Violet saw the maid, Moira, out of the corner of her eye and gave her a small smile before climbing up on one of the stools by the island in the middle of the kitchen.
"What's your name?" she asked the man kindly.

She saw her mother, Vivien, join Moira in the hallway and pull her friend out of sight.

Maria-Elena's father cleared his throat, "Ambrosio Ramos ... you may call me Mr. Ramos."

"Rah-mows, got it. Sorry, can't roll an 'r' to save my life," Violet chuckled wryly and nodded. "I like the accent. The American one is so ugly-sounding."

Mr. Ramos glanced over his shoulder again and saw that Maria-Elena was now standing beneath the gazebo with the boy that had hair like a plate of spaghetti, "Do you live in the neighborhood?"

Violet rolled her eyes, "No time for that shit, Mr. Ramos. They'll come in any second and I'll have to be gone. Tate Langdon is not someone you want your daughter's first friend here to be. He was mine ... it didn't end well."

Mr. Ramos scowled at the tall, skinny, spaghetti-haired boy with black eyes, "What has the boy done?"

Violet looked at Tate then closed her eyes sadly, "Let's just say that his past is even more checkered than yours, Mr. Ramos."

Mr. Ramos furrowed his brows and turned to confront Violet but found that the girl had vanished into thin air. At that moment, Maria-Elena pushed open the door and strutted into the kitchen with Tate at her heels. Mr. Ramos and Tate's eyes met. The father did not give any indication of pleasantries.

Maria-Elena did not shrink away from her father which Tate had not been expecting. He was so sure that, after what he had overheard in the basement during the Christmas Eve party, she and her father's relationship was anything but platonic. Tate struggled to keep his contempt simmering below the surface.

He let out a low whistle and extended his hand for Mr. Ramos to shake, "Feliz Navidad, sir."

Maria-Elena giggled, "Very good, Tate."

Mr. Ramos took Tate's hand after a moment's hesitation, "Usted, tambien."

"That's as far as my Spanish goes," Tate showed Mr. Ramos his teeth in a forced smile. "Nice to meet you. I've heard so much."

Mr. Ramos sneered, "Is that so?"

"Maybe more than I should've," Tate teased threateningly, hidden with a broadening of his grin.

Maria-Elena tugged on the belt loop on Tate's pants, "Com'on, Tate. Let's go watch TV."

Tate felt Mr. Ramos constrict his boney knuckles painfully before letting him go. Tate followed Maria-Elena to the living room where the fireplace was ... but, she tugged him by his wrist towards the staircase instead.

"Where are we going?" Tate asked her with a nervous chuckle.

He hoped she had not yet noticed that he could hardly resist glancing at her ass. He had always found Violet to be too thin.

Maria-Elena whispered over her shoulder, "Shh, you'll see."


"This is certainly different," Tate scoffed playfully when he crossed the threshold into the bedroom that was now occupied by Maria-Elena.

She stood at the foot of her dark wood canopy bed and shook off her hooded jacket. Maria-Elena grinned to herself when Tate glanced away after seeing her breasts bounce and shake beneath her sweater.

"Do you not like it?" she asked him as she draped the jacket on the back of her swivel chair by her computer desk.

Tate's smile broadened, "It's a bit girly."

"It's a girl's room now," she giggled up at him.

Tate scanned the rest of the room. The canopy bed was right where his had been over a decade ago. He remembered the rain of bullets pelting his chest, falling backwards onto the blankets, and sliding off onto the floor. That spot where he had died was now hidden beneath a maroon rug that matched the bedclothes.

"You like red," Tate remarked as he wandered around the room with Maria-Elena's eyes on him.

Maria-Elena combed her fingers through her wild curls, "It's like blood, I know. But, I find it beautiful."

"Me, too." Tate mused as he ran his fingers along the white nightstand beside her bed.

The two smiled and giggled nervously for a moment. Tate watched her cross the room to her computer. He stared at her ass while she bent over to access her computer. He recognized the music provider 'iTunes' from using Violet's laptop.

"Got any Kurt Cobain?" Tate asked hopefully.

Maria-Elena scoffed, "No. Remember what I said to you? It was last night, Tate. I don't like things that are sad." She picked a song and straightened up, while Tate composed himself before she'd turn to face him, as it started to play, "This is David Banner. I saw 'Footloose' and this song was stuck in my head forever." Tate cringed inwardly at the hip-hop song blasting from her speakers. Maria-Elena laughed openly at the fleeting doer expression on his face, "It's good to meet new people, Tate Langdon. They expose you to new things in return."

Maria-Elena suddenly leapt onto her bed and grinded against one of the wooden beams. Tate's jaw gaped open. She had such rhythm while she swayed her hips, her tawny skin flushed with color and life again, and that fire returned to her dark doe-like eyes. Maria-Elena undulated her stomach and played with her long hair while Tate watched.

In the living room below, Mr. Ramos scowled up at the ceiling, unable to block out the sound of his daughter slutting-it-up with the neighborhood boy. He hesitated and paced at the foot of the staircase, debating whether or not he should interrupt them.

Maria-Elena hoped down and skipped over to Tate, who was too stunned by her liveliness, "I'll free you."

It was ironic to Tate that, if what he suspected was true about Maria-Elena and Mr. Ramos, she pitied Tate. She promptly turned and pressed her back against Tate's broad chest. He gulped as she writhed her ass against his cock. Dr. Arden's medicine would come in handy at this moment. Tate struggled to control his impulse to throw the beauty onto her bed and ravage her. Instinctively, he placed his large, pale, and boney hands on her wide hips.

"You learn fast," Maria-Elena panted.

Tate hunched down and tried to keep up with her rhythm, "I've never done this before."

Maria-Elena suddenly got nervous when she felt his fingers getting closer and closer to digging beneath her sweater. She tried to calm herself down with a smile and reached up to stroke his jawline, "You've never been to a dance?"

Tate grinned as his fingers made contact with her warm skin, "It wasn't exactly my favorite ... haunt."

He then felt something strange ... a scar on her belly. Maria-Elena squirmed away right when the song ended. The silence in the room was so loud, Tate wondered if that would draw Mr. Ramos up here rather than the blasting stereo. She pulled her sweater down over her hips and crossed her arms.

Tate pursed his lips, dreading how she would react to what he was about to say, "Juan ... he's not your ... brother ... he's not, is he?"

Maria-Elena breathed deeply before looking up at him, "No, he's not."

Tate clenched his jaw, wanting to sever Mr. Ramos's cock now more than when he had overheard them in the basement, "I'm so sorry."

There it was. The truth. That had to be a scar from a C-Section ... and Juan was her son. Though she had not divulged the name of the father, Tate was willing to bet anything that it was Mr. Ramos. Maria-Elena backed away from him to sit at the foot of her bed.

Tate stuffed his hands into his pockets and only joined her when she patted a spot beside her for him to take a seat.

"Whatever you think you know, don't share it with anyone ... please." She implored of him.

"You can trust me, Maria-Elena." Tate took a chance and slipped a hand out of his pocket to hold her hand, remarking then at the stark difference in size and color, "Sorry for ruining your Christmas."

Maria-Elena glanced up and saw that he was not looking at her. She rested her head against his bicep, "You didn't."