tagGroup SexThe Twelve Vitali Ch. 31

The Twelve Vitali Ch. 31

byxelliebabex©

Authors note: Hello everyone. Thank you everyone for the positive feedback and comments they continue to 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.

*****

Matteo looked once again at the contents of the package the courier had delivered. Spread out across his desk were documents, a news clipping, and a thinly veiled threat from the Grandfather. He had ensured that Cat had no packages and that Arturo would intercept anything that arrived today and send it to him instead, then he had called a meeting of the table. He checked his watch. Everybody should be there within the hour, but his gut churned at the implications of what was happening.

Ricco sat opposite Matteo in quiet contemplation. While his head told him one thing, his gut told him another, and he was still in the process of sorting out which was more reliable at any given time. Once again, he wondered why he had thought he could just step into the role of Oracle. He had no great gift of foresight; his feelings and intuitions were often led astray by emotion, especially when the situation involved the people he loved most in this world.

"I need to talk to Theo," Matteo said for the tenth time. "There is no way he is aware of what Mario and Giovanni are doing and why they are having such a run of bad luck in their business dealings."

"I know he's your friend, but what if he does know, not about the bad luck or the targeting by the Tatar, but about Mario and Giovanni," Ricco cautioned. "He'd never admit to it, and you could be giving them more ammunition to attack us through the thirteenth table."

"Theo is a friend, I trust him," Matteo was adamant. "But if we lay it all out to Papa and his gut agrees with yours, I won't say anything to him, we need some sort of consensus though, and a meeting is necessary at his point."

"When do we tell Cat?" Ricco asked. "It's bound to be on the news tonight, she will find out eventually."

"I think this is something David needs to do. She doesn't like discussing that part of her life with us. If she cries or mourns him, she will think we are judging her. If she doesn't, she will appear heartless. She needs David because he truly knew Ned, the good and the bad," Matteo said sadly. "He's on his way over now."

"I guess, but it would be better if we were nearby, surely," Ricco argued.

"You know she will withdraw to think about it, and she will be grateful for the space. We can go up with David and tell her we are in the building if she needs us. I honestly believe it's better this way," Matteo knew in his gut that this was what Cat needed and wondered at Ricco's assessment of the situation. He was the Oracle and over-ruling his feelings could be risky to them all. His phone buzzed on his desk and he picked it up.

"She knows," Arturo said as soon as Mateo answered. "She went to sit out in her thinking chair on the deck."

"How did she find out?" Matteo frowned.

"Facebook, I think. She still has the same account she had during the time she was with him," Arturo said. "Either way she knows, and she has asked to be left alone for a while."

"Her brother's on his way, she will see him," Matteo sighed, looking up at Ricco and nodding. "No packages?"

"Not yet, but I have reception stopping any couriers and telling them Mrs. Vitali is unavailable today," he said with the clipped voice of efficiency.

"We'll bring David up, and then we'll be in a meeting for the rest of the day," Matteo said. "Thanks for letting me know."

"Hey, Bossman, what's up?" David said, strolling into office with a flustered looking Hilary following behind him.

Matteo stood to greet him and smiled as Ricco gathered the documents on the desk into a pile with the news article sitting on top.

"Hey, Dave. Listen, I have a meeting to get to, so I'll make this brief. Cat got some news today. We're not sure how she will take it, and you know the situation far better than me," Matteo began. "Ned's dead."

"Yeah? Can't say I'm sad about it, but I'm sure someone might be," David said. "Cat will be fine. It should be a relief for her."

"I hope it is, but she's not looking happy, and I doubt she will talk to us about it, so..." Matteo said.

"I'm fired if I don't get her to talk to you? How well did that work out for you the last time you tried it?" David laughed. "Yeah, I'll go up to see her, but I think you're overreacting. I don't think she'll be that upset about it. Even if she is, I don't think I'm the right guy for the job. She talked to me the other night about the baby, and I didn't know what to say. I'm no good at the girly emotional stuff. Mostly I just wanted to knock Ned out and get her away from him, she knew I hated him."

Matteo's phone buzzed again, and he answered it, snapping at the caller. He hung up without saying a word.

