“Always refuse to be like the others.
The more you become similar to the others the more you will be useless because there are already plenty of the others.”
Chewing a mouthful of food, Nick looked up, taken aback, at the older man talking.
Nick had been too hungry to dwell on how odd it was when he realized the dinner he had been invited to wasn’t with Adrianna, her sister Bianca and their father this time, but only daddy Auditore and him.
But the food smelled delicious, Nick was famished, and the old Auditore – dubbed ‘Addy Daddy’ behind his back by Nick, his parents and his sister Aria-Grace – upheld fairly pleasant demeanor initially. So, the two men sat down, started eating, when Auditore went off into a long monolog, which Nick now interrupted.
“Wait wait wait wait! I don’t care about any of that, I don’t want your place or your dough! Don’t you get it?! How many more times do I have to say it?!” Nick affirmed, small food particles spraying out, underlining his vexation.
“I taught my children to not speak with their mouths full, this is revolting, Nicholas!” the older man informed him.
Swallowing hard, Nick stared at his girlfriend’s father across from him.
“Mine did too, but all bets are off when you land whammies like that. Look, I don’t know how much clearer I can make this, I am not after Addy’s cash – or this shed! It’s a cool place, I give you that, but I don’t want it, no matter my last name! I don’t even want my own parents’ money or my grandparents’ or any of their homes, and trust me, yours isn’t the only luxury mansion I have ever been in. Sure, I’ll gladly accept my family’s financial help to get me where I am trying to go initially, anything else would be fuckin’ stupid, but once I have a degree and a career, I am making my OWN money, my OWN name, build my OWN rep, and I will build Addy and me a house. A real nice one, in a real nice location, just like this one. Bigger, if she wants it. Twice the size. And I will rake in so much money she can make it rain big time.”
“I enjoy your enthusiasm, my young friend, but I am afraid I’ll have to curb it. Nick, the real world isn’t like that. I can tell that your parents – and probably grandparents – fuel your dreams, as they should, but I feel a bit of reality check is in order. Nicholas, you are an extremely smart young man, you have the drive, tenacity, charisma and all it takes to see it through, but life is not a movie with happy endings for all. It is incredibly hard for a young man nowadays to get to where you are wishing to go, ESPECIALLY with dreams of such a magnitude as yours.”
“I am aware, Mr. Auditore. I never claimed it would be easy. I also didn’t say I’d have all that ready to go right out of college. But Addy can stick it out with me. Which she will, because she loves me. Yeah, there, I actually said it. Your daughter LOVES me. And I her.”
“I know that, Nicholas. And see, here is where I have to interject to save you and my beloved daughter from heartbreak. While I am honestly surprised – and also thrilled – that your relationship has outlasted all the things it has, not an easy task for people as young as you two and with your backgrounds, I think college and what comes after will be the final straw for you both. You’ll be too busy building that career you want to spend hours on chat programs with Adrianna after college graduation. Eventually, she will feel neglected and start going out with friends. My daughter is very beautiful, I am sure you are aware. She has a lot to offer and there is no shortage of wealthy and eligible young heirs that either live here, whose families have a summer residences here or land in the docks for a while with one of their yachts. Adrianna has options. As do you and I am genuinely afraid this is the way this will end, both of you heartbroken, with guilty stains on the pillow next to you in the morning. I don’t want that for either of you, Nick, think what you will, but I truly like you and wish I could have more hope for you both. I would be proud to call you a son-in-law, but sadly, part of my job has always been to predict the future a little but, and in a way, finances are not so different from people.”
“Wow! DAMN! Does Addy know you think all that of her? I have a LOT more faith in her and in us as a couple, Mr. Auditore. And why would I call her in the first place and how would she feel neglected? She’ll be right there with me, right beside me, in our – probably admittedly kinda humble first apartment slash maybe a little house – but we’d finally be together. We’ll figure it out. When I say I will work hard, I didn’t mean I never come home. Not a moron. I know how to treat my girl! And any stains on either of our pillows would be from each other, to follow through with your lovely visual.”
“Hm. That is where your calculations are off. I’ll let Adrianna go to college, if she still wants that, but after graduation, she is moving back home to me, here.”
