Chapter 8. Naughty
Aria stared at me with a horrified expression. “You want me to come home with you? I don’t even know you.” Her voice filled with panic, and she scooted back in her bed. Aria turned to look at Tina.
“Aria, I think it is best,” Tina said.
“Why?” Aria demanded.
“We think that if you come home with me, something could trigger your memory,” I said. “It’s your choice, of course, but if you go to live with Tina, we would have to transfer Angel back and forth between us. The mansion—”
“You have a mansion?” Aria arched one eyebrow and her lips mashed in a straight line.
“Sort of. . .” I trailed off. My gaze flickered to Tina, and I gave her a questioning look.
Tina pursed her lips for a moment, then shook her head.
“We lived there together,” I said.
“How do you have a mansion?” Aria asked. “Are you famous?”
“I sort of inherited it.” I mashed my lips together to stop from laughing and shrugged. It was difficult to see her act this way. Aria had no idea what went on after she got to California.
“Right. . .” Aria trailed off. “I’m supposed to know this, aren’t I?” Aria groaned in frustration and buried her face in her hands.
“It’s fine, Aria. You will learn things slowly. A lot has happened, and it is a lot to take in. We don’t want to explain all of it at once and send you into shock,” Tina said.
“The mansion has plenty of room. You can stay in whichever bedroom you want. I don’t expect you to—” I stopped and sighed. “We won’t share a room. Ultimately it is your choice, but I hope that you will give this a chance. If you don’t like it or find it overwhelming, you can stay with Tina or your mother.”
“My mother,” Aria scoffed. “She lives in Nevada, and I refuse to go back there.”
Tina cleared her throat. “Aria, I think you should know that your mother left Jim. Tammy lives in California now. Jim died shortly after your mother left.”
Really shortly afterward–I thought sarcastically.
“Oh,” Aria breathed. “N-no, that is fine. I think I will try to live with Ace and Angel first.” Aria turned away from Tina and looked at me. “I would like to have my memory back, and if you think being with you where we lived might trigger something, I’m all for it.” Aria gazed away from me shyly.
The way Aria looked away from me reminded me of how shy she once was. I hadn’t seen her shy away like that in a long time. When I first met Aria, she commonly shied away from people. However, as Aria got used to everyone, she rarely hesitated to tell people how she felt or thought.
“I brought you some things,” I said. I held up a duffel bag that belonged to her.
Aria looked at it and bit down on her lip. Aria’s eyes locked with mine. Intensity clouded her blue eyes, and her lips parted. Aria’s chest rose and fell unsteadily.
The way Aria looked at me completely disembodied me. It took everything I had to step forward, drop the bag on her bed, and drop my gaze.
“I’m going to leave Tina to help you get dressed. Your cellphone is in your bag. It is charged. All you need to do is turn it on,” I explained.
“Where is Angel? You said you would bring him to me,” Aria said.
“I wanted to talk to you about where you were going first. Angel is in the waiting room with your mother—”
“You left him with my mother? Are you completely fucking insane?” Aria crawled off the bed. Aria meant to go for the door, but she stumbled and fell into my arms.
“You’re still weak, Aria—” I started.
“I don’t care. Don’t leave my child with that crazy—” Aria stopped and frowned. Her eyes fell to my lips, and she mashed her lips together and tilted her head.
It’s like she is begging me to kiss her. How will I survive living with her without touching her? I cleared my throat and held Aria at a further distance. Having her chest against mine wasn’t helping me focus.
“Your mother isn’t the same person she was a couple of years ago, Aria. You have forgiven Tammy at your own free will. You love your mother. The two of you have become quite close. It’s one of the things that happened that you don’t remember. Tammy has helped us a lot with Angel, so has my mother,” I explained.
“Do I know your mother?” Aria murmured.
“Of course,” I said. “You two get along great. You have plenty of time to spend with Angel. I’m going out to the waiting room. Tina will bring you out when you are ready.”
“Fine,” Aria huffed.
Tammy sat in the waiting room with Chad and Angel. Tammy bounced Angel on her lap and hushed Chad.
“Tammy, Aria agreed to stay at the mansion with me. Tina should be done shortly if you want to head out to the car.” My tone stayed casual.
“Aria isn’t happy that I am here, is she?” Tammy looked up at me with regret in her eyes. Tammy saw right through me, just as Aria always had.
“Don’t feel bad. Aria doesn’t remember me any more than she remembers forgiving you. Hopefully, it will come back to her,” I said and sighed.
