Taylor-made For You, pt. 1
Justin hung up the phone with a heavy sigh. Were he and Brian ever going to have a date? It was the Wednesday after Christmas and Brian had called twice to ask him out in the last four days, and then cancelled each time because of work.
The phone rang again and he snatched it up. "Change your mind?" he asked hopefully.
There was no response.
He heard breathing, but no one responded.
"Who is this?" he asked nervously. He refused to think it was him. It couldnt be Eric. Their days of heavy breathing phone calls were long gone.
There was a sudden knock at his door and he jumped. Lindsay was standing there. Grateful for her presence, he gladly hung up the phone and waved her in. As she settled into a chair and arranged her shopping bags, he took a moment to compose himself. He set his personal line to go directly to voice mail and pushed the call from his mind. It wasnt anything to worry about. Just a wrong number. Just like the call last night.
"I didnt expect to see you today," he said to his friend.
She smiled. "I just stopped in on my way home from shopping to remind you about dinner tomorrow. Then Im going to lock myself in my studio for the afternoon and paint until Ricky gets home from his play date."
Justin returned her smile. He was glad she was happy. And obviously, Melanie was too, because he had been invited to their house for the first time. Melanie called him with the invitation Monday evening, right after Lindsay told her that she and Justin had set up a lighter schedule for her at the gallery. At first, he had been nervous she would still want to smother him with attention, but she understood he wanted to get everything back to normal and was grateful for the free time again. She wanted to be working when they needed the money, but now that Melanies practice was doing well, it wasnt as pressing.
After a long talk, they decided Justin would take over running the gallerys daily activities again, but Lindsay would continue to be the liaison between the gallery and other organizations that they worked with to raise money for various charities in Georges honor. Sometimes they loaned pieces from Georges private collection for exhibits, and sometimes they donated them for auction. Justin was grateful she was still willing to work part time on those projects because he couldnt handle the extensive travelling that was required yet.
"Are you sure I cant bring anything?" Justin asked.
Lindsay shook her head. "Just yourself."
Emmett poked his head in the door. "Princess, we must talk about what youre going to wear tonight. You want to impress Detective DeOh! Uh hi Lindsay." The older man gave Justin an apologetic glance. "Ill just wait out here," he added before disappearing again.
"I didnt know you were seeing Brian," Lindsay interjected coolly.
"Im not," Justin replied hesitantly. "He cancelled again."
"I couldve warned you about that," she replied.
Justin raised an eyebrow. "Really? Dated a lot of policeman have you?" he asked sarcastically.
Lindsays eyes narrowed. "You know hes Rickys father, Justin. Mel, told me you all ran into each other at the mall. And Ive told you hes an asshole, so why are you putting up with his shit? Hes just going to fuck you and kick you out like he does with all his tricks."
The blonde man ignored the nervous twinge in his gut. He wanted to give Brian a chance. The guy wouldnt be pursuing him if he just wanted a fuck, right? He could have anyone. He didnt need to waste his time on someone who was scarred. "Thatd be fine with me," he lied. "I just need to get laid, I dont want another shit relationship right now."
Her eyes softened. "Sweetie, I know its been hard, but you deserve better. You could be out with anyone you want instead of waiting for him to call. And this wont get better, trust me. Ive watched him dump on Mel for years. Hes not reliable."
"Its his job, Linds, he cant control when some asshole decides to kill someone."
"Bullshit. Other people have demanding jobs but manage to balance their lives. He finds enough time to fuck around but he cant be bothered with any responsibilities to his family or friends."
Justin knew he hadnt spent that much time with Brian, but that wasnt the impression he got at all. Where was all her hatred really coming from? "He cared enough to give you a son," the man countered.
Lindsay snorted. "He jerked off in a cup. Hes ruled by his dick so it wasnt much of a hardship."
"Linds, you know I saw him with Ricky," he ventured, mindful of putting his friend on the spot and making her clam up. "Its obvious he loves his son. Why do you think he doesnt?"
"Because he wont provide for him," she snapped. "He wouldnt sign a life insurance policy to make sure his son is taken care of if anything happens to him on the job, but he couldnt sign fast enough to give up his parental rights. I admit hes gotten more attached to Ricky than I expected him to, but he only comes around when its convenient, and heaven forbid if we need to depend on him for anything."
Justin still didnt think that was true, but he couldnt understand what it was like to raise a child in their situation, so he was trying to be sympathetic to her feelings.
Emmett decided he and Janine had eavesdropped enough and should end this argument before it got out of hand. He breezed back into the office trilling, "Princess, Im starving. Lets go to Marcels for lunch. Im just dying for some bru--"
"Brunette?" Justin teased, grateful for the interruption.
Emmett emoted pain. "I was going to say bruschetta, but never mind."
The other man rolled his eyes. "The only bruschetta youre interested in is served by a brunette named Carmello."
"Its the best in town," Emmett defended himself.
Justin didnt bother to ask if he meant the best food or best service. "Alright, lets go."
After lunch, Emmett had his driver drop Justin back at the gallery and then he called Brian to arrange a meeting.
Although Justin had shrugged off any conversation regarding the detective, Emmett knew his friend was disheartened after what Lindsay said about Brian on top of the cancelled plans. It was obvious Justin was beginning to question whether or not to pursue dating him. Emmett decided to intervene before it was too late.
When he finally got hold of the detective, they made plans to meet at the Shickel estate later that afternoon.
When Justin arrived back at the office, Janine was beaming. "This came for you while you were out," she told him, handing him an elegantly wrapped box. "Its from Brian."
