tagBDSMThe Twelve Vitali Ch. 20

The Twelve Vitali Ch. 20

byxelliebabex©

Authors note: Hello everyone. Thank you everyone for the positive feedback and comments they mean the world to me and have brightened my days. Thank you once again to Paul who continues to be my second set of eyes. ~ellie.

*

"Historians name Michael-Angelo, DaVinci and Raphael as the big three of the Renaissance period. Our ancestor, Timoteo, was the Master that Raphael was apprenticed to as a young man," Zion said as they came upon several drawings by Raphael within the family antiquities housed within the auction house Zion ran.

"That means your ancestor taught him how to paint? I've never heard of an apprenticeship for artists before," she admitted. She knew her lack of education meant that she was way out of her depth here in this amazing place with Zion and his sister, Aria.

"Artists were highly regarded in history, it is only more recently that artists have struggled to receive sponsorship from wealthy families," Aria said.

"I expect most families found photographic portraits cheaper and much easier to obtain in more modern times," Cat laughed. "I love doing portraits though, because you can capture more personality than a photograph ever can. I've been working on some sketches for Matteo as a wedding present. Admittedly, it's more for myself than him, but I can show the subtle things others might miss if he posed for a camera." She tried to explain how she felt about the difference in portraiture. "I expect sculptors feel the same way about enhancing some physical aspects and disguising others."

"Some people like the reality of photographs," Aria argued.

"Can you show me a photo on your phone that you genuinely feel is an accurate depiction of how you look to others?" Cat asked, feeling like she needed to make a point. Aria had been so condescending all morning during her tour of the family antiquities while Zion seemed hell bent on giving her a history lesson. She didn't mind the history lesson, she actually found it fascinating, but she felt like an uneducated bogan and hated the fact that they were judging her in that light. Particularly Aria, who she had failed to find some common ground with and hoped that this might be it. She obviously loved art, but Cat's lack of knowledge when it came to the Masters seemed to annoy the young woman.

"I don't take selfies," Aria said quickly.

"How about your driver's licence?" Cat asked.

"That doesn't look like me at all," Aria shook her head.

"But it is you, and possibly how the photographer saw you in that moment of time. All I am saying is that with a painting you get a picture of the best you, with all your character and flair instead of a snapshot of one moment in time," Cat explained in the light of her admission.

"She makes a good point," Zion said. "So, you don't like photography?" he asked.

"Quite the opposite, I love it, it's just different, and I prefer paintings for the portraits of the people we love," she said. "I know that Peri was happy with the portrait I did for her of her family, and she had already had a professional photographer take their portrait and found it didn't convey what they all meant to each other."

"I'd like to see them both," Aria said, as if questioning not only her judgement but Peri's.

"I have them on my phone, if you would like a small look. It's not the same as seeing them up close though," she offered.

"I'd like to see," Zion said quickly. "Do you know what prompted her to seek out a portrait artist?"

"She has a degree in art history and has been working on the family history for a few years now. She has a love for how the families originally came together and were set up with such specific roles that always seemed to make the most of the men's skills and personalities. If you look at the photograph you can see them all, but it's difficult to tell what it is they do or the role they have," she explained and passed her phone to Zion, who looked at the official photographic portrait for the Donati table. "If you swipe right you will see the painting," she added.

"I've met with Peri and her team a few times about our family history," Zion admitted. "I know how passionate she is about it," he chuckled. "This is great. Do you know where they hung it?" he asked.

"I'm not a hundred percent sure, but I think it's at their house in the country, and Dante has a smaller print in the House of Lorraine," she frowned as the thought about it.

"And you did this in a matter of weeks?" he pressed her.

"I worked on it all day every day in that time, I doubt I could do something on that scale in that time frame again," she admitted.

"You have to admit, she's good, Aria," Zion tilted the phone towards his sister. "Can you send me the photo's?" he asked.

"Sorry, but no, I don't think so," Cat said sadly. "I signed a statement that I wouldn't circulate the images, or something along those lines. It was quite an involved non-disclosure agreement, but considering your family all knew what I had done, and some of them had seen the painting during the art show, I didn't think it would matter if I showed you the photos on my phone, but I can't send them to you, sorry."

