He laughed, the throaty sound flowing over me. “That’s the first time I’ve heard that one.”
I looked up at him. “What other ones have you heard?”
“Vin Diesel. My Cousin Vinny. Vitty Cent. Vincent van Gogh . . .” He started grinning.
I giggled. “Those are pretty good but I think your drawing skills need a little work for that last one to work.”
“You got me.” He smiled. “I made that one up a while ago and tried to get people to use it but it never caught on.”
I giggled again.
“But none of those names were as clever as yours.” He bent and sealed his lips over my mouth. Our tongues slowly, tenderly probed one another until the need to breathe interrupted them. “You can call me whatever you like.”
“I’ll probably stick with ‘Vincent’. I think it suits you best.”
“Vincent it is then, Kitten. Listen, my sister Giselle is having a birthday party for her son next Saturday. Do you want to come with me?”
Vincent at a birthday party for his nephew? I had to see this. It would also give me the chance to meet his sister, Giselle. I recalled the picture he had of her in his island cabin, the two of them smiling on a beach together. I hadn’t met any of Vincent’s family before and I was more than curious to see how he would act around his sister.
“Sure. Am I going to see you before that this week?”
His face softened. “Not this week, sorry. Flying out tomorrow morning until Friday. I will call you every night, though. My schedule can slow down, Kristen, and it will. It’s just going to take some time.”
“Okay. I’ll look forward to those calls, then.”
Sure enough, he called me every evening that week. The work week was otherwise pretty boring—fleshing out Vincent’s BRIC strategy and continuing research on Selena Devries—but I began to look forward to talking to him every night so much that the days flew by. I appreciated that Vincent was making an effort after the events the previous weekend. Seeing the way he had been so violent with Marty had shaken my confidence in him, but his tender side was still there. It would be interesting to see how this would continue at his nephew’s party.
Saturday morning finally came. Vincent picked me up from my apartment in a silver Aston Martin at nine in the morning. Traffic getting out of the city was a drag, as usual, but we spent the time chatting idly. It was an important step for us to build our relationship back up after it had been badly shaken with our fight. The whole day was important for that reason.
We arrived a little after ten-thirty and pulled up in front of a tidy suburban ranch-style home. The lawn was freshly mowed, and there were balloons on the mailbox announcing a birthday party. We parked on the street. Vincent had brought a birthday present wrapped in balloon wrapping paper, and I handed it to him as we got out of the car. We walked down the street and up the driveway to the house.
“So your nephew’s name is Brady?” I asked Vincent, reading the sign on the mailbox.
Vincent smiled and grabbed my hand. The present was in the other. “Yup. He’s turning three today.”
“Did you pick out his present, or did your secretary Lucy?”
He scoffed. “I would never delegate such an august task. I picked this sucker out online months ago.”
His mock offense at my question surprised me. “What is it?”
“This awesome train,” he said enthusiastically. “The TrackMaster 500X. It makes twelve different sounds and has an automatic headlight for tunnels.”
“Blanket forts, tunnels, wherever it’s dark. Point is, the kid’s going to be an engineer like his uncle. He loves trains.”
I nodded. Vincent was very enthused about this party, especially blanket forts. To be fair, I remembered loving making blanket forts as a kid. My inner child was in line with his inner child on that point.
“Who wrapped the present?” I asked, eyeing the perfect bows.
He laughed. “You caught me. That task I did delegate. It looks good though, right?”
I nodded. “Yeah, I think she deserves a bonus.”
“I’ll take it under consideration.”
We made it to the porch, where we were already able to hear the high-pitched screams of a child running around and playing. The door was unlocked and Vincent stepped inside the house unfazed by the noise. I followed after.
We were greeted in the foyer by a blond, slim woman standing around five six. She had her hair tied back in a simple bun and wore a well-fitting dark blue blouse with black pants. By my first impression, she looked slightly younger than Vincent. I eyed the plate of snacks she was carrying: apple slices with peanut butter. My stomach growled.
“Hello, stranger,” she said, smiling at her brother. Her voice was warm and confident. I could see the resemblance between her and Vincent both in appearance and in the confident way she carried herself.
After beaming at her brother for a moment, she turned to me. “And you must be Kristen.”
She extended her hand and I took it. Her handshake was firm. “You’re Giselle.”
She smiled warmly. “As well as ‘Mommy’ and ‘Mrs. Harper.’ I’m glad you two could make it.”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Vincent said.
The child causing all of the noise behind Giselle spotted us. His dark brown eyes opened wide and he tottered over wearing his cone-shaped birthday hat, followed by a man with black hair and a bright smile. “Uncle Vincent!”
Vincent squatted down on his heels and gave Brady a big hug as the man following him took his place beside Giselle. Seeing Vincent in his blue jeans and white polo shirt in this family setting revealed a new side of him. “Hey buddy, how’s it going?”
“It’s my birthday!” Brady apparently hadn’t quite learned volume control yet.
Vincent didn’t even flinch at his nephew’s high-pitched screaming. “I know. I got you a present!”
The boy screamed in delight. The little guy was super cute and very excited, if a little loud.
Vincent stood back up and shook hands with what I assumed was Giselle’s husband, eyeing him firmly. “Good morning, Rob.”
Rob returned the gesture. “Vincent.”
Vincent put his arm around me. “Rob, this is my girlfriend Kristen. Kristen, this is Giselle’s husband Rob.”
“Good to meet you,” Rob said. He had kind, gray eyes, and looked to be a similar age to Giselle. His build was smaller than Vincent’s, but I thought he and Giselle made a cute couple.