"A Royal Affair"

by Lady Antari and Kendra

The room was cool, shadowy and dim. All was quiet and peaceful. The only sound was that of quiet exhalations, and the only movement was the slight rising and lowering of a lump under the heavy bedcovers. The still quiet was abruptly shattered by loud, raucous ring. The lump didn't move. The ringing continued with no regard to the fact that it was Saturday and that meant one got to sleep in. It continued to ring. A low moan rose from the lump. A sigh. The lump rolled over and a pillow rose up and covered the head of the lump. The ringing continued on merrily with no concern for the suffering lump. From the lump slowly crept and crawled a hand. It waved in the air in broad movements before finally landing on the phone. It was picked up and dragged under the lump, and muffled "Hello," was heard. "Huh…..No….'Kay….Uh-huh….. Sure….Bye." The phone reappeared from under the lump and was dropped from the air to land on the floor, quiet once more.

A few hours later, Ezra Standish stood watching the swarm within the hive of the airport. People buzzed like bees from small cafés and restaurants to ticket counter and large screens announcing arrivals and departures. Soon the Queen Bee would arrive and he would once again be with a long missed friend. He sipped at his drink. 'What had caused her to flee to her childhood knight?' he mused to himself.

He turned as he heard his name called. 'There she is,' he thought and opened his arms for her. She let out a breathless laugh as she wrapped her arms around him. "Eva, it's so good to see you," he murmured.

"Oh Ezra, it's been so long."

"Eva, my goodness. You look wonderful. It's been entirely too long since we have been together. Come on, let's get out of here. You must be tired."

"It was a long flight. I just need to get my luggage and then I want to collapse. You don't mind me staying with you, do you? I could go to a hotel."

"Nonsense. You have to stay with me. I won't hear of you staying anywhere else."


Ezra handed Eva a cup of tea and then sank into the couch next to her. "So, big sister, tell me why you decided to drop everything and come visit me in the mile high city."

"Ezra, I wanted to see you. Why else would I have come? So," she added brightly, "how is your mother doing?"

Ezra frowned in Eva's direction at the obvious shift, but allowed her to change the subject. "Mother is fine. She has remarried and is spending the summer on a yacht in the Greek Islands. How is your father?"

"So, Maude remarried, huh? That's good, right?"

"Yes, she seems quite happy and quite busy. Too busy to interfere in my life."

Eva laughed out loud at that. "Thank heaven for small mercies. My father has remarried as well. I have a new stepbrother. I have never met him though. You were the only stepbrother I ever had that I liked, you know."

"It's the same for me." They smiled warmly at each other. Eva snuggled into Ezra's side.

"This is nice. I didn't realize how much I missed you. We see each other even less now then when you lived in Atlanta. How are you adjusting to Denver's winter weather? I know how much you hate the cold."

Ezra shuddered theatrically. "Don't get me started. It would take hours to expound on the horrors of the frigid climate. It snows here, you know," he whispered as if sharing a secret.

Eva laughed at her former stepbrother's antics and teased him back. They spent an hour chatting about each other's lives when she began yawning. "Well, that's enough for now," Ezra announced. "You need to get some sleep. We will continue this later."

"I agree. I can't keep my eyes open anymore."

"Come on. Let's get you tucked in." He led Eva to his spare room and made sure she had enough towels and played the part of a good host, then left her to rest.

A tall man with black hair and flashing eyes stared at the man cringing before him. "What do you mean, you can't find her?"

"Sir, she has eluded all our watchers."

"Then go out there and start hunting her. I won't lose her."

Six of the seven members of ATF Team 7 Denver were draped over various surfaces in Chris Larabee's living room. "Hey, Cowboy," Vin called, "When's Ezra getting here?"

It was a typical Sunday afternoon. The team usually spent it together relaxing. The only one missing was a wayward southern undercover agent. "He called earlier to say he wouldn't be coming today."

"What do you suppose he's up to?" JD asked turning away from the computer game he and Buck were playing.

"I think our Brother is tired. He has had several difficult roles to play in our last few cases. They must wear on him."

"Yeah, I can see him being tired," JD conceded, "but that doesn't explain why he didn't want to come out here this weekend. Do you think he's mad at us?"

