Toni and Jax sit in front of the wood stove, waiting for Mike to get back in from his hike to his wifi hotspot in the freezing drizzle.  What are you thinking?  Toni asks him.  Just about how I’ve made a complete mess of my life.  Been there.  Toni tells him.  And I’m not out of the woods yet, she admits.  Jax looks over at her.  Mike is crazy about you.  I think he’s going to walk away when he finds out I’m pregnant, she admits.  What?  Jax responds.  Las Vegas, Toni sighs.  When are you going to tell him?  Any thoughts?

Jax looks into the fire.  Learn from my mistakes.  Tell him, Toni.  And the sooner the better.  But then I’ll lose him.  Jax thinks about this for awhile.  Write him a letter, then take the truck and head out for New Orleans.  This cold front isn’t going to let up; I don’t want you getting sick.

They hear the sound of wood splitting, and Mike soon comes into the cabin with an armload of firewood, and heads back outside again into the drizzle, and repeats this process until the woodbox is full.  Then he takes off his wet outerwear and hangs them up.  We waited to eat until you got back, Toni tells him.  Everything is in the oven staying warm.  What did you make?  Steak, potatoes.  Green bean casserole.  That sounds amazing; just let me get changed.

What’s news from the outside world?  Jax asks.  Where to start?  Start with good news.  Bettina kissed Simon.  Toni’s mouth drops open wide, before she remembers to cover it with her hand.  This is straight from Simon, he tells Toni.  Which leads me to the bad news…Lana’s in jail again.  Toni and Jax stare at him.  She shot a mountain lion that was ready to jump on her friend, Tim.  One shot behind the ear from 12 yards.  She’s even more famous now.  They locked her up for illegal poaching.  The taxidermist turned them in.  Bettina wanted a rug made for their apartment.  Toni laughs.  And Rolf got in another fight at the club.  What? Actually, Sam did all the fighting.  She demolished a rapper’s entourage, then started throwing around the bouncers, while Rolf and a rapper named Buck Neezy drank champagne together.  The Youtube video has gone viral.  And get this, Sam turned around and gave Buck Neezy a call me gesture behind Rolf’s back.  Everyone in the hood is talking about it.  He’s got such street cred now.

What’s going on with Jon?  Jax asks.  He’s working on preparing his music appreciation class material.  Oh yeah, he and Rolf are forming their own metalcore band, Uppsala.  And are going to put something together this summer.  Did they invite you to join? Toni asks Mike.  Of course.  We’ll talk about it, he tells her.

***

Where’d Toni go?  Mike asks Jax the next day, noticing that the 4WD is gone.  She went to town.  I’m heading up to wifi rock.  I want to call Bettina.  Toni say when she’s getting back?  But Jax has already shut the door to the cabin.  Mike watches the fire for awhile, then goes back to his room to get a book.  He sees a note folded up on his bed.  BURN AFTER READING.

Mike,  

I’m pregnant.  In my defense, I was engaged and in love and it was Las Vegas. But I gambled it all away; you know the “don’t wife that” story.  I haven’t told him.  There is not a doubt in my mind that he would do the right thing and marry me if I did.

Jax knows.  I told him yesterday.  He told me to learn from his mistake and just tell you, the sooner the better.

In an ideal world, you’d be able to get past it.  We’d be married at the courthouse with Jax and Bettina as witnesses, and your name goes on the birth certificate, and my child will never call anyone but you daddy.  You were there for me once, and I believe that you’ll be there for me again.  Don’t rush back.

                                                        Love,

                                                        Toni

Mike carries the note to the fire and opens the door and pitches it in.  Then sits down and watches the flames.

Jax comes in around sunset.  Mike has some chicken gumbo soup simmering on the propane stove.  They eat in silence.  What did Bettina have to say?  That Lana will be out soon.  Senator Johns is flying there to get her released into his custody.  Mike nods.  You set here? Mike asks.  Jax nods.  Then I’m going to head out in the morning.  Where are you going?  Iceland.  Gotta train for a fight.  What do you want me to tell Toni?  Jax asks.  Mike is silent.  Who would know?  Jax asks.  She hasn’t told anyone.   She’s going to start to show soon, and people are going to ask questions.  Hurtful questions.  Whose is it?  Do you even know?

What would you do?  Mike asks Jax.  You knew Toni had a past before you started going with her.  True, Mike tells Jax.  But not only is she pregnant, but the father is some steely-eyed CIA hitman.  If your name is on the birth certificate, he’ll never know.  He’ll know, Mike replies, subtracting nine months is easy math.  Lana and he are close, Jax says.  She’ll keep him in line.  What if he already knows?  Jax asks suddenly.  Think about it.  He took out the head of the Ortega cartel.  Imagine what kind of intelligence and planning that went into something like that.  So he already knows and is letting Toni decide, Mike says.  Jax nods.  I wonder if Lana knows; it wouldn’t surprise me if they talked about it.  She’d pressure him to step up if she knew.  Jax nods.  True.

What did Toni say?  Jax asks.  She spelled out her ideal.  That we get married at the courthouse with you and Bettina as witnesses.  She’s not pressuring me.  She wrote that I shouldn’t rush back.  You asked what I would do, Jax says.  I’d raise the stakes.  Toni is the prize.  You win the fight, you get her.  You lose, then you don’t deserve her.  Mike nods.  I’m heading out tonight for Iceland.  Won’t be able to sleep anyway.