"Let's go see her anyway," Matteo said. "She called Frankie. Still think it wouldn't be affecting her?"

"Frankie's here?" David asked. "That's great. He could always get her to smile when Ned was being a prick." Matteo raised an eyebrow but said nothing. He sometimes forgot that David was almost the same age as the little geniuses. It was a lot to expect a young guy like him to understand exactly what Cat had been through at the hands of Ned. They had both said that Cat protected David from most of her hardships. When David had found her after the rape, he had called for help because he couldn't handle being the responsible sibling. He'd always had her to rely on, and now he had Frankie and his family.

Matteo realised that he had perhaps been expecting too much from David where Cat was concerned. They loved each other, he knew that much, and David was protective of her, but he didn't know her intimately, as most siblings would. Cat had never shared her highs and lows with him, she had been protective, like a mother, and kept the harsh realities of her life from him.

Cat was sitting with Frankie, crying into his massive shoulder when they arrived in the penthouse. Seeing them, she quickly pulled herself together, and Matteo saw the moment her mask of happiness came down over her features.

"David! What are you doing here?" she asked, coming in from the deck with Frankie close behind her.

"Thought you might want to talk about it," David said with a shrug. "You put up with Ned's shit for so long, it must be a relief now, huh?"

"Yeah," she smiled lopsidedly at David. "It's weird, he was just always there, and now he's not."

"We're here for you if you need us," Ricco said, quietly stepping forward to fold her in his arms. "We have an important meeting, but we'll be just downstairs if you need anything at all." He murmured in her ear.

"Oh, I'm fine. Ned was old news, and I am a married woman now, starting a family of my own," Cat gave a small laugh that didn't reach her eyes. She dismissed the concern with a roll of her eyes at David. "Did he threaten to fire you again?"

"Not this time," David chuckled. "I don't exactly argue with him when he summons me, though."

"Go back to work, David, I'm perfectly fine," she hugged him, hiding her face in the closeness of the contact.

"Ricco, take the file down to the meeting and get Knox to deliver David back to work," Matteo sighed. "I'm sorry, I thought he would help when we told you, but you found out before he got here."

"You have to stop bossing my brother around just because you can," Cat scolded him without any real anger.

"Yeah, but I'm naturally bossy, we all know that," he shrugged and smiled at her. "Especially where you are concerned."

"Come talk to me while I change my shirt," he held out his hand to her. "We'll just be a minute," he spoke to Frankie, expecting David and Ricco to do as he asked. Cat took his hand with some trepidation and followed him into the bedroom.

"Matteo, I..." Cat began once the door was closed.

"Don't do that!" his said more harshly than he had meant to. "Don't manage me the way you manage David and Ricco. You were with the guy for years. He was who you turned to when your mother died. You told me you would have had no chance of keeping David out of foster care if not for Ned. He was a prick who treated you badly, but I get that you loved him on some level too. You don't have to act like you don't care!"

Cat gaped at him, stunned by the gentle tirade. She felt her tears welling in her eyes again as the happy and in control of her life mask fell away.

"It's okay to care that he died, Cat. No one would blame you or judge you for caring that a man you had a long-term relationship with died, no matter what a massive asshole he was in the end," Matteo gathered her in his arms. "It was a mistake asking David to come over, I see that now. I am glad you called Frankie. Frankie knew Ned, I gather?" he held her as she nodded silently.

Cat couldn't believe that this good, kind and wonderfully understanding man loved her the way he did, and she clung to him as she cried. She had loved Ned, and, as Matteo had rightly said, without Ned she didn't know what would have happened to David or herself when her mother died and they were evicted from the tiny council flat. She'd gone to court and put him in jail to protect David, not for herself, because in some dark recess of her mind she did care about him, despite everything he had done to her.

He had always been there as a stop-gap between homelessness and starvation and being able to hold down a job and provide for David. Now that stop-gap was gone, and if she ever got evicted from this family, if anything ever happened to Matteo, what would she do? Frankie had given her clarity. She had a family now, and not one member of his family would ever see her destitute, and even if she didn't stay with the Vitali, the Donati or Gambaro family would welcome her with open arms, or at least she thought they would.

