Brave Lake Manor

by AB

Chapter 7: Gathering Clouds

The weather was getting colder, the trees stood bereft of leaves and rain seemed to be a constant, as November made its entrance into the lives of the residents of Brave lake village.

It was a colder than usual November, making fireplaces burn and Jason hang on to his coat as he entered the smoothie shop and ordered a hot cocoa.

He gave Enora a quick hug and bumped knuckles with Sebastian and Ryan.

They were talking and outside it had begun to rain through thick, dark clouds.

"Soooo….how's it going with Victoria?" Sebastian asked his cousin, looking between him and Ryan and trying not to burst out laughing.

"Ohh…ehh…good, you know…I can't believe such a hot girl would like me!" Jason said, blushing a nice soft shade of crimson.

"Well, you know…you're a bad boy now!" Sebastian said and unable to hold it as he started laughing.

Jason pushed him on his shoulder, "What about you? Where's Timmy?"

Sebastian stopped laughing. "Good...I guess…we are…boyfriends and all…," he said, trying to disguise what or how he really felt with a smile.

Ryan squeezed Enora's hand under the table to feel her squeezing back. They had managed to squeeze in some alone time the past few weeks, but Ryan had barely managed to touch Enora's pussy much less stick anything in it and he was getting desperate and frustrated.

"You guys wanna do something altogether during the weekend? With all this homework we don't see each other as much during week days," Ryan asked.

"Sure, but I'm writing a history test on Monday…so I can't really stay out for long," Sebastian said.

"Ryan, we also have a biology test on Monday, remember?" Jason told him.

"Oh…bugger…whatever…I just want to go out and do something with you guys!" Ryan said irritated and frustrated.

"Maybe I can cheer you up. Wanna hear a joke?" Sebastian asked with a mischievous grin.

"Sure…whatever…," Ryan said not really showing any interest.

"Two sperms are talking while travelling until one asks, 'hey are we any closer to the womb?' The other one looks at it and says, 'no silly we're still in the esophagus!'" Sebastian said giggling.

"Eeeewwww!!!" Enora said but she was also heavily giggling.

Jason giggled with some of his hot coco coming out of his nostrils. He then noticed Jack watching them outside the window across the street just as Malthe walked in the store.

Malthe came in in an even more skeptical, lost in thoughts look than usual. He sat in a chair next to Ryan and didn't say a word.

"What's up little man?" Jason asked him, tousling his hair while the others talked about if and when they could all do something together.

Malthe looked at him with sad, tired looking eyes. "I…all will be fine…I am fine…," he said and then he broke eye contact and looked nowhere in particular.

"So we can't do anything for this weekend either?"

"We all have tests on Monday, and I have another essay I have to write for English class," Enora said.

Ryan growled, "Whatever, I'll see you guys later." He got up and left the smoothie place obviously frustrated.

"I'll catch up with you all later. I'm going to find out what's wrong with him," Sebastian said and ran after Ryan.

"Hey, Malthe, don't you want to go to the Manor with Ryan?" Jason asked the younger angelic looking boy.

Malthe looked at him and nodded negatively with his head before looking away again.

"What's eating him?" Jason asked Enora shaking his head towards the shop's entrance, wanting to indicate Ryan who had just left.

Enora shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know."

Jason knew she wasn't telling him the truth. She was his girlfriend after all. Since two months now. He didn't inquire further.

"Enora, can you come help me out?!" Her father's voice boomed over the small shop.

"Sorry. Looks like I have to go as well. Catch ya laters," she said and got up.

Jason sighed. "Well, come on little man, let's get you back to the Manor," he told the younger boy and got up from his chair.

Malthe shook his head negatively and got his mobile phone out. He dialed a number and arranged with Samuel for his father to pick him up so they can spend the rest of the day together.

"Okay so I guess I'll wait with you until your friend comes with his father to pick you up," Jason said as he sat back down.

Thirty minutes later, Samuel arrived with his father and they left with Malthe.

Jason waved them away before picking up his mobile phone.

"Hey! How are you babe?" he spoke with Victoria.

"Hi, where are you?"

"At the smoothies place, wanna come join me?" Jason offered as he subconsciously rearranged his straining package.

"Nah…I'm finishing some homework. My parents aren't at home. Wanna come over?" she said breathing faster.

"Sure!" he almost yelled and terminated the call. It didn't take him long to arrive at her place and ring the bell. Ever since they had started dating he always carried a pack of condoms in his backpack. Victoria was insatiable when it came to sex, not that he fell far behind. If they could have sex all day long, they would.

She opened the door and before he could greet her, she had dragged him inside, closed the door and his lips were covered with hers.

He brought his hands to her waist and brought her closer to him, grinding their bodies together. Their soft moans filled the room as their tongues battled together for dominance.

