Full Circle Ch. 04bytens©
Vanya woke before dawn the next morning. He knew the sun wasn't out yet; the moon must have been shining bright because the light from the window hit Persephone's face in the most beatific way. After he'd woken her to receive a slow fuck on her side, she'd finally settled into a deeper sleep around one o'clock, ceasing her incessant tossing and turning. She lie with her back against his chest, curled up and cuddling a pillow. Luckily, she didn't seem to mind him draping his arms over her and drawing her body closer to his. It had been necessary to keep them both from falling off the small bed -- or so he told himself.
Persephone was warm and soft, and though she was not the first woman he had spent the night with, she was the first woman he was perfectly happy just lying with. He had no desire to leave her bed -- hell, he wanted to wake her up again for round three -- but if he wanted to get dressed and be on time to meet his father in the city he would have to leave in the next few minutes.
Vanya began placing soft kisses up her arm. When he settled at her neck to nibble and lick her to wakefulness, Persephone suddenly gasped and attempted to vault from her little bed. She would have succeeded had Vanya not clutched her to him. He could feel her heartbeat against his lips. It raced at an insanely fast pace and her breaths puffed out rapidly.
"Whoa, whoa, you alright? Bad dream?"
"Umm, no, I just wake up like that sometimes," she whispered, untangling herself from his arms, "I'm gonna go to the bathroom real quick." She rose from the bed somewhat awkwardly, wrapped her arms around her frame and waddled out the door to her restroom. Vanya sat up against the headboard, somewhat disappointed his kisses had stirred her to a scare rather than a make out session. He decided to put on his boxers when he heard her brushing her teeth. Persephone returned to the bedroom holding a short, bright red terry cloth robe tightly to her body. Her eyes were squinty, struggling to stay open.
"Gamornin'," she quietly rasped, "It's super early, I'm sorry I woke you up."
"Oh, umm...yeah, it's no problem," he smiled, "I actually have to go soon to make it to the city on time." It was clear to him at this point that Persephone was not a happy early bird. He'd be damned if he risked her ire unnecessarily.
"Oh, yeah, I forgot. Good thing I spazzed out then."
"Do you want some food or something before you head out? I don't have cereal; I only like protein in the morning. There's, like, bacon and eggs and all kinds of berries and nuts. Yeah, I guess berries and nuts and granola 'cause I really don't want to make anything right now," she continued to rasp, smiling woefully.
"No, of course not. I'm gonna go, you go back to sleep," Vanya rose from the bed and pulled back the covers. Not needing another invitation, Persephone jumped in, fully robed, and curled up into her fetal position.
"You don' havta lock the door. It locks automatically, so you can just close it, Vanya," she muttered from under the comforter, "hmm, gunnight."
"Goodnight, Percy," he replied quietly. He retrieved all his clothing from the bedroom and living room floors, dressed, and placed a kiss on her head before slipping out silently.
Kirill prepared a quaint brunch of eggs and kasha with ham for Vanya and himself before they headed out to the city. As always, Vanya took his seat adjacent to his father, who sat at the head of the table.
"Thank you, Papa. This is fantastic," Vanya said after scarfing down the last of his eggs.
"My pleasure, Vanya; now I know why you were in such a hurry to get back to school," Kirill grinned as he looked over his newspaper.
"Hmm?" Vanya's eyes widened over his cup of tea. Did his father know about Percy? Surely not. Would he have to lie about his involvement with her? Even worse, would he be forced to stop seeing her? He wasn't too keen on that second option. He tried to cover his surprise with an expression of slight ignorance.
"What do you mean?"
Kirill set his paper down to look at Vanya, still grinning. He eyed his son over his reading glasses, as if he was waiting for an explanation. When Vanya gave none, Kirill released a grandiose sigh. "You're a man, son, Jesus, I understand you have needs. If you're going back to be with a woman you don't have to use your schooling as an excuse. I don't care; just don't let pussy get in the way of work."
Vanya just smiled sheepishly and ceded to his father's point. Perhaps it was for the best if Persephone would be perceived by his family as an aberration or notch on his belt. As long as she was nothing in their eyes it would be less likely for her to come into harm's way. Either way, he wouldn't reveal her to his father if it could be helped. Last night had confirmed that Persephone was more than a passing interest. Vanya had every intention of being intimate with her again and would shield her from any danger his work might put her in. Kirill had returned to his paper but continued speaking.
