Mark pulled into the driveway as the late afternoon sun cast long shadows on the ground and enveloped everything in a golden hue. The cry of seagulls punctuated the gentle crashing of the ocean as he cut the engine. Coming around to the passenger side of his convertible, he reached in to retrieve a grocery bag before making his way up the front steps. It wasn't often when he and Steve could enjoy a nice meal together. He decided to go all out and hoped it was enough of a distraction while he sprung the news about Aurie on his son.
While preparing dinner, Mark let his mind wander over the events of the day. He focused in particular on Aurie. At first he couldn't remember her mother, but everything came back to him when he saw her picture. He did remember her as a very beautiful woman. He also remembered her having reputation as a determined, manipulative predator.
Amalia was skillful in getting herself invited to the high-end parties or anywhere that put her in close proximity to rich, eligible bachelors, regardless of their age. Eventually Spencer Davis became her favorite prize to the exclusion of all others. It became a running joke to the point watching her attempt to charm Davis became the highlight of the evening for some partygoers.
Every fiber of his being was certain that neither he, nor Steve, were Aurie's biological father. He spent the rest of the day after her visit thinking back to that night of the party. He and Steve were invited because it was at a neighbor's home nearby. Amalia had been nowhere near him all night. He didn't even say two words to her. It had been that way since she set her sights on Davis. He clearly remembered going home early that night. Steve had decided to stay a little longer since it was one of the rare nights he had off. Knowing Steve, Mark was absolutely certain, beyond doubt, Amalia wouldn't have been able to drug him. No, neither one of them could be Auralia's father. However, he understood she couldn't just take his word for it, just as he couldn't simply take hers that he might be her father. More for her peace of mind than his own, he decided to go along with a blood test. Now he just needed to convince Steve to do it.
The sound of the front door opening and closing broke him out of his reverie.
"Dad?" the familiar voice called from the front room.
"In here Steve," Mark answered back. He looked up and smiled as his son entered the kitchen.
"Smells great. What are we having?" Having shed his gun and badge, Steve was already digging through the refrigerator looking for something to drink.
"Meat and cheese lasagna, garlic bread and a shrimp, walnut and romaine salad with raspberry vinaigrette," Mark rattled off with a flourish. "How was work?"
"Work," Steve quipped as he opened his beer and tossed the cap across the room into the garbage can. "No homicides, but loads and loads of paperwork." He paused to take a drink. "Or rather, many hours spent going cross-eyed in front of a computer screen."
"Sounds like fun."
"Doesn't it? So how was work for you?" Steve leaned against the kitchen counter and took another swig of beer.
"Actually, kinda interesting. Do you remember Amalia Acevedes?" Mark studied Steve while he searched his memory with a slight frown.
"Didn't she used to spend most of her time chasing after that interior designer, Spencer Davis?"
"The very same." Mark opened the oven and bent over to retrieve the lasagna. Straightening up, he placed it on a cooling rack on the counter before looking back at Steve. "I met her daughter this morning." He added conversationally.
His son looked shocked. "She has a daughter?" His lips quirked into a smile. "I wonder who the 'lucky' guy is."
"Her daughter's name is Auralia. Nice young lady."
Ignoring Steve's comment, Mark proceeded to dish out the food. Grabbing the loaded dishes, he headed into the dining room.
Frowning slightly, Steve tossed his empty bottle into the trash before grabbing the salad and following his father. "And what did she want?"
"To find out who her father is." Mark settled into his seat while Steve set the salad on the table and proceeded to pour the wine.
Once seated Steve continued. "And what does that have to do with you?"
"She asked me to take a paternity test," Mark replied matter of factly as he bit into his own food.
Steve started choking on his food. It took a few moments to finally croak out, "She what?"
Readying himself for what he knew what was coming next, Mark plunged on. "She's trying to find her biological father. She visited Spencer Davis, the man her mother named as her father. Spencer convinced Auralia he wasn't and named three other men as possibilities."
"And you're one of the possibilities?" Steve posed it more as a statement than a question.
"Yes and asked me to take a paternity test." Mark stated calmly as if talking about the weather.
"And you agreed to take it?" The disbelief was evident in Steve's voice.
"Why?" Steve asked confused.
"Why not?" Mark reasoned, setting down his fork. Sighing at Steve's glare, he explained. "Look Steve, I told her that there was no way I could be her father, but she just wants to be certain. She's paying for the tests. All I have to do is provide the sample."
"Dad!" There was no mistaking the exasperation in Steve's voice. "That's not the point. If she's anything like her mother, she could be laying a scam on you. Trying to embezzle money from you."
"Steve, she's not like her mother at all," Mark protested. "Besides, if the tests are negative she has no legal leg to stand on. It's really the best option for everyone involved." The one thing he knew for certain was Aurie was not trying to lay a scam on anyone.
"And you know this after one meeting?" Steve couldn't keep the sarcasm out of his voice. At Mark's nod he continued. "Look dad, a negative test is not always a guaranteed shield. As unlikely as it sounds, it's possible she could sue you for support. It has happened before."
"She could also get a lawyer and subpoena to get the tests. At least it's already out of the way if I just do it now."
Steve watched Mark continue eating, as if he hadn't a care in the world. Frustrated, he decided to try a different tactic. "Who else did Davis name as possibilities?"
"The porn producer?" Steve was surprised. He knew Taylor liked his flings, but he also knew that Taylor was very careful. This girl isn't the first to come forward claiming to be his child. Taylor was very shrewd and protected his financial assets very well. He wouldn't risk them on a careless one-night stand.
Steve shook his head resolutely and took another bite of his food. "He's not going to agree to take the test."
"He already has." Mark replied casually.
Steve stared in shock. "He did? How?"
