“Thank you for coming to lunch, Declan.” Margaret drew my attention to her. “I understand that this might be somewhat strange for you. But I assure you, your father very much wanted you to be a part of this family. He simply was not able to locate you before his untimely passing.”
“I understand.” I know when I’d first heard that from the Kavanaugh family attorney six months ago I had snorted and rolled my eyes, my bullshit detector sounding on high alert. But I’d had my own guy look into it. It turned out that my mother had used a whole bunch of fake names and false identities, filling out everything from leases to job applications at least a dozen different ways. Couple that with the fact that we’d moved at least every six months, and then my time in foster care and what you got was a kid that was hard to track down.
Plus, if my late father hadn’t wanted me to be a part of the family, he could have simply left me out of his will. He didn’t have to dangle two hundred and fifty million dollars in front of me. And he could have set out different provisions for the funds to be disbursed. As it was, all he required of me to receive the inheritance was meeting my family. Hard to argue with the wishes of the deceased. He had attached strings to the money, but they seemed to be the well-meaning kind.
“It certainly seems as if you’ve accomplished a great deal all on your own,” Margaret continued. Her grandmotherly praise felt strange but good. “Your father would have been very proud of you. You should be quite proud of yourself.”
I grunted. I didn’t want to be rude, but I really didn’t know what to say.
“See, there’s the gruff,” Kara explained. “But he means thank you.”
Kara would really piss me off if she weren’t so wonderful.
“I’m so looking forward to having you both at our annual holiday party this weekend,” Margaret exclaimed as a woman in a crisp white shirt and black slacks whisked away our plates. “Friends and relations will all be in attendance and it will be a lovely way in which to officially welcome you into the family.”
“I am just so excited to meet everyone! And it’s at the Waldorf Astoria!”
There were many reasons I was grateful for having Kara as my partner in life. Her ability to talk was one of them.
“We give the party there every year. It’s always a delight.”
“I love Christmas!” Kara declared.
“Yes, I imagine that you do.” Margaret made the observation without sounding condescending. She actually sounded delighted.
“Oh, I’m so glad that you’re not horrible.” Had Kara just said that out loud? I looked at her somewhat sharply, but she kept right on going. “I was worried you were going to be all fancy and rude. But you’re lovely!”
“Well, thank you very much! You’re lovely, too, my dear.”
I didn’t know if it was just good breeding, but Margaret didn’t look phased at all by the comment. Maybe I was starting to like her after all.
“Now tell me.” She leaned in slightly closer to Kara and asked, conspiratorially, “When are you due?”
“What?!” Kara sat back in her chair, her cheeks flushing pink, her hand to her belly. “How did you know?”
“My dear, you’re positively glowing, as if you have a fabulous surprise that you can’t wait to share.”
“I do!” Kara burst out with a laugh, and I couldn’t help but laugh as well. “I’m not even two months along yet so I know it’s early to be talking about it, but I’m due in July which is so amazing because Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite holidays and I can’t help but wonder what if I had the baby on that day! Then our baby’s birthday would be the same as America’s birthday!”
“Much as it pains my English heart, I share in your enthusiasm.”
“Oh, I’m sorry!” Kara drew back, looking appalled with herself. “I didn’t think that would offend you!”
“No, my dear.” Margaret patted her hand. “I’m teasing you. We Brits have overcome the great disappointment over our tragic loss in 1776.” Looking up at me, she smiled. “Declan, you’ve made me so happy. This will be my first great grandchild, you know.”
“I didn’t know that.” I found myself smiling back at her. And just like that, things clicked into place. What did it matter, the past? So, I had a few issues to work out. My mother had dragged me around and my father had been absent and all that.
But now, I was about to become a father. And I wanted my child to know the family.
“We’ll have to come visit with the baby,” I said, inspiring a quick burst of a delighted hug from Kara.
“I would love that.” This time, my grandmother’s voice did break, but only a little and very briefly. She dabbed at her bright eyes with the corner of a linen napkin, then sniffed and drew her shoulders back up, posture erect. “You’ll have to come out to Yorkshire,” she declared. “This city air is no good for babies.”
“I absolutely agree,” Kara concurred.
