David Xanatos was having a good, if quiet, morning. Genutech Systems had just landed a very influential government research contract and Pack Media Studios was being rented out to a pilot film being shot on location. If it went to series—and he thought it would—the money it would bring in would enable him to build another stage and update the editing facilities. And he was pulling business away from the production facilities in Brooklyn, which always amused him. There was a new network soap in town that needed sound mixing facilities, which he would only be too happy to provide and that should jump start his media interests nicely. Since the Pack series had been pulled from network and the syndication deals had fallen through, he had been thinking about simply severing that particular branch of his empire as one might trim dying branches from the tree. He was glad that decision had been proven premature; he still had warm memories of setting up Pack Media Studios with Fox all those years ago. It had been their first joint venture . . .
And certainly not their last, David smiled.
David turned his gaze to the labelled cassette tape on top the vcr in his office, resisting the desire to watch it again. "Xanatos ultrasound 1/12/96" was written in clear dark letters in permanent marker along the spine, but what he saw was his future.
Xanatos has spent a great deal of time contemplating the future. As a boy, he would lie awake at night listening to the sound of the waves and the old house settling. He would listen and dream of a day when he could get as far away as possible from the endless parade of boats and fisherman, market prices scrawled on chalk boards down at the dock, the smell of the cannery, the screams of the gulls overhead, the brine and salt and damp. He dreamt of the day when he would be David Xanatos, the man and not Petros Xanatos' boy.
As a young man, studying not just how to make money but how to gather power, how to fit into the glittering society that beckoned at every turn, he'd dreamt of a future where he would be the one behind the teak desk, not in front of it begging for funds, a job, a chance. That was his ideal future; one where others would beg him, for his advice, his funds, even his pardon and mercy. His respect.
But this . . . . This was a dazzling future he could not have hoped for. A child to carry on his name, his dreams—and his love.
Love was something David Xanatos had envied. Oh, his father loved him, in his own sharp, unyielding, critical way. But it never seemed to be about what he was, only what he lacked. His father thought him without honour, without merit, a made man instead of a self-made man simply because he had wanted more and had taken it instead of waiting for some divine providence to decide he was worthy of it. It had surprised him enough that he had found in Fox a woman his equal in every way, a woman who fit into the empty places he hadn't even known his heart housed. Perhaps it was a weakness, but it strengthened him in the end, gave him more to fight for, more to protect, more to want and he had extended that love to the tiny unborn child his wife carried. He would make sure that child never cried at night, never wanted for anything, never felt he had to beg for anything from anyone.
Owen Burnett's voice from the intercom interrupted his reverie. "Sir, Melina Campbell is on line two for you. She says it's urgent."
David Xanatos' eyebrows shot up. He hadn't heard from Lina since he called to tell her he and Fox had gotten engaged. "Put her through, Owen."
"Lina, it's so good to hear from you. How are the boys?" David leaned back in his chair and allowed himself a rare smile. But there was silence on the other end of the line.
Finally, she took a shaky breath. "David, it's Petros. He's had a heart attack."
The helicopter had barely touched down when David Xanatos leapt out and sprinted across the hospital landing pad, closely followed by his definitely not sprinting seven months pregnant wife.
They were met by a slender woman with dark hair whipped into frizzy curls by the rotating blades who hugged him quickly. She was wearing a long sleeved flowered print dress that Fox imagined must be the kind you get from boutiques that smelled like potpourri and cedar and were nestled in between the B. Dalton's and Victoria's Secret at the local mall.
"I'm so glad you're here." She smiled and Xanatos noticed her eyes were red-rimmed. He felt his heart plummet to his shoes.
"What happened?" They started in, slipping past nurses and gurneys quickly.
"He was down at the docks and collapsed. Mick Mac brought him in."
"Where is he?"
"They moved him from ICU an hour ago to a private room. Mama's with him." They came through the double doors into a quiet hallway, and Xanatos unconsciously slipped his arm around Fox's shoulders, hugging her to him. Lina stopped before the second door down and held it open.
