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Things with Danny ended badly.

Rachel can admit that she’s partly to blame; she hadn’t known what she was getting into when she’d married him, certainly, and she hadn’t tried as hard as she could have when she’d noticed that things were falling to pieces. Danny isn’t entirely blameless, either – he admitted to her once that he’d known she’d have trouble being married to a cop and hadn’t said anything, and while she’d been trying to patch things up he’d been spending more and more time in the precinct. The split had been bad because they’d tried to avoid it, she thinks now. If they’d just given in to the realization sooner and let things go – but that’s not in either of their natures.

It’s been better recently; they’ve been able to work through a few things now that they’ve been apart for a while, now that she has Stan and he has Commander McGarrett. She does wonder at times if Danny knows exactly how much his partner means to him, and she wants to shake him, point it out to him in the way only an ex-wife can: look, see what’s right in front of you, don’t mess things up for yourself again - but she doesn’t dare. Their peace is fragile and sharp, tenuous at best, and she doesn’t want to push him into something he’s not ready to see.

It doesn’t mean that she doesn’t see it herself, though. It doesn’t mean that she doesn’t recognize things in their partnership from her relationship with Danny, from the better times, the times when it was still easy. It doesn’t mean that she doesn’t hear the way he smiles underneath the words when Danny calls his partner lunatic in the same tone of voice he’d once used to call her British.

It makes Rachel smile, and when she realizes that, it startles her. Things have been better recently, there’s no denying that, but there’s a long way between things being better and her smiling for Danny again.

Things are better, though. She’s learned from the mistakes she made with Danny, and she’s worked things through with Stan. They’re on solid ground again, and what’s more, they’re happy.

-0-

Rachel’s phone rings as she’s walking out of the office.

“Hey, Rach,” Matt’s easy voice says, and Rachel cannot help how her mouth breaks into a smile. Matt had taken Danny’s side during the divorce; of course he had, and she’d never begrudged any of Danny’s family for doing so. They’ve managed to stay friends, though, she and Matt. She still sends him birthday cards, and he forwards her those ridiculous emails with pictures of cats. His phone call isn’t completely out of the blue, even if she hadn’t been expecting it.

“Matthew,” she replies warmly. “How have you been?”

They talk aimlessly for a while, catching up on each other’s lives; she tells him about reconciling with Stan, and he talks excitedly about a merger he’s expecting. She asks about the girl he’d been seeing and he laughs her off; he asks after Grace, and Rachel tells him everything, though she’s certain that Danny already relayed it all.

“So I think I’m heading your way,” Matt drops casually when the lull in the conversation gets a little too long. “Figured I’d hop on a flight, come on out and see my favorite ex-sister-in-law and my beautiful niece, how’s that sound?”

“And your brother,” Rachel reminds him, amused, and she can hear the smile in his voice as he heaves a put-upon sigh.

“Danny, too,” he agrees, and Rachel smiles and makes plans to meet him while he’s in town.

She doesn’t think anything of it, not a thing at all, until it’s too late to make a difference – until Danny’s telling her about what Matt has done, until she’s trying to help him make the right choice, until Danny shows up on her doorstep, desperate and reeling and in shock, and there’s nothing she can do but offer him comfort.

-0-

They didn’t divorce because they stopped loving each other. They divorced because they hated each other, too, and the line between the two is hard enough to find in the best of times. When things had gotten bad – worse than bad – they’d had to stop, or they’d have killed each other.

But it wasn’t because Rachel ever stopped loving him, and that’s what she tells herself when she pulls Danny into the house, leads him to the spare bedroom, and holds him wordlessly while he falls apart against her. It’s what she thinks when she kisses his forehead softly, when he lifts his face to hers and meshes their lips together with a frightening sort of desperation, when they peel the clothing from their bodies and move and tangle together. It’s what she clings to later, when Danny’s asleep with his arm curled around her waist and she thinks about how she’s just mended things with Stan, how he’ll be so hurt, how it feels like she’s finally saved something she’s already let go.

She doesn’t say anything, though. She just lies in Danny’s arms and presses a quiet kiss to his forehead again and hopes that she can straighten everything out.

-0-

“I should go,” Danny says when he wakes, five in the morning peeking in through the windows, and Rachel doesn’t argue as he finds his clothing and heads out of the house.

“I’m sorry,” he adds as he leaves, and she’s sorry, too, but it isn’t fair to tell him that, not now.

-0-

“I slept with Danny,” Rachel blurts as soon as Stan walks back into the house. He looks exhausted; he doesn’t sleep well on flights, she knows, and he’s had several in the past week, with business meetings on top of that. It’s not fair to drop this on him as soon as he walks in the door, but she’s been thinking and crying and beating herself up for three days, and she knows that the only fair thing to do is to tell Stan.

“While I was gone?” Stan asks slowly, and his shoulders droop a little further. “You– Rachel, I thought we were-”

“I’m sorry,” she’s able to tell him, and the words don’t mean the same here as they would have if she’d spoken them to Danny, but she means them every bit as much. “Stan, I’m so sorry. I – his brother came into town, I told you about Matt, and-”

Rachel doesn’t want to cry any more. She doesn’t, but she’s had three days to tie herself up into knots over this. She’s planned out every reaction he could have, every reaction she could have; she’d called Danny over and had him take Grace for the night so she and Stan could have it out, however that ended up happening. She’s prepared for the yelling, the fighting, the breaking, but she’s not prepared for how Stan drops his bag in the foyer when the tears slip down her face again, for how he reaches out and tugs her in.

“Tell me what happened,” Stan says into her hair, and she owes him that and more, so she does.

-0-

The first envelope arrives on her desk the following Thursday.

It’s hand-addressed in a spidery sort of handwriting that she doesn’t recognize, but Rachel is always willing to accept new clients, so she sets the envelope aside to look at when she breaks for lunch and doesn’t think about it. The morning passes fairly easily; everything balances out for two accounts and the third has a few minor wrinkles, but they’re things she can track down easily enough, so she’s in a decent mood by the time she picks the envelope up and heads to the deli.

Rachel orders her pastrami and provolone on rye and sits at one of the tables by the window to wait while they make the sandwich. She’s thinking absentmindedly about Grace’s school play in two months’ time; Grace is quite excited by her part as a dancing vegetable. Stan has already had a tailor come in and fit her for a custom-made carrot costume, and Rachel doesn’t want to examine that too closely, how Stan is trying to show that he forgives her by lavishing gifts upon Grace. She shakes her head as the clerk sets a plate by her elbow and smiles as she tips him, reaching for the sandwich with one hand while opening the envelope with the other.

Several high-quality glossy photographs fall out when she shakes the envelope, and Rachel’s blood runs cold at the sight of the first.

It’s a good photo, by all standards; she and Grace had been at the park that day, and they’d taken turns telling each other silly jokes as Rachel pushed Grace on the swings. They both look happy and relaxed, smiling and laughing. The next four photos are of the same day; there are a few of Grace with Stan, as well, the two of them walking hand-in-hand down a street filled with shops that Rachel doesn’t quite recognize, and the last few are of Grace at school, one in her classroom and two on the playground with a boy Rachel distantly identifies as Tommy Makili.

