Gus woke up with the delicious sensation of Ray’s warm lips kissing a path from Gus’ chest and heading southward. He cracked open his eyes just as Ray lifted his lips from Gus’ treasure trail.
“Come up here,” Gus whispered.
“You want me to stop?” Ray asked, curious to know why.
“Not really but I want to talk to you first while my brain still functions,” Gus said with a smirk.
“I see. Those annoying little grey cells not yet ready to multitask?”
“Not against your distracting lips and certainly not without coffee!” Gus proclaimed.
“Like father, like son, at least where your appreciation for coffee is concerned. So what gives?” Ray asked as he laid down beside Gus.
“We did good work, yesterday.”
“You did good work, yesterday. We just hung on tight to your belt trying to keep up with how your mind works.” Gus smiled as he blushed under Ray’s praise. “But I agree, Pierre, Simone, and Charles were very impressed with the presentation.”
“Justin approves as well. But I’ll feel much better when Pierre signs the merger papers then we can go home. Paris is so beautiful but I miss New York. I miss our tiny hole of an apartment."
"I think with the commission we’ll earn after we finalize this deal, we can afford a bigger apartment. We might just be able to buy that whole building."
"Now you sound more like my dad. He bought the Tremont building because he couldn't stand the thought of a stranger living in the loft."
"My dads did the same thing. After living and working in our brownstone for so many years, they bought it. And you're right, I miss New York too," said Ray. He pecked at Gus’ lips.
"We can plan a longer stay around the time of the opening, if you'd like,” Gus suggested.
“You mean like a real vacation? I don’t think you and I have had one since that time we spent in Florida.”
“You mean spending time on the lane and running interference between Justin and Craig doesn’t count as a real vacation?” Gus asked with just a touch of sarcasm.
“I’m not dignifying that question with an answer. We’ve worked very hard this year and in a few countries. We deserve time off and I don’t think anyone would argue with that,” Ray emphatically stated.
“No argument from me either. Listen, Pop requested the opening to be scheduled around Thanksgiving, this way Bree won’t lose too much school time.”
“That’s cutting it a little close, don’t you think?”
“Not really. The Simone Gallery is well equipped to set up the additional display rooms as we discussed. Pierre’s people will handle all the PR including the VIP invitations and silent auction. He’ll have to flood Europe with ads, but I have confidence in Pierre. Charles already went over Justin’s catalog with Simone. They have a tentative inventory list of paintings, sketches, plus a few small sculptures.”
“Where have I been? When did you work all this out?” Ray sounded perplexed. Gus shrugged. “You worked on this after I fell asleep, didn’t you? Once a crazy ass adman always a crazy ass adman. You get that from your father too.”
“Like you don’t get your work ethic from your parents. I don’t see them letting up any time soon,” Gus countered.
“True,” Ray agreed. “They both love what they do and are young enough to keep on doing it for a very long time.”
Just then their stomachs announced themselves loudly. The boys looked down and laughed.
“Rain check?” Gus asked. Ray agreed but not before getting a toe curling kiss for his troubles. “You go take your shower while I order room service. I want to confirm our itinerary for the day. Then I’ll take a quick shower after we eat.”
More kisses were had before Ray headed for the bathroom while Gus made his phone calls.
“It’s good to be home, I missed this place!” Michael declared as he bolted through their front door, dropping his bags and looking around the house.
“You weren’t gone long enough to miss this place,” Ben muttered to himself as he brought in the lion’s share of their bags.
Ben was tired. Tired from the drive home, tired from lugging their bags, and tired of Michael’s callousness. Ben realized he needed to talk to someone and soon before he said anything he might live to regret. While Michael went through the house practically kissing each stick of furniture, Ben made some phone calls.
“Hi, Honey Bun!”
“Sorry, just habit I guess. I called to let you know that we’re home. I’ll be in the store tomorrow.”
“What do you mean we’re home?”
“Me and Ben. We just got here a little while ago so I’ll be ready to get back to work tomorrow morning.”
“I thought Ben was staying at the cabin so he could work on his book?”
“Things changed. He has to go back to school.”
“You don’t have to sound so happy about it. I bet Ben’s not happy to be back.”
“A lot you know, of course he’s happy to be back. We’re home. Now everything will get back to normal.”
“Normal? You’re not making any sense. You and Ben love the cabin!”
“Of course, we love the cabin but we love our house so much more. And we love the city. It’s good to back with our own people. Anyway, bye, Honey Bun, I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Sure Dad,” JR said softly as she heard her father hang up the phone.
“Who was that?” Jacqueline asked her girlfriend as she walked into the room.
“My dad. He and Ben are back in Pittsburgh.”
“I don’t think this is as simple as it sounds,” Jacqueline commented.
“No it’s not. I just hope it doesn’t get any worse,” said JR as she threw her arms around her partner.
“You’ve reached the home of Wilder and Wilder, doctors extraordinaire. Please leave a message at the tone. Boooop!”
