"Mom?" Emily waited tapping her foot. "Mom? -Mommy!? -Mother!
CC looked up from the champagne she was slowly pouring into the flutes at the white marble kitchen counter. "WHAT!?"
19 year old Emily was staring at her exasperated. "Did you hear anything I said?"
CC sighed holding the champagne bottle, "I'm sorry, baby. No."
Emily's almond shaped eyes burned brightly in her father's shade of blue. Her sandy blond hair in a messy bun set high upon her head a la ballerina. She was dressed in her beige dance leggings and cream tank top that peeked out from her over-sized off the shoulder pale pink sweater. "I said that CJ stole the wheel off my jeep and put it on his!"
CC wrinkled her brow slightly. "How do you know it was him, and why would he do that?"
"Who else would it be?" Emily cocked her head sarcastically."
"Well let's find out if it was him first before you get so angry."
Emily crossed her arms and took in a deep breath as if she was about to protest.
CC put a hand up. "Ok. Ok. I'll talk to him."
"In the meantime, what am I supposed to do for a tire!?"
CC flippantly rolled her eyes and returned to the counter, bending to pour the champagne in the flutes. "Call a service and have it replaced. If it was him, he'll have to pay me back"
Emily rolled her eyes back at her and stomped off. "Some punishment! He's not even supposed to be driving!"
CC twisted her mouth and cocked her head slightly as she spoke to herself. "True."
She picked up the champagne flutes and inspected them to make sure they were even. An overindulgent BB had bought CJ the Jeep for his 15th birthday, claiming he could keep it in the garage and only drive it around the estate until he was 16. Unfortunately, CC knew the jeep and CJ had been disappearing together more than usual lately.
Niles walked into the kitchen and walked up behind CC, putting a hand on her waist. "What was that about?"
CC shrugged and turned handing him a champagne flute, "I don't know. Something about CJ taking her Jeep tire or wheel and putting it on his jeep."
Niles turned his head toward her. "What does he need a tire for? He's not supposed to be driving."
"He's fine. He's part Babcock. We all drove at an early age."
"Yeah and he's part Babcock in L.A., not New York. Babcocks aren't a big deal here. He's likely to get into trouble."
"A producer's son? Oh pish posh."
Niles side eyed her. "I'll have to have a talk with him. He's not to be doing this."
"Stickler." CC exhaled and turned away from him walking to the living room couch in front of the fireplace.
Niles followed her and stopped at the doorway to the living room. "Stop spoiling them. they're going to turn into monsters."
CC smirked "too late. Besides, that's what you're here for."
Niles raised both hands briefly, "Oh I forgot. It's so you don't have to take responsibility."
"Well, Duh." CC took an annoyed breath and turned to the coffee table. She pushed her medium length hair behind her ear and flipped it behind her shoulder before she bent down, head up. With her eyes focused on her champaign, she slowly put it down on the table as he watched her.
His voice was flat. "Babcock, don't you think I've seen that trick of yours a thousand times? Do you think I'm going to melt into a malleable pool on the floor just because your hair shows off the line below your ear, leading down to the soft crook of your Neck?"
She stopped mid action and moved only her well done eyes and lashes up at him before rising again. She maintained the eye contact, standing up slowly and remaining completely still with her hands at her sides.
His shoulders slightly slumped forward and he joined her at the couch in front of the fireplace. "Fine! I'll talk to him by myself."
She smiled wide. "Thank you, Daddy."
They sat down and he picked up their drinks handing hers to her, then wrapping an arm around her as they sat back into the couch watching the fireplace. It was a rare night off for the two of them and she still had feelings of guilt tugging at her because she'd blown off a charity event that would inevitably lead to more press for their company.
She took her first sip of the champagne and leaned back into Niles' arm. He moved his arm around her waist and bent his head to whisper to her. "I can hear you thinking about work. Stop it."
She shut her eyes. "Well you're still thinking about the jeep."
He smiled at her and breathed on her neck again. "True. Maybe we should just find something else to distract us." He began to kiss her neck and she turned toward him, then placed a small kiss on his lips-that began to grow. They'd been too busy all week for any of this and their bodies were beginning to...
