Newcrest Hanson Residence, home to Grady and Giulia Hanson (nee Auditore)
Sandrine shook Adrianna’s hands off herself, then turned to her, angrily.
“Quit trying to drag me somewhere! If you got something to say, say it!”
Defiantly, Adrianna pushed out her chin.
“Fine, if you don’t want to speak privately, then out here: I found your behavior at Nick and my housewarming party despicable! The way you reacted to poor Stryker running into his father like that was not how Mama and Papa raised us! Just put yourself in his shoes! What are you using for compassion this season, Sandy?!”
Sandrine’s grimaced while propping her hands onto her hips.
“The way Mama and Papa raised us? Now THAT is rich! You want to ask Giulia and Bianca how we girls were raised, especially AFTER mom’s accident? Dad was a misogynistic tyrant! You wouldn’t know, little Miss Sunshine, you were his favorite. You got all the rules bend for you and freedoms that only the boys used to get. You were the only thing that made him smile after mom’s and then Giacomo’s deaths! The rest of us might well have been invisible! And after father died, Vittorio inherited everything, all the empire, most of the money, the mansions – only because he was born with a wanker! The only thing our lovely brother didn’t get was the Tartosian mansion where our wonderful father’s personified midlife crisis cure, our stepmother and father’s replacement son live and probably only because she named the brat after him. Oh, and of course Vitto didn’t get the San Myshuno branch of Auditore Financials because YOU got that one! You’re the only girl who got ANYTHING of substance, Addy! Giulia, Bianca and I got pocket change compared to you! The only one happy about what we got was Giulia, cos she thought she was cut out of the will and she and Grady actually needed that little money the three of us got so badly. So, do NOT tell ME how our parents raised us, let alone to aspire to their ways. After mom died, all we girls were good for was to marry us off strategically, which failed miserably. Except with you, father just loved your husband, that’s why you had all the exceptions to live your life as you wanted, not like HE wanted you to, like the rest of us had to, you goodie two shoes!”
“Wow. Bitter much? Ever thought I got exceptions because I deserved them, I earned them? I talked to father about why I wanted them, rather than just randomly demand something and pout when I didn’t get it right away. I worked hard for it! I didn’t spend all his money shopping, then lounging by the pool before partying all night! I studied, I worked, I showed my worth, I showed father that I had a brain! Nick made me realize there was more to life than being someone’s daughter until you can become someone’s wife and then someone’s mother. He and I came up with a plan when we were still in high school, we stuck to it, and it was solid, father saw that and supported it. He even supported Bianca, but she was too immature and made crappy choices. I would know, cos Aria-Grace, Nick and I were there helping her fix it, before Gavin stepped in. And Giulia knew eloping with Grady right after high school would get her cut from dad’s deep pockets, she did it anyway. Calculated risk. Just like you, I know I was only 15 then, but you were so bitter that your big love Rhys didn’t want to go along with you forcing him into an early marriage that he broke up with you and found someone better, that you have been rushing from marriage to marriage ever since. Dad was humiliated by your behavior! Still doesn’t warrant you treating Stryker like you did.”
“Rhys, my ass. Rhys was a loser then and I got lucky we didn’t work out, and it was me dumping him, not the other way around! I treated Stryker the way he deserved, it’s called having your husband’s back, Addy. Your precious Stryker attacked my husband first!”
“He is not MY Stryker, but he is family to me now. Oh, I know all about having my man’s back, Sandy, Nick and I had each other’s back since we were teens, but that includes calling him out if he is wrong, just like he does with me, rather than both of us running into nonsense blindly! Besides, don’t forget whom you are talking to. I know you use DiLaurentis for money, you didn’t marry him for love. A blind man can see you don’t give a shit about him. You don’t have his back; you are behind his back probably doing pool boys and who knows whom.”
