Kinney Bros. Inc.
It was the beginning of Spring break and Bree had a lot to think about. The weather was still a little cool on the lane. A March wind was desperately trying to hold onto winter but the April sun was warm. Wearing a jacket, Bree made her way to the thinking rock by the stream. On silent paws, “Papa” Beau accompanied her. He was soon to be twelve and while still the master of the lane, Young Beau was now in charge of patrolling the lane and surrounding land with his mama Lady Lucie. Beau kept a close eye on the lane and his two-legged “pack”.
The big dog chose a sunny spot near the great rock to lay down while Bree climbed up to think. She quietly sat for a long time gazing at the winter melt swollen stream. Just as Beau started to doze, Bree began talking.
“What am I going to do, Beau?” Bree questioned out loud. “The Liberty Air presentation is this week; the dance is this Saturday and it’s also my birthday. I like Ryan a lot but sometimes I wish… And I’m really worried about the Liberty ad, and I still don’t know if I want to go to the stupid dance,” Bree rambled.
“What am I going to do?” Bree asked again.
Beau hefted himself up, shook off the dust then stood up on his hind legs in front of Bree with his huge front paws leaning on the rock. Large wise and soulful brown eyes gazed into Bree’s uncertain violet blue ones. Beau snorted, cocked his head then stood with all four paws on the ground staring up at Bree. He gave a huff of a bark.
“You’re right, Beau. I need to talk to Dada,” Bree announced as she jumped down from the rock. “You’re always right,” Bree stated as she gave the big wolf-like dog a strong hug. Beau withstood the hug with dignity. He knew he was right too.
“Come on, Beau, let’s go home,” Bree said as she took off toward the conjoined cottages. Beau, still having a lot of life in him, sprinted after her, cheerfully barking his encouragement.
“Dada?” Bree called out as she entered the sun porch. She quickly took off her jacket and threw it on a chair.
“Up here!” Brian replied. Justin had gone into the city with John leaving Brian home working and in charge of the kids. Bree climbed the circular staircase leading to Brian’s home office while Beau took a good drink of water and then made himself comfortable on his pillow.
“Have a seat,” Brian said as he gestured to the chair in front of his desk; his eyes never left his computer screen. Bree stood still at the door.
Sensing something wasn’t quite right, Brian looked up. Recognizing a worried Taylor when he saw one, Brian saved the outline he was working on then put his computer in sleep mode.
“Come here, Squirt,” Brian gently said as he held out his arms. Bree went to him and sat on his lap.
“I’m getting too old to be sitting on your lap,” Bree said with a huff.
“You’ll never be too old to sit on my lap,” Brian declared. “You could be sixty-four and still be able to sit on my lap.”
“When I’m sixty-four, you’ll be…” Bree began with a smirk on her face.
“Let’s not go there, young lady,” Brian said sternly with a twinkle in his eyes. Brian felt Bree relax a little as they both giggled. “What’s wrong, Squirt?”
Bree just shrugged her dainty but strong shoulders. Brian gently pushed her back so that he could see her eyes. Her Taylor eyes told him everything.
“You’re worried about the Liberty Air presentation,” Brian stated. Bree nodded. “Don’t be. You wowed them in Paris and you were only nine when you came up with fabulous ideas for Waldon up in Canada. This will be a piece of cake. Liberty’s PR guy is aware of your involvement; this won’t be a shock when you sit in at the meeting. Gus will do most of the talking. And if it helps, you can sit next to Cynthia. You know she runs everything,” Brian whispered to her.
Bree smiled brightly. Cynthia knew just as much as her Dada when it came to advertising.
“What else?” Brian asked. Bree looked down at her hands in her lap. Brian took one petite hand into his. Bree was fascinated with Brian’s long fingers.
“The dance?” Brian asked knowingly. “First, when it comes to dancing, you are your father’s child. Your Daddy can still shake his booty better than anyone I know. So, this can’t be about your dancing skills.”
Brian lifted Bree’s chin with a finger.
“This is about Ryan… or not. Is this about a certain prince who’s being an asshole? I get it Squirt,” Brian said as he hugged her close. “You have to understand that us guys mature a lot slower than you women. Except for your father, of course. You’ll just have to be patient and one day your prince will get it.”
