North to the Max
“I’m going to miss you,” Bree whispered as she gave Patrick a strong hug. Bree could feel her Patrick nod his head as she sniffled into his chest. “You’re going to be gone by the time we come home,” said Bree.
“Not for long,” Patrick declared. “Your dads said they’re going to do the Labor Day barbecue. I’m coming back for it. I’ll see you then.”
“Promise?” Bree asked as she looked up into the hazel eyes they were so like her Dada.
“I promise,” said Patrick. “You couldn’t keep me away,” he said with a big smile.
“Okay,” Bree said as she hugged her best friend, cousin, and whatever else Patrick and Bree were to each other, hard.
“Bree, we have to get to the gate,” Gus said gently. Gus, Ray, and Bree were flying to Toronto out of Pittsburgh. The boys had already returned to the loft after their holiday on the lane. Brian and Justin had planned to take Bree to the airport where they’d meet up with Gus and Ray. Patrick had asked his uncles if he could go with them to see Bree off. He would be on his way to Penn State in a couple of weeks.
Hugs and kisses were exchanged all around before Bree, Gus, and Ray passed through the security gates.
“Take care of her, Sonny Boy,” Brian said into Gus’ ear.
“I will, Pop. Don’t worry, we’ll keep an eye on her,” Gus assured his dad.
“Baby Girl, behave yourself,” Justin said with a little smile.
“Oh Daddy, of course I will,” Bree said with a huff and a roll of her eyes.
“Come here, Squirt,” Brian said. “You’re there to listen, learn, and contribute when it makes sense. You and your brother complement each other’s styles and ways of thinking. But don’t push, you’ll know when it’s right in here and in here,” Brian said as he gave Bree a little poke to her head and then to her heart. “I have confidence in you.”
“Okay Dada, I won’t let you down. I love you,” Bree said as she gave Brian a hug.
“Love you too, Squirt.”
Kinnetik’s dynamic duo along with their youngest ad exec, stepped through the gates toward their new adventure in Canada.
“Do you think she’ll be okay?” Justin asked as he, Brian and Patrick headed back to the parking garage.
“She’s a very capable young lady,” Brian affirmed, trying not to convey his own misgivings to his partner.
“But that doesn’t mean she’ll be okay,” Justin reminded him.
“You two should stop worrying,” Patrick interjected. “If anyone can hold her own in any situation, it’s Bree. And, she has two very capable people looking out for her.”
“True,” Brian said looking quizzically at Patrick. “So you have no worries about this trip she’s taking?” he asked.
Patrick felt himself blushing. “Maybe just a little,” he muttered.
Brian couldn’t help but smile. “Well, thanks for the advice, and Toronto is just a plane ride away, if for any reason Bree needs us,” Brian said carefully.
“Um, if something did happen, I’d be happy to go with you,” Patrick replied.
“Is that right?” Brian asked with a little smirk. “I’m sure Bree would be happy to know that.”
“Oh, she doesn’t need to know I said that, because, likely, probably, certainly she won’t need anybody’s help,” Patrick managed to get out.
Brian smiled and nudged Justin as they arrived at the Jeep. Patrick quickly got into the back seat hoping this conversation would be forgotten by the time they got back to the lane.
Bree and her handlers walked onto the plane and looked for their seats. Brian had purchased the tickets and placed his precious family in first class. Bree and Gus were seated together, with Ray across the aisle.
“This isn’t right,” Bree declared. “You and Ray should be together. I can sit by myself.”
“No way, sis, I’m right here to take care of you,” Gus stated.
“Gus,” Bree said tapping her foot and giving him her form of the Kinney glare. “I don’t need to be taken care of. I can look after myself.”
“Is there a problem?” the flight attendant asked. “You’re holding up the people behind you.”
“We have the wrong seats,” Bree said authoritatively. “I should be over here and these two should be together,” she said pointing to the seats in the arrangement she wanted.
“I’m sorry, miss,” the flight attendant said gently, “but that should have been worked out when you checked in.”
“I guess we didn’t notice.”
“Well…” the flight attendant began, not knowing what to say. She glanced apprehensively at the line of people behind this insistent young woman. They did not look happy.