***

Jax calls Toni the next day from Wifi rock.  Hey, Jax.  You make it back into town okay?  She takes a deep breath. I’m driving the truck home.  Jax chuckles.  I’ve thought about it, Jax.  I’m getting rid of my Volvo.  You handled it perfectly with Mike, Jax tells her.  He’s gone to Iceland to train with Gunnar.  We both think that Kostamo knows that you’re pregnant, and is letting you chose.  <Silence>  I guess that makes sense.  I had a feeling that Lana knew somehow.

I want you to do something for me, Toni, Jax tells her.  What?  Purple isn’t reliable anymore.  I want you to see that Lana gets your Volvo, figure out a way.  Don’t let her know that I’m paying you blue book for it.  I’ll take care of it, Toni says.  How’s the drive?  I’m in the middle of a good talking book.  Which one?  Breakout by Joel Osteen.  Hmm.  Jax grunts. Oh yeah, thought you might want to know, but the sun is finally shining here.

***

A day later, the blacked out Dodge pickup with “Pure Michigan” plates and a “Support Your Local Hooker”  fishing decal in the rear window, pulls up at Jax’s mansion.  Toni lets herself in, heads up to her room, and goes straight to bed.

When she comes downstairs late the next morning, she goes over and finds Sam in the office with a headset on, talking in Dutch, and waves at her.  Sam gestures five minutes.

Toni makes herself breakfast, and texts Bettina, Jax, her dad, and her boss that she’s made it back into town safely.  How was the fishing?  Sam asks when she comes out.  Did you see what I caught in the drive?  Sam snickers.  It was wet and cold and overcast the whole time I was there.  Jax told me that the sun finally came out the day after I left.  Did you have a good time?  Mike and I cleared the air.  What does that mean?  It means stay out of it, Sam.  He’s in Iceland training for his fight. I do need your help with something though.  What?  I want Lana to have my Volvo.  Kostamo gave it to me, and I’m going to give it to her.  I want you to give her the title and the keys.  She won’t accept it; my fiance already offered to buy her a car.  You’ll figure something out, Toni tells her.

***

Lana and Riley and Deluca walk out of night school and head to the parking lot, the guys chatting away.  Lana stops suddenly.  My car’s gone.  They hurry over and see a fresh oil spot where it was parked next to Deluca’s Escalade.  Hop in, I’ll give you a ride home.  Call it in tomorrow when you’re fresh.  You’ll need your VIN and all the insurance documents anyway.  True, Lana says.  She gets in the back seat, and looks out the window all the way home.  Nobody speaks.  She sees Toni’s car parked in her spot on the curb.  Thanks Deluca, she says as she hops out.  See you next week, he replies.  Goodnight, Riley.  Goodnight, he tells her and watches her walk briskly to the house.

Lana opens the door and sees Bettina sitting on the couch waiting for her.  We need to talk, Bettina says.  Where’s Toni?  She and Sam stopped by earlier.  She left something for you on the counter.  Bettina, Lana sighs, and plops down on the couch.  Not another word, Bettina tells Lana.  Go look.  Lana sighs and goes over to the counter.  She sees the key fob to the Volvo sitting on top of its title.

Lana,

I’m giving you my car.  I’ve got Mike’s Dodge Ram now.  We’ll have to stop by the DMV one evening and fill out the paperwork to transfer the title.

                                                                  Love,

                                                                  Toni    

PS.  Sam and I boosted Purple.  Heh heh.

There’s a loud pounding on the door fifteen minutes later.  Who is it?  It’s me, open up.  Bettina opens the door partway.  Riley sees her in shorts and a tshirt.  Simon, we’re ready for bed.  Come back tomorrow.  I need to talk to Lana.  It’s fine, Bettina, Lana says from the couch.  Riley sees Lana stretched out on the couch, with a hand across her chest.  Bettina puts Lana’s feet back on her lap, and goes back to rubbing them.  Riley stares at her toned and tanned legs.

Bettina looks at Simon with her eyebrows raised.   Well?  You and I are going car shopping tomorrow, Lana, Simon tells her.  Simon, you know I love you, Lana replies with her eyes closed.  I’m not taking no for an answer, and you’re not going to put me off.  Simon insists.  Take a look on the counter, Bettina tells Simon.  Simon sees the title for the Volvo and Toni’s note.  He shows the note to Riley.  Are you going to accept it?  Riley asks.  I’m afraid the carnappers will harm Purple if I don’t give into their demands, Lana says with a smile.  Everyone laughs.  Were you in on this?  Simon asks.  I gave them the spare key, Bettina admits.  And that’s why Lana is getting a twenty-five minute footrub, for each minute of suffering I put her through.  Now goodnight, guys.  Lock the door behind you.

Simon calls Toni.  Hey partner.  Tiger, you are a piece of work.  What did she say?  That she’s afraid that the carnappers will harm Purple if she doesn’t give into their demands.  Simon hears Toni repeat this to Sam.  Nice work, Simon tells Toni.  It was Jax’s idea.  How’s he doing?  He’s going all Grizzly Adams, growing out a beard.