The Owl and the Angel

Chapter 1

The tension was thick in the Chairman's office as Mr. Raines explained to his children his newest plan. The twins were to marry someone whom he would approve and they were to produce offspring. Within two years.

Parker, who had not wanted to think about marriage since Tommy had died, was livid. Lyle seemed to take this new order in stride. Nothing he ever did was good enough anyway, so he had no doubt Raines would say he failed in this in some way. No matter if he did exactly as he was told.

Raines had given them both a list of pre-approved matches for them. He said he would welcome any other suggestions but they would be thoroughly scrutinized. Parker hadn't heard of any of the people on her list aside from one. Cox. She rolled her eyes and knew the choices wouldn't be any better if she did any research on these guys. At least she knew a few things about him even if he did make her skin crawl.

Raines seemed pleased that she had made her decision so quickly and called Cox in to give him the news. Cox seemed overjoyed at the news. He couldn't linger to celebrate - he had some more work to complete that day but he promised that he would talk to her later about the arrangements. Parker had cringed slightly when he took her hand and kissed it before leaving.

Lyle looked thoroughly amused. He quickly discarded his entire list and made an alternate suggestion. Someone he had "known" in Africa. They kept in touch and he knew she had finally divorced her husband. And her project in Africa was nearly completed. She was set to come back any day.

Raines agreed to evaluate her potential and get back to him about his selection. He dismissed the twins and they left the office. Parker declared that she needed a shower after Cox had touched her. Lyle rolled his eyes and told her that he was going to do more than kiss her hand in a few weeks when they got married.

Lyle followed her down to Sydney's lab and they bickered the whole time as they walked the halls. The sibling rivalry had reached a climax with them but to Raines' dismay, it was nothing more than words. There was never any real heat behind anything they said, maybe some underlying sexual tension from Lyle, but no real hostility. It had seemed they had reached some sort of unspoken truce. Without Jarod trying to put a wedge between them, and no real competition for the Chair, they had settled into a weird friendship. They thought it was hilarious to go to dinner together and people would think they were on a date. They never corrected them. People could think what they wanted.

With no news on the Jarod front, Lyle left Parker in the lab and went off to call his little friend in Africa. Sydney just watched the twins with an amused expression, vaguely remembering times before the war with his brother and the bickering they had done. Life had been so care free then, but that was many years ago.

Parker divulged to him Raines' latest demands and Sydney was appalled. Certainly Raines did not think this was going to end well for any of them. Parker and Cox were not a suitable match and Lyle was not exactly a family oriented person. Certainly not a suitable father or husband for anyone. Sydney would be worried about any child under Lyle's dubious care for any amount of time.

Sydney questioned, not for the first time in his life, just what the hell Raines was thinking. Parker knew exactly what it was - continue the bloodline. The tainted, cursed Parker bloodline. To ensure the future of the Centre. She just hoped the ghoul would die soon. It was the only way to ensure he would keep his hands off her children.

Miss Parker left Sydney to his work and went back to her office. She had been given a few assignments to fill her time now that Jarod had been noticeably quiet these last few months. She almost wondered if they had caught him but were just acting like they hadn't. Just to keep everyone in line. To keep her there.

It is something that her father… Mr. Parker would have done. Raines may be her biological father but he would never replace Daddy. And she would never call him her father.

Miss Parker walked with her head held high through the halls. She never let anyone see behind the wall. Her facade. That would be suicide. She trusted no one, with the possible exception of Sydney and Broots. But Broots was weak, he would crumple if pressed. She didn't blame him though. He had a daughter to worry about.

Her assistant told her that Mr. Cox had visited but he had told him that she had not yet returned from her meeting with Mr. Raines. She retreated to her office to process what had happened. It wasn't even noon and she had a fiance and a migraine. She self medicated and got to work looking at budget reports from the after school program that was starting in the fall. She was sure it was just some sort of front to find kids with special abilities. She had no faith in this organization's benevolent work any longer.

She worked through lunch, trying to forget her morning meeting and subsequent betrothal. It was ridiculous. Her assistant, Brad?, came in with Mr. Cox around 4 that afternoon. Parker dismissed Brad (or was it Ben?) and Mr. Cox sat across from her. He looked so smug. She wanted to slap that smirk off of his face.

"Miss Parker, I have to say, I am quite surprised at your selection today. I can't wait to start our life together. My understanding is that we are to marry by the end of the summer." It was already the end of June. No need to prolong the engagement. It was inevitable.

