Previously on Montecito: Robert meets with his lawyer at the station and learns his bail options are not guaranteed; Dean Clark pays Jace for a secret job; Beth and Stu continue planning the upcoming Network party and purchase uniforms to blend in and work at the party; Beth runs into Nicole and notices she has changed her eating habits; Ava calls from Europe to find out details about her father’s arrest.
Does Nicole introduce her baby bump at the Network party, or stick with her original idea, to drop the bombshell through the baby shower invitation?
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Police Station, Montecito
Robert wondered why Nicole was coming to visit him now. She’d been ignoring him ever since she dropped her bomb, her timing impeccable. Robert looked around the room, irritated by its sterile nature, having nothing visible to distract his thoughts. His head was spinning now and he couldn’t get it to stop. He wondered if anyone recognized Nicole when she came in. He wondered if Claire would see her name on the visitor’s list. He wondered if his lawyer would ask why a college student had come to see him. Robert smacked his head, hoping to stop all thoughts and worse case scenarios as they played out in his head.
“Why are you hitting yourself?” came the familiar voice, albeit less seductive and completely void of the baby tone he’d grown accustomed to.
“I thought that should be obvious,” replied Robert. His eyes lingered on the very short hemline as Nicole sat across from him, cross-legged.
“No, actually, nothing is obvious. No one would tell me anything out there. Why are you in here?” Nicole watched as Robert’s eyes ran over her body. He’s practically panting.
“It’s a big misunderstanding. It’ll all be cleared up in a few days,” explained Robert.
“Really? Well, I guess we should talk now while you have some time to think and adjust to what’s happening,” said Nicole standing up. She pulled her loose fitting summer dress tight against her body, allowing the little bump to show.
Robert jumped out of his seat.
“What is that?” he sputtered, his eyes no longer running the length of her legs, but instead transfixed on the now obvious protruding belly.
“I thought that should be obvious,” mimicked Nicole.
“What is that?” reiterated Robert.
“My child,” replied Nicole sitting back down.
“What are you talking about? You said you took care of it!” Robert clenched his fists and slammed them on the table. “I can’t have this happening right now.” His voice was deep and threatening and it sent a chill up Nicole’s spine.
“No one needs to know you’re the father. I am prepared to take care of things myself,” she explained, unsure how she lost control of this conversation so quickly.
“Are you insane? Look where I am, Nicole. Don’t you think people are going to ask why you’re here?” He spat the words out like venom. “Don’t you think people will make assumptions when that gut of yours pops out in a month?” He pointed at her stomach as though she were carrying the most disgusting thing he could imagine.
“I’m sorry you feel that way,” replied Nicole, regaining her poise. “I’m not doing this to hurt you, I’m keeping this child because I can’t do what you’re asking of me.” The desire to keep her child surprised even Nicole. It would have been so much easier just to get rid of it.
Except that it wasn’t.
“Oh, you’re trying to hurt me alright, don’t kid yourself. You seduced me. You lied about being on the pill. You said you got rid of it!” Now Robert’s growl turned into rage and Nicole suddenly regretted the visit. “I’m surprised you didn’t take my money when I offered it and then spend it on new shoes or some designer dress.”
“I guess I should have!” screamed Nicole.
“That was the whole reason you got yourself knocked up, isn’t it? For the money?” accused Robert, unable to take his eyes off her disappearing waistline.
“I’m sorry, I came to see you. I probably shouldn’t have, but I thought you had a right to know,” explained Nicole, now suddenly quiet. The truth was a little difficult to swallow. Besides, it was only partially true. Sure, their relationship started out that way, but somewhere in the midst of the game, there were real feelings mixed in there too.
“No, you shouldn’t have come. You should have done exactly what you promised to do in the first place,” replied Robert sounding less angry and more defeated.
Nicole got up from her seat, visibly shaken, and made it to the door before hearing Robert’s voice again.
Her hand rested on the handle and she turned around, unsure what to expect anymore.
“If you’re going to keep it,” he said, his voice softening, “promise me you won’t tell anyone it’s mine.” Robert got up from his seat but didn’t make any moves towards her. “Let this whole case blow over and then I can help you financially. Just promise me you won’t let this out” Robert pleaded.
A wave of confidence surged into Nicole as she felt herself regain the upper hand. “Of course. Do you think I want people marking my child as the son or daughter of a criminal, even before it's been born?” Nicole opened the door and walked out without looking back.
