Cameron found himself quickly getting irritated by the ringing doorbell. He was in the middle of kneading the bread dough and didn’t want to leave it. “Typical,” he grumbled, trying to rid his hands of excess flour and sticky dough. It had all sounded and looked so easy when Clarissa had done it. Kyler’s mother had offered to teach him how to cook. His wandering lifestyle had taught him nothing but the most basic domestic chores. He'd found out that he really enjoyed cooking and no one was more amazed then he was.
“I really should put a bread maker on my Christmas wish list. If this is an encyclopedia seller, I am not going to be happy.” He opened the door and his jar dropped. There was a young woman standing there, holding a little blond-haired girl by the hand.
“Billie Jean?” there was a question in Cameron’s voice. “How did you find me? Why are you here?” He hadn’t seen the woman in years. While he was still modeling, he had seduced her. He knew he was gay, but a friend had dared him to date and have sex with a girl. He’d never been able to turn down a dare, and that particular one had led to a one night he still had nightmares about. It was the one sexual adventure he’d never divulged to anyone, and the one he was most ashamed of.
“Shame on you, Cameron,” Billie Jean scolded as she tossed her hair back. “Is that anyway to speak to the mother of your child?”
The little girl looked up; her wide blue eyes locking with Cameron’s shocked ones. “Hello, Daddy. My name is Tamara.” She was obviously not at all shy about talking to strangers.
The only thought to cross Cameron’s mind at that moment was, ‘I can’t believe I have a daughter.” This was quickly followed by, ‘What the hell is Chad going to say?’
“Er, hello, Tamara. I guess you and your mom better come in.” Cameron opened the door wider and ushered his unexpected guests in.
Billie Jean’s eyes wandered around the room as she made herself comfortable on the sofa. She had accepted Cameron’s offer of coffee and presently had a few minutes to herself as her somewhat annoyed host had taken Tamara into the kitchen to investigate what soft drink the child wanted. It looked like Cameron still had plenty of money if he could afford a house like this. Her lips curled into a cold smile which quickly altered when the front door opened, then closed and a tall handsome man walked into the living room.
Chad stared at the woman who sat calmly returning his scrutiny. She looked to be in her mid to late twenties and was wearing an extremely short skirt that showed more leg than needed, a skimpy, low-cut tank-top that revealed a little too much of her breasts, cheap costume jewelry, and way too much make-up. She might once have been very beautiful, but her beauty had faded with the passing of time. She presently had a touch of smugness about her as she sat there chewing gum and cracking it with her teeth. Someone Chad’s mother would have considered a loose woman. She glared up at him, all but silently demanding he be the first one to speak.
‘Life may not have treated this woman with kindness, but who is she and why is she here?’ Chad wondered as he took in the calculating expression in her eyes. He stepped forward and politely extended his hand. “Hello there. My name is Chad Cavenaugh. Are you here to see my partner, Cameron?” He barely managed to keep his frown hidden when she took his hand and held it longer than necessary while actually simpering at him.
Billie Jean wrinkled her nose when she heard the word partner. But as he was a man, she was pretty sure she could wrap him around her little finger if she tried. She looked on most gay men as those who hadn’t met the right woman.
“Cameron is getting me a coffee and getting to know Tamara, my daughter,” she laughed. “He’s been a while. I’m afraid Tamara doesn’t know when to shut up.”
“Then, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go see what’s keeping him.” Chad left her alone and went in search of Cameron. “Why am I feeling a sense of foreboding?” he muttered, quickly becoming concerned about his Brat’s well-being.
Cameron was feeling a bit frazzled. He had no experience with children and Tamara didn’t keep still. She’d quickly become intrigued with the bread dough and before Cameron knew what was happening, her hands were covered in flour and dough. He washed her hands under the tap, standing her on an upturned laundry basket so she could reach that far. Then while she perused the fridge for her drink, he quickly tossed his baking into the trash. He turned back and found Tamara had a can of beer in her hand; the exact moment Chad chose to walk into the kitchen.
“Thank God!” was all Cameron could say as he collapsed into his Top’s arms.
Tamara looked up at Chad. “Why are you hugging my daddy?” she demanded, her eyes flashing in anger. “Mommy said he’d hug and love me.”
