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Belle Aire Estates

Cahill Court

Gardner turned to his bedmate after another rousing bout of sex. They had passed simple ‘gratitude’ hours ago, once they first reached his mansion. Lindsay had more than repaid her debt to him for greasing the right palm to get her out. “So tell me why you are really doing all of this, Lindsay.”

“Beyond a potential business arrangement?”

“Yes. I’d like to have a clearer picture of what your help is really going to cost me. As I understand it, you and Brian are friends. You share a child. I’d be really interested in knowing why do you’d want to hurt him this way.”

“To understand that I would have to take you back to the beginning of my long history with him,” she hedged.

“Well, we have time.”

“Some of it is very… private, Gardner.”

He smiled at her. “You can’t get more intimate than the way we are right now. Consider this your chance to tell me your life story from your point of view. I know what I’ve heard, but I want the truth as you’ve seen and lived it.”

Lindsay searched his eyes, noting his sincerity in really wanting to know. Making a decision to speak, she swallowed hard and laid her head on the pillow to stare up at the ceiling. “Your motives for wanting to damage Brian’s reputation are pretty straightforward, Gardner. Mine are a bit more convoluted, I suppose. When I first met him, there wasn’t a clear indication that he was into men at all. He was studious, but also popular. He was an athlete with an entourage of endless friends, or so it seemed at the time. Looking back on it now, I can honestly say that whereas they flocked to him, he was still set apart. It was what had drawn me to him. I just knew deep down that he was going to be someone worth knowing.”

“So how did you two meet?”

“For a while, I just watched him from afar. I noted the way he carried himself. Even though his clothes were technically rags by my standards, he wore them proudly, as if they were designer. He was confident to the point of being just this side of arrogant; he knew who he was, while the rest of us were just trying to figure it out. Anyway, I was dating this person, who decided to dump me in the middle of a party. I was pretty distraught, as the breakup was very loud and public. I was mortified that we had created a spectacle of ourselves so I ran out of the building in tears. It was then I, quite literally, bumped right into him. I could tell that he wanted to curse me out, but one look at my face softened his. He grabbed my arm gently and told me to come with him. He didn’t leave me much choice, but I didn’t fight him either. I wanted to know him, and that was my chance. He took me to this bar a few blocks away from campus, and before long, I found myself telling him everything from beginning to end. I don’t remember much else from that night beyond smoking my first joint in my apartment with him. But the next morning, I woke up naked with a strange sensation between my thighs- one I hadn’t felt for many years. I looked around my empty bedroom, and even though could still smell him on my sheets and body, I knew he was gone. I sought him out and found him back in his own dorm room, having sex with two men. The sight left me confused, and I’ll admit, a bit brokenhearted. I avoided him for a few days afterwards.”

“So how did a one-night stand evolve to you being considered one of his best friends?”

“He caught up to me some days later. He said that he was really concerned about how I was doing; that he’d talked to… the person who had broken up with me, and that it wasn’t me per se, but that I was hiding who I really was that they couldn’t deal with. I asked him why he didn’t stick around. He told me that he didn’t want me getting the wrong idea about a future with him. He said that we could be friends but no more than that, since I wasn’t his type. And that if I could accept that, he would help me to accept myself. So Brian and I began to spend more time together. I thought that showing him how navigate the world of WASP would get him to see my value to him and that he would realize...”

“That having you for a wife was better than having all the men as beck and pecker? Lindsay…” Gardner shook his head at her naivete. He may never have liked or understood how a man could want another man instead of firm tits and a wet snatch, but he was educated enough to know that it wasn’t a choice. “So I have to ask, how much of this for you is really about Brian, and not Justin Taylor?”

She gasped. “What do you mean? Of course it’s about Brian.”

“Glad to hear it,” he said, although he didn’t believe her for one second. “Because Lindsay, it wouldn’t do to target that young man for any reason.”

“Why? He has no power but what he gets through his association with Brian. Hell, he’s brain damaged and has no future at the moment, beyond what Brian gives him.”

“You really don’t know, do you?”

“Know what? Justin is a whore, plain and simple.”

“Be that as it may, he is also a very well-connected whore, and a well-off one at that.”

“What do you know that I don’t?”

“That if you mess with him, you aggravate two of the most powerful families with in the Country Club set. The Schickles and the Alwins. I won’t even mention that he’s close to Senator Diane Baxter. It’s better that we stick to dealing with Kinney, and leave Taylor alone.”

“I’m not seeing the connection.” Lindsay narrowed her eyes, searching her memory of family ties, but continuously drawing a blank on how Justin is so well connected.

“George Schickle is Jennifer Alwin’s uncle.”


“Her married name was Taylor,” Gardner said, letting the implication of his pronouncement hang in the air until she figured it out.

“You mean Justin is…”

“George Schickle’s grand nephew and heir.”

“But you also said that he’s well-off. How, since George isn’t dead yet?”

“Craig Taylor drained his son’s trust fund dry and was ordered to pay that money back, alongside his sister’s, who he’d also began siphoning from. In addition to that, the Hobbs family was ordered to pay Justin Taylor two million dollars in the civil suit. That coupled with the money that St. James Academy, Perkins, and Dixon were ordered to pay… well, it means the boy you thought was broke and alone, really isn’t. And they’ve already began to close ranks around him, and therefore around Brian. But if we can destroy his reputation within the Advertising community...”

“Gardner, I think we are going about this all wrong. Justin has no reason to leave Brian, but I know Brian, and the thought of anyone taking care of him will set him off. He’ll feel the need to prove that he doesn’t need anyone.”

“So what are you suggesting?”