“Would it be okay if I changed the seats to the way we want them?” Bree asked batting her violet eyes.
The flight attendant sighed and gave in, nodding her head. She would clear the seat change before they took off. “Please take your … chosen seats so we can finish loading the plane.”
Bree looked at Gus who gave her a wink and they all sat down in the seats the way Bree had wanted them.
“She’s a force of nature,” Gus said with a chuckle.
“Yeah, I wouldn’t want to be the one who crosses her,” Ray affirmed.
“How do you think she’ll handle this new experience without Pop and Justin around to back her up?”
“If the way she handled the flight attendant is any indication, I’d say she’ll be just fine.”
“I hope so,” Gus whispered softly.
“Are you worried about her?” Ray asked with a frown.
“Not so much about her, but my dad will kill me if everything doesn’t go well. Nobody hurts his little girl.”
“Gus, Bree will be just fine and so will we.”
“We?” Gus asked.
“If your father is going to kill you, I’ll be going down with you,” Ray said with a grin.
“You are the best!” Gus took Ray’s hand and squeezed it as the plane pulled back from the gate.
Across the aisle Bree watched her brother and his partner and smiled to herself.
“They seem happy,” the distinguished looking gentleman in the seat next to her observed.
“That’s my brother and his partner,” Bree informed him. She turned toward the man sizing him up. He had gray hair and a well kept mustache. He looked like he took care of himself physically and moneywise. He had a handsome face for someone that old, but Bree liked him immediately.
“Are they a couple?” the man asked.
“Yes,” Bree replied at she studied the man’s face looking for possible disapproval. She knew Gus and Ray and even her dads still ran into that on occasion. She didn’t detect any signs of prejudice. He seemed like a nice man.
“So, are you travelling to Toronto today?” he asked.
“Yes, but I think everyone on this plane is going to Toronto,” Bree stated.
“You have me there,” the man said with a chuckle. “But what I was really asking was if you were going on to someplace else in Canada. Toronto is a hub for lots of other flights.”
“Oh,” Bree said. “I didn’t realize that.”
The pilot announced that they were next to take off. The flight attendant came by to check that everything was in order then took her seat at the front. The plane had a nice smooth takeoff and Bree glanced over to see her brother watching her. She gave him a thumbs up and a smile. Gus smiled back.
As the plane leveled off after a few minutes, the man next to her asked, “Is this your first trip to Toronto?”
“Really? When were you last there?”
Bree thought about that. “It’s been quite a while,” she finally said.
“Are you visiting family?”
“No, I’m going there to work.”
“Work?” the man asked raising an eyebrow. “But aren’t you a little young to be travelling for work?”
“I bet you think I’m too young to be working at all.”
“Well, that did occur to me.”
“My father owns Kinnetik advertising. The first time I went to Toronto was with him.”
“Hm, I believe I’ve heard of Kinnetik. Isn’t the branch in Toronto called Kinnetik North?”
“That’s right,” Bree replied, proud that the family business was known by this stranger.
“Are you working for Kinnetik then?”
“It seems to me that there must be a story behind that answer. Care to share?”
Bree smiled. “I’m happy to share,” she said as she remembered fondly that as a youngster she had been proud of sharing with others. “The first time I came to Toronto was with my dada, and we went to a company that was considering hiring Kinnetik. They gave us a tour of their plant and I noticed that if they color coded their products, it would be easier to organize, identify, sell and ship the orders. I suggested that. The owner really liked that idea. He has used it ever since and his business has grown. He really appreciated my suggestion, so he asks me to be part of the negotiations when he renews his contract with Kinnetik. He’s a really nice man.”
“And a smart one to take your suggestion and run with it.”
“I guess so,” Bree agreed with a charming smile.
“So, the young men across the aisle…?”
“The one by the window is my brother Gus and the other one is Ray, his partner.”
“And do they work for Kinnetik?”
“Yes, Gus has run Kinnetik North for a couple of years and Ray is a lawyer who works on contracts for Kinnetik.”
“A real family affair,” the man observed with a smile.
“Do you have family?”
“My wife and I never had children. And … my wife died a couple of years ago. I’m pretty much on my own.”