"Auralia asked him." At Steve's disbelieving look Mark caved in. "Alright, she had to threaten to call a lawyer to convince him. But she didn't threaten me," he added hastily at Steve's glare.
"I'm sure." There was no mistaking the dry sarcasm in his tone either.
Mark leaned forward intently, looking his son straight in the eyes. "Steve, she asked me. She didn't threaten me. I don't see any harm in taking the test."
"Even though you're absolutely sure you're not her father?" Mark nodded and leaned back in his chair. Letting out a sigh, Steve continued. "Who else? You said Davis named three men. So far it's you and Taylor. Who else rounds out the triumvirate?"
Mark shifted uncomfortably before answering. "Um, you."
"What?" Steve's head snapped up in time with his fork falling on his plate with a clatter.
"Spencer named you, me and Lawrence."
"And she believed Davis?
"Yes. Apparently he gave her a pretty good reason."
"And that is?" Steve's patience was wearing thin.
"I don't know. She wouldn't tell me." Steve rolled his eyes. "She did it out of respect for Spencer's privacy," Mark protested. "She said if I wanted to know I'd have to ask him because it wasn't her secret to tell."
"And what about Davis?"
"What about him?" Mark asked innocently.
"Is he going to take a test?" Steve demanded.
"Uh, as far as I know, no."
Steve took a deep, calming breath. "Dad, this whole thing seems suspicious on so many levels." He raised his hand to stop Mark as he opened his mouth to protest. "Just looking at who she has for a mother is enough to question her motives. Plus, it seems Davis is covering his own ass by naming us as potential fathers. Who, I might add, is suddenly looking for her father after so many years. How old is she anyway?" he asked as an afterthought.
Mark thought about it. "She said her mother got pregnant at a party we attended here in Malibu sixteen years ago. The only party we attended that year around here that both Davis and Taylor attended was the film producer Richard Mason's retirement party. That should make her about fifteen."
"And how is it that her mother was sure Davis is her father, but he insists three other men are instead?"
"Apparently Amalia was trying to drug Spencer to get him to sleep with her, but slept with someone else. I'm guessing she must have been pretty drunk to not know for certain whom she had slept with. Because all three of us were at the party, Spencer figured we're the most likely candidates. I've been thinking back and I remember leaving that party early and coming home. Alone."
"Dad, that party was sixteen years ago." Not for the first time Steve was getting exasperated with his father's stubbornness. "I don't even remember that one. She can argue since it happened sixteen years ago, your memory is fuzzy and could be why you don't remember sleeping with her mother. A good enough reason for her to try and get your money," Steve pressed, making one last attempt to get his father to see reason.
"That's why I'm taking the test."
"And now she comes looking for her biological father?"
"She didn't want to, but said she had to." Mark's tone was of quiet understanding; one he was wishing Steve would share.
"And why is that?"
Sighing out of weariness Mark hesitated. It wasn't really his place to say, but Steve wouldn't stop harassing him until he got a straight answer. "Amalia isn't a legal citizen and neither is Aurie. She's working on becoming one, but if she finds her biological father and if he's a U.S. citizen or legal resident it will speed up the process."
"Aurie?" Steve asked confused.
"That's her nickname."
Steve let out a frustrated sigh. His dad obviously involved himself in this too deeply.
"Dad, I don't think this is a good idea. You don't know her motives and her background is just too murky. I don't think you should get involved in this."
"Steve, I agreed to take the blood test," Mark stated firmly. "It will prove without a doubt what I already know that I'm not her father." Hesitating, he prepared for what was coming next. "Uh, I also said I'd ask you to take the test as well."
"What? Why?" Steve was pole axed. How did he get dragged into this?
"I told her it was unnecessary since I was taking the test, but she doesn't want to leave any room for doubt. She made a good point, the test will protect us from any future litigation."
"She said that?"
"Well, that proves my point. If she's already talking about potential future litigation then it clearly shows what's on her mind."
"She's paying for the tests herself and accepts the very real possibility none of us could be her father." The exasperation at his son's attitude was finally getting the better of him. "I don't think those are the actions of someone with an ulterior motive."
"Dad…" Steve started to argue, but Mark cut across him.
"Steve, I'm taking the test," Mark said firmly. "She would like for you to take it, but my results should be sufficient if you don't want to do it. Just think about it."
"Alright," Steve agreed reluctantly. "I'll think about it, but I want to meet her before I make my decision."
"You do?" Now it was Marks' turn to be shocked. He expected Steve to argue with him over Aurie, but he hadn't expected his son to want to meet her.
"Yeah. I'd like to judge myself," Steve stated with a grim determination that made Mark uneasy. "When will you be doing the test?"
"Probably Thursday." Mark eyed his son. He wasn't sure if Steve meeting Aurie was a good idea, but really couldn't see anything wrong with allowing it to happen. He had always been protective of him ever since his mother died, so it was reasonable he'd want to meet this girl and decide if she was harmless or not.
"Doesn't leave for a lot of time," Steve muttered thoughtfully.
"How 'bout we all meet for lunch at BBQ Bobs tomorrow?" Mark asked hopefully, making up his mind it was a good opportunity. Once he met Aurie and realized that she wasn't a threat, he'd likely to agree to take the test.
"Will she show up?"
"She'll be with me."
"What?" Steve growled, tired of repeating that particular question.
"We're going sightseeing tomorrow after I'm finished with my patients. So how does one o'clock sound?" Mark asked cheerfully.
"Dad…" Steve began.
"Steve…" Mark warned.
"Alright, alright." Steve spread his hands up in defeat. "You're going to do it anyway. Just be careful."
"Always am," Mark replied with a smile.
"That's what I'm afraid of."