Lost

Zacky Vengeance has just learned that he is father to fifteen-year-old twins Lysander and Dakota. As if this isn’t already complicated enough, they’ve just lost their mother, Dakota is missing and Lysander is none too pleased about having to leave his home – and his sister – behind in favour of moving to California. After the initial shock wears off, Zacky is determined to prove that he can be the father these kids need. But dealing with a boy who feels that he’s lost his entire world was never going to be easy. || Lysander Maverick never cared much for getting to know his father – that was always Dakota’s dream. But now Dakota is gone, taken by her mobster-wannabe ex-boyfriend, and Zacky just might be the key to having her returned safely. This thought is the only thing that Lysander has to hold on to as he’s uprooted from his home in Wisconsin, and he’s not letting it go. He needs Zacky to be the miracle he’s been asking for – the alternative is too unbearable to think about.

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1. Chapter One

There had to be some sort of mistake.

 

He couldn’t even remember her, this woman that he had supposedly slept with. Samantha Maverick was not a name that he recognised – and he made a point of remembering the names of the girls he had taken to bed. The first he had heard of her had been a week and a half ago, when his lawyer had called him requesting a DNA sample so she could prove beyond all reasonable doubt that he had not fathered the woman’s child. It was a matter he and the guys had laughed about that very same night.

 

But the test had come back positive.

 

Zacky forced his dropped jaw shut and returned the phone to its cradle. Shock: that was his initial reaction to the news. The question of how this could have happened was at the forefront of his mind; disbelief still laced his every thought. But he knew his lawyer well enough to know that she would not have delivered the life-altering news unless she was absolutely certain of it being the truth. It was something out of a novel, something not supposed to happen to people in the real world.

 

He had a son.

 

The boy was fifteen-years-old and he had just lost his mother. His maternal grandparents were both dead, and he had no uncles or aunts that he knew of. He had named Zachary Baker as his father, and now that this had been proven true it was expected that the boy would be coming to live with him in California. Zacky had been given two days to prepare himself for the boy’s arrival. Two days to prepare himself to be a father.

 

If the unopened bottle of Jack in the kitchen hadn’t been inviting before, it most certainly was now.

 

The panic was slowly but surely sinking in. Zacky knew that there were people out there who became parents as teenagers and adapted easily to their new roles, but at thirty-three he still didn’t feel that he was ready – and he most certainly didn’t appreciate being thrown into the deep end. There had been a stab of anger when he’d learned that Samantha Maverick had kept the existence of his son from him for fifteen years, but now he found himself wishing that he was still blissfully ignorant. Anything was better than this panic.

 

Two rooms away, his friends were completely oblivious to the complicated mess his life had just become. Their conversation went on, undisturbed by anything but the occasional clink of glass as somebody set their beer down on the counter. The thought of shattering such a peaceful atmosphere was not appealing in the slightest, but he knew that there would be no way around it. With only two days to prepare for the arrival of his son, he was going to need all the help he could get.

 

He made his way back into the kitchen.

 

Arin was the first one to notice his re-entrance. The younger man smiled by way of greeting, but that expression slipped when he saw the look on Zacky’s own face. It was this that alerted the others to the fact that there was something going on. Zacky strolled past all four of his friends as he spotted exactly what he needed. The bottle was cracked open before anybody had a chance to say a single word.

 

“Dude, what’s wrong?”

 

It was Matt who had spoken, and it was Matt who took the Jack from him after he had already downed half of the bottle. He looked around at his friends – two of whom had been in his life for so long that he couldn’t remember a time without them – and knew that he would be fine as long as they had his back. And he knew they always would. That was just how it was between them.

 

He returned to his seat, absently running a hand through his hair. After assessing him for several moments, Matt returned to his own place. The Jack sat a safe distance away with the lid back on securely. There was silence between the men as they gave Zacky the time that he needed to find the right words; Brian reached out and gave his shoulder a squeeze. Zacky sent him a tentative smile of thanks.

 

“You guys remember that call I got from Maria last week? About the woman who said her kid was mine?”

 

There were nods from all around. The incident hadn’t been all that memorable – just another accusation to add to the ever-growing list – but it was recent enough that Zacky didn’t have to go into any more detail about it for them to be reminded. Brian swallowed a mouthful of his drink, looking like he knew exactly where this conversation was going. It was a look that Matt shared, though neither man was about to interrupt. Johnny and Arin both waited expectantly.

 

“Turns out it wasn’t just some chick looking for money. It’s the real deal.”

 

There was a sharp intake of breath from Johnny. Arin’s eyes grew as wide as Zacky had ever seen them, and he had to take a moment to remind himself that this sort of thing was still new to the twenty-seven-year-old. In his four years with the band, he had been lucky enough to escape having to deal with these sorts of things. For his sake, Zacky hoped he never got an accusation – this was definitely not something that would make dealing with one any easier for him.