"Nah, kid," Buck answered. "I think he just wanted some time to himself. I tell you what, we'll swing by his place on our way home. See how he's doing."

Vin stirred uneasily from his place on the couch. "I'm not sure you should just show up. He does like his privacy."

"He won't mind at all," Buck stated dismissively. "We'll even stop by that deli he likes and grab him dinner. That way we won't be intruding."

"Buck, taking him food won't mean you're not intruding." Nathan frowned. "Besides, if he's too good to spend the afternoon with us, why are you chasing after him? We don't need him here to have a good time."

"Now, Nathan. You know Ezra's not like that," Josiah said soothingly. "When he first joined the team, Ezra wouldn't come out here at all. Took forever to get him to join us."

Chris handed Vin a beer. "That was because he didn't know us and was uncomfortable. Now he joins us all the time. Today, for one reason or another, he didn't want to. For all we know, he has plans. He is allowed to have other friends, you know."


"Hmm, Ezra, this food smells delicious!" Eva hungrily declared.

"Well now, darlin', you know me," he replied with a grin. " I always could find the best eating establishments."

They giggled together and then both contemplated what to order. The two of them had decided they were not up to dressing up for a night on the town. Instead, they headed out for a simple meal at Ezra's favorite deli and then they would hit the movies.


"Boss, I think we've found her," stated the man sitting in the black Merc across the street from the deli.

"Well - where is she?" queried the excited voice on the other end of the mobile.


"Denver!? What the hell is she doing in Denver!?"

"At the moment - ordering food in a deli with some man."

"What?" the other voice screamed. "Ok, ok. You keep an eye on them and I'll get back in-touch later."

"No problem." And the conversation ended.


"Ahem," the nervous man cleared his throat and waited for his master's attention.

"What?" came the rather disinterested query.

"Sir, we've found her."

"You have? Well tell me. Where has she gone?"

"Erm, she's, erm, in Denver," he said with a squirm.

"Denver!" The man gave a puzzled frown. "What would cause her to journey to Denver?"

"We managed to track her credit cards," he explained. "She got a flight to Denver; we were lucky and found the cab driver. He remembered her and where he took her."

"And!" he snapped impatiently.

"She seems to be currently residing at an apartment in the suburbs, with another man."

The sounds of breaking glass was clearly audible across the room.


"You do know which deli it is don't ya, Buck?" asked JD rather sarcastically as Buck drove down the same street for the third time.

"Kid, shut up. You're distracting me," came the curt response.

"Oh yeah, sure." responded JD. " It's all my fault!"

"Aha!" Buck bellowed in JD's ear, " that's the one, right there."

Buck pulled to the side across from the deli and parked the car.

"Hey?" JD asked, "ain't that Ez's Jag over there?"

"Sure, looks like it. kid. Hey, and there's Ez now. Looks like we don't need to buy the food after all. We'll just catch up to him at his place and - Whoa!"

Bucks jaw almost hit the car floor. A low whistle emanated from both men.

"Would ya take a look at that," Buck exclaimed.

"I'm looking," JD sighed, "and I'm watchin' her get into Ez's car?"

Both watched as the Jag pulled away from the deli, but didn't notice the black car that followed.

"Well, well, looks like ol' Ez has got himself a girlfriend - and a mighty fine one at that," Buck proclaimed.

"No wonder he didn't want to come out to Chris' this weekend."

"Yeah, I'd stand almost anyone up for that beauty!"

"I think we better just head home. Eh, Buck?"

"You're right there, kid. Better not drop in on Ez uninvited tonight. Wouldn't wanna mess up our friendship by stealing his girlfriend."

"Oh yeah, right, Buck - like she's gonna fall for you!"

"Sure she would," Buck argued while pulling away from the curb. "It's my animal magnetism. She wouldn't be able to resist me."


Ezra slowly wove through the streets of Denver. He frequently flashed looks into his rear view mirror while maintaining a lighthearted conversation with Eva. 'Was that black car following them or was it just a coincidence?'

"Darlin', don't you think you've put it off long enough?"

"Put off what, Ezra?"