Tammy nodded in agreement. “I hope you are right.”
I took Angel from Tammy, and Tammy left. Angel sat silently on my lap. Angel had behaved so well as a baby that I had to wonder what he would be like in his toddler or teen years.
Tina came into the waiting room and looked around. “Where is Tammy?” Tina knitted her eyebrows together.
“She went out to the vehicle to wait. Honestly, I figured if Aria didn’t recall forgiving Tammy, maybe Tammy should keep her distance for now,” I explained.
Tina looked like she wanted to argue, but she didn’t. Tina pursed her lips and nodded. “That is probably better for now. Aria should be out shortly. I’m going to head out.”
“I’ll call you later,” I said.
Tina left the waiting room.
Several moments later, Aria came into the waiting room. Aria waved a hand over her outfit and stared at me in confusion. “What is this?” Aria asked.
“Um, clothes?” I arched a brow.
“I feel overdressed,” Aria said.
I snickered. “It’s honestly one of the most basic outfits out of your closet.”
Aria arched a brow. “Really?”
Aria shrugged, and she looked at Angel. Aria froze when her eyes locked with Angel’s eyes.
Angel gave her a knowing smile and stretched his arms out for her.
“Oh my god,” Aria breathed. From the look on Aria’s face, it was clear that she didn’t recognize Angel, but the similarity between her and him stunned her. Angel looked a little like me and a little like her.
Angel clapped his hands impatiently at her and stretched his arms further toward her.
I stood up and closed the distance between us. “Perhaps we should get going.”
Aria smiled at Angel. “Wow.” Aria looked at me and back to Angel. “He looks a little like me, but a little like you too.”
“Yes, he does,” I agreed.
“It’s unreal,” Aria whispered. Aria brushed her hand against his cheek. “How old is he?”
“He will be ten months soon,” I said.
“Does he talk?” Aria asked. Aria continued to stare at Angel in shock.
“No, not yet. He crawls, and he pulls himself up to a stand, but no walking or talking,” I said.
Aria nodded. “Let’s go.”
Neither of us said much on the way back home. Aria asked me a couple of more questions about Angel, but otherwise, we were quiet.
Aria’s reaction to the mansion reminded me a lot of the first time she ever saw it. Aria’s eyes widened in shock, and she became awestruck.
“You’re kidding,” Aria breathed. “This is our house?”
“Yes,” I said. “I know it’s a lot to take in. I’ll show you around. We have maids and butlers to help keep it clean. Rosa is our nanny, and she helps with Angel,” I explained.
Aria stopped in the foyer and stared around in shock. “I’m going to get lost.” The air escaped her lungs.
I chuckled. “You’ll get used to it.”
Rosa came into the foyer and smiled at Angel. “Hello,” Rosa greeted us. “Would you like me to take him?”
“Yes, please,” I said. I handed Angel to Rosa. “I’m going to show Aria around the mansion.”
“Of course,” Rosa said and went to the kitchen with Angel.
It took a while to give Aria the full tour of the house.
Our bedroom was the last stop. I opened the door and gestured for her to go in ahead of me.
Aria had been shocked by not only the size of the mansion but also the craftsmanship. The estate was old and beautiful. It had been built hundreds of years ago by our ancestors, not that she was aware of that part.
“It’s incredible, to say the least,” Aria murmured.
“You can stay in here. The workers will have to come in and move some things around, but it shouldn’t take them long,” I explained. I gestured to a set of double doors. “That is where your clothes are, and the bathroom is the other set of double doors. If you have difficulty finding things, just let me know.”
“Why do they need to move anything if my things are already in here?” Aria tilted her head and stared at me with confusion.
I sighed and stuffed my hands into the pockets of my jeans. My eyes stayed on my feet as I spoke in a rush. “This was our bedroom. I wasn’t sure if you would come home with me or not, so I left my things in here. I will have the workers put my things in another room down the hallway. I have less to the move than you, do so it is easier.”
Aria stayed silent.
My gaze locked with her. “Is that okay?”
Aria’s eyes grew sad. “I’m sorry. I know it must seem ridiculous to you. I wish I could remember. It’s strange to me. I barely know you, and it would be a little strange to share a bed with you. . .” Aria trailed off.
“I understand that. I don’t expect you to. I can’t imagine how difficult this all must be for you to take in. Your life changed drastically after we met, and it will get easier over time even if your memory doesn’t return,” I explained.