“Glen, put your husband on the phone,” Ben growled.
“How did you know it was me and not a recording?” Glen asked as he stared at the phone.
“No one leaves personal messages like that anymore and they certainly don’t boop. Besides, how long have we known each other? You don’t spot a guy for years without learning his speech pattern.”
“Damned English professors. And I’m not sure I like being this easy to figure out.”
“Glen!” Ben shouted into the phone to bring Glen back to the here and now.
“What?” Glen shouted back.
Ben sighed. “Your husband, please,” Ben pleaded between gritted teeth.
“Oh, sure. Hang on,” Glen replied sweetly. “Alex!”
“Give me that,” Ben heard over the phone as Alex grabbed the phone out of Glen’s hand. Alex had heard Glen’s end of the conversation and put two and two together.
“Hey Ben, what can I do for you,” Alex asked gently. As he waited for a response, Alex heard Ben take a large cleansing breath then let it out. “What happened? And should we meet in person?”
“Can this wait until tomorrow?”
“I don’t think so.”
“You’re welcome to come here. I can send my nosy busybody of a spouse out on a long errand,” Alex stated, ignoring the perturbed “Hey!” in the background.
“Or, if this is that serious, I know you have the key to his majesty’s loft, we can go there. My office is a bit out of the way,” Alex suggested. “Is it that serious?”
“Yeah, I think it is,” came Ben’s response.
“Then I’ll see you in thirty,” Alex confirmed as he hung up the phone.
“Babe?” Glen addressed Alex. Alex shook his head. Among certain circles, Ben and Michael’s relationship and the circumstances surrounding their Canadian marriage were almost as legendary as Brian and Justin’s relationship. And those who knew of Ben’s HIV status were equally inspired.
“I don’t know,” Alex whispered.
Glen wheeled himself close to Alex. He locked his wheel brakes then planted his feet on the floor. Using the incredible strength in his muscular arms, Glen heaved himself out of his chair first locking the special leg braces he sometimes wore, trusting Alex wouldn’t let him fall.
“Hey,” Glen murmured as Alex wrapped his arms around Glen’s torso. They hung on to each other. “Alex, you have to help him.”
“I intend to try.”
“They’ve been together for a very long time.”
“I know. It never ceases to surprise me how two people with such divergent personalities manage to stick it out,” said Alex from the crux of Glen’s neck.
“Like us?” Glen asked with amusement as he tightened his grip.
“Just like us,” Alex confirmed with a kiss. “Now it’s time for this good little therapist to sit back down in his chair so I can go do my job.” Alex made sure Glen was lined up with his chair as he eased Glen down into it. Glen maneuvered his legs back into place on the foot pads.
Before heading out, Alex made sure Glen was secure in his chair. He grabbed his keys then walked toward the door.
“Do what you can, Babe, but ultimately it will be up to them to fix it,” Glen cautioned. He saw Alex’s silver haired head nod in affirmation. “I know you, Babe, you’ll take this personally if they can’t fix it. Don’t try to deny it. I’m right. You can’t help everyone especially if they don’t want to be helped. You’re good but you’re not that good.”
“Is this coming from the psychologist?”
“Yes, and from the man who loves you more than life itself.”
“I love you too. Now let me try to do my job.”
“Yes sir. Just come home to me with your heart still in one piece.”
“I’m planning on it,” Alex said as he left their apartment for his appointment with Ben.
“Come on, Ray, we’re going to be late,” Gus pleaded for the fifth time.
“Gus Peterson-Marcus-Kinney! Cool. Your. Jets! We have over an hour to get there and we have a car waiting for us. Besides we’re so close to their office that we can walk there. Now calm down before I use the full name again,” Ray warned.
Gus sighed as he tried to rein in his anxiety. He rechecked the contents of his briefcase for the tenth time then checked his appearance, again, in the full length mirror in their room. “I’d do me,” he mumbled to himself as he stared into the mirror. It all had to be perfect. This deal had to be perfect for several reasons. Gus really wanted his dad to be proud of him. And he wanted the exhibit to be perfect for Justin. Gus especially wanted Bree to be proud of him. Gus knew that Kinnetik wasn’t just his legacy but it was also Bree’s if she wanted it; she was born to be a part of it.
“Gus, it’s time,” Ray said gently as he stood next to Gus. Gus stared at their reflection for a few more moments before nodding. He took in a big breath then blew it out.
“Let’s go,” Gus said as he grabbed his briefcase and Ray’s hand. Together they left their room to meet Molly and Shane in the lobby.
“Another meeting?” Guillaume asked as he placed a report on Charlotte’s desk.
“Yes, the Kinnetik people are back,” Charlotte replied.
“After they stole our client?” Guillaume spat out.
“You know it was all a misunderstanding,” Charlotte assured him.
“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Guillaume grumbled with a sneer as he walked away.
Charlotte stood, picked up her pad and pen then went into the conference room to join the meeting.
