“He left me at the hospital?” Blane asked. “Why didn’t he kill me?”
“I’m not sure,” Sam said.
“Any guesses?” Blane asked.
“If I had to guess, I’d say that he didn’t kill you because he was on probation,” Sam said. “He didn’t want the hassle. At the time, though, your mother didn’t know what he’d done with you. She begged us to find you. You were truly her dying thought. By the time we tracked you to the hospital, you’d already been placed. We were told that you would be adopted right away. We were told in no uncertain terms that the baby was better off in the system than with us, especially since we had a newborn at home ourselves.”
“But you were my uncle!” Blane said.
“We didn’t know that until tonight,” Sam said. “Delphie saw my brother at the hospital when Celia was giving birth. They argued. He wanted to ask me for money but Celia was dying and Jake was failing. Delphie didn’t want him to interrupt. He asked her for money but she doesn’t ever have money. He hit her and left. Delphie saw her client in the birthing rooms later that day. When you told her that you were born the same day, she put it all together that her client’s baby was fathered by my brother.”
“Delphie feels responsible for the entire thing,” Sam said. “She feels like she should have warned your mother about your father. If she had, then he wouldn’t have killed her. She should have done something, anything, in the hospital to help you. But she simply didn’t know.”
Sam looked at Blane and Blane looked away.
“You can’t imagine how badly Delphie feels, how badly I feel,” Sam said. “I wish … I …”
Sam shook his head. When Blane didn’t look at him, Sam nodded.
“I’ve spoken my piece,” Sam said. “You’ve listened. I can’t ask for more than that.”
“You can ask for cake!” Jeraine said.
He set down a plate of white cake with chocolate frosting in front of Sam. He set one in front of Blane and one in front of Heather.
“I should …” Sam said.
“I’ve had to tell people a lot of hard, crappy things in the last year or so, Sam,” Jeraine said. “One thing I’ve learned is that you can’t just drop an information turd and leave. Works in the movies. Doesn’t work in life. Give the man a few minutes, and some cake, to process what he’s feeling.”
Sam looked at Heather and she nodded. Blane looked up at Jeraine.
“Information turd?” Blane asked.
“Eat your cake,” Jeraine said with a grin.
Jeraine picked up his plate and began eating his cake. Everyone else began to eat.
“Is that an apron?” Sam asked.
“This is the finest apron you can buy, Samuel Lipson,” Jeraine said with laughing indignation. “I will have you know that I am a star!”
“And a dumb one at that,” Tanesha said from the doorway of the kitchen. “Are you cheating on me? Having cake behind my back?”
Tanesha got out a fork and started eating off his plate. He scowled at her and got another piece. He pretended to be getting it for himself but he gave it to Tanesha. She kissed his cheek. Tanesha’s joke lightened the heavy mood in the kitchen and they ate their cake in silence. When they were done, Sam looked at Blane.
“Can you forgive us, son?” Sam asked. “Delphie and me?”
“Your mother loved you, Blane,” Sam said. “That’s for sure. She was thrilled to be pregnant and, at great cost to herself, she did everything right — vitamins, food, exercise, everything. But my brother …”
Sam shook his head as if it was too sad for him to even think about. The bell rang and Jeraine got the cake out of the oven.
“What do we think?” Jeraine asked. “Let the cake cool and then frost or have melty frosting.”
“This is a cake emergency,” Heather said.
“Melty frosting it is!” Jeraine said.
Sam took a breath.
“My brother loved pregnant women,” Sam said. “He loved getting women pregnant and taking care of them. He liked showing them off like the pregnancy was a prize. But he hated babies. He hated the sight of babies. He hated the sound of them crying. He hated the attention they took away from him. And … well … he’d just gotten out of prison for killing his last child and … we don’t know how many of his children he killed.”
“And the mothers?” Blane asked.
“Big mystery,” Sam said. “The mother of the child he went to prison for killing had told everyone that she was leaving him. Everyone saw her leave. But … To this day, she’s never turned up. Not during the trial, which was national news. Not ever. It’s like she just disappeared. That happened with a few other women — three, I think — and babies too. No graves, no bodies.”
“They’re dead,” Heather said.
Sam squinted at Heather and she gave him a sad nod.
“My brother lived in Leadville and worked in the small mountain towns,” Sam said. “We didn’t know he was out of jail or that he was here, in Denver. The parole office thought that urban living might straighten my brother out. They were supposed to tell me that he was out, and where he was located. But I didn’t know, so Delphie didn’t know. And she didn’t know that this boyfriend who would change everything was my murderous youngest brother.”
“She knew that you were precious, Blane,” Sam said. “She told your mother so. The cards said that you were special, and would be a great man. Delphie remembers joking with your mother about whether or not you’d be a politician or a doctor.”
