The Rattle of Snakes by MissMerlot

Sequel to The Buzz of the Wasp.  Luther gathers enemies of Brian, Justin and Zee...yes includng those seek revenge for his humiliation.

He thinks he's got game he is so very wrong!


Categories: QAF-U.S. FICTION, Family, Angst, Anti-Lindsay, Anti-Michael, Bottom Brian, Hurt/Comfort, Post-513 Fic, Romance, Toppy! Justin, Christmas Characters: Ben, Blake, Brian, Carl, Daphne, David Cameron, Debbie, Drew Boyd, Emmett, Gus, Hunter, Jennifer Taylor, Jenny Rebecca, Justin, Kiki, Lindsay, Melanie, Michael, Molly Taylor, Original Character(s), Other Canon Characters, Ted
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 77 Completed: Yes Word count: 272364 Read: 326724 Published: March 10, 2017 Updated: May 07, 2017
Story Notes:

Thanks to my lovely, darling betas Nichelle, Kathy and Bea...mwah!

Thanks also to Marny for her awesome banner skills...again!

Disclaimer:  QAF and its characters are the sole property of Showtime and Cowlip. No copyright infringement is intended.

1. Zee Tells All...RTOAF Starts to Circle the Wagons by MissMerlot

2. HERE COMES GOD by MissMerlot

3. Great-Grandma Was Indeed Right... by MissMerlot

4. Coming Home - A Son and a Brother by MissMerlot

5. Enemies and the God of Coincidence Give What You Need by MissMerlot

6. Relief, Reconciliation, Realisation and 3 Become 5 by MissMerlot

7. Realisations...Some Better Late Than Never! by MissMerlot

8. You Can't Fix Stupid and You Can't Change Ignorant...But You Can Give Them One Fuck of a Slap! by MissMerlot

9. And the Claws Come Out... by MissMerlot

10. The Disc, the Deal, and the Dumbasses by MissMerlot





15. HOT DIGGITY DAMN! by MissMerlot









24. JUDGEMENT CALL by MissMerlot










34. NOW YOU WANT TO BE MOMMY & DADDY…? by MissMerlot








42. SERVICE by MissMerlot









51. THANKS FOR THAT… by MissMerlot













64. A PARENT'S LOVE by MissMerlot








72. PART I CONTINUED by MissMerlot




76. ASK AND YOU SHALL GET... by MissMerlot

77. GOING...GOING...GONE? by MissMerlot

Zee Tells All...RTOAF Starts to Circle the Wagons by MissMerlot






It's been blissful these last few months.  Kinnetic has gone from strength to strength.  Justin's ‘Memories of Prom' was a great success though very emotional for both of us.  But with the continued love and support of our RTOAF - rag tag of a family - we got through it.


"Justin!  Come on we're going to be late, and I'm not having you bitch and moan because the confit salmon profiteroles got soggy!"


"Good point!  Two minutes!"  He bellows back.


"One minute or we go without you!"


That gets him pounding down the stairs, much like he was pounding my ass last night, and I just about manage to open the door before he hurtles through it.


Every time we see the Humvee we smile.  It was at the summer barbecue that we came up for the collective name for our family and rather stupidly Faal and Justin decided that painting the acronym on the side of the Humvee was a good idea.  Zee didn't think so and had it repainted but liked the acronym so it's the licence plate instead.


"So what got him out?"  Hunter asks.


"Soggy salmon profiteroles."  I smirk.


"Who had profiteroles?"  Hunter yells out.  


"Me!  Finally I win a pot!"  Jenny yells back.


We're on our way to a tasting for Henry Feeley's Autumn Company Party, who became one of E&ZHoD's first customers when they launched.


Justin settles in our usual spot giggling and it isn't until I notice the ‘reserved for the Taylor-Kinneys' across the back seat that I realise and then shrug and pull him into my arms.  Normally we would test at E&ZHoD but Zee wanted it at the Treehouse so we're on our way there once we pick up everyone else.






I've got this gnawing feeling in my gut that my idiot bastard fucktard of a father is planning something.  I finally Brietling'd it out of Faal that he was having him watched but so far nothing but I know the mendacity of the man and he's coming for us.  He's not going to take being ejected from the head of the family and having his nuts roofed lying down.


Another burr is Wankerboy and Twatzilla.  They've still not worked out that the Starks are their landlords but when they do I suspect they will come out twittering with indignation and hollow threats of revenge, hopefully their short term memory remains intact and so they will step up and I can have them slung in jail again, this time for 6 weeks for breaching the restraining order, which is in place for the next 5 years.


One of the good things that has come out of all their machinations is the real friendship that has developed between Kiki, Bernie and Arnold.  Turns out that they have a son who reacted to her attempts to be understanding about him being gay with callousness and ending up leaving the family home without leaving word of where he'll be.  She's not seen him for over 10 years and doesn't hold out much hope.  Kiki called in a favour and we're working on it.


I'm pulled out of my musings and dark thoughts by a movement out of the corner of my eye.  I sigh as Faal attempts to feed Claude a piece of chicken that I know will be too spicy for him.


"You will be cleaning the tray."  I warn, which has the desired effect.


I giggle at the baleful look I get from Claude, but the moment he leaves the room Claude chirrups and I feed him a non-spicy version of it and get my customary slow blink of thanks.


"You spoil him!"


"Don't even start. Mr. Storm has to have lightly poached prawns for breakfast every day!"


He pulls me into his arms and kisses me soundly. "You really worrying about him?"


"My dad hates me, really hates me even more that Zeon.  I just know he's coming and he's going to come with everything he's got or thinks he's got."


"Is it because of me that he hates you so much?"


"No, that started the moment I was born."


"What are you talking about?"  Debbie demands, making us both jump.


One of the disadvantages of us all having keys to each other's places is the ease of entry.


Sighing, I can feel the tears build up.


"Lig, what is it?"


"Let's taste and talk yeah?"


"Do we get to listen this time?"  Jenny asks.  "We know you talk about stuff when we're not there.  We're old enough now, right?"


I look across at Mel and Ben and they nod.  She has grown in these few short months into a very astute young lady. "Right.  But you guys take this home and let us know what you think okay?"


"Oh fuck."  Emmy Lou mutters.




Before I could say anything, Carl sits on the other side of me and I give him a small smile.  From having no real father since birth to having three, Uncle Luc, Papa and Papa Bear, makes my heart sing.


"Okay, so most of you know that Zeon and I are twins.  Well mom was supposed to have triplets but he died within seconds, seconds, of being born.  He would never have survived.  But that didn't stop da...Luther from blaming me for killing his boy by being born..."


"Fucking hell!"  Faal mutters.


"From that point on, he called us the failure twins.  We're not identical and of course that was my fault because Zeon and Zebadiah were the spit of each other.  Nothing I did was good enough. Mostly, Zeon got away with more because he's a boy. He played us off against each other, giving a grain of love but then giving a gallon of hate, mostly aimed at me.  So I decided to be what he wanted me to be and did everything I was told.  Went to the army, Zeon did Navy and then had to work my way up in Stark, whilst the boys just waltzed in. The problem was that they were fucking crap and I was fucking brilliant and that burned his ass.  Once grandpa saw that, he overruled every undermining attempt by Luther.  So he naturally started to favour Zeon more and more but by that time I had done tours so built up an armour but then it all went to crap for him when Zeon came out.  Suddenly I was his pride and joy, his baby girl until Faal came along and then I was back to being his son's killer. Imagine being 6 and hearing that..."


I take a huge gulp of wine.


"So when we got married and he disowned me, I wasn't too bothered.  But then grandpa died and that's when the real problems started. Those who sided with dad, which were Zeus and Zeon- despite his treatment of him- gave Luther his shares so he built up the 25% he needed to be a controlling partner in the company.  Zander just had the shares but didn't run the day-to-day operations until I took over. Luther undermined every decision I tried to make, the printing error was him.  In the end, I just got so fucking tired that I just let Zander be the figurehead but unbeknownst to Luther, I was the one signing the contracts and now we are where we are.  So he's been tricked by his kids over who was really making the decisions, nut-roofed by his ex, effectively disowned by Zeph and had a White guy buy him out so yeah he's coming...and with the connections he's got and being a bitter rich man, he's going to come hard."


"Let him come.  He won't know who the fuck he's dealing with."




"No I'm sick and tired of bullies.  Let's do to him what we did to... what did you call them?"


"Wankerboy and Twatzilla?"


"Yes and let him play his hand...we've got connections of our own."


For the first time in months, the unease in my stomach dissipates.


HERE COMES GOD by MissMerlot








Emmy Lou and I are doing our food run through.  I have to admit I'm looking forward to this event. I've never been to Ohio before and am hoping to actually get some time to see the state afterwards.


We briefly considered driving there but the flight was 2 hours quicker and besides this way the family gets to go too.


"So my darling girl we are all set?"  Emmy Lou smiles his gap tooth smile.  "I still can't believe you had Costino's drive Floyd over there.  But then again they're used to our unusual requests!"


"Did you see the thing they wanted us to cook on?"  I shudder.  "No it had to be Floyd."


"Why did you name your range Floyd anyway?"


I look aghast.  "And you call yourself a chef?  He's named after Keith Floyd of course, a very eccentric but much missed boozy chef from England. You should try and find some of his shows.  So why Titian?"


"First, I am a caterer not, like some people who deny it and shall remain nameless, a chef and secondly Titian is another way of describing orangey red."


"You are both as mad as each other.  Now buckle up we're landing soon."  Faal kisses the tops of both our heads and goes back to the cockpit.








I'm so glad Floyd is here! That range is a disgrace to ranges everywhere, so we're just using it for keeping things warm.  I look again at the menu.  We're doing a meat and fish messy feast. We did try and talk him out of it, but he wanted to bond with his staff and that's definitely one way to do it.


I look at my girl and wonder how someone could throw away such a kind hearted soul like that but I'm glad they did because now we have her!


The hall we're in is huge and the family are all dressed in their chef's jackets as they are going to serve. Well Brian, Justin and Faal are tending bar, and as usual our lovely Costinos are ready and waiting.


Henry rushes over to us giddy with excitement.


"Oh my goodness, oh my goodness!  It all looks magnificent!  Are we ready?  Can I let them in now?"


I look to Zee and she nods and goes back to cooking.




"Everyone come in, come in!  Now before we start I'd like to introduce you to our caterers, Emmett Honeycutt and Zee Ugerstacht, also known as Em & Zee's House of Delights.  Now this is called a Meat and Fish Messy Feast, there's no cutlery, but there are water bowls dotted about.  Vegetarians are catered for so don't worry about that now come, come dig in!"


At first they are nervous. I think because of the no forks thing, so I take a rib and start to eat and it is scrumptious.  "Wfth on fphis?"  I ask round a mouthful of melting pork.


The young lady smiles at me.  "Szechuan pepper, garlic, soy, ginger and chilli and there's dips too, mild, hot, spicy, ghost and scorpion."  She looks round.  "Don't do scorpion and then kiss someone who's sensitive to spice. My boyfriend went a very odd colour."


I burst out laughing at her candour.  "Thanks for the warning."  I head to the dips and try the ghost and really wish I hadn't.  Immediately a waiter is offering me a glass of milk.  "They should put a warning on that!"  The waiter smiles.  "They do."  He points to a sign.


I look round and after the initial reluctance people are really enjoying themselves.  I still can't believe that Brian Kinney is mixing drinks and, more importantly, is happy to do so judging by the smile on his face.  It just seems so out of character with the normally in control man I deal with.


"What can I get you Henry?"  Brian asks as I reach him.  "Justin mixes a very good rhubarb vodka martini."


"Oh that please, sounds wonderful."


I take a sip and sigh in contentment.  "Now Brian..."  He puts up his hand.  


"No Kinnetic/Feeley business chat Henry. This is a party, we can talk on business next week, okay?"


I hold my hand up and go mingle.




We can't plate up this fucking food fast enough!  I love messy feasts, both eating and helping with them.  The lobster claws are a great hit and Gus and Hunter have got cracking them down to fine art.


"Zee honey, we need more shrimp and more wings."  Out of the corner of my eye I see Ted waving at me and hurry over, after a quick chat, I scurry back.  "And spring rolls and the tacos."


"I'll handle the veggies."  Emmy Lou sashays over with a platter and is mobbed before he gets there.


He comes back somewhat shell-shocked.  "Christ, they were almost rabid!"   He loads up the platter again.  "I'm sending Drewsie this time.  Oh Mr Boyd!"


Drew has a lot more success getting the platter to the table, seems holding the platter above his head is the way to do it!




I've manage to grab food for all of us and have been keeping them warm in the oven.  Zee made it clear that if I didn't get her ribs, I wouldn't get any either.


She was worried about it but I knew she needn't have, because they've done it again.  It's been a huge success and now it's time for the piece de resistance, desserts.  Popping candy ice cream sandwiches, mini cherry, apple and pear pies; mini stick toffee puddings and of course the coffees with a tot.


Matt has been the deejay for the night and people have been swaying to the beats, nothing too vigorous but now he's swapped to, as Lydia would put it, ‘fuck off and go home' music so that we can eat and clear.


Henry has tottered over- it's clear he's had more than one tot- to thank them yet again and has promised that the leftovers will be given to the local AIDS hospice.


Zee has had her back to everyone most of the night and when she turns to me she beams that smile that says, I'm happy but they need to fucking fuck off now!  As people start to filter out, I notice a guy staring at her. He can stare as much as he wants she's mine. But just to make sure he understands, I pull her into my chest and she snuggles in sighing with contentment.


"Okay Mr Caveman, who got your attention?"  She mutters.


" I that obvious?"  She nods and I can feel her giggling.  "Guy at two o'clock."


She takes a quick look and shudders.  "Are you kidding me?"


"Oh you caught the stare too?"  Emmy Lou comes over.  "He looks like he's seen the finest chateaubriand and would happily eat her up with a spoon."  


The glowering from me, Brian and Drew seem to do the trick and he leaves, but he does look back one more time but his expression is odd, not salacious, just odd.






"Are you sure this isn't an inconvenience for you?"   


"Of course not Mr Feeley, I wouldn't have offered if it was.  I'm happy to take this to them."


"Okay now don't come in tomorrow though understood?"


"Yes sir of course."






"Emmy Lou, just got a call from Feeley. They are sending us a thank you basket and it's being hand delivered no less!"


He mock swoons and fans himself.  We got at least 15 personal party inquiries and about 12 company inquiries over the weekend and he's putting them all into the database when suddenly he gasps.


"Emmy Lou, you okay?"  He's peering at the screen and then just gapes at me.  "We've had over 300 inquiries since we started and we're booked, if they all confirmed for the next two years."


"Are you fucking with me?"  I demand looking at the screen.  "Th-that can't be right?  Is that right?"


The door opening brings in Matt, who after Emmy Lou, Drew and Mitchell is Rhett's favourite person.  He yips excitedly and gives Matt's face a wash as he's scooped into his arms.


"Here. Not sure if you've got doubles but I was handed these at the weekend."


He hands over a stack of business cards and after we persuade him to take Rhett and Miss Scarlett back to the Brownstone, we double check that we've got no duplications...and we don't.


"Honey, we need to seriously consider hiring at least a PA and maybe another chef."


I sigh and know he's right but I like it being just the two of us.  "Okay.  We're going to grow to hate it if we don't."  


He kisses me soundly on the cheek.  "Thank you!"


I head back to the kitchen rubbing his gloss off my cheek but smiling.  "I thought it tasted familiar."  I freeze and slowly turn round.


"What the fuck are you doing here?"  Emmy Lou demands.  We're both glowering at the man from the party.


"You."  I snarl.


He holds up his hands.  "Look I'm just dropping this off from Mr Feeley as I-I wanted to see you."


"She's married."  Faal's sharp tone has him turning around.  "And I'm a very protective husband."


"Zay..."  He begins turning back to me.


"NO!  You don't get to do that!  Leave the basket and fuck off!  I mean it FUCK OFF!"  I roar before walking as steadily as I could back to the kitchen.




"I don't believe my wife could've made it any clearer.   Now would you like me to help you out, because I would love to?"


"No, I'm going but here's my card.  Please don't tear it up and tell her..."


"Tell?  Now you are making demands of my wife?"  I growl advancing on him.


"Sorry, I meant to say ask... please ask her to call me at least give me a chance to say sorry."  There's that expression again.  "That's all I ask."


He puts the basket down and leaves.  Quickly Emmy Lou locks up and flips the sign.  While I dash to the kitchen where I find Zee just staring into space.


"Here, it's brandy."  Emmy Lou hands me a glass.  "Do you want me to..."


"No, stay you'll find out soon enough."  Her voice is hoarse and thick with tears.  "He left me, he left me to fight on my own..."


"Who did? Who is that?"  I pull her tighter into my arms and Emmy Lou rubs her back as she weeps.


" eldest brother. He promised to protect me from dad and he left me!"




Great-Grandma Was Indeed Right... by MissMerlot










I can't believe that guy is Zeus!  Whilst Faal was doing his caveman routine, Justin told me something a little disconcerting.  He noticed the guy acting strange earlier.  It was after he ate something and he seemed upset about it and then when Zee turned round he said that Zeus looked surprised and then really upset.


So I've arranged a meeting with Feeley and try and find out how he fits into his operation.


"She's resting managed to get her to have a shower."  Faal replies to everyone's questioning gaze when he comes in.  "Holy fuck what a shitshow!  So he's made his move now, by sending Zeus to upset her, fuck I just want to..."


"Well you can't."  Carl raps out and immediately looks contrite.  "Sorry Faal, it's just it's been so nice without any problems." 


"We need to call Luc, Dee and Del to let them know."  Jennifer's all business but then she freezes.   "Oh shit Daphne!"  Jennifer gasps.  "You don't think..."


"No he won't go after Daphne."  Zee's voice interrupts.  "I've spoken to them and they're moving Daphne into the small condo over the weekend just in case.  I've booked a flight for Vince to go as soon as you let him and..."


"Tonight."  Justin states firmly.  "I'll call now, can I use your office?" 


She nods tiredly and heads to the cart.  "Emmy..."


"If I see you in this week I shall sic Drew on you!"  He advises sternly earning him a grateful smile.


"So the son of God has returned...pathetic really, I don't know why I was so disappointed..."


"And you're not disappointed now?"  Ben joins her in a brandy. 


"No.  Now I'm fucking fucked off with being fucked about by them.  Let's see what they are going to do because I am going to totally annihilate them."  Her countenance starts off grim and determined, but then softens into a smile.  Which has Faal is smiling and then kissing her temple.


"What's cheered you up all of a sudden?"  Steve asks.


"Oh goody!"  Emmy Lou claps and accepts the brandy she proffers.


"Someone want to fill us in?"  Jennifer demands impatiently.


"The last time she looked like that Lindsay and Michael ended up in jail."  Emmy Lou smirks and takes a sip of his drink.   "And then moving to Canada."


"Oh."  Tucker nods sagely.  "By the way, why do you call him son of God?" 


"Because he named him, well almost after himself."  Zee grimaces.  "His full name is Luther Zeus Stark so he named his firstborn and heir Zeus Luther Stark.  The irony is that when he was born and grew up great-grandma called it right..."


"How so?"  I ask.


"She said he should've been called Lucifer not Luther."






"Michael!"  I look in the lounge and then find him in the kitchen.  "What are you doing?"


"Making coffee, I'm not going in today."  He wanders into the lounge and I follow.


"Why not?"


"Don't feel like it."  He slumps down on the sofa.  "I hate that job and I hate that it's so fucking cold over here!  Why can't we go back to Pittsburgh?"


"We don't have jobs over here but we have jobs here.  But I'm with you I don't feel like going in today either.  Let's both call in sick!"  I giggle.  "It will be more convincing that way!"


"Great!  What are we going to have, food poisoning or..."


"Definitely food poisoning since we live together that would be more convincing.  Who's calling this time?"  I prod him playfully.


"Rock, paper, scissors?"  He suggests and I win!






"For fuck sake!"  I snarl as I put down the phone.  "Kelly!  Kelly where are you?!"


"Here and what are you bellowing about?" 


"Where's the pot?"  I look round for it and she huffs a breath and rolls her eyes.


"What is it this time?"  She hands me the "Sick Pot for Lindsay and Michael" and I put in another $10.


"Food poisoning.  Actually how much is in this thing?" 


I open it up and we start counting.  "Christ almost $250, we are going to have a rollicking good time come Christmas!" 


Kelly snorts a little guiltily. 


"I have never known two people be off sick so much in my life in such a short space of time.  Do you remember when Michael jarred his back but was dancing if you can call it that at the party less than a day later?  Or when Lindsay has such a migraine that she had to be in a darkened room all day, but somehow her hair was remarkably highlighted and trimmed when she came back to work the next day.  For a lesbian she seems to forget how much gay men gossip, especially gay men who don't actually like you!"


I shake my head and smile.  "Gregor has still not forgiven her for the $1 tip and the lecture about the benefits of softer lighting, round the mirrors, not that she needs it of course."


"Of course."  Kelly snickers and then sobers.  "Jeremy we can't keep doing this.  She's the gallery manager for crying out loud!  And he's supposed to be doing the inventory but all we hear is bellyaching and griping about it being dusty down there.  We have to do something."


"Jeremy, Kelly uh there's some people to see you."  Karen our receptionist pokes her head round the door.  "Sure show them in."  I reply.


"This way gentlemen."  She calls out.








"So that concludes our Kinnetic/Feeley business.  On a personal note, Zaden and Emmett have asked me to once again extend their thanks for the wonderful gift basket you sent them.  I believe they emailed you already?"


"Yes they did and, Brian, please it was the least I could do!"  Henry grins at me, he waits for his team to leave before leaning in conspiratorially.  "I was a sick as a dog the next day!"


"You were, was anybody else?"  Ted asks worriedly.


"No, but that's most likely because I had more tot than coffee!  It took everything to come in on Monday I tell you."


"Speaking of which, the gentleman that brought the basket left something at their offices and they would like me to return it."


"Of course.  Let me take you to his office."  We follow him out.   "He's a nice man.  Unusual name in Zeus..."


"What is it that he does for you?"  Ted asks casually.


"Oh he runs the IT side in the US and his brother runs the IT side for our European offices."  He looks round.  "Between you and me, they may be very good IT wise but its best if they are not in the same office, they tend to clash..."  He raps on the door.  "Zeus ah there you are..."


As we enter I get a good look at him and he's the spit of his father and my hackles are up.


"This is Brian Kinney and Ted Schmidt from Kinnetic you left something in Pittsburgh they wanted to return it.  Well I shall leave you gentlemen to it, Zeus will see you to reception when you're done as I have another meeting in 10 minutes.  Lovely to see you again Brian, Ted, have a safe journey home."


We nod and smile and wait for the door to close.


"Well gentlemen it is nice to meet you." 


Zeus stands and extends his hand neither of us reach for it.  He frowns before clearing his throat.  "So what did I leave?"  He puts his hands in his pockets.


"Your card."  I hand it to him.  "She doesn't want it and tell your dad we say come with all you have."


He takes it from my hand with a sigh.  "I never meant it to happen, I never thought she would leave the company. That's the only reason we gave him the shares..."


"Gave and who's this we?"  Ted scoffs in derision but backs up in the face of the glare from Zeus.


"Yes gave.  Zeon and I, we gave him the shares so that he could give them to Zaden..."  He stares at us hard.  "Wait what do you mean come with all you have?  What the fuck is going on?"






It has been a lovely couple of days off.  Jeremy sounded pissed off but what can you do when you have food poisoning


Michael is slowly building his comic book and collectibles collection back up and whilst I can understand the logic of it to a degree, it creates a lot of clutter!  I'm currently doing dinner when the doorbell goes and I wait for Michael to answer it.


"Lindsay, can you get that I'm in the middle of doing my spreadsheet for my collectibles!"


I grimace a bit and wish he applied himself as diligently to the basement at work but head to the door anyway.


"Can I help you?"  I ask two official looking men.


"Yes, we're looking for Lindsay Peterson and Michael Novotny."


"I'm Lindsay and this is Michael.  Michael can you come..."


"May we come in ma'am you don't want this business conducted on your doorstep."


"Business what business?  No you can't come in!  What's this about?!"  I demand.


"We're from immigration ma'am we're here to serve you both with deportation orders for outstaying your welcome."


"Come in for God sake!"  I practically pull them inside. "What are you talking about?  Michael!"


He stomps into the hallway glowering.  "What is it, I'm busy!"


"We're being deported!"


"What the fuck for?"  He screeches.


"First, I am Office Lewis and this is Officer Collins, here's our ID, please could you check them."


We check them carefully.  "Now tell me what this bullshit is about?"  Michael demands.


"I can assure you that this is not bullshit."  Office Lewis growls.  "These are deportation orders on the following grounds.  For you Mr Novotny you applied to come to Canada on a tourist visa and one of the conditions of that visa is that you do not seek employment and you've been working.  And for you Ms Peterson your residency..."


"I was a resident in Canada, my now ex-partner and I both were!  Although we were briefly in the USA that doesn't mean the residency in Canada ends..."


"No but it has to be renewed when you return and you didn't do that.  So you are both here illegally and need to be removed."  Officer Collins smirks.  "By Friday as in tomorrow."


"But we have jobs, this is our home!"  I object.


"About your jobs..."  Officer Collins smirks again.






I have had private investigators looking into that bastard Kinney and it made for some interesting reading.  He's openly gay and married, so there's not angle there.  His husband might be an in to cause him some pain. 


I'm going to reach out to his father, who didn't seem to be enamoured with the kid and maybe the guy who hit him.  Not that I'd want him to finish the job of course but putting the jitters up him will be fun.  And then there were the court cases they had...hmm maybe he'd like to see what it feels like to have his kid taken away!


The other people who were there at my humiliation are of little consequence, not that they have any power to hurt me, I'm Luther Zeus Stark and I control my family!  By anyway I see fit!


"Mr Stark there's a Mr Zeus Stark to..."


"Zeus!  Send him in you idiot, you don't need to announce my boy!"


"Dad!  How are you!  I was just in town and thought I'd stop by.  So what's been happening...?"






"Del, what exactly is going on?"  I look at my beloved partner of over 15 years.


"Sit down Milt, let me tell you what I know..."


An hour later I'm staring at her in horror.  "Zaden, he did that to Zaden."


"Yep, and was damn proud of it too."  Zeus sits down holding an ice pack to his cheek where Del slapped him when he turned up out of the blue.  "Seems he doesn't know about the catering business she's got going, I think it would be wise to keep it that way."


"So what are you going do to?"  Del demands of him.  "You two need to make this right!"


"Yeah there's a slight problem with that.  Zeon and I aren't talking right now."


"Jesus fucking Christ what is it with you boys!"  Del hollers, she stomps to the phone and dials a number.  "Zeon on the next plane to Pittsburgh unless you want me to come get you!"


She sighs heavily.  "Why can't he see that she gets half her smarts from him?" 


I brush a tear from her cheek and hold her close and squeeze Zeus's shoulder who is shedding silent tears.






Deported!  We've been deported from Canada!   Could this get any worse!


"Ms Lindsay Peterson and Mr Michael Novotny?"  A man asks.


I nod warily.  "Who are you?"  I ask.


"I represent Mr Faal Ugerstacht and Mrs Zaden Ugerstacht, here is my card and here is the copy of the restraining order, which you are now in breach of."


"What?"  I hiss.


"You're both required to stay a certain distance away from the aforementioned Ugerstachts and being in Pittsburgh Airport you are in breach of that restraining order, you have two options open to you." 


He pauses to make sure he has our full attention.  "You can either remain at the airport and then be arrested and taken to jail for 6 weeks or pick another place to fly.  You have 5 minutes to decide."


"This is not fucking happening!"  Michael snarls. 


"7 weeks in jail."  Is his only response.


"New York we'll go to New York!"  I decide


"I'll make sure you get on the plane."  He replies calmly.


"Oh for heaven sake is that necessary!"  I'm starting to lose my patience.


"Yes or it will be 8 weeks." 


Coming Home - A Son and a Brother by MissMerlot








The time off has done me the world of good.  I feel more rested and ready to rip some new ones!


Mom, Milton, Uncle Luc and Aunt D are coming tomorrow and they're bringing Daph too.  I think, despite all assurances, he just wants to hug his best friend.


I'm heading to the kitchen when my phone goes.


"This is Zaden.  Oh hey.  What you got for me?  What!  Are you sure?  Oh my God, you are a miracle worker, okay give me the address!"


I stare at the piece of paper in my hand and then turn and run back to the bedroom shouting for Faal.








We're still in bed having tea and staring out the window, when I suddenly chuckle.


"You too?"  Mel smiles at me.  "It's not just me?  God, we've turned into this clichéd lesbian couple with the 2.4 kids but with dogs not cats."


"Yep!  We need to do some dirt biking today, to clear the tubes.  What cases you got this week?  I...come in!"


Gus pokes his head round the door with a smile.  "Morning, we're going to go to grandma and grandpa's this morning and then spend rest of the day at the Brownstone with Hunter and Matt and go with them to the Tree..."


"Define we."  Mel interrupts and Gus shifts from foot to foot.


"Well, uh Phil and Hank are going to be there too...don't make a big deal about it, it's bad enough that dad gave me a box of condoms when I told him!"  He's blushing badly.


"Jenny!"  I call out.


"Yes Aunt Leda?"  She's also the colour of a tomato.


"Do Charles and David know that Hank is staying overnight with no adult supervision?  Answer carefully as I will check no matter what."


"Yes and dad and Steven do too."  She sighs.  "So embarrassing having a safe sex lecture from my gay father...and stepfather!"


"Okay you two come in here and sit."  Mel pats the bed and they settle down.  "Do you both think you're ready to have sex?"


They exchange mortified expressions and blush harder.


"I'm going with ‘not yet but close' am I right?  So you've messed about correct?"


"Mom!"  Gus cries out almost burying himself inside his sweater and Jenny just gapes at her.


"That's a definite yes."  I chuckle earning a glare from Gus, which makes me laugh harder.


"All I'm saying is go at the pace you want; not the pace other people set for you okay?"


They both nod and look longingly at the door.


"Now get out of here. We want to feel the throbbing between our thighs and you're eating into that time!"  She grins at them.


"Please tell me you're going dirt biking!"  Gus cringes.




"Ugh parents!"  Jenny groans as she shoves him out the door.






"Would you stop wriggling?"  I'm so relieved my lig is back to her fighting best. Last Monday was the most distraught I've ever seen her apart from at her grandfather's funeral.


"I'm just so happy."  She beams at me and then waggles her eyebrows.  "Shall we play ‘how still can you sit'?"


"No."  I swat her hand out of my lap.  "Behave, we can do that later!"


"Hi guys, thought we were seeing you tomorrow?"  Debs looks concerned.  "Everything okay?"


"Yes, apart from the fucktard from NYC, everything is fine. I'm glad you're here. Can you sit because I think you're going to be a big help?"


"Hi darlings, sorry I'm late."  Kiki comes to the booth looking gorgeous. Whoever is giving her tips should set up shop. They'd rake in a fortune around here.


She unwraps her fur stole and settles down. "So what's happening?"  She asks looking between us.


"About what?"  Debs demands looking confused.


"We found him."  Zee replies.


"Found who?" "Are you serious?"  Debs and Kiki ask at once.


"Bernie and Arnold's son, you found him?"  Zee nods.  "Is-is he..."


"Very much so...and here's the address. I thought you might want to...and Debs this is where you come in."  She nods towards the bathroom where she takes Kiki to compose herself.


Soon they're back.  "Oh my God, how do I do this?  How do I tell them?"  She look a bit panic stricken.


"Tell who what?"  Carl asks joining us.


Kiki goes on to tell him about Bernie and Arnold's son, Thomas, and by the time she's finished, she's in tears again and he's looking thoughtful.


He clears his throat.  "I would start with him; see if he wants to see his folks again."  I nod in agreement.  "Want me to come with you?"


Debs beams at her husband with pride. He's come a long way from the first time they met. The old Horvath would've been dismissive and rude but now he's been Debucated he's very much a Pride-filled man...not quite PFLAG button wearing but close enough.


"Please Carl that would be very kind."  Kiki sniffles.


"Okay let's go. We might as well do it now.  Red, I'll see you later and we'll let you guys know how it went tomorrow."


Debs goes back to her shift and I tug Zee out of the booth.  "Later is now."  I growl in her ear.








"Oh yes baby yes!"  I groan as he thrusts back into me.  "S-so close.  There!  Fuck yes!"


"Brian!"  Justin cries and thrusts a few more times and then shudders and collapses on my back as I sink into the futon.


Slowly he starts to soften and then he flops onto his back.  "H-how many times have we replaced this futon?"  He pushes the hair out of my eyes and grins at me.


Raising myself onto my elbows I reach down for the water and take a swig sharing some with him before kissing him deeply.


I turn on my back and start to think.  "Six, or maybe seven."


He reaches for the blanket, covers us and snuggles into my side.  "Maybe we should consider a bed it would be cheaper.  We could knock back that alcove and put a good sized double in there."


I look to where he's pointing and nod.  "And Brian?"  He starts to blush, I know where this is going.  "About the plugs, can you ask Zee?"


"You stood for the casting. Why is it embarrassing now?"  I chuckle.


"It just is and make sure you get the swirls added."  He swats my chest.


"Yes dear!"






We wait for the door to be opened.  When it does we are greeted by a young-ish man with tousled hair and- as Red would put it- gorgeous eyes and killer cheek bones, who looks like a kitchen has exploded on him.


"Yes can I help you?"


"Are you Thomas Williamson?"




I flash my badge.  "Detective Carl Horvath, may we come in?"


His face pales and he swiftly waves us in and leads us to the lounge.  "Excuse the mess but I'm testing today.  Please have a seat, what's this about?"


"My name is Kiki and, I-I know your parents..."


"Mom and dad? Oh God, what's happened to them?!"  He looks panicked and I know this is going to be okay.


Kiki immediately puts up her hands to calm him.  "Nothing. Nothing has happened to them.  They've been looking for you and..."


"Th-they have?"  He gasps and slumps in his seat.


"Yes, they have and I just wanted to know if it would be..."


Before she could finish, he's crying. We exchange looks and I move to his side and puts my arm around him.  "So I guess we can tell them we've found you?"  I ask gently.


"A-after all I did a-and they're looking for me?  Yes please yes tell them you've found me!  I want to see them, t-to say sorry for being such a shitty son and..."


He looks dumbfounded as Kiki hands him her phone.  "Tell them yourself."  She prompts.


With shaking hands, he takes the phone and the number is already ringing.


"Bernadine Williamson speaking."


"Mom, i-it's me.  T-Thomas."


There is silence on the other end before we hear the sound of tears.  "This is Arnold Williamson, who is this and what have you said to upset my wife?"




"Thomas, Thomas is that really you?  Oh my boy! Where are you?  Where are you?!"


"Arnold, its Kiki.  We're at his house in Mt Lebanon."


"Kiki, its Bernie.  Thomas, are you still there?!  Don't hang up please!  I'm going for the other extension!"


"We'll be outside."  I stand to leave but he grabs at Kiki's hand and I nod and leave them to it.








"Okay.  Here's what is going to happen where Gus and Jenny are concerned.  We're not going to say anything, not going to stare or in any way embarrass my grandchildren, clear?" I'm trying to be stern but I can feel a smile starting.  "Come on! I'm serious, this is private..."


This earns snorts from Brian and Faal and a smirk from Ben.  "I give up!"  I mutter.


Twenty minutes later, they arrive and Jenny glowers at us all. She rolls her eyes, heavenward. "Seriously! Can't anything be private in this family?"


"No honey it can't!"  Red cackles.  "But that's all we're going to say on the subject. As long as you had a good time, that's all that matters, no matter what you did or didn't do.  The Queen has spoken!"


"All hail the queen!"  We all intone solemnly and that makes Jenny and Gus smile.  


"What's for brunch?"  Gus asks, shaking his head.


"Popped cherry pancakes."  Faal replies.


"Oh for...!"  Jenny throws a roll at him.






"I shouldn't have hit him."  I look across at Milton who reluctantly nods.  "That's one heck of a bruise he's got but the swelling has gone down a bit but you can still see it."


"Hmm but you were reacting to what you had been told by your ex and..."


"Still... I shouldn't have hit him."  I reply.


"Come on we're here!"  Daphne calls out.


As we get out of the car, I stop and just stare.  It is the most beautiful building I have ever seen.


"Wow."  Milton breathes.  "This is magnificent and she designed it."


"Designed and decorated."  Luc replies proudly.  "She's a smart one, my little one.  And Del, you get to knock."


I rap on the door and it is swung open quickly and I find myself lifted off the floor by Faal.


"Faal for goodness sake, let us get in first!"  I splutter with mock-indignation.


"Daph!"  Justin shouts and almost knocks me and Faal over to get to her.


"Everyone get in, come on!"  Luc starts to wave us into her beautiful kitchen, which also smells heavenly.


"Jesus, Zee this is beautiful!"  Milton exclaims.  "Champagne this early?"  He looks at her.  "Don't mind if I do."


"Right, Hunter, Matt take their bags up to the rooms that Ben and Emmy use."  Faal orders.


I take a deep breath.  "Uh Zee, there is one more other person to come in..."


The room goes quiet immediately.  "Who is it?"




"Are you..."


"Little one..."  Luc warns.


"I'll go see him. He doesn't get to come in here!  Are you coming with me mom?"




I have to will my legs not to run to the car as I see him leaning against it look around the garden.


"Zeus."  Mom calls out and as he turns around, I gasp.


"What the fuck happened to you?"  I quickly close the distance and turn his face so I can look at the bruise. "Who did this?"


"I did."


"Oh that's alright then."  I smirk at her.  "So what do you want?"  I snarl at him.


"Let him in and hear his side. Please. For me, please?"  Mom touches my arm and I sigh.


"Fine but talk fast. You only have 15 minutes."


"An hour. You'll need an hour."  Mom tells me.




The room is quiet as Zeus finishes his story and I look across at mom and she looks so guilty for hitting him.


"You need something for that bruise, I've got some arnica."  I get up and hand him the tube when I get back.  "I'm going to check lunch. I won't be long."




"Tell me something Zee."  Mom's presence is not a surprise.  "When was the last time you saw your brother cry?"


"Grandpa's funeral."  I reply quietly.


"Ask me when I did."  She waits.


"When did..."


"Last night.  And you know him... he never cries.  He's hurting so bad and not just because of haymaker.  I know it will take time but let him back in. He's been manipulated too; we all have."


"She's right."  I look up at Brian in surprise.  "I didn't tell you but I went to return his card and when we told him to tell "his dad to come with what he has" he looked confused.  And...and he says there's more. He went to see your father and he knows what he going to do or at least some of it..."








"Slow down Lindsay! I can't understand what you're saying.  So you're in New York, right but why are you in New...deported!  Why on earth have you been deported?!"


On hearing that, Nancy picks up the other extension and we look aghast at each other.  "Don't worry darling."  I soothe.  "Mom and I will send money now. We'll send you $20K, get to a hotel and get some rest okay.  Yes, we'll speak tomorrow."


"I thought she was over this!  Seems she's going to keep punishing Lindsay until she feels fit to stop. Well I've had enough of this!"  Nancy bridles.  "Millie its Nancy, do you have Zee's telephone number by any chance..."


An hour later Zee calls us back.


"Mr and Mrs Peterson, how are you both?"  She asks.


"We'd be doing much better if you would leave Lindsay alone."  I snap.


"Ah, she's found out, has she?  Shame I had hoped to have her there longer.  However, she should've checked who her landlord was before..."


"Landlord?  What are you talking about?  I'm talking about you having her and Michael deported and then shipped off to New York!"


"Deported?  Hang on...wait New York?  Start from the very beginning."


"...and that's how they're in New York."  I finish.


"Mr and Mrs Peterson, the one thing I don't do is lie and as omnipotent as I'd like to think she accused me of being, I do not control immigration.  Besides, why the hell would I want her in the USA?  Canada was the perfect place for them and if she was stupid enough to come back despite the restraining order..."


"Restraining order?"  Nancy and I look at each with a sense of dread.


"Yeah, they can't come within 50 miles of us and the airport is 35 miles away..."


"Zee, please accept our apologies for disturbing your Sunday. We won't detain you further."


"Oh, okay, goodbye then."


Nancy rubs her temples and grimaces.  "She's been playing fast and loose with the truth again...why don't we ever learn? Is it too late to get the transfer stopped?"


"Yes, yes it is."  I sigh.








I come back in feeling bemused and sit down.


" he's having Justin and I investigated. We're not surprised by this but it's the court case angle that worries me. Is there anything he can do?"  Brian asks Mel.


"Not sure. Let me see what Adam and Solomon think."


"Lig, you okay?"


"According to Ronald and Nancy, Lindsay and Michael have been deported and are now in New York."


Amongst the murmurs of surprise there are small smiles.


"So which one of you reported them to immigration and what for?"  Leda asks looking round.




"Okay so we didn't. Then who the hell did?  Let me make some calls."


"Need help Zay...Zaden, I can check the system see what happened."  Zeus offers.


Taking a breath I nod and he follows me to the office.  "Uh no, you tell me how to check and I'll do it."  I tell him as he goes to sit down at the computer.


He nods and explains what I have to do and quickly we find out who it was.  "Don't forget..."


"To clear the back end, I know."  I snap.  "Now excuse me I need to make those calls."


He heads to the door and pauses but I ignore him and pick up the phone.  "It will take time", I hear him mutter to himself as the door closes.




I come back in carrying more champagne and grinning.


"Well good ole Lindsay and Michael have been making friends in the art world in Canada it seems."


"Huh?"  Justin asks round a beef sandwich.


"When did you...seriously so annoying how you never gain an ounce!"  I gripe.  "Anyway, seems that their now ex-employers were being treated to the full force of their personalities. Yep I said their personalities as they hired Michael to do inventory.  Immigration came calling because Michael applied to enter on a tourist visa but of course his earnings caught their attention and after advising them that Lindsay and Michael no longer work there, it was all academic."


"Okay that explains the deportation."  Jennifer nods.  "But what about New York? Why not stay...ah the restraining orders."


"Yep.  When you have a restraining order, you're tracked so of course the moment they were booked on flights to Pittsburgh a representative of Chase, Donaldson & Draper was there to make sure they didn't stay and if they did, it would be in jail."


"Hold up, why would you need a restraining order?"  Zeus growls.  "What happened?"


As much as I didn't want it to my heart fluttered just a little bit.


"I'll catch you up."  Uncle Luc advises.  "That's a whole other thing.  Oh I've just thought we're going to have to send their stuff to them, if I know the immigration boys, they just take you in what you're standing in if you're lucky."


I nod.  "Okay, so get the letting agent to clear their shit out and ship it off to them when they have an address."  Uncle Luc nods and goes to make the call.  "Now enough about Wankerboy and Twatzilla let's get these bottles open."


"Wankerboy and Twatzilla?"  Zeus echoes and then grins at me and before I can stop myself I grin back but immediately school my features to neutral.


I hand mom her champagne.  "I saw that."  She whispers to me.  "It's a start. Thank you."


Enemies and the God of Coincidence Give What You Need by MissMerlot








"Luther honey, why can't I come with you?"  I bat my eyes but to no avail.


"Because you would be bored out of your mind and when you're bored, you shop.  Not that I have a problem with you shopping as I like my women to be finely appointed."  He smirks at my new breasts.  "But I would rather you shopped here where at least the stores are better."


I sigh and watch him pack his case.  "How long are you gone for again?"  He smiles indulgently.


"Four days tops. I need to get this business plan nailed down. Hey how about this?  When I come back we can go to...oh you pick a place and just let me know okay, baby?"


I smile at him and nod before kissing him goodbye and wishing him a safe trip.


As I watch him drive out to the airport I sigh.  I would feel sorry for Delia but the pull of Luther was just too strong. Oh I pulled away a couple of times over the years but he always pulled me back and now that we are finally free to be together. It's great!  No more sneaking around; no more playing second fiddle to her!  I watch the diamond gate bracelet twinkle in the light...and no more watching pennies. For a millionaire, Zephaniah was incredibly tight-fisted with his money.  If you have it spend it I say and when I say spend, I mean on me and Luther is happy to do that.






I'm reading the paper when I feel a warm body slide in next to me.  "Hey you gorgeous thing, how are you?  Before you answer that, come here."  I pull Xanthe into my arms and kiss her deeply.


"Luther, have you by any chance missed me?"  She gasps when I let her up.  I nod and grin at her.


"So what's in Ohio?"  She asks, flicking her hair back.


She reminds me of Talon in a way. Both are beautiful women, but with just that touch of exoticism. With Talon, her mother was Black and her father Korean and with Xanthe, her father is Black but her mother's White.


But unlike Talon, Xanthe has just a touch more class. Don't get me wrong, I like both women and they each serve a purpose- just different purposes- in my life and of course neither of them know about the other and that's the way it will stay.


"My son Zeus. It's been a week since I last saw him and I've got business in Pittsburgh so we're staying with him before we go to Pittsburgh.  Now when we get there, be the lady I know you can be and charm the guy we're going to meet okay?"


"Okay darling.  Our flights just been announced.  I still don't see why we couldn't fly on American or Delta at least they are direct and..."


"Honey, they don't do business class and United Airlines does, and I only go with the best.  But I'm sure we can think of something to do for those extra hours..."


She giggles as we head to the gate.








I'm just staring at Nancy and Ronald. I can't think of anything other than ‘how could you be so bloody stupid' to say.


"We know... we know what you're thinking."  Ronald sighs.  "But she..."


"Played the fiddle and you danced to her tune?"  Harold interrupted. He's as mad as I am.


"I don't understand how you've managed to get back to where you were all that time ago. You had her where she needed to be responsible for her own mistakes and you guys were happier than I've seen you in years.  And..."


"Oh my God! Tell me you didn't send her money?" I gasp, stopping Harold mid-tirade.


"Well we..."  Nancy looks mortified, deservedly so.


"Nancy!"  I huff crossly.


"However much it is, it won't last long in New York- not with the two of them using it at any rate and...Excuse me can we have another bottle of the red please, thank you."  Harold sighs.


Ronald leans in and whispers.  "Di-did you know about the restraining orders?"


"Knew about them? Everyone that was in the immediate vicinity knew about them. How come you didn't?"


"We had a problem with the McCandless property and were dealing with that. I heard her shouting but I was so cross that I ignored her and she never told us about them.  When they moved to Canada, we thought it was for a fresh start. At least that's..."


"You need to stop listening to what she tells you and look at what she's doing." They look so heart sick that I start to feel my anger abating. "So where is she staying at the moment?  And what about their place in Canada? That will need to be packed up surely.  So haul her ass back here and make her do it!  That's what I would do anyway."


Ronald looks across at Harold who nods.  "She was willing to sacrifice your marriage Nancy. Enough really does have to be enough now."


"If the positions were reversed, what do you think she would do?"  I ask them both.


"Nothing, she would do nothing."  Nancy sighs.  "But when it's your child and..."


"They have to stumble and fall and pick their own asses up and carry on as Kiki would say."


"Ah Kiki, lovely lady."  Ronald smiles.  I gape at him.  "You've met Kiki, when?"








Well this is fun.  I have spent the last almost 36 hours vacillating between wanting to find a place to bury him or bleach my eyes and pour concrete in my ears having had to watch them paw at and hear them have at each other since they got here.


He struts in.  "Son, this is a beautiful place.  Must have cost a pretty penny."  He waits for an answer, which he's not getting from me.  "So coffee is where?"


"In the kitchen, could you excuse me for a minute?"  I head to the bedroom and bury my face in the pillow and scream and swear for a good two minutes and once I'm just at furious I come back down.


He looks up from the paper.  "Cream and two sugars and Xanthe likes it black."


I head to the kitchen and force myself to make the coffee properly with no spit, snot or any other bodily fluids.  I'm surprised to find Xanthe behind me.


"Zeus, is everything okay? You look a little tense."


"Fine, it's just this...this home has rather thin walls..."


"Thin...oh!"  She blushes.  "I'm sorry uh, well I'll just take the coffee in."  She virtually snatches the tray from me and then I hear my dad's bark of laughter.


"That's what got your panties in a bunch? It's just fucking..."


"Dad keep your voice down."  I implore.


"Okay Mr Prissypants."  He laughs.  "So what about you? What happened to that lady you were seeing, Meredith or something?  She was a pretty little thing."


I stare at him for a good few minutes and wonder how mom ever put up with him.  "We wanted different things and..."


"Like what?"


"She wanted to be free and single and I wanted to settle down.  So we parted ways. The irony is that she's now engaged to be married.  And I'm..."