Robert stood staring at the open door, wondering how he got into this mess. In two swift moves, he managed to upturn the metal table and kick over the chair he had just vacated before the guards came in to see what the commotion was about.
Network Gala, College Campus
Beth looked around in satisfaction. The party planners had outdone themselves, surpassing anything she had envisioned in her mind. The dark cozy space suddenly looked bigger and brighter. The small narrow stage had been set up with easels. They displayed various black and white portraits of Hollywood stars in their prime and scenes from famous movies, some of which Beth had never seen before. She paused to admire a candid photo of Audrey Hepburn after receiving an Oscar. It was displayed next to a photo of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe, both blowing smoke over the edge of a New York rooftop building. Some were paintings and others were photographs. All were rented for the evening. The stage had been cleverly set up on an angle, which created more of an open area for a dance floor. The actual band would be playing outside, but speakers were brought in to make use of the space. The ratty old wooden bar had been covered with a faux dark gray stone and topped with a sleek black countertop. Special lighting had been brought in to brighten and dim the mood as needed. Beth crossed the dance floor and walked out the French doors that opened into a large tent covered patio area. This was the part that took her breath away.
“Wow. How the hell did they pull this off?” asked Stu from behind her. His admiration for the transformation was obvious and Beth grinned with pride. He hadn’t played much of a role in this part of the planning and Beth enjoyed watching his reaction.
A day ago there wasn’t much of a patio to speak of, only a patch of grass where a few bistro tables had been set up around a gradually worn out path that curved towards the main sidewalk on the street. Beth had explained to the decorators that the patio was huge, but something would have to be done about the grass. She was amazed by the setting before her.
Stu and Beth had also decided to bring in some other gambling entertainment. They settled on three blackjack tables, a craps table, and two roulette wheels. The tables framed the edges of a temporary hardwood floor.Hanging from the center of the tent were three black, rod iron chandeliers. Smaller lights lined the edges of the tent.
Beth walked into the middle of the tent and tapped the hardwood with the tip of her shoe. “Brilliant,” she murmured to herself. She had mentioned her concern about the grass and how she didn’t want the Network guests aerating the lawn with their thousand dollar shoes, but she hadn’t envisioned this.
“How much is this costing us?” asked Stu as he crossed the floor, passing Beth and heading towards the open archway on the opposite side. The flooring changed at this point from hardwood to a checkered vinyl looking floor. It led to the outdoor dance floor and stage, where the band was already warming up. A waitress was walking around the perimeter turning on the bulbs of the outdoor lampposts. Beth had ordered sixteen in total because they reminded her of Gene Kelly when he danced to Singing in the Rain.
Could anything be more fitting?
“Does it matter how much it costs? I’m sure we’ll more than cover it with the alcohol and tables. I’m not worried and you shouldn’t be either.” She joined him as he inspected the fake hedges that had been brought in to create a barrier and some privacy. They both turned at the sound of loud footsteps coming through the tent. It was the dealers coming in to prepare their tables, along with four very large men, each one dressed in a suit that was a smidge too tight around his chests and biceps.
“There’s our security,” said Stu as he waved the men over to the hedges.
“You mean our hired thugs,” corrected Beth. “You let them know what to do and I’ll meet you in the back. I think it’s time we got dressed,” said Beth, looking at her watch.
“Right,” agreed Stu. “You ready?”
“As ready as I’m going to be,” replied Beth hesitantly. Am I ever really ready to serve Noah and his new girlfriend drinks and bloody hors d'oeuvres? Probably not.
Network Gala, College Campus
“Wow!” whispered Elise, as she reached for Noah’s hand.
He helped her out of his dad’s corporate limo and he whistled appreciatively at the site. It felt as if they were stepping out into an actual Hollywood premiere or event. “Yeah, this is something else.”
The pair looked around as dozens of people mingled on the ‘red carpet’ outside the campus pub. It was a warm night and no one seemed to be in any particular hurry to go inside. Flashes of cameras from the hired ‘paparazzi’ only added to the illusion the Network party was going for.
It was almost, magical.
Noah smiled at Elise. She looked stunning in a long, black vintage dress with her blonde hair tied up in some kind of elaborate knot at the nape of her neck. Noah, getting caught up in the moment, extended his arm to Elise to escort her down the carpet.