The last thing in the envelope is a letter, typed and unsigned.

We have eyes on her. Do not go to the police. Do not go to your ex-husband.

Instructions will follow.

Rachel stares at the note, glances blankly at the photos, and shoves everything back into the envelope. She stands stiffly, walks to the bathroom in the back of the deli, and vomits, still clutching the envelope in her hands.

-0-

Rachel takes the rest of the day off. She’s caught up enough with the work she’s got that she can afford the time, and she rather doubts she’d get anything useful accomplished with her mind spinning as it is, anyway.

She heads home and locks herself in the library with the envelope. It’s no less of a shock to see the photographs this time, and she’s not quite sure what made her think that it would be; it’s still her daughter, still the same words on the same stark sheet of paper, and she still has no idea what to do.

She debates calling Danny anyway. There’s absolutely nothing he wouldn’t do to protect Grace; for all their failings as a couple, for everything they’ve hated about each other, she’ll never deny that he’s an excellent father. He’s an excellent police officer, as well, and the combination of the two is an almost unholy thing to contemplate. Her finger hovers over the buttons of her phone, but her eyes fall once again on the photo of Grace bent over some task at her desk at school, and she can’t help but think of the what if scenario. It’s entirely possible that she’s being watched at this very moment, or that whoever took these pictures of Grace is listening to her phone calls.

She can’t risk it.

Rachel jumps when the phone rings in her hand a moment later. The number is blocked, and she has a moment of panic, because she knows with complete and utter certainty that the caller is the same person who sent her the envelope. She grips the phone tightly and jabs at the screen before raising it to her ear. “Hello?”

“You made a wise decision, Mrs. Edwards,” the voice says, and Rachel closes her eyes and bites her lip to keep from letting anything out. “It must be difficult to be in your shoes. I can’t imagine the turmoil you must be going through right now.”

“What do you want?” she lashes out, angry and terrified and helpless, and the man on the other end of the line laughs.

“In time, Mrs. Edwards,” he says, and damn it all, it sounds like he’s actually enjoying himself. “For now, I simply want you to keep going as you always have. Go to work in the morning, go home to your family when the day is done, sleep beside your husband at night.” He pauses. “Or your ex-husband; the choice is in your hands, really.” There’s another light laugh, and Rachel panics a little more, because she’s in this madman’s hands - Grace is in this madman’s hands – and there’s apparently nothing she can do at this point to change it.

“Is it money?” she asks desperately. “I can get you whatever you might need-”

“Your instructions will follow,” the man interrupts. “For now, just remember that I have your lovely little daughter in my sights, and that I have asked you not to contact the authorities, or to tell Detective Williams about our little arrangement. Are we clear?”

“Yes,” Rachel whispers. “I understand.”

“Good,” the man tells her, and then the line goes dead.

-0-

“You seem tense,” Stan says after supper. “Rough day at the office?”

“Terribly,” Rachel agrees, hating herself for the lie. “I dealt with a few ongoing accounts, and my schedule for tomorrow looks to be the same.”

“You should hire an assistant,” he says, the beginnings of an age-old argument, and she’s just not in the mood for it again. He insists that he doesn’t mind paying for it; she insists that she can handle it on her own, and that if she needed an assistant, she’d hire one for herself. It’s been one hell of a day, though, and Rachel doesn’t have it in her to defend her position again.

“Perhaps I will,” she says instead of the immediate disagreement she’s certain her husband was expecting, and she can feel his surprise as she leans against him on the sofa. He slips an arm around her shoulders and kisses the top of her head.

“It must have been a really bad day if you’re not even going to argue me on that,” he murmurs, squeezing her arm briefly. “Why don’t you take the day off tomorrow? I can swing it, and we’ll keep Grace out of school – make a day out of it, go to the zoo, something like that.”

There’s something in her chest that’s hard to name – it’s a twisting mess of things, she knows, love and anger and fear all meshed together. She’d like nothing more than to spend the day with her family, but it goes directly against the order she’d been given to keep up her normal activities.

“I’ll be fine,” she replies after a beat too long. “I think I just need a good night’s sleep, and I’ll be good as new in the morning.”

“If you’re sure,” Stan says, looking doubtful.

“And if my husband cared to fix me a nice cup of tea, it might also help,” Rachel continues, smiling up at Stan as he laughs gently. He kisses the end of her nose and stands from the couch, pausing in the doorway.

“Earl Grey or chamomile?” he asks, smiling back at her.

“What kind of self-respecting English lady doesn’t want a nice cup of Earl Grey?” she asks with a light frown, but it’s only a few seconds before her smile breaks through. “Chamomile, darling, thank you.”

“I’ll be back in a minute,” he promises, walking towards the kitchen.

Rachel lets the smile linger for a little while longer, but it slips from her face when she hears Stan bustling around in the kitchen. She’d been able to fool him this time, but she knows she’s going to have to get a better grip on things. He won’t be so easily dissuaded next time.

-0-

“There’s a guy here to see, you,” Tiffany says cheerily, bustling into Rachel’s office and dumping a few things from the post office onto her desk. Rachel flicks through them quickly – three from clients she knows, one from a woman she’d talked to last week about setting up an account, nothing she isn’t expecting, and her stomach untwists a fraction – and nods at her secretary.

“Is it Mr. Branford?” she asks absently. “His account will not balance until he brings in those travel receipts. There’s simply nothing more I can do for him until he gets them in.”

“No,” Tiffany assures her. “I have the speech memorized by now, and I’ve had to give it twice already. No, this is someone I don’t know.” She shrugs. “He said he doesn’t have an appointment scheduled, and I told him I’d see if you had some free time to meet with him.”

Rachel stands and smoothes the front of her skirt. “I can always make time to meet with a new client,” she reminds Tiffany as she walks into the reception area, a smile fixed on her face.

The man in the lobby is probably around her own age; he’s a bit taller than she is, neatly trimmed, in a smart suit that’s sloppily worn. It’s a calculated look, she knows, and figures he’s probably a small-business owner looking for someone to keep his books for him. She smiles as she extends a hand. That’s certainly something she can manage.

“Michael Baring,” he says, shaking her hand firmly.

“Rachel Edwards,” she replies crisply. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Baring.”

He smiles but doesn’t offer anything further – no company name, nothing about the reason for his visit. It’s a little unusual, but she’s had clients who were picky about their business being made public before, so it’s not completely out of the ordinary. Rachel gestures towards her office. “Shall we?”

They settle into the chairs as the door closes, and Rachel pulls out a legal notepad and a pen. “All right, Mr. Baring, what kind of business are you in?”

“Oh, I’m not in any kind of business,” he replies mildly, and that’s when the muscles in Rachel’s stomach start to twist again. She tries not to let anything show as she lays the pen on her desk.