“We let Brian go ahead and start his own business, if that’s what he is planning to do. Then we plant someone within his company to find out what he’s doing and steal his ideas, and therefore his clients, before he even has a chance to sign them. Even if Justin is still around, he won’t let him be involved in the business. After all, it’s Brian’s business, and as always, Justin has no place in it. Instead, he’ll be too busy trying to encourage him to attend college and resume his life. Also, he will have Gus to take care of as a single father, and babies are incredibly distracting. Brian will be so exhausted trying to balance it all himself that he will never see our attack coming. By the time he realizes what’s happening, it will already be too late and he’ll be forced to close the doors of his little company.”

She watched Gardner’s face as she spoke, thinking that her plan would indeed work. First thing Monday morning, she would begin proceedings to sign over her parental rights to Brian. She would request to speak with Judge Mathers personally, since she also wanted Mel’s access to Gus blocked. She didn’t want to leave Brian a way out of taking the care and feeding of Gus seriously, or for him to realize that he didn’t need her in his life as Gus’ mother. Then she would go into Vanguard and begin to establish herself while looking for the right person to entice Brian into hiring him. She knew she needed a man who could get close to Brian; one who could cause contention and jealousy for Justin. After all, he was still young and impressionable and he’d never quite been comfortable with Brian’s constant tricking. It made Justin an easy mark to clear the way to Brian.


With Justin out of the way, it would be time to start picking off Brian’s professional staff. But who would he pick to go with him? Cynthia was a given, and would definitely have to go first. She was much too up close and personal with Brian for Lindsay’s liking. She was also too intelligent, and a mistress of subterfuge herself. She would see what they were doing and warn Brian beforehand. Lindsay couldn’t let that happen. But how to go about accomplishing her goal of bringing Brian to heel was the ultimate question. She would have to think on it a bit more.

“I like the idea of sabotaging him from within his own company, Lindsay. But how would we go about it? The staff Brian uses are strictly loyal to him. It’s something I noticed right away when I took over from Ryder.”

Lindsay placed her hand on his bare chest. “Right now, we watch and wait, Gardner. And then, your checkbook had better be wide open to me. Just as information can be bought, so can the right people. But first things first… I have to become acquainted with the staff at Vanguard. Once they see that I’m a trusted employee and have your ear, they will do anything to get into my good graces, thinking that they will have a direct line to you. The only one I really worry about is that watch-bitch Cynthia.”

“Perhaps it’s time to fire her.”

“Past time, if you ask me, but on what grounds? Even I have to admit that her work has been exemplary. She’s much more than just Brian’s assistant and always has been. I know she also holds her own degrees in Management and Marketing. Honestly, she’s always been underutilized, but also she’s loyal to Brian. If she walks, he walks.”

He nodded. “She’s told me as much. I didn’t have a chance to look at her personnel file before I took over. I think first thing on Monday, I’d better do that. Perhaps I can offer her more money and a new position to stay put at Vanguard.”

“It would be a good idea, and also an apology might be in order.”

“An apology?”

“Just as you’ve heard things about me, I’ve also heard my fair share about you, Gardner. The sexual harrassment suits against you over the years are numerous. Admittedly, she is an attractive woman, but I wouldn’t be surprised if her pussy is guarded with explosives instead of just a chastity belt. Besides, she’s not your type. You want a woman to give of herself freely, which I am glad to do.”

Gardner reached over and ran a fingertip over Lindsay’s nipple, relishing how it sprung to attention at barely the slightest touch. He’d never met a woman so responsive before. He supposed it was due to the dick deprivation she suffered from being involved with her ex-lover for almost ten years, but it didn’t matter. Lindsay was warm and wet; intelligent and insatiable. In his mind, she was the ideal lover he needed right now in his bed. He knew the score with her. Yes, she was greedy and didn’t mind trading sex for his favor, but she was honest about it. There was and would never be any love between them or any false platitudes given as payment for services rendered. They fucked and plotted, plain and simple. And if the plotting was happening while he was buried deep inside her all the better. But for now…

“Let’s talk about it more in the morning in preparation for Monday. Right now, the only noise I want to hear is the sound of you begging me not to stop.”

Lindsay laughed lightly. “Well then, Mr. Vance, I think it’s time for you to make me.” She rolled onto her back while pulling him with her. Settling him between her long legs, she looked forward to the rough ride she was about to receive. Making plans to take back what she saw as hers always made her horny, and her partner in crime was certainly about to reap the benefits.


“So what would you like me to do with this new information?” Henry Baptiste asked his companion. This was the break they had been waiting for.

“I already set up my meeting with our brother at ten a.m. Do we have all of the pictures we need?” Constance asked.

“I think so, but I can take more if you’d like. I have another roll of film.”

“No, I think we’ve seen and heard all we need to. Take it to the CVS store on Fifth Avenue. They have an all night photo lab. Meanwhile, I think the tape needs to be heard immediately. I wonder if she’s still awake.”

“Probably, since I heard her son is traveling on a red-eye flight with his lover and a friend. You know what parents are like.”

“I remember,” Constance said quietly. She thought about the son she used to share with the man currently fucking the brains out of the woman inside the mansion. Gardner Louis Vance III had changed his name and disappeared after his father had disowned him for not conforming to his wishes. And although she was only his stepmother, she still cared about the young man with the infectious smile as if he were her own. The loss of him, among others, was the reason for her filing for divorce. The numerous infidelities she could forgive; the careless treatment of a child she could not. She shook herself out of her reverie. “Right, so I will call Jennifer and see if she wants to have breakfast in the morning. Now with Craig out of the picture, perhaps she and I can pick up where we left off so many years ago.”

As they walked back to her car, Henry said, “I don’t see why not. You both were stupid for letting him come between you in the first place. She might have divorced him a long time ago had you held to your convictions.”

“I tried, but I couldn’t continue to watch him mentally mold her into what he wanted her to be. I think the situation with Justin was finally the last straw for her. I’m not happy at all that he suffered, but I am glad that she’d finally saw Craig for the snake we all told her he was.”

