Adrianna’s heart was beating fast and she felt slightly nauseated as Blaine asked her “Ready?”
No, she was not ready for this, not at all. But it was real, there was nothing to be done about it other than face it. And better WITH him, than having to worry about it alone. At least this way she could show her support.
The door was opened by a man, someone she only knew from movies. So it was really true. He WAS Marcella’s dad. For some family internal reasoning, which still at 17 evidently Adrianna was not privy to, Marcella had moved in with her biological father, the actor, when she was 12. She even had her last name legally changed to his. Well, her father seemed polite as he ushered them into the nursery. So there it was. Or he was. Adrianna tried to be grown up and a good person, but deep down she disliked that brat. The entire idea of Blaine Jr. already having a child with another girl, her cousin of all people, it just bothered her to no end. Marcella now entered the room, kisses on both cheeks for her and Blaine, which bothered Addy even more and then she asked HER Blaine if he wanted to hold “his” son. Addy wanted to scream and run away. She should not have come. This was bad. Blaine Jr. seemed to enjoy himself, grinning from ear to ear as he was rocking that nasty brat, who in turn giggled and gargled for joy. Now it turned its head and looked at Addy, stretching out his little arm.
“Aww, he wants to go see you, Addy!” Marcella exclaimed
Urgh, no way. Adrianna tried to discourage them but before she knew it she held Blaine Jr’s son. With another woman. Her cousin. AWFUL. She felt a tuck of her hair and protested, seriously considering tossing the kid on the floor, when she looked into big blue eyes, wide with wonder as he now brabbled, smiled and snuggled his little head against hers. Not long after she heard content faint snoring sounds. She gently pet his head and back. So soft and … little. Marcella carefully took him from her and put him in his cradle, when she said something to Blaine Jr. who looked at Addy and told her he would be right back. Something about signatures. When they had left, Addy stepped over to the crib, where little Benjamin was now snoozing peacefully, his little legs kicking sometimes. Her initial dislike dissipated looking at this child.
“I know, it’s not your fault. But you should not exist. It is just not fair. You should have been mine .. in many MANY years from now … this is just not fair.”. tears began to fill Addy’s eyes. She was so incredibly disappointed about how all this turned out. They were Romeo and Juliet. They had a rocky start, but now both families even supported their relationship. Adrianna thought about a beautiful wedding, everybody there, her mom, dad, Marco … Blaine’s folks … and then his SON. How was this even supposed to work? Was Blaine supposed to take the kid for weekends now? That was the only time with all the school stuff, college applications etc. they still had time for each other. And now there would be a needy baby? Addy had thought they would go to college together, and Blaine Jr. seemed to have been on board, even though academically he needed a LOT of help, but he really tried. Recently though, more specifically since Ben’s birth, he kept talking about him just not being smart enough and that he would rather find a job straight after graduation. Addy had not even told her parents yet. Her dad was big on good education and bettering yourself, he’d have a seizure. And while he did make an admirable effort to be nice to Blaine Jr., it was still blatantly obvious that he would prefer his daughter with someone else. Someone more like her dad, probably. Addy was no fool and had figured out that there was something that had gone down long before she was even born between Blaine Senior and her mom, which was why dad disliked him, but then he hired him into his beloved company so, who knows. Adults, right? Knowing her dad and his cunning ways, this was most likely one of those “keep your friends close, but enemies closer” scenarios. And who was she to judge? Wasn’t what she was doing here the exact same thing?
Addy’s thoughts were still doing somersaults in her head when Blaine Jr. walked her home that night. She jerked when he took her hand, which made him cringe but he said nothing.
“You are kinda quiet, Addy…” Blaine Jr. remarked.
“So are you…”
“Yeah but it is unusual for you, motormouth.” he teased her, while tickling her.
“Whatever.” she pushed his hands away.
“You are upset with me?” It sounded like a question, but was more of a realization.
“No. I … look, I am not going to lie, this is a whammy. I just need time to get used to it, that’s all.”