"Why are you here, darlin'?" He held up a hand when she started to speak. "No excuses."

She sighed and closed her eyes. "I'm… I'm engaged, Ezra."

"To be married? That's wonderful, Eva, but why are you here. Cold feet?"

"Sort of. I just…. Well, he's kind of an important person, and there was so much fuss I couldn't take it anymore. I'm not making any sense, am I?"

"I think I understand. He's important means a high society wedding. Other people are planning a huge extravaganza and your wishes are left on the wayside."

"Yes. I should have known you'd understand. I… well hopefully this will be the only time I get married, but it's not my wedding. It's everybody else's wedding." She sighed, "not mine."

"Oh, darlin'. Don't cry."

"I won't. I started thinking. If the wedding is this bad, what is the rest of my life going to be like? The house is his. I won't get to decorate it. It's all going to be his. I feel like a doll."

"Do you love him?"

There was a pause. "I think I do, but we both know that sometimes love isn't enough."

Ezra parked his car and turned to look at her. "Come on. We're home. Let's go inside and you can tell me about it." He snuck a quick glance over his shoulder. The black car was gone. 'I guess it wasn't following us,' he thought.

Once again they settled on his overstuffed sofa. He had turned the lights down low and poured them each a soothing brandy. "Now, tell me about the man you agreed to marry, Eva."

She smiled at him. "Yes. I did agree to marry him, huh. I never really thought I would find someone. I didn't want to marry just anyone. Watching my father marry and divorce so many times had turned me off marriage. I know you feel the same way."

"Yes, I do. You're getting off the subject," he admonished her gently.

She took his breath. "His name is Adair. He's a prince of a small country over in Europe. We met at a resort on the Rivera."


Eva looked in the mirror for the last time. "Okay, this dress will have to do!"

It's not that she disliked these sorts of upper-class social events, it's just that, well, she didn't like them either. Everyone dressing up and putting on a façade just to try and look wealthier and happier than everyone else. She'd had enough of that in her life already.

"Eva, honey - are you ready yet?" inquired the man stepping into her room.

"Yeah, I suppose I am, Dad," she sighed.

"Well come on then," he urged. "I know it's fashionable to be late, but I think we're pushing our luck now!"

With hotel room keys placed in her bag, Eva took her father's arm and left her room for the night's festivities.

Security was tight, and there were plenty of photographers and onlookers at the entrance to the party. Eva and her father, though, managed to enter unnoticed - apart from a few wolf whistles.

After just thirty minutes, she was bored. She and her father had met almost everyone here - and none of them seemed to interest her. No stimulating conversations, no entertaining ones, no funny ones, heck - there wasn't even a rude one! Nope, all boring and dull. 'I wish Ez was here,' she absently thought. 'He'd liven things up - God I miss him.'

"You're thinking about him again, aren't you?" Eva was startled out of her thoughts by her father.

"How'd you know?"

"Secrets of a father, my dear," he chuckled softly. "You know there's a casino on the floor below?"

"I know, but I thought you'd want me to stick around and impress any new investors?"

"I do, but you look bored and you won't impress anyone that way," he stated, "Maybe you'll liven up in the casino, then come back and impress for me?"

"Ok then, dad. Thanks."

"Just go and have some fun," he encouraged as she moved towards the stairs.

At last, something that would entertain her. She wasn't excellent at gambling and cards, but her former stepbrother had taught her enough to make her quite proficient at it. She scanned the room and spotted her blackjack table. Its single occupant was doing ok, but nothing special. She went to sit down next to him.

"I'm sorry, madam," the dealer told her, "but this is a private game."

"That's okay, Francois - I'd very much like this beautiful lady to join me." The man stood and pulled out a chair for her. He was tall and handsome, with jet-black hair and a sexy accent that she couldn't quite place. He moved with authority and regality that fascinated her.

"Why thank you, sir" she replied, taking her seat.

"You are most welcome, Mrs…."

"Eva, Miss Eva Lanelle."

"Eva - a beautiful name for a beautiful woman."

'How corny,' she thought, 'but heck, he was quite intriguing. Let's see where this goes.' "You flatter me sir," she said, batting her eyelashes.

