Free to a Good Home, Book 2 of the Heartbeat Series

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4. The Blessed Event

After battling laryngitis and bronchitis for the last two weeks on the road of his tour, Paul couldn’t wait to go home to his secluded estate in the Poconos. When they boarded the jet to come home that morning, Paul and his partner Joey, lacked the energy to do anything but nap on their flight home from Cleveland to the Poconos Mountains. So much, in fact, the two slept in their reclined captain’s chairs for that hour and a half flight, waking to find that Paul’s bodyguard, Mack, had covered each with a chenille throw blanket after the seatbelt sign was off.

Paul didn’t know how to tour without Joey. He did so much for more than just him but the band and crew as well. Hearing the seatbelt bell chime in the jet’s cabin, Paul woke, watching Joey sleep, knowing that Joey’s exhaustion was more this tour than the last two tours combined. As a registered nurse, Joey was the person the band sought out with ailments, and this tour was attacked by a strand of flu that morphed into upper respiratory and pneumonia. With Paul and the rest of his band sick these last two weeks, Joey worked around the clock and hardly slept for days. Once Paul’s bronchitis and laryngitis made singing impossible for the final concert and the ENT specialist vetoed a postponement, Joey was glad when Alex and Paul decided to cancel Cleveland and the tour’s finale.

While Paul checked his cell phone’s voicemail, Joey stared out the limo window and realized that he was never so glad to see the Allegheny Mountains from the ridge of the quaint guarded village in the Poconos. He sighed at the sight of mounds of fresh snow on the sides of the road, hoping their driveway had been plowed, and that Elly had the walk shoveled and salted so that they wouldn’t be trudging through drifts to get to the front door. When the limo turned into the lane of the upscale development where they lived, Paul closed his phone and reached over to brush Joey’s straight blonde hair away from his face and kissed his cheek. No words necessary, as both understood the contented sigh of the other. After four months, they were home out of the public eye, unaccompanied by his extensive security entourage, and without a schedule that kept them living out of suitcases.

As they approached the lane where the black wrought iron gate shut out the world from their home, Paul smiled at the mounds of snow that covered the lower half of the eight-foot wrought iron fence and at the black paved drive contrasting against the bright white mounds of snow that led up to the light pink brick house.

The crisp mountain air bit their faces as they exited the limo. When the driver held the door for him, Paul towered over the driver as if he were a gnome. Then again, even fair lithe Joey looked up to him as he was almost head shorter. While the driver fetched their bags, Paul unlocked the front door and held it for Joey as they entered the white marble tiled foyer. The warmth of the house and the scents of Irish stew and freshly baked bread that wafted from the kitchen meant that Eleanor, their housekeeper, was nearby.

“Elly, are you here?” asked Joey up the staircase as Paul helped Joey out of his black down coat. A thin, graying woman wearing a light blue fleece sweat suit with an embroidered flower on the front walked to the crest of the staircase with a dust rag in hand. Elly put her hands on her hips and smiled at them before she reached for one of the marble railings and began to walk down the steps that appeared dull compared to her gleaming white leather athletic shoes.

“If you two aren’t a sight for sore eyes? There are my boys!” she exclaimed, as she was met halfway up the staircase by both of them.

“We missed you,” croaked Paul, trying to clear his throat. Almost twice her height, he stood a couple steps beneath where she stopped so he could hug her. Immediately her hand went to his forehead and her lips kissed it and shook her head at Joey.

Trying to dissuade Elly, who would demand that he go to bed and stay there instead of ski before the end of the week, Paul quickly changed the subject. “How’s the deer?”

“Your babies are fine. One of your does brought her new beau to your feeder. He’s a yearling, just starting to sprout his rack.”

“Really?” asked Paul.

He descended the staircase and left them for the kitchen, hoping that the deer were at their feeder near his woods’ edge. He cleared his throat, trying to avoid another coughing fit that would result in Joey’s forcing him to use that blasted inhaler again. Paul tugged a cough drop from his jeans’ pocket and unwrapped it, tossing its wrapper in the trashcan beneath the sink.

Squinting his eyes against the blinding mid-afternoon sunlight upon the gleaming snow, Paul looked past the snow dunes covering the hot tub and pool, hoping for the sight of at least one deer. Not seeing one, Paul left the window for the stove, lifting the pot’s lid and stirred its simmering contents, the rich broth with chunks of lamb and potatoes and carrots, the shallots and seasonings, how he wished he could smell it. As the steam from Elly’s Irish stew wafted up to his face, he set the spoon on its rest and returned the lid, thinking of the call between Elly and him in Minneapolis and how he told her he wanted her Irish stew upon his return.