"Living the life that most men would envy.  You and me my son we have it made. We can get all the women we want for the right price and no commitments.  Now I'm going to have a shower; we fly in a few hours."


He heads to the stairs and I can hear his bound up them before he pauses.  "Xanthe, you coming?"


Xanthe comes in with the tray and gives me a small smile.  "I see what you mean about the walls."








Holy fucking Christ that was a nightmare!  Luckily, we managed to catch the virus before it did any serious damage but it meant I couldn't get to Pittsburgh last week.  I didn't know that Zeus moved to Pittsburgh but since we've not spoken for almost 3 months I'm not surprised.


I'm going to be flying there tonight instead and as I'm wondering where to stay when my intercom goes.


"Zeus Stark on line one for you."


"Uh put him through.  Zeus, have you saved me a trip to whythefuckPittsburgh?"


He laughs and I can see him rolling his eyes.


"No you've still got to come but come to Ohio instead.  We have some serious talking to do. Let me know your flight details and I'll pick you up.  Okay?  Zeon?  Okay?"


"Sure I'll be there."






I look up at the ceiling of the King Suite we are booked into and sigh happily.  I knew we could rely on my parents to help us out.  However, we must actually look into somewhere to live as this money isn't going to last forever.


We also need to sort out the place in Canada. We didn't even have time to pack our stuff. We were allowed to take just one case and Michael almost cried over his comic books and collectibles.  We've got to get in touch with the letting agents and give them notice and hope that they don't invoke the penalty because we vacated at the same time as giving notice.


Michael's been downtown getting comics to read and although he understands, he's still pouting that he can't buy any collectibles as yet.  I reassured him that the moment we find a base, he can get as many as he wants.


"Hey Lindsay, shall we order in or go out?"


"Oh go out.  I think a nice stroll down Fifth Avenue and then lunch would be nice."


He snickers.  "You and Brian and your fancy shops."  He pauses.  "Do you miss them?"


I sigh.  "The adults, no.  I will never forgive any of them for throwing us to the ZeeWolf but Gus and Jenny I do miss.  I thought they would be in touch by now; it's been months.  Maybe we should call..."


"No Lindsay, we agreed. Since they hurt us, they have to make the first move."








Ever since I got that call from Luther Stark, I've been wondering what possible business we could do together.  It's not as if we even run in the same circles socially, culturally and definitely not financially. He's way out of my league.


I've not been back here in awhile. With Taylor Electronics struggling, I've had to concentrate on my business but it's good to be back here.  I nod and smile at Nancy and Ronald Peterson, who I vaguely know. As they leave, I start to get a little cross. Luther Stark is running late.


"Mr Taylor?"


I look up at one of the most imposing men I've ever seen.  He's built like a slab of concrete but is the colour of molasses and could be described- if I was a disgusting faggot- as good looking.  More interesting is the lady on his arm. Now she is beautiful.


"Mr Stark and..."


"Ms Collier, Xanthe Collier."  She smiles at me and I think you lucky bastard!


"Please have a seat."  I signal the waiter to bring the wine.  "I took the liberty of ordering one of your favourites Mr Stark."


As the waiter approaches, I indicate that Mr Stark should taste and he does and he nods.


"You may pour."  He orders without even looking at the waiter.  "And now you leave."  He growls out when the waiter hovers and he virtually runs back to his station.


Wow now that was impressive.


"I'll cut to the chase Mr Taylor. I've been looking at your financials and you're struggling and I can help you get better but I want you to do something for me." He leans back in his seat and looks around and snorts softly.  "I've recently suffered a familial problem at the hands of Brian Kinney..."


"Don't mention that pervert's name to me; he corrupted my son!"  I hiss at him and get up to leave.


"Sit down Mr Taylor.  You've had the reaction I wanted.  I want to hurt Brian Kinney for the hurt he caused me and you.  I have a son who has the same affliction as yours.  Your son, Justin, and Kinney are married now."


I gape at him in horror.  "Married? Are you kidding me?!"  I whisper hoarsely.


"Nope, I never kid about this kind of thing.  Do you know anything about your son Mr Taylor?  I mean the life he lives now?"


I shake my head in disgust.  "No and nor do I want to. He's a..."


"Multi-millionaire.  Yes his art sells very well.  And I think after all the good things we tried to instill in our children for them to go on to achieve something they don't deserve in spite of their predilections is grossly unfair to all upstanding moral citizens."


I'm fuming!  How could he succeed being what he is?!  I sit back and see reflected in his eyes the same disgust for his son that I have for Justin.  I nod for him to continue


"First, let me give you an incentive. I will inject some cash into your business on the basis that you do what you did after the trial, at the Prop 14 protest and the like...make your son miserable.  By doing that you make Kinney miserable."




"Nobody knows what buttons to push better than a father.  And, do you happen to know the current location of Chris Hobbs? I believe he can help us in our endeavour."


"Excuse me Luther, Craig, I just need to powder my nose."  Xanthe tells us and he waves her off without a backward glance.




I dry heave into the toilet and try to calm my racing heart.  I step out of the stall trying to get my head around what I've just heard.


"Excuse me, but are you okay?"  I jump a little and turn to the voice.  She has a kind face.


"Here, come sit down."  She guides me back to the dressing room area of the bathroom, which I hadn't noticed before in my need to get to the toilet.


"Would you like some water?"  I nod and smile gratefully when she hands me a cold glass.


"So what's got that pretty face looking less pretty?  Is it a man?"  I nod.


"I thought I knew him, thought he cared but..."


"Ah I see.  Well if you want a piece of advice from a lady that's been there, done that, got the scars and came away with the house and all the jewellery.  And is doing better than him now..."


I giggle and nod.  "Walk away, no matter how little is left of you, walk away."  I frown.  "And then get the best lawyer in the world and let him ride his ass to hell!"


I burst out laughing and dab my eyes.  "There now.  That's how that face is supposed to be.  Now shoulders back, head held high and as my dear friend says own the road you walk on."


I nod and straighten my dress.  "Thank you, uh..."


"Jennifer.  Jennifer Taylor."


"Xanthe Collier, it was lovely to meet you."


"You too.  Sorry but I've got to run. I've a showing in an hour, hope to see you again.  Oh wait, here's my card if you're ever looking for a place in Pittsburgh you know after you're lawyer's done with him."


I smile and head back to the table.  But on the way I drop my purse as I crouch to pick it up I hear them laughing.


"She's very beautiful."


"She is indeed and appropriate in these kind of social situations."  Luther laughs


"Is she a..."


"No.  Goodness me no, I don't need to pay for it in that sense, just in jewellery, they like jewellery, it keeps them sweet."


"They?"  Craig sounds surprised.


"Of course you think I've only got one lady on the go.  Don't get me wrong I like Xanthe but I like other ladies too you know what I mean."


"So you just have the one son?"


"No, 4 boys and one girl. The girl is causing me the most problems, not knowing her place but I'm working on fixing that too."


I've heard enough, I stand and plaster on a smile.  "Sorry gentlemen but I have a headache and need to go back to the hotel.  No, really Luther I will be fine. You stay here and conduct your business."


He gives me a kiss on my cheek and Craig kisses my hand and with Jennifer's words ringing in my ears I head back to the hotel.








"Xanthe, you sure you're okay? You've been quiet all day."


"Sorry, honey but I've got a lot going on at work and I need to travel to Europe on Saturday.  So how was the rest of your meeting with Mr Taylor, productive?  Did you..."


He holds up a finger as his phone rings.  "Stark.  Uh huh, well I don't pay you to tell me where they ain't, I pay you to tell me where they are!"  He jabs the phone off.


"They?"  I ask nonchalantly massaging his shoulders.


"Yeah, couple of people I'm looking for to help me with the family problem I have.  Seems that Kinney had some cases in court that he won and I'm going to try and get them reversed but first I need to find the people who brought the cases."  He sighs heavily.  "Oh that feels good."


"You know me honey here to make you feel good."  I smile at myself in the mirror as he checks his phone.






Well I finally got here.  Whoever has been flaming Feeley were good but we were better.  The firewall has been reinforced and I fired four members of my team for not doing that in the first place.


"So bro what's the deal?"  I ask Zeus, as we warily regard each other.  "And who hit you?"


"Mom in answer to your second question and the deal...oh hi, yeah I've got time, go ahead."


I roll my eyes. He's like dad in that respect always chasing tail and putting that first.  When Zeph told me about him and Talon, after losing my lunch I wasn't surprised Dad always did covet what belongs to others.  But for 20 fucking years, that is just disgraceful!  And that was the start of the reconciliation between mom and I; we're not there but we're getting there.


"Pack an overnight bag!"  I gawk at him.  "Come on!"








I smile to myself, pleased that I finally accepted the transfer to Paris.  I had been mulling it over for a while and wanted to see if I had a future with him and I don't.  I've closed up my house, put it on the market and now they are calling my flight.


I giggle as I remember the words of Jennifer in the dressing room and with my head held high I dump my phone in the trash and head towards the gate and a new life.








It's been almost 10 days since I saw Zeus and my hand has itched and my heart has ached to call him but he has to come to me and...then I stop myself and realise something. I'm being exactly like, shudder and heave, Luther!  I now regret not letting him stay with us but Brian let him stay at the loft.


"Just hit you my lig?"  He pulls me into his arms, my safe and happy place and I sigh.  "It is a lot of hurt my darling, but he didn't have to come here."


"You believe him?"  I bury my nose in his neck, his scent calming me.


"I didn't get a lie off him..."  I giggle.  "And having a minor in psychology I...hey no jabbing!"


"Think I should call him?"


"I think you should do whatever is comfortable for you to do..."


"In other words yes."


He tilts my head up and kisses me softly.  "Yes I think you need to at least try and get back to each other and if he's working with the devil I'll help you hide the bodies."




I tighten my grip on his waist and snuggle back into his neck. "What time are they coming?"


"In about 20 minutes, which means we can't for a good few hours!"


I wriggle out of his embrace and smack his chest.  "Okay, I'll call him, maybe tomorrow."


"Good.  Now what's for lunch?"








"Some good news I hope?  Where in New York?  Right.  Thank you for finally doing your job!"


I slam the phone down.  I'm beyond pissed.  Xanthe is in Europe and unavailable and Talon is living up to her name by digging in about going away like I promised. Well other things come first...


I flick through my rolodex and find the man I'm looking for.  Grady Holster, Ivy Leaguer, All around good Black American and...Matt's father.  I still can't believe she chose her master over him.


"Grady it's Luther, how you doing son?  Uh-huh, uh-huh, look let me cut to the chase, Zaden needs to be taught a lesson and if you're lucky.  No let me start again.  You need to start wooing someone but not right now.  Let me deal with the introductions but just be ready.  And if I'm right, to get rid of you she'll do what her grandfather did and pay you to leave her alone.  Of course she doesn't know..."








"May I speak to Christopher Hobbs please?  Chris, its Craig Taylor. Regrettably that boy's father.  I wonder if we can meet..."








We're just staring at the table.  Just staring.  She's making us wait to sit down as she puts the dishes out.  The furballs are all yelling outside because they can smell it and she's got the kids stripping the bones off under the careful watch of George and Alice.  No licking of fingers allowed.


I think Carl is on the cusp of invoking his Papa Bear powers.  "Can we...?"


"No.  There's more.  I'll be as fast as I can."  She hurries out and brings in another platter.


"Gus you even think of licking that finger!"  Alice chides him.


"But it smells so good!"  He argues.


"That sounds so wrong and right on so many levels!"  Emmy Lou chuckles earning a Kinney glare.


"Okay that's it.  This is the RTOAF messy family feast.  We have..."


"Yeah-yeah-yeah we can see!  Can we eat now?"  Steve demands.


"No, come on guys...please?"  She looks round.  "Let something stay the same?"


"So what do we have?"  Carl asks gently.


"Well it's a chicken messy feast.  There's Korean southern fried, Keralan curry with naan breads, Vietnamese hot spiced wrapped in savoy cabbage with vegetables and Ethiopian chicken stew and fixings."


"So we can sit now?"  Steve is practically drooling.


"Yes, you can sit now and someone let the furballs in."


The moment the door is opened all we see is streaks of fur and all we hear is happy noises when they reach their bowls.


Fifteen minutes in, Brian is at one end of the table and Justin is at the other at Carl's insistence having been splashed twice as Brian tried to move his plate away from him.  Justin's picking at his food is so pathetic that Carl doesn't even get to finish his sentence before he's back next to Brian and promising not to be so grabby.


"I'll get it!"  Jenny hollers and goes to the door.   


"Oh this is so...fuck!  Hell has a new address!"  Zee growls.


"Drewsie I love you very much but again not blind!  He's as beautiful as Zee is!"  Emmy cries.


"So everyone this is Zeon; Zeon, this is everyone. Let me get you some plates.  Have a seat."


We all just stare at him.  "Okay enough with the staring."  He rebukes us.  "Who's who?"


By the time she comes back we're all introduced and are chatting away but after about another 20 minutes of shifting the food around her plate, she's reached her limit.


"Why are you here?"


"Uh maybe the kids..."  Zeon begins.


Zeus holds up his hand.  "No they're good but can we go to the lounge so I can at least be semi-vertical when I'm digesting this?  So good."




We all settle down but can feel the all-out war simmering between Zeon and Zee.  They're actually like lion and hyena over a carcass and the carcass is their relationship.  And then I see it.  The only thing keeping them from fighting is the presence of Zeus.  With just one look he puts them back in their corners.


"So Zeus, what's going on?"  Carl demands.


When he finishes talking we're silent.  Justin is as still as a statue and Brian's face is incandescent with rage.


"He's...he's paying my..."  Justin whispers.


"How do you know this?"  Debs demands pacing.  "I think better when I'm moving!"  She answers his questioning look.


"I got a call from Xanthe. She was in Pittsburgh with..."


"Xanthe?  Are you sure it was Xanthe?  Jennifer demands.


"Uh yeah, she's one of my dad's...why?"


"Tall, beautiful Black lady, quite slim with high cheekbones, mole on her right cheek?"


"Pretty much that's her...again why?"


I watch Zee bring in the desserts and head back for coffees. She looks like she wants to cry.


Jennifer starts to laugh and pretty soon she's doubled over and it takes a while for her to calm down.


"I bumped into her in the country club. She was upset about something and I told her to own the road she walks on and it looks like she did!"


"Go Jen!"  Debs crows.


"I had no idea who she was!  Why would I?  I didn't even see Craig, but because of that we now know what we're dealing with!  We can be prepared.  And speaking of prepared, what are these pieces of gorgeousness?"


There are ice cream sandwiches dribbling on the platter and Zee comes back in with the coffee. She stares at Zeon and then drops the tray and within seconds she's screaming no and slapping the sandwich out of his hand.


"Zaden what the fuck is wrong with you!"  I shout at her.


"He's allergic to apricots!"  She pants.


There's my girl!



Relief, Reconciliation, Realisation and 3 Become 5 by MissMerlot




The room is quiet but out of the corner of my eye, I can see Debs cleaning up the sandwich and hear the coffee things being cleared up but I'm just fixed on Zeon.


"You okay? You didn't eat any of it, did you?"




"Go wash your hands okay?"  I order him and he heads to the kitchen.


"I'll make some more coffee.  And you young lady, go sit down."  Jennifer tells me firmly.


I do feel a bit shaky, so head to the cart and inhale a brandy then wait for it to kick in.  I feel strong arms round me and I sink into them.


"Sssh, ZayZay, sssh, he's fine, he's fine.  Hush now."


Nobody says a word as Zeus comforts me.  "C-can you check make sure..."


"I will.  Now go sit down."






I'm staring into space thinking how close I came to a major stomach upset and hives when Zeus nudges me.


"Zeon you okay? You need anything?"


"I'm fine.  Fuck me she's quick though - cleared that space in no time."


"I'd have let you eat it."  Zeus responds quietly.


"Says a lot about your character then, doesn't it?"  Jennifer snaps.


"No, because I didn't remember the allergy."


Jennifer pauses.  "Says a lot about her that she did.  Now take this on board.  I love Zee.  But Brian and Justin are mine...and they are all ours. If this is some ruse then carry on but don't say you weren't warned.  As I say, never underestimate the strength or the power of someone who has nothing to lose."


We watch her carry out another tray.


"Fuck me!  Dad's not going to know what hit him!"  Zeus grins.






I'm pacing, the house is tidy, I'm tidy and they will be here in 15 minutes.  I think I'm having a panic attack.  15 minutes!  I double check the lunch and resume pacing.  I have a speech prepared...I can't believe I was so cruel to them when all they, especially mom, were trying to be was understanding.


The bell jangling stops my pacing and deserved self-flagellation and I take a deep breath and open it.


"Dad!  Mom!"  I yell and launch myself into their arms.  "I'm sorry I'm so, so sorry!"  I sob.


I'm not sure when we made it indoors let alone to the couch but the door is shut, coffee is being poured and tissues pressed into my hands.


"Let me look at you my boy, let me look at you!  How could you scare us for so long?!  What were you thinking?"


Dad demands running his hands over my face and arms and anywhere he can touch.


"Arnold...we're here now and that's all that matters."  Mom interrupts him.  "So you've been here all this time?"


"No, I went to NYC for a few years, then San Fran and came back a couple of years ago."


Kiki heads to the door.  "Kiki where are you going?"  Mom asks.


"Leaving you alone for this. It's private."


"Please stay."  I ask and look at my parents- my parents- for confirmation and they nod.


"Are you, please don't get annoyed, but are you well?"  Dad asks.


"Yes dad. I'm perfectly healthy apart from asthma, I'm fine."


He sighs in relief.  "I'm sorry I didn't handle it well when you first told us."


"None of you did."  Kiki tells us firmly.  "It's what you do now that matters.  Now what smells so good?"


"Lunch.  Whilst I was away I trained as a chef."






We put out an advert last week and we've got over 40 resumes to look at.  Luckily we're not that busy at the moment.  We've got events from early November so that gives us time to find a PA at least.  But we have recipe testing to do next week for those.


"Hello darlings!"  Lydia ruffles Ms Scarlett and Rhett and I know she's just given them a treat each despite what I say.  "Emmy Lou what on earth is all that?"


"Resumes. We're looking for a PA."  I sigh.  "I hate admin.  So what are you doing here?"


Lydia is looking through the pile on my desk and quickly dismisses almost all of them.


"Oh this one is good.  Call this lady."  She hands me a resume and then looks thoughtful.  "Though why she would want to work here is anyone's guess..."


"Thanks!"  I snark.


"Read the resume Emmy Lou just get her in.  I was wondering if there was any lunch going to answer your earlier question."  I shake my head.  "Shame.  Get her in. I think we might have a mutually acceptable solution."


She walks out with a smile.






Smiling I grab Cara and head to E&ZHoD, hoping this works out.


"Sarah?  Oh Lydia what are you doing here?"  Emmy Lou looks surprised.


"Helping you to get the right person for the job, close up let's get this started."


Cara, Sarah and Emmy Lou exchange bewildered expressions.


"Sarah you are an art graduate, Cara you love food and planning events and are good at it.  This PA job here would be brilliant for you and..."


"Oh my God you're Lydia Glendale."  Sarah gapes at me.


"Yes I am, now as I was saying, you take Cara and I take Sarah."


"What?!"  The both say at the same time and Emmy Lou just smiles.


"Cara come on. Are you seriously trying to tell me that you aren't itching to work here, seriously?"


"I would love to but..."


"Then it's done.  Handover for a week and Sarah I think you will fit in perfectly."








I'm so fucking fucked off.  I'd been trying to get Xanthe on the phone for the last few days now but it turns out that her phone was stolen so we are only on email.  I'm waiting for her to reply to my last one with a new phone number. She's going to be in Paris for the next few days.  Finally, she sends me the number but before I can call her Zephaniah and Zander come in.


"Boys, how great to see you."  I indicate the seats and Zander is the only one that sits.


"What's this about?"  Zephaniah demands.


"Tone boy."  I growl.


"Leaving now."  He barks back.


"Are you still pouting about Talon?  Boy, if you were giving her what she wanted, I would not be needed, now would I?  Now just sit down and listen."


He remains in the room leaning against the door regarding me coolly.


"Right.  Zander, I want you to sell your shares to me..."


"What?  What for?"


"So I can get back on the board of course..."


"But it won't make a bit of difference she's got 75% of the company. She can still outvote you easily."


"That's true but I can make running it difficult.  Once..."


"Why do you hate her so much?"  Zeph asks quietly.


I look at him as if he has two heads.  "She killed my boy!"


"No!  No she didn't.  Zebadiah would not have survived..."


"Bullshit! If she had been born last..."


"She would've still lived!"  Zephaniah shouts back.


I grip the desk hard.  "I wanted boys!  Not a girl!  And she defies me at every turn.  I'm the father! She does what I tell her!"


"No Mr Stark, there's a difference between being defiant and being better and she's better than you- better than us- and you can't stand it!"  Zephaniah snorts.


"$20 million."  Zander stands.  "$20 million and the shares are yours."


Zephaniah gapes at him and walks out.  "I knew I could rely on you. Let me get the money together; you'll have it by the end of next week."


He follows Zephaniah out and I smile. Soon I will be back to making her life miserable again.


Xanthe has finally replied.  I dial the number putting it on speaker, ready to bask in her honeyed tones.


"Bonjour how may I help you?"


I freeze and look at the number that she sent and the number that I dialled.


"Sorry, I seem to have misdialed. I was trying for Xanthe Collier, I'll..."


"No sir this is the service for Ms Collier, how may I help you?"


"Oh.  May I be put through to her please?"


"Who is calling?"


I grind my teeth.  "Luther Stark.  I'm..."


"On the hang up list.  Goodbye."


I quickly email Xanthe and I get a bounce back.  What the fuck is going on?


I call the New York office and am put through to Cindy.  "Cindy its Luther Stark. I want to speak to Xanthe but I can't get through."


"Oh, wait let me just check.  Yes you're on the hang up list.  Goodbye."


I huff angrily and then think, she'll be back.  She's just pouting about something ridiculous.








"Hey Tobias, its Ted.  I'm fine and so is Blake.  What?  When?  Oh I'm so happy for you.  Have you got a venue or a date?  Of course we'd be delighted to come.  Look the reason for the call I have a concern.  Taylor Electronics, and maybe its owner Craig Taylor, is about to come into a large amount of money and...I'll leave it with you."


I quickly dial Blake.  "Guess what honey?  Darius proposed and Tobias said yes!  Of course we're going to the wedding, date to be determined.  Look I've got another call coming through speak to you tonight.  Love you."


"Tobias?  I'm not sure how it will get to him but I know who if that helps.  Stark, Luther Stark."


Mess with my family Mr Stark and Mr Taylor...oh I think not!








"...oh I see.  Well yes we'll be delighted to meet you next week. What time?  Thank you.  I'm unsurprised by what you've said.  Goodbye."


"Who was that?"


"Luther Stark, Zee's dad.  Turns out that she, as has been shown by her behaviour, was and is the protagonist in their relationship.  He wants to meet with us next week. He says he can get all our cases reviewed with a view to getting them retried!  Here in New York!"


He grabs me and swings me around.  "Yes!  And there's nothing that can stop that!"






This potential review of all our cases has me worried.  I've finally got back to the office so now to speak to Solomon as he worked on most of the cases.


"Uh Mel could you just..."  Sheridan calls out.


"Sheri sorry but I really do need to speak to him."


I swing open the door.  "Solomon I need to...whoa!  Sorry so sorry I'll be in my office when, when you've finished."  I slam the door shut.


"I tried to warn you."  Sheri giggles.  "He landed last night and surprised him this morning, which is why Adam is in court.  When he saw him Dump Truck squealed like a girl, leapt into his arms and they've been in there ever since.


I head back to my office somewhat in shock at the vision of Menno ploughing into the ass of Solomon Sullivan.  Could've sworn he was a top.


Fifteen minutes later a well fucked and happy looking Solomon knocks on the door.  "Knocking saves surprises."  He chides me when I let him in.


"I'm so sorry again."  I can feel the heat radiating off my face.  "But I have something I need to talk to you about and..."


"Kinney, Peterson, Novotny and Bruckner cases?"




"They've already been reviewed, first thing we did.  New York is locked down; the rest will follow. We go by state rather than supreme since they're easier to get and when you get New York, the rest tend to follow.  Whatever Stark has planned, the cases aren't the way to go!"


"Wow... just wow!"


He grins at me and heads to the door.  "Oh I'm versatile, just in case you were wondering."


I groan and sink my head onto my desk.








"How could you?  How could you just agree to sell like that?"


"Agree to what? Someone want to catch us up here?"  Zeus demands.


"Zander and I went to see him today and he wants to buy Zander's shares and he's agreed to the tune of $20 million.  He's paying over the odds just so he can make her miserable...again!"


"Wow he..."


"Wanted all boys instead of a girl.  Especially, a girl who is better than him and us- well most of us- at everything!"


"Apricots. She remembered the apricots."  Zeon tells us quietly.


"Back to the share issue!  Zander, how could you?"  I growl at him.  "Why the fuck are you smiling?"


"Because I don't have them.  I just wanted to know how much her pain is worth to him."


"If you don't have them, then who does?"  Zeus demands.


"Zee of course.  She owns the company outright, although she doesn't know that yet.  So now it's our turn. Time to be the big brothers we were always supposed to be."








I look around and wonder what made Luther Stark snort.  I can't see what's wrong with the place.  It has everything: the right ambiance, the right people just the right...everything.


"Craig what are you doing here?"  I sigh and turn around to face Jennifer.


"Meeting a friend for a drink?  You?"  I can't keep the smug smile off my face.


"Likewise.  Seems my table is ready.  Excuse me."


"Another whisky mac."  I demand.


"Mr Taylor."  I look up and smile at Christopher Hobbs.


"Come let's go to our table."  He follows me quietly.  I make sure that Jennifer can see us BUT she has her back to us.  No matter we can still discuss our move.


"So what is this meeting about?"  He asks.


"I have a proposition for you.  How would you like to metaphorically finish what you started with my son?" He looks wide eyed at me.  "Don't panic I don't mean that. I mean just make him uncomfortable?  I have a friend who thinks like you and me and now that Justin is married to that man..."


"Mr Taylor, can I stop you there?"


"No let me finish.  I know you left town for a while, to give people time to cool off no doubt..."


"Yes there was that but..."


"Now that time has passed.  Let's talk about what we can do to Justin.  I see you're married now yourself."


"Yes.  Yes I am."


"Happily so."


"Very much, we got married in Paris."


"Lovely and what's her name."





Realisations...Some Better Late Than Never! by MissMerlot







"Martha?"  How nice.  And how did you meet?"


"Not Martha, Mark."


"Mark? What kind of name is Mark for a woman?"  I can't quite understand this.  Must be a French thing.


"A man's name.  I'm married to a man."


"A ma...a -a wait I don't...but you hate my son!"  I whisper hoarsely.  "You tried to kill him!"


"I didn't hate him I envied him."  He stands up and puts his jacket back on.  "He was so brave even then.  Something he obviously never go from you.  Goodbye Mr Taylor.  Don't contact me again."


I grab his wrist tightly.  "You're father must be so ashamed of you!"  I snarl quietly.  "The shame you have brought on the family name!"


"The only shame sentence I got for trying to kill your son.  I would let go if I were you."  He growls at me his eyes cold.


"Does your Mark know about your past?"  I drop his wrist.  "I've got no problem telling him, in fact I could tell the world about you and..."


"Do that."  He replies calmly.


"I will expose you for the..."


"Mr Taylor.  My dad is dead, we buried him two months ago.  The only reason you managed to catch me here is because I was shutting down the house and will be heading back to Paris, where I live to be happy away from here."  He pulls his sleeves back down.  "As I said goodbye Mr Taylor.


He leaves without a backward glance.


I gulp down the rest of my drink and try to steady my nerves.  I cast a look round to see if anyone witnessed the altercation and it seems not and Jennifer still has her back to me.  I signal the waiter and settle the bill and head to my car sick to my stomach.


"May I be put through to Luther Stark?  Yes, Craig Taylor, of course it's urgent!"  I drum my fingers in impatience.


"Luther I managed to get hold of Hobbs, he's going to be no use to us, as he's gay too!  What do you mean no matter, what about our agreement?  Oh, oh I see.  Okay, no problem.  I can definitely do that."


I smile and take a deep breath.  The next thing I need to do is find out when its next opening is.  I'll arrange a nice little welcoming party.








Mark kisses me sweetly on the lips.  "Hey!  How are you, how was lunch with him?  Did he..."


"Awful and no he didn't?"  I sigh.  "Is there any wine open?"


"Here."  Mark hands me a glass of red.  "Did you expect anything else?  You tried to kill his son and..."


"He wanted me to psychologically finish the job."  I interrupt him.


He just blinks at me.  "Psychologically finish the...I don't understand why would he want you to do this?"


"I didn't stick around long enough to find out.  I thought that he wanted an apology but no...and he mentioned a friend."


"You must try and speak to him before we go!"  Mark stands up and heads to the computer.


"I'm not getting back in touch with him!"


"Not him, Justin.  Come we must find an address or something, you have to apologise and to warn him.  That is the only way."


I sigh and drain the rest of my glass, he's right of course.   When I first told him about my past he dumped me straight away and wouldn't take my calls for a year but then I followed him to France and he forgave me I can only hope that Taylor and Kinney can do the same.








"Where the fuck is it!"  I stamp my feet in frustration.  I hate it when Brian tidies up, he puts stuff in the most ridiculous of places!


"Is there a reason that half my closet is on the bed and you're on the verge of a queen out?"


"Two reasons.  One I just wish they would make their move already and two I'm looking for the photo album..."


"What album? The one of our wedding?  You know you're putting these back in the exact order in which you found them?"  He indicates the clothing.


"No not that album that album, you know the one that has the pictures in it?"


"At the risk of a Queen Princess meltdown what are you..."


"Queen Princess Meltdown?!  Are you kidding me with that right now!  Now help me look for it, have you been tidying again!"


"JUSTIN!"  I snap my head round and immediately my anger dissipates.  "Come here baby."


He carefully moves his suits and I crawl into his lap.  "I just want the fight to start..."


"I know but they need to make their move.  Until then there is nothing we can do?  Now what album are you talking about and why is it so important?"


"Remember the trip to P-Town about six years ago?"


"Oh yeah that was hot."  He massages my skull and I feel myself relaxing.


"Well those pictures, I have, as Zee would say, a burr about it and I just want to check something."


"Toy Room."  He replies kissing my ear.  I gape at him.  "Well where else would I put it?"


"Come on my anally retentive gorgeous husband!"  I tug him along to the Toy Room.




"Okay so where did you put it?"  Our room is filled with every sex toy imaginable and pride of place are the toys made by Zee.  And the new ones have swirls!


"Photo albums are here.  P-Town, P-Town, aha here you go!"  He hands it to me and I settle down on the bed and flick through it quickly and then gasp.


"Oh fuck!  Brian what do you remember about P-Town?"


"It was hot and we got seriously ripped on the trail mix.  Oh and the orgy in one of the rooms, it was called Light and that was hot.  And oh we fucked that guy.  Well I fucked you and you fucked him.  Why?"


I gulp and show him the picture.  "I thought there was something about Zee that I liked..."


He takes a minute to scrutinise the picture.  "Oh Christ.  You fucked Zeon!"


"You helped!"


"How did I help?!"


"If you weren't piling into me I wouldn't have been piling into him!"


I begin to pace back and forth.


"What are we going to do?  We can't tell Zee!"  I wail and then am pissed when he starts to laugh!


"Brian!  It's NOT funny!  We have to fix this!"


"Justin it's not as if we can go back and un-fuck him, it's done.  What's the problem?  It's just sex..."


"With her brother!  Their dad is already after us what do you think is going to happen when he finds out..."


I pick up a pillow and start bashing him with it as he's rolling round the bed with tears running down his face holding his sides.  Ten minutes later he's stopped laughing and I've stopped hitting and am brushing the hair out of his eyes.


"QPM?"  I kiss him softly, he nods and grins again.


"But I do agree that we should at least let him know.  Though I do feel slightly slighted that he doesn't seem to remember us!  We're awesome!"


"Brian!"  I thump him with the pillow again.








I have had lunch with Lindsay Peterson and Michael Novotny and I think she and Grady would make an interesting couple.  It will stick in Zee's craw something good. From what she's said about the run-ins they've had, Zee was feeling threatened.  Though I am beyond pissed that she's got a plane and I haven't!


She would also come in handy to add some polish to Talon.  I'm not sure what I can do with the Novotny character, who turns up to a business meeting in a cartoon character tee and sneakers?  But they come as a pair.


Speaking of polish, I've been trying to get hold of Xanthe still but so far no luck, so I'm going to surprise my lady and turn up tomorrow at her offices, she should be over her snit by then.


"Malachy, Lindsay, Michael, apologies but I really do need to leave for my flight.  Let me know when the review is."  I nod at Malachy and smile at Lindsay and Michael.  "You're in good hands.  Now, remember when you finish here, you go to that address and make yourselves at home.  You hear?"


"Mr Stark...I mean Luther...thank you once more."  Lindsay gushes and Michael grins at me.


"It's the least I can do after all the trouble my daughter has caused you.  Now I really must dash."




I have been looking through the files ever since he contacted me.


"So Ms Peterson, Mr Novotny.  Can you tell me why you want these reviewed and retried?"


"Because we didn't win and..."


"Pardon?  Uh Mr Novotny can you repeat that."  I'm pretty sure he did not just say that.


"We didn't win."  He replies slowly and I have to resist the temptation to laugh.


"Okay, apart from that."


"That's it."


He responds folding his arms and rolling his eyes at Ms Peterson as if I'm the idiot in the room and she has the nerve to smile back.


I lean back in my chair and sigh.  "Mr Novotny, if I went to the board with this reason we would be at the back of a very long queue.  What I mean is was there anything that your lawyer did?  Did his misrepresent you for example?  Did you feel the judges were biased against you for any reason?"


"Well they kept sending me to jail for contempt and..."


"They?  And what's this contempt there's nothing noted in here?"  I look through the documentation again and nope nothing about contempt.


"Yes you see..."  Ms Peterson interrupts and explains all.


When they have finished I just stare at them, take a breath and stare again.


"Okay, what I'm going to do is let Mr Stark tell you the news once I get it.  Now I've got another appointment, so thank you."


"No thank you Mr Steadman, thank you.  Come on Michael.  Oh one more thing; about the lawyer who represented us can we report him too?"


I flick through the paperwork and on seeing his name nod.  "Yes leave that with me too.  Now goodbye."


I sink back into my chair and toss the files in the bottom of the drawer and relish the sound of it clanging shut with the force of my kick.  Then I make a call.






I look round the room it is huge and opulent.  Michael is in his element, we're currently trying to decide who gets which room out of the four king sized rooms here.


"Right first things first we need to get our stuff from Canada delivered here.  And..."


"Oh can you imagine how cool my collectibles will look in that lower office..."


"Uh Michael I don't think that would be a good..."


"You said that once we have a base I could..."


"Yes I know that but I meant a permanent based.  Let's just get our stuff here.  You call the letting agents and let them know we're giving them notice to quit, I'm going to dive into the hot tub!"




I watch Lindsay skip out and feel a little put out. I don't see why I can't have my collectibles out, he said make yourself at home.  Sighing I call the agency.


"Hello, yes this is Michael Novotny, formerly of Rexdale Avenue.  This is...uh yes I said formerly, we now live in New York.  Yes I mean as of now.  Look we've moved out but we need to come back can?  Oh that's even better!  Great let's do that!  So our new address is..."


Twenty minutes later I yell through the bathroom door.  "Lindz the agents are all sorted!"








"Good afternoon sir how may I help you?"


I smile my best smile at the lady.  "Yes, I would like to meet with Ms Xanthe Collier."


"Do you have an appointment?"


"No, it's a surprise visit.  I'm..."


"She is overseas at present.  I'm sorry sir."


Overseas!  Over-fucking-seas!  I smile at her again.  "Can you tell me where she is, you see I've travelled a..."


"I'm sorry we cannot give that information out for obvious reasons, perhaps you should have called first."


"I did call."  I almost growl at her, causing her to narrow her eyes.  I immediately soften my tone.  "But unfortunately, I couldn't get through."


"Oh, maybe there is a problem with the system that I haven't heard of.  May I have your name please?"  She at least has lost the annoyed expression.


My best smile is out again.  "Stark, Luther Stark."  I adjust my tie and wait.


"Ah I see, yes I see."  She replies looking at the screen.  "Adam!  Could you show Mr Stark out of the building and if he attempts to come back in call the police.  Mr Stark au revoir."


I'm about to say something to her when I feel a hand on my shoulder, I turn to face Adam.


"I don't need your help!"  I snap shaking off his guiding hand.


Once I get outside I dump the flowers in the trash and want to scream with frustration at not being able to get the last word!






Justin and I look at each other and try not to laugh at the expression on Ted's face.


"Z-Z-Zeon as in Zaden's twin brother?!"  He squeaks.


We nod and he shakes his head.  "Why is this funny to you again?"


"Oh come on Ted..."  Justin grins at him as he starts to pace.


"It's just sex..."  I begin my reasoning.


"Which you metaphorically had with his wife."  Ted takes a swig of water.  "And by he; I mean, Faal.  A very protective as in he carries a gun, at all times, when it comes to her, Faal.   Because you know you tell her she'll tell him."


Suddenly it's not funny anymore and I didn't think it was possible for Justin to go that colour.


"Mr Taylor-Kinney, Mr Taylor-Kinney your 1100 is here."  Shala's voice comes over the intercom.


"T-thank you.  Give us a few minutes and we'll be in conference room 1?"  Justin replies.


"Uh Ted when you said..."  Justin begins


"The only time he takes it off is at home.  She's his everything."


"How do you know that?"  I ask.


"He never takes his jacket off when we're out.  So one day I asked him why."






The moment I saw him I knew, I just knew.  But I wasn't quick enough to stop him.


"Brian!"  Justin screamed at him as his fist landed firmly in the stomach of Chris Hobbs.


"Security!"  Brian bellows.  Immediately Frank and Austin burst through.


"Brian!  You've played right into their hands!"  Justin is yelling as Brian grabs Hobbs by the back of his shirt hauling him upright.


"Get Justin out!  Ted get him out!  What the fuck are you doing in MY FUCKING BUILDING?"  He roars into his face.


"Mr Taylor if you could persuade your husband to release my husband we can explain our presence here!"


Okay clearly I'm in an alternate universe, because the other guy, who I had completely forgotten about was here just said husband!


"Mr Taylor-Kinney..." Frank begins.


"It's okay.  We're fine but can you remain."  I tell him.  "Brian let him go!  Let him go!"


Reluctantly he does so and Hobbs crumples to the floor.  The other guy is immediately by his side.


Brian is taking heaving breaths and his eyes are almost black but he maintains a towering presence over Hobbs and blocks Justin from his view.


"Husband?  You said husband?"  I demand of the other guy.


"Yes.  My name in Mark Delphine.  And..."


"Do you know what he did?"  Brian snarls.


"Yes.  I know."  He replies quietly.


"So maybe I should bust you in the gut too!"


"No!  Please!  Please listen!"


"Listen why should..."


"Brian."  Justin's voice immediately calms him down, it's like air being sucked out of a balloon and he pulls him into his arms.  "I want to hear what he has to say."


"I'm sorry."  Hobbs manages to groan out.


"Well as Aunt Dee would say, you're a day late and a few fucking dollars short!"  Brian snarls.


"I know.  But...I was so jealous of you.  You were, are, so brave and sure and you didn't care.  And when you virtually outed me on Liberty Avenue and then kissed at the prom I knew you knew and I was so scared.  I would lose everything..."


"So killing the man I love was the answer for you!"


Only Justin tightening his hold kept him from smacking Hobbs again.  And my heart broke for Brian, how he must have suffered and we thought he didn't care.


"Yes at the time that was the answer for me.  And I regretted it every day.  Even more when you didn't kill me when you had the chance and..."


"Kill you?"  I question.


"Explain later."  Brian cuts me off.


"So what's this?  Reverse psychology?  We're supposed to become friends and then you and my sperm donor sucker punch me again.  Hearing how he celebrated your sentencing was a particular joy!"


"We fly back to Paris on Sunday, so you will never hear from me again.  I know it's not much but...when I met him I taped the conversation so if, if I can send it to someone..."


Frank clears his throat.  "Send it to me.  Give me..."


"I want to hear it first."  Justin's voice is strong.


We listen appalled as the recording plays.  Hobbs' husband is shaking his head muttering things in French.  When it finishes, he hands his phone to Frank without a word and nobody says anything until he hands it back to him.


"Goodbye Mr Taylor-Kinney.  I know it's not much but I truly am sorry."


"I'm curious about something?"  Brian stops their departure.  "How can you forgive him?"


His husband turns to us looking sad but taking Hobbs' hand.  "I haven't but I love him enough to try."


Brian nods at Frank and he makes sure he leaves, it takes me less than a second to hear the soft sobbing.  I close the door quietly behind me.








They're finally up.  We're having dinner instead of lunch with the family.  Lilah and Milo have been like little guards on the bed.  I've taken in coffee but they've just slept through.  I thought the showing was bad enough but whatever happened yesterday was worse.


"Alice.  Good after...hi."  Justin mumbles reaching for coffee.


"Justin, honey, I know you two are not okay do you want something special to eat now?  Can do the French toast you like.  Am already doing oxtail of course."


"No we're fine we're going to have a shower everyone will be here soon."


He heads back upstairs without another word.


Thirty minutes later the family arrive.  Debs and Jennifer immediately corner me with questions, we're all tearful and fearful.


"Look when they are ready to say let them say."  Carl orders.  "Let's at least get drinks sorted out okay."






Something bad has happened, that much is certain.  But what?  When they come in they look wrung out but still as much in love as ever.


"Just tell us for fuck sake!"  Jennifer demands at the end of her rope.


"Chris Hobbs came to see us yesterday."  Justin tells us quietly.


"Ted did you know!"  Ems shrieks.


"Of course I knew!  But it's not my place!"  Ted barks back.


"QUIET!"  Carl bellows.


"Once he could breathe properly he came to say sorry and to..."


"Sorry!  He came to say fucking sorry!"  Jen is incandescent.


"Yes.  And we've accepted his apology."




Brian chuckles.  ""No, if his husband can still love him and try to forgive him..."


"Husband?"  Ems whispers.  "He's married.  To a man? a man?"


They tell us what happened and play the recording for us.  "What did he mean kill him?" I ask.


"Not one of my finest moments.  It was after Darren got bashed..."  Justin explains without looking at either Jen or I, he knows he's in trouble!


"So let me get this straight you went round in pink tees and were skinheads?"  Zee clarifies, I think she's missing the bigger picture.  "And you called yourself the Pink Posse?"


"Uh huh."


"And what do you think everyone else was calling you?"  She quirks an eyebrow and Faal starts to chuckle.


I don't get it.  And apparently neither does anyone else except maybe Carl.  I nudge him but he won't look at me.


"The Pink Posse."  Justin repeats and even Brian looks confused.


"Oh no honey.  Take out the ‘o', replace it with a ‘u' and add an ‘i' and an extra ‘s' and that's what they were calling you.  Trust me."  She smirks and takes a sip of her drink.


"Oh God!"  Justin gasps.  "Really?  Did people really...oh God!"  He buries his face into Brian's chest.


"I always wondered who people were talking about..."  Ems mutters.  "But the very name was off putting."


"Hey!"  Mel throws a cushion at him.


And the room erupts with laughter.






"Hello is anyone here?"  I call out.


I hear footsteps and a blonde woman and dark haired man come down the stairs.  Oh so these are them.


"Your boxes have arrived."  I point to them.


"Okay, so they are clearly labelled.  So why don't you carry on with that after you make us some coffee and maybe breakfast?  Michael what..."


"You want breakfast then I suggest you find a restaurant or a maid to do that for you."  I glare at them.  "My name is Talon Stark-Kho.  You are Lindsay Peterson and Michael Novotny."


She colours up real nice this one, though bright pink is not her colour.


"I've been in this family for over 20 years.  And..."


"We know how you got here by..."


"Little man you would do well to zip your lip and realise that I can make your life very comfortable or...oh what's the word I'm looking for...not."  I walk round them carefully.


"For reasons best known to himself Luther has decided to help you and I'm happy to help him, help you to make Zee's life miserable.  She's always had a superiority complex and I hate her for it."


Suddenly blondie's disposition changes.  "Let us go upstairs and get changed and we'll be right down."


As they head upstairs I hear them snickering.  "Zee is not going to know what hit her.  And soon Brian will be begging us to stop."


I walk into the lounge and look round it truly is a nice place.  Tastefully decorated.


Ten minutes later they are back and I can tell he's itching to tell me what to do.  "So tell us all about your relationship with Zee."  Blondie smiles at me.


"Well she's a good judge of character, no matter how little of it there is..."


An hour later I'm driving back to the main condo.  Having listened to them spout stuff about Zee that I know isn't true I and pull over to the side of the road and put in a call.


"Zephaniah Stark."


"Zeph its Talon, don't hang up!"



You Can't Fix Stupid and You Can't Change Ignorant...But You Can Give Them One Fuck of a Slap! by MissMerlot







"Hey Kiki!"  Debs yells.  "How'd did the reunion go?"


"Oh great!  He's coming here for coffee in about an hour."  She looks round.  "I wonder if you could put in a word for me."


"A word where?  Are-are you leaving us?"  Debs starts to tear up.


"No!  Of course not.  But Thomas is looking for a job and I know it's an imposition but if you could speak to Zee and Emmy Lou."


"About?"  She demands impatiently.


"I heard they need a chef and he's a chef who is looking for a new..."


"Who's a chef?"  Emmy Lou interrupts me.


I sigh.  "Bernie and Arnold's son Thomas, you've heard me talk about him?"  Emmy Lou nods.  "Well he's really good, not as good as you guys but good and..."


"Send him to us!"  Emmy Lou sinks into a booth.  "If I have to taste one more omelette I will scream."




"Yes really.  How is it possible to fuck up an omelette?!"






I LOVE MY JOB!  Don't get me wrong I loved the gallery and I will still see Lydia but this is my dream job.   We've got testing all this week for three parties over the next couple of weeks.


"Okay Zee..."  I walk into the Testing Area and stop.  "Zee are you in here?"  She pops out from the larder but doesn't move from the door.  "Okay, what exactly are you doing?"


"Uh nothing."  She replies quickly.  "Wh-what was it you wanted?"


"I just wanted to let you know that Emmy Lou called to say expect a Thomas Williamson.  He's a friend of Kiki's.  Should be here in about 20 minutes."


"Thanks."  She replies.  "I'll expect him did Emmy say if he would be joining us, I mean yes us."


"Do you mean, you, me and Emmy Lou or you, me, Emmy Lou and Faal?"  I grin at her.


"What can I say except I love the guy?"  She grins back.


"Okay I'll leave you to your love fest, you've got 15 minutes to pash out."


"Thank you!"  Faal calls out.  "Now get back in here my lig!"


I shake my head and make my way back to my desk.


"Oh sorry sir, have you been waiting long?"  I greet the gentleman in reception.


"No, not long at all.  I wonder if you can help me, my name is Guido, Guido de Witt.  I represent Taylor Electronics and I would like to employ your services for a party that Mr Taylor would like catered for the 25th of this month, I realise it is short notice.  There would be about 20 people, I've heard nothing but good things about you."


"Thank you.  That shouldn't be a problem.  Now if you'd like to take a seat I'll get the details from you."




I make my way back to work and step inside.  Cara, the godsend, smiles at me.


"Emmett, this is our new client Mr de Witt, he works for..."


"Now Cara we've agreed that you should call me Guido..."  He smarms at her, I can see the revulsion in her eyes.


"Nice to meet you Emmett."  He tells me without looking at me.  Rude!


"Yes, you did.  As I was saying he works for..."


"Excuse me I'm looking for Emmett Honeycutt?"


"That would be me and you are?"


"Thomas Williamson.  I was sent here by Kiki..."


"Oh yes, can you go through there I'll be right with you.  Is Zee available?"


Cara nods and I try not to smile as she pulls her hand out of Guido's reach.


"Now Mr de Witt, I believe we have everything we need here.  We'll be in touch with your confirmation details shortly."  I take him firmly by the elbow and lead him to the door.  "Good day sir."


"I need bleach, no correction battery acid.  A wire brush and caustic soda.  He was revolting!  How he thought that he was sexy or that it was flattering is beyond me.  Ugh!"


I have to laugh.  "So where is King Odious of the Creep-O-Zoids from?"


"Taylor Electronics and..."


"Absofuckinglutely not!"  I snap at her, she looks shocked.  "Sorry sweetie.  But he works for Justin's father and..."


