"I wanted to surprise you," she said, glancing toward Cam. "Hi," she said, her smile bright. "I'm Jessie. You must be Cam."
"Yes," Cam responded as Jimmy pulled a chair out for Jessie to sit at the table. It had been cause for a minor blowup between Cam and Jimmy when he'd informed her that he had told his daughter about their relationship.
"You and Ray were right, Dad," Jessie told her father. "She's beautiful."
"Yes, she is," Jimmy agreed, then - "You've seen Ray?
"He picked me up," she explained.
"Well, since I'm sure the two of you have a lot of catching up to do," Cam began, starting to rise, but Jessie stopped her.
"Don't go because of me," she insisted. "Dad and I can catch up later." She looked at Cam's plate. "Finish your lunch. Please."
Jimmy saw Cam glance toward him, and he grinned. "What can I say? She gets it naturally."
Jessie's eyes moved from Cam to her father. "Did I miss something?"
Jimmy laughed and shook his head. "No. Why *are* you here, Jessie?" he asked again.
"I can't just drop in for a visit?" she asked.
"Of course you can. But it's the middle of the week. I thought you'd be in school."
"We have a week off," she told him. "And I wanted to go back up to Notre Dame and talk to them again."
"Does your mother know about this?" he questioned, recalling the last time she'd thought about going somewhere other than Boston College.
"Are you kidding? She'd have made sure I couldn't leave New York if she did. She's determined that I'm going to BC and won't hear any arguments."
"Boston's a good college," Cam pointed out.
"I know," Jessie agreed. "But I'd really like to be a little closer to Dad. I miss his not being close enough for us to have dinner once a week - or a place to go when my mom gets a little too overprotective."
"Moms get that way sometimes," Cam nodded.
"Tell me about it," Jessie was saying as she rolled her eyes. "She doesn't like my friends, or my clothes or my music - Nothing I do is good enough."
"You're lucky to have your mother around," Cam said. "Mine died when I was in high school."
This was news to Jimmy, and he was grateful for Jessie's arrival as the catalyst. "I'm sorry," Jessie was saying. "I guess you're right - but it was nice when I had Dad around to complain to - even if he didn't really do anything other than listen."
"Sometimes it's important to just have someone to do that," Cam observed. "Someone who will listen to you without judging you."
"So, Dad tells me that you're a surgeon?"
"Guilty," Cam replied.
"Wow. I've thought about doing pre-med," Jessie told them.
"I thought you were going to major in English?" Jimmy reminded her.
"I still might. I haven't quite decided -" she sighed. "And before you tell me that I need to know what I'm going to do *before* I start college next fall, I'll tell you that I'll have made up my mind by then."
"But what you plan to do with your life has a bearing on where you go to college," Cam pointed out, and Jimmy sat back in his chair, listening at the two women in his life talked. "For instance, I went to Purdue because it was my father's alma mater - and it has a wonderful medical school and teaching hospital. Notre Dame would be good for either law or English -"
"And it's closer to dad," Jessie finished. "Of course, I could decide to go with something other than English," she mused. "Or something that ties in with that."
"Actually, Purdue has a pretty good Liberal arts course and pre-law program," Cam pointed out.
"Sounds like you're recruiting," Jimmy suggested with a half-grin, considering the fall out if Jessie's mom were to find out that Cam had convinced the younger girl to go to Purdue.
"Maybe I am," Cam said with a shrug. "I'm sure you wouldn't mind her being close by, would you?"
"Not at all," Jimmy agreed. "But I'm not sure her mother would agree."
"Mom *never* agrees with anything I want," Jessie confirmed, frowning. "And Dad *always* goes along with her."
"Not always," Jimmy corrected, feeling the need to defend himself.
"Usually," Jessie countered. "When's the last time you agreed to let me do something that she didn't want me to do?"
Jimmy thought for a moment. "Last spring when you wanted to go to the Bahamas with Carolyn's family for Spring Break," he pointed out. "I convinced her that letting you go wasn't going to hurt anything, didn't I?"
"Yeah," Jessie admitted. "And thank you for that. It was *awesome*," she told Cam.
"I'm sure it was," Cam noted. "I'm sure that if you were to be accepted at Purdue, your father would find a way to convince your mother that it was best for you."
Jimmy felt both pairs of eyes turn to him and gave a self-conscious grin. "Let's not put the cart before the horse, okay? First, she needs to see if Purdue would even be interested in her."
"I've brought my grades up," Jessie reminded him.
"I know," Jimmy said, his tone revealing his pride in his daughter.
"Tell you what," Cam said. "I might be able to clear my schedule this afternoon if you'd like someone to drive out to the college with you - show you around, point you in the direction of the people that you need to talk to -"
"Would you?" Jessie questioned, and Jimmy knew that Cam had won the girl over. "You can get away that easily?"
"I don't have any surgery scheduled for the afternoon - and there's nothing that I can't get another doctor to take care of for something this important."
"That'd be great, wouldn't it, Dad?" Jessie asked him.
"Yeah," he agreed.
"And we can all have dinner this evening," Jessie suggested. "And we can tell you about the visit," she continued.