“I seem to recall all of us telling you the same about Gardner…”

She chuckled. “True, but thankfully it didn’t take me almost twenty years to see it.”

“Well, just don’t throw her past mistakes in her face. Your reunion will be cut short before it even begins. Jennifer Alwin now is like she used to be before she became a Taylor. You might want to keep that in mind when dealing with her.”



“Hi, Guys,” came the cheerful voice of Uncle Vic.

“Well Mr. Victor Grassi as I live and breathe, and in the company of such a fine gentleman. What brings you two out tonight?” asked Emmett just before taking a sip of his Cosmo.

After witnessing the yuckiness at the police station and his conversation with Jennifer, he decided that he just shouldn’t have to suffer the unwanted mental images alone. So he called his best friend to share all the sordid details of what he’d witnessed. If Emmett had to shudder, Ted should have to as well.

“I called George after I passed Gus off to his father and watched Michael chase him down the street. With any luck, he’s still running after the car. It should keep him busy and out of trouble. As for Brian, Justin, Mel and a few unexpected additions, they should be taking off from the airport soon, if they haven’t already.”

“Wait? You said Michael was chasing a car down the street?” Ted smirked.

“Reminded me of pups who chase mailmen,” Vic said, shaking his head. “That boy will never learn.”


“It’s sad really when you think about it,” said George. “It’s almost like he thinks if he forces you all to face him, you’ll remember he’s your friend and return to his status quo.”

“Was...he was our friend. Or at least, I thought he was. But now that I think about it, all we’ve had were friendly moments with him since before the shindig for Senator Baxter. Other than that, he was a little bastard who acted ashamed of us. That was clear from his tell-a-queen commentary in Howard Bellweather’s book,” Ted responded. He was still smarting a bit about how they were treated, and then subsequently described in that piece of vendetta-laced trash.

“When is your next court date?” Vic asked.

“In a week. Although doing what could be considered a public service and knocking the hell out of the sanctimonious idiot, it seems that they still want to charge me for simple assault.”

“Don’t worry, Teddy. There was an entire bookstore of witnesses that will say you tried to reason with him before you channeled your inner-Mike Tyson. Besides, it was all lies and propaganda according to an imbecile with a loose tongue. Bellweather calls himself a journalist, but he should have checked his facts before printing anything. As my Aunt Lula would say, his mouth- or in this case, his pen- wrote a check his ass couldn’t cash. He plum earned that ass-whipping!”

“But still, Em…”

“Nope, Teddy. I shall not hear anymore of you beating yourself up for doing something that should have been done long ago.”

George listened carefully as he read the flyer on the table. Ted was a good man, who had a firm moral streak. From what he gathered, it wasn’t like the man to ever lose his temper. But it didn’t help that he’d felt powerless in defending his friends from the vicious rantings of a WASP-wannabe. He would have to call David Cameron and get the firsthand account of what happened at the housewarming party in Portland. Although a good amount of it was public knowledge thanks to Novotny’s whining, he was almost sure that there were some things left out. One thing he was learning about Vic’s nephew was that when it came to taking responsibilities for one’s own actions, Michael ran from it like it was a deadly disease. It was a trait that had long-since needed to be corrected, but first…

“Hey, did you guys see this?” he asked, holding up the flyer for each of them to peruse.

“A BB party? They still do those in this day and age?” Vic asked, frowning.


“Ooh, a body building party? All those hot and sweaty men, lifting weights as if it were nothing,” Emmett cooed.

“Stop it, Em. You’re getting me hot and bothered,” Ted said. “Besides, why would they hold one of those at...when is it?”

“Oh, it’s going on right now and has been for the last few hours. Do you guys want an education?” George enticed.

“George?” Vic questioned.

“I’ve never been to one, but I’ve heard stories even within the vaunted halls of my sheltered existence. I just want to go and see what we’ll find,” he answered innocently, but Vic wasn’t buying it.

“Something tells me you already know…”

“And it would be right, but I think Em and Ted should see it all for themselves.”

“Should I bring my camera?”

“Absolutely! Although, I doubt you’ll be adding any of the photos to your spank bank.”

The four men got into Ted’s silver Saab on their way across town. While sitting at a light just before the turn onto the expressway, they noticed a sad figure hunched in on himself at the bottom of Cisco’s bar at the corner of Liberty Avenue. His clothes were worn and drenched with sweat; the tear tracks on his face evident, even as one of the patrons came out and placed something in his hand.

“Hey! I’m not a bum!” The voice from the hunched figure screeched.

“We know that, Mr. Novotny. We were hoping that giving you a handout would make you move along or at least get you to call a cab. You’re disturbing the paying customers.”

“It’s a free country! I can sit where I want!”

“Including in a jail cell if you don’t stop loitering. Now move it or I make the call!” Cisco himself admonished Michael.

Thankfully the light turned green before he thought to look ahead instead of backwards over his shoulder. None of the men within the car could bring themselves to feel sorry for the despondent man. The fact was that Michael’s vindictive streak was coming back to bite him in the ass, and it was pretty clear that it would continue to do so for awhile yet. While riding along the highway, Emmett informed George and Vic about Lindsay’s ‘early’ release and who had greased a few palms to ensure that her child endangerment charge never made it before a judge. George was fuming at this new bit of information.


Regardless of the pending litigation against the Pittsburgh Police Department, it seemed its officers never learned about accepting bribes. It was something he had to think about. He knew he had the power through his connections to make them all pay now, but he really wanted them to have to answer for their lapse in judgement before a grand jury, especially Stockwell. One would think that since their own former police chief was being brought up on bribery charges, they would all act in a circumspect manner. But some people were just masochist and insisted on being taught very hard lessons in some very harsh ways. He would operate within the law and give it a chance...for now.

