The Terrorist’s Game
“I don’t talk about my personal life in the press; that’s how I kept my wedding a secret.”
Several months had passed, and the memory of Lviv was getting more manageable and kept Talia awake less often. It had been a long time since she had awakened to the sound of her own screams, and for that, she was grateful. It was beginning to feel as though her life may be a normal one someday. She had not had hope like that in years.
The snow fell in South Kent, CT as it probably would through the rest of February. Such was winter in New England and all the ski resorts that lived in the area because of it. Valentine’s Day was a predictable choice for Clarissa and Tyrell’s wedding. Clarissa had never married before, and she was pulling out all the stops at her semi modern estate. Clarissa Anderson’s estate was her sanctuary, her only home, her work of art, and the place that held all of her memories from the time she had met Tyrell so many years before. He had protected her there, and watched over Talia there, and spent his holidays with them there. He loved the estate where his heart had been since day one. It was the perfect location for the least public wedding in modern American Hollywood history.
The 16 bedroom, multi building property melted into the hillside overlooking the Housatonic River. From the front, a single level ranch at the end of a half mile long driveway that began at the security gate. To the left of the parking area in the front was the six car garage. From the back, a three story massive home that was nearly all windows and terraces overlooking an enormous English garden and sprawling lawn that made its way to the outdoor kitchen and patio dining area that bordered the cliff view of the river. Off to one side was the rustic barn that housed the indoor pool and gym, attached to the Swedish sauna, that Clarissa had originally built for Tyrell. To the other were the two single family homes that housed her staff.
Tyrell used to live in the staff housing, but no longer. He was the matriarch of the house now. He was about to legally lay his claim to being the alpha male of all he surveyed, with his delicate bride by his side. His dream was finally about to come true. The love of his life was finally becoming his wife.
For the big day, Ice sculptures bordered the walk through the garden, where they would last until spring on their own in the cold winter air. By contrast, outdoor heaters were installed in both the terraced areas by the house and the patio area at the outdoor kitchen to keep the guests warm in the chill. Despite the often questionable weather, Clarissa had always wanted to be married in her garden and on Valentine’s Day. The weather was a challenge, but the bride didn’t seem to mind. The compromise had been one that, if anyone in the outside world had been allowed in, would have been legendary.
Talia had mixed emotions about her visit to celebrate her mother’s big day. She had settled in Moscow with Eduard and Anya. Eduard had taken his oath as President of Russia in October and was still getting things in order in his new role as the leader of the largest country on Earth. With the help of many contacts to the point of exhausting their combined lists of trusted personal allies, Talia, Clarissa, and Eduard had managed to claim victory against the Alder Nation without any of the players being exposed as part of a familial scandal. No one outside that circle of reliable contacts knew that Dmitri had been Percival, and God willing no one ever would. There had been no members found to bring to justice, which made Talia nervous, and all they could do was presume that the group had disbanded after Dmitri’s death.
Talia had stepped out of her role in her own security company, and given up her position at the United Nations. She worked closely with her replacement, helping as much as she could from her remote location to keep the dignitaries safe while at the U.N.
She retained her penthouse on 57th Street in New York, but she rarely visited the property. She only like the view, and she didn’t visit the city at all these days.
Michael now handled the operations at her private security company as acting CEO, and he used her penthouse more than anyone else when he visited clients in New York. She considered selling it, but somehow hoped that she would get to spend time in the city once again someday, because it was a nice place to visit. Besides, Michael used it often and she knew how much he loved it.
Michael loved the high tech world and the elite lifestyle that went with it. Clarissa had purchased a new jet for Talia, and one for the company as well. This Lear jet became the personal vehicle of Michael. It was white, like a normal jet. He told Talia to please not make him fly his own pink jet. Talia was more than happy to oblige.
Eduard was happy that his family was with him once again. He had been lonely in many ways for decades, and since things had finally been resolved, he was able to be happy and live a full life again. He confidently ruled the biggest country in the world, and for the first time in years, his conscience was clear. He ruled magnanimously for the people who elected him, which made his young and idealistic granddaughter proud.
Eduard awaited the wedding day, relaxing at the estate with family and friends. He said that the view alone was priceless from Clarissa’s estate. As the family gathered at the estate, two days remained until the nuptials. Talia had opted to attend the wedding as maid of honor with no date, while Eduard would attend with the President of Iceland, Nina Friedrichsdottir.
Nina had made good on her demand that Eduard return her phone in person. He did so, just days before the inauguration. She was planning on retiring the following year after the election, and was ready to start a future for herself. She went to Russia for his inauguration, and a week later, they officially announced that they were a couple. By February, it was not uncommon to see pictures of them on tabloid sites, and they were adorable. They truly seemed happy.