"Oh my I didn't realise.  Well obviously we..."


"Will send him the confirmation that everything is in order.  When's the party again?"


"25th, so in three days, a small intimate event for 20 very influential clients...his boss needs to impress them."


"Don't tell anyone else about this okay?"  She frowns but nods.  "Trust me sweetie. He'll impress them alright."


I smile at her, I may not be able to do much but this I can do!




Oh my goodness this kitchen is heavenly!  My last job was in a high end restaurant and they didn't have the kit that this place has.


"You must be Thomas?"  I turn to a rich heavily accented voice and I reach for his hand and internally happy dance.


"I'm Faal and this is my wife..."


"Of course she is."  I sigh.  "I mean I'm..."


"Don't worry about it Thomas, I'm Zee and if Kiki says you're good then you're in."


"Par...Pardon?"  I stammer.  "Are you serious?"


"Yep.  But just in case, can you prep my carnivore of a husband a steak.  By the way he's South African and likes his steak with more than a hint of moo.  And spicy he likes it spicy."


Twenty minutes later I plate up and watch with pride as Faal asks for more bread and glowers at Cara as she reaches for a piece of steak.


"He's in."  Emmett smiles.








Our stuff has finally arrived from Canada but Lindsay is still not talking to me properly.  How was I supposed to know that telling that we had immediately moved out would incur such a big penalty?


"Lindsay, I've said I'm sorry."


"All you had to do was tell them we were giving notice not that we had moved, nor give them permission to pack up the entire house.  That sorry..."  She pauses as the doorbell goes.  "Cost us $6000."


"Good afternoon."  Talon strides in as if she owns the place.  "You're going to have to clear that up, Luther doesn't like clutter."


"We're in the process of clearing it up Ta..."


She holds up her hand.  "Say my name correctly or the next park bench is yours."


"Talon.  And what are you doing here exactly?  We live here. And..."


"I'm screwing the person who owns this place.  So until such time as that is you, I get to go where I want without answering to your scrawny ass."








So, I'm six foot three, weigh almost 250 pounds and have almost 5% body fat and currently I am pinned to the floor by a six foot South African who's kissing me like I'm his last meal.  Thank goodness, he's moving down to my neck so I can at least breathe!


"Me...Menno baby can you just stop a minute?"


I groan as he completely ignores me and latches onto my nipple, when he undid my shirt I have no idea.


"Shush."  He mumbles from the depths of my crotch.  "Busy."


Man he is quick!  "Men...oh!"  I gasp as he swipes my cock from base to tip and then swallows me down whole.


His mouth is like hot butter and he has my hips locked in position and I'm beginning to see stars!


"Baby, the  Need to...oh God...yes!  Right, right there, just like that!"  I yelp.


Seconds later I'm arching my back and trying not to scream the place down as I come hard.  I slump back down and try to suck some much needed air into my lungs before he starts to kiss me again.  Slow, soft, tongue filled kisses; he tastes of a combination of me, him and taste in the word.


"Roll us over baby."  Slowly he does so.  I reach for my pants but he pulls on my ear and waves the condom in my face.  "Was a boy scout."  He mumbles before pulling me down for a tongue filled kiss again.


"Ready?"  I whisper and feel his legs start to slide up my waist as I raise up onto my knees.


"Now.  Baby.  Now."


I push gently into him and we lock gazes.  I entwine our hands above his head and slowly start to thrust into him.  This is our favourite position because I get it right on target.


"Sol...Solly!"  He groans as we kiss between thrusts.  "Fuck so good.  Deeper please deeper!"


I shift forward slightly and his breath hitching and the tightening of his legs tells me that's what he wanted.  "Yes.  There.  Don't you fucking stop!"


We're sliding against each other covered in sweat and after four more hip snaps, he explodes and groans deeply into my mouth as we keep kissing.


Five minutes later, I gently withdraw and sit on my haunches.  He looks so hot like this.  Freshly fucked and slowly coming down from cumming.  I finally manage to get up on my feet and collect damp cloth and gently clean him up.


"How is it I'm the only completely naked one?"  I ask pulling up my pants; he stretches out a hand and I pull him to his feet.  And then we kiss again...I slap away his wandering hands.


"No, baby I have to be in court in an hour."  He pouts but I step out of his reach.  "Answer the naked question."


He shrugs and buttons up his shirt and grins smugly, before replying.  "I was distracting you."


I harrumph and reach for my phone to check the voicemail messages.  One was just confirmation of what we already knew and the other was better than that.


I lick my lips and smile at him.  "What's that smile for?"


"Two things, one all the cases are locked down. There is no way in hell they can be reviewed now.  And a postponement for my case.  Now you get naked immediately."








It's taken four trips but I've finally moved all my collectibles boxes down here and I'm moving some of his things off the shelves.


"Oh no, no you are not doing that!"  Talon's tells me.  "These boxes go in the garage or the basement."


"These boxes have my collectibles in them and Luther said to make ourselves at home and..."


"Michael, there is a great difference between making yourself at home and imposing yourself in someone else's home, which is what you are doing by doing that." She puts the books back and looks at me scornfully.  "Now the garage or basement, which one would you like directions to?"


"How do you look at yourself in the mirror every day knowing that you cheated on your husband with your father in law all this time?"  I sneer at her.


"The same way you look at yourself.  Didn't you fuck over your best friend?   Your husband? And your children?"


"You don't know anything about that!"  I snarl at her.


"Honey, I know plenty. I don't just fuck the guy, I listen when he talks.  You'd be wise to do the same."


"Oh there you are."  Lindsay interrupts us.  "I was...uh Michael what are you doing?"


I smirk at Talon.  "Putting my collectibles..."


"You can't put these in here Michael.  They need to go in the basement or the garage.  For heaven sake, use some common sense!"  Lindsay sighs angrily.  "Talon I'm sorry about that."


"Oh no problem Lindsay.  Did you want me or him?"


"Michael."  She turns back to me.  "Put these in the garage and then we need speak to our lawyer about the misrepresentation case."


I nod then scowl at Talon and start to make my way to the garage.






It's been a great holiday but now it's time for me to get back to work.


"Honey, I just need to check the messages and I'll be in for lunch in a second okay?"


"Okay."  She shouts back.  "Don't take long though."


I play the messages back and freeze before quickly dialling the number.  "Malachy its Phil.  I've been on holiday.  Now what's this about misrepresentation?"


I listen and slowly feel my heart rate goes back to normal.  "Thanks, Mal... No really, I appreciate it.  Yeah completely entitled; her through breeding, and him through fuck alone knows what.  Oh don't worry. I'll sort it out.  Bye."


"Honey lunch?"  Gretchen pokes her head round the door.  "Uh are you okay?"


"No, but I will be.  Five minutes, I promise."  She nods and closes the door.  "Aunt Millie, it's Phil..."






"Just tell me that you didn't do anything else stupid?"


"No mom, I swear that was it."  Justin looks to Brian for support.


"I did try and tell him."  He shrugs.  "In fact, I tried to warn him from the beginning..."


"Brian!  You are not getting off scot free either!"  Debs scolds him.


"Debs stop blaming Brian!  It was my decision and he did warn me honestly."


I sigh and look at two of the most infuriating men in my life, who I love very much.


"If you weren't so big I'd take you over my knee."  Debs scowls but she's softening judging by the smile tugging at her lips.


"So we're forgiven then?"  He asks hopefully.


"Yes.  But I would tell Zee about Cody Bell."


"Okay, we will."  Brian stands and pulls Justin to his feet. "See you Saturday."








The last time Millie and Harold were here with those expressions on their faces it was because of Lindsay.


"What's she done this time?"  I sigh.


"She wants to take Phil to court for misrepresentation..."


"Can she do that?"  Nancy gasps.  "I'm so sorry Millie, I just don't know what to say..."


"Can you find out where she lives?"  Harold interrupts her coldly.  "It's time we dealt with her directly."


"Yes of course, let me call her now."  She hangs up two minutes later.  "Here's the address."


"Thank you, Nancy.  Now have a good evening."


"Millie we really are sorry about this..."  I begin.


"That's the problem. You are always sorry.  Good night."  Harold cuts me off.








Oh my ass stings so bad and my arms shake in the effort to stay on my hands and knees.  And I'm struggling to keep my mouth shut.


I feel the bed sink as he climbs behind me and slowly pulls out the plug.  "So that's six from Debbie and six from Jennifer, this is from me."


I start to shake as he pushes it back in.  "Remember not to speak or I will have to start all over again."


Sweat is pouring off me and he licks down my spine.  Then brushes his fingers from the base of my cock to the tip.


"And you can't come until I say you can."  I groan as he whispers hotly in my ear.  "I should really have put a cock ring on you, shouldn't I?"


He pulls the plug out again and I wait for him to thrust it back in but he instead slides into me.  And waits.  Inside my head I'm screaming move just fucking move!   I look back at him and he smiles that sexy smile of his and slowly pulls out before sliding in and hitting my prostate just right.


"Oh baby you feel so good and tight!"  He croons into my ear.  "And you're doing so well."


He continues to groan and moan as he slams steadily into me.  "Yes!  Does it feel good?  Oh God!  Ah!  Oh!"


My balls are so tight and my cock is almost purple as I strain not to come.  He licks that spot behind my ear and starts to jerk my cock in time with his thrusts and with each thrust I grunt and grip the sheets.


"Now baby."


"Oh!  Yes fuck yes!  Yes.  Ooooohooo yes!"  I scream and buck underneath him as my orgasm rips through me.


"Fuck!  Fu-uc-kkkk!"  He yells, shudders and we collapse in a heap of twitching limbs.


"That was fucking hot!"  I murmur as he pulls me to his side.  "Sitting down may be an issue for me for a while though."


"Twat."  He mumbles back.








I'm going to enjoy this.  If there are two kinds of people I hate dealing with it's the rich, entitled and the rich, entitled and stupid.  And I have three prime examples in front of me. Well not the Novotny character as he has no money and is just coat-tailing.


"So when's the review of these cases?" Luther asks.


"There isn't going to be one."  I reply and don't have to wait long.


"What do you mean there isn't going to be one?!  I pay you good money to..."


"Do my job and that is what I have done.  These cases have already been reviewed and there is nothing wrong with them."




"Nothing wrong with them.  They've gone to every board in seven states; they passed."


"So there's nothing we can do?  What about the misrepresentation of our, and I use this term loosely, lawyer?"  Lindsay asks scathingly.


"He didn't misrepresent you two. He lost, which is completely different.  You lost so suck it up.  Now if you don't mind..."


"I do mind!"  Luther barks at me.  "I want these reopened and what I want is what I get!"


"Not from this office.  Find someone else to try and scare Mr Stark, it's not working."  I stand and press the intercom.


"Sarah, can you show my guests out and prepare the final bill for Mr Stark.  He won't be using our services again."








I've been listening to Luther bitch and moan about the cases for the last hour and I'm bored out of my mind.


"So what are you going to do now?"  I ask just to move this conversation along a bit.


Luther takes a breath.  "I'm going to meet Zander. He's going to sell me his part of the company back.  I'll see you in an hour."






I can't believe this for shit week I've had!  First Xanthe and now these cases.  And from what Talon's been saying this Novotny person has been giving her attitude.


"Master Zander is..."


"How many fucking times?"  I bellow.  "Do not announce my family just let them come in!"


"Very well."  Ralph turns sharply.  "Sir you know the way."  I hear him say and sit back down.


Zander comes in with a guy I don't recognise but he introduces me to him as his lawyer.


"Boy what do you need a lawyer for?  I'm family."  I smile at him.


"I would rather have one than not."  He replies.


"So let's get down to business.  We've agreed the price.  Your share of the company for $20 million correct?"


"But dad..."


"Hush boy, I just want this over and done with.  Something good has got to come out of this week!"


"So am I to understand that you have access to $20 million as of right now?"  His lawyer asks.


"Correct."  I lean back in my chair.  "How would you like it cash or...Delia what the hell are you doing here?!"


"Settlement."  Delia's calls from the door.


"Ralph!"  I bellow.


"Yes sir?"


"Why did you let her through?"  I snarl at him.


"You said I didn't need to announce your family sir; I merely followed orders."  He replies.  "Will that be all sir?"


I nod and could swear I saw him smirk!


"You do realise it is not a good idea to lie to the lawyer that is representing your wife in a divorce case?"  Delia hisses.


""  I stammer.


"Yes.  Now Zander be a good boy and step out.  Mr Stark and I need to lots of money."


I groan as Delia and her lawyer get comfortable.






"Hey sweetie."  Mom kisses my cheek and sits down.


"So, how'd it go?"  I ask her signalling the waiter for the champagne.


"Didn't know what hit him."  She laughs.  "Had to show where he got it from so accountants are looking at it now.  I think about another $15 million in the settlement is coming my way."


She takes sip of champagne.  "So what else you boys got planned?"






I will the printer to print faster.  Miranda and I are bouncing on our toes.  "Done let's go!"


We run across to Bloom and before we even get there, Sarah is opening the door grinning and Lydia's door is open and she's beaming at us.


"I was copied in urchins!  I'm so pleased for you both.  Now we're just waiting for Marek and we'll start to discuss your New York showing for Charles Pearlman.  Melody recommended you as I knew she would and..."


"Still not leaving Pittsburgh."  I remind her and get a relieved smile.


I've been doing more shows with Miranda and we've been getting some press coverage and Charles Pearlman came and now we're doing one for him in a couple of weeks' time.  I've got to ask Aunt Dee if we can use the small condo as our base and of course Uncle Luc for help.


I can't wait!








I'm so looking forward to this!  According to Guido, this is one of the best caterers in Pittsburgh. We were lucky to get them.  The great and the good of the electronics industry are here and with Stark's money coming in, we could be a great conglomerate.


"Gentlemen, gentlemen, please be seated.  Dinner is about to be served."  I smile as I get the signal.


The dining room door opens, whatever it is smells delicious.  I adjust my cuffs and look up and my jaw joins everyone else's on the floor.  The waiters are naked except for fake cuffs around their wrists and bow ties, which they aren't wearing around their necks.


"Craig?  What is this?"


"I-I do..."


"Is this the business you wanted to discuss or some kind of sex club?  I thought this was about Taylor Electronics, unless you are branching out into sex toys?"


"We're going to serve now."


One of the waiters simpers and we all watch aghast as he helps another to lie down on the table and they place pieces of food on his body.


"Get it whilst it's hot.  You don't have to use cutlery.  Do feel free to suck it off, but don't leave a mark."


"I don't..."


Within 5 minutes the dining room is empty.






Bon appetite Mr Taylor, I smile to myself, and drive away laughing. They are going to enjoy watching this over the weekend.



And the Claws Come Out... by MissMerlot









"You have got to be fucking kidding me!"  I shout into the phone.  "How in fuck has that happened?"






When we got the news from Charles that the restraining orders have been rescinded yesterday, Zee was absolutely furious.  Charles and Adam are flying up to New York tomorrow to appeal them but as of now it looks like Lindsay and Michael can come back to Pittsburgh.


But at least Cody Bell won't be problem. He's in jail.








"Finally something is fucking going our way!"  I smile at Talon who smiles back.  "It's always good to have a judge who owes you a favour."


"That's great!"  But then her face falls.  "So does that mean you'll be going to Pittsburgh with her now?"


"Oh now my darling know you're the only one for me.  Come now put away that frown.  No I can do my thing from here."  I pull her into my arms.  "The money will be with Taylor by Wednesday and I have Grady plans for Lindsay."


"Grady?"  She looks up at me.  "Why?"


"He's a good looking boy and it will stick in Zee's craw that they're together."  I kiss the tip of her nose.  "Now tell me what annoys you so about Michael."








Finally, we get to go home... well visit at least.  But right now I have a slightly more pressing problem to sort out.


"Michael, you and I need to have a little talk."  I take a breath and then frown.  "Put the comic down Michael and listen."


He looks up at me.  "Oh you've decided to speak to me then?"


"Michael.  Don't talk to me like you would your mother.  Now this is important.  You've got to stop speaking to Talon like she's staff.  I don't know where you've got this tone from but you've got to lose it..."


"Tone?"  He looks incredulous.  "I'm treating her the way she deserves to be treated, like the slut she is. The question is why aren't you?"


"What makes you think that?  Luther has asked me to add my influence to her behaviour and there are ways and means of treating people how they need to be treated without making it so obvious.  So just calm it down and be polite to her."


"Fine.  Can I go back to my comic now?"








Now that was stupid.  I head back outside and this time announce myself loudly.


"Hello!  Is there anybody here?!"


"Talon!  How lovely to see you again.  What can we do for you?"  Lindsay smiles at me.


"Lunch and shopping?"  I smile at her as she almost claps like a fucking seal.








I'm calmer much, much calmer.  I'm an oasis of calmness.  Well that's what I'm telling myself while trying not to go Tazzy on my kitchen!


"What!"  I snarl into the phone.  "Oh for fuck sake!"


I want to throw the phone across the room. We've had a great few days of peace and quiet and now I've had nothing but problems... Mercifully it's just family ones but work wise we're going from strength to strength.


"Do we want to know?"  Faal sighs. .I nod and wrap my arms around his waist.  "Come on then."


"Oh wait."  I pick up my phone again.  "Yeah, had to scream. What? Really? That's great!  No. I'll call you back tomorrow."






"So how the hell have these been rescinded then?"


"Seems that Luther knows a judge who owed him a favour."  Zee replies.


"Got a name for this judge?"  Adam asks over the phone.


"Copthorne, Elias Copthorne."  She replies then huffs out a breath and frowns at her phone and heads out to take the call.


"You're kidding me?"  Adam gasps.


"Well fuck me."  Solly grins.  "Later baby not now."  He slaps Menno's hands away.


"Okay so we go to appeal tomorrow."  Adam advises.


"No don't.  Leave it."  Zee comes in grinning.  "That was Millie.  Seems that Wankerboy and Twatzilla are coming after Phil Mitcham for misrepresentation."


Her phone goes again and again she leaves to take the call.


"And this is good for us how?"  Jennifer looks worried.


"Since the cases are locked down, and there was no finding of fault on his side, I just kicked his ass."  Solly smiles smugly.   "It isn't misrepresentation.  So the moment they put in for it, it's defamation of he should slap them with one fuck of a lawsuit."


"And trust me with Millie as his aunt, he won't have a choice."  Jennifer chuckles.


"Adam, are we done with you?? No offence but I really need to speak to Zander!"


"Sure.  Solly catch me up, yeah?"


"Office!  Everyone now!"






"Say it again.  I want everyone to hear this!"  She's back to being Tazzy.


"Dad asked for my share of the company and I said for $20 million I would do it."


"Makes no odds brother dearest 75% beats 25%.  So once again I'm on..."


"And 100% beats nothing!"  Zander exclaims.


"What?  What do you mean 100%?"


"I said I would do it, I didn't say I did do it.  I went there with mom's lawyer and then mom turned up and she's got another $15 million in the divorce.  And...I have transferred my part of the company to you... You own it outright baby girl. It's yours as it should've been."


"Mine?"  Zee whispers.  "Stark Securities is mine?"


"Yep.  And there's more."


He goes on to tell us about Lindsay and Michael and how well they are getting on with Talon and then he drops the bomb about Grady.


"Hang on.  So he's trying to fix up Lindsay and Grady to annoy me in the hopes that I'll do what grandpa did and pay him to leave?"


"Grandpa did what?"  Zander gasps. .


"A test to see what Grady would do and he followed the money.  He told me pretty soon after the check cleared."  Zee sighs.  "And poof, he was gone."


"Grady told you!"  Zander looks appalled.


"No grandpa did but he thought he was doing the right thing."


"Jesus shit baby girl! How the hell have you survived the shit the men in your life have put you through?"


"Because of the one man that didn't."  She winks at me and I blush at Brian's smirk.


"And another thing. Apparently the money for someone named Taylor should reach by Wednesday and..."


"Any idea how much?"  Ted interrupts him.


"About five mil.  Why?"


"He's about to get Schenked."  Ted grins.


"Zander, are you sure we can trust Talon?"  Debs demands.


"Absolutely.  Talon is a slut but she's an honest one."  He replies; Zee snorts with laughter.  "Come on Zee she is!"  Zander chides her and she nods.  "Vicious when crossed. Almost as vicious as you but a lot less subtle!"


"She is in..."  Suddenly she stops and smiles that smile.  "He doesn't know."  She breathes.


"Who doesn't know what?"  I ask.


"Zan.  Do me a favour. Tell ...Talon to do unto Michael what Lindsay does to her.  And I'll call you back in the week, yeah?"


"Yeah okay bye."


We look at each other in bewilderment as Zee dials another number.


"Melody, hi it's Zee Ugerstacht.  I'm good, I'm good.  You?  Thanks again for recommending Hunter for the showing. He's so excited but I need a ticket favour as in 5 of them but with just your name on it.  You can?? Thanks! You Tare a babe and a legend.  The names are: Luther Stark, Grady Holster, Lindsay Peterson, Michael Novotny and Talon Stark-Kho.  I'll explain later but and let me know when the tickets have been sent and they've RSVP'd.  Oh yeah, definitely."


"Uh mom can you explain why you want her at the opening?"  Matt demands.


"Yeah but in the lounge.  Emmy Lou we're on bubble duty."




"Spill."  Brian demands


"The Pearlman Show is being held at the MoMA and she will see the invite as a triumphant return to art circles..."


"But she'll take that as an opportunity to cause problems for Hunter..."  Blake interrupts.


"Which is why I asked Melody to take his and Miranda's names off the invite."  She takes a sip of champagne and smiles that smile again.  "So she goes in cold."


"So what does this have to do with Grady?"  I ask.


"Nothing.  But Grady is, amongst other things, narcissistic and arrogant- -a lovely combination.  He loves to be the centre of attention and there is nothing Grady loves more than people fighting for his affection and attention and he will make sure that they do..."


"Oh my God."  Matt just stares at her.  "Are...are you saying that dad is..."


"Bisexual.  I found out after we split.  And if Luther knew, he wouldn't be in contact with him.  So let's get Talon to do what she does second and third best...create discord and match make."  She chuckles.


"Speaking of discord."  Emmy Lou skips to the TV with a disc in his hand.  "I have something for us to watch."


Ten minutes later we are screaming with laughter.  "Emmy Lou!  How the hell did you keep that secret for so long?!"  Justin is almost hiccupping with laughter.  "Can we watch it one more time?!"


"Yes in fact I've got a copy for you.  As for how, I have no idea at all!"  He replies wiping his eyes.


"Oh speaking of..."


Carl stops her.  "Zee!  We are not taking bets on what Jenny and Gus are doing on their dates."


"I wasn't going to say that.  Thank you very much.  I may be ribald but I have decorum!"  She mock glowers at him.  "Well sometimes.  No what I was going to ask Brian and Justin what was it like?"


"What?  Facing off to Hobbs?"  Brian frowns.  "We already told you."


"No. Fucking my brother...and by ‘my brother,' I mean Zeon."


You could hear a pin drop, before Jennifer stammers.  "I-I thought you two were monogamous; you said that.  You're married now! Why!  Would you risk that by..."


"How-how did you know?"  Justin blushes. "And mom it was long before we were monogamous."  Justin reassures her. She sighs in relief.


"I knew Zeon was gay before Zeon did and when he finally came out to me, long before dad, he would tell me about his exploits and he always got the watchacallit Ted??"


"Replay face."


"Yeah that's it! And when he first came here, he looked twice and got the replay face."


"Yes!  I knew he remembered us!"  Brian exclaims and then looks around at us.  "What? Seriously we are fucking awesome in bed."



The Disc, the Deal, and the Dumbasses by MissMerlot





"Trust you to think of that!"  I snort and then frown.  "Uh Emmy this DVD could cause you a problem. I mean Taylor could come back and..."


"No he won't."  Justin giggles again.  "Can you imagine him on Liberty Avenue?  He would rather pour bleach in his eyes than that."


"But still to be on the careful side.  Maybe you should offer to..."


"To what?  I'm not doing anything nice to that man."


Drew strokes his face.  "Ems, please just don't do anything silly.  You've made your point.  And if he comes to see you..."


"Then I will deal with him."  Emmy Lou tells him firmly.  "Now the subject is closed."


"Solly who's Elias Copthorne?"  Carl asks.  "Solly, stop making out and answer the question.  Jeez, I don't know whose worse, you two, Brian and Justin or Matt and Hunter in the make out stakes!"


Menno smirks.  "Nobody can beat Brian and Justin!"  Justin doffs his imaginary hat at him


"Elias Copthorne is a judge in NYC who's had rumours swirling around him for years.  Baby behave!  Rumours about him using undue influence to get things his clients want for the right price.  But there's been no proof anyone could find.  He's very good at covering his tracks."


"Hmm, I like a challenge."  Zee grins.






"Lig you awake?"  She nods into my chest.  "I'm going to put someone on Emmy Lou. I think Drew would feel better and on Craig Taylor."


She sits up and kisses me gently.  "Shame that."  She mumbles settling back down.


"Why is that a shame, this is a good thing?"


"Yeah but I was going to suggest that and was looking forward to persuading you to come around."


"Oh you can still do that."  I roll her over and kiss her deeply.








I am still in shock and feeling waves of revulsion.  I can't believe what happened on Friday night.  I've been trying to call the attendees but nobody is returning my call. The only light in this debacle is that Stark said the money should be here tomorrow.


And since I need every penny I can get, E&ZHoD are going to get a visit from me!


"I'm going out I'll be back in an hour!  Guido with me now!"


Grace nods quickly and we head to my car.






As loathed as I am to be round this part of town, nobody makes a fool out of Craig Taylor.  I bang open the door and sneer at the woman on reception.


"Can I help you sirs?"


"Yes!  You can get me the manager before I sue this place into the ground!"


"How can I help you today sirs?  My name is Emmett and I run this establishment. Is there a problem?"


I turn around and he is just what I'm expecting.  I pull myself to my full height and he looks bored.


"Yes there's a problem.  I booked a tasteful dinner for 20 people last Friday and what I got was naked waiters!"


"Who was the booking under?"


"Taylor Electronics."


"Cara, could you check for me please?"


"Yes here it is.  Ah yes it's this one.  See?"


He minces around to check.  "Oh I see.  Mr Taylor your deposit failed after three attempts and..."


"Guido go wait in the car."  I snap and wait for him to scurry out.  "Now listen to me you..."


"No, you listen to me, you nasty little cunt!"  He gets right in my face.  "You don't get to come down here and run that shitty little mouth of yours in my place.  Now here is what is going to happen.  You are going to leave and neither of us speak of this little mistake again."


"Little mistake!"  I spit out.  "Your mistake has cost me a lucrative business opportunity.  I'm going to ruin you!  I shall tell everyone about..."


"How you, the great homophobe Craig Taylor, oh yes I know all about you.  Came to Liberty Avenue the Gay Mecca of Pittsburgh and hired Naked Waiters for your dinner. How is that going to look to all your friends, your cunt-try set?  I'll tell you how it'll look.  Because by the time I am finished defending myself, it will look like the man doth protest too much."


"Nobody will ever believe a word you say."  I snarl at him.


"They don't have to listen, they just need to watch.  You see Mr Taylor, we always video every event we cater's in the terms and conditions before you say anything.  We give one copy to the client and keep a copy for ourselves.  Would you like yours?"


"No I fucking wouldn't!"


"Then I see no further reason for you to be here."  He replies calmly.


I storm out and slam into my car.  "If anyone hears of this, I know it will have come from you and you will be fired!"


Guido nods and we head back to the office in silence.




I stare at Emmy in amazement.  "Now Cara my darling, want to watch it?"


"Fuck yeah."






Yes, she's actually standing in front of me with that butter wouldn't melt expression on her face and he's smiling at me as if they've not fucked us over again.


"Mother, aren't you going to let us in?"  She asks.


It's on the tip of my tongue to say no but Ronald talks over me.  "Of course darling, come in both of you.  So glad to see you.  How's New York treating you these days?"


They catch us up on all their news and not once do they mention the restraining orders or misrepresentation suit.


"So what are you doing for employment Lindsay?"  I ask her.


She pouts slightly.  "I'm currently looking at options and..."  


I hold up my hand.  "And Michael what about you?"


"Uh the same.  But the right job hasn't come up yet."


"Oh I'm sure it will for both of you right Nancy."  Ronald glances at me sweetly.  "Now, have a look at this place what do you think of it?"


He shows them the latest addition to our property portfolio.  It's a beautiful 5 bed in West Virginia, ready to move into. To be honest, I will hate people to live in it.


"Oh daddy it's beautiful! Look at the grounds, just gorgeous."  Lindsay sighs.


"Yes it is. I can't wait to move into it!"  I whip my head around to look at him and he takes my hand.


"Move into it?"  Lindsay echoes.


"Yes.  Pittsburgh is nice but I'm tired of it.  This place is quiet and I can see us living the rest of our lives there.  And I saw your face, Nancy, when we bought it."


"But what about this place? What are you going to do with it?"  Lindsay gasps and then I see it the gleam in her eye.


"I'm not sure right now.  But we definitely want to move out quickly."  Ronald tells her.  "Now come along.  Let's go grab a quick bite to eat before you head back to your hotel."


"Great idea daddy, where are we going?"  She links arms with him and bats her lashes and I pray for his resolve to hold in the face of the onslaught.






"No, I insist.  That's what I want.  What we both want."  I look at Nancy and she nods with tears in her eyes.  "Yes, I'll get the paperwork drawn up and sent over as soon as possible. I want to close by tomorrow.  Thank you, goodbye."


"It's done, are those happy and relieved tears?"  She nods.  "Good.  Now, tomorrow morning call the movers and you sort out our new home and I'll do the rest."






"I can't believe my parents are moving to West Virginia."


"Did they seem okay to you?"  I look across at him in puzzlement.  "They just seemed a little off with us, especially your mom."


"Oh they're fine.  Now what I've got to do is to make sure that I get the house instead of Lynette.  Should be easy enough.  It will be the perfect base for us."  I smile at him.


"So we're not staying in New York then?"


"Of course we are, for now, but this will be rent free and back where I-I mean we- belong in Pittsburgh.  Now we've got to strategize for tomorrow.  I can't wait to see Zee's face when we turn up at her place tomorrow."






"Well aren't you going to say anything?"  Lindsay ask smugly.


"I believe Hugo said it best.  Faal!  Get the shovels, there's shit on the doorstep!"


She snorts and flicks her hair before doing a slow hand clap.  "Your false bravado is so transparent."


"Trespass."  She replies and waves at someone behind us.  "Remove these two please."


"We're going. We just wanted to stop and say hello!"  Michael snipes.  "Come on Lindsay let's go."


As I watch them walk back towards the taxi, I wonder how the hell they get dressed in the morning.






"Now remember, let me do all of the talking."


Michael nods but part of me is still pissed over the Canada move, so I feel the need to remind him of his place and tone occasionally.  I knock on the door and gasp.


"Hello again.  You really must stop following me about?"  Zee drawls.


"What the fuck are you doing in my parents' house?!"  I have an awful sense of déjà vu.


"My house.  Your parents sold it to me this morning.  I'm here to clear it out, get it tastefully reno'd."


"But.  This.  No.  This is not happening!"  I snap.


"And they left this for you."  She hands me an envelope and I take it with trembling hands.


"Now again, trespass."  She smirks and closes the door.




"Ooh that was pretty I liked that!"  Faal chuckles and then groans as he looks round the lounge.


"God how the fuck did they sit in this room?  So many flowers it would be a hayfever sufferers' nightmare!  So what are you going to do with it?"


"Another base for when family come to stay I guess."  I shrug in his arms.


"Then I suggest wide screen TV in every room and as macho as possible. You know what your brothers are like."


I kiss him quiet.




We made it to the car in silence and sit for a few minutes.  "Are you going to open it?"


"Of course I am Michael.  I just need a minute!"  I snap at him, before taking a calming breath.


‘Dear Lindsay.  We've had it.  We've had enough of the lies, the manipulation and the lack of remorse.  I, as your mother, hold my hand up to my part in your sense of entitlement. But there is a difference between that and your bullish determination to get your way every time and always no matter what cost to anyone else.  You have cost us our friends, our good name and now our home.  We can't live in this place anymore because of the looks of pity and scorn we get.  We haven't lied to you about where we are moving to but you will not get the address, nor will Lynette.  We have changed our telephone numbers as we no longer wish to hear from you.  You need to get jobs quickly as the last $20,000 was exactly that...THE LAST.  Good luck in whatever you choose to do but for once pick your path wisely.  Mother and Father.'


I stare at the letter.  "It's typewritten."  I start to laugh.  "Zee is so transparent!"


I grab my phone and dial mother's number.  ‘The number you are calling is no longer in service'.  I hang up and call daddy.  ‘The number you are calling is no longer in service'.




















It didn't take long to get the house cleared as basically we threw everything away.  I took pictures of each room and have uploaded them to the email that I am too afraid of the rejection to send.




"My lig, just send it and tell them to contact me.  And I promise to let you know the moment one of them replies."




I rewrite the email and add his address.  "Zan will reply pretty quickly but..."




"Then the rest will follow.  What you have told me about them it seems that they were quite territorial as kids, just hit send."  I look pleadingly at him.  "Just hit send my lig."




I hit send and quickly shut down the computer.  "I'm going to work, need to recipe test for the Matterson Brunch on Thursday."




He nods and gives me a comforting squeeze.  "They will all reply trust me."












I'm still in shock... I have been effectively disowned by my parents.  I called Lynette and she has no idea where they are living either, though I doubt she would tell me if she did.  And for them to sell Zee my family home is both sickening and heartbreaking.




"So how was your trip to the Pitts?"  Talon asks as I let her in.  "Lindsay?  Are you okay?"




"Oh it was great, just great.  Would you like a coffee or will you be joining me in something stronger?"  I snap.




"Okay what's happened?"  She follows me into the kitchen and puts her purse on the table.  I dump the post on the table and...




"Your fucking stupid cunt of a soon to be ex sister-in-law conned my parents into selling her their house!"








"Same way that cunt managed to con the judges at the trials most likely."  Michael interjects.  "By paying them enough money..."




"Still not seeing the problem."




"You don't see the problem.  The problem Talon is that she has my family home!  God alone knows who she's going to move in there.  It's a very select area."




"Did your folks say why they were moving?"








"They gave you that note remember."  Michael interrupts again and I cringe and glare at him.




"Can I see it?"  She asks and I hand it to her and she reads it quietly.  "You've tried their numbers..."




"Well obviously she did that!"  Michael snaps.  "She's not stupid."




She looks at Michael then at me and rolls her eyes and smirks; a gesture I do not appreciate.




"So did you try..."




"She's tried her sister and she doesn't know either or is just not telling, so she can get in..."




"Let people finish what they are saying and then speak."  Talon interrupts him sharply.  "Did you try to email them?  Have you tried the realtor who manages their property portfolio? They would have a telephone number wouldn't they?"




"I, I was going to do that when you arrived."




"Uh huh.  So did you get the rest of your business sorted out?"




I smile for the first time since I got back.  "Yes Phil Mitcham will be served papers on Monday morning."  Michael grins at me.  "Once that's done the cases are back on the table."




"Sounds like you should celebrate that at least.  Michael you have a tuxedo correct?"




The question throws both of us.  "Yes it just needs cleaning."




"Ah I see.  We can't have everything.  It should be fun though even if you are there."




"What are you talking about?"  I sigh in exasperation, not in the mood for this.




"The Pearlman Show at the MoMA. It's this Friday."  She pushes the envelopes at me.  "These are the invites."




"The what?!"  I gasp and snatch them from her, opening mine quickly.  "Oh my God!  It's from Melody Reichmann!  A personal invite from Melody Reichmann! I'm back!"  I crow.




Michael scowls and flicks his invite back on the table.




She turns to him.  "I would completely understand if you didn't want to come.  It doesn't strike me as your kind of thing.  All that culture..."  He scowls at her again.  "But then there's the food..."




"I'll be there."  He snaps, stalking out.




"Dammit."  I think to myself but paste on a smile.




"Great that makes five of us."  Talon grabs her purse.  "Now I need to buy a dress for this event, want to come with?"




"Oh yes.  Wait you said five, who's the fifth?"




"Grady Holster.  You'll like him."
















I'm holding my lig who is just staring at the emails in silence.  There is page after page of suggestions for the house.  Zeon surprisingly was the first to answer, followed by Zander, Zephaniah and finally Zeus.




"A mancave?  No."  She firmly crossed through that suggestion.




"I told you they'd reply."  She looks up at me and blinks.  "What?"




She clears her throat and quirks her eyebrows.  "Okay so I went a little caveman on them.  Just a little bit."




"What did you say?"




"I would hold them down whilst you cut their balls off with a spoon."




"Ooh pretty."  She giggles and goes back to reading and crossing out.




Twenty minutes later we're in the office sending a reply and end up having to video conference as they argued over who was getting which room.




"For crying out loud it's not as if we are going to be there at the same time!  Just stay in it when I'm not there!"  Zeus growls.




"But there will be a time when we are all there!  So I don't see why you have first dibs on that room!  Just because you're the eldest it..."  Zeon gripes.




"Why can't you have the other room?"  Zander demands.




"You are aware that you three are arguing about the same room!"  Zephaniah points out.  "There are 3 others!"




"Right... that's it I have had enough!"  Zee shouts.  "Zeon, you get the blue room.  Zander the green one.  Zeus the yellow one and Zeph the pink one.  And that's final!"




The office goes completely silent as Zee takes a calming breath.  "Right let's move onto the..."




"But..."  Zeus starts.




"Seriously a spoon!"  She hisses and takes another calming breath.  "Now about the shared areas and before you ask no you are not getting a fucking mancave!"




Finally after another 90 minutes of back and forth, we have a final decision.  They will order their stuff and have it delivered after Baz does the reno and that should take about two weeks.




Zeph sighs and then clears his throat.  "Now about him.  Got some news.  Seems Twatzilla and Wankerboy have put in for misrepresentation and got their invites.  Oh and Talon is hellbent on their destruction, because they both used that one word to describe you that she really doesn't like."




"Lovely."  She mutters.  "Just lovely."




"Okay look, I'm due some holiday."  Zeon interrupts.  "I'll fly down on the red eye and oversee the works on the BroHouse and..."




"BroHouse?"  Zeus repeats.  "Hmmm.  I like it.  I'll be there too."




"Okay, you help Zee with those Copthorne and Taylor guys.  Zeph and Zan, stay and keep him occupied.  Seems he's lining up more money to get the Zan's part of the company.  Hey Zee, what's wrong?"




"Eyelash in my eye, carry on."




"Okay.  So there's the little matter of where we stay when we get to the Pitts."  Zeus points out.




"I can ask Brian about the loft?"  I point out.




"No, Zeon can stay with Matt and Hunter, it's close to the BroHouse...jeez...and Zeus can stay here."  Zee states.  "But if this is a..."




"It isn't.  We- mostly I- fucked up before, it won't happen again.  I swear on...grandma's soul it won't happen again."




"Fine."  She cuts them off.




"Eyelash huh?"




"Shut up and hug me."












I had an excellent time with Talon. While she does lack a certain amount of couth, she knows how to shop!  She spent almost ten grand without batting an eyelash.  I do feel a bit jealous of that.




"So you looking forward to Friday?"




"Oh yes, I used to run a gallery in Pittsburgh before Zee interfered in my life.  I was very good at it."




"Uh huh, so that would explain the ‘I'm back' comment earlier.  Who's this Melody Reichmann anyway?"




"She's a very influential woman in the art world.  Get in with her, then you can go anywhere."




"Why were you out with her in the first place?"




I blush slightly.  "A small misunderstanding."




"Which was?"  She prompts.




"I attended her husband's birthday party at MoMA and made a slight sartorial mistake that she took offence to."  




"In other words you wore the wrong thing."  She responds slightly smug and I bridle.




"Well Zee wore a tuxedo to a black tie dinner and nobody said a damn word, just because she was the caterer and not the guest."




"Caterer?  What do you mean caterer?"




"Yes she and a former friend run E&ZHoD in Pittsburgh.  The food is okay I suppose if you like that kind of thing.  Oh I must tell Luther about that..."




"Oh don't worry about that. Let me tell him.  What was the name again?"




"E&ZHoD.  Oh we're here.  So we're meeting on Friday for our beauty appointments at 11:00 correct?"




"Yes."  As I almost reach the door she calls out to me.  "Bring Michael!"




"Michael?  Why?"








"Good point!"  I giggle and manage to compose myself just as Michael opens the door.




"Did you have a good time?"  He asks as I put my bags down.  "Jesus how much did you spend?!"




"I didn't spend anything, Talon did."  I snap.  "And even if I did spend my money, what's it to do with you?"




"Nothing.  It's just what your folks said..."




"My parents and I will be reconciled.  And the art showing is the opportunity I've been waiting for.  Now you just need to find yours."  I snipe.




"I don't like the way you are..."




Our argument is cut off by the doorbell ringing.  I open it only to be faced with Adam White.




"Hey Lindsay, Michael.  Nice place.  You've been served."  He slaps the papers in my hand and then turns and leaves grinning.




"What the fuck for now?!"  I shout after him.




"Defamation of character!  You weren't misrepresented, you lost.  Big difference...huge!"
















As much as I love shopping, getting from Fifth Avenue to here in rush hour is a bitch.  I head upstairs toeing off my shoes as I go.  I head to the office to go see my man and check how his day has been.




I was about to knock when Ralph, the butler, grabs my hand and put his finger to his lips.




"Honey, I told you when this thing with Zaden is over and she's properly cowed and I'm back where I belong that you and I will be together.  Talon and I will be on the outs soon enough.  No, I'm no longer seeing Xanthe either. She's moved to Paris and good riddance to her, and neither of them hold a candle to you.  Look how about this... I'll come see you tonight."




Now I know I'm a cheater and I hurt Zeph terribly but I was faithful to Luther.  Ralph indicates I should follow and I find myself in the kitchen.  He pours me a drink and smiles kindly at me.




"I'm sorry Miss Talon."  He hands me a tissue.  "Save your tears my dear; he's not worth it."








"Not worth it."




"Am I..."




"No.  And you won't be the last."




He pauses and checks the door.  "She doesn't deserve what he and those interlopers are trying to do.  She's a good person.  She's just better and he can't stand it.  The other problem with him is that he covets too much and thinks if he throws enough money at it he can get it."




"And he did, didn't he; with me?"




His silence says everything, I get up and finish off my drink.  "Thanks Ralph."












"Hey baby.  Did you enjoy your day?"




Talon smiles at me and drops a soft kiss on my lips.  "More than you will ever know.  Now, darling, how about we have a nice meal and catch up with each other?"




"Oh sorry baby.  Got to go to meeting with Zander about the shares.  It will run late, so don't wait up!"




"Oh okay.  I'll see you in the morning then?"




"Of course love you."  I kiss her softly and head out. I take my coat from Ralph without a word and head on out.








I head to the office and she gives me a sad smile.  "Just flat out lied to me.  I can handle anything but being lied to."




"Miss Talon, do what he's doing, look after yourself.  And the first thing we need to look at is your jewellery."




"My jewellery?"




"Oh yes your jewellery."  I smile at her.  "I'm not just a good butler you know."
















Wow this is some place.  When Talon called Zeph and told him about it, I knew I had to have a look.  Zeus told me about the Feeley Party and how he tasted the ribs. We haven't had them in years.




"Anybody here?"  I call out.




"One minute sir!  Just bear with me."  A voice calls out.  "I'm so sorry sir, Cara just went to get some lunch.  I'll be right with you!  Please take a seat."




I settle down and the TV kicks on and shows their past events and my stomach gives a growl.  Suddenly the door opens and a very pretty woman comes in and smiles then groans.




"You're Zeon right?  You have to be; you have the same smile."  She puts her lunch on reception.




"Um, you have lunch and you work in a place like this?"  I query.




"Unfortunately, we can't sample the wares.  I'm Cara."




"Zeon as you guessed."




"I'm so sorry!  Oh you're back!  Okay I'll leave you to it."




"No sweets come back. You need to meet this guy..."




The guy comes back and hold out a floured hand and immediately pulls it back wiping it on his apron.




"Hi, I'm..."




"Oh my God."  I breathe.




"Zeon, you're he...okay what's going on?"  Zee asks.




"Thomas!"  "Zebadiah!"  We say at the same time




"Thomas?  Is this?  This can't be!"  Emmy squeals.




"What?!"  Cara and Zee demand.




"Zebadiah.  Oh God where did you go?  When I found out he was lying I flew back but you'd gone."




"Italy. I went to Italy to head up the European IT arm of Feeley.  Oh God Thomas, I've missed you so much!"








"HEY!"  I bellow.  "Confused sister and events planner here!"




"This is Thomas, the love of your Zeon- or as he knows him Zebadiah's- life!  They met in San Fran!  You see he, Zeon, had an ex that wanted him to be with him. So the guy lied about him cheating on Thomas with him and split them up and then by the time Thomas found out it was too late because...wait...need-to-breathe...Zeon then moved to Italy and..."




"Emmy can you be quiet?!"  Cara cries out.  "You're ruining the moment here!"




"What are you talking...oh!"












Wow that is some kiss.  Not as scorching as Brian and Justin, of course, but I do believe we have lost our 2nd chef for the rest of the day.




I clear my throat.  "Ahem Thomas, you can have the rest of the day off."




Zee is smiling softly.  "Zeon the guy needs to breathe."  This doesn't stop him.  "Ze.on!"




"Hey sis, this is Thomas and..."




"Yeah, Emmy has caught us up.  Matt and Hunter are on their way to the Treehouse so you've got the place to yourself for the rest of the week. Thomas you don't need to be here for..."




"Oh no, no.  I can't abandon you and Emmy on my first event.  I can catch up with Zeb, I mean Zeon later.  I've waited long enough.  Now you go."




Thomas orders Zeon with a small kiss and trots back to the kitchen wearing the cutest dopiest grin on his face.




"Hey Zeon.  Nice boner."  Zee calls out as she follows Thomas in.




Cara gasps in shock.




"Jeez Zee!"  He calls back mortified; she pokes her head out the door.  "Went down though, didn't it?"




"Fuck you!"  He calls out as he saunters out grinning.




"You'll get used to that, um, I believe they call it banter."  I tell Cara.




"I don't banter like that with my brother."  She mumbles as she heads back to her desk.












These last two days have been a whirlwind...and a good one!  First, the brunch party was a great success. It was our first one, and we've got more bookings from that.  Thomas and Emmy Lou really work the crowd well, leaving me to do my cooking thing. Thank fuck for that, as I really hated that part of it.




Secondly, Zeon is back in Thomas's life but now he's gone again.  Seems they didn't get time to catch up but did manage to talk properly.  He's flown back to Italy to close up his apartment and will be staying with him at his house.




So of course all thoughts of the BroHouse have gone out his window for now, much to Zeus's annoyance, so he's overseeing the work.




Thirdly, while we've not made much of an inroad into finding a trail that leads up from Copthorne to him.  The money for Taylor has arrived but it's just sitting there. We're taking bets as to whether he moves it to his personal account or keep it in business.  His accounts look a little shonky we've let Tobias know.




And fourthly, much to Faal's delight, Justin's next show in a couple of weeks, which was going to be in San Fran, is now going to be in Paris and we're catering it so naturally the entire family is going to go.   But not my brothers, I've told them that they have to sort the house out and that clashes with scheduling. I've told them that if they do the mancave they will be buried in it.




"You know where I saw that expression last?"  Emmy Lou is asking me.




"No."  I replies teasingly.  "Oh wait, I know.  Tuesday post-snogfest."




"Ah yes.  Now seriously, you have to start packing for tomorrow and Thomas needs...Thomas for the love of Liza!"  Emmy sighs exasperatedly, waving his hand in front of his face.




"He curves to the right a bit.  One ball is bigger than the other...and his hot spot is..."




"For the love of God how do you know that about your brother?!"  Thomas shrieks.




"I don't.  But it got your attention didn't it?"  I reply smoothly.  "Right now that you're with us again, let's sort the food for the flight tomorrow.  So we have three loaves, the fixings for the toast and the champagne and Bloody Mary mix."




"Right, but why do you have three of the loaves?"  Emmy Lou and I just stare at him.  "Oh yes Faal.  Sorry what was I thinking?  I still can't believe he ate an entire loaf by himself."




"Okay, I will see you gorgeous boys on Saturday, no I mean Sunday. Oh where are we?"




"With the girls."  Emmy Lou reminds me.  "My girls and I are on food."




"Cheers lovely.  I'm off, we're at the Chambers again.  Justin has already booked the Full Harvest Body Ritual and then we'll fly back Saturday evening."
