"I certainly hope she was worth it."
Max drove Kirill and Vanya to the garage of the twenty-five unit condo building Lina had specked out. So far, it was very impressive. Its downtown location was amazing, as was the security and access to the garage. They had not been greeted warmly by the security guards until it was verified they were indeed there to meet with the building's realtor.
"Daniels will be down to visit with the gentlemen in a moment. Please park wherever you like and tell them to take a seat in the elevator foyer," one of the hulky men leaned out of the booth's window to hand Max two visitor's passes.
They parked the car and noticed two figures already standing in the foyer. Vanya was taken by surprise for two reasons. He had no idea that Alex Daniels was a middle aged woman. He also had no idea why she was standing next to Austin Kittredge.
Noticing the cold glare Kirill was throwing his future son-in-law's way, Alex took it upon herself to extend her bejeweled hand to him, "Welcome, welcome, you must be Kirill, I'm Alex Daniels. Lina has told me good things about you."
Her heavy accent rang through every word. Vanya couldn't quite pin it, but it was seductive; Italian perhaps. He was sure Alex was some form of Alexandra and Daniels must have been a name she acquired from a second or third husband. Showered in gold, perfume, and makeup that blended well with her olive skin, it was clear Ms. Daniels appreciated glamour. Her leopard print wrap dress was not vulgar, but it was certainly an edgy choice for a woman in her late fifties.
"Like what?" Kirill asked directly, taking her hand and quickly releasing it.
"That you're a wise businessman," Alex replied, not missing a beat, "and that you won't let anything get in the way of a good real estate deal. There are already people begging to get into the units. This place will practically sell itself.
"Now it's clear the two of you are wondering why Austin is here. I'll let him explain while we have some refreshments in our first unit." Without a glance backward, she called one of the elevators. She continued to stare at the floor numbers until the bell chimed.
Kirill stepped forward to keep the doors from closing, "Please, Ms. Daniels."
Alex sauntered into the sleek elevator and the men filed in behind her. Vanya was astonished by this turn of events. His father could hardly acknowledge Austin's existence without cursing. Now, he was quietly sharing an elevator with the man with the intention of touring apartments with him.
The unit was gorgeous to say the least. The dark finish of the floors and high white walls set a good tone for the house. All of the amenities managed to look modern and traditional at the same time. Even considering the state of the market, Alex hadn't been lying when she said the units would sell themselves.
"Austin, show them to the sun room, I'll bring out something to drink," Alex left them as Austin smiled brightly and led them to the plush reclining space. Vanya almost felt sorry for him. The poor fool had no idea how upset his father would be about this. Kirill wasted no time when he was seated.
"What is the meaning of this? Lina --"
"I assure you, Lina has no idea I'm here. This was all my idea."
"And what exactly do you mean by 'this?'" Vanya inquired before Kirill could dress Austin down.
"I was catching up with Alex last week; I used to work with her when I was just starting out and she's acquainted with my mother. She mentioned Lina in passing and I put two and two together. I convinced Alex to let me help out with this unit."
"To what end?" Kirill interrupted.
Vanya had to give Austin some credit. He didn't flinch under his father's hard gaze. Though he seemed like a soft prep, Austin must have gone through something to display the mettle he was current showing. Vanya had always thought of Austin as a socialite; tall, good looking, always moving in the right social circles. Those things along with his dapper dressing and close cropped, curly brown hair made Austin seem like the typical rich playboy. However, now, as he stared down Kirill Dmitrievich, there was no mistaking the determination in his visage.
"To the end that I'm marrying your daughter in four months and I'd like to speak with you before that. I know she's not really showing it but your attitude is tearing Lina apart. Like it or not, Mr. Pravdin, I am going to be a part of this family. We could at least try to be civil for her sake."
Kirill rose briskly and turned on Austin. "Never presume to tell me anything about her. You can marry Akilina, but you will never be a part of this family." He turned again to leave the room, only to dodge a collision with Alex and her drink tray.
"Whoa," she breathed after gracefully finding her balance, "I still manage to amaze myself in these heels! You may change your tune when he gives you a couple of grandchildren. That's how you'll win his heart, Austin, it's all people our age really care about.
