Emily stares at the floor, her eyes fixated on a single stain in the worn gray carpet. She accidentally spilled nail polish there as a child, and her mother, with all her many neuroses, had completely freaked out, yelling and cursing at the chronically clumsy ten year old. Emily remembers sobbing, begging her mom to calm down, but Evelyn mistook her daughter’s pleas as a sign of insolence and became even more enraged. It was the first time she had ever slapped her, hitting Emily so hard that her cheek became bruised and swollen, but the physical pain seemed minor compared to the traumatizing realization that her mother didn’t want her, that she never wanted her.
Emily rises to her feet, her face suddenly full of determination. For years, the ugly pink blotch has mocked her, constantly reminding her of her many shortcomings, but not anymore. Today, Emily becomes a full-fledged adult. Today, she leaves both her childhood home and her mother behind.
Evelyn frowns as Emily drags her bags out into the kitchen.
“Well, I guess this is it,” Emily says, forcing herself to smile.
“Yes, I suppose so,” Evelyn replies distantly. “I can’t say I’m sorry to see you leave.”
Emily nods. Evelyn’s boyfriend has wanted to move in for a while now, but her mom refused to let him while Emily still lived in the house, claiming that her slutty teenage daughter couldn’t be trusted around older men.
“Who are you staying with again?” Evelyn asks as Emily leans down to pick up her things.
“Luca,” she repeats for what must be the twentieth time today. “His girlfriend left him a couple of weeks ago, and he needs some help with the kids.”
Evelyn narrows her eyes suspiciously. “I never liked him,” she declares emphatically. “Getting his intern pregnant while he’s living with another woman. Don’t let him talk you into anything, honey. He’s bad news, that one is.”
Emily rolls her eyes but remains quiet. Arguing with her mother only makes things worse.
A short while later, Emily finally arrives at Luca’s place. She knew the house was going to be a mess; after all, the man’s girlfriend just ran off, leaving him alone with four babies to take care of. However, she didn’t realize it would be this bad.
Glancing down, Emily notices Delilah, Luca’s oldest daughter, playing with the sparkly beads on her sandals. Scooping up the curious toddler, she gently begins to rock her back and forth. “Where is your dad?” she whispers to the smiling two year old.
Delilah doesn’t bother to reply, however, instead making a grab for Emily’s shiny hoop earrings.
“Emily?!” Luca’s voice echoes down the hallway. “I didn’t expect to see you so early.”
Whipping around, Emily comes face to face with a surprising sight. “I-I’m sorry,” she blushes, noticing his half-dressed state. “I can, uh, come back later…”
Luca shakes his head vehemently. “No, no! It’s fine. I was going to try to clean up a bit before you got here, but I’ll show you around first instead.”
After giving her a tour of the house and helping her move her bags into the spare bedroom, Luca goes over the kids’ schedules and explains her duties as their temporary nanny.
“I’ll try to be home by nine o’clock every night, but that’s no guarantee. My hours tend to be quite sporadic, as you’ll learn, but I can promise you every Friday night and all day Saturday off.”
Emily grins at her old friend. “I can’t thank you enough for giving me this opportunity,” she tells him appreciatively. “I needed to get away from that house, from my mom, but with the current recession I just haven’t been able to find a steady job. I promise you I will do my part around here, with the kids and the housework. You won’t regret your decision.”
Luca looks bemused. “Of course, Em. I wouldn’t trust my kids with just anybody, and you’ve more than proven yourself to me in the past. I, uh, didn’t realize things were so bad between you and Evelyn,” he adds after a pause.
Emily shrugs and quickly changes the subject. She doesn’t like talking about her mother with people, not even Luca.
Her first few days as a full-time babysitter offer some of the most challenging moments of her entire life, but eventually Emily and the kids find a routine that works for them both.