Ana Xanatos Kapelos sat clutching her brother's hand, her steel grey hair pulled away from her face in a bun. David had always remembered her as a strong woman, but she seemed older now than her fifty-two years. Her hands shook when she rose from the chair to hug her nephew.
"David, it's so good you've come." She kissed his cheek and he was surprised how easy it was to hug her back.
"I'll get Dr. Wiess," Lina slipped out and Fox followed her.
Petros Xanatos lay unmoving in the bed, his skin washed out and slightly grey. The room was silent save for the steady beeping of the monitors and David sank down into the chair Ana had vacated, clasping his father's dry warm fingers in his own.
Fox waited in the hall while Dr. Wiess spoke with her husband. She didn't have to imagine what he was saying. She'd been through this before, recently in fact. Halcyon Renard had been in and out of hospitals when she was growing up and ever since his return from the Czech Republic, his health had been even worse. She was used to the sights, smells and jargon. It was almost comforting to her. Most children would have probably developed an aversion to hospitals, but for some reason they'd never bothered her. Instead, she tried to understand how David might be feeling.
Petros Xanatos would have gotten along like gangbusters with Halcyon Renard, she had decided when she'd first met Petros. She'd taken the helicopter to meet him at the airport. He'd insisted on flying commercially when she could just as easily flown out to Bar Harbor to pick him up. It seemed silly, when his son was a multi- millionaire, but that was how the gruff old fisherman wanted things.
He'd seemed pleasant enough, at first. But she'd felt the questions he held back. It had been an uncomfortable trip, but not nearly as uncomfortable as the one out here. David had looked out the window and barely spoken and she knew he was remembering the last time he and Petros had seen one another. What they had said. What they hadn't said. What they should have and what they never would have.
If Petros dies . . . Her train of thought was interrupted as Melina exited the hospital room and sank down onto the couch. She met Fox's eyes and smiled warmly.
"Hi. Things have been pretty rushed, so we were never properly introduced. I'm Melina." She offered her hand, which Fox shook.
"David's told me so much about you," she lied. The fact of the matter was, aside from some old photographs, David had hardly told her anything about his family, choosing to concentrate exclusively on the future. "I'm Fox."
"I know. I've seen your television show. Over and over and over again," she laughed. "I have two boys in grade school," she offered by way of an explanation. "When they find out you are here, they are just going to go nuts."
"I wish the circumstances of the visit were better." Fox's eye drifted back to the door and she couldn't hold back a frown. She banished it, however, as the door swung open and David and Ana exited, Dr. Wiess patting the woman's arm and David nodding at whatever he was saying. His mouth was a grim line that softened when he saw Fox.
You didn't earn any of it, boy. His father's voice echoed in his thoughts and he squeezed his eyes shut against the unexpected pain.
This was ridiculous, he was a multi-millionaire. He was a husband and a father to be. He had worked hard to get where he was today. Surely his own father could understand that . . .
Except he never had. And he never would.
"David?" Fox asked softly and he smiled for her sake.
"Nothing, my dear."
"Would you like to stay at the hospital?"
He nodded. "If you're tired, Owen booked a room for us at the Inn—" David began.
"Nonsense, you're family. You'll stay at the house," Aunt Ana waved away the notion and that, apparently was that. Fox hid a smile, it was obvious where David got his tenacity and commanding presence.
"Brian's picking the boys up from school. They'll be happy to see you." Lina shrugged on her windbreaker, hugged David quickly and kissed her mother on the cheek.
"Do they know . . ?" Xanatos asked.
Melina shook her head. "We're going to tell them tonight, after dinner."
"It looks like something out of the Waltons," Fox exclaimed before she could stop herself as Melina angled the van into the driveway of a huge two story wooden frame house. The white paint was peeling a bit and the green trim needed touching up, but rather than looking run down, it gave the house charm. White curtains fluttered in the windows and someone had forgotten to turn off the porch light. There was an overwhelming sense of home. This was a house that people lived in, had lived in, and would continue to live in.
