He felt her hands all over him.
He also felt like waking from a long slumber.
Her voice … even that sounded different.
Kinda like … Leonie’s.
His eyes fluttered open and he stared into Leonie’s worried and shocked face.
“Liam .. baby! What is wrong with you? I am calling an ambulance..”
He managed to raise an arm, put way to much energy into the motion and it flew up and hit the couch he was laying in front of.
“No Leo, please. No ambulance. Please.” he begged.
With her help he managed up to a seated position, leaning against the couch.
“I’ll be ok. Just a … ummm … an episode. Probably the stress and lack of sleep. Just need some rest.” Liam tried to persuade her.
She looked at him, still worried but her eyes softened as she helped him onto the couch.
Sitting next to each other on the couch she wondered about him being shirtless, as she handed him his sweater. As he was slipping it on, he explained that he had some hot flash.
He hated lying to her.
Even if he could have been sure she would understand, he would not even know how to make sense of this enough to even begin to tell about it.
Too much was missing because of the blackout.
He had no idea how long he had even been out.
Gawd she looks beautiful looking at me like that. he thought staring into Leonie’s almost turquoise blue eyes.
“The kids!” he remembered.
“Blissfully unaware, too involved with themselves. They did not even see you when they ran through this room. But they did bitterly complain about daddy leaving his clothes laying around. So I think I will have to give you a talking to.”
“Yeah … sorry.” he rubbed his temples. Whatever Michelle had given him, left a bad headache in the aftermath.
Liam stood up and felt sick and dizzy, but told Leonie he wanted a shower. She agreed and decided to make him chicken noodle soup. He forced a smile, feeling like a traitor.
In the bathroom, while the water was running for the shower to heat up, he stared at himself in the mirror.
What exactly had happened?
He had zero recollection. Nothing. Nada.
And what was Michelle’s plan?
No way was this all over. There was more to come, that was as sure as an Amen in church.
Just how far would this go?
And what did Michelle want? And did she … did they …while he was not even fully conscious?
He scrubbed himself in the shower as if trying to take the skin off, leaving his skin reddened and burning.
When he entered the master bedroom, Leonie was there, a tray with a cup of soup on it on the bed and a hot water bottle.
He wanted to cry.
If he lost her, he’d be done for. She was the one thing that kept him grounded. He knew he had the same self-destructive tendencies his father had battled all his life. Without Leo and his kids he did not know what would happen.
But it sure would not be pretty.
She was his everything.
The literal center of his life.
“You look pale as a ghost, Liam.” Leonie said worried, placing her hand on his forehead.
“I am fine, just a bit shaken up. Never fainted before. Not even for work.” Liam smiled, referring to his acting career.
“No, there you are always the hunk who gets to save the princesses from the evil monster and then ends up kissing them – and more.” Leonie winked at him smiling. He knew she was teasing him, but that comment struck too close to home right now.
He played along, ate the soup, let Leonie dote on him, until she decided he needed to rest and left, shutting the door behind her.
He felt tears burning beneath his eye lids. He wasn’t the crying type normally, but this had him scared. Truly, out of his mind scared.
Liam got his confirmation in the form of a letter, unmarked, addressed to him. Leonie was at the gym, the older kids at school, and the toddlers in the backyard with the nanny, along with the dogs, as he could tell by Shadow’s deep excited barks always followed by Dakota’s higher pitched yaps. Liam went to the dining room table, dropping the stash of mail on it to go through the pile one by one. He opened the unmarked envelope first, and could already sense what this was going to be.
He pulled out a photograph showing him on the floor, shirtless and Michelle straddling him.
Nobody would ever look at this and think ‘harmless’ even though it wasn’t exactly X-rated.
How did she even take this? he wondered to himself.
He turned the photo over and read
More where this came from.
Much, much more.
And a lot more naughty, too.
Meet me at the Cameron Park tonight at 9 PM.
Don’t try anything weird. I am no fool and have plenty of securities on place. Ignore me or try something and all hell will break lose.
“Here we go.” Liam sighed.
Best case scenario, she would want money. Worst case scenario, she’d want something along the lines of what the photo implied.
