miss Wright. Her driver is about a mile away from here. I’ll pick her up shortly,” Lawrence informs his boss. Still pacing around the living room, Dylan turns toward his loyal butler and smiles.

“Thanks Lawrence. I’m guessing Monique shouldn’t be too far behind,” Dylan says. “We’re expecting Peggy to be the last to arrive, yes?”

“That is correct, sir. She’s estimated to arrive shortly before dinner.” Lawrence knows his boss is nervous as hell. It’s obvious to anyone observing his behavior. The butler usually ignores this and pretends like everything is normal. He hopes this sense of “normalcy” will help put Mr. Tanaka’s mind at ease.

“Great. Thanks. Go ahead and wait for Melanie to arrive.” With that, Lawrence turns around and walks to the garage. Dylan finally sits down to calm his nerves. He doesn’t know why, but he feels an extra amount of anxiety at the moment. Which is perplexing, considering how excited he should be feeling instead. He’s about to spend quality time with three of the most beautiful women he’s ever met. This opportunity doesn’t present itself all the time. Perhaps that’s why he’s feeling so anxious.

He looks at the living room liquor cabinet, eyeing an unopened bottle of Glenlivet 25.

“Is it too early to drink?” Dylan asks himself. He looks at his watch. The time is 1:38 p.m. A single drop of sweat rolls down his cheek. His pulse is racing. He’s out of breath, even though he hasn’t been running.

“No, it’s not.”

***

Five minutes later, Lawrence is sitting in his red 2019 Toyota Avalon right next to the dog park, listening to the radio. At first he was listening to some random bozo complain about the Seattle Mariners bullpen. Was Henry complaining about that earlier this morning? Lawrence thinks so. Now, he’s listening to some Ariana Grande song. Lawrence has vaguely heard of her. He’s pretty sure she’s young enough to be his daughter.

Or granddaughter. Who knows?

Buzzzzzzzzz!

Lawrence’s phone starts to buzz, indicating an incoming text message. He checks it. Sure enough, it’s from Miss Wright. It reads:

“Hi Lawrence sweetie! I’m here. What are you driving?”

Before he can respond, Lawrence notices in the rearview mirror the figure of a large, shapely woman wearing a sleeveless blue polo shirt, white skinny jeans (which leave no doubt that she never skips leg day), and black platform boots. It would be difficult not to see her. She appears to be walking toward the car but still looking around for her ride. Just as she comes a bit closer, Lawrence lightly taps on the horn to alert her to his presence. She immediately spots the Avalon just ahead of her. The butler pops open the passenger side door.

“Greets, Miss Wright. How was your flight over here?” Keeping his composure and professionalism, Lawrence tries his hardest not to stare too long at Melanie’s broad shoulders, bulging biceps, or massive quads. He may not share the same “tastes” as his boss, but Lawrence knows a beautiful woman when he sees one. Even if she’s “non-traditional.” And he is without question in the presence of one fine looking lady.

“It was fine, just any other flight,” Melanie says while stuffing her luggage in the back seat. “I landed safely and didn’t get motion sickness, so that’s a bonus!” One disadvantage of being such a large woman is that it can be incredibly difficult for Melanie to get into cars. Her enormous frame forces her to uncomfortably contort herself as she bends over, enters the vehicle, sits down, and pulls the seatbelt over her massive torso. It stretches to its furthest limit.

“Indeed it is. It’s a blessing to be alive.” After managing to buckle her seatbelt, Lawrence starts the engine and drives toward his boss’s property. Twenty seconds later, his phone starts to buzz again. He pulls to the side of the road to check it. “That might be Miss St. Martin. She’s supposed to arrive shortly after you. But I wasn’t expecting her to arrive quite this soon.”

“I love that girl! I’m excited to see her again. It’s been forever.” Melanie takes out a pocket makeup mirror to see if her eyeliner needs to be touched up. It doesn’t. She puts the mirror away back in her handbag.