She's getting frustrated because she can't get to Copthorne.  I think I have to make her stop working on it as she's been using language that I've never heard before.  Although I have worked out that neuken means fuck in Dutch.




"I mean it Zay...Zee; leave this be!  Let's close it down and you can take your frustrations out on them tomorrow night.  Why aren't all the family going by the way?"




She snorts with laughter.  "Jen and Debs couldn't be trusted not to cold-cock the pair of them on sight.  So it's just me, Faal, Brian, Justin and Hunter's dads.  Right we're done.  Time for food."




Heading to the kitchen, she opens the tub of giant prawns and lobster tails.  And it smells heavenly.




"What we having with them?"




"Fries and a salad...can you do the wine?  Bubbles for the boys and red wine for me."




"Sacrilege to have red wine with fish or seafood."  I shudder and again with the snort.




"You put what you want in your mouth and I'll put what I want in mine...not a word Usez!"




I stop reaching for the wine in surprise. She's not called me that in years, and I didn't realise how much I missed it until now.  The realisation dawns on her too and we just stare at each other for a bit.




"Come here ZayZay."  She sniffles against my chest.  "My ZayZay, mine."




"I'm serious though... if you put a mancave in I will bury you in it."  She mumbles.




"I know."




"Right, now let's get this food sorted out and obviously you will need keys to the Brownstone and..."




"No ZayZay, speak to Faal first okay?"  I interrupt her.  "Want to grill or deep fry?"




" a minute."  She sighs from my arms.




Faal smiles a small smile and makes his way quietly through the kitchen.












Hunter and Matt called when they landed safely and are at the small condo, where we're staying.  I can't believe how happy I am still.  Taylor did fuss a bit last night because she couldn't come but she's at Squirrel Hill with the girls and Gus is at the Brownstone with the boys.




"Okay breakfast!  We have beetroot and feta sourdough or PB&J French toast with peanut brittle and of course either bubbles or Bloody Marys.  So help yourselves."  Faal tells us.




Zee has been quiet since she got on the plane.  I look at Faal but he smiles reassuringly.




"They hugged."  I look a bit puzzled.  "Zee and Zeus hugged last night.  She didn't want to let go."




"Oh that's great."  I look across at her and she's chuckling over something.  "What do you think she's up to, tonight I mean?"




"No idea but it will be fun to watch."




I snicker and look to the back of the plane where I see Brian hustling Justin into the bedroom.  Faal and I just shake our heads.  Though I've heard that Faal and Zee are slightly chagrined that they are catching up with them in the fucking-on-the-plane stakes already and they've had the plane two years!








This PB&J French toast is delicious.  Well it's delicious when I'm tasting it second hand from Justin mouth.  I'm currently chasing a piece of peanut brittle.




"Hah!"  I crow after I sucked it slowly out of his mouth.  




"You distracted me!"  He tries to pout.




"How did I distract you?"  I object and start on his shirt and nibble his neck.  And then slap his hands away.  "Loser is the only one to get naked."




I kiss down to his nipples and suck on them until he's squirming and running his fingers through my hair, even though I know they are covered in the remains of French toast.  I start to kiss my way down when there's a tapping.




"You've got 15 minutes guys then you have to get back to your seats!"  Steve shouts through the door.




"Blow you now; fuck you later?"  I waggle my eyebrows and he nods.




I take my husband down whole and within 5 minutes he's almost pulling my hair out.




"Brian!  Oh!  Just, just one finger...please!"  I oblige and he squeals his release and drums his feet on the bed arching his back.




I slide up to share and he sighs happily.  "I can't wait for the showing tonight...both of them."




"Guys back to your seats now!"  Steve shouts.












This is going to be a good day.  Grady will be here later but first we have our appointments. I'm especially looking forward to Michael's ...oh yes today is going to be a good day!




"Are you both ready?"  I smile at them and lead them into the car.  "Now what's going to happen later is that the car will pick you up at five and drop you at the main condo for drinks and give you a chance to meet Grady and then we go to MoMA."




"I don't see why I have to go too. It's not as if I need anything done."  Michael gripes.




Lindsay and I exchange looks, which of course the idiot doesn't notice.  Luckily the rest of the journey is quick and he keeps his trap shut, though he does keep casting looks at me. If I wasn't thinking of the bigger picture, they would have had me knocking his eyes through the roof of his skull.




"We're here."  I smile at them and lead them into the Metamorphosis Spa.  "Now Michael, this is Jorge he will be your beautician for the day and Lindsay and I will be upstairs.  Enjoy."












I'm being inspected by Jorge.




"Tsk-tsk.  The pores oh dear."  Jorge sighs.  "I've been in apartments smaller than these.  Sir please do not frown! It makes the examination a little difficult.  Now sir, exactly what do you do to cleanse your face?"




"Soap and water of course."








"And that's it.  What else would I use?"




He doesn't say anything to that.  "Please strip down."




"Uh why?"  I demand carefully.




"Full body treatment means you need to be naked sir."




"Oh I see.  Where do I get changed?"  He points to a cubicle and once inside I swiftly change into the robe.




"Now first we open the pores with a steam and then we get on with the rest of it."




Ten minutes later, I'm wincing as he does an extraction but he looks pleased with himself.  I feel like I've been jabbed by a thousand hot needles.




"Next the dry body brushing to remove the dead skin.  This is tandem brushing."  Jorge advises and clicks his fingers. Two other men come in.




Five minutes later I'm being reminded not to flinch as I feel like I'm being sandpapered.




"Now sir, if you would like to follow me and lie down on your front."




I feel like a piece of meat on a slab but apparently my back passed the test as I have to turn on my front.  And then there's silence as all three of them look at me.




"Okay the chest is not too bad but that needs to go."  Jorge decrees.  "Now let's start on the eyebrows"




"Wait, what about my eye...owww!  What the fuck have you just done?!"  I scream as wax is applied to my face and swiftly ripped away.




"Oh yes much better.  Ooh nipple hair."




"Nip...what the fuck are you doing?!"  I scream as again wax is applied and ripped away.




"Sir it will help if you stay still."  Jorge applies a cooling gel to my chest and it feels so good.




"Now we are going to do some trimming.  So this means you have to keep absolutely still sir."




I relax as I regularly trim so that's not a problem.  "Oh that's much better it makes everything so much better."  Jorge mutters




I was about to ask him what he was talking about when I felt hot wax being applied quickly to my crotch before I could stop them.  I yelp and leap off the table flapping my hands at my crotch.




"What the fuck are you doing?!"  I yell at them and try to wipe the wax off my crotch but I manage to get some of it on my cock.


"Sir, you need to lie back down before the sir stop touching the wax as it will stick to you...sir please it is starting to cool that will make it harder to remove."




"You stay the fuck away from me you sadist!"  I'm hopping up and down as it still hot.




"Sir no!  Don't flap about like that or...yeah that will happen."




I look down and find that my cock is now stuck to my abdomen.  "Do something!"  I demand.




"Well sir the only way out of this is to apply more wax I'm afraid."




"Can't you just cut round the wax?!"  I almost screech as I pull my fingers off my thigh.




"I'm afraid not.  Now sir, if you could come back to the table and let's get this over and done with..."




"Wait, wax dissolver!  I've heard of that. Can't you use that?!"  I plead.




"No sir, that's a myth. Never heard of it and a spa of this calibre would have heard of it.  Now just sit back and try to relax.  I'm sorry but this is needs further application to remove what's already there..."




I'm in tears as they apply more wax and take their time ripping it off as gently as they could.  By the time they finish I'm as bald as a plucked chicken and red as a tomato from front to back.




"Here sir, this salve should help soothe you.  I would advise you not to engage in any activities that would chafe the area at all."




"I'm not paying for this!"  I sniffle and wince as my boxers brush against my skin.




"Of course sir.  And as a further goodwill gesture, we have provided you with pair of sweatpants so that there's no further chafing."




"Yes that's the least you can do!"  I snatch the sweats from him and put them on and then head upstairs.




I end up waiting for another 20 minutes for Lindsay to come to reception.




"Michael what is it?  I've got a facial in a few minutes."




"I'm going back to the condo.  This has been horrible.  Where's the car?"




"Let me get Talon."




Ten minutes later she saunters towards me.  "I've called the car it will be outside in 5 minutes."




"I'll wait outside then."  I snipe and stomp outside.








I wait until he's outside and head downstairs.   "Jorge, sweetie, you here?"




"Oh yes I am my darling.  As per your request he got the full works.  And here my darling is the USB port.  What are you going to with it?"




I smile and pocket the port.  "I'm sure I'll think of something.  Now I've got to get back."
















Well, Grady is looking good. Just under six foot and looks like a cross between Will Smith and Sidney Poitier.  Still can't understand why she chose him over Grady.  Talon is looking beautiful.




"So who are these people that we're going with?"  Grady asks.




"Lindsay Peterson, who knows art and Michael Novotny, who doesn't."  Talon replies sipping her drink.  "Oh there's the door.  I'll just go and get them."




"Honey that's what Ralph's for.  Let him do his job."




"Ms Peterson and Mr Novotny sir."




Lindsay is looking great in a lovely grey dress and he's looking surprisingly smart but walking funny.




"I'm Grady, nice to meet you Lindsay.  Luther you lied.   You said pretty, this lady is beautiful."




Lindsay goes pink and simpers as he kisses her hand.




"I'm Michael, Lindsay's best friend."  He holds out his hand.




Grady smiles at him too.  "Now aren't you a handsome devil.  Nice to meet you."




"Ralph serve them drinks."  I order.  "Whatever you like."




"A glass of champagne for me Ralph."  Lindsay is transfixed by Grady as I thought she might be.




"Double beam."  Michael states.  "No ice."




"We don't have Beam sir.  But..."




"Can't you..."




"We don't have time for that. I'm sure we'll be able to get you one at the showing."  Talon interrupts.  "Now have some champagne and then we can head off."




Ten minutes later we are heading off with Grady leading Lindsay and I'm saddled with Michael who has an odd expression on his face.




"Talon come on honey!"  I call out to her.




"Be right there Sweetums!"  She calls back.








I really want to rip that fucker's head off.  I've always liked Ralph and treated him with respect and the fact that it feels he can talk to him like that is, as Zee would put it, clanking my chain.




"Sorry Ralph I..."




He waves away my apologies.  "Oh don't worry Miss Talon.  I'm used to it and have my own little way of making Master Luther's guests sorry.  Now enjoy your evening and ‘Sweetums' a nice touch.  Sickening but nice."




I grin at him.  "How sorry?"




"Very.  Goodnight Miss Talon."




"Goodnight Ralph."












I can't believe we have our first showing in New York and here of all places.  Miranda has almost thrown up twice.  The show has an Argentinean slant as per his request as does the food.




People are arriving and I'm keeping an ear out for the arrival of part of the family.  Grandma wanted to come but grandpa said no as he doesn't know anybody in the New York Police Department that could get her out of jail quickly; same for Grandmom Jen.




The place is filling up quickly and the family has arrived.  Justin looks a little tense as he always does as the beginning of these things so they're still at the table until he feels a bit more relaxed.




Uncle Luc is at my side.  "How you feeling son?  You know where your marks are?"




I nod. I've done my usual thing of placing dad, papa, Faal and Uncle Luc in places where I can see them before the speeches.  I only need them until I get about five minutes in and then I'm fine.  Miranda is taking the group questions afterwards.




I walk round and come to a halt.  Lindsay is here with three other people.  Matt makes a kind of strangled noise.




"Matt you okay?  Oh wait is that your dad?"  He nods.  "Oh Faal's much better looking and kinder much, much kinder and that's all you need."








I'm trying to find Melody Reichmann but I can't seem to find her.




"This has been curated beautifully.  Whoever, Melody recommended to do this has an excellent eye..."




"Thank you Lindsay."  I stiffen at the sound of Hunter's voice.




"Hunter?  You?  You curated this show?"




"Yes and Miranda and I are hosting.  Charles Pearlman will be doing a Q&A before dinner with of course Lucian Stark, who owns that...oh wait, sorry- Zee owns that lovely piece you've been admiring." I clench my glass of champagne tightly as he continues.  "Won't you introduce me to your companions, except this guy? I know who he is.  The others not so much."




"Hunter Bruckner.  This is Luther Stark, Talon Stark-Kho and Grady Holster.  I'm curious as to how you know Grady."




"Seen a picture of him.  Matt gets his beauty, inside and out from his mom.  His ugly temper must be from you."  I sneer at him.




"Now just..."




"What no Michael?  I'm surprised you and your sycophant could bear to be parted from each other.  Now excuse me, I have a show to host."




He turns and strides across the room.  "What the hell was that about?"  Luther demands.




"I didn't know he would be here!"  I protest and then I spot Melody.  "Excuse me, I just need to speak to that lady over there. I'll be right back.  Grady, can you go and check on Michael please?  He's been gone a long time."








I head to the bathroom and I find Michael mopping his face.  "You okay?"




"Yes thanks... face just feels a little hot that's all."




"So who's Hunter Bruckner?  He asked about you and..."




"Hunter?  Hunter's here?  He's my son and he's dating..."




"Correction he was your son. He's been emancipated from you.  Now excuse me, I'm going to support my son."




I look to Michael for an explanation but he's too busy glowering at the closing door.  "Michael?"




"Oh sorry, Grady.  That's the man that my husband cheated on me with and he's..."




"Michael stop spouting shit.  The only dishonest person in that relationship was you."




Whoever that guy is, is gorgeous.  And judging by the expression on Michael's expression he thinks the same.




"Brian!  What are you doing here?"




"Leaving your company."  He strides out without a backward glance.




"Who was that?"  I breathe.




"Brian Kinney.  He's my best friend. We're just going through a rough patch at the moment."




"Oh right.  You ready to head back out?"








I nod and follow him out. I'm still in pain from the treatment this morning.  And also my stomach feels funny.  We go back to join Luther and Talentless as I've taken to calling her when she's not around.




Lindsay comes back from wherever she was, looking annoyed.  "I couldn't find Melody. No matter, we'll catch up after dinner, I'm...oh my God..."




We all turn around to see who she's looking at and it's Zee.




"What the hell is she doing here and talking to Melody Reichmann of all people!"




"Is this the same woman who you need an in with?"  Talentless asks.




"I have an in with her."  Lindsay responds testily.  "Let's walk around a bit more."




"Zee looks great."  Grady replies.  "She still married to that dude?"




Before either of us could reply, Matt has made his way over to her and is grabbed into a hug.




"I want to say hello to my boy.  I'll join you in a minute."  Grady takes a glass of champagne and heads in their direction.




"I agree let's all go over."  Luther follows him over with Talentless.








Faal is talking to Brian and Justin.  Melody has just gone and judging by the way Matt is tensing up either his dad or grandfather or both are coming over.




"Zaden, Matt how are you?"  Grady sounds as annoying as ever.




"Before you arrived, just fine."  Matt replies coldly.




"Now you listen to me boy, you will be polite to your father."  Luther demands.




"And as soon as he arrives I will do so.  Mom, I'm going see Hunter."








"Aren't you going to say hello to me?"  Grady asks.




"Nope.  Talon you look well.  Nice dress."




"Thanks Zaden.  No Faal?"




"He's over there speaking to a couple of friends of ours."




"I see."




Lindsay smirks.  "I had no idea that Uptown was hosting this event.  Charles must be..."




"Zee, excuse the interruption..."  Melody smiles.  "This is Charles Pearlman, Charles Pearlman this is Zaden, but I call her Zee, she owns the Caperstocht."




"It's a pleasure to meet you Zaden.  Now about the Caperstocht, how can I persuade you to let us have it for 6 months?"




"Nice to meet you too.  Call me Zee and you just did, have at it.  Uncle Luc and Aunt Dee look after the art he's left to me, so contact him if you need to borrow any of them."




"Are you serious?"  Charles gasps.




"Yep, have absolutely no interest in art whatsoever.  Uncle Luc calls me a heathen.  But I'm here for my boys..."




"Boys?"  Grady asks.  "You had another kid with him?"








"Aren't you going to say hello to me?"  Luther demands.








"Has she always been this childish?"  Lindsay smirks.




"Not the c-word I'd use for her."  Michael snarks.




"Oh do feel free to tell me what c-word you would use Michael?"  I turn to him and he says nothing.




"Zee, seriously?"  Charles asks again. I nod smile as he makes a beeline for Uncle Luc.




Melody smiles at his departing back.  "I think you have just made his day or maybe year!  Now if you'll excuse me, I need to circulate."




Luther clears his throat.  "Now then.  Zaden, I suggest you grow up and learn from Lindsay how to conduct yourself in..."




"Oh shut up."  I snap.  "And be a dipshit elsewhere. I'm here to support my boys, watch and learn."




He opens his mouth in shock and out of the corner of my eye I see Talon smirk.  "And as for you three, ruin this evening for Hunter and I will eviscerate you."




"Zee.  My lig."  He kisses the side of my neck and squeezes my hand.  "Show's about to start."




Lindsay snorts.  "This should be interesting.  Hunter and Miranda were under my tutelage whilst I was in Pitts..."




"Your tutelage Lindsay?   How interesting.  Since I am the manager of both Uptown and Bloom, where you were fired from.  I don't remember that version of events."  Lydia interrupts her.




"Zee, aren't you going to introduce me to your friends?"  She smiles at me, I love this woman!




"No, oh wait, Lydia Glendale, this is Talon Stark-Kho, Talon this is Lydia. She used to be Lindsay's boss in Pittsburgh."




"Oh, nice to meet you."




"Ladies and gentlemen, ladies and gentlemen, your attention please.  My name is Hunter Bruckner and this is Miranda Glendale and we are your hosts for the Pearlman Show.  This show covers the Argentinean artists from 1889-1998 and..."




By the time they're finished there's rousing applause.  Lydia, Steve and Ben have tears of pride in their eyes.




Talon turns to her.  "So Lindsay, in your expert artistic opinion how was he?  Judging by the applause, I would say he's done excellently.  Now if you'll excuse me I just need to powder my nose."




"Ladies and gentlemen, dinner is about to be served."  Miranda announces.




"What the...what's your coat tag number lig?"




"47 why?"  I look at him confused as he replies to the text.  His phone beeps seconds later and he excuses himself.




"Did I miss much?"  Talon asks.




"No they're just announcing the tables."  Lindsay tells her.  "It looks like we're number 5, which number are you Zee?"




Before I could reply, I feel Luther's hand at my elbow.




"Please take your hand off my wife."   Faal growls.




"Watch how you talk to me..."




"Faal it's okay."  Luther stiffens.  




"Take your hand off my little one.  Now Luther."




"Lucian, she is..."




"My little one.  I said now."




He lets go and turns to face Uncle Luc, who may be younger but can take him physically and financially and he knows that.




"Zee, they've just about to announce our table."  Brian drapes an arm round my shoulders.




"Sure, oh Brian this is Talon Stark-Kho, Talon this is Brian."




"Nice to..."




"So you are Brian Kinney, Michael's..."  Grady begins.




"Taylor-Kinney and I'm not Michael's anything.  Or hers."  Brian snarks.  "Talon nice to meet you too."








I have to bite the inside of my cheek to stop from laughing at the incredulous looks on their faces.




"Now that is a fine looking man."  I murmur to Lindsay.




"He is but he's gay and married, though I can't see that lasting..."




"Married? Pity."  I mutter.




Michael grimaces "Yes to Justin Taylor or the..."




"Oh my goodness, Justin Taylor! The Justin Taylor as in the artist?"  I gasp although I know this already.  "Luther, you must be delighted.  His pieces appreciate in value so much!"




"You have a Justin Taylor, Luther?"  Lindsay grins at him.  "I found him you know."




Luther's expression is now priceless.  Yeah you suck on that Mr. Homophobe!




"Uh Lindsay."  Michael is trying to get her attention.  "Lindsay!"




"What is it?  And lower you voice."  She hisses.




"Isn't that your..."




"Oh crap!"  Zee suddenly exclaims.  "I can't believe I almost forgot!"




"Forgot what?"  Brian asks.




"Anniversary.  Hunter and Matt's anniversary!"




"Hunter and Matt's..."  Luther sputters.




"No, it's covered my lig. We're sending them to South Africa, to the Glasshouse for four days."




Grady and Luther wince as Zee pulls him down for a sweet kiss.  Lindsay gets a pinched expression on her face too.




"Can we have the guests for Table 3 please?"




"That's us."  Zee turns swiftly and heads to her table.








I can't believe that she's on Table 3!




"I can't believe how they just conducted themselves just now!"  Luther hisses.




"Can we have the guests for Table 5 please?"




"Come on let's go and sit down."




And of course we're right next to her table.  But unlike her table, ours is fully occupied.




"It's a shame you don't have the full complement of guests Zee, such a shame."  I call across smugly.




"Oh but I do.  They're just talking to Melody and Franklin."




"Of course they are, Zee of course they are."




I turn back and start to talk to Grady, who is a fascinating person and I do believe I can feel his hand on my thigh.  I smile at him and cover his hand with mine.




"Lindsay, Michael we had no idea you would be here!"  I'm startled by mother's voice.




"Mother, daddy what are you doing here!  It's nice to see you.  Though we..."




Mother interrupts with a wave of her hand.  "Not now, we don't Lindsay.  I'm Nancy and this is my husband Ronald, as you've heard we're Lindsay's parents."




I swiftly introduce them to everyone.  "Can you join our table?  I'm sure that Michael..."




"Oh no dear that wouldn't do. Besides we're just here with Millie and Harold."




I gape as they take their seats at Zee's table.  "Like I said, my table is full."  She calls back to me.




For the rest of the dinner, I barely eat and Michael is glowering at me.  Why?  I have no idea.




Charles taps his glass.  "And now ladies and gentlemen in honour of the Argentinean theme of the evening, we would like to introduce Carlos and Carmela Martinez who will dance the dance of Love and Passion, also known as the tango."




When they finish there is rousing applause.  "Now those who feel brave enough please step to the floor and be instructed in the art of tango."




"Would you like to try Lindsay?"  Grady asks.




"Yes, yes I would."




I take his hand and whilst we dance I feel like a princess.  He needs some guidance but still I feel like a princess.








As we head back to the table, Zee and Faal pass us.   Lindsay and I chuckle and Luther smirks.




The music starts again.  As we watch Faal pull her into his arms, he shakes his head at the instructor, and for the next five minutes the room is quiet as they dance.  Or more accurately fuck with their clothes on, he dips and twirls her and not once did they lose eye contact.  I've always hated that guy!




"Wow."  Talon breathes.  "Now that was hot."




"If you like that kind of thing."  Lindsay sniffs.




"Only the dead wouldn't like that kind of thing."  Talon smirks.




"Excuse me, I need to have a word with my parents."




"Lindsay we are not discussing this.  We've made our decision as explained in the note.  I said no Lindsay.  Now return to your table before you make a bigger fool out of yourself!"  I hear her mother hiss at her.




"Oh wait Lindsay, just one other thing."  A woman at the table calls her back.  "Withdraw your suit or the courts will be the least of your problems.  Melody and I will make it so that nobody on the eastern seaboard will hire you."




"But Mill..."




"Mrs. Foster Brown to you.  Now think about what I've said.  And realise that you only got this invitation because Zee asked Melody so that you could see what you've lost."








"Now go back to your table.  And send someone to the men's room to check on Michael. Apparently he's making the most oddest of noises."




"I'll go."  I tell her and head to see what's wrong.












Justin is currently bouncing up and down on my lap and we're locked in a passionate kiss in an effort to keep the noise down.  Luckily the noise of someone else groaning in the next cubicle is helping though judging by his whimpering, he's not having half as much fun as we are.




"Oh God oh God oh God!"  Justin whispers hotly in my ear.  "So close, so good, need to, need to."




I can feel my balls tightening and lift him up.  "Hold on."  I whisper back, he tightens his legs round my waist and his arms round my neck and with one hand braced the door I thrust up sharply and he clamps down immediately.




"Yes!  Yes!"  He hisses into my ear and bites down on my neck.




"Mmm!  Mmm...oh baby!  Oh my God!"  I groan quietly and sink back down onto the toilet seat, slowly we catch our breath.




"Michael are you in here?"  Grady calls out.




"Y-yes."  He groans.  "Be right out."




"You okay?"




"Yeah.  Just have a bit of an upset stomach.  I still can't believe Lindsay was going to suggest that I move to accommodate her parents!  After the way they disowned us!"




"Us?  I thought that you were just friends?"




"We are, but her parents..."




"Got rid of the leeches that almost cost us our good name and our friends."  Ronald booms.








"Yes, leeches and we will help Millie in any way possible to make sure you two learn your...your fucking lesson!  Now excuse me."




There's silence for a few minutes and Justin and I try not to laugh.




"Michael, come on let's go back. The evening is wrapping up now."




We head back to the table to find everyone ready to go and we head to the cars.












So this has been yet another humiliating experience.  Michael told me what happened in the bathroom.  Leeches? I can't believe he described me- his own daughter- as a leech.




Lucian and Dee come out first with Hunter, Matt, Steve and Ben, who don't even look in our direction.  "Guys we'll see you at the hotel tomorrow at 1100."




"Okay, text when you reach safely."  Brian calls back and then burst out laughing.  "Seriously Faal!"




We all turn to find Faal carrying Zee out without her shoes but wearing socks.




"What? She does the same thing every time but this time at least her feet are cashmere-warm and my shoes don't get trodden on."




"Zee, where did you get your shoes from?"  Talon heads over to them and takes them from her lap.  "Ralph and Russo, very nice.  Oh the car's here.  See ya."




Talon comes back to us tapping on her phone.  "Why on earth would you want to know where her shoes are from?"  I demand.




"Because she has immaculate taste in shoes...amongst other things."




Luther holds up his hand.  "Could you two bitch about shoes later and get in the damn car? This has been a horrible night!"












Once we get in the car I start to laugh.




"What's so funny?"  Justin asks snuggling deeper into Brian's arms.




"She's leaving him."  I announce.




"What?!"  They all demand.




"Talon is leaving Luther."  I pull the blanket over Zee and hand the other to Brian.




"How the hell do you know that?"  Brian demands.




"She's replacing the jewellery with very good but useless copies. I know what to look for with fakes.  Oh and you need to check your coat pocket.  Zeus said she's left something there."




She finds the port and puts into the entertainment system and when we get to the part with Michael's cock stuck to his stomach.  Justin snickers.  "I can understand why Ben topped!"












"Well I think it's safe to say that the next showing can be on the moon and I still wouldn't go!"




"You didn't enjoy yourself then honey?"  Talon strokes my arm and I can feel my temper abating.  




"Not really. And I don't care how much it appreciates, I want that piece gone!"




"Okay, honey, okay I will sort that out for..."




"No actually, Talon, since I know people in the artistic world..." Lindsay tries to interject.




"Who clearly don't want to know you!  Luther I will call this Melody Reichmann and see what I can do okay?"




I nod and pull her closer to me.  Lindsay looks at her with annoyance but doesn't say anything else, but Grady squeezes her hand.




Michael has been bellyaching about his belly aching since we got in the car and to be honest it would be nice to get out of his company.  Grady told me what Lindsay's father said about them in the bathroom.  And he's right especially when it comes down to him.  And I'm the only one who gets to talk to Ralph like he's the shit on my shoe.




"Here you guys are."  I tell them as we pull up and am surprised when Grady gets out too.




"Lindsay's offered me a coffee.  I'll take a cab from here back to mine."




"Enjoy."  I call out just before the door is slammed shut.




"So what did you make of that then?"




"What?  Lindsay and Grady? Well it will be an interesting match...though not sure that Zee is going to be as jealous as you think she is after all..."




"Of course she is!  No woman likes to share their man, past or present."  I reassure her.  "All is coming together nicely."




I rest my head against the seat and close my eyes.












As well as moaning about his stomach, Michael was bitching about my attempt to get him to move to another table. But once I explained that I was hoping to soothe my parents ruffled feathers, he's now calmed down and thankfully gone to bed.




"Is he going to be okay?"  Grady asks.




"Yes.  He's always been dramatic, his dad's a drag queen after all."  I titter.




"So your folks are..."




"Full of bluff and bluster as per usual when they think I have done something wrong, which I haven't.  It will be fine.  Now enough about this horrible evening, what would you like to drink?"




"Chateau de Lindsay available?"




"Uh Grady? do know that..."




"Lindsay, hush and let me make you feel better."












"What time is the car coming?"  I mumble as we get to the massage part of the Ritual.  Silence.




I open my eyes and they are all dozing.  "Oh crap..."




"The car has been booked to pick you up at 1800 sir." My masseuse tells me.




I sigh happily and let him work out the kinks I put in my shoulders after the fuck fest this morning.  My cock twitches at the memory and I'm happy to be on my stomach for a change.




"So we can eat here, you can do some shopping and then leave from here."  Justin mutters.




"Why are we leaving from here again?"




"Gift baskets now will you two be quiet."  Ben orders.




"Ben is feeling..."




"I will throw this loofah at you!"  Steve snaps.




"Zipping."  I mutter.












Grady is getting dressed.  I can't believe we had sex last night. Oh, I can't wait to share that little piece of information with Zee. She will be so pissed off.  I saw the spark in her eyes. Despite what she says about her feelings for Faal, there's something there.




I stretch and feel deliciously sore and with one last kiss on my lips he heads out.  I slump back onto the pillows and doze back off.  I'm not sure how long I was asleep but I wake to the sound of tapping on my door.




I look around and make sure there's nothing incriminating before calling out.  "Come in Michael."




When he does come in I gasp in surprise.  His stomach is distended like he's about 4 months pregnant and he's sweating profusely.




"Goodness me what on earth is wrong?"




"I don't know but I think I need a doctor."  He moans clutching his stomach.




I get out of bed quickly and grab my phone.  I call Talon who recommends a medical centre not far from here so we quickly get dressed and grab a cab.
















I look at Ralph and cock an eyebrow.  "Okay what did you do?"




"Who me Miss Talon?  I merely served the drinks as was requested."  He chuckles and I wait.




"Oh there you are."  Luther interrupts us.  "I won't have time for breakfast this morning, got another meeting with Zaden. We are still in negotiations...try not to eat too much baby. You know how it bloats you out.  I'll see you later."




He drops a kiss on my cheek and saunters out. I don't even have to look at Ralph to know he's lying but just to make sure, I text Zeph.  It doesn't take long for my suspicions to be confirmed.




"Now Miss Talon.  What have we discussed?"  Ralph chastises me.




"I know but I gave up everything to be with him and to be just one of his harem is..."




"What it is."  He tells me firmly.  "Now enough of this pity party.  In answer to your question an old family recipe to stop the trots.  And the only way to relieve this discomfort is to give him the trots."




"Oh Ralph you are so wicked."




"Indeed.  Now, you young lady are going to eat some breakfast before you do anything else. You are much too thin."








"Call me old fashioned. He should never have had a say about that in the first place.  Now you are too thin and disproportioned, with all due respect.  Now, what would you like to eat?"




I look at Ralph and his determined expression.  "Bacon, eggs, hash browns and hot chocolate with whipped cream!"  I decide.




"Excellent choice."
















I have never felt so bad in my life.  First I can't go and now I can't fucking stop!  Lindsay has been as helpful as she can but there's only so much time a person can stay in here with this smell.




"Michael how's it going in there?"




"Badly!"  I call back.  "I may have to go to the ER. Whatever they gave me has made it worse!"




"Okay, hold on I'm calling for a cab!"
















"Oh that's the best thing I've had in my mouth in months!"  I groan as I digest my breakfast.




"Don't let Master Luther hear that."  Ralph chuckles.




"Why do you stay?"  I ask him.




"He pays very well and I get my revenge when I need to."






"Oh wait, I need to call him about the Justin Taylor."  I grab my phone.  "Hi honey, you okay you sound out of breath.  Oh shouting at Zander I see.  About the Justin Taylor, how gone do you want it?  Okay not a problem, I will sort it for you honey."




I dust myself down and grin at Ralph.  "Do you have a dollar?"




He frowns at me.  "Yes why?"




"Follow me."




I lead him to the main lounge and point to the Justin Taylor.  "You like that?"




"Yes this is an exquisite example of his early works. I've always admired it.  Justin Taylor is an exceptional artist."




"It's yours for one dollar."  I tell him.  "Now pay and get it down and out of here."




"Miss Talon you can't be serious!"  He gasps.




"He told me to sell it but he never said for how much!"  I giggle and after pocketing the money, help him get it down.












"We've been waiting for 2 hours now why can't we be seen?"  I demand of the nurse.




"Because we've had a major accident and those people take precedence over your friend's stomach upset."  She replies brusquely then pushes passed me.




Finally, after another hour we're seen and immediately sent out with exactly the same instructions we were given earlier.




"Well that was a waste of time."  Michael grumbles but at least he's stopped passing wind.




"Let's go and get something to eat and remember bland foods, nothing spicy or rich."
















"Michael you can't blame me if you decided to eat a four cheese pizza!  The doctor said bland. How was that bland?!"




"Cheese is mild...oh God it hurts so badly, I think I may have actually passed my intestines!"




"Oh too much detail!  Wait, I think that's my phone hold on."




I dash to the hallway and beam as it's Grady.  "Hi, how are you.  Sorry I couldn't call you back earlier but Michael's been unwell.  No, we think it's something from last night.  Oh sure I can meet you, give me the address."




I head back and find Michael wobbling to his bedroom.  "Who was that?"




"Oh Talon, I'm meeting her for drinks. Will you be okay?"




"Yeah, I'm just going to sleep.  Say fuck you to Talentless for me."  He calls out before he closes the door.




I dash to my bedroom and dial her number.  "Talon it's me.  Look if Michael asks, we were together this afternoon okay?  Thanks! I owe you."












Justin and Brian are actually sleeping in the bedroom this time.  And I know he would hate to hear it but they look so sweet spooned against each other. The way Brian has him cocooned in his body is just adorable.




"How could his father want to hurt him so?"  Ben sighs.




"No idea."  I close the door softly.




I have to laugh as I look round the plane, this seats 30 tops and almost half one side of it is gift baskets and shopping.  Mel is going to hate the suit that Brian got for her, so much that when we showed it to Jenny she said that she would wear it on Monday without a doubt.




We were almost late because Brian was fussing so much with the toiletries so we have to sort them out on the way. He wrote instructions in the car.




"Okay let's get this done shall we?"  I sigh.  "And Matt I know you are itching to come and help so hop to it."












"I hate you!"  I declare to Brian when he shows me the suit.  "I really hate you!"




"Who had hate?"  Gus calls out.




"Me!"  Ted calls out.  "2nd pot of the month, go me!"




"Pot uh I don't..."  Zeus looks puzzled but is soon shaking his head and Ted explains our ritual.




"I still don't understand what Taylor is doing. Why not just move the money? I mean his business is for shit.  And from whom we saw at the naked dinner, these are the people that would save it.  But since the money arrived from my father, he's not reached out to them again and..."




Zee stops her pacing.  "Holy fuck he's running it down."  The room goes quiet.




"But, but what about Molly!"  Justin demands.  "That's part of her legacy he can't do that!  I don't care about me but he has to provide for Molly."




"Oh that fucking bastard!"  Jennifer growls.




"Justin, Jennifer calm yourself. He needs to pay and he will.  But first some levity in the situation.  Come into the lounge."








They all follow and I put the port that Talon gave me in and soon the room is filled with laughter.




Five minutes later, Solly, Ted and Menno are in Mel's office.  "Okay, I need you three to keep this quiet. And I mean not even tell Brian, Justin or Faal quiet, agreed?"  They nod.  "Before I get to that, Ted have Tobias and Darius started on their wedding plans?"




"No not as far as I'm aware.  But they were hoping for a December wedding.  Why?"




"Portland is supposed to be nice in December.  And I know for a fact that there is a certain venue that would love to host their first winter wedding..."




"Are you serious?"  Ted gasps.




"Yes.  After what he did with Michael and what he's trying to do now, it's the least we can do.  Emily is expecting his call."




Ted gives me a hug and starts to leave.  "Uh Ted.  Not finished yet.  Now Menno, what's mama's maiden name again?"




"Schoepen.  Why?"




"Ted, can you do whatever it was you did for Daphne for Menno?  And Solly can you be his ‘Ephraim'?"




They both nod and then starts to smile.  "You little devil."  Ted grins.




"I'm not being devilish, I'm reciprocating."  I grin back.












I text Blake and wait for him to come in because I want him to be here when I call Tobias.




"What's put that smile on your face?"




I grin and hold up my hand for silence.  "Tobias Schenk speaking."




"Tobias it's Ted and Blake. Can you get Darius on the line too?"




"I'm on what's going on?"




"You remember the place in Portland where the marriages and renewal ceremonies happened?"




"Yes oh it is gorgeous!"  Tobias sighs.  "What about it?"




"Well it's yours.  Seems they would love to do a winter wedding."




There is complete silence at the other end and at first I think they've hung up until I hear a sniffle.




"Are you serious?"  Darius demands his voice thick.




"Yes.  She said that Emily is expecting your call.  And E&ZHoD would love to do the catering."




There is a thud and then a gasp.  "Ted!  I'll have to call you back, Tobias has fainted!"












"So how were drinks with Talentless?"




"Oh fine, she knows some cool places.  Has your stomach finally settled down now?"




"Yes, thanks.  I can't understand why I was so ill."  I grumble picking moodily at my boiled egg.




"Me neither.  We had exactly the same thing.  Anyway, look I'm going out..."




"With Talentless again? You two are becoming quite bosom buddies."  I bitch.




"No, no we're not and no I'm not.  Actually, I'm going to look round the galleries; see who I should honour with my resume."




"Oh okay.  I'm going to watch all the X-Men movies back to back then."




"How many times have you seen those movies?"  She asks with a hint of scorn in her voice.




"Doesn't matter. They will never get old for me.  And besides it's Sunday, a day of rest.  See you later."








As I watch him head to the lounge, it occurs to me that every day seems to be a day of rest for Michael.  With a sigh I follow him.




"Michael before you settle down to your marathon session, how much money have you got left?"




"Why?"  He asks, not pausing in his movie set up.




"No big reason.  Well maybe.  The money from my parents, our last checks and the money you have left is all the money we have. So we need to start adding to the pot ourselves as opposed to..."




"But when we win the misrepresentation suit we'll get money from that..."




"No we won't."  I cut him off feeling the beginnings of a headache.  "The point of the misrepresentation suit is to get them to reopen the cases that we lost, remember? And then there's the defamation countersuit..."




"What countersuit?"  Now he's looking at me and I stare back at him incredulous.




"Remember when Adam White turned up here?  He served us papers from Philip Mitcham counter suing the misrepresentation with defamation."




"I didn't know that!"  He gasps.




"Michael."  I grit out.  "You were standing behind me when he told me and I then repeated it to you.  How did you not take that on board?"




He narrows his eyes at me.  "Lindsay what's really going on? You've been snippy with me for the last week now?"




"Nothing is going on apart from what I have just said to you.  Now before this escalates into an unnecessary row, let's check how much money we've got at the moment.  We don't have rent to pay, which is a blessing but we have to be..."




"There it is again, that tone."  He continues to frown at me.




"There is no tone."  I paste a smile on my face.  "Everything is fine. I'm just worried that we will run out of money before..."




"We can always ask Luther.  Or even better, Talentless to share her fuck money with us until the cases are settled."  He suggests as he reluctantly follows me to the office.




"That's brilliant Michael!  Yes we'll ask Talon for help and I think it would be best coming from you."  I sigh.  "Okay let me check mine first."




He remains standing behind me.  "A little privacy Michael."  He backs away but doesn't turn around.  "Turn around Michael. This is private."




"Don't you trust me Lindsay?"  He pouts.




"Mel didn't know my bank details and I used to sleep with her."  I smile tightly.




A few minutes later I log off.  "Your turn."




Ten minutes later we're totalling up.  "Okay we've got just under $14,000 left, that's taking off the loan repayments to them for the next six months.  This is New York; this is not going to last long."




I slump back in the seat.  




"How long is not long?"  He asks.




"As long as we only buy food, we can last until February tops.  We've got to get some money in."




"Look let's discuss this tomorrow.  We've got time and it's not even November yet."  Michael shouts over his shoulder heading back to the lounge.




I'm stunned.  I just cannot believe how utterly stupid this man can be sometimes!












All four of us are staring at the dish of jugged hare with varying expressions of disgust.




"Are you sure that's what they said they wanted?"  Thomas is actually backing away.




"It looks like um..."  Cara wince.




"Shit over vomit?"  Zee helpfully supplies.




"Maybe it tastes better than it looks."  Emmy Lou says, ever the optimist.




"Well I'll be going to the BroHouse to oversee the works. Let me know how you..."




"Like fuck you are!"  Thomas grabs my arm to stop me.  "Come on, we're grown-ups. Let's all just have a taste."




We dig in and Zee shudders.  "This has better freeze well because I'm never cooking that again."




"Oh that's just nasty!"  Cara grimaces after she's spat it out.




Emmy Lou hands us all a glass of water.  "Okay we can just tell them we couldn't find hare and offer them confit chicken instead."




"They're game hunters. They will most probably provide us with one."  Zee gripes wiping her tongue on her sleeve.  "Ugh this needs vodka."




"Anyone in!"  A voice calls.




"The final test.  In here Lydia!"  Zee calls back.




Lydia comes in and waves a paper at us.  "The reviews are in and of course our..."  She pauses and looks at the dish.  "What on earth is that?"




"Jugged hare."  I reply.  "Hi I'm Zeon, Zee's brother."




She looks at me first in surprise then warily.  "I've been told all about her brothers.  I'm Lydia and adore this woman.  Take that onboard okay?"




I look at my little sister and then nod at Lydia.  "Yes ma'am."




"Want to taste?"  Emmy Lou asks and she nods taking a spoon and then heads to the bin and spits it out.




"Booking clash on any day they suggest correct?"  Cara asks.




"Absolutely.  Vodka Lydia?"  Zee offers her a tumbler, which she quickly knocks back.




"Fuck me sideways that is vile!"   She waves the tumbler and Zee pours another.  "Oh that's better.  Now the reviews are in and of course my darling urchins have been praised to the heavens!"




"Urchins?  Reviews?"  I ask.




"That's what she calls them. The ‘them' being Hunter and Miranda. She's Lydia's niece.  They curated and hosted the Pearlman Show in New York at the weekend..."




"Ah I see.  It's a shame about that..."




"Why is it a shame?"  I can hear the defensive edge to her question.




I hold up my hands.  "Nothing about your urchins especially Hunter, who is by proxy, my nephew.  It's just that I love art and I have to admit to jealousy when Uncle Luc gave her his collection."




Lydia looks keenly at me.  "How much do you love art?"




"More than me."  Zee chuckles.  "I can imagine the bitch-fit you pitched when you heard about that.  What did you get by the way?"




"Their house in Fra...wait Justin's show; where you guys staying?"




"Not sure yet, why?"  Emmy Lou replies.  "Okay what's that face for?"  He looks at Zee.




"You got the house in France, didn't you?"  She looks annoyed when I nod.  "Lucky fucker."




"So you don't want to stay there?"  I ask and then groan as Emmy Lou launches himself at me.




"Pictures! I want to see pictures!"  He squeals after releasing me from the hug.




"Okay, hold up everything!"  Lydia claps her hands.  "How big is this place?"




"12 bedrooms, never been to it."




Lydia is counting off on her hands.  "Fine.  You and me, Zeon are going to have a little chat about this place, Emmy Lou you too.  And then we need to speak to Justin.  Come-come plans to make!"




She pauses and then turns around.  "Bag that up, dish and all, I know just the dumpster for it."
















The works to put a bed in the alcove are finally finished.  Baz, as usual has done an excellent job.  I'm making the bed while thinking of my sperm donor.




"Want to talk about it or you just going to keep doing that hospital corner?"




Brian comes over and pulls me into his arms and I sniffle.  "Why?"  I mumble from his chest.




He lifts my head and brushes the tears away.  "None of that.  He's not worth these.  Not worth it."  He drops a soft kiss on my trembling mouth.








"Not worth it."  He repeats firmly.  "Besides I have a feeling that Ted and Zee are cooking up something or other."








"Didn't you notice that he, Solly and Menno disappeared for awhile on Sunday?  Something's happening and Faal's noticed too.  But we're pretending not to."








"And look what happened the last time they combined forces and with Solly onboard. Whatever is happening it is going to be good.  Oh by the way, Lydia called, about the show in France.  Wants you to call her back.  Said you've not been answering your phone."




"Mmm, will call her back tomorrow.  Right now I have something much more important to do."




"Which is?"  He asks as I kiss his neck. "You know that osteopath table?"  He nods.  "Get it set up with your favourite oils and I'll set the bath, then we fuck like rabbits."




"Uh why not fuck like rabbits now...we have to test the bed you know for resilience anyway..."




"Brian, this is my plan and we...oh!"  I groan as he slides his hand into my sweats and tugs on my cock.




"Lie down."  He whispers in my ear and I just flop down and he swiftly takes off my sweats and wraps his mouth round my cock.




I arch my back and give a little squeal of pleasure.  As I watch his head bob up and down and feel his tongue in my slit, my eyes roll back and I shoot down his throat.




Ten minutes later, I'm holding onto the railings of the bed for dear life as he pounds into me.




"He's. Not. Worth. It!"  He thrusts on every word.  "Repeat.  After.  Me."




"He's...oh God...not, yes oh yes, worth it."  I shudder.




"Again."  He thrusts harder.




"He's.  Ah, uh ah.  Not worth.  There oh God there!  It!" He starts to pump my cock in time and suck on my neck.  "Oh God Brian!"  I yelp and clamp down hard.




"Fuck!"  He roars and explodes.




As I snuggle back into his lap with him still inside me, my last thought is thank God we don't have to buy another futon.
















Ralph and I just stare at each other.  "Miss Talon, what are you going to do?"




I smile at him.  "What I'm good at.  Ralph.  What I'm good at."
















Lindsay is out at another gallery opening or something.  So once again, I can watch my movies and read my comics in peace.  I'm just getting to the good part in Spiderman, when the door goes.




"Oh hi Grady, Lindsay's not in."  I'm hoping he will take the hint and leave immediately.




"Oh shame."  He smiles at me. He really is quite a looker.  "May I come in?  We never got much time to talk the last time."




Inwardly sighing, I let him in and lead him to the lounge.  "Oh Spiderman!  Which one is it, 1 or 2?"




I look at him in surprise.  "Halfway through the first one. Never had you down as a Spiderman fan."




"Not everything is as it appears.  May I help myself to a drink?"




"Yes, yes of course."




"Will you join me?"




"Uh I'll have a Beam, thanks."




We sit and watch the movie to the end without a word. It's great to do that for a change without the sighing and eye rolling that Lindsay does or the rustle of papers that was Ben grading papers.




"Want to watch the 2nd one or do you have to leave?"




"I did want to get something to eat. Do you know how long Lindsay will be?  I mean, shall we wait for her?"




"Let me call and check.  Lindsay it's me.  No nothing's wrong. I just was going to order take-out and I wondered if I should order for you too?  Oh okay, see you tomorrow morning then."




"No Lindsay?"  He asks.




"No.  Seems she's going for cocktails with some of the people she met at the gallery."




"So it's just the two of us.  What would you like to eat, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican? Your choice my treat."




"Um, I'm more a meat and potatoes guy. Not very adventurous when it comes to food."




"Another thing we have in common, I love meat and potatoes.  So shall I choose for you?"




I nod feeling rather warm and an hour later, we're eating the most delicious dim sum I have ever tasted.  "This is really good."  I mumble round a mouthful of food.




"Have you tried the shrimp tails?  Here let me serve."




"Oh that is so good. Where's this place again? Lindsay will love it."  He smiles at me and then frowns.




"Oh wait, you've got a bit of sauce.  Let me get that for you."




And he licks my chin.  "Uh.  Grady I thought..."




"Like I said. Not everything is how it seems."
















I have to hand it to her.  She knows her kitchen kit.  This place looks fantastic! I love the range and currently Thomas and I are unpacking everything she ordered.




"What on earth is this?"  I hold up something and Thomas just rolls his eyes at me.




"You are joking correct?"  He puts his hands on his hips and waits for my response.




"A Frisbee?"  I suggest earning another glare.




"He's messing with you Thomas. He knows full well it's a...actually what is that?"  Zeus asks.




"It's a rotary peeler."  Thomas sighs.  "How can I be in love with someone who doesn't know what a state of the art rotary peeler looks like?!"




Zeus chuckles and tugs me into the lounge.  "Just heard from Zeph.  You aren't going to believe what's happened now."
















I can't believe that Grady and I had sex last night... well made love in my opinion.  He was so gentle with me; it was blissful.  Much better than with Ben or David.  I want to tell Lindsay but I saw how she was with him, all gooey eyed.  Once we're established then we'll tell her.




