“Mommy, MOMMMM-MY!” I was awoken by Vivian, shaking me, the coffin lid was raised. I knew I had shut it, she must have pried it open. Something she had not done before, I shot straight up. Must be important. An emergency? Housefire?
As calmly as I could I asked her what was wrong.
“There is a woman at the door. She won’t go away and she keeps yelling for daddy.”
“Why did you not wake him?”
“I don’t know. I thought you would be easier to wake. Spunky and Roxy do not like her. He keeps growling and Roxy is under my bed and won’t come back out.”
“I’ll handle it. Thank you pumpkin.”
I carefully opened the door, attempting to stay out of the remaining daylight and last faint sunrays of the sunset. It was still too bright and very uncomfortable, even though it was getting dark.
“Can I help you?” I squinted against the brightness that felt uncomfortably hot on my face and could barely make out some female silhouette carrying a large box or basket of some sort.
“Does Blaine Cameron live here?”
“Who is asking?”
“An old friend. May I come in?”
I allowed it, only because the daylight thing was too cumbersome to deal with. In the hallway I realized that she was not holding a box, but a baby carrier, inside a sleeping infant.
Blaine now arrived too, looking drowsy and somewhat confused.
“Hello Blaine!” the woman now purred, and before anybody realized it, she embraced and kissed him, which he quickly stopped by pushing her away from him.
“What are you doing here?!” he asked.
“I wanted you to meet your son.” she held a carrier up to him.
I just about fell over, speechless.
“You have me confused with one of the many other men you – let’s call it – ‘hang’ around with, Priscilla. I can see how you could forget who you have and haven’t been intimate with. But I remember. So leave me be, roll the dice again and ruin someone else’s night.”
“Isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black? From what I recall you are not an innocent wallflower yourself. You could be a little nicer to me, since we are now forever connected thought our little boy.” she smiled.
I felt sick.
“I do not know why I am saying this, but I will just for the record, this is someone’s son, but he isn’t mine.”
“You do not have to lie, just because of her. She will have to deal with it. Just how I have to deal with your other kids.” The woman pointed at me as she spoke.
“Nobody will deal with anything here. Take the kid and your lies elsewhere!” Blaine took her by the arm that was not holding the baby carrier and roughly pulled her out the door and slammed it shut behind her. You could hear her protesting from the outside, banging on the door, when Blaine roared, angrier than I have ever seen him
“Stop this and beat it, you hussy! I am not interested in your games, and if you do not, I will help you leave!” his words echoed off the walls of the narrow hallway.
Silence afterwards. I just stared at Blaine. I had never seen him like this, never heard him talk to anybody like that, especially not a woman. A woman, who potentially had his child.
He now seemed like his usual self, embraced and kissed me as Vivian came out of her room.
“Daddy, who was that?”
“That was nobody, my angel.” he now snuggled his daughter.
I was still mostly a statue.
“But daddy, she said …”
“… never mind what she said. She was mistaken. She won’t bother us again. Have you done your homework yet?”
“Nooooooo…” she grimaced.
“Well, then I’ll see you when you are done, or you know what will happen … the big bad homework monster will get you!” Blaine play-attacked Vivian, tickling her, picking her up and throwing her in the air, till she just laughed and squealed for joy. Eventually she begged for mercy from the monster and went to do her homework.
Blaine closed the door to her room, then turned to me, his still stiff-as-a-board wife.
“Hey, you ok babygirl.”
“That woman …”
“Forget about her.”
“I can’t .. she said that you were …”
“I heard her. And she is wrong. No need to rack your pretty head about that.”
He pulled me into an embrace, began nuzzling at my neck and I knew where this was going, so I stiffly pulled away from him.
“Are you kidding me?!” I hissed.
“What? WHAT? Hello? There was just a woman in my house with a baby, claiming it to be yours and all you can think is sex? Have you lost all sense of reason here?”
“I told you, she is lying. I did not sleep with her. I know I am not bad in the sack, but not THAT good that I could father a child by immaculate conception.” he laughed.
“How can you laugh in a situation like this?!” I was bewildered, to say the least.
“What would you like me to do? A paternity test when I KNOW I cannot possibly be her baby daddy? You need to calm down and look at this logically, then you will see that all it is, is laughable.” Blaine tried to hold me again, I stepped away.
“Then how does she know you? And you clearly know her.”
“I never said I do not know her. She is some floozy who spends most of her life at a bar I used to play at. The end.”
“Yes, Vik, the end.”
“So you never slept with her?”
“Are you sure.”
“Mostly. You know how we man-whores are, sometimes we just randomly sleep around and forget about it…. ha ha ha..” he laughed.
“I do not find this funny in the least.” I didn’t. Not amused at all. But worried, shocked and hurt, somehow.
