C'est la Vie


Chapter 1



Bree moved across the Simone Gallery to her father who had just finished talking to one of the people from the French advertising firm.  She wanted to tell him how much she liked the display of his paintings.  And she wanted to tell him how much she loved him.

"Daddy?" she said rather hesitantly.

"Sweetheart," Justin replied pulling her into a hug.

"It all looks so beautiful, Daddy."

"I know.  Your brother did a wonderful job."

"And so did you," Bree replied.  "Sometimes I forget how great all your work is because I see it all the time at home."

"Gets kind of boring, huh?" Justin teased.

"Never, Daddy."

"Well, I appreciate your vote of approval," Justin said as he gently pushed Bree back so he could get a good look at her.  She had started out the evening in her pink suit then later changed into a purple cocktail dress and high heels, well, higher heels than she usually wore, when celebrities began showing up.  Another creation designed by “Nina.” 

"You look so beautiful, sweetheart.  And so grown up."  Justin felt a lump at the back of his throat when he realized that Bree was indeed a beautiful, young lady.  A fact that did not go unnoticed by Patrick.

"Thanks, Daddy," Bree said with a big smile.  "I feel so grown up, being in Paris and at your opening."

"Pardon, Monsieur Justin, could I please meet your lovely daughter?" Pierre asked as he approached Justin and Bree.

"Of course," Justin replied.  "Pierre Bellerose, this is Briana Victoria Kinney-Taylor."

"Enchanté," Pierre responded bending in a shallow bow as Bree extended her hand to shake.  Pierre took the hand and kissed it gently.

Bree giggled.  "Monsieur, je suis heureuse de vous rencontrer," she replied in her best French accent.

Pierre's eyebrows shot up.  "Vous parlez francais?"

"Un peu."

"But how?" Pierre asked.  He was truly surprised.

"Auntie Molly taught me a few phrases.  I don't know nearly as much as I would like to."

"What a charming and intelligent young lady," Pierre said.

"We think so too," Justin agreed with a wink at his precocious daughter.

"Have you seen all of Daddy's work?" Bree asked gesturing around the gallery.

"Not all," Pierre admitted.  "Do you have a favorite piece, Miss Briana?"

"You may call me Bree," she replied.  “ And yes, I do have a favorite.  Would you like me to show you?"

"I'd like that very much."

"Then follow me, please, Monsieur Bellerose."

Bree started off toward the back of the gallery with Pierre trailing behind.  Justin watched them, smiling to himself.  He knew Bree would work her magic on the Frenchman.

"Monsieur Bellerose, this is my favorite," Bree stated stopping before one of Justin's paintings, one from the time when he was experimenting with hiding tiny scenes inside of a bigger picture.  The scene showed the conjoined cottages painted in a rustic manner.  It was very idyllic and tranquil.

"I can see why you might like this, ma cherie, it is so ... peaceful," Pierre replied as he studied the painting.

"That's part of it," Bree said with a small smile.  "There's something else in the painting, if you look really closely."

Pierre frowned and moved closer to the painting.  He scanned it and saw nothing out of the ordinary.  He turned a questioning eye to Bree.  She merely smiled.  Pierre moved even closer to the painting.  He started at the top and moved his eyes back and forth across the painting.  When he came to the front door, he hesitated, and then his eye came back to the window next to the door.

"Is that...?"

"Yep," Bree said with a grin.

"Your fathers and you tucked into the corner of the window, like they are looking out at the world."

Bree smiled that Taylor smile that could melt any heart.  "That's why I like it so much; it's my family, my home."

"I would never have seen that, if you hadn't made me look so carefully."

"Daddy did a series of paintings like this, but this was the only one that we're in, and it's not for sale," Bree stated.

"It's not?"

"No, Gus wanted samples of Daddy's work, but all the others have been sold, so we sent this one.  But we'd never sell it," Bree affirmed.

"I see.  You are a very bright and unusual young lady," Pierre observed studying Bree more closely.

"Thank you," Bree replied with a smile.  Just then music could be heard.  "Ooh, a piano," she said looking to the front of the gallery as someone started to play.

"Yes, ma cherie, we hired a pianist for background music.  Do you play?"

Bree nodded her head and looked longingly in the direction of the piano.

"Come with me, cherie," Pierre said.  He wove his way through the people milling about until they reached the piano.  "Jacques," Pierre said to the pianist as he finished a song, "I have a young lady who plays the piano.  I thought you might let her play with you."

