I was going to comment on the last reviews (since I finally am finished with finals), but I think I'll just post this chapter instead.
August 10, 2003
Los Angeles, CA
I must have dozed off, because I woke up lying next to Zach, while I heard someone pounding on the door. “Zachary, are you alright?” Clara called.
I nudged him. “Your mom is banging on the door.”
“Fuck,” he said, and yawned. “Mom, I’m fine. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Don’t strain yourself,” she said, and then we heard her walk away.
“Dude, she has got to go home,” I said to him.
“No shit,” he agreed. “Sorry about that.”
“It’s all good,” I said. He moaned in pain, and moved slightly. “You OK?”
“Fucking hurts,” he said with a grimace. I got up and grabbed a glass of water, and brought that to him with a couple of pain pills. “Thanks.”
“I’ll be your nurse any day,” I said, and gave him a nice kiss. I stopped to let him take his pills, and then sat there next to him, stroking his arm and his chest. I was about to raise the issue of Trevor with him, when I heard his soft snoring. He was pretty wiped out; must be the pain pills. I looked over at the nightstand and saw the message light on my phone blinking.
I played the message: “Will, this is Grand. I have a matter I need to discuss with you. Please call me as soon as you can.” That was more urgent than normal for Grand. I gave Zach a kiss on the forehead, put on my pants, and went back to my room to call Grand.
He answered almost immediately. “You rang?” I asked.
“I did,” he said stiffly. “I called to ask you for a favor, a large one.”
Grand rarely asked me for anything, so I was more than happy to help out. “Sure. What do you need?”
“I need you to meet me in New York City,” he said.
“Now,” he said. What was his deal? It was already 9:00pm. If I left now, I wouldn’t get there until early in the morning.
“Zach just got out of the hospital today,” I objected. “I can’t leave him right now.”
“I understand, but this is important enough to ask you to leave his side,” Grand said. “It is a family matter, and I need your help.”
Fuck. I was so annoyed, and so pissed off, that I wanted to fucking explode, but I held it in. He was pitting two things that were very important to me against each other. I briefly wondered if he was using that as leverage to get me to go, but then remembered I was talking to Grand, and he wouldn’t do that to me. “Let me ask you this. If Stef had just gotten back from the hospital, and he was all banged up, would you leave him and go to New York?”
“I would,” he said, almost as if it were an oath. That stopped me in my tracks. If it was that important, then I had to go.
“Alright, when do you want me to leave?”
“I have talked to Darius, and he is on his way to the airport,” Grand said. “You should meet him there as soon as you can.”
“Darius is going?”
“He is,” Grand confirmed. “Your father’s plane is waiting for you in Van Nuys. We’re heading to the airport shortly.”
“Alright,” I said. “I’ll call you and let you know when we’re in the air.”
“I would appreciate that,” he said. I hung up the phone and just glared at it. I changed clothes and packed up a few things to take with me, got my laptop and computer gear together, then went in to see Zach.
I nudged him. “What?” he asked groggily.
“I need to talk to you for a minute,” I said. He just looked at me blankly. “I have to fly to New York. I’ll probably be back tomorrow.”
He was suddenly much more awake. “Why?”
“Grand called me and told me it was some big family deal, but that’s all I know. Darius is meeting me at the airport. I have to run.”
“Will, we need to talk,” he said, almost a plea.
I smiled at him. “I know we do. As soon as I get back.” He nodded. “I love you.”
“Dumb fuck,” I said, in an affectionate way. I gave him another kiss, one he returned passionately, and then headed down to the garage. Paul had taken the truck, so the Ferrari was my only option. That fit my mood perfectly. I made it to the airport faster than I ever had, even though I’d all but begged to get a massive speeding ticket, by driving like a crazed idiot. I drove up to the plane and the pilots grabbed my bag. I left the keys in the Ferrari so the dudes at the FBO could keep an eye on it for me.
Just as Grand said, Darius was there waiting for me. “Let’s go,” he said. We climbed up into the cabin and got seated. The pilots were ready, so they closed the door, fired up the engines, and we were taxiing in what had to be record time.
“What the fuck is going on?” I asked him.
“Don’t know,” he said. “Grand said it was important, so it’s important.”
“Zach just got home from the hospital today. I haven’t even had time to have a decent conversation with him,” I groused.
“No wonder you’re so crabby,” he said. “You need to get laid.”
“I didn’t say I didn’t get laid, I said I didn’t have a conversation,” I said, making us both laugh.
