The next couple of weeks flew fast, and I was busy as fuck. Poor Martina was getting pretty annoyed at me because I was working so much overtime, but maybe most of all because I seemed uninterested in searching for houses. If only she knew...
That was actually one of the reasons why I was working late. I didn't think we'd find anything quite like what we wanted, and living with a compromise wasn't exactly what I wished for our future. No. I wanted our new house to be perfect. But since I wasn't completely sure if she shared my view of perfection, I decided to give her several options to choose between.
I was designing our future home.
I'd already found three possible landholdings, and it was up to Martina to decide which one she liked the most. I constantly tried to lure out information about what she wanted and didn't want in our new home without making her suspicious, which was much easier said than done. She was so goddamn clever that I was almost positive that she could read minds. At least mine. Of course, she ended up being even more irritated at me when I made up dumb excuses or lame explanations to whatever question I'd asked.
It didn't help her mood that she was getting restless from being alone all day either, and that she felt useless for not having a job. Nobody would hire a pregnant woman they knew would be on maternity leave most of the upcoming year. In addition, she was anxious about the trial that was set way sooner than expected.
Rocco had been to meetings almost every day, preparing his case together with his attorney, and I could see it was taking its toll on him. Nevertheless, he left me stunned with admiration for how strong and brave he was, and that he managed to hold his head high despite it all. Luckily, it seemed as though he'd found back to Hunter. I didn't know what kind of relationship they had now, if they only were friends or something more, but at least they were talking.
"Have you seen my earrings?"
Martina was grumpy and hormonal, but tried her best not to snap at me, and I was doing my best not to give her reasons to get mad. It still didn't stop the growing tension between us, and by now it was almost unbearable. The fact that we had to refrain from having sex because of Rocco, was testing our patience for real. Even though I was away most of the day, we still shared bed every night. And it was physically painful to cuddle or kiss without taking the natural step further.
You really need to kick Rocco out this weekend, so you can pound some good mood back into her. She needs it just as much as you do. Damn right, she does. But how can you tell him to leave right after the toughest day of his life?
"Nevermind. I found them. Do you think this dress is inappropriate in a courtroom? Oh, my gosh. It probably is. It's too tight and..."
"Hey," I interjected and wrapped my arms around her from behind. As always, I couldn't help but to smile when I felt the growing life inside of her.
"It's perfect. If anything, it's too long and way too decent, because it keeps me from the best view I have."
She turned to me with a frown.
"Your tits," I shrugged as if it was the most logical answer in the world. At least to me it was. But when I tried to kiss her, she pushed me away.
"Don't ruin my makeup," she grumbled, but I could still see a vague blush tinting her cheeks. Also, a tiny smile told me she wasn't really mad. Then she sighed and looked guilty.
"I'm sorry, Aaron. I don't mean to be such a bitch."
I could see both tiredness and anxiety in her eyes, but they were beautiful as always anyway.
"I'm so stressed out about this whole thing, and I can't even begin to imagine how Rocco feels right now."
She walked up to me and snuggled up against my chest to seek the comfort she needed, and I kissed the top of her head and hugged her tightly.
"Don't be. I completely understand. Besides, I'm not thrilled about this either. But in a few hours, it'll be over and we can put it behind us and move on."
She nodded against my shoulder and I kept holding her head, simply because I loved having her this close.
"I'm not going to work tomorrow, by the way."
"You're not?" she asked, surprised. Then she stepped back so I had to let go of her, and my body instantly missed hers.
"No. I asked for a day off. So I'm all yours both tomorrow and the rest of the weekend, and I have a surprise for you that I hope you'll like."
Her face cracked into a huge smile when I winked at her.
"Yep. But first we have to get through today, and then I'll take you out to dinner tonight."
Knowing that she immediately would be concerned about Rocco, I was quick to elaborate.
"Rocco is meeting up with Hunter after the trial, anyway. I think he'll be fine."
"Is it strange that I want them to be together?" she asked while putting on her earrings. Then she studied her reflection in the mirror and decided that she was ready.
"No. Because I do too. They've known each other for pretty much their whole life, and always had each other's backs. I don't know what made Hunter freak out the way he did, but I think they'll be okay."
"Maybe he's been in denial, too?" Martina suggested.
"I don't think they told anyone about the threesome they had with Jolynne."
"You know about it?"
"Yeah. He admitted it after one of our fights. Jolynne's been mad about it ever since, and that's why she was so jealous of me. Allegedly I managed to 'make her boyfriend straight again'," she said with a quote. Then she yelped when I smacked her ass when she walked past me.