Jacques looked up at Bree.  "You wish to play?" he asked in English.

"I'd love to.  I used to play "Eine kleine nachtmusik" by Mozart with my piano teacher," she explained carefully.

"I know it well," Jacques responded.  "I'll take the bass if you want to do the top."

Bree smiled.  "That's how we used to do it."

"Asseyez-vous," Jacques said making room for Bree to sit on the piano bench beside him.

With a nod of his head, Jacques hit the first note and they were off.  The music poured out of them and most of the people in the gallery stopped to listen and look as the music swelled around them.  Bree was oblivious to what was happening around her as she concentrated on keeping time with Jacques and remembering the notes that she hadn't played for a while.  When they finished the last note a round of applause broke out.  Jacques turned and hugged Bree, kissing her on both cheeks.  She blushed mightily but felt herself smile and feel warm all over.  Jacques stood and pulled her up beside him to take a brief bow.

Justin came over to the piano.  "That was wonderful, Bree," he said to his daughter kissing her cheek.

"I heartily concur," Pierre added.  "Your daughter is magnifique!"

Justin and Bree both blushed.  Brian who was watching from across the room wore a lovely smile on his handsome face.  Gus caught his eye and gave him a wink.  Brian knew he had the best family in the whole world.




Michael hummed to himself as he organized some comics in their bins.  He had missed working in his shop.  It was great to be back.  He hummed a little louder.

"What the fuck are you humming?" JR demanded.  "It's driving me crazy."

"JR, such language!"

"Oh, please!"  JR rolled her eyes and made a face.

"You've been hanging around your Uncle Brian too much, or did that come from Jacqueline?  She can have a foul mouth sometimes."

JR gasped.  "Are you shitting me?  When did you become super-prude?"

"JR!  I'm just happy to be back in Pittsburgh.  It's where we belong."

"It may be where you belong, but I'm not so sure about Ben."

"Ben's happy to be back too," Michael declared.  "He loves teaching.  They need him at the university.  He will enjoy being back at school."

"You make him sound like a kid going back to grade school.  Ben also loves writing.  Have you forgotten that?"

"He wrote for almost the whole summer.  How much writing can one person do?  I had nothing to do the whole time but sit and watch him," Michael pouted.

"You know, Dad, there are such things as hobbies or taking courses or..."

"I don't want to do any of those things.  I love my store and being here with you."

JR shook her head.  She was obviously getting nowhere with her father.  She had seen Ben once since he and her father returned to Pittsburgh.  He wasn't half as happy to be back as her father was.  She decided to try a different tack.  "Have you ever asked Ben how he likes being back?" she asked.

"No, why should I?  He never asks me."  Michael looked at her with a frown.

"He doesn't have to ask you.  You tell everybody you see that you're so glad to be back."

"Well I am.  So what?"

"Dad, I'm just trying to warn you that I don't think Ben's so pleased to be back here.  I think he would have stayed on the lane if the university hadn't needed him."

"No he wouldn't.  He wants to be with me."

"He does want to be with you, but he has other things in his life that he wants to do."

"I don't know why we're having this discussion," Michael said.  "I know we're both happy to be here, and that's all there is to it."

Michael turned back to his organizing and started humming again.

JR stared at the back of his head.  She had tried to make him see that Ben wasn't feeling so great.  It was perfectly obvious that was how he felt, but her father either couldn't or wouldn't see it.  She wondered how long it would be before something bad happened if her father didn't wake up and smell the coffee.




“So what do we do now?” Lindsay asked.

“I suppose knocking him off is out of the question,” Mel growled with malice.  Lindsay looked at her with disbelief; Mel waved her off.

“We do nothing, not tonight, anyway.  This is Justin’s night.  It’s also Gus’.  I’ll be damned if that asshole is going to ruin it for either of them.  If the opportunity arises tonight, we can speak with Pierre.  If not, we invite him to brunch at our hotel tomorrow,” Brian proposed.

“You’re not suggesting we get the man fired, are you?” Lindsay asked.  “Not before we find out why he’s here and if he has any connection to the exhibition.  We don’t know if Gui has a crucial part in all this,” Lindsay stated logically.

