SUBMIT (BOOK 2, DSD SERIES)

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Chapter 34

I wring my fingers nervously as we pull up towards the familiar looking building.

I grab Shan’s hand, my anxiety increases tenfold as I gaze out the window behind her. My eyes skim over the canopy of vehicles and people in from the building and my breath becomes heavier. I catch Shan smiling reassuringly at me and my eyes lock with hers through her red mask.

Shan had finally decided on a red number in a shop three stores down from where we had bought my gown and it had matched all the requirements on her checklist.

Red, tempting, sexy and would cause Dimitri to get an instant erection just by looking.

I’m only aware of the first three requirements but seeing as though they were an hour late to meet up with us, I guess the fourth was fulfilled.

We pull to a stop and my throat lumps up as I notice the congregation of people atop the massive stairs.

“I can’t do this,” I say as I lean back against my seat.

I close my eyes, breathing deeply before opening them and focusing on a pair of electric blues that stare at me through the rear-view mirror.

Johnattan’s brilliant, blue eyes are covered with a sleek blue mask that does wonders in bring out the brighter orbs beneath.

“It’ll be okay, Christi. We’re here for you,” he says keeping eye contact with me and I nod hesitantly.

After my confirmation the men exit the front of the car and Shan hugs me soothingly saying she’ll be with me as much as she can. The door behind Shan opens and she kisses my cheek before taking Dimitri’s hand and exiting the vehicle.

Seconds later, a familiar hand his held out for me to take and I breathe deeply before taking it. Here goes nothing.

Slowly, I exit the car my blue flats making contact with the concrete ground. I come to stand next to Johnattan who slips his around my waist comfortingly before looking down at me.

“Are you ready?” I nod stiffly and he gives me a sceptical look.

“I’m ready,” I say confidently and he nods placing a kiss on my temple.

He leads us forward and my eyes look over at the dashing couple to our right.

Shanice is outfitted in a red bustier with a mesh fabric covering her chest, gems are littered across the bustier creating beautiful diamond patterns along with the stitched embroidery. This bustier also carries a tailcoat that reaches all the way to her feet with material used gives it a little stiffness so it frames her beautifully. With this she wears a tight-fitting, red dress pants and pair of drool-worthy red heels.

Her short hair pairs well with this look and the well stitched mask lined with red gems adds the finishing touch to her succubus look.

Beside her is the dashing, Dimitri De’ Santos who is decked out in full black.

Black jacket, black waist coat, black dress shirt, black pants, black shoes and a black leather mask. He looks lethal, handsome and dangerous.

Paired with Shan they look like one badass couple, a perfect match, whereas Johnattan and I look more on the lighter side.

Johnattan is fitted in a sleek, royal blue suit that does wonders for this physique. He wears a sharp open jacket with tailcoat and a white rose in its pocket, beneath that lies a matching royal blue vest with a white dress shirt pecking out. He pairs his matching blue pants with brown shoes and belt complementing the colour scheme.

Next to Johnattan, I wear a beautiful white gown, with a gem covered bust and straps. The clear gems sparkle as I move and draw attention to my generous bust. The rest of the dress flows down my body nicely, caressing my baby bump gently.

The back dips mid-back showcasing my tattoo which seems to please Johnattan as his fingers tend to drift there as we walk. My flats are thankfully covered by the dress which has a hint of baby blue lining the hem.

I wasn’t in the mood to wear heels seeing as though I’d be battling with them all night so I’m happy with its length.

My mask is simple. It’s white, covered in gems and lined with white pearls which seem to contrast with my hazel eyes causing them to pop.

As we walk up the stairs I feel eyes follow us. I doubt many recognize me from so many years ago, so more than likely they recognize Johnattan. Or they’re just lusting.

A few females, look our way with appreciative grins and I roll my eyes. Grabbing Johnattan’s arm – the one that’s not around my waist – I bring it to my lips for kiss, earning a knowing smirk from Johnattan who simply pecks my forehead.

I see a couple of the onlookers face scrunch in disgust and I resist the urge to flip them off.

My boyfriend smiles knowingly at me as we reach the entrance and I can’t help but return the gesture when he tucks a curl that falls into my face from my elegant, vanilla-chocolate bun.

“Jealous are we?” He teases.

“Nah, I’m more territorial,” I state confidently. “I know you’re mine so I’m just making it known.”

