Chapter One: Preparations
Emily Gabor sat down on the end of the bed, tossing the baby socks in her hand from one fist to the other. "I know it's just another tour, Grandpa, but the older he gets, the more aware he is when I leave him. The last time I travelled, he cried his eyes out when I said goodbye. I don't know if I like being the Mom who's always out of town."
The white-haired man cast her a sympathetic smile, reaching out to take the socks from her and setting them down on the pile of infant clothes that littered one area of expensive blue carpet.
"Michael is a good kid, when he stops with me." He said softly. "He misses his Mom and I'd be worried about him if he didn't, Em. But he'll be just fine. I like spending the time with him, in truth - it makes up for all the time I lost with you and I feel that, if I can keep up with a noisy three and a half year old, I'm not quite ready to bite the dust just yet. We'll do great, him, me and the house staff. It's really no longer than the last time, and he generally has a good time here in San Diego."
"I know." Emily admitted. "And in the end I'll probably miss him more than he does me. Honestly, Grandpa? It's more than just Mike that's got me pensive. It's that this trip is to Canada. And...well...you know who lives north of the border."
"Yes." Harvey's lined face became grave, and he sat down beside her, putting a gentle arm around her shoulders. "Your father."
"I haven't seen him since he tried to screw me and Mike over, and Mom paid him off." Emily twisted her fingers together. "And I can't see why going to Canada would automatically mean I'd see him - I mean, it's a damn big country - but I'm not looking forward to it, anyway. He hasn't come back or tried to make contact, but I always know he's there. And the further away from him I am, the happier it makes me."
"Eric Raymond was a swindler and a coward, even when I knew him." Harvey remarked absently. "But he had a wise head on his shoulders and I doubt he'd want to antagonise your mother further by interfering in your tour. She will be with you, after all...and I'm proud to say that she's my girl in that department. It takes a brave man or a fool to tangle with your mother willingly...and Eric Raymond is neither. I doubt you'll see anything of him. It will be, as you say, just another tour."
"I hope you're right." Emily shrugged her shoulders. "And I suppose there's no point in fretting about it either way. I'm going and that's the end of it. Duty calls and I already travel less than I probably should, considering my choice of career. I didn't ever expect to have something more important to me than being a star...but then, I didn't ever expect to have Michael."
"I always think of him as a special blessing." Harvey smiled. "He brought you and I, and you and your mother back together. The Gabor family has needed that for a long time - now I feel we're more of a family than we've been since the day your Grandmother walked out and left me and Phyllis to fend for ourselves."
He shifted his position slightly, then,
"What about this young man of yours? Is he going on this trip too?"
"Luca?" Emily's cheeks pinkened, and she shook her head. "No. Diablo are staying in Los Angeles, as far as I'm aware...but then, I don't have anything to do with Rory Llewelyn and his administration, so I can't be certain. I'm not sure he's my young man, Grandpa. I mean, I like him a lot and he's great with Michael, but..."
She trailed off, pursing her lips.
"I'm my mother's daughter in that respect." She said at length. "I don't think Luca's interest in me is financial or has anything to do with my being a Gabor - but I'm still wary of surrendering that part of my independance and committing to a one hundred percent relationship. He has mentioned that it might be nice to, you know, get a place together some day, or talked about us going away for a weekend somewhere 'as a family'. I don't know how I feel about those things yet. Michael thinks the world of him and insists on calling him Daddy...but I don't want my son's judgement to cloud my own. I want what's best for Mike, of course...but Grandpa, I don't know if I want to be tied down."
"Yes, you are a lot like your mother." Harvey nodded his head. "My acquaintance with Luca has been brief, I admit, but he seems a steadfast, honest young man, with his head screwed on and his heart very much in the right place. I think of your mother's drifting, and that in the end it wound up with her trusting a man who hurt her badly. I don't want you to make the same mistakes she did, that's all. I don't say Luca's your man...but as I see it, well, you could do a lot worse."
"I know I could." Emily admitted unwillingly. "And you know, I do like him a lot. Sometimes I think I love him. But he seems ready for commitments I've never been ready for. We've never really discussed it, but then, it's always been there. I don't know. Maybe time in Canada will be good thinking time, if nothing else."
"Perhaps." Harvey inclined his head slightly. "But just be careful, my child. It isn't just your happiness that hangs in the balance when you make those kinds of decisions. Michael relies on you...and well, there's no pretending that I won't be around forever. He does need a father figure - you obviously know that, or we wouldn't having this conversation. He needs a male role model and I'm getting no younger. The doctors say that, if I continue this way, I could have another good ten or fifteen years in me, and I'm determined to make my century. But there's no guarantees of it, and I'm not so young as I was."
