tagRomanceKarma Ch. 01

Karma Ch. 01

byWine_Maker©

A story in Nick Scipio's Summer Camp Universe

(c) 2006 by Wine Maker

Summer Camp characters and universe (c) 2006 by Nick Scipio.

All Rights reserved.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination, are used fictitiously, or are used with the kind permission of Nick Scipio, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

This story is fan fiction. It's also a short story of only five chapters. I've tried to write it in enough detail to explain at least the minimum needed for the characters to make sense, but it is a story based on someone else's written work with a pre-established history that would take too long to cover in full detail. If you want more back story, I suggest you read Nick's excellent Summer Camp series. Even if you don't want more back story, I still suggest you read Summer Camp.

The main character in this story is Regan Thomas, a minor character in Nick's epic. She's rich, self-centered, and one of the major factors in a seriously bad time for Nick's protagonist, Paul. They were in college in the 80's when that happened and this story is set twenty years later.

My incredible editor, Jo Beller, saw something redeeming in Regan while many other readers condemned her as a bad seed. Jo finally convinced me that there was more depth to her that should be explored. I pondered Regan's Karma and this story is the result. I give credit to Nick for creating characters to fire our imaginations and Jo for believing in this story. And, of course, to my wife/editor, Mrs. Wine Maker, for all her support. My writing is a tribute to her.


Chapter One: Spiral descent

Killington, VT

November 12, 2000

My mother's hand was as cold as ice. She looked so pretty in her designer teal dress, salon-perfect hair, flawless makeup, and serene expression - one I had very rarely seen; she seemed so sublimely at peace.

She'd chosen an elegant ebony coffin with gleaming brass fittings. The soft rose pillows effortlessly set off her dress. Leave it to my mother to be perfect, even in death admonishing me for not being like her.

I swallowed painfully and blinked back a fresh stream of tears. I wanted to scream for her to get up and stop playing this cruel prank on me. Even seeing her like this, I couldn't accept that such a vibrant woman could have breast cancer. It boggled my mind that she hadn't checked herself regularly.

Setting her hand down gently, I stepped away from the casket to stand next to a large wreath of flowers done in a wrap of cardinal and straw. Those were the colors of Chi Omega. One of the few things we shared. Her sorority sisters would be out in force at her graveside service but had chosen to leave the funeral to the family.

I used my thoroughly soaked tissue to wipe my swollen eyes. I couldn't - wouldn't - start sniping at her again, even if she wasn't here to snipe back. I'd give anything to have one more chance to argue with her. Even if only to hear her express, politely and condescendingly, her profound disappointment that I couldn't be more like her.

God knows I'd had tried to be like her, to be that same vibrant, perfect woman. Even though she didn't think us anything alike, I knew we shared at least one trait: stubbornness. This is why we were here instead of Tennessee. Her family was from Tennessee, but she'd put her foot down in her will, and things were going to be done her way. The funeral would take place in town near her beloved Vermont chalet. At least I assumed it was because of her will, since I wasn't privy to its contents.

The rest of the family had raised hell, but nonetheless, here we were. They hadn't stayed for the whole first day, but they'd be back in force tomorrow for the second day of viewing. Then we'd have the funeral on day three, and she would fly back to Tennessee for burial. After that, I'd have to stay yet another day with Conrad since Mother named us both in her will. As her most recent husband, I expected he would walk away with everything she'd treasured and that pissed me off. I couldn't stand him.

The tears flowed again, refusing to obey me. Some part of me said it was okay to cry, but another part warred with that notion. With a sniff, I realized that was pride. It's another trait I shared with my mother, who'd taught me how to make it an art. Pride argued that I couldn't be seen losing control like this in public, even at my own mother's funeral viewing. I had to maintain appearances.

I laughed humorlessly through the tears. The all-important family pride. Doing what the family expected had certainly worked well for me so far, hadn't it? All that trying to live up to other's unrealistic expectations had gotten me was two divorces and a distant - and sometimes barely civil - relationship with my parents. Ever since I was a teenager, I'd tried to be just like my mother, and tried to be exactly what my father expected me to be. I'd succeeded far beyond my wildest dreams of success. What was that old saying? "Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it."