She finally came home just after midnight. Luckily, Grady went before she woke up and it seems she's got one heck of a hangover.




"She's up!  Must have been a good night?"  I ask.




"Yeah.  Need coffee though."  She croaks.  "How was yours?"




"Oh great, just great! Watched Spiderman, got take-out... that was it.  You'll love the new take-out place I found."




"Great."  She clears her throat.  "Michael we seriously need to talk about the money situation."




"All sorted."  I beam at her.




"It is?  How?"  She asks popping a couple of Advil.




"I took your advice and spoke to Talentless and she's given us $50K, to tide us over until the cases are resolved and..."




"You did what?!"  She gasps.




"Spoke to Talentless and..."




"I was being sarcastic Michael!"  She snaps and then grabs her head.




"Oh.  Well she's wired the money already.  Shall I send it back?"  I snap back.




"Let me think.  What collateral did you put up?"




"Collateral?"  I ask.  "She didn't ask for anything, just asked us to sign this document to say that we will repay the money as and when the cases are settled."




"So, we just have to give her the money from the trials when we win right?"  I nod.  "But Michael there is no money to come from those cases as I already told you."




"I know that but she doesn't."




She blinks a couple of times and gives me a nervous smile.  "No she doesn't, does she?"




"And we can say we're appealing to explain the delay."  I grin at her.  "Now why don't you go and have a bath to ease the tension.




"Yeah I think I will."  She heads back upstairs with her coffee.




Sometimes, I get the feeling that Lindsay thinks I'm stupid. Well I've just proved I'm not.
















Now I know that I sometimes get that itch to fuck a guy or be fucked by a guy but that has to be the worst sex I've had in a long time!




Twice I had to tell him to cover his teeth, which is basic blowjob know how!   I had to keep thinking of his friend Brian to get to the end.  Now he, I suspect wouldn't need any instructions whatsoever.




And that dreamy-eyed expression on his face afterwards.  Ugh.  I hope he realises that it was a one-time fuck and will never happen again.




"Grady Holster."  I'm startled when I hear his voice.  "Oh Michael, hi.  How are you?  I'm fine.  Not up to much; just going for a run in a minute so I can't stay on the phone for long.  Yeah it was great evening.  Uh this week, I have to fly out of the city on business for a few days so won't be around so much. Let me get back to you.  Look my buddies are here so I have to go.  Yeah speak soon."




I shut off my phone and stare at it for a while; how the hell did he get my number I think to myself then decide that a run is definitely called for and I'm definitely getting out of the city, just in case he turns up here!












"So Bernie have you met him yet?"  I beam at her pouring her another glass of wine.




I'm so pleased that Thomas is back in her life.  When she told me what happened and how they searched for him and now with Kiki's help he's back in their lives, I almost wanted to throw a party.




"No but he's coming over for dinner on Wednesday.  I'm terribly nervous as is Arnold."




"Why would you be nervous, after all it's him who has to..."




"Millie."  Harold chides me.  "Stop being the Queen Bee and be a friend.  Besides you know who it is, don't you?  So you know she's got nothing to worry about"




I look from him to Bernie in confusion.  "No, should I?"




"It's Zeon.  Zee's twin brother."




My mouth drops open in surprise.  "Really!  Ooh wait till I speak to that little lady, she never said a word!"




Harold smiles.  "You know Zee better than anyone here Millie. If it's not her news to tell, she doesn't."




I nod and top up his glass. If there's one thing I've come to learn about the Ugerstachts is that they are the height of discretion.  Unless of course you are Lindsay Peterson or Michael Novotny.  Now those are two people who the world needs warning about.




"Well I'm still telling her off when we go to dinner on Thursday.  That's all I'm saying."  I sniff in mock annoyance.




"Okay, I'll have the Advil, milk thistle and water on the side of the bed when you get in."  Harold remarks dryly.




"Harold, I wasn't that bad the last time."  I object blushing at the memory.




"You were more soused than a herring."  He chuckles.  "Bernie it took three attempts for her to take her shoes off."




"Harold don't you have to be somewhere else?"  I pout.




"There's my cue.  Have a good afternoon plotting."




"What do you mean plotting?"  I ask.




"You're trying to tell me that Melody is here for the good clean Pittsburgh air?"  He arches an eyebrow, smirks and leaves the room.




"They're all yours.  Enjoy your hubble, bubble, boil and making trouble!"  His laughter echoes down the hallway as he makes his way to his office.




"It's what they deserve!  And I'm not happy with the witch reference!"  I call back and hear him laugh harder.








"Good afternoon darlings!"  Melody sweeps in with a smile on her face.  "Ooh bubbles!  I could murder a glass."




"You've been speaking to Emmy Lou recently, haven't you?"  Millie chuckles.




"Yes.  This morning in fact.  Can you get to France next Thursday?  The Justin Taylor Showing has been moved from San Fran to Paris, it's not widespread news at the moment, as they've just secured the location."




"I'm sure we can manage that.  Bernie what about you?"




"Yes, absolutely.  Why was it moved?"




"He was offered a joint showing with Courec and Lydia wouldn't let him turn it down.   But the only place he could get to was Paris as he has a showing in Italy three days later and it's easier to move the pieces from onto those two ingrates."




I top up Millie's glass.  "So has the suit been taken off the table?"








"Thought not. She's been hawking her resume about, starting to wheedle her way in."




"I thought you were..."




"Oh I am, but I'm allowing her a little bit of hope before I rip that asunder.  She has aspirations, I'll give her that.  Part of me feels sorry for Nancy and Ronald."




"What on earth for?"  Bernie's incredulous.  "It's only been a few weeks and they look so happy."




"And if they had harnessed some fucking backbone they would have been happier earlier and not had to move.  As they loved that house!"




"Your Emmy Lou is showing."  Bernie teases me.




"Wait till my Zee comes out, that fucking bitch won't know what hit her."
















Thank God that damn painting is out of this house.  Talon has said she's still waiting to hear from the Melody woman about the cost of the painting.  I had a fantastic weekend with Bethany.  She reminds me of Xanthe in a way.  And I fully intend to have a fantastic time again this weekend.




"Honey you got a minute?"  I call out to Talon, she comes in looking sickly.  "Jesus what's wrong with you?"  I demand backing away.




"I think I'm coming down with a cold."  She groans clutching her head.




"Oh, well I'm going to have to go away this weekend.  I'm having problems persuading Zander to come across so a boy's weekend is called for."




"Can't you stay with me instead?  Surely you don't need to do this now?  I really need you to comfort me."




"Honey I would but I've got the other meetings next week too and I can't be sick for those.  So why don't you go back to bed and I'll have Ralph look after you."




"Okay.  When will you be back?"




"Sunday evening.  Now hurry go back to bed."  I order and wait for her to leave.




"Hey baby, I'll meet you at the hotel.  No, I can get away this evening instead.  Brace for impact baby, brace for impact."












Oh what fresh fucking hell is this!  I blink twice and it is still here.  Craig Taylor is standing in my gallery.




"Can I help you?"




"Yes I would like the information about the Justin Taylor Showing in San Francisco next week."




"What kind of information?  Would you like tickets for example?"




"Oh yes I would indeed.  How many can you spare?"




"They are $90 a ticket, how many can you afford?"  I smile sweetly although he makes my skin crawl.




"I need about 20, do you offer a group discount?"




"No.  Wait are you related to Justin? I know that Taylor is a common name but you seem to favour..."




"No, I'm not related to him.  Like you said, Taylor is a common name.  Now about these tickets, can I pay now?"




"Of course so that will be $1800 excluding taxes, we have a..."




"Why not make it a round $2500?"




"But that's too much."




"Consider the rest my contribution to the art scene."  He smiles at me and I want to vomit.




"Well that's very kind of you.  Here you go is there anything else?"




"No that's perfect.  Thank you.  I look forward to next week."




He strides out smirking and I shudder.  "Sarah can you come in please?"  I call out.




She comes in and closes the door.  "This block booking is for Craig Taylor. Under no circumstances is he to know that this is in now in France."




"Absolutely.  Fucker!"




"I beg your pardon!"




"Oh!  Not you, him!  Did he leave you names of his guests?"




"No."  I answer uncertainly as this is a side of Sarah I've not seen before.




"Justin Taylor was three years above me.  The way his dad was after the trial was a disgrace."




"You know Justin?"




"No, never met him personally but he got a two day suspension defending my brother."




"Oh.  So I can leave this with you?"




"Yes, yes you can."
















"So I've got 20 tickets and it's Black tie.  As if those deviants should be allowed to sully such a classy piece of attire.  Anyway, once we're in you know what to do.  And when I say destroy I mean obliterate, I want no painting untouched."
















"Okay I still don't understand Miss...sorry Talon."  I pour another glass of Chateau Neuf du Pape.  "You don't like Michael but you are helping him, well actually them, this is a puzzlement to me."




"One of the benefits of being what I am is my survival instinct.  For a man who owes and isn't working, he doesn't seem to be in a hurry to pay it back..."




"Owes to who?"




"Brian and Justin Taylor-Kinney.  And he never misses a payment.  And that got me thinking, why not just pay it off and have done?  So I did a bit of digging."




"And..."  I prompt her.




By the time she's finished I realise what she's going to do.  "You've checked out his collection haven't you?"  She nods and smiles.   "And?"




"It's not as big as it once was obviously but what he has in there is worth some serious coin and will appreciate in value.  They've signed the agreement and if this works the way I think it will that collection is mine."




"But what about Lindsay?  What do you gain from her?"




"Nothing.  She will dump him quick smart if she has any brains about her.  And from what I can tell all is not well in there."




I raise my glass to her and we clink.  "If there's one thing you can definitely say about me Ralph, it's that I am not Talentless."




















"Mr Taylor..."




"I'm not finished talking.  You will go to San Francisco. I will meet you at this address on Thursday afternoon.  These are the tickets for the Justin Taylor Showing and we will all go and show our support for him."




Inwardly I sigh.  For the last few weeks I've been yelled at, snarked at and blamed for something that was his fucking fault.  The dinner was his mistake.  Not mine.




"For fuck sake, are you listening?!"  He actually snaps his fingers in front of my face.




"Mr Taylor, as I have tried to explain to you, I have already got plans for Thurs..."




"Change them!  You owe me after your fuck up and if you want to keep your job you'll remember that okay?"  He barks and hands me an envelope.  "Take this and get the fuck out of my office.  See you on Thursday."




I leave and resist the temptation to slam the door.  Sitting at my desk I fiddle with the envelope. He even snarks when it's written down; do not open in the office is written is his horrible writing.




"I'm going to get something to eat.  I'll be back..."  I tell nobody in particular and head out.












It's the third time in the last few weeks I've seen that man, who looks like he's got the world on his shoulders.




"Penny for them?"  I smile at him and pour him some coffee.




"Huh?"  He looks up surprised.  




"Your thoughts, maybe if you share them they won't be so bad."




"Oh it's just work crap."  He sighs.




"George."  I hold out a snickerdoodle ladened plate, he smiles.  








"So Guido get talking."




"I work for this guy who is just the nastiest man I've ever met!  Everything has to be done his way and nothing is ever his fault..."




By the time he's finished, I pat his hand.  "This guy you work for he's not the only person who employs people you know.  You only have one mom.  What is it that you do exactly?"




"Admin, I'm his Chief of Staff."




"What on earth is that?  Who is he the fucking president?"




"Likes to think he is.  His name is Craig Taylor, owns Taylor Electronics.  He has a few stores across Pittsburgh."




I look at the envelope he's been twirling on the table.  "And that's your latest assignment is it?"




"Yeah and even though I've told him 4 times that I have plans for my mom's birthday, he's ordering me to go to San Fran to show support for the Justin Taylor Showing, which is odd since he's made it clear that he hates gays..."




"You do know that's his son he's talking about?"  I tell him and he looks incredulously at me.




"No, no I didn't.  In the time I've been working for him, he's always said he has no son.  So why is he going to the show then?"




"That's what I'd like to know."  We both jump at the angry tone of one extremely pissed off looking Kiki.




"So what's in there then?"  She points at the envelope and without hesitation Guido hands it to her and she quickly reads it.  "Can I take a copy of this please?"




He nods, still in shock.  "You know you're right, thanks George.  Kiki have you got what you needed?"  She nods and smiles grimly.




"What was I right about?  Guido!  What was I right about?!"  I call out to his retreating back and he turns and bows.




















"What is it now?  I've got a meeting with a couple of investors in a few minutes.  Were my instructions too difficult for you?"




"I quit."  Guido hands me back the envelope and without a word heads to his already packed desk.




I follow him out of the office.  "You won't get any pay from me!"




"It is written in my contract that you have to give me a month's pay regardless of who gives notice. I expect it by Friday; if not expect to hear from my lawyer on Monday.  Now excuse me, I have my mom's birthday party to prepare for.  Enjoy San Francisco."




"You can't do this to me!"  I yell.




"Can and am.  Bye y'all."




The door slowly closes and I stand there stupefied for a moment.  "Back to work!"  I bark.












"Hey Sarah is her ladyship in?"  Sarah just grins and waves me on through.




Lydia is on the phone but waves at me to sit down.  "Okay Justin we'll talk...wait what's the matter Kiki?"




"Put him on speaker!"  I demand urgently and tell them what Guido told me.




"Thank God we've moved it to Paris."  Lydia sighs.




I nod in agreement before continuing.  "The reason for the concern is I think he's going to do more than protest the showing. I think he's going to have his friends to do something to the gallery or the paintings."




"Why would you think that?"  Justin's voice starts to tremble.  "Hey, I'll catch you up in a minute, just listen okay?"




"Okay."  Brian's voice comes over the speaker.




"Because I know this guy."  I point out a name to Lydia.  "And he's not nice. You could call him rent a thug."




"That fucking cunt!"  Justin snaps.  "Oh sorry ladies."




"Who's a one of those?"  Faal's voice makes us jump.




"Justin's father seems to be..."




"Wait let me get Zee on this."




Soon we are all pretty much caught up and we can hear the sound of Brian speaking quietly to Justin.




"I have an idea.  When he gets to San Fran and finds no show he'll just try another way.  Lydia you get hold of Melody and Zee you get hold of your uncle..."




"Uh Faal..."  Brian interrupts.




"He can rent a thug, we can rent a crowd.  Let's give him a show."




"Are you kidding me?  I'm not putting my works in there to be destroyed!"  Justin's distress is




"No, he's talking about me and mine.  You are a very smart cookie Mr Ugerstacht very smart indeed.  Lydia let Faal know when you've spoken to Melody and I'll call my uncle now."












Justin and his works are safely in Paris at Zeon's place, which I am still majorly pissed about.




We sent him, Brian and Lydia on ahead late Tuesday night once all plans were in place.  Zeon was hoping that I was kidding about Brian and Justin most likely fucking in each room. His face fell when everyone confirmed that they most likely would be.




Uncle Luc is in San Fran with Melody and we can't wait to see how that turns out.  With a smile on my face, I snuggle deeper into Faal's arms and go back to sleep.












Oh I can't wait for Saturday!  I can't believe I got a ticket for the Taylor/Courec Showing.  I'd always loved the arts but he never wanted to go and any time there was a showing he always found something else for us to do, unless it was at place he could be seen.  More fool me, well not anymore.  It's black tie but that applies to both sexes, which is unusual but I shall wear a dress.




I've not been back to Pittsburgh since I moved here and eventually he stopped calling. I did enjoy the video of him being ejected from the building though.  Whenever, I'm feeling blue I play that and remind myself of what I don't miss.












"Right so we have security at the back of the building in case anybody tries to get in or out that way."




I look round and Lucian is making sure the pictures are perfectly aligned.  I still can't believe he's prepared to do this.




He catches me staring.  "They've been in my, I mean, the collection for years.  I got bored of them and the little heathen doesn't care.  If what we thinks is going to happen doesn't happen, then they just go back in storage."




"Still can't believe that person would do this to his own son."  I sigh.




"You'd be surprised what a father can do to a child."  He laments.




"Indeed.  And what a child can do to their parents."




"Lindsay and Michael?"




"Yes.  But their downfall is in hand."




"I don't doubt that for a minute."  He smiles at me.  "As is Luther's but first we start with Craig..."
















"Oh fuck yes!"  I growl and Justin gasps and bucks against me as he comes hard.




"Aaaah!  Yes!"  He groans in my ear.




"Guys, reception really?!"  A voice drags us out of our orgasm-induced haze.




I look up and find Ben looking down at us. Luckily most of my body is covering Justin's so all he can see is my ass, which he's seen before.




"Get yourselves upstairs, I'll give you ten minutes."  He walks out chuckling and shaking his head.








"We need to give them about 10 minutes to get upstairs." Eliciting eye rolling and chuckles.




"So where were they?"  Debs asks crossing her fingers.




"Reception."  I reply and give her a sympathetic pat. She's not won a pot in a while.  "As in in the middle of the floor between the stairs and the door."




"Oh, so nobody won this time, pot carries over.  Okay Ben, can you check that they're at least upstairs and there's no trace of them on the flooring."  Carl orders.




"Sure."  I poke my head back in and they're gone.  "Coast is clear!"




The rest of us troop in and Zee's face falls more and more as she looks around the ground floor.




"Just beautiful, absolutely beautiful."  She sighs.




"Maybe you can swap with your brother?"  Jenny comes back out into reception.  "You know give him some paintings for this Aunt Zee?"




"Maybe."  She smiles.  "Maybe."




"Okay can we sort out rooms? I'm shattered."  Carl asks.  "Oh wait will we have to..."




"No we did the rooms on Wednesday. They've been cleaned since then and we've only fucked in the one we're using and the rest of the house, except the kitchen."




"Brian!"  Justin chides him.




"That would be more convincing if you weren't grinning like that Sunshine."  Debs points out.




"Seriously jet lag kicking in!"  Carl gripes.  "Let's go up.  Jennifer you've got the list right?"




"Yes, okay follow me. Let's get the rooms and then cases afterwards."












It is utterly beautiful here and she loves it already.




She's downstairs in the kitchen making something for us to eat with Emmy Lou.  Luckily Lydia had the presence of mind to make sure the boys got some food in before the fuckfest started.  She refused to stay in the house without us so is moving back here tomorrow.




"Zeon it's Faal.  About this house, would you consider sharing?"












We've all eaten and feel more human.  Floyd will be here this evening and installed in time for tomorrow.  We're doing recipe testing today and then tomorrow we're all going shopping.




Amazingly enough, Brian hasn't been shopping yet.  Turns out he's waiting for Faal. Only they could turn shopping into a competitive sport.




"Hey Uncle Luc, yeah we made it...what?  Oh well at least we were prepared for whatever happened.  Yeah.  Okay.  Love you."




"What's happened?"  Brian demands and I shake my head.




"So he didn't do anything then at least your art wasn't damaged.  He must have chickened out."  Justin sighs.  "Now we wait for him to make his next move...fucker!"




I switch on the TV and channel hop for a while and then wait.




"In other news.  Pittsburgh native and businessman Craig Taylor, President and CEO of Taylor Electronics, was arrested last night together with 18 art saboteurs after they destroyed works belonging to Lucian Stark at the Cobalt Gallery in San Francisco.  Mr Stark said he has no idea why Mr Taylor would target his collection as they were shouting homophobic insults and Mr Stark has been married to his wife for over 30 years.  The works were spray painted and slashed.  Most of the art saboteurs were caught in the gallery but Mr Taylor was caught trying escape through the bathroom window only to get stuck.  He had to be cut out of the window before he was taken into custody.  A source close to Mr and Mrs Stark say they intend to seek full restitution from Mr Taylor and his accomplices and once we get a full statement from Mr Stark, we will return to this story."




I switch the TV off and smile.  "So..."




"Holy fuck."  Jennifer just stares at the blank screen.  "Shame there weren't pictures."  She mutters.




"Ahem, check your emails people."  I smile as they all scramble for their phones.




"Oh my God look at him trying to cover his face!"  Emmy Lou screeches with laughter.




"Zee thank you.  You just continue to..."  Justin begins.




"Not me this time; this was all Faal, Lydia, Uncle Luc, Melody and Lydia remember?  But the person we need to thank most is Kiki."




"Yes, we have to do something for her."  Brian agrees.  "Debs find out what she wants and we'll get it for her."




"Will do."  Debs nods tearfully, not sure with what emotion but she's smiling through them.




"They're going to release him from custody soon?"




Lydia frowns.  "Not sure. That's a lot of damage and they came armed so it's premeditated.  You'll have to prepare a statement as the press will be all over this on Saturday."




"Let's go work on it now.  Get it out the way."  Brian tugs Justin to his feet.  "Once it's done I'll fuck you back to happiness."




"Thank you."  Justin says quietly and they walk out hand in hand.
















Once again Luther is negotiating with Zander so I'm going to have my weekend of fun too.




"Well isn't this nice?  Sorry had to get you both here so early but the weekend in Martha's Vineyard has to be started early."




They are packed and when I told them that Grady would be there they both looked like they would come on the spot.




It's a shame I didn't tell Grady that I was bringing them with me.


















"What in fucks name were you thinking?"  My lawyer is yelling at me, I glare at him. "I can't put down glaring as a reason for your immense stupidity!  Do you realise how much damage you have caused?!"




I shrug.  "I've made my point; the works are ruined.  His kind shouldn't be allowed to exhibit with good people!"




"His kind?  Good people?  Are you seriously telling me you have that kind of money lying about that you can just give to this guy?"




"I would rather go to jail than give him any money!"  I snap.




"Can you tell me why you did it? I just don't understand why."  He sighs.




I look at him incredulously.  "Why?  Because he's an abomination, an affront to good Christian values!  He's a faggot, everything that God says..."




"A faggot?"  He looks incredulous.  "First, Lucian Stark is not gay. He's been married for over 30 years to a woman!"  He yells back.




"Lucian Stark?  Who the fuck is Lucian Stark?"  I demand.




"The owner of the artwork that you and your merry band of fuck turds destroyed last night!"




"No.  We were at the Justin Taylor Showing last night..."




"Then you must have taken a wrong turn when you guys got there because you ended up in a Stark Perspective.  And secondly, because you went in there armed so it's premeditated. You won't be granted bail until next Monday at the earliest."




"What!  You're saying I'm stuck in here over the weekend?  You've got to get me out of here! I need to get back to Pittsburgh. I have an important meeting to attend to on Monday afternoon."




"No can do.  I've already tried.  I shall be back on Monday once I've spoken to Stark's lawyer to try and arrange a deal of some sort but it is not looking good for you.   See you on Monday."




The guard pulls me to my feet and starts to lead me out.  "Mr Taylor there is a couple more things you should know.  Because of the hate crime element of this in San Francisco of all places, they will press for it to be tried here."




"Trial?"  I echo.




"Yes trial.  Lucian Stark as well as being one of the richest Black men in America is also a staunch advocate of gay rights.  I suggest you rally your friends; the bail bond is going to be massive."




As I head back to my cell, a horrifying thought hits me. I hope that Lucian Stark is not related to Luther Stark!
















The way their eyes have lit up is really quite amusing, like kids in a candy store.  Lindsay is already discussing spa bookings. Since I'm here for the vine part of Martha, she's on her own there.  I'm not sure what idiot boy is going to be doing and I care even less, but I have booked us all into separate rooms, just for the fun of it!




"Right we're all on the same floor and ah here comes Grady."




I try to hide the amusement as the look of horror flits across his face and the annoyance flashes across Lindsay's as Michael gives him a hug.




"Talon, I had no idea it would be the four of us.  You should've said."




"It was a last minute thing. Luther's still negotiating and they've never been, so I didn't think you'd mind. You don't, do you?"




"No of course not.  So what floor are you on?"




"We all have harbour view rooms, although not next to each other.  Why don't we all get settled and meet at the bar in say an hour?"




We head to our rooms and I have to bite my lip as Michael is almost humping Grady's leg in the lift.  Oh yes! This is going to be an interesting weekend!
















I look at my gorgeous, caring husband who I'm really trying very hard to be mad at.




Whilst he and Brian were shopping Zeon casually called to see what I thought about the house and mentioned that he would be interested in a swap, the house for my share in Uptown and some paintings.  So I knew then that Faal had spoken to him.




"Mad?"  He asks quietly putting his hands on either side of me and peering in the dish.




"Fuming!"  I pout.  "Do you have any idea how much it's going to cost to fucking soundproof this place?"




"I'll pay half."




"Damn right you will.  And we will have to get another Floyd for here too!"  I can feel myself starting to smile.  "You interfering adorable man!  Thank you!"




"You going to leave it as is or reno?"




"Leave as is.  For now."  I lean back into his chest and sigh.  "It's perfect."




The front door knocks and I smiles at him.  "You're not the only sneaky person here.  Jenny, can you get that for me doll?"




Now there are two people in the world outside of the family that Jenny adores.  Nobody is silly enough to say the word adore about Hank to our little pitbull, but the other one is Daphne.  She's not seen her for a few months as they both had heavy study schedules so I've arranged a little surprise for her and by proxy Justin.








We watch her head to the door and because it's glass albeit frosted you can make out the shape of the person and there is no mistaking her.




"Aunt Daphne!"  She screams and fumbles opening the door so badly that Faal has to help her.  "Aunt Daph!  Oh Aunt Zee thank you, thank you!"  She's so happy she doesn't know who to hug first.




"Honey let me get in!"  Daphne grinned, before dropping her case and scooping her in for a hug.




"Daph?"  Justin calls from the stairs.  "Daph!"  He yells and is all set for full pelt but is stopped by Brian bellowing at him to walk or he will break his neck.




The bellowing of course brings the rest of the family to the front door and soon she's engulfed in more hugs and there are more tears of joy, but Jenny looks a little sad.




Daphne nudges her.  "Now come on Jenny. Take me to our room so I can get rid of this case and tomorrow we shop, though we have to work round the..."




"Daph!  Let's get the cases upstairs yeah?"  Vince interrupts her.




"Spill."  Brian orders coming out of the kitchen eating from a jar.




"Brian what are you eating?"  Emmy Lou asks before huffing and snatching it off him.  "That's for dinner for everyone, not just you!"




Brian shrugs.  "Again spill."




I sigh.  "We've booked everyone for pampering treatments tomorrow from 1300.  It's Caudalíe Le Marais, same as NYC.  But because of time constraints, it's just a facial and a body treatment, 2 hours max. So everyone should be back by four and that gives us enough time to get over there."




"Everybody?"  Lydia asks in surprise.




"Yep."  I grin at the look of delight on her face.




"So what's for dinner?"  Brian saunters back to the kitchen.  "I'm hoping those are short ribs, which will go great with the green tomato relish or the sweetcorn and black bean salsa. "  He pauses and looks at the jar.  "Which Emmy Lou is going to give back to me now."




Emmy rolls his eyes but hands over the jar.
















I had hoped to speak to Grady alone but so far no luck. I don't even know his room number.  I find Talon frowning at the TV.




"Hi Talon, no Grady yet?  Talon?  Are you okay?"




"Huh?"  She pulls her gaze from the TV and smiles slightly.  "Excuse me a minute, I just need to make a call."




"Oh okay, I'll just wait here then."  I sigh at her abrupt tone.








I head to reception.  "Is there any office I can use I need to make a business call?"




"Of course madam, follow me."




After three attempts I finally get through to Luther and put him on speaker so I can file my nail that I have just broken.  "Hey honey how you doing?"




"I'm fine, you?  Is Zander coming around?"




"I'm working on him. Slowly but surely he's coming round to my way of thinking."




I smile tightly.  "Listen, the reason for the call is have you seen the news lately?  Didn't you say you were doing business with a guy called Craig Taylor in Pittsburgh?"




"Yeah why?"




"Well he's been arrested in San Francisco for desecration of property."




"And that's my concern how?"




"He and some friends destroyed $10 million worth of art belonging to Lucian at the Cobalt Gallery."




First there is silence, then the clipped angry tone comes over.  "He did what?"




"Destroyed $10 million worth of art belonging to Lucian at the Cobalt Gallery.  Seems an odd thing to do..."




"Thanks for letting me know honey.  Do you fancy dinner somewhere nice tonight, book..."




"No Luther, I thought since you were negotiating with Zander, I would take some time out to get to know Lindsay and Michael properly. We're in Martha's Vineyard with Grady.  That's not a problem, is it?"




"Oh no sweetheart, I think that's a great idea.  Well done for thinking of that.  Let me know how the match-up between Grady and Lindsay goes, when you're back.  When is that?"




"Monday afternoon.  I've got a meeting with Melody Reichmann about your painting amongst other things."




"What other things?"  His tone is sharp and petulant.  "We've not spent a weekend together for a while."




"But honey, you're the one negotiating. I'll see you on Monday."




"Okay then. I..."




I hang up before he can finish.  Well done for thinking that... I stare at the phone in disbelief at his patronising tone and sulky attitude.  But then think of Monday and smile.












I head back out to the lounge where Bethany is waiting.  "Everything alright?  Who was that?"




"A business associate, who's given me some disturbing news about a guy I thought I could trust and work with but it seems we're not working towards the same goal."








"But enough about that; I'll deal with that when I get back to the office."  I scoop her into my arms and carry her upstairs.




Oh yes Craig you and I will talk. You have a lot of explaining to do!












This has been blissful, I just love having facials.  I can't wait for tonight but more specifically I can't wait to get back to Pittsburgh and see what the country club set has made of Craig's behaviour.  Apparently he's still in San Francisco and won't be released until at least Monday.


Zee said the bail money is the least of his worries.  Her father has a rather peculiar sense of justice in that it's perfectly okay for him to hurt members of his family but not okay for anyone else. Then his family loyalty comes to the fore.




It's been a great day all around. The boys and Lydia have had their facials and massages and are now heading back.  We have shopped our little hearts out with Jenny particularly happy with her suede backpack, tote and crossbody bag set. She was less happy when Leda took them off her and packed them immediately saying she can use them for school.




We're waiting for the car outside as I look at gorgeous products in the Carl Marletti window and decide to get some for breakfast tomorrow.




"Guys!  Just popping in here, thought I would get some pastries for tomorrow."  I call out and I'm soon joined by Daphne and Jenny.  Twenty minutes later Debs is calling us out and as we step into the car, I could've sworn I recognised the woman dashing across the street.












I can't believe how much Michael has been monopolising Grady's time!  He's barely let anybody else speak to him, let alone sit next to him.  He's much like he was with Brian during his cruising days. Doesn't he know this man is not gay?




Talon and I exchange covert looks of amusement, though I am less amused than she is.




Grady clears his throat and stands up.  "Can you excuse me for a moment?  There's a gentleman I need to catch up with briefly."




"Michael why don't you and I get some more drinks and maybe order some snacks?"  Talon suggests standing up.




"They have table service."  He replies, sipping his drink unmoving.




"Oh I hadn't realised you'd been here before and know the intricacies of the service in this particularly very busy bar."  She drawls sarcastically.




"Fine, but shouldn't we wait for Grady to come back?"  He asks.  "You know wait for his order too? It's the polite thing to do."




"Grady will have his usual of vodka with ice, I do know him after all.  Let's go."  She tugs him to his feet and pushes him ahead.  "Oh wait I need my room key. You go grab a space at the bar!"




She quickly comes back and grabs her purse.  "Swap seats; the poor man needs rescuing!"




I giggle and immediately Grady returns and I move to where Michael was sitting. His relief is palpable and even more so when Talon returns smirking and sits on his other side.




"I've just had my nails done, so Michael's carrying the tray back."




When he returns with the drinks, the look on his face is priceless.  He looks like a jealous fishwife and spends the rest of the evening sulking, especially when neither of us move from our seats for the rest of the evening at Grady's insistence.  And when we're joined by a couple more of Grady's friends- none of whom have an interest in comics- he went up to his room claiming he had a headache.












The press pack wasn't as large as I thought it would be but it's large enough.




Justin pauses with Brian at his side.  "I have a prepared statement.  I will not be taking questions on this subject.  I am in no way affiliated with Craig Taylor.  I obviously do not share his views.  I wish to express my deepest sympathy to Lucian and Deidra Stark for the damage to their artwork and hope that the courts in San Francisco see his acts for what they are, which is premeditated desecration, and do not give him a slap on the wrist for who he is.  That is all."




He clears his throat again.  "Now excuse me, I have a show to do."




I can see the pride beaming out of Brian's eyes as he turns and leads him up the steps with his hand carding through his hair and Justin's arm circling his waist under his jacket.




"Get that picture."  I growl at them and the lights flash.




I quickly follow them and give them both a hug once we are safely indoors.  "Show time."




Zee has been forced out of the kitchen.  We didn't need Floyd in the end so he's on his way back.  When we were testing, she didn't tell anybody what brawn was until it had been approved and now both Faal and Justin have said it stays off their menus.




I have never had such a rich pork terrine. Okay the fact that it is made out of the head of the pig is a little disconcerting, but the celery and carrot pickle offsets it beautifully.  They're also serving dirty rice in little cups, asparagus and crab toasts, blackened Cajun redfish, mini blue cheese tarts, beef short rib pies with bone marrow and red wine jus, various salads and dessert of honey tart and chocolate, peanut butter and cherry tart.




She and Emmy Lou are getting stacks of cards as we all knew they would when we saw this menu and Justin and Courec's artwork work together beautifully.  I do believe there is going to be a row between her and Faal because she expressed an interest in a piece of Courec. I think it's the first time ever and of course he's bought it for her.




The Q&A is done and now it's just mingling and enjoying ourselves.  My work here is done, time for champagne!








I'm so proud of my Justin.  Tucker gives me a quick hug but it's all a bit much. I've never been to a showing outside of the USA before and in Paris of all places!




"Excuse me sweetheart, I'll be right back."  I whisper to him and he nods in understanding.




I dab my eyes and search in my purse for another tissue only to have one handed to me.




"Hi again.  My turn."




"Xanthe? It is Xanthe, isn't it?"  I gasp in surprise.  "You look beautiful!  So this is where you walked to?"




"Yes, thanks to you, and I'm loving every minute of it!  Who are you here to see Taylor or Courec?"




I grin at her.  "The clue is in the name, remember?  I'm Jennifer Taylor."




Her mouth drops open and she looks embarrassed.  "I'm so..."  I wave away her apologies.




"Come on, come and meet my son."




Most the family have gathered in one spot as we always do.  "Guys I'd like to introduce you to a friend of ours.  This is Xanthe...yes that Xanthe."




"That Xanthe?"  She echoes.  "I don't..."




"Your ex is my dad, Luther Stark.  Hi, I'm..."




"Zaden."  She gasps.  "I uh don't quite know what to say..."




"You walked away, so you're alright with me as far as I'm concerned.  And you unwittingly gave us a heads up on what Jen's ex was planning with Luther when you first met her."




"Happy to help.  He was just so vicious; they both were.  And the way he discussed me like I was a piece of meat."  She shudders at the memory.




"Women have their place and in his world, it's subjugated and serving him."  Zee grimaces.




"Hi I'm Justin and this is my husband Brian."




"Nice to meet you both. Look I won't bother you any longer.  I'll..."




"Xanthe.  Don't feel that you have to run off. You're among kindred spirits here, so have a glass of champagne and chill."  Daphne tells her, firmly handing her a glass.




"Now let me introduce you to everyone..."




Daphne grins at her and by the time she's finished and given a potted history, Xanthe has visibly relaxed and will be joining us for lunch tomorrow before we fly back.




And I have a feeling there is more she wants to share.




















I still can't believe it.  It's mine, this place is mine!  Uncle Luc, Lydia and Zeon came to an agreement and the paperwork will be ready to sign when we get back but it's mine!  Luther is going to be super pissed because after Portland, the one place he wanted to buy from Uncle Luc was this one.  Being their little one has its advantages!




I told Emmy Lou to sleep in but of course he's here with me making breakfast for the family and trying to work out what do for lunch.




"So we're making smoothies?"  Emmy Lou croaks having overdone the champagne and brandy last night.




"No I'm making smoothies, you're sitting directing this opera."  For once he does as he's told.




"Okay the first one is for everyone - the Replenisher and Sustainer; water, honeydew melon, avocado and cashew nut shake.  Should restore balance and keep you going until lunch...honey do you have earplugs? That liquidiser is hurting!"  He whimpers.




I fish out the hand blender, which will take longer but is quieter.  I have to look after my other man!




"Right the next one is the Emmy; a ginger coconut cure with a side of A.  Hmm, cold filtered water, coconut milk and grated ginger.  Why is this for me and what's the A in it?"




"Ginger is good for nausea and the ‘A' is for Advil."




"I see and of course it is.  Do I take the Advil with it?"




I nod and hand him the glass and although there was an initial grimace, a few minutes later he's looking a bit perkier.




"Okay that's not bad.  The next is a B&J Special; the forever young smoothie, with kale, seaweed, avocado, kiwi fruit, lime and water."




"Are you suggesting that I'm reaching decrepitude?"  Brian snarks.




"No but this will save you having to chew when you're hungover."  I smirk and hand him the glass.  "Now, shut up and drink."




He scowls tiredly and knocks it back, before waving the glass at me.  "Not bad.  Not sure Justin would like it but I can always drink it if he doesn't."




"Not sure Justin would like what?"  Drew comes in and winces at the lurid green colour of the smoothie.  "What's that?"




"Taste it, it's not bad."  Brian tells him, finishing off the second glass.




Drew nods in agreement when he finishes his and scoots behind a considerably brighter looking Emmy Lou.  "So what's the plan today?"




The rest of the family start to filter down and I can't help but smile.  "Come on girlie, let's get them fed."  Emmy Lou grins back.




Breakfast passes much the way it does at the Treehouse, everyone pottering and helping themselves.  Hands being slapped way from the skillet of bacon. The kids on toast and coffee.  The only thing different is the reading of the reviews of the art show. They were very positive but the best thing was the picture of Brian and Justin going up the stairs...perfection!




"So what's for lunch?"  Carl asks peering in the fridge.  "Are we having take-out?"




"Wash your mouth out!  I'm doing lunch of ham butter on toast and then mushroom buttered chicken with Jerusalem artichokes and you guys are going shopping as I know at least three of you want to.   So get your last minute bits and be back here for two and we can have lunch for three."




"Do you think Xanthe will come?"  Daphne asks.  She and Jenny are already dressed.




"Not sure."  Jennifer replies thoughtfully.  "I hope she does."




"Momma?"  Jenny looks at Leda.  "Are you and mom staying here or coming with us?  I saw a leather jacket and I want your opinion on it. I have still got my birthday money left.  And I think the conversion works out right."




"Yeah momma come with us.  Personally I think it's hideous but J likes it."  Gus teases her.




"Y-yeah I, I mean, we'll come shopping with you. Not a problem."  Leda stammers.




I look across at my husband and he's got a dopey interfering grin on his face.  "Brian can you do me favour make sure he doesn't go bonkers!  He was time constrained yesterday; today there is no such luck!"




"I will do my best."  Brian grins and I know that we'll most probably end up paying taxes when we get back to the States.




"Everyone who's going can they go!"  I order in mock annoyance and 15 minutes later I'm alone and very happy indeed.












I finally managed to get Grady alone and although we haven't had sex, we have been making out for a while now.   We've had a laugh at the antics of Michael and his sulking before he left.  According to one of Grady's friends, he actually didn't leave but hovered by the bar just watching our table for at least an hour.




Grady gently pushes me away.  "I have got to go back to my room.  I have an early check out.  Have to go back to the city to prepare for meetings."




"Will I see you when we get back?"  I ask adjusting my clothing in the hopes of delaying him further but he gets up and picks up his jacket.




"Of course. Let me call you when we're both back.  You're back tomorrow right?"  I nod and smile.  "Okay, but I'm not back until Wednesday, so I'll call you then.  Oh by the way, did you happen to give Michael my number?"




"Good grief no.  Although I did write it down and he may have gotten it that way.  Why? He's not been calling you, has he?"




"Yeah he did call me after we shared take-out and watched Spiderman 1 and 2."




I look up in surprise.  "When was this?  He never mentioned it."




"When you had that cocktail evening at that gallery.  You missed out on some great dim sum and shrimp tails.  Now seriously I have to go."  He kisses me gently and is out the door.




I sigh in disappointment at his departure and then remember what he said. It seems that Michael needs to be shown a few home truths about Grady.








I sigh in relief that I have made it to my room without her trying to stop me again.  Don't get me wrong, she's an attractive woman but she just lacks a certain something. Some would say cock but that's not it.  And she has a hardness about her personality that is off putting.




Once I pour myself a glass of vodka, I check my messages.  Naturally, there are some catcalling ones from my buddies, the last one was 15 minutes ago.  Grinning, I think about calling to see where they are but then the next message featuring the whiny and sulky tone of Michael Novotny has me quickly packing.  I would rather wait at the airport than here.












I take a much needed breath of fresh air before getting in the cab.  So much for me being in there until Monday I smile to myself.  I'm so looking forward to getting back to the hotel and having a much needed bath and some sleep.




I check my messages on my phone and luckily there aren't any from Luther so I feel much better.




I'm relieved there's no press when I get to my hotel and walk briskly towards the lifts when I'm hear my name being called.




"What is it?"  I demand, heading to the receptionist.  "I've had a very trying couple of days and I just want to go to bed."




"I'm Mallory White, the manager of this hotel.  Please follow me."




Huffing in annoyance I do so and find myself in her office.  "No do not sit; this will not take long."  She snaps.  "This gentleman will escort you to your room where you will pack.  He will accompany you back down here and you will settle your bill and leave this hotel."




"What?!"  I splutter.




"We do not wish to be associated your kind of person.  Gerald please escort him to his room.  You have 15 minutes."




Twenty minutes later I find myself outside the hotel and making my way to the airport, furiously insulted but relieved to be making my way out of the city.
















I'm just staring at my phone in absolute disbelief.  How the fuck do I tell Justin? Not of course that he would be surprised, but you'd think in San Fran of all places they'd keep his ass in jail.




I've spoken to Solly and Menno and now our plan is back on the table.  I want that creature fucking buried!




I can hear the crunch of tires followed by excited chattering. I plaster a smile on my face and take a steadying breath and hope for once that Faal is distracted by crowing over his purchases.  From the texts I have been receiving there has been a battle royale over a D&G belt.




I open the door and inwardly groan.  They seem to have bought half of Paris but they also have picked up Xanthe on the way.




"Hey glad you could make it."  I smile at her. She still looks a little nervous.  "Doll relax, you didn't hurt my mom, just his other...I mean...I mean you didn't..." I wince in embarrassment.




And that seems to do the trick as she bursts out laughing.  "I guess I wouldn't be here if I did."




"Oh fuck no."  I smile at her.  "Bubbles?"




"Bub...oh champagne, of course!  Now is there anything I can do to help?"




I shake my head and start pouring.  "Want to look round the place?  Faal stop genuflecting at the altar of the shopping God and show Xanthe around."




He pokes his tongue out and soon he and Jennifer have disappeared with Xanthe.  I let out the breath I was holding.




I busy myself finishing up the ham butter and toasts.  The chicken smells delicious and my mind suddenly goes onto the furballs.  We're at Britin next weekend and I think it's definitely pamper time for them.




"This place is utterly gorgeous!"  Xanthe gushes.  "My apartment can fit in the lounge and reception alone."




"So why did you walk to Paris?"  Jennifer asks.




"They had offered it to me for the second time and..."




"What is it that you do?"  I ask.




"I'm a bearer bonds trader for Simon & Simon. I was the top earner in the company and they wanted me to head up this division and I wasn't going to take it but, well you know the rest."




I nod.  "Okay, I know this is going to seem a weird question but..."




"Zaden stop it."  Faal orders quietly.  "And just tell us what's happened."




Xanthe looks from me to Faal.  "Should I..."




"What do you mean what's happened?"  Debs demands




"She's been babbling since we got back."  Brian smirks.  "So spill."




"He made bail. I have no fucking idea how, but he made bail."




"You've got to be fucking kidding me!"  Ben snarls.  "How the fuck can you make bail in San Francisco for a gay hate crime?!"




"Sorry but who made bail?"  Xanthe asks.




"Craig Taylor.  He did a splash and slash on my Uncle's paintings thinking they were Justin's causing about $10 million worth of damage and he fucking made bail."




She shakes her head.  "I'm sorry Justin.  But I wouldn't be at all surprised if Luther got his old pal Copi to pull some strings."




"Copi?"  I ask.




"Mmm..."  She drains her glass and shudders.  "Elias ‘Copi' Copthorne.  He's a judge in NYC, but with the same delightful mindset as Luther.  Sees women as meat.  Luther always felt proud that he had someone so powerful who owed him.  Couldn't stand the..." She looks round the suddenly silent room.  "What?  What did I say?"








"Owed him?"  I echo.




"I don't know the ins and outs of it but apparently he did something for him to close a deal that he wouldn't have been able to do without him."  She answers.  "Oh the amount of times he...ugh...and Luther just sat there, that's why we broke up the first time as I wouldn't put up with that shit but of course I fell under his spell again."  She sighs sadly.




"Hey where are you?"  Jenny asks.




"Pardon?"  Xanthe looks surprised.




"Where are you?"  She repeats firmly.








"Then the spell is broken."  Jenny tells her.  "You're here, he's not; life is good!"




Xanthe nods.  "Out of the mouth of babes and..."




"Pitbulls, she's definitely our little pitbull!"  Steve earns a poked tongue from Jenny.




Zee hesitates before asking. "Don't suppose you remember the deal?"




"Oh yes that fucking thing...oh sorry!"  She looks mortified.




"Honey, they've heard worse, continue!"  Debs cackles.




"Bergenfield Berdenstrade, a merger. I didn't think it was a great merger, the numbers didn't quite add up to me..."




"Holy shit."  Ted breathes.  "I remember it.  Nobody could believe when it went through."




"You beauty!"  Zee yells and grabs her iPad and starts scrolling through and then grabs her phone.  "Usez it's Zee... look up the Bergenfield and Berdenstrade merger and do a background check on the investors. Go deep Usez, go deep.  Oh one more thing, Taylor made bail. Do what you can with that.  Thanks bye!"




Zee takes a steadying breath.  "Right let's eat.  So it's ham butter on toast, it's very rich so don't slather."




"We will share my lig."  She plates up for us and smiles and I taste it.  




"And yes I know the answer is no."  She smiles again and serves another helping




"Does this freeze well?"  Carl asks helping himself to another serving before it is halved by Debs; she stops his objection with a look.




"Oh this is so good!"  Mel sighs.  "And I'm Jewish!"




"Can you imagine this for Christmas breakfast with a fried duck egg?"  Emmy Lou groans.




Zee's phone ringing silences the room.  She nods and starts to smile.  "Got you, you fucker!"




"Okay who have you got?"  Ted asks then groans.  "Seriously Blake take this away!"




"Guess who was main board member for the merger?"  Zee holds up another toast for me.




"It can't be that easy?  Elias Copthorne."  Blake shakes his head in wonderment.




"Close.  His stepfather."  Zee is positively vibrating.




"So what's the big deal?"  Steve asks.




"It's a little difficult to be a board member when you've been dead for 13 years.  Like I said, got you, you fucker!"
















I'm trying oh so very hard not to laugh right now.  Lindsay is on the phone to Grady arranging an intimate dinner for the two of them, when he returns from his meetings and Michael is crossing and uncrossing his arms and huffing indignantly.




"Okay I'll see you then, looking forward to it.  Hopefully, we can pick up where we left off last night.  Oh you are so bad."  She giggles and then hangs up.




"Sorry.  That was Grady.  So what's the plan for this evening?"




I'm about to answer when her phone goes again.  "Sorry, hi again.  Oh could you hold a minute.  Guys I'll meet you downstairs at the bar, this shouldn't take long."




"Sure, come on Michael, it should be quiet enough for table service tonight."








"What can I get you folks tonight?"  The waitress asks.




"I'll have a double Beam with ice please?  Michael?  Michael?"




"Huh?  Me too, double Beam with ice."  He returns to glaring at the entrance to the bar.




The waitress looks at me, I mouth apologies. She smiles and heads to the bar.  She's back in five minutes.  "Here is your drink madam.  And yours sir.  If you order at the bar, please remember to give your table numb..."




"Yes, yes we know what to do."  Michael waves her away; again I mouth apologies.




I wait a couple of minutes.  "Michael!"  I hiss.  "You were rude and there was no need for that."




He looks at me in surprise.  "I wasn't being rude. She was being patronising and I didn't appreciate it."




"Bullshit, you've been in snit since Lindsay's phone call.  What's the matter..."




"She seems to have forgotten, yet again, that she's a lesbian."  He snarls quietly.




"Michael, they are just having dinner."  I snark back.




"Yeah right."  He takes a sip of his drink.  "Let's pick up where we left off."  He mimics bitterly.




