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Nephylim

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About Nephylim

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  1. Nephylim

    Chapter 37

    Amara refused to allow Drew to help him and he walked slowly with his head high. Drew knew it had to hurt. Cracked ribs were bad enough, but the deep bruising would be making every movement a struggle. Yet, despite an obvious stiffness, Amara didn’t show any sign of pain or distress. Drew was impressed. The boys sat on the two seats at the desk and Drew stood between them, a hand on each shoulder. Lady Jane sat on the other side of the desk and for the first time her iron-clad composure cracked. She cleared her throat a few times and looked as if she was about to speak, only to close her mouth and glance away. Drew took pity on her. “Do you know that your parents—mainly your mother—forbade your grandmother from seeing you for years?” Aria glanced up at him. “No, but it wouldn’t surprise us. We’re forbidden to see our other grandparents, too.” “But we see you,” Amara said coldly. “We’d come a few times, then you’d get fed up with us and we wouldn’t see you for years. When we did come, you’d act as if you didn’t want us here. And we didn’t want to be here. Why would we? The place is a museum and you’re…you’re…” He turned to Aria. “What did Star call her?” “Um.” Aria glanced away, looking uncomfortable. “A stodgy harridan,” he whispered. “Yeah, something like that.” Lady Jane looked crushed. “I’m so sorry. I never meant to…” She sighed. “Yes, I did. That’s exactly what I meant to be, and you can never imagine how hard that was for me.” She took a deep breath and rose. Going to a small bookcase, tucked away under the massive shelving unit, she chose a few books and brought them back to the table. Turning one toward the boys, she pushed it over. The twins scowled at her, but Aria reached out and dragged the book closer. When he opened it, Drew realized it wasn’t so much a book, as a scrapbook, filled with photographs of the boys as well as news cuttings regarding their birth and first months. There were also handwritten letters from Julianna and Henley. They were short, cold and merely informing her of the births and some factual detail. Page followed page and the twins grew before Drew’s eyes, from beautiful babies to adorable toddlers. Some of the photographs were taken in that very house, and what were presumably the grounds. Julianna was in very few of them. Most were of Lady Jane holding the babies or on her knees with the toddlers, an expression of pride and joy on her face. “But…” Aria said, raising his head to look at his grandmother. “If you loved us then, when did you start to hate us? Why?” Lady Jane opened a second book and pushed it over the desk. This time, the twins were about seven years old, identical in every way and looking so happy it hurt Drew. “Go through it a bit – to the letter.” The letter was short, in an elaborate, decorative hand on white paper embossed in gold. Despite your cruel and hateful attacks, I have decided to forgive, for forgiveness is divine n’est pas. I shall allow my darling boys to visit on the strictest of conditions that you do not try to steal their affections from me. You shall not be left alone with them, either Henley or myself shall supervise at all times. Neither shall you show undue affection. If you refuse or fail to comply, you will not see my angels again. The letter was signed in a flamboyant flourish that Drew assumes to be Julianna’s signature. “I don’t understand,” Amara said, sounding lost. “What does she mean by “cruel and hateful attacks”?” “I tried to convince your father to allow you to live with me when he was away. I engaged a solicitor and was considering court proceedings.” “But why?” Aria asked, even more lost than his brother. “Because I did not, and do not, agree with the way your mother was treating you. I wanted to take care of you, to give you a happy childhood with someone who cared.” “And who might that be?” Amara asked coldly. “You? You never once showed any care to us. You treated us like…inconveniences. You looked down on us. You were like her. Nothing we ever did was good enough.” Lady Jane reached across and turned a few more pages. Aria touched the carefully laminated certificate. “My swimming certificate.” He turned the page to find Amara’s. Subsequent pages contained school certificates, photographs of prize-givings, newspaper cuttings and more photographs. This time, there were none of the boys with their grandmother unless one or both of their parents were in them too. “But why?” “Because I was proud of you. Of everything you achieved. I have every achievement documented, at least those I was aware of. I was in contact with your schools, had discussions with your agent, Amara. Every single thing I could. People talked to me, even though they shouldn’t have, because they were worried about you, and knew I genuinely cared. Even so, it wasn’t much. There is only so far anyone can step beyond their authority, and I am not your parent after all. To be fair, your father often sent me things without your mother’s knowledge. I have a separate folder of letters from him, documenting small milestones in your lives. Snippets of information. Photographs from some film set or another.” Amara dropped his head, while Aria continued to flick through the book. “We didn’t know,” Amara said at last. “Of course not. How could you? Your mother was