I'd called both of my closest friends as soon as I'd found out that my mother had died, but both Gina and Margot were out of the country with their families. I'd left frantic messages for them to no avail. I felt all alone and badly needed to talk to someone I trusted.

I almost swore at Conrad again. He'd called my assistant yesterday to pass on the news about the funeral. No one had even told me she was ill, much less dead. If Daddy hadn't called to coordinate our schedules I probably would've missed the first viewing. Conrad hadn't mentioned the viewing at all, damn him. When I'd called him back, he'd blandly insisted that my assistant must've misunderstood. The lying bastard.

Through the haze of my grief, a cold, arrogant voice said, "If you're going to carry on like this, please take it to the ladies' room." Conrad was back for another go at me. He seemed to go out of his way to screw with me these days. Fine. At least the fury inside me pushed away the pain for a little while.

The tears dried up as if by magic and I was clearly able to see the bastard standing in front of me. I could see what attracted my mother to him; he was tall and handsome - the perfect piece of arm candy. Knowing my mother, he was probably good in bed, too. The thought of them together sent a wave of revulsion through me.

"Tell me, Conrad, do you even know why people have viewings for the dead?" I asked acerbically.

"Certainly not to carry on like some common piece of trash," he sniffed, "caterwauling on and on. She was my wife and I won't have you disrupting the solemn decorum that she wanted."

I considered taking the massive wreath that Hans and Kat Werner had sent and bashing him with it. Actually, I was reaching for it when I yanked myself up short. It'd taken a lot of years and experience for me to think about the consequences before I acted. It still didn't come naturally to me.

I frowned at Conrad's smarmy smile. He and I had cordially loathed one another since my mother married him four years ago. Well, that was partly a lie; we'd never been cordial, but this was out there even for him. Why attack me like this here, of all places?

Movement at the doorway gave me my answer. He wanted to embarrass me in front of someone that mattered. Daddy walked in with his wife, Melissa. I spared Conrad a glare of pure hatred and schooled my features. I wasn't going to disappoint Daddy.

"I'll grieve as I see fit. This isn't over, asshole," I snarled in a low voice.

Sweeping past Conrad as though he weren't there, I went directly to my father and let him take me into his arms.

His awkward embrace was both comforting in its familiarity and saddening in its brevity. We'd never been more than strangers who just happened to occupy the same house and gene pool. From the earliest moment I could remember, I knew that he was uncomfortable with children, even his own. My father's shows of affection had always been brief and awkward and that never changed in all these years.

I received a perfunctory hug and kiss from Melissa, but her eyes didn't reflect the sorrow on her face. I sometimes wondered how a woman like her had taken Daddy in. She was only ten years my senior and something of a cosmetically enhanced Barbie doll.

On the other hand, we were enough alike to disturb me. After marrying two men for their wealth and power, I couldn't very well deride her for doing the same, now could I. The fact that they were still married after almost eight years told me that at the very least she was better at handling a philandering husband than I was. Even with her good looks, I knew Daddy too well to expect he'd stopped playing the field. I wondered if I would be her in ten years. If I were, would it finally make him happy?

"I'm so glad to see you both," I said, my voice astonishingly steady. "Thank you for coming."

"Where else would we be, darling?" Daddy said in a gruff voice. "You need your family around you at a time like this." His glance at his Rolex ruined the effect of those wonderful sentiments.

I almost laughed aloud at such an honest gesture from the man that sired me, the man whose love I'd worked so hard to get as a teen. He was also amazingly like both my ex-husbands. One would think I'd have learned something by watching my mother deal with him, but in the end, I'd ended up marrying men just like him.

Mentally, I shrugged. Why complain about it? What else was there? All men were alike, weren't they? Certainly, I had never met or been with anyone who'd make me believe otherwise, though some of my friends seemed genuinely happy in their marriages. Gina came to mind. She was genuinely in love with her husband. I didn't like him at first, but he made her happy, so I'd grown to like him over the years.

"Why don't you and Melissa go say your good-byes?" I said with my best hostess face on. "I'm sure you're exhausted from your flight and want to get out to the chalet to rest."