With the engine running, Lawrence gets out of the car to look for Monique St. Martin’s cab. In the distance, he sees one approaching the park from the south end. Not one to make a spectacle of himself, he waves his arms in the air (like he just doesn’t care) to catch the driver’s attention. It obviously works, as the taxi makes a hard right turn toward the red Avalon.

“Indeed it is her,” Lawrence informs Melanie. She looks up and sighs.

“I hope she’s doing okay. My heart still aches for her after what happened.” Like Dylan, Melanie couldn’t help but shed lots of tears as she watched that poor girl get carried out of that stadium on a stretcher. It didn’t help that the NBC camera crew kept focusing on Monique’s distraught coach weeping at her side. The esteemed television network received harsh public backlash from their coverage, which was labeled “exploitative” and “insensitive” by critics. To their credit, they later apologized.

A yellow taxicab stops thirty feet away from Lawrence and Melanie. The back-passenger side door opens, with a single supple leg stepping onto the pavement. Wearing a long-sleeved white t-shirt and tight-fitting jean shorts, Monique is also unafraid to wear clothing that generously shows off her fit, athletic body. While not nearly as muscular as Melanie, Monique still stands out in a crowd. Her sturdy body is hard to miss, with curves layered upon curves. Wherever she goes, she turns heads. All the time. She’s allowed her fluffy black hair to drape all over her scalp. As Lawrence tips the driver (in addition to the payment he’s already receiving automatically from Mr. Tanaka), Monique and Melanie embrace like two old friends who haven’t seen each other in ages.

“Girl! It’s so good to see you again!” Melanie has, for quite some time, become a surrogate “auntie” to Monique. After her accident at the Olympics, Melanie called and texted her every single day until her rehab was finished. Even after that, she still contacted her on a weekly basis to check in on her progress. Monique feels indebted to her. They met through Dylan, though their paths could have still crossed without him being in the picture.

“I’m doing great. There’s so much to talk about, trust me!” Monique says. After stuffing her luggage on top of Melanie’s suitcase in the back seat, the three of them are finally able to depart for Mr. Tanaka’s home. Lawrence doesn’t expect Miss Cole to arrive for at least a couple hours. He still has his phone handy though, in case the unexpected were to happen. One can never assume anything anymore.

A random jogger stops running to see what the commotion is all about. It’s quite unusual for this much activity to transpire in this quiet neighborhood. The sight of two gorgeous women with big muscles hugging on the sidewalk nearly makes him run into a mailbox.

Luckily for him, he doesn’t.

The black girl is short but sturdily built. She’s gorgeous as a supermodel and as fit as an Olympic athlete (which, unbeknownst to the jogger, she actually is). The other lady, however, is taller but much bulkier. Much, much bulkier. At least, he thinks she’s a “she.” There isn’t a chance that she could be a man in disguise, right? Or someone who used to be a man but is now a woman? What’s the proper term for that these days? As the two ladies enter the car, he can only stare impolitely and think such politically incorrect thoughts.

“What the fuck is going on here?” the jogger wonders aloud. “God damn…”

As the red Avalon drives off to the far end of the cul-de-sac, the jogger looks down and sees his erection straining against his gym shorts. There’s no hiding it. A little old lady sitting on a nearby park bench feeding some squirrels gives him a look of profound disapproval.

“Whoops.”

***

“DYLAN! It’s so good to see you again!” Melanie screeches with delight.

Embracing in the foyer, Dylan tries to wrap his arms around Melanie’s thick torso but fails to do so all the way. A testament to her substantial girth, Dylan cannot help but notice her new breast implants. Peggy Cole is still the Queen of Comically Oversized Boobs (she’s currently a 40FF, which is as eye-popping as you might expect), but Melanie has enhanced herself quite beautifully. But it still makes hugging her a challenge.

“Hi darling! It’s great to see you again too.” Dylan kisses her on the cheek. “I love what you’ve done with your hair! It looks fabulous.”