"Sounds good to me," Jimmy confirmed. "Do you need to eat lunch before -" he began, only to stop as his cell phone started to ring. Giving them a chagrined look, he answered it after glancing at the display. "Hi, Maureen. What's up?"
"Christensen's attorney wants to talk to you before he agrees to the deal."
"Okay. I'll be right there."
"Sorry to interrupt lunch," she apologized.
"I was almost finished anyway," he answered. "Bye." Hanging up, he sighed. "I have to go. You want to come to the office with me, Jessie -"
"She can come back to the hospital with me," Cam said. "That way we can leave directly after I reschedule everything."
"Okay." He stood up, leaning over to give Jessie a kiss on the cheek. "Behave, okay?"
She gave him her 'who me?' look. "Don't I always?"
Jimmy chuckled before turning to Cam. "Thank you." He would have bent to give her a light kiss, but he was mindful of his daughter's gaze and hesitated until she spoke again.
"Go on and kiss her, Dad," she urged with a touch of humor in her voice. "You know you want to."
So he did just that, a quick, gentle touch of his lips to Cam's. "Later," he said.
"We'll call and let you know when we're coming back this way," she told him. "Have a nice afternoon."
"You too," he told her before straightening and walking out of the bar. As he left, he glanced back to see Jessie laughing as she and Cam continued to talk. While he wasn't sure about her going to Purdue and he knew that Gail was going to raise all kinds of hell about it if it happened, Jessie was *his* daughter too, and it was time that she spent a little more time with him than half a continent away. Gail would just have to learn to live with the idea. She might even discover that having more time for herself was a *good* thing and find someone else to share the rest of her life with.
The way that he had done in finding Cam. Jimmy was becoming more certain with every day that passed that Cam was the right woman for him. She was intelligent, beautiful - and he had trouble not being with her. He would find himself calling her several times a day - even if only to leave a message on her voice mail, just to hear her voice.
As he entered the building, he saw Ray just ahead of him, and decided to teach his old friend a lesson for not informing him about Jessie's arrival. Standing with his hands on his hips, he bit back a smile. "We need to talk, old friend."
Ray gave him a sheepish grin. "Hey, what can I say? She called from the airport and asked me to come get her. She's my god daughter. She says 'jump', and I jump." They both laughed at the words. "Besides, I think she was afraid that you would put her back on the first plane back to New York if she called you."
"The least you could have done was give me a 'heads up', Ray," Jimmy said. "I mean, what if she and Cam hadn't gotten along?"
Ray lifted his shoulders. "They had to meet sometime." He gave Jimmy a worried look. "How *do* they get along?" he asked.
"Let's just say they're getting along well enough for Jessie to be thinking about going to Purdue because Cam suggested it," Jimmy told him.
"Gail's *not* going to be happy about that."
"I know. Jessie and Cam are driving over there this afternoon to look around and talk to some people -"
"Oh, boy, it really *is* serious, isn't it?"
"You and Cam. She's taking your daughter to *her* college to show her around?"
"Honestly? I think it's more of a ploy to keep me occupied so that she can try to slip away," Jimmy said as they entered his office. "I wish I knew why she's so damn wary of making a full commitment," he sighed, not really intending for Ray to over hear the comment.
"You sure you don't want me to look into her background?" Ray asked. "I could do it discreetly."
It wasn't the first time that he'd made the offer. Right after he'd told Ray that the relationship was serious on *his* part, but that she had some serious issues regarding them, Ray had said he could try to find out what the problem might be. "No. Thanks, but she'll tell me when the time is right. I'll just have to show here that having Jessie around isn't going to mean that I won't need or want *her* around, too." He hung his coat on the rack. "I have to find Maureen. Apparently Christensen's attorney wants to talk deal - but only with the 'big guy'."
"Speaking of that - I have some information that might help you seal the deal as it were . . ."
They had dinner at a local restaurant.. During the meal, Jessie dominated the conversation, telling her father about the visit to the Indianapolis campus of Purdue. "She knows the *Dean*, Dad," she exclaimed.
Cam lifted her shoulders. "He was my student counselor for awhile," she explained.
"And she set up an appointment with the registrar for me tomorrow morning," Jessie continued on.
"Wow. Have any ideas yet about what you're going to study there?"
"As a matter of fact, I do," Jessie told him with a smug expression as she opened her purse to take out some pamphlets that she put on the table before him.
Jimmy scanned the titles, then looked up at his daughter. "Journalism?"
"We were driving around the campus and when I saw the Journalism department, something told me that that's what I should do. I'm on the school newspaper at home," she reminded him. "I have been for three years. And you know how much I like to write -"
"Except for letters," Jimmy teased gently.
"Those are different. You know what I mean. With Cam in my corner, I'm sure I could get in -"
"And you want me to get ready to square things with your mother," Jimmy guessed.
She grinned. "Will you?"
"Let's get the i's dotted and the t's crossed first, okay? " he said, ignoring the little voice in his head - and Cam's look - that called him a coward. "Then we'll deal with your mother."
