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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3. Chapter Three

Zacky didn’t know what to think.

 

Lysander had point-blank admitted that the only reason he was in California was that he needed Zacky’s money. That the only reason he had voiced who his father was had been so he could reach the man to ask for his help. Zacky’s first impression had been that this was not a great way for them to start a relationship – with his son showing up in his life just because he wanted a share in the fortune that Zacky had worked so hard for. Had it been a woman doing this to him, he would already have thrown her out. But Lysander wasn’t just some woman looking for money – he was Zacky’s son, and he was here for unselfish reasons.

 

It was just the two of them sitting in the kitchen now. After she had gone through everything else she needed to with Zacky, Maria had bid him farewell and assured him that she would keep him updated on what was going on back in Wisconsin. Matt had been her ride home, and had reminded Zacky before he left that he (and the rest of the guys, for that matter) were only ever a phone call away if he needed them. And so the father and son had been left alone in silence, neither one knowing what to say to the other. For Zacky, the silence was a chance to think.

 

Two days ago, he had been a married man with two dogs. Yesterday, he had been a father of one. Today, he was a father of two.

 

He looked across the counter at Lysander. The boy sat with his hands in his pockets, eyes taking in his surroundings with little interest. He looked tired, Zacky realised, even though it wasn’t yet five o’clock. What time was it in Wisconsin? Seven, Zacky though – still early. But after everything that the boy had been through recently, it wouldn’t have been surprising if he hadn’t been sleeping. Zacky knew he wouldn’t have been able to. He cleared his throat.

 

“There’s only two of you…right?”

 

Lysander looked to him in surprise.

 

“…what?”

 

“Two,” Zacky repeated. “You’re not going to come to me tomorrow and tell me you’re actually a triplet, are you?”

 

It took a moment, but the boy eventually let forth a tiny smile.

 

“Only two,” he assured Zacky. “If you have any other kids out there, I don’t know about them.”

 

Zacky nodded. He hadn’t expected anything less, but it was still a relief to hear it. He had the boy’s attention again now, though he didn’t quite know what to do with it. He cleared his throat.

 

“So…what exactly is it that you expect me to do?”

 

“Whatever you can,” the boy replied without pause. “Can’t you hire a bunch of private investigators or something? Somebody who could track Alfonzo down?”

 

Zacky knew he could. He had the money and he had the connections, he was sure. What he didn’t have was evidence of the crime. That wasn’t to say that he didn’t believe the boy – he simply needed to be sure of some things before he started pulling strings. He considered the boy for a moment, and chose his next words carefully.

 

“Will you tell me what happened?”

 

The look that Lysander gave him told him one thing very clearly – nobody had really taken the time to ask the boy for his side of the story. It was a look of hope, of thankfulness, of respect. Zacky was only too happy to have been able to cause such a look on his son’s face. Far too many times he had been the one that nobody would listen to as a child – he didn’t want to be one of those adults who wouldn’t listen.

 

“You really wanna know?”

 

“Of course.”

 

Lysander nodded. His hands came out of his pockets and instead came to rest on the table, where he fiddled for a moment. Zacky waited patiently, knowing better than to push him. The boy would speak when he was ready. And after a few more seconds, he was.

 

“I went out that night,” he explained hesitantly, “so it’s true that I didn’t actually see what went on. But I know my family better than anybody, and what the police are saying…” He shook his head and took a deep breath. “When I got home, everything was too quiet. Mom was usually cooking or watching one of her shows, and Dakota always has music blasting in her room. But there was nothing. I didn’t think much of it then, but looking back now… I should have known from the moment I got back that something wasn’t right.

 

“When I went into the kitchen, Mom was lying on the floor. And her neck…” He had to stop for a moment. Zacky watched on with concern while the boy closed his eyes and took another deep breath. He was just about to stop him from saying any more when Lysander started talking again. “Her neck was bent at a really weird angle. There was an oil spill, and it looked like she’d slipped…” He looked Zacky straight in the eye. “But that doesn’t make any sense. Mom wasn’t stupid. If she spilled oil, she would have cleaned it up right away. She would have been careful.”