Arriving at the brightly lit Lyle Mansion on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, where the party was being held, they all alighted from the car. Ted decided that instead of stopping by Emmett’s, they could just use the disposable camera from his glove compartment and he would replace it on the morrow. One never knew when it would be needed, and Ted, if nothing else was a cautious man. George led his charges up the stairs into the front entrance, handing the man at the front desk the flyer. After scanning the barcode at the end of the handout for authenticity, they were all admitted in.

“I suggest we all stay together. Obviously, this place is huge but I can guarantee you that you will not want to be caught or cornered unawares,” George warned them. Looking around at all of the oily beefcake showing, Ted nodded his agreement, even while Emmett was a little skeptical.

“Trust him, Em. This is not the type of party you want to be unprotected in.” Noting the serious look on Vic’s face, Emmett nodded his accord. He suddenly had the feeling that Vic and George weren’t just fulfilling the roles of overprotective parents, but that the men genuinely knew what they were talking about.

In the elevator, George took the camera from Ted, and began to wind it up. He made sure that the flash was on so that capturing the image he wanted wouldn’t be a problem in the dimly lit room. The slight ding signaled that they had arrived at the main floor of the huge mansion and would step right into the spacious living room area. The first sight that greeted them was like an enormous game of naked Twister. Bodies were laying haphazardly everywhere, some obviously spent with exhaustion. The unmistakable smell of cum rent the area even as a cacophony of climaxing reached their ears. Emmett and Ted stood mesmerized, even as George and Vic’s twin looks of disgust shown unabashedly on their faces.

“Notice anything missing, boys?”

Before either could answer, they were being tugged at by a man as tall as Emmett, and one eye level with Ted.

“Well look what we have here, Esau! Presents!” The shorter man exclaimed.

“Yeah, but they would be even more of a gift if they were naked. You guys have too many clothes on. Need help?” Esau asked as he ran his hands up Ted’s arms, licking his lips to make his message clear.

“Ah, no thanks. We’re actually just here to watch the show,” Ted stammered, squirming under the heavy-handed touch of Esau.

“That’s too bad. We would have loved to show you both a good time. Isn’t that right, Larry?”

“Absolutely. Well, when you boys decide to do more than look come find us.”

“Uh, sure. Thanks for the invitation, Larry,” Emmett said, gently but firmly removing the short man’s hands from his body. As they moved off, Emmett shuddered. “I feel like I need to take a shower in acid to remove the feel of that man’s hands from me.”

“I was thinking of lye myself,” Ted commented, his face scrunched in distaste. “Is there a specific reason we’re here, gentlemen?”

“There definitely is, but first, you need to answer the question about what’s missing,” George alluded.

Emmett and Ted reluctantly looked at each couple, or group, getting it on. No doubt the men looking on were enjoying themselves immensely, many with their own cock in the palm of their hands. Others were watching the action on the main floor while sucking off another male, also watching. After a few moments, as they continued to scan the room, Ted finally understood what he was seeing.

“Oh my God. All this sex and not a wrapper in sight!”

“Wrapper?” Emmett looked again, eyes widening in horror. “No! It can’t be! They…”

“Glad you two finally made the connection that this is not a ‘body builder’s’ party but a bareback one,” Vic said wryly, willing himself not to laugh at the green tint their skin had taken on at his pronouncement.

Swallowing hard, Emmett asked, “What exactly are we doing here?”

“You’ll see,” George answered mysteriously. “Follow me.”

They walked the outskirts of the room, careful not to touch anything and looking where they stepped. As far as Ted and Emmett were concerned, with the threat of STDs, let alone AIDS and Hepatitis B running rampant in their community, people like these men needed a community of their own. In their minds, there was nothing wrong with barebacking as long as one was in a monogamous relationship. The participants of the party clearly were NOT!

Venturing nearer the alcove at the far end of the room, George came to a stop and raised his camera. Ted’s angry eyes was the first to notice the balding head of the hypocritical gay voice of Pittsburgh and his rat-faced nephew. He hoped with all his heart that Brian had double-gloved his dick when fucking with the loose-assed idiot Kip Thomas. He felt a surge of rage flow through him at the idea that Kip had put Brian at risk this way. He felt a firm hand squeezing his arm as he was unaware he’d even moved.

“Calm down, Ted. I know what you’re feeling,” Vic whispered to him, immediately soothing the younger man. Kip’s presence here now put his encounter with Brian in a whole new perspective. They all could only be thankful that Brian was a germaphobe and was tested religiously because of his very sexually active lifestyle.

“We can go now, gentlemen,” George said, disgust heavy in his voice.

“What did you do?” Emmett asked.

“Indulged my fantasy of being a photographer,” George answered. “There’s an all night CVS on Fifth that requires a visit, immediately.”

At the front door they were stopped by Esau again. “Leaving so soon, guys?”

“Yeah, I just remembered, I uh...left my iron on,” Ted stammered.

“That’s a shame. We hate to see you go so soon. But before you do, we need the camera.”

“Camera?” Emmett questioned nervously.

“Yes, I saw this silver-haired gentleman here taking pictures. We have some high-profile celeb…” He never got to finish his sentence.

“Emmett?” Ted asked in shock of the man currently shaking out his hand.

“All I have to say is four brothers and the only known homo in a fag-hating town. You learn quickly how to use your fists for an activity that has nothing to do with sex. You’re not the only one who can throw a punch when he has to, Teddy.”

“Let’s go before he wakes up or Larry comes looking for him,” Vic ordered.   




Jennifer sat at the table waiting on her breakfast companion, looking over the plans Justin had sent in writing. Upon receiving them last night, she forwarded them to Armand. He’d called her back immediately confirming that he’d received them and that he would call a friend of his on the zoning board this morning. The new property would border on part of Golden Triangle leading into the neighboring park. It would be as if having one foot in the downtown area, and the other in a high-end residential area.


