Chapter Fourteen: Mayfair

"I knew it was a bad idea for you to go back to that house."

Laura cast her friend a scolding glance, placing the last of the dishes into the rack and drying her hands on the nearby tea towel. "Sheila, you could have been killed."

"I could have, but I wasn't." Jetta shrugged her shoulders, pulling open the fridge door and pouring herself a glass of milk. "As it is, the geezer's snuffed it an', two days on, everythin' is 'unky dory in Wissex. The last radio bulletin said the Earl was recoverin' well an' likely to be kicked out of the 'ospital before too long, so I guess there ain't goin' to be two 'Awthorne funerals in a week. It's fine, Laura. It's over now."

"And after I told you not to go anywhere on your own." Justin set down his camera, rolling his eyes. "Do you ever listen?"

"Nope." Jetta told him cheerfully. "In any case, the medals are back where they belong, I've closed the door an' put the Hawthorne business behind me and, believe it or not, I'm actually looking forward to goin' 'ome an' droppin' the bombshell on Pizzazz. Her expression will make the whole trip worth doin'. Even the bad bits."

"Possibly." Justin pursed his lips. "Can I be there when you tell her, please?"

"Be my guest." Jetta laughed. "An' bring your friggin' camera along, too!"

"You aren't going to go visit Mason in 'ospital?" Laura asked. "He is your cousin, Sheila, and he did take a bullet for you."

"I think it's better I keep well away from the whole Hawthorne estate, in truth." Jetta shook her head. "He has no reason to want me there, an' nothing further to gain from me, either. He knows that I'm alive an' that Trevor didn't quite 'ave 'is way with things after all. But other than that, I'm not important in the big scheme of things. I'm just another bleedin' offshoot of a screwed up family dynasty, an' I think it's best to leave it there."

"Will you tell the kids?" Justin wondered. Jetta nodded.

"I think it's their right to know." She agreed. "I'll take the photos and the certificates and stuff back with us when we go, and see what Aaron an' Nancy make of it all. Aaron probably won't care a jot. Nancy might - she's always been interested in the English side of 'er family tree. An' I'll address it with Taylor, too, when I can get a moment with 'im. Carefully, like. Avoidin' bits 'e don't need to know. In truth, I might not tell Aaron or Nancy those things...though in a sense, after 'er encounters with my brother, Nancy almost deserves to know. I haven't decided. I'll think it over on the flight 'ome."

"Well, that side of it is down to you." Justin told her. "I'll go along with whatever you choose to say, you know that. It's your story to tell, after all."

"Yes." Jetta looked pensive. She glanced across at the battered old chest by the far wall. "An' then we 'ave to see to that thing, too. Are you sure we can leave it 'ere till we can arrange transport, Laura?"

"Not a problem with me." Laura assured her. "Plenty of space for it."

She moved across to touch the lid.

"Do you really think you were smuggled out of wherever inside of it?"

"It was Justin's flight of fancy, but I think he might 'ave a point." Jetta nodded. "Of course, it's possible that my blanket jus' got caught in it because it were used to store clothes and junk, after my folks died. We'll never know for sure either way. All the people who ever knew the answer are dead an' gone now, so I guess it doesn't matter."

"Did I just hear the door?" Justin paused in what he was doing, frowning. "I could've sworn that was the bell. Laura, are you expectin' company?"

"No." Laura shook her head. "Keith won't be back till sevenish an' Avril's still away. Maybe it's someone sellin' somethin'."

"Want me to deal with them?" Jetta set down her glass. Laura grinned.

"Be my guest." She agreed. "I can't stand salespeople on the step."

Jetta returned the grin, pushing open the kitchen door and stepping into the hall as there was a second knock at the door.

"I'm comin'! 'Old your 'orses!" She exclaimed, reaching for the latch and pulling it back with more force than was necessary. She swung the door open, her retort dying on her lips as she registered the visitor.

"Hello Sheila." Mason offered her a slight smile. "May I come in?"

"I thought you were still in the bleedin' 'ospital." Jetta hurriedly gathered her wits. "What in God's name are you doin' here? How did you find me?"

"Oh, it's not hard to track down someone who's name is well known in their own right." Mason told her simply. "And as for hospital - I discharged myself this morning. I'd had enough...I can convalesce well enough at home and my arm is healing now. I had my man bring me here as soon as I knew where to find you...I was under the impression you were heading back to the States and I hoped to speak to you before you left. About something that's, well, of some urgency."