“I’m not sure what you need from me, then,” she returns, and he smiles.

“The man I work for sent me as a messenger of sorts,” Baring says cryptically, and he reaches inside his jacket and pulls out a manila envelope. Rachel’s name is on it in the same spidery scrawl with which the envelope yesterday had been labeled. Baring hands the envelope over and Rachel takes it quickly, opening it up and sliding out another glossy photograph of Grace. This one had been taken this morning as Grace was leaving for school; Rachel can make herself out in the doorway, wearing the same outfit she’s in now, watching as Grace runs across the driveway to the car.

Rachel checks inside the envelope with shaking hands, but there’s nothing else inside. She takes a moment to try to compose herself before looking back up at Baring, who mostly looks bored. “What’s going on here?”

“It doesn’t concern you,” Baring says, leaning back in his chair. He smirks at the incredulous noise she makes. “I’m not lying to you, Mrs. Edwards. This isn’t about you or your husband. You’re just… convenient, is all.”

“Danny,” Rachel whispers, because it’s clearly about Grace, and if it’s not about her or Stan that doesn’t leave much in the way of options. “He’s made your employer angry and you’re using Grace to get back at Danny.”

Baring makes a teetering motion with his hand. “He’s just inconvenient,” he says, and Rachel’s really starting to hate how he’s talking about the lives of her family as if they’re trifling matters, obstacles to circumvent like the zoning issues Stan confronts when he builds something new downtown. “Here’s the short version, Mrs. Edwards. Detective Williams is making it very difficult for my employer to get what he wants, and taking him out at this point isn’t an option he’d like to pursue. He needs you to distract your ex-husband, keep his mind from staying completely in the game.”

“How am I supposed to do that?” she asks desperately. “Distracting Danny – that’s not – I’m married to another man,” she points out. “It’s not as if I can seduce him into staying home from work.”

Baring looks her up and down rather blatantly and smirks again. “Didn’t seem like you had such a big moral issue with it when his brother skipped town.”

“That was-” Rachel feels a flush spread scarlet up her neck, across her cheeks. “You are being perfectly crass.”

“And you seem to be forgetting that my employer will have no problem putting a bullet through your daughter’s head,” he returns calmly. “It’s your choice, Mrs. Edwards, but I really wouldn’t want to get on my employer’s bad side. He’s got a bit of a temper when things don’t go his way.”

Rachel swallows heavily and looks down at the photograph on her desk. Grace is smiling brightly, pigtails flying out behind her as she skips towards the car, one hand on the strap of her knapsack. “When?” she chokes out. “When do you need me to – distract him-”

“Start soon,” Baring advises as he stands. “Keep it going. The less involved he can be at work, the better your daughter’s chances of seeing her next birthday become.”

Rachel nods dimly, struggling to keep her breathing even.

“Oh,” Baring says, hand on the door, “don’t tell anyone, don’t call the cops, and don’t spill this to Detective Williams in the heat of the moment. I’m sure you figured all that out already, but just so we’re clear.” He flashes a smile. “It’ll be our little secret.”

“Bastard,” Rachel hisses out, but Baring is already gone.

-0-

“Hey, Rach, I’m kind of in the middle of something,” Danny says over the phone, and she can hear tires squealing and a dull popping sound that she chooses to believe isn’t gunfire. “Can this wait?”

“I – Danny, we have to talk,” she says. It sounds weak, Rachel knows, and she has to be careful with how she approaches every little bit of this. If she missteps, drives Danny further into his job, the consequences are simply unthinkable.

There’s more popping, and Rachel can hear the low tone of Steve McGarrett’s voice in the background. “Yes dear, I’m well aware,” he says sarcastically, and she’s ready to snipe at him when he sighs. “Not you, Rach. Steve’s being an asshole, don’t mind him. And yeah I agree, but really-”

The sound this time is screeching tires, followed by a few dull thumps and a roaring kind of sound.

“Well, fuck,” Danny says succinctly. “I’ll call you later, okay, we’ve got a situation. Sorry,” he adds, and then he’s hanging up on her.

Rachel closes her eyes and leans her head against her hands. All the reasons not to get involved with Danny come crashing down again – there were reasons they hadn’t worked out the first time, she’s still with Stan, she doesn’t want to start anything that’s going to ultimately end with Danny hating her again, she’s not sure she can live with herself for doing this to Danny or to Stan – but louder than all of that is the sound of Grace’s laughter echoing in her head, and she knows that she doesn’t really have a choice.

-0-

“Mommy,” Grace chirps as soon as Rachel gets home. “Leilani is having a sleepover for her birthday, and she really wants me to go, and I really want to go. Can I go?”

Rachel’s heart jumps into her throat. The thought of letting Grace out of her care is absolutely unbearable; who knows what the man pulling the strings would do if Grace was out of Rachel’s immediate vicinity for too long?

Grace is pulling something large and glittery from her schoolbag, and Rachel takes the handmade invitation from her gingerly as she tries to pull in a calming breath. Leilani Siloman only lives three houses away. This isn’t a big deal, and if Rachel wasn’t in her current situation, she would already have said yes.

She wars with herself for a moment – saying yes goes against every instinct she has, but saying no will raise suspicions that she can’t afford. She plays for time, instead. “It’s on your father’s weekend, Grace. You’ll have to check with him.”

Grace’s face falls, and Rachel can see the struggle in her features. It makes her chest pull tighter for a different reason – she spends so little time with Danny anyway, and she hates to lose even a second of it. Grace bites her lip and nods.

“Maybe I can just go for part of it,” she says slowly. “Maybe Daddy can pick me up early and I can go with him and we can still spend some time together.”

“Or,” Rachel says thoughtfully, “perhaps your father and I can work something out.” The idea forms, shifts, half-there in her mind, and she grabs onto it and doesn’t let go. “Grace, may I keep this invitation?”

“Okay,” Grace replies happily. Rachel distracts her by asking about her day, what she’d done and how she’d aced a math quiz, and she lets her daughter’s chatter soothe her as she moves around in the kitchen, preparing supper for her family.

-0-

“Sorry about before,” Danny apologizes when Rachel answers the phone. “We, ah, there was this car chase, and Steve’s kind of a maniac, and the other guy ended up flipping kind of spectacularly across three lanes of traffic, so I was a little occupied.” He waits a beat, and when she doesn’t say anything, he goes on. “You wanted to talk to me?”

“I did,” Rachel replies, trying not to wrinkle the sparkling invitation she has in her hand. “I – not over the phone, though. I wanted to-”

Her voice catches in her throat, but she’s saved by Danny’s voice, cutting in gently. “You want me to come over, sweetheart?”

“No,” she says quickly. “No, not here. I was thinking we could meet someplace. Or…” She lets her voice trail off and hopes he makes the leap on his own.

It doesn’t take him long at all. “Why don’t you come over to my place? We can talk about whatever you need.” His voice is strange, soft, like she hasn’t heard in years, and she hates herself for realizing that this is going to be easier than she thought it would be. “I’ve got some of that terrible English breakfast tea that you love,” he adds, and she can almost see the gentle smile on his face.