Aria knitted her eyebrows together, mashed her lips together, and hummed. “You don’t think it is going to come back, do you?” Aria’s eyes filled with emotion.
I swallowed hard. “I’m not sure. I know that I don’t want to get my hopes up. I want you to get your memories back, Aria. You have no idea how bad I want you to get them back, but I know the reality is that you might not. It terrifies me, but if it doesn’t, I hope we can fix things between us.”
Aria nodded in understanding, and her eyes filled with tears. Aria looked away from me.
“I’m going to leave you in here to look around. I have some phone calls to make,” I said. I turned and walked out of the bedroom.
Aria sat on the floor in the living room with Angel across from her. Angel rolled a ball to Aria. Aria rolled it back to Angel.
Damn, that’s cute — I thought to myself.
Angel giggled, picked the ball up, and threw it to Aria.
Aria laughed and caught the ball. “Wow. Good throw.” Aria tossed the ball back to Angel.
Angel caught the ball and fell over, laughing.
Aria bursted into a fit of giggles. “You’re too cute.”
I smiled as I watched the two of them. As much as I didn’t want to interrupt their playtime, I had to. “Hey, it’s time for dinner,” I said.
Aria turned her head back to look at me and smiled. “Okay.” Aria got to her feet, picked Angel up, and walked toward me.
Dinner was at the table for just the three of us. Aria placed Angel in a highchair and scooted his chair to the edge of the table so he could eat.
Angel picked a biscuit up and threw it at one of the maids walking past the table across from him. Angel threw his head back and laughed.
“Angel Carlos Garcia, you knock it off,” I said sternly. “Don’t throw food.”
Angel pouted and slammed his hands down on his plate. Mashed potatoes splattered on the table, Aria’s shirt, and my arm. Angel’s fork went flying, and one of the butlers caught it.
Aria’s eyes widened, and she looked as if she was about to explode into laughter.
“Aria, do not laugh at him,” I warned.
Aria couldn’t contain her hysterics. She jumped up from the table and dashed out of the room as she bursted into laughter.
I smiled and shook my head. I had to bite down on my lip to contain my own laughter.
Angel put his head down, looked at me from the corner of his eye, and smiled.
“Angel, if you do not eat, Rosa is going to put you to bed with no story,” I said. I meant for my words to come out stern, but they didn’t. A chuckle escaped me.
Angel looked up at me, and his smile widened.
Aria came back into the dining room. “I’m sorry,” Aria said.
“It’s fine,” I said and chuckled.
“Is he always like this?” Aria asked.
“When he is wound up, which is often,” I said. “I’m surprised he didn’t do it again. If he thinks people find it funny, he repeats it.”
Aria sat down and started to eat. “He seems advanced for his age, isn’t he?”
“Well, he doesn’t talk or walk yet, so not really. Maybe in some ways he is, I suppose. He seems to understand things that he shouldn’t yet,” I said thoughtfully. My hand bumped into my glass of water. The glass shattered across the hardwood floor. “Fuck,” I muttered.
One of the butlers, Ramone, stepped forward. “I’ll clean that, sir,” Ramone said. Ramone left to get the broom.
Angel threw his plate onto the floor. “Fuck!” Angel yelled.
I facepalmed. “Truck,” I corrected.
Angel laughed and shook his head. Angel stared back at me and smiled. “Fuck,” Angel said.
“Oh my god,” Aria breathed. Aria threw a hand over her mouth.
I sighed. “That would be your first word, Angel.” My gaze flickered to Aria. “Don’t forget to write that one in his baby book.”
Aria snickered. “It’s your fault.”
“Dada, fuck,” Angel said again.
“Don’t say that word. It’s naughty,” I said.
Angel giggled and nodded. Angel looked at Aria. “Mama, say fuck,” Angel cooed.
“Did he just say what I think he said?” Aria gasped. “You said he couldn’t talk.”
“He can’t,” I muttered. “Well, he couldn’t or didn’t until tonight.”
Aria sighed. “Maybe I should put him to bed.”
“Just eat. Rosa!” I called.
Rosa and Ramone came back into the dining room at the same time. Ramone started to sweep up the glass.
Rosa stopped behind Angel and Aria. “Yes?” Rosa asked.
“Take Angel to bed,” I said. “He won’t eat, and he is wound up. Bathe him and put him straight to bed. No story tonight.”
Rosa took Angel from his highchair and left the dining room.
“Well, at least I didn’t miss his first word,” Aria said and chuckled.