She broke the kiss. "Oh my god, you're such an awesome kisser!" Victoria said and grabbing his hand by the wrist, she dragged him to the couch where she pushed him on it.

Jason giggled as he fell on the couch's leathery surface and looked at her to see her next move.

She opened her legs and sat on his lap where she proceeded to grind her sweet buttocks all over his crotch.

He moaned and opened his mouth ever so slightly. Victoria tilted her head and covered his mouth with hers, sucking his breath from his lungs.

He held a buttock in one hand and a cheek on the other as he kissed her back. Both of them now moaning.

He pressed a hand under her t-shirt and up to her developing breasts, grabbing hold of one of them. She broke the kiss moaning and raised the garment over her head and threw it back.

As if pulled by a magnet Jason launched forward and started biting and kissing on the nipple of her tit that he wasn't holding on to. She held on to his head like a mother holding on a breastfeeding baby caressing his hair and cheeks.

He squeezed her breast and butt-cheek, eliciting another moan from her before he turned them round making her yell and giggle.

Victoria found herself with her back on the sofa and her legs spread wide open with Jason between them. He grinned widely and started removing his pants.

In just a quick flurry of moves Victoria removed her skirt and pink panties as well and stood before him naked.

"Fuck! You're so fucking sexy! I can't believe you're my girlfriend and that I…that I'm fucking you!" he said and guided his dick to her vaginal opening.

She giggled at the compliment and pulled him to her, kissing him passionately.

He found his target with closed eyes and pushed home. His mind, like all the other times before, exploded in a whirlwind of emotions and pleasure.

He pulled back until only the purple glans remained inside and then pushed back in with everything he had.

The friction of her thighs with his crotch, the sound of his balls slapping against her cunt, the incredible feeling of her most intimate of treasure wrapped around his boy-tool and made him groan and push and pull harder and faster. He knew he wouldn't last long under all this pleasure his mind was receiving so he fucked her harder and faster. In and out. She was trying to match his thrusts and moaning with him. Her fingers clawed in his backside trying to pull him impossibly inside her.

"Ugh….ugh…VICTORIAAA….I AM CU…," he started shouting his impending eruption, but his voice was lost in his best orgasm to date. With one final slam of his hips inside her, he started cumming what little he had to give.

It hadn't lasted all that long, a short ten minutes of ploughing action, but it had seemed like an eternity to the two love birds.

Jason lay on top of Victoria, both panting and sweating from the exercise.

Victoria's arms were wrapped around him as if protecting a baby. His deflating boyhood still lay inside her wet pussy.

As the post-orgasmic bliss haze came over him, he was leaving sweet kisses and pecks to Victoria's neck when he froze, his heart beating even faster than when he was fucking Victoria.

Victoria noticed the difference in Jason and looked up at him. She gazed upon sheer terror in his eyes.

"Wh…what is it J?" she asked, starting to get afraid as well.

He pulled out of her looking at his pride and joy then back to her.

"I…you…I didn't wear a condom like usual…what if….what if I've left you pregnant?" He said, his voice almost stuttering.

She giggled. "You're silly sometimes, you know that!? Makes you look cute! I'm taking the day after pill silly and have diaphragm in there," she said, pointing to her leaking vagina.

"And it's not like we have to worry about STDs….yet," She added as she pulled on her panties again.

"Oh…okay…I guess…," he said, looking less afraid but not completely sold on the idea.

Meanwhile back in the Manor, Peter was online in a group video call with Rick and George.

"Hello, mate, how are you? We haven't talked in a while."

"Hey, Rick. I'm good. Actually I'm better than good. Malthe has worked some miracle and…well, not miracle but some sort of science I don't fully understand, but one that will allow me to actually grow grapes and produce wine."

George chuckled, "You sound excited, mate. But work is good and all, but what about a love life? Any village woman caught your eye yet?"

Peter grinned widely, but as he was about to answer Rick's father's webcam turned on.

"Hello, Peter, how are you? We haven't talked in a while," the old man asked him.

Peter chuckled, "Like father like son, their answers match," he thought.

"I'm very well, sir. Actually as I was about to tell Rick and George, I…have found someone that I have come to be deeply in love with," he said with a gentle, loving smile on his face.

"Does she know?" George quipped.

Rick and their parents chuckled as Peter shook his head.

"Yes, you doofus. She knows!" he said, "and she is reciprocating I'll have you know." He was grinning so much and so full of pride and joy that Rick was sure his face muscles might break from the stretching.

"Before you all start with the questions," Peter continued, "her name's Maria Cooper. She's smart, intelligent, gorgeous, funny, she loves Ryan and the twins and she has a younger brother named Jason who has become the best of friends with Ryan."

