Seven Days Ch. 10bysoular©
Nic turned to look at Victoria.
"Nic...shit, I'm sorry. What an asshole," Victoria said, shaking her head in disbelief. That prick Marsh just lied to her. She felt like a fool. "I got nervous and a little scared that he was going to try to cause problems at your office, so I let him stay here instead."
"Are you okay?" Nic asked, rolling up his sleeves. He was so fucking sick of Marsh. There had been numerous times in the past when he had wanted to take that nosey fuck out, but he knew that would draw too much attention. Killing cops wasn't really his thing, but he would have loved to make an exception for Marsh.
"Yes, I'm fine," Victoria answered. She had thought about telling him about Marsh's comment to her, but she didn't want to make it worse. No matter how much of a jerk he was, he was still a cop. "Nic, why is he bothering us all the way out here?"
"Because he's an asshole and he can't let go of a ten year grudge against me. If he shows back up here, call me and call the police," Nic told her, as he kissed her again and then went upstairs to take a shower before dinner.
Victoria leaned against the counter. She wasn't sure if he was upset with her or not, but she would make sure to be more careful from now on.
"Fuck!!" Nic shouted, as he raised up in bed. He quickly glanced around the dark room and noticed he had startled Victoria from her sleep.
"Nic!" Victoria screamed, pushing the covers from her body and moving closer to her husband. "Nic, what's wrong?"
Nic couldn't say anything. He just sat there, sweating and trying to compose himself. Victoria was trying to grab onto him, but he was holding her at an arms length. He couldn't believe he shouted like that, all because of a nightmare. How pathetic.
"Are you okay?" Victoria asked, worried.
Nic swung his legs off the side of the bed and rested his face in his hands. "Yes, I'm fine. Go back to bed, baby."
Victoria knew that this was his way of shutting her out. She watched as he stood up, pulled on some workout pants and walked to the door.
"Where are you going?" she asked.
He didn't bother turning around. "I need some fresh air."
Nic quickly jogged downstairs and out the front door. The cool night air felt good against his sweating skin. He closed his eyes and plopped down on the cold brick steps. He needed to get his shit together.
A few seconds later, he heard the front door open. Victoria walked down the steps and turned so that she was facing him. He looked up at her as she sat down on his lap.
She caressed his face in her tiny hands. "Nic, are you sure you're okay? You know you can tell me anything."
Not this. He just couldn't. She didn't need to be stressed out anyway.
"I'm fine, baby. Let's go back to bed," he said as he stood, holding her in his arms. He smiled when she giggled and wrapped her arms around him, burying her face into his neck.
But then she pulled back so that she could see his face. "I almost forgot...you never carried me over the threshold!"
"I didn't? Well, I'll make up for that now," Nic said, kissing his wife's sweet plump lips and carrying her back into the house and upstairs to bed. He gently laid her down and removed what little bit of clothing they had been wearing.
The moment he entered her body, he immediately relaxed. Yes, this was what he wanted to think about when he fell back asleep. His wife and his child. That's all he needed and all he wanted to dream about.
Even after their lengthy lovemaking session, he held her close in his arms until she fell back to sleep—never wanting to let her go.
It was early Saturday morning, and Victoria was trying a new color for the baby room for the third time. Nothing seemed to fit...but not knowing the sex of the baby affected her choice as well.
"Shit," she whispered to herself when the light sea green color she applied to the wall dried darker than she had hoped. She was about to call Nic out of his study for his opinion, when she heard the doorbell ring.
The sound startled her for a second, because they definitely didn't have many visitors, and Nic preferred it that way. Actually, none if you didn't count the different maintenance men.
Victoria trotted downstairs and looked through the oval glass of the wooden door. She saw a tall, nice looking older black man. She opened the door.
The man looked down at her and instantly smiled. "Hi. I live a few houses down, and I just wanted to welcome you and your husband into the neighborhood. I saw a moving truck a few weeks ago, and my apologies for just now coming, but I wanted to wait until you got settled," he said, as he extended his hand to her.
Victoria immediately smiled back, taking in his warm eyes and pleasant smile. She offered her hand as well. "Thank you so much. I'm Victoria Andretti."
"Nice to meet you Victoria. I'm Jackson Branson."
"Would you like to come in?" Victoria asked, making room for him to enter.
