Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now!
“Brian Kinney, as I live and breathe. Fancy meeting you here!”
“Stay put,” Carl growled at Debbie through the car window in a tone that brooked no argument. She became alarmed when Carl’s hand automatically twitched, searching for the side arm he no longer carried. Carl stepped up behind Brian, placing a firm hand on his shoulder as the Kinney men flanked Brian against the interloper. Bobby, instantly figuring out what was happening, instructed Patrick to keep Bree occupied and out of the way. He then stood behind Brian next to Carl, quietly issuing advice to Brian.
“Max Jacobs, what a pleasure to meet you,” Justin purred as he pushed past the wall of Kinneys before Brian or anyone else could address Max. Smiling sweetly, Justin slowly batted his long blond lashes as he extended his hand toward Max. In the dim light of the local street lamps, Justin appeared as youthful as ever. Brian strained forward but was held back.
“You have me at a disadvantage, young man.” Max was having trouble hiding his attraction to the beautiful blond. “Have we met? We couldn’t have, I would’ve never forgotten such a lovely gentleman as yourself,” Max uttered like the snake he was, as he took Justin’s extended hand drawing him closer. Feigning flattery, Justin allowed himself to be led slightly away from the crowd.
“Dad, what the fuck is he doing?” Gus asked in a whisper with concern.
“That’s what I want to know,” said John.
“Brian, he better not be doing what I think he’s doing,” said Mel as she sidled up near Bobby.
“Shh, wait,” Brian growled, praying that his spouse did know what he was doing.
“I must apologize for being so bold. Some friends and I were recently in Europe, for silly business reasons, you know and of course your name became part of the conversation. You’re so well known, for, uh what is it you do again?” Justin played “his dumb” act to the hilt as he gave Max a coy smile. Max was smitten.
“Advertising,” Max stuttered.
“Yes, of course, advertising. But what are you doing here? In Pittsburgh of all places. Now in Milan or Rio, I can see a handsome, successful businessman like yourself, but Pittsburgh! I have family here,” Justin said in a loud whisper as he rolled his eyes. “And they insist on inviting me to these family gatherings,” Justin made air quotes. “Between you and me, I’d rather remain on my country estate. But you know how that is,” again with a bat of his lashes. Max resisted the urge to adjust himself. “So why are you in steamy Pittsburgh rather than sunning yourself on the Riviera?”
“I’ve been considering expanding my business and thought I’d look into some properties,” Max replied obtusely.
“Real estate, I’ve been told that’s always a wise investment. Well, if you insist on investing in this country when you have the whole of Europe at your feet then you should certainly be looking in Atlanta, or Chicago, oh New Orleans! Now, that’s the place for a handsome man.”
“You have a very perceptive mind for one so young.”
“I’ve been told that I’m wise beyond my years. But enough about me,” Justin said as he was slowly leading Max toward his car. “Really, Mr. Jacobs…”
“Please call me Max.”
“Oh, thank you, how kind of you,” Justin gushed, channeling Sarah Kingsley. “Well, Max, I must get back; you know how family can get. And they’re a very curious bunch. One must have some secrets,” Justin gushed some more as he opened the limo door then handed Max in. The window rolled down as the driver started the car.
“I must see you again,” Max said as he handed Justin his card. “My private number is on the back.”
“Yes, I’m sure it is,” Justin murmured to himself. “Thank you so much. When we get to the continent, I must call. And let me assure you, if you’re interested in properties, there are way better ones elsewhere than in Pittsburgh,” Justin spat out. “So, I’ve been told. Well, tootles,” Justin did his best Emmett.
“Your name,” Max called out as his driver began to pull away.
“Silly me, didn’t I say, it’s Ethan Gold,” Justin said with a saccharine smile and wave.
‘Ethan Gold,’ Max mouthed as the window rolled up.
No one moved or breathed until the limo was gone.
“He’s out of the Village,” Hunter said as he checked his phone. His Irregulars were keeping him updated.
Justin walked back to the family and found himself surrounded by a lot of confused and angry people all shouting at once. Except for Brian. Brian moved away from the noise with his arms open wide. Justin immediately went to him and was engulfed.
“Gentlemen, and lady,” Carl began. “Let’s give them a minute,” said Carl as he directed the family away. Brian turned and smiled at Carl.
“Bri, I don’t think I can get in the car right now. I need to walk this off,” Justin said as he looked toward the Village garden.
“Mind if I join you,” Brian asked. Justin nodded with a weary smile. “Let me tell John.”
“Okay,” Justin said as he slowly walked to the garden.
“What’s going on?” John demanded.
“I’ll explain later. Take everyone home,” Brian told John.
“How are you going to get home?”
“We’ll figure out something,” Brian said as Carl dangled his car keys in front of him.