"It's okay to mourn him, Kitten," Matteo kissed the top of her head. "I will take you to the funeral so you can have some closure, if that is what you want."

"You would do that for me?" she asked, stunned by the offer. She hadn't even thought of attending a funeral, if there was going to be one.

"There is very little I wouldn't do for you, Kitten," he said, softly stroking his thumb over her tear stained cheek. "I love you, it's that simple. I love your past and your present and the future we will create together. I just love you, and you have to start believing that there is nothing that could ever change that."

"I love you too, every single little bit of you, even the crazy and overbearing parts," she gave a soft smile. "I can't believe you pulled David off work again." Cat rolled her eyes. "I thought you had an important meeting to go to?"

"I do, but a fresh shirt always helps me feel in control. Pick one for me," he smiled, feeling like she was over the hurdle. He felt better having been the one to talk to her rather than leaving her to withdraw or speak to David, who was clearly not equipped to deal with her feelings for the man who had treated her so badly.

*****

"The Tatar don't kill. They curse or they haunt you, so you never forget a slight made against them, but they don't kill!" Roberto said adamantly. "To claim this death is against all of their laws and traditions. Life is sacred to them."

"So, what does that leave us with? Both packages have been fake?" Lucca asked with a frown, feeling bad for Cat if that was the case.

"The question is, who would want to do this, and why?" Matteo said, looking at the group. "I have a theory, if you want to indulge me for a few minutes."

"I'm open to suggestions," Roberto sat back in his chair, steepling his fingers.

"Since the attack on the Donati family and the great losses suffered, not only to their family but to all of the tables, each family has suffered an attack where presumably the Suebi had sought out a weak link in the family and exploited it. On more than one occasion they have pitted one family against another. I do not blame her in any way, but Vanessa has been our weak link in her relationship with Mario. If we retaliate now, or throw these allegations around based on anonymously delivered packages and thinly veiled threats, the Martino's will be forced to defend their Savoy cousins. If that happens, the rift between our two families will widen again, and this time it could cause even greater division in the tables," Matteo worked through what he had to say. "I agree with Papa, the Tatar wouldn't claim the killing of Ned Kelso as their own doing. It's not their way."

"The logical thing to do would be to send the information directly to Theo and let him investigate it," Cobi said. "If you are up front and tell him how it came to you, and what happened to Cat, he will take care of it rather than risk a war between our families because of the deeds of a few again."

"No matter which way you slice it, they look like the guilty party here," Zion added. "Unless they accuse us of framing them."

"Do we have any contacts in the Tatar to warn them that they are being used as a scapegoat here? If, indeed, they are being used as such," Cobi considered all the angles where trouble could come from if they shared this information.

"I do," Stefano said. "Ricco and I will make the necessary contacts. Get us a copy of the material to take with us. Regardless of what is decided here, that contact needs to be made, and answers sought for Catriona's peace of mind."

Ricco didn't argue. It would ease Cat's mind if he went and found out for himself if the paternity test run on her was true or false. He merely nodded his agreement and said nothing, despite the look Matteo gave him. They were truly a team these days and making decisions like this alone was a rare occurrence.

"Matteo and I will meet with Theo and his father," Roberto announced. "We will pose it as if we don't believe the accusations and give them the chance to do an internal investigation. They at least need to know the threat is there and that it doesn't come from us."

"It might be better to meet at the Battaglia stronghold and have Marcus arbitrate the situation. If the situation with Giovanni and Mario is true, we don't want them going into hiding or destroying any evidence Theo and his team might uncover," Thomas murmured, considering the question after a brief whispered conversation with Lucca.

"We probably also want to protect Vanessa... maybe send her to visit Arlo and Louis for the Milan fashion season. Maybe Trista could go with her?" Lucca suggested.

"I'll talk to Theresa," Roberto nodded. "Trista would jump at the chance and sending Vanessa as a chaperone wouldn't seem out of the ordinary."

"This doesn't mean we stop our own investigation," Cosimo said. "We may have a plan for the moment, but we haven't found any evidence to either corroborate or dispute what the packages are claiming. All we know is that we are being fed a story that could cause old feuds to be reignited, not only between our families, but between the Martinos' and Savoys'."

