John James raised his eyebrows a fraction of an inch and swallowed his mouthful of turkey.
“Really, Victoria? We all know how dramatic you can be, but accusing me of murdering your husband?” He stood and pressed his lips to his napkin, surveying his shocked family. “I suppose I’ll call an ambulance anyway, at the very least it’ll get him out of here.”
This elicited another wail from Victoria, who was desperately clutching her long chestnut locks. Her shining, mascara-smudged eyes gazed up feverishly at her brother.
“John,” she gasped, “how could you?”
John James turned to walk out of the room but was stopped by Victoria’s next shriek: “Don’t walk away from me! I know all about him and her..” She whirled around to face Tanya. “You, did you know about your mother? Huh? Did you know about your fath-”
“That’s enough.” John James’ voice could have frozen hell. “Victoria don’t you dare speak about things that you know nothing about.” He turned to Tanya, who was trembling from head to toe. “Tanya, your mother was a wonderful woman and I loved her very much. When I lost Catherine I thought it was the end of my life…” John James’ voice wavered for the first time. Then he seemed to mentally shake himself, and his voice found its iron stateliness once again. “Until I met my savior.” He nodded towards Sophia, smiling briefly. “Life goes on, Victoria. There’s no need to cast blame, re-open healed wounds or dig into things that have long been buried.”
Victor was taken away on a stretcher, with assurances from the family lawyer that everything would be taken care of. Alone in his study, John James poured himself a scotch and picked up a photo on his desk. A petite woman, Catherine had always worn heels. She’d had short-cropped dark hair, jade-green eyes and an easy, aristocratic smile. To the outside world she was the perfect wife, hostess, and mother, down to the perfect flourished script of her handwritten thank-you notes. Even her suicide had been perfect. John James had simply woken up one morning next to a lifeless Catherine, looking calm and beautiful in her lavender nightgown, jewelry still on from the family dinner she’d had for Tanya’s birthday the night before. John James downed his scotch in one gulp and poured another. He remembered it like it was yesterday – the moment of realization, the horror, the grief. Tanya crying, Granny comforting them both with soothing words of time and healing. John James finished his scotch and refilled the glass again. How dare Victoria accuse him of knocking off her stupid, worthless husband – as if he could be bothered.
While the girls were finishing the dishes, Granny found Victoria curled up on the couch in the library. She handed her a strong coffee and with a stern gaze, sat herself down in the black leather wing-back chair.
“Now listen Victoria,” she said softly. “I don’t want this incident coming between you and your brother. The bonds of blood in this family are thick, and there is no outside force strong enough to break them. Mourn Victor now, but in time you will heal and you will be grateful to have your family by your side. We will all be there for you.”
Victoria looked at Granny with tear-stained cheeks. “I know John did this, Mother. He’s always hated Victor. Even before -”
“Hush, child.” Coldness crept into Granny’s voice. “Weren’t you warned not to talk about things you don’t understand?