“What?! No way! Addy and I, we’ll move in together. We’ll be 22ish then. You can’t tell her where to live then like you can now. She won’t be a minor then anymore, and wants to live with me.”
“Maybe, and she can, AFTER you got married. Before those vows and rings have been exchanged, she will do what all her brothers and sisters before her had to do and what Bianca will do after her. Live with me. Until married. I guarantee you that, Nick.”
“Nah – come on man! I know for a FACT that my uncle Chase’s brother-in-law was living with YOUR Giulia right out of high school! So there!”
“You are correct. Barely 18, they eloped without my blessing about a decade ago, which is why she did not get her dowry money and still won’t. It hurt me, I love my Giulia, but I had to make an example of her because of her much too public display of defiance. Their children will get the college funds I set up for all my grandkids, yes, even the girls as I know that probably went through your head, but if one of my kids disobeys me, there won’t be any money until the right has been wronged. They are struggling financially, which I find sad, whenever she and Grady decide to have a real wedding, something of substance the rest of her family can attend and witness, I will transfer the money right away ending all their financial problems for all eternity. She knows that, they both do, ball is in their court. This is a matter of stubbornness and defiance, not glory, and most certainly not something worth repeating.”
“Fine. Then Addy won’t get money until we are damn well ready to get hitched. I can take care of her, and I will. She’ll come with me! Oh – and don’t worry, I will ‘allow’ her to Skype and visit you, as I know that’s what YOU were probably thinking. No worries, I don’t play dirty like that.” Nick added, his words dripping with sarcasm.
“My dear young friend, I do not appreciate your snarkiness. Adrianna is free to do as she chooses, but she is well aware of the consequences, and regardless of that, none of my children ever need ANYBODY’s approval to contact me or to come home. Even Giulia and Grady and their family come visit me and I them. I know it was a displaced joke, Nicholas, aimed at my perceived strictness, but I want to make that absolutely clear: my family is sacred to me, I do not tolerate any mistreatment of ANY child of mine. I have one son-in-law on notice because of that, Sandrine’s husband, if he does not change his ways, he will learn why it is the most unwise and ill-advised decision ANYONE can ever make, to pick a battle with an Auditore. All it takes is one word from her and he will experience a wrath he will never forget. Nobody is allowed to hurt my family, be it with words or deeds.”
“Cool. If that wrath can wait about five-ish years or so, until after I graduated college, I can then give you my card and I’ll make that dude naked in court for you, if they get divorced. Can’t start getting me some clients early enough, right? Especially some with deep pockets like you.” Nick grinned at Auditore.
“Oh Nicholas. As much as your big mouth, entitlement and occasional crudeness put me off at times, I will admit that it often amuses me. You have what it takes to make it big in this world, IF you can channel all your flaws in a good way. If not, they will trip you up into a deep abyss and that will be the last this world heard of Nicholas Cameron. I have seen many young men with great potential disappear after some foolish acts committed social suicide for them, they may well be hiding away somewhere working minimum wage jobs, eating crow for the rest of their lives. I will also admit that despite of all the aggravation you have caused me thus far, I have and will always be rooting for you and my daughter. Under the right circumstances, that is. I urge you not to test me on all that. I WILL cut Adrianna off, I will hold you responsible for that as well, and it will not be easy to have me on your bad side.”
