Kinney Bros. Inc.
Out of habit, Brian was up early in the kitchen, sipping his favorite blend, and reviewing the latest contracts Gus and Ray were working on. He was dressed in only his softest sleep pants, quietly working at the counter. John hurried in with an empty travel mug and thermos.
“Mind if I…?” John asked as he pointed to the coffee pot with his mug. Brian grunted his permission. “I’m going to drain the pot,” John warned.
“No worries, I have plenty more where that came from,” Brian said.
“Of that I have no doubt. Can I assume from your lack of business attire, you’re working from home today?”
“Yes,” Brian snapped as he gingerly got up from his stool to make more coffee.
“Fast asleep in lala land. The gallery is closed today,” Brian explained. “Besides, babysitting those kids is a fulltime job,” Brian growled.
“You two still making like rabbits?”
“Yes, what’s it to you? He gives as good as he gets.”
There was an uncomfortable silence for a minute before John ventured on.
“May I make an observation without you going ape shit on me and biting my head off?” John asked. Brian nodded then closed his eyes.
Before John could speak, Brian murmured, “You’re about to tell me that I’m overreacting and that I have nothing to worry about.” John nodded. “And that I should cut him a break.” John nodded again. “You do realize that we fuck all the time. This is nothing new.”
“The intent is new,” John countered.
“If I must be analyzed, I can call the Wilders. They love picking through my brain.”
“I’m sure they do but there’s no need since you already know what’s going on up there,” John stated, pointedly looking at Brian’s head.
“We talked,” Brian admitted with a huff.
“And he understands. He is smarter than the average bottom,” Brian snarked.
“He’s smarter than the two of us combined,” John observed. “And yet he still loves you,” John teased. “Must be your wit and charms.”
“That and my nine inch…”
“I’m leaving now,” John interrupted. Before he left the cottage, John turned to his brother. “I’m serious, Brian, that man loves you like nothing I’ve ever seen. Don’t fuck it up. You keep talking to him. He’ll set you straight, no pun intended.” John smiled lovingly at Brian. Brian gave him the finger as they both laughed.
“Go to work. Send pictures,” Brian told his brother as he shooed him toward the door. As John shut the door, Brian poured himself a fresh cup of coffee.
“Is there enough for me?” said Justin as he came into the kitchen, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
“Did we wake you?”
“No, the smell of coffee did.”
“We have more than enough and if you pay the toll, I’ll even make you breakfast,” Brian said sweetly. Justin stood on tiptoe to give his spouse a kiss.
“I love you,” Justin murmured into Brian’s lips.
“Love you,” Brian replied then deepened the kiss.
“Can I take a rain check on breakfast? I think I need a little more convincing,” Justin whispered as he held out his hand. Brian took it as he was led back to their bedroom.
After a spectacular round of lovemaking, Justin rolled off Brian wearing a smug smile. Brian pulled Justin close wrapping his limbs tightly around him.
“One of our personal best,” Brian said into Justin’s ear. Justin agreed. “Do we have time before Bree goes to school?”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s Bobby’s turn,” Justin assured him.
“Okay,” Brian murmured as he tightened his hold then fell into a sated sleep.
“Is that your stomach?” Brian asked hours later as he stretched, seemingly all arms and legs.
“Nope, this time it’s yours,” Justin stated as he held out a mug of coffee and a slice of toast on a plate. Brian sat up in bed. He punched at his pillow so he could lean against it.
“I thought I was making you breakfast,” said Brian as he sipped his coffee.
“You looked so peaceful that I didn’t want to wake you. I made breakfast,” Justin said with a smile. He was carrying a large tray containing eggs, sausage, muffins, and fruit. Brian fluffed up several pillows for Justin.
“Wow, a little hungry, are we?” Brian asked. His eyes were bugging out at the sight of so much food. Brian looked down at his solitary slice of toast and pouted.
“It’s for us to share, you big goofball,” Justin stated as he rolled his eyes. Brian smiled brightly like a happy little boy which elicited another kiss from Justin.
“This is a fresh strawberry,” Brian said with awe as he examined the berry. “Where did it come from?”
“The greenhouse,” Justin replied nonchalantly, enjoying the fruits of his labor.
“When did I plant strawberries?”
