Morris swung the door opened and grinned. “Fancy meeting you here!”
“Didn’t Gramma Marty tell you we were coming?” Georgiana asked.
“That woman don’t tell me anything!” he bellowed.
"Well, I like that!" Marty was heard shouting from behind.
“Don’t lie to those darling children and go get that grill going! I’m certain they are near starved to death, the little dears,” Marty said, pushing him out of the way to get hugs and kisses from each child. “Oh, I’m so glad you’ve come. Come in, come in! our barbeque is on schedule. Victor, dear, how are you?”
Victor kissed her cheek after setting Peter on his feet. “Fine, but I should be asking you that,” he said.
“Whatever for? I’m fit as a fiddle, never felt better,” she insisted, smoothing down the front of the apron she wore over her dress.
“Perhaps, but a barbeque in this weather? It’s barely forty degrees out there, Marty, and they are calling for sleet later on. Sounds a bit kooky.”
“Oh, pish-posh! We do it all the time and we are quite well in the head,” Marty said dismissively. “You on the other hand…” She looked him up and down shaking her head in disapproval, “Well, Violet will be home soon and she’ll get you back into shape.”
Victor frowned as he watched her usher his kids into their home—removing coats and hats as they went-- and out into the kitchen where she set each of them to a task as she made her nearly famous pasta salad and other picnic favorites.
“What the heck is she talking about?” Victor muttered.
“Well, if you don’t know…” Morris said, shrugging into a coat and motioning Victor to follow him onto the deck which offered a glorious view of a frosty looking Lake Kramer.
“I’m fine,” Victor said, as he watched Morris placing hotdogs onto the already heated grill.
“Sure you are,” Morris said. “And I’m going to do a tumbling act for Cirque du Soleil next time I’m in Orlando. Which reminds me… Violet tell ya she’s on the way home?”
“You mean you sent your jet for her at last?” Victor said. “I figured you would… eventually, but what’s it to me? She doesn’t want to have anything to do with me.”
“No, I was going to send for her, but she told me she got another ride… it seems a much better ride with a much richer guy…handsomer too, I’m told,” he said, adding burgers to the grill and closing it over. He then turned to look at Victor’s stricken expression. “I take it this is the first you’ve heard of it?”
“You said you were sending your jet for her. She said you …”
“And things change. The little Missy said her new friend, LP…”
“I very much doubt Van Gholstan can be anybody’s friend,” Victor snarled, followed by a string of obscenities he’d never use in front of the kids.
Morris grinned. “Not the first person I heard saying that about him, but I won’t bother telling you he’s actually a decent guy. He loved his cute and slightly nutty little wife to distraction and when she died…well, he was real torn up. I know the feeling, but instead of sending flowers and saying “there, there, now, LP, you’ll be okay. You’ll find somebody new one day,” I got him good and drunk and allowed him to wallow in misery for as long as he needed, cuz that’s how real men handle loss, but that’s not exactly what you wanna hear right now.”
Morris watched the grim set of Victor’s jaw and continued in a casual tone. “Violet explained that LP was coming up to New York anyway and he offered her a ride back on his jet, so I didn’t have to send for her,” he said, coming right up to Victor, poking him in the chest with a steel-like finger. “So, my only question to you is, why are you still here when you ought to be on your way to Tetterboro to bring her back home?”
“Tetterboro, the private airstrip right off of the Washington Bridge which LP uses almost exclusively to land his jet. I use it myself on occasion.”
“What…me go and get her when she’s made no effort to talk to me since she left?”
“Pride go-eth before the fall, Son. I know that better than anyone. It's what kept me from Martina all those years. Do ya want her or dontcha? I’m sure LP would adore her and treat her like gold, but I kinda have my doubts they would make a great, lasting sort of couple. They’re different sorts, you know, and besides all that, Violet’s in love with you!”
“Sure she is,” Victor sarcastically said.
“Yes, she is. Any fool can see that, but maybe you’re a bigger fool than I thought you were. And here I was thinking of adding you to my will. May have to re-think that.” Morris glared at him. “So, what ya gonna do about it?”
Victor stared at him, his mind racing. “But the kids…”
“Are safe with us until you get back. Heck, we’ll even keep them overnight if you like. What are grandparents for if not babysitting their grandkids?”
“You do realize they aren’t truly your grand…” Victor stopped upon seeing the mutinous expression on Morris’ face. “Thank you, Morris, and thank Marty for me.”