He took the gift, raising an eyebrow. "How do you know its from Brian?"
"I saw the couriers paperwork," she replied slyly. "Open it, Ive had to wait over an hour already!"
"Okay, okay," he chuckled as he removed the bow and lifted the lid. He noticed Vics" was embossed in gold letters at the corner. Justin gasped in surprise when he saw the box was filled with cannoli.
Janine took one out and bit into it. Her eyes rolled back as she licked her lips. "Oh my god, its hazelnut." She held it out for him to take a bite. "He sure knows the way to your heart," she teased when Justin snatched the rest from her hand and stuffed it in his mouth.
"Is there a card?" he mumbled around the pastry.
She pulled it out from under the box.
Justin tore the envelope open and pulled out the folded sheet of paper.
These were made especially for you, by the best chef in New York City, fresh this morning. I wanted to share them with you tonight and Im sorry I cant, but I promise next time youll have them fresh from the kitchen. Call me if youre free for the weekend.
The blonde stared at the note and read it again. When Brian said they would go to the best Italian restaurant in town, he forgot to specify exactly what town. A weekend in New York with Brian. New Years in New York with Brian. Fuck.
Janine glanced at the letter over his shoulder and immediately thrust the phone into the artists hand.
"Thank you, Jonathan," Emmett said, dismissing the butler once Brians arrival was announced.
"Would you mind talking outside?" he asked the detective. "Its actually a nice day and I like to walk in the garden whenever possible. Even in winter," he added a little embarrassed. "It makes me feel close to George."
Brian nodded, following the man through the den and into the garden. They walked across the grounds and Emmett regaled the other man with stories of his whirlwind romance with his older lover. Brian wanted to ask to him to get to the point, but he was enjoying the tales and didnt want to offend his host. He knew Emmett had invited him to discuss something about Justin and he had a feeling it was important.
Finally, they stopped in front of a cottage at the back of the property. "This is Justins home," Emmett explained. "Hes lived here since George passed. He was like a son to George, and has been my best friend for ten years."
"How did you two meet?"
"I had just arrived in Pittsburgh and it was his first night on Liberty Avenue as well. We ran into each other outside Woodys and banded together. I got an apartment and he moved in with me. By the time I met George and moved in here, he was ready to move into his own place and start college."
Brians brow furrowed. "How old was he when you met?"
"He left home before he finished school?"
Emmett nodded. "I know your next question is going to be why, but I cant answer that. Its not my place to discuss Justins personal life with you. I can only tell you how it pertains to me, if you get my meaning."
Deciding to try and take the other man off guard, Brian changed the subject. "Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?"
Emmett shook his head, waiting.
"When George died, I read that the former Mrs. Shickel tried to break his will, cutting you out, but then she suddenly gave up. What happened?"
Emmett looked out over the garden, trying to compose himself when his eyes filled with tears at the memory. "Even though Georgie and I had been together for eight years, she still said the most horrific things to me after he died. That I only wanted his money. That I never loved him. That I was a gigolo. And it made me so angry. She had no right! She wanted to take my home away from me. And I couldnt let her," he whispered fiercely. The man wiped his tears and looked Brian in the eye. "George left the family business and most of his assets to that witch and their children. But he left the house and a modest annual allowance to me. What he considered modest," he chuckled sadly. "Who thinks a private jet is a necessity? Anyway, all I wanted was the house, honestly. And not to sell it, like she thought. I stayed here because it was our home. But she tried to take it from me so I had to fight back. I had to. I knew it would destroy her precious family name if a court battle turned into a big media circus, so thats what I threatened to do. Tell my story to the reporters that were camped on the lawn. Give them videotapes of George and I fucking. Anything I had to do to smear the Shickel name around the world." He sighed. "Luckily, she believed me. I would never have done that to Georges memory. Never. But she already assumed the worst of me, so it was easy for her to believe. And their children were so disgusted by their fathers perverted lifestyle that they didnt ever want the step foot in the house again anyway. So eventually she caved and Im still here. Thank God."
Brian snorted. "God had nothing to do with it. Youre a courageous man and you did what you had to for what you believed in."
Emmett shook his head. "I was a coward. I wanted to just take my memories and crawl under a rock. But Justin wouldnt let me. He was the son George shouldve had. He fought them all. For me and for George. I never wouldve survived if he hadnt been here. If he hadnt given up his life to come back here. And then he got hurt "
Brian frowned slightly. He respected Justins privacy and Emmetts friendship with the artist, but he needed to know what happened with Justins last boyfriend. "What happened?"
"I told you, Justin has to tell you when hes ready."
"Then why am I here?" Brian snapped.
His host eyed him warily. "I want Justin to be happy. He deserves to be happy after the year hes had, but right now you are not making him happy."
"Excuse me? I havent even--"
"Exactly!" Emmett cried. "You havent done anything except get his hopes up and then dash them. Twice. Im afraid if you get a third strike, youll be sent to the penalty box."
"There are no strikes in hockey," the detective grumbled.
"I was talking about baseball," Emmett replied in exasperation. "Arent you listening to me?"
"Look, Emmett, I--"
"No, you look," the other man cut him off, poking the detective in the chest. "Justin is special. Its a fucking miracle hes still the amazing man youve met after all the shit hes been through and you are damn lucky to have an opportunity to get to know him, but if youre going to keep fucking around, dont bother calling him again."
Brian stepped back, away from the poking digit, and stared at the other man for a moment. "Fine, I wont."
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