"She sounds wonderful, Peter sweetheart!" Rick's mother said smiling.

"How's everyone back h…in the city?"

"We're fine, love. Retirement can be a great thing if one keeps occupied, but I would love to have my own vegetable garden," George's mother said.

"I dunno, mate…I thought that working in the corporate world would be…different, better, but it is one back-stabbing, ego-filled, power-hungry world…I wanted and want something more…family oriented," George said. "But at least Kate and I are better than ever…sure, we have our ups and downs but we love each other," George concluded.

"To tell you the truth, I like my job but it's a bit…vast and chaotic, I barely know the people I'm working with. I mean we are about what…? Thirty to forty accountants in the department? And they keep changing us departments so that we don't fraternise and that we don't develop friendships and loyalties. But I do like accounting and numbers," Rick said.

"Have you found anyone?" Peter asked him.

"Nah…you know me bachelor to the end…it's a good thing my parents have more children to give them grandchildren," Rick said chuckling. His parents did not look as happy.

Peter just had to chuckle. Rick was by no means insecure or afraid of commitment but he just wasn't the sort of man who wanted marriage or children, at least for now. Then again he was only twenty three.

"Oh come on, Rick, even you have to settle down at some point," Peter said.

"Try me!"

"Whatever, can we get back to something more interesting?" George said chuckling.

"What can be more interesting than my love life?" Rick quipped.

"Oh I can imagine quite a few things, Rick, quite a few things," Peter said to receive blown raspberries from Rick.

"Seeing my youngest son behave like a pre-adolescent child again brings such joy in my heart," Rick's father said trying to sound serious but failed to do so as he burst out laughing.

"Daaad!" Rick said whining like a five year old boy whose father had just embarrassed him in front of his friends.

Peter chuckled, "When can you all come for a visit? I've missed you all so much."

"Well us four are retired, so we're free whenever," George's mother said indicating the four parents.

"Yeah son, whenever you want us we can come down for a visit…or two," Rick's father said.

"Well, I have some paid leave time coming up I can use some of it to come for an extended weekend at…" he paused to check his calendar, "…the last weekend of this month? I can come at Thursday and leave with or without my parents at Monday evening," he concluded.

"I'll arrange it to come at that time then…and if they don't like it at the company they can fire me," George said.

His father did raise a brow but said nothing.

"I may have something for you two, a job…if you want it? I'll tell you all about it when you all come here," Peter said.

"Oh god…he has that look he has when he has a plan," George and Rick said almost at the same time causing them to all start laughing.

"Okay, it is settled then! You all will come and stay from Thursday evening to Monday evening," Peter said and they all nodded.

"Is there a hotel in the village for all of us to stay?" George's mother asked eliciting a chuckle from George, Rick, well almost everyone else.

"You'll all be staying in the Manor, Mrs. Meyers. We have more than enough rooms to accommodate you all with room to spare.

"I'm sure we don't want to impose on y…," she continued but Peter interrupted her politely.

"Mrs. Meyers, I won't hear any of it. You all are pretty much the only family I have excluding my brothers. There is absolutely no way on Earth, Heaven and Hell that you're coming to this village, and you're not staying in the Manor. You are not imposing. It is settled, resistance is futile," Peter spoke with authority but also gentleness and he laughed at the last remark.

"Okay, okay I surrender, love," she said, raising her hands up in the air laughing.

"So, mate, do tell us some more of your news. What did Malthe make…create for you that you'll be able to create your own wine in this miserable weather of ours?" Rick asked

"Well…" Peter spent the better part of half an hour explaining to them to the best of his abilities what it was that Malthe had invented to allow the grapes to grow in the rainy, sun-less weather of their country.

"By the…that sounds…complicated and…can an eight year old boy even do that?" George's mother asked.

"Mom, can we really know what a person like Da Vinci would be able to do with our modern world's tools and knowledge?"

"I…guess not, but is Malthe…so brilliant?"

"And then some, I don't think we'll ever know how intelligent Malthe really is, but I'm making an environment for him to be able to do what he likes doing, write and invent," Peter said.

"Write?" George's father asked.

"Yes, once a few months ago, I managed to take a peek inside one of his textbooks and it was all numbers and letters I didn't recognise."

"Oh…I wonder what it can all mean?"

"I don't know, Georgey –that was Peter's nickname for George since they had been five year olds- but it means something to him and you should hear him talk. He sounds more like a forty year old scholar sometimes rather than an eight year old boy."

"He is such an interesting and sweet boy. I remember when we first met him and his twin brother. He had been so shy at first hiding behind his mother, well he was only five years old and his father had just died…," George's mother was saying when she saw Peter make a facial expression that seemed weird to her. She looked at her husband and then back at the camera.