Chad’s arms tightened around his Brat when he felt the younger man shudder. “Daddy?” He raised an eyebrow. His eyes were twinkling and he didn’t bother hiding the smirk forming on his face. He chuckled and grabbed Cameron’s hand when it smacked against his chest. “It seems you’ve had an interesting day, Mugs.”
“Interesting doesn’t cover it,” Cameron replied. “And you can stop smiling. What do you want to be called? Papa Chad?” He pulled out of Chad’s arms and knelt down to Tamara’s level. “Young lady,” he said, ignoring Chad’s smothered laughter. “Pick a soft drink.” He took the beer out of her hands. “Or you can drink water.” Once Tamara had chosen a coke, Cam turned to the coffee maker. “You want a coffee?” he asked Chad, his voice cracking slightly.
“Coffee would be fine, thank you. Papa Chad has a nice ring to it. I kind of like it. But before we go shopping for frilly pink dresses and dolls, maybe we should discuss how we suddenly became parents to begin with.” Chad calmly took a seat at the counter and reached for the mug being pushed his way. He knew his Brat was working hard not to break down and hugging him again would only cause him to lose the battle. “So what’s the story?”
“Billie Jean was a groupie,” Cameron started. “She used to hang around the sets when we were shooting. She always tried to be in the photos, but she wasn’t pretty enough.” He pushed his hand through his hair, which was a giveaway nervous gesture. “To cut a long story short, I slept with her one night; on a dare. That was it until she turned up today and told me Tamara was my daughter.” He cocked his head to one side. “I’m not sure how. I was wearing a condom. I was always fanatical about safe sex.” He looked at Chad. “I hated it; sex with a woman, I mean. It wasn’t natural.”
“I would think a lot of gay men find that out through trial and error, Mugs. You aren’t the first and won’t be the last. Meanwhile, we better get this little lady settled at the table to finish her drink.” A nod in Tamara’s direct was all that was needed to hint at them not talking about the situation in front of the child. “I think taking our mugs into the living room and talking to Billie Jean will be better. Besides, you offered her a coffee and she’s still waiting for it.”
Once Tamara was content with the colouring book and crayons she had in the Dora the Explorer backpack she had with her, the two men headed for the front room, drinks in hand.
Chad chose to sit in the large recliner in the corner and let Cameron do the talking. He wondered how long it would take before Billie Jean brought up the real reason for her visit. She didn’t seem at all intimidated by his presence. She only had her eye on the goal firmly set in her mind. Chad had a pretty good idea about what she was after but was staying mum until such time as Cameron indicated he needed help.
Cameron handed the coffee to his guest and waited while she drank it.
Several moments of silence ensued and Billie Jean began to look very uncomfortable under Cameron’s gaze, then relieved when he eventually spoke up.
“Why didn’t you call me when you found out you were pregnant?” he asked
“I did try to ring you,” she smoothly lied, not batting an eyelid. “Your minders wouldn’t let me talk to you.”
Cameron snorted at this. He had never been important enough to have a posse. His manager would have been overjoyed to hold this pregnancy over his head as he’d always found it hard to sell the sexy, gay man to advertisers. He kept silent, letting Billie Jean talk on.
“I was confused and scared. There I was, a woman alone with a baby on the way and the father obviously not interested.” She shot Cameron a nasty look.
That was enough for Cameron. He stalked out of the room and into the study. “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” He felt a lot calmer once he got the some anger out of his system. He’d been kicked out of his home when he was fifteen. But since being with Chad, he’d made a couple of attempts at reconnecting with his parents and siblings. He would never do to others what had been done to him. Family ties had become important to him and being accused of abandoning his child cut deep.
He was gone less than five minutes. He entered the room and heard Billie Jean appealing to Chad.
“I’d never slept with a man before that night,” she claimed, tears running down her face.
Chad almost choked on a mouthful of coffee when Billie Jean claimed she had been a virgin until that one night stand. He found it hard to believe such was the case and Cameron certainly seemed to doubt the validity behind her statement.
“Bullshit!” Cameron chocked out on hearing this. “Your nickname was ‘Bicycle’ because everybody in trousers had ridden you at least once. Shit, you were the one who put on the gay porn; although the woman on woman did nothing for me. The man on man stuff was the only thing that let me get though the sex with you.”