“Throwing accusations around like that, without proof, huh? Look, Addy, before you play yourself up to be the idol of mankind and everyone’s savior, bother with the facts. Even IF I were to have some on the side, obviously my husband has never been above cheating, so what’s good for the gander is also good for this goose. Besides, Marco has proof that he has tried to be in his son’s life, but the mother was bitter about the fact that he wouldn’t marry her. She intentionally got pregnant during their affair to force him to, when he declined, she got bitter and moved, all Marco was left to do was transfer money into her account each month. She took the boy away from him, he didn’t walk out. So, if that Stryker wants to be mad at someone, it should be his mother. She is a hussy with a shitty plan which failed, and she’s bitter. THAT is the truth.”
“I don’t believe you, Sandy. Lies your husband told you at best, unless you are lying. Still doesn’t have anything to do with you behaving like a bull in a China shop at Nick and my party. If you didn’t like Stryker’s behavior, you should have left, like a lady.”
“I should have left? And that raggedy Stryker gets to stay? How does he have more right to stay than me? Last I checked you are still my sister, Addy, blood trumps some distant in-law relationship! So, what do you want from me?”
“Apologize to Stryker. YOU were out of line. Marco isn’t my husband, neither is Stryker, but you are MY sister. I hold you to higher standards!”
“Not in a MILLION years will I apologize to that disaster on legs named Stryker! Never!”
“Okay, fine. Then don’t expect any future invitations to my home. Not until you can behave in a manner that I want my son to see. You are Ryan’s AUNT. I have expectations of you. We are still Auditores, even if no longer in name, the Auditore name and bloodline used to mean something. Something good, classy, decent, even though everyone has been trying hard to trample it into the gutter of late. I, for one, am still proud to be an Auditore, just as I am proud to be a Cameron!”
“You’re a pretentious idiot, that’s what you are, Adrianna!” Sandrine hissed at her.
Giulia, the oldest and host of the sisters’ meeting this evening, interrupted
“Girls, no fighting in my home please!”
“Oh, I was just leaving anyway, GiuGiu. I’ll call you tomorrow. Thanks for the lovely time and the delicious cake. Give Grady my love.”
Adrianna grabbed her bag, waved at Bianca, shot Sandrine one last grim glare, then rushed out, her sisters staring on.
Hare & Square Cafe
As luck would have it, after dropping off their son Ryan with his grandparents for a playdate with his cousins a few days later on her day off, Adrianna decided to stop for coffee before tackling errands, when she saw something that confused her greatly, and left a bitter aftertaste in her mouth … namely Theresa Hayes and Marco DiLaurentis in chipper unison over coffee!
What in the world did THAT cozy scene mean now? If memory served, Stryker had sat in her and Nick’s living room just two weeks ago ranting in great detail about his crazy childhood, about his tense relationship with his mother and how his father had never been in his life, supposedly his parents hadn’t even talked since Stryker was young. Well, Addy wasn’t an expert at reading people, but she’d wager they were talking plenty now, all right, if not more. Oh boy!
Adrianna knew Stryker’s mom Theresa from meeting her many times at Cameron family dinners and she definitely would recognize her own brother-in-law Marco DiLaurentis, Sandrine’s husband. No error possible, that was definitely them all cozy in a corner of the cafe. The smiles they exchanged, the way Theresa’s hand would touch Marco’s arm, who would wink and smile at her … not to mention the rose laying on the table to tell the rest of the story. No man would bring a single long-stemmed red Baccara rose to some friendly banter at some cafe, let alone just happen to have one on him at some chance meeting. This smelled like a date! Correction: this WAS a date! Had to be.
She snapped a picture with her cell phone and left unnoticed even though the barista yelled out her name when her coffee to-go order was up, despite the fact that Adrianna was standing right there. She grabbed her cup and rushed out, before anyone ended up looking her direction.
Windenburg Waterlock Redoubt house Nick and Addy's home
Later that day after Nick got home from work, Addy showed the photo to him, telling her what she saw and her suspicions.
