Sadie tried to control her growing fear that something was about to happen to her little boy, even though Wade smiled at her and waved a greeting. "Mummy, come see Gan-gan."
"What?"Sadie reached out her hands towards Ajek. "Please, Ajek, don't hurt him. Put him down and let him come to me."She watched with relief as Ajek shrugged his shoulders and lowered his cousin to the ground.
"There you are munchkin, go and give your mummy a nice big hug. She looks like she needs one."He stepped back with his hands raised in submission, allowing the child to toddle across the gravel towards Sadie. "Well, at least my cover is tight if it made you believe what you heard about me. Somehow I didn't think you'd be taken in by it so easily. Why don't you come into the house; there's a lot we need to talk about."
Sadie scooped her son into a tight embrace and backed away from Ajek. She had no idea where this place was, but she certainly had no plans to stay anywhere near a multiple murderer. To think he had once been such a sweet, polite boy and, second to Tadik, the apple of Tadikon's eye. "Just call me a cab and I'll go home, thank you."
Wade pointed towards the house saying, "Gan-gan, Gampie. Come see, Mummy."
"No, darling, Gan-gan and Gampie aren't here. They're a long way away in Canada."
Wade let out a wail and struggled to get down. "Noooo! I wan' Gan-gaaaan."
In her weakened state, Sadie found it hard to hold him, almost dropping him as she finally let him go. "No, be still, baby; they aren't here."For the first time ever, he turned and kicked her and ran back to Ajek and threw his arms round Ajek's legs. Her nephew turned his head towards the house and shouted, "Hey, folks, can I have a little help out here?"
Sadie got ready to run, not knowing if she had the strength to get very far before whoever was in league with her nephew caught up with her. Torn between flight and the need to rescue her baby, Sadie stared as the front door opened once more and a tall, motherly individual with white hair stepped out. The woman smiled at her, and Sadie felt her legs turn to sand. "Mum!"With harsh memories of being wrongfully accused of theft and being turned out of her home hitting her already jangled senses, she turned to run and fell into a black fog.
Sadie woke up to warmth and luxurious comfort, obviously not the kind one found in a prison cell. The pillows her head rested on hinted of a floral perfume. She opened her eyes at last and peeped over the edge of the duvet, and found she was in a large bedroom with cream silken drapes at the large windows. They weren't quite closed and let in a stream of brilliant sunshine that made her half close her eyes again. Still feeling tired she rolled over to face away from the annoying sun and realized that she was not alone. A large overstuffed chair had been brought close to the bed and there was a tall gray haired man sitting in it, watching her closely. "Ah! Methinks the lady doth awake at last."
Sadie started to sit up but realized just in time that she had been stripped of her prison clothes. Clutching the edge of the duvet to her naked shoulders, she frowned, trying to remember where she had seen him before. "Who are you? Where am I?"
The man's neatly clipped mustache twisted as he smiled. "My dear Sadie, don't tell me you don't recognize your father's best friend! Mind you, I've changed a bit since you last saw me; let's see now, nine years ago was it? I didn't have gray hair or a mustache back then."
Sadie's jaw dropped. "Sir Jeffus? Oh, My God, what are you doing here? Where am I?"The urge to run came back with a rush.
"I'm here because this is my house, and you are safe in the depths of the English countryside, and you will be a guest for as long as you wish."
Sadie backed up against the head of the bed, pulling the duvet with her, as if it were enough of a barrier between her and the man who had been at the heart of a scandal which had ended with him serving a seven year prison sentence for having under-age sex with a twelve year old boy; that boy being her own nephew Ajek. The scandal had been all the more public with Sir Jeffus being a royal duke, the cousin of His Majesty King Gerrard of the United Kingdom. Apart from her own father's support, the King had been the only person willing to stand up for him, almost losing the throne in the process when he refused to remove his dukedom. In return, the duke had agreed to step down as Lord Marshall and the king's chief advisor and retire to his country estate upon his release from prison. Sir Jeffus gave her a look of understanding as he rose to his feet. "I do understand your reticence, my dear, but I will wait till later to fill you in on certain things you may not know of. Just understand that the picture is not as bleak as your might paint it. Your mother is waiting to help you with a bath; she has some of your clothes ready for you to choose from, then you can join her, and your father and I, for breakfast."
Sir Jeffus had almost reached the bedroom door when Sadie realized something. "My parents, why are they here?"
Sir Jeffus smiled over his shoulder at her as he opened the door. "Who else would I ask to take control of three little rascals before they wrecked my home? I'm only too glad your youngest is far too tiny to join them in their escapades."