"Michael are you jealous?  You realise that Grady is straight right?"




"Well you should've told his cock that last week!"  He snaps and drains the rest of his glass before standing up swiftly.  "I'm going back to my room."




Okay I had an inkling something might happen. Lindsay I could just about get but Michael?  And last week?  I sip my drink and smile. Yep this has been an excellent weekend!












Fuck!  Looks like the world's press is on my lawn. There's no way I can get in there without being seen.  How the hell did they know I was going to be home tonight?




"Actually can you take me to this address instead?"  I tell the cab driver.  "Not sure what's going on there."




"You mean you don't know Craig Taylor?"  I shake my head.  "I'm new to this area but everyone knows about him."




I start to preen.  "What about him?"




"He's a dick."  I manage to suppress my gasp of shock.  "The way he struts about like he's God almighty and raging about how gays are an abomination, lots of people think he's a closet case.  Especially after that dinner..."




"Dinner?"  I start to feel sick to my stomach.




"Yeah, he had naked servers at a dinner he was hosting, all of whom were men.  Not something one who is a homophobe should be doing, don't you think?"




"N-n-no.  Actually can you just drop me off here?  I need a drink."




"Sure.  That will be $60 plus tip."




I give him the fare and wait for him to pull away before walking the two blocks and letting myself into the office.  All I want to do is sleep.








I pull up round the corner from where I dropped that fucker off and wait as Thomas gets in.




"I feel so like Schultz the Master Spy."  He gives me a quick kiss on the cheek.




"I have no idea what you are talking about?"  




I squeeze his thigh.  "Let me just make the call."




"Wait, how did you arrange...never mind.  Oh!  Remember to hide your number."  He giggles squeezing my hand back. I just shake my head as I remember his enthusiasm for espionage.




"Channel 5 News good evening."  A female voice answers.




"Yes I just thought you'd like to know that Craig Taylor, the businessman arrested in San Francisco for desecration of art to the tune of $10 million is currently at his business address and not his home."




"Are you sure?"  She demands excitedly.  "We lost track of him after his arrest."




"Yes I just dropped him off."




"Thank you!  Thank you so much.  By the way who is this?"




"An upstanding member of the human race.  And you're welcome.  Bye now."  I lean across and kiss him softly.  "Want to watch the show or go home?"




"Oh watch the show, I brought popcorn!"




















The first thing that attracted my attention was the sudden brightness, followed by voices calling my name.  Still feeling befuddled, I made my way to the main door and opened it.




"Mr Taylor!  Mr Taylor!  What do you have to say about your behaviour? Are you now stating that you're a racist as well as a homophobe?!"




The questions are flying at me and I wasn't quick enough to shut the door as they surged into the building.  In my haste to get away, I fell over but managed to scramble up and into the office and lock it.  My mind is racing; I need to get out of here!








Thomas and I are giggling like loons and then a thought strikes me.  "Get out!"  I order.




"What?"  Thomas looks astonished.




"Get out, I can explain!  Quick!"  I whisper hoarsely   "And keep filming!"




Quickly starting the engine I manage to get around the back of Taylor Electronics and my hunch was right. He's making his way out back.  I wait until he's on the street before driving past him and park...and there it is, the knocking on my window.




I wind down the window and scowl at him.  "My light was off!  I've just clocked off man!"




"I know, I know!  I'll pay you $200 if you can do me a favour?  Please!"




"What's the favour?"  I ask warily. I can handle myself but this man is desperate.




"Check that a store, it's called Taylor Electronics is empty for $100 and then drop me at a hotel afterwards for another $100?  Please!"




"Money up front!"  I demand and he peels off the bills.




Taking the keys out and locking it, I glare at him as he scrunches down along the seat, he waves at me to get going.




I run round to the front of the building and find the camera crews leaving but a considerable crowd has grown.  I dash across to Thomas, who looks rightfully pissed.




"Taylor is in my cab."  I explain quickly.  "I had a feeling he would go out back, I'm sorry babe but I had to check."




He looks somewhat mollified.  "So now what?"




"I'm taking him to some hotel.  But you keep filming this, I'll be back as soon as I can.  Don't move from here.  Okay?"




"Okay but hurry!  You have a lot of making up to do. It's fucking freezing out here!"




I run back to the cab, he's still cowering in the back.




"Well?"  He demands before I even get seated.




"It's empty but open and there's a crowd."  I hide my smile.




"Fuck!"  He rasps and then sighs.  "Fuck it, let them have what they want!  Drop me at this hotel..."




Twenty minutes later, I'm back to find Thomas pacing trying to keep warm.  I beep the horn and he runs to get in.




"Get in the back."  I order and hand him the hot chocolate when I get in.  "Not going anywhere until you warm up a bit.  There may be Taylor cooties but we can always burn our clothes when we get home."




"Oh we are definitely doing that!"  He shivers and I rub his arms, then hold him tightly to me.












I call Schoepen's cell and judging by his tone, it appears that the disaster in San Francisco has not reached him.




"Unfortunately, there's been a break-in at my store so I need to handle that.  Can we reschedule for some other time this week?   Oh great, yes Wednesday is fine.  Same time?  I look forward to it."




I sag in relief and decide to have a well-deserved bath.
















I'm a bit pissed off that Talon is not here to greet me.  I know she's meeting this Mallory or whatever woman but she could've done that this afternoon.




I check my emails and there's nothing that I need to deal with, though I'm surprised that Zander is holding out as much as he is.  I can move more money from my stocks if needs be but I would rather not.  They are looking very healthy indeed.








"Yes sir."




"I would like something to eat, scrambled eggs on toast.  You know how I like it."




"Yes sir, I certainly do."  He gives a small bow and leaves.












I mix the scrambled eggs for his lordship and feel not a jot of guilt.  I certainly do know how you like it Mr Stark.  I put in the special ingredients of bacon salt and then cook it in pork lardo fat and add chorizo spice powder.




As I head back up to his office, I watch him take a hearty bite and nod his approval.   He waves me away and I head back to the kitchen thinking it's a shame he doesn't like pork!
















Michael hasn't spoken to me since we left Martha's Vineyard and to be honest, I'm actually not bothered by the silence.  It beats the sound of his chewing, turning of pages of his comics and his squeaks and squeals as he gets to a good bit in a cartoon or a film he's seen a thousand times!




I head to the kitchen to get some wine and I hear a huff of breath behind me.




"Well?"  He demands.




"Well what Michael?"  I sigh and pour myself a glass.




"Want to explain your behaviour over the weekend?  Billing and cooing over Grady, it was embarrassing and unseemly!"




"He didn't seem to mind."  I reply coolly.




He balls his fists at his side and glowers at me.  "Have you forgotten Lindsay that you're a lesbian?"




"Michael, I know precisely what I am and my sexuality is nothing to do with you.  But if you have a problem with my bisexuality then do feel free to find somewhere else to live!"




"Bisexuality?  You're bisexual now?!"  He's incredulous.




"Yes.  And that's all I am prepared to discuss with you.  Understand?"




He just nods as I stalk away from him.








Bi-fucking-sexual!  You have got to be kidding me?!  Well if she thinks that she's taking Grady away from me she's got another think coming!




I check where she's flounced off to and she's not in the lounge, so I close the door and dial Grady's number and it rolls to voicemail.




"Grady, it's Michael.  Look I just want you to know that I understand that you were being polite to Lindsay over the weekend.  Give me a call so we can arrange for us to meet up.  Bye."
















I'm channel hopping waiting for Talon to come home.  Finally I hear the door open and her calling my name.




"In the office!"  I yell, she can come to me.




"Okay be right there!"  She yells back.  "Need to speak to Ralph for a minute!"




Ralph!  Since when the fuck has Ralph been more important than me!  I get up and march to the kitchen and push open the door.




"Since when has Ralph been more important than me?"  I demand and they whip round and gawk at me.




"Luther!  Honey, please leave. You'll ruin the surprise!"  She begs as they stand in front of the table.




"Surprise?  What surprise?"  I smile at her and try to look round them.




"Honey please?"  She pleads.




"Fine.  How long do I have to wait for this surprise?"




"A couple of hours maybe three."  She replies.




I huff in annoyance.  "But..."




"The quicker I start the quicker you get it."  She purrs.




"Fine.  Do I get a hint?"




"No."  She winks at Ralph and I have to smile. This playful side of her is new and I like it!  "Oh did you sort the Craig Taylor issue out?"




"Not yet, but I will.  I'm flying to Pittsburgh tomorrow night to see him on Wednesday to talk to him about that."




"Okay, now you need to be gone so we can get you surprised."




"I look forward to it!"  I smirk at her and head back to my office.








Ralph and I exchange looks as he saunters out.  I put my fingers over my lips.




"Luther you had better not be standing behind that door when I kick it open!"  I shout.




"I'm going!  I'm going!"  He declares.




I push the door.  "Fuck Talon!"  He yelps as it hits him hard.




"Now go!"  I order sweetly whilst relishing the pain he's in and watch him head back to the office.




"So Talon what exactly are you surprising him with?"  Ralph asks.




"Coq au vin."  I reply and smile at his look of disappointment.  "Be right back."




I come back up holding a bottle of red.  "Meet the $4,000 a bottle vin part of the meal!"




Ralph gapes at me.  "He's going to notice the empty bottle!  He checks them weekly."




"Not if you refill it with this and reseal it with that little kit I bought."  I chuckle.  "Oh and Ralph, I brought two bottles up."




"You delightfully wicked woman!"  He guffaws and we get to work.
















I've decided to stay at home using the looting as an excuse not to open.  I've not heard from Luther so I'm breathing easy.




"Excuse me Mr Taylor?"  Eva interrupts my morning read.




"Yes what is it?"




"There's a Mr Luther Stark to see you.  Shall I show him..."




"I'm already in."  Luther drawls.  "Craig how have you been?  How was San Francisco?"




He strides into the room while talking and takes a seat on the sofa.  "Now my dear, I would like a cup of coffee please."




Eva looks at me for confirmation and I nod.  "Make it two thank you."




He waits for her to leave and close the door behind her.




He glares at me his voice wrathful.  "You want to explain to me what the fuck you were thinking destroying my brother's property!"




I put up my hands in a placating gesture.  "Luther, I thought it was Justin's work.  That's what I bought tickets for and..."




"So you didn't double check the fucking location!"  He snarls throwing a paper at my feet.




With shaking hands I pick it up and read what it says.  His show was in Paris!  Emblazoned across the front page is a picture of them going up the stairs arm in arm; my stomach rolls.  I read his statement and am furious but smug that I got out when I did.




"Luther as I said.  I thought it was in San Francisco.  And..."




"How much of the money I gave you for your business do you have?"  He interrupts.




"Almost all of it, why?"  I ask nervously.




"I want you to offer it to my brother as a form of restitution and..."








"I got you out of there so you could..."




"You got me out of there?"  I look astonished.  "Why?"




"If you shut up and listen you'll find out!"  He hisses at me.  "You give him the money and issue a statement of contrition, there will be lesser charges to face in San Francisco. I've seen to that."




"How?"  I'm incredulous and relieved.




"It helps to know people.  Once you've paid my brother then we go back to our original deal but with one slight change."




"What's that?"




"I want you to give me Taylor Electronics."




"What?!  You want me to do what?!"




"Listen I got you out of your clusterfuck, you owe me and this is what I want and besides it will be a big fuck you to your son, won't it?" He straightens his cuffs.  "You give me Taylor Electronics or you will be taken back to San Francisco in cuffs.  Your choice."




"But I have a business meeting, with investors this afternoon!"  I bluster.




"Then it's a good job I'm here then, isn't it? As the new owner I get to meet them."




I sink back into my chair in resignation and nod.  "The meeting is at four. They are coming here."
















"How's mom?"  I ask Zeus.




"She's with Uncle Luc and Aunt Dee; they're going to bring her over tonight."




Menno sighs and wipes his eyes.  "Papa and mama are coming because Faal is going to need all the help he can get."




"So what happens now?"  Zeon, of all of us right now he's hurting the most.




Ted clears his throat.  "Nothing, Tobias said we leave it to the authorities for now.  Everything was set in place, seems they were just waiting for that one piece that would tie it all together.  I think the entire family need to be here for them, especially Zee."




Blake nods and picks up his phone.




"Okay let's start calling but not them, let them be a while.  Thank God Matt and Hunter are on the island.  Hopefully this will all be over when they come back."












Zee is slightly pissed off and it's down to Drew, Brian, Emmy Lou, Justin and me.  She finally nailed the lamb terrine dish only for it to be vetoed by us and second vetoed by Brian and Emmy Lou.  And then Justin took it home with him last night.




She's went to the fish market at the crack of dawn this morning and is in her workshop, which can only mean one thing.  Well I hope it means that one thing...king crab, fresh king crab!  I saw three large boxes and she said it would be surf and turf tonight.  And she has that grin!




I can't take it anymore and head to her workshop and find her cursing up a storm.




"Fuckety fuck and fuck!"




"Problem darling?"




"Get the happy dance out the way and help me with this."  She huffs.




"Yes!" I fist pump and wiggle my ass much to her amusement.




"Are you done now?"  She chuckles.




"Wait."  I pump my hips twice.  "Now I'm done.  What do you need me to do?"




"The icky part."  She steps back out of the way.




Twenty minutes later I have despatched them and they are ready for cooking.  I can't resist a handful and she nudges me in reproach.




"I thought the guys were coming later."  She frowns as Debs comes down the stairs.




"Me too."




As we get back into the kitchen it's not just the family, but all her brothers, Uncle Luc, Aunt Dee, her mother, my parents...whatever this is it's fucking huge.




"Come on let's go into the lounge and talk okay?"




Uncle Luc takes her hand and I notice that Zeon is crying.




"Who's died?"  I demand.




"We don't know what's going on honey, Ted just said we had to be here."  Debs tells me quietly.












I hate him so fucking much!




"Just get on with it!"  Faal demand.




I clear my throat.




"When you asked me to look into the merger and said to go deep that's what I did."  He takes a steadying breath.




"We found about 20 accounts in the name of his stepfather. It seems that's where the money is going.  The last payment was last Sunday for $1 million paid after Craig Taylor was bailed.  And now the courts are considering a misdemeanour charge as opposed to desecration with intent as he has offered to make partial restitution to Uncle Luc to the tune of $5 million."




Justin hisses a breath.




"There's more."  I take another breath.  "Solly and Menno went to meet with Craig to discuss the takeover of Taylor Electronics on Wednesday.  Zee had it in mind to do what you did for her with Stark.  But when they got to the meeting, it turns out that Taylor Electronics has a new owner..."




"Luther?"  Brian growls.




"Exactly.  But he wasn't calling himself Luther."  Ted interrupts.  "Zeus I think it's best I take it from here.  Obviously, he's never met Solly or Menno before so they wouldn't know him, so when he introduced himself as Zebadiah Stark it was a bit of a surprise."




"Zebadiah Stark, why on earth would he call himself that?"  Zee asks confused




Zeon starts to cry harder and Thomas rocks him gently.




"He's been using Zebadiah's name to hide money.  Zebadiah is on the board of Bergenfield Berdenstrade as a minority stakeholder.  And like Copthorne, he's got accounts with millions of dollars in them all in Zebadiah's name but with him as the trustee..."  Ted trails off.




"But-but he's...he can't have done this...he can't have..."  Zee stammers.




"I'm sorry Zee but he has and it seems he's been doing it for the last 15 years."




"Mom..."  She gasps.




"He registered the birth and the death or so I thought..."  She sobs.




"No!  No!  No!"  Zee screams.  "No for fuck sake no!"
















Christ!  What a fucking cunt that man is!  Using your dead son as a cover for money is beyond heinous and the way he's treated Zee is reprehensible!




We all look up as Faal comes back in.




"Talking, they're in the upper lounge.  She's in the middle of a bro-wich; Zeus is on one side and Zeon on..."  His voice catches.  "I can't take this pain away, I-I would do..."




Hugo has him in his arms in a flash and takes him out followed by Martha and Menno.




"Ted is there anything we can do?"  Brian demands pacing.  "There must be something?"




Ted shakes his head.  "We have to wait for them to make their next transaction. The authorities want to get them badly so need everything to be locked down.  They don't know how many are involved or if it's just the two of them."




"Could this bring down Stark Securities as a company?"  Brian is ever practical.




"No thank God."  We all heave a sigh of relief.




"Maybe we should start the food?"  Debs suggests.




Delia and Deidra come in.  "Good idea Debs, come on let's go.  Alice and Emmy Lou you come too."  Delia orders.  "I need something to occupy my hands."  Emmy Lou and Alice follow them out.




"I think we all do."  Carl sighs.  "What a fucking mess this is."




"Oh shit!"  I gasp as I look at the phone flashing next to me.  "It's Luther!  Whose phone is this?!"




"It must be one of the brothers.  Most likely Zander, since he's the only one that he's bothering with.  Shall I take it up to him?"  Blake asks.




"No let it go to voicemail."  Ted says firmly.  "That fucker can wait."




When it finally stop ringing, we heave a sigh of relief.  Ted starts to pour brandies.




"I'll take it up to them and his phone."  Brian takes a tray.  "Ted come too and someone find Faal and send him to join us.  There's no way in hell we're sitting here and doing nothing."












Zee and Zeon have got to the extremely fucked off part of their grief.  She's pacing giving various scenarios of his slow and violent demise; she's scarily inventive.




The door knocking stops her and Brian and Ted come in, soon after Faal comes in and takes her into his arms with a small smile.




"You would look terrible all in orange my lig.  Now drink this and sit down."  His tone is firm.




It's strange to see Zee, almost obedient, as she does as she's told.  We're so used to her being combative in her own way, especially with him. She doesn't do it overtly, she just says yes dad and does whatever she was going to do her way anyway.




"Here's your phone Zander. He called you."  He places the tray down and takes a seat.




"I can't call him back.  I just can't."  He growls.




"You'll have to or he'll wonder why you're not."  Brian points out.  "But put the call on speaker and as tempting as it is nobody say a word.  And for fuck sake if you're phones are on, put them on silent."




Quickly we all reach for phones and do as we're told.




"Zander my son, how are you?  Where are you?"




"Out of the city.  Having a bit of a stressful time at the moment, friend has had some bad news and..."




"Have you thought more about my offer?  I don't know why you are holding out so much boy."




"Because, I'm a Stark and that's what you taught us, hold out for the best deal you can."




"True.  I can't wait to see that little madam's face when I tell her I'm back on the board and I have some other news but first let's get this business out of the way.  I'm willing to go to $35 million to seal this deal."




Our jaws drop and Faal puts his hand over Zee's mouth and has to carry her to the other side of the room.




"$35 million!  Are you serious?"  He gasps.




"Yes, I want back on the board that badly.  She took away my boy and I want her to feel my pain!"




This time Zeus rugby tackles Zeon to the ground.




"Okay.  $35 million it is."  We all stare at Zander.  "But we don't announce until the December board."




"Why December? There's a shareholder meeting in November right?"




"Yes, but you want her to feel pain right?"




"Uh huh."  He's not the only one confused.




"And you know how much she loves Christmas..."




"Oh very nice.  You are my boy, my boy through and through.  What changed your mind?"




"Just a culmination of things.  You'll send the papers through right?"




"Absolutely!  Let me get on with that..."




"Dad it's only the beginning of November we've got time.  So what was the other piece of news?"




"Well two pieces.  At the end of the month, I should be branching out into the electronics world and I'm not sure if I told you but I have a couple of friends of Zaden's staying at my condo..."




"Friends of Zaden?  Why?"




"Well not friends exactly.  Lindsay Peterson and Michael Novotny. Well anyway seems that Lindsay and Grady have taken quite a shine to each other and had their second date on Thursday.  And by date, I mean they were outside of the bed, you know what I mean."




"Yeah I know what you mean.  Still not seeing why I should be interested in this."




"Simple, I want them to announce their engagement at the board meeting in December."








"Yep.  Oh they're not really going to get married. It's just an additional Christmas present.  I'll bet that having her as my grandson's stepmother would be the last thing she'd want so she'll do what the Starks do in times of need..."




"Throw money at the situation?"  I finish off for him.




"Exactly.  Look I've got to go.  I'll get the papers drawn up by the end of the week.  Bye."




We sit there in silence just sipping brandy and contemplating what has happened.  When my phone flashes, I'm surprised that we've been sitting here for 20 minutes.




"Zeph here."




"Is Zander with you?"




"Yes he is, why?"




"Where are you right now?"




"Ohio with Zeus why?"




She laughs bitterly.  "Because he's just left to negotiate with him in Florida.  For the next three days."  And then she sighs.  "It's my just desserts after what I did to you."




"Just desserts?"




"Never mind.  Anyway, the real reason for the call is to let you know that I'm going to accept the divorce and the pre-nup conditions. I know I've been fighting it for so long but I will sign them and get them sent over to you by Monday."




"Wow I...uh thank you.  What changed your mind?"




"Just desserts remember.  I'll let you go..."




"Wait Talon.  Thanks for the things you've told us.  Are...are you going to leave him?"




"Not without a backup plan.  And I'm working on that.  You know me I'm a survivor.  And let's just say that Novotny is going to regret calling me Talentless and then coming to me for a loan and..."




Ted clamps his hand over Brian's astonished mouth.




"What?  Two things: what loan and where did you get the money from?"




"They wanted the money for the lawsuit and say they'll give me my money back once it's settled.  I know full well that this won't be settled monetarily so put in very small print that he has to give me his collectibles as a forfeit if nothing happens by December 20th and as for her, well I have a special treat for her.  As for where, you know how your father likes to give trinkets...once they are mine I do with them what I want."




I burst out laughing.  "And speaking of trinkets, you know that he is going to get Grady and Lindsay to announce their engagement in December."




She gasps and then laughs.  "Oh that's going to piss Novotny off no end."








"He fucked him.  I always had my suspicions about Grady.  For a man who hates Faal, he'd look at him just that little too longingly and..."




"Oh fuck no!"  Faal snaps and shudders.




We all glare at him and wait.




"Zeph where are you really?"




"Ohio like I said.  That was the TV."




"Honey, I know you and more importantly, I know Faal's voice.  Are you in Pittsburgh?"




I sigh and look at Zeus and he nods.  "Yes we're in Pittsburgh."




"Are you with Zee?"








"Okay then.  I'll leave you to it.  I'll send the papers tomorrow like I said."




She hangs up quietly.




"I'm sorry!  I'm sorry but the very idea of him thinking about me like that!"




"I never thought I would say this about someone in cahoots with Luther Stark but I feel sorry for Grady.  Michael is persistent."  Brian chuckles.












We're all over the shock and almost all of the anger and now we have to just wait.




Emmy Lou, Zee, Alice and I are on the puffs; we've just fried the first batch and I open the door a crack and wink at them.




I call out.  "Oh I wonder whoever we can get to test these king crab and lobster puffs.  They need to be eaten whilst they are extra crisp and..."




Suddenly the kitchen is full and I just about manage to get out of the way of the stampede.




"Were you actually waiting by the lounge door?"  I chuckle.




"Yes, they were.  Every two seconds one of them would go and check."  Jennifer laughs.  "But I can understand why, these are delicious!"




I head to the door when it rings and when I open it a beautiful lady steps inside and looks at all of us.




"So someone want to tell me exactly what the fucker has done!"  She demands.




"Before we get to that, who the fuck are you?"  I demand.




"Talon."  She puts her purse on the counter.  "What's he done?"  She repeats.








By the time we've introduced everyone, closed Tucker's jaw and caught her up, she's just sitting there in shock, which quickly turns to rage.




"He will fucking pay and I think I know someone who can help."  She pulls out her phone.




"Talon.  You reached safely... you were supposed to call me when you got there. I was worried."




"I'm really sorry Ralph.  I didn't mean to worry you."  I notice the way she smiles when she says his name.  "Now, quick question, you know you said you kept guest books?"








"Can you copy them and scan them over to...Solly Sullivan and Adam White?"  Ted nods.  "I'll text you their email addresses."




"Of course, what's happened?"




"I'll explain when I get back.  Let's just say I'm done with him."




"Okay, I'll get on with the scanning.  Have a safe flight."




"Thanks, I'll try.  See you tomorrow."  She smiles at her phone and then notices everyone looking.  "What?"




"I think we've just heard the reason for the signing."




She blushes.  "I don't know what you are talking about.  We're just friends!"




"Uh, Talon you'd didn't smile like that on our wedding day."  I tell her, only somewhat sadly.




"Um!"  She squeaks going redder, much to everyone's amusement.  "Oh shut up Zeph!"




Thomas clears his throat.  "At the risk of sounding like the idiot in the room, what's the significance of the guest books?"




"I'm glad someone asked."  Debs mutters.




"If they show when Copthorne visited Stark and they cross reference that to any time he had an influx of money then that gives more evidence of their collusion."  Ted explains.




"So Talon...oh for fuck sake! Can someone do more puffs?"  Brian snaps in exasperation as Justin takes the last one off his plate.




"Oil just coming to temp."  Zee grins at him.  "So do they get added yes or no?"




"No."  Drew states firmly.  "Not with king crab and lobster, some other seafood but not these."




"Fine.  Okay let's get them fried and Usez, can you get the turf out?"




"Usez, you haven't called him that in years."  Talon says quietly.  "God what a mess he's made of this family. His father would be heartbroken."




"He died heartbroken that Luther wouldn't let little one be happy."  Uncle Luc sighs.




"Oh, speaking of happy."  Talon rifles in her bag.  "Here, signed as promised."




I take the papers from her with a small nod and am surprised when Jennifer gives my hand a squeeze.




"So, Talon, what have you got planned for Lindsay?"  Zee asks.




"Lindsay? What about Lindsay?"  Jennifer asks.  "What have we missed?"




Talon tells them everything that has been happening in New York and Justin cringes when he hears that Grady slept with both of them.




"Oh that's revolting!  Hurry up with the puffs, I need to comfort eat."




"Me too!  Is that Waygu or Kobe?"  Hugo asks.  "Oooh the garlic and chimichurri sauce smells lovely."




"Kobe. Someone has hidden the Waygu."  Faal grumbles.




Menno and Hugo stare at Zee who holds their gaze unflinchingly.  "He couldn't fuck it out of me; you've got no chance."




"Fair enough!"  Hugo blushes.




Jennifer takes a sip of champagne and clears her throat.  "So the deadline is the 20th December for them to give you your money back?  I need to make a call.  But before that, what are you going to do with Lindsay?"




"She likes to make messes. Let's see how she is at cleaning them.  I think a year as a domestic servant should hone her skills nicely."




"Holy crap!"  Ben gasps.  "And they both signed agreeing to this?"




"Like I said very tiny writing. It's not my fault they didn't take the mantra what the big print gives the small- or should we say very small print- takes away, is it?"




"You and Zee are cut from the same survivalist cloth you know?"  Leda tells her.




"How the fuck do you work that out?  I'm pretty sure Zee doesn't think that."




"Actually, I do.  We've both had to fight for what we wanted in order to be happy and to have the rest of our family happy.  Except you started your fight by, well you know.  And when it comes to payback, you just have a bit more evil in yours. I'm more subtle."




"How could you do it?"  Mom asks suddenly.




"I don't know. At first it was the thrill of it all and then I'd feel guilty and stop.  But he kept pulling me back.  I stopped for three years but I was still unhappy but just couldn't leave the lifestyle I had. When you've grown up poor and you go to suddenly rich, it's hard especially with the pre-nup.  We didn't start again until after you left him though."




She clears her throat.  "I'm sorry for what I did to you whilst you were married but I now know what it feels like.  He's cheating on me.  What's the phrase?  Oh yes; when you marry the mistress you create a vacancy.  Only I created a vacancy without being married to him."




"That why you're helping us?"  Zee asks.




"Oh no, that's not why, I've only just found out about that.  No it was when he and Grady were talking and he said he wanted Lindsay to give me a bit more polish; make her shine, help her to be less Brooklyn Babe and more Genuflecting Geisha, were his exact words."




"The fucking nerve of the man!"  Debs barks.  "I would've smacked him in the mouth the moment I heard that and left on the spot."




She smiles and picks up her purse and coat.  "Right. I'm going back to the airport. My flight is first thing in the morning..."




"Stay.  We can drop you off at JFK."  Uncle Luc looks at Zee and she gives a small nod.




"If-if you're sure?"  Zee nods again.  "How are you able to drop me off at the airport?"




"Zee has a plane."








"Now come on let's get your stuff upstairs."  Mom says.  "And I accept your apology."












I can't believe I'm being rocked in the arms of my soon to be former mother-in-law in floods of tears.  I haven't cried this much in years.  Debs is on the other side of me trying to get me to drink the brandy she's brought up.




"H-how can you forgive me like this?"  I sniffle.




"Because he's hurt you too. Part of me- I ain't gonna deny it- is pleased that you are hurting because of what you did to me and my son.  But inside here..."  She taps my chest.  "Under all this slut...had to get that one in... is a good person."




"And judging by the way this Ralph spoke to you, he sees it too."  Debs strokes my hair.  "So how long have you two been..."




"We're not!  Honestly, we're just friends."  I take the tissue she offers and blow my nose.




"How do you know him?"




"He works for Luther as his but..."




"That Ralph!"  Del gasps in surprise and then starts to laugh.  "Oh that will chafe his ass when he finds out about you two!"




"There is no us two!"




"What colour are his eyes?"  Debs asks




"Blue with a hint of...I mean I don't know!"  Debs just looks at me.  "With a hint of green."




"What does he say about you?"  Debs asks




"How did?  He says I'm too thin and when Luther's not there he makes me eggs and bacon for breakfast.  He calls me a wicked woman and I don't feel insulted and..."




"Uh huh."  Debs and Del exchange looks and I frown




"Anyway.  We just sit and talk about stuff. Just stupid everyday stuff..."  I trail off.  "Oh shit!"




"You go wash your face and meet us downstairs."  Del orders and pulls Debs out of the room.












"Zeph, I want you to be honest about something and I mean really honest, you hear?"  He nods at me.  "Did you ever love Talon?"




He appears to war with himself before sighing.  "No.  I loved the idea of her and I care for her, but no, I didn't love her"




"And deep down, she knew that. Everyone knows when they are unloved.  So then you have some culpability in this too, right? You need to apologise too."  He nods.  "Well what are you waiting for? Get to getting!"




"So come on people, let's get this fucking family fed!"  Dee orders.  "Hugo, I know you're the man of the BBQ but this is my little one's house and when we're here we cook!"




"Yes ma'am!"  Hugo grins at her.  "Kobe calls for Chocolate Box methinks.  Emmy Lou, you and Drew are on opening and glasses!"




"God I love this family!"  Emmy Lou cries and heads for the back kitchen.












"Good evening Mrs Stark, I'm afraid that..."




"Oh hush yourself, Ralph!"  Del stops me.  "I want you to meet someone, this is Zaden."




"A pleasure to meet you."  I smile at her.  "Although I'm not..."




Zaden waves her hand to stop me.  "Two things you need to do: one is pack everything you two own or think you are due, now!"




"Ralph come on!"  Talon grabs my hand and pulls me to my quarters.




"Talon what is going on?!"




"Come on Ralph!"




"Where?  No, stop Talon, stop!"  I shake off her hand stand firm.  "Explain!"




"I-I, I'm sorry, I guess I'm leaving.  I thought...never mind, if you..."




"Leaving?  Where are you going?"




"I'm not sure but I can't stay here anymore. He's done something reprehensible and I can't stay anymore. I had hoped that you'd...but...anyway."




She takes a deep breath and turns to leave.  "Talon Stark Kho come back here right this instant!"




"Whoa!"  Zaden whispers.




"Now look at me and calmly explain what is going on.  Why did you want me to scan the guest book?"




After twenty minutes, I can't believe what I've heard.  "Right, let me help you pack Talon. I have nothing here that I want to take with me."




"Of course."  She sighs and heads to her room.




"Oh for the love of all things holy!  Talon get back here!"  Zaden shouts and when she returns, she huffs an annoyed breath.  "Will you two just kiss and have done?!"




"M-me? Kiss Talon..."  I stammer and then I look at her, and she looks so hopeful.  I pull her into my arms.  "What a great idea!"




Five minutes later I let her up.  "Good God where the hell did you learn to do that?"  She gasps.




"Like I said, I'm not just a good butler."




"Right hurry up and pack for fuck sake."  Zaden giggles.




"Where are we going?"  I ask.




"Canada.  There's a little place that's a rather sweet bijou."  She smiles.  "And it will piss Lindsay off no end!"












"Talon, honey I'm home!"








I didn't think she was due to go anywhere.  "Ralph!  Ralph!  I would like some coffee and scrambled eggs!"








I head to the kitchen.  "Ralph why the fuck..."  I look around the room in shock.  Spray painted across the counter tops, the cupboards- everywhere- are the words ‘I Quit!"




And on the table is a note from him.  ‘In case you haven't noticed I quit you odious fucker.  And just to let you know I put bacon products in everything I ever cooked for you!  And I mean everything!'




I scrunch up the note and head upstairs and then I notice the graffiti in Talon's dressing room. ‘Goodbye Luther, I won't be cheated on!' the hell did she know I think to myself; I was always careful.




I check the jewellery boxes and they are all empty.  I dash down to the office and quickly open the safe and find the boxes still in there and heave a sigh of relief.  Then I notice the note pinned to the back of the safe door.  ‘See how much they are worth...darling.  I may be a slut but I'm a resourceful one. Be happy fucking whoever she is!'




With a sinking feeling I open the boxes and I see exactly what she's done.












I dry heave into the toilet and sit back on my heels.  I can't believe that!  Taking a steadying breath, I stand up.  I told you not to interfere and you have. Well now you will pay!




I make my way quietly to the lounge and I find what I need before making my way to my bedroom.












"Morning Lindsay, how are you today?"




"Fine thanks.  I'll see you later."  She finishes her coffee and heads off without a backward glance.




"Oh okay."




The front door is shut sharply and I grab my phone but it rolls over to voicemail.




"Grady it's me. I had a great time last night.  I know you said you were going to be busy today but call me when you can.  Speak soon, I hope."








I groaned when I saw it was Michael calling me so I sent it to voicemail.  I got the itch again and this time we topped each other and he's even worse a top as he is at blow jobs!




I'm pacing my kitchen railing against my stupidity.  Foreplay, foreplay for fuck sake foreplay!  He just kissed me and then went for my ass!  When he finally managed inside me, did he hit my prostate? Of course he fucking didn't!  Did he pull on my cock? Of course he fucking didn't!  No, he just shuddered and came immediately!




I felt cheated considering the time I spent working him up into a gibbering wreck of need.




My phone rings again and it's the other half of this duo.  Lindsay.




"Hey Lindsay, how are you?  Uh nothing why, do you want to meet up?  Yeah in an hour, you want to come here?  Sure, I'll text you my address."








Three hours later she's been well fucked and I feel a lot better.












"About Michael, I think I should warn you that he's becoming a little fixated on you." I groan inwardly thinking yeah I'd noticed.  "It might be a good idea for you and me to..."




This is perfect I think to myself.  "Make us official?"




"Yes that's exactly it.  Once he knows you're not available, he'll leave you alone. I'll make sure of it."




"Look there's something I need to tell you..."




"Sssh I already know and it's fine. It's in the past.  Now onto more interesting things."




"Are you kidding me? You're ready to go again?"




"Oh yes."  She giggles.












"Anyone home!"  I call out and soon Lindsay comes smiling towards me.  "Luther how lovely to see you and this is?"




"Bethany.  Bethany this is Lindsay, Lindsay this is Bethany.  Oh and this is Michael."




"Nice to meet you.  Uh what happened to Talon?"  Michael asks, making Lindsay cringe.




"We separated."  I reply and they exchange a look.




"Hey Michael..."




"Grady!  How are you?"  He goes to give him an embrace but Lindsay steps between them and kisses him softly on the lips and Grady puts his arm round her.




"Uh Grady..."




Lindsay smiles at us but her eyes grow cold when she looks at Michael.




"Well since it's a time for announcements.  Grady and I have something to say.  Do you want to tell them or shall I?"




"Lindsay..."  Michael starts to go red.




"I'll do it."  Grady smiles down at her.  "We're a couple."




"For real!"  I clap him on the back.




"Yes Luther for real!  It was Thursday. I just looked at her and thought to myself yes this is the one for me and luckily she feels the same way."




"Well this calls for a celebration, let's get some champagne!"  I declare.  "Michael can you get that sorted out for us?  Come Grady, Lindsay come and tell Bethany and I all about this, leaving out the personal bits of course!"




I lead them to the lounge leaving Michael in the hallway.












Michael's whine cuts through our chatter. "Lindsay, could you come and help me with the champagne please?  You know how clumsy I can be!"




"Excuse me."




I follow him to the kitchen and the moment the door shuts he whirls on me.  "What the fuck do you think you are doing? Grady is mine!"




"I think it's up to Grady who he chooses and he chose me!"




"You do realise that we've slept together twice!"  He hisses at me.




"Of course you have Michael.  Of course you have.  Now let's get the champagne sorted out..."




"We have!   We slept together on Wednesday!"  He hisses back.




"No, Michael, you couldn't have slept with him.  He told me that he went with a guy and it was the worst sex he'd ever had in his life.  Now he couldn't possibly be talking about you now could he?"




I pause and wait for his ego to kick in and when he says nothing I smile.




"I knew you were just making things up.  But isn't it great that with Talon gone at least the loan is no longer an issue.  Now come on let's get the champagne in.  And, please Michael don't let your jealousy that I've found someone and you haven't ruin this relationship or our friendship, okay? Please be happy for me as I would be for you."




As he heads to the lounge with the champagne, I smile to myself. I may not be able to best Zee and Brian but you were a piece of cake Michael Novotny!
















I look around the bijou little place that we are now living in and want to pinch myself.




First, Zee's - as she's insisted I call her - idea of bijou and mine are totally different.  Apparently, there were 2 bedrooms when Lindsay and that ratfink left.  Now it has 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, a driveway and an extension.




Secondly, and I still can't believe it, even though I'm walking up the stairs with the tray.  Talon is with me.  I have to admit to not liking her very much when she moved in but then I noticed the little things.  Unlike him it was please and thank you.  So when I found out about his other little peccadillo, I felt it was my duty to let her know what was going on.  Okay I had an ulterior motive in the fact that she's utterly beautiful and I found him undeserving of her.




The more we got to talking and being friends and conspirators, the more I liked her. And then when I watched her eat that breakfast with undisguised relish, I knew then I more than liked her, never thinking she felt the same way.  But here we are.




When I get into the bedroom, I'm surprised to find her sitting up in bed and looking upset.  No that's not it. It's more like seriously fucked off.




"What's happened?"  Wordlessly she hands me her phone and I look at the screen.




It's then I realise what an objectionable ass he is!  He's sent her an email of Luther and his latest concubine with the words meet your replacement as the subject title.




"He's clearly forgotten that he owes me money."  She mutters angrily.  "And I think it's time he was reminded of that fact."




"No Talon, do not play that card until you have to.  There's something to be said for the dignity of silence.  He strikes me as the kind of person that thrives on a reaction.  Now, have your coffee and let's decide what we are going to do today."




Taking a sip she snuggles, yes snuggles, into my side.  "Not leaving here would be nice..."




"What else do we need to do with the house? We've got everything we need?"




"Not here as in the house, I mean here."  She says quietly and then looks up at me.




It takes a few seconds for it to sink in.  "Oh, I um, well yes, we could do that...but only if you're sure?"




"Ralph I'm sure."
















I stare at the document he's sent me transferring the business from me to him for the notional sum of $1.




I'm waiting for a response from his brother with regards to my offer of restitution but so far nothing.  According to Luther, he's out of the country in South Africa and won't be back until the end of next week.




I think about Molly but then reason to myself that there's no way those faggots will let her go without so, I start to send the email confirmation to him, when there's a knock on my door.




"Excuse me Mr Taylor?"




"Yes Eva what is it?"




"There's a Mrs Taylor-Finch to see you."




"Who?"  I demand confused.




"Your very happily remarried ex-wife is here to see you.  I knew if I gave my real name, you wouldn't see me and you don't want this to be a discussion we have in public.  And believe me I would have this conversation in public."








I look around his office and think about my own home with Tucker and how much better it is.




"Want to explain this?"  I toss the paper in front of him.  "So you're a racist as well as a homophone.  Lovely."




"That was a misunderstanding!  I was intending to destroy the works of your faggot son!"




"Our son Craig.  Ours.  This was not the Immaculate Conception. You were there!"  I snap.




"If that's what you've come to say, I would like you to leave.  I've already made my..."




I hold up my hand.  "You made the news.  Not just in San Francisco, I mean globally.  We heard about it in Paris."  I smile as he seems to pale.  "And here in Pittsburgh when you returned."




"What?  What are you talking about?"  He stammers.




"I'm talking about this."  I pull out my tablet and turn it to face him.  "Here you are being confronted by the press at the store and then running like the coward that you are.  And here's the press leaving at 2231 but you checked into a hotel at 2314, I do hope you've made that clear on the insurance form that you left the doors wide open."




"Where did you get this?"  He demands.  "Luth..."  Then he clams up.




I settle back in my chair.  "So tell me about Mr Schoepen."








"Oh come now Craig.  This is a WASP society, nothing goes on without anybody knowing about it.   And that reminds me, whatever possessed you to organise a naked waiters dinner?  Now that doesn't sit well with your homophobic image does it?"




"Mr Schoepen and I are trying to come to an agreement with regards to the business and that's all you need to know!"




"Well actually no it's not all I need to know.  You seem to be forgetting about Molly..."




"I haven't forgotten her, but I'm sure our multi-millionaire son and his multi-millionaire husband will look after her."




"Oh now he's your son?  And of course, they will.  But the terms of the divorce say that you have to provide for her until she's 21 and she's not for another 2 years.  So whatever agreement with him has to stop until she reaches that age or you provide a settlement to nullify that term."




"What?"  He is dumbfounded.




"And that figure has to be 5% of the combined amount of you and the business.  Now according to the last posted results, Taylor Electronics is worth $15mil and your personal wealth, which surprised me, is $5mil so that makes the settlement amount due to Molly $1mil.  Before any transactions can go through."




I can see him fighting his options and I put a steadying hand on my knee in the guise of straightening my skirt.




"Fine."  He rasps out.




"Fine what?"




"I'll wire the money to you next..."












"Today as in right this minute.  To the same account that you pay Molly's support into."




He glares at me but boots up his computer after fifteen minutes of tense silence, he finally speaks.




"I've done it."




"I'll just wait for confirmation of that.  And since it's such a large amount I'm pretty sure the bank will call you to confirm.  When they do put it on speaker."




For another ten minutes we sit in tense silence until his cell rings.




"Craig Taylor."




"Speaker Craig."  I prompt him




"This is the Pittsburgh National Bank, there's been a large amount of money moved from your account, I just wanted to know if you authorised such a payment?"




"Yes I did."




"Can you confirm the account number it went from please?"








"Sort code?"








"Your date of birth?"




This goes back and forth until they are satisfied.




"Thank you Mr Taylor. You understand that this is necessary for such a large amount."




"Of course, thanks for your diligence.  Goodbye."  He glares at me.  "Right you have the confirmation now..."




"Let me check my bank Craig, just because it's gone from yours doesn't mean it's reached mine."




Another 15 minutes pass and my phone rings.  "Jennifer Taylor.  Yes.  I was expecting that.  Thank you.  Goodbye."




I stand up and glare at him.  "And good riddance to you.  I can see myself out."




He calls Eva and she escorts me to the door and once outside, I stop and turn to look at him watching me walk away.  I give him a small wave and get into the limo and head back to the Treehouse.
















I can't believe she's not replied. It's been almost two hours.  She must be using her teeny brain to try and formulate a witty response.




As much fun as I had sending that, I'm still majorly pissed that Grady picked her over me but I don't believe that he said I was the worst sex he's ever had.  The way he was groaning makes me think otherwise. Yes he's just humouring her until we can be together.




They all went to dinner last night so I watched movies and got some take-out.  I had a bit of a cry because I ordered what we ordered on our first night.  Lindsay can enjoy him while she can because a top doesn't let anyone top unless they feel something for them.












Typical when I want them to be here they're not!  They have been helping the boys move into the BroHouse and there have been some territorial issues.   












I swear to God that I am never ever doing this again.  Next time they want to help to move they can do this on their own.  I thought Faal and Brian were queens about their stuff but this is ridiculous!  Who the fuck argues about plugs, let alone labels them!




Menno is feeling a little lonesome as Solly has had to go to the office to work with Adam, Charles and Tobias to go through everything we managed to find out.  Ted's been jumping about like a monk on a promise to be working with them.  Blake said that he's never felt so used but in a good way!




It's just the Pittsburgh family here now, including my brothers and Menno, as everyone has gone back home.  Matt and Hunter have decided to stay another two weeks in South Africa but Faal, Ben and Steve said they had to be back for Thanksgiving.




Lydia and Zeon are a match made in artistic heaven. He's got Uncle Luc's eye for art and they have already got about four shows lined up already and it's only been a week or so.




All I care about is that I have the house...God I love property!




"For the love of fuck, it's a plug!  It doesn't matter whose it is!  They work the same!"  Debs yells. I dash upstairs and find Debs between Zeus and Zeph.  "You take this one!  And you take that one!  Now go plug in your whatever-the-fuck before I wrap these fucking cords round your dicks and hang you out the window!"




Silently they do as they are told while glowering at each other.




"Okay, I think we need a break. Come downstairs with me."  I order firmly.




"Why are we downstairs baby girl? We've done here; it's upstairs we need to focus on."  Zeus grumbles snagging a bottle of beer from the fridge.




"No we didn't want any; thanks for asking!"  Zeph snipes.




"Like I said!  Come downstairs with me!"




I open the door between the kitchen and the lounge and lead them down the stairs.




"Zee what is this?"  Zander asks.  "I thought you said we couldn't get a mancave?"




"I said you couldn't get a mancave, I didn't say I couldn't give you one, and it's not a cave."  I switch on the lights.  "It's an aquarium."




And for the first time in about 3 hours, there is silence.  There are wall to wall fish tanks with every kind of fish imaginable including their favourites.




"Nemo fish!"  Zeph gasps.  "Oh my God baby girl!  When did you do this?"




"Look at the sofa."  Zander sighs and takes a seat on the leather 8 seater sofa.




"Look up."  I tell them.




"Okay where are they?"




"Where's what?"  Justin asks stretching out on the sofa and looking at the ceiling.  "Whatever this is we are getting one for the bathroom downstairs."




Zeon is looking around, whilst everyone else is admiring the swirls in the ceiling.




"Mathmos projectors, in the floor.  And Justin you'd need about four for that room, I can give you the details later.  As for the projectors, the controls are next to the light switches.  You will notice that there are Barcaloungers that correspond to the colours on the door knobs of your bedrooms, and nobody can complain about who has what chair as they are all the same."




"It's so restful in here."  Carl sighs.




"So Usez, unless you're going to move from Ohio, Zeon and Thomas are going to live here permanently, agreed?"




He just nods.  "No I want you to verbalize that they are going to live here and you won't have a problem with it."




"Absolutely not."  He wanders round checking each tank.




"So we can go now and leave you to finish moving in?"  Faal asks.




"Yeah, I guess we did need a bit of a time out."  Zeph concedes.




"A bit?!"  Debs snorts.




"Holy fuck ZayZay!  Ohmygod...ohmygod...!"  Zeus gasps and then grabs me into a hug.




"Usez!  Can't breathe!"  I protest.




"What's she done?"  Debs asks.




"Oh my God!  Mom, momma look!"  Jenny squeals.  "Aunt Zee are those...octopus?"




"Yep, two of them.  Octopi are very territorial, hence the separate tanks."  I jerk my head towards the door.  "We're going to go and maybe see you guys tomorrow?"




They nod and continue to inspect the tanks.




"Justin!"  Brian hisses jolting him out of his daydream.












"Well, they say they are bringing take-out and should be here in 10 minutes.  Shall we wait or open the champagne?"




"Open the champagne of course, what a silly question!"  Millie laughs.  "Now where are the glasses?"




"Top cupboard, might as well set for them too."




"Where are they taking out from?"  Harold asks.




"Kaya.  Caribbean place, they do great burgers.  Naturally she's ordered the entire menu."




He looks sceptical.  "Harold one burger is not going to harm you.  If anything it's the booze you have to worry about."  I smile at him.




I hear the crunch on the drive, heralding the arrival of the coach; followed by door slamming and chattering. Jenny and Hank are the first ones in.




"Grandmom Jen, where were you?  Oh my God you have got to see what Aunt Zee did with the BroHouse!"  She kisses my cheek and then notices Millie and Harold.  "Oh hello, who are you?"