"Okay. It's going to be *so* cool, going to school here and being able to see you more often. We could go running the weekends like we used to do in New York," she continued. "Maybe enter a marathon or something."
"Sounds good," Jimmy agreed. "Cam and I are going to run in the tri this summer."
"She told me," Jessie said. "That's really great." A sly smile appeared on her lips. "She also showed me the dress she bought for this weekend's party. It's *hot*. Wait'll you see her in it."
"I'm looking forward to it," Jimmy said, his eyes on Cam's face.
"I tried to talk Jessie into going instead," Cam confessed.
"And I refused," Jessie told him. "Those things are bor-ring."
"You'll have to get used to them if he makes up his mind to run for Attorney General, Jessie," Cam warned.
"And I'll do it then - but until I *have* to, no thanks. Besides, Ray's taking me out to dinner on Saturday."
"When was this arranged?" Jimmy asked.
"When he picked me up from the airport," she explained.
Jimmy looked at his watch. "It's time we were getting home," he said to Jessie. "We all have early days tomorrow."
"Why don't you join us for a run, Jessie?" Cam suggested, and Jimmy gave her a look designed to let her know exactly what she was trying to do, only to have her give him a wide-eyed look in return.
"Sure! I'm up for it!"
Since Cam had left her car at Jimmy's, she had to go back with them to the house. Once there, Jimmy unlocked the front door and disabled the alarm system so that Jessie could go inside. She turned to Cam. "Thank you for all the help, Cam," she said, and moved to give the older woman a hug. "I'll see you tomorrow morning." Turning to her father, she gave him a hug as well. "Night, Dad," she told him, putting a hand up to her mouth to cover an obviously fake yawn. "It's been a long day. I'm going to my room, put on my headphones and listen to some music."
Jimmy shook his head as she entered the house, grabbing Cam's arm to stop her from turning away. "Uh uh. You're not getting away that easily."
She stopped and moved into his embrace, her palms against his chest. "You're not upset that I spent so much time with Jessie today?"
"Why should I be?" he asked. "I'm glad that you and she are getting along so well. Don't think I don't know why you're doing all this, though."
"What do you mean?"
"You think that if Jessie's close by, you can slip out of our relationship without any fuss," he accused in a gentle tone.
"You make me sound so - conniving," she told him.
"Be honest. Isn't that why you wanted to help Jessie come out here and took an entire afternoon off work to take her out to Purdue and show her around?"
"It started out that way," Cam admitted. "I've never made any secret of the fact that I'm not good at long term, Jimmy," she said, her gaze now focused on her hands.
"It's been working so far, hasn't it?" he questioned.
"Yes. But now - you have to admit, having Jessie around will mean that you and I will have less time -"
"Not really. You saw her 'yawn' and announce that she was going to listen to her music, right?"
"Yes, of course I did."
"She was letting me know that she wouldn't disturb us."
He saw Cam's eyes widen. "You didn't tell her that we were - that you and I are -"
"Lovers?" he suggested, his thumb moving against the soft skin of her throat. "I told you that I don't keep secrets from her, Cam. If I expect her to be honest with me, I have to be honest with her."
"You can't expect me to stay here tonight, Jimmy. Not with your daughter so close -"
"I can. And I'd like you to stay. We don't have to do anything, Cam. I just want to feel you beside me," he said, kissing the corner of her lips. "I've gotten used to being in bed with you - waking up with you. Jessie's a big girl. She can handle it."
"You're not playing fair," Cam accused, her hands sliding around his sides. "You know that I can't refuse you when you do that."
"Um hm," he murmured against her skin. "I have to use every advantage that I can when I'm dealing with someone as stubborn as you."
"I'm not stubborn," she replied, lifting her lips to his chin. "I'm tenacious."
"I think that's my line," he pointed out.
"So that's where I heard it before."
Jimmy stepped back to look at her. "Stay."
"You and Jessie need some time alone -"
"We can do that tomorrow after she gets finished at the college," he said. "I've already cleared my late afternoon schedule so that she and I can spend some time together."
"Okay," she finally agreed. "I'll stay."
Jimmy had been pleased that Jessie seemed to accept Cam's presence at breakfast the next morning without any comment or apparent surprise. It was later, after their morning run and her visit to Purdue's registrar's office that he found out the reason for her acceptance.
"She seems good for you," she told Jimmy as they walked along the river together. "You look happier than I can remember you being in ages."
"And you're not bothered by the fact that she and I are -"
"Sleeping together?" she finished. "No. And don't worry that I'll decide it's okay for *me* to do that just because you are. We've had that talk, remember?"
Jimmy nodded as he paused and rested his hands on the railing. "So, besides thinking she's 'good for me', what else do you think about her?"
"She's smart - and funny when she wants to be. I saw her talking to a patient when we stopped at the hospital on the way to her place. She's - compassionate, I guess would be the best word for it. And it'll make Mom crazy when she finds out about her," she finished with a wide grin.
"That's *another* conversation that I'm not looking forward to," Jimmy said with a sigh. "I guess you wouldn't object if I said that I was thinking about asking her to marry me, would you?"
"No," Jessie told him. "But I think Cam might."