Addy stopped short and faced Blaine Jr.
“What is that supposed to mean?!”
“I am not blind, Addy.”
“And I know you. I have known you for half our lives now.”
“I know that. And?”
“And … your poker face SUCKS, Addy.”
“They are here! Kids, I need you to be on your best behavior tonight. Charles Vanderbilt is a VERY important client of mine .. umm .. ours and I cannot tolerate ANY silly, naughty, odd comments tonight. Clear?!”
“Yes, dad.” Adrianna kissed him on the cheek.
“YES SIR!” Marco saluted in a military fashion.
“Keep that up and you are enrolled in a military school son.” Ezio teased unamused.
“Kinda felt like I was there already.”
The doorbell rang.
“I get it…” Viktoria just adjusted the table decor for the 15th time.
“NO! I get it. You all stay right here… no, better, you all come with me to the door.”
Eyerolls times three, but all obliged. Ezio rarely asked for anything special, so everyone humored his exaggerated hospitability.
“Mr. Vanderbilt, Mrs. Vanderbilt – don’t you just look lovely tonight .. ”
Marco and Addy exchanged grimaces and show puked from behind the door before the guests entered the house and it was their turn for the introduction, which earned them a stern look from their mother.
“Hi Marco!” a very attractive girl gave Marco a killer smile and an eye bat. Addy rolled her eye in her mind. What a …
“Oh, this is my very beautiful and very intelligent, wonderful daughter Nicole! My pride and joy!” the old Vanderbilt now introduced her.
Everyone was ushered into the dining area, where dinner filled the room with an enticing smell of a promise of perfect food awaiting.
Everybody sat, the men spoke, Viktoria exchanged pleasantries with Mrs. Vanderbilt, Addy was about to pull out the chair next to her brother, as she felt Nicole’s hand on her arm.
“Oh, I would just love to sit next to Marco, you do not mind, do you? Gives you a break from all this sibling fighting …” she flashed a perfect smile with perfect teeth.
What a … Addy thought but smiled back and just sat on the other side of Marco, whispering to him
“You are in high demand, dude!”
He looked at her confused.
“So Marco. Daddy tells me you are in the honor classes for all the important subjects. That is so nice, isn’t it? I am too, actually.”
“Oh really? I don’t recall seeing you there…”
“Oh no, no no, I do not go to a public school. See, daddy takes education REALLY seriously, after all it IS the foundation for your future, is it not? I go to Wilkinshire. Have you heard of it?”
“He has. Everybody has. That elite school up by the city?” Addy interfered. Oh, that girl already rubbed her all sorts of wrong. Be nice, Addy, she reminded herself. It was hard.
“That’s the one! And not to be nitpicky, but we prefer ‘academy’. But you could not have known that.” She smiled again. What a …
“Do you already have a college picked out?” Nicole gave Marco another of her model smiles.
“Ummm… nah, not really… bit early don’t you think? And don’t you pick a few out?”
“Oh no, not me. I pick one. Daddy says they will be lucky to have me. Besides, we all go there. Daddy went there, his daddy before him went there. My siblings went there. And now I am going there. I suppose you could call it a long standing family tradition. Daddy is very proud of those.”
Marco looked overwhelmed and Addy was getting angry. Oh that girl! She diverted her attention to the food now being served by her mom, ever the proper hostess.
Ezio called for a toast. Something business-related came from it, with the standard inclusion of family, blah blah.
During dinner there was small talk, mostly the standards.
After dinner the men retired to the couch while Mrs. Vanderbilt pretended to help Viktoria clear the table. The kids hung out by the stereo.
Due to his very carrying voice, everybody heard Mr. Vanderbilt speak, after several glasses of good Italian wine.
“You know Ezio, you don’t mind me calling you that?” Ezio politely agreed to first name basis.
“Well, Nicole over there is really our pride and joy, the apple of my eye. She was a bit of a late surprise to my wife and I, I am sure you wondered about us having a teen at our advanced ages, but I am grateful for fate. We have three older children, you know. A boy and two girls, but they are disappointments, the whole lot of them! Sheer and utter disappointments.”