"Peter, son, I don't have to be a retired psychoanalyst to understand that look on your face. We've all suspected that Lucinda was no widow for some time, so what…where is the twins' father?" George's father asked.

Peter sighed. "In prison in Denmark…before…when they were still married and the twins were only barely if two years old, Lucinda returned one day from work to catch him…fondling them in a non-fatherly way. I don't know all the details, but she called the police and had him arrested. He was convicted and she changed her surname and moved to this country. Three years later, she met dad."

"Oh my god, that's horrible how could he hurt them? How can anyone want to hurt any kid?"

"He didn't actually manage to hurt them, but it was obvious that he would and in any case he is rotting in prison where he belongs and even if…when he gets out he doesn't know where the twins are. Lucinda had no family back in Denmark and she left no information to where she was going, but I suspect the twins will be adults by then and I'll have talked to them. I even have a letter from their mother explaining all this in greater detail so they'll know everything by then."

"Good, that is good, and it's…admirable to say the least that without having any blood relation to them that you and Ryan have welcomed them in your family," Rick's mother said.

"It was not their fault that mom died, and dad deserved to be with someone he loved. I think Ryan struggled with that for a while, but he never took it out on either Lucinda or the twins. And Malthe and Christian were so loving and giving that no one could resist them, -he chuckled- they had us loving them as if we had the same parents before long," Peter said smiling warmly.

"Yes, they are such loving and affectionate kids," George's father said.

They talked some more before Peter looked at his watch realising he had work to do.

"We'll talk again soon, everyone. I'll have to leave you now as I have some things to take care of here in the Manor before going to the fields," Peter told them.

"Bye sweetheart," Rick's mother told him waving at him from the webcam.

They said their goodbyes and Peter terminated the Skype call.

November was a cold, wet month, making the people of Brave lake village moody and it would seem Ryan was especially. What with the routine of school, homework, activities, friends, time spent with Peter talking and playing, and with no signs of Terry and Jack except from passing them by on the street two, three weeks passed like running water and an even colder December was almost upon them, with cold, breath-freezing winds.

For Peter, things were finally going his way. He had a woman he loved, a project of his own for him and his family and a house to call home. The vines, although still seedlings, were growing nicely and Malthe's….recipe seemed to work as described.

As November was coming to an end, fog started descending from the mountain bringing an uneasy stillness in the air but the residents were used to the mountain's capricious behaviour.

It was raining when George's and Rick's cars pulled up the driveway to the Manor.

They got out of the cars to be met by a hyperactive Christian who, ignoring the rain, ran straight to them, jumped on them and hugged them.

"Uncle Rick! Uncle George!! I missed you soooooo much!!"

They and their parents chuckled. "We missed you, too laddie! How are you my little munchkin?" George asked him raising him off the ground. Christian giggled and hugged George around his neck steadying himself.

"I'm good! Goooood!" Christian said before going in a fit of giggles as both George and Rick started tickling him.

"Boys…," Rick's mother said rolling her eyes, "Come on you all, you'll catch a cold in this horrid weather," she said going inside the house under the umbrella Rick's father was holding.

Peter came out to see them in with Maria by his side.

"Hello, Jared, sir, Ariana, Carl sir, Maren. This is Maria. Maria this is everybody. Oh and you must be Katie, I've heard a great deal about you!" he greeted George's and Rick's parents, Katie and introduced Maria to them standing under the entrance arch so they would not get wet from the irritating drizzle that was starting to clear off.

"Sir? How many bleeding times do I have to tell you Peter?! You are like my son, I...we have known you since you were a toddler! Cut that "sir" business! Besides, you are the Master of your household now. Oh hello Maria my dear, you do look lovely! Peter is a lucky man to have found you," Carl said and everyone else nodded including Christian who could not stop himself from giggling.

"Okay si…Carl." Peter chuckled.

"I am pleased to meet you, everyone!" Maria said smiling and shaking everyone's hands, hugs coming and going.

"Peter, yes I have heard a lot about you from George and Rick as well," Katie told Peter.

"Believe nothing those two rascals have told you!! All lies I tell you!" Peter said laughing.

"All good things, I promise!" Katie said laughing back.

"Well come in. There's no sense in staying outside in this weather," Peter told everyone, holding the huge metallic doors open with Mr. Giles' help.

"And this good man is Mr. Daren Giles, Buttler to the Manor and practically family now after being in the service of my grandfather, he probably knows the Manor better than me!" he said.

"Mr. Peter is very kind. I am but an old sack of bones in the service of the Jarrow family. I believe I have met you all before, many years ago, a summer you had all visited the Manor before my Master's death," Mr. Giles said meaning Peter's grandfather.

"Yes, we had all come after that trip to Kenya. It was a pleasant change after what…almost happened. We are pleased to see you again Mr. Giles, and in good health," George's mother said.

