"Patrick," Bree called as she made her way into the Anderson-Morrison side of the cottages. There was no answer. Bree frowned. She was sure Patrick was home, but maybe he had gone out with one of his fathers.
"Patrick," she called again just to be sure.
"He's outside somewhere," John informed her as he came out of his bedroom. "I gave him the day off."
"He's probably practicing his pitching," Bree replied.
"I think he mentioned something about the Thinking Rock."
"Oh, is something wrong?" Bree asked with a frown.
"I don't think so, but sometimes he likes to be on his own."
"I wanted to talk to him," Bree said. "Do you think he would mind if I went to the Thinking Rock with him?"
"There's only one way to find out," John said softly.
"Thanks, Uncle John."
Bree left the cottages and headed down the path to the Thinking Rock. As she came out of the trees into the clearing, she saw Patrick lying on the big rock looking up at the clouds. Beau laid beside the rock. The big dog raised his head when he saw Bree.
Bree hesitated. She never liked to interrupt when someone was thinking. This was the special place for that.
"It's okay, Bree," Patrick said. "You can join me."
Bree giggled. "How did you know I was there?"
"Beau raised his head. He's been snoring for the last half hour, so I knew someone was there. You're the only one who really respects this space."
"No I'm not," Bree said as she hoisted herself onto the rock beside Patrick.
Patrick decided not to argue. "So, what do you want?"
"I wanted to talk to you about Peter."
"What now?" Patrick asked with a sigh.
"He's really worried about going back to school."
"Has he talked to you about it?" Bree asked.
"No, but I see how he is. He wants to have friends and get along, but he just doesn't know how to do it," Patrick explained.
"He can't seem to talk to anybody ‘cept for Jacqueline and she’s sooo old. It's like pulling teeth," Bree said. Patrick wanted to giggle at what Bree said but he knew it would get him into trouble.
"I know," was the safest answer.
"Is there anything we can do to help him?"
"There must be something," Bree persisted.
Patrick sighed again. "If he would just relax and be himself, he'd make friends. He's so uptight and silent. Nobody gets to know him as a result."
"Maybe we can spend more time with him at school."
"You mean I can spend more time with him," Patrick stated.
"Well, he's more your age than mine, and you're a boy and I'm a girl."
"That may be true, but Peter doesn't have much in common with me."
"You mean baseball?" Bree asked.
"He still has a lot to learn about baseball and ... everything else," Patrick sighed.
"Maybe you could just talk to him."
"I ... I think he ... likes me," Patrick said hesitantly.
"Of course he likes you. Everybody likes you," Bree declared.
"Not like that."
"Like what?" Bree asked with a frown. "Oh, like that!"
"Yes, like that."
"But you don't like him like that, do you?"
"No, I do not! I've made that clear to him ... without actually saying it," Patrick admitted.
"What if you told him - point blank? You know, clear the air."
"It's kind of hard to do that when I'm not sure Peter wants to admit he might be gay."
"But ... wouldn't it be better to get it all out in the open? I mean, Grandma Deb takes him to the center sometimes."
"Probably," Patrick said grudgingly. "But if he's not ready to admit it, he will really clam up. He'll be really mad at me for bringing it up."
"And that would be so different, how?" Bree snarked.
"You drive a hard bargain like your Dada," Patrick said with a grin.
"I know," Bree grinned, pleased with herself. "So, will you talk to him?"
Patrick just looked at her and didn't answer.
Patrick knocked on the door of the thatched cottage.
"Hey, Patrick, what can I do for you?" Debbie asked.
"Is Peter around?"
"Yeah, he's in his room."
"Could he come out and play?" Patrick asked with a silly grin.
Debbie cackled. "Come in and I'll ask him." She turned and yelled, "Peter, get your ass out here."
Peter quickly appeared. "What's wrong, Debbie?" he asked.
"You have a guest." Debbie indicated Patrick who stood just inside the door.
"What are you doing here?" Peter asked looking at Patrick.
"I wondered if you'd like to come out ... and go for a walk ... or something?" Patrick asked. He was beginning to wonder what the hell had possessed him to do this. He was going to kill Bree later.
"I thought you wanted him to come out and play," Debbie said with a twinkle in her eye.
"That was just a joke," Patrick said blushing. He realized how juvenile that sounded.
"Well, whatever it was, the two of you can get out of my hair. I have things to do," Debbie declared. "Shoo!" She pushed them toward the door.
As the two boys stepped outside, Patrick turned to Peter. "We don't have to do this if you don't want to," Patrick said.
"I'm sure I could decide if I want to do this, if only I knew what this is," Peter said staring into Patrick's eyes.
Patrick blinked and looked away. He gave a half-hearted chuckle. "It was Bree's idea."