 

Matt’s head was bowed as he rubbed at his temples. Brian ran a hand through his hair in much the same fashion as Zacky had, leaving it somehow more messed up than it already had been. He gave his friend a long, calculating stare.

 

“Are you sure about this, man? She could just be a really convincing liar with connections.”

 

The thought had crossed Zacky’s mind already. It was one of the first concerns he had voiced to Maria. The woman had been a friend to his family for a long time, and his first choice as a lawyer for when he had come to need one. He trusted her as much as he trusted his own mother, so he knew when she said that this kid was his it was a definite thing.

 

“Maria’s positive. Said she’s checked it out, they’ve run the tests. It’s legit.”

 

“So what’s she want?” Johnny asked, setting his beer down gently. “Fame and fortune?”

 

Zacky was shaking his head before Johnny had even finished asking. Had that been the situation, he may have found the whole ordeal just that little bit easier to deal with. He could handle giving a desperate woman her fifteen minutes of fame. He could even handle having to pay off all that missed child support since the boy was really his. But this was something entirely different. Something that he was definitely not prepared for.

 

“She’s dead,” he told his friends. “For about two weeks now.”

 

Silence again, much heavier than it had been before. He stood once more, heading back over to the bottle of Jack while his friends processed what he had just told them. The lid came off again as he examined their faces. Johnny looked stricken; Brian’s eyes held sympathy. Matt was stunned; Arin couldn’t hide his confusion.

 

“So…what’s that mean then?” he asked, looking between the rest of them. “Does that mean…”

 

“He just inherited a kid.” This explanation from Matt, closely followed by, “Jesus Christ…”

 

Zacky raised the bottle one last time before draining it.

 

Two days, he reminded himself. He had two days to prepare for the boy’s arrival. Thinking on it now, he wasn’t sure that there was much he could really do. He had a guest room already equipped with furniture that he could use; at fifteen, he was sure the kid already had a heap of clothes and personal belongings that he would be bringing along. Was he supposed to put locks on the liquor cabinets? Put his cigarettes somewhere that the teen wouldn’t be able to reach them? He set the bottle back down and lent against the kitchen counter.

 

“A fifteen-year-old boy,” he went on before his friends could ask. “He gets here in two days. That’s all I know right now.”

 

“Fifteen?” Brian repeated, raising an eyebrow. “You’ve had a kid for fifteen goddamn years and you’re only just finding out?”

 

He nodded, wishing that he’d had another bottle of whiskey ready.

 

“Two days,” Matt added. “You’d better get organised.”

 

“I think I already am,” Zacky said uncertainly. “The guest bedroom already has everything he should need.”

 

Matt and Brian shared a look, one that clearly said that Zacky needed to reassess the situation. And as far as he was concerned, they were experts on this subject – Matt and Val had been trying for several months now, and Brian already had an eight-month-old daughter. He gave some more thought to what needed to be done, but coming up blank left him with no other option than to turn to his friends expectantly.

 

“School,” Matt supplied helpfully. “The sooner you get him enrolled, the better. You’ll need to find out his name and his current school though, so they can work out what levels he’s at with everything.”

 

“Get on top of his medical records, too,” Brian added. “If he’s allergic to anything, you’ll wanna know about it.”

 

Zacky half sat and half fell into his seat. Elbows on the counter, he buried his face in his hands. Health and schooling – the two things that should have come to mind before anything else. Not even an hour into his new role and Zacky was already having issues.

 

“How the fuck am I supposed to do this?”

 

Arin circled the rim of his beer bottle with his index finger, eyes staring but unseeing. Johnny watched the three older men with interest, though didn’t contribute to the conversation. Zacky didn’t blame him for this – neither of them were ready for children, and so it wasn’t exactly something they knew a great deal about. It was always a conversation best left to Matt and Brian to discuss when they were alone. But Zacky found that he was more grateful for their knowledge now than he had ever thought he could be.

 

“Just relax,” Matt said. “The kid’s fifteen – he’ll practically take care of himself. All you really need to do is keep a roof over his head and make sure there’s food in the house. Anything else, you figure out along the way.”

 

Zacky could only hope.

 

Somebody presented him with a bottle of beer, and he cracked it open without a second thought. He would need it, he reasoned. Telling his friends had only been the first step – there was still his parents and his wife who needed to be informed of what was going on. Gena was going to be the hardest do deal with. How many times had she begged him to help her start a family? How many times had he declined? One hope was that having this child come into their home would sate her for a while, but somehow Zacky couldn’t see this happening.