“As you can see the Simone Gallery is rather quaint, however Mr. Simone assures me they can fully accommodate the amount of guests we anticipate,” Gus stated as he described exhibition plans.
“Quaint, is that a euphemism for small?” someone asked, inciting nervous laughter. Gus smiled.
“Yes, the Simone Gallery is a bit small. But no smaller than the Bloom Gallery in Pittsburgh where Justin Taylor is on permanent display. Simone has offered to make a few alterations to the interior of the gallery. He will open up the back room to make it easier for visitors to wander around,” Gus explained.
“How have you accomplished this in such a short period of time?” another trusted member of the Bellerose staff enquired. Gus gave a coy smile.
“Kinnetik prides itself on working quickly,” said Ray.
“And thoroughly,” Gus added. “This is a copy of our contract with Simone,” Gus said as he and Ray passed out copies to everyone in the room. After a few moments, Gus could feel the energy in the room begin to rise as the Bellerose people studied the paperwork.
Gus nodded at Ray who handed the merger proposal to Pierre and Stéphane. Ray stepped back to allow Pierre and his attorney time to study their proposal. Molly and Shane who were sitting at the back of the room, exchanged looks as Pierre and Stéphane spoke excitedly in rapid fire French.
“What are they sayin’, girl?” Shane whispered to Molly.
“They’re impressed,” Molly replied.
“Are they ready to sign?” Shane asked.
“Yes, I think so. Look, Pierre is about to speak.”
“Mesdames et messieurs, my friends, as you know I’ve been contemplating retiring from this business. I felt lost, no longer taking pleasure in the simplest aspects of our business. Then along came what I thought was going to be the opportunity to reinvigorate my interest in our business. Fortunately a trusted friend and friendly competitor warned me of the potential dangers in forming that association. Thank you, Shane, for preventing a disastrous alliance.
“Now, our good friend Shane has brought us a new proposition, a new opportunity to breathe life into our business. Stéphane, a pen please.” Stéphane handed his friend and colleague a pen. “I hold in my hand what I believe will be a very long and rewarding partnership.”
Pierre held up the pen in one hand and the merger contract in the other. He scanned the faces of his most trusted associates looking for any signs of an objection. Seeing none, Pierre placed the contract on the table, turned to the correct page then signed his name. Stéphane quickly opened bottles of one of the best French champagnes and passed around the glasses.
“My friends, raise your glass to the new Kinnetik Rose!”
“Kinnetik Rose!” everyone repeated as they toasted the new venture.
Gus reached out for Ray’s hand; finding it, he gave it a squeeze of relief.
“Thank you for meeting me here,” Ben said as he unlocked the front door to the Tremont building. He had waited outside for Alex to arrive so that they could go inside together.
“Not a problem, but you do realize that everyone in this building knows the two of us,” Alex reminded Ben as he followed him into the elevator.
“I have nothing to hide. If anyone asks I’ll tell them the truth. We all need guidance every once in a while. When I do, I go to the best, and that’s you,” Ben stated as the elevator squeaked its way to the fourth floor then stopped.
“Should we have called him?” Alex asked as Ben fished the key from his pocket.
“Already done. He’s given me his blessings and my own alarm code for as long as we need it.”
“As much as it may pain him if he heard us talking about him this way, Brian Kinney is a good man,” Alex proclaimed.
“Yes, he is and an even better friend,” Ben stated as he rolled back the heavy door, entered in his code then showed Alex into the loft.
“Hey, Sonny Boy.”
“Did I wake you?”
“Naaa, I had to get up to answer the phone.”
“Ba ump bump!”
“Don’t quit your day job, Shecky. So to what do I owe this honor?”
“We did it, Pop! Kinnetik Rose is a reality.”
“Way to go, Sonny Boy! I’m so proud of you.”
“I have to admit, I was a little worried but then I thought WWBKD.”
“What the fuck is WWBKD?”
“What would Brian Kinney do?” Gus giggled, practically seeing his father roll his eyes.
“Say good night, Gus.”
“Good night, Gus.”
“You did good, Sonny Boy. I look forward to reading your report.”
“Thanks, Pop, you’ll get it in the morning.”
Brian cut the connection then tossed his phone into the drawer of his nightstand. He was sporting a very proud papa grin as he turned off the light and snuggled down next to Justin.
“Is Gus okay?” a sleepy Justin asked.
“Very okay,” Brian murmured into Justin’s ear, gently nibbling the tender skin. “He closed the deal.”
“Mmm hmm.” Brian’s warm breath had a certain desired affect on a specific part of Justin’s anatomy.
“Does that mean they’ll be coming home soon?”
“Yes,” Brian whispered as he drew Justin closer.
“Yes it is. I think this calls for a celebration,” Brian decided.
“No time like the present,” Brian stated as he rolled on top of Justin, capturing his lips.
“You have the best ideas,” were the last words spoken that night.
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