"Good, I meant to." He smiled. "My name is Adair."

"Pleased to meet you, Adair. Shall we play?"


They played and talked for the next few hours. Eva, though skeptical of the man at first, had fallen for him. She had never met anyone quite like him before. Well, except for one person.

"It seems, dearest Eva, that you are quite good at this game." He glanced at her winnings.

Eva laughed as she finally noticed the amount she had won. "Well, I had a good teacher, many years ago."

Adair laughed a deep hearty laugh. His eyes gleamed at her. "My dear, I must admit that I have never met anyone quite like you in my life." He leant toward her and captured her hand in his. Would you do me the honor in accompanying me to the party above?"

"I would like that, Adair." She smiled genuinely at him. "I would like that a lot."


"It was an interesting night. We went back to the party and danced 'til quite late. We made plans to meet up again the next day for lunch and spent the entire day together. He was so sweet and funny and…" She sighed. "Well, he just swept me off my feet."

"I am flattered, my dear, that you would think of me so often. I, too, miss you at odd moments."

"Yes. We really need to spend more time together." They smiled at each other.

After a moment she said, "I shouldn't have been able to trust him."

Ezra looked at her startled. "Why ever not?"

Eva smiled a sad sort of smile. "I just don't really trust men. They all seem to have an agenda, but I trusted him because, in some odd way…. in some odd way, he reminded me of you."

"You agree to marry a man who reminds you of me. My dear, I'm sure you know that there are therapists out there who treat women who fall in love with men that remind them of their brothers."

"Oh, stop it. You know it's not like that. Besides, I didn't agree to marry him because of a resemblance to you, but I did give him a chance because of you."

"So, you spent some time together in the Rivera. I know you well enough to realize that was not the end."

"No. After France, I went to Italy, alone. I was doing some shopping in Milan. I ran into him again there."

"Ran into?" He cocked an eyebrow.

"He followed me there," she said with a laugh.

"And the fact that he was stalking you never came up?"

"Ezra! Well, anyway, we kept arranging to meet again. This went on for two or three months and we decided to become… become… exclusive," she finished awkwardly. "You know, there is no good adult word for boyfriend."

"I've noticed. None of the acceptable terms really work without sounding awkward. 'Significant other' just sounds so contrived and well…'lover' is overdone."

"Yes. None of them work well. Anyway, one thing led to another, and when he asked me to marry him, I said, 'yes'. I really thought that I could marry him. I guess some of us were just meant to be alone," she whispered sadly.

"Nonsense. You're just feeling a bit blue at the moment. It sounds to me that you and your man need to sit down and have a long talk. If he can't be accommodating, well, then you drop him. Don't do anything hasty at this point. Spend a few days here with me. Think about what you can and cannot live without. I have to go to work tomorrow. Will you be alright on your own?"

"Of course I will. Do you want to meet for lunch?"

"Yes, of course."

"Great, then I can meet all the people you work with. Your stories are so funny. I want to see if they're true."

"I shudder to think what their reactions to you will be. I shan't hear the end of it for some time. They are all frightful busybodies."


"I'm telling ya, she was gorgeous!" JD proclaimed to the whole office.

"And she was with Ezra? Our Ezra?" Nathan was still unbelieving.

"Yeah, we couldn't believe it either."

"Couldn't believe what?" Chris Larabee asked as he arrived from a morning meeting.

"Morning, Cowboy," Vin said. "Those two think they saw a gorgeous babe with Ezra last night."

"We did. Didn't we, Buck?"


"Really?" Chris said.

"Yes, but I don't think this bunch believes us."

"It's not that we don't believe you," Vin said. "It's just that we'll wait ta see things with our own eyes."

"Yeah, I mean, this is Ezra we're talking about," Nathan argued., "The only woman he's ever mentioned has been Maude."

"But brothers," Josiah joined in, "Ezra never mentions anything about his private life, and remember, we only got to find out about Maude because she showed up here. I think if it was up to Ezra, we wouldn't know that she exists."

"See guys!" JD triumphed, "Ezra could have a girlfriend."

"Right, you ladies, enough with the gossip," Chris said irritably. "That's more than enough discussion of Ezra's personal life. Let's get some work done."