Sadie breathed a prayer of thanks that Pretty Devaline didn't swamp her with gushing sympathy when she came in, her arms loaded with towels, clothes and toiletries; neither did she launch into a tirade of accusations about what had happened in the past, although she had every right to, not having fully heard Sadie's side of the story. Her mother simply laid the clothes on the bed and bent to kiss her on the forehead. She sat on the bed and took hold of Sadie's hands, squeezing them gently. "Darling Sadie, I can't apologize too much for what happened. If only I had believed you when you said you never stole one penny from us. For eighteen years we have falsely accused you, only to find, through Sir Jeffus and his team of investigators that it was your maid Roseanna who was the thief."
"Roseanna?"Sadie couldn't believe her dearest friend since early childhood could do such a thing, but then she remembered how Rosanna had deceived her more recently. "But how? I mean, the bank said whoever forged yours and Dad's signatures on the cheques had to know how to do it."
"Sadie, Roseanna was a very clever person, and also very jealous of you and your position. Remember when I caught you writing my signature for fun? That's when she got the idea. She honed her skills and became an expert forger. While you were in prison, Rosanna was shot by Franklin Jute and sent for us. She made a death bed confession to your father and me. We contacted Sir Jeffus and asked for his help in locating you. It was only when Jacon Torm saw you in the prison that we realized where you were. And I do hope you will give Ajek a chance to tell you his story because you've probably only heard half-truths. He never believed all the lies that were spread around about you, and he and his father were chiefly responsible for rescuing you from that hateful prison. Now dear, before you have your bath, I think there is someone waiting to come and see you."
"Oh, please Mother, not just now. I'm still trying to get my head round the fact I'm not in prison."Sadie squeezed her mother's hand tightly.
"Nonsense; just wait till you see who it is before you make a decision."Her mother picked up a snowy white bathrobe and helped her put it on. Once she was satisfied Sadie was suitably decent, she pressed a bell on the wall beside the bed head. The bedroom door opened and Sadie tensed, wishing whoever it was would go away and leave her alone. Her mouth gaped open as her father walked in carrying baby Dickon in one arm with little Wade hanging onto his other hand; and pushing their way past him in their race to be first to reach the bed, her three and a half year old daughter Jenka and her two and a half year old son Franick squealed their delight at seeing their mother. With Pretty's help, they scrambled onto the bed and flung themselves into Sadie's waiting arms.
With a sob of relief, she gathered her babies to her breast, oblivious to their noisy chatter as her tears ran down her cheeks. "My babies! Oh my precious babies, it's so good to see you again."As her two eldest gained a stranglehold round her neck, she looked up at her father as he approached the bed, and she realized with a shock how old he looked. His once black hair had turned almost white, his face wrinkled with lines of worry, even though his smile was the same. He hauled Wade onto the bed and laid baby Dickon in the middle of the group cuddle. Then he leaned down and placed a gentle kiss on her cheek. "Hello precious. Are we forgiven?"
Just like that? Did they really think she could forget the years of heartbreak, of being accused of theft not once but three times, and being turned out of their home at seventeen to fend for herself and told not to darken their doors ever again. She had always been a bit of a wild child, but the days of being forgiven for her minor misdemeanors were over. Hurt and heartbroken that they would ever believe she would steal from them, she had taken their words literally and had fled back to England, disappearing into the sprawling mass that was London. Lost and alone for the first time in her life, she had been fortunate to find a job in a café. The proprietors were a kindly couple who sympathized with her over her plight, and allowed her to live in a small room above the café, where she cried herself to sleep almost every night. Six months later a young airman had taken tea in the café and it had been love at first sight.
Within weeks they had been married, Mr. And Mrs. Porter providing a wedding cake and a small party at the café, and then Tadikon Versont had taken her home to present her to his parents in Herefordshire where she lived for two years while Tadikon flew his first and second space missions. Meanwhile, Jacon Torm had arrived with his little boy, Ajek, a pale, unloved child with haunting eyes below an unruly thatch of blonde hair. While prison guard Jacon had been transferred from a local prison to the huge facility nearer London, his wife had shown her true colours and had had several affairs behind his back. Jacon had begged his uncle and aunt to care for the boy. Ajek had idolized Tadikon as his hero and was soon back to being a loveable scamp and a doting big brother for Braidi. No one could control him except Sadie, who understood a like mind to her own. Then Tadikon had arrived home carrying a baby boy, an orphan from a far off planet.
Sadie put two and two together and at first accused her husband of being unfaithful; then he had told her the truth and that he had brought Tadik home to hide him away where no one linked with Tadikon's missions could find him, that he was a special baby one of twins with kinetic powers such as would be revealed as he grew to adulthood. Tadikon's aim had been to search for his twin and take Tadik away to meet his brother wherever he was in their own galaxy. Security for the boy meant leaving the Versont home and moving nearer to the UNASA space city where Tadikon was based. They also made arrangement for the bulk of his sizable salary to be put in a trust for the care, education and safety of the boy should anything happen to Tadikon. It was Ajek who suffered the most from the move, sobbing his little heart out in Sadie's arms and begging her not to take his baby brother away, but it had to be done. He had to be content with the promise of occasional visits but his own mother scotched that idea by arriving at the Versont home one day and claiming her son. Quelina Torm was not a nice woman to know, and had soon made it clear that they would never see Ajek again. Tesher and Dorit Versont had contacted Jacon immediately but a thorough search had failed to trace them.