“Thank her yourself,” he snorted, turning his back on him. “I gotta tend the grill. I promised my grandkids a barbeque and they’re getting one come frost or snow or sleet or hail.”
Three hours later, Victor was crossing the Washington Bridge and heading straight for the private airstrip he never knew existed. Once at the gate, the guard gave him a hard time about getting in, and so he had to resort to a bit of creative lying.
“You’re not on the list of approved people, so ya ain’t getting in and that’s that,” the guard said, flipping through papers on his clipboard.
“Of course I’m not… yet,” Victor said wielding his cell phone about as evidence. “I only just got the call from LP Van Gholstan ten minutes ago. I’m his lawyer and he told me to meet him here. He should be arriving any minute and if I’m not there before he steps out of his jet and sets foot in New York there will be hell to pay and…well, I’d hate to see you lose your job.”
“Yeah, right,” the guard said, smirking unpleasantly. “What’s so damn important that he needs a lawyer before he gets off the plane?”
“Not that it is any of your business, but let's just say Billionaires are a bit touchy when it comes to pre-nups. However, if you’re willing to tick him off…it’s on your head.” Victor then looked at his watch and shook his head in dramatic fashion. “He’s not going to be happy if he loses half his money to this new little vamp he’s got with him.”
The guard’s eyes widened in fear as he took another look at the papers in his hand. “Violet Bennett…. She’s onboard with him right now. How did you know that? That who you’re talking about? Is she…like…uh…?”
“Rumor has it she’s claiming to be pregnant. We can only assume with his kid. Could be she’s in love but…as his lawyer I can’t allow him to risk everything, not even for love. We need her to sign a pre-nup now, before they get off the plane,” Victor said with a shrug. “But if you think he’ll thank you for letting him get taken to the cleaners by what could end up being a cheap, lying, money-grubbing floosy…”
Fifteen minutes later Victor watched the jet land and he breathed a sigh of relief as he was escorted to the mobile stairs hooked up to the jet and allowed inside.
“Mr. Van Gholston, your lawyer is here,” a pretty attendant said before ushering Victor inside the cabin.
“Romanoff! What the hell are you doing here?” LP asked, springing to his feet.
“Your good friend sent me,” Victor replied, looking past him hoping to see Violet.
“Who would that be?”
LP lifted bemused eyebrows. “You know Morris Kramer?”
“Yes, I do. He’s currently babysitting my kids,” Victor said, frowning when he couldn’t see Violet anywhere.
“You need Morris to babysit your college-aged sons?” LP said with a laugh. “What joke are you pulling here?”
“I recently adopted three children, all under the age of ten who Morris has taken a liking to,” Victor replied, still looking about the cabin. “Morris and his new wife, who happens to be my former mother-in-law, are watching them for me while I’m in the city.”
“Let me get this straight,” Laurence said, his expression doubtful. “You adopted three kids… a single man with no wife…at your age?”
“What can I say?” Victor said, annoyed by the disbelieving tone. “I like kids, especially my kids.”
“Clearly. Well, you’re a braver man than I am, Romanoff,” LP said, both stunned and a bit impressed. “However, that still does not explain why Morris would send you here.”
Victor spun around at the breathless sound of her voice and smiled. “Hello, Violet,” he said, trying to contain himself. He wanted to spring forward and scoop her up into his arms, but he held back measuring her reaction first.
Violet stared at him as if she was seeing a ghost. Her head pulled her one way while, away from him where neither he nor she would get hurt, but her heart pulled her the other way. She wanted him, she needed him and if she allowed herself to admit it, she loved him, but she still wasn’t ready to give herself fully to him. She had not exercised Richard out of her system yet and until she did that…
Then she looked just beyond Victor’s shoulder to Laurence who wore a beseeching expression as he mimed something. He put his finger to his ear then placed his whole hand over his heart. Odd as it appeared, she understood what he was saying.
“Listen to your heart.”
She nodded ever-so-slightly, then suddenly smiling she gushed, “Victor,” and made a flying leap into his arms spinning him around making him stagger from the force of the unexpected impact. He grabbed her easily lifting her off her feet.
Stunned, he now faced a smirking Laurence who gave him a two-finger salute before discretely leaving them alone in the cabin, closing the door behind him with a tiny click.