He grins, playfully and I reach up caressing his cheek, urging him down for a kiss. After a few minutes of taunting me, he complies and our lips meet for a sensual kiss. The glares burn through my body causing a pleased smile to grace my lips and Johnattan wraps his arm around my waist.

My hand toys with his small ponytail at the back of his head, tickling the base of his neck and he pulls back with a chuckle.

“I can’t believe your hair has grown long enough to do that,” I say and he frowns with a raised brow.

“You don’t like?”

“Of course I do,” I state, placing my hand against his chest. “It’s just a first for me but who doesn’t love a Fabio?”

He chuckles taking my hands in his and I giggle before looking hesitantly over at the French doors metres from us. Johnattan brings my palms to his lips, kissing them soothingly and my eyes shift focus to him.

“I’ll be right here Christi,” he says reassuringly and I sigh nodding, my head. I know...

Shan and Dimitri choose then to return to our side and I look over at Shan who nods her head encouragingly.

Okay, let’s do this...

Taking a deep breath, I loop my arm with Johnattan and face the double doors. “Let’s go. Don’t want to keep father waiting do we?”

***

I stand at the farthest corner away from the hostess trying to stay out of her sight. Her current wondering making it hard.

I watch as Rudana struts the room shaking hands and gracefully kisses the cheeks of her guests.

My sister is wearing a beautiful, sleeveless Versace dress with a sweetheart bust and mid-thigh split. The silver gown hugs and highlights her curvaceous body, tempting the many men in the room. She wears a pair of sparkling, Prada heels that complement her gown and matches her hand held mask.

She worked the room like a real Authoró, deviously and demanding attention from everyone. She was always an attention lover.

Even though we were sisters– well, half-sisters– she didn’t look a tad like me. She had a creamy, caramel complexion courtesy of her mother, thick curly, honey brown hair and piercing, green eyes. She barely looked like our father, her looks were mostly her mother’s but her blood– according to the blood test father demanded – says she was 100% his daughter.

Thankfully, the tyrant of the event was nowhere in sight neither was the antagonist to my story.

That fact helps me to keep calm while Johnattan leaves to get a non-alcoholic drink for me. He’d informed a waitress about the predicament but almost half an hour had passed and she wasn’t back so he decided to see what was taking so long.

Shan and Dimitri though were a different case, they’d stuck around for the first hour and then moved off for alone time so, now they are lost in each other somewhere on the dancefloor. They’d left before Johnattan did so I wasn’t guarded because of bad timing I guess.

They’ll be right here my ass...

“What’s a beauty like you doing here all alone?” a husky voice questions and I spin around startled.

He is close, very close – less than arm length – and he is handsome, very handsome –Chris Hemsworth handsome. Long blonde hair, icy blue eyes, sandy brown complexion and a very toned physique. Strong jawline, sculptured face and a smooth yet strong, alluring voice.

A first sight my heart pounds and my breath halts, he looked like Liam. After observing him for a few seconds the dread lifts as I notice that he indeed isn’t Liam... but he is as much of a looker as him...

Many women would fumble for words in front of a specimen as him but not me... I’d have my share of Greek God like men... I even have one, so he didn’t faze me.

“I’m waiting on someone,” I reply confidently, turning to face him fully.

He’s in a sharp, white and gold suit that seems to increase his sexual appeal. Had to hand it to him, he was a sight to behold...

His eyes study my body appreciatively before reaching my eyes and he smiles sexily. “Would that person happen to be me?”

In your dreams, Blondie.

“No,” I state abruptly. “I’m waiting on my boyfriend.”

God, I sound like a pubescent teen.

“Ah, boyfriend. That means there’s a chance for me to whisk you away,” he boldly with a wink and I stare at him surprised.

Did he not see my bump?

“You do notice I’m pregnant right?” I ask with a raised brow.

“And so? Not all pregnancies are conceived with love,” he states matter-of-factly. “I may just happen to be the Knight to your Damsel.”

I chuckle at his statement and he looks at me in confusion.

“This is one of those that was conceived with love.” I explain and he shrugs nonchalantly.

“I guess we all can’t get what we want,” he says as he stares fondly at me. “However, you are a beautiful and confident woman and I like that.”

He studies intently me with those blue eyes and glare at him crossing my arms over my chest. “Didn’t you mother tell you it’s bad manners to stare?”

His lips lift in a smile and his eyes once more meets mine with amusement. “That she didn’t. I haven’t seen her since birth.”

