Dances, Birthdays and Engagements, Oh My!
Chapter 6 - The Engagement
“Remind me again, Sunshine, how I got roped into grilling for this horde of people,” Brian griped as he stood in front of two massive barbeque grills. He was expertly flipping, rolling, and turning a variety of meats while keeping an eye on roasting vegetables and ears of corn. Justin had taken pity on his sweating spouse to bring Brian a cold beer.
“Beats the hell outta me. I think you zigged when you should of zagged when we pulled up this morning,” Justin replied with an innocent look on his face and a shrug of his shoulders.
JR and Jacqueline were hosting their first party at their new home. Most of the family were expecting an invitation to the yearly Memorial Day weekend bash, but just not from JR and Jaqc. Since John was privy to the plans, he wrangled the boys into helping. Brian, who’d do just about anything for JR, readily agreed. He just didn’t factor in a sudden heat wave and their entire crazy wittle family showing up!
Brian took a good long pull of his beer. “I’m sensing a conspiracy,” Brian growled.
“Maybe, but it’s for JR and you love her,” said Justin. Brian made a “yeah, yeah” gesture with his beer bottle before taking another swig then returning to his grills. “I think I need a bigger platter,” he mumbled. He was ready to remove the vegetables before they charred.
“Your wish is my command,” Justin replied as he scurried off then quickly returned with the proper size receptacle.
“Now I know I’ve been hoodwinked,” Brian grumbled as he began filing the chafing dish held by Justin.
“No, you haven’t.” Justin reached up to give his hard working man a kiss. “Emmett knew the girls weren’t totally prepared to host a party of this size so he came prepared with a bunch of chafing dishes and long tables. He has them set up in the car port,” Justin explained.
“When did this happen?” Brian asked as he rolled the corn.
“A little while ago. Drew and John helped,” Justin continued. “Bobby and I got volunteered as waiters and all around gofers,” Justin added with a grin. Brian smiled. Justin’s innate kindness and loving nature was highly contagious.
“I love you,” Brian whispered as he leaned down to buss Justin’s temple.
“I know,” Justin said. Their moment was cut short when Brian realized the corn was ready.
“You better get your ass moving, Sunshine. I need more dishes.”
“Ass moving as we speak,” Justin said as he scurried off again with just a little added swish for Brian’s benefit.
“I know where you sleep, Sunshine,” Brian called out.
“Looking forward to it,” Justin shouted back.
“Hey, Pop, how’s it hanging,” Gus asked as he sidled up to his dad, chafing dish in hand.
“A little to the left,” Brian snarked as he began filling said dish with hamburgers and hotdogs. “Next time your sister decides to host a party for the family, remind me to hire Emmett’s chefs and waiters.”
“You got it, Pop. I’ll be back with another package of burgers for you to cook,” Gus said as he quickly backpedaled out of his father’s considerable reach. Brian waved his spatula in a threatening manner.
“Whoa, do you have a license for that spatula?” Carl walked up with another empty dish in hand.
“I promise to go peacefully, Officer, if you get me the hell away from this grill,” Brian pleaded.
“Sorry, can’t help you there but I am here for the chicken,” Carl informed him as he held out another dish.
“Sure,” Brian said as he began piling on the chicken.
“Just as a warning, Deb’s coming soon with more chicken to be cooked,” Carl said gently.
“I’m sure she is,” Brian replied, resigned to his fate. He finished off his beer, stretched to his full height, rolled his shoulders, then bent his neck from side to side, preparing himself for another round of cooking.
“Brian, I hate to talk shop,” Teddy began.
“So don’t,” Brian groused as he began to fill Ted’s platter with perfectly grilled salmon.
“Max Jacobs is making some serious noise around the Babylon property,” Ted went on, ignoring Brian’s warning.
“I heard. Why is he trying to take over our little neck of the woods; isn’t Europe big enough for him?”
“I’ve been talking to Pierre, he thinks someone spilled the beans about our little scheme to lure away some of Max’s staff. It didn’t take much; his staff was ready to leave. They jumped at the chance. Most of them were tired of flipping houses every two years; they were ready to settle down to a permanent job,” Ted explained.
“That makes sense,” Brian agreed. “We have an appointment first thing Tuesday morning with City Hall. I’d like you to be there.”
“You got it, Boss!”
“And now you’ve got it,” Brian glanced down at the full platter in Ted’s hands.
“Right away, Boss,” Ted said as he turned then hurried off. Brian just shook his head and smiled.
“Look at all the people who came,” Jacqueline said as she came up to JR and put her arm around her partner’s shoulder.
“Why are you surprised at the turnout?” JR asked with a frown.
“Well … they’re your people, not mine.”
“They’re just people and they don’t belong to me.”
“You know what I mean. They’re your family and friends,” Jacqueline clarified. “Not mine.”