To everyone’s surprise, Kieran takes an immediate liking to Emily, and he can often be found following her around the house trying to help her with her chores. Emily supposes it’s only natural, as he’s the oldest of all the children, but her previous conversations with Luca always painted the toddler as shy and withdrawn.
Rigby for the most part could care less about who’s changing his diaper, but Delilah is another story entirely. She fusses and cries constantly these days, and nothing ever seems to keep her happy for long.
“I think she misses her mom,” Emily tells Luca one evening over dinner. “She talks about Maeve all the time, and she doesn’t seem to understand why she’s not around anymore.”
Luca frowns but remains silent.
“Obviously I don’t know the whole situation,” she continues, “but maybe if you could convince Maeve to drop by once in a while? I think that would really make the transition much smoother for Delilah.”
“That’s not an option,” Luca snaps. “Maeve doesn’t live in Jericho anymore.”
“But if you called her?” Emily presses. “Surely she could come back for a day or so to see her daughter…”
“Drop it, Emily!” Luca growls as he slams his fork down on the table. “I talked to her father, and she wants nothing to do with me or our children. Delilah will just have to learn to live without her.” And with one last angry glance at Emily, he gets up and storms off.
Many hours later, Luca wanders out into the deserted living room. He can’t sleep again, not in the same bed he once shared with Maeve, and he needs a change of scenery. Luca sighs, fighting back a sudden wave of anger. He’s tired of his life, exhausted by guilt and consumed by loneliness. In his worst moments, Luca wants nothing more than to get in his car, drive away, and never look back at the four kids he’s taken responsibility for, but he refuses to linger on such thoughts. He can’t do that to his children. No, he won’t do that to his children. They’re the only family he’s got left.
After Maeve’s sudden departure, Luca did receive a short letter from Atticus explaining that his daughter would be unable to help him raise the kids. As humans, Delilah and Rigby would not be allowed to live near Arundel, and the council knows nothing of Kieran’s existence.
“But toddlers and children should not, for the most part, be able to access their powers,” Atticus had written, “so I would not worry too much about the boy’s magic. However, I will visit often in order to check up on him and keep track of his development.”
Of course, for an immortal mage, often could mean once every other decade, so Luca isn’t counting on regular visits.
As the months pass by, Luca’s life slowly settles into a comfortable pattern. He works a lot, but he always tries to be home before bedtime in order to see his kids.
And, as his anger toward Maeve begins to subside and the pain of his mistakes starts to lessen, Luca realizes that he doesn’t regret his decision to keep and raise his youngest daughter. Oona, as he lovingly calls her, quickly outgrows her baby blanket and becomes a toddler, inheriting her mother’s bright blue eyes and mysteriously dark black hair.
However, even with four toddlers in the house and a full-time job to maintain, Luca makes a concerted effort to spend quality time with each of his kids.
He even manages to convince Kieran to say a new word for him, “music”.
“It’s your day off,” Luca reminds Emily as she spreads out the beach blankets and opens up the umbrella. “You didn’t have to come.”
Emily grins at her boss. She’s been working for Luca now for over nine months, and each week she grows to enjoy his company more and more. “You didn’t have to give me the day off,” she scolds him playfully. “Besides, I want to get a tan.”
“You don’t need a tan, Em,” he tells her. “You look fine the way you are.”
“I have a big date tonight, and I want to look better than fine. I want to look perfect.”
“You always look perfect,” Luca replies casually, “and if he can’t see that then you should find someone else who can.”
Emily blushes and glances away, trying to ignore the butterflies in her stomach. “Rigby looks pretty cute in his sailor costume, doesn’t he?” she asks, hoping to change the subject.
Luca pulls the toddler onto his lap and surveys his outfit. “I can’t believe you dressed my son in a sailor costume,” he retorts with a lopsided grin.
“What’s wrong with it?” Emily demands.
“It’s so… cliché!”
“I think he looks dashing.”
“It’s a shame we left the others kids at home with a sitter,” he laughs. “We could have had the entire navy with us today!”