If she had the idea right, it would be reminiscent of living in Central Park West- an area where her father had owned several condo buildings when she was younger. Only now, instead of a cluster of tall buildings, there would be the headquarters of Kinnetik Enterprises and a mansion bordering the river. It would be a major real estate coup for her, and the new makeshift family would have all the space they would ever need to grow and flourish. Not to mention the property taxes that were bound to soar, thus creating new business for her. It would be a win all the way around.


Although Brian wasn’t keen on living in a suburban utopia, it had enough action that he would never feel like he was. If all went well, she’d be able to close on the property within a few hours and Brian and Justin would have new digs already in progress by the time they came back from Florida. It brooked the question though… what were they planning to do with the loft?

Mel’s house, per Justin’s instructions, was all set to be appraised and listed as of Monday morning. Fortunately, outside of minor repairs, Melanie had kept the house up to code and in good condition. The main issue was what to do with the attic space to be able to list it as an addition to the house. Of course, she had some ideas, but she wanted to get another opinion and possibly up the initial selling price so that Melanie could make a tidy profit on the sale, beyond her commission. Since the mortgage was solely in her name, it meant that the termagant she was involved with wouldn’t receive a penny on the sale and that fit in with Jennifer’s plans for Lindsay Peterson just fine.


Pulling out her phone and dialed the familiar number of a contractor she knew in order to get the ball rolling immediately. “Hello, Leda. Are you in town?”

“Jennifer! Long time, no hear. You’re in luck that I am. I just flew in this morning.”

“Oh? How are things?”

“Better than the last time we spoke. Unfortunately my aunt passed, but she’s out of pain and that’s all that matters to me. Uncle Leighton wants to go to London to stay with his son Giles and his family, so he needs me to get the house ready for sale and all.”

Leda’s aunt and uncle, Barbara and Leighton Culliver, had been married fifty years. Theirs was a love that never grew old. They were always feisty with each other and loving to outsiders. Jennifer smiled in remembrance as she recalled that Leighton had once told her that he was ten years old when he knew he would marry his Barbara. Even when he went off to the war, he came back to look for his one and only and vowed to never let her go.


And he didn’t until now, when there was no other choice. After being married to Craig for so long, Jennifer couldn’t imagine being with someone that long and then having them taken away so suddenly by brain cancer. Still somehow, she wished for Justin and Molly to experience it; to know that the forever kind of love existed, even when it’s not within the pages of a fairytale.

“I’m so sorry to hear about Barbara. I wasn’t aware that she passed. I’ve been a little out of the loop because of Justin…”

“And how is he doing?”

“Better today than yesterday, but not as good as tomorrow,” Jennifer answered, using Brian and Justin’s favorite saying. When she first heard them utter it, she adopted the mantra as her own to deal with her own situation with Craig. She was finally starting to believe in it. “But the reason I called… well, now are you going to be in town for awhile? I have some work that I would like you to get started on right away.”

“Me? What about Armand?”

“Oh, he’s working on something else at the moment. You can join him on that project after this one if you’d like. But as it turns out, an old friend of yours is selling her place and I’d like to up the value of the property for her before officially listing it.” Jennifer waited in silence as Leda worked out exactly what she was saying.

“Friend? You mean Melanie?”

“One and the same.”

“You mean she and Lindsay...”

“Indeed are no longer together, but that’s her story to tell. Suffice it to say that she wants to offload the house fairly quickly.”

“How quick is quick?”

“I’d say yesterday if she could. Her personal property has already been cleared out, as has Lindsay’s, although, I don’t think Ms. Peterson knows it yet. That revelation should happen sometime today. However, Mel is in the process of having a new house built with Justin… and Brian.”

“Brian? As in Brian Kinney? Lindsay’s Brian?”

“Not now, nor has he ever been Lindsay’s Brian, but yes, him. So are you available to do the contracting work?”

“I’ll go you one better, Jennifer.” Leda laughed. “I’ll buy the damn house.”

“You’ll what?”

“I said I’ll buy it. I don’t need it, but if it angers Miss Pissy Britches, I’ll do it, and for full market value. No negotiation necessary.”

“Forgive me, Leda, but why?”

“Aside from the fact that I can’t stand Lindsay, you mean?” At Jennifer’s affirmative response, Leda continues. “Let’s just say that I want to help Mel get free and clear of that harridan in any way that I can. She’s been dragging Melanie down for a long time. Besides, I hear Shavonne will be in town for awhile and if I know her, she’s already had her fill of hotels. She’s always been like that; preferring to have a home base in whatever city she’s visiting. I’ll be shocked if she hasn’t already been looking around. Also, it helps that I’ve been finally thinking about putting down some roots.”


“I know, Jennifer. I know and no, I don’t want to press my suit with Mel. Do I still want her? Hell yes, and probably always will.”

“Then being so close to her, wouldn’t it be hard for you to resist the temptation?”


“Of course it will be. Mel is a beautiful, strong and intelligent woman. She’s quite the catch, even if she’s forgotten that about herself since being with that soul-pulverizing succubus. But right now, more than anything, she can always use some of her real friends close by. Contrary to the popular opinion of Melanie herself, those of us who really know her haven’t abandoned her. We just couldn’t stand her choice of bedmate. It’s time Melanie knows that, and that Lindsay remembers it. Our friendship has always been the one weapon Mel’s had against Lindsay’s machinations. It’s why she worked so hard to separate Melanie from us.”

Leda and Jenn finished their call in time for her breakfast companion to have arrived. “I know the look of plotting when I see it, Jennifer Alwin. So spill it while we have our tea.”

Jenn smiled at her former best friend. “Constance Marie, you haven’t changed a bit.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that, dear. We’re both a little older, a little wiser, and hellbent on revenge.”

“And you know… I wouldn’t have it any other way. So here’s what’s been happening…” Over the course of the next two hours, Jenn and Connie filled each other in on the missing parts of the other’s life and found new things to talk about. Among those were what to do about Nancy and Lindsay Peterson.