Seeing the mail basket on the sideboard full, Paul began to rifle through it as Joey and Elly located him while Joey recounted the events that led to Cleveland’s cancellation. As Paul glanced up at them, Elly nodded and smiled at Joey who looked a bit piqued and exhausted.

“A few days of rest and T.L.C. would put you both back on the mend,” said Elly as Joey picked up the mail basket and left Paul paging through the latest copy of Rolling Stone. He handed it to Elly.

“Elly, would you please put that in his study. He doesn’t need to look at that until he’s well.”

Elly was about to leave the kitchen with it when she turned back to them.

“Joey, the resort called after they heard that the tour ended early, wanting you to handle a shift. I told them you weren’t coming home before Monday, so don’t bother answering the phone when they call.”

“Thanks, Elly,” he said.

“Paulie, there’s a fresh pot of mint tea there by the stove and fresh honey from Alice. She has missed you singing behind her at mass. She brought the honey to Rosary Society to give to you when she heard you were sick,” said Elly. “There’s a card there next to the jar.”

“Aww,” said Joey, “isn’t that sweet, Paulie?” Paulie cleared his throat and nodded.

“I’ve missed her and Tony too,” croaked Paul, “Tea sounds amazing,” replied Paul with a smile and reaching for his mug from the rack. “want one, Joey?”

“Sure, he said as Paul took his mug from the rack and poured both cups as Joey handed him the card while he dipped the honey into each and stirred it.

Paul smirked and opened the card to find a sweet note from Alice to get well soon and that she’s praying for him. He took his tea to the table in the kitchen nook, surrounded by windows and set his mug down with the magazine and paged through it while Joey and Elly talked. How he had missed home all these months, he thought, sipping the tea. He longed for Sister Ambrose’s Mint tea blend, Elly’s chatter, the birds at the feeder and the squirrels’ stealth missions to steal sunflower seeds.

The gate bell rang. Elly used the tv remote to click on the camera to see who was at the gate.

“It’s your luggage, I’ll deal with the driver.”

Paul pulled a twenty from his wallet from his back pocket and Joey fetched it for her.

“Are you boys hungry?”

“Famished,” replied Paul, stopping on the staircase.

“He’s going to get a steam first, Elly. We have to get rid of this croup before it becomes pneumonia.”

“Do you want me to bring lunch upstairs?

“No, we’ll be down. He has antibiotics to take in another hour with his lunch.” Joey picked up the tea mug from the table.

“Want another cup?”

Paul shook his head and shut the magazine, taking it and the card with him. Feeling all of three years old, Paul was too tired to argue and stopped at the center island where Elly stood turning the fresh bread from its pan onto the cooling rack.

“Thank you, Elly,” said Paul, with a slight wave as she stepped out to the mudroom off the kitchen for the back door where the driver would show up soon with all their luggage.

With his hand nested in Joey’s, Paul led them down the hardwood hallway to their suite under the large west gable of the house, where they wanted to be for the last sixteen weeks. They didn’t even celebrate Christmas at home that year, but instead, they flew to Vail and had their ski equipment and Christmas packages shipped there to Paulie’s villa. They spent four days skiing until every muscle ached in a way that neither minded until a virus attacked their overtired systems.

After such a long and tiring tour, their beautiful bedroom suite was a welcome retreat, where they had made love probably thousands of times in the last six years they lived here together. For the last month, Paul wanted nothing more than a week alone in bed with Joey, food brought to them and only leaving their bed for the toilet or shower. Knowing Joey and his inability to ever stop and just relax, Paul knew that fantasy was not a possibility after most tours—but this tour could change that, he surmised.

As they entered their suite that filled the entire gable of the west side of the house, the sun brightened the room as it peeked through the silky sheers. Its rounded walls with its high ceiling that coned into a peak where a fabricated filigree chain hung a magnificent Austrian Crystal chandelier. Paul hated the chandelier and said that he would have preferred a crystal disco ball or a ceiling fan than “that thing” that reminded him of something out of Liberace’s palace, but Joey just ignored Paul’s dramatics and had instructed the design team where to hang it.