 

“Careful or not, accidents can happen,” Zacky said sympathetically. “I know you don’t want to hear it, but it’s true.”

 

“I know,” Lysander assured him. “And at first, I believed that was exactly what had happened. I called nine-one-one and asked for an ambulance, and then I went to get Dakota. I figured that since she wasn’t with Mom, she obviously didn’t know what’d happened. But when I got to her room, she wasn’t there. The light was on, and the place was trashed, but she was gone. And that was when I knew.” His gaze was hard. “The police say that she panicked and bolted, but she’s not like that.”

 

Zacky tried to picture the scene. He could imagine what it would have been like if it had happened to him and his sister – he knew that Zina would never have run from the scene if she’d found their mother lying dead on the kitchen floor. But Zina was a strong woman. She always had been. Zacky didn’t know the first thing about Dakota Maverick, so he couldn’t really make a judgement on the situation.

 

“She’s a bit of a neat-freak,” Lysander went on, his eyes unfocused as he stared at some point just past Zacky. “And she never, ever goes anywhere without her damn iPod. But I found it on her bed that night. So I don’t care what the police say – she didn’t just run off. Not without her iPod, and definitely not without telling me.”

 

He sounded so sincere that Zacky couldn’t help it. He believed the boy. He didn’t know what it was exactly – perhaps the look in his eyes; maybe the tone of his voice – but in his heart he knew. These weren’t the actions of a crazed fan looking for fame or somebody wanting money. These were the heartfelt actions of a young man desperate to have his sister back.

 

“And you’re pointing fingers at…”

 

“Jacob Alfonzo.”

 

“Right. Why him?”

 

He kept his tone light, with not a hint of accusation. He was merely curious – not shooting the idea down like he knew so many others already had. He knew Lysander realised this, and that he was thankful for it. That had been the aim.

 

“He was Dakota’s ex-boyfriend,” he explained. “Like I told you, they broke up last August. Their relationship only lasted three months. He’d been getting sort of possessive of her, and then one night he hit her. So she ditched him.” He frowned. “Three days later, he showed up on our doorstep and started demanding that she take him back.” A satisfied sort of smirk crossed his face as he added, “I punched him in the face and he ran.

 

“Dakota sorta freaked out after that. She kept telling me it was a stupid move, that I shouldn’t have touched him.”

 

“She still cared for him?” Zacky asked, raising an eyebrow. “Even after he hit her?”

 

“No. She cared for me.” Seeing the question in Zacky’s eyes, Lysander went on. “He told her that his family were mafia – and she believed him.”

 

“Mafia?” Zacky repeated. A chill ran down his spine at the thought. “Do you believe that?”

 

Lysander sensed the change in him. Zacky could only hope that he didn’t know the full extent of it. If it truly were Mafioso that had taken the girl, there was even less that Zacky could do to help. Anybody that he got onside to help – investigators, family friends – could become a target. And when it came to the mafia, that generally meant that there was only a matter of time until you were dead. Everybody knew that.

 

“I won’t lie,” the boy said with another frown. “I’m not entirely sure. I don’t think he’s part of any huge crime family or anything, but he and his brothers definitely wish they were. I think they sort of started their own.”

 

Not as bad as he thought, then. He could deal with a couple of punks who wanted to rule the world.

 

“And you have no idea where he is?”

 

“None.” Lysander shook his head. “He moved about a month ago. I thought that meant he was gone for good, but… I guess I was wrong.”

 

It sounded be simple enough. There was only so far that this kid could have gone, and there was no doubt in Zacky’s mind that a couple of good PIs would be able to track him down. And whether he knew the girl or not – whether she was his daughter or not – it was a good cause, and there was no question in his mind about what he would do. He looked back at the boy and nodded.