"I'm asking 'im when he comes in," Buck proclaimed.

"Like he'll tell us anything," Nathan griped.

The ding of the elevator caught everyone's attention.

"Well, brothers, only one way to find that out," Josiah announced.

Ezra could see something was brewing the moment the doors of the elevator moved aside. 'Wonder what they are up to?' he thought. 'If it's another one of their practical jokes - retribution will be sought!'

He warily made his way to his desk. "Morning Gentleman, is there something wrong?"

"No," said Josiah.

"Yes," said Buck.

"Well, which is it?"

"Erm, Ezra."

"Yes, Mr. Wilmington?"

"Last night, er, JD and me, well, we were driving by that fancy deli place you like."

"Congratulations," Ezra replied. Vin giggled and Josiah hid a smirk.

"Funny! But while we were driving past we saw, er, you."


"And … a woman. Not just any woman, but a total babe!"

"Really?" 'Oh great,' thought Ezra.

"Yep," piped JD. "Who was she, Ez?"

"Who?" 'Play dumb, Ezra. I'm sure Mr. Larabee will save you soon.'

"The gorgeous babe!"

"A gorgeous babe?"

"Yeah - so who was she?"

"The gorgeous babe?"


"With me?"

"ARGH - Ezra!"
"What?" he said with his best innocent look gleaming back at them.

"Ladies!" boomed Chris' voice.

'Thank you!' came Ezra's little praise.

"I do believe EVERYONE has reports to finish up. And Ezra, we do start at 8, you know!"

"You do?" he quipped. "Good Lord, no wonder you are all so moody when I come in."

He blazed a mischievous gold-toothed smile back at Chris, who just shook his head.


Almost lunch time

He knew they were just dying to ask him again, but Chris had been lingering around in the office, and going through reports with them, so no one had the chance to ask him again. Well, they did, but he just deleted their emails.

An audible growl was heard through the office. " I believe that's lunch time, brothers," announced Josiah as JD went slightly red.

This time, no one noticed the ding of the elevator as Buck and JD were arguing over where to eat, while making a beeline for Ezra.

Eva stepped nervously from the elevator. She couldn't wait to meet Ezra's work colleagues, but was also slightly apprehensive about being seen in public too often. She entered the office area to a loud barrage of noise - and grinned slightly. 'I better go and save him,' she thought, 'and put his friends out of their misery.'

"Come on, Ez, who was she?" that was JD.

"If ya don't tell us, we won't be held responsible for our actions!" and that was Buck.

"Yeah, you're forcing us to use, erm, force!" JD again.

"And you know what we are capable of," Buck. "We …"

"Gentleman," Eva's arrival soon quieted the office.

"Eva!" exclaimed Ezra.

"Hi, Ezra. Ready for lunch?"

"Of course, just give me a moment," and Ezra started to log off of his computer.

"Ahem, erm, Ezra?"

"Yes, darlin'?"

"Manners, Ezra, manners," Eva reprimands him.

"What? Oh!, sorry." Ezra looked up from his monitor to find six gaping ATF agents and a slightly embarrassed Eva. "I'm sorry - do forgive me. Gentlemen - Eva, Eva - my work colleagues."

"And his friends," Josiah intervened, stepping forward to meet Eva. "I'm Josiah - it's a pleasure to meet you."

The rest introduced themselves to Eva, but Ezra managed to save her from Buck's magnetism in time to head out for lunch together. That left the rest of them to argue over McDonalds and Pizza Hut.


"Your friends certainly are interesting. I thought Buck was going to pick you up and try to shake my identity out of you."

"Yes. Good timing."

"I aim to please. You were enjoying yourself quite a bit."

"I always enjoy torturing Mr. Wilmington."

"Is that animal magnetism bit for real?" she asked with a giggle.

He shot her a wry look. "He seems to be very serious about it."

He pulled his car up to a very elegant restaurant. "They do a wonderful lobster bisque here," he told Eva as he handed keys to the hovering valet. He escorted her into the restaurant. "Reservations for Standish," he said to the maitre'de. "I do enjoy this place." They were seated at a window with a nice view of the milling traffic.

