“You have to help me. I don’t want her here. Not her and not the baby.”
The man’s tanned skin was only slightly wrinkled around his handsome mouth. He was a synonym of health and robustness, even in his sixties.
“A mistake.” Jack pointed a finger in the air,
“Just one mistake, and now my whole life is ruined,” he said, making himself the victim as usual.
Lucius looked at his father. The older man slumped down in the chair, which seemed too small for his six-foot-four height and sturdy build. Not to mention, his middle was getting bigger after the death of his wife and Lucius’ mother.
“Would you be quiet for a moment,” Lucius said, rubbing his face with both hands and shaking with the need to wring his father’s neck. He couldn’t feel sorry for his parent, at least not now.
“For God’s sake, stop rumbling like an idiot and filter your words, will you?” Lucius gave him a stare.
“I proposed to Vanesa, and she accepted. I can’t have a child now. She’ll leave me,” the older man insisted.
This was ridiculous, Lucius thought, sliding his hand into his pocket and following the neatly folded papers waiting there to be used.
Jack, his father, said nothing that Lucius didn’t already know.
“Let me get this straight,” he turned and looked into the same eyes as his, only more than twenty years older.
“You proposed to Vanessa? But you knew the baby would be born any day now?”
Jack looked to the side, embarrassed. But he said nothing.
Vanessa, stepmother number three, would be disappointed to learn that her future husband was having a baby with a young maid. Jack couldn’t keep his pants zipped while Lucius’s mother was alive, much less after her death.
And now he expected Lucius to clean up the mess.
“When you’re chasing women and having sex with them whenever you get the chance, you can’t expect anything but a bunch of kids running around,” Lucius said. He felt annoyed lecturing his father about decency.
“Pay them, send them away. I do not care,” the father waved his hand as if it were a magic wand.
Pity for his beautiful, elegant mother, who had to live and die and knew no other love or passion than what this man could give her, overwhelmed Lucius.
She was an heiress. The only child of one of the wealthiest Italian families. His beautiful mother could have any man she wanted. But she adored Jack, fifteen years younger skirt chaser obsessed with women.
Her hot Italian blood became her greatest enemy. The more Jack cheated on her, the more she pursued him.
There was not a day without quarrels in their house. Distrust and jealousy between his parents colored every memory he had.
It was no accident that he chose America as a place to study. The plan was to escape his toxic family and find some precious peace.
When he turned eighteen, lawyers summoned Lucius, and his grandfather named him the family’s sole heir. There was not much worth in family fortune. It was more about titles and pride than money.
Lucius was proud of his past. He worked hard to regain the respect and fame he felt was something that belonged to him and flowed through his veins.
His mother and father only knew how to spend money, but nothing about working and earning back.
The only concern his father had was how to work as little as possible and still live better than most people could imagine. With money comes responsibility, and Jack was glad he did not have any of it. He would rather enjoy the fruits of his son’s hard work than strive for respect.
“Jack,” Lucius said, “the woman is in labor, and you want me to send her away? It is your child and my family that will be born tonight,” he said rhetorically. He did not expect his father to actually answer him. Jack was so lost in self-pity that his brain was barely functioning.
“She’s promiscuous. I would not trust her so easily,” Jack winked, leaning forward and getting excited about the possibility that the baby wasn’t his.
Lucius was already aware that another man might be the baby’s father. Still, he believed this was his brother or sister that would be born tonight. And he was determined to adopt the child.
The contract he had in his pocket was for that reason. He would not miss this opportunity.
Jack’s eyes pleaded with his.
Lucius ran his hands through black midnight hair. It was a trait inherited from his mother. In height and stature, he was an athletic, well-toned version of his Montenegrin father. His jaw was firm and prominent, his nose slightly aquiline and in perfect harmony with the menacingly deep-set eyes that gave his face a fiery expression. No one could call Lucius a simple man or beautiful, but his appeal went beyond looks. It went deep into the guts of anyone who meets him.
“I know how badly I screwed up, but help me one more time. Please, what would I do with a woman or a baby? What would I do if Vanessa left me?”
A knock echoed in the room, and a nurse entered.
“It’s started. The contractions are regular. Baby will be born in the next few hours.”
Jack tossed and turned in a chair, and Lucius decided to put him out of his misery. He did not need his half-brother or sister’s birthday and his father’s funeral on the same day. It would be too much trouble.
“The baby and the woman are my responsibility from now on. But please try to behave yourself in the future, will you?” Lucius added and headed for the door.
The older man grabbed his hand, kissed it on the back, and held it between his palms.
“Thank you, my son. What would I do without you?” he asked with noticeable relief in his eyes.
Lucius paused for a moment, the wrinkles around his mouth softening. He unbuttoned the jacket he was still wearing, tossed it over the back of the chair, and patted his father on the shoulder. Then he strolled down the corridor, where his housekeeper, Marta, awaited him.
“I am sorry, sir. I did not know the girl was such a weak character. When I interviewed her....” Marta struggled for words, “If I had assumed what she was capable of, I would never hire her.”
Lucius let his large hand cup the woman’s delicate shoulders. She barely reached his chest, and he remembered when she could hold him in her arms and tend to his needs.
“You couldn’t know. Don’t concern yourself with other’s doings.” He stroked her back.
The messy bun on Marta’s head shook, and she let the air out of her lungs, “She’s not evil. She’s had another child without a father, a fourteen-year-old girl, be fair, Lucius. The woman is naive and a little too trusting but not evil.” She said with moist eyes that tugged at his heart.
Marta was the one constant in his life. He had more memories of this woman than he did of his mother.
“Everything will be fine, don’t worry.” He reassured her again.
His dark eyes looked around for his security chief, Henry.
Lucius asked for a man to be called in for a brief conversation. Henry hovered nervously ten feet away, waiting for Lucius to approach him.
He looked guilty as hell, with his head and shoulders drooping.
“Good evening, Henry. How are you today?” Lucius greeted him.
Henry smiled hesitantly. He was a big, tall man, one of the best in his business.
Lucius rolled up the sleeves of his white shirt and bared his muscular forearms. He was built like a wall and could look Henry straight in the eye.
“Tell me, did I hear right?” he let his right-hand press into Henry’s shoulder.
“This baby could be as much yours as my father’s?” He asked in a low voice so Marta couldn’t hear him. The woman was already stressed, and he didn’t want to add more to it.
Henry nodded. His whole body was tense like an electrical cord.
“If it’s yours, do you want to keep it?” Lucius asked directly, pushing further into Henry’s flesh with his hand. He watched the play of emotions on the man’s face. He knew Henry was married and had children.
“I only slept with that woman once, a long time ago, before your father threatened me with my job if I touched her again,” he murmured.
“You know, Henry, babies come nine months after sex. One time should be enough. You got two kids at home, man. You know that” Lucius was starting to lose patience.
“Sorry, boss, it won’t happen again. It was so damn hard. She was beautiful and willing.”
Lucius’ nerves twitched, but he remained calm.
“You may go.” He said to Henry and watched as the man ran out of the house like a pack of wolves was after him.
The night was eerily silent.
Hearing Henry’s denial of the child, he turned toward the courtyard and took firm steps toward the small cottages on the far side of the estate, where all the household help had their rooms.
Even before he faced his father and Henry, he knew they’d consider this baby a burden. He was sure it was his father’s child. The dates matched. And he felt deep inside that his half-sibling would be born tonight.
That was a good thing. A baby could destroy his father’s life, but it would save his fragile marriage.
He turned to see where Marta was.
“Will you show me her room?”
The answer came immediately.