His eyes widened at her words. "You and she talked about that?"
"We talked about your future together," she said. "She's worried that she might cause problems for your plans to run for office if you and she become anymore serious."
"I'm already serious," he said. "Did she tell you what 'problems' she might cause?"
"No. She didn't. All she said was that she'd done some things that could create problems for you." Jessie looked up at him. "Don't let her get away, Dad. I could learn to live with having Cam around."
"I don't plan on letting her get away, honey," he assured her.
"You know, Ray could find out about her -"
"No. He's offered, I refused. I'd rather wait for Cam to tell me about it herself when she's ready than to go behind her back."
"I guess you're right." Her cell phone rang, and she looked at the display. "Purdue." He could see that she was nervous.
"Well, answer it. That's your future on the phone, young lady."
He watched as she opened the phone. "Hello? . . . I did? *Yes!*" her delighted smile told Jimmy all he needed to know. "I will . . . Thank you." She hung up. "They accepted me!" she told him, giving him a hug.
"That was quick."
"Well, it helps that I was brought to their attention by an alumni - or that my dad is James Conlon."
"You told them that?"
"They asked," she insisted. "And I wasn't going to lie to them and tell them that my dad wasn't the best ADA in Indianapolis, was I?"
"I guess not. I suppose this means I'll have to give them a donation as well as write a check for your tuition."
"They didn't mention anything about it. Other than the tuition bit, of course," she added.
"They wouldn't to you. I'll write them a check - after you've started."
"Fair enough," she agreed, turning to slip her arm through his as they started walking again. "You know, Dad, I'm going to need a car when I come out here . . ."
By the time Saturday came around, Cam was more at ease with practically living in the same house with Jimmy and Jessie. Jimmy could *almost* pretend that they were already a family until he would see a flicker of the same thing he'd seen on Cam's face almost from their first meeting. It always passed quickly, but seeing it made him realize that she still didn't trust him enough to tell him what was bothering her. And that bothered him.
But when she came downstairs wearing a black evening dress that clung to her in all the right places - yet covered her from the strapless bodice to her ankles - the last thing on his mind was that look. "Wow," he managed to say. The long skirt opened to her thigh, revealing a long leg that ended with a pair of strappy black high heels. "Damn," he finished, and heard Jessie giggle behind him.
"Didn't I tell you he'd react that way, Cam?" she asked as Jimmy took Cam's hand in his.
"Yes. But you didn't warn me that he looked so handsome in a tuxedo," Cam said, examining his appearance.
"He's my dad. I don't pay attention to things like that," Jessie said as the doorbell rang. "That's probably Ray. I've got it, Mrs. Dawson," she called out heading for the front door.
Jimmy barely noticed as he was still looking at Cam. Her blonde hair was piled loosely on her head, with tendrils that fell down and curled invitingly against her tanned skin. "So will I do?" she asked.
"Tonight's party," she answered. "I don't want to embarrass you."
"Believe me, everyone there is going to envy me being with you," Jimmy assured her, lifting her hand to his lips as Ray and Jessie came into the room.
"Whoa!" Ray said upon seeing Cam.
"Hello, Ray," she said, smiling at him.
"You should warn a guy, Jessie," he said. "Walking in on a vision like this could be dangerous."
"Thank you," Cam replied.
"We'd better go, Jessie," he told his god-daughter. "If we're going to make our reservations."
"Okay." Jessie gave first her dad then Cam a hug and kiss. "Night. You two have fun."
"Yeah," Ray echoed. "Have fun. Don't do anything I wouldn't do. And if you do -"
"Night," Jimmy said before he could finish, laughing as they left the house.
Taking the soft white silk stole that Jessie was holding from her, Jimmy placed it over her shoulders, his hands lingering there as he leaned forward to kiss the back of her neck. He felt her shiver and smiled. "I'm almost tempted to say to hell with the party and stay in," he told her.
"Not on your life, James Conlon," she replied. "I paid good money for this dress, and I intend to be seen in it." She turned in his arms, lifting a hand to his cheek. "But you can have the pleasure of taking it off later, if you want to."
"Now that's something to really look forward to," he said, pressing a kiss into her palm before grabbing his overcoat from the rack near the door. "We're leaving, Mrs. Dawson," he announced, and the woman appeared from the kitchen area.
"Have a nice evening," she wished.
"You don't have to stay," he told her. "Ray will probably stay with Jessie when they get back until we get home. Have a nice day off tomorrow."
"Yes, sir. I plan to. It's my sister's birthday and we're planning a party for her."
"Give her our best, Mrs. Dawson," Cam said as Jimmy opened the door.
"I will, Doctor. I'll set the alarm before I go, Mr. Conlon."
"Thank you." He saw Cam into the passenger side of the SUV and then went around to get behind the wheel, looking at her. "Are you ready?"
"I suppose so."
"I'm sure you've been to gatherings like this before -"
"A few - but those were with other doctors, people in my field of interest. Never with a roomful of politicians."
"Don't worry," he said. "You'll do fine. They're just everyday people."
"If you say so. I've just never liked being a fish out of water."