“Put the kettle on,” Rachel tries to laugh, and it’s a wonder it doesn’t come out as a sob with how she’s feeling. “I’ll be along shortly.”

“I’ll be here,” Danny says, and when she hears the phone click off, she lets herself exhale, closing her eyes against everything she doesn’t want to see. She stays that way for a moment before shaking her head and climbing to her feet. She’s set herself on the path; all she has to do now is walk it.

Danny opens the door to his apartment and smiles, and Rachel does her best to smile back. She knows it’s weak, but Danny doesn’t call her on it. He just steps back from the door and pulls it open a little wider, gesturing inside with a hand. “It’s not fancy, but it’s home,” he says, and her eyes sweep over the inside of the apartment as she steps inside. It hits her like a punch to the gut, that he lives like this; they certainly hadn’t lived like royalty back in New Jersey, but Rachel knows full well that it’s only because of the cost of the divorce and her decision to move that Danny can’t afford anything more than a tiny apartment that’s not in the best part of town.

“It’s nice,” she says as he shuts the door behind her, and he laughs as he moves into the kitchen and grabs something from the counter.

“You’re a terrible liar, you know that,” he tells her, offering the hot mug of tea with a grin. She takes it gratefully and sinks down onto the sofa that probably doubles as a pullout bed and tries not to grimace. “So what’s up?”

There are several ways to approach this, Rachel knows, and she’s not sure which is the best option, the way that will eat at her conscience the least when this is all over. She settles for pulling the invitation from her purse and handing it to Danny. She watches as he reads it over and frowns. “You wanted to come over and, what, ask me if Grace can go to a thing on my weekend?”

“I wanted to offer to trade weekends with you,” she replies, and Danny’s eyes snap to hers, surprised. It just adds another layer of guilt to everything that she’s already feeling, that she’s treated him badly enough that he’s shocked at her willingness to negotiate. “I know you don’t see Grace often enough for either of your liking, and I figured that it might be a gesture of goodwill on my part to ease that somewhat.”

“That’s great, Rach,” Danny says slowly, a smile blooming on his face. “I – thank you.”

“You’re certainly welcome,” she returns, smiling over her mug. “I wanted to apologize, as well.” She takes a deep breath. “I’ve treated you rather unfairly since – well, since well before the divorce, actually. I’ve realized recently that it would probably benefit us both if I didn’t act as if I hated you all the time.”

If Danny had looked surprised before, he looks stunned now. “I don’t think you hate me, not any more,” he says quietly. “I know I fucked up, okay, and I never blamed you for moving on.”

Rachel raises an eyebrow at him, and he has the decency to blush and duck his head, a little half-grin on his face. “Okay, so maybe I blamed you a little.”

“You threatened to cut Stan’s testicles off and staple them to his forehead,” Rachel reminds him mildly, but Danny laughs and tilts his head to the side.

“I haven’t thought you hated me in a while, though,” he continues. “And hey, if we’re apologizing, then I’m sorry too, okay? I know it was never easy on you, and those last few months before we called it quits were-” Danny shakes his head. “I don’t know how you kept yourself from slugging me.”

“It was a close call some days,” she responds. “I was a little afraid that I’d be arrested, though. You knew several police officers who weren’t terribly fond of me.”

“God, we were so bad for each other,” Danny says wistfully, a little smile on his face. “It’s a miracle we were together long enough for Grace to happen.”

“She is a miracle,” Rachel agrees softly, tracing the edges of the invitation. “And it wasn’t all bad. Most of it,” she says, hesitating, “most of it was quite wonderful, actually.”

“Rachel,” he says, and he’s back to looking startled.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that,” she hurries, standing from the sofa. “I’ll keep Grace this weekend, and you’ll have her the next two, and that’s that, right?” Rachel forces a smile onto her face that she doesn’t feel and takes a step towards the door. “I’ll call you if anything changes.”

“Hey,” he says, standing and walking to the door with her – it isn’t hard; the inside of his apartment isn’t exactly spacious – and taking her hand in one of his. “Thanks again,” he says, tugging gently until she stumbles into him, and then he’s wrapping his arms around her, tucking her head down into his shoulder, and Rachel just wants to cry.

“You’re welcome,” she whispers instead, and tries not to hate herself as she leaves his apartment and drives back home.

-0-

“Let’s go away for a night,” Stan suggests. He’s brushing his fingers almost absently through her hair as she lies on his chest. “Grace is going to that sleepover, and I feel like we haven’t done anything, just the two of us, in a long time.”

“Hmm,” Rachel replies, trying to think quickly and not give anything away. Her plans for this weekend don’t involve going away with her husband, and there’s really only a dull echo of an ache in her stomach at the thought of it. “What about next weekend instead? Then Grace will be with Danny, and we can go the whole time instead of just the night.”

“I love a woman with a plan,” Stan says with a smile, turning his head to kiss her hair. “Do you have somewhere in mind?”

“Nowhere too far,” she replies, settling against him. It reminds her of the early days of their marriage, when they’d steal a few days here or there and hop a flight somewhere. It was fun, getting on a plane and just going, spending time with a man she loved in a place that didn’t know them.

“We live in Hawaii, Rachel,” Stan reminds her, clearly amused. “Everything’s too far from here.”

“What if we just went to one of the other islands?” she suggests. “Maui, or maybe that getaway you found on Kaua’i.”

“That sounds promising,” he murmurs. “You, me, a beach, and not much else. I’ll have to switch a meeting on the Big Island from next weekend to this, but other than that, it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Rachel smiles. “Call Moani in the morning and book us,” she says. Stan’s arm wraps around her waist, and he presses another kiss into her hair.

“We’ll make this work,” he tells her, and it sounds like a promise but feels like a weight on her shoulders, pulling her down too far to get out.

 

 

“Okay, I was not expecting to see you this weekend,” Danny says when he opens the door. Rachel smiles and takes a hesitant step forward.

“I’m sorry to barge in on you like this,” she begins, and she doesn’t have to reach far to get the tears to spring to her eyes. “It’s just – I didn’t know where else to go, it’s not like I really know anyone here, and-”

“Hey, hey, no, come on in,” he says immediately, reaching out and slipping an arm around her waist. “Don’t cry, sweetheart, it’s okay.”

“It’s falling apart,” Rachel says helplessly. “I’m just sitting and watching as it all falls to pieces, and Danny, I just – I don’t think I can do it again, I really don’t-”

“Hey,” he murmurs into her hair, both arms wrapping around her waist as the door latches closed. “I’ve got you, okay? I’ve got you.”

“It’s just a mistake,” she babbles, clutching onto him and letting her head fall against his shoulder. Danny has always been good at this, offering comfort when the problems have nothing to do with him. It’s in his blood, he’d told her once; the entire Williams clan is the type to give a stranger the shirt off their back, and caring is just a part of the package.