That statement causes my glare to soften and my lips part in sympathy. “I... That was rude of me I didn’t –”

“Couldn’t have known,” he says with a dismissive wave as he brings the fluke of champagne in his left hand to his lips. “It’s okay Ms...”

“Christina... Christina Hase,” I introduce myself, extending a hand. “And you are?”

After taking a sip of his drink, he shakes my hand. “Giovanni Ferrez. It’s a pleasure to meet you Ms Hase.”

“Christina is fine,” I smile, pulling my hand away as he holds it a little too long for my taste.

“And likewise for me, Christina.”

I nod, moving my attention to the string of laughter that explodes from the group of women metres from us and I spot my sister grinning ear to ear as a blonde whispers something in her ear.

“Bride or Groom?”

“Bride,” I reply instantly before looking back at Giovanni. “You?”

“A little of both,” he shrugs. “I work with both Goldman and Authoró.”

I nod in understanding. “What exactly do you do?”

“Well, I’m big in transportation,” he states with a comical smile. “I’m like the Hermes of business. You need a shipment sent I’m the man you’ll seek for the most discrete and fastest delivery.”

I hum in reply. I look him over as he places one hand in his pocket and sips the champagne. He looks no older than Johnattan’s age and no younger than mine.

“Family business?” I ask.

“No,” he replies abruptly. “All mine.”

So young yet so successful and he did it on his own. It’s admirable

“That’s impressive,” I state with a smile.

He eyes me from the corners of his eyes quizzically and as he finishes his drink he starts to ask his own set of questions.

“So how do you know the bride?”

I contemplate telling him the truth then I shrugged and said what the hell. It’s not like it was some big secret. “I’m her sister.”

He raises a brow, looking over at her then me sceptically before voicing his confusion. “You look nothing alike.”

“We’re half-sisters,” I clarified.

“Father’s side I’m presuming.”

“Yup,” I say dismissively.

I can hear the clogs in his head turning from here and I sigh, knowing I’ve just opened a can of worms.

His eye brows bunch up in confusion. “So why are you Hase if you’re an Au–”

“Personal choice,” I snap. I am not an Authoró and I never want to be grouped with those people.

“I’m sorry if I over stepped,” I hear him say apologetically from beside me and I nod, turning towards him.

“It’s okay,” I say with a tight smile.

Can’t hold it over him after all he couldn’t have known...

“Babe?” Johnattan says as he emerges behind me and I spin around with a smile.

“Lover,” I grin, looking up at him, happy to have him back.

His eyes however, aren’t on me they are behind me staring intently on the man behind me. Uh-oh? Is that jealous I see?

“Who’s he?” Johnattan asks finally looking down at me but his tense posture doesn’t ease. Yup, my man has a bad case of the jellies.

Better put his mind as ease.

“This is Giovanni Ferrez,” I state as I gesture to the blonde Adonis to my left. “Giovanni, this is the boyfriend I’ve been telling you about–” I say ensuring I put emphasis on the last sentence.

“Johnattan Blake,” Johnattan’s voice is now deeper, huskier and dare I say threatening as he eyes the other man. Now, I’m just amused.

“Blake as in the Blakes?” Giovanni asks and Johnattan nods. “You’ve got quite a catch here Christina.”

“That I do,” I smile as his eyes stare into mine.

“Nice to meet you Johnattan,” Giovanni says with a smile, holding out his hand which Johnattan shakes stiffly.

There’s a glint in Giovanni’s eyes when he pulls away and my stomach flops at that look. It’s anything but amusing, it’s calculative, devious and scheming, a look I’ve seen on my dear father too many times not to recognize. There’s something brewing in Giovanni’s head and I don’t think it’s anything good.

“–been taking about you nonstop. Congrats on becoming a father, how far along is she?” I catch Giovanni say as my mind drifts back to reality and I now notice that Johnattan has a protective and possessive hand around my waist.

“Thank you,” Johnattan says tensely. I can tell he doesn’t like Giovanni. “Five and a half months.”

“Wow, really? Her stomach’s a bit um... big for such an early stage isn’t it?” He asks cautiously as Johnattan glares. I don’t really blame him though, he just called me fat.

“We’re having twins,” I say, proudly as I grab Johnattan’s free hand and kiss it affectionately.

He looks down at me with a smile before pecking my forehead and from the corner of my eyes Giovanni rubs the back of his neck uncomfortably.

