tagRomanceFinding Elvis Ch. 06

Finding Elvis Ch. 06


Chapter Six: Coming out

To say he was surprised would be like saying that linebackers were a bit bigger than me. He didn't let go of Gretchen, but he did look like a fish out of water.

"Jesus, Gretchen! You're going to give him a heart attack!" I said with a shake of my head. "Look Hans, I realize this is a shock, but it just sort of happened. Are Ted and Lisa still here? This will be easier if we just go through it once."

Gretchen laughed gaily in her father's ear. My father-in-law, I thought to myself; this was going to take some getting used to. Hell, it would be easy to accept compared with getting used to the Wicked Bitch of the West as a mother-in-law. That went way beyond 'getting used to' and into the realm of 'life changing miracle.' I wonder how many other newlyweds took a poke at the in-laws on the same day they got married.

"I'm sorry, Daddy," Gretchen said, looking not a whit contrite. "I just couldn't help springing it on you like that," Gretchen laughed again. "Oh, you should have seen your face, Daddy!" She didn't give Hans a chance to respond, but turned and waved at Devon to join us. "Daddy, this is Devon, my new driver. Devon, while we talk, why don't you raid the kitchen for something."

Hans rolled his eyes heavenward, as if begging for strength. He placed his hands on Gretchen's arms, gently turning her back to him. "Hogwash, Gretchen," he said to her face. "You simply can't resist trying to shock me. You've been playing this game with me ever since you were a little girl, although I have to admit this is over the top, even for you. One of these days you'll find out that you've gone too far." He let go of Gretchen's arms and nodded to Devon. "Devon."

"I think we passed 'too far' several hours ago," I muttered to myself as I started past them and walked into the house. Stopping just inside, I looked around in a mixture of awe and mild repugnance. The entryway was marble, leaded glass and a mixture of antiques even I knew should never be in the same house, to say nothing of side by side in the same room. The difference between Gretchen's house and the entry was that a lot more money had been spent on just the entry and none of it showed the least bit of taste. While I was sure that every single piece was one of the finest of its kind, and that each likely cost more than I made in a year, the room as a whole clashed so violently that it looked gaudy in a way that made everything within seem cheap and showy.

"Who does your decorating? Anna Nichole Smith?" I asked, still turning my head from side to side. It was so awful I couldn't stop myself from staring.

Hans chuckled and shook his head. "No, Kat picked everything out. I admit it's a bit overdone for my taste, but I've learned to live with it."

"It looks like a Turkish harem scene in a sci-fi movie," Gretchen said with a sniff. "A bad movie. Done by people who think the Shriners are authentic Turkish." She stalked into the house like she owned the place, past the monstrous central staircase with the obligatory chandelier, veering to the right of the stairs and into a more intimate room. Hans and I followed her, eyeing one another curiously. Hans somewhat absently pointed Devon toward the kitchen, and he headed that way.

The room we entered was much more tastefully done. Dark leather seats were scattered around the room with small tables at strategic points. Gretchen picked up the phone and waited for a moment before speaking.

"Ivan," she said, "I need you to bring Ted and Lisa to the Brown Room. Thanks." She hung up, went to a bar and started pouring drinks. "That was Daddy's butler, Hawk. His name is spelled I-v-a-n, but pronounced 'Evon'."

"This will best be discussed over a drink. Daddy, I'm making you a single malt whiskey. I'll make it a double. I think you're going to need it. What do you want, Hawk?" Gretchen asked me with a raised eyebrow.

I sat down in one of the seats and sighed. It was soft and comfortable. The dim lights in the room contributed to making me feel more relaxed. I thought I could learn to really like the Brown Room. "I want the entire bottle," I told Gretchen, "but I don't think I should be drinking."

Gretchen nodded emphatically. "Right, I wasn't thinking. How about a soda?"

"Yeah, toss me a diet cola," I said with a sigh. I was really, really longing for a shot of something, anything, but with a baby inside me that wasn't going to happen. I stared at the can in my hand. This sucked.

A tall, almost cadaverously thin man, in his late thousands and dressed like Lurch, opened the door and led Ted and Lisa in. "Here they are. Welcome home, Miss Gretchen," Ivan said, in a voice from beyond the grave. He then wordlessly backed out and closed the door behind them.

Ted and Lisa smiled at me in surprise, and my stomach did a slow, queasy roll. Lord, this could go wrong in so many ways. I might be about to alienate my best friends forever.