Michael was attending with his new lady friend, Zhao Qiaolian of the People’s Republic of China. Qiaolian was the daughter of the current Chinese Ambassador to the United Nations. She was a stunning woman, 5 feet 8 inches tall, dark black hair, wearing a deep red Lan Yu velvet and lace classic that showed off all of her perfect curves when she arrived. Talia appreciated her style immediately and hoped that they would become friends. It was the first relationship of Michaels’s that Talia had ever been aware of, and he seemed happy.
Anya opted for no date, because she wasn’t ready to trust any man after what happened with her father, and she spent most of her time with visiting members of Tyrell’s family. Her English was top notch and her personality was large enough to fill any room. She floated around the room in the Jonathan Simkhai all lace cocktail dress that she begged her mother to buy for her. She and Anya had spent some time with Clarissa on Fifth Avenue shopping for clothing for the entire week of the wedding. Anya fell into being a fashionista easily, as though she was born for it. She was an Anderson after all.
Talia knew she was biased, but her daughter was the social flower that Talia could never be, because she was not as social as she should be, and Clarissa no longer wished to be, because it was just too much work. The world was Anya’s oyster, and the other two women smiled at the idea.
The house filled with close friends and family, only two days before wedding, and those guests gathered in the evening for dinner. Talia, the maid of honor. Anya, the other attendant. Michael, the best man. Eduard, the man who would give the bride away. The wedding party was a close group, rounded out by Tyrell’s brother as the other attendant.
Father Antonio Cravotta, the token clergy member and youngest son of the Cravotta family of New York arrived just in time for dinner. With him Sebastion Cravotta, the Italian family’s patriarch and one of Clarissa’s closest friends since her days as a Broadway socialite. Sebastian’s wife, Julietta, completed their group, because his mother, Bitsie didn’t want to travel in the winter weather.
By dessert, Leonid had arrived with his wife, Katya, and President Friedrichsdottir in tow. They were all exhausted from the trip and hungry, so Talia made sure that the kitchen staff served the group while the rest of the guests went to the main terrace for after dinner cocktails.
After the remaining guests finished dinner, they joined the group outside. When they joined the others, Talia realized that her mother was missing from the group. She made her way through the house to the tiny library that sat high atop the third floor with a commanding view of the Housatonic River. She had long known that it was her mother’s favorite place to hide.
“You’re missing the party,” Talia said as she joined her mother in the library.
“I wanted to be alone and think for a bit,” she replied.
“Are you having second thoughts?”
“Of course not. I wish you could move on, my dear. It took me decades, and I don’t want to see you that lonely for that long. Please tell me you’ll move forward.”
“In time. There’s no rush. I’m getting to know my family again. That’s all I need. It’s your time now.”
A flash of headlights flew across the room from the open door and the room on the other side of the hallway.
“Who could that be?” Talia asked. “It’s getting late. Everyone is here, aren’t they?”
Clarissa feigned a smile at her.
“What did you do?” she asked.
“I did a thing,” her mother replied.
She decided not to waste time with her mother’s riddles and made her way back to the foyer to see who was arriving. The butler opened the door as she entered the foyer. She couldn’t believe her eyes.
“Your mother invited me,” he said. “I swear. She said that she wanted me to make sure that you had someone to talk to during the wedding and dinner. I’m sorry I’m late, but I got lost. This place is in the middle of nowhere.”
“That’s my mother,” she snarked. “She thinks she knows everything. Come in.”
“Glad to see you’re this excited. I pictured you having me removed by security.”
“Still thinking it over.”
“What exactly have I done to make you hate me?”
Cameron hadn’t called her once since Lviv. She stared at his number in her phone at least once a day, but never called. She felt embarrassed to call a man. She hated the fact that she couldn’t stop thinking about him. She hated the idea that he had been her knight in shining armor and then all but disappeared.
“You never called,” she snapped.
“I didn’t call, because you told me not to,” he replied.
“True,” she retorted. “Probably the first time you ever listened to me.”
“Whatever, I’m here now. Can’t we catch up and maybe get to know each other finally?”
She hated to admit that she wanted nothing more than to get to know him, but she was afraid that if she didn’t let him in this time, it would be her last chance. He was a challenging, but sensitive, intelligent but kind, geeky but handsome man. She didn’t know why she was so fascinated with him, but she decided that it was time she quit analyzing it to death and found out.
“I would like that,” she said, smiling. “Have you had dinner?”
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