“Did you mature slowly?” Bree asked in all seriousness.
“I’ll let you in on a little secret; I’m still a work in progress. It’s your father who keeps me in line. Without him, I’d be a mess. Now here’s the plan, we’ll go into the city with John on Wednesday. Your daddy will be at the gallery most of the day. John will drop us off at Kinnetik. Our appointment with Liberty Air is at eleven so we have plenty of time to review the boards and the pitch. After we close the deal, we’ll meet your father at the diner or the bistro for lunch.”
“Can Gus and Ray come with us?”
“Of course.” That made Bree feel better. “Where do we meet up with Ryan?”
“Mrs. Cabot is going to drop off Ryan and Joe at the gallery later in the afternoon. They’ll hang out there with your dad until we all go back home with John. It’ll be a tight fit but John is driving us in his monster SUV in the morning.
“The boys will be staying with us on the lane for a few days. They’ll share Gus’ room. On Saturday we’ll take everyone to the dance then when it’s over we’ll come home for a while until we’re ready to go to the city for a birthday dinner at Papaganos. The lane family will follow us to the restaurant. I’ve invited JR and the family. How does that sound to you?”
Bree smiled brightly. She felt so much better when she had a plan to work from.
“Briana, how serious are you about Ryan?”
Bree knew that she had to answer truthfully. “I like him a lot but that’s it. I thought I liked him more but we’re only friends.”
“Make sure you’re honest with him,” Brian advised.
“I am, Dada, I promise. We’ve been talking ever since he said yes to coming to the dance with me. He says I scare him. What does that mean?”
Brian chuckled. “That’s because you’re so smart.” Bree grinned. “And you can run circles around anyone when you’re playing soccer!”
“Oh,” Bree said.
“If you’re still uncertain about any of this, we can talk any time. Okay?”
“Okay, Dada,” Bree said feeling so much better than when she first entered his office.
Brian lifted Bree’s wrist pretending to check the time on her non-existing watch.
“Go find Patrick. Debbie’s making lunch for us today and I’ve been warned that we better not be late,” Brian stated with a look of horror on his face. Bree laughed.
“Oh Dada, you don’t have to worry about Grandma Debbie. I’ll protect you,” Bree said with a grin.
“I’m counting on it, Squirt. Go get Patrick while I make myself presentable.”
“Okay, Dada,” Bree said as she gave Brian a peck on the cheek before sliding off his lap. “Oh, Paaa-trick!” Bree called out loudly as she ran down the steps.
Brian picked up his cell phone and hit “1” as he walked out of his office, down the stairs, and to his bedroom.
“Nothing. Just had a heart to heart with your daughter and needed to hear your voice.”
“What’s she worried about?”
“The pitch, the dance, Ryan.”
“That’s a lot for a little girl to worry about.”
“Yes, for most little girls it can be overwhelming but not our little girl who will be fifteen soon. Who gave her permission to grow up?”
“Not me! She okay now?”
“I laid out the facts for her; I think she’ll be all right.” Brian glanced at the clock in their bedroom. “I gotta go Sunshine. Deb’s making lunch and we were summoned.”
“Go, before she sends out the cavalry.” Justin laughed. “We can talk to Bree together when I get home.”
“Love you, Sunshine.”
“Hi, Uncle John!”
“Hey, little lady, how are you?” John gave JR a kiss on the cheek. “What do you think?” John pointed at JR’s house with his coffee. They were standing near the food truck.
“I think it’s beautiful! I love the front door and all the windows. The wraparound porch looks great! Will it be finished soon?”
“We’re on schedule for the beginning of May. The city inspectors should be here today. Once they give us their approval, we can put up the sheet rock,” John explained.
“Is that why there aren’t any walls inside yet?”
“Yup. The inspectors have to be able to see the pipes and wires and stuff like that. Then we don’t have to tear down any walls to make any corrections.”
“So, unless something major happens, you can celebrate the Memorial Day weekend in your new home!”
“I was hoping for that. Do you think we can host the family barbeque this year? I know Uncle Brian likes doing it but…”
“Not a problem,” John assured her.
“I bet he already knew that would happen,” JR said. John nodded.
“He’s not just another pretty face, you know. He’s a very smart guy when he wants to be,” John teased. They both laughed.