"Doesn't it, though?" Lina grinned. "Three generations of Xanatoses and Campbells all under one roof. It's a wonder we haven't all killed one another yet."
She killed the engine and came around to help Fox down. Though after running across the Australian outback, Fox was fairly certain she could navigate a Ford Aerostar, she let the younger woman take her hand anyway, glad of the company.
"You leave your door unlocked?" Fox asked as Melina lifted and shoved the front door, which was sticking a little. Whether from the wood swelling, or the house settling, she wasn't sure.
"You're thinking like a New Yorker. Not a lot of crime out here; we don't have to worry about much."
The front hall had dark wood floors covered by faded area rugs. There was a tangle of sneakers, galoshes and boots at the foot of the coat rack, which sported a lonely looking fishing cap and red wool muffler, but no coats. Melina dropped her keys on the side table next to the phone and checked the answering machine. The red light glowed steadily and she looked uncertain as to whether to be relieved or concerned.
"Come on in," she smiled graciously and Fox stepped into the living room.
The room was bright and airy, painted pale blue with white trim. The floor was covered by a cream and rose rug that matched the runner in the hall. A battered cream cloth covered sofa lined the wall facing the fireplace and a colour tv was tucked between two tall bookshelves, the lower shelves given over to video tapes. A baby grand piano sat in one corner, a child's practice book propped open with a small brass see-no-evil money and the top was covered with framed photos, as was the mantle above the fireplace. Stepping closer, Fox trod on something small and hard and was amused to note that it was a Hyena action figure, missing one arm. She set the much abused toy down on the coffeetable with a chuckle.
"Is this you and David?" Fox held up a black and white photograph of a young man and woman that rested on the mantle.
"Uncle Petros and my mother. That was taken in Crete before they left to come here so she could marry Papa."
"I bet that's quite a story."
"Oh, it was. Mama and Papa were betrothed as children."
"You mean it was an arranged marriage?"
"Oh yes, back then that was very common. Papa had moved here to earn money as a fisherman. Mama was fifteen when she and Petros came. Uncle Petros was only nineteen, but convinced he could make his fortune here in America."
"Funny, that's the last thing I would have thought of him."
"Well, he never did make a fortune. Not like David's, anyway. But he made out okay. Most of the local fishermen belong to a coalition that bids on restaurant contracts. About five years ago, Petros managed to land a very lucrative contract providing lobster and seafood to chain restaurants from the Carolinas to Florida. It's good business sense like that that paid for this house and my kids' education."
"It's hard to picture Petros as a businessman."
"He and David are more alike than either of them will admit, stubborn as they are. Uncle Petros is all bluster, but he loves his son. He loves him so much it hurts him, I think."
"I've only met him once. He came to our wedding. Something tells me I'm not the daughter in law he had in mind."
"You think my mother liked the fact that I married Brian, a lapsed Protestant from Connecticut who doesn't even know how to fish, instead of some nice boy from the old country who can inherit the business? We love whom we love." She shrugged. "Anyway, Mama and Papa got married and Petros met Ann at their wedding."
Melina removed another photo from the top of the piano and handed it to Fox. Two couples beamed in the photo, which had been taken on the grass lawn in front of a greek orthodox church. The bride and groom were in the centre, but off to the side stood Petros, standing close to, but not quite touching, a young girl. Her smile was almost hidden by her straight dark hair, which must have been stirred by the same wind that made the bride—Melina's mother—clutch her hand to her veil and grin.
"They were married less than a year later. Ann worked at the boarding house where my parents lived until they could afford this place. Petros moved in too. I have the craziest stories about the four of them sneaking in and out without waking Grandma Riordan."
Fox stared at the woman in the photo, trying to get a sense of what kind of person she might have been. "David hardly ever talks about his mother." She handed the photo back and Melina set it back on the piano, adjusting it so that it sat in its former place. "What was she like?"