"I wish you wouldn't." Emily looked pensive. "You're not that old. At least, you don't act it. I hate it when you talk about death, like it's right there waiting to snap you up. It isn't, Grandpa. You have the best doctors and you take care of yourself. There's no need to even think it."
"Well, I like to be prepared for every eventuality. You never know what life will throw at you." Harvey said pragmatically. "And I have a lot of things to leave in order...I like to know that as many of them are settled as is possible before anything does. I don't expect to be going anywhere just yet," as he caught the distress in his grandaughter's eyes. "But it never hurts to be ready."
"In some ways, other than Mike, you're the only real family I have." Emily said softly. "So don't. Please. I don't like thinking about it. Mom and I are friends more than mother and daughter, you know that. But you've been a real grandfather to me since the day you knew who I was - and before, in fact. So let it go, huh?"
"All right." Harvey relented. "But nonetheless, I would like to see you happy. I don't somehow picture wedding bells for you any more than I pictured them for my own girl - but so long as you can find someone like she eventually found Alan, who you can trust and in whom Michael can find a role model...then I will be happy."
"I'm happy now." Emily assured him. "And I dare say I'll figure out Luca and all the other stuff as time goes on."
She got to her feet.
"I should go." She said at length. "Mike's asleep and I'd rather go when he's not aware of it, rather than have him scream the house down again. I'll go say my goodbyes to him and get going...I'd like to be back in Los Angeles before sunset."
"All right." Harvey nodded his head. He stood, taking her by the hand and kissing her gently on the cheek.
"Take care and drive safely, my dear." He said gently. "And have a good trip to Canada. I'm sure, once you're there, everything will come right. You'll see. You're a born performer, just like your mother was before you. It will all be fine."
"I'm sure you're right." Awkwardly Emily returned the kiss, then scooped up her bag. "Thanks, Grandpa. I always feel better for seeing you, no matter what the problem."
* * * * * * * *
"It's early. It's barely four o' clock in the afternoon."
The man glanced up from his newspaper, casting his companion a wry smile as he took in her features. She stood before him, wrapped in a thick, pink dressing gown and with her fair hair knotted back from her face in a rough, messy plait. She stifled a yawn, her lips twitching into a smile under his scrutiny.
"I know. I just crawled out of bed." She said, in answer to his unspoken question. "It was a long night last night...I didn't get home till half nine this morning. I didn't expect to be up quite this early."
She came to sit down, meeting his gaze with a quizzical one of her own.
"So why are you here at this time?" She asked. "You're usually working by now. What gives, Eric? It's unlike you to break your pattern."
"I was reading the midday newspaper." Eric tossed the journal down onto the coffee table. "I discovered something interesting, Harriet. Lots of publicity...within the week, Emily will be in Canada."
"Emily?" Harriet's clever blue eyes sparkled with surprise and she reached a carefully manicured hand across to pick up the discarded paper, flicking through the pages towards the society section. "As in your daughter, Emily? Sirena? I thought you had nothing to do with her, Eric...why such interest now?"
"The timing could not be better." Eric rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Let's just say, my dear, that it has all the appearances of business opportunity."
"She thinks you're scum of the universe." Harriet pushed the paper to one side, idly toying with the rings on her left hand. "And let's face it, Eric, you ain't been much of a father to her since I've known you. What makes you think she'll want to even speak to you?"
"Nothing at all." Eric sat back in his seat, an amused smile touching his lips. "I don't want to see my daughter, Harriet. I want to speak to a potential business ally. There's a difference. Family's not my style...you know that."
"And yet here we are." Harriet's tone became playful, and she winked at him. "What would your little girl say to that, huh? She must be as old as me...no, older. Would she approve, do you think?"
"I don't give a damn whether she does or doesn't approve." Now there was an edge to Eric's tones. "You're none of her business, Harriet, and you know full well the terms under which you're here as well as I do. We have something we can give each other...I've never asked for more from you than that, as well you know."
"Ours is a business arrangement then, too." Harriet laughed. "Eric, it's all business with you! But I won't pretend that in my case I'm not glad of it. Whatever your motives, I'm grateful to you for all you've done for me."
She frowned, pulling the dressing gown more tightly around her.
"There was another jerk cruising the diner last night." She added, her tone lacking its former playful tone. "Eric, he gave me the creeps. I know he was just another sleaze trying to hit on me...but he was very pushy. He made it real clear what he wanted to do to me...it bothered me, when I had time to stop and reflect on it. I don't live that way any more - I've no mind to be forced back down that path by a guy who can't take no for an answer."
Eric pursed his lips.
"I'll see about extra security for you, at the diner." He said at length. "I trust they were looking out for you last night?"