“Congrats again,” he suddenly says and we look over to him. He looks like he wants to be anywhere but here right now.

“Well, I think it’s time I take my leave. Christina,” he says taking my free hand, planting a kiss. I smile politely.

“Johnattan,” he says straightening up, giving him a nod of acknowledgement and with that he disappears into the crowd.

Strange...

“I leave you for a few minutes and you’re already attracting men...” Johnattan asks as he slowly turns me to face him. “Wasn’t planting my seed in you a clear sign to say you’re taken?”

“Apparently not,” I grin as I place my hands on this thick, broad shoulders.

“How about this...” he starts to say as he cups my cheek. “We tattoo Property of Johnattan Blake on your forehead?” I stale face him.

“Arm?”

I glare.

“Neck...” my eyes widen at the audacity. “Come on babe...”

“One, I’m not an object of possession and two, if you can’t trust me to state the fact that I’m claimed I might start seeking another claimant.”

Johnattan’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise before a charming, daring smile takes over his lips.

By now we are full on swaying in the privacy of the corner to the instrumental of Celine Dion’s If you asked me to. The people around us either drift to the floor to dance or drink, eat and converse.

“We both know you wouldn’t leave me mi diosa," he says confidently.

“Wouldn’t I?” I ask curiously.

“You wouldn’t,” he replies steadily.

“And why wouldn’t I?”

At this he smiles and spins me.

“Because no one can love you like I do,” he states as his thumb gently strokes my cheek.

“No one can touch you like I do,” his fingers teasingly skims my exposed back and my stomach knots as my body hums.

“No one can make you feel like I do,” he pulls me towards him abruptly and I gasp in delight and shock.

“And no one can kiss you like I do,” with that he dips me slightly and I chuckle flinging my head back.

He pinches my chin and I look up at him those dazzling blue eyes captivating me. He slowly leads forward and our lips meet in a sensual kiss that warms my entire body. My hands grip his shoulders tightly, pulling him closer and he smirks against my lips before pulling away and pecking my forehead.

Okay, I cave we both know he’s right.

He straightens us, resting his hands on my hips and dazzling smiles stay plastered on our face. I wrap my arms around his neck and continue to sway ignoring the people around us, getting lost in each other...

“Um, perdóneme... Here’s your non-alcoholic drink señor.”

We turn to face the waitress as her soft voice cuts through our blissful trance. Johnattan releases me to take the drink telling her thank you while I just stare at her in surprise.

"Iris?" I ask with wide eyes and the Hispanic woman stares at me with furrowed brows.

The waitress, Iris, is a short, curvy, Latin American woman with jade green eyes and jet black hair. She wears a red and black pants suit garment with a name tag and her hair is in a neat bun top her head. She has wrinkles on her face and she looks like she wants to be anywhere but here...

Johnattan stands to the side, drink in hand watching us confusingly as we converse.

“Do I know you señora?” she asks a bit confused herself and a smile spreads across my face at the mere sight of her.

"Iris, es Christina,” I say excitedly but the waitress shakes her head.

"Lo siento señora pero no te conoco,” she states attempting to walk away.

Anxiously, I push the mask to the top of my head and stare at her.

“Iris, it’s me your little Belle,” I say with a small smile. Our eyes meet, hazel to jade and I look at her hopeful, wishing she will remember me, recognize me.

Her eyes squint as she observes my features and as my eyes become glossy and I frown, her eyes glisten in recognition.

"Belle,” she asks not believing her eyes.

"Si tía Iris. Es tu Belle,” I say as tears threaten to fall.

Without hesitation she pushes the tray in her hand to Johnattan who catches it before it falls and embraces me, tears streaming down her face.

She pulls away looking at me with joyful eyes and her thumb reaches up to wipe away stray tears.

"No llores, mi Belle bonita. You’ll ruining your beautiful makeup,” she says cupping my face.

“Oh, Aunty Iris. I haven’t seen you since mommy passed away,” I state grasping her arms.

“I was pregnant mi princesa. I was on leave and when I came back they said you went to stay with Alexis. I waited for you but you never came back to the house.”

“I just couldn’t stay there, it reminded me too much of mom,” I reply and she nods understandingly.

“You look so beautiful Belle y estas teniendo una bebe... ¡Que fantastico!”

"Gemelos, tía... Estoy tendiendo gemelos...”

"En serio? ¡Felicidades!” she exclaims with wide eyes.

