Kinney Bros. Inc.
It was well into February of 2027 when brothers Brian and John got their act together and actually began purchasing land. The Village lots were easy, the city was very happy to sell to the newly formed company, Kinney Bros. Inc. With most of the Village Restoration Project now complete and inhabited, the current administration could strut with pride. It was when the Kinney brothers started buying other lots around town that city hall got a little nervous. The brothers had no problem acquiring privately owned lots that were long since vacant eyesores. The owners practically gave away the land. But the city needed a little more convincing, so Brian, John, and Jennifer worked up a plan of attack and made an appointment.
“Will you stop playing with your tie,” Brian hissed at John.
Brian, used to dressing to impress, was calmly sitting, reviewing his “pitch.” Jennifer, always prepared for the hard sell, was stunning in her power suit and armed with the current real estate facts and figures. John, on the other hand, was a little nervous.
“It’s too tight,” John growled back.
“Then take it off,” Brian sneered. “They know who you are; you didn’t have to wear a suit.”
“I can wear a suit if I want to,” John replied like a petulant school boy.
“Boys!” Jennifer snapped. She rolled her eyes then asked the ceiling for guidance. “I’ve known toddlers with more patience than the two of you. Brian, stop picking on John. John, just loosen the tie, open the top button of your shirt and you’ll be fine. Now, can you please act like the gentlemen I know you can be? I’ve dealt with Gregory Roth for many years. He’s very reasonable as long as you’re calm and present him with facts,” Jennifer counseled.
“I am calm,” John whispered as he loosened his tie and undid the top button.
“Sure you are,” Brian snarked.
“I’m warning you,” Jennifer said using her annoyed mommy voice before John could respond. Thankfully, Mr. Roth’s assistant approached and ushered them into his office.
“Jennifer, so nice to see you,” Mr. Roth said as she led the brothers into Gregory’s office.
“It’s good to see you too. I hope you enjoyed your holidays,” Jenn said, making small talk.
“Yes, I did. It’s wonderful to have a house full of grandchildren and it’s equally as wonderful when they go home,” Roth stated with a laugh.
Jennifer smiled. “Gregory Roth, allow me to introduce Brian Kinney and his brother John Anderson,” Jennifer said.
“Mr. Kinney, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you. Your reputation precedes you,” Roth said. Brian arched a brow. “Your successful businesses and charitable contributions are well known. We’ve almost met several times,” Roth continued making Brian curious. “At the Bloom Gallery. I’ve had the pleasure of representing the city at several of Mr. Taylor’s openings.”
Brian smiled. “Please call me Brian,” Brian said as he extended his hand. “Mr. Kinney was my father,” Brian said doing his best to keep the growl out of his voice. “John Anderson, my brother. It’s his construction company that will be doing the hard work.”
“Keeping it all in the family, I see,” Roth commented.
“We are a close family,” said Brian. “Anderson Construction has a sterling reputation,” he reminded Roth. John glanced at his brother; he saw the businessman at work in all his shark-like glory.
“John Anderson,” John inserted as he extended his hand. Roth readily shook it.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you as well. The Village project has been a great success, totally revitalizing that part of town as well as adding to the city’s revenue. Your work on restoring that beautiful theater and the bowling alley, remarkable. I remember going bowling with my dad as a kid. It’s wonderful to bring back such simple family pleasures,” said Roth as he went back to his desk. He gestured to the chairs in front of him.
“Well, Jennifer, so what have you brought me today?” Roth asked.
As Jennifer and the Kinney brothers laid out their real estate plans, across town plans of another sort were developing.
“Hey, Blondie, long time no see,” Hunter announced as plopped himself down next to Justin at the counter of the Liberty Diner.
“What do you want?” He and Hunter had a long standing and silly feud over Brian’s affections.
“A loaded cheeseburger with the works,” Hunter replied after glancing at the menu.
“Make it two,” Justin added as the waitress took their orders.
“What are you doing here? Slumming or preparing for an opening. You haven’t had one in a while.”