“Who’s going to live in the other house?” JR pointed to a similar style house but it had two stories plus a large attic. It sort of reminded JR of her father’s cabin but without the logs.
“One of Hunter’s grads is married and has children. He and his wife are doing quite well and were looking for their first house. I’ve met them; you will have very nice neighbors.”
“That sounds good,” said JR with a faraway tone.
“What’s wrong?” John asked. He noticed JR playing with her ring finger; something was obviously missing. “JR, have you and Jacqueline made another important commitment?” John asked in a roundabout way.
“And this house is a part of that commitment,” John stated rather than asked. JR nodded again. John carefully drew JR into his arms. “I won’t tell anyone unless you give me permission. Your house will be ready when you’re ready to make your announcement to the family. Does Michael know?”
“No, he doesn’t. And I’m not ready to tell him. He was so upset when we passed up that house on his street that I can’t even think about what he’ll do when he finds out. I haven’t told Mama yet either. You’re the only one who’s figured it out.”
“Your secret’s safe with me. Now I have to get back to work. If I’m not mistaken that’s the inspectors’ car pulling up. I’ll call you later. Oh, did Brian tell you about Bree’s dinner Saturday night?”
“Yes, he did. We’ll be there,” JR said with a smile, grateful for the change of subject. “I’m dying to find out how the dance goes.”
“Aren’t we all? I think my son made a foolish mistake and we’re all paying for it,” John stated as he waved goodbye then walked toward the new house to meet with the inspectors.
“So, this is the big day,” John remarked. The “menfolk” of the cottage were all crowded together in Brian and Justin’s kitchen patiently waiting for coffee, tea, and Bree.
“Where’s Brian?” Bobby asked as he buttered a muffin.
“In there, helping,” Justin stated with a roll of his eyes, pointing in the general direction of Bree’s room with his mug of tea.
“Helping with what?” Patrick asked with the impatience of a teenage boy who simply did not understand teenage girls. With his head in the refrigerator, Patrick was more interested in whatever leftovers there were to be eaten than anything else. At seventeen, Patrick was almost at his full Kinney height. Still gangly, he needed more muscle; he was all arms and legs.
“Precisely,” Justin muttered.
John and Bobby could only pat Justin on the back, lend him their support, and be ever grateful that they had a boy.
Justin sighed. “Bree thought she had the perfect outfit picked out for today but then when she put it on, she said it didn’t feel right. Whatever that means,” Justin said with exasperation.
The menfolk shook their heads; they had no clue either.
“And then there’s her hair!” Justin put down his mug before he could spill it. “I just don’t understand how he has the patience for all this! He barely has the patience for me,” Justin pronounced with his hands in the air.
Before anyone could or would offer an opinion, they heard Bree’s door open.
“Gentlemen,” Brian greeted. He looked professional as well as gorgeous in his charcoal grey, pinstriped suit with a deep wine colored shirt with matching tie. He stepped aside to allow Bree to enter the kitchen.
Bree wore a simple navy blue suit with a creamy off white blouse, pantyhose, and kitten heels. Her hair was up in a loose chignon; her crystal “B” hair pin, proudly displayed. The same navy blue that looked so good on Justin, worked just as well for Bree.
Justin approached then gave his daughter a hug. “Baby girl, not only do you look beautiful but you look like a woman who knows her own mind. You’ll be brilliant today, I just know it,” he whispered to her.
“Thank you, Daddy,” Bree said with her sunniest smile.
“Okay troops, time to get moving,” Brian announced. Everyone grabbed their respective briefcases, folders, messenger bags, and what not then followed Brian out toward John’s SUV.
“Let me know how it goes,” Bobby called out to them before he left for work. Several hands waved at him and Patrick as John drove down the lane toward the gate.
“Good morning, Alfred,” Brian said as he breezed by Alvin.
“Good morning, sir and it’s Alvin,” he stated. Brian kept on walking.
“Dada!” Bree called out sharply. Brian turned then arched a brow. Bree nodded her head towards Alvin. Brian narrowed his eyes for a moment before making the introductions.
