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Lucy was behind them in a flowing swimsuit cover-up. Her gray hair was still dry, so apparently she hadn't even had time to get in the pool before whatever the current crisis was had struck.

"What the hell is going on?" I asked.

Peter said something, but Dixie was yelling so much that I couldn't understand it.

I realized that part of the problem was that Donna was yelling at Edward in the room behind us, so that we were getting a double dose of yelling women. Edward's voice was a low, angry rumble; he was holding on to his control and his temper. Donna seemed to feel that all bets were off, because she was cursing like a sailor.

It was Wyatt who leaned in and told me, "Peter said he doesn't know how to put her down without hurting one of them again."

I wasn't really sure what Peter meant about getting hurt again, but I looked at Peter and the woman across his shoulders and did some quick physical math. "We're too short to make a smooth transfer," I said.

"I'm not," Nicky said, "but I'm working."

"We'll cover for you," Rodina said.

Nicky looked at Bram. "Let's help the kid."

Bram shook his head. "I'm working. Nothing takes precedence over that."

Bernardo came over to us. "I'm not on the job."

"Let's do it," Nicky said.

They moved toward the struggling pair. Peter's lips moved again, but I still couldn't hear him. Nathaniel leaned in and said, "Peter said be careful, she bites and scratches."

"Look at Peter's right hand," Micah said.

I looked and there were bloody nail marks in Peter's hand, where he was still fighting to keep the leg from kicking along with the other leg that he hadn't managed to pin. I saw the bloody marks on his thigh about the time that Nathaniel said, "Jesus, look at his thigh."

"I didn't know Dixie had that kind of fight in her."

The men shook their heads in agreement.

Bernardo grabbed the one leg that Peter hadn't managed to pin. Dixie started to scream louder, which I hadn't thought possible. "Let go of me! Help me! Someone help me!" But no matter what words she was using, she didn't sound scared; she sounded pissed.

Nicky wrapped his hands over the one hand that Peter was using to pin her wrists. Bernardo got both her ankles in his hands. They said something to Peter, or to each other, but all I could hear was Dixie calling them sons of bitches and to let her go. I'd underestimated Dixie; she was hell on wheels when she finally got going. It was going to take all three men to get her off of Peter's shoulders and to the floor without hurting her or letting her hurt any of them. If they'd been willing to hurt her, it would have been easier, a lot easier. She certainly hadn't minded hurting Peter. I wondered where she'd bitten him.

Bernardo and Nicky held and lifted as Peter did a sort of overhead press with the main part of Dixie's body. All that weight lifting paid off, because her body weight didn't seem to be hard for him. What was hard was that the "weight" was wiggling and struggling as hard as it could. He didn't exactly drop her, but he wasn't able to hold on to her past a certain point, and Bernardo and Nicky suddenly had all of Dixie's body weight just at the ankles and wrists. They didn't drop her, but she probably thought they were going to, because she stopped struggling as hard but gave a nice blood-curdling scream. If hotel security hadn't been alerted before, someone was sure as hell going to call now. Great.

They laid Dixie's body on the floor but didn't let go of her. Bernardo pinned her legs between his arms and body, which cut down on a lot of the squirming. Nicky was having more issues with her arms, because when he tried to change his grip, he got closer to her face and she snapped at him like a dog. Fuck.

The noise brought Edward and Donna out of the far room, so they were with us when Rodina joined Nicky and took one wrist and arm. Dixie went wild as they pinned her more securely to the floor. She kept trying to bite something or drive her nails into someone. It was like she didn't know where she was, or didn't care.

Peter went to his mother and said, "She's your friend, Mom. Tell her we'll let her go if she stops trying to hurt us."

Donna went forward reluctantly, as if she were a little afraid of the struggling woman, too. I didn't blame her. I was pretty sure that Dixie would hurt any flesh she could reach. She seemed like she'd gone a little crazy. I wasn't sure Donna would be able to calm her down. It looked like a kind of violent hysteria.

Donna bent over so that she could be sure that the other woman could see her, but Dixie didn't stop struggling or screaming. Donna yelled her name until the struggling slowed down, and then she told the other woman, "If you stop struggling, they'll let you go. Do you understand that, Dixie? If you stop trying to hurt them, they'll just let you go."

The woman on the floor stopped moving and just lay staring up at Donna.

"I think you can let her go," Donna said.

