“Ok, what do we know about this woman?” Alan asked Charlie and Colby.
“It’s been almost five months and she hasn’t dumped Don’s ass.” Charlie said.
“Ok, so she’s a masochist.”
“Have no fear.” Colby held up a file “Megan got her plate numbers last week.” Colby flipped open the file. “Rebecca Evens, 31, born in Maine, no family in the area, elementary school teacher, masters in art and early childhood development. Parking tickets, owns a small condo near her school, busted on her 18th birthday for holding a joint, plead no contest, no attempt to have the files wiped or sealed. Registered Green Party. Donates to various nonprofits, nothing too fanatical, and filed an insurance claim for extensive car damage about five months ago with Donald Eppes signing as a witness to the damages.”
Alan looked sideways at Colby. “I find it really creepy that you can know that.”
“Big Brother is watching.”
“All right,” Alan said clapping his hands together. “Ground rules for the night. Colby, no shop talk, we want it to look like Don has a life.”
“Charlie, no cognitive emergence or P vs. NP.”
“People don’t like feeling like idiots.”
“And you.” Alan pointed to Esther already in her highchair. “No throwing food tonight.” Esther giggled and slapped her hands on the tray.
“So what do we talk about?” Colby asked.
“Normal stuff. Music, baseball, anything, and hide that file.”
They were still scrabbling with last minute table settings when the door opened.
“Hey guys.” Don called out as he opened the door, secretly hoping for no response, that somehow everyone had forgotten.
“In the dining room.” He heard Charlie call out.
Don found his family scrubbed up with their best behavior faces on and had a sudden sinking feeling. “Everybody this is Rebecca Evens. Rebecca, my father Alan Eppes, my brother Charlie, and Colby Granger.”
There were handshakes and pleasantries all around.
“And the one drooling is Esther Eppes.” Esther looked in the direction of her name and decided the new person was uninteresting and went back to her Cheerios. Don couldn’t help but remember Charlie at the same age.
As the night progressed, Don was impressed at his family’s behavior. The small talk was reasonably normal and thankfully, Esther made a good talking point.
“So,” Alan finally asked, “Don, as usual, has told us nothing. How did you two meet?”
Rebecca gave a smile and Don winced. “It’s boring dad. Nothing special.”
“Maybe not for you.” Rebecca said.
Don began to turn red with embarrassment.
“So there I was have a very bad day.” Rebecca began. “Fight with the boss, lost my check book, running late, one of those days. So I’m looking for my keys, when I turn around and see this madman running towards me, waving his arms, then he takes a flying leap and tackles me to the ground just as what I think is a large rock goes over us, lands on the car parked ahead of mine, and explodes.”
“How did I miss this?” Colby asked.
“You were concussed.”
“Man, I knew I missed something good.”
“So Don looks down at me and says ‘Hi. Don Eppes. FBI. Sorry for the inconvenience.’”
Everyone at the table cracked up except for Don who put his face in his hand. “What was I supposed to say ‘Sorry about the grenades, are you free for coffee?’”
“Well a moment later, he jumps up and runs off, leaving me in the gutter, but with his business card mysteriously in my hand.”
“Ah. So, that’s the new technique for picking up women on operation.” Colby commented with a sage nod.
“Ten minutes later, I’ve finally managed to sit up, when who should waltz back around the corner.”
“Dragging two medics,” Don added in his defense.
“Dragging two medics is Mr. Sorry-for-the-Inconvenience himself, Don Eppes. My knight in shining FBI standard-issue body armor.”
“Why Don, mixing business and pleasure. We didn’t think you knew what the second one was.” Alan joked to his eldest son.
“Hey. I know how to have fun. I like baseball.”
“Don’s even agreed to coach the schools junior baseball team next month. He’s so good with the kids.”
Don looked at the cross eyed expressions on the face’s of his family. “What? I like kids,” He protested.
“And the happy dance you did when you realized you didn’t have to produce grandchildren?” Charlie asked.
“Joyful celebration of my brother’s good fortune and bounty.”
The table laughed and Rebecca smiled.
For her part, Rebecca was really warming up to this family of men.
She hadn’t just fallen into the arms of Don Eppes as much as she wanted to. They had both gone slow, a set of cracked ribs helping on that account. After their third date, Rebecca had stood at her front door with Don.
“I had a really nice time tonight,” she had said.
“So did I.”
“So, are we on for next week?”
“I don’t like the sound of that um.”
“I really like you Becca, but…”
“But?” Rebecca’s heart had sunk.
“Before we keep doing this, I’m thinking there needs to be a little buyer beware here.”
Don had taken a deep breath. “Ok, full disclosure. I’m a workaholic and a commitment phoebe. I eat at my dad’s three days out of five because I can’t stand my own cooking. The FBI makes me see a shrink every other week ‘cause they think I’m trigger happy, but I’m really good at what I do so they’re not going to pull me out of the field. My brother’s one of the 50 smartest people on earth, yet so in denial about his relationship with one of my male agents that after four years, they still describe it as a thing. We have all kinds of joint baggage from our childhoods and there’s this guy called Larry who only eats white food and will try to convince you time doesn’t exist. My team gets assigned serial killers, rapists, spree killers, school shooters, bombers and terrorists, and all that leaves a nasty residue on the inside of my skull and I really like you Becca and I really don’t want anything that’s screwed up about me to accidentally screw up you.”
Rebecca had blinked a few times trying to process everything that had just been said, but it was the last part that had really stuck out.
“Don, that’s actually really sweet.” She had given him a kiss on the cheek. “How about we take it one date at a time?”
And they had until she knew not just the sweet, funny Don Eppes that liked pizza and monster movies, but the Don Eppes that had to leave when duty called but always remembered to call her later and always made it up to her.