“Ms. Briana Victoria Kinney-Taylor, this is Alvin, our receptionist. And a very fine one he is at that,” Brian complimented the young man. “Alvin, this is my daughter, Ms. Kinney-Taylor. Make sure you treat her right.”
“Yes, sir. Of course. Ms. Kinney-Taylor, may I bring you anything?”
“No, thank you. Dada promised me breakfast,” Bree commented. She had studied the campaign again during the car ride into the city. Bree knew the ad word for word and felt a lot calmer.
Before Brian could comment on breakfast, Bree saw Gus heading their way with Ray right behind him.
“Gus!” Bree called out.
“Hey, Short Stuff, look at you with your navy power suit. Looking good, baby sis,” Gus rambled as he hugged Bree.
“Hi Ray,” Bree said. Ray also gave Bree a hug.
“You look perfect,” said Ray.
“Of course, she does,” both Kinney men stated.
“Pop, I’ll take her into the kitchen,” Gus said. Although, brother and sister talked frequently, Gus hadn’t seen her since his house warming party. They had things to discuss. Brian took Bree’s coat before heading to his office.
Brian started his coffeemaker before sitting down at his computer. A few minutes later Cynthia walked in.
“Anything I need to know?” Brian asked.
“No, everything’s right on schedule,” Cynthia replied. “Bree looks wonderful. Your input I see.”
Brian shrugged. “She has her father’s complexion. I know what works on him. It’s not that far of a stretch for Bree.”
“True. Brian, she’s grown up before our eyes. They both have,” Cynthia said meaning Gus. “They work so well together but they each have their own unique approach.”
“They’ll make us obsolete soon,” Brian said.
“I still have a few more years left in me. I’m not going out without a fight. And neither are you. You’re the heart and soul of this place and don’t you forget it.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Brian replied.
The coffeemaker sputtered a bit, indicating the brewing was complete. Cynthia poured out a cup for Brian, doctored it up the way he liked it then placed it on his desk.
“The small conference room is ready. Emmett’s minions will set up some carefully chosen treats and beverages for our guests. I’ll introduce Gus and Ray then leave it to Gus to present. I’ll have Bree sit next to me and you can make your grand entrance whenever you’re ready,” Cynthia said with a smirk.
Brian nodded. “And Theodore?”
“He’ll be there,” Cynthia assured him. “The ads are good, Brian. Real good. We shouldn’t have any problems. But we’ve made contingency plans just in case,” Cynthia quickly added. She knew Brian took nothing for granted.
Brian slowly sipped his first cup for the day.
“Yes. Anything good out there,” Brian pointed towards the kitchen with his mug.
“It’s all good. I’ll see what I can conjure up that will meet your specifications,” Cynthia teased as she left the commander to his work.
It was just after one in the afternoon when Brian, Bree, Gus, Ray, Cynthia, and Ted all walked into the Liberty Diner. Justin had taken over the large booth in the back, waiting. Lacy cheerfully greeted the Kinnetik group and was prepared to take their orders.
Bree and Brian squished Justin between them, each giving him a kiss on the cheek. Everyone was all smiles.
“I take it your meeting went well this morning,” Justin casually stated as he studied the menu.
“Yes!” everyone announced.
“All signed, sealed, and delivered,” Brian proudly pronounced. “The team of Bree, Gus, and Ray rule the day!” Everyone lifted their water glasses to toast the heroes of Kinnetik.
“Justin, you should have seen them,” Ted gushed. “I thought the Liberty Air CFO was going to spew his juice when Gus walked in and gave him the arched brow. I nearly lost it when Brian made his entrance and did the same.” Ted slapped the table with enthusiasm. Everyone laughed as Brian and Gus arched their infamous eyebrows.
“They both put the drama in drama queen,” Cynthia mentioned. “Seriously, we all know Liberty Air has a very conservative approach. The original ads took that into consideration. Gus and Briana updated the ads appropriately, taking into consideration a more diverse passenger list,” Cynthia logically stated.
“Well, put,” Ted complimented. “Plus, thanks to Ray and Mel’s genius, they’ve also added a few more years onto their contracted. So, we won’t have to do this again for several years,” Ted added.
“Where is Mel?” Justin asked.
“Canada,” Ray replied. “Mr. Waldon sends his regards,” said Ray. Justin smiled.