Jetta eyed him thoughtfully for a moment. Then she stepped back, holding the door open so he could enter.

"Fine." She said flatly. "But this is my friend's 'ouse, so mind your blinkin' manners while you're here."

Mason just looked amused, following her into the hallway and back towards the kitchen, where Laura and Justin both stared at the newcomer uncomprehendingly.

"Looks like I ain't lost the Hawthorne trail quite so easily." Jetta said dryly, jerking her head in the direction of her companion. "Laura, Justin, I'd like you to meet Mason 'Awthorne, Earl of bloody Wissex. Mason, my 'usband, Justin, an' my friend Laura Milligan."

"It's a pleasure." Mason said solemnly, as Laura and Justin exchanged glances.

"Can I get you something to drink?" Laura asked. Mason shook his head.

"No thank you." He assured her, taking a seat at the small breakfast table and offering her a smile. "But thank you for asking. No, I don't intend to stay long - I'm not supposed to be all over the county with my arm still healing and I don't want to worry Grace by disappearing for long periods. But I did need to come. We discussed it and she agrees with she knows everything, too, there are things that need to be settled."

"I read in the news this morning that your wife is expecting." Justin observed. "Congratulations."

"Or commiserations." Jetta said dryly. "Dependin' on 'ow you feel about it."

She eyed her cousin carefully.

"You can't be 'ere to tell us that, an' if Grace is knocked up, this ain't about the succession to Wissex." She said bluntly. "So what is it about? I gave you Jeremy's medals. I don't know what else I can give you - the photos an' that stuff I'm keepin' an' taking back to LA with me, so my kids can see them. There's nothin' else to give."

"But I didn't come here to be given anything." Mason's eyes twinkled with humour. "It's the other way around, actually. And it's not really me who's doing the giving, traces back a lot further than that. I have to do what's right by my family, and now I know that you survived, well..."

He pursed his lips.

"You said Jeremy had a son." He added. "And a grand-daughter, too?"

"Yes. In America." Jetta nodded. "Though Taylor's name is Conway, not Burns nor Hawthorne. He's even further removed from all this - an' like I said to you before, there ain't no way he'd be trackin' back to England to take part in your Earldom."

"Conway?" Mason looked startled. "I don't understand...I thought you grew up under the name Burns? You and Jeremy?"

"We did." Jetta confirmed. "But Taylor never knew 'is Dad, an' grew up under 'is mother's name. She was...well, she died of a drug overdose when 'e was five or six, I think. He grew up in care. He only really discovered our side of the family five years or so ago, thanks to Laura's boy Cameron."

"I see." Mason frowned. "That makes it more complicated, then."

"What does?" Jetta looked confused. "I don't follow. Mason, what are you talkin' about?"

"My father's will is expressly clear on many things." Mason said slowly. "About the inheritance of his estate, and who can and cannot inherit. He never wrote into his will that a bastard could not inherit Wissex was a blatant omission on his part. An omission which, by being there, meant he gave his permission for it to happen. That is why I pushed Clayton so hard to become my heir. Even though his mother and I were never married - he was still eligible to inherit Wissex by dint of being my son."

"So what has this to do with Taylor? Or Jetta's family?" Justin asked. "We already know that she's not in line for the estate and that's something she and I are both happy about."

"Well, you are in line, but others do have better claims. Including your nephew Taylor." Mason nodded his head. "My father was a liberal minded man, you see...he didn't judge."

"The point being...?"

"My uncle Jeremy's will is another matter." Mason said simply. "He and my father wrote theirs at about the same time - obviously when they first felt Trevor to be a threat, because Jeremy categorically wrote him out of his own will. His property and land were left to his wife, then to any children, then it would revert back to the main estate if he had no children or if they did not have children of their own. He made it very clear that under no circumstances could Trevor ever inherit Mayfair. In a sense, perhaps, it was the beginning of the trouble. The first legal exclusion of the younger brother from gaining anything."

"He must have been upset." Laura observed softly.

"Probably." Mason agreed. "But I suppose Jeremy thought that, if Trevor wasn't in the will, he couldn't gain anything by killing those that were."

Laura shivered.

"It's a horrible suspicion to 'ave of your own brother." She murmured.