“Thank you,” I say sweetly.

“So where’s the baby daddy?” she asks excitedly. “I want to meet him!”

"Estoy aqui,” Johnattan says and Iris looks at him with embarrassment.

“I’m so sorry, señor,” she says taking the tray from him. “It’s just that it’s been a while since I’ve seen my little Belle.”

Johnattan nods in understand, coming to stand next to me and handing me my drink.

"Anyways, it’s nice to meet you Ms Iris,” Johnattan says extending his hand towards my nanny.

Iris Gonzalez, had been looking after me since my first birthday. Father had decided that mom needed a pair of extra hands and hired her. She was like my best friend, when mom or father couldn’t make it to my art club exhibitions or school plays, she was there cheering me on. She was even the one that taught me Spanish.

She’s like an aunt to me and well, I was always her little Belle.

Aunty Iris takes Johnattan’s hand and shakes it excitedly for the next ten minutes we converse and catch up on each other’s life. Naturally, I didn’t tell her everything right away. As our time comes to a close, Iris gives me her number and urges me to stay in touch.

“I know you’re not telling me everything Belle, so when you’re ready call and we’ll talk,” she states caressing my arms.

I close my eyes, breathing deeply before looking at my nanny and embracing her once more.

“I will tía,” I reply and she nods before bidding us farewell and returning to her station.

“She’s nice and cheerful,” Johnattan says as he spins me to face him.

I nod. “She’s like family to me. She was always there for me when I was growing up and she and mom were the best of friends. She was the best nanny a girl could want.”

“Well, I hope to see her again soon. You looked so happy seeing her and I love to see that,” he states leaning forward to rub our noses together before kissing me sweetly.

I giggle, wrapping my arms around his waist and deepening the kiss to which Johnattan happily obliges. His fingers trace my tattoo between my shoulder blades and a pleasant shiver passes through my body. His other hand slowly slips to my waist and abruptly I gasp as it drops down to grab my butt.

I pull away smacking his shoulder and he laughs boyishly.

“That was inappropriate!” I whisper-yell.

“That felt fucking good and plus no one saw,” he states between laughter and I fume.

I hit him upside the head and he stares at me shocked. ”Language!”

Understanding flickers in his eyes and he sobers up before taking me in his arms and pecking my temple. He caresses my stomach whispering sorry to the babies before kissing all over my face. I roll my eyes at his actions before an involuntary grin slides onto my face and I meet one of his pecks halfway.

“All better?” he asks hopefully.

I sigh in defeat and shrug. “All bett–”

"Christina?”

Abruptly, I drift my gaze to side and the air slips from my longs as Rudana’s eyes stare at me unbelievingly.

Her dark green eyes skim my body landing on my stomach and disbelief and envy flickers in her eyes. They then move to the man beside me in appreciation before drifting to our entwined hands and turning into disbelief once more.

She looks up at me once more with hostility, hurt, sadness and rage coursing through her body before sucking it up and placing a tight smile on her lips.

“Hello sister."

Sighing I turn to face her fully a hesitant smile making its way on my lips. “Rudana, it’s nice to see you... I guess congratulations are in order.”

I really wanted to save this confrontation until the end of the night. That way there would be less people here and I could enjoy my night before all hell broke loose.

“Dad did tell me you were gonna be here but I thought he might have been off his meds again,” Rudana says as I stare at her flabbergasted.

“Meds?” I ask confused. “Father’s on meds, why?”

As much as I despise what father did to me I can’t find it in me to hate him... His actions I loathe but he will always be my father and he may not do the right thing all the time but he provided for me. Some people weren’t fortunate enough to have a father in their life like that.

“Yeah... He’s been on them for years now,” she says nonchalantly. “The doctors say he has a behaviour disorder so they started to treat him for it.”

I look at her bewildered. Father, suffered from a behaviour disorder? “What’s the name of th-”

“Ah no, if you want to know that’s something you and dad should speak about,” she says, a hand on her hip. “I’m more concerned about you...”

She eyes my stomach wearily and I mentally prepare myself for the verbal assault. “I thought you were barren?”

That hideous word floats around in my head and I grind my teeth in annoyance. Johnattan holds me tightly, reminding me that he’s still here with me all the way and I relax.

“So did I,” I say bluntly. “but obviously by the grace of God I’m no longer.”

Her eyes then flicker to Johnattan. “And I’m guessing this is the lucky man?”