 

“I’ll hire a couple of investigators,” he promised, “and we’ll see what they come up with. Then we’ll go from there.”

 

He could almost see the weight being lifted from the boy’s shoulders. If there had been hope in his eyes before, it was nothing compared to what Zacky was seeing now. It was almost like a light had been switched on within the boy – his eyes sparkled and a genuine smile lit up his face. Zacky couldn’t help smiling back. It was just such a sight to behold.

 

“Thank you,” Lysander said earnestly. “Seriously, I… I can’t thank you enough for this.” He laughed a little. “A part of me was so sure you were gonna be just like all the rest and ignore me.” He looked down at his hands again. The smile slipped from his face, but before Zacky could ask why he was saying, “I’m sorry if I’ve ruined your life. I wouldn’t have dragged you into this if I thought there was any other way, but…”

 

“I understand,” Zacky assured him. “And you haven’t ruined my life.”

 

Lysander looked doubtful, but Zacky knew it was nothing but the truth. It had come as a shock at first, of course. Who expected to find out that they had a fifteen-year-old son? But now that he’d been forced to come to terms with it, there were new feelings alongside the lingering remnants of the shock. None of them were bad.

 

“This all just came as a surprise,” he went on. “I wasn’t prepared. I’m still not – I won’t deny that. But you haven’t ruined anything.”

 

“You’re a rock star,” Lysander replied, looking back up. “You make a living out of touring the country. I get that. So I’m willing to back to Wisconsin if you need me out of your hair. Nobody ever has to know that this happened. I won’t tell anybody. I just needed your help in finding Dakota, that’s all.”

 

Zacky just stared at the boy. Several days ago, such an offer would have been a welcome thing. Zacky wouldn’t have had to worry about having a child around to take care of, and Lysander could rest easy that there were people searching for his sister. But Zacky didn’t feel the same as he had several days ago. Gone was the time of blind panic and wishing that things were different. He shook his head.

 

“You’re not in the way. And I’m not sending you back to Wisconsin.”

 

Lysander looked surprised, and also a little uneasy.

 

“I need to be there,” he insisted. “If Dakota gets away, she’ll go back to the house. I need to be there so I can protect her.”

 

“Lysander.” The name felt strange on Zacky’s tongue – what had Samantha Maverick been thinking when she’d named her son? “I understand how you might feel that way. But even if I wanted to, I can’t send you back there. You’re only fifteen. Legally, you can’t live on your own. And I don’t want you up there without somebody to protect you. You said you pissed this guy off. Who’s to say he wouldn’t come back for you, too?”

 

“I can protect myself,” the boy growled.

 

Zacky knew it was most likely true. Lysander reminded him of a younger version of himself and his friends – he was scrawny, but he looked like he would be able to hold his own in a fight. Despite this, he found that it wasn’t a risk he was willing to take. Mafioso or not, Lysander believed that this Alfonzo character had killed his mother – and that meant he wouldn’t hold back in killing the boy, too.

 

“The police won’t watch the house forever,” Lysander went on when Zacky remained silent. “What if she makes it back there and nobody’s around to help her?”

 

“We’ll get our own people watching the house. If she gets back there, I’ll have somebody waiting for her.”

 

Lysander looked like he would very much like to argue the point, but Zacky beat him to it.

 

“I won’t be moved on this. You wanted my help, you’ve got it. But right now my biggest concern is you. It’s my job to keep you safe, and I can’t do that if you’re in Wisconsin. So you need to stay.”

 

The boy looked like he was about to say something, but decided against it. He stuffed his hands back into his pockets and went back to staring around the room. Zacky sighed. He hated having to disappoint the boy – and so soon after having met him, too – but he felt that he really didn’t have much of a choice. Zacky couldn’t leave California. He and the guys had only just finished touring for their sixth studio album, Fictional Reality, and they were beginning work on their seventh. Getting the writing for that album done was his job – he couldn’t just abandon it because his son wanted to move back to Wisconsin. Not when there were suitable alternatives.

