Chapter Nine: Trevor Hawthorne

"Well, I have to admit, he talks a good tune."

Luca dropped down into an empty seat, casting Clay a rueful grimace as he did so. "And his people serve decent food. That was one of the oddest nights out we've done in a while, Clay...but I haveta admit, it's a beautiful house."

"Yes, it is that." Clay sat down heavily on the end of the sofa, his expression troubled. "And you're not wrong about his banter, either. I hate this, Luca. This pressure. It's like he's abandoned me for twenty six odd years and now suddenly he needs a son, so I'm called back into favour with pomp and celebration. The house staff all spoke to me like I was some lord in waiting, and it was...strange. Unnatural. I'm used to fans and their peculiarities, but this was something else. As if everyone had been told to be on their best behaviour, to charm the prodigal son of the Earl of Wissex on his homecoming."

"I think that about sums it up." Luca nodded his head. "Though in truth, Clay, he doesn't seem a bad guy. Not actually a whole lot different from you, if I'm honest. I know he upset your Mom and that was wrong of him," As Clay opened his mouth to protest. "Because your Mom is a damn good woman and she didn't deserve it. Nor did you. But if he wants to reach out an olive branch to you...Clay, why refuse it? You're a grown man. Your Mom would be the first to say that you have to make your own decisions about this, and you know it. You can't tell me you're guided entirely by her view of him. I don't think he seems like a monster. Misguided, maybe he was...but it sounds to me like he's had a lot on his plate for the last thirty odd years."

"Yeah." Clay sat back in his seat, considering. "I guess if I'm honest, I find it hard to move past the fact that he ignored me for so many years. It leaves a bitter taste, that I'm only called into his precious home now because he imagines he needs me."

"I can see that." Luca acknowledged. "But this is the thing, Clay. He does. He was damn near on his knees grovelling to you must've seen it."

"Yes, I did." Clay nodded his head. "It makes me wonder if he'd bother to speak to me if he wasn't in such a bind."

"Maybe you should listen to what Maddy said...and think that perhaps it's not all about insulting your mother and abandoning you." Luca suggested. "If what he and Grace both told you about this uncle of his is true..."

"Then by acknowledging me and making me heir, he makes me bait." Clay finished frankly. "And I don't want to be bait in a trap. But..."

He sighed.

"Tonight I realised how big a deal the Wissex Earldom is." He acknowledged reluctantly. "I always had the impression that these things were just random titles and that there was nothing else involved in it but spending money and going to fancy occasions. Aside from the death threats, I guess I realised how much more goes on. He mentioned tenants and other things to me briefly, but I suppose I didn't understand that people still rent land from the Wissex estate. I didn't realise how many local interest things he patronises as Earl, or how many local charities he donates proceeds to on a regular basis. The fair, for much money raised, and all of it to build a new hospital wing where the other sources of funding have fallen down. Dammit, it's like realising someone you've vilified your whole life is actually some kind of God in his own kingdom. And it doesn't feel good, hating someone who is so obviously well loved by the folk around him."

"Nobody is perfect." Luca observed. "Maybe it was as he said to you. He was young and he jumped to a conclusion. He made a mistake and acted on it impulsively. Are you telling me, Clay, you've never done the same thing?"

He raised an eyebrow.

"I remember a chick in college which you caught hanging out way too much with that guy from down the hall...and boy did you knock his teeth out and give him a black eye before you found out he was her cousin."

Clay reddened.

"You're a git, Luca, reminding me of dumb things like that." He said darkly. "I was eighteen and I lost my temper. I've never done it since."

"No, but is it really that different from your Mom and how your Dad jumped to conclusions over her?" Luca asked. "I know that there was you in the equation, as well, but the basic premise is the same. I don't remember Luciana returning any of your calls after you beat the crap out of her cousin, and it stands to reason your Mom wouldn't want to touch your Dad for money, after the way he'd treated her."

Clay let out a heavy sigh.

"So you think I'm my father's son, too?" He asked wearily. Luca shrugged his shoulders.

"I think you're Clayton Blake." He said evenly. "I'm just saying that we all do dumb things sometimes. Even Earls. And if he wants to make amends - whatever his reasoning - is it worth burning those bridges just to make a point? He is your father, whatever else he is. And that should be worth something...shouldn't it?"

"Do you speak to your Mom?" Clay demanded.

"I don't like everything she's about, and I'm mad as heck at her for what she's done to Steffi over the years." Luca responded quietly. "But if she writes me, I write back. Sure, it might not be a letter full of affection...but she's my Mom and whatever she's done, I was taught to respect my parents."

"Well, so was I." Clay admitted ruefully. "But I'd always taken that to mean Gary...not my real Dad."

He spread his hands.

"He wants me to accept that I'm his heir, Luca. What the hell do you suppose I'm to do about that? This isn't my world!"