terrified I’d take you away from her. She was jealous of me and determined you would never like me more than her. She forced me to be cold and distant and if I showed affection to you, or you to me, she would stop the visits. As you can see, I went years with no contact.” “How do we know you’re telling the truth?” “You don’t. You can’t. All you can do is look at the evidence, together with what you know of your parents, and make up your own mind.” “There’s something else you should know,” Drew said. Both boys turned, tilting up their faces to gaze at him with identical expressions. “Your grandmother sent her own personal assistant to take care of you. To be close to you and provide as much support as she could. She needed to know there was at least someone in your lives looking after you, caring about you.” “I don’t understand,” Amara said. “Who did she send? Why don’t we know them?” “We do,” Aria said. He turned back to Lady Jane. “It’s Alicia isn’t it?” “Alicia?” Amara said, sounding angry. “You sent Alicia to spy on us. I thought she… She was the only one who—” “She wasn’t sent to spy on you. She was sent to make sure you had someone to turn to when you needed it.” “We trusted her.” “Mara,” Aria said firmly. “I-I’m not cross.” “But Alicia was… I thought she was…” “She was. She is. Don’t you see, it’s even better? We always knew she was working for Maman and had to do what Maman said. She was never free. You know how much she hated it when Maman gave those stupid instructions and did bad things to us. At least she had grandmother to talk to about it. I’m sure grandmother helped sometimes.” From the expression on Lady Jane’s face, Aria was giving her one of his smiles. Amara was a tougher nut to crack. “She was still a plant. You had no right to do that. To send someone to spy on us. And what good did it do? Neither she nor you could stop a single thing that woman did to us, or make Father do anything about it either.” “I don’t pretend to be blameless. Looking back, I made so many mistakes. I should never have let the court proceedings drop. I was terrified that if we lost I would never see you again, never know what was happening to you. I made bad decisions. My son made bad decisions, and I allowed him to. I will never forgive myself for any of that. But neither will I regret anything I did to keep contact with you, to keep you in my life.” “I…I need to think,” Amara said, shaking his head. “It’s too much.” “I understand. Mr. Chance will take you to the flat. I think we can forget dinner tonight. You can eat in your rooms. I’ll see you for breakfast in the morning.” Lady Jane rose and started across the room. “Wait.” Drew was surprised by Aria’s word. Not just because he’d spoken, but because it had been in such a strong, commanding tone. He was even more surprised when Aria got to his feet and glided over to his grandmother. Standing before her, he gazed into her face for a moment, then raised his hand to lay it against the side of her face, still gazing into her eyes. She bent slightly to better accommodate him. Eventually, Aria dropped his hand. “You’re a good person,” he said at last. “I believe you do love us, but you haven’t been very nice. It doesn’t matter why. We’ll give you a chance but don’t screw up again.” Lady Jane gave him a sweet, gentle smile, and in that moment, Drew was shocked by his first real sense of family resemblance. Although he was pretty sure that smile was rare, it was every bit as special as Aria’s. “I’m an old woman, my darling. I’ve had to be strong and it’s made be hard, but I’ll try. I promise you that much. I will try.” Aria pondered again for a moment, then he nodded. “So will we.” Lady Jane’s smile notched up as she straightened. “I’ll see you for breakfast in the morning. She paused before leaving, the smile replaced by a harder expression. “Would you please send that dreadful creature you insist on bringing with you, to join me in the sitting room as soon as he can. We have some unfinished business to conclude before we can all begin to relax and get to know each other properly.” Amara got to his feet and turned stiffly. “This is what we mean. How can we ever believe that you care for us when you treat our friends so badly? What has Jay ever done to you? You’re horrible to them and that’s nothing to do with Mother.” Lady Jane drew herself up. “There’s more to that boy than you know. Perhaps you would be wise to be less trusting when it comes to your friends and make more effort to establish who they truly are.” She sighed and brushed down her clothing. making a clear effort to relax and smile. “I commend your loyalty to your friend. Send him to me and once I’ve had my say, I promise I will listen to him and make an effort to “be nice”, even to him.” Drew could practically hear Amara’s teeth grinding. “Jay’s not a boy. Stop calling them “him”. I know you know it’s what they want and you’re only being disrespectful. And stop talking about them as if they’re a piece of street trash. They’re our friend, our best friend. We love them and if you can’t at least be civil to them we can’t stay here.” Lady Jade seemed startled, then she nodded curtly. “I shall bear that in mind and treat him…them with the respect they are due. I give you my word.” Before either of the boys could say another word, she stepped out, closing the door firmly behind her. For a moment, no one moved, then Aria turned and gazed at Amara. Drew remained silent, sensing it was one of those strange twin moments when the boys