Almost from the moment they arrived, Jimmy could tell that Cam wasn't a fish out of water as she'd feared she would be. Her bedside manner transferred easily to listening to boring politicos and hangers on, making them feel as though she was interested in what they were saying - even though he himself tended to tune them out most of the time.
Once the presentation was made by the Governor, Jimmy saw Cam back to their table, and went to get something to drink, only to find himself cornered by a self-styled campaign manager who wanted to talk to him about the possibility of running for office. Keeping one eye on Cam, Jimmy listened to the man's suggestions, then informed him that he'd be in touch in the event he made a decision.
When he got back to the table, he found the Governor laughing at something that Cam had said. Setting her glass down, he gave her an apologetic look as he heard the man say, "You're a lucky man, Conlon. The envy of every other man here - except for the married ones, of course, and I'm sure they're secretly envious. Such a lovely companion."
"I know how lucky I am, Mr. Governor," Jimmy assured him, taking Cam's hand in his and giving her a smile. "She's one in a million."
"I'm sure. Well, if you'll excuse me, I have other guests that I have to speak with. I hope we'll see each other again, - Cameron," he said before leaving the table.
"Still feel like a fish out of water?" he asked.
"It's not as bad as I was afraid it would be," she admitted. "Most of them have been very nice - even the one you were talking to before you came back over here."
"He's a campaign manager," Jimmy told her. "Wants to run my campaign *if* I run."
"No wonder he made my skin crawl," Cam noted, rubbing her arms.
"Cold?" he asked. "I can go get your wrap, if you'd like -"
"No. I'm fine. I'd rather you stay here."
"Consider me glued to your side from this point on," he promised. He saw a furrow appear between her eye brows as she looked past him. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," she said quickly. *Too* quickly, and Jimmy turned to follow her gaze, finding a vaguely familiar face across the room. "You know him?"
"It's been - a long time," she said, gathering her purse. "I need to use the ladies room," she said in a hurried manner, standing up before he had a chance to pull her chair out. He watched her disappear toward the facilities as the man who had caused her sudden change in demeanor approached the table, his hand extended.
"Yes," Jimmy said, taking his hand.
"I'm Philip Gordon. I used to run the office you work for."
"Of course. Mr. Gordon. It's a pleasure to meet you."
"I've been hearing great things about you, Conlon."
"Please, call me Jimmy."
"And I'm Phil. Your record is pretty impressive. Even before you came to Indianapolis. And I hear you're thinking about tossing your hat into the ring for AG."
"Thinking about it," Jimmy confirmed. "No decision yet."
"Well, if you decide to do it, you can count on my support."
"Thank you," Jimmy said. It wasn't the first time he'd heard that this evening, but knowing that a former County Prosecutor thought so highly of him was very uplifting.
"I was hoping for an introduction to your companion when I came over here," Gordon said.
"She had to visit the ladies' room," Jimmy explained. "Cameron's a little nervous, being here," he said, dipping his hook just enough to start a fishing expedition. "She's not used to politicians."
"They can be an acquired taste," Gordon agreed. "My wife took forever to get used to the games that have to be played. She still considers it to be 'most distasteful' 90 percent of the time." He grinned. "But she plays them well."
"I'm sure she does," Jimmy replied as another woman appeared at his side.
"Excuse me, Mr. Conlon, but - your date asked me to tell you that she's not feeling well and was going out for a breath of fresh air."
"Thank you," he told the woman. Turning back to Gordon, he apologized. "Forgive me, but I need to go check on her."
"By all means. Perhaps I'll get to meet her next time."
"Perhaps." Jimmy found the Governor's aide and made his apologies before retrieving Cam's wrap from the cloak room and leaving the building. He found her leaning against a post on the building's portico. Giving the parking attendant his ticket, he approached her. "Are you okay?" he asked, searching her face for any sign that she was indeed unwell.
"I was just a little nauseous," she told him. "The room was getting stuffy and I couldn't breathe. I'm sorry, Jimmy."
"Sorry for what?"
"Spoiling your evening. I know this was supposed to be a big night for you -"
"It was. Is *is*," he corrected firmly. "I was ready to leave anyway," he told her. "I just can't help but feel there's something you're not telling me. Some *other* reason for your suddenly needing some air."
Before Jimmy could formulate a reply, the attendant returned with the car. So he helped Cam inside and then got in. When he turned away from his house, he saw Cam look at him. "Where are we going?"
"Your place," he told her. "Ray and Jessie are probably at the house, and we need to talk."
"About whatever it is that you're keeping from me, Cam," he said, glancing at her before turning his eyes back to the traffic. "Whatever it is, it has something to do with a previous prosecuting attorney for Indianapolis."
"What makes you say that?"
"Because you looked like you'd seen a ghost when you first saw Philip Gordon tonight - and you couldn't get away from the table fast enough in an attempt to avoid him."
"Jimmy, please. Just leave it alone," she said in a quiet voice. "It's in the past -"
"No, it's not," he interrupted. "It's still here, between us. Whatever happened is keeping you from moving on with your life."
"And what if I refuse to tell you about it?" she wanted to know.
