CHAPTER 30: WHINING, WINING, DINING & INCISING
"Hellcat?" I chuckle. "Why do you call her that?"
"She has the temper from hell when crossed and will fight like a tiger to protect what's hers so hellcat." Faal explains.
"Speaking of playing, one minute." Zee kisses Faal's head and makes a call. "Hey darling girl it's Zee, I'm good, listen can you do me a favour. Actually excuse me let me take this outside for a minute."
She comes back looking very happy and drains the rest of her glass.
"More wine?" I ask.
"Please. What was with the gobsmacked expression on Friday night Brian?" Zee asks.
"Gobsmacked? Oh! Jules, Guy's partner, owns De Le Vere Winery in Napa Valley and has been trying to get an appointment with Kinnetic for months. But apparently there has been a bit too vigorous adherence to the no cold calls policy by our new receptionist. Must have Cynthia reign her in a bit."
"De Le Vere Winery?" Faal looks bug eyed at him. "Are you kidding me? My granddad loved their merlot. As for dad, he loves the cabernet sauvignon. We have to send him a case every Christmas and birthday and Father's Day...and that's on top of the present."
"Not sure what they want Kinnetic for but he's calling me on Monday. So are we done with the angst now? Can we get back to spoiling Lydia?"
"Absolutely!" Justin grins, knocking back the wine and practically galloping to the car.
"What's...?" I look quizzically at Talon, who looks equally confused.
"Wolfgang Puck's The CUT for dinner." Faal chuckles as if that explains everything.
"Think back to Friday and the bao buns." Dee tells me and I nod sagely.
As we head to our car, Talon takes my hand. "What did I say?"
"That I had nothing to worry about where the family is concerned."
"And was I right?"
I nod and kiss her neck, I still can't believe my luck.
Talon is going to be pissed. Michael has done a half assed job on the cleaning up of the whisky, as I can definitely see a stain there. The man is beyond idiotic.
"It's not just me then? You can see it too?" Lindsay sighs.
"Yep. He needs to clean it properly. In fact, the whole place needs a good clean."
"It's as if he's trying to get us to leave here." She sighs.
"Come on let's talk."
I lead her to the kitchen and glare at the breakfast things he's left congealing in the sink. We washed ours up.
"I think that's what he's trying to do. I had a tenant who was exactly like this. He would do just enough to keep the peace but behind your back he's putting the boot in."
"What would be the point of getting us to leave? It makes no...to move into your place, surely not?"
"Us to move back there and he stays here all alone, because trust me Talon is not going to let him out of her sight and he's not staying at my house. Believe it or not, I think he's going to try and claim squatters' rights."
She starts to chuckle until I hand her the document that I found in his dungeon.
When Lindsay gave him the ultimatum, I kept an eye on him for a few days. And when he wanted to use the printer a lot, I knew he was up to something. Luckily for us and stupidly for him, he had made notations in the margins so there is no way he could say it was anyone but him.
"It could take months for Talon to get him out."
"What do we do with this?"
She looks a mix between appalled and impressed and I have to admit I was surprised his tiny mind went there!
"Leave it with me."
We hear the door opening and I quickly put the document back in my pocket. He calls out to us but I pull her into my arms and start kissing her. She's surprised but uncomplaining.
"Thank fuck they're not...whoa didn't you hear me calling you?!" He demands when he comes in the kitchen. "And can't you do that somewhere else?"
I lift my head and smirk at him. "Yes we did and yes we can but no we won't. If you don't like what we're doing, then you leave."
He glares at us before turning to leave. "Michael." He stops and slowly turns round to face us. "Talon will be pissed when she sees that stain. I suggest you get it cleaned off properly this time."
Don't get me wrong; I'm going to follow through with Luther's original plan to get engaged to Lindsay by Christmas. If I don't get the money from Zaden, her milksop of a husband will pay, because he loves her so much and only wants her happiness. But watching Michael struggling to control his immediate response before stalking out muttering to himself was nice. Messing with his head is going to be so much fun!
God the smugness of the pair of them! I can't wait to hear about Lindsay being pregnant and how Grady is going to handle that. Even better, once they calm down and I tell them about how I engineered it, how Zee and her family are going to handle that. There is no way they will let any half sibling of Matt's be without. And maybe Lindsay's parents will come back into the picture now they have a grandchild the old fashioned way!
And while she's getting fat and can't put out...I know Grady will get a hunger that only I can satisfy...and I won't hesitate to tell her about it in my own subtle way.
WOLFGANG PUCK'S THE CUT - EARLY EVENING
I know they're all about surprise and subterfuge but blacked out windows and a blindfold is a bit much! But I'm having too much of an excellent time to complain, though I did gripe about the absolutely gorgeous Vera Wang suit and shoes that Hunter and Matt got for me, for all of about a minute!
"Okay Lydia, we're here. Now take my hand." I reach for Cara and then hear her sniffle. "Oh my God this had to be Hunter!" She hiccups.
