Kinney Bros. Inc.
“Give me a few minutes,” Brian said to John as he got out of the pick-up after John slipped into a parking spot in front of the gallery. John waved at him; his phone just rang. It was Gordon and they began talking shop. Brian took a deep breath then entered the gallery.
It had been a long day between their meeting at city hall, the usual stuff at Kinnetik and launching their new venture. Brian was looking forward to going home, getting naked and having a nice family dinner. Not necessarily in that order.
Speaking about naked, as Brian entered the gallery, he came face to face with one of his nudes. Brian rolled his eyes. Not that he didn’t look good but really, near the front door!
He remembered being pleasantly surprised by this particular painting. It was at the loft years ago just after an inspiring round of sex on the leather chaise. As Brian dozed Justin, the sneaky little shit, drew Brian in all his glory. He wasn’t totally exposed, one of his thighs was strategically placed but it was enough to get the general lay of the land, so to speak. Brian was amused by the small crowd of very fashionable ladies admiring his assets. He shook his head then went about his business.
“Lindsay?” Brian murmured to one of the security guards. The guard pointed toward Lindsay’s office. Brian smiled a thank you before walking toward the office. He gently knocked before entering.
“Hi,” Lindsay said as he entered. “Justin should be in the theater,” she told Brian.
“What’s wrong?” Brian asked as he plopped himself in a chair. There was something in Lindsay’s voice that was ringing alarm bells to Brian.
“I’m not sure. It’s not unusual for Hunter to bring around some of his kids that show an interest in art but I’m concerned about one of them.”
Brian got up to close the office door.
“Ethan,” Brian said knowingly.
“You know about him,” Lindsay asked with surprise.
“Only what Hunter told me about him. He’s tall, dark, good looking, and with an attitude.”
“Sounds familiar,” Lindsay retorted with a smirk. Brian glared. “You’re not jealous, are you? Justin would never!” Lindsay was unaware of Justin’s near miss with one Henry Higgins and Brian wasn’t going to tell her.
“No, he wouldn’t,” Brian said. After a moment of reflection, Brian added, “But Justin has a soft heart. If he feels that he can help in some way, he will.”
“Which could be misinterpreted,” Lindsay supplied. That almost happened between her and Jamie. Brian nodded.
“Are the kids still here?”
“They were as of fifteen minutes ago when I checked in on them. This is our early night. We’ll be closing soon so we can shuffle some of the larger works,” Lindsay explained with a twinkle in her eyes.
“Yeah, about that,” Brian growled. “I just got an eyeful when I walked in and so did a half a dozen women!” Lindsay giggled.
“We’ll move it. It was someone’s idea of a joke but it did have some interesting results. We’ve gotten several offers for it. I’m thinking maybe a special exhibition for Pride Week this year,” Lindsay laughed. Brian was not amused. Fortunately, that painting was tagged as the artist’s private collection. It wasn’t for sale.
“Has Bree seen that one?” Brian asked with concern. She wasn’t his little girl anymore. At almost fifteen, Briana Victoria Kinney-Taylor was a young lady.
“I’m sure she has. It’s been in the gallery for years. Why?”
“So? Brian she’s seen plenty of your nudes as well as many other nudes. She’s wandered around most of the galleries in New York, London, and Paris. There are paintings and statues of the human body all over the place.” Lindsay wasn’t sure why Brian was concerned. He was never a prude, quite the opposite.
“She’s growing up,” Brian murmured. “Has she said anything to you?”
“About that painting?” Brian nodded. “Yes, she did,” Lindsay replied. Brian looked up. “I found her staring at that painting not too long ago. And I asked what did she see? I don’t know why I expected some silly teenage response. Bree is an extraordinary child. I should have known better.”
“What did she say?”
“Love. She saw the love in the way that her daddy painted it. In every brush stroke, in the way your skin glistened, in the way you looked so relaxed. Bree understood that you could only be that relaxed with someone you trusted and loved very deeply. And that her daddy could only paint it like that because of his love for you. Bree sees and feels that same love. She doesn’t see what the rest of the world sees at first.”
“One of the sexiest men alive. Bree sees the love that created her,” Lindsay simply replied.
Brian closed his eyes for a moment as Lindsay’s words sunk in. And in a few minutes, Brian was back.
“I better go get my Little Mary Sunshine before my brother freezes to death out in the truck,” Brian announced as he stood. He walked around the desk, pulled Lindsay up and placed a chaste kiss on her lips. “Love you, Wendy,” he whispered.
“Love you too, Peter,” she replied as he took his leave.
Brian slowly meandered his way through the maze of paintings and sculptures towards the newly opened theater-artist’s den. He noticed that there were several new paintings by Sam Auerbach. The old man was back on top of his game, Brian mused.
Rage still had his own special area. And he was surrounded by the newer characters that Lacy and Candy created, Brian was pleased to see. He also noted several young men hovering about. Brian surmised that they might be Hunter’s kids but he couldn’t be sure.
“Hey, Sunshine,” Brian said cheerfully as he stuck his head into the theater. “You ready to blow this popsicle stand?”