"Oh yes. They got rid of him without too much of a fight." Harriet nodded her head. "I just didn't like it, that's all. He looked at me like he was looking through my clothes, sizing me up like a piece of meat in a butcher's market. I don't like being considered that way. I'm not for sale."
"Then we'll have to make sure he doesn't come back." Eric said simply. "Don't worry, my dear. I know my side of the deal as well as you do. I won't let anyone come near you...on that you have my word."
"I know I do." Harriet's expression relaxed into a tender smile. "At least there's one man in my life who isn't interested in groping me. It's nice to have a guy talking to me on eye to eye level sometimes...not with his gaze a few inches lower."
Eric met her gaze fully at that moment, a slight smile touching his lips as he realised the full irony in her words.
"I don't have time to worry about you as a woman, Harriet." He said frankly. "I had enough grief with them when I left America - I've no time for women in my bed. But you have a quick brain and I like the way you think. Your ideas have proven helpful more than once with business promotions. From that perspective, my dear, you are invaluable to me."
"That and one other." Harriet's teasing tone was back and secretly Eric was glad to hear it. "Or had you forgotten why it is that Canadian Immigration are no longer hunting you down?"
"No, I hadn't forgotten." Eric held out his hand to her and, daintily she took it, coming to sit down beside him. "As I said before, we have a business arrangement. I will see to this troublemaker of yours - I won't tolerate anyone interfering with your night's work and I certainly won't put up with men trying to have their way with you. You're worth more to me than that...so don't worry. It will all be taken care of. I promise."
* * * * * * * *
Well, so another tour had begun.
Emily pushed her car up a gear, flicking on the radio as she sped down the interstate, heading towards home. The apartment would seem empty this evening, without Michael's demanding behaviour to deal with, and she realised that, now he was safely in San Diego, she would be glad to get on her way.
"I hate being home alone." She mused, absently tapping her fingers in time to the music. "And Grandpa's doubtless right about my father. Going north isn't going to mean a run-in with him. He's not a fool and he wouldn't want to cross Mom. I just wish I didn't have such a feeling of foreboding about it, that's all. I've not been to Canada since I worked for Rory and brought my Dad into the picture about my heritage. I almost wish I'd never bothered doing that. Then at least I'd know that he wouldn't care at all if I happened to step over the border."
She pursed her lips, a wry smile touching her lips.
"Last time I was in Canada, Blade was with me, too." She acknowledged. "Now he's dead, and I'm raising his legacy. Geez, has it really been that long since I played tour dates there? It must be. I wonder if that was Mom's planning, or if it just worked out that way."
She flipped on her indicator, taking the turning for the centre of Los Angeles and pulling into lane as she headed into more familiar territory.
"I shouldn't bother about Eric Raymond and his pathetic scheming." She decided. "Or Mom and whether or not she's been putting off my touring in Canada because of potential run-ins with him. Maybe I'm just sick of being governed and protected and having other people making my decisions for me. I didn't grow up that way - perhaps I'm just getting sick of it. After all, I am a mother in my own right. I make my own choices and I do fine by my son. Grandpa is the only one who never tries to control what I do...maybe that's why I always feel so close to him."
She turned her car into the street that led to her apartment building, pulling onto the car park and frowning as she registered a familiar car in one of the bays.
"Luca?" She wondered. "Hell, and what's he doing here? We didn't have a date tonight. Did we?"
Hurriedly she racked her brains, coming up blank.
"I'm sure I told him I was taking Mike to Grandpa tonight." She said aloud. "I wonder if something's happened."
She parked her vehicle, heading into the building and across the foyer to the lift, pressing the button to bring the car down to the ground floor. Before long she had reached her own floor, and, as the silver doors parted with it's familiar chime, she stepped out onto the landing, casting a glance around her for her boyfriend.
"Emily!" A familiar voice startled her and she swung around, casting him a grin.
"What are you doing here?" She demanded playfully. "Did we have something tonight?"
"No." Luca shook his head. "I just came to wish you luck on your tour, that's all. I won't see you tomorrow, before you fly out - and you're away for quite some time. I just wanted to say goodbye, I guess."
"How long have you been waiting for me?"
"Not long." Luca assured her. "I know you were driving out to San Diego this evening - I just hoped I'd catch you on your way back...and that you wouldn't be too tired to see me when you got here."
"Is that a hint that you want me to invite you in for coffee?" Emily raised an eyebrow. Luca grinned.
"If you're offering." He said amiably. "Though if you're beat, I'll just hug you and wish you luck and take off."
"No, not that beat." Emily relented, reaching in her pocket for her key. "And the apartment will be empty tonight, without Mike. I guess I can stand some company."
"That's what I hoped." Luca admitted. "How was he...did he go over to Harvey okay?"