"Yes, I suppose the sooner the better." She didn't elaborate. She didn't want to show open hostility to him. Not yet. Better to play nice. She was under no illusions about Cox. He was dangerous and still a wild card. There was a lot that she did not know about him.

"I do want you to know that I will take care of you. You are exquisite. And I hope that you allow me to show you how I care for you."

He looked sincere but she was not fooled. Parker inwardly rolled her eyes. He barely knew her, how could he care about her? "Thank you, Mr. Cox. I am sure that we'll have a happy marriage." She was not sure about that. But she had to play the game. This was not love. This was a forced marriage. The only other option was death. Or leaving everything behind.

"Shall we go to dinner this evening to celebrate? There are several details that should be discussed and we do have a deadline."

Dinner with Cox was the last thing she wanted to do that evening. Parker had a bottle of scotch that was calling her name. "I have a few more things to finish before leaving but that would be fine." And she needed a drink or two before going anywhere with him.

Cox smiled at her acceptance, however reluctant it was. "Shall I collect you around 6 or did you want to go home first?" He was eager to start what would be a short courtship. But he didn't want her to regret her decision.

"You can pick me up at my house around 6:30. You know where it is right?" She knew he did.

"Yes, I believe I can find my way." He stood and gave her another smile. He really was a lot happier than she was about this whole situation.

Parker watched Cox walk out of her office and she let out a deep sigh of relief. She definitely needed a drink. Parker finished reading through the budget reports and made her notes to them. She planned to submit them tomorrow. Now, she would go home and act like she was putting in the effort with Cox.

Her house was her refuge. She rarely had visitors. But she liked it that way. She could tell that something was different when she entered her living room. Someone had been in her house. She wondered if it was Daddy. She looked through all the rooms, the attic, Mama's studio. She found nothing. Nothing was out of place. Nothing left behind. She didn't like it. She really needed Broots to come out and do a sweep of her house again.

She didn't have time for this. Parker had a feeling Cox would be there early. He was a punctual person and it wasn't by accident. She showered and put on a nice dress. She really didn't know why she cared how she looked. It was Cox. He stuffed dead animals for fun. And committed some occasional arson. He was as much of a sociopath as her brother.

But she had already agreed to marry him. It had been such a hasty decision. She was already kicking herself for being so rash about it. And he seemed so smug about it. Like he knew she would pick him.

As predicted he rang the doorbell at 6:29 and she greeted him with a thin smile. He had apparently changed suits. His shirt was not as high collared as it normally was but still buttoned neatly with a firmly knotted tie.

Cox definitely appreciated the effort she made and put a possessive hand on her back as he walked her to his car. He opened the door for her and she caught him looking appreciatively at her long legs before closing the door.

Parker shuddered as he walked around to climb in the driver's seat. "At least you didn't bring the pickup truck tonight."

Cox smirked. He knew she had followed him as he looked for new friends. "I only drive the truck when I'm searching for new friends to give their second life. Whether I go hunting or they find me." He gave her another smile but she was chilled by this one. It wasn't a warm smile.

"You and Lyle spend some time in the woods together?"

"Can't say we have but I would be open to it. Does he hunt?" Surely he knew the answer to that.

"Hmm, I think so. I know he likes camping. Getting back to nature. Revitalizing his soul is what he calls it. " Lyle's hobbies creeped her out just like Cox's. She looked out the window. She couldn't handle Cox's leering glances up her legs. She was about to say something to him but they pulled into the restaurant. He opened the door for her and held his hand out for her to take. Acting like a gentleman.

Cox placed his hand on her back again. She took a steadying breath and tried to relax. She should get used to it. He seemed to enjoy leading her around.

Dinner was not as awkward as it could have been. He told her about medical school and she told him about how she had gone to Harvard Business School. She idly wondered if they had ever seen each other around town.

He mentioned that he used to go out with some friends to a bar that she had frequented. And that he had been rejected quite a few times by the young women there. She took a long drink as she thought about all the guys she had dumped her drink on during her time there, but she didn't remember ever crossing paths with him.

Cox didn't mention the smirk she wore as they ate dinner. He had thought she looked familiar when he first saw her picture. Now he knew for certain. He had never approached her but his friend had and she had poured her fruity drink on his pants. She wasn't even sorry. He had known she was a ball buster when he first saw her in the bar in Cambridge. The cold eyes. The smirk. She had been untouchable then.

But now, Parker would be his by the end of summer. Cox smiled to himself as he thought about running his fingers across her perfect skin. Soon. He would wait. There was no rush. They had plenty of time.