“You always had a soft spot for strays,” Mel griped at Lindsay.  Then turned her attention to Brian.  “And what do you suggest we do tonight?  I’m not hiding in this corner all night long; this is a new outfit!” Mel groused.  Brian and Lindsay rolled their eyes.

“Ignore him, go mingle.  Go talk lawyer shit with Stéphane.  Linds, go back to Chaarles and Simone, talk art,” Brian said.

“Asshole,” Mel mumbled with half a smirk. 

“We don’t talk art,” Lindsay curtly replied.  “We discuss artists and artistic techniques.”  It was Mel’s turn to roll her eyes.  Lindsay gave Melanie an exaggerated smile. 

Brian shook his head.  “Women,” he complained.

“Brian, are you really going to stay here?” Lindsay asked with concern before she and Mel left the safety of their private corner.

“I’ll be fine.  This is a good vantage point.  I can see most of the gallery,” Brian explained.  “Besides Justin expects me to be here for him.”

“And you don’t want to risk stealing his thunder,” Mel stated with the realization of why Brian appeared to be hiding.  Mel had seen the reactions by men and women to the various “studies” of Brian that were hanging in strategic places throughout the gallery.  In far too many places in Mel’s estimation.  Brian’s assets were just as popular now as they were when he was the legendary stud of Liberty Ave.

Lindsay patted Brian’s arm.  She had grown used to seeing Brian purposefully remaining out of Justin’s spotlight.

“You’re a good man,” Lindsay murmured as she pecked his cheek.

“Shhh, don’t let anyone know,” Brian snarked.

“Oh, we won’t,” Mel snapped back as she took Lindsay’s hand to lead her out into the main gallery.  “With any luck, Gui will get bored and leave.”

Brian nodded then took a sip of champagne as he faded back into his corner.





“Hey, Short Stuff.  So what do you think?” Gus asked his sister.  He waved his hand in the air indicating the exhibit.  Gus, Ray, and Shane were standing in the back portion of the gallery observing the visitors, noting the sales, and discussing their next moves.

“I think it’s perfect,” Bree exclaimed.

“Really?” Gus asked.  He knew Bree not only had an artistic eye but she had cut her teeth in the advertising world thanks to their dad.

“Really!”  Bree threw her arms around Gus’ waist, her face smiling up at him.  He couldn’t help lifting her up into his arms.  They excused themselves as Bree in Gus’ arms toured the gallery.

“I heard you playing before; I didn’t realize how good you’ve gotten,” Gus praised his sister as they stood in front of the first large painting Justin ever created.  It was tagged as “Artist’s Private Collection.”  Justin rarely displayed it; however, Lindsay asked him to allow it to be shown.  Justin hesitated but eventually acquiesced.  It was Bree who convinced her father to include it in the show.  She found it interesting.

“I’ve been practising a lot more and I’m taking a music class in school,” Bree explained.

“It shows,” Gus praised her as they wandered the gallery.

“What’s wrong?” Bree asked.  Gus had yet to put her down.  “You’re carrying me like when I was little,” Bree whispered.  Gus leaned down to rub noses.

“You know something, Short Stuff, you are little,” Gus said making Bree giggle.  But she stared at him with big violet blue eyes that were filled with concern.  Gus put Bree down onto a settee that was positioned in front of the painting.  As he joined her on the settee, Gus looked up at the huge painting that Justin had done when Gus was maybe two or three.

“Spill,” Bree commanded with authority.


“You heard me, spill!  Something’s going on with you and I want to know what it is,” Bree demanded.

“You sound just like Pop.”

“He’s my Dada too,” said Bree.

“Don’t I know it,” Gus said trying to stall.  Bree gave him the Kinney death glare.  Gus raised his hands in surrender.  “Okay, okay.  Honestly, I don’t know where to go from here.”

“I don’t understand.”

“How do I top this?  The merger, this show.  Even if nothing else sells, we’re in the black.  As for Kinnetik Rose, I think Rose will work closely with Isles for a while until they get used to how we do business.”

“Okay.  But I still don’t see...”

“What should I do next?”

“Nothing,” Bree stated.


“Yes, nothing.  You don’t have to do anything.  Dada figures you and Ray will take some time off.”

“We’ve discussed it.  We kind of thought we’d stay here for a week.”

“Or two,” Bree suggested.  “You look tired, big brother,” Bree said as she gently patted Gus’ face.

“Or two,” Gus agreed.

 “You deserve it.  You both did an amazing job.”