“That’s too bad. You must miss her.”
“I do … immensely.”
Bree was quiet for some time, then she asked, “Are you a businessman?”
“Is that what I look like?” the gentleman asked.
“I’ve been trying to decide,” Bree admitted. “You could be a professor. You seem so informed and on top of things, but I don’t think professors usually travel in first class.”
The man chuckled. “Interesting observation. You’re probably right about that, but I’m glad you think I could be a professor. I like that idea.”
“So, if you’re not a professor, you must be a businessman.”
“That would be correct.”
“What sort of business?”
“Are you trying to drum up another account for Kinnetik North?”
“Maybe,” Bree admitted. “It never hurts to put it out there.”
“I suppose that’s true,” the man said with a smile. “May I ask your name?”
“I don’t usually give out that information to strangers, so you better tell me your name first.”
“And then we won’t be strangers anymore?” Bree nodded. “My name is Arthur Dunhill,” he said reaching into his pocket. He pulled out a small case, clicked it open and pulled out a business card. He handed it to Bree.
“Arthur Dunhill,” Bree read from the card. “Fine furniture and decorating. That’s what you do?”
“Not so much anymore. I have three furniture stores in the Toronto area, and I have decorators who work out of each store to help people make the best choices for their furnishings, if they need help,” Arthur explained. “I’m pretty much in the background these days.”
“Semi-retired. The stores are well run and look after themselves.”
Bree tucked Arthur’s card into her pocketbook. “I don’t have a business card yet,” Bree said.
“That’s okay. I’m sure it won’t be long before you do. Maybe you should ask your brother to have one made for you then you could give it to me in case I’m ever in need of an advertising company.”
“I’m sure Gus has a card if you want it.”
“Maybe later,” Arthur said enjoying his conversation with this precocious young woman. He could see her taking over the Kinnetik company some day.
“Don’t you have an advertising company that you work with?” Bree asked.
“No, we’ve always advertised in the local papers and sometimes we send out flyers when we have a sale.”
“I bet we could increase your sales if you worked with Kinnetik.”
Arthur chuckled. “You really are a proponent of your company.”
“I … I’ll consider it,” Arthur said after a moment. He looked thoughtfully at Bree wondering how someone so young could be so informed and confident.
“We’d be happy to chat with you and come up with some proposals if you really are interested. I’m not trying to push you into anything.”
“Thank you for that,” Arthur said. “I will think about it.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes. Bree wanted to give Arthur time to think about what she had proposed. She didn’t want to come on too strong since she had just met this man.
“Am I still considered a stranger?” Arthur asked after a bit.
“You still haven’t told me your name, and I was wondering if you still thought of me as a stranger and wouldn’t want to tell me.”
“No, I like you, Mr. Dunhill. My name is Briana Victoria Kinney-Taylor, but everybody calls me Bree.”
“Well, Bree, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” Arthur extended his hand and they shook.
Gus and Ray watched from across the aisle. They couldn’t help but wonder what Bree was getting herself into and why she was shaking hands with a stranger.
“What do you think that’s all about?” Ray asked.
“I have no idea,” Gus said. “I hope she knows what she’s doing.”
“She usually does.”
“Maybe I need to have a serious talk with her about strangers,” Gus said with a frown.
“Good luck with that.”
“What do you mean?”
“What do you think Bree is going to say when you have that serious talk?”
“That she’s not a baby and she knows what she’s doing,” Gus muttered.
“What am I supposed to do?”
“Pray that she really does know what she’s doing,” Ray advised.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please make sure your seatbelts are fastened. We are beginning our descent into Toronto,” a voice said over the intercom.
“Looks like we’re about to find out what’s going to happen,” Gus said as he checked his seatbelt and glanced over to make sure that Bree was doing the same.
As soon as the seatbelt light turned off, Bree was out of her seat and by Gus’ side. “Give me a business card,” Bree demanded.
“What?” Gus asked, not sure of what Bree asked of him.
“One of your business cards. Quick before that Mr. Dunhill leaves!” Gus quickly fished out a card from his wallet. Bree snatched it out of Gus’ hand then scurried across the aisle before Dunhill had the chance to deplane.