The naturally stained maple hardwood walls contrasted the Cal King bed topped in a white down comforter with a dozen sham and bolster pillows of a similar hue to set off the dark maple wood of the fine furniture that Joey had ordered from an Amish craftsman in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

“It’s good to be home,” said Paul above a whisper, reaching around Joey and attacking his lover’s neck with wet kisses.

On tour, they had to be clandestine at best with their relationship, being careful of who was present and what they knew about them. Paul always worried if those around them could be trusted to keep their secret, or if someone would use it to expose the pair and ruin Paul’s career in the process.

Within a moment Paul directed Joey toward the bed and had Joey’s broadcloth shirt pulled from his jeans and over his head so that the buttoned cuffs held Joey’s hands suspended so that Paul could do what he willed to Joey without hardly any complaint. As his lips traveled across Joey’s cheek and down his long slender neck and to his chest, his hand was busy unfastening Joey’s belt and jeans.

“Paul, shut the door,” said Joey as he lifted his head from the bed to see that their bedroom door was still wide open. Paul brushed back a stray honey blonde lock from Joey’s face.

“I want you,” replied Paul in a raspy tone, the cough drop now dissolved and wearing off. He attacked Joeys’ chest again as he pushed Joey’s jeans and jockeys down to make matching bunches at Joey’s ankles. Joey, determined to get his way, recoiled until Paul did as he bade.

“I know, Honey, but you’ll make Elly faint again. Go on, close the door and get out of those clothes since you won’t let me have any fun.” Paul stood up and shut the door, kicking off his Italian loafers and unbuckling its matching belt.

“It’s been two weeks you know? Between the sicknesses and the schedule, there’s been no time,” said Paul, pulling his beige wool fisherman sweater up over his head and dropping it into a ball on the floor. In seconds, a bare, olive-skinned Paul reached for Joey’s hips as he bent over to pick up the clothes off the floor. He pressed his front against Joey’s backside as a coughing fit took over and just clearing his throat wouldn’t ward off the coughing fit as Joey pulled himself upright, depositing wallets and cell phones on the dresser and clothes into the hamper inside the closet.

“You need a steam,” said Joey, reaching for the tissues.

“I know, but I want you more.”

“So fuck me in there.”

Paul smiled wickedly and nodded. Joey left him to go prep their large bathroom for his steaming and started the walls of shower heads set on high as the steam began to fog up the windows and mirror. He shut the bathroom door and found Paul tossing the sham pillows off the bed and onto Joey’s side of the floor.

Joey picked up the pillows and set them on the window seat as he always did when they weren’t on the bed.

“What are you taking the bed apart for?”

“So I can fall into it when we’re through.”

“What about lunch?”

“You can bring it up. I’m going to steam and get into that bed and I’m not leaving for the next 24 hours at least. And neither are you.”

The house phone rang. Paul looked at the extension on his night table and Joey tossed a pillow at him as he was about to reach for the phone.

Paul caught the pillow before it hit him in the face and furrowed his brow at his lover.

“Elly’s here, let her answer it,” said Joey, as Paul reached for the receiver on the night table. “No, c’mon, you need that steam mister.”

“I need to fuck you more,” whispered Paul.

“Well then, let’s go,” said Joey reaching for Paul’s hand. He reluctantly left the bed for the bathroom as the phone rang again. He stopped in his tracks as Elly answered it.

“C’mon, the world can wait until you get steamed and satiated so you can sleep all day after lunch.”

“Mmm, yes,” said Paul, pulling Joey into a warm embrace.

Wrapping himself about Joey and cupping Joey’s perky bottom with each hand and kissing his mouth and drinking in his partners’ sweet flavor. As Paul’s mouth lowered and his tongue teased Joey’s rippling six-pack, Joey sighed as Paul’s ministrations moved lower still. It had seemed like forever but had only been two weeks since either one had gotten such decadent attention. Although they had slept in the same bed, both of them were either too sick or tired--or sometimes both--to enjoy one another.

“I love you, Paulie,” said Joey, as Paul knelt before him. “God, I’ve missed this. You and me, our room, the silence, the house, the deer--all of it.”

“Same here. I’ve counted down the days until I could be just with you—just you and me, Joey—in the peaceful world of our pink gabled house.”

“Stop teasing. You love this house, whether it’s pink or not.”

“True, I do, but I love whom I share it with more. I could fuck you all day, do you know that?”