“What’s a mistake?” he asks gently, rubbing his hand slowly up and down her back. “Talk to me, Rach.”

“You,” she says, the first thing that pops into her head, but Danny, bless him, doesn’t even flinch. Rachel recovers quickly. “Stan.”

“He found out,” Danny says quietly, and oh, she’d nearly forgotten that he’d make that connection. It’s the excuse she’d come here with, but the facts of the situation are much more present in her mind at the moment.

Rachel takes a shaky breath and nods against his shoulder. “I told him,” she admits, just as softly. “I couldn’t bear it, Danny, I just couldn’t.”

He shifts, and she knows he has to be thinking about when they’d finally realized it was over, when Rachel had hurled Stan in his face and Danny had yelled that at least she wasn’t freezing everyone out. “Did he throw you out?”

“No,” she says quickly. “No, I – he wants to work things out.”

“And you?” Danny asks, pulling back a little to look her in the eye. “Is that what you want?”

“I don’t know,” she replies, closing her eyes. “I just – I don’t know what to do, Danny.”

It’s alarming, how much of the truth she’s letting out, but she knows how Danny will take it, and it’s good to get some of it off her chest in some way. She sighs and sinks back into the embrace he still hasn’t broken, letting herself rest for a moment.

“What do you need from me?” he asks gently, and this is it, this is where Rachel has to move forward. She waits a moment, gathering her strength, then moves her hands slowly, travelling up his arms until she’s cupping his face, the tips of her fingers in his hair. Danny looks right at her, watches every move she makes, and she knows that he’s well aware of where she’s heading with this, but he doesn’t move to stop her or to urge her on.

His mouth is soft against hers when she kisses him, and his hands tighten across her back for a moment before breaking them apart. “Are you sure?” Danny asks her, settling his hands on her hips. “I need you to be sure, Rachel. I’m not – if you’re not, I can’t help you, okay?”

She wants to scream, to rage, to cry, because what she wants is for it to be a month ago, before Matt had left and everything had been blown to pieces. She wants to be home with Stan and not worrying about a sniper being trained on her baby girl while she’s at a sleepover. She wants to not have to be where she is, tucked in Danny’s arms, and she wants to not feel relieved that he’s falling for it so easily.

“I’m sure,” she says instead of letting any of that out, and he smiles and leans in and kisses her this time, and she lets herself take it as the comfort it is.

-0-

Rachel leaves in the morning and promises to call later, after Stan returns, to update Danny on how things are going. She drives to Leilani’s and retrieves Grace, whole and unharmed, and returns home.

Things are uneventful for an hour or so; Rachel fixes lunch for herself and Grace and listens to her recount the tale of the night before, how they’d stayed up until midnight watching princess movies, and does Mommy think she could have some friends over one weekend for a party like that?

Rachel smiles and nods along as she cleans up their plates, rinsing them before putting them into the dishwasher. Grace wanders her way upstairs, and Rachel is about to pick up a book in the library when there’s a knock on the door.

There’s nobody outside when Rachel steps onto the porch, but there’s a manila envelope with her name on it sitting on the steps. She picks it up slowly, a cold twist of dread in her stomach as she closes the door and moves back into the library.

There are two photographs inside this time. One is of Grace at her sleepover, sitting between two other girls on a sofa and staring off to the side; Rachel figures it was taken while they were watching a movie. The other is of Rachel herself, standing just outside Danny’s door this morning. There’s no note to explain anything, but as Rachel takes a deep breath to steady herself, her phone rings.

“Mrs. Edwards,” the cultured voice says when she picks up. “You’re doing so very well.”

“How long?” It’s the only thing she’ll let herself say. Rachel doesn’t want to give anything away, doesn’t want to yell, doesn’t want to do anything that might endanger Grace’s life any more than it already is. “How long are you going to make me do this?”

“I’m hardly forcing you,” the man replies, sounding amused, and Rachel does snap at that.

“You’re clearly not a father, then,” she says coldly. “If you were, you’d know that you don’t need any sort of mind-controlling powers to make a parent do whatever you want them to do.”

“It’s the beauty of free will, though,” the man replies, sounding almost wistful. “When it comes down to the very basics of the situation, you still have a choice in the matter.”

“When it comes down to it,” Rachel says, “no, I don’t.”

“We shall have to agree to disagree,” the man says with what sounds like a touch of regret. “I hate to cut our time short, Mrs. Edwards, but your husband will be home in a matter of moments. I just wanted to remind you that we are keeping an eye on you, and one on your daughter.”

“Message bloody well received,” she spits into the phone, and the man is back to sounding amused when he replies.

“No need to be crass,” he says simply. “You will hear from me again soon. Until then, be sure to keep up with Detective Williams.”

The phone clicks off in her ear, and it’s not even three minutes before Rachel hears Stan’s key turn in the door.

-0-

“McGarrett,” Rachel hears when the phone is answered, and she blinks.

“Commander McGarrett,” she recovers. “I had meant to call Danny; I’m sorry that I seem to have-”

“No, this is Danny’s phone,” he cuts in curtly, and she can hear the sound of him moving for a moment before he speaks again. “What is it that you want, Rachel?”

“To talk to Danny,” she says firmly.

McGarrett sighs over the line. “He told me that you stopped by last night.”

Rachel remembers in an instant the fond looks she’s seen between them, the way Danny’s conversations over the last few months have always seemed to include this man in one way or another, how she’d felt happy for them only a few weeks ago. She contrasts it with McGarrett’s perfectly blank voice now, and the ever-present knot in her stomach twists even more tightly. “I did.”

“What is it that you want?” he repeats, and she can hear the anger and the pain this time, now that she knows she’s listening for it. “I’m pretty sure we both know you don’t want Danny.”

“I don’t see how it’s any of your business,” Rachel replies snappishly. If he can see through her so easily – but no, she reminds herself, he’s probably reeling right now from realizing he missed his chance. “Danny’s a grown man, Commander. He can certainly be trusted to make his own decisions.”

“Not when it comes to you, he can’t,” McGarrett says evenly, and God, she knows it’s true, she’s always known that.

“Can I just talk to him?” she asks, all the fight leaving her in an instant. “I told him I’d check in when I picked Grace up, and-”

“Is Gracie okay?” His tone switches in an instant, away from the tone of a jilted lover into the almost-panicked pitch of a worried parent. “God, hang on a minute, let me get Danny-”

“She’s fine, Commander McGarrett,” Rachel tries, but she can hear that his voice is farther away from the receiver now, calling for Danny loudly. There’s some muffled speech, and then Danny’s speaking into the phone.

“Rachel, what happened? Where’s Grace?” Danny has that same panicked note in his voice. “I’m on my way, just, where, Rach-”

“Danny,” she cuts in firmly. “She’s fine, we’re fine, nothing is wrong. Please breathe, Danny.”

“Steve said-”

“Steve misunderstood me,” Rachel says, gentler now. “I’m sorry. I tried to get his attention, but I think he took the phone from his ear.”