“We’ll hitch a ride with Rachel and George; Peter will ride with John. You go do what you have to,” Carl said.
“You trust me with your old jalopy,” Brian teased. Carl’s car had a lot of miles on it.
“Hey, it’s a classic but it’ll get you home,” Carl assured him.
“Thanks. I’ll make breakfast in the morning and explain,” Brian promised.
“I’ll inform the masses,” Carl said as he got himself and his little family sorted out.
Brian watched the long line of cars head off before finding his spouse.
“Sunshine?” Brian called out at the garden gate. The Village garden was always shut at dusk.
“It’s open,” Justin told him. Brian carefully opened the heavy iron gate then closed it behind him. Brian found Justin sitting on a bench close to his henge.
“I thought the garden was closed at night?”
“It is but I have a key,” Justin explained.
“You’re just full of surprises, aren’t you, Sunshine?” Brian snaked his arm across Justin’s shoulders to pull him closer. When Justin was nestled just right, he leaned his head on Brian’s shoulder. “I must be getting old; it took me a minute to figure out what you were doing. You scared the bejeezus out of Gus and John. I think Mel figured it out.
“You took a big chance; it could’ve backfired,” Brian said after a while.
“I know I did but it was the first thing that popped into my head.”
“You’re lucky you still look twelve in the dark and that the ignorant fucker didn’t recognize you.”
“My man of mystery routine paid off, at least in this case it did.”
“Ian?” Brian asked then cracked up.
“Yeah, I didn’t want to give him my real name. It was the first one I could think of,” Justin said with a chuckle.
“Fortunately for you, Max doesn’t know his ass from his elbow or his artists from his fiddlers. Seriously, Justin, you took a hell of a big chance back there. Plus, half the family wants an explanation.”
“Sorry is bullshit. I know why you did it. And thank the gods it didn’t go any further than flirtation. I’d hate to see what kind of defense Mel would’ve had to come up with this time.”
“Who would she be defending, you or me?”
“Both!” they said at the same time.
“By the way, if it isn’t a state secret, just what were you two talking about?”
“I was trying to distract him.”
“It worked, apparently,” Brian snarked.
“I guess I was trying to find out why he’s so interested in Pittsburgh but he didn’t reveal any secrets. I did suggest Atlanta and Chicago. And New Orleans. That’s if he was serious about investing over here.”
“Do they know you tried to pawn them off to that asshole?” Justin shook his head no. “Did it work?”
“I guess we’ll find out on Tuesday. In the meantime, just promise me no more Kip Thomas maneuvers, okay, Sunshine?”
The boys sat for a while longer on the bench. Brian noted there were a few additions to the henge like a large wind catching metallic pinwheel and delicate windchimes that tinkled gently in the breeze.
“It’s beautiful here,” said Justin.
“Yes, it is,” Brian agreed as he kissed the top of Justin’s head. “You ready to go home?”
“In a minute. Can we walk around the garden first?”
“Your wish is my command,” Brian said gallantly as he stood and held his hand out to his spouse. “Are you okay?”
“I think I should be asking you that. Are you mad at me?”
“No, but I was scared shitless. You do have some set of balls,” Brian commented as they walked hand in hand through the small park.
The boys slowly strolled around the garden for another fifteen minutes. Brian pointed out the various plants and evergreens that were thriving. When they reached the main gate, Justin pulled out a large key.
“I always thought that was a key fob not a real key,” Brian commented. “It’s huge.”
“You always say I’m a size queen,” Justin joked as he locked the large gate. “Uh, how are we getting home?” Justin realized the street was just about devoid of cars. Brian pulled out a set of keys from his pocket. “Whose keys are they?”
“Carl’s,” Brian said with a smirk.
“I see we’re travelling in style tonight,” Justin remarked as the lovers got into Carl’s car to drive back to the lane.
Michael and Ben walked down the street from JR and Jacqueline’s new home. They had stayed to help tidy up after everyone left the party. The girls had been grateful for their help even though most of the cleanup had been done by the guests before they left. This was their new home and they wanted it to be perfect. The party had been a big success, so many people had come to congratulate them and tell them how pleased they were that the women had found their first house.
“That was a great party,” Ben said as they sauntered along.
“Not bad,” Michael replied.
“Not bad? What could possibly have been better?”
“The ending,” Michael spat out.
“Are you still fussing about the engagement? Just be happy for the girls.”
“This is my daughter we’re talking about. I don’t want JR to make a big mistake. I think she should have talked to me before they made that announcement.”
“Like Brian said, they’re adults. They can make their own decisions,” Ben advised him.
Michael shook his head. “They’ll probably plan the whole wedding without us,” he griped.
“You don’t know that.”
“Based on what they’ve done so far, it’s a pretty good guess.”
