The Twelve Tables Ch. 20

Full Nelson

Authors Note: Thank you to everyone left comments or sent me feedback about previous chapters of this story. Thank you again to Margaret who proofread for me. ~ellie


The Donati triplets were two months old, and Peri now fed them every three hours rather than four. As they had reached what would have been their official birthday at eight weeks they had become more alert and hungry, it seemed, wanting to be fed more often which she had been managing but was feeling a little rundown. It was at that time that they had flown to Melbourne for Maryanne’s wedding, and Peri had sat in the church and sobbed claiming they were happy tears but feeling overwhelmed with life.

When she had gone back to the hotel suite to feed the babies before the reception Josh had taken control. He had turned to Bridgette and given her several hundred dollars, instructing her to go and buy what she needed to feed the babies for the night as Peri would not be returning until six the following morning. Then he had spoken to her gently.

“You can’t keep this up, and I can’t watch you crash and burn. I want my wife back not this zombie woman you have become. You are a wonderful mother and leaving them with qualified, capable nannies for the night, who know them as well as you do, won’t make you a bad mother,” he said in reasonable tones. “These are my children too, and I know they will be looked after better by the nannies than a stressed out mother who can’t even be sure which child she is feeding anymore.”

She had tried to argue with him, but he had refused to budge on his stance and for the first time since the birth of her babies, she saw the future leader of the Donati family appear to lay down the law.

“I love you, but you are going to kill yourself if this doesn’t stop. You are not an average woman in an average home who has to do the best she can and run herself ragged. You are my wife and the mother of my children. More than that you are the mother of the next Donati table. We need to be here and show our united strength among the Vitali family. They need to know that the next generation of Donati’s cannot be taken lightly.” He said and pulled her close to his body. “I love you,” he repeated, “but tonight can’t be about what we want. Maryanne has married into a family almost as powerful as our own so we will go to the reception, and we will be every inch the future leaders that Papa hopes we can be.”

“Put it in terms of royalty, you are about to become a queen, Princess Peri,” Dante said from behind Josh startling her. Peri realised she was so tired and emotional that she hadn’t even noticed Dante had returned to the hotel with them. “Would any of the royal women let down their king when visiting another country or would they want to put their best foot forward.”

Peri had pulled herself together immediately. She had said she would do anything Josh asked of her when the decision to make him the next Chair was being made, and she knew life as she knew it would be altered profoundly. She had expressed as much milk as she could and gone to the adjoining suite to change into the evening gown Andie had insisted she take with her despite it being totally unsuitable for breastfeeding. She fixed her hair and applied more make-up covering the telltale signs of her lack of sleep. Satisfied that the dress had hidden the baby fat, she still carried she returned to where the two men talked quietly in the nursery.

The brothers had become even closer, Peri thought, and though they both went to work in different directions, they spent, even more, time together with Andreas and Joseph. At home, there had been an awkwardness between Dante and Peri over the last two weeks as they worked through their feeling for each other and Josh separately. They both knew that Josh wrestled with the knowledge that they were permanently bound together now and would perhaps take longer to come to terms with it than they might.

“If she expresses as soon as you get back to the room make sure you refrigerate it straight away,” Madeline said quietly to Josh handing him a small bag. In Peri’s absence, she had packed a bag with her small hand pump and several bottles. “There are some breast pads in there too which should get you through the reception without any incidents,” the girl smiled softly.

“Thank you, Madeline,” Peri said as she put a smile on her face and walked towards the two men who waited for her.

“Well that was a transformation worth waiting for,” Dante said returning her smile.

“You look beautiful,” Josh kissed her lightly not wanting to wear the deep shade of lipstick she had applied.

“Pete said to give you this and not to worry because it is natural and wouldn’t affect your milk greatly,” Josh put an effervescent tablet in a glass of water and watched it dissolve before handing it to her.