“Yah, thanks for the warning slash threat. Point taken, and I raise you a big fat dump all across you just muttered. Now let me tell YOU something, Mr. Auditore. The many ways you – and so many others – think you know me but have me all WRONG. I am not just the pampered, arrogant, out-of-touch-with-real-life boy you seem to want to see in me. I know I am young, but I have been through shit in my life already some won’t know at thrice my age. There is a lot in my life that isn’t the way it should be, or the way it seems. I learned to cope and yeah, we’re wealthy and I enjoy the fuck out of that, because I also know that comes at a price, which I have been paying all my life. I have moved a million times in my life, so often, half the time I had to seriously think to even know which city I was living in at any given time. This very recent move was the cherry atop that cake for me, cos it came after some insane fan of my mother’s broke into our penthouse at night, stuck a gun in my dad’s and my faces telling us he’d off us and marry my mom. Yeah, sweet dreams, right? I tell you the security system at our new place is better than Fort Knox which makes my sister and me feel a type of way when we forgot to disable it after coming home from school and both of us nearly break our necks rushing down the stairs to beat the alarm. I have been badgered by paparazzi because of my famous mother’s celebrity side of the family’s fans for as long as I can think, I have heard and read so many terrible, despicable things about them, most of it lies, and watched horrible things said publicly on television about most of my celebrity family members, unless of course I was listening to things every son just loves to hear, like screaming fans who want to bang my mom, one of my uncles, my grandpa, my aunts. Someone in my family wipes their ass the wrong way and it will be front page news the next day. Some of that crap they like to keep reheating on TV is from long before I was even a glimmer in my dad’s eyes, yet, somehow, I am guilty by association. I have watched my parents fight so much, I watched them break up. I have seen both dating other people. I went through a divorce with them. And when they finally reconciled, they fought about where we all should live. Believe me or not, but it was ME who came up with a solution when I was like 5 or something. I am directly related to vampires, actual vamps, Mr. Auditore, and I had to deal with that not being as widely accepted as I thought it was. To most people I am not Nick or Nicholas, but a novelty. I am ‘aww, ViVa’s son! swoon‘ or ‘Oooh, Blaine Cameron’s grandkid! drool’ or how about a ‘can you get me Chase/Colton’s number from 2Dark 2C since you are related?’, or maybe the other side of the coin ‘OMG – he has vampire grandparents. EWWW! puke’ I had to learn early on which truths can be shared and which truths are best kept tucked away. So, no, Mr. Auditore, your threats or promises don’t mean jack to me. Not because I am a delusional spoiled brat, which, I will admit I can be too, but because I KNOW, if I want something bad enough, I will get it, no matter what anyone says about me. I don’t cry about problems, I don’t run from them, I face them and solve them. So, what you are looking at, this arrogant teen before you is actually my door number one. Option two for me would have been to become some shy, reclusive, nerdy fool with major trust issues, who can’t get a word out to anyone he doesn’t know for fear it might be the wrong one. I think I choose well, what’s your take?”
“I admire your candor and your spunk, young Mr. Cameron, you certainly are one of a kind, but you are not telling me anything I don’t know. I will let you in on a little secret, since you have been so forthcoming with your truth: whenever any of my kids have started dating, I have their love interest plus family thoroughly investigated. You and your family are but an open book to me. I will also admit that the part about your very close connection to so many vampires did not digest too well, but I decided to give it time to form my own opinion. I came to the conclusion that I can live with that part as well.”
“Hold up just a split second here. WHAT?! You had us investigated? As in hire some P.I. Agency to send some creepy dude in shades and trenchcoat after us? Or do you mean like cyberstalking? That’s like super-illegal. Not to mention creepy AF! You are worse than all the creepy fans and stalkers combined. WOW! You gotta be kidding me. You need help, man! Did you just invite me here to fangirl the fuck out of me or to get to me to get you a date with my mom or whatever? I’d tell you you’re crazy, but that’s in insult to all the crazy people out there. You are off the charts! You need be in jail or something!”
“Nick, I have a legal team working for me, larger than most small companies. I assure you, it’s watertight and nothing illegal. I am not in the market to gossip or divulge your family secrets, I am not a reporter or a 20-year-old with a blog and a bunch of social media accounts to feed Cameron intel to, and just for good measure I will add that I am not some obsessed fan either. This is for my family’s protection, not because I am some nosy old lady. And no, I invited you here mono-a-mono to have a truly uninterrupted candid talk with a potential future son-in-law.”
“With all due respect, you’re too much. Seriously TOO MUCH. I don’t know what went wrong in your life, maybe you weren’t breastfed, but seriously. TOO. MUCH. YOU!”
“I can assure you, my upbringing was quite involved by both of my parents, may they rest in peace. Good topic though. I was wondering how to lead into this. Have you never wondered why my late wife was so much younger than me? I know you met her plenty of times and you must remember my Melissa.”
