Contracted to Mr Collins Pt. 2 - Commitment

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Chapter 3 – Meeting Nan & Pop

They’ve been driving a little over two hours when Max pulls into a service station just outside of Nanaimo to gas up. Feeling the need to stretch her legs, Rebecca decides to hop out and search out a washroom while Aiden makes a quick call to update his Nan on their location.

Luckily, she spots a large restroom sign pointing down the hall between the variety store and the small cafe and heads in that direction. The facilities aren’t the nicest or the cleanest she has ever used, but they’ll work in a pinch.

When she emerges from the bathroom, Aiden is leaning against the opposite wall waiting patiently. She scrunches up her nose, pointing back toward the filthy door. “Be careful in there. It’s not the cleanest washroom. Then again, I suppose it’s not as worrisome for you. At least you can stand.”

Chuckling, he places his arm around her shoulder and bends down close to her ear. “Thankfully, I don’t need to use the facilities. I peed in the bush around back. By the looks of it, the bush was probably cleaner.” He gives her a wink and smiles. “I was actually just waiting for you. They have a coffee shop inside. I thought I’d see if you wanted anything.”

Slapping him playfully on the chest, she chuckles. “I can’t believe you of all people peed in a bush.”

He shrugs, kissing her on the top of her head. “I’m human, and you were occupying the only bathroom. Now, let’s get something to munch on for the rest of our trip. We still have a couple more hours before we get there.”

Ordering two coffees, a large latte, three toasted sandwiches, and half a dozen donuts, he looks over at her with a raised brow. “Would you like anything else?”

Shaking her head, a grin plays on her lips as she gazes up at him. “You ordered me a latte, Mr. Collins? Are you sure that’s a good idea? Do you recall the last time I had one of those in your presence?”

Grabbing the bags, he hands her the tray of drinks with a smile. “Did you honestly think I could forget? My best suit still bears the stain of our first meeting with your latte, Miss D’Angelo.”

Giggling, Rebecca hands Max the tray of drinks. He looks a little baffled as he opens the rear door and helps her in. “Alright. What have I missed that’s so funny?”

“It’s nothing.” She points to the bag of sandwiches, trying to change the topic. “Your brother got you a turkey sandwich and a coffee.”

“Great, but I’m sure that’s not what the giggling was about. If I had to guess, I’d say it had something to do with this.” Pulling the latte from the tray, he hands it to her with a smirk.

She raises her brow at him with a slight smile and takes the cup. “Yeah. I suppose that incident will forever appear in the reflection of every latte now.”

Oddly enough, both men shrug and respond in unison. “It could be worse.”

Finishing her sandwich, Rebecca starts to feel her eyelids grow heavy. She rolls up her sweater, using it as a pillow and leans her head against the window to doze off. When Aiden closes his laptop and looks over, he cringes. Her neck is cocked at an awkward angle and sure to end up stiff if she remains in that position. He leans over to carefully unclip her seatbelt, pulls her toward him and lays her head in his lap. Rebecca quickly makes herself comfortable, drawing her feet up onto the seat and tucks her hands under his thigh.

Gazing down at her, Aiden’s mesmerized by how peaceful she looks curled up in his lap. He strokes her hair methodically, watching the rise and fall of her chest with each breath. There’s no way he can imagine life without her.

When the truck comes to a stop, her eyes fly open, and she sits up. “Where are we? Are we here?”

Amazed at how quickly she’s become alert, Aiden runs his hand over her hair, reassuring her. “Yes, baby. We’re here. We can leave the bags for now. Max and I will get them later. Let’s just go inside so you can meet Nan and Pop first.”

Before they can exit the truck, a chunky grey-haired woman comes flying out the door with a grin from ear to ear. Her shriek is loud enough to wake the dead. “Oh! My boys are home!”

She turns toward the bush, her holler sounding similar to a yodel. “Shamus! The boys are here!” Turning back to face Rebecca with her arms outstretched, she continues to yell to her husband. “And just wait till you see this beautiful young lady they’ve brought with them.”

Within minutes, a tall, stocky man with salt and pepper hair saunters out of the woods. “Well, hot damn! Would you look at who finally decided to come home for a visit.”

He looks Rebecca over with an approving eye and smacks Aiden on the back. “How the hell did you find yourself such a beautiful little lady to accompany you all the way out here, boy?”

Claire wraps her arm around Rebecca’s shoulder, her smile wide. “You sure are a beauty. I’m surprised our boys aren’t fighting over you like cats and dogs.”

Rebecca forces a smile and nods, dropping her gaze to the ground in front of her.

‘Oh my god! She knows! I’m going to hell!’

Laughing, Shamus throws an arm around each of his grandsons. “Don’t be silly, Claire. We taught them how to share, and they know better than to be feuding each other. Ain’t that right, boys?” His head bobs from Aiden to Max with a mischievous smile.