"But I can believe it." Jetta said quietly, taking a sip of her drink. "I kept away from England for years because of my brother...Jeremy junior was capable of all those things an' he would 'appily 'ave killed me and my daughter in his quest to take what was mine. I would 'ave written 'im out of my will, too. It makes perfect sense to me."

"Exactly." Mason nodded.

"But you still haven't said how this relates to any of us." Justin pointed out. Mason nodded.

"I thought I had, in a sense." He responded. "Mayfair only reverts to me - and my estate - in the event that all of Jeremy's line dies out. I had thought that this would mean your nephew, but Jeremy's will isn't as open as my father's. He very specifically states that only children born within wedlock can inherit. He was devoted to his wife and she to him...and I think he felt that by being so specific, he could prevent anyone coming in and taking advantage of the clause for their own ends somewhere else along the line. He was a very particular, decided gentleman in some respects, from all the information I've managed to acquire. I get the feeling that he wanted to be sure his inheritance was earned by commitment, not stolen away by convenience. As I said, he and my father had differing views on this particular subject."

He shrugged his shoulders gingerly.

"Either way, his will still stands. Mayfair has been closed up and tied on to my estate for the past twenty or more years. Trevor could never touch it, because of the clause in my uncle's will. But it's not mine, not really. Not when you are still alive, Sheila. And if Taylor is, well, not and your children certainly are."

Jetta choked on her milk, setting the glass down hurriedly.

"You're not bloody serious?" She exclaimed. "I thought I made it clear that I didn't want anything from or your family!"

"It's not in my power to override." Mason said simply.

Jetta swore softly.

"So what am I meant to do with it?" She demanded. "A bloody great house in Mayfair? I don't belong in Mayfair, with all the posh nobs! An' dammit, my home is in Los Angeles! Why would I want the house, anyway?"

"I have no idea. I'm just here to tell you how things are." Mason shrugged his shoulders again, wincing as he jarred his injury. "Ouch. Must remember not to do that. Besides, I thought you might care on a more personal level."

"What's that?"

"You were born in that house." Mason smiled. "You and your brother both."

Jetta stared at him, floored.

"You're kidding me." Finally she found her voice. "Born there? But...?"

"We know it for sure." Mason nodded his head. "I have one other thing which I brought with me - something which I was going to give to you regardless of the Mayfair estate."

He reached into his jacket pocket with his good hand, pulling out a book. It was cloth bound, worn at the edges but clearly of quality, and carefully he set it down on the table in front of him.

"Your mother kept a diary." Mason said quietly. "I found it tossed aside in a drawer in her room at Mayfair, when I first came to London. I stayed there for three years, waiting for my opportunity to reclaim my estate and title. Trevor may have stolen and pawned many treasures at Wissex, but he had no power to touch those in Mayfair. I doubt he even knew this was here. I intended to keep it, as I never knew my aunt and it was a way to reach back and remember her even though she was a stranger to me. But it should be yours. You deserve to know her more than I do, after all."

Wordlessly, Jetta reached for the book, flicking it open and glancing at the neat script that covered the pages. She swallowed hard, then snapped it shut.

"Pandora's box all over again." She murmured.

"Possibly." Mason nodded. "But I won't take it back with me. If you choose to destroy it, well, that's your choice. Not mine."

He smiled.

"As for Mayfair, I will speak to my legal representatives as soon as I'm fit to." He added. "What you do with it will be up to you - but the house is yours by your father's will, and nothing either you or I can do can change that. If you want to sell it, well, you have that right. But it has been in the family for three hundred years, and you weren't the first Hawthorne babies to be born there. Think about that before you discard it completely. It might never be home to you again - but it is a part of who you are and, in a sense, the least you deserve for being denied the truth for so many years."

He got to his feet with some difficulty, and it was clear that, despite his words, he was still very much a convalescent.

"I should go before Grace worries." He said at length. He smiled at Jetta.

"If you never speak to me again, at least I know I've done right by your father." He added.

"I'll come get the door." Laura said hurriedly, crossing the kitchen and pulling open the door for the visitor, who grinned at her, then followed her out into the hall.

Once they were alone, Justin moved to his wife's side, putting a hand on her shoulder as she turned the book over in her hand.