"It is all relevant ma'am," Mr. Giles said chuckling. "I guess for an almost eighty one years old man I am in good health, but I would much prefer to have young Master Ryan's health," he concluded.

"And I wish for many things like grandchildren from my youngest son, but Mr. Giles, I have learned in life to get the best of what I am given and not ask for pigs to fly," Rick's father said receiving a look of daggers from his son before they all burst out laughing.

"Uncles Rick and George!" Ryan exclaimed when they entered in the living room. He was on the large sofa with Enora talking and touching as much as they could in front of the others, hands and the sporadic thigh here and there when they thought no one was looking or paying attention to them.

Jason was playing some video game with Malthe, losing miserably.

Ryan shot up from the sofa and ran to them giving them all handshakes and hugs.

"Who's the cute girl, Ryan?" George asked with a mischievous grin on his face.

"Ohhh…ehh…she's Enora. My uhmm…girlfriend," Ryan said blushing heavily.

"Pleased to meet you," Enora said, giving her hand to George blushing a faint shade of pink.

"Pleased to meet you, young lady. I hope this raggamunchkin isn't giving you too much trouble!" Rick said with George chuckling and Ryan wishing the Earth to open and swallow him, but grinning goofily at the same time.

Ryan looked around for something to draw the conversation away from Enora. "This is one of my two best friends, Jason, Maria's brother," he said pointing to Jason who had paused the video game and gotten up to greet the new guests.

"We've heard a lot about you and Sebastian is it? From Ryan and Peter. Pleased to meet you, lad," George's father said shaking Jason's hand. "Nice firm grip. Peter must have started you in Aikido," he said chuckling.

"Yes, sir," Jason said in his usual laconic demeanor.

"Right to the point, I see…," Jared thought chuckling.

"I've heard there's a third musketeer in this company. Where is he?" Rick asked.

"Oh he's with his…he's with Timmy…he'll be around eventually," Ryan said biting his lower lip at the almost slip of the tongue he made, hoping that no one noticed.

"Can we go for a walk in the forest?! Can we? Can we? Can we?" Christian kept asking bouncing up and down.

"Calm down, Chris, it's raining outside. Maybe tomorrow," Peter said tousling the boy's locks.

"Aaaawwww it's not raining anymore…it's drizzling and we can wear our hiking boots!" Christian said pouting.

"Come on, Peter, where's your sense of adventuring?! Let's all of us go out for a walk in the forest. You never know, we may see a troll or an orc!" George said tickling Christian under his armpits and on his very ticklish ribs.

"I'm in!" Rick said.

"Fine, fine, let's all go and get wet then," Peter said surrendering to the will of his friends.

"I think we'll stay here and have a nice, hot cup of tea," George's parents said with Rick's parents agreeing by nodding their heads.

"I'll wait for you here, love," Katie said to George.

"I'll stay back and keep company to our guests," Maria said giving Peter a peck on the lips.

"Any of you three want to come with us?" Peter asked his other two brothers and Jason.

"No thank you, Peter, I am enjoying defeating Jason in this video game," Malthe said softly.

"Oh you do, do you? Well you'll lose, now!" Jason declared.

"No, I won't."

"I'll stay here, bro. I'm not in a mood for a walk right now," Ryan said sitting next to Enora.

Peter shrugged, "Okay, well we'll see you all later. Chris go get your windbreaker and hiking boots. You guys let me show you all to your rooms."

Peter showed them to their rooms and then changed to his windbreaker and hiking boots. By the time he, Rick and George got to the door leading outside Christian was already there waiting for them, jumping up and down like the energizer bunny.

"Oh! Yay! You're here, what took you soooo long?! Come on I want to show you guys my secret, favourite spots in the forest! Ohh!! Maybe we'll see Mr. Bunny as well!! Or, or, or another animal or two! The other day I saw a fox!! Can you believe it!! It wasn't even afraid, Uncle George!" Christian ranted on as they walked down the driveway and onto the path to the forest.

"This is Mr. Stream. He goes all the way from the end of the estate to the lake! I've seen Mr. Bunny drinking water over here like soooo many times! I just love the leaves falling on the water. But Uncle Rick why do some of them sink and some not!?" Christian talked and asked questions like a Gatling gun, far faster than any normal human being's capacity or ability to answer.

This time however, Rick kneeled in front of him and picked up a dry leaf. He brought it to Christian's face and brushed the tip of it against his cute nose.

Christian giggled and wrinkled his nose, "It tickles, silly!"

Rick chuckled, "Well you see, Christian, this leaf is dry so if I leave it on the water's surface it will not sink. It is a very broad leaf and so it doesn't break the surface tension of the water…," he was interrupted by Christian.