"Then I'll keep asking. And I'll do some research of my own. I didn't want to do that - I wanted you to trust me enough to tell me what's been bothering you. But I have a feeling that if we don't get past this, then I'll lose you."
"You might be better off if that happened," she replied, causing Jimmy to look at her again. Seeing a tear on her cheek, he pulled the car to the side of the road an lifted a hand to that cheek, wiping away the moisture.
"Cam, honey, let me help. Let me *in*. Whatever it is, it can't be that bad."
"There's nothing you can do to help, Jimmy," she told him in a sad, tired tone. "It's been over for a long time."
"Then why does it still affect you this way?"
"Because of the way it's affected other people in my life," she told him. "People I cared about. They - turned away from me. I don't want you to turn away from me, too."
"I wouldn't," he said.
"I'm afraid to risk it. But I do know that it would hurt your career if it were to come out at the wrong moment -"
"I don't care about my career, Cam," he told her. "I *do* care about you. A great deal. And seeing you in so much pain causes me pain."
For a moment, he thought she was going to tell him what was bothering her. But instead, she shook her head. "I can't. I can't tell you and watch the reaction - the distance that you'll be trying to put between us."
"Cam," he said, but she shook her head.
"I'm sorry, Jimmy. Maybe you should just take me home."
"If that's what you really want," he said slowly.
"It's not what I want, but I think it's what's best for you right now."
"What's best for me is to be with you. To hold you." He pulled her close, her head on his shoulder. It wasn't easy, with the console between them, but Jimmy kept his arms around her in spite of the silent grumbling of his back at the unusual position. Finally, when he sensed that she might have calmed a bit, he said, "You know, this kind of thing was easier when I was a kid and didn't have bucket seats."
He felt her shoulders shake and pulled back to see a small smile on her face. "I know. Besides," she said, indicating the street. "I'm not sure this is the place for us to be talking. I can just see the headlines now: 'ADA James Conlon ticketed for double parking'."
His hands moved down to caress her shoulders. "If we don't go soon, it will be for more than just double parking," he told her. "I won't press you about it again, Cam," he promised. "When you're ready, you'll tell me."
"Can you live with that?" she asked.
"Anything that keeps you in my life, I can live with," he told her, giving her a kiss before starting the car and pulling back out into traffic. Only this time, he turned at the first intersection and headed back toward home.
"I don't deserve someone like you, Jimmy," Cam said, causing him to reach over and pick up her hand to hold it.
"I happen to disagree. Now. Tell me how wonderful my speech was tonight," he suggested, causing her to laugh, relieving the tension just as he'd hoped it would.
Ray and Jessie were playing chess when they entered the living room. "You're back earlier than I thought you'd be," Jessie noted, her eyes scanning Cam's face for a moment. "Is everything all right?" she wanted to know.
"I'm just a little tired," Cam told the girl, moving to examine the board. "She'll have you checkmated in another two moves," she warned.
"Hey!" Jessie yelped. "That's not fair!"
"I didn't tell him what the moves were," Cam said. "Just that you only have two to make."
"I was about to concede the game anyway," Ray said, tipping his King to resign from the game as he stood up.
"You play chess?" Jessie asked Cam.
"Yes. Although, I haven't played in ages. My father and I used to play before -" she glanced at Jimmy before continuing "when I was younger."
"Dad taught me to play," Jessie told her. "You and he should play a game sometime."
Cam nodded, moving to sit down as Ray asked, "How was the party?"
"Very nice," Cam told them. "Jimmy's speech was a hit."
"Not as much as my date was," Jimmy countered, removing his tuxedo jacket and untying his bowtie.. "I think she had every man there twisted around her little finger, Ray," he said.
"I can believe that," Ray said.
"Excuse me, I'm still in the room," Cam reminded them.
"I'm not sure that anyone noticed me as anything other than your escort," Jimmy insisted, sitting down beside her, working at the button at his neck as he did so.
"You're kidding, right?" she countered. "Who do you think everyone I spoke to talked to *me* about? You. They were *very* interested in finding out more about the great James Conlon."
"You're exaggerating," he accused. "Because everyone *I* spoke to asked me about the ravishing woman who came to the party with me." He saw that her attention was focused on Ray, and said, "Either way, I'd say it was a success. I got several promises to endorse my candidacy if I decide to run."
"That *is* good news," Ray agreed. "Well, it's getting late, so I think I'll be going. See you on Monday," he told Jimmy. Turning to Jessie, he said, "I'll see you next time you come out."
"Before long, I'll be here full time," she reminded him. "Thank you for dinner."
"Hey, it's not often I get you all to myself," he reminded her, winking at Jimmy. "Bye, Cam."
"Night, Ray," she called after him as Jessie went to walk him out.
Jimmy noticed that she was still frowning. "What's wrong?" he asked.
"Nothing -" she stood up, pacing toward the door, then turned back to him. "You've known Ray a long time, haven't you?"
"Almost ten years," Jimmy nodded. "We met right after he joined the NYPD and worked on a case I was assigned to."
"But - he's Jessie's godfather - and she was eight when you met him?"