"No...but it strikes me that it's just a technicality." Luca said sensibly. "Mason isn't that old - no older than Sophie or Rory - and he definitely doesn't strike me as being at death's door. This uncle of his may have shot for him in the past, but if what he said tonight is true, he's been out of prison a while and they've seen head nor hair of him at Wissex. I say he's given up and it's paranoia on their part...Trevor must be an old dude now and probably beyond caring about it. The truth of it is that after a few years, it won't even matter. Mason could live another thirty or forty years, easily. That's plenty of time for you to find a way to push the title responsibility off onto someone else. In the meantime...if it's a chance to bond with your birth father..."

"I guess." Clay glanced at his hands. "Well. He wants me to meet him for lunch tomorrow...I suppose I'll do that, and we'll see where it goes from there."

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

The cemetary was quiet that morning.

As Jetta walked carefully between the rows of neat gravestones, a squirrel hopped across the still-dewy grass, pausing to assess the intruder for a moment before darting off into the hedgerow. In the branches of the trees, birds chirped a greeting to one another, and all around her was a sense of peaceful tranquility.

"A world away from what's goin' on in my bleedin' 'ead." She muttered to herself, as she made her way towards the sheltered seating area, hesitating as her eyes rested on the newly covered plot not ten yards from where it stood. She swallowed, then turned away from her original path, moving to stand beside her father's grave. A rough marker was all that was left as a reminder of the man's long and chequered life, for the stone was still waiting to be carved and Jetta felt a pang of guilt for not having chased it up sooner.

"So immersed in every bloody thing else." She said with a sigh. "But I guess I owe you that if nothin' else. What the 'ell to put on it is beyond me though. Ma's says lovin' mother, wife an' sister. That's a bloody lie...and now I know it is, I'm not sure I can put the same sentiments on yours."

She turned her head to glance at the slab that marked her mother's grave, the stone weather-worn already from the fifteen or so years it had stood there. Some feet away was a third stone, denoting the plot where her brother Jeremy had finally found peace, and she pursed her lips, a strange look on her face.

"An' I'm the only one left." She murmured. "So many secrets taken to so many graves, Pa. Why didn't you tell me all of this? Why did you tell me any of it, when you didn't 'ave to? How much did Jeremy know? Did he know that 'is name came from our real father...that our uncle was an Earl an' that we're cousins to blue bloods? Is that why 'e was so determined to claim my money? Was that all 'e wanted, or was it just the start of it for 'im? Would 'e have gone after Wissex itself, too, if 'e 'ad known?"

She shook her head as silence greeted her.

"No answers to be 'ad from you lot." She said finally. "Noone to discuss it with, really, or ask for confirmation. But even if I 'ad dug it all out sooner, would you 'ave spoken to me about it?"

"You know, gravestones seldom share their secrets."

A fresh voice interrupted her musings and she swung around, casting the speaker a startled look. He was a stranger, older than she was by at least twenty years, and yet there was something familiar in the depths of his grey eyes which put her on her guard. She knew this man...but how? And why?

He interpreted her expression, his eyes creasing in amusement at her confusion.

"Yes, my dear, I know your family well." He said simply. "Including your late...father? Albert?"

"Yes." Jetta nodded, her brows drawing together in a bewildered frown. "I'm sorry...were you a friend of 'is?"

"Not exactly." The man chuckled. "But we were known to one another. I visited him many times in the last few months. Such sad news, when I heard he'd passed away...but then his poor heart..." He shook his head. "I understood that it wasn't strong. I tried to urge him to bring you here - that it might be the last time he'd ever get to see you - but I'm afraid my attempts were in vain. He seemed determined not to bring you to his bedside...and yet here you are."

Jetta pursed her lips.

"My father was an obstinate man." She acknowledged. "And we didn't always have the best relationship. Maybe 'e felt it was better this way. That we didn't speak again."

"Maybe." The man tilted his head in acknowledgement of her words. "But I was disappointed, nonetheless. I had heard so much about you, Sheila Rose. I dearly would have liked to have seen you sooner."

Jetta's head shot up, her eyes wide with surprise and apprehension.

"What did you call me?" She demanded.

"Sheila Rose." The man smiled back at her benignly. "That is your name, isn't it?"

"Sheila, yes." Jetta's expression became wary. "Though I've not answered to it for many years now."

"No, I'm sure you haven't." The man became pensive. "I'm sorry, I'm forgetting my manners."

He held out a wisened hand, a sparkle of amusement in his eyes. "I believe we've met once before, my dear...though I'm afraid I didn't truly appreciate that meeting. I really had no idea with whom I was talking. Bertie was a sly old dog, that's for sure...he never dropped even the slightest hint when he and his wife accosted me that day at Wissex Downs."

Jetta ignored the proffered hand, taking a step back.

"I don't know what you mean." She said softly. "I don't know you."

"Years can erase memory, but I'm older than you and if I can remember, you should have no trouble." The man laughed. "My name is Trevor Hawthorne, my girl. We met at Wissex many years ago. You and your charming bandmates spent some time in my home while you were in England."

"Trevor..." Jetta's eyed widened as she took in the man's features anew. He smiled, nodding his head.

"Oh, I agree, time has been cruel to me." He admitted playfully. "It's been many years, I know, and I've not always fallen on the best of luck during them, that's for sure. The grey hair, that's what's thrown you so badly, I'm afraid. I look a good ten or fifteen years too old."