“Yeah, it’s hard to paint when you’re in a coma,” Justin snarked.
“About that. I wanted to see you but…”
“I know. The doctor had strict rules about who could visit. Besides, Brian was doing his mother hen act.”
“You okay now?”
“Yeah. But you won’t see me in a new restaurant for a while,” Justin replied. The Liberty Diner was a safe haven. Lacy and the cook were very careful regarding their ingredients. Hunter nodded with understanding.
“Seriously, are you planning a show?” Hunter asked.
“Thinking about it. Like you said, it has been a while. Brian and John have been spending a lot of time in the city lately. I thought I’d tag along. I spent most of the morning at the gallery. Lindsay’s anxious to do another show. Sam Auerbach has a few new pieces. Lindsay wants me to contribute too,” Justin said blandly.
“So, what’s wrong? Afraid of the competition?” Hunter teased.
Justin glared. “Hardly! Sam usually does these massive abstracts. I like my stuff a little more down to earth.”
“Not the Blondie I remember, but maybe you’re just getting old.”
“Thanks. You’re not that much younger than me.”
“Yes, but I will always be younger than you.”
Their battle was temporarily put on hold when their food arrived. It required their full attention.
“Maybe I can help with your project or maybe you can help with mine,” Hunter ventured.
“What’s it about?” Justin asked as he swiveled around toward Hunter.
“I have a few kids that show a lot of talent but lack confidence. I take them to the gallery whenever I can. Lindsay’s been great, but they don’t always relate to her. These are street kids, some with very shitty pasts.”
“I’m not a street kid.”
“Yeah, but you still look twelve, you come across as unintimidating, even though you’re a famous artiste, and you had a shitty past. By the way, when are you going to cut your hair? That Meg Ryan look is getting old.”
“Brian likes it long,” Justin said while grinning smugly. Hunter snorted. “So, are you thinking of a collaboration between me and your kids?” Justin asked after a while.
“Yes, if possible, we might have a few budding new artists in the making.”
“Where’s the best place to meet them, at the center or the gallery?”
“Probably the gallery. We have a no bullying policy but …”
“I get it. Brian’s in meetings all day. He’s going to pick me up at the gallery. I’m going back there after lunch. Why don’t you bring the kids over in about an hour? Take them towards the side gallery; it’s called the fractal room.”
“That sounds new.”
“It is. Lindsay recently expanded. She put the fractal film in a room all on its own. It’s a small theater that doubles as a studio. John installed huge skylights so it gets a lot of natural light. There are easels and plenty of supplies.”
“Is there a fee to use the room or the supplies? The center’s funds are limited.”
“No, I, um, we …”
“You fund the supplies, don’t you?” Hunter asked. Justin blushed and Hunter gave him a little shove. “You and Brian just can’t help yourselves, can you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Rumor has it that Brian’s going into the affordable housing business. He bought up the remaining vacant lots in the Village. And he, your mom, and John have been seen around town sizing up some of the nastier lots. Gordon’s been creating crews. There may be several homes going up at the same time.”
“Wow. Who told you this?” Justin knew the plans but didn’t think they were out there for public consumption.
“I have my spies. Besides, John and Gordon employ a lot of my graduates,” Hunter said proudly.
“You’ve done a wonderful job, Hunterman,” said Justin, sincere with his praise. It was Hunter’s turn to blush.
Justin got up off the stool and donned his coat. “Lunch is on me. Give me an hour to set up the room and clear things with Lindsay,” Justin said as he slapped the money on the counter to cover lunch.
“Thanks, Justin, I mean it,” Hunter said. Justin said it all with one of his smiles. “Brian never knew what hit him,” Hunter mumbled to himself as he turned to finish his lunch.
“Sure, he did,” Brian said as he slipped onto a stool then stole a fry off of Hunter’s plate.
“Jeez, Brian, wear a bell,” Hunter said as he gasped. “You just missed blondie.”
“No, I didn’t. We had a brief moment outside before he scurried his magnificent ass back to the gallery.”