“Jesus,” he breathes out, and she can close her eyes and see how he slumps as the adrenaline leaves his system. “Hang on, Rach, I have to-” There’s more muffled speech, Danny’s raised voice, a thumping sound, and a light male laugh, and then Danny is back. “So what’s up?” he asks in a much more normal voice.

“I’m just checking in,” she replies. “We’re all… here. Things are the same as they ever were.”

“Are you going to tell him?” Danny’s voice is quiet, and Rachel wishes she could get that damn clenching in her stomach to stop already.

“Not yet,” is the only answer she can come up with that doesn’t make her feel sicker to her stomach.

“Okay,” he replies softly. “Keep me in the loop, yeah?”

“You know I will,” Rachel says, trying for light and failing miserably, if the way Danny sighs softly into the phone is any indication.

“You know how to find me if you need me, sweetheart,” he says. “I gotta go now, but you call me right away if you want to, okay?”

“I will,” she promises, knowing she won’t, not unless she has no other choice. “Goodbye, Danny.”

“Bye, Rach,” she hears, and then she’s alone in the library again, and God, but she’s beginning to hate this room.

-0-

Life goes on.

It almost seems cruel to think it, but it’s the God’s-honest truth: life keeps going, not caring at all that Rachel’s completely torn every which way, pushing and pulling at everything she’s ever known and loved and believed in. She feels like she should collapse under the weight of it all, how she’s leading Stan and Danny both astray and neither is any the wiser, and the only thing that stops her from putting her foot down is Grace.

Grace, who still smiles and laughs like only a child can; Grace, who is perfectly oblivious to everything going on around her, and is just happy that Mommy and Daddy are hugging instead of yelling now. Grace, who comes into the house one day chattering about the man waiting at the gate with an envelope, and could she just give it to her mom, and she’d taken it from him and he’d thanked her and hey, Mommy, are you crying?

“Get to your homework,” Rachel tells her, trying not to visibly panic as she sees her name in the same handwriting, nothing else besides. “This man, what did he look like?”

“He was tall like Uncle Steve,” Grace says thoughtfully, “but his hair was blonde like Daddy’s. He was wearing a suit, but it was all crumpled up, like he didn’t hang it up right out of the dryer.”

Michael Baring, Rachel thinks instantly, and her fingers curl a little around the edges of the envelope.

“Homework,” she reminders her daughter before slipping out of the kitchen.

Rachel locks herself in the library and opens the envelope. It’s got the usual pictures – three of Grace, two of herself – and a note tucked into the back, typed in the same standard font and printed on the same dime-a-dozen copy paper.

Mrs. Edwards, it says. Detective Williams and his friends are getting too close to things that are better off remaining buried. You need to do a better job, for the sake of all involved.

It’s not signed, but it doesn’t have to be. The man from the phone sent it, just as he’d sent the others, just as he’d sent Baring. The man on the phone, the puppet master of all of this, the man singlehandedly ruining Rachel’s life and possibly the lives of those she cares for – the man for whom she has no name, no face, no identity at all, he’s the one who sent this package to her.

Rachel drops her head into her hands and takes a deep breath. It doesn’t help, not really, but it’s better than letting out the scream that seems poised and ready to tear from her throat if she’d only let it.

-0-

“Oh, it’s lovely,” Rachel says as she walks into the room that Stan had arranged for them. “Really, Stan, this is wonderful.”

“I know you like looking out over the ocean,” Stan murmurs, wrapping his arms around her from behind and brushing his lips against her hair. “I made sure we got a room with a view.”

The view is lovely, there’s no doubt about that. There’s a pristine beach right outside the room that backs up to crystal clear water that seems to go on forever, and there doesn’t seem to be anyone else around.

“Thank you,” she murmurs, curling her fingers around his and squeezing. “This was a wonderful idea.”

“You, me, and a beach to ourselves,” he replies. “What more could a man ask for?”

A faithful wife, Rachel thinks immediately, and has to fight her body’s natural inclination to tense up. It might not have been her idea to start things with Danny again, but the longer it goes on, the more she doubts herself, what she’s done. Could she have hired a private investigator to look into things for her? Could she have gone to Danny, looking to the outside like she was doing as ordered, but present him with the evidence once inside?

The answer is, of course, no. It all comes back to Grace, and the chance of something going wrong would mean her little girl would die, and that wasn’t – isn’t – worth the risk. Nothing could ever be worth that risk.

It’s getting harder and harder to tell herself that, though. It’s harder every time she leaves Stan and feels less guilt, harder every time she arrives at Danny’s apartment and he smiles and she feels a bit better. She’d tried telling herself it was all for Grace, but she knows better than that – for all she’s keeping up the front of her marriage to Stan, it’s been heading towards the end for a while. This whole mess is, in its own twisted way, yet another crutch to get her out of yet another failed marriage.

Rachel knows the feel of this weekend, too, and recognized it for what it is the second Stan had suggested it. She’s just not sure that there’s enough of a marriage left to save for it to work out between them.

“Let’s order some supper,” Rachel says suddenly, turning in Stan’s arms and kissing his cheek lightly. “Is there a restaurant on the grounds, or will we have to order in from somewhere else?”

Stan busies himself with finding a menu, and Rachel toys with the necklace around her throat. He’d given it to her while they were dating – a token of affection, he’d called it, and oh, but he’s always been charming. She doesn’t take it off when she’s with Danny, and she knows that it bothers him, but he’ll never ask her to remove it. It’s for the best, really, since feeling the weight of it move against her chest as she moves together with Danny is one of the only things that keeps her from falling in too deeply, from believing that it’s all real.

“Penny for your thoughts,” Stan says, and when she turns, he’s smiling at her a little, like he had when they were first getting to know each other and every last little bit of information they could learn about each other was fascinating. It aches in her chest as she tries to smile back at him.

“I should think that my thoughts are worth a bit more to you than that,” she laughs, settling across his lap and linking her arms around his neck. “A dollar, at the least.”

“I guess I could agree to a dollar,” he replies, looking mock-thoughtful. “You’re a good bargainer, Mrs. Edwards.”

“I learned from the best, Mr. Edwards,” she says lightly. She waits a beat, then adds, “My mother, of course,” and as they laugh it feels almost normal.

They spend a nice evening and night, and by the time Rachel wakes in the morning, she’s beginning to rethink her estimation of the previous night. Maybe she can pull all of this together. Maybe she can get through this thing with Danny and save her marriage with Stan and steady the precarious balance that her life has become.

Her phone rings just after breakfast. She doesn’t recognize the number; it’s a local area code, which means it’s most likely for work. Rachel lets it go to voicemail, but it rings again in less than a minute.

“This is Rachel Edwards,” she sighs as she picks up the phone.

“Rachel, this is Commander McGarrett,” he hears, and Rachel feels the world spin beneath her for a moment. “There’s been an incident.”