Viktoria halted in the kitchen when she heard that, and Mrs. Vanderbilt nodded “oh, good old Charles, the alcohol loosens his tongue. Here we go again.” Both women now joined the men on the couch, sitting next to their respective spouses. Viktoria had a feeling she would need to anchor her husband. If it came to disgracing families, Ezio’s patience ran thin …
The old Vanderbilt continued after a healthy refill of the glass.
“That boy of mine. Sent him to the best schools, pulled some strings so he can have a good career and what does he do? Goes and marries some dark skinned girl with a kid! Not even his! And I am not sure I want him to have a kid with … THAT!”
Viktoria’s expression hardened.
“Why would that be a problem?!” Viktoria hissed while Ezio patted her arm.
“What my wife meant was that one of her best friends is a wonderful and smart black woman …” Viktoria gave her husband an appalled look, he faintly shook his head at her, his eyes begging her to let it go.
“Oh, I do not mind those people in general, just not in the family.”
“Ah….” Viktoria started but was immediately interrupted by Ezio
“HONEY, would the bestest, most understanding wife in the world, whom I love more than anything, be so kind and get me the big binder from the office? I meant to talk to Charles about some scenarios but I just forgot it up there looking forward to this VERY important evening…” Viktoria understood the plea and got up.
“Certainly. ANYTHING for you, honey!” she replied while shooting Mr. Vanderbilt a ‘drop dead’ look from narrowed eyes.
She was mumbling very unflattering things about the Vanderbilts to herself while going up the stairs to the office.
“She is a good wife. And very attractive! Better keep a close eye on that one.” the old Vanderbilt laughed out a bellowing laugh. Ezio inhaled. That man really had a special talent for finding sore subjects.
“Well and my daughters … that one goes and marries a vampire. Can you imagine!? Some fellow with some odd last name, some foreign gibberish again … Vetti Votto ..something…”
“It’s Vatore, dear” Mrs. Vanderbilt interjected.
“As in Caleb Vatore?” Ezio asked?
“That’s the one. Oh so handsome, what a pity that he is so … well … dead, really.” Mrs. Vanderbilt giggled.
Wow, another person from Viktoria’s past Ezio would love to kill if he weren’t already dead. That pale creep had weaseled his way into Viktoria’s graces via her floosy friend Penny and then kept trying to hypnotize her to become one of them. Luckily his charms did pearl off Viktoria like water off a raincoat.
“So, your daughter .. is she .. did he … ummm..?” should not have asked that, Ezio reprimanded himself.
“Oh, I don’t know and cannot say that I care too much. She is dead to me either way. But she had a bunch of kids with him. At least they have light hair. We like our blondes. Like your wife, you are such a lucky man, Auditore!”
“Mom, bleaches her hair!” Adrianna said, earning herself a warning look from her father.
“Just a little. She is a natural blonde. Just not …. AS blonde.” Ezio forced a smile.
“Well, leaves one more daughter. The least disappointment of the older ones. Started out strong. Married an astronaut, no less. But then I find out that he has two kids by two different women out of wedlock, one lives with them and nobody knows where the mother might be. I try to help them and my daughter quits her promising job in my company and becomes a gardener. A GARDENER. That is what we hire, not what we aspire to! Outrageous. You see how we have put all of our hope into Nicole. She is such a smart girl. So beautiful. She will not let us down, will you my beautiful princess?!”
“Please tell me there is a hidden camera somewhere! BARF!” Addy whispered to her brother.
Viktoria finally returned. Ezio knew that she would take as long as she would take to calm herself down.
“Let’s talk business then, shall we? How about Addy you take Nicole up and show her your room. And the ladies how about a tour of the house, Viktoria did such an excellent job with the interior design, I am sure Mrs. Vanderbilt would love it!”