I nod, looking over at Johnattan who smiles tightly at Rudana while introducing himself. Her eyes widen in surprise as his last name is uttered from his lips and she squints her eyes staring at his masked face.

“You got yourself knocked up by a Blake that’s some good work sister,” Rudana states with a devious smirk and I stiffen at her words.

I feel Johnattan’s palm tighten on my arm and I hear a faint crunch as he clenches his jaw. I wasn’t the only one pissed off by Rudana’s words.

“I did not purposely get pregnant for a Blake Rudana, unlike you I’m not a gold digging bitch.” The words leave my mouth with disgust and Rudana reels back as if I’d slapped her.

“Gold digging bitch, huh?” she asked humourlessly. “I wasn’t the one that ran away from her duties and family trying to escape an arranged marriage by crying rape.”

“Crying rape?” I ask incredulously. “You think I was lying? You thought I made that shit up because I didn’t want to marry that sick bastard? I’m not you Rudana I don’t have to make up lies to get what I want in life.”

She scoffed glaring at me and I hold her gaze unwaveringly. “You are pathetic Christina... Aren’t you going to ever get over yourself? You basically whored yourself out after your mother died and then you make up a lie about my fiancé raping you. Why are you always playing the victim? Why are you always trying to use pity to make your way to the top?”

My hands shake at my side as she speaks and I open my mouth to give her an uncensored piece of my mind when her mother pops into the conversation.

Rachel Authoró is in a black Versace dress with silver designer heels and expensive silver jewellery. Her kinky hair is piled atop her head neatly, not one strand straying to her face and a black and silver mask is being held up by her black gloved hands.

“Rudana darling, what’s the matter with you? I could feel your distress from across th-oh,” Rachel mutters as her eyes land on me, a grunt escapes her lips before turning into a smile as she notices Johnattan.

“Christina, how nice to see you,” she states looking me over. The hostility in her voice is pronounced in her words. “That’s a beautiful dress but don’t you think white is a little... I don’t know too chaste for you?”

Rudana snickers behind her and I grin humourlessly.

“Maybe but we can’t all wear our personalities in our outfits ... As black as your heart, am I right?”

She gives me a look of disgust before thrusting her chin in the air. Her eyes then drift to my man and she smiles welcoming him.

“Hello, welcome to my daughter’s engagement party,” she says to Johnattan ignoring me and I roll my eyes. “I don’t believe we’ve met I’m Mrs. Rachel Authoró -”

“My step mother from hell,” I finish for her with an equally disgusted look. “Rachel, this is Johnattan Blake my boyfriend and the father to my children...”

Her eyes widen in shock as looks down at my stomach with a gasp. “You’re pregnant? How?”

I’m about to brag the hell in her face when her next words send me spiralling.

“Is it even real?” Rachel mutters.

“Real?” Did she really just fucking asked that? “My babies are more real than those bean bags you have hanging from your chest...”

She recoils in disbelief as I say this and Johnattan stifles a chuckle behind me. Rudana however, looks at me in thought, especially my stomach, before nodding.

“You have a point mother. It looks a little uneven right there...”

She moves forward reaching out a hand to touch my stomach and the back of a suit greets my eyes as Johnattan steps out in front of me. Rudana pauses staring up at him before slowly backing up. His shoulders are tense and his fist clenched. Johnattan was fine with making me deal with these two on my own but now they’ve crossed a line and he needs to put them back in their place.

“I can assure you Mrs. Authoró these babies are one hundred percent real and I’m sure of this because I’m the one that put them there,” he says in a deadpan tone that send dangerous shivers down my spine. He sounds lethal as he speaks. “Now, I’d advise you desist whatever it is you are trying to prove. We’re all adults here so let’s act that way ladies.”

“I’m sorry but this is a family matter so you should stay out of it.” Rudana mutters rudely, Johnattan’s hands shake as he wills himself to remain calm and I rest my hand on his shoulder soothingly.

“Well those babies are mine and you were just trying to get handsy with them so I guess this is now my matter,” he replies coolly as he unclenched his fists, my touch calming him.

Rachel grinds her teeth glaring at us. “How dare-”

“No, how dare you try and verbally assault my girlfriend,” Johnattan states as a few people start to look over at us intrigued by the argument brewing. “I am not a man for you to trifle with ladies so I’d advise you to start treating Christina with the respect she deserves.”