Jimmy smiled. "That started as a joke. My dad was her godfather when she was born - but then he died. Jessie took a liking to Ray and claimed that she wanted him to be her godfather. After awhile, Ray and I talked - and he agreed to take over the role."
"That was nice of him," Cam said, her expression still thoughtful as Jessie returned.
"He looks tired, Daddy," she said.
"Ray. Are you working him too hard?"
"No harder than anyone else," Jimmy assured her.
"Well, he was right. It's late. I'm going up to bed. Are we going to run tomorrow morning?" she asked.
"It's up to Cam," Jimmy said.
"Well?" Jessie asked Cam when she didn't respond.
"I'm sorry. What?"
"Are we running tomorrow morning?" Jessie asked again.
"Of course. If your father thinks he's up to it, that is," Cam said, giving him a teasing look.
"That sounded like a challenge, Dad," Jessie said.
"So it did. And you know I never back down from a challenge."
Jessie laughed and gave him a hug before giving Cam one as well. "Night, you two. And I've already locked the front door and set the alarm."
"Night, honey," Jimmy said.
"Night," Cam wished as well, distracted again.
Once they were alone, Jimmy moved to stand close to Cam. "Okay, why the questions about Ray?"
"Oh, it's probably nothing - do you know whether or not he has any medical problems?
"Why do you ask?"
She looked up at him. "You answered a question with another question. There *is* something, isn't there?"
"What did you see?" he asked, not wanting to violate Ray's confidence.
"Just - some signs that I've seen in cardiac patients. Slight bluing around the lips, the finger tips - Is he okay?"
"Cam, I can't -"
"You'd be violating his confidence if you answer that, won't you?"
"A bit, yeah."
"So he *is* aware that there's a problem," she clarified, and Jimmy winced. "Okay. He is. That's good. It means he's doing something about it, right?"
"He saw a specialist in New York," Jimmy confirmed. "A Dr. Neil Graham."
"He *is* good," Cam agreed.
"You've heard of him?"
"Heard of him? We went to med school together," she informed him.
"It's a small world," Cam pointed out. "Roger Graham went to Purdue."
"What are the chances that you could get him to tell you what he told Ray?"
"What do you mean?"
"I set up the appointment for Ray, but when I called after his appointment, Graham refused to tell me anything."
"And he was right not to do so. Ray is his patient, and he can't just give out that information to anyone who might call."
"I know. But it's damn frustrating. Ray insists that it was nothing more than acid reflux, but -"
"You're not buying it," she guessed.
"No. I've seen him when he has these attacks. They're not indigestion."
"Do you think it would help if I were to talk to him? I wouldn't let him know that you and I talked. After all, I *did* see the signs. And he needs to be seeing a doctor on a regular basis."
"You think it's serious, then?"
"It could be. When you're dealing with the heart - it usually is."
"He'll know I told you -"
"And if he does, he'll be angry - but he'll get over it. Isn't his health more important than a little temporary anger?"
"You're right," Jimmy said. "If you think you can help -"
"I can steer him in the direction of a local cardiologist. If he's willing to listen to what I have to say."
"Thank you," Jimmy said, putting his arms around her. "And I'm sorry."
"Pushing you earlier. I shouldn't have done it."
He felt Cam sigh heavily. "It's understandable," she said. "Just - give me a little more time, Jimmy. Please?" she asked, her blue eyes wide.
"Well, when you ask so nicely," Jimmy said, pulling her even closer. "I can wait, Cam. No more pressure." He kissed her before drawing back to give her a slight leer. "I seem to remember something about taking that gown off?"
Cam whirled out of his arms toward the door. "Well, then, why don't we move this upstairs?" she suggested. "I'll meet you up there after you've turned out the lights."
Jimmy chuckled, and went about turning off the lights before following her up the stairs to the bedroom where he slowly peeled the black gown from her body before burying himself inside of her - pushing the earlier concerns from his mind.
After their morning run, Jimmy and Cam drove Jessie to the airport to catch her flight back to JFK. As they waited for the flight, Jessie asked, "You'll come out next weekend, right, Dad? So we can talk to Mom?"
"I'll be there," Jimmy assured her.
"Will you come with him, Cam?"
"I doubt it. I'm sure dealing with your mother's reaction to your being accepted at Purdue will be more than enough for your father," Cam said. "The last thing he'll need is for her to react to my being there as well."
"Then the next time he comes, you'll come with him?"
"I'll try," Cam said.
The flight number was called for boarding, so Jessie gave them each a quick hug. "It was so nice meeting you, Cam. I'm glad my dad found you. Or you found him. Whichever."
They laughed as they hugged. "Have a nice trip, Jessie," Cam said. "Call me."
"Oh, I will," she promised. "Bye, Dad."
"Bye, honey." They watched her through the security gate, then down the corridor until she was lost from view.
"She's a nice girl," Cam told Jimmy.
"She certainly took to you," he said. "How would you feel about going somewhere special tonight?" he asked, feeling as he usually did after Jessie left - a bit sad and wistful.
"What do you have in mind?" she wanted to know.