Once she turned 50, Melanie decided it was time to stop coloring her hair to remove the grey. Three years later, she’s fully embraced the white streaks complementing her dark brown locks. Standing at 5’ 10” and weighing 215 pounds, Melanie is a force to be reckoned with. Her statuesque figure and dazzling chiseled muscles make her stand out even amongst her bodybuilding peers. Famous for her enormous biceps, triceps, forearms, and quads, Melanie figures her hair is the last thing people will notice about her. She’s not wrong about that.

“I’ve finally decided to stop trying to be younger than I am,” Melanie says. “After all, with muscles like this who gives a shit what anybody thinks?” She strikes a double biceps pose, showing off her impressive guns. It steals Dylan’s breath away. Unable to control himself, he reaches out and places his fingers onto her hardened flesh. He squeezes her 18-inch bicep, focusing on the hardened peak at the top that very few female bodybuilders can say they have. It’s like she has muscle piled on top of other muscles. Dylan temporarily forgets that anyone else is in the room with him.

From a short distance away, Monique cannot help but laugh. “God damn! Wow, we’re starting the party early. Hey, don’t forget about me now.”

Dylan turns around to see Monique standing in the doorway. She bites her lower lip suggestively. Lawrence has already taken everyone’s luggage upstairs to the guest bedrooms. “My dear, my beautiful Monique. There’s no way I’d forget you! Come here.”

Monique picks up Dylan with her embrace, engulfing him into her warm body. Monique is smaller than Melanie (she’s 5’ 7” and 189 pounds) but she’s built like a World War II tank. Her legs could move mountains. Her calves are as large as most women’s thighs. Her six-pack abdomen looks and feels like small stones glued to her tummy in a symmetrical pattern. Dylan bets he could scrub his dirty clothes on them.

“Hello baby.” Her sweet smile sends his heart fluttering.

“I’m glad the two of you showed up together. That’s one fewer trip Lawrence needs to make.” Dylan kisses Monique’s cheek. Her distinct musky smell is like sweet perfume to Dylan’s senses. He could smell it all day and never grow tired of it. “I’m sure you’re both feeling a bit jet-lagged, perhaps?”

“I’m doing okay. I travel a lot, so I’m used to air travel.” Melanie points out. She looks at a marble statue of an Amazonian warrior sitting atop a stone pedestal. Not wanting to touch it out of fear of accidentally chipping this priceless piece of art, she marvels at its artistry instead from afar. This happens to be one of many artistic masterpieces he has in his collection. The others are located throughout the house and downstairs in a storage room. “Some little kid at the airport asked his mommy if I was a boy or a girl.”

“Oh my!” Dylan remarks. “I sure hope you didn’t feel the need to prove anything definitively!”

Melanie and Monique both laugh. “Ha, no. That wasn’t a problem,” Melanie reassures him. “It goes to show that you still don’t see women built like us out and about every day. I think I turned his world upside down today. He’ll probably never forget it as long as he lives.”

“I have no doubt you did,” Dylan approaches her, peering into Melanie’s dark green eyes. “You certainly turn my world upside down, even at this very moment.”

Dylan and Melanie share a long, deep kiss. Monique awkwardly tries to look away but cannot help but feel a sense of pride that Dylan, a man who’s stood by her through thick and through thin, can guiltlessly enjoy his life even for a brief moment in time. Dylan and Melanie are good people, even if the rest of the world doesn’t agree.

“Oh, get a room you two!” Monique playfully taps Dylan on his behind. This makes him gasp.

“We will!” Melanie devilishly declares. “Later tonight, we will.” She reaches down and strokes Dylan’s pulsating groin. It’s been a long time a woman has touched him like this, a fact that both Melanie and Monique know full well.

Dylan’s heart doesn’t stop mid-beat, but it might as well have. The wicked grin Melanie gives him reveals her intentions unambiguously.

Before this evening is over, they will make love.