“Mmm, I hope you do.”

The intercom buzzed and Joey groaned. “Yes, Elly?”

“Paulie,” said Elly, “it’s your dad. He’s very upset and speaking in Italian. I think you better take this call.”

Paul slowly raised up and looked at Joey in the face, then received a kiss and a nod from his lover. Paul sighed and reached for the phone’s receiver. Clearing his throat “Dad? What’s wrong?”

"Paulie, you there?” asked Saverio.

"Hi Dad," croaked Paul. He touched Joey’s face and softly kissed, while he ignored his father’s bitching about Elly.

"Well, you worried us. All this talk of you being sick, canceling your tour—”

“I’m sorry Dad. It’s just my voice,” said Paul, clearing his throat again. “How have you been?”

“I am well. I’ve…ah…had better days, but, I…ah…just got a call from Alexander Corwynn.”

"Alex called you? Why?”

"A little girl hid away in your cargo…from your tour. They…ah…found her this morning.”

“Wait, a fan?”

“I…ah…don’t know if she's fan, Paulie. I do know her name is Maia CatrinaLenci, and she’s . . . ah . . . my daughter.”

“She’s what?” asked Paul, straining his voice.una figlia? Come? chi è lei?” Your daughter? How? Who is she?” He always reverted to Italian when he was upset and needed to edit the truth before telling Joey about another family issue that they would have to manage together. The less Joey knew before revelation the better it was to mitigate the issue at hand.

Pacing the room with the cordless phone, Paul demanded, “Come potete fare questo e tenerlo dapartemia? . . . why didn’t you ever tell me about her?

Joey, not wanting to know, left Paul and his drama for the adjoining bathroom, tossing Paul his soft white terry cloth robe from the back of the bathroom door them shutting himself inside.

“Wait, your bastard child got into my tour cargo? Jesus, where did it end up?” asked Paul, sitting on the side of the bed.

“In Queens.”

“Queens? Per l’amore di Dio! For the love of God! Please tell me this isn’t happening.” Paul started to cough again and then cleared his throat again.

"She’sah… not well, Alexander just went to check on her. They ah…took her to the hospital in an ambulance.”

“Wait, what are you saying?” asked Paul, now realizing that this was beyond a game of hide and seek, this young girls actions could have cost her life.

"She’s not eaten for three days and is . . . how you say, not awake.”

"She’s unconscious and dehydrated. God…Dad, why didn’t you ever tell me about her? About them? Where’s her mother, Dad? How old is this kid?”

“I don’t know where Catrina is, Paulie. Maia, she’s almost fourteen now.”

"A teenager? In my cargo…almost dead…merda! When are you coming to get her?”

“Lo non sono venuta atrovare lasua. . . I’m not coming to get her,” replied the old man emotionless.

“Why not? Wake up Dad, you are her father and she’s your daughter.”

“Where’s her mother? I have a no…what do you call it…”

“Custody?”

"Si, that’s it, custody of the girl. I gave up the right to see her with the papers and money.”

“You need to be on the next plane up here, dad.”

"Tua madre sarà pazza. Your Mama will be mad. Mama never wanted you to know.”

Paul sat up in disbelief and now indignant that his mother had kept a secret from him. “Mama knew and never told me?”

“I told you, Paulie, the trust, it’s … for you and the girl …so she would be cared for and so you wouldn’t know.”

Paul scoffed and paced the room. He should have known that this plot to conceal the girl from him was all his Mamas doing, but he would wait to ask her himself when he could corner her in person. Then, he would not let her out of answering him and with the complete truth. “But now I do know, and now she’s a sick runaway in a hospital. What hospital, dad?”

"Ah…Alexander, he asaid, ah…Queens…”

“Queens Medical?”

"Si, that’s the one,” said Saverio.

“Press 2 and Send on your cell phone and call me when you have flight information.”

“I … ah…know your number Paulie. Your Mama will say ah …no.”

“I say yes. Do I have to send the jet for you both?”

“You might, then…ah…she won’t be able to say ah…no,” replied Saverio.

"She’ll say no, but it won’t be to you. I’m sending it as soon as I get off here with you. I’ll have my pilot call you when he’s close. Where’s Mama?”

“Mama is at her garden club.”

“Call her and get her home. I want Mama to call me after you tell her that you are coming to New York to meet your daughter and deal with me."

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