EN: This chapter differs from regular ones, as we will take a moment for a ‘where are they now?’ type of update by each household.
Almost half a year had passed since the last chapter.
Our legacy heir and his now fiancee are just enjoying the current level of their relationship at the moment, with no designs on making further changes anytime soon. They are still happily living in their tiny home in Newcrest with their dogs Shadow and Geraldine. Shea’s siblings, both now married, are expecting their first children with their respective spouses.
By now, through his stellar college degree with honors and lots of hard work, Chase has nearly reached the top of the science career. As glorious as this may sound, it requires lots of overtime. He rarely ever comes home before it is already dark, even in the warmer months.
Shea had not been happy in her office job, so she decided to go back to college for a degree in Communications to further her career and hopefully make it into a management position at some point. Currently she is commuting back and forth between the campus and home.
For the most part things remained unchanged on the homefront for Blake and Hailey. They still live in the famous, allbeing small Beach House in Brindleton Bay.
After Shea’s dog Geraldine had given birth to only two puppies, a dark brown Setter looking male they named ‘Higgins’ and a female of a sorrel color who was given the name ‘Sophie’, Blake and Hailey agreed to take the puppies once they were old enough to be separated from their mother. They had missed having a dog after Chase moved out with Shadow.
Now they had two very active specimen at once and were able to help their son and his fiancee out.
Both continue to make a living working from home, Blake as a music producer and by writing music on commission, sometimes putting out new songs himself, Hailey as a ghost writer for other authors.
Briar Rose (24)
Over the months following the discovery and her resulting extended hospital and rehab stay, Elias and Sarah continued to inch back closer to one another.
Alongside her weekly therapy for her addiction issues, they had been attending couples counseling as well.
At this point – officially – there was no talk yet of more between them, until Briar Rose came home unexpectedly one day and literally walked in on them. After that happened they decided to immerse themselves in the newfound hope and rekindled love, came out loud and proud and one trip to the justice of peace’s office later they were officially married again.
Sarah moved back into the Cameron house by the cliffs in Brindleton Bay.
Briar Rose and Stryker are still going strong, and currently have no desire to change their relationship status. They are happy with what they have and where they are, except of course Stryker’s house arrest, but condering that this already is the best case scenario, nobody ever complained.
He would be a free man again when he turned 43, just after Hope’s 18th birthday. An eternity to some, but a far cry from the life sentence in a high security prison he originally faced.
Not much a surprise to anyone that the elementary school teacher Kiera and the now high school principal Logan tried for their second child fully deliberately.
Within a short amount of time they were pregnant again, and luck would have it, their wish was granted: they are expecting a little girl.
This would bring their small, rustic home to its capacity of residents, as it sits quietly tucked away in Brindleton Bay, between the schools and Kiera’s family’s home.
They are also up to three pets now, after Briar Rose had to return their dog Kyrithia to them, who upon becoming an adult just could not get along with Bri’s cat Posh.
They still own Kyrithia’s mother Coco and their cat Tom.
Despite their ages, both are still in excellent health.
Ethan has no immediately plans for retiring from EC Architects, especially since Elias had his hands full with his personal life at the moment, leaving him very distracted. Ethan’s excitement about Elias & Sarah’s nuptial news was halted at best, while Blythe was very happy for them.
They still share the house near the old downtown of Brindleton Bay, right across the street from the EC Architects building with their now elder dog Wolf and his son Fenris. Daily walks with the dogs are part of Ethan and Blythe’s fitness routine to stay young, healthy and active as a couple.
EN: Now on to the continuation of the story
Gray & Richmond-Gray Law Firm, downtown San Myshuno
Nicholas Gray’s assistant had just ushered Briar Rose and Stryker through Nick’s office door.
“Come on in guys, I still don’t bite. Have a seat. Trust me, you will want to be sitting down for the news I got for you.” Nick pointed at the visitor chairs and after his guests were seated, he took his place behind his desk again. Nick was Ethan’s age, 75, and like Ethan still very fit and every bit as sharp as he always had been. The two life-long best friends still met frequently so Nick was always fully in the loop of all things Cameron.
“Oh my God, uncle Nick, nothing bad, right?” Briar Rose asked worried. She, and her cousins Chase and Kiera had always just refered to him as ‘uncle’, though technically he was a ‘great-uncle’, being married to their grandfather’s twin sister Esmée.
“Oh no, honey, nothing bad at all, just a bit – let me call it ‘delicate’. I suspect your boyfriend there may need a diaper change after the big reveal. Honestly, I cannot really predict with either of you two kids how you will react to this, so I am just going to let actions speak and fill you in as we go.” Nick told her in his usual, no-nonsense way.
He pushed a button on his desk phone then stood up, and when Ally answered he just told her ‘Showdown’.
“We’ll come over to your office, dad.” Ally’s voice sounded metallic through the speaker phone.
