(To read this entire chapter, click on the title)
Va had been swamped all day dealing with calls from overseas, clients who wanted to get a leg up, to get to know the returning CEO better, wanting to make sure their orders, their needs were first and foremost in his mind. He didn’t mind; he’d expected it. It was always the same when he returned, but for the first time in a very long time, there were things he’d rather be doing and someone he’d rather be doing them with.
His was a modest office in a red brick building that had been built in the early 1900s when Detroit was a boom town and Bill Durrant was establishing the city as the headquarters for a fledgling General Motors. Around the same time Freddy Stearns had built that monstrous drugstore right on the riverfront just a few blocks from where Winters and Company still stood. The Winters Building had been renovated and updated several times in the past century and Dray’s, his partner’s office, had been expanded to take up the far end of the third floor, but Va liked his the way it was.
He liked the two tall windows at his back that looked out at the ever changing Detroit River, and the two good sized oil on canvas works that framed his Mies Van der Rohe desk and the two suede and steel visitor chairs that sat in front. The proximity and sameness of these things gave him a snug comfort. To his right was a Parisian scene by Caillebotte. It always reminded him of the building downtown off Randolph Street that housed the cozy little bar where he and Cen used to meet. It was known for its fabulous burgers, exquisite beer selection, intimate lighting and cushy booths. On his left was an odd blur of colors and shapes by de Koonig; it spurred his creative side.
He turned toward the river and leaned back in his big leather desk chair, the only recent addition to the office’s furnishings. Looking out at the glassy blue river, he stroked the client with words listening for the moment when the voice on the other end of the phone began to relax. They were always like this in the beginning, when they had to work with someone new.
“Everything’s in place,” he soothed the German buyer, “I’ll call you back in a day or so when you’ve received the items to make sure that everything is to your specifications.” He hung up and turned back to his computer screen.
“Good, you’re here,” a female voice interrupted his thoughts as he clicked on the client’s file to close it and moved to open another.
“Deena,” he looked up smiling, genuinely happy to see her.
“Va,” she nodded and took one of the visitor’s seats, sliding her clutch onto the edge of his desk. He smiled; Deena was always in charge.
“You should really get an assistant. People shouldn’t be allowed to simply barge in,” she said leaning back in her chair and crossing her legs. Knowing she was right, he smiled again.
“People rarely do,” he said, “and when it’s someone as volatile as you, it’s always an exciting event.”
She laughed and then stopped herself giving him a glare as though she meant to admonish him.
He looked at her wide-eyed, as though to ask, What have I done? And then his brow wrinkled as though trying to remember a faux pas he’d made.
“So contrary to what the community believes, you’ve been in touch with Cen.” It was not a question.
He waited, saying nothing.
“But that’s not why I’m here.” She took a breath. “I don’t like that you’ve involved Stem in your little drama.”
He knew better than to contradict her, to deny involvement, even though he’d had no part—he knew that it was best to let Deena have her say. Afterwards, he could soothe her and sweep up the debris.
“You’ve got him educating that little mixed breed offspring and he seems to be enjoying it. I’m afraid he’ll become attached, and who knows what to expect from one of her kind. We don’t even know what she’s capable of, how long her lifespan is, and she is Cen’s child, which means she is unreliable and probably has no sense of loyalty or commitment,” she spoke rapidly, but finally she had to take a breath.
“Would you like something to drink?” Va asked. “Water, tea? Something stronger?”
“Alcohol will not soothe me. If anything it will feed my rage,” she said shifting in her chair and recrossing her legs.
“You should have stopped her,” Deena accused.
“Stopped who?” he asked.
“Cen. She should have come to me. I would rather she hadn’t involved Stem.”
“She said she couldn’t locate you,” Va offered, “and I only heard about it after the fact.”
“As if she tried,” Deena pouted.
“She cares for her offspring as you do yours. I think she was a little . . . desperate. The girl has reached The Age and she didn’t know what to do. I don’t think she thought either of her children would become Reveler.”
“She has more than one?” Deena asked with surprise, her voice quieter now.
“She has two, the girl, Vesta, and a younger son, Jon,” Va gave this information freely because although, Deena was upset now, he knew her to be wise and thoughtful; not one to tread on confidences or bent on revenge.
“She still shouldn’t have spoken to Stem without speaking first with me,” Deena said. Va nodded, an agreement meant to stroke and soothe.
“I need to speak with her,” Deena added impatiently knowing full well that no matter what, Va was Cen’s mate and he would do whatever was necessary to protect her.
“You should take comfort in the fact that Stem is fully grown and that you have raised him well,” Va said watching Deena’s reaction to his words. If she bristled he would have to find another way around her.
She didn’t bristle, but she leaned back, elbow on the arm of her chair and a contemplative finger to her lips watching him. Her look was almost wary. He nodded.
“I’m sure that he views Vesta as a pet project. Something from which he can learn, on whom he can hone his skills. He has your genetic gift for teaching, derives pleasure from exercising that gift. You should be proud.”
Her eyebrows went up and her lips pursed, but she remained silent.
“Maybe if you introduce yourself to the girl, sat in on a few of their sessions, you might see how harmless their interaction is,” Va offered.
“She, Cen has no right to impose her mistakes on the community. You know as well as I do how dangerous it is for all of us. Exposure is always a concern and everyone in the community is charged with complying with the directives that protect us. She has shown no regard for anyone other than herself. Look at how she has treated you. Does she even care how her absence has made the community wary of you, how your treatment of her and even your sanity has been questioned? Besides, Stem hasn’t been fully mated yet, and I don’t want him to become too attached to this . . . girl.”
There it was, a vixen protecting her kit.
“I’ll tell Cen you need to speak with her,” he said knowing that she would not relent.
She reached for her clutch, extracted a card and handed it to him. “It has my cell as well as the address to my new shop. I have an apartment upstairs over the shop. She shouldn’t have any trouble contacting me. Unless, of course, you want to give me her contact information.”
Va took the card and smiled, “I think she’ll need a little time to build up her courage. It’s been a long time and she has great respect you. She knows that what she has done is wrong,” he said offering these words as further conciliation. Deena nodded acceptance.
“That’s why she’s stayed away, but her daughter is involved and I know she’ll contact you,” Va finished in earnest, his face expressing his understanding of the matters gravity.
“Soon,” Deena said as she stood up, clicked her clutch closed and left his office.