“Excuse me?” I say, trying to buy some time.
She eats one of the small sandwiches and gives Oz a wink. When she’s finished chewing, she waves a hand around the garden.
“He built this three years ago. At the time, I knew about you, but I didn’t realize his obsession. Then as time went on, I began to understand, and I tried to get more and more out of him about you. Could see what you meant to him. It started to change him. I had hoped that one day you would see this place and fall in love with it.” She takes a drink of her tea, and then continues. “I think any mother would worry about her son if they were given this situation, but I knew a long time ago that Miles was different. When he made his mind up about something that was that. There was never any changing it. And I knew the day he told me about you, that you were it for him. I hoped that when you knew the truth that you would stay. And here you are.” She gestures to where I’m sitting. “So I guess I want to know why.”
“It’s a fair question.” I begin to answer and sit up a little. “I think anyone who would look at Oz’s—”
“Oz?” she asks, smiling and looking at the two of us.
“A nickname,” Miles answers, and I continue.
“Yes.” I laugh, trying to hide my blush. “I think, on paper, what he’s done without my knowledge could be seen as strange, but when I met him and began to see what I meant to him, how could I turn him away? So many women go their entire lives without feeling a fraction of the attention and devotion Miles has shown me.”
A somber look crosses her eyes and she nods in agreement.
“I’m sure our relationship sounds crazy, and it may very well be. But to have a man so consumed with my happiness and with giving me the best in all aspects of my life, why would I not give in to him? Sure, at first I was upset, because I felt deceived, but as I’ve grown to care for Miles—” I turn, looking into his deep blue eyes “—as I’ve grown to love him, I know that it came from the best and brightest part of his heart. He’s given me something I’ve never had before.”
Oz lets go of my hand and reaches up, grabbing my face with both of his. He places his warm lips on mine, and with them he’s telling me everything he feels. I know Oz loves me. I’ve known it since the beginning. But speaking it out loud locks something into place for us. A final commitment to each other.
He doesn’t deepen the kiss, pulls back a little and rests his forehead against mine.
After a moment, he moves away and grabs on to my hand again. Vivien sits with a gigantic smile on her face, and I let out a laugh, a little embarrassed at the intimate moment in front of his mother. This is all surreal, but it warms everything inside me, like this is the beginning of the family I’ve always wanted.
I rest my hand on my lower belly, thinking of how true that thought might be. This could very well be the beginning of my family. And instead of scaring me, the idea makes my heart grow with love. To have a baby with Oz, to have Vivien as a mother…it’s almost too good to be true.
We spend the next hour talking about me, which is embarrassing, but Vivien goes easy on me, asking about my job with Osbourne Corporation and school. When I mention Paige, she gets a soft look in her eyes, and then she glances over at Oz.
“I met Paige a few years ago when Miles found her. She didn’t like me at first, and I understood why. The two of them share a father, but he was very different in their lives.”
Vivien looks away to the small waterfall and lets out a sigh.
“Paige’s story is not mine to tell. But I can tell you about Alexander Owens.”
Oz sits forward a little as if he’s uncomfortable, and then stands. Vivien watches him as he walks over to the waterfall, looking at the little pond below and watching the koi fish swim.
“I was eighteen when I met Alexander. I came from a middle-class Midwest home that was very religious. I was an only child and my parents were extremely strict with me. The only time I was allowed to go to social functions was when it involved the church. That summer our church had a weeklong festival fund-raiser, so I was expected to participate. I was in charge of selling pies, and before closing one night, he walked up. I was smitten with his good looks and charm right away. Alexander was the kind of man I’d never seen before. Smart, wealthy, and said all the right things. He was older than me at twenty-five, and to an eighteen-year-old girl who’d been sheltered most of her life, he looked like a movie star. He knew exactly what to say to my father to get him to agree to let him see me.