"Are you sure, I don't want to impose. You look like you're busy," he said, giving her a once-over with her paint splattered clothing. She realized how crazy she must look.
"Not at all. Plus, I need an excuse to take a break. Let me call my husband," Victoria replied. "Nic, I--," she turned to yell, but quickly quieted when she saw her husband standing right behind her.
Nic had been standing at the top of the stairs when he heard his wife talking to someone. The guy's voice didn't sound familiar, but Nic still didn't trust many people. The moment Victoria invited the stranger in, Nic had quietly begun descending the stairs to make his presence known.
"Nic," he said, offering his hand to the stranger.
"Jackson. Nice to meet you." The two gave each other a firm handshake, never taking their eyes off one another. Victoria inwardly groaned. Men...always sizing each other up.
But then Jackson turned and glanced around. "This is a really beautiful home. I always wanted to get a peek inside. Just the two of you?"
Victoria patted her tummy. "Well, we're expecting, so soon to be three," she smiled.
"Congratulations...that's wonderful. My grandbaby was born not too long ago. 'My beautiful handful' is what I like to call her," Jackson chuckled.
"She sounds absolutely adorable," Victoria said, grabbing ahold of Nic's hand.
"She is...but I'm biased," Jackson stated, smiling back at her.
Victoria glanced behind her and then turned back to Jackson. "I'm sorry, we only have one sofa right now. I've fallen behind on getting that stuff," she admitted. "But please, have a seat. Would you like something to drink?"
Jackson walked over to the couch and sat down. "Oh, sure. Coffee, please. If it's not too much trouble."
"Of course not. Nic?" Victoria said, turning to her husband.
"I'm good, baby."
When Victoria walked out, Nic decided to question this stranger a little further. He couldn't help it. His old lifestyle made him wary of people who came claiming nothing but good intentions.
"So...what line of work are you in?" Nic asked, leaning against the wall.
"I'm a Commander with the U.S. Navy SEAL program. Used to be an active SEAL myself, before age started creeping up on me. How about you, Nic? What do you do for a living?"
Both men stared at each other for a moment. Something about knowing Jackson's background made Nic uneasy.
"I'm an architect. I recently opened up my company downtown."
"What did I miss?" Victoria interrupted, as she came bouncing back into the room, handing Jackson his cup. She walked over to Nic, and leaned against him.
Nic placed his arm around her shoulders. "Our new neighbor is a Commander in the Navy SEALs," he said, with not much enthusiasm in his voice.
Victoria's eyes widened. "Oh, wow. Shouldn't we call you by title or something?"
Jackson chuckled. "No, you don't have to."
Victoria looked up at Nic, to see if he had any more questions, but he just more or less stared at Jackson. Victoria started feeling uncomfortable. She decided to fill the awkward space with more questions.
"Your granddaughter, what's her name?"
"Brienna. It's a mixture of her mom and dad's name."
"That's beautiful. Brienna. Do you get to see her often? Do your daughter and her husband live in the city?"
Jackson took another sip of his drink. "Actually, I see her quite often. They live about fifteen miles east of here. And my son-in-law, Brandon, I see him all the time. He's also a SEAL in my unit."
"Oh, well that worked out perfectly!" Victoria said.
"Well, it took a long road to get to perfect. Very long," Jackson muttered, as he took another sip.
"Well, I'd love to meet them...that way I can get some baby tips from a new mom," Victoria said.
"Great, I'll let them know," Jackson said.
Another awkward silence filled the room.
"So, I guess I should be heading off now. I have some work to finish up," Jackson stated, while standing.
Victoria felt awful, but she wasn't sure what else to say to convince him to stay longer. Nic sure wasn't helping.
"Would you like me to take this to the kitchen?" Jackson asked, holding up his cup.
"No, I got it. Thank you so much for stopping by," Victoria said, taking the cup from his hand.
"My pleasure. And thanks for the coffee."
Victoria and Nic walked with him to the door. "It was nice meeting both of you," Jackson said, before he walked down the steps and hopped into his car.
"You too!" Victoria yelled and waved goodbye.
Nic closed the door, barely letting her get her hand inside.
"Jesus, Nic. That was rude!"
"So let me get this straight...you invite not one—but two Navy SEALs to come visit us?"
"It's not like they're cops, Nic." Victoria defended.