“Sure, I remember her. She was seriously cool. And no, I didn’t wonder about the age gap, I wondered why a woman like that would want to marry a dude like you, no offense but she was totally woke and you are … well .. not and you have like the biggest stick up your ass at all times. How do you even sleep? Frankly, you’re not the first or only old rich dude I met with young arm candy. Every time we go to another awards show the place is crawling with that same old cliché. Figured you did it to maximize how many kids she can pop out for you.”
“Oh, that mouth on you. Yes, I know that is a common affliction among riper wealthy men, to wish for a young attractive wife, but for Melissa and me it was different. I wasn’t looking for a wife, nor she for a husband, but when we met, that changed. It was genuine, something I didn’t think I would have again. A man my age shouldn’t outlive his wives, especially not one over two decades younger than me. You see, I had been married before. Young, very young, just a little older maybe than you and my daughter are now. Oh, we were in love, my Veronica and I. From that love sprung a child, a daughter. There were complications during her birth, and we learned we would never have more children. We treasured our little Lucia, it means light, for she was the light of our lives. Lucia grew up into a beautiful young girl, my wife and I were so happy and proud and would have given Lucia the world. She was so full of life. She had so many friends and made new ones all the time, everyone loved her. Until the day that she met the wrong people, who were not her friends. She was abducted, we paid the very steep ransom as soon as I could get together such an immense amount, did everything they asked of us. But when they finally found Lucia she had been tortured, raped and killed. She was only 15 years old. My wife could not recover, I found her 3 days later with the wrists cut in the bathtub.” Ezio halted and closed his eyes for a moment, fighting for composure, while Nick stared at him, horrified.
“Oh shit, man. I had no idea! I am so sorry. Are you serious?”
He watched the man across from him nod slowly as he opened his eyes again.
“I think you know me better than to think I would joke about something like that. I am sure you can find old newspaper articles. Ancient history to some of us now, I am sure. You see, I may be what probably seems to you like a controlling cazzo, but I have my reasons. I wanted to die too, back then, but I was my father’s only son, and only hope for all he and his father and his father before him had built to continue. I knew if I did what I wanted to do, it would hurt so many more people, it would make it selfish above all. So, I focused on the only thing I had left, Auditore Financials. It took me decades to love again, but I did, just as much if not more than before. Melissa and I had six children, and I almost want to say luckily Melissa never lived to have to see one of our sons die too. The pain is still the same as it was when I lost Lucia, even though Giacomo at least reached adulthood and met a woman he wanted to marry. Sadly, he never got to meet his first child. And I never thought Melissa would go before me. I am still numb from that shock. I know my decision to move back to my own childhood home, this one we are dining at right now, wasn’t popular with anyone, but there was no way I could stay in the house where my beloved wife lost her life. I had to go as far away as I could. There is a lot of tragedy I cannot protect this family from, but I will always try to do all that is in my powers to shield and protect them best I can.”
“Okay. Wow. Man … I need a minute to take all that in.”
“I didn’t mean to put you off your surprisingly healthy appetite, Nick, but it seems we have more in common than meets the eye, both of us all too often books judged by only their cover, when the truth beneath is so much deeper, but also for the most part, buried. As a matter of fact, I have never told this story to anyone outside my own bloodline. Not even my sons-and daughters-in-law know, I have forbidden my children to talk about it, for fear of looking vulnerable. Take this as a token of how much faith I have in you and my daughter, out of all the boys any of my daughters introduced to me or married, and even more so than my own sons, you remind me so much of myself as a young man.”
“Really? Cos everyone always tells me I am like a young version of my grandpa. The musician one, Blaine, not the former mayor. And I am just gonna say you and he are nothing alike, no offense and all.”
“Well, my young friend, I wasn’t always old, nor the calm and composed man you know now. I will admit that I was rather rambunctious and naughty in my young days. How do you young folks say? I – ahem – laid a lot of pipe. I think that’s the term for me sowing wild oats, quite enthusiastically actually. Oh, I was a rake, once upon a time. Every pretty girl’s father’s nightmare. Oh yes.”
“Oh fuck me … TMI, man, TMI! I beg you, Auditore, PLEASE stop talking or my ears will bleed and self-destruct.”
The old Auditore laughed.
“I may have to kill you now anyway, Nick. You know way too much about me. I don’t think either of my wives knew all that even.”
