If a year was tucked inside of a clock, then Autumn would be the magic hour”Victoria Erickson
Windenburg Cameron Lake House Declan & Rory Cameron's residence
“Viv, honey … less angry energy. You are whipping it, not beating the cream up. Go easy, sweet girl!” Rory giggled.
“Right, sorry. I’ll quit assaulting the dessert then.” Vivien smiled back.
“Hey, after a long career in a male dominated Science field, and raising twin boys, and then some of their kids, I get it, I have often used cooking as an outlet. Not for creativity, but anger and aggression management. But this heavy cream has had enough now. Any more and it will start turning into butter.” Rory chuckled.
Vivien laughed along with her great-aunt.
“Argh – I guess I’ll have to get it then …” grumbled Declan from the couch, getting up from watching TV, when someone repeatedly rang the doorbell and knocked.
“Should I have answered the door so he didn’t have to get up?” Vivien whispered to Rory.
“Oh, honey, no! We’re 77 years old, but not feeble. Besides, this is his home too, which includes the front door, you and I are busy, he’s just sitting his butt flat staring at the TV. Decs can stand the exercise, as adorable as I personally find his little grandpa-belly, we don’t need to let it get out of control, especially once this cake is ready. That man can eat! I am this close to padlocking the fridge.” Rory smiled, shaking her head.
Vivien smiled absent-mindedly, thinking ‘Guess I know where Liam got that constant appetite from then, from his grandpa!‘.
Declan was talking to someone in the hallway, who now followed him inside.
Vivien’s facial expression reflected her surprise and she almost dropped the bowl and whisk she was holding.
“Liam!?” she exclaimed, her voice a few pitches too high to sound casual.
“Viv?!” Liam didn’t look or sound much better.
“Well, I am glad we all still recognize each other. Sit down kid, I’ll look for that book your father wants. Must be important if he sends you over here to fetch it, considering we barely get to see you at all anymore. But I tell you what, Liam, Christmas is at our house again this year and you BETTER show and STAY the entire time, especially after your grandmother and mother will probably have worked all day on the food, as they usually do! If I see you with a phone in your hand I will slap it away from you, and if you even think about leaving before anyone else does, I will superglue you to a chair, kid, and you won’t be leaving, at least not with your breeches intact! We all had or have demanding careers, but there are limits! Anyway, the book now. Wonder what Jamie wants with that old tome, must have to do with him being the mayor, maybe some Windenburg history speech he is preparing. May take me a minute to find it though. Your grandmother reorganized the office, AGAIN, now I can’t find jack squat!” he grumbled, then turned to walk off.
“Viv honey, would you mind grabbing Liam a coffee. No need to ask, he’s a Cameron, just give him one. You’ll stay for the cake Viv is making, too, won’t you Liam? We’ll have hand-whipped cream, or butter, not sure yet. I’ll go help your grandfather. He is the sweetest man, except on days he didn’t get his noon nap, he is cranky as all get out. Reverting to a toddler, I swear. Might try a binkie!” Rory ranted then disappeared down the hall after Declan.
“I can hear you!” Declan called back from somewhere down the hallway.
“Good! You were supposed to!” answered Rory from somewhere in the distance.
Vivien did as requested while Liam approached, she placed the cup in front of him.
“What are you doing in town? Why are you at my grandparents’ home?!” he wondered out aloud.
“I am staying with my grandparents, but your grandma offered to teach me the basics of baking. Don’t be jealous, I am not trying to claim your grandparents, and you have 2 sisters and 3 cousins, so you should be used to sharing them. What’s one more, right?”
“I am not jealous. Just surprised that I am the last to hear you are in town. Did you lose my phone number?” his tone suggested that he was hurt by this fact.
“Well, grandma, grandpa and I had dinner at your parents’ place the first day I got here, and when we walked in, your sister Abby was at the dining room table Skyping with Leonie. When Leo saw me, she told me all about your latest screw-up. Let’s just say your sister is very pissed at you for not seeing her off to college with the rest of the family, from the sounds of it, that was a HUGE deal to her. So I figured if you miss something like that, no way you’d have time for me.” Vivien explained, averting her eyes.
Her words pained Liam. Because of Leonie, but also because of how unimportant Viv seemed to think she was to him.
“Vivien, it’s nothing like that. Yeah, I know I was in hot waters with Leo even before the college debacle, I came late to her 18th birthday party, as you know, you and your family were there too, when she ripped me a new one for that in front of all. At Thanksgiving I had to leave before dessert because my boss called, needing something right away. Needless to say that didn’t sit well with anyone in my family. But still, work is not more important than Leo .. or you. Just at the moment I am kinda at the old Bagley’s mercy. Leonie and I had a good heart-to-heart and she understands now, she wants to be a doctor and will probably face the same drama with being called away to work at inopportune times. I went out to the Foxbury campus into an all-girls dorm – YIKES! – and begged for her forgiveness. I did a lot better with her than when I tried to explain it to you, you took it all wrong. Can I get a redo?” Liam pleaded.
“Liam … I have a cake to bake and something in a bowl that is hopefully whipped cream, not butter, and no clue what to do next. I forgot what Rory said to do.”