Stan finds her white-faced and trembling not long after; he packs their things quickly and calls for a private jet to fly them back to Oahu as soon as is humanly possible. He holds her hand the whole way, lending silent support, and Rachel’s never been so grateful to him before. He’d been married twice before they got together, and he’s on good terms with both of his ex-wives; if one of them had been poisoned, Rachel has no doubts that he’d fly to their bedsides.

“Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” he says as he puts her into a cab. “Anything at all. If a better doctor can help him-”

“I will,” Rachel replies, leaning through the window and kissing him. “Thank you, Stan, and I’m sorry-”

“Go,” Stan tells her, tapping the trunk of the cab, and Rachel finds herself blinking back tears as she pulls away from the sidewalk.

-0-

“I’m so relieved that you’re doing well,” Rachel murmurs, propped up in Danny’s ridiculously uncomfortable pullout bed, combing her fingers through his hair. He smiles up at her sleepily and turns so he can press a kiss to her palm.

“It’s been a week since I was released, and the doc said I was fine at the last checkup,” he replies. He’s lost that rasp to his voice, the edge that he’s been carrying since he woke up in the hospital. “No lasting side effects. They got the treatment to me in time.”

“I know,” she says, dropping her eyes a little. She doesn’t have to fake anything about how her voice trembles as she recalls how pale he’d been, how rough he’d sounded when she’d arrived. “When I saw you lying there, Danny-”

“I’m okay, sweetheart,” he says, tugging her down so he can breathe the words into her hair. “I’m sorry I scared you, but I’m fine now.”

“I know,” she breathes into his chest, soaking up a little of the comfort he’s offering as he rubs his hand up and down her back. “I’m just thankful, I suppose.”

She can perfectly picture the ways Danny’s eyes crinkle with the smile she can feel pressed against her temple. “I’m pretty thankful, too.”

Rachel smiles, a trembling little thing, before she pulls back. “Stan gets back from his business trip this afternoon,” she reminds him quietly. “I have to get back to the house.”

Danny nods but she can see the way he pulls back from her, mentally if not physically. It’s a trick she picked up during those last few months the first time, when they tried to hold it together, before they realized that all the sex in the world wasn’t going to make them good for each other. Rachel tries not to think about it as she gets out of the bed and pulls on her clothing.

Danny catches her wrist as she heads for the door. “I love you,” he murmurs, smiling up at her like it’s the easiest thing to say. Rachel’s heart seizes in her chest, because – because she knows that, and it’s not that she doesn’t love Danny, it’s just – it hadn’t been enough, and she knows it won’t be this time, either. She forces a smile to her lips as she turns her wrist to hold his hand.

“I’m going to tell Stan,” she blurts out. It’s not what she’d meant to say, but she means it anyway. It’s not fair to Stan to deal with this whole mess, with a wife sneaking around on him and it’s not that she doesn’t love Stan, either, but-

God, she thinks wildly, when did my life become such a bloody mess?

But Danny’s eyes are softening, crinkling back around the edges, and he’s here with her now just like he wasn’t a moment ago. “You sure?”

Rachel smiles bravely. “I’m sure.”

Danny swings his legs over the side of the bed and stands, pulling her face down so he can kiss her. It’s sweet, gentle like she wasn’t expecting, and he’s still smiling as he pulls away. “Call me later,” he tells her, letting his hands fall to his sides. “Let me know if you need me for anything, okay?”

“I’ll call either way,” she promises, and she makes herself leave then, before she can say anything else that she didn’t mean to.

Rachel gets back to the house in time to wash her laundry from the weekend and set it to dry; Stan gets back just before five, and he’s still in his business frame of mind. He’s got his laptop balanced on one arm as the driver carries in his luggage and leaves it in the entryway, and he keeps pecking at it as he gives her a distracted kiss on his way to his office.

“Stan,” Rachel calls after him, “can we talk?”

“Later,” Stan replies, distracted, punching a few keys and muttering to himself. “Is it – it can wait, right? Just until after dinner?”

She forces a smile. “Of course. Let me know when you have a moment.”

Rachel hesitates at the door to the library, then firmly tells herself that she’s being ridiculous and crosses the threshold. As soon as she settles into the deep leather couch, her phone rings. The number is blocked.

“What?” she answers, tired – tired of all of this, the lying to everyone, the fact that Grace’s life is no safer now than when this whole thing had begun, the way that someone she’s never met is pulling all of the strings.

“So unpleasant, Mrs. Edwards,” the voice says, sounding offended for all of a second before smoothing over. “You don’t enjoy our chats?”

“I honestly hope that one day, Danny finds out about all of this,” she says, very calmly, “and that he doesn’t bother bringing you to court over what you’ve done.”

The man laughs. “If your ex-husband ever should find out about this, I have no doubt that he’ll do exactly that.” His voice hardens. “As much as I’d love to continue discussing my own theoretical demise, I have some news for you.”

“Lovely,” Rachel says dully, wondering what this madman has cooked up to ruin her life this time. It’s going to be good, she can just tell.

“After this,” the man says thoughtfully, “I will not bother you again, Mrs. Edwards. Your daughter will be safe from me.”

Rachel sits up a little straighter. “How can I – how do I know you’re telling me the truth?”

“You have my word,” the man says simply, as if that’s anywhere close to enough. It’s all she’s going to get, though, so she slumps back into the couch and breaths out heavily.

“What, then?” she asks, weary again.

“Get Detective Williams out of Hawaii,” the man tells her. “Soon. Tomorrow at the latest, tonight if you can manage it.”

Rachel spends a good thirty seconds reeling. “I don’t know if you’re aware of this,” she says slowly, “but Danny is in the middle of a fairly high-profile case. He’s not going to take a holiday with me if I ask him.”

“I am well aware of his involvements in this mess,” the man’s clipped voice says, and Rachel wishes Danny talked a little more about work this time, wishes she’d pressed for details, because - of course, she thinks almost dizzily, of course it’s something big. If only he’d said a little more, she might have a name for her tormentor. “I want him out of Hawaii, Mrs. Edwards. Get him to leave, and you and your child are safe.”

There’s nothing else but a click, and Rachel calmly exits the library, walks to the bathroom in the master suite, and vomits, just as she’d done when she had opened the first envelope. She trembles as she’s cleaning herself up, half-formed ideas twisting through her mind – telling Danny, telling someone on his team, telling the police department against ways to convince Danny to leave the island with her by tomorrow.

She’s brushing her teeth when she freezes, closing her eyes against the memory of Danny nearly a decade ago, the laugh lines fewer but still present around his eyes, the happy light in them when she’d made her announcement. Rachel’s stomach fills with dread and worry and a sick sort of resolution all at the same time, and she pats her face dry slowly, knowing that she can pull it off and knowing that there’s no forgiveness for her, if she goes through with it.

She thinks of Grace’s smiling face, closes her eyes tightly, and lets out a breath slowly. As she’d told the man on the phone at some point – it’s never really a choice, not if you’re a parent.