"That doesn't surprise me, but what was Bree's idea?"
"That I should talk to you."
"What the fuck for?" Peter demanded.
"I told her it was pointless."
"You think I'm not worth talking to?" Peter said raising his voice. "That's what I always thought. You and Bree think I'm useless, a ... waste."
"That's not true," Patrick protested. “You had a lot to talk about with my Dad and Jacqueline,” Patrick grumbled.
"Just go away and leave me alone," Peter said turning back toward the house.
"If I thought you were a waste, I wouldn't have come here at all."
"Then why did you?"
"Bree thought we should talk. We could maybe be friends if we got a few things straight," Patrick said with special emphasis on the last word.
"So, you figured out that I'm probably gay. Good for you."
"I know you kind of ... liked me, when you first came here, but I'm definitely not gay."
"Are you sure? Everybody else on this lane is," Peter informed him.
Patrick laughed. "You do have a point." He started walking up the lane. He was pleased that Peter came with him.
"Um, how can you be so sure that you're not gay?" Peter asked.
"I just know. I don't have those kind of feelings."
"What do your dads think about that?"
"They're fine with it."
Peter shook his head. "My dad was never fine with anything I did. It was never right or never good enough."
"That must have been really hard."
"Is that why you hardly ever talk?"
Peter thought for a moment. "Yeah, that's part of it. When you always hear how you could do better or you should have acted some other way, you just stop trying to please anyone."
"And you keep everything to yourself."
"Yeah," Peter agreed. "It's easier that way."
"What do you mean?"
"You don't seem very happy, and I doubt you're looking forward to school."
Peter nodded in agreement. "I feel like running."
"Don't do that," Patrick said gently.
"Why not? Nobody will care."
"Are you shitting me?" Patrick asked. "Sorry, that was Uncle Brian talking," he giggled. "Everybody on this lane is here to help you. You've heard the offers. They all care about you, Peter. And most of all, if you ran away, Debbie would be devastated."
Peter looked at the ground. "Yeah, I don't want to hurt Debbie. She’s got a lot of faith in me, whatever that means," Peter mumbled still looking at the ground.
"I'm sick of being miserable and ... dreading everything."
"Do you realize how long we've been talking?" Patrick asked. They had been walking the whole time and had just arrived at the Thinking Rock. "You've said more in the last few minutes than in the whole time you've been on the lane."
"Do you think I'm turning into a chatterbox?" Peter asked with a shy grin.
"I wouldn't go that far."
Peter laughed. "Maybe not, but, you know somethin’, I feel a little bit better."
"Talking does have its value."
"Do you think we could talk some more in the future?"
"Definitely," Patrick declared. "Anytime you want to."
"Do you really know what you want to be when you finish school?" Peter asked as they both climbed onto the Thinking Rock.
"Pretty sure; I’ve always had the idea of working with my dad. You were an intern just like me."
"Doing what exactly?"
"I'll tell you if you tell me," Patrick said with a smile.
Peter nodded. Maybe talking was a good thing.
The next day the Kinnetik contingent met for a quiet breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant. They requested and were shown to a secluded table at the far end of the restaurant. Molly was in heaven with the variety of French pastries and rich coffee. They began to strategize their next moves.
“Do you think Mr. Bellerose will go through with the merger?” Molly asked as she nibbled on a Pain au Chocolat. “Mmm.” Molly hummed to herself as the flaky pastry with the dark chocolate in the center melted in her mouth. She glanced up only to see the boys give her a knowing smile.
“We’ve only been here for a few days; I think I’ve gained ten pounds,” Ray mentioned.
“It’s not stopping you from eating that Palmier,” Gus snarked.
“You should talk,” Ray said as he narrowed his eyes at the croissant in Gus’ hand.
“Gentlemen,” Shane quietly admonished the naughty boys who promptly went back to stuffing their faces. “I’m sure Pierre will join our little family when he’s ready.”
“Do you think that shit with Max Jacobs put him off?” Gus asked around his croissant.
“I’m sure that has something to do with it; he’s just being cautious. Once he’s talked it over with his staff, answered all their questions, and put their minds at ease. He’ll come around,” Shane assured them.
“I hope so,” Gus murmured as he gazed out the window but not really seeing anything.
“What is it Gus?” Molly asked with concern as she reached out to touch his arm.
“You know it’s a good offer,” Ray added. “Why are you worried?”
“I know it is; you did a great job on the contract. Dad thinks it’s brilliant.”
“Then why the long face, laddie?” Shane asked.
“Because I’m responsible for this deal. I don’t want to fail. I don’t want to let my dad down.”
