CHAPTER 37: RIGHT, RIGHTS AND FRIGHTS
VINCE'S APARTMENT - MONDAY MORNING
She looks so beautiful and for the first time in months, at peace. And I know it sounds silly but she actually looks like she's grown overnight. There is definitely more of a bump there. I kiss her lips softly, she doesn't wake up, just snuggles back into the bed. I cover her up with the duvet and head down to the main house.
"Morning Vince. How is your day looking?" She's plating up breakfast for us all.
"Busy. The TKs are..."
"Vince how long have you worked for them?" Alice interrupts me with a smile.
"You know the answer to that Alice. Why you asking?"
"She's most probably wondering, like us..." Mr K stops to put Lilah down. "When you're going to call us by our first names..."
"When I'm not working and today I am." I reply simply.
He smiles at me and Lilah hops onto my lap and taps my plate for my scrambled eggs.
"Ah you're the reason my scarf has been getting heavier." He grumbles as Lilah eats out of my hand.
We laugh quietly and then of course I have to do the same for Milo who's trotted in after Mr T.
"Told you it wasn't me or George!" Alice berates him.
I check the time, if we are to make it to the airport we need to go soon. "You've got twenty minutes. I'm going to bring the car round and double check we've got everything for the flight."
Eighteen minutes later, we're still waiting. I turn to Mr K. "Where'd you let him go to?" I sigh.
I shake my head and glare at him; he just holds up his hands. I get out of the car and head back into the house. Less than 20 seconds later, I have Mr T over my shoulder and carrying him grousing to the car.
"Vince this is not the way that a chauffeur and bodyguard treat their bosses!"
"Mr K, the door please." I call out and the door opens. I plop him onto his lap and take the brush out of his hand.
"I just wanted to finish the outline!" He protests.
"Which you can do on Wednesday. Thanks Vince. Let's go."
As we drive to the airport ahead of the three day trip to California, the partition goes down.
"Yes Mr T?"
"I knew you were strong but not this strong."
I frown at him in the mirror. "It takes a lot of strength, emotionally I mean, to do what you and Daph are doing."
"You think so? You don't think that we're just...you know."
"No, we don't. And we're so very proud of you." Mr K smiles at me.
"Thanks, it..." I clear my throat and they nod.
"So when was it?" Mr K waggles his eyebrows. "Don't want the intricacies, just month and place..."
"You're running a pot right?"
"Of course, that's what this family does!" Mr T giggles.
TALON'S CONDO - MONDAY EVENING
I am fucking furious! They are out at the moment. It's fucking date night! But that's not what has annoyed me!
Not only did they abandon me to make my own way back to the hotel, which took 40 minutes because I had to find a bank first. But when I got there to give them a piece of my mind, they had already checked out!
I had hoped that I could catch them at the airport but they got an entirely different flight altogether. And when I finally got back to the condo, they weren't in. One of the spies told me that they were staying at Grady's instead.
When I got home earlier this afternoon, Grady was back but didn't speak to me, and then spent most of his time upstairs. And the final insult was that when I went to try and speak to him, his door was locked and Medea told me he'd gone out about an hour before.
I have been waiting up for them and it's now gone eight. I don't care how tired Lindsay is. It's her fault for wanting to work, but we are having this discussion tonight!
I hear the door finally open and they are laughing and joking. I storm into the hallway.
"Where the fuck have you been?" I yell.
"Working and then out with my fiancée." Grady sneers. "Or did you forget that we bring in money, and you don't? Or that you announced our engagement at the weekend?"
"You were fine about that!" I snap.
"That was Saturday and then Sunday happened!" Lindsay's barks back.
"Yeah when you abandoned me in Pittsburgh, which..."
"If you hadn't acted like Little Lord Fauntleroy we wouldn't have to do!" Lindsay shouts. "What is it with you, Michael? Where do you get this misplaced superior attitude from? You had it with Talon, you have it with Medea and you had it with Tom."
"I'm not finished! You were borderline racist when you first met Matt and..."
"What do you mean borderline racist?" Grady growls.
"I made a joke that Faal didn't find funny, that's all." I mutter.
"What did you say?" Grady demands.
"It was a joke and besides he accused me of being an Italian Mama's Boy!" I protest.
"But after you said what you said not before!"
"What did you say?!" Grady demands again.
"I said that instead of doing motocross that they should be playing basketball. That's not racist, that's..."
"No Michael, you're right it's not racist. It's crass and stupid and a true reflection of you." Grady snipes. "So why are you up? You don't normally wait up for us on date night."
I scoff at his words. "You two owe me an apology and I want to know why you have taken to locking your bedroom door?"
"No we don't. And why would you need to be in our bedroom?" Lindsay glares at me.