“They’re here for both of us. Everyone has said how glad they are that we have this house. They’re very happy for us.”
“Do you think they’ll be as happy when we make our big announcement?”
“Definitely,” JR said firmly.
“Except for one person.”
“I wish I knew what his reaction will be.”
“Don’t we all,” Jacqueline said, “but whatever it is, we’ll deal with it.”
“I love you,” JR whispered.
Emmett slowly walked across the lawn at JR and Jacqueline’s new house. Most people had found a chair or stool or a step on the wraparound porch. Ted was all by himself under one of the newly planted trees in the yard. The tree wasn’t very big, but it gave enough shade for a couple of chairs. Ted occupied one of the chairs, but the other one was empty. Emmett’s longtime friend looked kind of lonely.
“Hey Teddy, this is supposed to be a party,” Emmett said as he plopped down in the empty chair next to Ted.
“Is that what it’s supposed to be? I guess I missed the memo.”
“Nothing … nothing.”
“Doesn’t seem like nothing when you’re sitting here all by yourself,” Emmett observed. “Where’s Allen?”
“He’s here somewhere. He finds these get-togethers a little overwhelming.”
“Well, at least he came.”
“Of course he came,” Ted said defensively. “He comes to any events that he can. It’s just that his schedule often conflicts with these parties.”
Emmett was about to comment on how many of these ‘parties’ Allen had actually missed, but he thought better of it, biting his tongue at the last minute. “You looked like you were lost in thought when I sat down. Is something going on?”
Ted looked around. He could see Brian still grilling and John talking to Gordon who had come with his wife to take part in the celebrations. “Do you remember Max Jacobs?”
“How could I not remember him,” Emmett said with a sneer. “Number 1 creep!”
“That’s him. I was hoping never to hear that name again.”
“So, is he back in town?”
“In spades,” Ted said.
“What does that mean?”
“He’s going after Brian again, trying to take him down, or at the very least, make life difficult for Brian.”
Emmett frowned and his eyes widened. “Exactly how is he planning to do that?”
Ted looked around. Nobody was close enough to hear their conversation if he spoke quietly. “John and Brian have a plan to develop the block around Babylon. We have a meeting at City Hall on Tuesday to start the process rolling for their plan. I’ve found out that Max Jacobs is putting out feelers for the same property. He’s a vindictive son of a bitch.”
“I guess he didn’t take kindly to what Brian was able to do to his company in Europe.”
“He deserved every bit of his lack of success. His former employees are much happier with their new company.”
“But Max Jacobs certainly wasn’t happy with what happened to his company,” Emmett observed.
“Nothing he didn’t deserve.”
“Is Brian worried?”
“If he is, he would never admit it,” Ted said knowingly.
“Yeah, but Jacobs is out for revenge by the sound of it. That makes him dangerous.”
“Don’t I know it!”
“Be careful, Teddy.”
“I plan to be.”
“And look out for Brian too,” Emmett warned.
“I do, but he doesn’t always make it easy.”
“Yeah,” Emmett said before he got up to go mingle.
“Grandma,” JR said as her grandmother approached the house. Debbie had arrived earlier with a tray of lasagna as a housewarming gift.
“I hope you put that lasagna in the freezer for later,” Debbie explained. She looked at Jacqueline who nodded to indicate that she had done just that. “I thought you might like something you could warm up after a hard day at work.”
“It will be much appreciated. Love you,” JR said as she gave her grandmother a warm hug. “I’m so glad you’re here.”
“Where else would I be? This is a big step you two are taking.”
“Yeah, big step,” JR repeated as she thought about what was going to happen later.
“Is everything okay?”
“Yes, yes, of course.”
“You sounded a little worried when you said that?”
“Me … worried?”
“Yes, you worried.”
“Everything’s fine, grandma.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure,” JR said, and she hoped the words sounded more positive than she felt.
Debbie raised her eyebrows and stared at her granddaughter. She was about to press the issue, but decided that she didn’t want to ruin the party for JR. They could always talk later. “How about a tour of your new digs?” Debbie said.
“I’d love to show you the house,” JR said with relief.
“Can I come too?” Bree asked. She had been standing back waiting for her sister and Debbie to finish their conversation. Bree felt there might be something wrong too, but she wanted to see JR’s new home.
“Of course, little sis,” JR said with a smile. She tried to shake off the feeling of doom whenever she thought about their pending announcement and her father’s reaction.
They spent the next few minutes going through the small house, with Debbie and Bree oohing and aahing at every feature.
“I love it,” Bree gushed.
“Thank you,” JR said with a wide smile.
“It’s perfect for you and Jacqueline,” Debbie contributed.
“We think so,” JR agreed.
“I think you two made a great decision to get this house,” Debbie added giving her granddaughter another hug. “Now, let’s get some food. I’m starving.”