Emily rolls her eyes at his lousy joke but giggles in spite of herself.
They spend the entire afternoon lazing about on the beach enjoying the beautiful, breezy summer day, and for the first time since Maeve left Luca actually begins to let his guard down and enjoy himself a little.
Watching Emily interact with Rigby, Luca can’t help but smile at the adorable duo. At first, he wasn’t sure about asking her to help out with the kids, worried that she might avoid her biological son, but thankfully Emily has proven him wrong time and time again. In fact, Luca thinks with a wistful sigh, hiring her might be the best choice he ever made. Or the worst, depending on your point of view.
“What happened to your date last night?” Luca asks as Emily grabs a snack out of the fridge the following evening.
“He cancelled on me,” she admits. “Right at the last minute too. Apparently there was some sort of ‘family emergency’, but I haven’t heard from him since.” She shakes her head, trying to keep the bitterness out of her voice.
“Classic,” Luca snorts. “What a jerk.”
Emily just shrugs, not wanting to discuss her relationship drama with him.
“Any big plans for tonight?” Luc wants to know. “I mean, it’s Friday after all, and you have the whole night off.”
“I wanted to go check out that new fusion lounge that just opened up, The Gazebo near Landell Park, but I don’t have anyone to go with.”
She pauses for a minute, considering. “Why don’t you come?” Emily suggests.
Luca’s eyes widen in surprise. He was not expecting that, but after some persuasion he reluctantly agrees to go.
And he’s glad he did. He runs into his old friend Gibson, who’s taking an evening away his own family.
“You have four kids?!” Emily laughs. “How did I not know about this?”
“Well, one of them lives with my ex, Rachel, but the other three stay with me and the missus.”
“I still can’t believe you married Lilac!” Emily squeals. “You two make such a cute couple.”
Luca laughs at Emily’s enthusiasm. “I honestly can’t believe he married at all,” Luca teases.
Emily punches him playfully. “Be nice!” she giggles.
“Aren’t I always?” Luca grins back at her.
Emily beams. “I’m going to get another drink,” she announce suddenly, realizing that she has been staring at Luca for far too long. “Do you guys want anything?”
They both shake their heads, and Emily heads over to the bar.
“You two get along well,” Gibson remarks once Emily’s out of hearing range.
Luca shrugs. “We’ve always gotten along well.”
“Yeah, but not that well. Dude, it’s me. Gibson. Your-best-friend-since-forever. I won’t judge you. I personally prefer my women a bit on the older side, but I know you’ve always had a thing for the young ones.”
Luca rolls his eyes. “Gibson, we’re talking about Emily. She helps me with the kids. I give her a place to stay. Simple as that.”
Gibson smirks. “Whatever you say, dude. Whatever you say.”
Meanwhile, Emily runs into a familiar face at the bar.
“Hey babe,” the man greets her. “Haven’t seen you in a while.”
“Have you ever heard of a little thing called ‘personal space’?” Emily demands as she angrily shoves Rock Hartwell away. “Because you’re violating mine.”
“That’s not all I’ll violate if you give me the chance.”
“Drop dead,” Emily snaps.
“Is that anyway to talk to the father of your child?” Rock spits.
Emily feels her face flush. “You aren’t his father, dear,” she retorts furiously. “A real father wouldn’t abandon the mother of his child at the first sign of trouble. A real father would stick with his family and fight for his family, instead of turning and running away like a scared little boy. And a real father wouldn’t spread false rumors about his pregnant girlfriend in hopes of avoiding child support payments.”
Rock smirks. “Pretty clever, eh? Claiming you’d slept with half the football team really did the trick. They weren’t about to deny fooling around with the prettiest girl in school, and you… Well, no one wants to believe the daughter of the town slut.”
Emily reaches up to slap him, but Rock grabs her arm defensively.
“And according to the gossip,” he continues, pulling Emily closer, “I heard you’re doing your mama proud, landing that doctor you were always hanging around.”