Ezra entertained Eva throughout lunch with anecdotes about the men she had just met.
He finished a story trying to control his laughter. "JD jumped on his desk and refused to come down. Chris got so mad at Buck for that trick." Both burst out laughing. They were so caught up in their stories that they never noticed the man with the camera.

Eva dropped Ezra back at work then went shopping. What else was a self-respecting woman going to do when visiting a new city? You never knew what you would stumble across. She stopped to admire the window display. "Hmm, now how would that look on me?" She saw a man reflected in the glass. I know him. Miguel! What was he doing here? She made herself take a deep breath. 'Don't be ridiculous, Eva. None of Adair's people know where you are. You left. You have nothing to worry about. Now back to that outfit.' She continued on and soon forgot ever having seen the dark man in the window.


Ezra was swamped. The minute he got back from lunch his colleagues attacked him with questions about 'the drop dead beautiful woman' as Buck put it. "What on earth was a woman like that doing with you?" he asked humorously.

Ezra sniffed, "What makes you think a lady like Eva wouldn't be interested? Now, unlike you, dare I saw it, gentlemen, I have work to do." He turned away from the crowd of men and settled in at his desk.

"Okay, boys. Leave Ez alone and get back to work. You can grill him later."

"Ahhh Chris," Buck grumbled.

"Later," came the firm reply.

Ezra let out a sigh of relief. Finally, a moment's peace, he did like the men he worked with, but they could be so…pushy. Eva was none of their business. He would finish up with work and then he and Eva had plans to go swing dancing. He grinned happily. It had been sometime since he had gone out for a night of dancing. He couldn't wait.


Both Eva and Ezra stumbled into his apartment a little after one. He did have to work the next day after all. They had gone out, had an evening as wild as any college student, and were high on adrenaline.

"Oh Ez, that was great. I haven't done that in quite some time. To think I almost gave up nights like this."

Ezra, grinning and stumbling around his kitchen getting them drinks, turned. "Almost gave up what?"

"If I had married Adair, I wouldn't be allowed to do this. I couldn't have gone out for a wild night of fun. It's not proper for royalty."

He snorted, "Your kidding right. Have you seen what the European royalty gets up to on a regular basis?"

"Oh, I know. Most of them are spoiled and wild, but not the royal family of Donnamein. They represent propriety, poise, and respectability. None of this divorce and scandal nonsense that so many of the other royal families have been indulging in." Her voice became bitter at the end.

"You've decided not to marry him."

"You're right." She slid done onto the sofa. "I didn't realize that I had made the decision. I'm not marrying him." She smiled at Ezra with tears in her eyes. "People like us don't marry." She tried to make her voice light but it cracked midway. Ezra sank onto the sofa next to her and pulled her close. Slowly she started to sob. He rested his cheek on the top of her head and tightened his arms.

"People like us don't marry. That doesn't mean we don't want to."

The early morning sunlight streamed in soft and pale. Gently, bird song filled the night cool air. A loud shriek sounding, "Ezra!" filled the room. "Damn it, Ezra. Wake up! We have got such a big problem."

Ezra Standish, undercover agent extraordinaire, did the only thing he could. He fell out of bed. "What's wrong? Who's dead?" he let out a moan. "Who do I have to kill?"

"Look at this. Just look at it." She shook a crumpled mass at him.


"This. We made the papers."

"We're in the papers?" He suddenly sounded more alert. "That's impossible. About what?"

"It's in the society pages, 'Ms. Eva Lanelle, who is to wed the dashing prince of Donnamein, Adair Movari, was seen last night with an unknown man.' There's a picture of us at the restaurant. Ezra?" she gasped. He had gone dead white.

"I'm okay. The article doesn't name me?"

"No, you're listed as 'unknown'."

"Thank God. In my line of work anonymity is paramount."

"Oh God! I didn't even think of that. They don't name you. Is that enough? I'm so sorry."

"There is nothing to apologize for. These things happen. I will look into the matter, but it may turn out to be nothing."

"I hope it's nothing. It's an inconvenience for me, but it's so much worse for you. If it leads to you getting hurt, I…"

"Don't borrow trouble. Now, why don't you go get ready for the day and I will make us breakfast?"