“You didn’t. Emmett and our daughter did,” Justin said as he popped a small berry into his mouth.
“Where was I?”
“Working. Hovering over me when I was sick. Emmett was feeling a little helpless, so he decided on a vegetable and fruit patch. He consulted Bree and with a little help from Todd, they created a long plant table with small fruit and vegetables,” Justin explained while he sectioned an orange to share.
“Don’t tell me we have an orange tree too.”
“Nope, these come from the store. The organic section. Bree still won’t let me touch anything until she totally examines, investigates it and approves. She’s becoming very bossy.”
“Becoming? She was always bossy.”
“Yeah, I wonder where she got that from.” Justin looked up at Brian who took a sip of his coffee.
“Are we okay?” Justin asked after a while.
“I’m being an asshole.”
“Yes, you are, but you’re my asshole. And I know where it’s coming from so don’t worry about it. But I have to be honest with you, I’m not totally comfortable with Ethan. He pushes a lot of my buttons. Mainly because he’s so belligerent.”
“Has he come on to you?”
“No,” Justin vehemently stated as he shook his head. “I’m not sure if he’s really gay; not that it matters. He’s been hurt. Badly by someone. Hunter told me he’s in group therapy. And he’s gotten a lot better.”
“This is better?” Brian only had a few run-ins with the kid and they were a few too many. “You’re right about him pushing buttons.”
“Just don’t get into a fight with him. Especially at the gallery. Lindsay would be devastated not to mention angry.”
“I promise. When I get the feeling I want to deck him, I’ll leave.”
“Thank you,” Justin said before he loudly belched. Their plates were practically empty.
“Whoa, that came from the heart.” Brian laughed. “Let me take this stuff back to the kitchen while you take a shower. I have a few more contracts to look over,” said Brian as he took all their dishes and utensils out of their room.
Twenty minutes later a squeaky clean, fully dressed Justin came back into the kitchen. “Your turn,” he said.
“Look at this first,” Brian said as he moved his laptop around to show Justin.
“What am I looking at?”
“They broke ground on JR’s house.”
“Nope. John just sent these. It’s really happening,” Brian said proudly.
“You need to save these on a disc or a thumb drive or something. Chronicle these pictures and if possible, take pictures of the new homeowners. This is important. When someone in city hall wants to try to cut the budget for programs like Hunter’s, show them what his kids have accomplished. We can create a separate album for Hunter,” Justin said with enthusiasm.
“You got it, Sunshine,” Brian said as he pecked Justin’s nose. “Now I really need a shower,” Brian said as he left Justin scrolling through more pictures.
Just as Brian stepped out of the bathroom, his cell phone rang.
“Hey, big bro.”
“Did you see them?”
“Yes, I did. So did Justin. He’s planning an album for Hunter.”
“I was thinking the same. We can be proud of ourselves for this.”
“Yeah,” Brian said softly.
“Too many emotions?”
“Something like that.”
“You old softy,” John teased.
“Not old and never soft.”
“TMI. Hanging up now. We’ll show the family tonight when I get home.”
“Sounds good to me. Later.”
“Hi, Bree,” JR said as she answered her phone. “How’s the dating going?”
“It’s going okay.”
“Better than okay.”
“Are you going to tell me what progress you’ve made, or do I have to beat it out of you?” JR said.
Bree giggled. “Ryan Cabot is going to the dance with me.”
“Atta girl!” JR crowed. “Isn’t Ryan the son of that doctor who helped Uncle Justin?”
“They spent Thanksgiving on the lane with you guys. Is that where you two got interested in each other?”
“He kissed me before he left the lane,” Bree said proudly.
“Hey, you didn’t tell me that before.”
“It was quick, right before he left. At first I wondered if I had just dreamed it.”
“But it did happen.”
“Yes, and he agreed to go to the dance.”
“I’m glad it all worked out for you,” JR said.
“And it’s all thanks to you.”
“I’ll take the thanks for my advice, but you had to do the hard part to make it happen. I’m glad it worked out. Nothing worse than bad advice. Have you got everything you need for your date?”
“What do I need?” Bree asked with a frown.
“Logistics. How are you getting to the dance? How is Ryan getting there? Are your dads arranging everything?”