"I'm Millicent and this is my husband Harold.  You're Jenny, Jen has told us so much about you."




"And she's told us lots about you. You're going to kick Lindsay's artistic ass aren't you or is that Melody?"




"That's Melody but I'm going to be doing some ass kicking too."  Millie grins at her.




"Good."  Jenny grins back.




Soon everyone is in and Harold never having met everyone before is soon swept into the family as only they can!




They start to regale us with the traumas of house moves while decanting food and pouring bubbles.




"So Jen where were you?"  Debs asks.




"Getting a million dollars in support for Molly from Craig."  I nibble on a fry as the room goes still.




"What?  Uh honey how did you do that?"  Tucker asks worriedly.




"I went to see him today."  I nibble on another fry but the warning look from Brian has me chewing quickly.




"And I told him that I knew about his business transaction, the dinner, and his talks with Schoepen.  I said there was a clause in the support agreement that Molly had to be supported by him until she was 21 or he paid an amount to nullify that agreement."




Brian winces.  "You told him about Schoepen..."




"Yes but I said it was a WASP society grapevine, he's not going to connect it to us."




"Hang on how did you know about?  Oh never mind."  Zee sighs




"And I showed him the footage that Thomas gave me of the looting of his store.  And if you're wondering why it's not hit the news it appears your dad has been interfering again."




"Fuck."  Faal grumbles.




"Tell Ted."  Brian orders Blake and he nods heading to the office to make the call.




"Mom?"  Justin looks at me and then at Millie and Harold.  "So whose idea was this?"




"Mine!  Well ours."  Millie confesses gleefully.  "We were talking about her woes over mani-pedis and I thought no way is he getting away with that.  He's a desperate business man and after some finessing from Harold she went in and rocked it like a boss!"




There is stunned silence before Millie starts to blush.




"What?  Isn't it like a boss?  Have I got that wrong?"




Emmy Lou pulls her into a hug.  "No my darling you didn't, it was the fist pump that threw us!"




"Spoken to Ted.   He's going to call us back."  Blake tells us.  "Thank God he's not back until Monday, as it seems everything is falling into place.  My ass needs a rest after Friday."




"But mom I don't understand why you've not invoked that before?"




"What sweetheart?"  I ask sipping my wine




"The null...there is no nullifying clause is there?"




"Nope!"  I grin.  "And it's too late for him to do anything about it!  Tell them why Harold."




"Because the support would still be due, so by paying it now he's honouring the agreement, albeit reluctantly!  And, of course, being the astute business man that I am, I told her to record every word."








My day can't get any worse!  First, I get conned out of a million dollars by my ex.  Then I have Luther breathing down my neck to send the papers back.  Then I get an email from his brother rejecting my offer of restitution; he says he's going to sue me privately as is the gallery for loss of income.  And now the insurance company is looking into my claim!












"You did what?"  Brian demands of Harold.




"Got her to record it...oh I say!"  Harold gasps when Brian kisses him firmly on the cheek.




"Jen, with me and Justin you've got five minutes before I caveman you!"




Zee starts to rustle in the fridge and soon has decanted sliced apricots, peaches and nectarines in a bowl and then pours over some champagne.




"For energy."  She smirks at him.




Jen comes back in glowing and then Brian, takes a bottle of champagne and almost carries a giggling Justin out.




"Where are they going?"  I ask.




"Upstairs."  Zee replies chuckling.  "To take the edge off, oh wait excuse me."




She heads to the hallway.  "Guys sound machine!"  She waits for a few seconds.  "Thanks!"




"To take the edge off what?"  I look round the room and nobody is making eye contact.




"We're going to walk the dogs!"  Jenny announces and pulls the rest of the kids out.




"Take the edge off what?"  I repeat.




"They're having sex Millie."  Jennifer explains.




My face drops in shock.  "But...but this isn't their house."




"It's as good as, we both have keys to each other's place and it's not as if they've not done it before."




"You let them have sex in your house."  Harold marvels at Zee.




"Pretty hard to stop them."  Jennifer grins.  "They are a very passionate couple."




"Well.  Actually that's all I can say is well.  So what made him drag you out before he dragged him out? Still can't believe how blasé you are about it Zee..."




"Oh don't let that innocent act fool you, they're just as bad.  In fact, they have a..."




"Ben!"  Faal interrupts.  "Champagne?"




"Have a what?"  Carl demands.  "You might as well tell us. Debs will get it out of him and then tell everyone else."




"100 fucks first."  Faal shakes his head and gently brushes Zee's cheek.  "Still can't believe we agreed to that.  I'm blaming brandy."




"Who's winning?"  Carl asks.




"They are, but only by 2.  Rules are simple, you have to sneak in, on an assigned date and if you make it to the bedroom you have at it. If not then you have to leave."




"Good grief!"  Harold exclaims and then starts to laugh.  "Oh I wish I was young again."




"What's your age got to do with it?"  Debs asks.  "We're in the same age bracket and that doesn't stop us.  All you need is lotion for the motion and go for it."




"Um, yes of course, uh quite.  Now Jennifer what did Brian want to talk to you about?"




Faal gives me a hug.  "Sorry Millie, we are a very relaxed family here.  We will calm it down for..."




"Nonsense!"  Harold interjects.  "We were doing exactly the same thing as them, well not Brian and Justin them but you get what I mean.  We were just less open.  Now come on Millie, we're going home...."




"We are?"




"Yes my darling we are."




"Why?"  I ask gathering my things and kissing everyone goodbye.




"Why do you think?"  He asks and then turns to Debs.  "Lotion for the motion you say...interesting."




The last thing I hear before the door closes is Emmy Lou's familiar cackle.








"In all seriousness what did Brian haul you off for?"




"He wanted me to send the recording to the boys.  And Blake, heads up, Ted's coming home tonight."




"Are you kidding?"  He sighs when I shake my head.  "I will pay any of you a thousand dollars if you let me stay somewhere he can't get to.  I need to be able to sit down.  Just for tonight."




Debs looks at me and I nod.  "You can stay with us. No charge."  She pats his hand.




I don't think I've ever seen a man look so relieved.
















I can't believe she's done this.  We finally finished moving our stuff in about an hour ago and Thomas and Zeon are sorting out dinner.  By which I mean, they are heating up the food that Alice sent over.




"We have to do something."  I tell Zeph and Zander and when they don't say anything I look up from the sofa.




Zander is transfixed by the Nemo fish and Zeph is staring at the ceiling.




"Guys!  We have to do something."




"For?"  Thomas comes down with food.




"Oh no we're not eating in here!"  I state firmly and brace for objections.




"I agree and besides she'd kill us."  Zeph chuckles.












I had heard about the brothers and Zee obviously but to see the dynamic now that they are together, without that influence, is just heart-warming.  As I plate up the food, I smile at the bickering over who has the bigger portion.




"Oh for heaven sake would you like me to weigh it out!  Now focus!  Zeus you said you had to do something.  Who do you need to do this for?"




"ZayZay of course.  But what the hell do you get someone who has everything?"




"Why do you have to get her anything?"  I ask.




"Look what she's done."  He protests




"And look what she's done for Mel and Leda, Gus and Jenny, for all of them, she just wants to make people happy."




"But the aqua-cave, she didn't have to..."




"No she didn't but it makes her happy that you're happy so leave it at that.  You've made your peace leave it at that. Stop trying to overcompensate for the past.  Leave it where it belongs and move on.  Now come on let's eat."












Oh for God sake I despair of the man!  Luckily this has not come back to bite us in his flat ass!  I've just found out that he's been sending Talon emails and being a nasty queen.  She's not responded though, which I have to admit I'm surprised about.




I'm just about to head to the kitchen when I hear raised voices coming from the lower office.








Oh not this shit again!  Michael seems to have decided that since Talon is no longer in the picture that he can move his collectibles up and of course, like Talon and I, Bethany is not in agreement.




"I don't see what the problem is!"  Michael pouts.




"The problem is that I am saying no and you are not hearing that!  Now take these pieces of tat and tawdriness and put them where they were.  Or the next time you see them they will be on the kerb waiting for the garbage men!"




Michael looks at me for back up as does Bethany.  "As was said when we first moved in here, they have to stay out of this office.  So put them back where you had them."




"Thank you Lindsay."  Bethany smiles at me and then takes a seat.  "Well Michael, repack them."




"I can do that alone."  He snaps at her.




"I know you can but I want to make sure that every scrap of this shit is out of here before..."




Even though I know what's coming I can see that Michael doesn't.




"Before what?"




"I lock this office up so you can't come in again."




"Talon never locked the office.  Besides I do my ordering and bidding from here."  Michael whines. 




"Why would she?  She lived in the other condo.   And you don't do that in here anymore as this one is mine."




We both look at her in astonishment.  "Yours?"  I echo.




"Yes that's what I came over for.  Luther has said I can manage this one. Talon was supposed to but couldn't be bothered according to Luther.  Now we need to discuss rent.  Talon may have let you stay for free; I do not intend to afford you the same courtesy."












"Rent?"  I repeat.




"Yes.  Do you know how much a place like this rents for?  $1400 easily."




"That's not bad."  Michael smiles at me and I shake my head.




"Per week, Michael."  I square my shoulders.  "So how much are you going to charge us?"




"$2000."  She replies, before turning to Michael.  "You can pack up that shit and listen at the same time."




"This shit, as you put it, is worth a considerable amount of money."  He sneers at her




"Well then sell it to put towards the rent."  She snarks back.  "And hurry up! I don't want to be here any longer than I have to be."




"Why are you charging us more?"  He asks quickly sealing the boxes.




"I'm not."




"Yes you are, $2000 beats $1400."




I groan and almost want to cry.  "It's $2000 a month Michael, which I think is more than generous."




"It's pin money to me.  I don't need it and..."




"Yeah fucking..."  Michael begins




"Shut up Michael!"  I hiss at him.




"Well stopped Lindsay or the rent would've gone up."  She looks coldly at Michael.  "Are you finally done?"




He nods and moves the boxes back downstairs.




"Meet us in the lounge Michael."  She calls down to him.












"So you and Grady, the real thing or just an opportunity?"  I can see I've surprised her with the question.




"The real thing of course!"




"Okay."  I walk to the door and close it.  "So what's with the idiot?  I don't understand the pairing of you two."




Again she's surprised by my question.  "He's been my friend for years.  And..."




"Doesn't mean he should remain so.  Lindsay you're smart.   Learn to let go of hindrances and trust me he's a hindrance."




He walks in without knocking and I glare at him.  "Do you always do that Michael?"








"See a closed door and just walk through without knocking?"




"I live here."




Narrowing my eyes at him, I smirk.  "For now."  I pick up my purse and give Lindsay a quick look.  "Learn some manners Michael.  Lindsay I'll call you.  I have a feeling you and I have a lot to discuss."












Oh I enjoyed that.  I've been seeing Luther for the 3 years. Where the man gets his stamina from is anyone's guess but now that I'm finally installed I have no intention of moving out.  That's the mistake that Xanthe and Talon made; they wanted him exclusively.  I'm not about that.




He may bring others behind me but as long as I am Queen B that's all I care about.
















Phil and I stare at the determined face of J and Hank has his head in his hands.




"What's wrong with it?"




"I'm pretty sure that we are breaking some kind of law if we post this?"




"Bollocks.  We're telling the truth, these things..."  She pauses and cocks her head.  "I thought I heard something."




Phil holds up his hand and checks the hallway.  "All clear.  But Gus is right, we could get in some serious problems if this is traced back to us.  Your mom could lose her licence for example and..."




"Why would I lose my licence?"  Mom's voice echoes round the room.




"Mom?"  I ask.




"You four in the kitchen now."




We trudge downstairs and come face to face with mom and momma both looking pissed.




Momma speaks first.  "Jenny you can't seriously be thinking of doing this?  You can't post this on YouTube."




"But we've got to do something!  Why should you guys fight it alone?!"  Jenny argues.




"We're not alone sweetheart.  This is a grown up..."




"Rubbish this is a family fight!"  Jenny exclaims.  "And we're part of the family."




Momma looks at mom who shrugs and starts to smile.  "She's going to do it anyway. At least let's make sure it doesn't come back to us.  Leda call Zeus and once it's up give the three of them a heads up."




Momma puts Uncle Zeus on speaker and tells him what's happening.  "Okay, you guys need to not do a fucking thing until we get there.  Zeon!  Not a fucking thing you understand?"




"Okay."  Jenny is grinning and almost bouncing off the walls.




Twenty minutes later they are here.  They look at the video she's made and start to work on it.  An hour later after talking about back ends, which has me and Phil grinning, they call dad and Aunt Zee.
















I can't believe what we are looking at.   "And you want to post this on YouTube?"




"What were you thinking?"  Zee snaps at Zeus.




"I cleared the back end.  He doesn't know anybody..."




"Wait my lig.  Think about it.  This gives Solly and Menno an out.  By exposing his homophobia and racism, they can back out of the deal leaving it just him and Luther."




Zee is pacing and running her fingers through her hair.




"Okay what we need to do is send it to Menno and only him - no posting, do you hear?  Then get Menno to call him to arrange a meeting, show him the video and pull out.  And someone needs to tell Jen what her grandchildren and their boyfriends have been up to!"
















"Okay, don't worry Phil we've got everything in hand.  Now go be the brilliant lawyer you are."




"Millie!"  I call out.  "We're going to New York tomorrow!"




She pokes her head round the door and frowns.  "Okay, shall I ask Melody if we can stay with her?"




"No.  Book us into the Chambers. It's very good according to Carl, and there's a spa called Caudalíe, which does a Rituals something or other. Book that too."




"Alright, but why are we going to New York?"




"To kick some Lindsay and Michael ass!"












I hope it's not Bethany at the door. Since her last visit, she's been coming over more often than not and she and Lindsay keep giving me that look.  But at least she's taken to knocking instead of just letting herself in.




"Can I help you?"




The old guy pushes past me.  "Yes, you can get your ass in the lounge and call your dumbass blonde friend!"




"Hey you can't just push in here and..."




"Mr and Mrs Foster Brown!  What are you doing here?  How did you..."  Lindsay babbles.




The old lady glares at her.  "Giving you one last chance to avoid a catastrophe.  Drop the misrepresentation.  You lost fair and square.  You now live in New York..."




"Why should we and what's he to you anyway?"  I fume.




"He's my nephew and his daughter is my goddaughter.  I'm surprised that you didn't know that Lindsay and don't try and say that you did."  She looks round the foyer.  "You've landed on your feet here.  Now let's go to the lounge and discuss this further.  And no that wasn't a question."












How the fuck didn't I know that she is his aunt?!  I look across at the pair of them and try to think of how play this.




"Well?"  Millie's imperious tone cuts through my thinking.




"We just want what's due..."  I begin.




"And what would that be?"  She glares at me.




"A fair hearing."  I reply harnessing my inner WASP.




"Which you had and managed to royally fuck up."  Harold tells me.  "And where do you think this hearing is going to be held?"




"Pittsburgh of course."  I answer nervously.




"No, the New York Supreme Court.  That's where all misrepresentations cases are heard.  And do you know how much this is going to cost you?"




"We have enough money."  Michael sneers...and again I remember Bethany's words.




Harold scoffs.  "$200,000, you have $200,000?  I don't believe you.  If you did you wouldn't be hawking your laughable resume about." He gets up and helps himself to a drink.  "Heard back from any of the galleries yet Lindsay?" My heart starts to race and when he turns to me his smile is cold.  "Or when you call them do they say ‘we're still reviewing candidates...'"




"And to think, that's only from this area.  Can you imagine how far and wide our dear friend Melody's reach is.  Oh yes I believe she can get to Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, California...need I go on." Millie interjects.




"Fine."  I sigh in resignation.




"Fine what?"  He barks at me.




"We'll drop the misrepresentation suit."




"Lindsay!"  Michael gasps.




"Michael, we have to. We have no choice!"  I tell him firmly.




"Good, now read and sign this, both of you."  Millie orders.




I take the document from her.  "What does it say?"  Michael asks glaring at us, arms folded.




Sighing.  "It says; I, Lindsay Peterson and I, Michael Novotny, hereby retract the misrepresentation lawsuit against Philip Mitcham, his company or associates otherwise connected to the cases against Brian Kinney, now Brian Taylor-Kinney, Justin Taylor, now Justin Taylor-Kinney, and Melanie Marcus.  We confirm that we will not in the future pursue a civil or private suit against Philip Mitcham, his company or associates and accept the rulings made in the Alleghany Courts in Pittsburgh.  Furthermore, if we fail to comply with this agreement, we understand that we will be served with papers for breach of promise."




"Breach of promise, don't you just love irony."  Harold chortles.  "Now sign it and send it to your lawyers.  And before you ask, no we won't wait for you to do it."




Forty tense minutes later, the misrepresentation suit is dropped and they are leaving. Before they close the door, Millie pauses.




Casting a look at Michael then me, she glowers.  "You know what Lindsay... you are remarkably stupid for a smart woman."




As they close the door I look at a furious Michael.  "Why did you make us give in?!"




"You're not working, I'm not working, we have to pay rent; we couldn't afford to win let alone lose!"




"That doesn't even make sense!"  He snaps at me.




"We don't have that kind of money to go to the hearing with and if we lost we'd have to pay their costs too no doubt."  And then I smile.  "But on the bright side we have the money from Talon and with her long gone we can live off that for a while."




"I suppose so."  He starts to smile back.  "I'm going to watch a movie!"




Scowling at his retreating back, I think to myself; of course you are Michael, this is all you do.
















Millie is currently talking to Phil and arranging dinner for next weekend.  Although he knew nothing would come of it he's relieved it's no longer hanging over him.




She kisses my cheek and then wipes the lipstick off. 




I squeeze her hand and top up her glass.  "I still can't believe that worked!  Her face when I told her how much it would cost and where it would be held, was a picture!" 




We clink glasses.  "And then you, my queen listing all the places that she would never be able to get a job was just genius."




"Oh that's still going to happen.  And I hear that someone else has a special idea for her concerning the art world.  Now onto more pleasant subjects; have you read what happens in this Rituals thing?"
















"But Mr Schoepen surely you can see that this is a ruse to discredit me?"




"As I said Mr Taylor, Mr Stark, our business is concluded. We will find another way into the electronics world."




"But..."  Luther stammers.




"Good day to you both."




He closes the door sharply behind him leaving us in stunned silence.




"You fucking idiot!  You cost us that deal!"  Luther is incandescent.




"How did they find out about it though? You said..."  I quail in the face of his wrath.  "We can get another investor!"  I gabble trying to think of who.




"Get me a list of five names by Monday."




"Fine.  But Luther about your brother..."




"You get me investors, we get them signed on the dotted line and I'll lend you the money to pay off my brother and the gallery but only if the investors are signed!  Do you understand?"




"Yes I understand."
















I'm still waiting to hear from that idiot Craig.  I still don't know where Schoepen got the video of him in San Francisco or in Pittsburgh as I had been assured that this has been squashed but he's in the past now.




I could easily just take Taylor Electronics myself but why spend my money needlessly.




I look up at the tapping on my door and smile at Bethany.  Now here is a woman who accepts me the way I am, as long as her needs are met then she's fine with whatever I do.  Though she's already laid down one rule; don't bring your trash home.  Fine with me.  It's a load off my mind that I don't have to worry about sneaking about.




Bethany heads upstairs as she has already got Talon's dressing room redecorated.




And speaking of sneaking, Talon has dropped off the face of the planet.  I've tried everyone I can think of, not even Zeph knows where she is.  It's not that I want her back but I want the last word; it's my due.




Also, I'm extremely pissed off about Ralph and the pork!  But the new butler is a lot better.




"Good afternoon Mr Stark."




"Yes what is it?"




"There's an Evelyn Copthorne to see you."




"Send her in."




Evelyn Copthorne, she and Bethany are cut from the same cloth, both know what they want and go into a situation with eyes open.




"Evelyn, how lovely to see you, how's Elias?"




"Incredibly grumpy because his last girlfriend moved on to pastures new.  So until he gets a new one, he's back to pestering me."  She grins at me before shutting the door.




"What brings you here?"




"Share certificates from Bergenfield Berdenstrade, Elias wanted you to have them and I have business on Fifth Avenue, so thought I would kill two birds with one stone."




I take them from her and smile.  "So is that all?"




"How's Bethany?  I understand she's moved in. What happened to Talon?"




"She fine and we split up. She got too clingy.  Bethany's upstairs in her dressing room, if you have time to go and see her."




"I think I will pop up.  Thanks."  She sashays to the door and winks at me.  "See you Saturday."




"Looking forward to it."












I look up at the knock on my door.  "Enter."




"Bethany darling, how are you?  Looking forward to dinner next weekend?"




"Evelyn!  What a surprise.  I'm fine thanks.  Finally got rid of all evidence of his former daughter-in-law.  Between you and me, I still found that relationship a bit incestuous.  As for next weekend I'm looking forward to it.  The 40th Anniversary Dinner of Elias and Evelyn Copthorne..."




"You won't reconsider?"  She looks pleadingly at me.




"No, I've got the man I wanted."




"It was worth a try.  It's not too bad I suppose but you could've given me a warning you know.  So I could've been prepared for the sulking and stomping about!"




I giggle and give her a hug.  "Sorry darling and that was another reason. Yes Luther can sulk but with Elias that is a whole other level.  There'll be someone else soon enough."




She nods knowingly.  "Oh are you busy right now?  I'm going to Fifth for my dress and could use the company."




"An excellent idea, but we need to stop off at the other condo first.  You have got to meet this manchild that Lindsay has saddled herself with."




"Lindsay?  Manchild?"  She queries.




"I'll explain on the way."
















Bethany has just called to say she's coming over and bringing a very influential friend.  I look round the room and shudder at how untidy it is.




"Michael!  Michael where are you?"  I call out heading into the hallway.




"Down here, in the basement."  He calls back and I want to scream.








I thought the lounge was untidy but the basement looks like an explosion in a comic book store.




"What on earth are you doing?"




"Cataloguing of course. What did you want?"




I look round the basement and just know that Bethany will be upset when she sees it.




"Is there a way you can catalogue a little tidier?"




He looks at me as if I have two heads and goes back to doing what he's doing.




"Uh Michael have you been adding to your collection? I'm pretty sure there wasn't this much."




"I may have taken delivery of some exclusive items.  Why? What's it to do with you?  I seem to recall you saying to me once that how you spend your money is your business. Well back at you."




"Oh stop being so childish!  I'm not saying you can't spend your money. What I am saying is that you can't spend the money that Talon gave us on comic books! That is for essentials until we both get jobs."




"These comics and collect..."




"Will increase in value over time.  But we don't have time Michael."  I try to explain once again but he carries on pouting.  "Now Bethany is coming. You need to tidy up the lounge."




"Why do I need to tidy it?"  His pouting is now at grating level.




"Because it is your comics, DVDs and toys that..."




"How many times Lindsay do I have to tell you Lindsay? These are not toys, they are collectibles!"




I shake my head and head back upstairs before turning to him.  "Too many times to count.  Just get them cleared away. She'll be here soon and if she wants to throw them away, I'll let her."








I wait a few minutes to see if she's kidding but she doesn't come back down so I quickly go upstairs and collect them from the lounge.




She's sitting there like the Queen of fucking Sheba, flicking through a magazine. How that is different from a comic, I don't know.




"Lindsay you're changing and..."




"You're not.  We're in a different league here Michael.  Why can't you see that?  There is a time and place for all of that, but above the basement is not it.  Tell you what though.  I have an idea about that."




Just as she's about to tell me what that is, the doorbell rings before the other Queen of Sheba strides in.




"Are you ready Lindsay?"




"Can you have a seat for a minute?  I have a proposal for you."




She frowns at her but nods.  "Let me just let my friend know."




As she walks back out of the lounge she pauses and circles a mark on the chest of drawers.




"That's what coasters are for.  It had better come out."  She clips out.  "Won't be long."




True to her word she's back.  "Is Michael needed for this?"




"Yes it's about his collectibles etc.  I know how you feel about them and..."




"They cause unnecessary clutter and clash horribly with the décor as do other things."




Lindsay gives me a warning look.  "But they're important to Michael so perhaps we can reach a compromise?  How about he has the basement for watching his DVDs and reading his comics?"








"I'm listening."




"If you were to, say put in an entertainment system down there and a couch, make it comfortable for him, then the rest of the house could be kept in the manner to which it should."




"Okay.  But he keeps them in the boxes, I'll sort everything else out.  Great idea Lindsay!"




She turns to me.  "Wood oil and elbow grease will get that ring out, Michael."




"Right Lindsay shall we go? Fifth waits for no girl!"




Lindsay nods, picks up her purse and starts to head out without looking back.




"Now my friend is called Evelyn, she's a hoot.  Oh what are you doing next Saturday? I'm sure once she meets you, she'll want you and Grady to come to their dinner."




As the door shuts behind them I start to think that maybe Lindsay's ashamed of me.
















Taylor has asked for more time to get investors, which is fine with me, I'm in no hurry.  I've tried calling Lucian but after the MoMA event, he's still not talking to me.  I wire $15mil to Taylor explaining he should offer that to my brother and see what happens.  But as for the gallery, he's on his own with that.
















"What's the matter?"  Zeus looks up at my whimper.




"He's given Taylor $15mil to offer to Uncle Luc. It came... it must have come from one of those accounts."




I feel his arms round me.  "He won't accept it but he has to pay for what he fucking did!"  I spit.




"Of course he won't and of course he does.  I had a feeling he would do that and have an idea."




Twenty minutes later I'm feeling much better and Uncle Luc and Aunt Dee are in full agreement and confirm acceptance of the settlement from Taylor.




I need carbs and we need to call Justin and Brian and let them know what we've suggested.












I can't believe what is in front of me.  Or what they've just told me.  Brian looks at his plate with a mixture of horror and awe.




"Okay, so what's this again?"  I ask her.




"A rarebit burger.  It's got Welsh rarebit sauce, which is made with double cream, pale ale, parmesan and cheddar cheese.  Then there's bacon, lettuce, gherkins, red onion and the burger itself is grass fed chuck steak and of course fries.  Shoestring of course."




"Of course."  Brian remarks dryly.  "Well who's going to try and pick it up first?"




Faal takes a breath and looks round his plate, trying to find a good place to grip on, finally deciding on a spot he takes the burger between two hands and takes a bite.




"Mmm..."  His face is covered in sauce but he looks very happy indeed.  "Seriously good, though I may need a run afterwards!"




I decide to take the same approach and am in burger heaven.  "You have got to tell Alice how to make this!"




"Oh fuck me this is good!"  Brian sighs.  "Not a hope Sunshine, seriously just no."




Twenty minutes later we are stuffed and all that is left are crumpled up napkins.




"Oh God.  I don't need to eat until tomorrow night!   I can't believe I ate that.  Look!  I have a food baby, my first one!" Brian laughed.




"Seriously you've never eaten so much that you've got a food baby?"  Zeus looks appalled.




"I'm a fag Zeus of course not.  Well unless you're Justin and nothing sticks to you except where it matters."  He waggles his eyebrows.




"Not getting near that this evening. I can't believe how stuffed I am."  I groan and have some more wine.  "So explain this idea of yours again."




"Uncle Luc is going to accept the restitution offer from Taylor on the following conditions; that he presents the check in front of the media, offers full and complete apology for his actions...and the money goes to the local AIDS hospices both in San Francisco and in Pittsburgh." Zee tells us.




"Oh that is going to burn his ass!"  Faal chuckles.




"Not as much as the burn would be if he was some bear's bitch in jail.  Shame that!"  Brian snorts.  "Sunshine is this something you can live with?"




I nod and smile.  "Yes it's something I can live with."




"By the way what happened to his cohorts?"  Zee asks.




"They don't have low friends in high places, so they are still in jail.  But, someone is talking to them."  Zeus smiles.  "You do realise that everything Copthorne had a hand in will be subject to review, so he could be a bear's bitch after all."












"Wait if this goes the way we hope the charities will lose out on the money because the assets will be frozen. We can't allow that."




"No, Uncle Luc will honour it, as will mom."  Zeus smiles.




"And we..."




"No you won't. This is ours, Justin, ours.  Leave this be."  Zeus rebuffs him.




"Normally, I would object strongly to you speaking to my husband like that, but he's right.


This one is for them and them alone."




"Thanks Brian."




"But this is the only time you get to do that."  Brian's eyes flash and Zeus raises his hand.




















I'm still pissed at Lindsay and the way she's been treating me lately.  She wasn't this bad with Talon.  I don't see the difference between her and Bethany. They were both screwing the same married man.  Okay so Bethany is from a better to do family, apparently, but that doesn't give Lindsay leave to try and hide me away like a bad little secret.




That being said I love what she's done with the place and despite what she's said, I'm putting some of my stuff out.  I can always put it back at night.




"Hello is anyone down here?"




I freeze at the sound of Grady's voice.  "What do you want?  Shouldn't you be upstairs fucking your girlfriend?"




"Yeah, was just going to get to that."  He smirks at me.  "Nice place you've got here."




I settle down to watch my movie and try to ignore him.




"Grady are you down there?"  Lindsay calls.








The speed with which she comes downstairs makes me smile. She's obviously threatened by me.




"So Grady how have you been?"  I decide a change of tactic is called for.




"Fine.  Happier than I've ever been."  He pulls Lindsay in for a kiss.  "Won't be long babe. I just wanted to see what Bethany and you did with the place.  Nicely done.  Yeah this is a much better place for him."




As Lindsay goes upstairs, I swallow down my hurt. I'm surprised when he doesn't immediately follow her up.




"Michael.  Let me give you a piece of hard knock life advice.  Us fucking doesn't a relationship make. I had an itch, you scratched it...badly...I might add.  I had to think of your friend Brian to get off.  And if a guy doesn't give you their address or number after they've had you, it's generally because they..."




"You came back!"




He shrugs.  "Why pay for it when you can get it for free?"




"I hope Lindsay realises that applies to her, too."  I snap.




"No it doesn't."  He stands over me glowering.  "And don't ever let me hear you've said that to her.  She's carried you all this time!  Without her and her parents' money you would be nowhere.  It's about time you started pulling your weight Michael.  She's getting tired of you doing fuck all but sitting here trying to relive your childhood through comics. Have you applied for any jobs, have you even looked?"




I open my mouth to protest.




"No, no he hasn't."  Lindsay's voice shocks me as I thought she'd gone.  "Thank you Gray for saying that.  I tried to tell him but..."




"It would lead to a row?"  He asks and she nods.




"I contributed to this!"  I shout at him.




"Only by fucking up!"  Lindsay shouts back, surprising us both.




"Who cost us $6000 in relocation fees?  Who got us kicked out of Canada by applying for a tourist visa and not telling me?  Who got jailed for mouthing off at the judges and almost hitting Zee?  Whose parents have abandoned her because of your insistence on..."




"Oh don't blame Canada on me!  You made a mistake too..."




"There is a difference between thinking your visa is still in date and applying for a tourist visa and fucking working when that is the first thing they say you should not do!"




Grady just looks at me, much like David did when he was being superior.




"And as for ‘my insistence...!"  I yell at her.  "You wanted to challenge the rulings too!"




"Yes that's true but you didn't contribute anything except with inane comments.  For example, we didn't win, who the fuck says that?!"




"Now look here Lindsay, I've had enough of your bitchiness!  You're just as much to blame in our losing the cases as I am.  And as for your relationship with Grady, we both know it's because you couldn't get Faal so you've settled for second best!  And you're jealous because I had him first..."




"No, you are the sloppy second Michael!  And I mean sloppy. Blow job rule 101 cover your teeth."  Grady interrupts me.




My stomach rolls and I gape at them breathing hard.




"Stop!  Just stop before we say anything else we regret."  Lindsay sighs.  "Look Michael, you and I have to have a serious and calm discussion about what we are doing here, but right now I'm getting a headache and I just want to go to bed."




As they head up the stairs, I snark at her.  "Remember to cover your teeth."




"I don't need to be told to do that Michael. It's a shame as a gay man that you did."




As the door closes I shout at them.  "You're a bastard and Lindsay... you have one and you are one!"




An hour later I wake up and feel calmer and am able to think a lot clearer and she's right to a degree.  I get up and head upstairs to go to bed when I notice the note, taped to the door; Michael, what you called me was despicable and hurtful.  We need to rethink our living arrangements.  We will talk tomorrow.




















No fucking way am I doing that; I would rather go to jail!  I email Lucian back and tell him I refuse to accept those terms.  I will pay the money to him but not those places.  The phone ringing jolts me out of my fury, I stab at the speaker button.




"Craig Taylor."




"Mr Taylor, Lucian Stark.  Those are the terms take them or leave them."




"Then I'll leave them."




"See you in court."




"Fine!"  I shout into dead air before dialling Luther.




"Luther Stark."




"Luther it's Craig.  Your brother is refusing to accept the money unless I agree to present the checks to faggot charities."








"So?  What do you mean so?"




"The whole fucking point of me loaning you the money is so that this problem with my brother goes away, not that you make it fucking worse.  Do I agree with gays?  No!  Do I have to do things I don't like to get what I want?  Yes.  So suck it the fuck up and do as he said!"




"But Luther..."




But he's hung up.
















I come in quietly and sit down.  "Look we both said things we didn't mean and..."




"Michael, just stop," Lindsay interrupts. "This situation has become untenable and..."




"That means she can't take it anymore."  Grady tells me.




"I know what unendable means!"  I snap.




"Yeah you know what it means but can't pronounce it.  It's un-ten-able."  He scoffs.




"So there will be a change in the living arrangements..."




"I'm not moving out Lindsay; I have nowhere to go!"




"I know that Michael, which is why Grady is moving in as of today."




"What?"  I gasps.  "Lindsay you can't be serious?"




"I am.  We both are.  How much of the money have we got left?"




I cringe as I think about my pending bids.  "I'm not sure."




"Whatever is left, I want it transferred to a separate account, which we will both have access to but one that requires both signatures to confirm a withdrawal."




"Oh come on, don't you trust me?!"




"I saw that look Michael. You've been bidding and I know your generous nature, remember?  If you can get away without paying, you do so.  As I have now learnt to my cost."




"But Lindsay!"




"No Michael, no more! You want to stay here, this is what is going to happen, and if you don't like it you can leave.  I'm sorry it has come to this but you left me with no other option."




Grady and I watch her leave in silence.




He shakes his head at me.  "Nice going.  Most moochers are smart but not you.  Calling your cash cow a cunt was stupid."  He walks out chuckling.




Double fuck!




















I feel like I've been kicked in the gut!  I look at Bethany as she adjusts my tie with a pat to my cheek.




"Now come on Luther, stop pouting.  You fucked who you wanted and I fucked who I wanted. It's not as if we were exclusive."




"Yes but I told you who I was fucking!"  I snap.




"You chose to tell me, but I didn't chose to tell you."  She checks her lipstick one more time.  "Now come on we'll be late.  We're picking up Lindsay and Grady on the way."




"Why?"  I demand.




"Why I didn't tell you?  Why him?  Or why are we sharing a limo?"  She asks




"The first two..."  I demand sitting on the bed.  "I'm not moving until you tell me."




She puts her hands on her hips and rolls her eyes at me.  I hate it when people roll their eyes at me!




"Fine.  It was none of your business and as for why him, not sure.  But he wasn't bad for an old guy.  Satisfied?"




I choke back my gasp of indignation. He's 4 years younger than me!




"Does Evelyn know?"  I growl.




"Of course she does.  Now can we just go and have a good evening?"




"How is she happy with this?!"




"Why are you not?"  Bethany's tone is sharp.  "You've been fucking three people at the same time, one of whom was your daughter-in-law and that was on and off for 20 years. You don't have the right to jealousy."




"I am not jealous!"  I snap and stand quickly.  "Let's go, we'll continue this conversation later."




"Luther you are being ridiculous..."




"I said later.  Now let's go, you wouldn't want to be late for your fuck buddy's anniversary dinner."




I stride passed her and feel her heated gaze burning into my back.  As I sit in the car and brood, I think about her with Copthorne. He and I will have to have words.












Here I am surrounded by the great and the good of New York high society and the judicial system and think to myself; girl you've done well; there's something to be said for turning a blind eye.




40 years, we've been together for 40 years.  He's a good man, apart from his wandering eye, but that just means he leaves me the hell alone.  Don't get me wrong, part of me does love him and definitely loves the lifestyle but it's not the same as the love I had for...




"Evelyn, sweetheart you're looking fierce!"  Bethany strides over to me smiling but clearly not happy and I watch Luther wince.




"Bethany!"  I trill and lean in to kiss her cheek.  "What's happened?"  I whisper.




"Tell you later."  She whispers back.




"Ah Lindsay and Grady, how lovely to see you.  Lindsay, I'm so glad you chose the blue instead of the ivory.  Help yourselves to champagne. Ah, more guests to greet."








Now who's that pretty piece that has just walked in with Bethany and Luther?  Time to introduce myself.




"Luther!  My good friend and Bethany, you are looking radiant.  And who is this triumph of beauty?"




Luther shakes his head.  "Not that she's not, but triumph of beauty? Really Elias, where did you get that one from?  And has it ever worked for you?"




I'm taken aback by his tone but choose not to react to it outwardly.  "Elias Copthorne and you are?"




"Lindsay, Lindsay Peterson and this is..."








Now I know what the expression on Carrie's face was for!  Holy fuck Lindsay Peterson is here. Please oh pretty please God don't let her be with Novotny!




"We are leaving!"  Carrie hisses and I nod.  "Childcare emergency?"  Again I nod.




As we make our way to the door we both let out the breath we've been holding in relief, but I pause when I hear the end of a conversation.




"...yeah and we need to talk about the little business of Taylor Electronics. It's in Pittsburgh, run by Craig Taylor.  Going to get it off him next week, not sure what to do with it.  Can't wait to get back on that board. Little ZeeWee's face is going to be a picture!"




I quickly find my way over to Carrie who is about to make our excuses to Evelyn.  "Darling, it's fine. Everything is fine.  False alarm!"  I tell her.  "We'll be staying, can you excuse us?"




Evelyn nods and continues to greet her guests.




"What are you doing?"  She whispers at me.




"Hunting, now let's go and say hello to Lindsay."




"What?  Why?"




"I'll explain later.  Gird your inner WASP and come on."




We quickly find her in the arms of a man- okay that's new- and make our way over.




"Lindsay?  Lindsay Peterson?"  Carrie is in full WASP effect and I have to bite my lip at Lindsay's expression. "I thought it was you.  How are you?  You are looking well.  Haven't seen you around in ages. Last time I heard you were in Canada."




"Carrie, Joshua how lovely to see you again.  Yes we moved from Canada to New York. The art scene is better here obviously."  She replies.  "Let me introduce my companions for this evening.  This is Grady Holster and Bethany Daniels.  Bethany, Grady this is Carrie and Joshua Smelling..."




"And lovely to meet you both."  Lindsay frowns when she doesn't correct her.  "Grady you know you look familiar. I'm trying to place you.  Don't worry it will come to me.  Oh I know who you remind me, Gifford Rice, the actor."




"Do I?  Nice.  Would you like some champagne?"  Grady asks snagging a glass and I have to look away when he hands it to Carrie and not Lindsay.




"So what brings you here?"  I ask.




"I know Evelyn via Bethany.  And I know Grady via MoMA..."




"You are a couple?"  I ask.




"It's very new but yes we are."  Lindsay simpers almost gluing herself to Grady's side.




"Ladies and gentlemen, ladies and gentlemen dinner is served."  Elias calls out.




"Why didn't you correct her when she mispronounced our surname?"  I whisper.




"Because that would acknowledge the slight.  And one thing that pisses a WASP off is when an attack is ignored."




"So many rules."  I mutter.




She kisses me tenderly.  "And I know them all."








This is heaven.  The only fly in the ointment has been the appearance of Joshua and Carrie, and her overt flirting with Grady. How does Joshua put up with that?   I would never conduct myself in such a way.




There have been some heartfelt speeches and the evening is winding down.




"Excuse me Grady, I'm just going to powder my nose."




"Uh huh.  So Carrie this massage thing you do, can you do something about my back? I slipped a disc and it's not been right since..."




I sigh and stand up and then I hear a rip and gasp.  Looking down I see that I had caught my dress under Grady's chair and now there is a sizeable hole in the dress.




"Oh my; what's happened?"  Bethany is immediately at my side.  "Grady for goodness sake, get out of your chair!"




"What?  Why?"  He grouses and then looks down.  "Oh sorry Lindsay."




He lifts his chair and I pull my dress free, my face flushed with embarrassment.  Evelyn comes over and grimaces.




"Come with me.  Darling there's been a dress emergency, won't be long."  She calls out to him and he acknowledges her with a raise of his glass.




"No honestly I'll just get it fixed when..."




"No you don't get this kind of dress fixed.  If we're lucky we can get it restyled but fixed no.  Now come along, let's see what we can do for now."




As I'm led away by Evelyn and Bethany, I notice that Grady immediately went back to talking to Carrie but then smirk when Joshua swats his arm from the back of her chair.












Oh that's bad.   "Beth can you hold the edges together and we'll see what we're dealing with? Lindsay you just need to keep still."




Bethany grimaces along with Lindsay, this is not bad; this is a definite restyle.  After looking through some drawers I scowl.  




"Be right back!"  I call out and make my way quickly back to the dining room.




"Uh Elias, a word please."  I tug him to a quiet corner.  "Where's the glue that we used for your tie?"




"Ah it's in my office, think it's on the filing cabinet.  Sorry, I had to borrow it again and didn't..."




"Put it back as usual.  I despair of you."  I give him a small smile and head to his office.




I smile at my guests as I head to his office and look round




Despite what he says it's not on the filing cabinet. In fact, it's not in his office at all.  I sigh and am about to go back and get him to find it when I spot it on the floor in his small bathroom.




"Men!"  I mutter crossly.




I close the door a bit to check my make-up and am about to leave when I hear his office door shut.




"I don't appreciate being dragged out of my party Luther. What's this pout about?"




"You fucked Bethany!"




"Yes so what about it?"




"Bethany is mine!  You don't fuck where I eat Elias!"




"Fucked as in past tense.  Luther she ended it with me to be with you.  Nobody is bent out of shape about this but you.  She wouldn't come back despite Evelyn asking're who she wants."




"Still you knew she was mine!"




"Luther do you hear yourself?  She's not property, she's a person!  One with free will and like Evelyn knows the score."




"Oh really?  Does Evelyn know everything about her perfect life?"




"Now be careful Luther..."




"I take it she doesn't then?"  Luther's voice takes on a smug tone.  "How do you think she'll feel when she finds out that you've been using her late lover's name to bankroll her lifestyle...?"








"Does Evelyn know you know?"




"Of course not.  I just couldn't believe it when you told me, my stepdad of all people. He was a nothing; a nobody! I have power and influence but she stepped out on me!"




"Now you know how I feel about you and Bethany..."




"Not the same thing.  If I had been fucking Talon, I could understand the angst but Bethany come on."




"Like I said how do you think she will feel?"




"The same way your family will feel about you using your dead son's name to bankroll your lifestyle."




"How did..."  Luther stammers.




"Now we both know where we stand..."  Elias's tone is glacial.  "Let's get back to the party and neither of us shall speak of this again."




I wait for a few minutes, my hands trembling before plastering a smile on my face and heading back to the dressing room to fix Lindsay's dress.












I had hoped that Lindsay was joking about Grady but no he's actually moving in.




"Lindsay can we please talk about this?"




"No Michael.  Grady is moving in and that's final.  Now excuse me."




I head to the kitchen to find Grady in there, drinking my juice...from the carton.




"Hey!  I know where those lips have been so either use a glass or buy your own juice!"




"Michael!"  Bethany's voice surprises me and I cringe, hoping it's just her but Lindsay is behind her looking hurt and embarrassed.




"Uh was a..."  I stammer.




She shakes of her head.  "No, once again you meant it.  You need to cancel whatever bids you have and move the money to the account.  Now."




"Come here baby."  Grady coos at her and I almost bring up my breakfast.




"Let me help you with that Michael."  Bethany holds the door open and I walk out. I'm about to head to the basement, when she stops me.




"We'll do it here."  She opens the lower office door and waves me inside.




"Logon to your eBay account first and cancel the bids."  She orders me.




"Look you are nothing but..."




"Your landlord remember?"  She cuts me off.




I logon to my account and start to cancel the bids as she taps on her phone.  "You missed one."  She points out and I grind my teeth in frustration.




Twenty minutes later the money is transferred.




"I don't understand you."




"I like the simple things in life and..."




"You're not prepared to better yourself.  You just want to coast through life like everyone owes you everything and you sit back and take."




"And what about you? You're no better than me."  I counter.




"Oh so you have a business marketing degree hidden somewhere up your ass?"




I blink at her.




"No you don't.  But I do.  I could go out and get a job just like that and earn more in a month than you could in six!  This is why you will always be meek and obedient despite your vicious tongue.  You have to back down in the face of an argument that threatens your standard of living; I do not.  Sure I might have to slum it in my 3 bed apartment in Williamsburg but at least I won't be in a cardboard box should my ass be kicked to the curb."




I stomp downstairs to the basement and switch on the TV before I hear Lindsay calling my name.




"Down here, in my little cave away from being..."




"$9000 Michael?  You had $9000 worth of bids pending?"  She demands.




"How did...Bethany!  That..."




"Michael how could you do this?"  She asks quietly.




"Lindz come on.  I've always done this.  You know me, better, I thought than..."




"Were you going to tell me?"  She glares at me.  "The money is for us to live on Michael...before you say anything else, know this.  We, and I mean we, need to get jobs.  I can't believe you were going to do..."




"And what about you? What are you going to be doing?"  I bitch at her.  "I mean apart from fucking Grady like some cheap whore who is..."




The slap across my face stuns me more for the action itself than the pain it caused.




"Get a job Michael and then find somewhere else to live."




She walks out without a backward glance.




I rub my cheek and then brace myself for her caveman boyfriend but he doesn't come down.




Four hours later, after watching The Incredibles and Wolverine again, I head upstairs.




The house is quiet.  I head upstairs to the bathroom to check my face. There's no bruising.




When I come downstairs Lindsay is just coming back in.








"We've discussed it and you have until Thanksgiving Michael and then we want you out."




"We?!"  I take a steadying breath, this is not blowing over like I thought it would.  "Okay I deserved the slap for what I said but come on..."




"Until Thanksgiving."  She repeats.




"I can have you arrested for assault!"  I spit at her.




"Go ahead Michael."  She looks at me like never before.  "We'd have to go to the station together.  And by the time we come back the locks will be changed!"




"Bethany and Grady have changed you and not for the better!"  I snarl.




"You called me a cunt and a whore and was lying to me...quiet!"  She spits.  "It was you who changed me.  I never realised until I was on the receiving end how much of a leech you are!




"Oh please don't play the wounded princess with me.  We both did what we needed to do to get what we wanted!  And it's not as if I was the only one that lied!"




"What did I lie about, to you, what did I lie about?"  She balls her fists in fury.




"I can't think of one right now.  But it's not a lie, it's..."




"By not telling me you lied.  And another thing, are you paying the full repayment amount back to Brian and Justin or the reduced amount but told me you were paying the full...oh my God you are aren't you?! You've been paying the reduced amount!"




"Lindz you said we had to save money..."




"Thanksgiving Michael.  And not a day later."
















Justin, Josh and I are in the conference room with Zander on the VC and Zee and Faal on the phone in silence having heard what Josh overheard at the party.




"Zan, I have...stop idea!"  Zee breaks the silence.  "Ask for a goodwill gesture in advance of the deal."




We hear a slap and then a guffaw from Faal.  I shake my head.




"Guys focus!"  Justin berates them whilst grinning.




"Like what Zee?"  Zan asks and we all just stare at him and there's silence on the phone.




"You did not just ask me that?"




"Oh the store!  Got it and...oh sweet...then I give it to Justin."




"Thanks for catching up Tortoise..."  Zee teases.




"So are we done here?  Some of us have a multi-million dollar business to run."




"Yeah we're done."  Zan hangs up and Joshua heads out.




My phone beeps.  "Fuck!"




"What's wrong now?"  Justin asks as he wraps his arms round me.




"They're only one fuck behind.  Check your phone."












I can't believe that he has done this and all through jealousy because that what it is!  Oh it was okay for him to fuck everything that moves but for me to have one, just one affair, oh no that's not okay.  Well he's not using him anymore.




He seems to forget that I was brought up with money and more importantly know to be careful with it.  So walking away from this is no hardship for me, but he is going to pay and pay you shall Elias, pay you shall.




You both will.




















Well I can safely say that I have completely pissed Bethany off.  She was gone when I woke this morning and hasn't responded to any of my attempts to contact her.