"What is this…surface tension?"

"Well, surface tension is the water's ability to resist outside pressure. Have you ever spilled water on a floor?"

"Uhuh…," Christian nodded his head in the affirmative repeatedly.

"Remember how it gathers together instead of going everywhere?"

"Uhuh!" Christian repeated the motion enthralled by Rick's explanation to his question.

"Well, that's surface tension. Now, the leaf can float on the water because they don't weigh much and because they "activate" the water's surface tension. But! If they stay long enough on the water it seeps inside them, like it does with tissues or pieces of paper, and makes them heavy and thus surface tension is broken and they sink," Rick finished saying and placed the leaf on the stream's surface. It started travelling with the flow.

They kept walking and talking admiring Christian's energy and youthful, explorative view of the world where everything was a treasure and everything was a question to be answered, a mystery to be solved.

"OOOHHH Mr. BUNNYY!!!" Christian yelled at some point and ran towards something he had seen near where the stream met the lake.

He came back to the three men holding a bunny in his hands, caressing it and rubbing it behind its long ears. The bunny did not seem to be afraid, if nothing else, it seemed to be content being petted in that way.

Peter and his friends who had been talking amongst themselves chuckled at the cuteness of the image.

Rick ruffled Christian's hair as George kneeled in front of the boy and scratched the bunny under its head.

"Why don't' you let Mr. Bunny go. I'm sure it's missing its family," Peter said as they continued to walk along the lake's shores.

"But I like caressing him and it's not like he wants to go away," Christian protested in his unique way of talking really fast and bulging his eyes like the cat in the movie "puss in boots".

Peter stopped walking and looked back at the young boy. He was about to say something when on the horizon, the mountain caught his eye. Or rather the clouds that had taken residence all around it did.

"Christian, please let the bunny go, the gathering clouds on the mountain... A bad storm is coming, and with this low temperature it'll probably snow. You don't want your animal friend to be outside when it starts raging, do you?" Peter said looking at the boy.

Christian sighed. It irritated him how Peter was almost immune to most of his charms and how he knew how to talk to him in a way that he could not refuse. Of course, he did not want his bunny friend to be outside in the middle of the storm.

"Well…I suppose I don't know how far away his burrow is…and no I don't want him to be outside when the storm comes here," he said, gave the bunny a kiss on the top of its head, between its two long ears and kneeling down he let the bunny go.

"I'll see you later Mr. Bunny," he said and ran towards Peter.

"Can we go to the grapes Peter?" he asked him as they walked along the banks of the lake.

"Not today, Christian. Those clouds will catch us outside if we do, and we're not properly dressed for snow."

"Snow? You really think it will snow?" Christian asked bouncing up and down in front of them and around them thoroughly enjoying himself.

"Have you covered that in school yet, Christian? How snow is made?"

"It's…frozen water, right?"

"Yes, it rains but the temperature is so cold that it freezes and falls down as snow," Peter explained in his usual steady voice.

"Sooooo…now its cold enough for snow?"

"I think so and in any case even if it doesn't snow it will be one heck of a storm so we'll have to go tomorrow when the storm's passed."


"Besides…it's getting dark and dinner will soon be ready. Are you hungry my little bouncy monster?" Peter asked Christian giving him a tickle on his neck.

"Uhuh…little bouncy monster hehe! I'm starving!" Christian giggled.

"Aren't you always!" Peter stated.

They walked back to the Manor.

Rick's and George's parents sat on the couch and were talking with Katie and Maria. They seemed fully immersed in whatever they were talking about.

"No way, he walked naked in front of all those people!?" Maria exclaimed.

"Yes, I did and for your information, I was only five and they were all too snotty-nose prudes to appreciate the view!" Peter said as he sat next to Maria giving her a peck on the lips.

"Yeah I bet! You were always such a daredevil!" George said.

"Ha!! Says the man who followed me out naked to all these people because he couldn't bear the thought of me having the upper hand in the "I am braver than you" department," Peter said making George blush.

"Well…you know…I was only five," George defended himself.

"Mr. Jarrow, everyone, dinner is ready," Mr. Giles said walking in the room and making a short bow. He then walked in the dining room.

"Yay! I'm starving!" Christian said running to the dining room.

"I'll go get Ryan and Sebastian. They're up in his room," Jason said as he got up from the carpet from where he and Malthe had been playing video games and listening to Maria talking with the guests.

Malthe got up and retrieving his text book, he made some notes in it before walking slowly to the dining room.

Ten minutes later they were eating Mrs. Alford's creation. This night it was a sumptuous lamb mutton with prunes, gravy and cranberry sauces with jacket potatoes and green salad.

With all the talking and laughing and seconds and thirds –for Christian and George who couldn't resist- it took well over an hour before the dinner was finished.

