Be Careful What You Wish For
* * *
The start up of Kinnetik happened faster than anyone thought. Lyle rushed through the necessary paperwork and the doors opened officially within two weeks of securing the office space. Brian was glad that he had Justin help him with the decorating. Every square inch of the place screamed success and he had no doubt that success would be the final outcome. Cynthia was due in the following week, but until then Brian was left to handle things on his own. Not a huge task since he only had one client signed so far. Well, two, if he managed to land the hardware chain that he had his sights set on. Mr. Johnson was due that afternoon for a meeting. He was unhappy with his sales, now that places like Loews and Home Depot were making their way across the country, and was hoping that a new marketing campaign would help him compete.
Brian was sitting behind his desk, going over the notes for the meeting when the phone rang with his first official call. Call him crazy, but that thought gave him a slight tingle in his chest.
"Thank you for calling Kinnetik, this is Brian Kinney. How may I help you?" God, he couldn't wait until Cynthia arrived and helped him find an assistant.
"Brian, is that you? I didn't expect you to be answering your own phones," Leo Brown chuckled.
"Leo, you of all people should know that it takes a little time to find the right people to put on the payroll," Brian replied with a smile. "What can I do for you?"
"Well, I just so happen to be in Pittsburgh right now, getting ready to renew my contract. Imagine my surprise when I bumped into your assistant in the parking garage and she informed me that you were jumping ship and branching out on your own," Leo explained. "Funny that Vance didn't mention that last week when I told him I'd be coming in. I was told that you were out of town for personal reasons."
Brian smiled at Cynthia's brilliance. "I was out of town for personal reasons, but I came across an offer I couldn't resist. I'd appreciate it if you kept that between us for a little while, though. My intentions haven't been brought to Gardner's attention yet. I'm owed a shitload of vacation and comp time and I knew he'd love nothing more than to cut me out."
"I'll keep your secret on one condition."
"Making deals is what I do best," Brian smiled smugly. "What did you have in mind?"
"I want to set up a meeting with you. We both know that the only reason I signed on with Vangard in the first place was because you were heading my account. There doesn't seem to be a reason to stick around if you're not there. Vance is…well, let's just say he's not you and leave it at that."
"Leo, you know that I'd love to meet with you, but I have to be honest. I don't have everything set up properly just yet. I've got a couple of interviews set up for my art department, but the hiring process will probably take a few weeks. Right now, I'm a one man show. I'm afraid that I still have some details to work out first," Brian said, hoping that his honesty wasn't going to cost him what could be his biggest account.
"Brian, I don't care if you're working out of an alleyway. I just need to know that you'll be able to deliver what I need. My contract isn't officially up with Vangard for another month. Do you think that's enough time to get your ducks in a row?" Leo asked.
"Absolutely," Brian replied confidently.
"Okay then, I'd like to meet with you now and discuss our strategy and fill you in on a few things that I have up my sleeve. How does tomorrow sound?"
"As a matter of fact, my calendar is clear for tomorrow," Brian assured him, his excitement burning a whole in his gut, dying to get out.
"Good, I'll arrange to have my pilot have me there by ten. I'll head over right from the airport," Leo told him.
"I'll be here. Let me give you Cynthia's cell phone number and you can get all the details from her."
"I take it she'll be on your payroll eventually?" Leo asked with a smile. He never believed that his meeting with the beautiful blond was accidental. He'd observed the two of them closely during his days at Vangard and knew that she was as loyal to her boss as they come.
"As soon as I can work out the details. I wouldn't be able to manage without her. Just don't tell her that. She's going to cost me a fortune as it is," Brian teased.
"My lips are sealed," Leo promised.
Brian gave Leo Cynthia's number and told him he'd see him the following day before hanging up and calling his future assistant.
"Brian Kinney's office, this is Cynthia. How may I help you?"
"You sly bitch," Brian teased as soon as he heard her voice. "Gardner would kill you if he knew you were propositioning his clients in the parking garage."