“So basically we can rebuild, we have the technology?” Jennifer asked Constance, laughing at the reference to an old television show they enjoyed in their youth.

Connie joined in the laughter for a moment before growing serious. “Fuck rebuilding, Darling. I’d prefer to destroy.” She raised her teacup, clinking it lightly against Jennifer’s. Both had conspiratory smiles locked on their faces, their eyes shining with the gleam of revenge. “To our children!”

“To our children!” Jennifer answered, happier than she had been in a long while.




Mel stumbled into the living room area of the suite, feeling like she’d just gone to sleep. They arrived at the Four Seasons hotel well after two a.m. and after Brian had upgraded their rooms, everyone fell into bed, not even bothering to change from their travel clothes. Therefore she was surprised to see both Brian and Justin at the table with breakfast already ordered, looking so refreshed.

“Coffee?” she grunted, causing Justin to snicker.

“Yeah, there’s plenty of it. I thought all of us adults could use some to make us at least appear human again.

After fixing hers with two sugars and half cup of cream, she took an appreciative sip of the hot brew. “Good morning, Baby. Thank you!”

“My pleasure and my sanity. No one wants to deal with Brian uncaffeinated.”

“Hell no! We all have a hard enough time dealing with him when he’s had his ample cups of sugar with a teaspoon of coffee. Why subject ourselves to coffee-less Brian?” Mel mock shuddered, making Justin laugh harder.

“His growl is worse than his bite, Mel.”

“Oh, I don’t know, Sunshine. I seem to recall that my bite made you scream loudly not even an hour ago.”


“What? It’s the truth, isn’t it?” he asked in an innocent voice, that was indeed far from it.

Justin blushed bright red at Brian’s innuendo. “Don’t you have a call to make?”

“Absolutely, as do you. But because you’ve been such a good boy, I’ll call your mommy for you.”

“Thanks, daddy.”

“Call me that again later when we’re alone.” Brian sauntered out onto the balcony to make his calls, leaving Mel and Justin to enjoy breakfast.

“So, I’ve been meaning to ask you since last night, why that particular location?”

Justin smiled. “A lot of people don’t realize just how valuable the Adonis property is… or should I say was. Most would be apt to walk around the entire neighborhood to get to downtown, instead of walking up the alleyway and coming out at the riverbank. To them, it gave a clear distinction between the business district and the gay district. Consequently, where our house and Kinnetik will be located will intentionally blur that line. Besides, I can’t think of a better location to throw it in Gardner’s face that we’re not knocking at his back door looking for scraps, but busting right through the front and taking the meat of his business right off his table. He’ll be at a complete loss as to what to do, not that he’ll really be able to do anything, even if he tried. So that only brings one other question, Mel. Are you going to work with us or stay at your firm?”

“Shavonne asked me the same thing.”

“She was right to do so. You’re a brilliant attorney, and personally I think your talents are wasted at your current place of employment. Why not expand your horizons? I mean, you’re well-versed in different divisions of law, not just family court and civil cases, right? So therefore, you can still be a civil rights attorney while working in the corporate sector. It’s something to think about.”

Mel thought over what Justin said to her. In truth, it was something she had been thinking about for a long time. Back when Brian requested her help in the Kip Thomas idiocy, she wondered if working in family law was her be all to end all. Granted, she was always happy to help families, especially those involving gay parents. But who said it was what she had to limit herself to?


Brian’s case was about more than sexual harassment. It was about the violation of his civil rights; about the fact that they were making him take an enforced leave of absence and use his personal time off that he’d built up on the books, which essentially caused him lost wages even before he’d been proven innocent or guilty. His accounts were handed over to menials after he’d put in the manhours, causing the bonuses to be divided out instead of rewarded to Brian fairly for his hard work. And all of it was based on his reputation within the gay community instead of cold hard fact. Although she was glad of the outcome for Brian’s sake, she really wanted to burn the fuck out of Ryder Advertising.

She remembered a conversation she’d had with Lindsay right before they decided to have Gus. Lindsay was all for having the steady income flowing from Mel’s work with the law firm, even though it wasn’t a high enough profile for her to really take Mel’s career seriously. Ironically, Justin’s case would have been enough to get Lindsay’s thong twitching, if it wasn’t about Justin, and ultimately Brian. The case was not only high-profile, taking down a prominent family in the country club set, but it was also now the subject of some key legislation towards gaining civil rights for the LGBT community. It’s funny that the one person who should have been in Mel’s corner and cheering her on was now going to be on the outskirts of her life- both personally and professionally.


Served Lindsay’s greedy ass right!

“I’ll certainly give some thought to what you’ve said. The idea of branching out has merit, Justin. I just wouldn’t know how to go about it.”

“Well, that’s why we’re both hooked up with a marketing genius. If anyone knows the best way to advertise your services to the masses and beyond, it’s Brian.”

“Justin, your mom needs to speak to you about some of your requests on the new place,” Brian interrupted them, placing his hand on Justin’s shoulder.

As he handed the cell phone to Justin, he placed a single kiss on his forehead, causing the younger man to smile brightly. Brian watched him walk towards the recently vacated terrace, even as Melanie watched him.

“Who would have believed this change in you a year ago?” she wondered aloud.

Brian shrugged as he sat down in Justin’s seat. “It’s not so much about change as it is acknowledgement. I care about him.”

She nodded. “I know, but does he?”

“I think throughout all of this we’ve come to some sort of an understanding.”

“What understanding?”

“I don’t know exactly, but he knows that I’m there for him. Strangely, I think that’s all he and I can handle right now.”

“And later?”

“For now, we’re good.”

“It’s just… well, there are kids involved now.”

Brian laughed bitterly. “How could I forget? It seems that I have become a full-time parent of three overnight.”