“Good job,” he said, and high-fived me.
“What about you? What were you doing?”
“Macking on this chick,” he said, shaking his head. “Unlike you, I had a conversation but didn’t get laid.”
“Maybe you’ll get lucky in New York.”
“Don’t think we’ll be there that long,” he said.
“True,” I agreed. I was ready to come back as soon as I could.
“I got a call from El,” he said, smirking. He was referring to Ella.
“I didn’t know you guys were talking.” They’d pretty much severed their ties after 9-11.
“I haven’t talked to her since I sent her home from Goodwell.” That was after the nightmare that was 9-11.
“So what did she want?”
“She wants me to call off the dogs,” he said.
“I don’t get it. What did you do?” That made no sense.
“I didn’t do shit, but JJ is crashing into the New York fashion scene, and he’s giving her the cold shoulder, big time.” I laughed, and he joined me, at the thought of Ella running up against JJ and his bitchy self.
“Why’s that matter?”
“Apparently JJ is Bellona Carter’s new best friend,” he said. I knew who she was. Made sense that she and JJ would be buddies. “He snubbed El at a Michael Kors preview show. Bellona saw him do it.”
“That is too funny,” I said. I couldn’t stop laughing.
“So Bellona must have picked up on the fact that JJ didn’t like El. She was supposed to attend Patrick’s big show, but she cancelled.”
“Patrick?” I didn’t know who he was talking about.
“Patrick Christian, the designer dude who is El’s boyfriend.” I noticed that he said that without seeming bitter at all.
“JJ is going to bring figure skating drama to the fashion world,” I said, shaking my head. “What’s she want you to do?”
“She went off on me about how it wasn’t fair for me to ruin Patrick’s life just because she dumped me.”
“Bitch,” I said bitterly, so pissed off that she’d say that to Darius. She knew him really well, and she was targeting him at one of his vulnerable points.
He just shrugged. “You know, didn’t really matter to me at all. I’m so over her.”
“Good for you.” I sat there, impressed by how well he handled that. “So what are you going to do?”
“I’m not going to do shit. I told her that, and told her that she had to deal with JJ herself.”
“Did you tell her to get ready to grovel?”
He chuckled. “She knows the deal, how he is.”
I thought about it for a minute. “Maybe, but JJ won’t ease up on her unless you tell him to.”
“He doesn’t listen to me,” Darius said.
“That’s bullshit,” I said firmly. JJ took Darius pretty seriously.
“I’ll think about it,” Darius said. He yawned. “I’m gonna crash. Probably the only sleep I’ll get tonight.”
“Good point,” I said. We each took one of the bedrooms in the plane and crashed for the rest of the flight.
The co-pilot came back and woke me up, and seemed mildly annoyed that we’d been sleeping and hadn’t answered the phone in the plane. They probably weren’t all that happy about our spontaneous and late departure from California. “We’re on our initial approach,” he said.
“Excellent,” I said crisply, and must have sounded enough like my father to chill his ass out. I woke up Darius and then went back to my chair and buckled myself in. The sun was out now, and it was blasting through one of the windows on Darius’ side. “Close that shade, will you?”
“Sure,” he grumbled, even as we both tried to wake up.
The phone rang, and I figured it would be the pilot, but it was Grand. “I was not aware that you were in the air.”
“I’m sorry I forgot to call you,” I said. “We’re on our final approach, so we should be there soon.”
“It is no problem. We have just landed, so we will pick you up and then head to the condo.”
“Sounds good,” I replied. I told Darius what was going on, and then stared out the window at the massive metropolis that sprawled out below me. We landed and taxied to the FBO, and a limo zipped out to the plane to pick us up.
Darius and I hurried down the stairs and got into the car while the pilots put our bags in the trunk. I’d expected Grand, Stef, and my father to be there, but I was surprised to see Aunt Claire there as well. This must be a really big deal. “Hey there,” I said to her, and gave her a warm hug. “Good to see you.”
“It seems like you’ve been gone all summer,” she said.
“I think I have been,” I agreed. I greeted everyone else, and then sat back. “So what’s going on?”
“Wade wants to meet with us,” Grand said.
“I flew out here just because Wade wanted me to?” I demanded petulantly, since I was still pissed off at him.
“Evidently someone beat up Trevor Armistead, and caused him some extensive injuries,” Grand said.
“Was I supposed to feel sorry for him?” I asked acidly.
“No one was soliciting your sympathy,” Grand snapped back, which mellowed me out. “Mary Ellen and her mother are convinced that you are behind it.”