almost seemed to be communicating telepathically. This time, though, he caught the emotions flowing across Aria’s face, that Amara was clearly so much better than he at reading. Finally, Amara sighed and sat down heavily. “Alright,” he said, listlessly opening and closing the photograph album. “I’ll give her a chance. If she’s nice to Jay, too.” “She doesn’t like Jay,” Aria said, sitting down again. “You don’t say.” “A lot of people don’t like Jay.” “A lot of people are idiots.” “That’s true.” The twins fell silent for a while, leafing through the albums, then Aria pointed out a particularly cute shot and Amara recalled a memory from another and soon they had their heads together, pouring over the books, discussing photographs, memories and things Drew had no part in. He left them to it and wandered around the room, idly perusing the books. He was, of course, drawn to the shelves that contained the photograph albums. In fact, the whole book case was filled with albums, scrap books, magazines etc, not only on the boys but also their father, and surprisingly their mother. Keeping tabs on the enemy? A filing cabinet next to the book shelf also contained a mass of information on the boys, each folder carefully labelled and categorized. In the third drawer down were folders on other people, presumably those who’d been close to the boys at one time or another. Drew leafed through them curiously, until he found the one with his name on it. He felt justified in snooping considering the information concerned him. Whoever did the research was thorough, he’d give them that. Everything from his birth certificate to army records, to testimonials from some of his bodyguard clients. There were candid photographs that made him uncomfortable but he supposed he’d have to get over that now with the paparazzi always on their case. As he was sliding the folder back into the drawer, another caught his eye. It was labelled Jayson (Jay) Stephens. Jay? With trembling fingers, Drew picked up the folder and opened it. He froze with shock, then took a breath and started to read. “What are you looking at?” Drew jumped at the gentle touch on his arm. He jerked it away and swung around. Aria gasped and took a step back. “I’m sorry.” Drew dropped the folder back into the drawer and kicked it closed, then wrapped his arms around Aria, unable to bear the wide-eyed expression of fear he’d elicited by his shocked reaction. “Oh God, don’t be sorry. Don’t be sorry, and please don’t be frightened of me. You have to understand that I’ve been a soldier for most of my life. I’m trained to react, and you unsettle me because you get right under my guard when you shouldn’t be able to. I think it’s going to be a long, long time before I stop being startled by you but I swear I will never, ever hurt you and I will never be angry with you for getting close to me. Just know that if you startle me, I’ll react. It’s not your fault; it’s not my fault; it just is, and we’ll work on it, okay?” Aria nodded against his chest, and Amara stopped glaring at him. “Come on. Let’s get go see this flat of yours and get you settled in. Then lunch sounds like a good idea. Don’t get me wrong, I love stodgy fast food, but it would be nice to get some good coffee.” The converted basement was unbelievable. It took up almost an entire wing and was probably bigger than three floors of the London house put together. A flight of stairs off the hall took them down to a long corridor lined with doors­—four on one side, three on the other and one at the end. Thick carpet in shades of black and grey swallowed the sound of their footsteps and crystal chandeliers with smoky crystal droppers gave a shadowy feel to what was actually a well-lit hall. Between each door hung framed posters of Henley and Julianna in various film roles. Without a glance at the hall, Aria went straight to the first door on the right and opened it. Drew followed him and Amara into a living room that was bigger than any room Drew had seen outside a public building. It seemed to be divided in three distinct areas, each accessible to the corridor through its own door. The furthest part was a kitchen area, separated by a breakfast bar, then a dining area containing a table that must be big enough for twenty. The closest and largest area contained a massive “L” shaped sofa, a television that filled an entire wall, a bar, a row of vintage arcade games, a fish tank built into the wall and a long, low bookcase. Although, Drew knew there were no windows, one wall was draped with gauzy curtains that gave an illusion of windows behind them. The ceilings were high, the floors were solid inlaid wood, and every single item looked new and more expensive than Drew would like to guess. Sprawled on the sofa, looking very out of place was Jeff. He was watching a western that looked like it had been made in the fifties. When the door opened, he sat up and placed the soda he was drinking on the massive coffee table that filled the space between the arms of the sofa. “You took your time,” he said. “I was expecting you last night.” “Yeah well, you didn’t travel in the bus.” “What is this bus you speak of?” “Cerrian’s new baby. She’s going to India again.” “Ah yes, and where is that gorgeous sister of yours?” “Parking the bus in the garage, then heading to the kitchen with the other plebs. No idea why they let the likes of you in here.” Jeff chuckled. Jeff had met Drew’s family on a number of occasions and had a soft spot for Cerrian. He treated her with