"I was only ten when she died, but she was amazing. She managed the books for the business. Petros and Papa had the most lucrative fishing boat in the harbour thanks to her. It tore Petros and David apart when she died. Nothing was the same. Petros became consumed by the business and David . . . David couldn't wait to get away from here. He wanted to go everywhere, see everything. He scraped together the money to go to school, but dropped out after a year. Petros wanted him to join the business, get a boat of his own, but David was so restless. When he sold that coin, he was off like a shot to New York. I still have the postcards he sent."
"You two were close."
"He was the big brother I never had, I have the scars to prove it." Lina laughed. "He held me by my ankles from the roof once, did he ever tell you that? Mama threatened to make him gut fish in the cannery for a summer if he didn't stop torturing me."
"Did you get your revenge?"
"But of course. I told Suzy Mallory he had a crush on her and he couldn't get rid of her for four whole years. All through high school she was making cow eyes at him. He never did figure out that was me."
"Revenge isn't any fun if they don't know."
"I wouldn't have survived the ninth grade if he'd known, trust me."
"I envy you. My parents separated when I was thirteen. I spent most of my childhood eavesdropping on the adults, trying to figure out their secret code so everything would make sense."
"No. I realised pretty early on that they made it up as they went along."
David watched the rise and fall of his father's chest with each shallow breath and felt tears prick his eyes. It was as if a lead weight sat squarely in the middle of his chest, knocking the wind out of him and tightening like a vise around his heart.
Dr. Weiss seemed hopeful, since Petros was in excellent health and had no history of heart trouble. He thought perhaps it had been stress that had brought on the attack and David had nodded absently. But his mind was fixed on Petros in Scotland, holding his own against marauding bandits. The two pictures were at odds with one another and the dichotomy distressed him. How could somone so alive, so larger than life, be at the same time so frail? He clasped his father's strong brown hand in his own, feeling the caluses and cracked skin from working on the boat and compared it to his own hand. Soft hands, Petros might have called them, but strong in their own way. Lacking the marks of physical labour, he still knew them to be strong enough to weild a sword, both metaphorically and physically.
He knew that. But he was forced to wonder if his father really knew. Really understood just what it took to rise to his present level and then stay there. It wasn't just business acumen; it was a keen sense of people, the willingness to take risks as well as hedge his bets, to know when to get up and walk away and when to stand and fight. Nothing had ever been handed to him, not even that coin. But Petros hadn't believed it.
And he didn't know what it would take to make him.
"Well, Pop, you'll be happy to know I dropped everything to run up here," David tried to smile. "It may have cost me a very lucrative deal with Dreamworks, you know. But hey, money isn't everything."
Petros, still unconscious, showed no signs of noticing the irony in his son's voice.
"Isn't that what you've always wanted to hear from me? C'mon, open your eyes. Provoke me, you know you love to." He leaned closer, sighing heavily. "I know you'll never believe this, but money isn't everything. I've never believed that. But what I've understood are the uses to which it can be put. I could have stayed a poor fisherman, here, working with you. But I had dreams, Pop. Dreams bigger than this town could realise.
"It's not that I think that life isn't good enough for me. The fact of the matter is, I know it isn't. The challenge of getting the boats in, coming out in the black for once, maybe even having a bit to set aside . . . It isn't enough of a challenge to get me out of bed in the morning. But just because I didn't chose it doesn't mean I look down on anyone who does. I never, ever looked down on you.
"Fact is, I wanted to be you, when I was a kid. Everyone liked you and more importantly, everyone respected you. I don't confuse fear with respect. Never have, never will. And people respect me. Not all of them, and probably not the ones I want to, but people do. There are actually people in this world who think I have accomplished something of real worth.
"But it didn't mean a damn thing—it'll never mean anything, not really. Because my own father can't . . ."
He trailed off, not wanting to say what was in his heart. Not now, when Petros couldn't hear it, when the stench of death and decay was all around him, dwarfing a child's memory of a giant with strong hands and a booming laugh. But he was afraid.