Slapping him in the back of the head disapprovingly as she moves past him with her arm still tight around Rebecca, Claire glares at him. “Ignore him, honey. I guess now you know where Max picked up his crass sense of humour.”

Rebecca snickers nervously, following Claire into the house. “So, tell me, sweetie. How did you and Aiden meet?”

Before Rebecca can respond, the men file in behind them, and Shamus pulls her into a tight hug. “Jesus, ma! Who cares how they met? Look at her. She’s a keeper.” Holding her at arm’s length, he gives her a wide smile. “Tell me he’s at least been bright enough to give you a ring.”

Oh my god! All these questions! How the hell do I answer them?

Rebecca forces a smile as Aiden quickly steps in to the rescue. “Actually, we’ve only been dating for a few months, but she has definitely stolen my heart.”

Setting out a pitcher of iced tea and some cookies, Claire smiles. “Well, anyone can see that, honey.” She throws her arm around Max, giving him a squeeze. “And what about you, Maxwell?”

Max smiles over at Rebecca and winks. “Yeah, I’m afraid she’s stolen my heart too, Nan. I don’t care what Aiden does. I’ve already decided I’m keeping her.”

Shamus narrows his eyes at his grandsons and takes a deep breath. “Now, you boys best not be fighting. I’d hate to have to make you go get a switch from the damn forest. I’m pretty sure you don’t want me whipping your asses in front of this pretty little lady, now do ya?”

Aiden wraps his arms around Rebecca’s waist and kisses her temple. “We’re not fighting, Pop. Everything is fine.”

Claire takes a seat at the table, resting her chin on her hand and looks between the two brothers suspiciously. “Mmhm.”

Smiling up at Rebecca, she gestures for her to take a seat and pours her a glass of iced tea. “Come sit, honey. Let the boys go fetch the bags while we chat a little.”

Leaning down, Aiden kisses Rebecca’s neck and whispers quietly into her ear. “We met at my office three months ago. I love you. Try some of Nan’s cookies, they’re the best.”

Feeling a little awkward and praying that Claire didn’t hear him, Rebecca glances around. “You have a lovely home.”

“Thank you, dear. Aiden had it built for us a few years back. It has everything we need. Land for my gardening and the lake is just down the hill for Shamus’s fishing. We love it out here. Max bought a couple of horses that he keeps here in the stable. We take care of them, which means we get to take them for a ride now and then. Do you do any riding?”

Rebecca shakes her head. “I’ve honestly never been on a horse before.”

“Well then, we’ll have to have Max take you for a ride. You’ll love it. There are some beautiful sights around here.” She takes Rebecca’s hand and gives her a sympathetic smile. “Have these two boys been fighting over you from the start, or is this new?”

Rebecca’s not sure what to say. Claire is obviously a very observant woman. She looks down at the table and shakes her head. “They’ve been fine. They throw little digs here and there. Your typical sibling taunting, I guess you’d say. Until this morning.” Rebecca suddenly can’t stop the tears that are pooling in her eyes from falling.

Claire quickly tugs a tissue from the box beside her on the table and hands it to her. “Oh, honey. Come with me. It’s gonna be alright.”

Leading her down the hallway toward the back of the house. She opens the door to a small room and directs her to sit at the table. Claire lights a tall pillar candle and sits down next to her. “This is my craft room. No one is allowed in here unless I invite them in. Anything that is said within these walls stays in this room. So, you go right ahead and let it all out.”

Rebecca nods as she glances around the room, taking note of each little detail. She notices different types of herbs and flowers hanging along one wall and a large china cabinet full of odd spice jars. A beautiful black and gold woven tapestry is draped over a nearby table that holds a large stock of different coloured candles. There are unusual items such as a pestle and mortar in the china cabinet that she would have expected to see in the kitchen, not in a backroom.

She feels the soft brush of Claire’s hand on her cheek wipe the tears away, and before she knows it, she suddenly blurts out, “I love them both. Aiden proposed to me when we were in Jamaica, but I got scared and ran off.”

Realizing what she’s just said, she slaps her hand over her mouth. “Oh, my God. I’m not sure what’s gotten into me. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”

Taking her hand, Claire smiles. “Nonsense. You can say anything you want in this room. A friend of mine calls it the room of truth. It seems to have a way of letting people relax, allowing them to relieve their troubles. You’ll never be judged in here, and nothing you say will ever be repeated, unless by you. Now, if my boys have done something wrong, if they’ve done something to hurt you, however —”

“Oh, no. It’s nothing like that. I assure you, Aiden and Max are both perfect gentlemen.” Rebecca looks into her eyes with a reassuring gaze. “They are the kindest and sweetest men I’ve ever met.”

A look of relief crosses Claire’s face as she places her hand to her chest. “Oh, thank god. I thought I was going to have to make Shamus whip their asses.”

She looks into Rebecca’s eyes with sincerity. “Why don’t you tell me what happened this morning that has you so upset, honey?”

“Max told Aiden he’s in love with me.” Rebecca blurts out without another thought.