“Let’s just be happy for them. They should have the wedding they want.”
“I know, but I’d like to be part of it. She’s the only daughter I have,” Michael continued.
“I’m sure they’ll consult you,” Ben tried to reassure his husband.
“We’ll see.” Michael said with a sigh. “Where the hell did we park - Philadelphia?”
Ben chuckled. “It’s not that far. There’s our car, one more block.”
They finally settled in the car and headed for home. There was a long period of silence as both men seemed to be thinking about the future and what it held for them and their daughter.
Finally Michael broke the silence. “I can hardly believe that my little girl is going to get married.”
“Make you feel old?” Ben asked.
“Yeah, a bit. It seems like yesterday she was my little Honeybun getting ready to start school.”
“They do grow up.”
“It’s not unfortunate; it’s how life is meant to unfold.”
“And that’s why you’re known as Zen Ben,” Michael said with a smile. “I wish I could be so philosophical.”
“You can be if you decide to look at things that happen as the way they are supposed to be.”
“But what if I don’t like the way they are heading?”
Ben frowned. “Do you think I always like how life is going?” he asked.
“Seems that way.”
“Michael, that’s so far from the truth. I often hate the ways things turn out.”
“But you never say anything bad.”
“I try to see the positive even in the most difficult situations.”
“I don’t know how you do that. Some things are just plain awful.”
“True, but most of the time you can’t change them anyway, so you might as well try to see something good in what has happened.:
Michael thought about that. He had made some major changes in his life recently, and he was so happy that he and Ben had found their way back to each other. He wished he could look at life the way Ben had just described, but that wasn’t him. He couldn’t pretend to be Ben.
“Ben,” Michael began but he didn’t know how to continue.
“What is it, Michael?” Ben asked softly.
“I’m not you, you know. That optimism doesn’t come easy to me,” Michael admitted.
“I would never want or expect you to try to be me. It’s you, the way you are, that I love. I’m just saying that you could try to look for silver linings even when it seems impossible for there to be one. It gets easier with practice.”
“It does?” Michael asked skeptically.
Michael rode in silence the rest of the way to their home. He had a lot to think about. He wanted to be part of the wedding, and he needed to figure out how to make that happen.
“Wine,” said Jacqueline as she handed a glass of white to JR and dropped down on the sofa next to her.
“Thanks, I’m exhausted.”
“I don’t know what we would have done without all the help we had for the party, but I’m still wiped. Who knew entertaining was so hard?” JR asked.
“I wouldn’t know since I never entertain,” Jacqueline replied.
“Have you never had a party?”
“That was at my place? Hosted by me?” Jacqueline asked. JR nodded. “The answer to that would be an emphatic no.”
“You’ve never had a party?” JR found that hard to believe.
“I went to lots of parties, but I never invited people to my place.”
“I wasn’t interested in having people see my dysfunctional family when I was younger, and I saw no reason to have them come to my digs when I had a place of my own. It was private,” Jacqueline stated.
“What about girlfriends?” JR asked.
“Some stayed the night, but none got invited back again.”
“Except me,” JR said with a smile.
“You’re the exception to every rule I lived by. I never thought I’d be engaged, about to be married and ready to commit myself to one person for the rest of my life.” Jacqueline shook her head in disbelief at the way her life had turned around.
“Happy to be that exception,” JR said as she leaned into her partner for a sweet kiss. “Did you enjoy the party today?”
“It was … okay.”
“Considering that the house and yard were full of people I hardly know, it was great. And I could see how happy it made you, and that made me happy too.”
“You sure know how to sweet talk a girl,” JR laughed.
“I do my best,” Jacqueline declared with a grin. “I can’t believe how many people were here.”
“Just the family.”
“Who has a family of six hundred?”
JR punched Jacqueline playfully in the shoulder. “You know there weren’t six hundred people here today.”
“Just seemed like it.”
JR frowned. “You know we haven’t talked about what our wedding might look like. All of the people who were at the party will want to come to the wedding.”
Jacqueline opened her mouth to give a smart reply, but then thought better of it. “So … an intimate affair for six hundred,” she said with a smile.
“Will you stop!” JR protested with a laugh. “We do need to invite most of them.”
“And your father?”
“My father what?”
“Does he have to come?”
JR punched her lover with more ferocity this time. “My father will be walking me down the aisle, and don’t you forget it!”
“I hope Dad can let us have the wedding we want,” JR said with a sigh. “He gets his tighty-whitey’s in a twist if we don’t consult him, and what he wants is almost never what I want.”
“Let’s promise that we’ll talk to him about the wedding. He can have input, but we have the final decision.”
“Promise,” JR said.
They fist bumped to show their agreement on this point.
“To the wedding of our dreams,” JR said as they clinked wine glasses.
Return to Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now