“I’m not going to argue that.”
We finished our dinner in silence. Aria excused herself and went upstairs. I helped clean up the mess that Angel made in the dining room.
The study was dark. I flipped the switch to turn on the big chandelier overhead. I sat down at the desk and pulled my phone from my pocket. I dialed Luis’s number and put the phone to my ear.
“Hello?” Luis answered.
“How did the meet go?” I asked.
“The usual. How is Aria?” Luis asked.
“Fine, as far as I can tell. It’s a lot for her to take in. I’ve been thinking about telling her about Carlos and Tammy,” I said. “I’m not sure how I can hide the fact. I had to have the workers take a lot of pictures down so it wouldn’t confuse her. I’m not sure what the hell I’m going to tell her if she comes across one.”
“It might be wise, to be honest with her. Just don’t tell her about the Latin King stuff. Tell her Carlos was rich and ran legitimate businesses, and it was handed down to her,” Luis said.
“Yeah,” I sighed.
Aria came into the study. “Tell me what?”
Oh shit—I thought to myself. My head snapped up, and my gaze met hers. You have to be kidding me. Leave it to her to walk in at the exact right time. I snorted. “Looks like I haven’t got a choice. I’ll call you later.”
“Good luck,” Luis muttered.
“Thanks,” I said. I hung the phone up and tossed it down onto the desk.
“So, there is something you haven’t been telling me,” Aria said. “What pictures?” Aria looked around the room as if to look for the photos I talked about.
“Come sit down,” I told her. I gestured toward the couch in front of me.
Aria looked at me warily but sat down on the couch across from me. “Is it bad?”
“No, but it’s going to come as a shock, just as the first time you ever found out,” I said. I leaned back in the chair. I stared at Aria for a long moment. It seemed impossible to come up with the right words.
“That bad, huh?” Aria raised her eyebrows.
I stood up and went to the table where the bourbon sat. I poured a glass and took it to Aria.
Aria took it slowly from me. “I-I don’t drink,” Aria stuttered.
“You do, actually,” I countered. “You just don’t remember.”
Aria nodded and sipped the bourbon. “Tell me, please.”
I sat down on the couch beside her and took the glass from her. I knew she would probably drop it if she continued to hold it.
“Jim Davis isn’t your biological father. Your name is not Aria Davis. When you got to California, you found out that Carlos Perez was your biological father,” I said.
“W-who?” Aria gasped. “What?”
I walked back to the desk and pulled the DNA papers out, along with Aria’s birth certificate.
Aria took the documents from me and skimmed through the contents on the pages. Aria’s eyes widened in shock. Her chest rose and fell heavily. She covered her mouth with her hand, and tears built in her eyes.
“It’s a long story, but to shorten it up, we found out that your mother used to date, Carlos Perez. Carlos is Jose’s brother, and Jose is—”
“Kimmy and Luis’s dad,” Aria said.
“Yes,” I said. “Tammy thought that Carlos cheated on her, and she left without confronting him. However, Tammy was wrong. Carlos didn’t cheat on her. You and Carlos did a DNA test, and it came back that he was your father. Carlos was rich, and he ran a lot of businesses.”
“Was?” Aria asked, confused.
“Carlos died about a year ago,” I said.
“How?” Aria asked.
“A car accident,” I lied. “Anyway, Carlos put in his will that you inherit everything. This mansion isn’t mine; it’s yours. We work together to run things. I worked for Carlos long before I met you. We didn’t know that he was your father until you and I had already started seeing each other.”
Aria swallowed hard, and her eyes met mine. “This is insane. You weren’t kidding when you said a lot had happened,” Aria murmured.
“Not even close,” I said. And you don’t even know the half of it — I thought to myself. “Tammy and Carlos wound up back together after Tammy left Jim. Jim died in a car accident shortly after Tammy left him. Carlos got Tammy pregnant before he died, actually. You have a full sibling, his name is Chad, and he is a few months younger than Angel.”
“Wow,” Aria breathed. “So, I really did forgive my mom?”
“Yes, you did. You heard her side of the story. Tammy had been abused by Jim too, and she couldn’t get away from him. Tammy made mistakes, but she apologized to you for them, and she is a better person than she was. I think it’s only fair if you consider giving her another chance. You two became close. You and Carlos became close, as well. Carlos loved you very much.”
Aria nodded in understanding. “I think I need some time to process all of it,” Aria said. Her eyes flickered to mine. She drew in a deep breath, and her gaze fell to my lips.