“What are you doing here?”
“Having lunch with John and Jennifer. We just had a meeting with city hall; we got the go ahead to start building. Join us. I have a proposal to make.”
“Does your proposal include soft sheets and leather handcuffs?” Hunter asked with a waggle of his eyebrows.
“Not if my life depended on it,” Brian replied as he took Hunter’s plate and led him to their table.
“It’s almost seven,” Jacqueline said with a curious look on her face.
“They’ll be here.”
“Um, before they get here, we’re not saying anything about us getting married, right?” JR asked.
“That’s what we agreed.”
“I’m finding it harder and harder to keep it a secret,” JR admitted. “I’m so happy and I want other people to be happy with us.”
“Other people, like your father?”
“He will be happy for us,” JR averred, “I hope.”
“No guarantees on that front,” Jacqueline said as she finished placing the napkins on the table.
“Maybe he’ll surprise us this time.”
“Yeah … maybe.
The buzzer indicated that someone was seeking entry. Jacqueline pushed the button to admit them once she knew who it was.
“See,” said JR, “I told you they’d be here.”
“Just a bit late,” Jacqueline retorted.
JR gave her a snort in response. She took the chicken out of the oven to allow it to sit for a few minutes before they had dinner.
“Hey, guys,” JR greeted their guests when Jacqueline let them in.
After hugs were exchanged, they all took a seat with a glass of wine.
“This is a nice place,” Gus observed. “Are you two sure you want to move?”
“No beating around the bush with you,” Jacqueline stated.
“He gets that from his dad,” JR commented.
“Just one of my many wonderful qualities,” Gus said with a laugh.
“You are so full of shit,” Jacqueline said with a laugh of her own.
“Another of my many qualities,” Gus retorted.
“Hey, you two, knock it off,” Ray warned.
Jacqueline and Gus stared at each other for a couple of beats and then burst out laughing.
“I like sparring with you almost as much as with your old man,” Jacqueline said.
“Take my advice and don’t call him an old man,” Gus countered.
“A mite sensitive about his age, is he? I’ll file that away for future reference.”
“You’d do well to forget about it and never mention it,” JR said. “Gus is right.”
“You know me, always a risk taker,” Jacqueline grinned.
“I think we need to find another topic of conversation,” Ray interjected.
“I did ask about you moving,” Gus reminded them.
Before Jacqueline could make another controversial statement, JR jumped in. “I really like Uncle Brian’s idea about building houses with the option to buy. We like the lot that John showed us, and if he builds the house he indicated, I think we’d love to live there.”
“Is that the royal ‘we’ or are you both really on board with the move?” Ray asked. Gus gave Ray a jab in the ribs. “What?” Ray asked. “We saw your reaction at our housewarming. It didn’t seem like you both wanted to move.”
JR and Jacqueline looked at each other for a moment.
“That was then and this is now,” Jacqueline stated.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ray asked.
“It means that we’re on the same page with regards to a new house,” JR said trying to sound definitive. “And it’s time to eat. Let’s move over to the table.”
They ate mostly in silence with some favorable comments about JR’s cooking. As they were finishing the main course, Ray leaned back in his chair.
“You know, I didn’t mean anything about questioning if you both were on the same page about buying a house,” he said contritely. “I was just wondering what made for the change in attitude.”
JR and Jacqueline glanced at each other again. Jacqueline gave her head a little shake to indicate that they shouldn’t tell their secret.
“Um, we sorted out a few things,” JR said succinctly.
“I’m glad to hear that,” Gus chimed in.
“How are you guys doing in your new home?” Jacqueline asked. “Hope you’re not living up to the reputation of that place.”
“We do our best,” Gus laughed. “Seriously, we are still making the place into our place, but it’s coming along.”
“That’s good,” JR commented. “Is the work done on the new bathroom?”
“Yeah, and it looks great,” Ray said. “John really knows how to design things.”
“He did a wonderful job with all the cottages on the lane, and we do love his design for that house we are probably going to be living in,” JR added.