“Ok, so what would an approved reaction be? Shall I break into tears, even though I know I have done nothing wrong? Just because some loose woman stopped by my home with a story looking for money?”
“You forget that I have known you for a long time and I know that you used to not pass up any chance for some nookie.”
“Ah, I see. And the fact that I have changed and not been with a woman other than you since Olivia, that is irrelevant here?” he was very serious now.
“No other woman? I know of at least one, that angry pregnant one when you lived in Windenburg …” I stated entitled.
“Right, that one. I give you that, I did attempt to sleep with that one, but didn’t. So what else you got?”
“Oh, didn’t sleep with her either? Interesting, because when I found you after she left so angrily, you were buck-naked on the floor, drunk. Were you giving her a lesson in male anatomy? Since she was very pregnant when I saw her, I am pretty sure she didn’t need one. Or was that your kid, too?”
“I cannot believe we are having this conversation. Yeah, to tell you the truth I got hammered that night because my whole life was in shambles and I fully intended to do her .. sadly I was so friggin drunk that I couldn’t, which is why she was so angry. And even angrier when she left, because after I couldn’t perform, and she kept harping on and on about it until I told her that it would probably work if she put a paper bag over her ugly face and would finally shut up, just like her husband probably asked her to do when he knocked her up. That made her pretty furious, but at least she finally left me alone. And then you came. You know the rest. And no, also not my child. Thinking I should get a sign with those words on it.”
“So you want to tell me that after spending most your life since you hit puberty nailing any female that didn’t run away fast enough, you suddenly ‘saw the error of your ways’ and have been an honest man ever since?”
“Yup, about sums it up.” Blaine smirked.
“Yeah sure.” I shook my head, frowning.
“What is that supposed to mean?” his smirk faded
“Means I do not know what to believe. For all I know, you got bored and reverted back to man-whore.”
He just stood there, looking at me, then shook his head.
Next thing I knew he opened the door and left. I opened it again, it was now mostly dark out and called after him, asking where he was going, but never received an answer.
It had been three days now since our fight. Blaine had not returned, I had called his cell phone, but it rang in the house, he evidently left without it. I told Vivian some story about daddy visiting a friend. Tonight I was all alone, Vivian was at a friend’s house for a slumber party.
Eventually I could not take simmering in my worries anymore.
Ezio opened the door himself. He sometimes did, even though he had help working for him, often sent them home as he liked to be alone.
“Is this a bad time?” I asked.
“Not at all, come on in.” he stepped aside, let me enter and closed the door behind me, then looked me over.
“Got another one you could spare?” I pointed at the wineglass in his hand.
“Always. Come one, let’s go sit outside.”
I followed him to the raised deck. The view from here was amazing.
“So … are you going to tell me what is wrong or do we have to play 20 questions?” he asked as we both sat, leaned back in the comfy patio chairs, listening to the sounds of the ocean in the quiet of the last hours of the day.
“Nothing is wrong. Can I not just drop by for a visit? I mean, the time is a bit unusual, but as you know I am kinda limited nowadays …”
“Viktoria please. We were married for over 20 years. There is no need to put on a show for me. I am tired of fake people and trying to read between the lines from work, don’t need that at home now as well. Besides, I have told you many times never to play poker for money. Your face is an open book. Something is wrong, and my guess would be it is something between you and Blaine. Am I right?”
I just exhaled audibly, trying to keep from crying. Ezio stood up, pulled me up and into a tight embrace. I let it happen, it felt good. I needed a friend right now and a hug. I buried my face into his chest and just cried. He let me for a while, then pulled a fabric handkerchief, embroidered with his initials, out of the pocket of his sports coat and handed it to me to dry my eyes.
Once we sat back down, he refilled our glasses and as he handed one to me it all burst out of me. I told him everything that had transpired, the words just flowed like a river. Just silence after I was done.
He just sipped on his wine and looked over the ocean.
“None needed. You already know everything I could possibly say, but if you would like me to, I’ll say it anyway. I think you overreacted. No, let me finish. I think you know you overreacted. I think if you haven’t already, you’ll sit back and do the Math, then realize that he could not be the father, as he has been a vampire for years now, unable to go out during the day and I do not think he has gone anywhere without you other than those vampire society meetings. So unless you think he stopped in to quickly father a child with some woman on his way home to you, it makes no sense. I also know that one of the next things out of your mouth will be something along the lines of “oh, dearest Ezio, most amazing ex-husband in the entire world, could you possibly have one of your investigators take a look at this and see what they dig up about that woman?'”, to which I would of course agree. Did I miss anything?” he smiled at me, and I had to laugh.
“I would never call you that…”
“What dearest or ex-husband?”
“Oh stop. Thank you.” I smiled at him.
“Sure. Now go home and tell him you pulled a Vik on him, that you are sorry and then do stuff I do not even want to think about so he forgets all about this.” he grinned, my smile faded.
