“My father,” Mason repeated slowly. “This man is my father?”
“Yes, mijo,” Rosa said.
“Would you care for an explanation?” Father asked quietly.
Mason snorted angrily. Fury was rolling off of his body in waves. “Obviously! What the fuck--”
“Francesco, why don’t you two go talk in your study while I serve lunch?” Serena suggested quickly. “Penelope, would you like to lay Malachi down for a nap?”
I blinked at her in confusion as Mason and father disappeared from the room. “What?”
She pointed to the screaming child in my arms.
“That would be great, thank you,” Brett replied.
“I’m sorry I haven’t introduced myself,” Serena said to Rosa and Jorge. “I’m Francesco’s wife, Serena. I’ll be right back. Please make yourselves at home. Penelope? Brett?”
She gestured for Brett and I to follow her.
“Serena, I know where-”
“Hush, Lupita,” Brett said gently, cutting me off. I was so confused. “She wants to talk to you.”
We headed upstairs to one of the guest rooms that had been turned into a nursery.
I frowned and turned to Serena. “What the hell is this?”
She flushed scarlet and looked down at her hands. “It’s not important right now.”
I opened my mouth to respond but Malachi grabbed a fistful of my hair and I yelped in pain.
“Let me lay him down, Lupita. Go talk to Serena,” Brett said, plucking him from my arms.
Serena and I went back into the hallway. “Are you okay, mija?”
“What? Yeah. I mean I guess so? I’m just really overwhelmed. Why did Papa think this was a good idea?!” I groaned in frustration as I felt a tear run down my cheek.
She pulled me into a hug and rubbed my back. “I’m not sure. He didn’t tell me this was happening. But I’m sure his intentions were good.”
“I know,” I replied pulling back. “But I can only imagine how Mason is feeling right now.”
“I’m more worried about you.”
I smiled. “I appreciate that, Serena. I really do. But I’ll be okay.”
“Alright. Well, I’ll go down and help the maids finish getting lunch ready. Come down when you’re ready.”
She disappeared down the hallway and I headed back into the room where Malachi was already drifting off to sleep in the crib. Brett turned and nodded at me as I walked into the room, closing the door quietly behind me.
“We’ve barely been back an entire week and shit has gone absolutely insane. Can we just get on a plane and get the hell out of here?” I asked quietly, laying my head on his shoulder.
He chuckled as his arms snaked around my waist, pulling me into a tight embrace. “Where do you want to go, baby?”
“Paris? Tokyo? Toronto? Anywhere but here.”
He kissed the top of my head. “How about this? I’ll take you to Paris next year if you can just get through this day.”
“Promise?” I muttered into his chest.
I sighed. “Okay. Let’s go downstairs.”
Brett took my hand and we left the room quietly to join the others downstairs.
“Penelope, sweetheart? Is that you?” Rosa’s voice greeted me as we entered the dining room.
“Hello Mrs. Martinez,” I said politely.
“You can call me Rosa, dear. Or abuela.”
I nodded and sat down in the chair Brett had pulled out for me.
“Hi. I’m Brett Jacobson,” came Brett’s voice from beside me as he shook hands with my grandparents. “Pleasure to meet you.”
“This is the boyfriend?” Rosa said with a coy smile. “He’s cute.”
I winced. This was so incredibly awkward. How were they just pretending like everything was normal?! It was beyond infuriating!
Brett squeezed my hand and winked at me, mouthing, “Remember Paris.”
I tuned out Brett and Rosa’s conversation as I tried to process everything that was happening. How on earth did Papa think bringing them all here would be a good idea. Mason had been completely blindsided by all of this. At least I knew our father. And I had found Rosa and Jorge on my own. If I were him I would be so angry and hurt.
Serena came back into the room a while later and placed another plate of food on the table. “Lupe, your father would like to see you in his study.“Rolling my eyes, I dropped Brett’s hand and stomped down to father’s office. “Mason, I don’t know what Papa told you but I had no idea he was planning--”
My words died on my lips when my gaze met Mason’s. Piercing green eyes the same color as my own stared intensely back at me. My breath caught in my throat as he walked toward me and enveloped me in a tight hug.
“You’re my sister? My twin sister?”
The tears were back. “Apparently,” I answered quietly.
He drew back and looked me up and down before gasping dramatically. “My twin sister who is sleeping with my best friend?!”
I gasped and felt my cheeks warming in embarrassment. “Shut up!”
“Please,” father said gruffly. “Spare me the details.”
Mason laughed heartily much to my confusion.
“Wait. You’re laughing. You’re not upset about all of this?”
“Oh trust me I’m upset. But I’m not going to take that out on the other innocent in all of this.”