They were staying in the same hotel as the reception was being hosted so after drinking the effervescent liquid, they walked to the elevators. The reception was beautiful and while Ataşehir Öğrenci Escort the babies remained on her mind Peri relaxed and allowed herself to enjoy the evening and the company of her brothers and sisters-in-law. Andie had accompanied Charles and sat at a table with the older members of the family. Unsurprisingly the vitamin supplement Pete had prescribed seemed to take the edge of her fatigue and the brain fog she had been enduring lifted to make her less emotional. Lucia had dragged Dante onto the dancefloor, and Pete had slipped into the seat beside her.

“How are you feeling?” he asked softly leaning toward her.

“I don’t know what was in the tablet you gave Josh for me, but I feel great, clear-headed and not as tired as I have been in what seems like forever,” she smiled.

“I gave Josh the box. It’s just a vitamin complex with a caffeine-based extract. Don’t take more than one every couple of days though or those babies will wake up demanding coffee in the mornings,” he chuckled.

“They’re demanding enough as it is,” she laughed lightly, “Their Papa would probably give them anything they demanded so I’ll be careful not to overdo it.”

“Says the woman who can’t bear to leave them alone for more than an hour at a time,” Josh said in his own defence. “They’re pretty damn amazing though so you can’t blame us for doting on them,” his voice softened, and he took Peri’s hand.

Peri found herself enjoying the night but as the evening wore on her breasts began to ache with the unrelieved fullness as she went past the usual feeding time. She found Josh talking with Constantine and Jules and whispered in his ear that she might need the bag Madeline had given him.

“D. put it in the room where the bride and groom’s things are,” he said looking around and spotting Dante talking to Angelo and a few other men not far away.

“You stay and chat I can ask him,” she smiled, “I won’t be long, I’ll do it properly when we go back to our room later.” She kissed him and wandered in the direction of Dante. “I’m sorry to interrupt gentlemen,” she said politely to the small group as she came to stand beside him. “Would you mind terribly if I borrowed Dante for a few minutes?”

“That sounds interesting,” Angelo grinned. “What are you planning on doing with him?”

“Well,” she leaned forward conspiratorially, “I’m on a bit of a treasure hunt, and rumour has it he knows where it is hidden.” She winked making him laugh.

“Doesn’t surprise me, he always had hidden gems around the place, take him if you must,” Angelo chuckled.

“This ship is about to spring a leak if I don’t find that bag Madeline packed for me,” she whispered as they walked away from the group arm in arm.

“You are looking particularly buoyant in that dress, I don’t think there’s much chance of you drowning,” he whispered back but led the way to a small side room where the bride and groom would change before they left for their honeymoon. “I’ll stay and make sure no one interrupts you.” He said leaning back against the door once it was closed behind them.

“I’ll be quick and do a full express when we get back to our suite later. “Could you undo the zip for me?” She asked without thinking.

“Sure,” he stepped forward as she turned her back to him and swept her hair aside. He slowly lowered the zip and ran his hand back up her back and over her shoulders lowering the dress. He’d fantasised about doing this under different circumstances, but the action was real. Unable to help himself he bent his head to kiss her shoulder and neck as the dress fell from her shoulders.

Peri took a sharp breath and turned to face him holding the dress to her chest. She knew that somehow they would eventually become closer even intimate, and she had thought about it often recently. She reached up and placed a hand on his cheek and smiled softly.

“I won’t betray Josh or do anything behind his back,” she said softly. “I understand what is happening and know that we will share a great deal in our lives including Josh’s love. I’m not sure we are ready for this,” she admitted. “I’m still,” she looked down at her full breasts lost for words, “leaky,” she gave a half smile.

“The leakiness only makes you more attractive to me,” Dante said equally softly taking her hand from his cheek and holding it. “I would never betray Josh either, for better or worse we are bound together now, and I would like that to be more of the better and less of the worse.” He bent his head to kiss her lightly. “This is no more than an extension of the mild flirting and affection we have shown each other for months now. Betrayal would include using that playroom he created.” His eyes betrayed his pleasure in thinking about that. “Do what you need to do, you are safe with me and always will be.”

He watched as she placed the pump to her breast and positioned it before pumping the trigger. Her nipple elongating with the suction as the deep cream coloured milk filled the bottle attachment. Ataşehir Çıtır Escort He was strangely aroused by the sight and lifted his eyes from her breast to meet hers and seeing her curious look tilted his head.