Watching Tadik grow into a loving little image of his father had made Sadie worry about the future time when the boy would have to be returned to his own galaxy. She had also watched the bond between Tadikon and his son draw ever stronger. She hadn't wanted her husband or his son to suffer as she and Ajek had done, and she had decided to try and wean Tadikon away from him, at the same time placing a barrier between Tadik and herself. Big and strong as Tadikon was, she knew the eventual parting would break his heart. It had been hard to keep her resolve each time Tadikon had come home to be greeted so enthusiastically by his son, but she had been determined to see it through, and had leaned on loyal friends for support, even Roseanna her childhood friend, who had suddenly turned up out of the blue.
It had been Roseanna who had urged her to go through with the ceremony of Tadik's first time with a girl, despite Tadikon's absence. Before she knew it, Roseanna had taken over the house, issued the invites, ordered the buffet, bought the drinks, and Sadie, worried about her husband's none appearance, had let Roseanna push her into the background, much to Tadik's distress. It had been Roseanna and her friend Franklin Jute who had almost forced Tadik into the bedroom where the chosen girl had been waiting, giving Sadie no chance to go to him when he ran from the room, naked with his face red with shame, and the girl screaming insults after him. Thinking about it now, she recalled hardly knowing any of the guests who thought the whole incident hilarious. Then the news of Tadikon's disappearance had shattered her already fragile world.
Grieving for her husband, she had stupidly allowed Roseanna and Franklin to take over her life. The government had declared Tadikon dead, and in a daze she had found herself married to Franklin. At first he had been kind and attentive, nothing too much trouble, even though he was a little too enthusiastic about sex. She hadn't realized what a bad move she had made until Ajek had arrived on the doorstep with the signs of persistent beatings. He had run away from his mother and her boy-friends and had sought the only refuge where he knew he would be safe and loved. Quelina and her latest boyfriend had arrived within hours and had dragged him off, but not till Ajek had whispered in Sadie's ear, "Please, Auntie, don't trust Franklin, he's a bad man."Weeks later her father-in-law let her know that Ajek had run away once more and was living on the streets of London; then the news broke of him being involved with Sir Jeffus.
In open court, Ajek had declared his love for the man whom he had met at the house of Tesher and Dorit and who had gone in search of him and had picked him up off the streets of London where he had been living as a rent boy to survive. As Sir Jeffus was taken down into the cells to begin his jail sentence, the boy had screamed out for all to hear that he would wait for him. The court had considered Quelina an unfit mother, much to Sadie's delight, but instead of handing the boy over to the Versont family, they had branded him as impossible to control and had locked him up in a young offenders unit till he was eighteen. After that he had disappeared and not heard of again till six months ago when arrested for the murder of his mother. Once more, like a miniature Waldini, he had absconded, and Sadie had not heard or seen anything about him till she alighted from the helicopter yesterday.
After Ajek's whispered warning, Sadie had watched Franklin with more care, and had realized that Tadik's complaints about not liking Franklin were well founded as she found herself a virtual prisoner in her home while Franklin and Roseanna seemed to become more friendly than was natural. Then Tadik had been arrested and charged with murder and her world had once more been torn apart. Then two weeks ago, she had also been arrested, along with Franklin, and charged with attempting to defraud Tadik of his inheritance, and the murder of Tadik's girlfriend. The arraignment had been a farce with all sorts of lies and outrageous stories coming, not only from the prosecutor's office, but from Franklin who had laid all the blame at her feet.
Looking up at her father now, she knew she had to be strong, even though she dearly wanted to throw herself in his arms. "I'm sorry, Dad, but I can't forgive you; not yet."
Her father straightened up with a look of pain, and her mother gave a gasp of horror. "Darling, please! We're doing everything we can to-."
"No."Sadie shook her head in defiance. "After years of being hated and disowned by both of you, and struggling to survive, I don't think you have the right to ask such a thing of me. Everything that has happened to me, I blame you for. And until I have some answers about my current situation and the whereabouts of Tadik, I feel I don't want to talk to you. Please leave; I wish to be alone with my children."
She watched her parents exchange a secretive look then her father said in a stern voice, "In that case we can keep silent no longer. Sir Jeffus preferred us not say anything until he could speak with us all, but there is a matter of great importance concerning Galactic security, and I'm afraid you, Mr. Jute, and your son Tadik are involved, as well as the well-being of your first husband whom Sir Jeffus believes is still alive. We now know that Tadik is not your natural son, and that for the last three months he has been in great danger."
Sadie stared in open mouthed disbelief at her parents. Her mother nodded. "That is why Sir Jeffus wishes to speak with you. Get washed and dressed and come to breakfast."
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