Lisa came over and hugged me. "Hawk, I didn't expect to see you up here!" She sat down in the chair that shared a table with mine. "I thought you were in Vegas looking for Elvis, but I'm glad you came to Boston. I bet you found out what happened, like we did just an hour ago." Ted sat across from us and crossed his legs, watching quietly. Gretchen took their drink orders and leaned them toward heavier stuff before sitting down next to her father.

"Yeah, well that's a story all its own," I said to Lisa, my eyes shadowed. "You first."

Lisa's eyes opened wide with concern. "That sounds ominous. Well, Ted's been calling the county clerk back in Vegas every morning to see if anything has been filed. It looks like a marriage certificate arrived by mail this morning. What would you do if I told you that Ted and you are married?"

"Throw up," I said sickly. "Please tell me you're yanking my chain."

Lisa threw her head back, laughing. "Relax! You're safe. It looks like I need to get used to being Mrs. Stansbury and you can stop looking for the missing Elvis. Ted and I have been talking the situation over and mutually decided to see how it works out."

"Oh, I wouldn't say that I can stop looking for Elvis just yet," I said quietly. "I need to find him so I can kick him in the balls. Well, I have some good news, some bad news and some really bad news. Which do you want first?"

Lisa's brow knitted in a frown. "That doesn't sound promising at all. Let's start with the good news, then."

I looked at Gretchen and Hans. She was posed in a relaxed posture, but I could see her fingers turning white with tension as she tightly gripped the glass. Hans was leaned forward, waiting. His eyes were bright, but I couldn't read emotions in them. I took a gulp of my diet cola and set it down on the dark stone coaster.

"The good news is that I got married to Gretchen this morning. I suppose it's a good thing I wasn't already married."

Lisa leapt to her feet, squealing, and yanked me to my feet and into a wild hug. "Ohmigod! Ohmigod! I never thought it would happen so quickly!" Then she held me out at arm's length and scowled at me. "Why wasn't I invited?"

I hung my head. "Because it just sort of... happened. I have a confession to make to both of you. Elvis ran here to Boston with his wife, and Gretchen and I followed them. We've been here looking for them for almost a week."

Lisa's mouth dropped open and she made an indignant noise. "Why didn't you call us? We could have helped you find him!"

"That's why I didn't call you," I admitted. "You two had enough on your plates without me disrupting you. I'm sorry."

Lisa shook me a little. "I'm not happy with that answer, Hawk. You should have called us anyway." She sat back down and wagged her finger at me. "Now, tell me all about your wedding and why we weren't invited. And you better make it good."

I looked at Gretchen for a moment, but she was no help. I threw up my hands in surrender. "We were going to play a prank on Hans," I said tiredly. "We picked up a marriage license to scare him with on Monday. It turns out the prank was on us. We tracked Elvis to the county clerk's office." I rubbed my face tiredly, wanting this be over and knowing I hadn't even gotten to the hard part yet. "Somehow, he spotted us and was listening when I told Gretchen not to lose the stupid license. His wife distracted us while he took it out of Gretchen's pocket, and they signed the damned thing and filed it right in front of us."

"Holy shit!" Lisa exclaimed with a shocked expression on her face. "Are you going to get it annulled?"

I shook my head and looked at Gretchen, feeling a smile come to my face for the first time. "I don't give my word lightly and my word is what signing that paper meant, regardless that I thought it would never get filed. We talked, and we agreed that we would give this a try." I looked at Hans, who looked like he had been run over by a truck. "Hans, I'm sorry. I know this isn't what you had in mind when you hired me to talk to Gretchen. Forget the fee. I'll understand if you're pissed as hell about this."

"Screw that, Hawk!" Gretchen objected. "You did exactly what Daddy asked you to. You convinced me to make a real effort to make up with Daddy, and I will not see you toss your pay away on principle."

Hans shook his head. "No, Hawk, Gretchen is right; a deal is a deal. Do you know what the most common trait shared by the wealthy people that made their own fortunes is?"

I shook my head.

"Integrity," he said firmly. "When I make a deal, I stand by it even if it works out differently than I'd hoped." He looked at Gretchen, and his voice softened. "I'll be honest; I don't know how I feel about this. It's too sudden, too much for me to absorb quickly. What I do know is that I won't argue with you about it, no matter how I decide I feel. It's your life to do with as you choose. I think I've learned that much. I lost you once because I tried to make you see things my way, do things my way, and I'll not do that again." He looked back at me. "I'll welcome you to the family, Hawk, though I don't think Kat will be very happy."