fatherly affection even though he was nowhere near old enough to be her father. Not that she didn’t act as if he was. Amara sank onto the sofa with a sigh and Aria immediately curled against him. “Are you sure you’re alright here?” Drew asked, wary of making any demands and triggering Amara’s temper. “Should you be in bed.” “What the hell are you talking about?” Jeff demanded. “That’s the last place he needs to be.” “He’s two days out of hospital with broken ribs and deep bruising. Where the hell else should he be?” “Sitting up and moving around. You should know that. Are you doing your breathing and coughing exercises?” Jeff asked, turning to Amara. “Don’t get the chance,” Amara grumbled. “Drew keeps drugging me.” “If the doctor hadn’t meant you to take the pain relief, he wouldn’t have given it to you. You’d rather be in pain.” “And he’s right,” Jeff said. “What do you mean.” Drew hadn’t meant his words to come out as a snarl, but he had to concentrate to rein in his anger that Jeff would be suggesting he watch Amara struggle in pain. “You’re forgetting yourself, Drew. Stop being an overprotective dick trying to be a superhero and curing all their ills by wrapping them up in cotton wool. Think about it. The treatment for cracked ribs is gentle exercise and having a good cough every couple of hours to keep the chest clear. Yeah it’ll hurt, but he can get by with a couple of co-codamol and a cushion.” “But…” “You want to protect them and save them from pain. Trust me, I get it. That’s how I am with Jenna and the kids, but you’re not doing him any good, and you should know better. You can’t afford to get soft, not now. If Amara can handle the pain, let him, and for God’s sake do those exercises.” “What exercises?” Jeff frowned at Amara. “I blame you for that bit. I’m disappointed you didn’t take more responsibility for your own health. We had this discussion. I went through the exercises with you and we agreed that the best way to help your brother was to take care of yourself. And where’s that bloody hyperactive pixie. We went through this with them, too.” Despite everything, Drew snorted at Jeff’s description of Jay, but right on the heels of his amusement, the images he’d seen in the folder hit him in the stomach like a physical blow. “I’m sorry.” Amara mumbled. “And so you should be.” “Tell me, Jeff,” Aria said. “I’ll make sure he does them and that Drew doesn’t get soft.” Jeff’s expression softened to mush. “I know you will, precious, but it’s still not your responsibility.” Amara sighed. “Alright, alright, we can do it now.” “And every two hours.” The twins nodded as one. Drew was then forced to watch while, hugging a pillow, Amara was put through a gruelling set of breathing and coughing exercises by Jeff, that left him shivering but triumphant. “That wasn’t too bad,” he said, despite evidence to the contrary. “I can handle it.” “You still have to keep taking the pain meds,” Jeff said sternly, “but we’ll figure out a maintenance dose that means you can get about without passing out every few minutes.” Again, Amara and Aria gave their double nod, and Jeff stepped back, satisfied. “Were you paying attention,” he asked Drew, catching him by surprise thinking about Jay. “Huh?” “What am I going to do with you,” Jeff said, ruffling his hair. “I think I’m going to have to go back to when you were sixteen and teach you the basics all over again. You’ve gone soft, old man.” The twins snickered and Drew laughed out loud. “Guilty, but only when the twins are concerned.” They were interrupted by loud whistling in the hall and the door opened to admit Cerrian, who looked very pleased with herself. When she saw Jeff, she squealed and ran across the room leaping into his arms. Jeff hugged her and spun around while she held on tight with her legs around his waist. “Daddy Jeff,” she yelled. “I see you haven’t grown up much since we last met,” Jeff said, setting her on her feet. Cerrian tossed her hair. “Pft, growing up is very overrated. Just call me Petunia Pan. I’ve got my own Tinkerbell after all. They’ve been shedding pixie dust on me all the way.” “Where is Jay,” Drew asked, the unease that had been twisting his gut since he’d found the file flaring to searing dread. “Some fancy butler guy came to the kitchen and told them Her Ladyship wanted to talk to them. Come to think of it they looked like they were being led to their execution.” She faltered. “Do you think I should have gone with them?” “No.” Drew shook his head. “They probably wouldn’t have let you. You know how stubborn they are. Even worse than these two.” He tried to smile but the burning his belly wouldn’t let him. “It Jay in trouble?” Aria asked. “No, I don’t think so. You know what your grandmother’s like better than I do. I think I should go give them some moral support though.” “I should come,” Aria said, getting to his feet. “Me too.” “No. It’ll only make it worse if we all go steaming in. I’ll go. Don’t worry, I won’t let her hurt them.” “Hurt them? Why would she hurt them?” “You know what I mean. Figuratively speaking.” He strode across the room before anyone had a chance to say anything further. Jeff followed him out of the door. “Is there something I should know?” Jeff asked. “Yeah, but I’ll tell you later.” “If it’s bad I need to know.” “It’s bad, mate, but for Jay. I need to get to them.” Jeff nodded. “Keep those two in here, yeah?” Jeff nodded again, then he grinned. “But you owe me a beer.” Drew managed to return his smiled. “One of many.”
  2. Nephylim