“Yeah, about that. I don’t know where he is. He left after our fight and has not come back since. I hope he is all right.” My eyes welled up again.
“Of course he is all right. He used to live on the streets when he was young. And he is a vampire. Have you checked with his friends?”
“He really does not have any … Caleb! OMG, I think that could be it. Would you mind if I..”
The doorbell chimed. It took a few minutes, then Caleb answered.
“Hi Vik. Come on in. He’s downstairs.”
I thanked Caleb and literally ran down the stairs. There he was. I felt a flood of relief wash over me. He was sitting on a fold out couch with some mismatched bedding on it. He looked at me, but didn’t get up, didn’t say anything. So he was still mad. Yikes. I went to sit next to him, preparing myself for some long apology speech hoping he would accept it. I reached for his hand, but he pulled away. For a split-second I was afraid, but to my relief he hugged me instead. A tight long embrace, at first nobody spoke, until I whispered in his ear
“I am sorry.”
“I am too.”
We kissed. I cried.
“Why did you not come home?”
“I wasn’t sure I was welcome.”
“I acted like an idiot. I am so sorry Blaine.”
“You did act like an idiot. And I cannot believe we had our first fight ever in the entire history of Blaine & Vik over this shit.”
“Yeah … pretty stupid. I was just so .. scared. And hurt.”
“Not as hurt as I was when I was on my way home tonight and saw you in the arms of your ex.”
“Blaine … I just needed to talk to someone. And he is always so … reasonable. He told me you might be here. He just … knows things. And he will have that woman investigated. In case she tries anything funny legally.”
“I am glad you are here. And I do have to say, I am starting to see what Ezio went through when you two were together and I popped up everywhere. Really hard for me not to wanna go punch him right now, even though I should probably thank him.”
We spoke, about everything, until it was just an hour before sunrise. He came home with me. Vivian and the pets were overjoyed.
It only took a few days till Ezio had news for us. The woman was well known to child protective services and the legal system. She had pulled that very same trick with several other men, trying to extort child support, some of her victims had already filed a lawsuit against her. Evidently she had three other children of various ages and had tried the same thing with each one, until they, one by one, had been taken away from her. The infant would likely face the same fate. Blaine had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time at some point in his life, and for some reason she had chosen him now. Ezio ensured us that she would be locked up for some time, as well as having her mental health evaluated.
“Addy what are you doing, kid?” Ezio held on to the heavy patio chair she attempted to turn around.
“Moving the chairs to face the ocean. View’s much prettier that direction.”
“Please leave them. I like them the way they are.”
“Because of the view that way, huh, daddy?”
“I like the beach.”
“The beach, or the HOUSE on the beach?” Addy teased him.
“Daddy! As if we both didn’t know which house. Mom’s house, of course. Just need to keep tabs on her, huh? Even now that you are happily dating.” Addy shook her head.
“I am not keeping tabs on your mother. I like the view, basta!”
“Sure you do, daddy.” she rubbed his hand on the arm of the chair.
“I worry about her. I do not think she fully thought her choice through. She might end up regretting it. If she does not already.”
“Daddy! Stop it. Mom’s happy. Let her be.”
“I am. I just wish she would have continued being happy as a human. This whole vampire business is more a curse than anything else.”
“Don’t tell that to Vitto, daddy.” Vitto was short for Vittorio, Ezio’s younger son and Addy’s half-brother.
“Of course not! It’s not the boy’s fault. He had no choice. If he did, I am sure he would have wanted to be human. He hates being a vampire and dreads puberty when all this unfolds for him. Poor kid, and I cannot help him. And now your mother, too. As if this wasn’t already a big enough mess.”
“Daddy, enough. By the way, how are things going with Melissa?”
“Well. Everything is well.”
“Why don’t you bring her over for dinner soon? Casey would love to meet her, as would Lauren.”
“Oh sweet daddy, you just cannot let her go, can you?”
“Let whom go? I let go a long time ago. May I remind you that I have been married twice since?”
“No need. How could I forget. One drama bigger than the next. Pretty sure your vampire hatred comes from you falling for that Lilith and the way she treated you.”
“Relationships fail. Happens every day, or there would be no need for so many divorce lawyers. Besides, I did not ‘fall’ for her. She wrapped me around her finger and got herself pregnant to reel me in. What was I supposed to do. Of course I married her.”
“So she raped you?” Adrianna asked amused.
“You little brat, I am not having this kind of discussion with my daughter! And I do not have vampire hatred. You are confusing me with your late brother, may he rest in peace.”
“Yeah, Marco was pretty extreme. No wonder he didn’t win the election. Have you looked at some of his propaganda? Totally insane! He was so anti-vampire, made all those extremist leaders throughout history look like little lap dogs in comparison. Wonder what triggered such hate. I do not remember any vampires when we were growing up and he never mentioned anything about them when we all still lived at home.”