“Oh, laddie, from what I know of your da, you could never let him down. You just do the best job that you can do; that’s all he wants,” Shane reassured the aspiring entrepreneur. “Now eat up and we’ll take a nice long stroll near the river to work off some of these calories,” said Shane as he patted his stomach. Everyone chuckled and agreed.
“I bet by the time we come back to the hotel, Mr. Bellerose will call,” Molly predicted. Ray and Shane nodded in agreement.
Gus was feeling a little more confident as he asked for the check. When he pulled out his wallet, the business card that Pierre had given him fell out onto the table. Gus picked it up then smirked.
“I know that look,” said Ray. “You want to scope out the gallery,” he stated as an observation not a question.
Shane eyed Gus suspiciously. “What’s going on in that head of yours, laddie?”
“Nothing…or maybe something. Let’s go to the gallery. We can work off our calories there.”
They caught a taxi just as they left the restaurant.
“So, ladies and gentlemen, as you can see we lose nothing but gain an influx of funds and talent. Plus they have an exchange program,” Pierre said then explained the exchange program.
Pierre had gathered together a select group of people that had been with him from the beginning to discuss the Kinnetik offer. They were all friends not just colleagues. He valued their opinion and would do nothing without their approval. Pierre passed around copies of the proposal then called a short coffee break to give everyone time to read it. After some time everyone settled down.
“What do you think?” Pierre asked.
“I don’t think Pittsburgh would tempt me,” his administrative assistant said making everyone laugh. “However, Los Angeles and New York City…I may never want to return!” The room broke out into hearty laughter as Pierre pretended to scowl and shake a finger at the woman.
“I think this is too good to be true,” the CFO spoke up. Light laughter again made its way around the table.
“I thought so too until I read through the dossier Shane McKenna gave me. He was where we are today. When he merged with Kinnetik several years ago, he said it was one of the best business decisions he ever made. Shane can’t say enough good things about it.” His friends all nodded in agreement. They all knew Shane and knew he wouldn’t have merged unless it was the best thing for his agency.
The room grew quiet as everyone became lost in their own thoughts.
“Genderless!” Someone called out, breaking the silence. Pierre nodded with a groan as he scrubbed his face with his hands.
“Shane would have never taken such a chance on a new product from a new company before joining forces with Kinnetik. I don’t think I would have either,” Pierre admitted. “And now look what has happened. The shops are constantly selling out! I know for a fact that the manufacturer has hired more people to keep up with the demand.”
“What started as an experiment has blossomed into a multi-million dollar success for all involved,” Pierre added.
“Do you think we’ll have opportunities like that?” someone asked.
“I don’t really know. We’ve been together for a very long time, my friends. I hate to think we’ve become ordinary, stuck in the mud, as they say.”
“We have hired many young ones,” his assistant, Charlotte, pointed out. Pierre smiled at her.
“Yes we have. However how many stay? Have we embraced their ideas or smothered them with ours?” The room became silent again. “I was seriously thinking of retiring. I was looking forward to spending more time at home with my wife and children until she pointed out to me how miserable I would eventually become. She also pointed out that while it would be nice to see more of me, no one is home during the day. I would become bored with my life and end up doing something stupid to make her angry!”
Pierre laughed as did his friends. They all knew Pierre’s wife who was a formidable woman in her own right.
“So, I say we take the deal, if only to save Pierre’s marriage!” Stéphane deadpanned. Everyone cheered as they all agreed. “When will you tell them?” Stéphane asked as Pierre’s associates left the conference room with strict instructions not to discuss the plans.
“We have an appointment for tomorrow,” Pierre remarked when they were alone.
“Are you sure you want to wait?” Stéphane asked.
“Yes, I’m a patient man, and if the young Kinney lives up to his father’s reputation, he will wait as well. But we must be prepared for anything,” Pierre warned.
Stéphane nodded as he too left the conference to go back to his own office. He looked back at his old friend with a smile. It has been a long time since he saw the passion in his friend’s eyes. ‘This merger would be good for us in more ways than one,’ Stéphane thought to himself.
“What are you up to Kinney?” Ray murmured to Gus as they entered the quaint art gallery.
It was like walking into an antique store. All of the paintings and sculptures were displayed in little “rooms” of their own. The larger pieces were attached to moveable walls fashioned together to create individual home-like atmospheres. Large sculptures were on pedestals. Smaller pieces were set on small tables as were paintings on their own miniature easels.
“This is amazing,” said Molly with awe.
“Aye,” agreed Shane.
“I wonder where they intend to show Justin’s stuff. Some of his pieces can take up an entire wall,” Gus mumbled to himself as he walked around the gallery.
An attractive woman wearing a classic Chanel suit, her hair done up in a chignon, walked up to Gus who was deep in thought. "Puis-je vous aider monsieur?"