Gretchen tossed her head and snorted. "Daddy, nothing I do will make her happy, so it's just something we'll have to deal with. You and I have both let Kat come between us, but Hawk has convinced me that we can make our relationship work if we focus on just you and me and not try to include her. I have to accept that Kat is a part of your life, whether I like it or not, and you have to accept she's never going to be any part of mine. If we can do that, if we're willing to try, then we'll make it." Gretchen looked so fragile right then, and I wanted to reach for her, comfort her. There would be time for that later. Right now, she needed to mend this fence, alone with her father.

Hans slowly nodded, thoughtful. "I think I can do that," I could see Gretchen let out a breath, "but there will be times that we'll be together, Kat and me, while you are there. I can't tell her what to do, anymore than I can tell you, so what should I do?"

"Let us settle it ourselves," Gretchen said bluntly, any hint of fragility gone. "She and I will never get along. And she will never accept my wife," she said with a smile at me. "We'll argue, we'll fight. That's obvious to anyone that knows the two of us. You'll have to stay out of it. I promise I won't start trouble, but I won't let her push me too far; and heaven help her if she pushes Hawk. Hawk pushes back."

Hans winced. "After last week, I don't doubt you may fight. Do try not to leave any permanent injuries." A smile ghosted across his face. "I'd like my wife back in roughly the same condition as you find her."

"Done," Gretchen said with a laugh before turning back to me. "Sorry for the interruption, Hawk. Go ahead."

I smile at her affectionately. "Thanks." I looked at Lisa. "Ted, Lisa, this might be awkward, but you have a right to know this, too. There's no easy way to say this, so... I'm pregnant."

For a moment, Lisa frowned as though not understanding what I was saying. Then her eyes flew wide in shock and she leaned back as though shoved in her chair. "What?!? You mean..." Lisa stared at Ted, whose open mouth spoke of his shock, as well.

"Yeah," I confirmed. "That's the really bad news. Ted is the father."

The silence in the room was thick enough to cut with a knife until Ted cleared his throat. "Well, this is a shock, but it was a possibility from the very beginning, I suppose. I guess one of the condoms didn't work as well as we'd hoped."

"I found one in the bed in Vegas after the night you two got married. It was split, but we had other things on our minds, if you recall. Lisa, I'm sorry." I looked at her beseechingly, feeling more vulnerable than I had thought possible. "I don't want to lose you as my friends."

Hans really looked bowled over, looking at each of us in turn, but saying nothing.

Lisa looked really troubled, but came over to kneel beside my chair. "I don't know how all of this will affect us, but I do believe that you don't want to come between Ted and me. You're going to have the baby, right?"

I closed my eyes. "Of course I am. Abortion isn't something I can do." I looked at Gretchen. "Even if I weren't married, I would have this baby. Since I'm married, Gretchen would chain me to the bed for nine months to make sure everything went well."

"Damned straight," Gretchen said firmly. Then she smiled slyly. "Not that I promise not to chain you to the bed anyway."

Hans rolled his eyes, this time his prayer for strength aloud. "Dear God, help me. Please, no details on your sex life." Gretchen just laughed.

Gretchen looked back over at me. "Hawk and I do have some negotiating to do about that, but we'll keep the details mum, Daddy."

"So, when you have the baby, then what?" Lisa asked again.

"If you're asking if I want child support or something, the answer is no. If you're asking if I want Ted as more than an occasional lover if everyone agrees, the answer is no. I still would like to be part of your sex life, but no more than you are willing to allow and only if Gretchen approves. Like she said, we have some negotiating to do. On the flip side, though, I'll be raising the baby. Ted and you can be part of his or her life, in fact, I would want you to be, but it's my child."

"Our child," Gretchen said. "I'll tell you both the same thing I told Hawk; I'm the daddy, and I am as much a part of this as Hawk is."

"You aren't the daddy! I'm the alpha!" I retorted.

Gretchen just grinned and continued. "Look, if we can agree right now that no one is going to horn in on the other's relationship, I think we can settle the details when this all has time to soak in. Hawk and I will not be a wedge for you, and you will not be one for us. Agreed?"