“Oh, Marco has to come! I insist! He is such a gentleman, and I would just be heartbroken if we had to leave him behind, all alone!” Nicole said.
“Umm .. he lives here, I am sure he’ll be fine!” Adrianna said.
“Addy, Marco, go upstairs with Nicole.”
They started towards the hallway when Ezio pulled his daughter into his arms to whisper “BE NICE!” into her ear.
“My little girl, I just could not help it!” he explained to Mr. Vanderbilt.
“Well, here we are. This is my room. This is a chair, this is a shelf, this is a closet, desk, books, … the end.” Addy said.
“Aww, what a cute lil painting there, did you do that in kindergarten?” Nicole pointed at Addy’s wall.
“No, my boyfriend painted that for me. It’s an Italian nobleman from the Renaissance era.”
“Yes, now that you say it, I can see it … I suppose I am just so spoiled with real art from when daddy took me to all the famous museums in Europe. So nice to have connections in all the right places. Your painting is so … retro.”
“Glad you like it, imagine my relief. I have to do public homework for my public school now, so … sorry.” Addy sat down at her desk.
“It’s ok, I’ll keep you entertained.” Marco said.
“Oh, how sweet of you, Marco. You are really really sweet. Oh, I did not even realize how tall you were. I always had a weakness for tall guys …”
“Just like his GIRLFRIEND, right Marco!” Addy could not stand it any longer. If her brother did not have the backbone, she did!
“Awww, you have a girlfriend? How sweet.”
“Yeah, she is … really sweet.”
“Do you have a picture? I would love to see the girl who stole your heart, big guy!”
Adrianna nearly puked. What the hell was with her brother. If roles were reversed and that were the arrogant son of the arrogant wealthy clients, she would have set him straight hours ago. But Marco just stood there and grinned like a fool. What a moron!
“ummm… I dunno …umm..”
“I do! It is soooooo cute of them kissing! They are constantly on top of each other when they are together, which they are ALL THE TIME.” Addy said pulling out her phone, scrolling through her gallery, then holding the evidence in front of Nicole’s perfect face. That would wipe that arrogant smile off her face. But it did not.
“Oh look at that. How adorable! Pink hair, such a rebel. At our school fashion colors are prohibited. They only allow things that enhance our appearance.”
“Yeah, we all know how important that is!” Addy rolled her eyes.
“Well, to some people it is. I fully support people who do not care about their looks. Like yourself Adrianna, it does take courage to just let yourself go, just hang it all out there. Just like that dress, nothing says ‘I just gave up’ louder than an olive shirtdress. Those shoes are cute. I used to have a pair just like them, designer of course, back when they were in fashion like 2 years ago.” WHAM! The gauntlet hit the floor. Addy was speechless.
“You are such a bi…”
“big help with fashion. You should have a look at my room. I could use some input so it does not look so … ummm … dude-like. And Addy needs to do her homework, so come on.” Marco interfered just seconds before what he thought could turn into some cat fight, pulling Nicole towards the door.
Adrianna was bright red and visibly pissed off.
“Oh, you have such a strong grip. You must work out a lot! Oh, by Ada … loved your room. So very … pink … mine was pink when I was 8. Buh byeeeeeee!”
Marco closed the door just before Adrianna’s shoe hit it.
“And it’s ADDY, not ADA, you BITCH!” she yelled.
“So … ummm.. yeah .. my room …. this is it!” Marco knew that his parents did not allow girls in the room with him but still better than Adrianna going to jail for life after killing Nicole. But he was overwhelmed with her here.
“Do you want something to drink, like water ….?” he asked while she was looking around, picking up things, opening drawers, until she sat down on his bed, patting the spot next to her.
“Sit with me.”
Oh, awkward. His parents wouldn’t like this. Nor would hers. Addy would have a cow. And Emmy … oh man … but he went and sat, awkwardly.
“You sure you do not want some water?”
“I only drink imported water. The other stuff is only to wash with. You know here … and here … and … here … ” Nicole pointed to various spots on her body. Marco blushed deeply. Addy, help! Please come into my room now and do … something….
