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With Spinelli no longer on her tail, Virginia relaxed a little and took a look at her watch. Shit, she was late, yet another thing for Tom to complain about. In the past month he'd started acting on his visitation rights, picking up Janine once a week and taking her to the girlfriend's house.

According to the polls, Tom's popularity had fallen. Big time. The Candor family had received some unfavorable press a few years back, stemming from a discrimination suit filed against the hotel chain. When news broke of Tom's affair with Igor Candor's daughter, the tabloids had gone wild. His campaign had shifted into defense mode, fielding questions about discrimination and infidelity during most of his interviews.

Just further proof that the American voter doesn't like a cheater.

Tom, not surprisingly, had begun venting his anger on her, leaving nasty messages on her cell phone about custody, maintenance on the house, switching Janine's school, the list went on and on. Based on Tom's rants, she was a "selfish bitch" who needed to admit she was an unfit mother, too distraught over the death of her partner to be raising a child. He usually ended the calls with some kind of subtle threat. After all the years together, it was hard to believe he still didn't know his wife. Aware of how the voters would react if those messages went public, she kept every one of them.

Reaching Bel Air's west entrance, she took a right off of Sunset and began the climb through the foothills. It was impossible not to do the touristy thing, slow to a crawl while gawking at the grandeur of the homes with their exterior light shows, gated driveways, and seven or eight-digit price tags. No shame in showing off here—each time she thought she'd found the granddaddy of privileged circumstances, the place next door was even more ridiculous.

She'd never been up these roads before, and the only reason she was here now was to accommodate Tom. He'd insisted on having his daughter at their holiday party, but Janine wanted to be home for Christmas morning. So this was the compromise, Virginia driving over to pick her up, which was going to be about as much fun as a root canal. And just as numbing.

Tom's newfound devotion was a mystery. Children had never been a priority. Virginia could still picture his reaction after she'd found out she was pregnant during a routine physical.

Excited and breathless, she rushed home to their one-bedroom apartment in Lynwood, stopping only once along the way to pick up a baby rattle. After talking Tom into an unheard of mid-week splurge, they ended up at their favorite restaurant. She managed to keep her secret all the way through the meal until dessert, upon which she handed him the wrapped box.

The silk ribbon—the one she had tied ten times until it looked perfect—was yanked off with gusto and thrown to the table. Landing close to the edge, it sat for a moment before slipping off and disappearing from view . . . as did the kid-like grin on Tom's face when he saw what was waiting for him.

He'd demanded she get an abortion, claiming it was too soon to have children, telling her they would try again when their careers were established. When she'd refused, he had spent the rest of the night trying to convince her, his list of reasons comprehensive. A little too comprehensive. Making her wonder if Tom had ever planned on having children.

Janine was born September 15th of that year, a beautiful, healthy baby girl. Virginia had gone back to work almost immediately, and Tom had come to terms with their situation. Sort of. He watched Janine during the hours Virginia was at work but would be waiting at the door when she got home. Passing off their daughter like she was a football, he would then head over to a friend's house, claiming he needed some peace and quiet to study. It never occurred to him that she was studying too, working her way up the department, first to sergeant, and a few years later, lieutenant. But she hadn't minded, cherishing every moment she could spend with her daughter.

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