They paused several times for pictures as photographers stopped them along the way. Finally, Noah spotted Josh and Jace near the door. “Hey, Josh!” called Noah.
Josh looked up at the sound of his name and waved. “Hey, this is some party!” said Josh, as Noah and Elise approached.
“Sure is! Oh, you remember Elise don’t you? From the Hamptons?” Noah asked.
“Oh sure, how are you?” replied Josh. He rested his hand on the small of Jace’s back absentmindedly.
“Nice to… uh see you again,” replied Elise. She furrowed her brow at Josh and Jace, and it was clear that she disapproved of the relationship. She turned abruptly away to watch the other guests arrive.
Noah met Josh’s eye and sighed as Josh reactively shoved his hands in his pockets. There was a slight shake of Noah’s head, indicating that he didn’t know what to make of it and that he definitely did not like it. He decided to change the subject. “Yeah, it’s a pretty cool party, that’s for sure. I wonder who is actually running Network? I wonder if they will be here?”
“Doubt it,” replied Jace, quickly. “It’s probably run by some suit in New York or a dot com hipster in San Francisco.” He wanted the conversation to steer clear of Network ownership. Jace was still feeling guilty having a big secret about Beth that he was keeping from Josh. “Shall we go in?”
Everyone nodded and they made their way to the front door. Noah reached into the pocket of his suit to retrieve the tickets. He had printed both his and Elise’s before they came. The old fashioned style of the ticket matched the overall theme and he handed theirs to a burly looking host at the door. Already, the place was packed with glamorous Network partygoers. Noah almost didn’t recognize anyone. It was as if they had stepped back in time and everyone looked about ten years older. Glancing around, he finally spotted the back of a very familiar head.
She turned at the same time, almost as if it were staged. Beth smiled openly at Noah as he began to move towards her.
Shit. He brought Elise. “Hey Noah, you look great!” said Beth, raising her voice over the loud music and conversation in the pub.
“Thanks, and, um-” paused Noah, looking down at the tray of drinks Beth was holding. “Are you working the party?”
“Yeah, my friend Stu works for this catering company and apparently someone called in sick and they were desperate, so I’m helping out.” Beth didn’t know why she suddenly felt the need to create this elaborate story. So what if she was working? Perhaps it was the look of disdain on Elise’s face. Suddenly, though, that made her angry. “Besides, I bet you didn’t know this, but I used to waitress back in Seattle, and I’m pretty fantastic, so you better get your wallet ready. I’m expecting some huge tips from you, Mr. Bethell!” Beth laughed, touching his arm. Take that Elise. Snob.
“Oh, I wouldn’t expect anything less, Ms. McKellar. Looking forward to it.”
“I’ll bring you back your favorite, in just a minute,” said Beth. “I just have to distribute these drinks.”
“You know my favorite?” he asked.
“Yes, I remember from Ava’s party.” Beth turned away before Elise could give her order. Petty, she knew, but didn’t really care.
Back at the bar area, Beth met up with Stu. “So, hear anything interesting yet?”
“Not really, other than everyone keeps talking about this amazing Network Gala! It’s working! Our rep is officially reinstated. I was just looking online, and the number of comments and pictures already uploaded is great. Lots of people are also commenting that they wished they were here, instead of off in Paris or Milan or wherever,” Stu whispered excitedly as he waited for the bartender to fill his order.
“Yeah, same here. Lots of positive comments, people are blown away I think. And, a ton of people re-joined Network, just today, in order to get the invite to the party. I would say it’s a success! But, let’s keep an eye out, make sure everything goes according to plan. I’d also like to break even on the event tonight. Keep the people drinking and happy Stu!”
“Yup, and on that note, back to work!” He turned back toward the steadily growing crowd.
Beth grabbed her newly filled drink tray and also turned back toward the crowd. There was a buzzing in the air. A sudden tension and drop in the level of the noise in the room. Beth could sense that something had happened, something to change the energy in the room, but she didn’t know what it was. She scanned the heads in the room, looking for something out of place. She looked from one side to the other and noticed that somewhere around the middle of the room, near the door, the atmosphere had changed. People were staring at something, or rather, someone, who had just entered the pub. Heads were either craning to get a better look, or close together whispering frantically about something. Some people were even poking another in the arm and then pointing.
It was all because of Nicole. Of course. Seriously, did just the elusive Nicole walking into a party cause everyone’s jaws to drop? Beth began to say, “What the hel-” to Stu, when she noticed.