“I had nothing to do with it,” I said firmly.
“I did not say that you did. I said that they thought you did.”
“They think that, and Wade thinks that,” I said. Grand gave me a withering look, and I resolved to stop being a brat.
“So what if Will hired some goons to kick Trevor’s ass? What does that have to do with the rest of us?” Darius asked.
“I did not hire goons to kick Trevor’s ass,” I said, and was really pissed off until he winked at me to tell me he was giving me shit. Whatever. It was too early in the morning to deal with their bullshit.
“To put it into geopolitical terms, after the events of this summer, we had reached a détente, a peace treaty if you will,” Grand said in his lofty way. “They see this as a breach of that treaty.”
“Do they want me to take a lie-detector test to prove I didn’t do it?” I asked caustically.
“I do not know what they want,” Grand said. “But I suspect Wade will enlighten us.” I glanced at my father, who looked uncharacteristically nervous. We hadn’t been involved in a conflict like this since he’d taken down Alexandra Carmichael.
“I was unable to get in touch with JJ,” Stef said.
“Don’t worry, we’ll wake him up,” Darius said, making me chuckle. We got to the condo, and went up the stairs to beat the more geriatric crowd. We opened the door and the place was quiet as a tomb, just like you’d expect. We walked down the hall and opened JJ’s door, peeking in to make sure he was alone. He was sleeping soundly, on his back. “No one keeping him company.”
“Or maybe they left,” I said, snickering. We approached the bed from either side, and then Darius counted to three silently. When he mouthed ‘three’, we jumped up, twisted our bodies so they were horizontal, and landed on either side of him.
“What the fuck?” JJ demanded. He was totally enraged, and it was hilarious, so we just laughed at him. “What the fuck are you doing here?”
“Good morning, sunshine,” Darius said.
“You people could have called me and told me you were coming,” he snapped.
“You could answer your phone,” Darius said. To further annoy him, I lifted up the covers and looked down at where his morning erection was sticking straight through the slit in his boxers.
“Knock it off!” he all but screamed, and grabbed the covers from me. Darius and I just laughed at him. “Just get out of here so I can get up and get ready.”
“You’re already up,” I teased, getting a fearsome glare from him.
“Better tell Stef and Grand that he’ll be half an hour, to give him some alone time,” Darius said, piling on.
“Wait a minute,” JJ said, putting his total annoyance aside. “Stef and Grand are here?”
“They are,” I said. “And so is Dad and so is Aunt Claire. Wade is supposed to be here soon, and Matt will probably be with him.”
“Here? All those people are here?”
“Well yeah,” Darius said. “So you should make sure you look pretty.” He got up and walked out of the room. He was done torturing JJ.
“Why is everyone here? What’s the deal?” he asked me.
“Trevor Armistead got his ass kicked. Mary Ellen and her mother think I did it, so they’re ready to start a war,” I said.
“They think you kicked his ass?” he asked incredulously. “As if.”
“They think I hired someone, asshole,” I said. Trevor wasn’t all that tough. I might be able to take him. Maybe.
“No,” I said. I got up and walked out of the room, leaving him alone to get ready. Our group was assembled in the great room. No one had thought about breakfast, evidently. “JJ is getting ready.”
“I take it he was not happy to be awakened so early?” Stef asked.
“Good guess,” I said. “Is there any food here?”
“Let’s check,” Dad said. Darius and I followed him into the kitchen and foraged around.
Darius was looking in the pantry and frowning. “Who eats this shit?”
“Try this one,” I said, pointing at Carullo’s supply. We ultimately settled on some cereal.
There was some commotion in the other room, but I was focused on eating. Dad wasn’t as starvatious as we were, so he got up and wandered into the other room. “Must have company,” Darius said.
“Probably,” I said. We ate for a few minutes then Wade came into the kitchen. “Hey,” I said coldly. Darius just nodded at him.
Wade didn’t really say anything, he just came over and sat in the chair next to me, only he pivoted so he was facing me. “I’m very sorry that I questioned your word,” he said sincerely. “This is just really stressing me out.” I thought about that, and what a big admission that was for him. This had him so upset, he’d lost his normal calm veneer. But that didn’t matter. He said he was sorry, and I knew that he meant it. People were allowed to make mistakes.
“You’re lucky that it’s too early for me to be pissed off at you,” I said, smiling at him.
“So we’re good?” he asked.
“We’re good,” I confirmed. Then he leaned forward and pulled me into a warm but awkward sitting hug. It was incredibly meaningful.