Eva smiled. "Alright. I want pancakes," she said over her shoulder as she left the room.

Ezra looked down at the picture. He was in shadow, not full on. He let out a deep breath. "Let this be nothing. I don't want to have to resign."


"Javier!…Javier!" the voice boomed through the apartment.

"Yes, your Highness?"

"Pack our things. We are going to Denver. Immediately!"

"Immediately? But…" the questing tone and look of confusion was stifled by the deadly glare of his master. "Right away, sir."

The servant scuttled away, leaving Prince Adair to crumble gracelessly into a chair, the picture in the paper still clutched in his hand.

"Oh, Eva, I thought you loved me." His head sagged for a moment, before it shot up again. With chin held high he proclaimed, "You will be my princess, Eva, no matter what I have to do!"


"It will be alright won't it, Buck? I mean, you can't really tell it's him and, and…. it don't even say his name," JD asked anxiously.

"Sure it will, kid," Buck tried to reassure him.

"But you know those paparazzi types," JD continued. "They'll be out hunting Eva and Ez as we speak."

"Yeah, and what about her fiancé?" Nathan added. "Surely, Ezra knew she was engaged? And to a prince! He was just asking for trouble."

"And he got it!" the irritated voice of Chris Larabee surprised everyone.

"What d'ya mean, cowboy?" asked Vin, "No one 'sides us could know that's Ez?"

"You'd think that," Chris replied, "but Travis has already been on to me, saying to get, and I quote, 'that southern jackass and his front-page-behind in my office - now!' "


"You really think he's in big trouble, Chris?" asked Josiah, his voice full of concern for his would-be son. "It's not like he did it on purpose."

"Makes a change," chipped in Nathan, gaining some glares for his little jab.

"Come on, Nate, you know as well as the rest of us that Ez would never jeopardize his job, or his friends on purpose," Buck said.

"I know, I know," replied a chastised Nathan. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like that."

"Look, we all know it was just bad luck," Chris conceded, "but it's happened now and Ez and us are gonna face this, together- when he gets here!"

Ezra was there. Well, he was almost in the building, the parking lot to be precise. He'd been sat there for the past ten minutes running through his head every possible excuse or explanation. And working on a speech that might be needed to save his job. The drive to work had been a less than pleasant affair for Ezra. Not that anything had happened, but paranoia had set in. Every glance his way had set him on edge. So much so that he couldn't even bring himself to get his usual coffee from Starbucks.

'Okay, Ezra - this is it, can't stay here for the rest of your life,' he said to himself. So, with a deep steadying breath, he got out of the car and headed into the building.

His walk to the elevator did nothing for his nerves. He could hear the chatter - he knew that they knew. 'This was not good.' he thought. 'If they know it's me, how many other people do?' He reached the elevator and punched in 7.

"Hey! Morning, Standish," Guy Johnson of Team 4 slipped in through the closing doors.

'Oh great!' "Good Morning."

"Nice picture, eh? And what a babe! Bet that prince will be setting his army after you eh - stealing away his bride," Johnson snickered and nudged Ezra with his elbow.

'I HAVE NOT STOLEN HIS BRIDE, YOU BRAINLESS HEATHEN!' Ezra screamed, inside. "Whatever," he calmly responded.

"Bet it'll make your job harder, eh? Those gun runners will be asking 'bout your girl." Hiding a smirk, Johnson continued his goading, "And the press! They'll hound you for pictures and quotes - bet they're all on their way here now to interview you."

Ezra never thought about that, and for just a split second his mask of indifference towards Johnson slipped.

"Well, see ya in the papers, Princey," Johnson said smugly as he exited onto his floor.

The doors shut and Ezra closed his eyes and hung his head. 'I couldn't possibly do my job properly now,' he sighed. 'Oh God, I'm going to have to quit - my life could be in danger. Huh - my life? The lives of my teammates, or Eva's!'

With his mindset, Ezra changed direction and headed to AD Travis' office - he was left, in his mind, with no option. For the sake of the team, and for Eva, he had to resign. His job was finished - his life.