"We should speak to a few people first." With a smile, Daddy led Melissa to speak with the now solemn and visibly grief-stricken Conrad. It would be awkward for both men, I hoped.

Immediately, I felt guilty for being such a bitch. I always managed to be a bitch about something and then feel badly about it later, though thankfully I managed to keep my mouth shut more often than not these days. It was my worst flaw; I'm certain both of my ex-husbands would agree.

With a sigh, I grabbed my coat, walked out the front door of the funeral home, and looked at the sky. Lead gray clouds hung low above me, promising a good storm tonight. I felt some satisfaction that the weather matched my mood so well.

I shook myself. I'd had enough of this wallowing in self-pity. There'd be time for that once I was away from this place and away from Conrad. Part of me longed to go back to the chalet; I wanted to reacquaint myself with the bar. Another part of me wanted to go back inside and be with my mother. I knew that part of my dark mood was simply a result of being tired.

After standing there for a little while, I thought I could be in the same room with the rest of them again. The viewing ended in half an hour. The relative lack of viewers told me that I hadn't been the only person that the self-centered asshole had failed to inform in a timely fashion.

Just before I turned to go back inside, a taxi pulled up and a ghost from my past - one I'd hoped never to see again - climbed out and paid the cabbie. I wanted to run back inside. Hell, I wanted to grab the taxi and tell him to head for LA, but I was rooted to the spot. Like a rabbit frozen in fear and unable to run from an advancing snake, I watched him approach with his bag over his shoulder.

"Hey, babe," Rod said with a grin. "Did you miss me?"

I stood in shock for a moment and then I ran back into the funeral home. I slammed the door in his face, holding it closed with my back, trembling. He'd been my boyfriend in high school and college; we'd broken up and gotten back together countless times over those years. I'd finally dumped him for good when I realized that if he were what a boyfriend was "supposed" to be, then it wasn't enough for me. Rod was a total asshole and serially unfaithful, screwing anything with boobs and a pussy. And let's not forget the cocaine in unlimited quantities. He'd been handsome and rich, a member of my social caste. I'd allowed society's expectations to either keep us together or keep getting us back together for far too long. What in hell was he doing here?

When Rod knocked on the door, I yelled back as calmly as I could. "Go back into whatever hole you crawled out of!"

"Come on, babe, be reasonable," he pleaded from outside. "I just came to pay my respects to your mother and talk with you. How can that hurt?"

How can that hurt? He apparently had a different set of memories than I did. Combined with my family's own dysfunctions, the entire tumultuous relationship with him had set the tone for every relationship of mine that followed. While I couldn't blame him for my mistakes, I didn't have to like what he'd done to me.

I was trying to find the lock on the door when Daddy, Melissa and Conrad came out, probably attracted by my yelling.

"Did you say Rod, darling?" Daddy asked. "Open the door and let him in."

Gritting my teeth, I opened the door and stepped back. Rod walked in with a smile for everyone. That was his way. He was the golden boy. No one ever believed he did, or could do, the kind of things he did, and he got off easier than OJ Simpson.

Daddy smiled and took his hand. "Rod, my boy! What a pleasant surprise! What brings you from Bermuda on a night like this?" Rod had fled to Bermuda after he beat charges over a car loaded with drugs, and that had suited me just fine. Oh, he'd made a show of transferring to Miami to finish his degree, but even without proof, I knew the later move to Bermuda was just a continuation of his flight from scrutiny. Rod worked best under the cover of darkness.

"It's good to see you, Mr. Thomas," Rod said diffidently. "I was trying to have a few private words with Regan to express my condolences and catch up on old times, but I think I've upset her. I'll just go into town, get a room, and leave her some space. I'll see you all after the funeral."

"Oh, I wouldn't hear of it," Conrad said with a malicious smile. "We have plenty of room, and I absolutely insist you stay with us."

My mouth dropped open like a hooked fish. "You've got to be kidding me! There's no way he's staying with me!"

Conrad turned to my father with a raised eyebrow. My father shook his head. "Don't be that way, baby. We have plenty of room and Rod is an old friend of the family. He can stay." With a triumphant smile, Conrad walked outside with Daddy.