“I’m only human Peri,” he groaned. “Josh is the one with all the self-control.”

“You’re doing pretty well in that department,” she gave him credit with a smile. Picking up two fresh nipple pads she placed them over her elongated nipple before exposing the other breast and filling the other half of the bottle quickly and easily. She placed everything back into the bag and straightened up pulling her dress back to her shoulders and turning sweeping her hair to the side so he could zip it up for her.

He let his fingers linger on her skin, and she could feel his hot breath on her neck before he kissed her there as the zip was pulled into place. She didn’t flinch or take a breath, this time, she merely turned to look at him and accepted their first real kiss. It was soft and tender, but she could feel his desire, and she broke the contact feeling uneasy about her own feelings.

“We better get back in there before people come looking for us,” she said breathlessly. She hadn’t considered that he would kiss her with the same passion Josh held in his kisses and it both thrilled and unnerved her.

“You might want to visit the ladies room and freshen up your lipstick,” he gave a lopsided smile. “Do I look good in this colour?” Peri couldn’t help but laugh and reached up to brush her thumb over his lips.

“Thank you,” he said with meaning, kissing her thumb and taking her hand in his own. “Thank you for letting down the barrier that had built up between us since Papa’s visit.”

“We have to go,” Peri said unable to formulate any words in response to his. He opened the door, and they went back out into the reception watched by several sets of eyes including Josh’s. He knew that neither of them would do anything to fracture the relationship growing between all three of them. While he was still not fully enamoured with the idea that eventually they would have a relationship separate from him, he was beginning to let Dante into their intimacy as part of his and Peri’s relationship in little ways to stall that separation as long as possible.

He reasoned that if he did it on his terms, then he would be following the needs and laws of the family, giving Dante the intimacy he craved with Peri and would still maintain control of his wife and her relationship with his brother. He was becoming unemotional about it seeing it as more of a compromise that must be made in exchange for the future he had not thought possible but now craved along with the wealth and power that would come with it. They were the next generation of power brokers and would be a force to be reckoned with and the sooner he took control of this element of his life the happier they would all be.

His world view had changed in the two weeks since the meeting with his father and uncles. He loved Peri as much as always if not more, and he knew his position had been confirmed and written in stone by her acceptance of who she must become for him to succeed. He knew that without her unequivocal support things might have been different. He had spent part of each day with either Joseph or Andreas over the last two weeks, and he knew they tested him and his knowledge on many levels. What he knew about the true mission of his family had been nothing compared to the small amount he had been told so far. He also knew that a trial was before him, and soon he would be asked to make a decision that would either make or break him as the next Chair if he did not figure out the riddle they had given him and conquer it first. If he failed on both counts, they would make the decision for him.

Once again he considered Dante and his love for Peri. If he couldn’t conquer his fears about letting Dante have an intimate relationship with Peri it could very well break his tenuous hold on the Chair. He knew his other brothers would be told of their roles on the new table in the new year, and he had until the family Christmas to work it out on his own or have them inform him that they had made the decision, and he would have no further choice in the matter. While they had not said that the Chair would be taken from him, he knew that his hold on it came down to how well he handled the outcome of this trial.

The only clue he had to the trial he was on was a cryptic riddle that seemed very straight forward to him, and he struggled to work out what he needed to do. He walked over to where Peri and Dante stood talking with Vincenzo and Dominic. In his head, he went through the riddle he now knew by heart.

“Duplicity lies in heart and hearth

Terrifying the mother.

Into darkness and into earth

One-half must sacrifice the other.”

“Hey Dom,” Josh greeted his cousin warmly. “I didn’t think Zio ever let you off that leaky tub he calls home.”

“Yeah, gotta come and get my land Ataşehir Elit Escort legs back now and then. I heard you started a publishing house,” Dom said. “I’m considering a change of scenery if you’re looking for a hack columnist.”

“Seriously?” Josh asked. “I’d hardly call being syndicated hack work. I’d love to have you on board if you’re interested in the publishing side. I’ve been super busy with the new family and house so it would be great to have a family member there working with the executives.”