“Um, I kind of forgot to get permission from my fathers.”
“Well, I…um…I didn’t want them bugging me about it and I didn’t know if Ryan would go with me, and if he didn’t then nobody needed to know, so I called Ryan before I talked to them.”
“Thanks, I think. Anyway, when Ryan said he would come to the dance I was so happy. Then at dinner Patrick was bragging about playing the field at the dance. He said he didn’t need a date, implying he could have any girl he wanted.”
“He probably could,” JR threw in. “He’s a good looking guy and an athlete as well.”
“Yeah, and he knows it too.”
“So what did you do, Bree?”
“I blurted out that I had a date for the dance.”
“And how did Patrick take that piece of information?” JR chuckled.
“Forget Patrick! My dads went crazy. They wanted to know who I had a date with and how this had happened without them knowing. And how could I presume to make such an arrangement without informing them?”
“Have you enjoyed spending time locked in your room?” JR teased.
Bree chuckled. “They didn’t go quite that far. I thought Dada might have a stroke for a minute, but then he recovered … gradually. Daddy took it better. He wanted to know all the details, but we hadn’t worked out all the details yet. I think he’s going to call Ryan’s mom.”
“Probably best to let them work it out.”
“Yeah, I guess,” Bree agreed.
“So the drama is over.”
“What are you going to wear?”
“To the dance, you dodo!”
“I … I hadn’t thought about it.”
“Well you should. You do really need more female companionship, you know.”
“I have Aunty Emm,” Bree replied with a giggle.
“Next best thing, but really, what are you going to wear?”
“What do you think I should wear?”
“What kind of dance is it?”
“A school dance.”
“Big help! Is it more like a prom or a sock hop?”
“What’s a sock hop?”
“Never mind. Is the dance formal?”
“What difference does that make?”
“It dictates the type of clothes you’re going to wear. You’ve been to school dances before.”
“Yeah, but that’s when I was a kid!”
“Like you’re so old now.”
“It’s in the afternoon.”
“Ooh, a tea dance.”
JR groaned. “You really do need to get a life.”
“I’m stuck here on the lane. What do you expect?”
“Point taken. So are you wearing jeans or a dress?”
“Um, dress I think.”
“Have you picked one?”
“Want to Facetime the choices?”
“That would be great.”
They spent the next half hour with Bree pulling dresses from her closet and JR critiquing. There were lots of comments and kibitzing and laughing. Finally they both agreed on one dress that they both thought was the best.
Bree dropped onto her bed letting a long breath escape her lips. “Who knew dating could be so exhausting.”
“This is just the beginning.”
“What do you mean?”
“Makeup, hair, accessories…”
“Stop!” Bree ordered. “Maybe I shouldn’t be going on this date at all. I’m not ready for any of this.”
“Sure you are.”
“Then why can’t I answer any of your questions. I don’t know anything,” Bree moaned.
“Sure you do. I didn’t mean to be so picky,” JR tried to apologize.
“I should call Ryan and cancel.”
“No, you should not do that.”
“But it’s probably going to be a disaster. I’ll make a fool of myself.”
“Oh, sweetie, I’m so sorry. I was trying to help you and I’ve undermined your confidence. That was the last thing I intended to do,” JR said sincerely.
“It’s okay, I should just quit before I do something stupid.”
“Bree, don’t say that. What have you done for other school dances?”
“What do you mean?”
“Did you just go and have fun and not worry about any of the stuff I mentioned?”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“Then do that this time.”
“No arguments. Forget all that crap I was telling you. You have a lovely dress to wear. Just be yourself, and don’t worry about anything else. Ryan obviously likes you a lot since he kissed you. Go to the dance and have fun. That’s all you have to do.”
“You think so?” Bree asked.
“I know so. I’m sorry I made you worry about going to the dance. You’ll be fine.”
“One hundred percent!”
“I wish I was as confident as you.”
“Be yourself and you will be fine.”
“I love you.”
“I love you back,” Bree said.
“Your date is going to be great.”
“I hope so.”
JR could have kicked herself for making Bree doubt that her date would go well. “I want to hear all about your date when it’s over.”
“Okay. Bye,” Bree said. She set the phone down wondering what she had gotten herself into.
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