Three hours later, they returned to the house, with Cam carrying several stuffed animals that Jimmy had won for her at a carnival. "I had no idea that you liked carnivals, Jimmy," she said, dropping the furry creatures onto the sofa.
"It's been ages since I went to one," he admitted. "When I was a kid, I used to beg to go to carnivals."
She picked up a stuffed monkey. "And you were very good at the booths. For awhile there, I thought they might ask us to leave since you were winning everything in sight."
"Spending so much time around them, I picked up on the games they run to keep people from winning. Wasn't sure I'd remember them when I started tonight, but I did," he said, picking up a stuffed cat. "I like this one."
"I like this one," she said of the monkey, turning him around so that Jimmy could see his face. "He's so cute."
Jimmy brought the cat over with him. "I don't know. They're both cute. We have to figure out where we're going to put them."
"I can just see Mrs. Dawson's face when she sees them," Cam noted, grinning. "Why don't we donate all but these two to a shelter?" she suggested.
"That's a good idea." He turned the cat to face him. "What do you think? Would you mind if we gave your friends to kids who need stuffed animals to comfort them?"
Cam giggled at his silliness, dropping onto the only clear space on the sofa. "I had fun," she told him.
"I'm glad," he replied, sweeping the animals aside to join her. "I was hoping you would." He pulled her against his side, her head against his shoulder. "We need to find something to eat," he told her.
"I can cook something," she said.
"You cook?" he asked.
"You have your surprises, I have mine," she pointed out. "We've always gone out to eat or come here," she said. "And *you* never asked. Think Mrs. Dawson would mind my messing around in her kitchen?"
In the kitchen, Jimmy saw the paper was still on the table where they'd had breakfast that morning. "I do need to move this," he told her. "Mrs. Dawson might forgive our using the place for cooking - but leaving a paper here? Never." As he picked it up, a section fell to the floor, and before he could pick it up, Cam grabbed it.
Seeing her eyes widen, he frowned. "Cam? What's wrong?"
She shook her head. "Did you see this?" she asked, turning the paper so that he could see the photo on the front of the "Local News" section. It was of himself and Cam at the party the previous evening. They were standing close together as the Governor presented Jimmy with the Commendation for a job well done.
"No. I didn't really have a chance to read it this morning - It's a good picture, isn't it?" he asked, studying it. They made a handsome couple - Cam tall and blonde, himself tall and dark haired. A 'power-couple' as he'd heard someone say. When she didn't respond, he touched a finger to her chin, lifting it. "Cam?"
"I hadn't realized there were - pictures taken for the newspaper."
"What's wrong?" he wanted to know. "If you're worried about people finding out that we're seeing each other - I think it's a little late for that. Most people already know it."
"Not everyone," she muttered, putting the paper down and wiping her palms on her denim covered thighs. "Listen, Jimmy, I really need to get home - I have an early day tomorrow - I need some time -" she was backing away from him, and Jimmy fought the urge to grab her and keep her there. "I'll call you," she said, before turning and almost running out of the kitchen, pausing in the entry way to grab her purse before leaving the house.
By the time Jimmy reached the front door, she was already halfway down the driveway. He considered going after her, but he knew that the last time he'd pushed her, he'd nearly lost her. It was time for him to do some digging on his own.
The night guard was surprised to see him enter the building. "Mr. Conlon. I'm surprised to see you here."
"I had some things to clear up," Jimmy told him. "Anyone else here?"
"I won't be long," Jimmy said, continuing toward the elevators before taking the stairs instead. He needed to work off some of his pent up energy before starting this.
In his office, he turned on the computer, then as he waited for it to boot up, hesitated. Was he doing the right thing? What if whatever was bothering Cam had nothing to do with the Prosecuting Attorney's office? What if this was only going to make things worse instead of give him the answers he needed?
When the computer was ready, Jimmy sat down and entered the Prosecutor's office database program, selecting "search" in the options. Taking a deep breath, he typed in Cam's name. His hand hovered over the keyboard for several long moments before he hit "Enter" to begin the search.
Leaning back in his chair, he ran his hands over his face in a tired gesture. It had been a long, intense few days, culminating in Cam's having walked away tonight. Hell, he amended. She'd run like she'd seen a ghost. Her reaction to Phil Gordon at the party had given him the only clue he had to a possible cause of her fear. And while he knew that using the system for a personal search wasn't something that he might usually do - this was a special instance.
The computer beeped, signaling that the search was complete.
Sitting up, Jimmy looked at the single result. The name Cameron Collier had been found in the record of a trial from ten years ago. Pushing past the hesitation, Jimmy clicked on the file and opened it, scanning the contents, his lips thinning the longer he read.
No wonder she was so frightened. With everything she'd gone through - and he could understand in a way her fear that he would turn on her as well. But it was a subject that they hadn't really discussed.
He continued to read through the transcripts, finding himself wishing that he'd been here ten years ago to help her - but ten years ago, he'd still be happily married to Gail and convinced that his future was in New York.
After closing the file, he turned off the computer, sitting at his desk in the darkness. So now he had the answers.
And, as usual, the answers only created still more questions.
To Be Continued---
To Part 3