-0-

Danny looks ten times terrible as he gets out of his car, striding over to her with a brisk sort of purpose that says he’s on some sort of mission. He’s onto something, Rachel knows with sudden clarity, and she’s glad she decided not to wait for the morning; the sooner she can get Danny and Grace out of Hawaii, the better.

“Rach, I don’t have a lot of time, there’s kind of a lot going on with a big case-”

“I’m pregnant,” she blurts out. “We’re –we’re having another baby.”

His face shoots through a thousand things in an instant, and she’s known all of those expressions, loved and hated them all equally. There’s wonder there, shock, joy, that jolt of fear she’d expected, but his face settles into a bright smile, one that erases the tension he’s always carried in his shoulders. He laughs as he leans in to kiss her, then pulls back to rest his forehead against hers. “Another baby,” he marvels, looking down at her stomach. His hand curves over her belly, warm and solid, as if he can feel it if he tries hard enough.

Rachel smiles and chokes on her own hysterical laughter. It comes out as a broken sort of sob, instead. “Stan – he’s rather unhappy with me,” she says. In truth, she’d left the house without even letting him know she was going, immersed as he still was in his work. “I was thinking – let’s go home, Danny. Let’s just go.”

“Home?” His brow creases in confusion. “Sweetheart, my place isn’t exactly where you need to be if you’re pregnant – hang on, let me make a call, I know a place we can stay for a few nights until we figure everything out-”

“Home, Danny,” she repeats. “New Jersey. We’ll pack a few things, get on a flight, and go back. Explain things to your parents, your sisters, see if they can’t manage to forgive me.”

“Home,” Danny breathes, something flashing through his eyes that Rachel’s never seen before and doesn’t have a clue how to identify. “Back to Jersey.”

“Home,” she presses, and she can see him wavering – he wants to go, there’s no doubt, but he’s a man of honor, and he’d said they were in the middle of something big. Rachel plays her trump card, letting her eyes fill with tears and glancing away.

“I just don’t – want to be in Stan’s home any more, Danny,” she says quietly. “I want to go home.”

“Yeah,” he says, gathering her up. “Okay, sweetheart, let me just – I have to tell a few people a few things. You go pack a bag, get Gracie, and I’ll meet you at the airport, okay?”

She nods, trying to smile, but she feels more like she wants to be sick again. She moves to get back in her car, but he catches her hand and tugs her back against him. “I love you, hey,” he whispers into her ear, kissing her forehead, her cheek, her mouth. “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” she tells him, because it’s what he needs to hear, and he smiles that same bright smile at her as he gets in his car and speeds away.

Rachel doesn’t cry on the drive back to the house she’s about to leave forever, but it’s a close thing.

-0-

She ends up telling Stan that Danny wants to take Grace on an impromptu visit back to Jersey to visit his family and had invited her along. “Apparently his family would like to apologize for treating me horribly during the divorce,” she says, rolling her eyes. “I expect it will be dreadfully awkward.”

“Sounds terrible,” he agrees. “When does he want to do this?”

“He wants to leave tonight,” Rachel sighs, as if she’s annoyed. “Apparently he got some unexpected leave time, and he wants to spend as much of it away from Hawaii as he possibly can.”

As she predicted, Stan rolls his eyes and snorts. “Impatient,” he mutters under his breath, but that’s as much argument as she gets from him. She hurries to pack a bag for her, and one for Grace – as much as she can fit into the bag, swimsuits and shorts and tees, and then she stops in the kitchen again.

“I’ll call when I land,” she promises, and he waves at her, already distracted by the reports on his screen again.

Her heart breaks a little at how easy it is to leave, after everything.

She takes a deep breath and gets in her car, stopping to pick Grace up. She’d spent the weekend with friends, no doubt having a grand time, and Rachel smiles when she climbs into the car, bubbly and warm and perfect. She goes on about a singer and a movie and something that the girls want to do next weekend, and can she go, and Rachel’s heart breaks all over again, because Grace has made a life here, and Rachel is uprooting her.

Telling herself that it’s for Grace’s own good is like trying to patch a gaping wound with a tissue any more.

“We’re going on a vacation,” she says when Grace pauses for breath. “You and me and Daddy.”

“And Stan,” Grace adds, as if she’s reminding Rachel about her husband.

“No,” she chokes out. “Just – just the three of us. We’re going to visit Nana and Poppy and your aunties, so Stan would be very uncomfortable there.”

“Nana and Poppy?” Grace goes from slightly confused to extremely excited in a very short time. “And we’re going right now?”

“We’re meeting Daddy at the airport,” she says, and then Grace’s chatter is about the family that she hasn’t seen since moving a year ago.

The airport terminal is busy; apparently they’re not the only ones on the 10:45 to Newark. Rachel stands and sits and waits, watching as Grace makes friends with a boy a little older than herself, explaining where she’s going and why. He apparently returns the favor, and Rachel smiles abstractly as she looks down at her phone again, wondering where Danny is.

She finally gives up and calls him at ten. “Danny, where are you?”

“Not a good time, Rach,” he says, and he sounds – she’s never heard him sound this stressed, never, not even during the worst of the divorce. “I love you, tell Grace I love her, and I will catch the first flight out in the morning, but I have to go now, okay?”

“No, Danny-” Rachel nearly shouts into the phone, but there’s dead air on the other end of the line, and she feels her shoulders slump.

“Grace,” she says, voice leaden. “You and I, sweetheart, we’re going to have to go on ahead without Daddy, and he’ll fly along in the morning, okay?”

“Uncle Steve probably got in trouble,” Grace says, with the practiced ease of an eight-year-old who has seen precisely that before. “He drives too fast and Danno gets worried.”

“He said to remind you that Danno loves you,” she says softly, and Grace beams up at her.

“Don’t worry, Mommy,” she says, throwing her arms around her neck. “We’ll see him tomorrow.”

-0-

Rachel calls Danny once more after they’ve boarded. There’s a third seat beside her bought and paid for with Danny’s name on it, but her call goes to voicemail. Rachel smiles up as the flight attendant asks her to turn off her phone, tucks it into her pocket, and thinks about what they’ll do when they land. She has no doubt that the man on the phone will have someone in Newark, someone to hurt her or Grace when they arrive without Danny. They’ll need to get out, to go somewhere else, to disappear. She didn’t bring their passports, but that doesn’t mean that she can’t find a place to lose herself and her daughter.

Grace puts her headphones on and adjusts the dial on the armrest until whatever’s playing in her ears meets her specifications. Rachel suspects it’s the soundtrack to the bright animated movie playing on the screen in the back of the seat in front of Grace. “We’ll see Daddy in the morning,” she tells Rachel again, and Rachel hopes that’s true but knows it probably won’t be.

“Of course,” she says, smoothing a hand over Grace’s hair. “Watch your movie, darling.”

Grace nods happily and focuses on the dogs chasing each other across the screen in front of her, and doesn’t watch as the home she’s managed to remake for herself lifts out from beneath her.

Rachel can’t help but watch it go.