THIRTY-THREE

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A newspaper landed in front of Virginia as she sat at her desk early Monday morning. A photo of her and Spinelli entering the Johnson Center sat front and center, the caption below it reading MARK SPINELLI AND GUEST. Evidently, the clock had run out on her fifteen minutes of fame over the whole Tom scandal. Thank God. She was quite happy being "guest." She smiled down at the picture.

Cap's crusty voice came from behind her. "Not a good idea, Virginia."

She turned in her chair to look up at him, doing her best to feign innocence or ignorance, not sure which she was pulling off. "What?" She shrugged. "We're friends. Friends can't go out?"

"There is a certain unwritten social decorum public officials have to uphold. That would include not dating a person you've been trying to condemn throughout most of your career."

"You are blowing this way out of proportion. It was just one night out."

"Hope so," he muttered, stepping away to head to his office.

Turning back to the picture with delight, she dug her cell phone out of her purse and found Spinelli's number, writing him a text:

DID YOU SEE OUR PIC IN PAPER? CAP NOT TOO HAPPY. WE LOOK GREAT, TALK LATER.

A small group had collected by the coffee machine. There seemed to be some mutual complaining going on as a low grumble rose from the gathering. Virginia frowned as she looked over at them. Glances in her direction made it pretty obvious that the discussion centered around her. The newspaper she spotted through a gap in the circled bodies confirmed her suspicion.

She wasn't tolerant of office gossip but was in too good of a mood to let it bother her. She turned her focus back to work, moving the newspaper out of the way, but still within view.

) l (

Mark arrived at his office to find Gus in his chair, the soles of the man's shoes on display from their perch atop his desk. Enzo was sprawled out in one of the guest chairs.

Not a good start to any day.

He took his time hanging up his suit jacket, ignoring their presence, hoping to annoy the unwelcome guests. Then he walked up to his desk and pushed Gus's feet to the floor. "What can I do for you, Junior?" he drew out, knowing how he hated to be called that.

Lips curled into a snarl. "Augustus wants to see you." The rolled-up newspaper in his hand tapped lightly against his thigh.

"I didn't realize you were your father's secretary. Did you get a promotion?"

Gus jumped to his feet. Standing so close only accentuated their height difference, making him even more ornery. "You won't be so smug when he finishes with you." He threw the paper onto the desk, and it fell open to a picture of Virginia and Mark standing by the limo at the Johnson Center.

Mark smiled. "Great picture."

"Augustus knows who she is."

"You must have been quite the annoying blabbermouth as a kid."

Gus's face soured. "You've blown it this time. He's not too pleased with you right now!"

"Don't worry, Junior. He always forgives my little indiscretions."

Gus pushed past him, stomping his way out of the office like a child. Left behind, Enzo seemed lost, incapable of making a decision on his own. The calm cover Mark had been fronting was no longer needed, and a raw fury rushed in, soaking its way into his voice. "Get. Out."

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