“Hey,” Justin turned, a happy smile on his face. “Give me five more minutes.” He and a couple of the boys were just about finished cleaning up their paint brushes. Brian nodded as he walked in and took a good look around. This was his first time in the theater. He sat close to the front to watch the fractal movie while he waited. Fascinated as Justin’s paintings morphed into their fractal counterparts, the time few by quickly.
“Hey,” Justin said gently as he sat down on the next chair. Brian reached out his hand to grab Justin’s.
“You ready to go home?”
“Yes I am. Where’s John?”
“Out front. He’s so caught up in our new project I don’t think he really noticed that I left the truck.”
“We better get out there before he forgets us and goes home without us,” Justin said with a grin.
“Yeah, we no longer have a city home. We’d have to get a hotel room for the night. Room service and overrated porn,” Brian waggled his eyebrows.
“No thank you, we can do that in our own bed and for much cheaper.”
“I’m not that cheap,” Brian protested.
“That’s for sure. There’s no way I can afford your next Armani collection,” Justin stated. Brian snorted. “Besides, didn’t we just buy a whole lot of land?”
“Yeah, you’re right. Okay, no spending money frivolously until we start making a profit,” Brian agreed. “However, I draw the line at my suits,” Brian insisted.
“Deal,” Justin said as he stood and stuck his hand out.
“Deal,” Brian said with amusement as they shook hands on their bargain.
“Come on, my stuff is in Lindsay’s office,” Justin said as he looked around the room to make sure everything was put away and the room was tidy. Brian draped a proprietary arm over Justin’s shoulders as they walked toward the office.
“So, you’re the hot dude in all of Justin’s paintings. I’m Ethan. Not bad for an old guy,” Ethan said with a leer.
Fortunately for Ethan, Hunter came in to take his charges back to the center. Justin quickly got his stuff, said goodbye to Lindsay and took his hot dude out of the gallery and into the pick-up.
“What’s with him?” John asked as he put the truck in gear. He saw the black cloud hovering over Brian’s head.
“Uh, he just met Ethan,” Justin softly replied.
“Great,” John said facetiously.
There was a grim silence as they drove out of the city towards home.
“Patrick, are you going to the school dance next week?” Bree asked as she batted her violet eyes at the young man.
Patrick was doing his homework at the big table in the sun porch. “Probably,” he said.
“Do you have a date?”
“Um, no, not yet. You asking me?” Patrick asked glibly.
Bree frowned and stared at him. “I’ve never asked a boy on a date,” she said forcefully.
“And how many dates have you gone on?”
“None, I know.”
“You don’t have to be so mean,” Bree warned him.
“Not being mean, just telling it like it is.”
Bree glared at Patrick before turning on her heel and stomping out of the sun porch. She headed to her bedroom where she threw herself onto her bed.
“Stupid boys!” she said to the ceiling. “Stupid Patrick!”
Bree stared up at the ceiling willing answers to come to her. Slowly an idea started to form in her mind. She wanted to go to the school dance and she wanted to go with a boy, not with Ashley as she usually did. Bree reached for her phone and hit the familiar number.
“Hi, JR, it’s Bree.”
“Hey, what’s up?”
“I wanted to ask you something. Do you have time?”
“Yeah, I was just locking up. I can chat for a bit.”
“So what’s going on?”
“There’s a dance at school next week. I really want to go,” Bree said.
“I thought you usually did go.”
“Yeah, but it’s mostly me and Ashley together…”
“And you want to go with a boy?”
“I do, and Patrick is being awful when I try to talk to him.”
“You want to go with Patrick?” JR asked with a frown.
“I’d go with him if he asked, but he won’t. He just makes fun of me, saying I’ve never had a date. I just want to go with a boy. It doesn’t have to be Patrick.”
“Okay, so what do you want to do? Do you have someone in mind?”
“What does that mean?” JR asked.
“Um, have you ever asked a boy on a date?”
“You do know I’m gay, don’t you?” JR asked with a chuckle.
“Yeah, but you dated Curtis for a long time,” Bree reminded her.
“Right you are. Curtis asked me out. I didn’t ask him.”
“I thought so,” Bree said with a heavy sigh.
“What difference does it make who asks who?” JR queried.
“I would like a boy to ask me.”
“I have to say that I’m surprised a boy hasn’t asked you out already.”
“Me too,” Bree agreed. “I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.”
“They’re probably scared to ask you.”
“You’re beautiful and smart and speak your mind. That scares a lot of boys away.”
“Boys want to feel in control, that they’re at least as smart if not smarter than girls.”
“Boys are stupid.”
JR laughed. “Most of them are, until you find the right one.”
“I don’t think that’s ever going to happen if I can’t even get one date.”
“You give up too easily.”
“I never give up,” Bree declared.
“It sounded like you just did.”
“Well, how am I supposed to get a boy to ask me to the dance?” Bree asked sounding exasperated.
“You don’t need to get a boy to ask you. You ask him.”
“You think I should?”
“Why not? You can do whatever you want.”
“Yeah, I can, can’t I?”
Bree chuckled. “I knew there was a reason I called my big sister.”
