Chapter 2: The Meeting

"Hey, sport, how's it going?" Louis tousled his son's brown hair and grinned. How he loved the mere thought of that. His son. Marshall and the other guys in the band hadn't been too keen on Louis' idea of actually getting married and settling down, but he figured they could get over it. After all, it was his life, and Lyla was the only one he'd ever loved anyway.

Ah, Lyla. Just thinking about her made his heart skip into double time and his face twist into a silly grin.

"Doing good, Dad. Are you thinking about Mom again?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah. Yeah, I am." Our son is so perceptive,Louis mused. He was constantly amazed by how the boy was mature for his age and incredible at reading people. Forcing his mind back on the conversation at hand, he grinned down at Evan again. "What do you say we go out to get some ice cream, huh? While we wait for Mom to show up?"

"Yeah!" Evan cheered.

After calling Lyla to let her know where they would be, and while waiting in line for their cone, Louis let his mind wander to the beautiful engagement ring he was going to buy for Lyla. Today she and Evan were going to go meet Marshall and the rest of the guys, and, to be quite honest, Louis was nervous about how they'd react. It had only been a week and a half since the concert in Central Park and reuniting with Lyla, and the guys were anxious to meet "this amazing woman of whom he spoke so highly," as Nick had put it yesterday. The question was: was he ready?

His train of thought was broken into by noticing a black Mercedes ease into the parking lot. Lyla was here. His heart thudded into an irregular beat and he couldn't hold back the smile as she walked into the little shop with her usual grace. Man, she was beautiful.

Crossing the shop, he took her into his arms and gave her a light kiss on the cheek. They were in public, after all.

"Mom!" Evan exclaimed, his face breaking into a large grin as he ran to give her a hug.

Lyla laughed. "You act like you haven't seen me for days! You just saw me yesterday!"

The boy laughed back. "Yeah, but that was yesterday!"

It feels good to laugh, Lyla thought. It's been such a long time since I was truly happy. Now I get to be happy every day as I spend the rest of my life with the man and child I love. In following this, she sent a broad grin in Louis' direction. He had been watching her during the entire exchange with Evan, and promptly grinned back.

"What do you say we head out to the hotel to meet the guys?" he asked, his eyes still glued on Lyla. A brief emotion flickered across her face, but he didn't have time enough to read it. Shoving doubts aside, he gave each of his small family a silly face. "Well?"

"I'm ready," Evan smiled, slipping his hand in his father's.

"Let's do it," Lyla replied, following Evan's move and slipping her hand into Louis' free one.

Once they were in the car, Louis turned to his love with a questioning look. "Are you sure you want to meet them? They're crazy, I tell ya. I—"

Lyla stopped him with a touch and a smile. "Yes, I'm sure. They are your family, after all. And your family is my family. One of these days you and Evan will have to meet my father, and that will be an experience all in itself." She grimaced, but it was again so brief that Louis almost thought that he had imagined it. Turning back to face him with a smile, she cleared her throat. "Well? Shall we? You're behind the wheel, hon."

Louis gave a short breathy laugh. "Yeah, I suppose I am. I guess I should get this baby going and get to the hotel before we die of old age, huh?"

"That would be nice, yes," Lyla chuckled.

And with that, he whirled out into early afternoon New York city traffic.

After parking in front of the Holiday Inn the other band members were staying at, the trio headed inside, where the rest of the band was milling about in the lobby. Marshall was the first to notice them. "Hey, Louis! Good to see ya! How ya doing, baby bro?" Louis smiled in return, but Lyla could tell that he was as nervous about this rendezvous as she was.

"Pretty good, bro. Gather in the guys and you can meet my princess." He flashed a grin at Lyla.

"Hey, guys, Louis here's got his girl!" Marshall called, and immediately all attention was on the two of them and Evan a little bit behind.

Louis gave a short wave, then took Lyla by the arm. "Well, guys, this is Lyla." He gave her a silly grin, and she returned with a beautiful smile. All of a sudden he remembered that he had someone else to introduce, and was glad that he had remembered sooner than later. "Oh, and this is me boy, Evan," he said as he gently pulled the boy to the front.

"Hey, Lyla!" "Hey, Evan!" A chorus of voices sounded, then started chiming in with their own names, each one raising his hand or coming up to shake Lyla's when he introduced himself. "I'm Nick." "Steve. Good to meet ya both." "You know me, I'm Marshall." "Yeah, I'm Alex." The names came in a blur, and Lyla could only barely remember which name went with which man. But they were all smiling and congratulating Louis, and she vaguely remembered nodding and shaking hands as necessary.

They all sat down, talking at once. Louis was easily pulled into their conversation, but Lyla felt a little out of place and unsure of what to do or say. All of a sudden, Louis noticed her discomfort.

"This is a bit overwhelming for ya, huh?"

Lyla smiled shyly. "Yeah, a little bit. Although I can see how you're right at home here."

He gave her a sidewise grin. "What all is that supposed to mean?"

She laughed. "You know. It's not an insult."

"I should hope not."

Then he turned to the guys, who had continued whatever conversation they were having without him. "Hey, how 'bout we consider our company and talk about something a little more civil?"

A few of the men laughed, while one or two of them glanced at Lyla and looked sheepish. "Yeah, of course. Sorry 'bout that."

She was then forcibly drawn into the conversation as the men plied her with questions about her version of how she and Louis met and were reunited, what she had been doing in the meantime, and a dozen other questions.

It didn't take long for the group to become fast friends, and Lyla was reminded of Louis constantly in the mannerisms and phrases of the others, especially those of Marshall. She laughed to herself. Yes, Louis and his brother were probably more alike than they'd want to admit.