“I have to give it to John for design,” Jacqueline agreed. “He has a real knack.”
“What can I say, I come from a very talented family,” Gus joked.
“And what is your talent, big brother?” JR retorted.
“Didn’t we go over that earlier?” Gus asked with a grin.
“Let’s not go through that again,” Jacqueline said heading off a possible confrontation, even if it was in jest. “We have coffee and dessert. Let’s move to the living room and have it in there.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Gus agreed.
“Did you conjure up an extravagant dessert, JR?” Ray asked.
“I’m responsible for dessert, I’ll have you know,” Jacqueline retorted.
“That doesn’t sound like a vote of confidence, Ray,” Jacqueline stated.
“You don’t have any confidence in my dessert skills? I’m shocked.”
Jacqueline glared at Ray.
“Okay, okay, you two,” Gus said in a placating voice. “Which bakery did you get it from?”
JR cracked up as she brought in mugs of coffee. “Somebody’s got your number,” she chuckled.
“Some of Emmett’s best pastries,” Jacqueline said as she came from the kitchen with a plate full of pastries.
“Oh, yum,” Ray gushed.
“You have the worst sweet tooth of anyone I ever met,” Gus chided.
“I believe that’s the best sweet tooth,” Ray countered.
“Whatever,” JR interjected. “Choose your poison,” she ordered as she passed the plate of goodies around.
There were many moans and yums and smiles as the treats were devoured.
“I am officially stuffed,” Gus said trying not to belch. “Everything was delicious.”
“Sure was,” Ray agreed. “I’ll never doubt your dessert prowess again,” he added looking at Jacqueline.
“Thanks, it’s about time you realized what I’m good at.”
They all laughed and enjoyed the end of the evening.
When the boys were donning their coats and getting ready to leave, JR felt she needed to say something. “I’m really glad this dinner finally came together,” she said sincerely.
“I have to apologize for not making it happen sooner, sis. It’s been a bit overwhelming getting used to everything at Kinnetik and with the construction in the loft…”
“We understand,” JR said looking at her partner.
“Yeah, totally understand,” Jacqueline parroted.
“We’d like to return the invitation and have you come for dinner sometime soon,” Gus said.
“We’d like that. It’s nice to catch up, and I’m so glad you will be nearby now,” JR said as she gave her brother a big hug. “Come here, you,” she said to Ray as she hugged him too.
Jacqueline shared much less enthusiastic hugs with both men before they left.
“That was nice,” JR said as she collapsed onto the couch.
“Should we clean up?” Jacqueline asked looking at the pots and pans and dishes waiting to be washed.
“There’s some wine left,” JR said picking up a bottle from the coffee table. “Grab our glasses from the table. We can worry about cleaning up later or maybe tomorrow or … maybe never.”
“Never is not an option,” Jacqueline laughed as she poured the last of the wine into their glasses.
“To a really nice evening at home,” JR said as she clinked her glass with Jacqueline’s.
“It was nice.”
“I’m glad you agree,” JR said with a smile.
“Do you want to entertain in our house … when we get it?”
“I’m not great at making small talk.”
“You did just fine tonight,” JR assured her.
“Only because I had you to help me.”
“That’s because we make a perfect pair.”
“You think so?” Jacqueline asked scrunching up her nose.
“I love you, you know.”
“I do know,” JR said. “And I really do think it’s time to tell everyone about us getting married. We need to start planning … if you’re ready?”
“I believe I am.”
“Really?” JR squealed as she kissed her lover.
“Really,” Jacqueline responded with a grin.
“We’ll have to tell my Dad first,” JR said.
Jacqueline groaned. "I was afraid you were going to say that."
“Yeah,” JR replied with a nod. This was something they just couldn’t blurt out. It had to be planned with some finesse. “What if we wait until the house is built?”
“Hold on, now you want to wait?”
“Only until our house is built and we move in. This way we can plan a party and then we can announce our engagement!”
“I was afraid you were going to say that,” Jacqueline mumbled as she shook her head.
JR was all smiles as she nodded
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