37. Mickey, Minnie, And The Other Rats
“You have to be fucking kidding me.”
Nate was in his office staring at some paperwork.
“She has no fucking proof!”
He read through the papers again. And again. Read it until his eyesight blurred and steam was almost coming out of her ears.
“Fucking ridiculous,” he muttered, to no one at all. “If she wasn’t pregnant, I’d wring her neck ’til she saw sense.”
It was a couple of weeks after Mason’s party. Nate and Leila had spent the evening of the party in Nate’s place, holding each other and making plans. Plans to go to Europe in a few months, plans as to what to do with the whole Lorelei thing. Both were related to the other, and Leila had seemed honestly surprised that Nate was asking her to accompany him to England.
Now Nate picked up his phone, called his father. The man still had dual citizenship in England and the U.S., and plenty of contacts where lawyers were concerned. It was one of the perks of having a Country Club lifestyle. You brushed elbows with all sorts of people there.
‘Nate,’ Harry’s voice greeted him.
“I’ve got a fucking problem,” Nate told his father, voice low and grim. “It starts with a ‘b’ and ends with a ‘y’.”
‘What’s happening? Baby blues getting you down?’
“It’s not my baby,” Nate gritted out, irritated with... well, pretty much everyone. “Lorelei has sent me some fucked up paternity lawsuit. I just received it a bit ago.”
‘She moves fast, that one. Just like her oily father.’
He emphasized his words with a low whistle and Nate pinched the bridge of his nose.
“What do I fucking do?”
‘Get a lawyer, one that specializes in family court, heavy on the child support legalities between countries.’
“You know anyone?” Nate asked, sounding hopeful.
‘Of course! I have several names, but I’d try to get the best. Child support between countries is a tricky business. Did she file in England or Ireland?’
Nate looked at the paperwork again. It gave Lorelei’s parent’s address in County Dublin, Ireland.
“Ireland,” Nate said. “Does it matter?”
‘The United States has agreements concerning child support with several nations, Ireland being one of them.’
“I’m so screwed,” Nate groaned.
‘If the child’s not yours, a paternity test will sort it out. How far along is she?’
Nate did some quick math in his head.
“Five and a half, maybe 6 months along.”
‘If she’s telling the truth.’
That was a good point. No one but Lorelei knew what Lorelei, well... knew. And she was shut tighter than a virgin’s knees at a frat party.
‘I’ll send you some names and phone numbers first thing after I get off the phone.’
After Nate and his father both hung up, he went to his desk to take out an extra-strength bottle of Excedrin he kept there. He had a Lorelei-sized migraine coming on.
Leila. He should tell her about this ASAP. But she was at work and hadn’t responded to his last few texts. Probably on the phone or in a meeting. Or raking Jared over the coals for not telling her sooner that he and Mickey had had makeup sex and now... well, the word explained itself. They had made up.
And Leila was pissed with her friend.
But she also understood. Mickey was known to Jared, safe. And they had been together for two years.
And Jared was a fucking fool.
Nate received a text. And another.
Six texts later and he checked his phone. How many fucking attorneys did his dad know that practiced family law? Definitely country club contacts he had had drinks with or played a round of golf with.
Dad: I’d start with the first name on the list before you try any of the others. She’s a bulldog in the courtroom. Raised in London so she’s well aware of the laws of both England and Ireland.
Dad: Lettice Presnell
1618 Telegraph Ave.
Oakland, CA 94612
Nate didn’t bother looking at the other names. At least for now. If his father said she was the best, he was jumping on that pony and riding it as far as it would take him.
After an afternoon of phone tag with Letice Presnell’s secretary, Nate was finally able to speak with the lawyer herself. She had a crisp, no-nonsense British accent. Nate liked her immediately.
‘You’re quite certain you aren’t the biological father of the child?’ Lettice asked with what sounded like an arched brow. As if she might trip him up into a lie.
“Lorelei and I... we weren’t seeing eye to eye at the time she supposedly conceived,” Nate said, his face flushing. Though Ms. Presnell couldn’t see it. “We weren’t having sex on the regular. Hardly any, in fact. Always wrapped it up, checked for... tears afterward. If she conceived a baby by me, then it’s because I have some form of ghostly super-sperm that permeates through latex.”
To his surprise, the taciturn attorney laughed at him.
‘I just have to be sure. You’d be surprised by how many men I represent that swear on the Bible, Q’ran, Torah or a stack of Playboy that they aren’t the father of the child they’re being sued for.’
“I get it. It’s your job.”
‘But... I believe you, Nate. You don’t have that hesitation in your voice that most men do when talking child support. I will have my secretary set up a meeting for us sometime in the next two weeks. I have a lot on my plate, but I can be persuaded to take on the case.’
Nate sighed in relief, closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose again. He was going to form a bruise there with the number of times he had done that in he past several hours.
“Thanks,” Nate said. “It means a lot that you believe me. Lorelei... she’s entitled and bitchy, but puts on a show likes she’s sweeter than sugar.”
‘How did you two end, if you don’t mind me asking. It might be useful in court.’
“It ended when I walked into her apartment with another guy balls deep in her,” Nate said plainly. “Words were said, take-out was thrown. Then I packed up my bags and came back to California.”