"That's alright, I can check with Peri herself, if it will make you feel better," he shrugged as if it was no big deal. The more he talked with Cat, the more he liked her. She was loyal and obviously trustworthy, and she obviously made Matteo very happy. What she lacked in education she certainly made up for in other ways, despite his sister's disapproval. He knew that not everyone was fortunate enough to grow up in an affluent and loving family like their own.

"Yo, Zee! Where are you, man?" Chase called out as he entered the Depositary.

"Here," he shook his head and walked toward the entrance. "Just showing Cat some of the art she could use for their new penthouse."

"Paint something yourself, you're pretty good, from what I've heard and seen," Chase said.

"It's a time thing," Cat laughed. "Matt wants something for when we move in, instead of waiting for me to find the time. Planning a wedding so soon is a bit time consuming, I have found out, but Theresa had been a wonderful help."

"Speaking of which, Trista called, she's expecting me for a dress fitting this afternoon. What colour did you go with?" Aria asked.

"Champagne, I'm really not a fan of red, even though I know that was Theresa's preference," Cat said carefully, knowing a few of the Vitali women had wanted a red and white theme. She wasn't going to wear white and had kept her dress design a secret, even from the family after organising with Marina Battaglia to borrow Kate and Edith for a few weeks to make the gown.

She had been enjoying the tentative friendship with Marina that had started with a phone call after she arrived home. She still managed to speak to Lucia every couple of days as well, and had asked her to be her chief bridesmaid alongside Maryanne and Matteo's four sisters. Matteo wanted a traditional wedding which included all of his brothers as best men, and that had made it very difficult for Cat, who had never had many friends, and those from her past were just that, her past, and included ties to Ned. Lucia had understood the isolation that she had undergone with Ned and readily agreed to stand with her on her wedding day, becoming very excited about it and being her sounding board on dealing with Theresa and Matteo's sisters. There was a very fine line between asserting her own opinions and offending the Vitali women. Mia often sided with her, however, when she didn't like something Theresa wanted for the wedding, which helped a great deal.

"That's an unusual choice. I thought this was going to be a traditional wedding," Aria said with distaste.

"I think it will still be traditional," Cat smiled. "Matteo approved the colour, and he's the one who wants all the traditions. I would be just as happy to elope, to tell you the truth."

"You can't be serious!" Aria said as if she thought Cat was totally insane. "You only get one day to be an absolute princess! No way should you, or anyone, give it up to elope!"

"I'm up for elopement, let's go," Chase grinned.

"I sort of promised Matteo he could be husband number one. Could you wait a year or two? Just until the prenup kicks in," she laughed.

"Why would there be a prenup?" Zion asked. He'd never heard of anyone in his family ever having one, but then they generally married women from the other tables.

"I was just joking; Matteo hasn't ever mentioned one, to be honest. Do you think I should? I mean, he might try to take half my paintbrush collection," Cat laughed at the look on his face.

"I'm afraid once you marry into this family that's it. There are no second or third husbands, you're stuck with the first one forever, and your paintbrush collection," Chase said with mock disappointment. "The offer to elope still stands right up until you say I do, however," he chuckled.

"Tempting, but I did promise Matt, so I think I have to go through with it," she said sadly.

"Even if I have the keys to your new car?" he grinned and shook a set of car keys in the air.

"You're making this very difficult for me," she laughed, "Maybe I should see the car first."

"Chase, what are you doing?" Aria said disapprovingly.

"Flirting with Matt's woman to drive him insane," he shrugged.

"You realise he's not here, right?" Aria raised an eyebrow.

"Sure, but I've always been able to rely on you to tattle-tale," he chuckled, teasing his cousin and enjoying the look of chagrin on her face. "Aww, don't look like that, you were always my favourite pain in the ass cousin," Chase grinned.

"Whatever happened to that plan we had to kidnap him and sell him back to the circus he came from?" Aria huffed at Zion. She had a small smile that Cat was surprised to see. Aria always seemed to hold herself above everyone else, especially when her brothers and cousins teased her.

"Man, I would have loved that!" Chase complained.

"That's what happened to that plan," Zion chuckled.