“All that time with JJ taught you well,” Darius observed to Wade, making us laugh.
“He has a humbling effect on people,” Wade agreed ruefully. He got up to get some cereal just as Matt came in, so after we greeted him, we just hung out and finished eating. I was kind of wondering why we hadn’t already started our meeting. I mean, this was so urgent for all of us to fly for the fucking night, yet here we were, chatting like it was a normal day.
Carullo came bounding into the room, wearing khakis, a really nice shirt, and some Gucci shoes. “Hey!” he said, and gave me a massive hug. He did the same for Matt and Wade. “I didn’t know you were going to be here!”
“Sort of a sudden trip,” I said.
“You staying over tonight?” he asked me, raising his eyebrows.
“Probably not, but my father probably is,” I said, smirking at him. He blushed, while Matt snaughed.
“Cool,” he said. “Gotta run.”
“Thanks for letting us raid your pantry,” I said.
“Take whatever you want,” he said, and then he rushed out the door.
“Let’s go in the other room,” Wade said, as soon as he was gone. So that’s what the deal was. They were waiting until Carullo was gone too.
August 11, 2003
I was sitting in the great room, trying not to look at the cool painting Marc had done, and trying to avoid eye contact with Stef. Carullo had come in here and given me a very warm hug and kiss, and Stef was smirking at me, just waiting for me to give him an opportunity to give me shit.
I was saved from that when JJ came in, looking pretty together for having been woken up only half an hour ago. “Well hello there!” Stef said, and jumped up to greet him.
“Good morning,” JJ said, probably as cheerfully as he could manage before 10am.
“I am sorry we just dropped in on you,” Grand said stiffly, as he greeted JJ.
“S’OK,” JJ said, and then focused on Claire. He truly adored her, and it was neat to see how she’d at least partially filled that maternal void Jeanine had left.
“I hear you and Bellona have been quite the couple,” Claire teased him.
“She’s a cougar,” JJ said, making us all laugh. He’d saved me for last, and I wasn’t sure what kind of reaction I’d get from him. He’d been really pissed off at me when I’d been here before, but we’d talked on the phone, so things were presumably good between us. He smiled at me and gave me a big hug. “I’m really glad to see you.”
My huge grin was genuine. “I’m glad to see you too,” I said. And that was an end to our problems. I knew he didn’t want any more drama, and I was together enough now to just move on.
“How long will you guys be here?” JJ asked.
“I think we’ll be here for at least a few days,” I told him. “We’ll try not to get in your way.”
“It will be nice to have you here,” he said. I looked at Stef and raised an eyebrow. He was being very cheerful. “I’m supposed to go to a charity dinner tonight.”
“We don’t want to interfere with your plans,” Grand said.
“I called and managed to reserve enough room for you all as well, so now you have a social engagement,” he said.
“And what is this charity?” Stef asked.
“I don’t remember the name, but it’s a foundation to support the people who lost relatives in the 9-11 attacks,” JJ said.
“Well I would be delighted to join you and support such a worthy cause,” Claire announced, making the commitment for all of us.
Wade, Matt, Will, and Darius came walking out of the kitchen, and we paused while JJ greeted Matt and Wade. He was cordial, but not overly friendly. Evidently his memories of Boston had clouded his attitudes toward them.
“Look at you, all up and chipper,” Darius said to JJ.
“He was already up,” Will said. JJ just glared at them, then got an evil smile.
“You two will have fun tonight. We’re going to a charity dinner.”
“I’m going back to LA as soon as I can,” Will announced.
“Then that will be later tonight,” JJ said firmly. It was fascinating to watch the dynamic between JJ, Will, and Darius. Darius and Will were really annoyed at being stuck here at least until this event was over, but JJ just stared them down.
“We’ll see,” Will finally said, to end their impasse. “Now can you tell us why we’re all here?” he asked Wade.
“I can,” Wade said. “As you probably know, Trevor was beaten up really badly a few days ago.”
“Do they know who did it?” I asked.
“It wasn’t Will,” Wade said, and smiled briefly at Will. “It was Zach.”
Will didn’t look surprised. “How did he accomplish that and still manage to get into an accident?” Claire asked.
“It was probably carefully timed,” Wade said. “I know it was Zach, because Trevor told me, but my mother and Mary Ellen do not know that.”
“Won’t he tell them?” I asked. Trevor was in Elizabeth Danfield’s hip pocket.