By the end of the night, Lyla felt like she had been among family, long lost family that were related in some way but no one was quite sure how. As she and Louis drove back to her apartment to drop her and Evan off, she couldn't help but smile and reflect back on the night; however, her reflections were filled with some foreboding because she knew that now that she had met Louis' "family," now he and Evan would need to meet her father, the man who had torn them apart. As she had mentioned earlier, that would be an experience all of itself.

One week later, the time finally came for that meeting to take place. Thomas Novacek had been in the hospital recovering from a heart attack, and, fearing that he would die before he told Lyla that her son had actually survived the birth and been adopted without her consent, called her quickly to the hospital and broke the news. Since that time, of course, Lyla had managed to find Evan and be reunited with Louis, and Mr. Novacek had pulled out of his near-death scare and was going through therapy as an outpatient at the nearby hospital.

As they drove over to the opulent home in the wealthier part of New York, the car was unnaturally quiet as each person was lost in his or her own thoughts. Lyla frequently wiped her sweating palms on her dress pants; her more formal attire was a far cry from the jeans and t-shirt that Louis had insisted she wear when she met his "family" and fellow band members.

Louis, who was driving as Lyla directed him, glanced over at her drawn face. "You gonna be alright?"

She sucked in a quick breath. "Sorry?"

The young man chuckled. "I asked if you were gonna make it. We can still turn around if you'd like."

Lyla shook her head decisively. "No. No, I can do this. We can do this." She flashed a wan smile his direction, and he grinned again.

"Your confidence isn't exactly catchy, lady."

This time Lyla laughed outright, although it was still more of nervous laughter than anything. "I'm sorry. I don't mean to be so nervous. I wasn't this nervous meeting the guys; I don't know why I'm so nervous now."

"Because it's your father we're meeting," Louis broke in quietly, and in that one phrase spoke the apprehension both were feeling, and they gave each other a quiet nod.

After what seemed like an eternity, he finally pulled up in front of the large, fancy house that Lyla had once called home. The young woman wiped her palms once more in the car, then stepped out cautiously, straightening her clothes to make sure that everything was perfect. She needed to make a good impression. Taking a quick glance of her surroundings, she noted that Louis and Evan were right behind her, and together they walked up to the entryway.

"Dad? Are you here?" Lyla creaked the door open and called inside.

"I'm over here, honey. In the living room," came a voice from that direction.

Lyla took a deep breath and refused the temptation to run.

"I, uh, well—Louis, Evan, and I are here. I wanted you to meet them."

"Of course. Come on in."

I would have anyway, Lyla thought with a grimace. Sometimes she thought she would never understand her father. But he was still her dad, and Louis needed to meet her family and Evan needed to meet his grandfather. Well, not necessarily needed, but it would probably be best in the situation. She stole a glance at her son and immediately her heart filled with pride. Evan knew all about what had happened when he was born, yet he forgave his grandfather and still was eager to meet him. You only find people like that few and far between, Lyla mused.

Taking one last deep breath, she led her little family into the living room.

Two hours later, Lyla sat perched on the end of the sofa, while Louis and her father carryed on a lively conversation about what each thought on the New York Stock Exchange and the new mayor that had been elected, whether or not he would be better than the last one. She stifled a giggle. Who knew Louis, that tough rock star, was so interested in politics and the stock exchange? Just as quickly, though, she remembered his stint in accounting, and mused whether or not that had been a blessing after all. At the very least it had given him and her father some desperately needed common ground.

A quick glance at Evan told her that he was bored out of his gourd but too polite to say so. Lyla suppressed another giggle. Hopefully it wouldn't be this way every time they visited. She snuck a look at her watch, surprised to see that it was barely lunch time. There had to be a way to get out of here, and she decided to latch onto the easiest and most logical route.

Clearing her throat, she flashed a grin in the direction of the conversation her men were having. "Anyone else hungry?" she asked as cheerfully as she possibly could.

The very mention of food brought their discussion to a rapid halt. Everything about Louis' face said that he was hungry and the remembrance made the feeling worse. Lyla's father looked like he wasn't too hungry, but would eat because everyone else was. And of course Evan brightened up at the first mention of food. I tell ya, Lyla mused. That boy is always hungry. How she loved her little family.

"Why don't we go out to eat together?" Thomas Novacek spoke up. "I know a great place just down the street."

Louis shrugged and glanced at Lyla. "Sounds good to me."

Lyla laid a hand on her father's arm. "I love that idea. Let's go!"

As they drove toward their destination, the young woman reflected back on the past couple of hours. She was infinitely thankful that Louis and her father had gotten on well. That was the main thing she was worried about. And Evan, well, he could get along with just about anyone he chose to. They probably would go home shortly after lunch, because spending the afternoon with her father in the living room didn't sound half as exciting as spending the evening with Louis' band buddies in a hotel lobby. But that was the main difference between her family and his. Hers was formal, reserved, and while rather well off, never seemed to know the true meaning of riches. Louis' "family," on the other hand, through all their casualness and joking, had a laidback sort of bond that one could never put into words. She liked that. It never felt as stiff and formal as spending time with her father did.

But she was still glad that he had been able to meet her love and precious son. After all, he would be seeing a lot of them in the future.

Ah, the future. She stole a glance at Louis, who was also sitting in the backseat along with her and Evan, and she found that he was watching her with that look of his, so full of love and promise. Flashing him a grin, she watched with pleasure as a half smile spread over his face. "I love you," she mouthed, not wanting to interrupt her father's monologue about the scenery.

"I love you, too," he mouthed back.

She reached a hand out to grasp his, and they stayed like that all the way to the restaurant. The way they would stay for the rest of their lives.

So...I hope you enjoyed this! I would love to hear what you think about it! Reviews make me very happy!