A large bump.
A fucking baby bump?
“Oh my God Stu! Is she - pregnant?” asked Beth, incredulous. But she thought back to the scene in the mall only a few days prior when the very same Nicole was stuffing her face with a hot fudge sundae. And now it made sense. Nicole was stuffed into a very tight, and very revealing dress. It accentuated not only her boobs and legs, but quite a prominent little pregnant belly.
Beth looked immediately at Noah, to gauge his reaction. Did he know Nicole was pregnant? Was he the father? Noah, however, was blissfully unaware of Nicole’s arrival and chatting with some equally ignorant people off in a corner.
“Holy shit!” gasped Stu, but not merely because she was pregnant, but because he was certain he knew who got her pregnant, and shit was about to hit the fan. He almost dropped his tray of drinks as he digested this new information. He pictured Beth’s rage once she learned not only of Robert cheating on her mother, but that the affair resulted in a child. A child that, if Robert and Claire stayed together, would be in their lives forever.
Nicole would be in Beth’s life forever. Good God. Stu almost pulled Beth into the kitchen to disclose what he knew. What began as a little, tiny secret had just become the largest front page of the paper kind of scandal. He needed to get this off his chest before it was leaked early - hopefully early enough to get him out of the line of fire. But, he did none of those things, and just stood there stupidly, like everyone else, feet cemented to the floor and eyes glued on the glowing mom.
Nicole finally broke the spell with a large, loud laugh. “What? Have none of you seen a pregnant woman before?”
Suddenly the room erupted in chatter and nervous giggles. Nicole was quickly surrounded by people both congratulating and hugging her.
“You look amazing Nicole! Wow! A Baby, I can’t believe it!” laughed Josh, hugging her. “Congratulations.”
“Thanks, Josh.” Nicole smiled genuinely, enjoying all the attention. “I know, I can’t really believe it either. I feel so fat that I just couldn’t stand the thought of buying a dress, but then I found this and thought ‘The hell with it’! My baby deserves a couture debut, wouldn’t you agree?” she asked rhetorically. “Plus, the dress works for mommy too. Don’t I look cute?” She looked up demurely at Josh.
He laughed in response. “Of course you do.”
Beth, still dumbfounded, stood frozen. She barely had time to collect her thoughts when another site, behind Nicole, caught her eye.
“Fuck,” she whispered.
Even though it was loud in the room, Stu looked at Beth in alarm, knowing that something more than just Nicole incited the expletive. He followed Beth’s gaze and reiterated, “Fuck.”
Dean Clark, with his army of campus police officers, was rushing into the room, waving his arms and yelling “I’m shutting this party down! If you don’t have legal identification that proves you are of age, you will be arrested!” he yelled, and people began to scatter like deer at the sound of a gunshot. “And someone better show me their license to sell alcohol on campus property!”
“Get to the kitchen!” muttered Beth, grabbing Stu’s arm. They rushed to the back, debating what to do next.
“Should we leave?” suggested Stu.
“Why bother? He saw me, I’m sure, and he’ll find out this was a Network party. The question is, how did he even hear about this? It’s Saturday, he should be at home, stuffing his fat face while binge watching Netflix or something!” She threw her hands up in frustration and began to pace. “And what does he want? Just to ruin our party, so he can get back at us, exert his power or what?”
“I honestly don’t know. Shit! The money that we are going to lose because of this! Why would he do that?”
“He’s an asshole, that’s why.” Beth could feel the rage boiling under her skin. Asshole didn’t begin to describe this man.
“Yeah, but it’s in his best interest that we succeed, we can pay him more. I don’t get it.” Stu shook his head and looked toward the closed kitchen door, as if he could somehow see beyond it for an answer.
Beth and Stu stood quietly, waiting. They could hear the odd yell from Clark as he yelled for people to get out.
“Oh, this is ridiculous!” muttered Beth, storming past Stu and back into the pub’s main room.
“Beth!” called Stu, following her through the door. No sooner had he exited, he bumped right into Beth. She was standing, watching Clark’s exchange with Jace and Josh. Clark had effectively cleared the room, but somehow managed to corner these two, who obviously didn’t move out fast enough. Beth was about to interrupt the exchange and save Josh and Jace, but then stopped herself. There was something about the body language that didn’t seem right.