David Xanatos hated admitting to fear. But it was there. The looming terror of losing his father before he could say all the words he'd stored up in a life of awkward silences and unanswered challenges, foolish misunderstandings and unreasonable anger.
"All I ever wanted was for you to be proud of me, Papa." David said softly, setting his father's hand back at his side and leaning down to kiss his brow.
"That's it. Call it whatever you want. Love, respect, it all boils down to the fact that the one person in the world I wanted to look on me with pride couldn't. Wouldn't, no matter what I did. So I stopped trying. But I couldn't stop wanting."
David found Fox out on the front porch, sitting in the swing and watching the world go by. She scooted over to make room for him. Lina trailed behind him, sipping a glass of lemonade.
David lay his arm across his wife's shoulders and made a sweeping gesture with the other that encompassed the whole town. "Welcome to Bar Harbor, Maine. Population: 3,728. Once the playground of the Vanderbilts and Astors, it is now a quiet, deathly dull tourist attraction that attracts, alas, few tourists. Main export: seafood. Main import: everything that makes life worth living, outside of fish."
Fox laughed, but Lina frowned.
"You used to love it here."
"I suppose so.
David reached for Fox's hand almost unconsciously and she gave his fingers an encouraging squeeze.
Lina decided to change the subject. "I hope you like Greek food. Mama went to town," she held up a hand and ticked off each dish as she named them. "We've got avgolemno, dolmas, tiropita, spanakopita, lamb, potatoes and for dessert, galatoboureko and baklava both."
"Out of that sentence, I recognised lamb and potatoes," Fox drawled, amused.
David couldn't help grinning. "Allow me to translate: chicken and lemon soup, stuffed grape leaves, cheese pie, spinach pie, the aforementioned lamb and potatoes, and custard and filo pastry and then honey and chopped nuts and filo."
"Sounds . . . filling."
Lina threw back her head and laughed. "Thank God the Xanatos family have metabolisms akin to bullet trains, or else we'd all be big as houses by now."
"Uncle David! Uncle David!" Two tornadoes carrying plastic lunch boxes and backpacks hit the porch simultaneously, almost bowling Xanatos over. Brian had parked on the street, to keep from boxing in David's rental and Melina met him halfway up the drive, an arm around his waist. He kissed her hair and they leaned against the banister to watch their sons with broad smiles.
"Hey, no fair growing so much when I'm not here to see it," he chuckled. "You must be, what, eighteen and twenty by now?"
"No," Michael laughed. He had his father's sandy light brown hair and dimples and must have recently had a visit from the tooth-fairy, as his front two teeth were noticeably absent. "I'm only six!" he lisped.
"He knows how old you are," his brother Stephen poked him and David picked him up off the ground and held him at eye level. Fox couldn't help noticing that it was like seeing a younger version of David dangling four feet off the floor. Stephen's hair was a shade darker, closer to his mother's and he had Brian's hazel eyes, but the stubborn set of their chins was pure Xanatos.
"Hey, squirt. No comments from the peanut gallery. How's third grade treating you?"
"Bobby Munsen punched me at recess, but I kicked him."
"Stephen!" Lina was appalled.
David set the kid back on his feet and he picked up his backpack from where it had fallen, dusting it off. "Ms. Kelly saw it and made us both stand in the corner, but we split his chocolate pudding at lunch and he wants to know if I can come over this weekend." He gazed at his mother with hope and she forced a smile.
"We'll talk about it after dinner."
"Who are you?" Michael asked Fox.
"I'm your Aunt Fox."
"Michael, doesn't Aunt Fox look familiar?" Lina's eyes sparkled wickedly. Michael looked up at his Mom and then carefully scrutinised Fox from head to toe, dwelling the longest on her middle. He turned back to his mother, confused.
"I'll give you a hint," Fox whispered. "I used to fight Evil Ninjas."
"No way!" the child's eyes threatened to pop out of his head. "She doesn't look anything like the lady from the TV!"
"Thanks a lot, kid," she chuckled.