"But I'm sure they are really good at what they do. And I don't--," he started.
"Quit being so paranoid," she said, placing her hands on her hips.
Nic closed his mouth and slowly nodded. "Paranoid, huh?" he said, while scratching his chin. He turned and walked back upstairs without another word being exchanged.
Later that night, after a quiet, uncomfortable meal on the living room floor, Victoria opted to cool off in their pool. They both had stayed too busy to actually enjoy it when they first moved in, so maybe tonight they could christen it with a little foreplay. Or so she hoped. He still had barely said a word to her since she called him paranoid.
They were near the deep end of the pool, so the water rested around the top portion of Nic's chest. Victoria held onto him by wrapping her legs around his waist and her arms around his neck. She wanted him to talk to her. In truth, he hadn't really been the same since he woke from that nightmare a few nights before. She was starting to get concerned about him.
She lifted her head from his shoulder and stared into her husband's solemn face. His stare out into the back yard suggested that he was deep in thought. She wanted him to let her into those hidden parts of his mind so badly.
"Yes," he answered, still staring out.
"Are you mad at me? For letting Jackson in and for calling you paranoid?" Victoria asked. He turned his head to look at her. "No."
But that was all he said. No smile, no other explanation...just 'no'. Victoria tried to shake her hurt feelings and kiss him. But when her lips connected with his, she felt no passion returned. She sighed and decided to try a new tactic.
"I can't wait to see Marianna tomorrow. I pick her up at the airport at noon. Want us to stop by your office for lunch?"
Victoria watched his face again. He didn't even bother to acknowledge her conversation this time. His gaze never shifted from the water.
Victoria wasn't sure if he was mad at her or not, but she couldn't stand being ignored. If he would only tell her what was wrong. She realized that divulging his feelings wasn't something he was used to or liked, but she was his wife, and he needed to open up.
After a few more moments of silence, Victoria pushed away from him and slowly paddled to the shallow section until her feet touched the bottom of the pool. She climbed out and grabbed her towel, wrapping it tightly around her.
"Where are you going?" she heard Nic ask. Well, two can play that game. She ignored him and walked into the house.
She quickly showered and changed into one of his t-shirts. She grabbed a baby magazine that was lying on the nightstand and got into bed. Her back was to the door when she heard him enter their room. Glancing out of the corner of her eye, she watched him remove his swimming trunks, giving her an eyeful of his beautiful...well-endowed body. He stalked into the bathroom and shut the door.
Victoria listened as the shower turned on, wishing she was in there with him. She knew she was being a little difficult, but she couldn't stand when he shut her out, with no explanation. Didn't he realize she was crazy about him, and couldn't stand to see him hurting?! She continued to mindlessly flip through the magazine when the door to the bathroom opened. She chanced another small glance, and noticed he still hadn't put anything on. Instead, he slid into the bed and turned the lamp on his side of the bed off.
She sighed and loudly turned another page.
"I'm sorry, baby," she heard from behind her, as his arms snaked around her waist. "I didn't mean to upset you. It's nothing, really."
Victoria turned to face him. "But you were thinking about something. Just tell me."
Nic remained silent.
"Nic, whatever it is, I'd feel better if you--"
"We don't have to talk about it anymore. I'm good," he quickly said, cutting her off and turning to lie on his back. Nope...she wasn't going to let this go so easily.
Victoria sat up in the bed. "Nic, you're doing it again. You're shutting me out. Don't do that!" she warned.
"It's because I don't want you being worried with all of the shit I have going on in my head, Victoria. You don't need to deal with that."
"But I want to help you."
Nic was getting aggravated. "I don't need any help, now just let it go, okay?"
"End of discussion," he snapped.
Oh, he had to say that phrase. His 'shut up, don't say another word, none of your business' phrase that drove her crazy. She had always thought to herself that if he ever said that one more time, she would scream. In fact...
"Aaaahhhhhh!!!" Victoria shrieked.
Nic quickly sat up, looking at her like she had lost her damn mind.
"What the fuck?" he fumed.
Victoria didn't bother answering him. Instead, she clicked off her night lamp and turned on her side, facing away from him. This was driving her crazy. Was something wrong? Were there still loose ends that hadn't been tied up before they moved? She wished he would trust her and just open up. But no, Nic went into detached, closed off mode when something bothered him. Would it always be this way?