The discussion went on regarding the death of Ned Kelso and the very real information they had been able to gather about that, as well as the threat in the second letter that had arrived. The letter had claimed that the Grandfather had ordered the death of Ned because of his crimes against Cat, and that if they did not move against Giovanni and Mario, he would take matters into his own hands there too.

*****

Catriona sat in the HQ restaurant with Stefano and Roberto, curious as to why Theresa and the men she loved were not eating with them. They made pleasant small talk about the house on the hill and the creation of her family home, as well as her stalled career and her plans for future artworks.

"I'm not sure when I will have time to paint again," Cat sighed, realising how much she wanted to reclaim her artistic creativity. "I thought maybe I could do a mural for the nursery if things settle down for us, but, every time I think that, something else comes along to keep our attention away from what we want to do."

"Do you feel that Ricco and Matteo are delaying the tasks they wish to accomplish?" Roberto asked.

"I think Matteo, particularly, gives up a lot to cater to my needs," she said honestly. "Ricco is the one who picks up the slack when Matteo stops his life for me. Well, him and Lucca. I'm not sure how we would have survived the first half of this year without Lucca being there for us, no matter what."

"Lucca has always idolised Matteo," Stefano said with a genuine smile of affection. "He is a good boy who would do what was needed for any member of our family. He has a very deep affection for you especially, Catriona. We are very proud of all of our children, and my heart aches that you never had the opportunity to know who your father was. The letters, we believe, are not real, but rather a ruse to cause strife between our table and another."

"I see," Cat couldn't hide the disappointment from her face or voice.

"To be sure, Stefano and Ricco are going to seek out a woman we know who has contacts within the Tatar. They are a secretive and particularly closed community. We hope, however, that because they are being drawn in as the catalyst to a family feud, Ricco and Stefano will be allowed to speak with their matriarchs," Roberto explained. "If that happens they will be able to confirm for sure whether the letters you and Matteo received are true or false."

Cat considered Roberto and the small flicker of hope that remained with his words. They hadn't given up on the idea completely, and they were prepared to go to the source and ask for the truth.

"Matteo and I will go to meet with the other family involved at a neutral place," Roberto continued.

"Both Matt and Ricco will be leaving?" she asked, surprised. She didn't think they would ever leave her completely alone for more than an hour or two at a time.

"Yes, we thought it would be a good time for you to spend some time with Theresa. There is far more to being the mother of our table than perhaps you realise, and I know Sebastian has introduced her and Zion to a new program that was gifted to you from Peri Donati to make your life easier. Now is the time to start becoming the woman you are destined to be, rather than the safely protected version Matteo and Ricco would encourage you to be," Roberto continued.

"While we are away, Zion and Lucca will step up with the assistance of the rest of the table, they will need your support to find their feet. They have always had their older brothers to lead the way, and the fact that Cobi will not be asked to step up will be difficult for them all. You must support them and their decisions, it is important," Stefano said seriously.

"When will you leave?" Catriona asked.

"Ricco and I will leave tonight," Stefano said. "He is upstairs packing."

"So soon?" Cat gasped.

"Matteo received another letter that has forced our hand. We must act swiftly now," Roberto informed her. "We needed you to know that we do not believe the writer of these letters is in any way related to you. Those tests can be easily forged, samples tampered with or exchanged. If, while we are away, this person tries to contact you, we need you to be wary and alert."

As if the reason she had been called to meet with these men became suddenly clear, Cat sat back and eyed both men carefully, thinking through all they had said. They were treating her like a meek and mild family woman who would do just as they asked, and she contemplated exactly how to word what she would say next.

"Can I just recap to make sure I understand what you are saying?" she asked thoughtfully.

"You can," Roberto drew out the words in a slow way and nodded, an odd look on his face.

"Matteo received a second letter that I have not seen, which you feel has forced your hand to act against the sender. As you don't know who the sender is, exactly, except that you do not believe it is my grandfather. You feel you must go to the other family named in these letters to avert a threat that could cause a destructive war, not only between two tables, but two dynasties," she summarised her understanding of what they were saying.

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