"I don't know whether to believe him, to read it...or to just toss it into the bin an' try and forget it." She whispered, raising troubled grey eyes to his soft dark ones. "I thought I'd shut the door, Justin - can I ever? I mean, am I goin' to be Sheila Rose Hawthorne now for the rest of time?"

"To me you're Jetta Pelligrini." Justin kissed her on the forehead. "Names aren't important, not really. But Mason does have a point. Your father would have wanted you to have Mayfair, and this is your chance to really share your heritage with your children. We don't have to live there. But it would be somewhere to stay when in England, and you could extend it to include Taylor and his family as well...I don't see why his birth should exclude him, even if your father did."

"Some holiday 'ouse." Jetta said ruefully.

"Well, I vote we leave the legalities to Mason and fly home as we planned." Justin suggested. "If he's for real about wanting you to have it, well, then it will all work out and we can come back here and deal with it when you feel more settled about it. If you were born there, Jetta, I don't think we should sell it. It's a huge piece of your past, whether you remember it or not. And we don't need the money."

"Do I need the past, though?" Jetta wondered. Justin shrugged.

"I don't know." He owned. "And I will go along with whatever you decide to do. I just want you to think it over, that's all."

"I will do that." Jetta promised. "An' even if I had been determined to sell it, I guess, knowin' I was born there casts a different shade on it. I've lost all of that life because of one man's greed, an' who knows, I might 'ave 'ated it anyway. Who's to say I wouldn'tve run off to America when I was old enough to be a rock star even if I'd been raised a Hawthorne? If my Pa was all into the navy an' proprietry an' stuff, well, maybe we would 'ave clashed like crazy. It's a possibility. I might still 'ave been Jetta, even if I 'ad been a Hawthorne."

"Funny to think about." Justin observed. "But I think you and I would have met, regardless of how you'd grown up. It was meant. Sometimes things are. Other things just get in the way."

He tapped the diary.

"And that? Will you read it?"

"I think I have to." Jetta admitted. "I could just throw it out, but then I'd probably regret it for the rest of time. She's as much a mystery as my father, except 'e was an 'Awthorne and people wrote things to and about 'im. Patricia is a different matter...but she's as much mine as he was. It may upset me, but perhaps I have to know those things."

"Perhaps you do." Justin acknowledged. "Then we'll take that back with us, too. And Nancy will be interested in that, if nothing else."

Jetta sighed, hearing the sound of a car roaring away.

"There he goes." She observed absently. "After makin' my life more crazy than it was already."

"I guess you can't ever really escape who you are." Justin mused. "Or your responsibilities. Mason's kinda proof of that, in a sense."

"He is." Jetta agreed. "But it don't make my decisions any easier to figure."

She drained the last of her milk, pushing the glass aside.

"The first thing I have to do, though, is finalise things for my father's grave." She said soberly. "I won't leave England without that. Regardless of everythin' else I found out, I'm always goin' to remember what Trevor said - the fact that 'e died protectin' where I was, tryin' to keep me out of this hurrah's nest of lies an' intrigue an' whatever else. He did 'is best an' I owe him for that. I'll see 'e 'as a proper 'eadstone."

"Did you decide what to put on it, yet?" Justin asked. Jetta nodded.

"Yes." She said simply. "Father, husband, brother. Because he was. Maybe he was a jerk - no doubt that he was one. But he did take me in. He did protect Jeremy an' I, growin' up. I even wonder if tryin' to keep us from explorin' the world was tryin' to keep us safe from pryin' Hawthorne eyes. An' yes he was greedy an' selfish an' not much good at bein' a Dad...but then, he never chose to be. We were ditched on 'im an, when it came to the crunch, 'e tried to do the right thing."

"I guess that does make him your father." Justin grinned. "In which case, he deserves that memorial."

"I think he does." Jetta smiled slightly. "And then, once that is done, we really need to think about goin' 'ome. God knows I've had enough of England for one summer!"

Prologue: London, England
Chapter One: England's Rose
Chapter Two: Delving
Chapter Three: Wissex
Chapter Four: Grace
Chapter Five: Revelations
Chapter Six: Facing Shadows
Chapter Seven: A Change In Plans
Chapter Eight: County Show
Chapter Nine: Trevor Hawthorne
Chapter Ten: A Sea Chest
Chapter Eleven: Binding
Chapter Twelve: Homecoming
Chapter Thirteen: Hawthorne Blood
Chapter Fourteen: Mayfair

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