"Aww Come on!" The silence was interrupted by the sound of CJ striding through the foyer and down the steps to them. They broke their kiss and turned toward him. "No one else's parents do this. Why am I always being tortured?"
CC felt slightly amused as Miles still holding her, called to CJ. "Wait a minute young man. You and I are going to have a talk."
CJ looked cautiously at CC as she motioned toward the door with her head and eyes. She broke from Niles' arms and stood in CJ's path. "Hi Sweetie." She toughened up her voice taking on an overly strict countenance. "Where was it you were going?"
Their son was dressed in workout pants and a jersey, holding a ball against one hip and and holding his phone in the other. His steps became slower as he tucked the phone in his back pocket with a look of realization. "Uh. I was just running in to get…my…um..yearbook? -for…Uncle Max because… he wants to…see something?"
CC nodded and gritted her teeth to give him the heads up. "Then go and do it quickly." CJ exhaled and fled, back into the foyer and up the stairs to his room.
"Oh no you don't. He's not getting out of this one." Niles stood up from the couch as CC turned back to him cooing, "Now Niles, let's not dwell on this right now."
She leaned in and grazed his lips then looked up at him. He looked down at her with an eyebrow raised waiting for an explanation as she gave him another deeper kiss. Niles' hands went up to her arms involuntarily as his mouth momentarily relaxed into hers.
Then he suddenly picked up his head. "No. no. no. You asked me to speak to him, and now you're letting him walk."
She realized he wasn't going to let this go. She gave up and let go of him quickly and put her hands on her hips. "NO, I'm not letting him walk. I just don't want to spend our only free evening refereeing between the two of you. You can talk to him tomorrow."
"Oh can I? Please?" He said sarcastically and she dropped her hands and shoulders exasperatedly. Before she had a chance to say anything more, the doorbell rang just as Emily came into the room from the front.
Niles began walking to the foyer to answer the door, popping Emily under the chin with a finger as he passed her.
"Ok, Daddy." Emily rolled her eyes with a small smile as he passed.
Niles smirked as he left the room. CC rolled her eyes too. One minute he was the heavy disciplinarian, the next he was a pranking teenager.
"Did I hear CJ?" Emily was staring at CC who watched Niles leave the room. "Mom!"
CC looked at her annoyed. "Emily, I heard you! Yes, it was your brother."
"Thank you." Emily huffed and set out to find CJ. There was noise coming from the foyer as Emily left walking very properly in a dancer's upright posture while pulling at the messy bun which was the same sandy brown blond as her father's.
CC smirked not seeing her 19 year old at the moment but seeing the 4 year old that used to run out of the living room and up the stairs. She was pulled from her thought by the sound of Fran's voice coming from the foyer. "Oh, Niles. I swear I didn't know."
She entered the foyer to find both the Sheffield's standing at the front door and she let her head fall back as she dragged herself to them while listening to the sound of Emily arguing with CJ upstairs.
"Big trouble, CC." Maxwell stood stiffly in his tux.
"Well, hello to you too." CC half smiled as she approached.
Fran turned from Miles. "I'm sorry to interrupt your alone time. Maybe it can wait, Max."
Maxwell shook his head. "CC, they've done it again. Can you come to the benefit so we can talk?" CC, knew he was referring to the rival production company that continually poached their ideas and talent.
Emily suddenly ran down the stairs. "Dad! CJ left through the back door and he has my jeep wheel!"
CC turned to Niles at the door knowing her romantic evening was dashed. "You go take care of this, I'm going to the benefit." She headed up the stairs. "I'll be right down."
CC smiled as an actor congratulated her on their most recent success. She smiled at the young blond as he shook her hand in a professional and contrite manner. "Yeah right."
Niles' voice rang in her head. He was always telling her there was no such thing as an innocent exchange with someone in her position. As jaded as she was, she was surprised that the most empathetic man she knew would say something so cold. It was most likely to protect her, but as the actor handed her his information, she was reminded that this was all business; lest she ever forget.
She thanked him and assured him that she'd keep him in mind as she turned with her wine glass in hand. She was now feeling guilty that she'd decided to go to work on she and Niles' "night in", but she knew from experience there was no sense in staying.
Niles would likely be distracted refereeing the fight between CJ and Emily. She and Niles would have a lengthy discussion on which approach to take and that would be the end of their night.