"Oh, he loves Grandpa." Emily nodded, pushing open the door. "He'll have a great time. He'll be spoiled to death, but I can live with that. Grandpa never had a chance to spoil me, so I guess it's only fair he gets to do it with Mike. But I left while the kid was sleeping. I know how he gets when we have to say goodbye, and well, I don't like it much either. Better I'm gone by the time he wakes up."
"You sure that won't upset him?" Luca looked doubtful, following her into the kitchen and sitting down on an empty bar stool. "I mean, the kid adores you. Won't he be freaked out if he wakes up and Mommy's gone?"
"It's not like I've left him in a strange place." Emily shook her head. "He goes to Grandpa all the time. Like I said, he'll be fine."
She filled the coffee pot with water, turning to cast him a questioning look.
"You do think that I'm the one to judge that, don't you? I mean, he is my son, Luca."
"Of course." Luca held up his hands. "I'm not trying to tell you how to run Mike's life. I just was surprised, that's all, that you'd leave him without saying goodbye."
"I said goodbye." A wistful look touched Emily's eyes, but it was gone in a moment. "I just did it while he was sleeping. Don't nag me about it, Luca. It's hard enough going away and leaving my little boy behind without you questioning my decisions. Sometimes I have to do what's easier for me as well as what's best for him."
"Sorry." Luca looked sheepish. "I didn't mean to nag. I guess you're right - he'll have a great time with Harvey. The old dude seems to live forever, and I'm always amazed by how much he manages with Mike."
"Me too, in truth." Emily acknowledged. "But he says he's got plenty of life left in him yet, and I pray that he's right. Losing Grandpa is something I don't want to contemplate - at least, not yet. Not till Mike is older, and old enough to remember what a great person he is. Mike's already lost his father...and he doesn't have a grandfather. It's not right that he should lose his great Grandpa as well. He has too little family as it is."
"He still thinks you're his father."
"Is that a problem?" Luca looked surprised. "I didn't think it bothered you, him calling me Daddy."
"No, it doesn't." Emily bit her lip. "I mean, it bothers me that I feel I'm lying to him, and one day he's going to confront me for letting it happen. But he needs male role models. I just..."
She sighed, selecting two mugs from the drainer.
"I worry what might happen if you and I split up, ever." She admitted. "That I'd have to put my feelings over his...that he might even choose against me, and like you better."
"Are you planning on us splitting up?" Luca stared. Emily shook her head.
"No." She replied. "No, I'm not. But I have to be prepared for everything. And he's always in the equation. Much as I love you, Luca, he's the one who matters most. And whatever I do has to have him in mind."
"I wouldn't ask it to be otherwise." Luca took his mug, casting her a smile. "I'm as fond of the little tyke as I am of you, almost. I don't mind playing father, even if one day he asks questions. I don't mind being the one to answer them, if it's difficult for you to do. I often wish I was his Dad, anyhow. It's really not that hard playing surrogate."
Emily was silent for a moment, eying Luca contemplatively. Then, at length, she shook her head.
"I appreciate it, but when the time comes, it's my job to explain about his real Dad." She said quietly. "I'm his mother. It's me he'll ask."
"Sure." Luca nodded his head. "Whatever's good with you. I don't mind."
He took a sip of his drink, setting it down on the unit. "How beat are you? I mean, do you want me to drink up and get out of here, or...?"
"Or can you stop the night?" Emily finished, and despite herself, a smile touched her lips. "Aren't you cheeky?"
"Yes." Luca nodded his head, his expression unrepentant. "But there aren't many nights of the year that you and I are here, in this apartment, without Michael here. He's a good kid and you know I love him to death. But some opportunities shouldn't be missed...and you leave in the morning."
"So I do." Emily pursed her lips. "Oh, all right. I guess you have a point. I guess Emily and Luca time is generally shared with Michael."
She finished her drink, rinsing the mug under the cold tap and then setting it down in the bowl. "But whatever happens, Luca, I have to be at the airport for half eight tomorrow morning. Okay?"
"No problem." Luca's eyes twinkled. "If I have to, I'll drive you there myself."
He grasped at her hand, pulling her towards him and kissing her gently on the lips.
"I love you." He murmured. "I'm gonna miss you like mad."
"I'll miss you too." Emily responded. "But it's only a few weeks. You can manage without me that long, right?"
"I guess so." Luca nodded his head. "I guess Diablo will have stuff to do and I'll cope."
His eyes twinkled.
"But at least tonight I have you all to myself!"
Chapter One: Preparations
Chapter Two: Heading North
Chapter Three: First Show
Chapter Four: A Hotel Scare
Chapter Five: Diversion
Chapter Six: Eric's Gambit
Chapter Seven: Under The Radar
Chapter Eight: Flight
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