    Chapter 35

    Sorry I missed your comment at the time. I hope the new chapter lives up to your hopes Granny is certainly an interesting and complex character as you will see as the next few chapters pan out. She certainly loves the boys, but whether she is ultimately a positive influence is yet to be seen. There is a cloud on the horizon that is about to rain a flood
  3. Nephylim

    Chapter 35

    You'd be surprised how many characters hang around in my brain - from the current story, past stories, new stories, ideas for stories. If I talked to a shrink I'd be put away for sure.
  4. Nephylim

    Chapter 36

    Very wise of you
  5. Nephylim

    Chapter 36

    Oh there are discoveries coming. There are definitely discoveries on their way from far and near
  6. Nephylim

    Chapter 36

    I totally agree.
  7. Nephylim

    Chapter 36

    Nope. Not winding down at all as you will see in the next chapter
  8. Nephylim

    Chapter 36

    They blackmailed her with the boys. If you don't do what we say, you don't see them. I saw this happen so many times when I was a solicitor. People just don't appreciate how much they hurt their children when they do things like this. Or maybe they do, I don't know. In this situation, I believe Lady Jane dropped the court proceedings because there was a chance she would fail and would then not see the boys at all until they were old enough to seek her out which, given the history, they wouldn't have. Given how high profile Henley and Julianna were (and are) it's likely the proceedings would be public and messy and in the end the boys would be hurt whichever way it went.
  9. Nephylim

    Chapter 36

    Hmm. Hold that thought
  10. I'm sorry I'm a day late posting. I have to warn you that I'm not sure what day I'll post next week. I have some building work done on the house, and being autistic I know it's going to be traumatic. I'm stressing already and I have a feeling I'll be hiding myself away or even running away. I promise I will get back to posting on Wednesday as soon as I can.