"I should be gettin' back. My 'usband will be wonderin' where I've got to." Jetta took another step back from her father's grave, but Trevor was too quick. Reaching out his other hand, he grabbed her around the wrist, holding her tightly as he pulled her closer to him. She pushed back at him with her free hand, but he grabbed this too, holding her tightly as he examined her features.

"Patricia was a pretty wench, and you look so much like her." He murmured, more than half to himself as he ran his eyes over Jetta's face. "And yet it never occured to me...when Bertie came to me and told me he needed a favour from a relative for his daughter, I never even thought that his daughter might not be his at all!"

"I don't know what you mean!"

"Yes you do." Trevor nodded his head. "You lie badly. You know as well as I do that you are Sheila Rose Hawthorne and that you're my niece. Confound you for escaping my attentions so long! Lord knows when I took care of your father and my stupid elder brother I didn't think that, this many years on I'd still be haunted by their children! You and Jeremy disappeared into thin air and Mason..."

His lip curled in distaste.

"Noone can prove that he's even my brother's son, as it stands. He could be anyone's bastard that that witch Regina pushed forward to oust me from my claim." He said, anger glittering in his eyes. "But and I knew could destroy me. So I searched...and boy did I search! In the years I had control of that estate, I spared no expenses trying to track you down. My only comfort was that noone else in the Hawthorne family seemed to know where you were, either. All I could think was that you had somehow died."

"You're crazy!" Jetta struggled to pull her hands free. "You're crazy and I have no idea what you're talking about! My name was Sheila Burns! It's on my birth certificate, my marriage certificate, my old passport..."

"And it's all a beautifully constructed lie." Trevor interrupted her, tightening his grip on her wrists as he held her firm. "I reckoned without your cursed grandfather Charles and his sway over his other son, didn't I? But prison gives you a long time to think and reflect. Your parents never called you Sheila under my roof - but I read a great deal while I was locked up and I discovered many things about Jetta, the mysterious rock star from Britain. That her name was actually Sheila, that she'd been born in the same year and, oddly enough, on the same date as my niece...and, when I finally dug out a picture of Patricia to compare with, I realised that you bore an uncanny resemblance to the woman."

Jetta bit her lip, not trusting herself to answer.

"Mason has been on edge since the day I was released from prison." Trevor continued. "I've kept tabs on him and on Wissex, but he's just going to have to wait his turn. This time, I was more interested in tracking Bertie down and finding out once and for all what had become of you and your damned brother. It was a relief to find at least that one of you was no longer any threat to my claim."

He jerked his head in the direction of Jeremy's grave. "I understand I have you to thank for that."

"Jeremy was a madman." Jetta spat out. "Just like you. Gee, maybe I can see a family resemblance between the both of you!"

"Perhaps you can." Trevor seemed unconcerned. "Bertie certainly didn't take too much pushing and prodding to discover that I was right...that your grandfather had imposed upon him and his silly wife to take you both in and adopt you as their own children. But the damned man would never tell me where you were. He refused to speak of you...said you were out of my way and that there was no way I'd ever track you down. He said the last thing he'd promised his father was to keep you and Jeremy away from Wissex and he'd already broken that once in his life. He wasn't going to risk doing it again. He held out, damn him, despite all the pressure I put on him! When he died, I thought, is this another dead end?"

He smiled, a cold, conniving smile.

"But then who should turn up for his funeral than his little Sheila Rose?" He murmured, drawing her close enough to feel his breath on her face. "And then I knew the game was on again. He tried so hard to keep us apart, Sheila...and yet, by dying, he failed. Ironic, isn't it?"

Jetta stared at him in horrified silence for a moment. Then rage flashed through her, giving her new strength. She fought her way free, slapping him hard across the cheek.

"So I've you to blame for the deaths of two people I might have called father!" She exclaimed. "You murdered your brother an' you drove an' old man into 'is grave because 'e wouldn't betray a secret! Do you even know 'ow damn stupid your plan is? Don't you realise that my brother 'ad a son, dammit? An' that that son 'as a daughter? There are other claims to this stupid Wissex estate that supercede both yours an' mine. So get your paws off me an' get out of my sight! I have nothin' more to say to you - now, or ever!"

"I've come too far to be denied Wissex now." Trevor lunged for her, but she stepped out of his path, trailing her foot to trip him and bring him to his knees. His head collided with the marker that acted as place-holder for Bertie's as yet absent tombstone, knocking him senseless, and Jetta let out a cold, humourless laugh.

"Thanks, Dad." She said softly. "Don't worry. I ain't about to let this son of a bitch bring me down jus' yet."

She moved away from the graves, reaching in her pocket for her mobile phone and dialing 999.

"Someone will come pick 'im up, but it won't be me. I won't be 'avin' nothin' more to do with 'im or any other damn Hawthornes." She muttered. "I'm done with this whole damn family...Justin' an' I are gonna finish closin' up that 'ouse an' then we're on the first plane I can get back 'ome!"

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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