"Chris, Malthe, it's bed time. Go have your shower, brush your teeth and I'll come tuck you in in a bit."

"Aaaww can't we stay up a bit later tonight?" Christian whined trying his luck with the puppy eyes again.

"No, you know you'll wake up early anyways, and Malthe has a swimming practice tomorrow as well, so go to bed now and you'll have more day tomorrow to enjoy and see everyone," Peter said gently but firmly.

Malthe got up and hugged Peter, giving him a peck on his cheek and then hugged Maria who kissed his forehead.

"Goodnight, sweetheart," she told him rubbing his back.

"I want a kiss as well!" Christian announced and hugged Maria who chuckled and kissed his forehead and cheek.

"There you got two, now off to bed, Chris," she said.

Christian hugged and kissed everyone. To everyone's great surprise so did Malthe.

"We better be off as well. Goodnight, Peter, Maria. Thank you for the great dinner and for the hospitality. You and your grandfather have done great work on this home," George's father said.

"Thank you si…Jared, you sure you don't want to sit some, have some coffee and talk some more?"

"Yes, son, we're all tired from the trip and it was a long day before that as well," Jared said and getting up he shook hands, hugged and said goodnight to everyone.

"I think we'll go to sleep as well, Peter," Rick's mother said as she and his father followed George's parents up the stairs after saying goodnight.

"I should be going as well Peter, sir," Sebastian said.

"Nonsense, the storm has arrived. It's raining if not snowing outside. Call your parents and tell them you're sleeping here for the night," Peter told him.

Sebastian nodded and taking out his mobile phone, he called his parents.

Ryan and Sebastian disappeared off to his room again after Sebastian finished talking to his parents.

Peter, Maria, Rick and George with Katie talked some more before going to bed as well.

Next day, Saturday started white and clear. Peter had been right and it had snowed but the storm had left the area during the night and there was not a cloud in sight except on top of the mountain. There was a cold wind though, not strong, but cold and deceptive as the sun invited one to go outside and enjoy the snow, but once outside the wind was chilling to the bone.

Jason woke with a yawn next to a warm body, which was not weird as he had slept in the Manor, in Ryan's room and bed.

He smiled inwardly for the fact that as time progressed, he and Maria seemed to be spending more and more time in the Manor. Most nights they slept in, Jason had been given a room to place some stuff and be able to do his homework when he was there. He really hoped Peter would ask Maria to marry him already.

But when he turned to face the owner of the warm body he found Malthe and Christian snuggled in between him and Ryan. Last night's storm must have scared them out of their beds.

It had been one hell of a blizzard with gale force winds and enough snow that they could not see a meter outside the windows.

He stretched some and then passed a hand over the twins' hugging them close enjoying their warmth.

He giggled when Christian purred in his sleep and wiggled his hips in an effort to get closer to the source of the warmth.

Malthe mumbled something in his sleep that was barely audible and changed sides. Now facing Christian, he nuzzled his neck on his brother's and hugged him.

Jason had to giggle at the scene as both twins purred in complete synchronicity.

He got up slowly, silently so as to not wake up anyone and made his way down, wearing his PJs and slippers.

There was no sign of sunlight coming from the windows.

When down, he made his way for the dining room to find Rick's and George's parents there talking with their sons, Katie, Maria and Peter.

"Good morning, sweetheart how did you sleep?" Maria asked him. He walked over to his sister and gave her a hug.

"Not too well…may be coming down with something…"

"Anyone else waken up yet?" She asked him after giving him a kiss on his cheek.

"Nah…don't think so…the twins must have woken from the storm at some point during the night….as they're both in Ryan's bed," Jason said making some of the adults roll their eyes and Peter chuckled.

"The snow should be nicely laid outside. You all can play some snow ball fights later on," Peter said.

Jason sat on a chair and started serving himself breakfast.

A few minutes later, Ryan came down grunting something like "good morning" as he groggily woke up slowly, and the twins came in right after him.

"Malthe, go get ready. We'll go to the Mall with the guys and then you have swimming practice," Ryan told his brother as he finished with his breakfast and got up from the table excusing himself.

Malthe got up but then Christian hugged him, whispering in his ear. Whatever was told between them, the others did not hear.

When they were ready, Mr. Cox drove them off.

The day passed with them saying stories, reading and generally relaxing.

Jason played some video games with Rick.

It was after dinner that Peter asked Jared if they could talk privately.

They went to the library and sat facing each other.

Peter looked at nothing in particular in awkward silence for a few minutes before he looked at Jared and started speaking.