  11. Nephylim

    Chapter 36

    Cerrian rolled her eyes and disappeared around to the driver’s side of the bus. “I’ll go with her,” Jay said, opening the passenger door. “At least they’re friendly in the kitchen.” “Are they?” Aria said sounding surprised. “When have you been to the kitchen?” Jay smiled fondly, but with a sad edge. “You’d be surprised.” Drew watched the bus disappear around the corner with a tinge of sadness, then he turned to the door and sighed. “Oh we’ll, you’d better lead the way.” Aria nodded, still gazing after the bus. “Sure.” Without any enthusiasm, Aria led the way up the steps and into the house. Drew followed more slowly with Amara, who refused to lean on him. The inside of the house shouldn’t have been a surprise, given what Drew had already seen, but it came as a shock nevertheless. It was like every British mansion he’d seen on television, with parquet floors, sweeping staircases and heavy-framed paintings. It was also like every museum he’d been in with a smell of age and polish, and a deep silence broken only by their footsteps, which seemed to ring very loud. “This way,” Aria said, leading to the left. His voice didn’t echo, but somehow Drew felt it should have. The salon was much as Drew had expected, with fancy, upholstered furniture, spindly-legged tables and fancy flock wallpaper in duck-egg blue. A huge, gold-framed mirror hung over an ornate fireplace filled with flowers. Drew eyed the chairs with distaste. Did the old dragon really expect Amara to sit on one of those for a couple of hours? “Over here,” Aria said. Drew helped Amara navigate the furniture to where a day bed sat in a patch of sunlight before a massive window. Amara sank onto it with a sigh of relief. Drew settled him down with his feet up and pillows, collected from around the room, supporting him into a comfortable position. Aria procured a woollen throw and tucked it around him. Amara closed his eyes. His face was pale and he seemed exhausted. The last thing Drew wanted was to leave him here. He should be somewhere he could rest properly. The last few days must have been a complete nightmare for him. The psychological stress must have been exhausting for him, without his injuries. However, he didn’t want to rock the boat when they’d only just arrived. “How do I get to the study?” Amara’s eyes snapped open, and Aria gripped his arm. “Don’t go,” he said, his expression tortured. “Please. You don’t know what she’s like. She won’t like you. She’ll twist things around and make you think it would be better to leave, to just slip away. We’ll never see you again.” “Just like at the hospital,” Amara whispered. If his face had been pale before, it was now bleached, even his lips pale. He seemed on the point of passing out. It was the first time Drew truly appreciated how much he’d hurt Amara when he’d left the hospital. Drew gripped Amara’s hand and gazed into his eyes. “I swear to you, no matter what, I will not leave without you. If the worse comes to the worst and she has me removed, I will break back in for you. I’d burn the damn house down if I had to, take it apart brick by brick.” “You’d never get in,” Aria said sadly. “They have the best security ever.” “And I have connections. Don’t worry about it. I’ll be back.” Aria nodded, his eyes huge in a pinched face. Amara simply closed his eyes and turned his away. “Oh no you don’t.” Drew caught his face between his hands and forced him to turn back. He gazed into Amara’s eyes. “Do you trust me?” Amara gazed back for a few moments then the tension singing through his body left him and he sagged, nodding. Tears slid silently down his cheeks and he looked bleak. “I give you my oath, and that’s a serious thing to a soldier. I can’t give you any better reassurance. You just have to trust me.” “I do,” Amara whispered, “but I don’t trust her.” Drew wiped away the tears with his thumb, then leaned down and kissed Amara gently. He pulled away and Amara didn’t try to stop him. Aria held out his arms and Drew hugged then kissed him. He clung on tight for a minute, then let go and stepped back. “I’ll take care of Amara,” Aria said his voice only shaking a little. Drew nodded. “Where do I go?” “Directly across the hall.” With another curt nod, Drew turned and walked away. “Drew.” Drew turned. “We love you.” “I love you too.” Drew’s heart broke as he slipped through the door, hearing Amara’s soft sobs and Aria trying to comfort him, but anger took hold as he crossed the hall and curtly rapped on the door. “Do come in, Mr Chance.” Drew opened the door to what he was surprised to discover was a modern, working office. Although the walls wore their original panelling, one was entirely covered by shelves and filing cabinets, while another was a floor to ceiling bookcase. The lower shelves were filled with files, folders and what appeared to be well-thumbed reference books. To the right, under another huge window was a massive wooden desk bearing an impressive computer set-up with a screen bigger than his mother’s television. Another sat on a desk turned at right angles. Around the computers, papers and files lay in neat piles or scattered in a seemingly haphazard way. Lady Jane sat behind the desk. She motioned Drew to one of two chairs facing her across the table. Drew was tempted to sit in the other, but he didn’t want to seek out trouble. He’d play along for as long as he was happy with the game. Lady Jane gazed at him in silence, her expression tight but non-committal. Drew sat straight and still gazing back with what he hoped was the same expression. Although his heart was pounding and he wanted to squirm under that cool, grey stare, he’d been taught better. “Mr Chance,” she said at last, “I have reviewed the camera footage from the night of the party and I am satisfied you were not at fault in the kidnapping of my grandsons.” She paused. Do you expect me to say thank you when I don’t give a fuck what you think? After a time, when Drew didn’t respond, she continued. “If anyone is to blame all, it’s that piece of French trash they’re unfortunate enough to call, Mother.” “That’s one way to put it,” Drew found himself unable to prevent himself saying. “I was rather coarser myself.” The ghost of a smile passed over Lady Jane’s severe face, but it only lasted a moment. “No doubt. I have some experience in army language myself and I can’t deny there have been moments when