Startled out of his thoughts, Gus jumped. “I’m sorry I don’t speak French,” Gus said as he gestured for Molly to join them. “I think she wanted to know if I need help,” he said to Molly.
Molly smiled prettily at the woman then asked if it was all right to look around. Molly complimented the unusual way the art work was displayed. Pleased to converse with someone with an excellent grasp of the language, the woman was about to lead Molly around the gallery.
“Do you want me to mention Justin?” Molly quickly asked Gus as cryptically as she could before walking away. Gus shook his head, no.
Alone again with his thoughts, Gus moved slowly about the gallery. For the life of him he couldn’t figure out how a Justin Taylor exhibition would fit in such a gallery. As he continued to explore Gus came across a small set of steps that led to a huge empty room. The walls were painted a stark white that almost blinded him. Gus stared at the blank walls.
“Laddie, where you be hidin’ yourself?” Shane called out.
Shane followed the voice down the steps. “Faith and begorrah!” Shane exclaimed. “Are you tryin’ to blind me, boy?” Gus couldn’t help but laugh out loud at Shane’s exaggerations. That was one of things Gus loved about the man.
“Do you see it?” Gus softly asked.
“See what, lad?”
“What I’m seein’ is an empty room that’s giving me the willies.”
Gus gave Shane a double take then shook his head.
“What are you seeing?” Shane asked as he gently draped an arm across Gus’ shoulders.
“I see these three walls draped in some sort of richly dyed heavy fabric. Justin’s larger pieces hung on that wall like puzzle pieces with his smaller pieces in the gaps but with a wide space in between. Then I see those rooms like they have out in the main gallery, some modern for Justin’s contemporary work. The others done up in the period of each Old Master hung there.”
“And what do you have in mind for that space in middle?”
“His nudes. As many as we can fit. Cram them together if need be,” Gus explained with excitement.
“Don’t you think it’s a bit busy?”
“That’s what the smaller rooms are for. They should have chairs so one can sit to contemplate the work in that particular room without the distraction of the surrounding bigger pieces. Don’t you see it?”
“I’m not sure but I have no doubt that you see it,” Shane said, giving a pat to Gus’ back. “Come along now before the owners call the Sûreté on us,” Shane advised. Gus followed quietly.
“Shane, the Bellerose can do this,” Gus said with enthusiasm.
“Are you sure about this? Pierre hasn’t done anything like this in a very long time. All of Paris will want to be a part of this. This gallery is lovely but can they handle something this large scale?”
“Exclusive showings for the hoity-toity and tickets, but priced right, for everyday folk. What good is a show if only the elite can see it? Justin has a catalog filled with moderately priced floral scenes. He doesn’t mass produce anything but he has many studies of the same flower. My Mom can send us his updated catalog.”
“You have this all worked out in your head, don’t you, lad?” Gus nodded. “And you’re prepared to give this all to Pierre whether he signs or not?”
“Yes. Even if he doesn’t become an official part of Kinnetik, he will be an arm of Isles here in Paris. Pierre seems like an honorable man. He’ll want to reciprocate; you’ll be his extension in London.”
“You’re very sure about this,” Shane stated.
“I am. See if the manager or owner is available, I’d like to talk to him.”
“Yes, now and I need Molly to help translate and I need my tablet. I want to draw this out while it’s fresh in my mind.” Gus’ hands were twitching, ready to go to work.
Within the hour Gus hand the promotion all laid out and a tentative contract for the Bellerose agency. The gallery owner was beaming as was the lovely lady who had first approached Gus. As it turned out she too was a partner in the business. It was her idea to display the art in such a unique way.
With handshakes all around to seal the deal, the Kinnetik people left the gallery.
“Come on, guys, I’m hungry,” Gus announced. “Let’s find some place to get lunch!” Gus said with a bright smile. He grabbed Ray’s hand as they quickly searched the local streets for a café.
“His little grey cells need to be recharged,” Shane whispered to Molly. She and Shane giggled as they sprinted to catch up to Gus and Ray.
“Hello, I represent the Bellerose agency, I’d like to speak with Mr. Simone to discuss a Justin Taylor exhibit,” said the man, pad and pencil in hand ready to jot down notes.
“Oh yes, did we forget anything? I’m sure the matter has all been settled,” the voice on the other end of the line stated.
The caller was momentarily stunned but recovered quickly. “Oh thank you for letting me know, we’re so pleased to hear that.”
“Mr. Kinney was delightful and so thorough. I’m sure we’ll have a long and profitable alliance.”
“I’m sure you will. Thank you. Good day.”
“Good day to you too.”
As the connection to the gallery was broken, the man snapped the pencil in his hand as he cursed.
“Damn you, Kinney.”
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