Rachel and Rudana stare at Johnattan unbelievingly before a scold slips onto their lips. They reel back ready to add fuel to the fire when my father steps forward placing a hand on Rachel’s back.

“What’s the matter, cara mia?” his powerful, baritone voice asks as he looks down at his wife.

Decked out in a grey Gucci suit with an expensive, silver crown on his head, an authentic fur cloak on his back and a staff in hand, my father comes to stand beside his wife who smiles as she spots him. He wears no mask, his now salt and pepper hair peeking from his crown and falling onto his forehead. I roll my eyes with a grunt at them as Rachel starts to ogle him and soon his sharp eyes zone onto me.

Here we go again... another fight, another insult.

Even though Rachel clings to him, my father pays her no mind, having eyes for only me. His tall frame gives him a good view of my face from behind Johnattan but as I step out from behind him his mouth goes dry. I stare at him unyielding as he observes me especially my stomach.

“Christina...” he speaks my name slowly and sensually with his soft Italian accent as he takes me in.

Those sharp eyes glossing over with emotions I’d never seen coming from him before, they look almost affectionate, regretful and warm. He unwraps Rachel from his body and makes his way towards me, ignoring his wife’s lack jaw expression. Johnattan stiffens observing my father wearily as he cups my face and I stare at him shocked to the core.

“Oh Chris, I’ve missed you so much,” he whispers sorrowfully to me but I’m too confused to reply. “Come with me to the office my child, we have so much to discuss... that we need to discuss.”

Now I was utterly bemused. Who was this man and what had he done to my father?

***

I stare at the man across the room as he pours me a glass of water.

The room is just as I remember it... large, imperial and dark. My father had a thing for antique furniture and historical designs and when designing the house this was the one room my mother had allowed him to do on his own.

Mom had a more modern sense of style so she and father would clash now again.

“So,” my father says as he approaches the chair I am now seated in. “That Johnattan’s quite a catch isn’t he?”

He hands me the water and I take it, inspecting its content before taking a sip. Sue me if I’m paranoid but I haven’t got used to this new persona my father has...

“He is,” I say placing the glass on the desk before me.

“He cares too. He’d fought so hard to be in here with you,” he states leaning on the desk. “I guess he doesn’t trust me.”

“He knows what happened those years ago so it’s understandable why he’d be cautious of you,” I state before sighing after noticing his frown. This needs to move along a little faster “Father, why did you invite me here?”

He regards me with a faint smile and I raise a brow confused.

“Father...” he says with a humourless laugh.

“Isn’t that your relation to me?” I ask taken aback. “Or am I reading into it a little too much?”

“I am your father Chris,” he states sternly piercing me with those eyes. “It’s how distant the word sounds coming from your lips.”

I frown looking up at my father who fakes a smile. “Nevertheless, to answer your question my dear... I wanted to see you... to know that you’re okay...”

“You could have fooled me,” I blurt before I can stop myself. “That letter you sent just reeked of concern and longing didn’t it?”

His face falls at my words but he hides it behind a cough. “Would you have come if I’d written and said I wanted to right my wrongs?” I didn’t have to reply he already knew my answer. “I used the method I knew would get you here... I wanted to see you... to as I said... right my wrongs.”

I laugh humourlessly. “Right your wrongs? How can you make up for putting my mom through hell for all those years? How can you make up for forcing me into an abortion? It’s just not possible at this stage.”

Even though my anger is burning I calmly ask these questions and I’m quite proud of myself.

“I-I...” he says as he tries to think of what to say.

“You can’t,” I state with a sigh. “All these years I blamed myself for allowing you to persuade me into getting an abortion... I’d gone around trying to make up for the control I lacked in those times... It didn’t work... I learned that it wasn’t my fault, I was the victim in all of this and that I-I didn’t kill my bab-”

Taking a deep breath, I swallow my pain and I look up at the man that raised me with a broken gaze. “I’m really tired of explaining myself to people, father. I’m pregnant, tired and miserable. I can’t handle another face off right now. If you really want to make it up to me, if you’re really genuine in your request... all you have to do is apologize to me.”

As the words leave my mouth he looks at me unbelievingly, hell if I was him I’d be looking at me the same way. I’m not the most forgiving person and he knows it.

“I just want you to confess. Tell what it is that you did wrong and apologize. I lost my mother years ago and a part of you too... I don’t want to lose forever dad. I want you to be the loving grandpa to my children and a loving father to your daughter. They deserve to have that. They shouldn’t see us at each other’s throat or not see you at all. All I ask is for you to confess your sins and promise to do better... If not for me or mom for your grandchildren because they deserve so much more from you...”