"I…I've been seeing this nightmare lately…I am in a strange, wild place, high grass all around me and I see a lion looking straight at me. After a while it jumps on me and starts eating me….I usually wake up after that…but sometimes I am the lion and I attack….George or Rick…and… I get such…pleasure from doing that, attacking them, eating them…they're only young boys in the dream…am…am…I…"

"A monster?" Jared asked him calmly. He was retired now, but he had had a brilliant career as a child psychiatrist.

He chuckled gently, "No, Peter, you are not a monster, most definitely not. For all your life so far, ever since your mother died you have taking care of others, you've knowingly and willingly put aside your own needs and desires to look after and take care of your brother…then at the beginning of your adult life, with your brother old enough and your father and Lucinda to look after the twins…this happened and you had to choose between you and your brothers and once again you chose them over you.

"But now, here in Brave Lake Manor, you have met a wonderful woman to stand by your side, you have an opportunity to make a living out of something you love doing and all that must be making you happy." Jared paused for a second.

Peter shook his head yes, "Yes…very much so, I love Maria so much…" He trailed off.

"But I'm guessing deep down in your subconscious you have many conflicting emotions, your happiness and needs conflicting with your desire to look after others, your brothers. I'm purely guessing but maybe some survivors guilt? How dare you live and be happy while your parents are both dead? How can you be happy when you must look after your brothers? All of that and much more I cannot know or guess from talking to you for all about five minutes make sense of those dreams. Maybe you're afraid of your own strength? The lion is one of the most powerful animals in nature, a single slap of its front paws can snap most animals', humans included, necks. And you have physical strength as well as psychological."

"I…I guess…but why a lion…I wonder…plenty of predatory animals out there…"

"The lion is the king of the jungle, and alpha male of its pack, its pride...but also…have you forgotten the trip to Kenya?" Jared asked him.

"Uhm…most of it, yes…I was only what? Seven?"

"Yes, and you and George were almost killed."

"What? I don't remember that...what…how?"

"One of the days we were there, we all went for a safari in the Masai Mara national reserve. After sightseeing in the savannah, we stopped in one of the Maasai villages. As we and your parents were watching the local people dance one of their traditional dances, you and George wandered off.

"Then at some point we heard a woman shriek. Your mother realised that you were not by her side and started calling your name, George's mother as well. Then a woman came running yelling in her language. The guide translated that a lion was ambushing two kids and was about to attack. I can tell you that I've never been more afraid in my life than I was at that moment."

Jared sighed, took a breath and continued.

"We all ran towards the direction the woman had come from…soon enough we saw a fully grown male lion crouching and growling at you and Rick…even then, you were acting protectively as you had placed Rick behind you and you were growling and yelling at the lion as if you were one as well. It must have at the very least perplexed it as it had not attacked yet. Just then, it jumped at you. All of our blood froze, your mother giving a screech that could shame a banshee and then the lion dropped dead. The tribe's elder or one of them had thrown his spear at the animal and caught it mid-air right between its shoulders severing its skull from its body at the base of the skull.

"Just as everyone were still in shock and frozen in our places, he walked to the lion, kneleed next to it. He then said something, a prayer the guide told us afterwards, took some of its blood with two of his fingers and got up.

"He kneeled in front of you and drew some lines on your cheeks with the lion's blood. He called you "ɔ́yamá Orngatuny" or young lion. You had not killed the lion or he would be giving you his spear in honour of your deed, but in his eyes you had defended someone in front of clearly unfavourable odds and so you were worthy of that.

"The rest of the trip went without any further…excitement. I am sure your father must have kept some pictures of the trip." Jared paused.

"After we returned from the trip, your father had that plaque installed. You know the one that says about "where lions dwell"."

"I…don't know what to say…how can I have forgotten all this?" Peter asked looking really surprised.

"You were only seven, and it was traumatic even if no one was actually hurt, but to see that beast of an animal coming right at you…knowing that you'll die…you may have blocked it off."

"I guess I have some thinking to do…thank you for listening to me," he told Jared.

"Don't mention it, Peter. I am always here if and when you want or need to talk All of us are," Jared said. Peter stood up and they hugged for a second before heading out to the living room.

Time passed fast until dinner.

When it was time for dinner, Peter remembered his brothers. "Where are they?" he asked Maria in case they had come back without him noticing or she knew something.

"Probably in either Enora's or Sebastian's house, I'm sure they're alright," She said.

When it was time for sleep, Peter wore his PJs but decided to open his father's chest. He found a lot of pictures from the time he was born up until the week before he died and some of that Kenyan trip and then he found a letter from his father addressed to him.

He read it and re-read it before setting it on the night stand.

He talked some with Maria, telling her of some of what Jared had told him.

He had almost dozed off when the nightly silence was broken by the landline phone and almost simultaneously Christian's screams coming from the floor below.

That winter wind was back again, making the windows rattle and the weather into a blizzard as Peter shot up from the bed and ran.

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