"Aria," Cat said, changing the subject back to why she was here. "Do you think you could spare some time tomorrow to come and look at the penthouse and maybe advise me on the better pieces to choose? I hadn't realised what beautiful and significant pieces you had here, and I'm afraid I just don't have the understanding yet. I'm afraid I'll choose things that wouldn't go together in style or period," she laughed self-deprecatingly. "I could really use another woman's point of view, and Vanessa has so much else to do, she has left the artwork up to me."

"I'd like that, it's hard to imagine these pieces anywhere but here, but seeing the new penthouse might help. Sometimes just a framing change can make all the difference to how a piece looks in a given space. Most of these are too heavy for residential use," Aria said, bringing out her expertise in interior design that she never got to use because everyone deferred to Vanessa.

"Great! Would nine be too early for you? I have a few other appointments tomorrow." Cat asked.

"Nine is fine with me. Will you leave my name with security so I can go up, or would you like to meet in Matt's office?" Aria pursed her lips thoughtfully.

"I'll make sure security knows you're coming," Cat said, "Though I'm sure Matt wouldn't mind seeing you if he's there. I better get moving though, or I'm going to be late." She turned to Chase, who tilted his head. "Thank you for everything," she kissed their cheeks in farewell.

"Peace out, brother," Chase clasped Zion's hand and shoulder bumped him before kissing Aria on the cheek. "Stay cool, li'l chick," he grinned.

"Grow up," she admonished, but smiled at Chase and embraced him.

"Growing up is overrated," he chuckled and walked from the room with Cat.

"I can't believe you managed to get this done in less than twenty-four hours," Cat said, walking out to see the small SUV she had chosen the day before.

"We had a small fleet ready to go for the out of town family members that are flying in for the gathering, and I just happened to have the exact one you wanted," Chase said. "Ready to go for a spin?"

"Sure," she grinned. "If this was part of the fleet, then who do I owe for the car?" She asked, making him frown at her.

"It came out of the family treasury, so I guess no one. You are family, after all," he said easily. "Even if you change your mind about Matteo, you could still elope with me. Unless, of course, Ricco makes a fuss that he was first in line," he seemed to consider the idea before dismissing it. "Nah, I am better looking and have a better sense of humour, it wouldn't matter." He chuckled as she rolled her eyes at him.

"Where to?" Cat asked as she slid into the driver's seat and adjusted the position of it and then her mirrors.

"I'm meeting my father at Roberto's place. And I think you're expected there as well?" he gave her a questioning look.

"Yes, I guess I am, but I've been let off the leash a little bit this morning, and I am enjoying the relative freedom," she laughed.

"Sorry, sweetness; no can do. While I'm happy to give my cousins a bit of grief, there's no way I am taking on Roberto and my father combined for making you late," he chuckled. "I'm just not that brave."

"Don't tell me there's a flaw in your superhuman persona?" Cat giggled.

"Just a small one," he grinned. "The rest of me is one hundred present superpowered. Let me have your phone and I'll sync it to the car for you while you get a feel for it. It's probably a little different to the old car you were driving."

They drove on with Chase going through several of the features embedded in the car's system, including a kill switch for the engine and a panic button that, should anything go wrong, would send an alert straight to the security team in the HQ building.

The phone rang through the car speakers, turning off the soft music of the radio and startling Cat, who glanced around at Chase.

"Don't say anything when you answer it this time, but the button is on your steering wheel," he pointed out.

"Whaddup, bro?" Chase said as she answered the call. "Give us a minute until the car stops flipping over, would ya? The airbags are in the way!"

"Sure," Matteo said calmly, this was his cousin, after all, and it didn't sound like the car was rolling, or airbags were deploying. "Just let me know when you're good."

"You know you're no fun anymore, right?" Chase grumbled. "I told Cat she should just dump your boring ass and elope with me," he said pointedly to Cat, who laughed again.

"I think that boring ass is cute," she said loud enough for Matteo to hear and listened to his responding chuckle.

"You should know how cute my ass is, Chase, considering you always have to look at it when I beat you at everything," Matteo laughed.