Cameron shuddered. He really wondered how the hell he’d managed to follow through on the dare.
Billie Jean glared at Cameron. “Is that the way you treat woman?” she sneered. “It’s not as though I flirted and seduced you.”
Cameron blushed at this statement. He was very well aware once he’d decided to have sex with a woman, there’d only been the one person targeted. He had not been sexually naïve. In fact, he’d rapidly been sleeping his way through the gay men in the industry and that made him feel more than slightly sick nowadays. He suddenly remembered a key point. He’d always had safe sex. The AIDS epidemic was a fact of life when he’d started having sex.
“I don’t know how you got pregnant,” he finally said, ending the silence that had fallen momentarily as he controlled his blush. “I wore a condom. Hell, we even played a game about getting it on me. I know for sure we only did it once, even though you did suck me off before we actually had sex.” That had been the only part of the whole experience that Cameron had enjoyed as he’d been able to close his eyes and fantasize it was his favourite male film star giving him the blow job.
Billie Jean shot back, rising her voice level. “Condoms are not always one hundred percent effective. Obviously, seeing as Tamara is your child, we proved that.” She sat back with a self-satisfied grunt and picked up her coffee. But before taking a sip, she made her demand. “And now it’s time you started paying for her.”
‘Ah-ha, finally we get to the reason for her visit.’ Chad kept the thought to himself.
Cameron looked at Chad for help. He was somewhat strung out with reliving an incident he’d thought he’d never have to bring to mind again.
‘Humph, the old ‘defective condom’ ruse,’ Chad mused and rolled his eyes. He saw his Brat’s unspoken plea and sat forward with his elbows on his knees. “Well,” he started, exercising composure in hopes of keeping the arguing from escalating. “I believe we have several options available to us.” He emphasized ‘us’ so Cameron would know they were in this together. “One would be for Cameron to have a DNA test.”
“What would something like that cost?” Cameron wanted to know.
“Somewhere in the vicinity of a thousand dollars, and before you ask; no, it is not covered under Medicare.”
“Why the hell would I put out that kind of money to prove something I already know?” Cameron felt his anger boiling up again.
“I would think it only fair that Billie Jean pay half of it. After all, she is the one making the accusation.” Chad glanced at the woman and raised an eyebrow.
“I don’t have any money. He’s the one who makes a bundle modeling. Besides, like Cameron, I already know the answer. He’s Tamara’s father and that’s all there is to it.” Billie Jean was adamantly sticking to her story.
Cameron began to laugh. “Sweetheart,” he said sarcastically. “Does it look like I still model?” He sat there in the clothes he now favoured that were nothing like the high-fashion clothing he had once worn. “I work for the big guy here, for minimum wage. I live here because we’re partners.”
Although somewhat taken back a bit, she quickly recovered and retorted with a bluff. “My lawyer says I should be entitled to child support payments of eight hundred dollars a month.”
“Good luck with that one,” Chad muttered under his breath.
“Minimum wage,” Cameron reminded Billie Jean. “I barely clear that much in a month.”
“Our next option,” Chad spoke clearly in order to get their attention, “is to consider joint custody.” He raised his hand when it immediately became apparent that a certain young man had something to say about that idea. “Let’s just pretend for a minute or two that Cameron is the father. Instead of paying support he can assume part-time custody.”
Cameron trusted his partner, but shot him a look that spoke volumes. There was no way he wanted a child in his life. It would seriously crimp his style.
“And what about the almost four years I’ve already had her?” Billie Jean mentally scrambled for a way around this unexpected predicament.
“That was your choice,” Cameron scoffed. “I’m in the fucking phone book. What happened? You run out of money?”
Chad’s quiet appeal for details surrounding the child’s birth had a calming influence on Billie Jean and she mellowed enough to more than adequately met the request.
“Hmm, you have a valid point, Billie Jean. You should be compensated for those earlier years. So I guess that would mean Cameron keeping the little girl here with us for the next few years.” Chad sat back to watch the aftermath as his suggestions hit home. The other two occupants in the room appeared to be equally appalled by his ideas and their displeased made known through verbal insults shouted at each other. As a result, he was the only one who noticed a wide-eyed child standing in the doorway. He put his fingers to his lips and whistled for a cease-fire before inviting Tamara to come and sit with him.