"I bet if you ask her nicely," Lina whispered in Stephen's ear, "she'll tell you about being in the Pack."
"Were you really?" Stephen asked, dubious and Fox rolled her eyes skyward. Granted, the pleated maternity dress was a far cry from body armour and spandex, but she liked to maintain some illusions.
Xanatos left his wife at the mercy of his cousins and carried the suitcases up the winding staircase to the second floor. The guest room was cheerful, done in white and green, tasteful and homey. Melina had even put his favourite quilt— the one his mother had made—out at the foot of the bed. Unfortunately, it did nothing to lift David Xanatos' spirits as he hung up his clothes and stashed the suitcase beneath the four poster bed. He remembered the last time he'd been home, seven years ago.
It had been for Stephen's christening. He'd just begun his meteoric rise in the business world, swallowing the companies that would become the building blocks of Xanatos Enterprises whole.
He'd been so sure his father would be proud of him.
He'd been wrong. Petros had been civil at best, finally accusing David of ambition at the cost of others. What others, he hadn't specified, but then, he hadn't needed to. Anything his son did was never good enough.
David had left that night. Lina had been upset and he'd called her from Manhattan to apologise. She'd been hurt, but they'd gotten past it. Every year since then, he never missed a birthday, Christmas, or Easter. But his presence was felt in cards, letters, and phone calls; he'd never come back.
He'd flown Lina, Brian and the boys in when they'd first finished Castle Wyvern, before he'd had the gargoyles placed atop the walls and had the gala unveiling. The boys had been more into the Pack than tenth century Scottish castles, but it had been a wonderful—if brief—vacation that hadn't yet been repeated.
After his arrest, Bar Harbor's favourite son became an embarrassment. It didn't matter that he'd paid his debt to society, did the time. Hell, he could almost hear his father saying he'd bought the shortest sentence money could buy. Not that Petros hadn't ever said as much to his face.
Bitterness welled up in him like the tide and he struggled to relax. His father needed him now and he had him, whether the old bastard liked it or not. And he'd come without hesitating, even after the mess of his wedding, Petros' denouncement of his achievements hanging in the air like a pall. Blood was everything, wasn't it?
"Penny," Fox drawled from the doorway. She had watched her husband deep in thought, unaware of her presence as his emotions played across his face in a quicksilver parade, ending in a frown which melted into a smile that made her heart skip a beat as he looked up and met her eyes.
"I am the luckiest man in the world," he smiled.
She settled onto his lap and ran a lacquered fingernail along the lines of his smile. "Yes, you are."
"My my, don't we have a high opinion of ourselves?" He couldn't help but grin and tipped her towards him so he could kiss her quickly.
"Well, only the best for David Xanatos. Don't you think I've figured that out by now?"
"Bobby Munsen said you went to jail," Stephen said around a mouthful of potatoes. Fox noticed Aunt Ana set her fork down with a scowl, but Brian, Melina and Michael continued eating. However, she could almost feel Melina listening to hear David's answer.
"Well, Bobby Munsen is right. I did." David shrugged.
"Because I took something that wasn't mine and I got caught."
Stephen digested this fact and then screwed up his eight year old face in confusion. "I thought only the bad guys went to jail."
"Sometimes people do dumb things, and I did a dumb thing."
Melina chuckled and Ana actually smiled. Fox watched her husband, whose dark eyes were dancing. He loved this.
"Did you learn your lesson?"
"Sure did. If you want something that doesn't belong to you, you don't steal it. You buy it."
Brian chuckled, but Melina looked alarmed. She covered it quickly, but not before David could notice. Part of him wished he could take the flip answer back and the other part was angry. Of all the members of his extended family, he expected Melina to understand. The smile died in his eyes and he excused himself, carrying his plate out to the kitchen.
Fox could hear the screen door slam, but doubted she could be of any help, no matter how her heart ached to try. She had no idea how a normal family was meant to function; this was all new territory to her.