I would have liked to resort to it myself. My fool son has assailed me with a slightly less colourful version on many occasions, most passionately since the incident. I have told him many times, the situation is only what he made it, and he must find his own way out of it with as much pride as he can salvage. I am not too happy with him for the moment. His fathering is only slightly less deplorable than his wife’s mothering.” She gave Drew another hard stare. “My son is a fool, Mr. Chance. He has made many bad decisions in his life, and marrying that woman was the worst. The only good things to come from that relationship are my grandsons. Henley defied me and ran away. I wasn’t invited to the wedding, which was just as well for them. If I had known where and when it was to take place, there would have been no wedding. Thank God I was able to talk him into having the harridan sign a pre-nuptial agreement before they went through with it. Given her very public display of unfaithfulness, she’ll walk away with nothing.” “Frankly. I don’t care. I’m surprised you think I do. Is there a point in this?” “The point, Mr. Chance, is that I was unable to protect my son from a money-grabbing, self-serving gold-digger, and I’ll be damned if I don’t do a better job with my grandsons.” “I’m not—” Drew began hotly, but Lady Jane raised her hand, cutting him off. “I am not levelling accusations, Mr. Chance, I am merely seeking to protect those precious children from having to suffer any more abuse or heartache in their lives. To put it bluntly and utilizing a popular cliché, I wish to know what your intentions are regarding my grandchildren. You are, after all, considerable older and from a very different background. The twins might not have had a traditional upbringing, and Amara particularly has been exposed to very different life experiences than most of his age and standing, but they have, in many ways, been sheltered from the harsh realities of life, while you…have not.” Drew took a deep breath, fighting to keep his anger in check. It wouldn’t do any good at all to entirely alienate her at this point. “Yes, I’m older. Yes, I come from a very different background, and believe me this is not the kind of life I ever wanted and would never have sought it out. In fact, when I first met the twins, I was more than prepared to despise them for precisely what you are suggesting I want from them.” Lady Jane opened her mouth to speak but this time Drew cut her off. “Please do me the service of not insulting my intelligence. I know what this conversation is truly about. You don’t give a damn about your grandsons’ welfare. If you did you wouldn’t have left them to suffer for so long, and they wouldn’t be so afraid of you. Let me set this out very clearly. I am not in this for the money. I will sign whatever you want. I will walk away with nothing if it comes to it, but I can assure you the only time I will ever walk away is if they want me to. Yes, I’ve seen more of life’s harsh realities than you could imagine in your worst nightmares and that is precisely why I want to protect them from anything and everyone who might want to hurt them, and if I have to, that includes you.” Lady Jane quirked an eyebrow. “You would fight me, even though I have the wealth and connections to grind you into the dirt if I wanted? Even though you know you can’t win?” “I would fight Death himself to my last breath if I had to, and I’m damn sure no one wins against him. Don’t get me wrong, the last thing I want is to fight anyone who loves and cares for Amara and Aria, but if you don’t, or won’t do that, I will use my not inconsiderable resources to grind you into the dirt. Trust me, they may be a different kind of resources, but they are very effective.” “Are you threatening me, Mr. Chance?” “Not at all. I’m merely reassuring you that I will fight for my boys against anyone and anything that makes them unhappy because I love them. I fucking love the hell out of them and I won’t let them go no matter what you say or do.” Lady Jane smiled a proper smile for the first time. “What makes you think that’s what I’m asking you to do?” “I’m sorry?” “I may be a hard woman, Mr. Chance. I’ve had to be to manage my businesses and to keep this house afloat after the death of my husband. I’ve had to watch my son turn into a brainless idiot, playing at being a man then playing at being a father. Whether you believe it or not I have tried to help my grandsons, to ensure they have some modicum of stability in their lives. I even sent my own personal assistant to watch over them, and report back to me, even though I was thrown into chaos by her loss. She has remained steadfast even though she was forced to make difficult, and painful, choices to keep that harridan convinced she was complicit with her.” “Alicia,” Drew said in shock. “Indeed. It has been agreed she will remain with the boys for as long as they wish, and continue to look out for their interests, as they are still very young and have no idea how to effectively manage their affairs.” “I think you might be mistaken in there.” “Then they can learn from her and take their place in the businesses when they are ready. I have received reports from her since you commenced your employment, and I am impressed. She appears to have taken a liking to you and tells me you are totally committed to not only protecting but taking care of my grandsons. She also tells me they feel the same way about you, and whilst it amuses me to think of Aria taking care of anyone, the fact that he has promised to do so means everything.” Drew frowned, confused by the turn of events. “So, you’re not going to ask me to leave and give up the boys?” “Good gracious, no. I’ve been forced to stand on the side-lines for most of their lives and watch that ridiculous woman all but destroy them. Henley knew better than to tell me first-hand what was going on, so I always found out too late.” She sighed, sounding wistful. “The number of times I have begged him to give the boys to me. The number of times I have shouted, threatened, bullied…but all to no avail. Henley has proven remarkably resilient against all my efforts. I hope you will be more receptive.” “Only if it’s what they want.” Lady Jane appeared surprised, then smiled again. “Despite your uncouth nature and inferior background, I find I like you, Mr. Chance. I think you will be good for my