Emily’s eyes flash. “You’re despicable,” she whispers.
“Why don’t we take this somewhere more private, babe?” Rock says, running his eyes up and down her body. “I’d love to finish our discussion back at my place…”
“What is going on here?” Luca’s voice cuts through the room, stopping Rock dead in his tracks.
However, the younger man doesn’t take kindly to the interruption.
“Rock, stop!” Emily screams as he shoves Luca to the floor.
Rock snarls at Luc before turning his attention to Emily.
“You aren’t worth the effort,” he spits. “You’re nothing but a nice ass and a pretty face, same as your skanky mom. I bet those rumors I made up about you and the team were completely true, too. Who knows if that baby is even my son, considering you were more than likely cheating on me the whole time we dated. I bet he ends up hating you, Emily. Hating you the way you hate your mother. I wouldn’t blame him either, cause who doesn’t hate the-”
Emily slaps him hard across the cheek, ripping into his skin the same way her mother did to her so many years ago.
“Something my mama taught me,” she shouts, letting the tears stream down her face. “Go to hell, Rock. And stay away from my son.”
Emily sobs hysterically the entire way home, and by the time they reach Luca’s house she collapses into his arms in a devastated heap. For what feels like hours, Luca holds her while she cries, comforting her with soothing words of beautiful nothing.
“I’m sorry,” she says, finally regaining her composure. “I think I got your shirt damp.”
Luca smiles half-heartedly, his eyes full of concern. “Drenched is more like it,” he replies softly.
Emily tries to laugh, but it comes out sounding wet and blubbery. “I’ll pay for the cleaning,” she tells him.
“Don’t worry about it,” Luca chuckles. “You have bigger issues on your plate tonight.”
“I hate him,” she whispers. “I never liked my mom, but I truly hate Rock.”
“He’s a tool,” Luca agrees.
“I don’t know why I do that,” Emily sighs. “I always fall for the worst guys. If they’re not total jerks or selfish assholes, then they’re usually married or-” Emily freezes, catching herself before she speaks.
“Yes?” Luca presses.
“Emotionally unavailable,” she admits after a pause.
Reaching over, Luca carefully wipes a tear from her face. “Or, in other words, still hung up on a previous relationship,” he murmurs.
Emily’s heart begins to race as Luca leans in closer. “Y-yes,” she stammers. “But I didn’t mean y-you. I, uh-”
Luca doesn’t let her finish however, quickly closing the gap between their lips.
His kiss is soft and warm, Emily thinks, timid almost but edged in passion. When they finally break apart, Emily doesn’t want to open her eyes, fearing that she’ll wake up and find it was all a dream.
“Come with me,” he whispers. His voice sounds rough and husky to Emily’s ears, but full of desire.
Luca guides her to the bedroom, and as their clothes fall away so do their reservations.
They spend the night wrapped up in each other’s arms.
I want to take a moment to thank two of my readers, as this chapter wouldn’t have been the same without you guys. First, I want to thank Zhippidy. If it wasn’t for your comment on my second chapter, I never would have thought about hooking up Luca and Emily. And I’m so happy that I decided to go there, cause I’m really enjoying writing about their relationship.
Secondly, I want to give a big thank you to Becky, who gave me the nanny/babysitter idea. I was completely stuck, and you, once again, helped me out of a tight spot.
But back to the story! I’m extremely curious to hear your opinion(s) on Luca and Emily’s new love. Creepy or adorable? I can’t decide. =P
Oona, by the way, is of Irish origins and means “lamb”. It is pronounced like “Una”, in case you were wondering.
Also, before anyone starts ripping on Maeve, just remember that we haven’t heard her side of the story yet. It was Atticus who wrote that letter to Luca, not Maeve, and there may be more going on in Arundel than he let on. I’m still trying to work out the details, but I can promise you that she will return in a future chapter. So you can look forward to that. Or not, as the case may be. ;)