Chapter 1: Vanessa
I wiggled my leg in the front seat of Leo’s car as we followed Mason speeding to the hospital, half from excitement about the babies and half in nervousness about what Leo could possibly need me for. It’d been a little over a year since we had anything to do with each other, our association all in the past.
“You can relax a little, babies are born every day.”
Leo’s voice broke the quiet in the car, and I glanced in to the back seat at Eleonara to see her mouthing along to whatever song she was listening to in her headphones, head tilted back and eyes closed.
“I know that, but I’m the aunt this time.” I paused, then asked the question that had been burning in my mind since the minute he showed up. “How did you find me?”
He glanced at me with a raised eyebrow. “I’ve always known where you were.”
I rolled my eyes with a little huff, turning to look out the window to the trees speeding by. Figures. It’s not like I’d been trying to hide, but when we’d parted ways I thought he was done with me. At least, that’s what he’d made me believe. My heart ached in my chest at the thought of everything lost, and then I shook my head to clear that away. Been there, done that, and I wasn’t going back again.
“Why are you here, Leo?” I’d turned to look back at him, and because of that I could see the hesitation on his face. I just waited, giving him time to find the right words.
“The... business we’d thought we’d concluded? We were wrong.”
I could feel the blood drain from my face, my body freezing at the implication of his words. “You’re joking. You have to be.”
He shook his head slowly. “I wish I were. But that’s not all. I... I found her, too.”
My heart thumped hard in my chest. “Sadie?” The name was a whisper, full of fear and hope. If everything that he was telling me was true, this was equally the best and worst day of my life.
“Yes, Nessa. I found Sadie. But,” he paused to swallow, his hands tightening on the steering wheel with barely repressed anger, “it’s bad, mio dulce."
My skin tingled with the old nickname, but I decided to address that later. I turned more to face him. “How bad? Tell me everything.”
“Not yet. I need to get you safe first, and then we can talk more. For the moment, let’s focus on the miracle of childbirth,” he commented with a pointed nod. I turned to see that we’d arrived at the hospital.
I wanted to argue, but I knew that there was plenty of time for the bad stuff later. Right now, I wanted to welcome the two sweet babies Olivia was about to push out of her into the world. We went to find a parking space as Noah rushed Olivia inside while Mason went to park as well. We caught up easily and Mason went into the room to help while Leo and his sister and I stayed in the waiting room.
Leo constantly stepped out to take phone calls while Eleonara, who I’d always called Elle for short, and I kept each other company.
“So,” Elle said as I shuffled the deck of cards we’d found, “tell me about them.”
I smiled happily, recalling the day I’d shown up at their house unannounced. “Well, as I’m sure you know, I’m Noah’s sister. I’m ten months younger, but I didn’t know about him until about a year ago. I searched hard for months until I found him, and when I did, I just showed up at their door. I explained who I was and why I hadn’t reached out sooner, and they welcomed me with open arms.”
“Wow,” she said. “Was it weird, the three of them together?”
I snorted a little laugh, my cheeks coloring a bit. If only she knew. “To most people it would be, but the love between them is so strong that you almost don’t notice. They all care for each other, and that’s all anyone wants. To be loved and protected.”
If there was a hint of wistfulness in my voice, I would never admit to it. I looked at Elle, and the look in her eyes told me she knew who and what I was thinking about. Shoving that away, I dealt out the cards we needed for Texas Hold ’Em, our go-to game.
“Anyway. Mason is kind of the top of the triangle. They’re all equal partners, but both Noah and Olivia defer to him, and Olivia also defers to Noah.”
“Oh, so Mason is the Dom, Noah is the switch, and Olivia is the sub?”
I startled, looking up at her from my cards. “How do you know about all that?”
She rolled her eyes. “I’m 19 now Vanessa. I’m not a child. I know things.”
A small laugh escaped me in wonder. “Apparently so. Don’t tell Leo, or he’ll be locking you in a tower before you can say ‘bondage’.” We giggled together, knowing that it was the truth.
Leo stepped back into the room, his face going from stressed to relaxed to see us together, having a good time. “What’s so funny, if I may ask?”
“Oh nothing,” Elle said with a shrug and a small wink at me.
“I’m just telling her a little bit more about Olivia and the guys. She’s gonna have her hands full helping them out, that’s for sure.”
“She’d know a thing or two about handfuls,” he quipped and rubbed her head, prompting a scowl from his little sister.
“Yeah, because I grew up with you,” she retorted and tapped the table to pass.
Leo rolled his eyes and turned away as his phone rang once again. I watched him out of the corner of my eye, unable to look away from the man. He’d always been beautiful and dangerous, and both parts called to me just as strongly as when we’d first met.
“Earth to Vanessa,” Elle sang out to get my attention again.
I quickly looked back at her, ignoring the little smile on her face that asked me too many questions I didn’t have the answer for. “Alright, I’m trading two cards.”
During the next few hours, the three of us waited anxiously to hear news of the babies, and when Mason finally stepped out to the waiting room to let us know that the babies had arrived and both them and Olivia were all doing well I cried a little. I had two little nephews, and I was overwhelmingly grateful that I had the kind of family I’d always longed for.
I watched carefully as Mason talked to Elle, and then switched with Noah, who brought Elle back to meet Olivia and the boys. When Elle came out beaming, sending Mason back to his family, I knew that they had approved of her. I hadn’t had any doubt, and I was willing to admit to myself that the nerves I’d been feeling had to do with the fact that I was going to be leaving with Leo, and I knew it wasn’t for any good reason. He’d promised to let me live my life as I wanted unless something happened; that, plus the return of Sadie, told me that the dark look in Leo’s face as he came to fetch me after ending his latest phone call, told me that things were about to take a difficult turn.
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