"I wanted to talk to Grady but when I went..."
Lindsay puts her hand up. "Stay out of our room Michael. There is nothing- and I mean nothing- in there for you!"
"You two don't have the right to treat me like this!" I shout at them as they head towards the stairs.
"We don't have the..." Grady pauses and then smiles. "Oh my God I don't believe it! Out of the mouths of idiots! For once you being an annoying, fucked up, spoilt gobshite has its benefits. Thanks Michael!"
Lindsay looks at me and then at Grady. "What exactly has he said?"
"Rights!" Grady yells. "Lindsay, he said rights! Come on you, let's celebrate!"
I head to my room completely confused and still seriously fucked off.
I have been listened to them go at it for the last half an hour and it has to be said that it's quite entertaining. But the way Grady has reacted has me concerned and I have a horrible feeling about this. Why would he be so excited about what that...oh hell the fuck no! If this means what I think it means, then they need to be warned!
TAYLOR ELECTRONICS - WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON
Well the big reopening is happening tomorrow. We're just doing this store for now and then go across the city with the others. Cynthia has proven to be an absolute godsend. It helps that she's whip smart, gives and takes zero bullshit and looks the way she does.
"Earth to Zeus!"
I pull my head out of my ass and turn to face her. "Sorry was just thinking about...oh never mind. What were you saying?"
She laughs and shakes her head. "I asked if you want to walk round the store once more and then we leave it in the capable hands of your sales team tomorrow."
"Yeah, let's do that."
My mind is still on the weekend and how I wish I hadn't kicked them out so quickly. Zay seems really quite calm about the entire thing, which is also a worry. A pissed off but calmly reacting Zay is a bad thing!
"Seriously, could you concentrate on what I'm saying for a minute?" Cynthia jabs me in the ribs. "Want to talk about it?"
"Just some family shit I'm going through." I sigh. "I won't bore you with the details..."
"Please bore me because you sure as fuck aren't listening to me. So come on out with it!"
We head to the presentation rooms and I tell her what happened at the weekend. I was actually surprised how much she already knew about the family. I had no idea she was Brian's best woman at his wedding!
"Do Matt and Hunter, now don't take this wrong way because I think you really like Hunter, have a pre-nup?"
"No. They wouldn't do that. Though he did mention to the fucker about the money he took to give away...Cynthia you genius!"
I kiss her on her forehead and grab my coat.
"You're...uh...welcome. And I take it we're done here?"
"Yeah!" I call back.
Dashing to my car, I call Zay. "Hey where you at? Can you meet me at the BroHouse? Great, bring the documentation you got from the condo."
SQUIRREL HILL - FRIDAY MORNING
I am beyond happy! First, there's no school today and secondly any minute now I should get a picture of the sonogram. Aunt Daph has sent me all the other pictures that she and Uncle Vince have and I am making a scrapbook for Emily and Francine as a surprise.
"How's it going?" Momma asks.
I show her what I've done so far. I had bought some suede covered books in Paris and at first I was loathed to use them but now they are all going to be given to Emily and Francine for photos and stuff.
"Great but I have a problem." I sigh.
"What's that?" Mom asks kissing Momma good morning.
"Actually two problems. The first is this picture." I show them the one of Aunt Daph and Uncle Vince, it's one of my favourites. "I understand the surrogacy thing and that they can see the baby whenever they want but should I put the picture in the scrapbook or just give them the picture so they can do what they want with it?"
"Just give them the picture, but in a nice frame. Not an ornate one, oh I know what, why not speak to Justin about getting a canvas frame done?" Mom suggests.
"So what's the second problem?" Momma asks pouring coffee for mom.
"Are you two happy?"
They both look at me in surprise. "Of course we are. What made you think otherwise?" Mom asks.
"I don't. It's just...I don't want it to be like before, except you're quiet about it."
"You've lost us sweetheart." Momma stops my fiddling. "Quiet about what?"
"Arguments. You guys never argue and it's weird." I rush out.
"Of course we argue!" Mom laughs. "We just don't do it in front of you and we make sure that we make up afterwards."
"Told you they were okay!" Gus scoffs as he makes his way to the door.
"Thank you Freud. Go play kissy face with Phil now!" I chuckle, earning myself the finger.
"How long have you been thinking we were having problems?"
"I haven't...well...it was just seeing Lindsay again. I remembered what it was like and..."
"You can't compare the two relationships. With Lindsay..."
"You were always competing with Uncle Brian?" I ask.
"Uh yes." Mom is blushing. "But with Leda, I mean momma, I don't have that. We just are. So please stop worrying."
"Okay. Ooh look the sonogram has come!" We stare at the picture. "Is it me or are there...?"