Seconds later, there was a brief knock and Ally entered her father’s office followed by three people, a woman, older, maybe late middle age, a young man and a young woman. She must have been waiting in her office with them, which was adjacent to her father’s. Upon entering, the new arrivals and the already present guests stared curiously at each other, until Stryker rose from his chair, stiffly, so Briar Rose got up too.
Everyone was standing, when the middle aged woman finally smiled and said
“Hello Jake-y …”
What followed was a thud and Stryker was on the ground.
“STRYKER!” Briar Rose exclaimed, kneeling next to him, patting his cheek, with Nick and Ally’s help she pulled out a chair and hoisted him into it patting his cheek and calling his name until he came to.
Some minutes and a glass of water later he was sitting there just glaring at the three strangers.
“I admit that reaction would not have been one of my first guesses. My daily life lesson today apparently was to never judge a book by its cover. Well, welcome back son. I guess I don’t have to explain to you who those people are then?” Nick said.
Stryker just shook his head, discombobulated.
“Uh – but I’d like a memo here. Drawing blanks.” Briar Rose spoke up.
“Right. Bri, this is Mrs. Belle O’Connor … her son Jeffrey and daugher Alyssa Hope.”
“O’Connor?!” as she heard the name it dawned on Bri that there was a lot more forthcoming.
“Yes dear, I am Jake’s mother, this is his brother and sister.” the woman now explained.
“Holy fucking shitballs!” Briar Rose exclaimed, shocked.
“Bri!” Ally reprimanded her.
“She just said what I was thinking. How is this possible?” Stryker finally found his words.
“Well, there is a huge file that was made available to Gray Law by the FBI which you are welcome to peruse, a lot of it redacted, but basically they evidently didn’t die, it was a rouse planned and executed by the FBI and some other covert government agencies to get them out and into witness protection as your mother had been working with the FBI and they had reason to believe your late father found out. They were going to take you, but since you were so – well – let’s call it ‘out of pocket’ most of the time the risk was too high.”
“No! I attended the funeral. I saw the caskets. I cried. So they were …”
“Empty. I am so sorry honey. I’ve missed you every single day. It tore my heart out having to leave you, but we had no choice. Your father would have killed all of us and I had to protect your younger siblings. Please try to understand. Life wasn’t easy for us either. We couldn’t stay anywhere for long. Your sister and brother had to grow up without friends, without roots, …” Mrs. O’Connor tried to explain, until Stryker cut her off.
“Well, lucky me, I had heaven on earth. How could a mother do that to her own son?! How could you?!” his initial mocking turned into accusation.
“Jake …” Nick warned, shaking his head.
“Nah, uh uh. Nope. I am out of here. You all do whatever, but count me out!” Stryker turned and rushed out.
“Uh – nice to meet all of you – I think. Oh, by the way, I am Briar Rose, the girlfriend and congrats, you are a grandma of a 6 year old girl. Nick will fill you in if he hasn’t already. Bye!” Bri ran out after Stryker leaving everyone standing around in awkward silence until Nick broke it.
“Well, that went well.” he snorted a laugh.
“Yeah, so well that it makes me want to spank that boy with ever growing pleasure!” Ally growled.
Nick was nothing, if not persistent. He wanted them to talk, so talk they shall.
The meeting finally happened again at Eli’s home a few days later. Stryker was quiet, visibly tense and growly. Still, he kept his opinions mostly to himself because Hope was there.
“What a sweet little girl you are. Just darling. Oh Jake, you do not know how happy this makes me. Seeing you as a father, your little family, all of you so happy …” Stryker’s mother cooed.
“No thanks to you.” he growled. Despite Bri and Nick’s attempts, he was stubborn, angry, hurt, his old inner turmoil of feeling betrayed and abandoned flaring up like an infected scar.
“Hey dude, mom tried to get you out as well. You were just too wrapped up in your booze, drugs and pus…” his brother tried.
“Jeff! There is a little girl present! Hold your tongue, please.” his mother tried to silence him.
“Mom, how can you sit there and take this? He knows nothing! He has no clue what all we have been through, while he has been lounging around in this mansion throwing himself a pity party!” Jeff defended him speaking up, when it was obvious he and his sister had been instructed not to by their mother.
“Lounging?! LOUNGING! For your information, I have been lounging on the street for most of my life after I finally got myself out of our daddy dearest’s claws. Unlike all of you I actually really tried to do something about that monster that was our father, the legal way, and it swallowed me whole then shit me back out, and after I finally saw light again peeking out from within that shit pile I was too fucked up to know anything most of the time. I had nobody and nothing! Were it not for Bri, her family and Nick, I’d probably be dead, rotting away in some piss-stained gutter, unclaimed, nobody looking for me!”
“JAKE! Stop this! Hope, honey, come on, go up to your room and play with your dolls.” Ethan addressed his granddaughter.
“But grandpa …” she moaned.
“I was not asking. Upstairs, now!” Eli determined.