“What happened to her?” Blane asked.
“I’m just going to tell you straight out because you deserve that,” Sam said.
“I’d appreciate it,” Blane said.
“My youngest brother murdered her,” Sam said. “Beat her to death.”
“What happened to him?” Blane asked.
“Your mother shot him,” Sam said. “He thought she was dead and was setting it up so it looked like they’d been broken into. Turns out that she was just pretending to be dead. She got his gun and killed him outright.”
“And me?” Blane asked.
“She called Delphie right after it all happened,” Sam said. “She collapsed after the call. We called the police but there was nothing anyone could do.”
“Why did she call you?” Sam asked.
“She wanted help with the baby,” Sam said.
“What?” Blane asked.
“My brother had taken you somewhere,” Sam said. “Your mother knew that if anyone could find you, it would be Delphie.”
“He left me at the hospital?” Blane asked. “Why didn’t he kill me?”
“You know Valerie so you can imagine what she was like as a baby,” Sam said. “Beautiful, full of life. Whether it was work or play or school, Valerie was ready to do it. Everyone loved our Val. We tried for another child for five years.”
Sam shook his head.
“Miscarriages,” Sam said. “You know about the curse on male children, and I only had brothers.”
“Then Jacob,” Sam said.
Jeraine put the cake pans into the oven and turned on the timer.
“You’re probably wondering why I’m telling you all of this,” Sam said. “I wanted you to know how close Celia and Delphie were. I know you’ve heard about how Jacob almost didn’t make it, so I won’t tell you that. Instead, I’ll tell you what Delphie told me tonight.”
Sam fell silent. Jeraine filled his coffee cup and went to make another pot. He gave Heather the warmed bottle of formula for the baby. Heather gave the bottle to Wyn.
“You were telling us about my mother?” Blane asked Sam. “I think.”
“I guess the last thing I would say is that Delphie never put all of this together until today,” Sam said.
“Okay,” Blane said.
“Your mother was a client of Delphie’s,” Sam said. “Delphie worked full time as a tarot reader. Your mother used to see Delphie once a quarter for a ‘checkup.’ But, she was never completely honest with Delphie. For example, Delphie didn’t realize she was pregnant until she was six months along. By that time, Delphie was trying to save Celia and Jacob’s lives. She barely slept.”
“The other thing your mother never told Delphie was that her boyfriend, your father Blane, was my youngest brother,” Sam said. “It’s possible that your mother didn’t know, but not very likely. Those two facts would have changed the advice Delphie gave, but as you know, you can’t know what you don’t know.”
“What happened?” Blane asked.
“Your mother came to Delphie first when she was just about the graduate from high school,” Sam said. “Delphie says that she was beautiful, funny, and grew up in a town not far from Leadville where we grew up. They hit it off immediately. Even though she only saw her four times a year, Delphie felt deeply invested in the girl and her life. The girl had a hard upbringing and Delphie had a hard upbringing. At one point, the girl brought her mother and the mother remembers visiting Delphie when she was Chastity Bell.”
“They were close, at least from Delphie’s perspective,” Sam said. “Your mother met my brother about a year before you were born. The cards told Delphie that the relationship was significant and important. Her intuition told her that this man would change your mother’s life.”
“But not necessarily for the better,” Blane said wryly.
“That’s what Delphie realized tonight,” Sam said. He gave a sad sigh. “Delphie is and was all about growing and stretching yourself, so she didn’t see the warning in the cards. She encouraged your mother to date this man. They seemed really happy or at least that’s what your mother told Delphie. She got pregnant almost right away, but again, Delphie didn’t notice until she was six months pregnant.”
“Do you mind if I tell the whole story?” Sam asked.
“Please do,” Heather said. Blane nodded.
“I know that you know about Delphie and Levy,” Sam said. “The man was evil, straight up evil. I don’t know if he was infested with evil or suffered at the hands of someone else. And frankly, I don’t give a shit. What I can tell you is that the way he treated Chastity Bell, you know, our Delphie?”
He looked up to see if everyone was following and they nodded.
“ …was horrifying, just horrifying,” Sam said. “She wasn’t allowed to do anything that wasn’t in the service of evil Levy. No school, no friends, only enough food to survive. She as a prisoner who lived like a slave. She … Anyway, it was always more than I could stand. I started slipping Chastity things. Food. Books. Pretty things like barrettes. Just to bolster her spirits.”
“Celia found out,” Sam said. His voice was filled with emotion. “Celia was my girlfriend, my life. She found something I’d gotten for Chastity — a cupcake, I think — and thought it was for her. I told her straight away what was going on and … Well, Celia was mad. Of course she was mad. She insisted on giving Delphie the cupcake herself. And, Celia loved Delphie and Delphie loved her just bang — from the moment they met.”