“So who is he?”
“He who?” Bree asked trying to sound innocent.
“The guy you want to go to the dance with.”
“I’ll tell you if he accepts.”
“See that you do.”
“Thanks, JR. I’m so glad I have you to talk to.”
“Anytime,” JR said before she cut the connection.
Bree stared up at the ceiling once again. She held the phone in her hand wondering if she had the nerve to call. She hadn’t talked to Ryan Cabot since his family had stayed on the lane. However, she still remembered the last day they were there, and the kiss that Ryan had planted on her. He must like her or he wouldn’t have done that. But he hadn’t called her once since he and his family went back to Pittsburgh. Bree had wanted to call Ryan, but she was worried that maybe he didn’t want anything more to do with her. He hadn’t called and she hadn’t called. It would be so much easier now if they had talked since then. Bree lifted the phone and checked the number for Ryan’s house.
“It’s now or never,” Bree said to the ceiling. She punched in the number.
“Hello,” said a female voice.
“Um, hi, Mrs. Cabot. It’s Bree Kinney-Taylor … from the lane.” There was silence on the other end of the line. Bree wondered if Mrs. Cabot didn’t remember her or the lane, or maybe she just didn’t want to talk to a relative stranger calling her house out of the blue. “Maybe you don’t remember me,” Bree added uncertainly.
“Oh, forgive me,” Stephanie said. “It did take a minute to figure out just who I was talking to. How are you?”
“I’m fine,” Bree said unable to think of a better answer.
“I have to tell you that our family enjoyed those days on the lane very much. We had a wonderful time.”
“May I ask why you’re calling?”
“Um, I was thinking about that time your family was here. I really enjoyed spending time with all of you.” ‘Especially Ryan,’ Bree thought.
“Did you have a good Christmas and New Year’s?” Stephanie asked.
“Yes, and you?”
“Bree, is there a point to your call, or are we just going to chat about nothing?” Stephanie asked.
“Sorry, I was, um, wondering if I could speak to Ryan, if he’s available and not too busy and is interested in talking to me.”
“I’m sure he’d be happy to talk to you,” Stephanie said. “Hang on and I’ll find him.”
Bree waited for what seemed like hours. She wondered if Mrs. Cabot was trying to convince Ryan to talk to her. How humiliating would that be! Maybe she should just hang up. It didn’t seem likely that Ryan wanted to talk to her when it was taking this long for him to answer. Bree had her finger on the “end” button when Ryan’s voice finally came on the line.
“Hi, Bree,” he said cheerfully.
“Oh, hi, how are you?”
“Good, how are you?”
“I’m good too.”
“It’s been a long time.”
“Yeah, I was hoping you might call me.”
“I intended to,” Ryan said. “But things were really busy over Christmas and I play hockey and there have been a lot of practices. Our team might make the playoffs.”
“That’s great,” Bree said with a sinking heart. It didn’t sound like Ryan would have time to go to a dance with her.
“What made you call me after all this time?”
Bree remembered the kiss and the dance that she wanted to ask him to, and the fact that she was losing her courage. “I, um, was thinking about you and decided to call.”
“I’m glad you did.”
“Are you?” Bree asked. That sounded a little more promising.
“Yeah, I really enjoyed the time on the lane and getting to know you.”
“Me too,” Bree said. She drew in a deep breath and decided that it was now or never. “My school is having a dance this weekend, and I, um, was wondering if you might like to go with me.”
“Wow, that sounds great, but I do have practice on Friday and Saturday,” Ryan replied.
Bree felt the smile that had developed on her face slowly slip away. “The dance is Saturday afternoon, 2-5. Is that when your practice is?”
“No, it’s actually 8 pm on Saturday. I thought your dance would be at night. I would like to go with you.”
“That would be great,” Bree gushed, the smile returning to her face.
“I’ll need to work out the details with my family.”
“I will too,” Bree said suddenly realizing that she hadn’t even asked her dads if she could do this. She had a momentary feeling of panic wondering if her fathers would put the kibosh on this whole thing. “I’ll call you tomorrow and let you know what my dads say.” She hoped she wouldn’t be telling Ryan that she had to cancel.
“Talk tomorrow,” Ryan said before he clicked off.
Bree breathed a sigh of relief, and then started to develop a plan of how to break this to her parents.
A while later the two families inhabiting the conjoined cottages were seated around the big table in the sun porch enjoying their dinner. Bree had been waiting for a good moment to bring up her plans for the dance.
“I hear there’s a dance at the school this weekend,” Bobby said out of the blue. “I can take Patrick and Bree if you guys are busy.”
“I was hoping to drive myself,” Patrick said since he had gotten his license.
“Not this time. The weather’s not going to be great,” John said definitively. John always knew what the weather would be.
“Do you have a date, Patrick?” Justin asked. “Or are you going stag?”
“Stag, I think,” Patrick admitted.
“I have a date,” Bree said. Then she held her breath waiting for the reaction.
“You do?” Patrick said with surprise.
“You do?” Justin said looking at Brian.
Bree didn’t say anything more. She just waited for all hell to break loose.
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