A tall, good-looking guy came to answer the door at Nicholas’ knock. He could’ve passed as Nicholas’ twin if not for the dark locks of his hair, and as their eyes met, the somberness in his son’s gaze had Nicholas’ chest tightening to the point that he could hardly breathe.
“You know.” His voice was flat. “Don’t you?”
“That I’m about to be a big brother?”
Shit. It was all Nicholas could think of as words completely failed him. If Daniel knew about Tabitha’s pregnancy, then it meant his son had also recently spoken to her. “How is she?” he forced himself to ask.
“We should go inside—”
“Daniel.” Nicholas’ voice was steely. “Tell me how she is.”
The glare his son shot at him had Nicholas stiffening. He had never seen Daniel lose his temper, but could he really blame his son for doing so now?
The front door slammed shut behind Daniel, and his son advanced towards him, saying in angry accusation, “You left her. She told you about the baby, and you left her, Dad. How could you?”
“Don’t fucking make this all on me,” Nicholas growled. “You were the one who made this mess to begin with—”
“For your own good,” the boy yelled. “I did it for you—”
“You had no fucking right—”
“You were lonely!”
All the words Nicholas had to say burned into ashes at the unmistakable look of anguish on his son’s face.
“You were lonely.” Daniel’s voice became thick with tears. “Even if you never told me, even if you did your best to hide it, even if you had the whole world fooled – I knew it. I saw it. Something in you changed since you got me back, and I’m just tired of seeing you so lonely.
I just want you to be happy, Dad—”
“I am happy, dammit.”
“But not enough,” Daniel said with a shake of his head. “I know things in our family weren’t ideal at the start, and I know you still blame yourself for the past – but come on, Dad. Can’t you see you’ve more than made up for it? You practically turned yourself into a monk just to set a good example for me. And when I told you I was gay, you didn’t just stand by me. The way you looked at me that day – I’ll never forget it. You were looking at me like you didn’t understand why I thought I even had to say it, why I would think that it would matter to you or make you love me less—” Daniel’s voice broke. “Do you know how lucky that makes me, Dad?”
“You’re my boy,” Nicholas said gruffly. “Or girl. Whatever you want me to call you—”
Despite everything, Daniel couldn’t help rolling his eyes even as the urge to bawl his eyes out became harder to resist.
But then Nicholas suddenly hauled him close.
“You’re my flesh and blood, dammit. Of course I’d fucking love you no matter what.”
Daniel squeezed his eyes shut, but it was just too darn much, and his tears started to fall. “You’re the best dad any son could ever have,” he said with a sniff, “and I just wanted it to be my turn to make you happy—”
Nicholas swung away at the words. “It’s not that easy,” he muttered. “And dear God, the risks you took with that fucking contract—”
“There are no risks,” Daniel said wearily, “and deep inside, you know it. You know it, Dad. Just like I knew the moment I read her letter…she’s meant for us.”
Nicholas didn’t answer.
Daniel refused to give up in the face of his father’s continued silence. “Do you know why I thought she was right for you?” he asked fiercely. “Her whole life was just one tragedy after another. Everyone she loved was taken away from her. But somehow…she never lost her ability to smile, and it just made me think…if she could go through all that and still find a reason to smile…maybe she’s the only person who can help you understand…you’ve done enough. You’ve paid enough. And you’re free to be happy again.”
The next morning dawned bright and clear, but in one particular law office, the mood was dreary and irksome. Joe hated calling in sick, and he hated it even more now, with his secretary on vacation, and he was left to make do with a scatterbrained temp. Trying to keep the impatience out of his voice so he wouldn’t rattle Beth into making another goddamn awful error like yesterday’s mixup, he asked carefully, “Did you get all that?”
“I think, no, um, I’m sure I did, sir.”
“Then dictate it back to me, will you?”
“Mr. Paulson needs to be informed about tonight’s dinner being rescheduled.”
“There’s a document on your desk, regarding Alice Winfrey’s divorce settlement, and I need to fax it to the Tel Aviv branch before I leave.”
“And the last one?” His nose started to itch as he spoke.