Cynthia smiled at Brian's choice of words. "I don't know what you're talking about. I just happened to run into Mr. Brown while getting something out of my car. I couldn't be rude when he said hello. As it happened, your name was mentioned and I might have let it slip that you were looking into other options."
"Did you know that you were my favorite blond?"
"I think I'm second in that category, but thanks. I take it Leo called you?"
Brian ignored her comment about Justin and told her about his phone call with Leo. She promised to give him the information he needed to find Kinnetik and once again assured him that she'd be in Denver on Saturday. After a few minutes of discussion on who might be next up for renewal, they said their goodbyes and Brian hung up the phone before letting out a shout of joy. Landing Brown Athletics this early in the game only reinforced his belief that he'd made the right decision to open up on his own. He was on his way to the top and he had his Uncle John to thank for that. Well, John and Justin. He couldn't show his uncle his gratitude, but Justin was another story. He'd have to find a way to show his appreciation when he got home that night. Pushing those thoughts away, Brian got down to work on ideas to show Leo during their meeting, losing himself in the work that made him what he was; or hopefully would be. A rising success.
Justin was sitting in the kitchen, nibbling on cookies that Margaret had made while she regaled him with stories of her grandchildren, when Brian came in carrying two dozen red roses.
"Hey, what's the occasion?" he asked as he stood up and look at his pretend partner. The man's beauty and maleness always made him a little weak in the knees.
Brian grabbed Justin around the waist, holding the flowers off to the side to salvage them, and kissed the blond passionately. "Margaret, whatever it is that smells so good, put it in the refrigerator for tomorrow. I'm taking my partner out to celebrate."
"No problem, Mr. Kinney," Margaret replied as she took the flowers out of Brian's hands. "It will keep until tomorrow."
"Celebrate? What are we celebrating?" Justin asked in confusion."
"The landing of my first major account at Kinnetik," Brian beamed.
"But I thought you already landed an account. You said that…"
"I said major account," Brian corrected him. "Leo Brown, from Brown Athletics, is flying in tomorrow to meet with me. Cynthia cornered him in the parking garage at Vangard and happened to mention that I was going out on my own. His contract is up next month and he doesn't want to resign if I'm not there."
"Brian, that's wonderful!" Justin exclaimed, caught up in Brian's excitement. "I'm so proud of you."
"I'm pretty proud of myself," Brian laughed. "Now go get dressed. I think a night on the town is in order."
"I'll be ready in fifteen minutes," Justin assured him, giving him a quick kiss before heading off to go get ready.
Once Justin was gone, Brian turned around and noticed the huge smile on Margaret's face directed at him. "What?"
"It's just so nice to see him happy," she said. "The last few months of John's life really put a damper on Justin's spirit. I was concerned about how he would handle his death. Thanks to you, he's moving on instead of sitting around here mourning like I thought he would. John wasn't the only one who benefited from your visit."
Brian blushed at her praise, but refused to think about how she'd feel if she knew their relationship wasn't real. He wasn't going to let anything ruin his night.
The evening went even better than Justin had hoped it would. After seeing Brian walk into the kitchen with the roses, Justin had forced his excitement down, telling himself that he was just playing the part of loving partner for Margaret's benefit. Apparently that wasn't the case. Brian had continued on with the loving partner routine all through the evening, taking him to the finest restaurant in Denver and giving him his undivided attention. From there they went to an opening at one of the local galleries that Justin had mentioned wanting to attend, where once again he was gracious and attentive. He even showed a hint of jealousy when one of the critics that Justin had known started hinting about them getting together. Of course Justin had no interest in the man whatsoever, but the sentiment was well received. Once they got home, they locked up the house and went up to bed where Brian proceeded to make love to Justin tenderly, instead of with the fiery passion that they usually shared.