Nick’s face ran through a list of expressions, before he told her
“Oh Addy, leave that one alone. Not our fight. Things are rarely what they seem, I agree, this looks very convoluted at best, but Stryker didn’t have his dad for 30 years, he’s finally on decent terms with his mother, he is clean and sober as far as I can tell, no reason to agitate him and risk him falling back into addiction. If this means what we think it could mean, let them sort it out among themselves. We’ll stay out of it.”
“Yeah, I know, I just felt so bad for how my sister treated him. I wanted her to know, and I wanted her to apologize. Now it looks like she is being cheated on, maybe? Then again, knowing her, I am almost convinced she is seeing someone younger on the side. Just betrayal and lies everywhere. This doesn’t look to me like Theresa Hayes and Marco DiLaurentis just randomly happened upon each other. What would he be doing in Windenburg anyway, if not meet her deliberately. And if I run into old friends or flames by chance, I don’t sit there holding hands with them like that while they give me red roses! If I were a betting woman, I’d say this wasn’t their first meeting either, or can I say what we both are thinking and call it a date? Probably not their last either. Theresa lives right behind Stryker and Sophie’s home, if Marco spends the night and Stryker sees him coming out of her home bright and early when he’s out for his morning run … whoa Nelly! That won’t be pretty, he abhors his father so. Poor Stryker, he’d feel so betrayed after finally allowing his mother back in his life.”
“Addy, I know what you mean. I see it too, to me it looks like Theresa and Marco are in the middle of reheating an old spark, if they haven’t got that flame blazing again already, but that is not our construction site, neither is Stryker’s family life, nor your sister’s. We need to stay out of it. Repeat after me: yes Nick, I will leave it alone. Say it. If you don’t, I will drop the ‘Frozen’ song on you, right here, right now! You KNOW which one … full song and choreography!” Nick kept a mostly straight face, but Adrianna burst into laughter.
“Oh Nick. No, please no Nick-i-fied versions of ‘Let It Go’! Fine, I will leave it alone. Happy? I just feel so bad for poor Stryker, he’s come such a long way, if he finds out about this, I just know he will blow a gasket. Poor Sophie. She is so sweet and while I like Stryker, he can be such a … a ….” Addy was trying not to use bad words. Nick had no such problem.
“Such a dick? Yeah, that’s how it works, the sweetest girls always marry the biggest dicks, just look at us. I gotta be a dick professionally, and try to leave it there, but I am sure it carries over sometimes. Just like now. I’ll be a dick here and TELL you – nay, I DEMAND – you let that go. If it comes out, it is for Stryker and his mother to deal with. We do NOT need to be in the middle of that. Theresa’s a grown woman, Stryker is a big boy, DiLaurentis is a grown man – and then some, if she wants to date an ex who has played her dirty, that’s her choice. Not like Stryker still needs his mommy, besides I have a feeling that is Sophie’s role now anyway, to baby his ass. I am surprised she doesn’t cut his meat for him at the Cameron family dinners and make airplane sounds as she feeds it to him. Anyway, whether or not his parents are in cahoots or not, ultimately, it is inconsequential to him. Now, back to us, let’s finish setting up for the puppy, my grandpa should be here with the doggie any minute. I can’t wait to see Ryan’s eyes when he comes home from grandma and grandpa’s and has a new puppy to help him make messes for us.”
“We both know you are almost more excited about the puppy than our son will be.”
“True, finally my mean wifey lets me have one.”
“Mean wifey? Try penthouse in San Myshuno. We both work, there was just no way could we ask the maid to walk a puppy. Now we have a house and can stick that dog in the backyard if need be, to do his thing. Just like you, I wanted a doggie all along, but it wasn’t feasible.”
“You probably wanted one of those tiny mini purse puppies with their fur dyed in pastel colors you can haul around in your Louis Vuitton …”
“No, you joker, I am not a society heiress, I am a businesswoman and I like them big and bad … “
“Just like the husband, huh? But enough about the contents of my pants, huh?” Nick grinned as Addy swatted at him, giggling, while he pulled her in to kiss her.
Before they could get romantic, Blaine showed up with the newest family addition, from a litter by his dog Georgina. All the other issues were temporarily completely forgotten about.