I start to think desperately, where could we be? I have many restaurants I want to go to but my one top one is...please on the soul of Monet, let it be the one!
"She's inside now, I think we can dispense with the blindfold?" Faal orders and presses a glass of, I assume by the chill and shape of the glass, champagne.
I look round and immediately turn to Hunter. "You?" He nods. "You are such a horror, I will get you back for this, just wait until you want holiday!"
"Good evening ladies and gentlemen, welcome to The Cut. My name is Lucas; I will be your head waiter for this evening and this is Catherine, she will be your sommelier. Please follow us to the private dining room.
There is a low wide vase of black baccara and black jade roses in the middle of the table, I quickly take a picture.
"Honey you're taking them home." Debs whispers to me.
"How long have you been planning this?" My voice is so thick I sound like Barry White.
"A couple of months." Justin smiles at me, kissing my cheek and handing me his handkerchief.
"Just how the hell did you manage it?" I look round. "I know you guys have had a lot of shit to deal with."
"That would be because of the other special lady in our lives, Lydia. Her name is Cynthia. She did all the bookings; we did the rest." Brian pulls out my chair and I sit down before I fall down.
"Now Lydia, in the words of the words of our illustrious chefs, stop glowering Zee." Emmy chuckles in the face of her annoyance. She hates being called a chef but of course Thomas loves it and beams. "Have at that menu."
"Oh God!" Justin groans.
"What's wrong baby?" Emmy is immediately concerned.
"Short rib bao buns." He looks imploringly at Brian. "Please?"
"Can't you just order two lots? It's just us in here?" He sighs.
"Seriously, what is that with you Justin?" Zander asks.
"He thinks it tastes better from my plate..."
"Bullshit, don't let him play the food martyr. He orders and suffers because he gets to work it off him later!" Faal teases him. "Their food fights are the stuff of legend. Do you remember the messy fest with the scallops?"
Drew snickers. "Yeah we didn't see them for the rest of the night...actually until the next afternoon I believe."
Justin cocks his head to one side. "I would keep your smugness to a minimum Mr Boyd. Remember how chatty Emmy Lou can be? I believe you had an ego..."
"Yeah zipping!" Drew blushes.
"Dad do you think I should try the tartare?" Gus calls down.
"You could. If you don't like it, give it to Faal." Brian tells him.
"What about papa, why can't I give it to him?"
"Makes him taste funny." He replies and go back to reading his menu.
"Uncle Brian!" Jenny squeals.
"Perhaps we should be questioning how you know what he means?" Ben turns to her.
"Zipping!" She replies quickly.
"Mel, Leda." I stage whisper. "I think a chat is called for."
"Excuse me Lucas?" Jenny calls out. "Is there another table we kids can sit at and still have them pay the bill?"
"No but we can remove that part from the video if you want?"
"Video?" I splutter.
"Yep, special dispensation for a special lady." Debs raises her glass. "You took on my grandson and believed in him. Thank you."
"Now come on let's order." I instruct and I order 3 lots of the bao buns, I know my Sunshine!
Four hours later we are making our way back to the hotel. Everyone has full bellies and happy hearts. Lydia is buzzed so Cara has to get her into the car and then there's the matter of the flowers. She got very emotional when she realised that her beautiful flowers - it only took her four attempts to say the word - would wither and die, but Emmy told her they are having them freeze dried for her before being delivered safely to Pittsburgh.
PLANE BACK TO PITTSBURGH - SUNDAY AFTERNOON
I just stare at them. Then look at the horrors and back at the bed, which has box after box of gifts.
"Champagne my lady." Hunter hands me a glass and even though I have had more than enough, I take a sip. "Now we can say it!"
"Happy Birthday Lydia!" They all yell.
"Open this one first, it's from me!" Cara orders.
Inside is a beautiful dark blue velvet smoker's jacket. "Oh Cara I..."
"Everything is monogrammed so you can't return it." Faal rubs my shoulder. "Guys, let's leave her to it for a while, yes?"
As the door gently closes, I burst into tears again. I don't think I've cried so many tears of happiness in my life.
"So my darling, what are we eating?" Zee has been suspiciously quiet about the return journey food.
"Ham butter with warm bagels, pulled brisket in milk buns and baked potato broth with dumplings - completely vegan for those who don't want a carbfest and smoothies and of course Guinness and bubbles for those who feel only Black Velvet will do."
There are murmurs of delight and Justin is almost running towards the bar.
Chuckling I take her hand. "My lig I think we should move out of the way for own safety."
TALON'S CONDO - TUESDAY AFTERNOON
I had tried to meet with them this morning but Lindsay said they were out so I decided to go there and wait. I grimace at the reception floor, but that's nothing compared to the look on Ralph's face. He was incandescent and had to step out and make some calls.
He motions for the clean-up crew to come in and starts instructing them in a tone that has me aching to drag him back to the limo.
"I can't wait for them to come back." I tell him fiercely. "Getting in is going to be an issue for them."