“There was one … have a feeling that is what put him over the edge.”
“Daddy, poor Blaine.”
“Poor Blaine? How is he ‘poor Blaine’? He got everything he wanted, by taking everything I had! No wonder your brother was so sore about it that he saw no other way out! Had it not been for vampires that Blaine would be a distant memory now, decomposing away peacefully at a cemetery, your brother would be alive, I would be retired and probably on a cruise around the world with your mother!”
“Tell me I am wrong!”
“You are WRONG!”
“You do not know that!”
“Neither do you! I know that Marco had issues for a long time. I even brought it up to you a few times, but you wouldn’t hear of it. No child of yours needs a shrink. Looks to me like he did need help, didn’t get it and eventually it boiled over. As sad as it is, we still have to be grateful that he only took his own life, not a bunch of people’s too! And I think what put him over the edge was not Mom or Blaine, but that Nicole. That little bitch that you sip drinks with at the bar of your High Society club, well aware that she has still not let you, or Mom, let alone me see your twin grandchildren. Lauren is a toddler now, and my niece and nephew are the same age to the day. With a little luck, we run into them eventually when they go to school, but again, we wouldn’t know it, cos I have no clue what they look like. And before you blow me off, please remember, they are all we all have left of Marco! So if you want to be mad at someone, be mad at Nicole, not Mom or Blaine!” Adrianna spoke very loud now, something she hardly did. Especially not to Ezio. She was and always had been a daddy’s girl, she adored her dad as much as he adored his little princess, but she felt that he needed tough love now.
He looked at her, then at the wine glass, before putting it on the little table.
“I need something stronger right now. You too?”
“You look absolutely ravishing, my dear.” Ezio kissed Melissa’s hand, who smiled and blushed slightly.
He had picked her up at her home for a dinner and a movie.
As usual for Ezio, only the best was good enough, so he took her to an exclusive restaurant. She seemed a bit overwhelmed by all the ado as the entire wait staff almost tumbled over one another trying to appease Ezio, who was well known and treated like a celebrity.
After his older brother Frederico had passed away, Fredericos’s fortune had to be split between all 5 of his children and his surviving wife, his side of the business had gone into Ezio’s hands as he was the next oldest in line. This circumstance made him a very successful and wealthy man, now second only to the Vanderbilts. If Marco were still alive, his marriage to Nicole Vanderbilt and resulting children with her would have merged both families into an unsurpassed empire. Which was undoubtedly the reason why Nicole chose to withhold her children from his family. Nicole’s three older siblings had been excluded from the wealth and inheritance when her parents were still alive, as they all had declined the harsh practices that had made the Vanderbilt’s so powerful for hundreds of years now. While their beautiful, yet ruthless baby sister was swimming in wealth, each of them and their families barely kept their heads above water. Ezio’s younger siblings Petruccio and Claudia had suffered a similar exclusion while Ezio’s older brother Frederico was still alive. Some dubious life choices not sanctioned by the strict Auditore patriarch had cost them their inheritance and chance to be included in the large family business, after his death though, Ezio had made sure that while they would still not inherit any part of his beloved Auditore financial business, which would one day go fully and wholly to Adrianna, who already worked as the CEO of the mother firm and all subsidiaries, they would all be financially taken care of. He had always been very generous. The Auditores had some strict rules, though less and less so with each new generation, nothing was as drastic as the Vanderbilts’. Still, if either of the leaders of the two families showed up anywhere in town, their treatment was that of royalty.
“How is your son?” Melissa asked politely.
“Fine. The tutoring paid off, he is finally one of the top students. I have been telling him for years that education is the foundation of life. In business, you have to ..”
“Ezio, could we talk about something that is not work?” Melissa smiled softly.
“Sure. Apologies my dear. Have you heard from Viktoria by any chance? I spoke to her three days ago and she was supposed to …”
“Ezio, could we also maybe not talk about Vik … again?”
“Ummm.. yes, certainly. How is your cat?”
“He is fine. Thinking about adopting another, he seems lonely and keeps picking fights with the dogs in the neighborhood. Maybe a friend would calm him down, what do you think?”
“I am sorry, what dear?”
“Nothing, never mind. Ah, here is our food now.”
The rest of the evening Ezio was attentive as always. When he eventually dropped her off at home, he walked her to the door. As they said goodnight, she smiled at him when she asked
“Wanna come in for a coffee?”
“Umm, doctor really does not want me drinking coffee this late anymore …”
“And I really wasn’t offering coffee this late either …”
He took the hint.
The neighbors were wondering about the rare exotic car parked outside their new neighbor’s home when they passed it on their early morning jog the next day.