"And she's that fucking small!" Mom growls.
BRITIN - THURSDAY EVENING
I have a lapful of happy crying Justin because Daph has dropped the twins' bombshell on us. Turns out that the other baby was tucked up top. How it got there nobody knows!
"Ohmygod!" Justin hiccups. "Look at them!"
I have to admit to a heart squinch when I saw the pictures. I never saw anything about Gus.
"Did you ever consider..."
"For one second, yeah I did." I kiss his temple.
"But this is the right thing to do." I give him a small smile. "Though you would make beautiful babies."
"Tell you what." He snuggles into my lap a bit more. "How about we discuss this a year from now and see how we feel about it then? Right now we are in the middle of baby fever and a family shitstorm is coming according to Zeus."
"Okay two years."
"No a year's fine."
"Let's seal this."
He grins coquettishly at me and slides under the desk. "Hips up." He orders.
"No this deal sealing needs a fucking, so come up here and do so!" I demand.
I push my papers off my desk and hurriedly take off my jeans and boxers. "Now!"
Five minutes later, I'm holding onto the other side of my desk as he hammers into me and I come hard.
"Fuck!" He squeals seconds later and slumps on my back.
"I can feel why we've never fucked in here before. Desk height is all wrong!" I mumble.
He gently pulls out and we both groan at the loss. "Yeah this is definitely a working place only."
I peel myself off the desk and pull my boxers back on, then use our jeans to clean up.
"Were they in any particular order?" He points at the papers.
"Yeah but I need a bath more than I need to sort out that. I'm sure I'm going to have some interesting desk marks."
"Come on stud, let's get you in there."
TREEHOUSE - SATURDAY AFTERNOON
"You ready for this?" I ask Zay.
"As I'll ever be." She waggles her eyebrows and smirks.
"Who's answering?" Jen asks as the doorbell goes.
"I should imagine, from what Talon said, that they're all here." I look round the room. "So whoever can resist the temptation to punch first I guess."
After two minutes the doorbell is still being leant on.
"Fine! I'll go!" Carl grouses and heads to let them in.
I steel myself and take a breath. "Can I help you?"
"Carl? What are you doing here?" Lindsay asks in surprise, while the manchild glowers.
"Come in I suppose. You must be Grady?"
He smiles at me and proffers his hand, which he withdraws after a few seconds. "Please take off your shoes. She's just had the floors done."
At first the manchild doesn't seem to want to comply but a sharp nudge in the ribs from Lindsay has him undoing his laces.
As I lead them to the lounge, Phil passes me and gives me a wink. What has Gus got him to do now? That boy has way too much of his father in him!
Wow this place is spectacular! I thought the kitchen in the condo was great but that is nothing compared to what she has here! I walk into the back of Lindsay, who for some reason has come to a halt.
"What are you all doing here?" She asks.
"Grady wanted to discuss something with the family. Here we are." Zee replies.
I look round and there must be about 20 people easily here and on the massive cushion at least two dogs and two cats. And on the window seats two magnificent, but definitely unfriendly, Toyger cats who hiss at my approach.
"Extra prawns for those two." Faal snickers.
I glare at him and think just you wait. "Well I'm Grady for those who don't..."
"Care." Matt interrupts, earning a kiss from Hunter.
"Look we're not going to introduce ourselves to you. State your business and then be on your way."
"And you are?" I ask the fiery woman.
"That's Leda." Lindsay tells me. "She's the woman that Mel..."
"Got with after you got divorced and not before. And before you start introducing Steve as the man that Ben cheated on you with Michael, just don't!"
"Seriously, Ben what were you thinking when you got with him?" Zeph asks. "He came up to me breathed in my ear, stroked my thigh and thought I was ready to drop trow."
This elicits giggles as I can just see him doing that!
"I could keep you company." Zeph does a pitch perfect imitation of Michael, who blushes.
"Can we get on with this? You won't be laughing when we're finished." Michael snarks.
"For once I agree with the berk. Let's get this done." Zee sighs. "What do you want Grady?"
I look around for somewhere to sit but it becomes clear that nobody is going to move and I'll be damned if I'm going to sit on the floor!
"Okay. As Matt's father, I feel that I have the right to..."
"You're not his father." Zee interrupts and I smirk at Lindsay and Michael snickers.
"Yes I am. I still have my rights therefore..."
"No you don't..."
"Yes I do. I never signed the papers and your grandfather..."
"But you accepted the money. And by doing so it was assumed that you had accepted the terms of the agreement."
"I couldn't return the money to a dead man. And sadly, your grandfather died before I could return it."
I look round everyone and smile. There are looks of concern. Although I don't know why Michael is looking so fucking smug; it's beginning to grate on my nerves.