“We all have. But I wonder how it will affect Justin later on.”

“Me too, but I know that no matter what, Justin won’t let the kids suffer. He’s had more than his own share of pain from a disinterested-turned-hateful father. Gus, John, and Peter will never experience that from him… or me.”

“Glad to hear it, Brian. You know, you don’t give yourself enough credit.”

“Stop it, or I will wonder who the hell cloned you. You being nice always gives me the heebie jeebies.”

Mel laughed. “Oh, is that how you ended up on this trip with me?”

“Have to make sure that aliens aren’t invading. If Sunshine starts turning into Martha fucking Stewart, I’ll know something’s up.”

“I can be Martha Stewart during the day and Zack O’Toole at night, you know,” Justin said as he took a seat on Brian’s lap.

“Be Martha for Mel all you want, just leave her outside of our bedroom. You know how I feel about tits and twat.”

“Ugh, Brian, it’s too early in the morning for the TNT conversations. I promise never to watch straight porn again!”

“A gentle reminder never hurts, Sunshine. I told you before, it will warp your young mind.”

The three of them laughed at that. Each of them remembered when Brian had first caught Justin watching it from his computer. The older man screamed that Justin was burning the decidedly gay circuits of his computer with the sacrilege of hetero sex while Mel stood by in shock. Justin had found the whole episode funny.

Sobering quickly, Justin asked, “Mel, when will you be ready to go?”

“You guys don’t have to come with me.”

“I’m going to stay here with Daphne and the kids. We’ll probably take them shopping while Brian goes with you. We both agree that you shouldn’t be alone. Even if you don’t physically need the support, you are going to need it emotionally, whether you like it or not. Besides, you know how Brian is once he takes an idea into his head…”

She nodded and proceeded to rise from the table. “Well for what it’s worth, thanks.”

They each watched her move towards her part of the suite, noting the heaviness of her shoulders with each step. “Brian…”

“I know, Sunshine. I know.”




Cynthia and Marcie arrived at the closed offices of Vanguard around the same time. Lattes in hand, they engaged in small talk as Marcie walked over to the keypad that would gain them entry.

“Have they arrived in Florida yet?” she asked.

“Brian called me on the way here. It’s just as we thought. Gardner bailed Lindsay out of jail last night. I already spoke to Jennifer and she said that starting Kinnetik is definitely a go. Justin is having her look into renovating the old Adonis building. Providing everything is in order, he wants the work to start immediately," Cynthia answered.

“That’s a good thing. She’s also meeting with Constance’s soon-to-be-ex Vance this morning.” Marcie smiled evilly.

“How did she swing that?”

“They used to be best friends before Jennifer married Rudyard. God! What a name! Can you imagine how much he was teased as a kid?” She laughed alongside Cynthia as they entered the building. “So what do you think we should do first?”

“I say you head to your office and I’ll head to mine. After you finish clearing the files off of your computer, we’ll tackle Brian’s office together.”

“Why?” Marcie was truly puzzled.

“Too many axes to grind, Marcie. I don’t know how I know this, but Gardner is going to install Lindsay here. As quiet as it’s kept, she’s an artist. Not Justin pre-bashing calibre; in fact, she’s mediocre at best. But the most important thing is that she’s qualified to work here in several ways. She has managerial experience, as well as a teaching degree. Although she’s never worked in Advertising, it isn’t that far of a jump from her intern experience as an Assistant Curator while she was in college. It was all about acquisition and placement for the best possible sale.”

“You seem to know a lot about her.”

“Unfortunately, I do. I’ve watched her and Michael Novotny manipulate Brian for too many years not to understand them. Michael whines people into submission, whereas Lindsay is much more sneaky. I’m pretty certain that she’s talked her way into a position here beginning as soon as possible, although it’s unclear which one.”

“Mine, perhaps?”

“It’s possible. As the Executive Assistant to the CEO, she’ll have unlimited access to all of the departments on the network. But I’m thinking more within the Art Department.”

“Why there if she’s as qualified as you say she is?”

“It’s taking the much more direct route on the system. Each piece of artwork is directly linked to the Ad Exec assigned to the account. All of the notes are stored on the database, so that none of the people working on the account has to wait to receive or review the current information. Of course, there are exceptions to these rules, like if Brian was to go out and get an account, but was toiling on using the Art Department to create the ad or an independent contractor…”

“Like Justin!”

“Exactly. Then he would hold onto the file until all the work was completed and the account assured. Afterwards, I would upload the entire file into the database as completed, which would later be used as a reference when the time comes for the account to renew their contract. The Liberty Air campaign was done that way.”

“That’s why I couldn’t find it when Marty was demanding that I pull it up! He called me incompetent and kept threatening my job until I finally told him off. You and Brian held onto the file until it was completed so that Justin could work on the artwork.”

“That’s right, although I know we’re both sorry that you had to endure Marty’s temper tantrum.”

Marcie waved it off. “It felt good to tell him to go fuck himself, even if it was done as professionally as possible. So am I to understand that you are only leaving the bare bones of the account visible?”

“Yes. Any of the extra work that was done with Brian’s signature style and flair will be erased. It’s time that Gardner and his staff prove their worth, instead of taking advantage of Brian’s genius,” Cynthia answered grimly. She was tired of watching that happen under Martin Ryder and she would be damned if she’d let it happen under Vanguard. “Let Lady Lindsay prove her value.”

“From all I’ve heard of her, she already has.”

“Whatever do you mean by that?”

“Just that if she’s truly her mother’s daughter, which I believe she is, her currency isn’t something that can be seen… with her clothes on.” Marcie raised her brow making the innuendo clear.

“I really hate women like her.” Cynthia shook her head. “She gives women like us a bad name. It’s already hard enough as it is to gain respect and break through the glass ceiling. But to be expected to drop to your knees, or lay on your back with your legs wide open to get ahead in this industry- or any other industry really- sets the Women’s Rights movement back fifty years. Well he can have at her, and in the end, I hope she gets exactly what she deserves.”