“No,” Wade said. “I’ve worked it out so he’ll keep his mouth shut.”
“How did you do that?” Will asked.
“Trevor had an unfortunate incident a while back where he took money from the bank he worked for. My mother bailed him out, but that has made him her slave.”
“So that’s why she was able to get him to talk to Zach this summer, and convince him to dump me,” Will said. This is what Wade wanted to talk to me about, and why he’d asked me to leave Trevor alone. Trevor was basically being blackmailed into doing Elizabeth Danfield’s dirty work.
“That’s why,” Wade agreed. “It’s made Trevor’s life a nightmare. So I’ve got some attorneys, who are working on his case, and they’re going to basically work out a plea deal where he admits to what he did, and they let him off with a fine and some probation.”
“That will remove your mother’s leverage over Trevor,” Grand concluded.
“It will,” Wade said. “And since that will cost Trevor his job and his livelihood, I had to throw some money at the problem too.”
“Undoubtedly,” Grand agreed. So Wade was going to remove the threat hanging over Trevor’s head, and he was going to buy him off. Made sense.
“Can you trust him to keep his mouth shut?” Will asked.
“I can,” Wade answered. I was surprised by his conviction.
“Did you know Zach beat up Trevor?” I asked Will.
“No,” Will said. “He hasn’t said anything, but I suspected that he might have done it.”
“That’s why he vanished for a few days after he left Escorial,” Grand noted.
“Seems likely,” Will said.
“And what about the accident?” Matt asked.
“I think it was a pretty clever way to disguise his injuries, don’t you?” Will asked.
“The Durango probably doesn’t agree with you,” Darius noted.
“If he crashed on purpose, that may come out in an insurance company investigation,” Stef said.
“There won’t be an insurance claim,” Will said. “At least, there won’t be if I can get back to California in time to stop it.”
“I do not understand,” Stef said.
“Zach has been really groggy from the pain medicine. He just got out of the hospital. We haven’t had a chance to talk about any of this,” Will said. “That’s why I’m so anxious to get back.” He gave JJ a very foul look.
“He has a phone,” JJ responded.
“What if he goes and buys a new vehicle?” Grand asked.
“Well, he can barely walk around on his own, so that’s not likely,” Will said in annoyance. “But I already got him a new SUV, so that won’t be a problem.”
“What’d you get him?” Darius asked.
“Ford Expedition,” Will said in a clipped way.
“So as things stand, Mary Ellen and your mother do not know who beat up Trevor, and it is your opinion that they will not find out,” Grand concluded.
“That is correct,” Wade said.
“Then why are you worried about what they will do?” Claire asked.
“Because they’re not thinking rationally, and they don’t require court-of-law type proof,” Wade said. “Mary Ellen and Trevor are very close. I think he’s probably the most important person in her life.”
“They didn’t seem all that close,” JJ said.
“I don’t really know what their deal is, but I know that Mary Ellen is pretty protective of him, and this summer she was focused on making sure nothing bad happened to him,” Wade said.
“Like him getting his ass kicked,” Will said.
“Like that,” Wade agreed.
“She’s probably sleeping with Trevor too,” JJ said. “What a skank.”
“I think they’re pretty into each other,” Darius said. He was pretty astute when it came to relationships, so we usually paid attention to his observations. “Trevor was always nice enough, but I could tell that he was annoyed with me. That was after I hooked up with Mary Ellen.”
“I think, if they weren’t cousins, Mary Ellen would have been with him,” Wade said.
“That’s incest,” JJ said with disdain.
“Yeah, and that never happens,” Will said, and winked at Stef and Grand. They both blushed furiously, remembering their encounter with Matt. I couldn’t help chuckling.
“So you are telling me that Mary Ellen has advanced feelings for Trevor, and she will be seeking revenge against the people who hurt him,” JP concluded. “You indicated your mother was involved?”
“She’s been trying to build a relationship with Mary Ellen. I think she’s felt very frozen out since Mary Ellen is living in England, and Nana is there too. Mary Ellen will use that to get my mother to help her,” Wade explained. “In addition, I’m sure my mother will be none-to-happy to learn that her prime accomplice has now escaped from her bondage. Beyond that, I’m not sure what other motives she has.”
“So what if they’re pissed off at us?” Darius asked. “What are they going to do to us?”
“They will exploit our weaknesses, but worse, they will use any dirty trick they can. That means dredging up the past, no matter what the cost,” Wade said. His eyes zeroed in on me, and I knew then what he was worried about, and what their plan was.