First time reading? Start at the beginning here.
A week passed before Val got the chance to speak with her father. With Blueblood dead and Leo arrested, the Black Valentine was only supervillain from the DSA break-in who was still at large. She’d risen to the top of the DSA’s Most Wanted List, an achievement she’d commemorated by framing a copy of her wanted poster. (It wasn’t the most flattering picture, but you couldn’t have everything.)
Her father’s trial had gone badly. The prosecution’s primary witness had been eloquent and sympathetic, swaying the jury so completely that further evidence had been a mere formality. Things really would have been different if Joey and Madame Morphine had succeeded in taking him out. Val had snuck into the courthouse using a wig and a liberal use of telepathy, and she caught her father in a hallway as prison guards were escorting him to the van that would return him to his holding cell.
Val entered the guards’ mind to convince them to pause, but she shouldn’t have bothered. Her father saw her and lifted his hand. “A moment, please,” he said, and the guard pushing his wheelchair stopped and retreated a respectful distance away. Typical. Her father’s four-year prison sentence was going to be a simple change of scenery for him. The law couldn’t snap the web of influence that stretched out from him; the strands would lengthen and shift no matter where the old spider moved.
“You’ve been busy,” her father greeted.
She shrugged. “I’m a lot of things, but lazy’s not one of them.”
Her father arched his fingers and surveyed her, making her struggle not to fidget.
“Do you remember when you turned sixteen and I bought you that red Porsche?” he asked. “Three weeks later you had crashed it into a ditch. I can’t help but feel that something similar has happened.”
“You said yourself the alliance was going to implode.” She widened her stance and kept her head high. “I just made sure it happened in a way that was good for us. Blueblood was the weak link, and he’s out of the picture, and I left us on good terms with the Fox Woman. She and I have a loose agreement on how to divvy up Blueblood’s gang’s territory. I—we came out on top.”
“The way you got there was extremely risky.”
Val ground her teeth. He always had to criticize something.
“But I can’t argue with the results,” her father conceded with a kingly nod. “Communication with me will be delayed while the state is providing my room and board. I expect you to work with Joey and take care of anything urgent that comes up.”
Val smiled tightly. Mission accomplished. It wasn’t complete control, since her father was perfectly capable of calling the shots from the prison, but it was the first step she needed to take. She’d proved herself to him, and in time, she’d be running the show.
She waited for the euphoria that she’d always been so sure would overcome her when she finally reached this point. But she didn’t feel any different. The world hadn’t suddenly become amazing, and her father wasn’t radiating warmth and affection. He waved the guards back, and they escorted him off, leaving Val standing in the hallway in what should have been triumph.
She felt decidedly underwhelmed.
The phone was ringing when Dave returned to his apartment. He tossed the packet of envelopes he’d grabbed from his mailbox onto the kitchen counter and rushed forward. The phone rang again, and he snatched it up before it went to voicemail.
“Mamá,” he greeted, flipping on the lights. If she was calling to hear good news, Dave had plenty. Moreen had decided not to step down from active field duty. “Someone has to keep you troublemakers in line,” she’d told him and Harris—who’d been released from the hospital yesterday and was expected to make a full recovery. And after the video had hit the news of White Knight and the Illusionist fighting Tidal Wave, all talk of Yuna getting transferred to another city had vanished, too. She’d returned to a hero’s welcome in Seattle.
“I just wanted to see how you were doing,” his mother said. “Walter told me you were anxious about starting therapy.”
“I—what?” Walter had tattled to his mother? Unbelievable.
“You know you should go, Dave. There’s nothing shameful about—”
“It’s fine, Mamá, I went today.” Dave kicked off his shoes. He’d seen Dr. Abbott for the first time that day, a kindly older man in a patterned sweater who had a gift for putting his patients at ease. It hadn’t magically fixed everything, but Dave guessed it was a start.
“That’s good.” The two syllables held a lot of emotion. “It’ll help more people than just you, you know.”
“How do you mean?” Dave flipped through his mail, finding bills and junk.
“Think of the agents who look up to White Knight. Some of them will need professional help, and if they see you refusing it—mental health is such a touchy subject already. You’re setting a good example, and it may encourage them to get the help they need someday. I’m proud.”
Dave set down the envelopes, his arms slack. He hadn’t thought of it like that before. He turned around and leaned back against the counter. “Well, I—”
Val was sitting in his living room. Dave stopped, gaping, and she raised her eyebrows and gave him a little grin.
He caught the tail end of his mother saying something but didn’t comprehend the words. “What?” he asked. “Sorry. I’m actually on my way out. I’ve got plans tonight.”
They said a quick goodbye, and Dave dropped the phone onto the counter behind him, barely noticing where it landed. Val sat on his couch, her jacket thrown over the armrest. She had on black leggings that ended above her knees, leaving a couple of tantalizing inches of exposed thigh beneath the edge of her skirt.
“You have terrible situational awareness,” she said. “I’ve been sitting here the whole time, and you didn’t notice. What if I had been a dangerous supervillain?”
It was a quip, and Dave should have quipped back, but his brain was still struggling to comprehend the reality in front of him. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think you’d actually come.”
Her brows knit together. “Is that the only reason you invited me? Because you didn’t think I’d come?”
“No.” He stepped forward. “No. I hoped you’d come. I just didn’t know if you….”
She spread out her hands. “Well, here I am.”
Here she was. And Dave realized with a stab of panic that he had no idea what to do now. He’d daydreamed about her being here but had never made any concrete plans about what to do if she came. Should he take her out to dinner? It was dinnertime. But could they risk going out in public where someone might see them? There were so many things he hadn’t considered that he needed to worry about. He should have started worrying a week in advance to get it all done.
But she was here.
“How about I cook something?” he asked, his heartbeat calming now that he’d reached a decision.
“You cook?” Val tilted her head. “You’re a sexy, super-strong superhero who can cook?”
“You should hold off on sounding impressed until after you taste it.” He went into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. Chicken and rice, he decided. He’d made it so many times before that he probably wouldn’t screw it up.
Val came up behind him. “I’ll help.”
He asked her to get the rice out of the pantry, and they prepared dinner, working together in the small, peaceful kitchen. For the first time in a long while, Dave felt perfectly content.
And…that’s it. The end of Fight Crime! (A Love Story). A big thank you to everyone for reading. I updated this serial every week for over a year, and there are over 80,000 words of it. A big accomplishment, but there’d be no point if you all didn’t come back week after week to read it! ❤
If you haven’t already checked out my ebook series set after Dave and Val are retired and happily married (but still getting into trouble), find the first book, Hero Status, at your preferred online retailer here.
And thanks for reading!