Was it the way Josh was looking around for an exit while Jace was clearly not? Maybe. No. It was the expression on Jace’s face. It looked like he was about to question Clark and not the other way around. He looked puzzled, but also as though he were owed an explanation.
“Jace! What are you doing here? At a private party on school property, where it’s obvious that underage drinking is going on?” demanded Clark, his eyes shifting between both Jace and Josh. What the hell is going on? Does Jace know Beth?
“I, uh-” sputtered Jace, the color rising in his cheeks. He turned to Josh and fervently whispered, “Josh, wait outside, I don’t want you to get into trouble, you’re underage. Go!” He took a slight step away from Josh, trying to distance himself, not wanting him to suffer any consequences.
Josh looked briefly between Jace and Clark, and then quickly left the nearly empty room. Other than himself, Beth and Stu, there was only a handful of serving staff left in the room.
“I don’t understand-” began Jace. But the dean didn’t give him a chance to finish his thought.
“Report to my office on Monday, 9 am sharp!” came the reply from Clark, effectively dismissing him. He then addressed the two remaining officers, who were not arresting minors outside, and instructed, “Get all the money from this bar and don’t forget the other bar outside. This all belongs to me now.”
Beth threw up her hands in frustration and walked angrily away from Clark, fearful that she might actually hit him.
Jace wasn’t going to be dismissed so easily.
“Sir,” said Jace, walking closer to the dean. He dropped his voice to a whisper. “You can’t actually keep the money for yourself! It belongs to Beth.”
“Beth? How-” began Clark, but then he stopped himself. “It doesn’t matter. This is none of your business. Get out now and report to my office at 9 am!” His voice rose to a yell. Rage and an increase in his blood pressure turned his face a startling red.
Jace backed out of the pub without another word.
“You have no right to keep all the money!” spat Stu.
“I have no right? Of course I have a right. You are on school property, illegally serving drinks to minors. You’re both lucky I don’t have you arrested.” Clark spoke calmly, almost psychotically, knowing full well he had them over a barrel.
He smiled deviously.
“Just forget it, Stu. There’s no point,” Beth quietly acknowledged.
“That-a-girl,” replied Clark. He followed one of the officers to the outside tent to retrieve the rest of his money. “Thank you, Beth McKellar.”
Outside, in the midst of the commotion, Noah spotted Nicole for the first time.
A very pregnant looking Nicole.
He finally managed to reach her in the crowd of people who were waiting in the valet line for their cars or for their drivers to return and pick them up.
“Nicole!” called Noah, grabbing her arm before she could get away. “Can I talk to you? Privately?” He looked pointedly at Lux, her ever-present companion.
“Sure.” She shrugged, following him to edge of the building, away from the crowd. “What’s up?”
“What’s up? Are you joking?” he asked incredulously. “You’re pregnant?” He said it as a question, rather than a matter of fact.
“Yeah. So?” Nicole looked blankly at him, wondering where he was going with this. Was he jealous?
“Well, am I, you know?” Noah asked, his eyes still fixed on her popping belly. “Is it mine?” he whispered. His face had gone completely white and he looked as though he would faint.
“You-” began Nicole, then she stopped. She never even considered the fact that Noah might think the baby was his. Obviously, he couldn’t properly do the math if he didn’t know when she was due.
She could lie.
Babies were seldom born on the expected due date. Noah would never know, and he would certainly make a better father than Robert. He was rich enough. At least his family was, so he could help provide for this baby. But then, she’d run the risk that this child could come out looking like neither of them, and maybe lead to a paternity test. She never felt the Bethell family had truly liked her, so this pregnancy wouldn’t exactly be welcomed. And, it wouldn’t surprise Nicole if they demanded proof.
Oh God, they could be the next Jerry Springer couple.
Of course, all babies tend to look like no one in particular for the first few years, so this may not be a risk at all until the child was already in school, in which case Noah would already love him or her and never consider it possible.
Plus, Noah would definitely be the more acceptable father. Besides, everyone already naturally assumed it was Noah’s anyways. She looked at Noah’s fearful eyes and also saw compassion in them. Noah would step up and he’d believe her if she said the baby was his. But, could she do it? Could she turn his life around and make him the father of her baby? Who would be the better choice not only for her, but for the baby itself?
What does Nicole tell Noah? Does she lie and say he’s the daddy? Or does she just tell the truth and say it’s not his?
If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.