“Mr. Dunhill,” Bree called out; Dunhill turned around to face the petite young woman. “It was very nice to meet you and if you ever want to increase your sales please give us a call,” Bree said as she handed Dunhill the card.
He studied the stylish card in his hand. It was unique but not garnish. Dunhill smiled at Bree’s tenacity. “Thank you, Ms. Bree, I’ll certainly consider it. But I must warn you that we take a very conservative approach. Nothing flashy, we and our customers like it that way.”
“And we, at Kinnetik are very versatile and accommodating, Mr. Dunhill,” Bree responded. Dunhill noted the mischievous twinkle in Bree’s violet blue eyes.
“It was a pleasure meeting you; perhaps we will meet again,” Dunhill stated as he held out his hand.
“Perhaps we will,” Bree replied as she gave Mr. Dunhill a firm handshake. Not totally surprised by Bree’s strength, Dunhill chuckled as he disembarked.
“Bree!” Gus called out to her; he was getting a little impatient. “Come on!”
“Okay!” She replied. Bree retrieved her carry-on bag then got in line to leave the plane.
“What was that all about?” Gus asked his sister as they followed the line of people toward customs.
“Just networking,” Bree said with a smirk worthy of Brian.
“Okay,” said Gus with resignation then he concentrated on getting them out of the airport and to their hotel.
“How goes the alchemy?” Glen called out as he rolled himself into the greenhouse where he found Brian hunched over a planting table experimenting.
Glen and his partner Alex had arrived on the lane mid-June for their long summer holiday. They had kept to themselves, for the most part, and had recently come out of hiding.
“Hey stranger,” Brian replied, ignoring Glen’s question. “Finally come up for air?”
“Ha ha. We deserve that I supposed. Alex and I had a rough few months; we needed time to reconnect,” Glen softly admitted.
“I hear you,” Brian said. He understood how complex life could get and the necessity of taking time to make your path clear again. “Are you two making like muskrats again?”
“Never better,” Glen said with a smirk.
“Good. I’m grilling tonight; you’re more than welcome to join us. Hunter and his Dr. Nick are staying at the B&B; Emmett and Drew are here as well.”
“Interesting cast of characters. We’d love to join you. Let me know if you want us to bring something.”
“Consult the party planner, I’m sure he’ll come up with something,” Brian smirked.
“I’m sure he will. If you don’t mind me asking, what are you doing?”
“Trying to cross pollinate these two flowers,” Brian replied as he focused on what he was doing.
“If you say so,” Glen said getting a grunt in response as Brian’s focus redirected itself back to the job at hand.
“See you later,” Glen called out as he turned then wheeled himself toward the exit. He heard the faint grunt of acknowledgement from Brian.
A couple of hours later Brian finished his experiments. He tagged his flowers then made notes in his “flower journal” that he began years ago when he first started his gardens.
“Helloooo,” an oh so familiar voice called out, echoing through the greenhouse.
“In here,” Brian responded from the restroom as he washed the soil from his hands.
“Hiya honey,” Emmett said as he stuck his head into the room. “Are you finished playing in the dirt?”
“I do not play in the dirt. I gar-gar,” Brian retorted.
“Of course, you do and you do it so well.”
“I am a man of many talents.”
“Agreed. And one of those talents includes grilling the perfect steak,” Emmett teased. “It’s about that time.”
“Shit, I didn’t realize I was in here that long,” Brian said as he spied Emmett’s watch.
“No worries, honey. We all have our hobbies that make life worth living. But now it’s time to put down the hoe and crank up the grill,” Emmett firmly stated.
“Sir, yes, sir,” Brian replied. “I did work up an appetite.”
“Wonderful!” Emmett squealed.
“Do I have time for a quick shower before our usual barbecue extravaganza?”
“Take all the time you need but not that much time, the hungry hordes are amassing,” Emmett cautioned.
“Message received and understood,” Brian said as he walked the arched path that connected the greenhouse to his garden. “Warm up the grill, Honeycutt,” said Brian as he stepped through the sun porch door.
“Of course, sweetie, and don’t call me Honeycutt,” Emm shouted as he heard Brian giggle.
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