‘Was she the only reason you left the U.K.?’
“No. I missed it here. Missed my family. Hated the food there. The pizza was insanely unappetizing to me. Even the franchise food places made me yearn for sushi rolls from Whole Foods and monstrously large sandwiches stacked with sliced avocado.”
Lettice chuckled again. It was a throaty sound.
‘I like you, Nate. You don’t mince your words. That’s one of the reasons I believe that you believe you can’t be the father. I can’t be for certain, that’s for DNA testing to decide, but if that woman was cheating on you with another, it’s very likely you could have any number of men that are the possible sperm donor.’
“Does England have their own version of The Maury Povich Show?”
‘Not that I’m aware of, but it’s been years since I’ve stayed for anything longer than a two-week vacation there. It’s possible. And I’m not well-versed in Irish TV.’
“I can feel this either dragging on for years or we’ll end up on some family court TV or daytime talk show, fighting about a kid that’s not even mine.”
‘I doubt it’ll get that far. Plus, you could always settle out of court.’
It was a thought that grated on him. Nate wasn’t a money-hungry fool by any stretch of the imagination, but he would be damned to see one hard-earned cent go to the soulless vulture that was Lorelei McCormick.
“Normally, I would settle, but there’s too much history there. I can’t bring myself to do it. I won’t fold.”
‘It’s like pouring salt into an open wound, isn’t it?’
And Nate liked Lettice even more now. She knew exactly what this felt like and knew how to put it into words.
“That’s exactly what this feels like, Ms. Presnell. She’s playing us all, playing the system, and she thinks because she has an important name that she’ll get away with it.”
‘We’re lucky that the courts in Ireland aren’t as judgmental as the ones in some other European countries. Italy, for instance. They really screwed the pooch with Foxy Knoxy. They may never live that one down.’
“By the time I’m through with Lorelei, her name will be synonymous with Satan and Nero.”
‘Hitler and Mussolini as well?’
She sounded almost amused.
“I shoot for the stars when there’s something I want, Ms. Presnell.”
“Talk to me!”
“I do talk to you,” Leila said, frowning. “You’re the one that didn’t talk to me for two weeks after you and Mickey hooked up again after some seriously dubious drinks. Are you sure he didn’t roofie you into taking him back? Like in that Hunger Games movie where they used the tracker jackers to hijack that kid’s brain?”
Jared rolled his eyes at his friend and threw up his hands. Leila was being stubborn. Mickey had practically begged for a second chance and Jared was... well, he was either a pushover or was so romance-inclined he couldn’t say no to him.
After all, he loved Mickey. He was comfortable with him. It was like coming home after a long day and sinking into a nice hot bath to soothe your weary bones.
And Leila, obviously, didn’t understand that.
“So, you’re saying that if you were with Nate for a couple of years and he made one mistake, you wouldn’t forgive him?”
“He wouldn’t do that since he knows what it’s like to be on the receiving end of that situation, but yeah I’d kick his cheatin’ ass to the curb if that happened,” Leila retorted with a disgusted snort.
“What if you had kids at the time?”
“Jare, the closest thing you and Mickey had that’s close to being parents is the time his condo got infested with rats from the construction project next door.”
“Leave Mickey, Minnie and the gang alone,” Jared spat. “I still miss those little fuckers.”
“They shat all over your kitchen cabinets and ‘Minnie’ gave birth to a litter of 8 million in your new Prada shoes.”
“I forgave her,” Jared exclaimed. “It’s not my fault that Prada makes shoe leather so soft it’s like giving birth on a cloud!”
“And you’re being obnoxious!”
“And least I’m still not shacking up with a two-timing, cocksucking little-”
“-twink that can only get it up for hoes in a seedy bar in Texas and my sort-of live-in boyfriend that doesn’t deserve him!” Leila finished with a flourish.
“It wasn’t seedy, it was... purposefully made to appear to be seedy. It was specifically contoured to look like a dive bar. It’s all the fucking rage. I blame that gay concierge that pointed him in the direction of the bar.”
Jared scoffed, rolled his eyes in response.
“Clutch your pearls elsewhere, Agnes. No one wants to watch your drama unfold here.”
“You can be a bitch sometimes, Leila.”
“Only when I have to be,” she muttered, rubbing her temples with both hands. “And only when it concerns the people I care about.”
Jared’s face softened. He could honestly tell his best girl friend was only looking out for him. But he honestly didn’t need it. If this was a mistake, he’d see it through.
It was that old adage.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
“I’ve got this under control, Pookie,” Jared said, all the fight dropped from his voice. “If this is a mistake, I’ll deal with it. But, we all make mistakes once in our life. He says he’s sorry and dammit- I believe him. He... he cried after we made love.”
Leila’s face scrunched up.
“Made love? Are you sure you’re the same Jared who swore he’d never use that term the first time I met him in college?”
“God, the world’s gonna fucking end,” Leila groaned. “Pigs will fly, plagues of locusts will wreak havoc on crops in Nebraska and Jared and Mickey will be ‘making love’ under the stars as they shoot from the sky onto the earth to burn us all to the ground.”
“Make your peace with God while you can, child,” Jared told her. “Because this shit’s happenin’ whether you like it or not.”
Leila only groaned and sunk her head into her heads at her desk.