After all, you did kill their sibling... No stop it Tina. This is not the time to do this.

I’m growing tired of holding a grudge against my father. He may have hurt me in the past but now is his chance to correct them and make a better future. My dad isn’t perfect but if he’s true to his words, he’ll be willing to admit what he’s done and take full responsibility. The sooner we try and resolve the problem the easier it will be to move forward. As hard as it is for me to forgive him, I had to try. I’d already lost my mother; I didn’t want to lose my father. My babies had lost a grandmother and I’d be damned if I’d let them lose their grandfather too.

“Chris,” my father murmurs sorrowfully as he cups my cheeks, wiping away tears. I was crying?

I sniffle a little as his glossy, dark brown eyes observe me. They held so much guilty and resentment but not for me... “Christina, I suffer from Impulsive Control Disorder.”

His words stun me and my eyes search his face, confusion etched onto my features. What is he talk about?

“It’s a behaviour disorder. My exact diagnosis is that I have intermittent explosive disorder, which is a form of ICD. This disorder... it’s usually associated with persistent temper tantrums or explosive episodes. Violence, aggression, rage, verbal outbursts, threats, and physical harm to people or things may accompany these episodes. It may only last about for about a half-hour and happens suddenly, with no warning and usually are months apart. They told me at the doctor that irritability, anger, and impulsivity are additional symptoms of IED. Sometimes I may feel energetic or my thoughts are racing, a tingling in the extremities, chest pain, tremors and all the works when experiencing an outburst. Afterwards I feel fatigued and relieved but most of all remorseful or regretful.”

He caresses my cheek with a sad smile before continuing. “Those times I-I touched your mother inappropriately, it wasn’t intentional, Chris. I couldn’t control it... I struggled to. The medications, they weren’t working and my family nagging at us to get another child just sent me over the edge. I didn’t mean to hit her, I apologized over and over again every time it happened but it didn’t chase away the guilt I felt...”

More tears come to my eyes as I watch the heart wrenching expression that takes over my father’s face. “Rachel... what we did was an accident. I was drunk at a bar, I was upset about that I’d done to Iona and Rachel took advantage of my drunken state. When I found out she was pregnant Iona told me that I needed to take care of that child no matter the circumstances he or she was created under and she made me promise to never abandon Rachel or they baby. Rachel and I never touched each other after that night... not until the night y-your mother died. I was numb, lost, alone and she was just there.”

“I don’t want to -”

“I decided to marry her because of what Iona said Chris. I had to take care of Rudana and you needed a motherly figure,” he states cutting me off. “That night when you came to me telling me what Liam had done I didn’t believe you... I guess I chose not to believe you. I thought you were rebelling and I thought you just wanted to get out of the marriage. Liam was financially stable, good looking and you took an interest in him. I thought he would have taken care of you, protect you... and because of that I let him get away with it... I’m so sorry Chris.”

Tears fell from his sadden eyes and I grab his arm standing up to bury my head in his chest. His hands wrap around me holding me tight as we wept and I can’t help but snuggle into his brace. Dad tucks my head under his chin as he whispers sorry over and over again.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I croak from his chest.

“I didn’t want you to look at me every day wondering whether I’d go off and start attacking you. I didn’t want you to see me like that. I-I... I should have Chris and for that I’m so sorry baby girl. I wish I could have-”

“It’s okay,” I murmur. “As sad as all of this is if that’d never happened I wouldn’t have met Johnattan... He’s genuine Dad and he loves me and I love him.”

My father kisses my forehead before rubbing my arms soothingly and I sigh. “I’m happy that he makes you happy Chris. That’s all I ever wanted for you. To be loved, protected and cared for... The way I couldn’t have cared for you... I love you Christina and I truly loved your mother. She was the one good thing in my life and I-I ...”

“I know, Dad. I know,” I smile sadly. “I forgive you, not just for what you’d done to me but on mom’s behalf...”

He whispers a thank you to me cradling me in his arms with a tear stricken face. I release a sob-laugh, happy to have all this hate and anger this off my chest, I felt light, relieved and I finally understood what had happened in that part of my life.

I grip his waist as he rocks me soothingly, loving the feeling of being held by my father after so many years... being held by my dad after so many years. Being able to be with my father again.


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