Provocation (18+)

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40. Viper's Nest

A month went by, then two. Nate and Leila had a steady pattern of work, dinner, and sex. Not every day on the sex. A person had to show some sort of restraint.

Leila caught a late cold bug, Nate’s allergies acted up. It had been a few years since he had experienced California when the blooms were... well, blooming, and they kicked his ass for the first time in years.

After a rigorous course of Zyrtec and something to help him cough up the two tons of phlegm that laid in his chest at any given time courtesy of his nasal cavity, his nose finally took on a normal shade. In other words, it no longer looked he had tried to blow it with a Brillo pad.

Jared was still with Mickey, Angelica Winters with her husband Steve, and everyone else seemed to be happy enough. Or at least silent about their small bouts of misery that any human was fated to go through.

Leila’s passport came early, arriving a full month before she had expected it to. It helped that she didn’t have any creditors pounding down her door. She was squeaky clean from a credit bureau standpoint. She frowned when she had gotten her passport photos, but she had never been one who liked having her photo taken. It was what it was, and she had zero fucks to give if Customs didn’t appreciate the scowl on her face or not.

If Lorelei was correct, she was at 7 and a half months pregnant, give or take a day. Summer was in full swing and the bay area was hot as Hades and dry. The foothills looked parched. If they had clocks melting on them, they would have resembled a Dali painting.

Lettice had taken Nate’s case, and was in contact with Lorelei’s oily attorney, a man named Reginald Blakely. He was as irritating as his name suggested. Looked down his nose at the London-born California attorney like she was shit on his shoes. He seemingly irked her for the mere sake of getting under her skin, though Ms. Presnell was a hard nut to crack. She wouldn’t bend under his scrutiny.

First, he tried to get her to agree to what was called a ‘Peace of Mind’ DNA test. Lettice shot that down without looking it up. If it was as it sounded, she knew it would probably not be accepted in a court of law.

When she read into it further, with Nate at her office, she scoffed, rolled her eyes, and it looked like she might need new molars soon, she ground her teeth so hard.

“A mother can refuse to let someone take DNA from their baby through the ‘Peace of Mind’ test,” she told him, gritting her teeth.

“Why would he offer that?” Nate was confused. He barely knew American law. Irish law was a fucking mystery to him.

“To throw us off, bloody red tape,” Lettice spat, her lips turning down. “Our best bet is the ‘Legal Paternity Test’, which would be upheld in any court. He’ll most likely try to throw us off with some more red herrings. I called an old friend of mine. Mr. Blakely has a horrendously malicious way of practicing the law. He’ll throw ridiculous injunctions at us, just to try and wear us down.”

“Any relation to the McCormicks?” Nate asked dryly. It certainly sounded like the underhanded dealings of a man with the same genetic makeup as the McCormicks.

“Snakes don’t lie with vermin,” Lettice quipped. “They eat them up.”

“The snake being the lawyer?” Nate asked, arching a brow.


The last straw was when dear old ‘Reg’ tried to go through the U.S. courts and order a restraining order against the paternity test.

The man had no fucking shame.

“He can only do this to us if we were going through the U.S. Court system, and even then it is rarely ever held up in court,” Lettice told him. She paused for a moment. “I don’t think it’s ever been held up in California. It’s usually only used when there is a history of domestic or child abuse.”

“Oh! Come on!” Nate nearly exploded. The strain was wearing on him. “I have never laid a finger on any woman or child in my life. This is an attempt at libel!”

“Steady, Nate,” Lettice said bracingly. “This is exactly what Reginald and Miss McCormick want. To wear you down until you’ll throw any amount of money at them to shut them up for good.”

Nate grumbled, wished Leila was there with him to keep him calm. Or at least calmer.

“It’s all psychological warfare on Reg’s part,” Lettice continued. “If he wants injunctions, we’ll send some his way. They cost more, time and money, but they may waylay him enough so he’ll have less time trying to get under our skin.”

Nate liked that she said ‘we’. It made it seem like they were a team. That he wasn’t alone in this battle, though he knew he had Leila and his family in his corner as well.

And Leila... she was seeming more like family every day. Not a day went by that they didn’t see each other, even if only in passing. Those passing ship days were infrequent, but they happened every so often. Mostly weekdays when Leila tried to get ahead in her work. Once they headed to the U.K., she was leaving Jared in charge of the office but new contracts would be at a standstill.

Lettice had requested DNA testing for as soon as the baby arrived, and it was granted within a few short weeks. Everything Lettice required to win her case seemed to come easy, and now it was just a waiting game.

“How long will we be gone?” Leila asked one night as they readied themselves for bed. They were in her upstairs apartment and she was taking the throw pillows off her bed to make room for their soon-to-be sleeping bodies.

“A week, maybe two,” Nate responded as he peeled his t-shirt off his torso. “Lettice is trying to hurry the results of the DNA to a week instead of several. That means more money, though that’s not the issue.”

“What is?”

“Reg is fighting it,” Nate told her, hooking his thumbs in at his waist to pull down the thin cotton shorts he wore. “Tooth and nail. Expedited testing means sending it to a private facility, and Reg is trying to state that the facility- or facilities- in question, are sub-par.”

“They have to abide by the same rules and regulations as the public ones, don’t they?” she asked, frowning.

“Yes, but he’s hellbent on making this as difficult and long a process as he can.”