Money she could have.
The other thing, never.
He knew if he ever slept with another woman, no matter the reason, Leo would NEVER be able to forgive him. And his mother would likely skin him alive while his father would be beating him into next week, as his parents loved Leonie and joked many times that if they were to ever break up, they’d keep her and let him go. While he knew it was a joke, there was much truth to it still. If nothing else, him messing up his marriage would sorely disappoint his parents.
He was tense the rest of the day, had to lie to Leonie about where he was going. And hoped she was not going to need their checkbook while he was gone. He took it, satisfying that tiny ounce of hope that he could write some hefty number on it and make all this go away.
He entered the park, past the plaque proclaiming this here park to be in his honor. Ironic, really, that she wanted to meet here of all places. Or maybe very much on purpose to add salt to the wound.
Looking around, he wondered how he was supposed to find her. It wasn’t Central Park, but not exactly small either.
He took a few steps and remembered that his sister Vivian told him Vitto proposed to her here. More irony, that the place of their happiness should be the spot of his undoing.
He noticed movement. There she was, sitting on a bench, waving at him.
Hard to believe that once upon a time he would have given anything to have her back, and now, he hoped for a gaping hole to open before her and swallow her whole.
“You came.” she smiled.
“Like I had a choice. Why are you doing this?”
“Why do you think?” she cocked her head.
“How am I supposed to know?! Could be many things. You need money?” he asked.
“I do need money. I need out of my rut. While you were off living the good life, others were not so lucky. Other people got stuck with a disabled father, whom they had to take care of since they were 17. And others got themselves knocked up by some one night stand they do not even know the name of, and doubtful if they could pick him out of a crowd. Classy, I know, but too late to dwell on now. I am poor and I am tired of living like white trash because of bad luck and one bad choice.” she explained, her eyes saddened.
“I’ll give you money. You can get yourself out of …”
“Yeah, you will. But I need a little more from you. I am sick of being looked at like some feral slut, because of a mistake I made when I was feeling really shitty about myself. I want you to assume my son’s paternity. You don’t have to see him, or even meet him, but I need your name on that birth certificate.”
“WHAT?! Are you crazy?” Never in a million years would Liam have guess this was behind her set up. Never.
“Nope. Not at all. But you are, if you think insulting me or trying to bully me is going to get you out of this. I have had so many years to think about what I want, what I need to better myself and not at every opportunity get my face rubbed into my big mess up. What I never knew was know how to get there. And then the epiphany came in the shape of your chubby little wifey, landing the solution right in my lap. I am doing a pretty good job with her, wouldn’t you say?” she smiled.
Until the last sentences Liam almost felt sorry for her. Now he wanted to slap her. He would never truly do it, but even considering it gave him some satisfaction. She’d sure deserve it, gambling on other people’s happiness to benefit herself.
Liam gasped but did not know what to say.
Nothing that came to mind would go over too well with her.
Last thing he wanted to do was upset her.
Who knew what she was capable of?
“Michelle, if I were to do that, it would cost me my marriage. I cannot assume paternity for your son. I will help you, financially. But that is as far as I can …” she cut him off.
“No. I want that more than anything. If you defy me, it will definitely cost you your marriage. THAT I am sure of. Leonie and I talk, you know. Girl talk. Like friends. I know a LOT about her that you do not. All her fears and worries, most of them concerning you and other women. Trust me, if you mess with me, I will fuck this up beyond repair for you. There won’t be any coming back from that. And before you hate me, know that I am not doing this to hurt you or Leonie. I actually really like her. And you. I still get all sorts of butterflies when I am near you Liam. You were something back then, but you are definitely much improved now. But you know that already, all those women drooling over you everywhere you go. What’s little ol’ plain me to do, if not make sure you cannot say no, hm? Really, I do not want to mess up anyone’s life. Just fix mine. But make no mistake, I will wreak havoc, if I have to.”
“You should consider a career in politics. You definitely have the character for it, Michelle.” Liam snarled, before reminding himself to be careful.