“You think so?”

“I know so.  I asked Dada if I could read the contract.”

“Are you kidding me?”

“Nope,” Bree said, shaking her head.  “I really wish I could’ve been a part of it.”

“Maybe you still can be.”

“Really?!  How?”  Bree’s eyes appeared to get bigger with her excitement.

As Gus and Bree leaned in close, discussing strategy, Pierre walked over.  He watched the siblings, as different as day and night, deep in conversation.  He cleared his throat.

“Mr. Bellerose,” Gus said as he stood to greet Kinnetik’s newest partner.  Pierre waved him down as he sat next to them.

“You two look like you’re plotting something,” Pierre said with a mischievous smile.



The siblings responded as one.  Gus gave Bree the Kinney eyebrow while Bree shot a death glare back to Gus.  Pierre laughed.

“I couldn’t believe two such dissimilar people could be related, brother and sister, no less, but the proof, as they say is in the pudding.  I understand les pères are different but same mère, perhaps?”

“No, Lindsay Peterson is Gus’ mom.  My daddies chose a very special lady to be my surrogate mother,” Bree explained.

“Ah, the beautiful Mademoiselle Lindsay is your mother.”

“One of them.  Melanie Marcus is my other mother,” Gus proudly stated.  Pierre shook his head in confusion eliciting giggles from Bree and Gus.  “Yeah, sometimes you need a scorecard to keep all the players straight.”

“And your father’s twin?” Pierre asked.

“He’s Uncle John,” Bree began.  “John Anderson.  They look like twins but Uncle John is five years older.”  Pierre again looked perplexed.  “He’s an architect and builder.”

“Same father, different mothers,” Gus clarified.

“I think I will just stick to the advertising business before I become more confused,” Pierre stated as he scratched his head.  Gus and Bree giggled again.  “So, mes amis, how do we keep up the momentum?”

Gus smiled as he nodded to Bree.  Bree began her pitch.

“I’m so glad you asked,” Bree stated suddenly transformed into Briana Victoria Kinney-Taylor, daughter to Brian Kinney, sister to Gus Kinney, and advertising genius.  

Gus sat back and listened to Bree outline their idea of contacting other small galleries throughout Paris and surrounding towns to hold their own Justin Taylor exhibits but instead of each gallery showing a sampling of each of Justin’s themes, each gallery would show only one theme.  So if the gallery was known to exhibit paintings of the impressionist movement then Justin’s impressionistic works would go there.  To the galleries known for their classical display, Justin’s Old Masters would go.

Pierre was astonished.

“This is not just another pretty face!  No, no, we have our own Renaissance woman in our midst!  She is an art expert, plays the piano like a virtuoso, and understands the advertising business, impossible!” Pierre declared as he stood, waving his hands in the air.  Gus pulled Bree in for a hug as he bussed her head.  Bree smiled and blushed from the attention.

“So I guess you like our ideas,” Gus stated, not asked.  He was back in adman mode. Pierre recognised the signs.

“Yes, I do.  They will do more than increase the popularity of Justin Taylor in Europe.  They will also help to revitalize these galleries and surrounding areas.  These days where everything you want you can find online, some things are meant to be experienced in person.  Ne-c'est-pas?”

Gus and Bree nodded.

“Then shall we meet tomorrow for brunch to discuss this further?  My wife is probably wondering what has happened to me.  Let us enjoy the rest of the evening,” Pierre suggested as he wandered off muttering “impossible.”

“I guess you wowed him,” said Gus.

We wowed him.  It really is a great idea, isn’t it?”

“I think it’s a fabulous idea but let’s go find Pop and run it by him,” Gus suggested.  Bree agreed as they went to consult their father in his little corner not knowing they had been watched.

“So baby Gus is all grown up and just as arrogant as his father,” Gui cursed.  “We’ll see about that.”




As the night was winding down, Lindsay, Charles, and Simone were discussing the first night success and the agenda for the next few days.  A tall man with a handsomely rugged face and black salt and pepper hair approached.

“Charles Higgins, as I live and breathe.  So this is what it takes for you to leave the safety of London!” the man said getting their attention.

“Sam?” asked Lindsay with disbelief.

“Sam,” Charles growled as he looked back and forth from Lindsay to Sam.

“Sam Auerbach!  What an honor,” Simone declared.

“Yes it is, isn’t it,” Sam replied with a smug grin.

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