“I have to say, you’ve really set the tone, Declan. As my eldest grandchild, I’m quite pleased. You’ve done so well for yourself. You married a lovely woman. You’re starting a family. Now we just have to see to it that your brothers and sister follow suit.”
“Ooh!” Kara clapped her hands together. “Project!”
“I’m in my 80s now, you see, and it’s absolute nonsense to wait much longer. I intend to see all of them married within the next five years.”
I chuckled, already seeing the writing on the wall for the rest of this Kavanaugh clan I had yet to meet. They might not know it yet, but if our grandmother had decreed it to be so, I bet there’d be wedding bells pealing out before long for every last one of them.
They might come along kicking and screaming. Lord knows I had. But as I watched my beautiful wife chat away with my grandmother, I knew deep in my heart that sometimes what we feared the most was what ultimately brought us the greatest joy.
“OK, so I’ve been trying to memorize everyone’s names. I’m so excited to meet the family!”
“Yes, well.” Margaret cleared her throat and took a sip of tea. Even through my exuberance, I could tell she felt slightly uncomfortable. “May I speak with you candidly, my dear?”
“Oh, of course!”
“They may not all be equally delighted to meet you.”
“I knew it.” Declan growled by my side, wrapping a protective arm around my waist. “I’m not going to expose Kara to that.”
“Now, wait a moment, please.” Margaret held up a slender finger and much to my surprise, Declan waited a moment. I’d have to ask her her secret for taming the beast. “I’m not attempting to dissuade you from attending our fete. Far from it. I’d very much like you to come as my honored guests. It was your late father’s dearest wish.”
She took a sip of her sparkling water, then added, “However, I do think it’s always in one’s best interest to be thoroughly prepared. Don’t you agree?”
“That’s why I’ve been studying the dossier!” I exclaimed. “I want to know everything about everyone!”
“And that’s what I’d like to share with you today. The kind of information that you won’t find in a dossier from an attorney. It will help everything go smoothly. Do you understand?”
She cocked her head and looked at Declan as she asked. He gave a quick nod of assent.
“Excellent. Now Richard’s widow, Brandi, absolutely detests your very existence. Almost as much as his first wife, Bebe, does, though she won’t be in attendance at either Friday’s reading of the will or at Saturday’s party.”
“Detests?” I repeated the word, looking to Declan for confirmation or at least explanation of what she was talking about.
But he simply nodded his head briefly at Margaret. “Go on.”
“Richard’s eldest, Colton, is taking this rather hard as well. He’s taken on a great deal in his father’s wake. Far too much, if you ask me.”
“Colton’s the one who…” I trailed off, not knowing how to put it
delicately to this elderly British woman. But I remembered who Colton was. He’d been the newborn baby back home while his dad had gone off to Montana and had himself a wild time.
“Yes,” Margaret finished for me, tactfully. “And he’s none too pleased at your emergence.”
“I didn’t ask for any of this,” Declan protested, his pride rearing up.
“Unquestionably,” Margaret soothed him.
“And I’m not trying to get any money out of this.”
“Oh, no.” Margaret shook her head as if she found even the word “money” distasteful. Dreadful business, money. “Mind you, Colton’s not overly concerned with your portion of inheritance. It’s his mother he’s concerned about. You see, when Richard’s first wife Margot learned about your existence she took a bit of a…turn for the worse, shall we say.”
I could read a world of hurt between her words. I bet she’d fallen completely apart when she’d learned not only of her husband’s infidelity, but of his out-of-wedlock child. Conceived while she’d been home with an infant. I knew I shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, but what an asshole move.
“Colton is quite protective of her. He bore the brunt of her collapse. And your re-emergence, well, it has him worried.”
“I’m not going to mess with her.”
“Of course not.” Margaret smiled reassuringly. “It’s simply a matter of putting these old, painful emotions to rest. They’ve been stirred up again with your discovery.”
“Again, I didn’t mean—”
“Declan, dear, I’m absolutely thrilled that you’re in our lives. And people will come around. I simply want you to be prepared for the landscape into which you are about to set forth.”
I loved how this woman talked. I’d never met anyone like her.
“Colton’s a proud man, like his father before him. They’re so alike. He’s inherited the title, you know. Baron of Warwick.”
“What?” I dropped my fork. It clattered loudly against the china.