“Want some help?” Liam offered.
“You know how to BAKE?!”
“Of course. Remember, my mom is a college-educated chef, who worked at the fanciest restaurant Windenburg has to offer since I was born, recently retired at not even 50 years old, after selling her most popular original recipes, along with her name and face to some huge food manufacturer and now I cannot go into any grocery store without my own mother grinning at me from the frozen food aisle. Yeah, I can cook and bake. I’ll leave my man-card at the door.”
“Actually, that’s kinda sexy. I mean .. OH GOD … I didn’t mean to say sexy … I meant … it’s nice when a man isn’t the usual klutz and macho in the kitchen.” Vivien got all frazzled and blushed deeply, which made Liam melt into a puddle.
“Viv, can I please hug you?” he smiled.
He pulled her close and held her longer than a normal hug between friends or family should take.
“Let’s finish that cake. Not much more to go, let’s preheat that oven and get cracking. After that, I’d like to take a little walk with you and chat.” he told her, after finally releasing her.
“Can you say something other than okay?”
“Oh jeeze, did I break you?”
“I … I … have to … thing … the … ahem … bathroom!” Vivien stuttered incoherently and took off, almost running into Rory, who stepped aside surprisingly agile for a 70 year old, then just watched Vivien run past her.
“What happened to her? She runs out like a squirrel with the tail on fire.” she asked Liam.
“Viv and I need to have a talk to iron out some stuff between us. Kinda like I did with Leonie. Evidently the anticipation of that chat made her have to go pee very urgently.”
“Ah, I see. You know what, Liam? Take that girl on that walk now. I noticed something’s wrong with her. Pretty sure her parents sent her to her grandparents to see if that would fix it, and her grandparents keep sending her over here, hoping we could repair her, just like we used to do with her dad Blaine. I love that girl, but am kinda tired of the Vivien-ping-pong. Just grab her and go, maybe you have better luck than us, because she won’t say anything, yet Decs and I keep tripping over her long face all the time and she just has her head permanently in the clouds. Shame, she is such a cute and sweet thing. So polite and courteous, but man, that bug up her butt must be major!”
“Thanks grandma. I’ll try my best. Can I wait till she’s done in that bathroom though or do I have to pull her off with her pants around her ankles right away, like everything else you ask us kids to do? I remember the old rules ‘Do not make us ask you twice, do it right away’ was one of them.” Liam teased.
“Smart Alec! That was coined at you kids’ homework and messes, not to pull already frazzled lil girls off toilets! You are your father’s son! Don’t make me spank that snarkiness and smugness out of you with a wooden spoon, young man!”
“You never have before, so why start now? We’ll be back in time to taste that cake, grandma.” Liam planted a peck on his grandmother’s cheek and went into the hallway.
“Of course you will. And I bet you Rett and Maeve will just happen to be in the area then too. Every time I bake cake they show up like magic. As if they could smell that all the over on that isle. I have been trying to teach Maeve for years, but she just rather gets meals served. You can definitely tell she and her husband used to be celebrities. Oh, make sure Vivien grabs her sweater before you go! It’s Autumn and gets chilly quickly. She already came without a coat, someone as skinny as her will freeze to death in no time. Speaking of, where is YOUR coat, sweet boy?” she called after him.
“We’ll be fine, I promise neither of us will die of hypothermia on a balmy afternoon walk. Gotta go! Thanks granma, you’re the best! We’ll be back soon!”
The bathroom door was unlocked, Liam grabbed Vivien, started taking off her apron and handed her the sweater, which she discombobulated slipped on automatically, while he pulled her along with himself.
“But the cake …!”
“Grandma’s finishing it. She suggested we go for the walk and I agree. Come.”
“Where to? You know my side of the family aren’t the nature walking type. Most of us go to a gym or jog so we fit into our stage clothes and that’s it. We never walk around aimlessly.”
“Well, then you’ll start. I know, we’ll go to Everett Heights. It’s nearby so your un-sporty little legs should not give out on you and we have a destination. And on the way you can think about what you had come to tell me before you ran off that last time, and I choose how I am going to tell you what I need to say to you. So, shut that mouth, and turn on the brain. You have less than 10 minutes.”
Windenburg Everett Heights Park
They arrived at Everett Heights, Vivien smiled looking at the playground as they walked past.
“This is where you and I first met, remember? Where my dad figured out I was his child. My entire life changed here in the blink of an eye a long time ago.”
“Yeah, 20 years go to be exact. I was almost 4, you were 3.”
“And you just came over to me and mom, babbled at me, then hugged me and didn’t want to let go. Mom had to pluck you off of me and you started kissing around on her, mumbling ‘pretty!’.” Vivien laughed, Liam joined in.
“Hey, I always had good taste, even while still enjoying milk and the occasional pacifier. You were a real cute kid and your mom still is very beautiful. Besides, you both were warm and soft and cuddly. Little boys dig that.”
“It was summer and it was warm anyway! And my mom is a lot of things, but warm is never one of them. No vampire is, they are all cold to the touch. I am used to it, grew up around them. So you are busted, you Casanova.”