Lisa looked at Ted and slowly nodded. "That, 'driving a wedge,' as you put it, was what I was really worried about. I can agree with your suggestions." She looked back at me. "I don't want to ruin our friendship either. I think we can make this work, as long as we all respect each other's boundaries we agree to."

Ted nodded, still obviously mulling fatherhood.

I almost collapsed with relief. "Thank God!" Climbing to my feet, I pulled Lisa into a hug. My legs felt all weak and wobbly.

"Shhhhh," she whispered in my ear. "We'll make it. Sit down, and we'll fill you in on what's been happening with us."

I sat back down heavily and took a sip of my diet cola. I really wanted a whiskey. Sighing in frustration, I made a face. "Maybe one drink?"

"Oh, no you don't!" Gretchen said. "It's no booze and a healthy lifestyle for you, or I start looking for good chains, my pretty."

"Feh," I said sourly. "This is going to get tedious. Well, Ted, how are things on your end?"

"Could be worse," he said with a smile. "I could be pregnant."

"Bastard," I mumbled and bounced the cola cap off his head. "Keep working it, and we'll see whose ass gets kicked. I meant how are thing with Hans, bright boy."

Ted looked over to Hans, who nodded. "Well, we're still working out the details, but it looks like Hans will be funding a very large distribution deal for Stansbury Vineyards. Along with that, he's going to make a sizeable loan to expand the growing acreage. A lot. It takes seven years before new vines are really producing, and then it takes time to craft a fine wine, so he's making an investment that will pay off in a decade or so. I'm pretty pleased, since I have a new wife to keep in the fashion to which she'd like to become accustomed."

Lisa shook her head. "Funny man. On my side, Hans is making me a sweet offer of either a partnership in a very prestigious law firm in Houston or backing me in a run for the District Attorney's office in Galveston or Houston. Thus far, I'm still resisting his blandishments, but I'm weakening. He's playing me like a fish on the line."

"That's great!" I said. "You two deserve it." Then I looked at Hans. "Now what?"

He smiled. "Now I get my revenge for you both springing all this on me. I'm having a social get together here tonight for an old friend who's running for the US Senate. I want to announce your marriage and pregnancy here tonight."

Now it was my turn to goggle. "Why?"

"That's simple," Hans said. "First, because it will get out anyway and it's always best to be as up front as you can be. If you two are not ashamed of it, I'm not going to be either. Second, I have wanted to see Gretchen married for years and I'm getting to be an old man." He smiled at Gretchen. "I was beginning to despair at ever having a grandchild. I'll be the first to admit that the, um, complexity of the parentage may present some interesting challenges, but I believe it can be worked out."

Hans looked over at Ted. "Depending on a number of factors, I suspect that the media will dig you out as a likely candidate for being the father. It might be for the best if that were disclosed up front. That sort of thing is done on occasion. From a legal standpoint, I believe you should make clear what limits you all wish concerning the child."

He looked around the room at all of us and smiled dryly. "I suppose with all these surprise weddings, no one has any prenuptial agreements?"

We all shook our heads.

"Then that makes things very interesting on a number of fronts for Gretchen. And in the spirit of all the surprises today, I think I'll announce my surprise after we make your announcements," Hans said with a smirk as he stood up. "It's only fair, really. Now, if you will excuse me, I have some things to get ready for the party tonight. Dress up."

I expected Gretchen to hound him for the details, but she just shook her head in exasperation, letting Hans escape.

After he closed the door behind him, I threw up my hands. "Why didn't you tackle him and ask what that means?"

"Because I know my father, and I know it wouldn't do any good," Gretchen said, rising to her feet. "He is as stubborn as I am and if he says he'll announce it tonight, torture won't drag it out any faster. So why fight the inevitable? Besides," she smiled mischievously, "it's only fair to let him have some fun, too."

I leaned back in my chair. "I'm doomed to a life filled with pranksters for family," I moaned.

Gretchen gave me a wicked grin, but ignored me. "Ted, Lisa, I know we'll have many more chances to get to know each other, but I need to take my wife shopping. We simply have nothing to wear. Daddy can turn you loose in one of his cars and you can find some good places to shop here in Boston."

"Why can't they come with us?" I asked. "There's plenty of room in the Hummer."

She shook her head and looked at me pityingly. "Because they need time and space to talk about all this privately, Doofus. Not everyone is like you, bulling their way through it all in one sitting. Let them have some space to think things through without us breathing over their shoulders. Right?"

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