"Sit down and drink some wine from my friend's vineyard, Mr. Pravdin. We will let Austin lead us through the property, and I can explain any questions you have afterward. Then we'll be done."
Kirill remained rooted where he stood, staring at Alex as she arranged glasses at the table. Vanya wondered what he would do; he knew his father had no tolerance for manipulation. He let go of the breath he didn't realize he was holding when Kirill sat down next to him. Vanya could hardly believe it, but he was glad it was happening.
Alex extolled the virtues of Spanish wine as they sipped. Austin led them through the entire unit. It was beyond nice. It seemed Austin had done his homework. Vanya had to admit his father would be a fool not to take the place. What Austin was offering was clearly a gift; Kirill's refusal to work with him would be an absurd act of pride.
Looking at his father, Vanya thought he was going to get a show of absurdity. Kirill was struggling to look unimpressed. His arms folded tightly around his chest as he eyed the modern kitchen, no doubt looking for fault where there was almost none.
"This is a great property, Austin," Vanya spoke when his father would not, "you must have really made some sacrifices to get it for this price."
"Once I see something I want I'll do whatever it takes to get it, Ivan," Austin stated frankly and unapologetically. Vanya thought his comment was a little on-the-nose but necessary nonetheless. It was a statement his father wouldn't be able to ignore. Sure enough, Kirill finally gave his assessment of the apartment.
"Well, it seems almost too good to be true."
"I assure you, I take all my business dealings very seriously," Alex cut in, "this no joke, Mr. Pravdin. Why don't we have a word out on the terrace, hmm?"
Kirill nodded in agreement and followed her outside. As soon as the door clicked closed, Vanya whirled on Austin. "You've got some balls. You mind telling me why the hell you're starting trouble?"
"Look you can kowtow to your dad all you want but I'm thinking about what's best for my wife."
"She isn't your wife yet, Kittredge; and trust me, starting shit with my father is not going to help Lina. It's going to stress her out and make my father hate you even more."
Austin ran his fingers through his hair and huffed impatiently. Vanya was afraid he would tear out some of the dark brown locks. "Lina shouldn't have to pick between the life she leads and marrying the man she loves. I don't want anything from him. Jesus knows I have my own money. This building is a fucking peace offering. Whatever Kirill wants me to do I'll do it so long as I can be with Lina."
"Well, I can't help you. Only he can decide how this is going to play out." As soon as Vanya said the words he felt defeated, the same way he felt defeated when he drove back to the city from campus.
"So, what? Your father just gets to decide who you two can be with, too? That's some fucking life."
"Whatever, you're the one that needs to get on his good side," Vanya sank into a plush sofa, refusing to be baited, "just give it some more time."
They sat in an awkward silence for a few minutes until Kirill and Alex returned. Vanya and Austin immediately rose.
"Austin, I'll be in contact with you about the purchase," Kirill said curtly. Turning to Alex, he nodded his head in a departing gesture and made his way out of the sitting room.
"Thank you, Ms. ...Alex. This is a great property," Vanya extended his hand in thanks. Alex clasped it in both hands and smiled up at him.
The ride back home was silent. Kirill seemed to be in deep thought and Vanya was loath to exasperate the already tense situation. His father headed straight upstairs when they arrived at the house. He began loosening his tie as he trudged up the stairs. Vanya thought to go after him for a brief moment before he heard Peng's keening laughter from the back of the house.
She sat with Viktorovich, Lina, and a young man he'd never seen before. An array of petits fours were set around the table. His stomach immediately growled at the sight of what he knew was a chocolate and raspberry petit four. Before he could grab the confection and place it in his mouth, Lina's hand whipped out to slap his.
"Hey, come on, can't I have some cake?"
"It's my wedding, that means I get to try everything first," Lina said with a sly grin.
"Vanya, darling, you're just in time! Richard here is has brought a bunch of bakery goodies to try for the cake," Peng managed to make out through a bite of white cake, "come look at this catalogue."
"Hmm, I think I'll be good just serving as a taste tester," Vanya declined, taking a seat beside Viktorovich, who was inspecting a piece of yellow cake he'd bitten from.
"They say this man knows what he is doing but who has ever heard of mango in a cake, hmm?" the old man murmured as he poked at the pastry with his dessert fork.