Victor wracked his brain with something to say which wouldn’t ruin everything.
“Welcome home,” he whispered in her ear. Lame, yes, but it seemed safe enough.
“What are you doing here?” she asked still hugging him tightly around the neck.
“I was in the city and Morris asked me to watch out for you and…”
“Oh, that darling man! He’s always thinking of me. you know he called to see how I was every night. You’d think I was his teenaged daughter away from home for the first time or something,” she said giggling.
“He’s adopting a heck of a lot of people recently, my sons, my angel kids, me even, so why not you, too?” Victor said. “I think we’re all in his will now, if you can imagine that.”
She laughed, but quickly sobered, staring into his dark eyes, her feet still dangling in mid-air. “But Victor, you didn’t have to come,” she said. “Not after what I said to you. How we left things.”
“No, I didn’t have to, but I wanted to.”
She saw love in those eye, pure and simple. “Victor, I’m sorry,” she said, stroking his cheek.
“Me too. I don’t expect anything from you, Violet,” he said.
“Are you sure?”
“I don’t want to lose your friendship. I want you in my life anyway I can get you.”
“I don’t know if…”
“Nothing has to change until you want it to. I know I’ve said it a million times, but I mean it this time. I won’t push you. Never again.”
She didn’t like the sound of that. She would have to make the final decision and she wasn’t good at doing that. She realized that sure enough. She bit her lip then imagined Laurence again.
“Listen to your heart, Violet,” he said.
She stared at Victor until her eyes went blurry with tears. “I missed you, Victor,” she whispered just before kissing him lightly on the lips. She wanted to say more, to tell him she didn't ever want to be away from him again, but she could not bring herself to do it, not yet anyway. For now, that would have to do. She’d figure out the rest later.
Not trusting himself with anything more than a smile in reply he said, “For right now I just want to get you home safe and sound…you know, so Morris doesn’t kick me out of his will. That okay?”
She giggled and nodded. “Okay. I just need to get my suitcase and purse and we can go,” she said, dropping to her feet.
She turned to speak to Laurence, not knowing he had left. “Where did he go?” she said.
Just then Laurence reentered. “How is everything here?” he said, the smile on his face belying he already knew.
“Laurence, I won’t be needing a ride to Catalpa Valley after all,” Violet said, feeling a bit anxious and guilty. “And I guess I can’t help you look for…”
Laurence smiled indulgently. “Yes, I figured that, Violet. I will find something even you will approve of, so you need not worry,” he replied, not bothering to tell her it was already a done deal. “I’ll take care of everything and I’ll let you know, all right? Now, you and Romanoff ought to get going before it gets any later and you hit traffic. Your luggage is already being placed in the car.”
“Thank you so much for everything,” she said, giving him a chaste kiss on the cheek. “I had a wonderful time with you and the kids, and I’ve decided I don’t have to rip you a new one after all.”
Laurence laughed. “Good to know. In turn, Violet, I do appreciate what you did for me. I’ve got my son back, and that’s all I care about. I thank you from the bottom of my heart,” he said, taking both her hands in his, dropping little kisses on each one.
“Good luck with Kelly and Fanny. I’d love to meet them some day,” Violet said.
“I think we can arrange that. Now, it’s getting late, so get your purse and coat. I need a word with Romanonoff before he takes you home.”
Both men watched her go, and at the click of the cabin door behind her they stared at each other.
“I guess she missed you, Romanoff,” Laurence said grinning.
“Seems that way…a bit,” he replied, unable to keep from grinning himself. “Good thing I didn’t listen to you.”
“I was counting on you being the sort of man who didn’t like taking advice… especially from someone like me.”
Victor stared open-mouthed. “Then why…?”
Laurence shrugged. “Best advice I didn’t take got me Emily when everyone told me she was way out of my league. I thought I’d do you a favor, Romanoff, and force your hand. You can thank me later by inviting me to the wedding. Should thank Morris, too. That man is genius sending you here.”
Victor was still in a bit of shock as he opened the door to the passenger side for Violet, helping her in. He saw Laurence barking orders to his assistant as he descended the stairs of his jet, and was further surprised when he paused just long enough to lift a hand in farewell.
Perhaps Morris was right after all. LP Van Gholstan might not be the devil incarnate, but was he now a friend as odd as that would be?
Victor would have to figure that out later.
©2014 Glory Lennon All Rights Reserved
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