Their celebratory chatter was interrupted when lunch arrived and they all got down to the business at hand.
“We’ll meet you later at the gallery,” Brian said to Justin outside the diner after lunch. The Kinnetik gang began walking back to the office, giving Brian and Justin a moment of privacy.
“I should be ready around 5:30,” Justin said. “Stephanie will be dropping off the boys about the same time.”
“John will pick us up then take us over,” Brian confirmed.
“Are you ready for a lane full of teenagers?”
“I’ll put them to work in the gardens. I have a long list of chores,” Brian said with an evil grin.
“I bet you do,” Justin laughed as he gave his evil spouse a kiss. “I’ll see you later.”
“Later, Sunshine,” Brian whispered as they exchanged one more loving kiss. Then Justin turned to walk away while Brian watched, admiring the view.
“Come on, Pop, time to get back to work. You can admire Justin’s assets later,” Gus stated with a knowing smile. Gus laughed as he got the eyebrow.
The Kinney men went back to work.
When Stephanie arrived later that evening to drop off the boys, the gallery was a busy hive of chaotic activity. Justin, along with Hunter’s kids, were finishing up for the day. Lindsay had chosen a couple of pieces from each boy for her new show. A huge piece from Sam Auerbach had arrived the day before and was about to be hung. Plus, the new painting that Justin had finally completed was going up as well.
“Stephanie? I’m Lindsay, do you remember me from Thanksgiving,” Lindsay said as she greeted Stephanie and the boys.
“Oh, yes. Is it always this noisy? I’ve always imagined art galleries as quiet as a library,” Stephanie stated as she and the boys looked around, trying to stay out of the way. Lindsay guided them toward a quiet and safer area to stand.
“Normally it’s much quieter than this but Sam insisted that his painting be hung today,” Lindsay said as she pointed to a blank wall that was prepped and ready to receive a Sam Auerbach creation. Sam was loudly giving the “hangers” his opinions. Lindsay rolled her eyes.
“Is he always that way?” Stephanie whispered.
“Yes, he is, but I’ve learned to rein him in. Please feel free to look around. I’ll let Justin know you’re here. He’s finishing up with his kids,” Lindsay said as she pointed toward the fractal theater.
A few minutes later Justin hurried over to greet Stephanie and her boys. “Stephanie, great timing. Brian and Bree should be here any minute and I’m almost done with Hunter’s kids,” Justin quickly stated.
“Hunter’s kids?” Stephanie asked. She and her boys followed Justin to the theater. Hunter’s kids ignored them as they were cleaning up their brushes and other art supplies to carefully stow away in the closet. Ryan and Joe took seats close to the screen to watch the fractal video. Justin kept one eye on the kids as he explained Hunter’s program and side projects.
“Hunter will be here soon to take the guys back to the center,” Justin went on to say.
“Hey Blondie!” Hunter called out. Speak of the devil. “You done with my boys?” Justin rolled his eyes as he looked toward the ceiling for guidance.
“Yes, almost done as you can see.”
Mason and James were collecting the easels.
“Who’s this?” Hunter pointed to the Cabot boys. “Are you recruiting more kids for me?”
“No, let me introduce you,” Justin said as he nudged Hunter over to introduce Stephanie and her sons to Hunter. As the introductions were made, Hunter became serious.
“Mrs. Cabot, please tell Dr. Cabot thank you. I was barely sixteen when I met Justin. He and Brian are a big part of my life. I’m very grateful to your husband for bringing Justin back to the family,” Hunter sincerely said.
Stephanie smiled as she assured him that she would let her husband know. A stunned Justin stood there in quiet shock.
“Don’t let it go to your head,” Hunter snarked at Justin. And he was back. Justin glared. “Let’s go, guys,” Hunter called out to his boys. They were all grabbing their coats and stuff when Brian and Bree arrived.
Boys being boys, a few cat whistles flew in Bree’s direction. Both Brian and Justin glared.
“Uh oh,” Hunter murmured as he corralled his boys, shutting them up, then herding them out of the gallery before Brian started bitching. “Time to go.”
“Nice suit,” Ethan commented with a lascivious grin as he brushed past Brian.
“Out!” Hunter commanded as Justin held Brian back.
Return to Kinney Bros. Inc.