Four hours later the condo is back to my standard of perfection, so I settle down to wait for the return of my temporary house guests.
I'm happy but tired. I got a call from one of the galleries and they want to see me for an interview. So I decided to celebrate and take Grady out for brunch before a spot of shopping but because of the trust issue with Michael, we insisted he come too. So we had the ignominy of his table manners and then the drone of his whining as he followed us around.
If he hoped that whining would get him home quicker, he was sorely mistaken. But we gave him a taste of his own medicine when he found a comic book store but left after our litany of ‘are you done yet' got to him after 10 minutes. I did regret deciding to take the subway as we got delayed but now we are finally home.
"I can't wait to have a coffee." Grady sighs.
"Me too. And to take these shoes off, my feet are killing me."
"I can't believe I spent most of the day out and didn't buy a single fucking comic!" Michael gripes and we both try not to roll our eyes.
"What the hell is wrong with the lock?" Grady demands, trying his key again.
We turn to Michael who stares back at us blankly. "What?" He eventually asks.
"What? You say what after the stunt you pulled the last time? Why can't we get in Michael?"
"I don't know Lindsay. I've been with you all..."
Suddenly the door opens and we're faced with a glowering Talon.
"Inside now!" She hisses.
We obey and we all look at each other as we follow her to the lounge.
I take the chair opposite the sofa - or as Ralph calls it, the power chair - and they sit down warily.
"What the fuck do you think you are doing?" I snarl.
"Um, what exactly is it that you think we've done?" Michael unwisely decides to answer
"You let my condo, not yours, mine become a hovel, a pig sty and you ask me that!"
"I can explain that. We've tried to..." Lindsay begins.
"And I blame this entirely on you Michael!" I snap.
Lindsay and Grady exchange surprised looks but nobody is more surprised than Michael.
"Me? Why me? There are three people living here!"
"And only one person who eats childish cereals and still believes that people should pick up after him! While I was getting this place disinfected I noticed that the areas that are shared with Grady and Lindsay are tidy but when it came to your room and..."
"You had no right to go in..."
"As the owner of this property, I had every fucking right!" I take a breath. "As I was saying, when I got to your room I found at least three cereal bowls under the bed, the basement that was even worse and we are not going to discuss the bathroom!"
Michael gets up to go to the cart. "Sit the fuck down!" I growl and surprisingly he does.
I clear my throat. "And as for the stain in reception that required special cleaning which cost $1200, which will be added to the amount you owe Michael, not you Lindsay."
He slumps back glaring but says nothing.
"Now, please humour me and write down the following; this is Talon's condo and I will treat it with respect and keep it clean always. And then hand it back to me." I hand them each a pad.
"Do you want us to sign it?" Michael snipes.
"If you wish." I reply tightly.
As they hand the pads back to me, I shake my head. "Oh I found this. Can one of you explain?"
I hand each of them a piece of paper and predictably Michael goes ashen.
"And by one of you I mean Michael, because that is your handwriting is it not?"
"A premeditated attempt at squatting, yes I know." I sneer. "So here is what is going to happen. I have taken out insurance to make sure that you don't do that."
"What have you done?" He asks nervously.
"Taken away half of everything in the basement. Once you repay the loan, then you'll get it back and I will even provide the van for you to fuck off in. More than generous, don't you think?"
Michael is just sitting there in shock.
I stand up smooth down my dress and pick up my purse. "Here are your new keys. And because I just don't trust you I'm going to give you what you want, Michael, and that's staff. They will be live in, yes Michael in the basement. But make no mistake they work for me, not you. Any attempts to treat them like shit will be reported and I will act accordingly."
As I head to the door I pause. "Oh Lindsay, didn't you used to live in Canada?"
"Oh, great, it's just that I've got a lovely place over there, um 21 Rexdale Avenue, such a sweet name. It was a 2 bed knock down hovel but now it's a 4 bed, 2 bath gorgeous home. And since I've yet to live in it, I just wondered what you could tell me about the area?"
"Rexdale Avenue is a lovely area." She clenches her fists. "Very picturesque; you'll like it there."
"Great thanks. Bye all." I smile.
The slamming of the door seems to bring Michael out of his catatonia and he rushes downstairs.
"Are you okay?" Grady asks carefully. "You look like you're going to explode."
"21 Rexdale Avenue is where I used to live. That bitch bought my house and..."
I'm cut off by the scream of Michael and then he runs out shouting Talon's name. A few minutes later he comes back in, white with fury.
"She wasn't kidding! And she's locked the remaining collectibles in a display cabinet that is bolted to the floor that only she has the fucking key too, as per her fucking note!"
"Maybe she put the electricals upstairs. Did you check your room?" Grady suggests.
He brightens and dashes upstairs. We look at each other and start to count. We don't make it to three when he starts swearing and actually stomping his feet.
"Feel better about her living in your house?" Grady grins.
"Just a bit." I giggle.