The little girl hesitantly made her way over to him. “Are you going to yell at me?”
“No one is going to yell at you, I promise.” Chad assured her and smiled when she got up on his lap. “How old are you, Tamara?”
“Almost this much,” she answered and held up four chubby fingers.
“You are becoming quite the young lady, aren’t you? Can you tell me where you live and if you have any family other than your mother?”
Tamara nodded, happy to be included in the conversation. “We don’t have a big house like this. Mom and me live by ourselves in an apartment far away from here. I have my own room to play in and keep all my things. I have a lot of uncles who visit us. They don’t talk to me much ‘cause they are so tired by the time they get to our house, they just want to go lie down in my mom’s bed. She keeps them company in case they need anything. After they have a rest, they just leave.”
“And what do you do while they’re resting with your mom?” Chad asked. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Billie Jean shrinking into the sofa, but Cameron was hanging on to every word.
“I just hang out in my room and play with my dolls. They keep me company.” She cuddled against Chad’s chest when he dropped a light kiss on her head. She obviously hungered for one on one attention. Cameron understood that longing and he felt a stab of pity for the young girl. She should automatically get that attentiveness from a parent, not have to reach out for a stranger to provide it.
Chad glanced at the others sitting across from him. His eyes narrowed as he glared at Billie Jean. “And this provides us with yet another option. If Cameron should accept parental responsibility for this little one, he should seriously consider looking into being granted full legal custody. Your life-style choices should greatly enhance his chances of getting it, don’t you think?”
The light clicked on in Cameron’s brain. The dates didn’t match up. “You bitch,” he hissed out. He was somewhat chagrinned to see he had scared Tamara.
Billie Jean was furious. How had the tables been turned so fast? She got to feet and grabbed up her handbag. “I may have been a little hasty in assuming Cameron was Tamara’s father,” she reluctantly admitted through clenched teeth.
“You think?” Cameron couldn’t resist one last sarcastic come back.
“Come, Tamara. Get your backpack. We’re leaving.”
Several minutes later, Chad and Cameron stood at the door waving goodbye to their guests.
“How did you know?” Cameron inquired, still a little shell-shocked.
Chad couldn’t contain his laughter any longer. “I never thought for a moment you were the father, Mugs. But if proof was needed then Billie Jean herself let the cat out of the bag when she told me Tamara’s date of birth, which happened to be only seven months after your sexual encounter with her. There is no way a baby weighing almost eight pounds and leaving the hospital forty-eight hours after her birth can be pre-mature by two months. I merely called her bluff.” He led the way back to the lounger and sat down.
“You’re sneaky,” Cameron accused his lover. He chewed anxiously at his nails and snuggled up onto Chad’s lap. “I know Tamara’s not mine, but we should contact someone. She’s not safe.”
“We’ll be reporting her to Child Services first thing in the morning.”
“But we don’t know where she came from.”
“I do.” Chad rhythmically rubbed his hand up and down his partner’s back, easing away the last of the tension there. “When you went to calm down in the study, she began whining about how difficult her life was and may have divulged more information that she would have liked had she not been trying so hard to win me over to her side. She lives in a low-income housing project on the outskirts of Vancouver. I don’t have her exact address but I do have her name and phone number. That should be enough for the welfare agency to track her down and hopefully locate grandparents for Tarama.”
“That’s good.” Cameron was almost purring as his lover stroked him, his eyes half-closed in pleasure. “That woman shouldn’t have charge of a dog let alone a child.”
“So now that everything is back to normal around here, how about supper? I’m hungry after a hard day’s work at the mine.” Chad’s stomach noisily supported his claim. “And by the way, my love, I want you to know how proud I am of the way you handled yourself during that distasteful exchange with just about one of the most unpleasant people I’ve met in a long while. I know it was difficult not to verbally hit out any more than you did.”
Cameron blushed with pleasure at the praise. He laughed as Chad’s stomach protested once again. “My bread never happened,” he grumbled mournfully. “But I do have Pizza. Clarissa and I made several to freeze at my last lesson.” He looked at Chad, mischief shining from his eyes. “And for desert, ‘Hot Cameron’.”
“Works for me, babe. Bring it on.”