She pictured Niles squinting at her in the doorway when Max asked her to come, followed by the defeated look on his face when Emily screamed down at him. CC would try to make it up to him when she got home.
Maxwell appeared and broke her thought as he eyed Fran speaking to a parent from their twin's social circle. "CC, listen. They may have stolen our idea but they still have to execute it well. So, I'm really not worried at all."
CC audibly sighed, "that's a change from an hour ago." She mocked his panicked tone by making it sound whiny, "CC, you have to come so we can talk!"
Maxwell looked away momentarily and then leaned in "We just need more edge than their Mary Poppins production. Growing impatient, CC flippantly handed him the actor's card that she had in her hand. Maxwell glanced at it and handed it back. "We can't have a blond. We need a dark stallion sort -mysterious -cocky."
People were beginning to gather at the perimeter of their personal space, hoping to catch a sound byte of their conversation. They both instinctively began to stroll toward the patio as they talked.
Every available TV actor she could think of was an ill fit for the part. They stood at the steps that descended to the sunken patio as she spied movement on a bench, her eyes zeroed in on their answer. "Oh shi-." She froze stunned.
Maxwell stopped walking a step too late and tried to follow her gaze "what, CC?"
She stared as if in a trance. She knew her next words would set a tsunami in motion that could save their show and complicate her life.
Maxwell followed her eyes. "Oh…my…God." Jake Redding, fresh from the east coast was sitting on a patio couch surrounded by young actresses. Max whispered without turning his head. "When was the last time you've seen him?"
"In person? I don't know. Years? He can't possibly be here on business. He's not doing any big movies or I'd know about it." Was her voice sounding funny?
"CC?" Maxwell stared hard at her and she already knew what was coming.
"Maxwell, you don't know what you're asking."
"Can we at least find out if he's free."
CC glared at him. "Maxwell,It's a problem every time we work together." She jutted her chin out and straightened up readying herself to turn on her heal. She spoke firmly and swiped a hand. "No!" As she turned, she took one last look at Jake as he raised his head.
Jake's eyes locked on hers and it stopped her in her tracks. His eyes flickered as if a light went off behind them. It zapped her quickly, touching her core. They had exchanged the occasional email. Truth be told, she used it to avoid being in close proximity to him. Of course, she'd watched him from afar by looking at him on gossip sites and occasionally checking out his social media. But none of it did any justice to the mature Adonis he'd grown into.
When they first met, he was a young upcoming star, his constant flirtations with her seemed harmless until they blew up in her face. It had caused a very angry argument between she and Niles. Once the dust settled she was able to work with Jake on a limited basis and they were a very strange model of friendship.
He had a severe crush on her, and she pushed him away with a giggle, enjoying it more than she let on. But that only lasted until Jake was recruited as a leading man in big budget productions.
Now he was in front of her, both of them stunned. In his late 20's, he was an innocuous nonthreatening flirtation. Now Jake was a man. She looked good for her age and he had developed more of a mature rugged look, basically making them closer in age.
Maxwell had been whispering in her ear as she snapped back to reality. "I'll distract Fran. See if he's free."
She exhaled rolling her eyes, "I don't need you to run interference, and it doesn't matter because we're not asking him."
As Jake stood up in the midst of his conversation. She realized that Max had walked away, but she still couldn't take her eyes off Jake. She began to smile and took a few steps out onto the patio as Jake walked toward her with the same look on his face.
His eyes not wavering from hers, they softened as he approached. She had a slight urge to run before she recomposed herself and confidently walked forward to meet him with a sly smile on her face.
His smile grew as he approached. "CC?!" He outstretched his arms and she put her hands on his upper arms with her clutch under her arm. He gave her a slow bear hug rocking her back slightly as he gently brushed his cheek against her neck sending a chill down her neck.
She slapped his arm as he placed her slowly back in place on her feet. "Hello to you. I didn't know you'd be here."
"Would you have attended if you knew?" Holding her hands, He smiled at her standing way to close for comfort. Men did this all the time and she ignored it. She Pranced around it. She used it to her advantage. But this closeness with him was… uncomfortably…comfortable?
She steadied herself, "Junior, be good or I'm leaving."