"Nice try." Zee smirks and heads to the cart for a drink. "Anyone else?"
"A beam if you have it." Michael replies.
"Sure, I have a two by four with your name on it in the garage." She pauses in mid-drink. "Still want it?"
Wow, she really doesn't like him!
"As I was saying. You must have read the agreement right Grady? You accepted the money and the agreement, wait...do you have your copy?" I nod. "Oh good turn to page 12. What does it say in section 4 sub paragraph 6?"
"If the agreement is unsigned but the money is still retained by Grady Holster after a 30 day period, it is presumed that this agreement is accepted in its totality. However, should Grady Holster wish..." My stomach churns.
"Shall I continue?" Matt asks, turning to Zee. "Seems he's lost the power of speech."
"Carry on." Zee shares the brandy with Faal.
"Where was he? Oh yes...should Grady Holster wish to reinstate his parental rights before the advent of Matt Hawkthorn Stark's 25th birthday, the money would be repayable to either Hawkthorn Stark, Delia Amelia Stark or Zaden Zion Stark, whomever should be living at that time. If none of them should be living the money will be held in trust to Matt Hawkthorn Stark until his 25th birthday. The repayment of monies will also incur a yearly interest of 6% per year from the time it is accepted to the time the reinstatement is requested..."
"Hawkthorn?" Faal looks at Zee with nauseating adoration. "Was that the aitch in your name?"
"Yep. Grandpa said I could give it up as long as I passed it on. So I did."
"Uh guys a little bit of focus here!" Zeus exhorts. "So Grady, what's it to be? Repayment or fuck off and come up with another plan to get back into the family?"
"Which we will be ready for." Tom adds.
"$540,000." Hunter tells me.
"That's how much you would need to repay in interest. 18 years at 6% a year is $540K."
"Come on let's go!" I snap and I storm out of the room with Lindsay and Michael following quietly.
Two large white guys follow us out and when we find our shoes they have been slobbered and pissed on.
"For fuck sake! These are Ferragamo shoes!" I yell.
"Oops. Bad Butch. Bad Sundance. Very bad." The blond haired guy snickers.
"Very mature Ben!"
"Mature? This from a guy who is wearing a Captain Asshat tee!" He looks up the road and a taxi is approaching. "What perfect timing."
As the door opens a young woman gets out and Lindsay gasps.
I turn to look at Daphne, who is obviously pregnant and then look back at the two of them. They look pissed off and, in Lindsay's case, disappointed.
"Let me guess?" Michael snarls. "You're carrying for Brian and Justin?"
Without saying a word, she's helped into the house.
"Grab the cab Michael." I order.
The journey back to the hotel is quiet, each lost in our own thoughts.
GRADY & LINDSAY'S SUITE
"I knew it! I knew that she would carry for them eventually!"
"And you can bet that they are paying her to do it!" Michael is pacing angrily.
"Of course! Nobody's that altruistic, not even the great Saint Daphne!" I am furious!
"Well when your baby arrives then they'll be dealing with us on our terms." Michael grins.
I look at Grady who hasn't said a word since we got back. "Grady you okay?"
"Yeah, just a little surprised by what was in the agreement that's all. Look let's go to the airport and get home. We've got a lot to think about."
LOUNGE - EARLY EVENING
Tom and Zee have come up with a midnight feast, which they want us to test in advance of the wedding.
"So what do we have here?"
"Toasted cheese and pulled pork sandwiches, prawn and pork potstickers and Black Velvet brownies. And of course, red wine and brandy hot chocolate." Zee grins.
"Mom?" Hunter bites his lip. "Supposing he gets the money?"
"Makes no odds. Matt's not Grady's."
"What!" I gasp.
"He's Faal's." She replies calmly and pops in a pot sticker, then noticing the silence, she chews quickly. "I mean legally, biologically Grady's his father."
"So how is he not Grady's?" Jen asks.
"Legally, Matt was emancipated when he was 16 and I adopted him formally when he was 17."
We all look at Mel, who is reading the agreement. "Holy fuck, you guys don't mess about! Yes he can get his right reinstated upon repayment of the money, but and it's a big but, listen to this: in the event of the reinstatement of the rights of Grady Holster to Matt Hawkthorn Stark before his 25th birthday, Grady Holster agrees that all decisions monetary, legal and medical are to be the final decision of Zaden Zion Stark and Faal Jabari Ugerstacht. However, in the event their deaths this will transfer to Delia Amelia Stark and in the event of her death to Lucian Stark and Deidra Stark."
"So in English?" Blake asks.
"He can repay us but he has as much power now as he did before. As in fuck all." Zee smirks.
"Let's drink to that!" Faal cheers.