***

Looking at himself in the mirror, Stephen Callahan suddenly realizes he’s living out a tired old Hollywood cliché. He’s the dastardly villain who’s looking at himself in the mirror before committing an evil act, wondering if a little bit of his soul will perish upon doing so. Or whether his soul already has. Not one to usually sympathize with history’s wicked men, Stephen is under no pretense that he’s a flawless human being who’s been wronged by powers beyond his control. He is a victim, yes, but he is not without blame himself. And, he can choose not to do this. He can still call it off if he wants to. There’s still time. They haven’t done anything illegal yet (at least nothing that they’d be caught doing). However, he has no intentions to abort the mission. It’s still on. Does that make him a complicated villain?

Perhaps.

“You’re about to burn the bacon, goddamn!” Xander yells at Roddy from the kitchen. Stephen was under the impression that it was Cortez’s turn to cook for the group (Xander prepared lunch), but that assumption is obviously wrong. “Do I have to do everything around here? Holy shit, dude.”

“Shut the fuck up!” Roddy fires back. “Don’t tell me what to do, motherfucker!”

“Come on, guys! Don’t get into a petty fight about goddamn bacon,” Thomas scolds them. “Seriously. Cut it out. Now.” This brings a smile to Stephen’s face. He’s glad Thomas has taken on a larger leadership role within the team. It was getting exhausting to do it all himself. While everyone in this outfit is a professional crook with a substantial résumé, that doesn’t mean everyone is going to get along at all times.

“Sorry,” Xander and Roddy reply almost simultaneously. The bacon does smell burnt, but Thomas decides not to say anything about it. Xander backs off to give Roddy some space. Thomas smiles. Cortez is nowhere to be seen.

Stephen is not a fool. He knows the chances of today’s score being 100% successful isn’t guaranteed. Not by a long shot. Even though they’ll be well-armed – combined with Dylan’s lack of stringent security systems outside of a tall gate, a few security cameras hidden here and there, and the possibility that Lawrence the butler may be carrying a concealed firearm – anything can go wrong. That’s one difficult lesson Stephen has taken to heart in recent years. Even Stephen’s plan to temporarily disable his security systems isn’t guaranteed to work. It should, though. But always expect the unexpected.

This is why Stephen has a secret back-up plan. It’s so secret, he’s the only one who knows about it. His compatriots have no idea about it. And they never will unless they have to find out about it.

Several months ago, Stephen’s first robbery after being released from prison was at a local hospital. He snuck through the back of St. Mary’s Cancer Research Institute and entered the building by paying off a security guard with a wad of $100 bills. The guard was near retirement as it was, so he had nothing to lose. Once inside, Stephen and another man (who was too busy to work on this particular job) went to the radiology wing of the hospital. Disguised as maintenance workers, they stole a portable x-ray imaging machine – which is the size of a typical backyard grill – and left the premises without being harassed by anyone. They passed by about a dozen people, who didn’t seem to suspect anything nefarious was going on. He and his partner looked official, acted calm, and seemed like they belonged there. Two people dressed like technicians carrying a piece of equipment didn’t ring any alarm bells, both literal and figurative. It was one of the easiest scores both men have ever been a part of. In and out, just like that. They stuffed the machine carefully in the back of an unmarked van and casually drove off into the proverbial sunset. Stephen has never bothered to check whether or not the security guard they paid off was ever discovered or reprimanded. He also has no idea if the stolen x-ray machine caused a stir over there.

X-ray machines are useful for developing weapons because of the radioactive material found inside them. There’s a damn good reason why you wear a lead apron before getting pictures of your bones or internal organs taken. Long story short, afterward Stephen reached out to an expert chemist (who was a member of the controversial Weather Underground during the late 1960s) who had plenty of spare explosive materiel on hand and absolutely no love for coldblooded warmongering corporate assholes like Dylan Tanaka. For a modest fee, this gentleman reconfigured the x-ray machine to Stephen’s specifications. It took several weeks for him to finish this project, but he eventually got it done. Of course, there’s no way for Stephen or his bombmaker to test it, so there’s an element of faith at play here that the contraption won’t be a dud. However, given this man’s track record, Stephen has every reason to believe that it will work beautifully – though he hopes it doesn’t have to come down to that.