Claire nods slowly with a slight smirk. “Oh, I see. Have you been intimate with both of them?”

Rebecca is unsure of what to say. She hangs her head and gives a slight nod, again shocked at her admission.

Patting her hand, Claire smiles. “There’s no shame in loving two men when they love you in return, and it’s obvious they do. They’ll sort this out. Don’t worry.” She walks over to her china cabinet and pulls a deck of tarot cards from the drawer. “Have you ever had your cards read?”

Looking at her curiously, Rebecca shakes her head. “No. Do they work?”

Shuffling the deck, Claire shrugs and hands them to Rebecca. “Well, I believe they do, but it’s really all up to the belief in the one choosing the cards. Anyway, there’s certainly no harm in seeing what they say while we give you some time to calm down, now is there? Just think of your most desired question while you shuffle, and let’s see what they say.”

Rebecca takes the deck skeptically and shuffles.

‘What does the future hold for Aiden, Max and me?’ She asks herself.

Attempting to hand the deck of cards back, Claire holds up her hand. “Just choose any ten cards, dear. When you’re done, place the deck to the side.”

Flicking through the deck, Rebecca chooses ten random cards. Handing them to Claire, she places the rest of the deck aside as instructed. She watches as Claire lays them out in a cross design with four cards off to the side and a double card in the center.

Starting with the card at the center of the cross formation, she flips it over. “This is where you are right now. It’s the four of wands. I can see this being interpreted as you and Aiden’s relationship. It’s moving forward and becoming more serious.”

Turning over the card on top of it, she studies it for a brief moment. “This is the knight of cups. Its position shows the challenges you’re facing with that relationship. What I see is exactly what you’ve just told me. This is Max. A man who’s romantic and very much in touch with his feelings.” Claire glances up at her with a smile. “He definitely loves you, and he’s not willing to back away. Not even for Aiden. That says a lot for Max.”

Reaching for the card at the bottom of the cross, she flips it with a smile. “This position signifies what you need to focus on. This is the ten of cups. It indicates family. Now, that typically means developing on your spouse and children. Considering you have both men battling for your affection at the moment, and you have no children. I would focus on your own desires for now.”

Moving to the card on the left of the cross, she flips the ten of swords. “The position this card is in signifies your past, and it can be influencing your decisions or indecisions.” Claire glances up at Rebecca. Her face etched with sympathy. “With the ten of swords, I see an unfaithful man full of dishonesty in your past. That experience can be making you hesitant to put your full trust in another man.”

Flipping over the card on the top of the cross, she raises her brow and gives an acknowledging nod. “This position signifies your strengths. You’re the Empress. You’re a beautiful, sensual and fertile young woman who is able to develop deep connections with her partner. No wonder both my boys are so smitten with you.”

She smiles up at Rebecca as she flips the card to the right. “This position signifies your near future. Now, that could mean anytime between today and the next few months. The nine of cups depicts happiness and harmony. It’s a wonderful card.”

Moving to the cards she placed alongside the cross, she flips the bottom card. “The position of this card offers a suggested approach to deal with the challenge mentioned earlier. The knight of wands suggests you should use the energy it radiates and enjoy the passion and adventures it brings. The struggle itself won’t last long.”

Flipping the next card in line, she runs her hand across her mouth and smiles. “This position signifies what you need to know. This card is the Hierophant. It means one of these two boys, or possibly both, plan on marrying you.”

She flips the second last card over and sighs. “The position of this card signifies your hopes and fears.” She points down at the card. “From the five of swords here, I can see you’re afraid of losing either of them. You’re hoping that somehow, they’ll be able to reconcile their differences, and you’ll be able to keep them both.” Claire smiles. “That would be wonderful, wouldn’t it?”

Finally, she flips the last card and glances up at Rebecca. “Now, this card is interesting. It signifies your potential future.” Claire’s smile broadens. “This is the wheel of fortune, and based on the rest of your cards, it completes your reading with good fortune. Not only that, combined with the Empress, it suggests an unplanned pregnancy.” She quickly puts her hand over Rebecca’s. “However, I assure you it’s nothing to worry about. The news will overjoy the boys,” she says matter-of-factly.

Rebecca’s head shoots up, and her mouth drops open. “You mean, I’ll have a child?”

Claire shrugs. “Well, that all depends on how accurate the cards are. I mean, we’re really just passing the time to calm your nerves, but at least the cards were all positive.” Claire stands and pats her on the shoulder. “You just need to keep doing whatever it is you’re doing, and things will be just fine.”

They head back out to join the men in the living room around the fireplace, and Aiden holds his hand out for Rebecca to come and sit beside him. Making her way over to the sofa, she sits between the two brothers. Aiden quickly wraps his arm around her waist and tucks her into his side, placing a kiss on her temple. “I missed you. Where did Nan drag you off to anyway?”

“I was showing her my craft room, and it’s none of your business what we were doing in there. So, don’t bother asking her any questions about it.”

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