He dropped his head to the side with eyes closed, the nickname must have reminded him of a time he wasn't on the A list. He wasn't sorry and faked contrition, "Sorry, Can we talk?"
She sat down on the patio furniture away from the group he had been with on the other side of the patio. She could feel the entire patio pretending not to stare as they spoke quietly. "It's been a long time, my young ingenue."
He smiled at her, ignoring the fact that the word ingenue was usually reserved for females. "CC, I'm no longer an ingenue." …His eyes, she'd forgotten about those incredible eyes. She looked down and realized they were still holding hands.
"Jake!" Maxwell's voice interrupted them and Jake stood, "Nice to see you, Max."
"The same. Are you in town long?"
Jake smiled at CC, "that depends. I was hoping to get a few invitations to dinner…maybe catch up with old friends?"
CC looked at Maxwell with her eyebrows up. "Your move." She wasn't encouraging him. Maxwell was just so predictable.
Maxwell stood closer to CC. "Jake we'd like to have you to dinner at my place tomorrow-with CC, of course." CC noted Maxwell's odd wording and stood straighter as Jake looked at her remarking, "That sounds… amazing."
Maxwell cut in again. "Fantastic…."
CC abruptly turned. "Jake, I don't want to be rude…" then turned back to Maxwell, "but I take it you've found our new publicist?"
Jake didn't delay. "I'll see you both soon." He shook Max's hand and held CC's a little longer than necessary.
She patted his hand and turned on her heal, because she wanted him to watch her go. "See you tomorrow."
As she and Maxwell walked into the house she caught Jake eying her in the reflection of the French door and she smiled. Still got it.
She walked in to see their new publicist standing as if she'd been observing them the whole time. "Patricia, it's so nice to see you again." CC reached her hand out as the curly haired much shorter woman nodded and shook hands, but looked past her. "Is that Jake Redding?"
CC looked at Maxwell before answering as he shook Patricia's hand. "He's somewhat of an old friend and associate."
Patricia continued to nod. "You lookin' to put him in the new show?"
CC shook her head. "No."
Maxwell answered, "We're looking into it."
CC glared at Maxwell. "I'd rather not talk about that at the moment."
"I hear he's up for a fantastic production on Broadway. Let me know if there's anything I can do."
"We'll let you know."
The driver shut CC's door behind her as the three got out of the black SUV.
Fran's phone rang suddenly and she kissed CC on the cheek before rushing away. "Bye sweetheart, I'll see you tomorrow."
Maxwell walked to CC while chuckling quietly to himself. After all this time, CC still looked uncomfortable. "You love it when she does that. Don't you?"
CC shook her head "She's ok. Anyway, is there a way you can handle dinner with Jake on your own?"
"CC, He's only coming because you'll be there."
"I prefer not to be around him too much."
Maxwell smiled. "Oh yes, I noticed that exact thing at the end of the night… when you two were standing in the coat room."
Her heart quickened. Earlier she had mistaken the timing as she retrieved her wrap.
There were two other people in the coat room when she entered, but as she left, she ran straight into Jake, and they were suddenly alone. Jake was close-too close. "You've been avoiding me."
She held her ground, "I told you I had a little business to tend to."
His blue eyes shined from beneath his sandy hair. "No, I meant the last few years."
She cocked her head. "Now. Why would I avoid a big movie star such as yourself?"
He shrugged playing it cool and smiling as he leaned in tilting his head down with his eyes looking up at her. "See you tomorrow."
She pursed her lips to speak as Maxwell came into the room and interrupted them. Jake took a step back and quickly shook Max's hand. "Maxwell."
Confused, Max looked to her and she shook her head walking away with her wrap.
Now, back in the driveway, CC raised her eyes to the sky and turned on her heel. "It's a bad idea, Maxwell." She walked away from him and down the path to her house, arriving just as CJ pulled into the garage.
She put her clutch under her arm and waited for him. Smiling, CJ bounded from the Jeep and started to trot into the house until he saw her and stopped in his tracks. He then walked to her slyly mimicking his father's accent, "Mummy?"
"What are you doing out here, mom?"
"I'm just coming home. I take it that you haven't seen your father."
He flashed a cheesy grin, showing top and bottom teeth with his eyebrows up.