Now, as Justin lay in the arms of the man he loved, he had to fight to hold back the tears of joy that were threatening to fall. He'd be a fool to think that Brian suddenly had a change of heart where relationships were concerned, but the show of care that he received gave Justin hope that his plan would work out in the end. As he drifted off to sleep, thoughts of their life together played in his mind, and he fell asleep with a smile on his face.
The next morning, Brian slipped quietly from bed and got ready for work without waking up the sleeping blond. The last thing he wanted was to look into those deep blue eyes and see the love he noticed the night before. He had lain awake most of the night thinking about how royally he had fucked up. He had known for a few weeks now that Justin was starting to fall for him, but instead of discouraging it, he'd gone temporarily insane and given Justin a romantic evening. He didn't have an explanation for doing it, other than he was happy about Brown Athletics and wanted to share it with someone. It felt good to be with someone who was proud of his accomplishments, and he had enjoyed their night together almost as much as Justin had. It wasn't until he was coming down from his orgasm that he realized he was enjoying it too much. He had known almost from the beginning of whatever it was that they were doing that Justin was different from the tricks of the past, but it didn't mean he was ready to buy a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence. That wasn't his way and nothing was going to make him turn into a happily married homo. He'd leave that up to Mikey or Emmett or even Ted. After dressing quickly and quietly, he scribbled a quick note to Justin and snuck out the door, refusing to acknowledge the guilt that was trying to suffocate him.
Before Justin even opened his eyes he knew that he was alone. He glanced at the clock and was surprised to see it was only after seven. Brian didn't have to be in the office that early. He figured that he'd gone downstairs for breakfast, but before he could throw on a robe and search for him, his eyes fell upon a note addressed to him lying on the pillow where Brian's head had been. He picked it up and read it, feeling a sinking in his heart with every word.
I had to get to the office. I'll probably be home late tonight. Don't wait up.
So there it was. What he had expected since seeing two dozen roses in his lover's arms the night before, but what he had prayed wouldn't happen, Brian's brush off. It was typical Kinney style, but it didn't make the pain any more bearable. After all the weeks they had been together, Brian's come here/go away routine was getting old. Anyone who looked closely enough could see that Brian was fighting his feelings with everything he had, and as Justin slumped back down on the bed, he wondered if he'd ever be able to get through to the man; or how he would survive the rest of their time together if he couldn't.
Brian sat alone in his office thinking about the last twenty-four hours. Okay, so he was an asshole. Is that a surprise? Isn't that what he'd been told every day since childhood? Then why was it that he felt bad? It was Justin's fault. He'd been warned from the beginning that their involvement was only temporary. If Brian wanted a real partner, he would've had one. The plan was that they would pretend for one year and then go their separate ways. It wasn't Brian's fault that Justin was breaking the rules, yet the guilt that he'd been feeling since the night before refused to go away. Even his meeting with Leo was tarnished with thoughts of blond hair and blue eyes. Luckily it didn't change the anticipated outcome of the meeting and Brown Athletics was his as soon as his contract with Vangard officially ran out.
Brian spent the rest of the day in his office making phone calls, working on the few accounts he had, and pushing thoughts of Justin out of his head over and over again. By the time he headed home, it was after midnight and he was tired and a little on the cranky side. The house was dark and quiet, which Brian was thankful for, as he went upstairs and stopped at the door to the room he and Justin were sharing. He had two choices. He could go inside and risk the interrogation that he knew would be waiting for him if he woke Justin, or he could go quietly down the hall and spend the night in the room he had used when he first arrived. He thought about it for a minute before going for the second choice and making his way down to the empty bedroom. After a quick shower, he climbed into bed and was asleep in seconds.