 

Nobody spoke for such a long time that Zacky came to forget his friends were right there in front of him. He let his mind wander until he dared wonder about what the boy would be like. If he was anything like Zacky had been at fifteen, there was going to be trouble. Zacky’s mother had always told him karma would come back to bite him in the ass once he had children of his own, but it had never been something to believe until now.

 

“I oughta head off,” Brian spoke up at last. He slapped Zacky on the back as he stood. “Good luck, man. You know where I am if you need anything.”

 

Not trusting himself to speak, Zacky simply nodded.

 

He opted to clean away empty bottles while Brian made his exit. There were quite a few of them just lying around, he realised now. It had never bothered him before, but now he couldn’t help but dwell on how it must have made him look. Brian’s house was always spotless – nothing less than perfect for his little Harmony. Would that be expected of him now, too? Would somebody be coming to check his house over to make sure it was a suitable environment for the boy? He would think on that in an hour or two. For now, clearing away the bottles was priority.

 

He heard Matt say something to Johnny and Arin, and within a matter of seconds the pair were saying their farewells to Zacky, wishing him luck and reminding him that they would be there for him whenever he needed them. He nodded his thanks and watched them go on their way, leaving him alone with his oldest friend. His eyes lingered on the man as he dumped several bottles into the trash.

 

“Sit,” Matt instructed, nodding towards the living room.

 

He chose not to protest. Instead, he did as he was told and took his favourite spot on the couch. Matt sat across from him, looking every bit the supportive friend that he had always been. Matthew Sanders: shoulder to cry on, friend to call in case of a fight, and in general just a brother. The brother who always knew when you needed to talk.

 

“I can’t do this, man.”

 

“Yes, you can.”

 

Zacky’s hands went to his hair, making fists as the panic rose up in him again. It was a joke, he decided. It had to be. He had never heard of this Samantha Maverick before, and there was no way in hell that he could have a fifteen-year-old son without having known about it. This was some sick, twisted prank that somebody was pulling, and Maria was obviously in on it. He watched Matt’s face for any trace of a smile that would give this away.

 

“We’ll call Maria,” Matt said instead, “and get all the information that we need. I’ll help you get things sorted.”

 

He didn’t want to get things sorted. He wanted to pinch himself and wake up, but that just wasn’t happening. Matt went on to say something more, but Zacky found that he could no longer focus. He had to take several deep breaths to steady himself, to calm the swirl of emotions in his chest. The disbelief, the anger, the utter helplessness. He pushed them aside one at a time, holding them back so that he could have a chance to think clearly.

 

If this was a joke, it would come undone eventually. Until then, he really didn’t have much choice than to let it play out. If it was real, he couldn’t stay angry at Samantha Maverick for having hidden this from him. She was dead, and that was that. There was nobody to confront. When things got too much, he knew that his friends would be there to help. He was going to visit his mother the second he got the chance, knowing that she too would be all too happy to assist. And he would need her now more than ever.

 

Matt had made his way across the room and was already on the phone, presumably to Maria. Zacky was silent as the older man spoke to the lawyer, instead using the time to plan out his next moves. Showing up on his mother’s doorstep was the easy part of that plan – how he was going to tell her what had just come to light was the hard part. He could only imagine the sorts of things that would run through the woman’s mind. Despite the fact that none of this had really been his fault, he felt sure that there would be disappointment in there somewhere – because he should have known.

 

Gena was smiling when she stepped through the front door, shopping bags in hand. She had needed her time with the girls and Zacky hated to think that he was about to ruin her perfect day. She dropped her keys down in their usual place on the table by the door and came into the living room, where she deposited her bags on the floor before swooping down and pecking her husband on the cheek. She sent Matt a little wave; he responded with a respectful nod.

 

Still on the phone, he gave Zacky a look that said it was now or never. Zacky hated him for it, but he knew that Matt was right. It was this that convinced him to get up and follow Gena into the kitchen as she made her retreat to it. Blonde curls bouncing, she grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and an apple from the counter – a perfect picture of health. At least somebody in this house was doing something right.

 

“Gen?”

 

“Mm?”

 

Zacky was used to nerves – he got them often enough, living the lifestyle that he did – but this was something different entirely. He bit down on his lower lip, tugging at it the way he would have done had his rings still been in place. Gena recognised the habit at once and he had her full attention.

 

“Babe, what’s wrong?”

 

He shouldn’t have been nervous, but he was. Getting up on stage in front of thousands of strangers was hard at times, but it was made easier by the thought that they weren’t there to judge him. They were there to enjoy the show. Gena was his wife – she could judge him, and it would actually matter. He didn’t want to hurt her, and yet he couldn’t see any way around it should this be what was going to happen. With a defeated sigh, he sat down once again at the counter and gestured for her to do the same.

 

“You might wanna take a seat. I have something important to tell you.”

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