Jeraine set a glass of water with ice on the counter for Sam. He drank it down and gave Jeraine a nod in thank you. Jeraine turned on the oven and went back to his cake.
“I’m telling you this so that you’ll understand,” Sam said. “Celia was everything to Delphie. Celia had some of Delphie’s skill so they understood each other. Celia had me, of course, but Delphie was like a missing limb. They both felt the same way. It was like something you’d see in a movie — the whole world shook when they met. I’ve never seen anything like it so I assume you haven’t either.”
“Was it like Alex and Max Hargreaves?” Blane asked. “Do you know them? They’re friends of ours.”
“Like that,” Sam said. “You hurt Alex, Max feels it. Same with Celia and Delphie. Hurt one and the other will respond. I assume that’s your father’s fault, Heather.”
“Partly,” Heather said. “Celia and Delphie have matching souls. They resonate together, so it makes sense that everything would change when they became friends.”
Jeraine set out mugs, the coffee pot, and a carton of cream. They were silent while they prepared their coffee.
“Is he close?” Jeraine asked Heather about Wyn.
“To a bottle?” Heather asked. “He’d take one if you’re offering.”
“Delphie and I are close … now … but when Celia was alive, we were just family,” Sam said. “Kind of like you are. Delphie was closer to me than Celia’s sister, of course, but the relationship was similar. They both wanted children, and Celia had the chance to get pregnant.”
Sam took a drink of coffee.
“Delphie can’t have children,” Sam said. “Like Tanesha’s mom. One of Levy’s evil deeds. So Celia was their only hope. Of course, I was only happy to do my part. Celia had a few miscarriages and then we had Valerie.”
Ever the actor, Jeraine pretended to yawn on his way into the kitchen. Blane and Sam were sitting at the bar stools. Heather stopped in the living room to make Tink’s bed back into a sofa, in case they wanted to sit in the living room.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Jeraine said when Blane and Sam looked up at him. “I didn’t realize you were here.”
He went to the cabinet and took out the mixer.
“I have a terrible hankering for cake,” Jeraine said. “Do you mind if I make one while you talk?”
“Cake, now that sounds good,” Sam said.
Blane gave him a look that could only be described as sheer relief. Jeraine winked at him. Catching Blane’s look, Sam gave Jeraine a warm smile.
“Any requests?” Jeraine said. “White cake, chocolate frosting? Chocolate cake, chocolate frosting? Surprise cake? Raspberry cake? I think we still have blue berries.”
Jeraine went to the refrigerator to look.
“I’d like some white cake with chocolate frosting,” Sam said. “If I have a say.”
“Sounds good to me,” Blane said. “Heather?”
She took the seat next to him at the bar. Blane helped her with Wyn while she got seated.
“You had me at cake,” Heather said with a smile. “I’m happy with anything. I will tell you that, if you want to cheat a bit, there’s pre-made frosting in the back of that cabinet.”
“There is?” Blane asked. His voice reflected his sheer disgust and surprise.
“Would you be too mad if there was a cake mix or seven in this house?” Heather asked.
“Cake mix!” Jeraine said. “Oh the horror.”
Blane gave Heather a horrified look and Sam laughed. Jeraine put on his dumbly expensive designer apron.
“Now, none of your nonsense, woman,” Jeraine said. “Cake is important business not to be left to box cake mix and premade frosting.”
“I wouldn’t mind some coffee,” Sam said with a smile at Jeraine’s joke.
Blane moved to get up and Heather patted his hand.
“I’ll get it. I wouldn’t want to invalidate the seriousness of cake,” Heather said. “Are you okay with pre-ground? I don’t want to wake everyone up.”
“Oh, the horror,” Sam said with a grin.
Smiling, Heather went to the coffee maker and Jeraine started working on the cake.
“I …” Sam started. “I’m sorry that … all of this. I …”
“This is how we do everything,” Heather said. “People come first. There’s not a soul in this house that wouldn’t want you to feel safe and loved.”
“Especially while you tell us a hardship,” Blane said.
Clearly listening, Jeraine nodded in agreement.
“I have no secrets,” Blane said. “If you tell me, I’ll turn right around and tell Heather. She’ll tell Tanesha and Tanesha will tell Jeraine. So you’d be doing us all a service by simply telling us.”
“You’ll update Tanesha?” Sam asked Jeraine.
“That, I will,” Jeraine said.
Sam nodded. He glanced at Blane and then looked down again. Sam looked so sad that Blane put his hand on Sam’s knee.
“Do you mind if I tell the whole story?” Sam asked.