"Hey! Keep your hands to yourself, mister."
"Sorry. Can't do that. Even straight girls turn lesbian for you. And it doesn't matter if that dress of yours is so decent that it's close to being boring. It still allows me to see your sexy ass."
"You can't see my ass! The dress reaches below my knees!" she protested. Then she tilted her head back and scowled at me.
"And I can't decide whether that was an insult or not."
"Oh, it was definitely not an insult," I purred and gave her the stare, and I would take full advantage of her reaction if we had more time. Unfortunately, we had to be ready in the courtroom within an hour.
But a lil' quickie...? Yeah, right. As if you would stop after five minutes.
"I can see the contours of it, and my imagination does the rest," I snickered and watched her blush. I took her hand and lifted it to my mouth so I could kiss it, and with my palm on her lower back, I guided her out of the bedroom and toward the main door where Rocco was waiting. And I made sure to grab an energy bar and a pre-made sandwich for her on our way past the kitchen, so she didn't have to be hungry. One less reason to get annoyed. The day was probably going to make her upset anyway, because now...
Now it was time to expose evil.
"Are you ready?"
Rocco's face told me he wasn't, but he tried his best to stay calm and focused.
"Be strong, son," I encouraged and gently squeezed his shoulder, and I earned a smile because of the way I addressed him. Blood related or not, I was still his father.
"You don't have to look at him. Pretend he's not there. Just make sure everyone gets to hear your side of the story. Okay?"
"Yeah," he sighed.
"Today is the tomorrow you feared yesterday, right?"
"It is. But you can do this, Rocco. And not just for yourself," Martina said, and gave him a hug.
"You're right. This isn't just for me. It's for everyone who is or has been involved."
Rocco rubbed his hands together and his gaze wandered through the room. The wooden panels on the walls were yellowing and in need of replacement or some paint, but the tables, chairs and benches looked brand new. It didn't change the tense atmosphere, though. People were mumbling quietly, almost like they do in funerals, and knowing looks were exchanged even though they probably were just as nervous about the outcome of the case as we were.
"That's right. And think about all the people you'll save from experiencing the same thing you've been through."
Rocco laughed, but he didn't sound happy at all. More bitter.
"Yeah, but the key witnesses still don't want to have any part in it."
"Your mother and grandmother?" Martina asked, and Rocco nodded.
"Because of that, he won't serve as much jail time as he deserves. My case is just the tip of the iceberg."
By now the jurors had arrived and were about to find their places on a little podium in the back. Then the whole room changed when the devil himself entered together with his attorney. He didn't even offer us a glance, but all three of us knew his eyes were filled with hatred. And when I thought about it, I think they'd always been. There had always been something off with this man. Almost like he was surrounded by a dark fog, and now his true colors were about to break through only to show that there were none. Only black.
"Let's make him pay," Martina whispered, and Rocco nodded, determined. Then he sat down together with his own attorney, and Martina and I took a seat a bit further back. They would call her to the witness stand soon enough.
The announcement from the clerk made the low mumbling turn to whisper, until the judge entered. Then all turned silent and stood up.
A middle aged man entered, probably a few years older than me, short and pretty corpulent, and the traditional robe he was wearing made him look like a wandering tent. It would be comical if it wasn't for his strict face and sharp eyes. He oozed authority. Definitely not a person I would dare to mess with, that's for sure. Question was if Bree's father felt the same way. I had my doubts though, because in his sick and twisted mind he probably felt superior to everybody in the room, the robe clothed man included. Luckily the judge himself looked completely unaffected by it and sat down without offering him more than a polite nod.
"You may be seated," he said solemnly, and I carefully took Martina's hand in mine and entwined our fingers as we sat down. Her palm was sweaty and her fingers were cold, and she kept staring straight forward while our hands rested on her lap. If only I could give her another hug.
"Good morning. I'm judge Darren Walton, and today we're..."
The judge stopped mid sentence and turned toward the clerk.
"Where is the other defendant?"
He answered with a shrug and was about to go searching for someone who obviously was missing. It was first then I noticed that the table next to Mr. Rumplefinch and his attorney was empty.
"Who are we waiting for?" I whispered to Martina, but she returned the question with her eyes.
"Bree? I don't see her here. Even though she refused to witness..."
"Order! Order!" judge Walton exclaimed, when people started mumbling and moving a bit. Then suddenly the doors opened and a sharply dressed man with greasy, blonde hair and thick, black designer glasses barged in together with a man I'd known all my life.