Justin lay awake half the night, trying to decide what to do next. He had struggled to stay awake until Brian came home, determined to talk to him. He wanted to clear the air between them before things became awkward. Some time after midnight he heard the car pull up out front and waited patiently. As the footsteps on the stairs moved closer, his anticipation grew. He was worried about Brian's reaction to their talk. He didn't need to worry. It only took a moment before he realized that Brian had gone into hiding. He heard the footsteps stop in front of their door but then move away. Minutes later he heard the shower down the hall turn on and his heart sank. Any hopes that the brief note from the morning wasn't a brush off went out the window. Brian was avoiding him. That hurt. He'd been dumb enough to believe that their perfect night together was a turning point in their relationship. How could he have been so stupid? And as he lay there in the dark, refusing to let his tears fall, he vowed to forget all about his plan to win over the man he loved.
For the next few weeks things between Brian and Justin pretty much continued on the way they had been. Brian never moved back into the bedroom with Justin and most of their communication was made through brief notes left for each other when they had something to say. Brian had even spent a few nights on the couch in his office, finding it too difficult to drive the distance between work and home. He was tired, lonely, and extremely horny. Even though he hadn't sought Justin out for the regular sex that had been promised, he still kept his promise to keep from tricking, leaving him to his own erotic mind and his right hand. He knew he'd have to break the cycle they were on, if only for a little while, before he had a complete meltdown. He hadn't gone that long without the wonderful release of sex since he was in high school. Luckily the launch of Kinnetik kept him busy enough to hold his thoughts at bay most of the time.
Cynthia had arrived in Denver, just as promised, and had been invaluable to him. She hired his assistant and helped set up his files and computers expertly. She even helped him interview for the art department, finding the most competent of applicants and encouraging them to take a chance on the up and coming agency. His payroll was small, but he had enough people in place to produce the work to give his clients what they needed and deserved. Four weeks after opening the doors, Kinnetik was a full fledged business. He was proud of the accomplishments he made, and if the situation between him and Justin put a damper on his excitement, he refused to acknowledge it. He and Justin were just doing what they had agreed on; pretending to be a couple for the sake of others. If the house staff knew that he'd been away more than home or that he and Justin were sleeping in separate beds, no one had the balls to comment on it. If they had, he would've explained how much work went into starting a business, which would've been the truth. He'd been putting in longer hours as the weeks went by, hardly giving himself time to worry about the state of his non-relationship with Justin.
Lyle's call late one Friday afternoon changed all that.
"Brian, Lyle Henderson's on line one," Amanda said as she walked into Brian's office with a stack of papers for him to sign. "I'll leave these on your desk. If you sign them I'll get them out first thing Monday morning."
"Thanks, Amanda," Brian replied as he reached for the phone. He waited until he was alone again before taking the call. "Hey Lyle, what's up?"
"Brian, I hear you're taking the Denver advertising world by storm," Lyle chuckled.
"I'm doing my best," Brian said.
"Well, it sounds like your best is pretty damn good. I was at the club today playing golf with some of my colleagues when your name came up. You're becoming quite the topic of conversation around town. Having the Kinney name helps, I'm sure, but it appears that people are claiming that you're some kind of genius in your field."
"I never doubted it," Brian laughed.
"Neither did I, although I am impressed with the speed in which you've become a success. I do believe that my suggestion you stay in Denver was a good one. Justin must be so proud of you."
"I can't speak for him. You'll have to confer with the man himself on that one," Brian replied casually.
"I plan to; that's why I'm calling. I'm having a dinner party tomorrow evening and I'd love for you and Justin to come."
Brian squirmed in his chair, wondering what the best way was to turn down the offer without sounding like a shit. Justin and Brian had barely seen each other in the last month. Going to a dinner party together didn't seem to be an option. "It's great of you to offer, but with business going the way it has been, I've been swamped at the office. I'm not sure I have the time to socialize right now," he finally said.
"Nonsense. It's Saturday night. You need to take some time for yourself or you'll be burnt out by the time you're forty. Besides, this would be like a business dinner. It won't be a huge gathering, but there will be some pretty influential people there. You could probably drum up some business if you play your cards right. It starts at eight. I'll have my secretary fax over the directions to your office. I'm looking forward to seeing you and Justin again."