Today, what was once a device about the size of a gas-powered grill can now fit inside a backpack. It’s fitted with a timer that can be set at the most 48 hours ahead. That backpack is now sitting atop Stephen’s bed across the hallway, looking as innocent as a backpack can possibly look.

That’s why Stephen is looking at himself in the mirror and experiencing a momentary existential crisis. This is why he can’t be bothered with whatever arguments are happening elsewhere in the safehouse.

Because inside that backpack is Plan B just in case Plan A doesn’t work or gets derailed unexpectedly. If he can’t win, nobody can win. It’s that simple. It’s a device Thomas, Xander, Roddy, and Cortez have no idea exists because this is Stephen’s ace up his sleeve. His “break-glass-in-case-of-emergency” contingency plan. The rabbit he can pull out of his hat.

A dirty bomb.

***

An hour later, Dylan and his two guests are drinking margaritas in his spacious living room. Hearty laughter fills the air, a joyous noise that hasn’t been heard inside this household in a long time. Whatever nervousness Dylan felt earlier today is now completely gone. He’s finally relaxed and able to be himself for once. From a distance, Lawrence feels happy for his boss. This truly is one of the few times Dylan seems happy. While he doesn’t share his boss’s love for muscular women, he approves of him doing whatever brings him joy. After reading a short but crude text on his phone, he enters with a grand announcement.

“Miss Cole has arrived, sir.” And she certainly has, uh, an unusual communication style, Lawrence notes to himself.

Melanie and Monique’s eyes get wide. Dylan stands up, with his two guests following suit.

“Fantastic! Now we’re all here,” Dylan pronounces. All three hurry to the front door as quickly as they can.

Standing in the middle of the spacious foyer, Peggy admires the décor. She cannot remember the last time she came over, but it certainly was before Dylan’s legal troubles. Before she can take off her aviator shades, Melanie and Monique bust through the side of the hallway, sprinting as fast as they can toward her.

“Peggy! You’re here!” Melanie screams. She embraces Peggy as tightly as she can, lifting her off the ground. Melanie clearly takes every opportunity she can to showcase her impressive strength. When Peggy’s heels touch the floor, they make a loud double CLICK sound. “Excuse me baby girl, I may be a bit drunk already.”

“Damn girl! I need whatever you’re having because you’re thick AS FUCK! Damn woman!” Peggy pinches Melanie’s enormous biceps, admiring both their sheer size and vascularity. Peggy’s sexual orientation is “all over the map” (in her own words), so her admiration of Melanie’s body isn’t just professional. Suffice to say she’s quite appreciative of beautiful looking people of all gender identities. “I need to stretch out my legs, that plane ride doesn’t get any shorter. Then, I need a drink. Pronto!”

Dylan enters the foyer as meekly as a church mouse. He pauses a moment to take it all in. Right before his very eyes, standing in his own home, are three gorgeous strong women. It certainly wasn’t planned this way, but he cannot help but admire the diversity of his three guests: Melanie is tall, powerful, authoritative, and massive in size. Peggy is short (a modest 5’ 4”), squat, muscular (though not nearly as bulky as Melanie), and surgically enhanced in all sorts of places (her enormous boobs are the most obvious, but there are plenty of places that are not-so-obvious). Monique is slim, sturdy, curvy, strikingly beautiful, and possesses the picture-perfect “athlete’s body.” Melanie gives off “motherly” vibes. Peggy is a pure hedonist. Monique is calm, focused, goal-oriented, and determined. Melanie’s skin has a pale golden complexion that allows her muscles to shine. Peggy’s light brown caramel tone comes directly from her Peruvian side. Monique’s rich dark black skin is just as silky smooth to the touch as it looks from a distance. Dylan’s gaze cannot focus on any single one of his guests because all three present a feast for the eyes. This may be a few margaritas talking, but in this moment, he thinks they are the three most beautiful women on the planet. Nobody comes close.

“Hello Peggy. Welcome to my humble abode.”