“I am not worried. I could outrun you with my legs tied together. I have seen you in your Speedos. Not a chance you’d catch me unless we’re both rolling down a hill. On that note, if you ever feel like more bonding, maybe we can go swimwear shopping for you. I am more than willing to sacrifice an afternoon for the sake of everyone with eyeballs. No offense, but you may wanna take a critical gander into a mirror before rolling up with them sexy breeches in public again.”
“Mio dio, you really are a stronzo, my young pal. God you are too honest for your own good, kid. I wear them, because they were a gift from my late wife, admittedly some decades and many delectable and too large meals ago, but I figured at my age nobody really looks at me anymore.” the old Auditore laughed.
“I’ll buy you a shadowbox to display them in, you can hang them up in your bedroom along with a picture of you wearing them back when the dinosaurs still roamed or whenever the heck that shit was ever fashionable, you can glance at them with fond memories. I am telling you this because obviously, nobody else has the balls to, and the situation is seriously bad, bro and you need to know. As for the rest of what you said, I have no idea what any of that Italian jibber-jabber means, cacca or gatto or whatever you said earlier and that stratto or something. That and this other thing everyone always says. I mean, I am no bimbo, I know is not words of endearment, but still drawing blanks and I can’t look it up cos I don’t know how to spell any of that. Feels like everyone got the curse memo, including my own mother, except me. She won’t share, I tried. She said my potty mouth was bad enough, no need to add finesse to that.”
“Ha ha ha, she has a solid point there. But, fine. I am intrigued. You’ll advise me in acceptable swimwear fashion, and I will bring you up to speed on Italian phrases you may hear more often than you’d like. The word I used earlier was not cacca, that means ‘poop’ nor was it gatto, which means ‘cat’. I called myself a cazzo which is probably best translated as ‘dick’, and you a stronzo which means ‘asshole’, Nicholas. The latter two probably often apply to both of us. Another one you might want to remember is one of the most often used ones: merda. Means ‘shit’. If you don’t hear it, you are probably thinking it. I do, a lot. Including right now, while wondering how we arrived at this part of this conversation in the first place.”
Nick stared that Adrianna’s always so proper father, then grinned wide.
“Did we get drunk together or do some drugs and I just don’t remember. I never in a million years would have expected you to sit across from me here spewing cursewords like a fountain. I kinda wish I had recorded that shit. Internet gold, man.”
“Oh, I don’t mind telling you. If all goes according to your plan, and maybe even a little bit mine, one day you will be married to a fine Italian girl, and trust me, you will hear all those words. A lot.”
“Already did. I got Addy mad enough before that she just showered me in all those phrases and all I could do was stand there, stare at her blankly saying ‘thank you, may I have another’. I think I need to learn some Italian. Pronto. One of my not-so-secret natural talents is making females mad at me, 75% of the time I have no clue why even, and definitely not intentional. Even our cat sometimes.”
“Take it from someone whose mother tongue is Italian: when facing an angry Italian girl, you won’t hardly understand a word, they speak so fast, they will be two sentences ahead of the processing power of any man’s brain. Half the time when one of my daughters is or was mad at me, I have not the faintest clue what upset them for the longest time. You still so sure you want to get married to someone like that one day? Consider yourself aptly warned.”
“Hell yeah! You know what they say about angry women and bedrooms?”
“Nicholas, for all that is holy, I besiege you not to say one more word now. Finish your dinner. You can use a little more meat on your bones, even though we all know that the best roosters never get fat. I have to say, I am very glad we had this talk. It went a very different way than I anticipated, but I am very pleased with the outcome. It was very refreshing. I ended up learning a lot about you, you really are a very special young man, and it really makes me feel as if you were a son of mine.”
“We’re not gonna hug it out now, right? I mean, this whole dinner was weird and only kept getting weirder, no need to top it off with some serious bromancing here.”
“Of course not. That comes after the wedding, along with kisses on the cheeks whenever we meet. And I tend to visit my children and their families a lot. Something for you to look forward to.” Auditore smirked, and winked, Nick shook his head, chuckling.
“Is there a way to opt out of the PDA stuff?” Nick snickered.
“Nope.” both of them finished their dinner laughing.
Two days later … yeah, that’s right. The Addy-Daddy has new swimshorts.