Brian knew when he was trapped. There was no way he could get out of the evening without sounding like a jack ass. "All right, I guess I'll see you tomorrow."
Once Brian hung up the phone, he sat back in his chair and sighed. He was going to have to suck it up and call Justin. After all, it was what they agreed on; to pretend to be a couple. Yet rationalizing it didn't make the thought of the phone call any easier. Shaking off his nervousness, he reached for the phone and dialed the mansion's number.
"Hello Margaret, it's Brian. Is Justin around?"
"I'm sorry, Brian. He already left. He had an early morning flight," Margaret told him.
"Flight? Where the fuck did he go?" Brian barked.
"He's in New York. Surely he told you about the gallery that's been contacting him about a showing," Margaret replied hesitantly. She had never heard Brian so angry before.
Brian heard her nervousness and cursed himself for raising his voice. "Oh yeah, I forgot," he lied. "Sorry about that. I assume he's got his cell phone on him. I'll try him on that."
"Okay, Brian. I made a pot of stew for you in case you make it home early. You know, you're working too hard. I understand you've been busy with your business, but you need to take some time for yourself. I know Justin misses you. He's been pretty down lately." Margaret knew she was overstepping a little, but she hated the way Justin was moping around the house and knew Brian's absence was the cause. "Take care and I'll see you when I see you."
Brian hung up and immediately dialed Justin's cell.
"What do you want, Brian? I'm busy," Justin answered coolly after checking his caller ID.
"Why the fuck did you leave the state without telling me you were going?"
Justin sighed as he pulled the phone away from his ear to excuse himself from the people surrounding him. He was still at the gallery. He'd been given the tour and talked to the owner about the deal he was being offered. All that was left was for him to make his decision, which he promised to do the following week. He was just getting ready to make his excuses and head to his hotel when the phone rang. Now, on top of a raging headache from too much stress and too little sleep, he had to deal with Brian in one of his less than pleasant moods. He walked outside and around the corner of the building before answering.
"What difference does it make? You're never around anyway. I figured you wouldn't even notice that I wasn't there," Justin replied bitterly.
"It's not bullshit! Brian, we've barely seen each other in the last month and only correspond through letters!" Justin countered.
"And it didn't occur to you to tell me in one of those letters that you were catching a flight to New York?"
"Actually it did occur to me, but then I reminded myself that you don't check in with me when you don't come home so I don't owe you any explanations."
"Fuck that. I'm only on the other side of town. It's business," Brian retorted.
"And so is this. Besides, how am I supposed to know what you're up to? Do you expect me to believe that you haven't been out fucking around?"
"I haven't," Brian told him, his voice lowering in sincerity.
His reply took Justin by surprise and he sighed as he pressed the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger. "Why are you calling, Brian? I don't have all day to stand around and fight with you. I was just getting ready to finish up a meeting when you called."
"How long are you going to be in New York?"
"I'm flying back in the morning. Why?"
"Because we were invited to a dinner party at Lyle's house tomorrow night. He expects us to be there," Brian explained calmly, his anger draining away as he realized how much he was looking forward to spending the evening out with Justin.
"Oh great. A chance to pretend that we can stand to be in the same room with each other. Sounds like fun," Justin laughed bitterly.
"Forget it. I'll go alone and tell him you were too tired from your trip," Brian said as a bit of his anger returned.
"No, it's all right. I'll go. We have to be seen together occasionally or no one will believe that we're a couple. What time do we have to be there?"
"I'll be ready by seven thirty," Justin promised. "I better get back inside. I'll see you tomorrow night."
Brian mumbled his goodbye before hanging up the phone with a sigh. The call didn't go as well as he would've liked, but at least Justin agreed to go to Lyle's with him. Now all he had to do was figure out how they were going to pull off pretending to be together when they couldn't even have a phone conversation with biting each other's head off.Return to Be Careful What You Wish For