Edward said, "Don't let go of her until she says something coherent to Donna."

Donna started to protest that, but Peter stepped into her line of sight again and pulled his T-shirt down at the neck to show a bloody bite impression of Dixie's teeth in the top of his shoulder and back. She'd damn near taken a piece out of him.

"Talk to her, Mom."

Donna looked a little pale after seeing the bite and him holding up his bleeding hand. She didn't argue with him anymore, just went back to talk to Dixie. She kept talking until Dixie started talking in full sentences and seemed to be making sense. Even then, when Bernardo, Nicky, and Rodina let go of her, they counted to three, let go at the same time, and moved back fast from her. She actually lay there for a second or two, as if she didn't realize they'd let her go. Donna offered her hand and Lucy came to take her other hand, and together they got her on her bare feet. Dixie stood there in her yellow one-piece bathing suit holding her friends' hands. She seemed very quiet, too quiet, as if she'd gone somewhere deep inside herself. It was almost as unnerving as the screaming and fighting had been. What the hell was going on?

Peter stood to one side, close to Donna, but not too close to Dixie. I think he'd had all of her he wanted for the day, or forever. "She's your friend, Mom, and this is your fault."

"What are you talking about, Peter?"

Lucy chimed in, "Dixie was determined to tell Becca at the pool. The little girls were playing together, being so happy."

Dixie looked angry again at that. She jerked her hands away from the other women and backed up into the corner where there was a chair, but she didn't sit down in it. She stood beside it with the wall at her back, one hand on the chair as if to steady herself.

Donna had gone pale. "Did she tell Becca?"

"No," Peter yelled, "because I stopped her."

"He tried being polite first," Lucy said, "but Dixie wouldn't shut up. She said that Becca deserved the truth, that she should know what kind of father she was getting."

"You did not," Donna said, staring at Dixie.

Dixie gripped the back of the chair hard enough for her hand to mottle with the pressure. "She does deserve the truth, just like you deserve a husband that won't cheat on you."

"I told you that it's not true, Dixie. Ted isn't cheating on me with anyone. If you tell Becca the lie, then I don't . . . I don't think I can forgive you for it."

"You'd throw twenty years of friendship away over me telling the truth?"

"Becca doesn't need to know everything about our grown-up problems. Her therapist explained that some things are not supposed to be shared with children until you have run out of options, and it's not true, so there are lots of options."

"Why did you tell Dixie at all? Even when you believed it was true, why tell her?" Peter asked.

"I have a right to talk to my friends."

"Not when it impacts Becca and me to this degree. You're the mom, the grown-up. That means that you suck it up and deal instead of messing up our lives because you can't deal."

"How dare you talk to me like that."

"If you don't want me to talk to you like that, then act

better, do better." He was waving his arms wide as he talked, big, upset gestures. Donna looked small beside him, but she didn't flinch and she didn't give ground.

"I'm sorry that Dixie didn't keep my confidence, but it was bothering me more than I thought it would, Peter. I thought I could do it. It was knowing that I've never had Ted's undivided attention. Them getting involved in a case on our wedding trip proves that even if they're not having an affair, it's still true."

"What's true, Mom?"

"That there are parts of him that he never shares with me, but only with Anita. It hurts me. Don't you understand that?"

"You aren't a marshal, Mom. He can't share work with you."

"But he shares with her in ways he doesn't share with Bernardo."

"What made you think they were more than just best friends?" Peter asked.

She gave him a scathing look, one hand on her hip. "You see how they are together."

"Yes, I do, which is why I'm asking the question that I should have asked months ago. What made you think they were more than friends?"

"He talks to her more than he talks to me. He confides in her the way a man does to his wife."

"Maybe some men, but Ted's not like that, Mom."

"I've been married before, Peter. I know how marriage works and what husbands do."

"You know how your first marriage worked. You know how Dad was with you, but from what I remember, he was nothing like Ted. They are such different men, Mom. Didn't it ever occur to you, or your therapist, that they might be very different husbands? If they're very different men, then they would be just as different in a relationship with you."

"I think I know more about marriage and relationships than you do, Peter."

"You've seen Anita with Micah and Nathaniel--hell, with Nicky now. She treats them completely different from how she treats Ted."

"I've always valued how respectful Anita and Ted are when they're around us. I know they're not having a physical affair, but I appreciate that they modify their emotional behavior when they're around me," Donna said.