“Oh my goodness you are so so so adorable. I made you blush. I did not mean to do that. I figured such a handsome, tall man has had so many girls that nothing makes you blush anymore.”
“Umm, no .. not really. I mean I have dated. I had two girlfriends before Emmy.”
“Emmy was the one with the pink hair right? Kinda immature, if you ask me, but to each their own. I have always been more on the classy side. You know, enhance what you have, not … destroy it. Do you think I am doing a good job?”
“Do you think I am pretty?”
“Ummm… yeah…. sure….”
“Tell me I am pretty.”
“Oh .. ok … you’re pretty.”
“But you do not mean it.”
“Sure I do. You ARE pretty.”
“Would you think me prettier if I had pink hair?”
“I dunno .. no .. I mean … I don’t care.”
“But I care. About what you think of me.”
“You sure you want nothing to drink? Maybe some cookies?”
Nicole laughed, then put her hand on his thigh. He began to feel hot and cold. He should do something. Just … what?
She now ran her other hand up and down his chest.
“Wow, you are sooooo strong.”
The door was opened. The room was shaped like a U so you could not see Marco’s bed when entering, he jumped up and blushed.
“Sorry to interrupt, but I forgot to tell you that I am taking the car tomorrow, all cleared with mom and dad. So if you have plans, you need to change them.”
“What, Addy I was gonna meet with a bunch of people to go see the new horror flick…” Marco protested.
“Well, too slow. Sorry, not sorry.” Adrianna measured Nicole up. She just knew that witch was up to no good. Poor Emmy!
“Oh, that is no problem at all. I can drive. I have my own car. Daddy just bought me a new one. And I get to meet your friends, that sounds fun.”
“You like horror movies?” Adrianna asked in disbelief, trying to call her bluff.
“Not normally. But if I get scared I have your handsome strong brother here to protect me. Since I am new in town I am sure his little girlfriend would understand.”
“Umm… I don’t know Nicole. If I were Emmy I would really NOT be so understanding about some strange girl running her hands all over my man.”
“Really? That is so funny, cos I heard that your … man … even had a kid with another woman. Your cousin, I think. OMG – like an episode of “Real Housewives” but with teens.”
That knife went straight into the heart. Adrianna was speechless. She wanted to retort, but was afraid if she opened her mouth, the tears would start.
“Well, I better go see what trouble daddy is getting into. Bye Ada … byeeeee Marco … call me!”
“I don’t have your number…” Marco took the bait.
“Right”. Nicole smiled that perfect smile again, pulled a pen from her designer purse and wrote her number into Marco’s hand, then kissed the pen and handed it to him.
“Something to remember me by. It’s a Montblanc. Daddy got it for me for my birthday. Bye precious!”. She swayed her hips and looked back over her shoulder before disappearing from view.
“SERIOUSLY?!” Addy now unleashed her anger at her brother.
“You are such an idiot! ‘oh so strong’ ‘oh so handsooooome’ .. and you just stand there while she scribbles around on you! I bet Emmy would just LOVE that! You better not call her unless you want to break Emmy’s heart!”
“What the hell Addy? You’re so paranoid. She’s just a bit different. No big deal.”
“Different?! She is a grade A bitch! And you stand there and gobble it up! Speaking of, you are welcome for me interfering, before she had the chance to gobble something up in here!”
“Oh wow! Speaking of being a bitch .. you didn’t even give her a chance….”
“A chance for what? Reeling my stupid-ass brother into her scheme? Do you really not see it? She is about as real as a 30 dollar bill!”
“You’re just angry because she commented on your clothes.”
“Oh yeah, thanks for your help there, bro…”
“Help? With what? Defending your fashion choices? Why would I? I don’t care what you wear.”
“She was insulting me! Hello?! Same with the Blaine-Marcella thing. You just stood there like a stunned monkey!”
“What did you want me to do? It is true.”
Addy just ran out of his room into hers and locked the door.