“No doubt she will, but it won’t be the reward she’ll be expecting. I’ve heard rumors about Gardner from several other women he’s used this way. He’ll take all she has to give, lull her into a false sense of power and give her the idea that they are going to be together in the end. Then when she can’t deliver on her promises to elevate his status or achieve greatness, he’ll dump her without a care. She’ll hit rock bottom within a day.”

“I don’t know. Lindsay seems to always land on her feet. Gardner may have just met his manipulative match this time.”

Marcie nodded. “Well in the meantime, I say we just sit back and enjoy the show. I think I’ll hand in my resignation on Monday.”

“You don’t want to wait for Brian and Justin to get back?”

“No. Besides, someone has to compile all the data you’re about to pull. Meanwhile, I think I’ll ask Ted if he needs some help. It’s a big job starting Kinnetik from the financial point of view. Although I’m sure he’s more than capable of handling it, with Melanie having her family crisis of the moment, I’m sure he’ll appreciate the help.”

“Do you have enough in your savings to take the loss until the company is up and running?”

“Sure do. I own my home so really I only pay the property taxes every month, not a mortgage. I was smart. I flipped the monetary portion of my inheritance when my father died and let it accrue enough interest that I really don’t have to work if I don’t want to. Being in on the ground floor of Kinnetik is going to be just the chance and change of pace I need. With the backing of George Schickle and the midas touch that Brian seems to have, I can already see the company making a fortune in a very short time.”

Cynthia took what Marcie said into account. She needed to talk to Ted. Although she didn’t have an inheritance, she did have a nice nest egg laid aside. She’d always called it her injured reserve fund, but it was well over thirty thousand dollars. She’d been saving it since the ninth grade. Perhaps it was time to really invest that money.     



Brian and Melanie sat outside of her family home in the car Brian had rented upon arrival in the Sunshine state. Mel had been mostly silent on the way over, absorbed in her memories. She was regretting not getting back as often as she would have liked, but due to the sometimes contentious relationship between her and Ima, she just stayed away. Unfortunately, their legendary battles had cost her precious time with the man who always believed in her. Even when he disowned her for a short time when she came out to them, he never stopped believing that she would achieve her dreams of becoming an attorney. The six months that they hadn’t spoken nearly killed her. Now she was facing the fact that in a short time, she would never hear his voice again. She exhaled a deep sigh at that knowledge.

“Ready, Mel?” Brian asked softly. He understood what she was feeling on a level that he hadn’t visited for a long time.

He remembered the last time he’d saw Jack alive. It had been a day like any other, Lindsay had brought Gus over to see him as he unpacked from his trip to New York. At first when he’d opened the loft door, he’d been both angry and still hurt from their contretemps in Jack’s garage as he stood there boxing up his possessions in preparation for his imminent demise. The words 'It should be you dying not me' rang in his ears for the longest time between their talk in the garage and the time when Jack Kinney had darkened his doorstep for the last time. The picture Jack had given to Brian that not-so-long-ago evening was still in his wallet where he had placed it, just before the funeral laying his old man to rest permanently.

Brian still had mixed emotions it. One on hand, he could believe that he’d never been loved, especially after all the abuse he’d endured at both of his parents’ hands. But then that single picture told a different story. It was in the way Jack held him as if he was precious and smiled for the camera. Brian remembered asking Jack about it and was told in Jack’s blunt way, ‘Well that’s what you do for a picture, right?’


But Brian suspected it was much more deep than that simple statement, laced as a question. It was one of the few times Brian had ever seen his father completely sober during his thirty years. He looked happy and vibrant; a complete contrast to the Jack Kinney Brian had known.

Perhaps Brian’s childhood was just a product of Jack’s own upbringing? Perhaps Jack was regretting all the wasted years and drunken beatings with his son now that he was at the end of his life? Perhaps he was thinking that his legacy of underachievement and bitterness would be all Brian really remembered of him to pass down to his grandson who was placed in his arms as a gesture of both goodwill and closure? But it was a theory he would never have the answers to. Jack was gone, and with it, any hope to reconcile who he was to whom Brian was still becoming as a man and now as a father.

“I just keep sitting here wishing for more time,” Mel whispered, unshed tears shining in her eyes.

“Believe it or not, so did I.”

“Even with all that happened between you and Jack?”

Brian cleared his throat. “Even with that. I’ll never know if he and I came to an understanding simply because he was dying, or if it was because he really wanted to know me. At least you’ll never have that kind of doubt.”


“It’s okay, Mel. But I think it’s time you hear all he has to tell you. No apologies, no regrets, okay?”

Alighting from the car they walked side-by-side up the walkway to her childhood home. Mel fumbled with her keys just as the door was yanked open by her mother. “It’s about time you got here! Come in, come in!”

“Sorry, Ima. Yesterday…”

“No, Melanie. No excuses! Besides, your friend Ted explained all to me. Did you win the case?”

“Cases,” Mel answered quietly. “Yes, we won the cases. In fact, this is…”

“Oh Yahweh! It is you!” she exclaimed as she looked to Brian, who remained behind Melanie.

“I’m not sure what you mean. I spoke with you yesterday along with Ted, Mrs. Marcus. I’m sorry that we were delayed but...”

“No! No excuses! I know, but forget about yesterday. I’m more concerned with now. How did this happen?”

“Ima, Brian is…”

“Melanie, how could you keep this from me?! You did not tell me that you have found your twin brother!”

“WHAT?!” They both yelled at the same time, looking at her as if she’d grown a third eyeball. And then they turned to each other, as if seeing one another for the first time. “Twin?” Mel whispered.


...And then Brian passed out, crumbling in a heap at Melanie’s feet.


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