“Yeah, me in politics where they micro-analyze your life, so they find a crippled father who is only lucent part of the time, while the other times he babbles incoherent, embarrassing stuff. Really embarrassing stuff. And the cherry on top my bastard son from a one night stand. I think I will pass.” she sad bitterly.
“Can I have some time to think about this?” Liam wanted time. Time to try to figure out how to get out of this mess.
“What for? Not like I am giving you a choice. Yes or no. Yes means you’ll be a proud daddy soon, no means lots of drama and no more Leo. Awww. Hey, wanna see a picture of your future son? He is 9 now, not much to look at, kinda like a dishwater blonde Harry Potter and is just as nerdy, but I love him anyway. I named him Eric after his grandfather.”
Without awaiting Liam’s response, who sat, shocked about hearing her talk about her own kid like that, she pulled out her cell phone and scrolled around on it, then handed it to him.
He saw a child with over-sized glasses and behind them sad eyes, bruises on his face and a busted lip, barely healed.
“What in the world happened to him?!” the father in Liam took over.
“The little nerd gets beaten up in school all the time. I have already tried everything, even changed schools twice. I am out of options. Another reason we need you in the picture.” Michelle said nonchalantly, but Liam could see that it did affect her more than she let on.
“Ok, so how are we going to do this?” he asked.
“Aww, good boy. I am going to have to get an appointment and then we will both go and get you added. For a fee. That’s all. Oh, and I’d like child support please, so I will be filing that paperwork soon.” she said, seeming relieved.
Liam closed his eyes.
This was not going to end well.
Either way he chose, it would end in disaster.
Michelle left, he just sat there like frozen, staring at some plant, mesmerized when in reality he was far far away.
He did not know how he got there, but suddenly he was at the beach house. His parents’ house and his childhood home. If anyone could be trusted with this and would have any idea what to do, it would be them. And they would believe him. He rang the doorbell.
Bandit, his parents’ dog, was barking inside, but nobody came to open.
He walked around to the back of house, trying to peek inside, but it was dark in every room. Of all the days to be out, they had to choose tonight.
Who should he go to? Corbin? No. His marriage was not in the best spot at the moment either. He and Emily fought all the time now. His best friend was out. At the very least it would not be fair to burden Corbin with this.
Nathan was not someone you went to for advice. He loved all his friends but also knew their limits. Channing wasn’t either. And he would tell Tamika for sure. And Tamika would tell Beth and Mae … no.
Maybe Finn. But he was so busy with his job and helping Alexa get her bridal store going well. Plus they had a teen boy on their hands.
Ben? He was not really that close with Ben, but knew from his father that this would not be the perfect topic for him either. Ben and Fey’s marriage was perfect, except the small fact that Ben wanted another child while Fey was happy with just Jax.
Vivian? He knew he could trust his big sister, but she had such a temper, if he told her, she may go into ‘protect lil brother’ mode and go nuts on Michelle, making things even worse. And if she told Vitto and he told his father … no.
Defeated, he went home.
“Where have you been?” Leonie looked not very happy with him.
“Out jogging …” he lied.
“In your street clothes? And not even a drop of sweat?” Leonie was not buying it.
“I wanted to see my parents about something.” This was at least only half of a lie.
“Long story.” He was hoping she would let it go by some magical happenstance. Naturally that did not happen.
“Oh, so now we keep secrets from each other?” her hands were on her hips.
Liam felt trapped. It did not matter what he would do, it would blow up. Might as well get it over with right away. And no more lies. If she could forgive him everything, not him lying to her over and over again.
That had to stop.
“You may want to sit down for this, Leo. But first …” he had taken her hand and lead her to the couch, where they sat down, when he kissed her, long and hard.
If this went awry he would have to remember this moment for the rest of his life. She looked shocked and amused, smiling at him afterwards, obviously confused.
“Liam, you are starting to worry me … are you pregnant?” Leonie looked as worried as she said she felt and her little joke did not change any of it.
He wanted to play along with her joke, but knew if he did not get out what he was going to tell her, he would lose his courage.
“Remember that night you came home and found me on the floor…?” he started to tell the story, feeling the noose around his neck tightening.