"Mike, why don't you tell your Aunt Fox about your class project?" Brian dispelled the tension and she only listened with half an ear to Michael's exploits at the national park with his classmates, preoccupied by her husband's absence.
David leaned against the rickety wooden fence. The wood was a washed out grey, warped and cracked from decades of salt-tanged air, winter snow and summer sun. The undyed wool of his fisherman's sweater caught here and there, until he reached the stop where the rough edges had been worn smooth from nights of star gazing and days of watching the sea.
The last ferry from was heading back in, a scattering of American and Canadian tourists in brightly coloured windbreakers stood on the deck, like exotic birds against the washed out greys, blues and tans that made up the palette for miles around. The screams of the gulls over the sea echoed the constant dull roar of the waves breaking over the rocky shore.
It was beautiful in a stark, lonely, extreme way.
"I figured you'd be here," Melina stuck her hands in her windbreaker pockets against the wind off the sea that blew her wiry curls into her eyes. "I wasn't sure you owned a pair of jeans."
"Well, there's not a lot of call for Armani out here."
"No, there isn't." She smiled and he scooted over to make room for her. "We told the kids."
"How'd they take it?"
"Michael doesn't really understand. Stephen is going to need some hand-holding though. He still remembers when Papa died."
"I can have the best heart surgeon in the country flown here—"
"The man's won a Nobel prize, Lina—"
"No," Lina repeated, more forcefully. She touched his shoulder. "The doctor here is fine. What's best is that you are here, that Petros has family with him. Throwing money around will help nothing except perhaps your conscience."
David turned back to the sea. "You sound just like him."
They watched the gulls circling overhead in silence for a moment. She scooted closer, plucking a bit of dried grass from his sleeve. "Was it really so bad?"
She rested her head on his shoulder, sighing. "I'm sorry."
"Why? It's not your fault."
"It's not about who to blame, David. I just want you to be happy."
"I have a wife who loves me and I love her more than I ever thought possible. I have a son on the way who I can't think of as anything other than a miracle. I am happy, Lina."
She hugged him, but he could tell that wasn't the answer she'd been fishing for. "Come on, before the boys gobble up all the baklava. I know how much you love Mama's baklava."
Brian met them at the door, Fox beside him. "The hospital called," he smiled broadly. "Petros has regained consciousness. Dr. Wiess says everything's fine; we can come by first thing in the morning."
"I'm going now," David said firmly.
"I'm coming too," Fox shrugged on her jacket, but he caught her arm.
"No, you're tired. It's been a long day." He kissed her forehead. "I won't be long."
"I'll be fine. I promise."
"Hey, Pop," David whispered, taking a seat and Petros' eyes drifted open. He licked dry lips and frowned.
"They told me I collapsed at the dock."
"Mick brought you in," David confirmed.
Petros made a sound halfway between laugh and a snort. "In that case, it's a wonder I got here at all. Drives like a maniac."
"Lucky for you."
"What are you doing here?"
"Lina called me as soon as she heard."
He hurumphed. "Managed to drag yourself away from your precious Xanatos Enterprises, did you?" he said with no real malice. Unexpectedly, David found himself smiling. For some reason, Petros' words found no tinder in him to spark a fire, despite the way he'd been smouldering just an hour earlier.
Maybe it's all in your mind, David, the little voice in the back of his posited, only to be silenced with the echo of their last encounter. You didn't earn any of it, boy.
His smile hardened, but only a touch. "You're my father. Of course I came. I left Owen in charge. You know how capable he can be." Xanatos nodded weakly and David frowned. "Are you all right?"
"I just had a heart attack, David," Petros said drily, as if to a halfwit.
"I'm sorry, I should have waited 'til morning. I don't know what I was thinking—"
"You weren't thinking." Petros laughed and two spots of colour appeared on his cheeks, washing away some of the pallor that had so frightened David that afternoon. "For once, you weren't two steps ahead of everyone else."