"Aah!! How's my nuora?" Marianna squealed when she spotted Victoria in the crowded airport. The two embraced tightly.
"I'm good, how are you?" Victoria asked, returning her hug.
"I have another grandbaby on the way, so I'm just perfect," Marianna gushed, as she reached down to stroke Victoria's stomach. Although there was barely a bump, Victoria felt a little self-conscious about her weight.
Once they packed Marianna's bags into the car, the two headed to the new house. Marianna talked a mile a minute, switching into Italian every now and then as she talked about her children and what they were up to, and about her telling them the news of Nic being married and having a baby. His older brother, who was a school principal, and his baby sister, the hippie nomad, were ecstatic and very happy for Nic. The only grim reaper of the bunch was the oldest, divorced brother. He had told Marianna that he knew his younger brother, and Nic would fuck it up somehow. He already didn't get along with Nic, and this just gave Victoria even more ammo to not like him.
Victoria barely got a word in before they pulled up to the house. Once inside, Marianna quickly looked around downstairs then headed straight upstairs. Victoria shook her head, because she knew exactly what Marianna was looking for. When Victoria finally made it upstairs, she snickered to herself when she saw Marianna open the door to the would-be baby's room.
"Bingo!" she heard Marianna say. "What color are you two thinking about? I hope not plain white."
"No, we'll change it when we know the sex of the baby. But...you see why I need your help, right? I've never decorated this much on my own."
"Not to worry, we'll get this all taken care of. So, is Nic still at work?"
"Yes, he'll be home in a few hours. He would have come with me to pick you up too, but he had several back to back meetings. Want to unpack and settle in?"
"Sure, just show me to my room."
When Marianna's clothes were put away, she joined Victoria in preparing dinner. Even though Victoria kept telling her to sit down and relax with Marianna there was no such thing. But at least they now had a table to sit down at. That's the one thing Victoria insisted upon having before Nic's mother showed up. They at least needed some minimal furniture, and she would do the rest of the shopping with Marianna while she had her help.
Victoria knew it was very traditional...maybe a little too easy, but she decided to fix spaghetti. It was the only Italian dish she could for sure make and not embarrass herself. Marianna showed her a few tricks to make it even more spectacular. Less sauce, more flavor—don't drown it like most Americans do, Marianna told her.
Nic knew his mom was inside. He should have called her when she landed, but he still couldn't shake this funk he was in. He hated that Marsh knew where he lived. He knew that it was only a matter of time before his location was no longer a secret. But he just had to make sure that from this point on, all of his investments were legit. He couldn't make any mistakes--not that he ever could.
He pulled the key from the ignition and got out of the car.
As soon as he opened the door to the house, the scrumptious smell of Italian food filled the air. He placed his keys on the table near the door and walked toward the kitchen.
Both Victoria and Marianna had their backs turned to him, so Nic was able to sneak up behind his mother and wrap his arms around her. She jumped, completely startled, but then relaxed.
"Ciao!" greeted Marianna.
"Mi sei mancato," Nic whispered into his mother's ear, letting her know that he had missed her.
"Anch'io," she replied, turning around to hug her son.
When Nic released his mother, he turned to look at Victoria. She still had her back to them, while she chopped vegetables for a salad.
"Hey, Victoria," Nic said.
"Hey, Nic," she answered, not bothering to turn around.
Immediately Marianna knew something was wrong. The air was thick with tension. Nic didn't rush over to hug Victoria and she had barely acknowledged his presence. She looked back and forth between her son and his wife, until she settled her glare on him.
"'Cos'hai combinato?" Marianna asked, placing her hands on her hips.
"I didn't do anything, Ma," Nic said, answering his mother. "I'm going upstairs to change clothes."
At dinner, you could hear a pin drop. The only noises that trickled through were those of their silverware clanking against the dishes. After quietly filling their plates, the three of them ate in silence. Nic sipped his wine and looked over at his mother.
"How was your flight?" he asked, trying to relieve the tension.
"It was nice. Could somebody tell me what's wrong?" Marianna asked, addressing the pink elephant in the room.
Victoria turned to Marianna. "Honestly, I don't know," she said, then turned to her husband, giving a noticeable fake smile. "Nic, wanna answer that?"