She sighed, and took her clutch from under her arm and put her arm around his shoulder. "You hungry?"
He smiled, "I could have a little Nosh."
The house was dark as they entered and she assumed that Niles and Emily had made their way to bed.
CJ bounded into the kitchen and turned on the light. He quickly started taking out the contents for a sandwich.
She couldn't help herself. "Excuse me, wash your hands first."
CJ turned to the sink, "Yes, Mother."
CC smiled as he washed his hands quickly. She put her clutch on the counter slowly and stood stiffly. "So, CJ, I think we have a few issues with you driving."
CJ dried his hands and turned back to her leaning back on the sink . "Mom, I want to talk about that in a minute. I haven't seen you all day." He was laying it on thick with a smile and big eyes. "No, really." He moved back to the counter and began making a sandwich. "Look, I'm going to make you a sandwich, Mommy."
CC lost her control and let out a small laugh and so did he. "OK, Listen to me. I want you to speak to your father tomorrow."
"I'll try, but I have this big English exam."
"Then what were you doing out?" She smirked and pointed at the sandwich. "I'll have half."
CJ handed over her half of the sandwich. "I was studying for my English exam."
CC squinted one suspicious eye at him as she took a bite of the corner of the sandwich.
"What?" CJ put his palms up at her and she continued to coldly stare as she chewed.
He smiled as he made himself two more sandwiches. His sandy colored hair fell down over his eyes and he tilted his head so he could see through it. He still looked so much like her little boy. It had to be some sort of parent vision.
She elbowed him slightly "I'm going to bed. Make sure you clean up." She pulled the top of his head toward her and kissed him. "Good night, CJ."
"Good night, Mom." He leaned his head so she could kiss him, then he continued making his sandwich with a warm smile on his face.
She headed up the stairs thinking about how precious the next few years would be. It was so hard to savor them. She was always somewhere between wanting to hug him and wanting to choke him for his shenanigans-just like his father.
CC finished her sandwich and got ready for bed. Walking softly, trying not to wake Niles, she slipped into the bed. Niles groggily turned reaching for her. "You're home early. Did you run out of choreographers to choke?"
"NO. Did you run out of new material?"
He let out a husky chuckle, "long ago."
"You're slipping-" She smirked as she closed her eyes.
"Besides, why would I need new material for my old wife."
"Keep it up and you'll be working on material for your new wife."
He pulled her closer, rolling on top of her. "As long as she's a brunette."
She patted his arms from underneath him, "Speaking of wanting a new wife…"
He stopped and stared at her "Hmmm. I didn't know you were interested in that sort of a marriage. Now which sister wife would I pick…?"
"Niles, I'm being serious."
"Me too." He sighed and rolled down from her becoming more serious. "Ok. But wait, first tell me if CJ is home."
CC nodded carefully.
"I'm going to give him a fantastic punishment. He didn't even bother to answer the text I sent him."
"He was probably busy studying."
Niles gave her his deep voice. "Oh, Right." He was becoming far more animated. "Ok, spit it out."
"No. I want to know what time he got in."
She was relieved not to talk about the other thing, but… "What difference does it make right now?"
He stared at her and she gave in shaking it off. "OK, CJ came in at the same time I did."
"On a school night?!" Niles jerked the covers off and began to get out of bed until he was stopped by her hand on his arm.
"Lover?" She used her firm low voice.
He stopped and looked at her and she gave him a look he must have known to be lust or anger. They were often intermingled. "Well, maybe it can wait until morning." Niles closed his eyes and relaxed into his pillow waiting for his own anger to subside. "You know I don't agree with this."
She slid a leg around one of his. "Can we just…"
He rolled up on his side again, bending his arm to his head and resting his head on his hand while eying her hopefully. "Just what?"
She shut her eyes. She didn't want to, but she needed to clear things up before she could go forward with Jake, "…talk first."
He deepened his voice. "As long as I have something to look forward to."
She sighed. He was still agitated and she did owe him for leaving earlier. "You know what? It can wait." She put her hand on his chest and leaned into him. "What was it you were looking forward to, Bell Boy?"
His husky voice chilled her shoulders. "A little, Brunette." Their lips met and she was down a rabbit hole.