"A momentary lapse, I assure you," David's dark eyes sparkled, and he patted his father's hand. "I'd better let you get some rest. Not to mention, I have an exhausted wife in the middle of her third trimester back at the house waiting for me who will want all the details, I'm sure. I don't want to keep her waiting."
Petros nodded, his eyes already drifting shut again and David stole out of the darkened hospital room, feeling lightheaded. Somehow, that had gone differently than he had imagined. Of course, Petros was hardly himself . . .
But then, neither was David. Perhaps that was indeed a good thing.
Petros woke to the sun streaming through the curtains of his room. He squinted and then realised someone had drawn them. That someone turned out to be Janine Fox Renard Xanatos, who was placidly arranging a bouquet of daisies and carnations in the cheap glass vase the hospital provided.
"David's parking the car," she said by way of a greeting. "Do you like these? I think they look a little wilted. But then, I've never been a cut flowers kind of gal, unless they're red roses. Can't go wrong with a classic, I suppose."
Petros stared dumbly at her for a moment, have an extraordinarily difficult time connecting the very pregnant woman in a simple flowered maternity dress, her long hair french braided and tied with—God in Heaven—a bow and the demon who had drop-kicked mercenaries on her honeymoon, in her wedding dress no less.
Actually, anything less than her wedding dress would have been lingerie, but kids today, what can you say?
"They're fine," he said finally, realising that she was expecting an answer.
"That's good." She wandered over to the window, unsurprised that it looked out onto the sea. She was getting tired of the sea.
"David loves you," Fox said, not looking at Petros, but at the flowers. "You know, my father hates David. He wanted so much more for his little girl. Never mind his little girl hired herself out as a mercenary to whomever could pay the bill and went to prison for it. My father has a bit of a blind spot. I imagine most fathers do, when it comes to their children. He talks a good game though, always going on about responsibility and conscience and how disappointed he is with the choices I've made. That's how I know he loves me. He cares enough to disapprove. I guess it must be different for boys. I was never really hurt by my father's disapproval. Like I said, it's how I knew he cared.
"David, on the other hand, well . . . . I know you two will never see eye to eye on a great many things. I'm not asking for that, because I know enough not to ask for the impossible. But David is hurt by your disapproval and I just wanted you to know that, in case you couldn't tell. I suppose we've gotten so good at hiding our true feelings, for fear of being seen as weak and vulnerable . . . But there shouldn't be any reason to protect ourselves from our families. It took me a long time to realise that. And it may be too late for me and my father, but it isn't for you and your son." She finally looked him in the eye and he almost flinched away from the light in her green eyes.
Petros started to get annoyed. Who was this woman, to interfere? And then he realised the answer and all the anger drained away before it could get any kind of hold on him.
Someone who loved David.
His mouth twitched, as if he wasn't sure whether to smile or not. "I don't believe I ever said this, but better late than never. Welcome to the family," he said sardonically and she laughed. It was then David chose to make an appearance and he started to see his father and his wife smiling so easily. It brought a smile of his own to the fore.
"I just spoke with Dr. Wiess. He says you're expected to make a full recovery."
"We Xanatoses are hard to kill," Petros grumbled, sending Fox into a coughing fit as a laugh tried to cut off her air supply.
"Don't I know it," she finally managed, sipping stale water from the plastic pitcher next to the bed. She frowned and went off to the bathroom to refill it, effectively leaving father and son alone for a moment. Petros watched her go with a smile.
"I like your wife, David."
"I'm glad. I wasn't so sure, after the wedding . . ."
"I like your wife and I want to know all about my grandchild."
David blinked and then settled down in the chair Fox had vacated. "If I told you I had wallet size photos of the sonagram, would it scare you?"
"Yes. But I expect it of you by now. She must be near her due date."
"Next month. I'd like—" he stumbled, tugging his wallet out of the back pocket of his jeans. "We'd like you to come, actually. I already asked Dr. Wiess and if you're up to it—"
"Of course I'll come. This is my grandson, my family."
"Good." David smiled, handing his father the tattered screen captures. "Good," he repeated, half to himself.