grandchildren.” “Despite your arrogant and overbearing nature and your disgustingly privileged background, I find I can tolerate you, but only because I think it will be good for your grandchildren.” Unexpectedly, Lady Jane barked out a hearty laugh. “I think you might be the breath of fresh air this family sorely needs.” “One question. If you are as concerned as you say you are, why are the twins afraid of you?” Lady Jane looked sad. “I have made bad decisions too, Mr. Chance. I allowed myself to be blackmailed by my son and his wife. I kept my distance in return for being allowed to see them a few times a year. I know they are uncomfortable here, so I created the flat where they would have a space they could feel comfortable in. I was never allowed to be in their presence alone and was expected to act in a detached way. If I showed too much affection, I was not allowed to see the boys. In the beginning, years went by with my only connection being photographs. I missed much of my grandsons’ lives for nothing more than being nice to them. I am not an easy woman. I am used to my own company and it is difficult to have two lively children tearing around the place, but I lived for every moment of it.” Lady Jane’s voice became more and more wistful and Drew found himself feeling sorry for her. Then she hardened. “Things are very different now, Mr Chance and if you try to keep my grandsons away from me, I will—” “Grind me into the dirt?” “Castrate you.” Drew chuckled and so did she. “If you’re done, I have to get back to the boys. They’re very upset because they think you’re going to drive me away like their father did.” “I won’t comment on that, Mr. Chance, except to say that my husband was not a popular choice with my family but no one; no threat, no curse, no plea could have made me turn away from him. Don’t do it again.” “No ma’am.” Drew got to his feet and headed across the room. He hadn’t reached the door, when it was thrown wide to reveal a wide-eyed Aria, and Amara who looked as if he was ready to punch someone. “No,” Amara spat, taking a step forward to grab Drew’s arm. “You’re not going anywhere. I won’t let you. Damnit, I’ve spent my whole life being frightened of something or other and I’m sick of it.” “Me too,” Aria said, drawing himself up and clearly trying to look as fierce as his brother. It didn’t quite work, but it was still pretty damn impressive. “We’re not going to let you leave. It’s not fair. We talked about it—kind of. Amara’s going to fight for you and so am I.” Drew stifled a grin. It wouldn’t be fair on the boys, but they were just too damn cute. Amara looked like he could barely stand, and Aria was half hiding behind him, but the expressions on their faces were resolute. “I’m not leaving,” Drew said softly, managing to keep the amusement out of his voice. “Didn’t I make you a promise? You said you trusted me.” “We do,” Amara said, then flicked his chin at Lady Jane, “but we don’t trust her.” Drew glanced over his shoulder and caught the expression of sadness that passed over Lady Jane’s face before she turned away to gaze out of the window, her arms crossed across her body. Emotions warred within Drew. More than anything, he wanted to take the boys to the flat where he could settle them down and spend some relaxing time with them without having to worry about anything. He wanted to talk to Jeff, to let his friend’s no nonsense common sense calm him like it always did. On the other hand, he understood what Lady Jane had gone through and she deserved better than this. “Come and sit down,” Drew said. “I don’t want to sit down,” Amara growled, “Just stop for a minute. There are some things you need to know.” Lady Jane turned. “There will be time for that later.” “No. Too much time has been wasted already. The boys need you and it’s time you step up to the plate, because I swear if someone doesn’t, I’m going to take them so far away from this fucked up family you won’t see their dust.” “That’s what I want,” Amara said. “I don’t want any of you in my life anymore. I’m sick of feeling not good enough. Sick of watching Aria getting hurt over and over, and most of all sick of not being able to protect him from you.” “You don’t have to feel like that.” Aria said, sounding as shocked as Drew felt. “I can take care of myself. I’m not as weak as you think I am. I honestly can take care of myself and I’m not going to let anyone break me. Not anymore.” Drew’s heart broke, which convinced him more than ever that this conversation had to happen sooner rather than later. “You two are going to sit down and listen. I won’t let you walk away without hearing what your grandmother has to say.” “We don’t want to listen to her,” Amara said stubbornly, lifting his chin. “We don’t like her,” Aria said, sounding equally stubborn. “I don’t care what you want, or who you like. This is important. This situation is fucked up. It’s not what you think it is and you need to know the truth.” Amara narrowed his eyes suspiciously at Lady Jane. “What’s she been telling you? What’s she been saying about us?” “The only thing she’s said about you is that she loves you.” Amara snorted. “Of course she does.” Drew sighed. “Please. For me. Come and sit down. Just for a minute.” Aria and Amara exchanged a glance then Amara nodded. “For you, because we do trust you.”
  12. Nephylim

    Chapter 35

    I did mention it in the opening story notes. Half way through posting the story I realized there is an m/m author called Aria Grace. There's no connection 😁 I know nothing about them.
  13. Nephylim

    Chapter 35

    Interesting is very definitely a word to describe her.
  14. Nephylim

    Chapter 35

    Her attitude to Cerrian is ingrained, I think. She's an aristocrat after all as in not used to seeing anything like the bus parked in her drive. She's a hard woman, has had to be to retain control of her estates and businesses after her husband's death, but she's not inherently a bad person. She does tend to look down on people though, and Cerrian is a little more overt than Drew. Also, she knows Drew. Do you think she hasn't had him thoroughly vetted. She knows more about him than the twins do, that's for sure. Sadly, as far as Jay is concerned, she hates them,
  15. Nephylim

    Chapter 35

    As a character, Grandmother is great. As a person - eh. She means well...I think
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