Bonus Scene: Paternity and Prerogatives, a bonus PoV for Brazen and Breathless
The door slamming just after the sound of tires squealing to a halt that surely painted black stripes of rubber on the drive alerted me to young master Archie’s mood before he burst into the kitchen. The day before had been Valentine’s and he had plans with Miss Frankie.
Plans that seemed to have not gone well.
“Mr. Archie,” I greeted him calmly before turning on the kettle. I hadn’t planned on tea, but the act of making it would give me something to focus on while we sorted out the latest twist in the path of romantic travails Mr. Archie had experienced since he’d finally admitted his feelings for Miss Frankie to Miss Frankie.
“Jere…I need your help.”
Four words he rarely ever spoke. I pivoted to face him. “Tell me.” It allowed me a great inspection of his state from the disheveled hair to the wrinkled shirt he’d probably slept in if he hadn’t just dragged it back on after leaving it on the floor all night. The sleeves were rolled up and he was missing a coat. Though somehow I doubted that bothered him.
If we were in some mad farcical comedy, I believed steam might legitimately pour out of his ears.
“Your mother or your father?”
He clenched both fists and his teeth ground together. Definitely one of them. Ms. Muriel was in New York, she’d moved the bulk of her things from the house and what she’d left behind I’d packed and had stored. The cold snap between mother and son showed no signs of warming.
His relationship with Mr. Edward was far worse and had grown increasingly frosty over the last year to the point that they seemed to exist either in the middle of volcanic dispute or a Siberian wasteland of contact.
“Fucking Edward told Frankie that he’s her father.” The words exploded out of him, each one fired like a bullet from a gun. Of all the issues I could have imagined bringing him to this state…
“I’m sorry,” I said slowly. “Could you repeat that?”
“Sounds unfuckingbelievable, right? But no—apparently he and Maddy have been tight for years and he managed to knock her up while Muriel was knocked up. That whole, they had to get married for me thing broke up an epic love story for the ages.”
The sarcasm dripping from his tone threatened to stain the tile.
“She looks nothing like him.” That was my first thought, but Archie just stared at me.
“Jere—the bastard cornered her last night and told her she was his daughter. She’s completely devastated and has no idea what to believe because if it’s true…”
“If,” I said sternly. “That’s a very large if, Mr. Archie and, personally, I do not see it. Mr. Edward may believe he is her father, but without actual proof…”
“There are paternity tests.”
“Tests as in multiple?”
“Shocking that her mother wasn’t sure, right?”
“Not shocking so much as suspect.” I turned the idea over. My job was to look after Mr. Archie, the home and the family generally in that order. It wasn’t on me to judge any of them their choices or weigh in on their personal affairs. “If she suspected Mr. Edward was the father, I find it improbable she would have waited this long.”
Archie groaned and scrubbed a hand over his face before he slumped down onto one of the stools. “Apparently she told him months ago. They were going to spring this on Frankie last September. I’ve never been so fucking glad I butted in where I wasn’t wanted.”
The fact he’d taken a seat was a good sign. He was thinking again. I resumed pouring the hot water into a pot then gathered the loose leaf tea into a ball that I could set inside the water before closing the lid for it to steep.
“How conclusive were the tests?”
“They clearly list one of the four as her father, but instead of names, there are only ID numbers.”
Of course. Privacy laws and such.
“Then we’ll make arrangements to do our own tests.”
“She’s not my sister, Jere,” Archie said but it held far more of a question and hope than it did of determination and conviction.
“Agreed,” I said, then poured the tea into each cup. Despite his preference coffee, the last thing Mr. Archie needed right now was more caffeine. This blend was more soothing than pick me up. After adding a touch of honey and lemon, I stirred it before sliding the cup across to him.
“Tests are going to take time…and I’d really rather not deal with Edward if I don’t have to. I’ll probably hit him.” He picked up the cup then added, “Again.”
“We don’t need Mr. Edward for the tests. You and Miss Frankie can submit DNA samples and we can send it to a vetted laboratory where discreet tests can be made. Then you’ll have your proof.”
“Muriel can confirm some of this bullshit.”
“She could,” I agreed with him. “But do you really feel the need to take on this battle on two fronts?”
Because this was a war he’d been caught between for so long, I rather suspected he didn’t know how to not fight it.
“I need answers.” He sipped the tea and then wrinkled his nose as he looked at it, but he took another swallow. “I deserve them and so does she.”
“Then we will get those answers. Calm down, shower, change your clothes. I’ll make some calls…”
“I want to go to New York. She’s there right?”
“I’ll take care of it.”
The front door opened and Mr. Archie glanced over his shoulder. “That would be…”
“Yo,” Mr. Jake’s voice carried. “You drive like a fucking maniac man, do not break every speed law in the city just to get here.”
“I don’t drive like an old man,” Mr. Archie corrected and then, at my look of reproval, he mouthed “sorry.” “Come have tea with Jere, I’m gonna grab a shower. Then we can do some digging here while Jere books a flight for me.”
Mr. Jake walked into the kitchen and paused. “Where are we going?”
I smiled and nodded to the young man. I wouldn’t torture him with tea, but I could start the coffee. This late in the day I doubted either would sleep and they would want a flight in sooner rather than later.
Once I took care of that, I would reach out to Mr. Wittaker. We would disentangle this messy knot. Mr. Archie needed Miss Frankie. The agony in his eyes left me angry with Mr. Edward. While it was not my place to judge or to interfere in their personal matters, I was quite certain, like Mr. Archie, I might find myself compelled to punch the man if I were to see him.
Mr. Archie, after all, came first in the list of my duties and it was my prerogative to look after him. If that mean dealing with Mr. Edward, then I would very much handle that matter as well.