“You, Penelope!” he said with another laugh.
I scrunched my nose in distaste. “Call me Lupe.”
“Whatever you want, little sister. Wait. Francesco who’s older?”
“Lupe is older by five minutes.”
“Oh.” Mason shrugged. “You’re so short, I think I’ll keep calling you little sister,” he said, resting his arm on top of my head. “Let’s go eat little sister.”
He grabbed my arm and dragged me from the room. I glanced back at my father in bewilderment. He simply smiled and followed us.
“Mason wait!” I exclaimed, tugging on his arm.
“What?” He grinned down at me.
“You’re planning on staying?”
“Well of course! I have to get to know my family.”
“I know,” he said quietly with a sad smile. “It will take time to forgive him, but I’m not missing out on another second.” He hugged me again and whispered in my ear. “Besides, I’ve got years of protective brothering to catch up on. I’m never letting you out of my sight again, Lupe.”
I giggled and hugged him back. “Brothering? Is that even a word?”
“It is now,” he said with a snort. “Now come on. I have some words for our dear abuelos.”
I looked back at father as Mason continued dragging me down the hall. The smile on his face was the most sincere I had ever seen, and that made me smile too.
Lunch was incredibly uncomfortable. Mason took Jorge and Rosa to task in Spanish so fast that I could barely understand. Based on Serena’s facial expressions, he was not being gentle.
Mason sat right next to me and would not let go of my hand the entire meal. Even when we moved into the sitting room for tea, he had his arm looped through mine as we got to know each other.
Talking to Mason was like talking to a part of myself I didn’t know was missing. By the end of the afternoon, we were finishing each other’s sentences, much to everyone’s amusement.
Around six, Brett checked his watch and tapped me gently. “I’ve got to get Malachi home; He’s starting preschool tomorrow.”
“Oh, I completely forgot. Sorry, everyone. We’ve got to get going.”
Brett stared at me for a long moment.
“What? Why do you keep looking at me like that?” I asked with a laugh.
“Nothing, babe.” He smiled and kissed my forehead. “Are you sure you don’t want to stay here with your family?”
I turned to my father. “Papa?”
“Can we all have dinner together next Sunday?”
He smiled. “Of course we can. I would love that.”
“We go back to Chicago on Tuesday,” Rosa said sadly.
“Abuela why don’t you and abuelo come to stay with me?” Mason asked. “What’s back in Chicago anyway? Lupe and I are here.”
“But the restaurant--”
“Tia is running it anyway.”
“Tia?” I questioned. “We have an aunt?”
Mason laughed. “We have too many aunts to count. And uncles and cousins. I’ll have to take you to Chicago to meet them all. They’re going to love you.”
Malachi squired in Brett’s arms reaching for me. I took him in my arms and stood up. “Okay, everyone. We’ll see you later.”
“Can I come with you?” Mason asked.
“Brett? Can he? Please?” I smiled up at my boyfriend with pleading eyes.
He laughed. “Of course. He’s my best friend, remember?”
“You’re too cute. Come on you two, let’s go.”
Mason and I were practically jumping for joy as we hugged everyone quickly and followed Brett to the car. We talked the entire way back to the city with no awkwardness whatsoever. He told me all about his work and about his girlfriend, Natasha.
“Where are we?” Mason asked as we pulled up in front of my building.
“My apartment,” I replied, lifting Malachi from his carrier.
“Brett, you’re staying here?”
My cheeks reddened as Brett came around the car with Malachi’s bag after giving the keys to the valet. “What?”
“You’re spending the night with my sister?”
“Malachi’s preschool is only a few blocks from here so I thought it would make sense for them to stay here tonight,” I said quickly.
“Mason you knew about my relationship with Lupita before you knew she was your sister,” Brett interjected with a serious expression.
“Yeah but now I know--”
“Guys, can we continue this conversation inside?” I asked with a shiver. “It’s really cold.”
Brett ushered me inside quickly and Mason followed, glaring at his best friend the entire way up to my apartment.
“I’m going to go get Malachi bathed,” Brett mumbled as we walked into my apartment after the deadly silent elevator ride.
“You want something to drink, Mason?” I kicked off my heels and padded into the kitchen.
“I’m okay.” He looked at his watch. “I actually have to get going. I just remembered I told Natasha that I'd meet her for drinks.”
My face fell. “Oh. Okay.”
“Can I stop by your office tomorrow? Francesco wants me to come and see him in the morning anyway.”
“That sounds great.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow?”
I nodded. “Yes.”
He pulled me into a hug again. “I’m so glad that I’m your brother.”
“And I’m so glad that I’m your sister.”