“Fiiiiiiiiine .. just when it starts getting good.” Hope sounded just like her mother had at that age.
“NOW, young lady.”
Once she was out of hearing distance, Jeff began arguing again
“Why did you have to kill him? He was supposed to pay for what he has done to us, and to everyone else. Now he never will! You could have just stayed there and finish what you started. Get enough evidence, work with the government and …”
“If YOU have all the answers, why did neither of you do anything?! I mean, anything other than save your own asses, leaving me behind as the sacrificial lamb, just fodder for the beast?! Or at least come get me later, since you all obviously kept tabs on me! I lived through HELL most of my life! I will NEVER have a normal life and I am scrambling to see if I can create something resembling normality for my daughter!”
“Jeff stop! And Jake-y, honey …” his mother attempted.
“I am neither Jake-y, nor your …” Stryker raised his voice until Bri stood up and talked louder, right over him.
“IN OTHER NEWS – I AM PREGNANT! YAY!”
Everybody stared at Bri.
“Surpriiiiiiiise. Wheeee!” she continued.
“What? How?” Ethan looked shocked.
“Seriously, dad? How detailed do you want it?” she looked at her father.
“Never mind …” Eli mumbled.
“Oh fuck! So it did work after all?” Stryker added.
“Yup. That one test was probably taken a bit too early, showing wrong results. Well, mom, dad, uh … O’Connors ….and Nick, before all this new development went down, Stryker and I actually thought it would be nice to have a sibling for Hope. This time one we deliberately made. So we got working on that. Surpriiise.”
“Oh boy! Eli … I think we should tell them. Now or never.” Sarah said.
“Ok. You go. I don’t think I can …” Eli groaned.
“Well, Bri and everybody … Ethan and I have some news too. After my detox and rehab taking any kind of pills were far from my mind – including birth control, and … well …”
“NO!” Briar Rose said.
“Yeah … about two and a half months along already.” Sarah confirmed.
“Mom! At YOUR age?! And almost 3 months already? That would mean you two jumped each other’s bones while mom was still in rehab! What the …” Bri nearly reached her melting point.
“Bri! Your mother and I are well aware. This was neither planned, nor expected. But it is what it is and it will be.” Eli’s tone was between begging and reprimanding.
Stryker just started laughing, before looking at the O’Connors across the table from him.
“Well, my lovely resurrected family, there you have it: welcome to my life! You just witnessed how shit usually goes down for me. Not only will my daughter have living dead relatives, you, but also be at least 6 years older than her aunt or uncle, while her sister or brother will be about the same age as said aunt or uncle. Can’t make this shit up. And so much for trying to have a normal life. Psyche! What a welcome back among the living for you, straight into the Stryker’s life drama, episode 999. But you know what, as a welcome-back present, you guys can have the Del Sol mansion and all the shit in it, plus all the accounts. Everything, the entire goddamn inheritance that has been stuck to the bottom of my shoe like a piece of toilet paper. I don’t want father’s blood money or anything it paid for. I was contemplating burning it to the ground, but since the three of you had such a terribly rough life compared to me, go and live it up in the fast lane. Unless of course you prefer to go dark again. In that case, have a wonderful life whereever you go hide and I’ll get the matches.”
“Jake, honey, I know you are upset with me now, you have every right to be. You must feel like I abandoned you, but I haven’t. Every day I thought of you, but you were always such a strong, smart boy, I just knew you’d be fine.”
“Fine? FINE!? Do I seem fine to you?!” Stryker barked at his mother.
“Well, could’ve done worse.” Bri said next to him.
“Bri, don’t you get it?! Don’t you understand what all this means?” Stryker snapped at her. Wrong move as he found out, because Bri was not known for her patience.
“No, Stryker, why don’t you explain it to me? How you were always so sad that your mother and siblings were dead, now they are back and – still – it’s poor Stryker yet again. Gonna spare you my sob story, but have you looked at the copies Nick send over? No? Well, I have and you know what all that says? Uncle Nick, correct me if I am wrong, but all that basically means that if your mother, sister and brother agree go before a judge and tell all, along with the copies and evidence the FBI already submitted for that purpose, your sentence could be reduced to the bare minimum by changing the conviction from first degree murder to something-something manslaughter and maybe even claim you were temporarily not quite capable of making sound decisions. That would mean instead of sitting on your ass stuck in this house until Hope is 18, in just a few years you get to wander the streets, maybe have a job, see our kids hang out on playgrounds, pick them up from school, watch their recitals and all that shebang, if you get a decent judge.”
“That would be the gist of it.” Nick confirmed.
“What?” Stryker was nearly speechless.
“Of course we will do everything we can. All three of us.” Mrs. O’Connor confirmed.
“Bri … ” Stryker just said, his tone a plea to forgive him. Lucky for him, Bri was as quick to get over upsets as she was to explode.
“Yeah, means with a little luck you get to go with me to the gyn and eventually can keel over in the delivery room again.” she smiled at him.
-to be determined-