Sixteen years previous . . .
Victor straightened his tie in the mirror, shaking his newly-trimmed hair a little and giving his reflection a roguish wink. Tanya’s first birthday. One year and nine months since he had stopped by to collect a coat Victoria had left at the house one night and found Catherine alone in the library, tear stained and nursing an almost-empty bottle of wine. As any opportunist would have acted, he reasoned, Victor had been there with a handkerchief to dry her tears, and just the right words to coax Catherine out of her misery and into his bed.
The affair had lasted no more than a month, and now their daughter was a year old. His “niece,” to the outside world. Victor grimaced. Well John James could flaunt his wealth and his beautiful wife and daughter but little did he know how easily that could all change. He, Victor, was no fool. When Catherine had come to him with the news of her pregnancy and begged him to let her pretend it was her husband’s, he had been incredibly understanding. Let them keep up their little charade. He would have it all someday. Victor patted on some cologne, picked up the gift wrapped stuffed bunny rabbit from “Uncle Victor,” and headed downstairs to the party.
Fifteen years previous . . .
Victor ran his hand through his uneven hair, trying unsuccessfully to cover the newly thinning patches. His face had hardened in the past year, and a layer of light stubble made him look not younger and more rugged, as he had hoped, but shifty and slightly untrustworthy. He picked up the envelope on his dresser and tapped it against the palm of his hand, enjoying the weight of what he knew were hundred dollar bills stuffed inside. “Very good, Catherine,” he thought. “You can follow directions.” He didn’t know or care what excuse she had made to withdraw the money from the Harwood accounts, all he knew was that it was now in his possession, with more to follow. “You see John,” he said softly as he examined his jawline in the mirror, “how easily what is yours can be mine.”
Present day, 12 hours previous
Victor inspected his comb-over quickly in the mirror before turning to walk out of the room, patting his stomach as he went. He could already taste the delicious Thanksgiving feast in store, and he had plenty to be thankful for. He didn’t know how Tanya had found out, or how long she’d known for, only that she’d come to him a few weeks ago in the gravest of manners. “Are you really my father?” She’d demanded earnestly, her round eyes searching his ruddy face. He’d carefully admitted it, feeling the inner spark of ambition, cold since Catherine’s death, flickering to life. Here was another chance, an opportunity to claim what was rightfully his.
As he walked down the stairs towards the grand dining room, Victor ran his hand over the shining mahogany banister with a proprietary satisfaction. With her help, soon it – along with everything in the house – would belong to him.
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