“Didn’t think it would be that easy,” Dominic laughed. “Just for appearances sake do you want me to dust off my resume and come in for an interview with you and, what was that guy’s name?” he asked his father.

“Rick,” Vincenzo supplied unsurprisingly.

“I expect that’s probably the more professional option,” Josh admitted. “What about Wednesday, say around ten?”

“Perfect, I’ll have my people call your people to confirm,” he spoke with a perfectly straight face and earned a disparaging look from his father.

“I would be his people,” Dominic’s wife Finola shook her head. “I’ll give your assistant a call on Monday and set it up. I can’t wait to move back onto dry land.” She turned to Peri, “Don’t ever let Josh convince you that life at sea is all romantic sunsets and vast horizons.”

“It does sound tempting when you put it that way, but I don’t think there’s any chance of that happening in my near future,” she laughed. “Life at sea could get very messy with triplets on board.”

“I forgot about that you look so great!” Finola said earnestly. “Come and tell me all about them while I find another glass of wine.”

“Tell the truth,” Dante smirked, “Was it the wife’s nagging or did your father finally kick you out of home.”

“A little bit of both,” Dominic answered in a deadpan tone. “Seems as good a time as any for a change. Have you caught up with Larry yet? I here he is considering giving up the racing leathers to start a custom bike shop.”

“Yeah the seconds have corralled a table over in the corner,” Josh said.

“That’s my cue then,” Dominic winked and walked over to where they all sat.

“No good can come of that,” Dante looked over to where Dominic had joined the table. “The current table all making an appearance with all of the second sons. Are we trying to make a point or something here?”

“Ah there is Manuel, excuse me, boys,” Vincenzo said and left them where they stood not even acknowledging the question.

“Peri managed to express okay?” Josh asked coming back to his reason for coming over to where his brother stood.

“Yeah I offered to be the pump for her, but she declined,” Dante teased.

“You should have, you’ve been practically obsessed with her tits since she started breastfeeding,” Josh said quietly taking Dante by surprise.

“Well, you could have told me that before she got that little pump out,” Dante made light of Josh’s words unsure of how to take them. “Watching that pump was almost as good, that clear plastic lets you see how the nipple gets stretched out by the suction.” He waited to see what reaction he would get. He’d teased before but this went slightly beyond that, and he half expected Josh to get mad.

“I don’t think I have ever seen her use the hand pump before,” he mused. “Just the electric one at home but its cups aren’t clear like that. Maybe I should get more involved in the process,” he grinned. “Relax D. this is something we all want right?” Josh clapped Dante on the shoulder. “Sometimes you just have to pull the band-aid off fast. I assume this is one of the trials we must overcome before Christmas or have them reappraise the situation.”

“The only trial I was given was to try and pre-empt your needs and help you with an enigma that bothers you. The thing is I don’t have all of the information, and I think that is the point they were trying to make. The idea that I am supposed to know you as well as I know myself was paramount over everything else I was told. It’s my relationship with you and not Peri that matters to the future of the family.” Dante seemed to think about his words. “With Lio it was different, we shared everything from the time we shared the same womb. Now I have to find that sense of symbiosis with you.”

“I never really had that with Nik. She shared my stuff not because I offered but because she took it,” he smiled. “We were close when we were young but never like you and Lio. She needed me to defend her when she was shitty to you all and be that barrier, but I would have done that for any of the girls. The difference was and what you all saw was that she claimed it as her right, and I willingly gave it because we were twins. We never had that symbiotic relationship that you or the Valentine brothers have. Ours was more parasite and host. I was always trying to hang out with you guys when I was younger, but you all had each other, and I had Nik.”

“Poor little Wah-wah. The way I remember it everyone was always fighting over who was going to hang out with you because we wanted to not because we had to. There was no drawing of straws or rock, paper, scissors, you dumbass. Get off that pity pony and get into bed with me,” Dante laughed, “I’ll show you symbiosis.” Josh cocked an eyebrow at the phrase his brother had used and burst out laughing.

Leave a Reply

E-posta adresiniz yayınlanmayacak. Gerekli alanlar * ile işaretlenmişlerdir