As if time had suddenly stood still, Peggy’s eyes zero in on Dylan’s. Having perfected the art of the “sexy walk,” she saunters over to her host with the sultry confidence of a Brazilian supermodel. She and Dylan embrace. Her considerable chest makes it difficult to lean over to kiss her, but Dylan successfully does so by craning his neck as forward as he possibly can. It’s a miracle he doesn’t suffer any neck strain.

“It’s good to see you again, baby…” Peggy whispers in Dylan’s ear, causing the hairs on the back of his head to stand at attention. Dylan tries to contain his composure, which becomes even more difficult after Peggy lightly strokes his groin. “I have a special treat for you that I’ll show you later tonight!”

Dylan’s eyes widen. Melanie and Monique lean in with curiosity. Peggy, as usual, loves an attentive audience.

“Is that so? I’m intrigued.”

“Me too!” Monique chimes in.

“And I,” adds Melanie.

“Well, it looks like I’ve set expectations pretty damn high!” Peggy releases her grip from Dylan’s groin. She looks up at a remarkably beautiful 128-light candle-style tiered chandelier hanging from the ceiling. “Mother of God. Is that new? I don’t remember seeing that last time. Holy shit! Dylan baby, you know how to live the high life!”

Dylan tries to display modesty but cannot do so convincingly. “To answer your question, it is new. I had it installed last year. And yeah, I certainly do. Just because I’m holed up in here for the rest of my life doesn’t mean I can’t have nice things on the inside. You know how that is.”

An awkward silence ensues. Peggy’s gaze shifts from the chandelier – which cost Dylan more than $50,000 to have specially made, shipped, and installed by a team of expert interior decorators – to Dylan’s somber eyes. She knows he’s not literally trapped like a rat in his own house, but the sentiment has been conveyed loud and clear. He doesn’t have much of a social life. Weekends like this are all he has now. This makes it even more critical that this be a weekend to remember.

“Not exactly, but I can imagine,” Peggy rubs Dylan’s shoulders. “Still, I think you’re going to love this, uh, special treat I have in store for you. The two of you as well.”

Melanie and Monique nod along in agreement. Dylan and Peggy kiss once more. No one feels the need to say anything else.

“Ahem,” Lawrence interrupts them. For who knows how long, the butler is standing in the doorway leading to the dining room. Dylan’s faithful domestic employee found the time to change into a black tuxedo between breakfast this morning and this present moment. He was probably wearing the tux right before picking everyone up, but Dylan was in no mental state to notice or care. But right now, he looks urbane. He definitely respects decorum. “I have just been informed by Mr. Jameson that dinner is ready. And the dining table has already been set.”

“Henry’s last name is Jameson? I didn’t know that!” Peggy says. A naughty thought suddenly crosses her mind. She grins, hoping nobody notices.

“Indeed, it is, ma’am,” Lawrence answers. He turns around and promptly exits.

“Fantastic!” Dylan claps his hands in excitement. “Let’s eat. I’m starving.”

“As am I!” Monique declares. Melanie silently nods.

Just by luck, the grandfather clock sitting in the foyer rings six times, indicating it is now 6:00 p.m. on the dot. Henry’s ability to finish dinner on time is impeccable, yet another reason why Dylan keeps him around and will continue to keep him around. As Dylan and his guests scurry off to the dining room, Peggy breaks off from the main group and makes a beeline toward the kitchen.

“Speaking of Mr. Jameson, I’d like to poke my head in and say hi! Don’t mind me.” She scurries off to the kitchen. Dylan, Melanie, and Monique don’t think much of it. Then, Dylan decides they should go down to the wine cellar to pick out a few bottles for dinner – and afterward.

“I have a grand idea. Let’s go downstairs to the basement.”

“Why?” Monique asks, her tummy growling.

“I have a wine cellar down there. Let’s go select what we’re going to drink tonight. Have you seen it before?”

“No, but that sounds lovely. I’m not supposed to drink too often, but this weekend is an exception, for obvious reasons,” Monique says.

“It should be the most memorable weekend of our lives,” Melanie promises. She takes Dylan’s warm hand and leads them on. “Mark my words.”

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