“He won’t win.” Of that, Leila was sure.

“Probably not,” Nate agreed. “In any case, we should have the results of the request by next week at the latest. It could be as early as Friday, but next week for certain.”

They both climbed into bed, Nate rolling over to spoon Leila from behind.

“I can’t wait to meet this daughter of Satan in person,” Leila muttered. “Does she style her hair in a bouffant so as to hide her horns?”

Nate laughed. Leila would never be Lorelei’s biggest fan. She was convinced the woman was evil, through and through. Nate couldn’t argue that his ex was certainly trouble with a capital T.

“A la Peggy Bundy?” he asked, pulling her body closer to his.

“Or those horrible hairstyles in that musical, ‘Hairspray’,” she offered.

“Maybe she shaved the horns down?” Nate chuckled. Leila was sometimes ridiculous.

“Like a particularly irritating bunion.” It sounded like Leila was holding back laughter as well.

“Stop making me laugh,” Nate told her. “We’ll never get to sleep if you keep on like this.”

“I’m glad I can amuse you,” she told him, stifling a yawn and snuggling deeper into his arms.


The next few days passed with no word. Monday came. Tuesday. It was Hump day when Nate got a call from Lettice’s secretary. It was good news.

The magistrate had approved the expedited order for DNA testing due to the fact that Nate was a U.S. national with no ties to Ireland or England.

He wanted to Riverdance across the board room he was so happy.

“Good news?” Carl asked, sauntering over to Nate whose grin was as wide as the equator.

“Excellent news,” Nate told him. Carl already knew about the paternity suit since Violet didn’t believe in keeping secrets from her husband. Not that Nate minded. He would have freely told him if Violet already hadn’t. “They are going to expedite the DNA test for the baby and it should be ready in a week instead of three.”

“Excellent news,” Carl agreed with a smile. “Less time wondering if the little sprout’s yours or not.”

“I know it’s not mine,” Nate told him, raising a brow. “Those McCormicks, they’re as poisonous as a viper.”

“You don’t have to tell me,” Carl said, frowning. “If I ever see Liam within the same postal code as Violet, I’m knocking heads together. His and the prick at Customs who let the idiotic bastard through the gates.”

“I’m sure Violet will miss you when you’re doing ten to twenty for assaulting a Customs agent.”

Carl blanched. “They do that much time?”

“Were you hoping to only do a few years in jail?” Nate asked, brows raising.

“I was figuring they’d let me off on account of my good looks and time served,” Carl said. “A mug this pretty’s too beautiful to keep behind bars.”

“Ted Bundy was considered good looking. And they shaved his head and zapped his ass to Kingdom Come.”

“You’re saying beating a man’s face bloody is akin to serial murder?” Carl asked.

“I’m just proving a point, Carl.” Nate rolled his eyes. “How’s Vi and Mason?”

“Good,” Carl boomed, warming to his favorite topics. His wife and their child. “Mason said his first-word last week. Been trying to get him to repeat it for video footage to send to everyone.”

“I doubt ‘vagina’ is something we all need to hear him say,” Nate said, teasing. It wouldn’t have surprised him if Carl tried to teach Mason the interesting words first.

“It was ‘da-da’, you ingrate. Though it almost sounded like he was trying to say ‘cock’ the other day. Turned out he was trying to say ‘cook’ because Violet was going on about a new recipe she wanted to try. She kept saying ‘cook’ when reading the instructions.”

“Well, Mason has plenty more years to learn your colorful vocabulary,” Nate said, trying to keep the grin off his face. Violet would kill Carl if he tried to broaden his budding glossary of words. “You may want to let the more extensive phrases like ‘Prince Albert’ and words like ‘cunnilingus’ make themselves known to him the old-fashioned way.”

“What?” Carl asked. “Through Playboy and Hustler magazines?”

“My father didn’t subscribe to any of those.” He was certain of that.

“Says you,” Carl retorted. “And where did you learn them anyway?”

Nate shrugged. “Can’t remember. Certainly didn’t know what a Prince Albert was until your flabby ass showed up in California eons ago. Why do you still have that thing anyway?”

Carl’s grin was slow, sly.

“Your sister doesn’t seem to mind it,” he said. “She insisted after my auto accident that I should keep it. You should look into getting one yourself. Let Leila have a ride on that thing once it’s healed up enough.”

“I don’t need a piercing to please my woman.” Nate’s eyes narrowed. This was war. “She comes plenty without having to poke holes in my genitals.”

“But does she come as hard and long as Vi-”

“Gah!” Nate interjected, clapping his hands over his ear frantically. “Not a word about my sister and orgasms! You may be bigger, but I’m younger, old man! I can take your tired old ass any day of the week if you say one more word about the big O and Violet.”

“Fine, ya fuckin’ prude,” Carl said rolling his eyes.

“Whatever,” Nate said, grinning slyly. “Daddy.”

Carl’s face was a picture. His eyes widened and his neck rolled with a thick swallow. It was a treat for Nate to see Carl speechless. The man usually had a comeback for everything.

Instead, Carl stomped off in the other direction a moment later, grumbling about ‘sisters before misters’ and how he was going to fuck Violet’s big mouth shut for letting his kink be known to her best friend.

If Nate hadn’t known Carl adored his sister, he wouldn’t have let the man walk out of the board room without a stern warning.

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