"He beat me in a race once and has never let me have a rematch," Chase grumbled to Cat, but she could tell this was a running joke between them.

"Where are you now?" Matteo asked.

"About ten minutes out from your father's place," Chase answered.

"Alright, I'll meet you there," he said, and Cat could hear the business-like tone in his voice that told her something was not quite right. "Oh, and stop trying to steal my girl," he chuckled and ended the call.

"Wonder what that was about? Matt sounded pretty serious for a few moments there," Chase mused.

"You caught that too, did you?" Cat asked as she continued to drive.

*****

"I can't leave now," Cat frowned. "There is so much to do, and I don't want everyone else making those decisions for us, for me."

"It's only for a few days, a week, at most," Matteo argued. He had to go and wrap up his overseas projects before the gathering instead of doing it during his honeymoon as he had hoped. There would be no time for a real honeymoon after the announcement of the new table, and he had hoped to convince Cat to come with him now to compensate for that.

"I know, but there is only this week to get most of the work done before the gathering starts, and there is so much more to do, on top of planning this wedding. I know you are used to people doing everything for you, but there are things I need to do myself that I am already worried won't get done in time," she sighed. "I love you, and I don't want to be separated again either, but you will be able to do the work that much faster if I'm not there to distract you or make you worry about where I am and what I'm doing in strange countries. You realise I don't even have a passport, right?"

"No, why..." he stopped himself from asking why the hell she didn't have a passport as the realisation hit him of where she had come from. She would have had no need for one before now.

"I love you, that won't change. Besides, both of us will be so busy we won't even feel the time apart. You know Ricco will ensure I don't do anything silly," she added.

"Or he might encourage you to do silly things," Matteo complained and took her in his arms. "I want you to come with me so badly!"

"It's just not possible, even if I didn't have a million other things to do. But I will apply for a passport after the gathering," Cat promised. "How do you think Mrs. Catriona Vitali sounds?"

"Absolutely perfect," he murmured and kissed her. "At least come with me to the airport."

"You're leaving right now?" She gasped, "I know I said the sooner you leave, the sooner you will be back, but right this minute?"

"Yeah, I can possibly make Port Moresby late this afternoon if I leave now rather than doing it tomorrow after staying there for the night. If I leave now I'll already be half a day ahead of schedule if I fly through the night, maybe even more," he seemed to be replanning his trip as he spoke.

"Just let me talk quickly with Mama, and then I'll be ready," she said softly, remaining in his embrace and making no effort to move. "I'm going to miss this so much!" she tightened her arms around him.

"Then come with me," he complained again with a sigh, knowing now that it was impossible.

"Oh, good, there you are," Theresa said, walking into the living room with two other people Cat didn't know. "We need to make some final decisions on centrepieces and gifts for the guests, as well as cakes."

"Cakes, plural?" Cat asked. "I thought we had decided on just the one wedding cake?"

"Certainly, but there will need to be back up slabs as well as catering for different dietary needs. This isn't a dinner party we're planning. There will be hundreds of people we need to ensure get a piece of cake," Theresa sighed in frustration. It would have been easier if Cat had just allowed her to do it all herself rather than needing input into every decision that had to be made.

"It's okay," Matteo said as he saw her look up at him with concerned eyes. "You stay here, and I will be back before you have time to miss me."

"I already miss you, and you haven't even left yet!" Cat said softly.

"Go be Marie Antoinette and let them eat cake," he chuckled and kissed her. "I love you for doing the big traditional wedding for me. I know it's not your preference," he said pointedly to Theresa. "Try not to push her so hard she changes her mind and cancels the whole thing. She agreed to this wedding for me, but the possibility she could choose elopement is still on the table." Satisfied with his stepmother's horrified expression, he smiled back at Cat. "You're all I need. I want the big wedding, but I would live without it. I can't live without you," he kissed her again trying to ensure she knew she didn't have to be bullied by his family.

"I love you," she whispered and hugged him tightly before finally letting him go and stepping back. "Be safe and come back soon."

"You can count on it," Matteo said and kissed again. "Goodbye, Mamma," he smiled and kissed Theresa's cheek. "Look after my fiancé like a princess, please. She's worth it." He said quietly and left for the airport.

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