Chapter 32 Part One: [REMOVED]

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There's a time for everyone if they only learn

That the twisting kaleidoscope moves us all in turn

There's a rhyme and reason to the wild outdoors

When the heart of this star-crossed voyager beats in time with yours

And can you feel the love tonight? It is where we are

It's enough for this wide-eyed wanderer that we got this far

~"Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" Elton John 

The last time Roman had been in his parents’ suite was when he was eight. He’d been playing hide-and-seek with Carlo and Adriana—Zack had been sick and Parker out of the country—and accidentally stumbled in on his father with a woman who was most definitely not his mother. His father promptly kicked him out, after threatening him with a beating if he ever told Giselle, and also fired the nanny—who’d been his favorite so far. That, combined with the mental scarring that came from watching your parents (or at least one of your parents) do it was enough for Roman to give the master suite wide berth for the next ten years.

Now, as he approached his parents’ wing of the house, his nerves were stretched taut, and he was half-tempted to turn back and go to the basketball courts, which always calmed him down. But he couldn’t, since he’d promised Maya.

Roman took a deep breath, trying to picture her face, and after a few more seconds, his heart rate slowed down to normal.

He stared at the closed double doors, before finally, tentatively knocking on the custom wood.

A brief pause, then “Come in!”

Roman turned the knob and stepped into the vast, hushed suite, which was decorated in pale cream and rich burgundy. His mother was lying on the canopied bed in a silk nightgown, skimming through a thick, glossy magazine.

When she saw him though, she immediately put down the magazine and sat up, the range of emotions on her face flitting from surprise to pleasure to nervousness.

Was she actually sober? He found it a bit hard to believe.

“Oh, hello dear.” Giselle reached up to fiddle with her diamond pendant. “It’s so good to see you.”

“You too.” The fact they were talking like polite strangers was not lost on Roman as he dutifully gave her a cheek kiss. “Are you busy?”

Translation: Are you drinking?

“No, no,” she replied quickly. “Come, sit next to me.” She patted the space next to her.

Instead, Roman took a seat in the chair near her bed. He felt awkward and uncomfortable, and judging from the look on Giselle’s face, he wasn’t the only one.

They descended into silence.

“So, how are you and Maya doing?” she finally asked.

“Good.” Roman wished he’d brought along his phone so he’d have something to do with his hands. He settled for gripping the chair’s armrests, digging his fingers into the delicate brocade. “We have our anniversary Saturday.”

“That’s good.” Giselle smiled. “She’s a wonderful girl. I take it she’s forgiven you for the hospital prank?”

Roman cracked a smile. “You could say that.” More like she’d gotten him back good, so they were even. “You did a good job the other day. With the prank,” he said spontaneously, feeling a bit more generous for some reason.

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