“Maybe it was the eyes. You and I have almost the exact same eye color. That is hard to overlook.”
“Since when do YOU care about colors?”
“I don’t. But your eyes were what gave it away to your dad. The Cameron green. Maybe I was drawn to them too.”
“Yeah, maybe. In her infinite wisdom my mom had told my dad that she married Riordan and it was implied I was his child. Ri has almost black eyes, my mom’s are silver grey. Mine are green like dad’s. As soon as he saw me up close the lie was busted, my dad is no idiot. There is no way genetics could make that happen. I am so glad I was too young to really get how messed up that situation must have been with Bri and my mom and dad and all that. Yikes.”
“But I was an idiot, Viv. I didn’t realize what I was saying, or what you would be hearing, when I was being honest about work. I should have phrased it differently, I know that now. My sister Leonie is the sweetest girl I have ever met, she always was, and for her to get mad enough with me that she would use actual curse words, and a LOT of them … It made me think of how you left and I realized I am the problem.”
“No, you’re not. I am the actual problem here. I screwed up so much and I just keep screwing up and don’t know why or how to stop it.”
“Are we seriously gonna argue about which one of us screwed up more?”
Vivien shook her head, thinking about the Malik incident. She’d definitely take the screw-up trophy with that nugget. Oh, if Liam knew about that he would rip her several new ones … and have every right to. He would probably not even talk to her again. Even though it was his name she called out. She blushed while staring at his full lips, mesmerized, wondering what they would feel like if …
“Did you hear a word I just said!?”
“Uh … sure … and I totally agree with you.”
“BUSTED! You weren’t listening at all.”
“Ahem … sorry. I was … distracted.” Vivien blushed. Her attempt to slide by had failed.
“I just poured my heart out to you, woman, and you stand there daydreaming?! Seriously, girl!”
“I am sorry, Liam. Won’t happen again. What did you say?”
“I said that I love you. Just a lot nicer, but I am afraid I’d lose you down some mental rabbit hole if I use too many words again.”
“Yeah. Exactly. Now you know what’s wrong with me. What’s been wrong with me since .. ah, I don’t even remember how long. Your turn.”
“Did you mean that?”
“No, I just randomly tell girls that I love them. What do you think?!”
“You love me? You mean, it’s not all just in my head?”
“Ahem .. context please?”
“Don’t you get it?! I feel the same way, and it’s been driving me INSANE! You are the reason I try so hard to learn how to cook and bake. All those forbidden feelings were exactly why I jumped your bones on your couch that one night after the accidental kiss! And THAT was exactly what I came to confess to you this last time! But I couldn’t because you were too busy either fucking Lana or working dusk till dawn at the law firm, then you gave me the speech about how important your career was to you, said your boss doesn’t want us to hang out or he’d fire you, so I freaked out and left. That’s why I kept away because I just can’t think straight when you are near me, all I think of is your lips and your chest and those abs and … hmph …”
Liam had heard enough and just silenced her rant with a kiss. When he let go, she stumbled, so he caught her and picked her up.
“Sorry, knees literally gave out. Am I dreaming this? Is this real?” Vivien mumbled.
“Want me to toss you in the lake to find out?” he winked at her, smirking.
“If you do that I swear, I will kill you!”
“There she is! That’s the Vivien I know.”
His phone started ringing, so he put her down, but she wrapped her arms around his waist.
“If you answer a work call right now, your phone will go swimming in that lake! I am so not done basking in this moment. I feel like I am floating on air.” Vivien said when he pulled out his phone to check the Caller ID.
“Relax, it’s my grandma. Hang on.”
He answered and held the phone out so Vivien could listen.
“Liam, where are you kids!? The cake is cooled and Vivien’s grandparents are here, just like I predicted. Hurry back or Rett and Declan devoured the whole thing!” she urged him, Liam could her complaints of the accused in the background.
“We’ll be right there grandma. Try to rip at least one or two pieces of that cake from the hungry bunch!” Liam chuckled, then hung up.
“Well, let’s get back and have cake with both sets of our grandparents, shall we? Not like that’s gonna feel awkward now.” he smirked.
“Liam .. let’s keep this to ourselves, okay? Let’s not tell anybody. At least for a while. Deal?”
“I agree, this is not for public consumption just yet, especially not before you and I had a chance to wrap our heads around all this first. It’s gonna be mega-awkward to begin with whenever we come out with this, we need some time to figure everything out ourselves before others weigh in. But I have one condition.”
“After we had lovely afternoon coffee and cake with our grandparents, I’ll take that book to my dad, while you go and pack your crap up at your grandparents’ house, you’ll meet me at the Cameron Estate and then you come back to my apartment with me afterwards. As in staying with me.”
“But … Liam … What reason am I supposed to tell my grandparents? And my parents? And your parents! They all know I came here to spend time with my grandparents, how do I go from there to visiting you all of a sudden? San Myshuno isn’t exactly down the road. It’s almost an hour away.”
“I don’t know, Vivien, can’t be so hard to explain, you stayed with me many times before. But you have less than 10 minutes to dream something up.” Liam winked at her.