Peng shot him a chastising look, "Vasya, just because you are nearly deaf does not mean we are."
Richard the Baker chimed in to defend himself and his craft, "Mr. Lyadov, I assure you, even though some of Wagner Bakery's cake flavors are untraditional, each type is beyond delicious."
Victorovich went on to mumble to himself as he picked through the petit four somehow managing to set aside his dislike and eat the confection in its entirety. The five of them sat there all afternoon drinking tea and stuffing themselves with the little cakes. Around five o'clock they received a shock when Kirill stepped into the dining room and took his seat reserved at the head of the table. He had shed his jacket and his rolled, wrinkled shirt sleeves mimicked his tousled hair. For a moment, no one said anything.
"Would you like some cake, Papa? I think we're almost settled on my first choice," Lina was the first to speak.
For a moment it seemed like he wouldn't say anything. His hands were clasped on the table and his face was an unreadable mask -- one they'd all seen countless times. He grabbed a fork from his place setting and inspected the confection nearest to him dubiously. "What's in this one?" he asked no one in particular.
"Chocolate and raspberry with a ganache topping. It can work as a groom's cake or a rehearsal dinner dessert," Richard answered quickly and cheerily, not quite aware the moment was an ominous one.
"Hmm...fruity," Kirill commented after taking a bite, "I guess I'm paying for two cakes now, hmm?" He raised his eyebrows and proceeded to dig in.
The rest of the afternoon was pleasant and simple. No one acknowledged that Kirill had been upset with Lina for months. They just ate cake and related embarrassing stories about Lina's grade school fights to Richard. Eventually, he and the Lyadovs took their leave. Kirill made his way upstairs after seeing them out.
Vanya and Lina were left alone in the dining room. Vanya stood retrieving his chess set from bottom of the china cupboard. He set up the board while Lina gathered their tea cups.
"Leave it to you to pull out a game before you even put things away," Lina smiled while gathering the spoons.
"This is my job! I put out the pieces and you...you do the clean up."
"I don't even know if I'm in the mood to kick you ass tonight."
"Hey, we haven't played in what...like two years?"
"Alright," she said, taking her seat behind the white pieces, "let's make this quick."
"Psh, I've gained lots of skills since last time. I'll try not to go easy on you. I know how you hate that."
Lina simply harrumphed and proceeded to move a pawn. After they had progressed a bit, Vanya broke the concentrated silence. "That was a bit of a change today, wouldn't you say?"
Lina looked up at him briefly before moving her eyes back to the board. "What do you mean?"
Vanya fought the urge to roll his eyes. She knew perfectly well what the hell he meant. Why was she never straight with him anymore? "You know...Papa tonight, his attitude I mean."
"I don't know. He was pleasant but I'm not trying to get my hopes up. He really hates Austin."
"Well, that changed this afternoon."
"It was just some cakes. He loves desserts, Vanushka. That hardly adds up to embracing your son-in-law."
"No, I'm talking about the visit he had with Austin this afternoon."
The look on Lina's face was priceless. She carelessly set down her knight giving Vanya the opening he needed. He'd have paid a thousand dollars to see that look on her face again. It was doing wonders for his chess game. She quickly returned her gaze to the chess board feigning concentration.
"What are you talking about," she murmured, refusing to make eye contact.
"He surprised Papa and me this afternoon when we went to visit your friend Alex about that downtown property. Apparently, he bought it and is practically giving it to Papa."
"Funny, I thought dowries were supposed to work the other way around."
"Not with Kirill Dmitrievich, I suppose." Vanya looked for another reaction but saw that Lina had effectively wiped her face of all emotion. "This is a good thing, right?"
"I suppose. If it had just taken money to get Papa to warm up to Austin I would have had this taken care of months ago."
"I don't think it was just that. He had a long talk with your friend -- "
"...Your colleague, Alex. Talking about grandchildren or something I'm assuming. He was actually not sneering at Austin when he came back in."
"Came back in from where?"
"The terrace of the unit we previewed. Alex convinced him to cool off out there after Austin stood up for your relationship. I swear to god, that man must love you. I've never seen anyone talk like that to Papa other than Mama."
Lina sighed, perhaps in agreement. "He should have told me."
"I thought you were leaving your business lives separate."