 

“I’m sorry,” he apologised. “I know that’s not what you wanted to hear, but it’s the truth.”

 

“It’s fine. Unexpected is all. I didn’t think you’d want me around.”

 

That hurt. And if anything, it told Zacky exactly how damaged their relationship already was. If Lysander had assumed – even before meeting him – that Zacky didn’t want him around, that was a sure sign that he didn’t think very highly of the man. But neither of them could be blamed for that.

 

“You know I had no idea you were even alive, right?”

 

Lysander nodded.

 

“Mom told me,” he replied. “And she didn’t tell you for the same reason that I wasn’t going to. We didn’t want to mess up your life. So you don’t need to say it – I don’t blame you for never being around. I don’t have any issues with you that need to be dealt with. I’m perfectly fine.”

 

“That’s good to know,” Zacky said, and couldn’t help but smile a little. “But I know about you now, and I’d really like it if we could…get to know each other. Try to make up for lost time, y’know? Can we do that?”

 

He watched Lysander look back at him and study him in silence for several moments. There wasn’t a hint of anything on the boy’s face, and Zacky found that he was nervous about what Lysander might say. What if he said no? He didn’t want to end up as one of those fathers whose son hated him. In that moment, he could think of nothing worse.

 

“…yeah. I guess we could try.”

 

Relief flooded through Zacky. They had a chance, and that was all they needed. Lysander seemed more relaxed too, now that it had been established. He sent Zacky a hint of a smile.

 

“Zacky?”

 

He hadn’t heard the door open, but he heard it close. Lysander raised an eyebrow and glanced around in the direction that the voice had come from. Zacky glanced at the clock, surprised that he hadn’t noticed the time.

 

“In the kitchen, Gen.”

 

He stood and made his way around the counter, coming to stand directly beside Lysander. The boy looked up at him, the question written all over his face. Zacky smiled reassuringly.

 

Gena entered the kitchen. Her eyes went straight to Lysander, who shifted nervously in his seat under her gaze. Zacky chuckled and laid a hand on the boy’s shoulder. He gave it a gentle squeeze.

 

“Gen, this is Lysander. Lysander, this is my wife, Gena.”

 

“It’s nice to finally meet you,” Gena said at once, stepping forward to shake Lysander’s hand. “We’ve been looking forward to your arrival.”

 

“It’s, ah…nice to meet you too, Mrs Baker.”

 

“Call me Gena.” She was beaming as she looked him over. “My goodness, you’re a handsome young man.”

 

He didn’t say anything to that. Zacky got the general impression that he didn’t know what to say. Gena often had that effect on people, and Zacky felt bad for not having warned the boy of her impending arrival. He recovered quickly though, smiling at her politely by way of thanks.

 

“I’m going to get started on dinner,” she told both of them. “I hope you like chicken.”

 

Lysander nodded.

 

“Come on,” Zacky said, giving the boy’s shoulder another squeeze. “I’ll show you to your room.”

 

They left the kitchen together, only stopping at the foot of the stairs so that Lysander could grab his backpack and suitcase before they continued up to the first floor. From there it was only a few steps until Zacky was opening the door to the guest room, where Lysander’s belongings were already waiting for him. He watched the boy step inside and take the room in.

 

“The bathroom’s just across the hall,” Zacky informed him, gesturing to the door he was referring to. “Gena and I sleep in the room at the very end of the hall.” The boy nodded as he took the new information in. There was a moment of silence between them before Zacky finally said, “Well, I’ll leave you to do what you need to do. Dinner should be done by six.”

 

He turned and headed back toward the stairs, but stopped in his tracks when Lysander spoke.

 

“Hey, Zacky?”

 

He turned back to face the boy.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“…thanks.”

 

It was only one word, but it held a world of meaning between the two of them. Zacky nodded.

 

“Don’t mention it, kid.”

 

They parted ways then, each wearing an unexpected smile.

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