Rod shrugged at me, hefted his bag, and followed. Daddy hadn't even looked at me. His decision settled the matter. Melissa looked at me, though, and then she looked at Rod and smiled. Her desire for Rod was clearly visible. This was just peachy. It was bad enough that I was staying with Daddy Clueless and three pit vipers, but now it appeared that one viper had a hunger for another.

"We're calling it a day and going to the chalet," Melissa said. "You're supposed to come with us."

I closed the door, resting my forehead against the cool wood. Then I started banging my head rhythmically against it. I loved my father, I really did, but he made me crazy. "I'm supposed to do a lot of things."

"So, I take it that you and Rod have a history," Melissa continued when I regained control of myself, acting as if I'd never tried to bash my own brains out on the door. "But that's over, right?" Her attraction to Rod turned to lust before my eyes, and for a moment I considered warning her, but I really didn't want to share my history with Rod. With a shrug, I realized that they probably deserved one another.

"It couldn't be more over if he was run over by a bus," I confirmed. "I'm going back in for a moment to see Mother again, and then I'll be out." I marched back inside and took a deep breath before walking more sedately to the casket.

After a minute of silence, I went to join my impatient family for the ride to the chalet. All of them had crammed themselves into Conrad's white SUV. I climbed in next to Daddy and sulked all the way to the chalet.

-----

When we arrived, we all went in and started stripping off our outerwear. Melissa looked around the foyer and I remembered that she'd never been here before. While Mother was alive, she'd never have stood for either Melissa or Daddy coming here, much less actually staying here.

It'd been years since I'd been here myself and I wanted to refresh my memory of the place, so I decided to give Melissa the tour. The pine entryway opened into a wide stairway that led up to the great room. To either side of the entry were benches. Above them on the walls, hooks waited for coats.

The men stripped their outerwear quickly and went upstairs. I shrugged off my coat, hung it up, and pulled off my shoes. I motioned for Melissa to follow me up to the great room. At one time, I'd thought it was nothing to scream about, but I'd learned to love it and the rest of the place over the years. It had so many good memories. I'd shared it with my parents and with friends. That made me smile. These walls would ruin my reputation, such as it was, if they could talk. Back in college, and on selected trips later, my friends and I had had some wild times here.

Melissa looked impressed at the huge room, and I felt an unexpected burst of pride. It was over two stories tall with incredible floor-to-ceiling windows on the far end. The pine paneling that continued seamlessly from below supported antique ski equipment that added ambiance to the wide-open space. Throughout the room were scattered couches and end tables that fit the spirit of the place like a glove. The stone fireplace took up about half of one wall and a long wet bar ran along the opposite side of the room. Finally, two hallways led off, one to the left and one to the right.

I pointed to the glass doors that melded into the large windows. "We have a deck out there with a big hot tub and there are rooms down each of the hallways. Sometime during the screaming match when I arrived, Conrad said you were in the second room on the left side of the leftmost hall. I'm in the room next to yours." The first room on that side had been my room for as long as I could remember. I'd checked to be sure that Conrad was on the opposite side of the house. "There are bathrooms at the end of both halls and the kitchen is the first door on the right side of the rightmost hall. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go change."

When I had my door closed and locked behind me, I threw myself on the bed and held my head. How could things go so badly so quickly? I hid for half an hour, trying to convince myself it was all a bad dream. Then I gave up, grabbed some clothes, and sequestered myself in the bathroom for a long, hot shower.

The house was suspiciously quiet when I returned to the great room. Maybe I was alone. A check of the kitchen showed it to be empty and spotless. I walked back out and mixed myself a drink. I needed it. I needed more, but this was all I allowed myself these days.

I'd barely seated myself on one of the couches when Rod came out of my hallway. So much for being alone, I thought. He had changed into a set of slacks and a turtleneck. That was one thing about Rod. He always cleaned up well. You'd never know about the slime that lay under that slick and handsome exterior.

I took a breath and looked away from him, pretending I was alone. That, of course, didn't work. He fixed himself a drink and sat down across from me.

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