Michael and Ben walked along the street heading to JR’s new home. They were a little late arriving and had to park blocks away.
“If they had bought that house on our street, we wouldn’t have to walk five miles to see them,” Michael griped.
“It’s only a couple of blocks. We could have come earlier and got a closer parking spot,” Ben informed him.
“And if they lived on our street, we wouldn’t need a parking space at all.”
Ben sighed and kept walking. “I hope you’re going to be happy for JR and Jacqueline. This is a big step for them.”
“I know,” said Michael regretting, just a bit, his harsh words. “I want JR to be happy.”
“Then just remember that as the party goes on. This party is a celebration for JR.”
“I know. You’re right, and I’ll try to be more positive.”
“And that’s why I love you,” Ben said as he bussed Michael’s forehead.
“Love you too,” Michael stated with a big smile for his partner. He knew he needed to let his own wishes go and be happy for his daughter. If only it were easy to do that.
Brian was cleaning off one of the grills when he felt a presence behind him. He turned to find Jacqueline standing watching him.
“Not a bad job, Kinney,” she said.
“Bad job? You want to take over?”
“No thanks, you have handled the grills … adequately.”
Brian snorted. “Thanks for that glowing review.”
“I aim to please.”
“Since when?” Brian demanded.
Jacqueline laughed. “We really do appreciate you cooking all the food. It was a big help.”
“A real compliment,” Brian replied with a frown. “Now you’re scaring me.”
Jacqueline laughed again then her face sobered. “I was hoping to have a private word with you,” Jacqueline said softly.
Brian had started to work on the grill, but at the quiet sound of Jacqueline’s voice he stopped and turned to face her. “Is something wrong?” he asked with real concern showing on his face.
“I … I’m kind of worried about how this party is going to end.”
“Oh? What do you think is going to happen?”
“I know what’s going to happen. I just don’t know what the fallout will be.”
“That sounds ominous,” Brian said with a frown creasing his handsome brow. “Care to explain?”
Jacqueline looked around to make sure no one was close by. “Don’t tell anyone, but this is not just a housewarming party. It’s also an engagement party,” she said carefully.
“I could ask who’s getting engaged but I already know,” Brian said.
“John?” Brian nodded. “I want this to be full of love and joy for JR,” Jacqueline said baring her soul to this man she often battled with.
“Of course you do. We all do,” Brian said sincerely.
“But we all know how Michael can ruin that with just a few words.”
“Ah,” Brian said thoughtfully. “So, what do you want me to do? Tie him up, gag him, stuff him in the trunk of a car?”
“Could you?” Jacqueline said with a twinkle in her eye.
Brian snorted. “He might object … just a little bit. What would you realistically like me to do?”
“Could you be near him when we have the speeches at the end of the evening? Maybe even throw out a few hints about how happy JR and I are … how we’re moving into the next phase of our lives together?”
“That sounds like the speech you may be making later.”
“Could be,” Jacqueline admitted. “I guess I’m hoping you can diffuse the situation if he … erupts.”
“Erupts, that sounds like Michael.”
“Will you help?”
“Absolutely, but know that I can’t control what Michael says or does.”
“I know, but anything you can do to help will be appreciated.”
“You got it, young lady.”
“Thank you,” Jacqueline said sincerely.
“You realize that you’ll owe me.” Brian had a small smirk on his face.
Jacqueline frowned. “What do you want in exchange?” she asked with trepidation. She hadn’t forgotten from whom she was asking this favor.
“I want you and JR to have a long happy life together and enjoy everything the world has to offer.”
Jacqueline’s mouth dropped open. “That wasn’t what I was expecting,” she admitted.
“What were you expecting? That I’d want control of your company or thousands of dollars in bribes?” Brian asked with a bit of a snarl. People still thought the worst of him every now and then. As much as he had relished having people think he was an asshole in the good old days, he resented when that happened now, especially when it was someone he considered family.
“Of course not,” Jacqueline said defensively. “You don’t need anything from me. You don’t need anything from anyone.”
Brian raised an eyebrow at that statement. He knew he needed a lot of things from people, but it wasn’t money or property. It was respect and … love. “It might surprise you to know that I do need things. But, I can see you thought only the worst of me.” Brian turned back to the grill in disgust.
“I didn’t mean to insult you,” Jacqueline said. “I’m sorry that I expected something other than the kind words you spoke.”
Brian turned to face her again. “I’ll accept that, but why were you so worried about what I was going to ask you for?”
“I … I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to fulfill whatever you asked of me.”
Brian smiled just a little. “And will you?”
“Will I what?” she asked.
“Be able to fulfill my request.”
“With all my heart. I’ll do my absolute best,” Jacqueline declared with a broad smile.
“Then we have a deal.” Brian could tell she really meant what she said. He extended his hand and they shook.
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