I need to take my pissy mood out on someone and I suppose Taylor's as good a person as any.




"Taylor, Luther here.  Fine.  So what's happening with investors and have you contacted my brother to say you agree to his terms.  No I'm not giving you more time for this.  In fact, I'm just going to buy the store from you for the $15mil that I gave you.  But it was worth $15mil and you still have the money that I wired before.  Oh stop whining and sign the contract.  What did my brother say?  Well at least it will be behind you and we can move on to upsetting your boy."




I put the phone down feeling much better.  And twenty minutes later I own about five electronics stores across Pittsburgh, which I have no idea what to do with.




"Your post sir."




I nod and indicate he should put on the table.




"Will you require anything else sir?"




"If I did I would tell you.  Unless it's family, I don't want to be disturbed."




"Yes sir."




I watch him depart and try Bethany again, still no response.




"Excuse me sir, Zander..."




"Did I give you permission to use his first name?"  I snap.




"Apologies sir.   Mr Zander Stark is here to see you."  He pauses.




"For fuck sake send him in!"




Zander comes in frowning.  "What happened to Ralph?"




"Fired him.  So to what do I owe this visit?"




"I want a goodwill gesture."




"Oh boy I taught you well.  Okay how about this, $15mil in bricks and mortar and the rest cash?"




"Bricks and mortar?  What are you talking about?"




"I've just bought this five and dime set of stores in Pittsburgh just to fuck with the guy.  You know how much I love sticking it to The Man.  Well you can have that and the rest cash."




"I'm not sure about that about your condos those would..."




"No, boy you are not getting my homes.  Or my cars before you even think to ask.  I know you've had your eyes on those phantoms for years, not going to happen.  Yes, the stores, you can sell them on, which to be honest was what I was going to do.  Let's do the deed transfer now, get your lawyer to look at it and then sign on the dotted line the rest of the money will be at the December board."




Judging by Zander's frown, this is going to take some time.  But I know me; I can be very persuasive and what I want I get.
















Michael and I haven't spoken since yesterday and I'm actually not sure that he's even in the house. His bed wasn't slept in according to Grady.




"Don't."  Bethany's voice interrupts my thoughts.




"Don't what?"




"Start to change your mind."  She shakes her head at me.  "Wasn't this the same thing he did to his other friends?"




"Yes but..."




"And now he's doing it to you."  She finishes her coffee.  "You have to stop him before he gets worse. Look what happened in Pittsburgh.  Do you really think that he would've done anything without you and your parents' money backing him up?"




I shake and sigh.  "Enough of this.  So what plans have you got today?"




"None whatsoever.  What about you?"




"Freshening up my resume and taking it around again."




"Want me to have a look at it?  When you look at something enough you tend to miss stuff."




"Thanks and then after that maybe you could help me with my outfit for interviews. You really do have excellent taste."




"Done and done."








I slept down here last night.  If Lindsay and her nouveau riche bitchy friends think they are forcing me out they'll have to think again.  I handled Brian for years until Boy Wonder came along and I'll continue to handle Lindsay.  If that slut and that confused bottom boy think they have the drop on me, they're sorely mistaken. I come out of their bathroom and smile.




I'm determined to stay here and in a few months' time, I will prove invaluable.








Oh Michael, Michael, Michael.  You must take me for a fool.  I know exactly what you're doing.  And trust me it is not going to work.  But let's see what you come up with to get out of this when Lindsay finds out what you have done.












"Well of course, we'd love to but I would have to double check with our events planner but that does seem doable.  I will get her to call you back as soon as I can. Yes thank you for calling."




I leave the message on Cara's pad and head back to the kitchen.




"Who was that?"  Emmy asks




"Oh the PA to...oh my God oh my God!"  I start to hyperventilate.




"Thomas?  Thomas!  For the love of Liza breathe!"  Emmy yells and places a bag over my nose and mouth. "Breathe, just breathe slowly, in and out, just in and out.  Now sit down and tell me who that was."




Cara comes rushing in.  "Wh-who took this message and are you fucking kidding me!"




I raise my hand and shake my head.




"Someone tell me who the fuck called!"  Emmy yells.




"The office of Guy Tackler-Smith, as in..."




"Holy fuck!"  He says and immediately places the bag over his nose and mouth.




Zee comes in with a smug looking Faal, looks at us three and frowns.




"What's happened?"  Cara hands her the piece of paper with shaking hands.  "Oh he called did he?"




We all gape at her.




"Excuse me!  Oh he called did he?!  You mean you knew about this?"  I demand and then remember I'm still on probation.




"Not really. Melody said she'd recommended us to him but then I didn't hear anything so figured there no reason to get our hopes up."




"Who's whoever is on that piece of paper?"  Faal asks.  "What's in there and can I have some?"




"Spiced squash and help yourself."  I reply.  "Oh Guy Tackler Smith as in one of the foremost art critics in the world. Even I know about him.  Why does he want us?"




"Like I said Melody recommended him.  When does he want us?"




"Next Friday. It looks free and it's in New York."  Cara stammers.




"Okay, call Melody make sure it's legit and then tell him we'll do it."  Zee winks at Emmy.




Cara nods and starts to walk out.  "Oh Cara!  One more thing, you and Liddie will obviously need to book next Friday off."




"Really?!"  She squeals and hugs her tightly.




"You're doing a fantastic job and besides Liddie would kill me if we didn't take her.  Now phone first before you give her the news."




Once she's out the door, Zee pokes her head out and then ushers us to the larder.




"Well done Emmy Lou you were great!"




"Why thank you sweetie!"




I look between the two of them in confusion.




"Sorry Thomas let me explain.  It's Lydia's 60th in 2 weeks and we're hosting a party for her in NYC and this is a ruse to get her over there, without raising suspicion.  And we couldn't tell Cara the truth either as they are very close and she'd have blabbed."




"So we're not cooking for Guy Tackler Smith?"








"Oh that's a shame."




"But we will be cooking at his home for Liddie and he's hosting."












I'm in my office when I hear the dulcet but excitable tones of Cara and then find myself embraced in a gabbling hug.




"Slow down, stop and breathe."  I order firmly.  "Now what's this about?"




"Guy Tackler-Smith is hosting a party in NYC and has asked Emmy and Zee to cater and..."




"Guy Tackler-Smith?"  I echo.




She nods frantically.  "And they want us to come with us, I mean them, as the guest announcers!"




"Are you fucking serious?!"  I squeal and then take calming breaths.




"Yes, we have to go shopping!"




"Of course we fucking do!"  I chortle excitedly.
















I'm brought up short by the sight of Evelyn going through the safe, her coat and purse flung across the chair.




"What you looking for?"




"My credit card."  Comes the muffled response.




"What do you need that for?  You normally just use the joint one of the one from the No. 2 account."




"I know that sweetie but I want to use mine.  That's not a problem for you...aha got it!"




"Not at all.  What you doing today?"




"Going to Madison Avenue. There's a couple of things I've seen that I like the look of."




"Okay, you going to be long?"  I look through the papers on my desk.  "Evelyn?  Evelyn?"




"Sorry darling.  I should be out until early evening.  What are you up to?"




"Got a meeting with Luther at the club in an hour or..."




"Why at the club, why not meet here?"




I think about it, as she repacks the safe and grabs her coat, and nod.  "Good idea, saves me a trip across town."




"Great.  Okay darling I'll see you later then enjoy your meeting."




She heads out with a kiss on my cheek and I call Luther.  "Luther it's Elias. Instead of the club, let's meet here; it's a better place for our talk.  Well if Evelyn was going to be here, I wouldn't suggest it, would I? Okay see you in an hour."












"Hi Bethany it's Evelyn.  I'm fine, I'm fine.  Look I'm heading to Madison Avenue for some retail therapy after the sulkfest that has been Elias and...oh him too.  In that case can we meet at The Mark Bar on 77th Street in say an hour?  Oh that's a shame, what about tomorrow then? We could do lunch.  I've seen this adorable little place, which you might be interested in."




I sit back in my seat and for the first time since Sunday's revelations I smile.
















"...for goodness sake you've got to understand how I feel!"




"No Luther I still don't understand why you are upset about this.  Once again, Bethany is not Talon!  She's a free agent and, you were not and am still not, exclusive.  How is Lily?"




"Don't change the subject!"




"She likes the penthouse does she, which I believe Bethany doesn't know about?"




I snicker at this.  "She does.  So this thing between you and Bethany is definitely over?"




"For God sake it was over two weeks before she moved in with you!  And if you bring it up again, I will be severely pissed off and you don't want a pissed off judge as your opposition!"




"Excuse me you seem to forget that you are in the same position that I am!"




"Not quite.  Unlike you, I don't have a passport in Zebadiah's name but with your information on it should the need to leave the country be pressing."




"That's true.   But I will tell Evelyn what you've done and the fact that you paid the guys to beat up her lover to get him to leave her."




We both stare at each other as it dawns on us that we are irrevocably bound to each other. If one goes down so does the other.












I love this apartment.  It's perfectly placed just on the corner of 5th and Madison.




I throw my purse on the table and take a steadying breath and pray that this has worked and continues to do so.  Operation Rip Asunder starts now, I start my research.
















Grady and I have had a nice few days, primarily because we've been away but now we are back and I'm absolutely furious.  As Grady says, he wants to see a reaction.




While we were away, Michael decided to watch his rubbish upstairs and has left a mess.  I'm not sure where he is right now, Grady has checked the basement and he's not there.




I watched him check the post but leave ours there afterwards.




"Why did you leave our post downstairs?"




"So he'll think we're still out and relax a little more and we can announce ourselves when we're ready."




"Ah I see."




"You know he's not going to leave on Thanksgiving?"  Grady raises his eyebrows




"I know."




"So what are you going to do about it?"




"I honestly don't know.  Wait...sssh.  I think he's come back."




We creep to the door and open it a crack and yes he's come back and he goes through the post before calling out my name and I watch that smirk come across his face.




He heads to the kitchen and dumps his take-out before heading back to the door and double locking and dead bolting it.  I frown at Grady, who puts his fingers to his lips.




We watch him head back to the kitchen and then the lounge where he turns up the volume on the TV and the familiar tune of fucking X-Men comes on.




"What's he...?"  I whisper to Grady, he mouths at me to wait and slips surprisingly quickly and quietly downstairs and takes the locks off the door before rejoining me.




"Call him."  He whispers.  "And tell him you'll be home in 20 minutes.  Actually text him instead, and use the bathroom and then call Bethany."




I send the text and the next thing we see is him scurrying to get everything put away and then head to the door where he pauses and bites his lip, before shrugging and heading back to the basement but not before looking at the door one more time.




I call Bethany and Grady explains what's happened and I can hear her laughing.




"Come on."  Grady tugs at my hand and I start to giggle at the furtiveness of it all.








I dash down the driveway after hearing him put the locks back on and within 10 minutes Bethany has arrived.




We head up the drive and start to knock and grinning we call him.




She puts the call on speaker.  "Michael it's Bethany!  Open the fucking door!  How dare you lock me out of my condo?!"




"What are you talking about?  I have done no such thing!"




"Then why was it double locked and why are the dead bolts on?!  Come open the door or I will have my driver break it down!  And you will pay for it, not Lindsay, not Grady but you!"




"Are you sure you're at the right condo?  The door isn't..."




He quickly unlocks the door and lets us in.




"What the hell were you playing at Michael?"  I snarl.




"I-I-I don't understand how this, I mean I..."  He stammers.




"We're going into the lounge, you have some explaining to do!"  Bethany shouts at him.












Oh this is so much fun!  Over the last few days Luther has been behaving like a jealous husband and to be frank it is getting on my nerves. This I did not sign up for!




"So explain yourself!"  Lindsay demands.




"Hey guys what's going on?"  Grady comes in taking off his coat.




"Where did you come from?"  Michael demands.




"Car.  I sent Lindsay and Bethany on ahead as I needed to get something why?"




"Liar!"  He snarls.




"That's rich coming from you.  Now can someone tell me what's going on?"




How is Grady keeping a straight face?  Oh digging into his palm that would be it.




"Michael double locked and deadbolted the front door so we couldn't get in!"




"Seriously?  What the fuck Michael?"








"So are you trying to tell me that you were here alone and the door magically double locked and deadbolted and itself?"  I snarl at him.




"I don't're tricking me. One of you was here before!"




We all look at him.




"Michael you had to let us in by unlocking the door so how could we have been inside!  I'm so pissed at you!"  I rail.




"Oh for fuck sake!"  Lindsay explodes taking us all by surprise.  "Let me guess, it got lost in the postal service and just arrived, is that the excuse you are going to use for this?"




She holds up a box and Michael goes bright red.  "I have only just unpacked it and..."




"Why up here?"  She demands.




"The light is better up..."




"Get out of my sight Michael, go to your room just go anywhere but here.  You lied to me again, I won't have it anymore."




"Lindz, listen..."




"Michael.  If you have any regard for our continued friendship you will leave this room now."








I make my way down to the basement cursing leaving the box upstairs, I managed to click accept on my last bid before Bethany noticed.  I'm trying to work out how I managed to screw up the door when Grady starts to come down the stairs.




"I was wrong about you Michael."




I raise my chin defiantly.  "Of course you were.  I'm not a moocher and..."




"No you're not.  You're a fucking stupid moocher.  Goodnight."




I watch him go upstairs and curse him and Bethany.  Just like Boy Wonder with Brian, they've turned her head, but I'm determined that Lindsay and I will get back to where we were before them.  Fuck even Talon is better than these two!












Well my investigation has proved to be most interesting and judging by the phone calls I've been having with Bethany, Luther isn't letting go of her fucking Elias.




"Still not a happy bunny is he?"  I ask pouring her a martini.




"For crying out fucking loud.  It's so hypocritical of him.  No he's most certainly not.  I've never heard such drama.  I've done everything to give him all the space he needs to be Luther and..."




"Oh tell me about it.  He and Elias were talking and since I know it's in the past, he asked him what it was like dark vs light as he's never fucked a white girl before.   Elias told him it there was no difference and you know what Luther did, he snorted.  Actually snorted."




Bethany's expression is getting grimmer and grimmer.




"I have a Black mother."  She growls.




"You must love the penthouse though?"  I smile into my glass and wait.




"Penthouse?"  She pauses and takes a sip and I see the flicker of rage in her eyes.  "What fucking penthouse?"




"Ah I thought..."




"He has a penthouse, where?"




"I'm not sure...I just overheard."




"May I borrow your computer please?"  I slide my laptop across and soon she's tapping away.




"I can't find it anywhere. Are you sure he said penthouse?"




"Uh huh, he and his son Zebadiah jointly own it. Maybe it's in his name and..."




"Who's Zebadiah?  He has four sons and one daughter and none of them is called Zebadiah."




"Oh, well look under Zebadiah and you might find it."




Ten minutes later we are looking- well me for the second time- at one of the most gorgeous penthouses in Jersey. It's a six bedroom palace.




"Wow!"  She breathes.  "That is just gorgeous.  And where am I?  Don't get me wrong, I love the condo but I would move to Jersey for this!"




"Wonder why it isn't in his name?"  I pour her another martini.








"Well it says here, owner Zebadiah Stark. Luther's name is not on there..."




Finally, the fucking frown as the business woman comes out.  "Why the hell not?"




For the next three hours I drop hints. First steer her up blind alleyways and then lead back down the right path until she knows what I know.




We just look at each other.  "What the hell are you going to do?"  I ask.




"I can't believe this."  She whispers.  "I can forgive most things but not this. Using your late son's name to...oh God!"




She dashes to the bathroom and I start to feel sorry for her but not sorry enough to stop.




When she comes back in she looks a little less stricken.  "Can you help me Evelyn?"




"Of course, we'll handle this together.












"Holy fuck!"  I shout and fist pump.  "Zeus!"




"What's up?"




I shove the papers into his chest and watch as a look of incredulity spreads across his face.




"Let me call Ted, say nothing and I mean fucking nothing Zan!"




Two hours later we're just staring at each other.  "Ted, Tobias, are you both absolutely sure?"




"Ahem Zeus, I am nothing but thorough!  The money used did not come from any account but his own personal one."




"Ted, can you find out where Brian and Jennifer will be in say an hour?"




"On it.  Why not Justin?"




"Just not yet okay, just Brian and Jennifer."












I have my arms full of a sobbing Jennifer.  I have tears in my eyes too. I don't know how they did it so quickly but Taylor Electronics now belongs to my husband Justin Taylor.




"Guys I just don't know..."  Jennifer sniffles.




"She taught me well...he thinks I learnt my business skills from him but nope it's all Zee."  Zander smiles and hands over tissues and brandy.




"So this is actually legitimate?"




"Yeah amazingly enough he doesn't stiff family, unless..."




"Unless you're Zee."




"So when do you tell Justin?"  Jennifer asks me.




"Tomorrow morning and then we tell his sperm donor."  I grin at her.  "Naturally you will want to be there, along with Molly."




"Of course."  She giggles.  "I wouldn't miss that for the fucking world!"




"Seriously too much time with Debbie!"  Zeus laughs.
















Bethany and I still aren't back to where we were, so she's gone away for a few days with Evelyn on a spa retreat.




"Excuse me sir."




"I said I didn't want to be disturbed!"




"Well you don't have a choice!"  I look up and find three suited men in my office.




"Luther Stark?"








"We're from the FBI. We're here to arrest you for passport fraud..."




"What?!"  I demand




"Fraud, false accounting, property fraud, corruption, bribery, money laundering and failure to report a death."




"What in fucks name..."




"This is a warrant to search this property and the penthouse in Jersey.  Have at it boys."




"Before you go Mr Stark, you need to open the safe."




"No I don't."  I bluster




"This warrant says you do.  Now do it!"




Reluctantly I open the safe and try and think how the hell...Elias...well if I go, he goes.




"I want my lawyer..."




"Of course you do, let's go."
















"What is the meaning of this?!  I'm a supreme court..."




"Shut up and put your hands behind your back.  You're under arrest for fraud, corruption, assault and battery, accepting bribes and that's just the start!"




"You have no right to do this!"




"This warrant says we do.  And for every property under the name of Charles Schuman. Name ring a bell?"




I open my mouth to say something but close it again.




Luther you will fucking pay, I go, you go too!












Evelyn and I look at each other and tearfully raise our glasses.




"Rest in peace Charles and Zebadiah, rest in peace."  I sniffle.




"And may the fuckers rot in hell!"  Evelyn adds wiping her eyes.




"They are going to go down blaming each other for this."




"Shame that!"  I chuckle.  "Are you sure about this?"




She nods.  "Absolutely, if anyone deserves this, it's us.  Now come on let's finish this off and get going; we've got a 6 month cruise to shop for!"
















My hands are shaking.  "Mine? The stores are mine?"




Mom nods and Molly is grinning.  "What you going to do Jester?"




"Fire him first of all.  Let's go."  I pull Brian in for a scorching kiss and we head out.












I can't believe the stores are no longer mine but at least I'm still the President and get a salary.  I've not been able to get hold of Luther for a couple days. The last message I had from him was that his son would be coming in today to introduce himself.




"Mr Taylor, there's a Mr Zander Stark to see you."




I paste on my best smile and head out to the main floor.  We're currently closed as I wanted the team to meet the new owner and explain my new role.




"Zander a delight and a pleasure to meet you."  I gush, pumping his hand.




"Thanks.  If we could...?"  He asks.




"I will just make my speech and then you can do your bit."




"But..."  He tries again




"Attention everyone.  I have an announcement to make.  Effective immediately, I no longer own Taylor Electronics..."




There's gasps and murmurings.




"Taylor Electronics now comes under the control of Stark Securities, a company based out of New York and this is the new owner Zander Stark.  I want you all to make him welcome, introduce yourselves and treat him as you would treat me.  I will continue to be President of the company and will oversee the running of the stores on behalf of Mr Stark and..."




Zander clears his throat.  "Sorry Craig, I need to stop you there.  One of the things you have said aren't correct."  He clears his throat again.  "Stark Securities no longer own Taylor Electronics."








"That's what I was trying to tell you.  We sold it on.  You would need to liaise with the new owners about what happens to the stores.  I'm just here to introduce them. It's the only polite thing to do."




"So who are these new owners?"  I demand. I am so fucking pissed.




"Owner, singular and that would be me."




I whirl round to face him.  "What the fuck are you doing in my store?  Get out!"




"Uh my store and if anyone is..."




There is a loud banging on the door.  "Police open up!"




I nod my head to one of the salesmen and he opens the door.




"Craig Taylor?"  One officer demands.




"How can I help you officer? Actually you can..."




"You are under arrest for desecration of property with intent, threatening behaviour and vandalism, what you say..."




"What the hell are you talking about?"  I snap.  "I have done no such thing."




"Yeah you did in San Francisco, remember?  Come on let's go."








"Excuse me, Craig Taylor please?"  Another voice calls out.




"That would be the guy in handcuffs."  The cop points to me.




"Ah, my name is Schenk, Tobias Schenk, I'm here to do a personal audit."




"It's just not your day is it Mr Taylor?"








I look at mom and Brian in confusion.  "What the...?"




"Guys, Zee just called said to drop everything and come to the Treehouse now."  Zander tells us.




I turn to the also confused staff.  "Uh.  My name is Justin Taylor, I'm the new owner and the first thing we need to do is close down until next Friday. You will obviously be paid but right now we're closed.  So gather your things and be back here by next Friday so we can put a plan in action to pull this store into the 21st century."




We wait for everyone to gather their things and then lock up and head to the Treehouse.
















Everyone is here. We've got Adam and Solly on speaker as well as Uncle Luc, mom and Aunt Dee, but I still can't believe it.




"Okay what's going on?"  Brian demands.




I switch on the TV and they all watch agog as the news report plays about the arrests of Luther Stark and Elias Copthorne and the litany of charges.




"How the fuck?"  Menno breathes.




Charles shrugs.  "Nothing to do with us.  We were still working on our paper trail so we have no clue."




Faal comes back in with bubbles and a smile on his face.  "Had a word with a couple of people I know.  Seems like they were sent a video and went from there."




"Who sent it?"  I ask helping him open the bottles.




"An E Copthorne..."




"What?  Why?  A sudden attack of conscience?"




"No revenge of the wife.  The ‘E' stands for Evelyn but naturally the authorities are going to let them think that the other did it."




"Jesus!"  Ted grins.




"And of course all their assets have been frozen, including those in the names of Zebadiah and Charles Schuman."  Adam tells us.




"Fuck."  I sigh.  "So now what?"




"Well first we celebrate that and then we celebrate the fact that Craig Taylor was arrested today and Tobias Schenk is going to do a personal audit of him."  Justin giggles.




"Zeus Stark."  Suddenly he freezes and is waving his arms for silence.  "Dad, calm down and say that again."




He puts the call on speaker.  "I said I've been arrested on some trumped up shit.  My arraignment is set for Friday and I need to make bail..."




"How much bail?"




"Boy I won't know till my arraignment.  Can you boys get down here? All my assets are to your uncle he should help too.  And get Zander to call his sister.  She and her master can help me out too. None of this is true Zeus you have to believe me.  I would never lie to you boys you know that."




"Okay we'll be there. Don't worry dad we'll make sure you get everything you need.  Bye."




I stand up and start to pace.  "We need to call Guy and move Lydia to next week.  I want this out of the way and had done."




"Okay sweetie.  Let me call him."  Emmy Lou volunteers and bustles out.




"I'll get the plane sorted out, how many are coming?"




"All the adults, the kids have school."  Carl decides and at their groans, he smiles.  "We promise to tell you what happened when we get back."
















We're just staring at the TV in shock.  "Now what happens?"




"Well it looks like her sugar daddy days are over and she seems to have scuttled under that slut rock she came from!"  Michael says smugly.  "I think I will move my stuff back up."








"Michael, didn't you listen to the report?"  Grady looks at me with disdain.




"Why don't you give me the highlights?  At least we won't have to pay any rent now..."




"They are freezing and seizing of all their assets..."








"It means we can't live here anymore." Lindsay explains slowly.




"No Lindsay, we can because he signed this over to Bethany remember? That's what she said."




"Yes but to manage, not to keep.  It still belongs to him Michael."  Lindsay huffs angrily.  "You really should pay attention!"








Grady chuckles and Michael scowls at him.




"What are we going to do?  How long do you think we have?"   I ask.


Grady shrugs.  "It says he's being arraigned later today.  Michael and I will go to court and see what they say."




"Why am I going?"  Michael demands.




"Because we don't trust you not to do the locks thing again."  I tell him.












"...and due to their flight risk potential, bail is set at $5mil for Luther Stark and $10mil for Elias Copthorne."




"Your honour with all due respect, they are charged with virtually..."/




"And he was a judge and had a duty of care."




I keep checking my watch. They should be here by now.




"Is your client able to pay the bail now?"  The judge asks Copthorne's lawyer.




Elias whispers to his lawyer.  "Unfortunately, Mr Copthorne's wife is currently out of the country but is making her way back."




"Then he will be remanded in prison until such time his bail is paid."




The look Elias gives me was poisonous but I shrug it off.




"Can Mr Stark pay his bail?"  He asks my lawyer.




"His family are currently delayed but they will be able to make the payment."




"Again remanded in jail until..."




"The payment will be made today..."




"Remanded.  Take them both down."




Elias is hauled off first glaring at me and just as I'm about to be led away the court doors open and a slew of people come in some of them look familiar.  It's not until I look at Kinney and that husband of his I realise where I've seen them before.




"Get me out of here!"  I order the bailiff.




"Wait!"  Zeus's voice calls a halt to proceedings and I sag with relief.  "You need to see this dad!"




I turn round and see Zee being flanked by all of her brothers.  "What is...?"  I splutter.




"This is the last time you see us.  Oh and one other thing. Zee is the only Stark that owns Stark Securities.  Zan was never ever going to sign that over to you.  Come on guys let's celebrate. No more Luther and his lies!"




" can't leave me here!  I've done nothing wrong; it was Elias!  I was framed. Don't you hear me?  FRAMED!"  I shout at their retreating backs.  "You know how White people can get when they see a Black man make it.  Dammit listen to me!"








As the door closes on his shouting, we all just stare at each other.  "It's over, completely over.  Well until the trial anyway. Let's go and get hammered!"




Just as we're heading to the door two other guys come running in.  I immediately recognise Grady but not the other guy.  "Latest toy?"  I query, looking at the guy with distaste.




Grady shudders.  "Hardly."  Then he smirks.  "I saw the reports.  Take it you're here to pay his bail."




"Nope."  I reply.  "But you feel free to."




"So Zaden..."  The dark haired guy looks smugly at her.  "What happens to your business now?"




"Nothing.  But what's going to happen to your living arrangements Michael?"




Which shuts him up nicely.  "Michael? This is the Michael?"  I ask.  "The one..."




"You guys have been talking about me?"  He looks round our group.  The remark elicits tisking and eye rolling.




"Not exactly. It's just that I didn't see your face during the spa waxing session..."




"What spa waxing session?"  Michael demands and then starts to cringe.  "How do you know about that?  I said how do you know about that?!"




But we are too busy walking away laughing to answer him.








Despite my best efforts I couldn't get Michael to talk about the spa waxing session and as we pull up outside the condo I see a distraught Lindsay reasoning with a couple of guys in suits.




"What's going on?"  I demand.




"We have to leave. They are seizing the property!"  She sobs in my arms.  "What are we going


to do?!  They gave me this."




I take the paper from her and read it quickly.  "Okay we can only take the basics everything has to stay whilst they determine what belongs to who."




"But what about my collectibles!"  Michael shrieks.




"Oh trust me nobody is going to think they're Luther's!"  I snark at him.




"And they are not your collectibles anymore. Well they won't be soon enough."




"Talon!"  Lindsay gasps.




"Excuse me a moment."  She strides over to the two suits and speaks to them for a while before showing them documentation and in 15 minutes later they have gone.




"What do you mean they aren't my collectibles anymore?"  Michael demands once we are back in the lounge.




"Well unless you can come up with my $50K by 20 December, they are mine and so are your asses!"




I look at the determined expression on her face.




What the fuck is she up to?!
















"The money you gave, not leant, was..."  Michael begins.




Talon scoffs.  "Trust me, it was a loan.  But please continue this train of stupid thought you are voicing out loud." She says with a smirk.




"For us to use in the misrepresentation trial, which has not been heard yet and..."




"Won't be, as you withdrew the suit."  Talon looks from one to the other.  "So you won't be needing the money, will you?  So I want it back by the 20 December, as per the agreement.  I do hope you've not been using it for anything frivolous."




She stands up and smooths down her skirt.  "Now I'm going to be living in Lu..."




"Luther's in jail, or didn't you hear about that?"  Michael crows.




She continues as if he hasn't spoken.  "Lucian and Dee's small condo...on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, so I will be close by.  Ciao."




"Wait Talon.  You do realise that they have frozen all of Luther's assets? This condo will be..."




"This isn't Luther's condo, it's mine.  He signed it over to me years ago.  Like I said ciao."




"But Bethany..."




"Whatever Bethany said was not true.  This is mine and you can remain here...well for now?"




As she walks out, she stops and turns.  "Oh and Michael, you try the double lock and deadbolt trick with me, I will have you out in seconds!"




"How did...?"  He stammers.




"Oh I know more than you think."




We follow her to the door and watch her drive away before heading back to the lounge.




"I don't know about you two but I need a drink!"  Lindsay exclaims and pours herself a large brandy.




"Make mine a whisky."  I sink into the sofa.




"Me too."  Michael adds and then glares at her when she only hands me a glass.




"Michael you realise what you have to do don't you?"  She turns to him.  "You have to either return the collectibles or start selling them to make up your share of the loan."




"No!  I'm not selling them nor is she fucking having them!  I don't care what she or you say!"




"Michael use some common sense for once!  How else are you going to come up with the money?!"




"I said no!"




Lindsay and I exchange looks as he stomps off down to his dungeon, part of me wishes the door locks on the outside!




"What are we going to do?  About him I mean."  I ask her, pulling her into my side.




"I don't know but we have to do something.  The one thing that is not happening is that he's not taking me down with him!"












There's a saying in domestic circles; never piss off the help.  Because of his attitude, his new butler Gerald, when he was arrested couldn't wait to share the news with me.  Although he's been keeping me up to speed with the goings on in there since I left. I had to give an employer appraisal for him and was blunt in my honesty, but like I said to Talon he pays very well.




I still can't believe he's in jail.  "So how were the gruesome twosome?"




I ask as she stretches out on the sofa and wiggles her toes in my lap. I start to massage her feet.




"Still gruesome, but there's something about Lindsay that's changed a bit.  Though Michael seems to be worse.  I think I might have to take her out for lunch have some girl-on-girl time to see what's happening."




"Uh huh.  Are you hungry?"




"Mmm.  I'll do it in a minute.  First you need to apply your massage technique to my poor tired mouth...she's been running at Michael and she's in need of succour!"




"With pleasure."  I murmur before doing as my lady bids.
















"But I made restitution to him.  And I was..."




"And that absolves you from your crimes how?"  My court appointed lawyer interrupts.




"The charges..."




"Still stand..."




"But he said... he said that..."




"Who said?"




"Luther Stark. He told..."




"He's in jail. Was arrested last week on various charges, including fraud and corruption.  And I see that the discharge of charges was approved by Elias Copthorne..."




"So what of it?"




"He's in jail too.  So all his cases are being reviewed and yours was easy enough to overturn.  So tell me exactly why you thought this was a good idea and bear in mind that your accomplices have had a lot longer to stew in jail than you."
















I still can't believe Luther has done this to me, that fucker, that absolute fucking fucker!




The door opens and my lawyer finally comes in.




"Sorry Elias, got stuck in traffic and then there was a queue to..."




"Never mind all that bullshit, where's Evelyn?"




He takes a breath.  "She's not coming."




"Say that again?"  I demand.




"We received this instead.  They're divorce papers."




I stare at him in disbelief.  "No, Evelyn wouldn't do this to me. She loves me!   She's nothing without me!"




"Seems she doesn't share that belief."




I slump back in my seat.  "Fucking Luther Stark is going to be destroyed when I get out of here.  I need you to call..."




"There is no one to call Elias, don't you understand...?"




"I understand that I am Elias Copthorne. I want to know when I get out of here?!"




"You don't."




"What the fuck do you mean I don't?"




"The evidence is compelling.  And you're deemed too much of a flight risk to be let out on your own recognisance..."




"Don't spout the fucking law to me! I'm a fucking judge!"




"You were a judge; you are now a criminal!  I suggest you remember that I can walk out of here any time and a court appointed lawyer can represent you!"




"What am I looking at realistically, 3-5...?"




"More like 10-15 and that's with a deal."
















"Oh no I won't!"  I snarl at her.  "I am Luther Stark! I don't do jail time."




"I think you'll find you do.  Especially with that fucking stupid attitude of yours.  You need to tell me everything you have on Elias Copthorne because believe me he's going to be doing exactly the same and he has more of a chance of a deal than you do Mr Stark!"




"Now you listen to me..."




"No!  You listen to me!  I can walk out of here right now, no problem. Can you say the same?"




"My family, I mean my boys..."




"Came to New York to tell you to fuck off.  Now let's start with how you and Elias Copthorne first decided to do business together."
















"He'd have gotten it by now and be so furious."




"Yeah."  Bethany agrees.  "Champagne?  Cocktails?  Or both?"




"Both. Definitely both!"  I laugh.












What a fucking week it has been.  Despite everything that has happened with her family, we've been busier than ever.  It was a shame that Guy Tackler Smith had an appointment and had to cancel but it was a blessing in disguise as Lydia was ill and wouldn't have been able to go.




"I'll be right with you!"  I call out when I hear the door open.








I know that voice!  I almost scream his name but he waves at me to be quiet.  Thankfully, Emmy Lou is walking Miss Scarlett and Rhett, or they would've given it away with their special bark and his shrieking.   He points to the kitchen and I nod as soon as he is through the door, I start counting and I barely make it to three before I hear her scream.




"Matt!  Get your ass over here now!"












I look at my gorgeous and happy son and surreptitiously check him over and I spot it.  Yes!  Faal owes me $50, I knew it!  I know the island is beautiful and they've never been but I also know my boy.  But I shall keep quiet because like me he doesn't like the showiness, just gets on with it and tells people afterwards.




"So where's Hunter?"  I ask looking behind him.




"Gone to say hi to his dad first."  He sits down after snagging a fresh vegetable roll.  "So what the fuck happened with Luther?"




I hide my smile and regale him with everything.  This is big news financially.  He's desperate to get out of jail so needs to make his bail money and I've told my brothers to leave that with me. They don't understand but know better than to argue with me when it comes to business...and this is almost business related.












Fuck!  I curse as I drop my papers.  I'm rushing because I have to be home on time to FaceTime with Hunter. I can't believe he's been gone this long and I miss him terribly.




"Need some help there mister?"




My head whips up and I almost burst into tears.  "Hunter!  Oh Hunter!  When did you get back?!"




"Dad...can't...breathe."  He croaks.




"Sorry!"  I check him over, he looks like great.  "South Africa agrees with you I see."




"The weather didn't hurt but it was nice to get away.  You look fantastic! Steve and Taylor agree with you."




"You have no id...where's Matt?"


"Gone to see his folks.  He's picking Zee up first so can we grab Steve and Taylor and we take you all to dinner?  Say about seven or is that too late for Taylor?"




"It will be too late for her.  Let me call Debs to see if she can look after her till we get back...."




"Don't tell her I'm back want the first night to be just us!"  Hunter hisses.




I nod.  "Hey Debs.  Look, I know it's short notice but I booked a surprise dinner for Steve and me, but they've bumped us to seven and...oh great you're a lifesaver.  Thanks."












My boy!  My boy is finally home!  I was almost at the point of getting the plane and flying to get them!  Ben has just called and they have a booking at The Twisted Frenchman, which I am looking forward to.




"Okay so when we go to New York on Friday, the first thing we do is go to his condo. It should be released by then."




"What do you want to do with that...oh you wouldn't?"  I laugh.




"Oh yes I fucking would, correction you would!"  She grins back.  "We need a base in New York and that is perfect. Well it will be once it's reno'd and we've removed every last trace of him."




"What about the penthouse in Jersey?"




"Oh grabbing that too."  She winds her arms round me and kisses my neck.  "But that is just for us. I've always liked Jersey."




"Come on let's get ready."












The place was surprisingly tidy when we got home.  Turns out that mom had it cleaned once a week while we were away.  As much as I loved South Africa, it is so good to be home.  Luckily we had the facilities to keep up with work and school so we're not behind but when I heard what happened to Luther, I knew it was time to come home and support mom.




"Are you sure you didn't tell mom we'd be coming home last night?"  Hunter asks from inside the fridge




"Positive why?"




"We have a very full fridge of deliciousness.  Oh what's this bread...Matt we don't have time."




He bats my hands away and I pout.  "We can do it in the shower?"  I suggest.




"Okay!"  He races up the stairs with me in hot pursuit.












This is interminable!  I just wish they would say it and have done. Time to move things along methinks.




"So what's with the chain?"  I ask Matt, who almost chokes on his water.




"Huh?"  He hedges.




"I said, what's with the chain?  You hate things around your neck other than a tie. You won't even wear a round necked jumper.  And when you went to that fancy dress party as Ne-Yo you refused to wear the chains but now you are sporting a chain, so what's on the end of it?"




The table goes silent and we all look at him and then Hunter, who is starting to go red.




"Oh fuck!"  Steve breathes.  "You haven't?  You didn't?"




"What haven't they?  What didn't they?"  Faal ask, who can be remarkably dense sometimes.




"Engaged or married?"  I keep the stern expression on my face by digging into my palms.




"Uh mom..."




"Married."  Hunter declares taking Matt's hand.




"Holy fuck!  Holy fucking fuck!"  Faal exclaims.  "Really!"




"Really."  Matt replies quietly.  "I know you're mad mom but..."




"Of course I'm fucking mad!"  I hiss at him, again the table goes quiet.  "I haven't been the island in ages you little shit and you get married over there, do Oupa and Ouma know?"




"No, it was just us and Memphis and Diana and the pastor."




"Lydia is going to kill you!"  I grin at Hunter.




"You have to have a blessing."  Ben decrees.




"Absolutely.  Now get on with it!"  I demand.




"Get on with what?"  Hunter asks warily.




"It is proper form to ask for the person's hand in marriage from their..."




"Oh!  Uh Mr and Mrs Ugerstacht, I love your son very much and would respectfully ask for your permission to marry him."




Faal looks at me with tears in his eyes.  "What do you think?"




"Hmm, do you think he will make him happy?  Do you think he will love him above all else?"




"Yes, I think he will."




"Then yes Hunter, we give you our retrospective permission to marry my son."




"Mr and Mr Bruckner-Smart, I love your son so much and can't imagine a day without him.  I respectfully and hopefully ask for your permission to marry him."




Ben is trying to comforting a sobbing Steve, who I suspect wasn't expecting to be asked.




"Permission granted."  He manages to croak out.




We hear another sob and turn to the waiter, who's dabbing his eyes.  "Sorry but that was just so lovely!"




We all wipe our eyes and compose ourselves.  "By the way, you're telling your grandmothers!"




"Oh fuck really! Can't you do it?"




"No!"  Faal and I say together.
















I had ordered my lawyer to sell everything so I can make bail and today's the day.  She comes in and sits down.




"So when am I getting out of here?"




"Again you're not."  She holds up a hand to forestall me.  "With everything, we've managed to sell we've only raised $3.8mil and..."




"My condo was worth more than that alone!"  I snap.




"That was all that they were willing to offer for the Condo and the property in Jersey."




"Who is they?"








I slump in my seat then brighten.  "What about the cars?  They are worth at least $2mil market value. You can sell them."




"Mr Stark, it would be unwise to spend all your money on bail when you have my fees to consider.  The trial when it starts will be lengthy and in the end you will be jailed. Stay here, it saves you money and I shall accept the offers on the table from the Ugerstachts.  See you next week."




"Fine."  I stand up to leave scowling at her then freeze.  "Wait who did you say made the offers?"




"Ugerstacht.  Hugo and Martha Ugerstacht..." I sigh with relief.  "...and their son Faal."




And then it finally hits me.  I won't be leaving here for a very long time.
















It's been a tense few days.  Brian's been busy at Kinnetic finally landing that company after four presentations and two dinners.  I've got a show to prepare for as well as try to run the stores I have now acquired.  This is the first time in days we're alone.




"Oh that's cold!"




I squeal as he rubs the glass of Beam across my naked stomach before dribbling some onto my chest and licking it off slowly.  My nipples are left aching and hard in the most delicious way.




He takes a swig of Beam and slowly lowers his mouth before allowing it to trickle into mine. I swallow quickly and stutter out a moan as his hand works my cock languorously.  I can feel his erection pressing into my hip and leaking.




"Turn over."  He mumbles before kissing me deeply.




A gentle nudge has me turning over on the soft blanket and hot kisses rain down my spine.  He sucks gently on each cheek.




"Brian no..." I protest trying to squirm away from his questing mouth.




"Still."  He orders.  "Still so beautiful.  Mine... always mine."




I almost scream when he pours the Beam between my cheeks and then gently parts them, chuckling.




"Beams and Bubble Butt.  Don't mind if I do."  He pushes a cushion under my hips and blows on my pucker.




"Oh."  I moan as his tongue then swipes me from tailbone to balls.




Soon I'm writhing as his tongue spears me again and again, working on my tender tissues combining the heat of his tongue with the coldness of the ice cube. He sucks slowly in and out of me.




"Gnnnh!  Ah!"  I try to crawl away for some respite but he holds me firmly, but gently.




"Up beautiful."




He whispers in my ear and as I raise myself onto my hands and knees, he sinks into me pushing me back down and starts to thrust.  With my ass slightly raised his thrusts seem more powerful, deeper and hotter.




"Oh fuck!  This is a gr-great position."  He growls.




"Uh!  Uh!  Ah!  Yes!  Mmm s-sogoodsogood!"  I babble and try to push back but he swats my hip.




"St-stay still.  Fuck I have got to try this!"




The sound of skin slapping on skin and our groans of pleasure fill the air and soon I'm chanting his name and trying to wiggle away from what I know is going to be the most intense orgasm for a while.




"Ohmygod!  Oh too....fuck!  Fuck!  Fuck!"




My orgasm rips through me and he holds my hips still so I ride it through and seconds later he roars his release which triggers my second orgasm as I'm going through the aftershocks of the first.




"Brian oh God Brian!  Please oh fuck please!"




My whole body is trembling as wave after wave of pleasure seems endless.   My mouth opens in a soundless scream then he gasps and thrusts hard before coming again.




"Justin!  Justin!"  He yells.




We slump down and smile tiredly at each other.




"We've never done a double-double before."  He flops onto his back, inhaling deeply.




That was the last thing I heard before I fell asleep.












Everyone and I mean everyone is here! Thomas and Zeon had commandeered the bedroom as they've never done it on a plane before.  We've managed to get Lydia here by getting Hunter to invite her under the guise of meeting with Justin's agent.  And Cara thinks we are planning an event at the Galerie LeLong.




"Now or never."  I tell Matt.




Hunter looks worried.  "Can you tell Lydia about her party first, then we tell grandmom Jen and Aunt Debs?"




"Fine but straight after or I will and tell them that you don't want a blessing..."




"You wouldn't!"  Matt hisses.




"Yes, I would.  Get ready."




I stand up and call for quiet by whistling loudly causing wincing.  "Sorry about that, but a couple of things need to be hashed out before we get to New York...Lydia what time is your meeting with Justin's agent?"




"I'm not sure Hun..."




"You see, we need to sort the timings out so we can get to Guy Tackler Smith's house for your dinner at seven."




It takes a few minutes for it to sink in before Lydia, the ice queen of the art world, bursts into tears.




"You monsters, you absolute horrors!  You're not serious, are you?"  She whimpers dabbing her eyes.




"Yep.  Happy birthday sweetheart.  We have presents but you don't get those until your actual birthday, which I believe is Sunday."




She gets up and swamps me in a bone crushing hug.  "Taking hugging lessons from Debs I see.  Seriously ribs!"




I look at Matt.




"Since we have everyone's attention.  Hunter and I got married and we'll be having a blessing nearer Christmas."  He says quickly and sits back down.




The first person to speak, surprisingly, is Carl.  "Did you know?"




"Not until they came back."  Ben answers.




"But that was Tuesday."  Jennifer strides to their seats.




"Tuesday?"  I look at Matt and shake my head.




"Actually we got back on Monday but wanted to tell our parents first and..."




"Again we are only finding out about this now!"  I can hear the hurt in her voice.




"Jen."  Carl's the voice of reason.  "Come on.  Matt and Hunter did it the way that was right for them as you would do too, right?"




"I suppose..."




"And they are going to let their grandmothers organise the blessing, right?"  He looks at them.




"Absolutely."  Hunter nods.  "Please don't be mad. He asked and I said yes and like grandpa said, this was right for us."




"Come here you little shits!"  Debs demands.  "At least tell me you have fucking rings?!"




"We do."  Matt gasps, when he is let out of her bosom.




"Well let's see them!"




They take the chains out and show the rings. We had said we didn't want to see them before the family, so we at least shared that.




"I know they're not much but..."




"Diamond District?"  Faal asks.




"Absolutely."  I hold up my hand in face of his protests.  "You pick we pay.  End of."




"So we're going to be in Portland for Christmas then?"  Ted asks.




"Portland why?"




"Well Tobias and Darius have set a date. They want to get married on the 22nd December and we're all invited."




"Excuse me!"  Jenny shouts, silencing us again. "And just who is going to be your best man and best girl at this shindig?"




"Why you and Gus of course!"




"Might not feel like it."  Jenny huffs before launching herself into Hunter's arms.  "Please can I wear a suit?!"




"Brian, looks like we're on shopping duty too."  Faal calls out.




"It will be a pleasure but first, this is Lydia's weekend."












What in fresh hell, as Talon would say, has gone on in here?  There is a layer of dust everywhere and the kitchen floor feels tacky.  This will not do.




The front door opens and Michael comes in.  "Ralph, isn't it?"




"Yes and..."




"Here you can put these away."




He goes to hand me the shopping but I step back letting it fall to the floor and judging by the rapidly spreading puddle and smell, there was whisky in there.




"What the hell did you do that for?"  He demands.  "Clean that up and..."




"I'm not here to work for the likes of you. I'm here to pick up Miss Talon."  I interrupt him tersely.




"For the likes of me?  You're nothing but the help!  And why would you be here to pick up Talon?"  He spits viciously.




"This is true but this help has more money in his 401K than you do I suspect.  And..."




"Ralph!"  Lindsay calls out in surprise as she comes through the door with Talon.  "What are you..."




"Careful! Michael dropped his groceries."  I stop her from stepping in the mess, whilst he glowers at me.




"Oh Michael."  She sighs.  "You have to clean that up before the marble gets stained."








"Quickly Michael!"  Talon orders.




He marches to the kitchen and reluctantly cleans up the mess as we head to the lounge.




"So what are you doing here?"  Lindsay asks.




"Picking up Miss Talon."  Talon frowns at me but I wink at her and she stays silent.  "With Master Luther indisposed Miss Talon kindly retained my services."




"Indisposed? Is that what you call going to jail?"  Grady's voice interrupts us.  "Not that I'm complaining but... why is Michael scrubbing the floor?"




He kisses Lindsay hello and does the same for Talon.  "He dropped his shopping."  I reply.




"No I didn't; he did!"  Michael snarks sulkily.  "He seems to forget his position in life."




"Which is not to work for you."  Lindsay snaps.  "Sorry Ralph."




The look he gives Lindsay is chilling and he stomps out of the room.  I watch him head upstairs.




"Excuse me, may I use the facilities?"  I ask.




"Sure, upstairs second on the right."  Lindsay tells me.




As I head towards the bathroom and I spot Michael inside.  He's muttering to himself and jabbing repeatedly at something in his hand, before closing putting the box back in the cabinet.


He comes out smiling but is brought up short when he sees me.




"What are you doing up here?"




"Bathroom."  I reply.




"Oh, okay.  Well use this one, it's Lindsay's and Grady's.  I don't want you anywhere near my bathroom."




I shudder at the horrible thought!  He stalks off downstairs with a sneer and I close the door firmly.




I was just about to leave when I spot something glinting on the floor, I pick it up and it's a pin and then a horrifying thought crosses my mind, I open the cabinet and quickly find the box of condoms and run my fingers over a few packets and I feel pricks.




I grab one condom and head back downstairs and straight to the lounge.  "Are you ready Miss Talon?  You have the decorator coming at four."




Talon frowns but gets up.  "Okay.  I'll see you guys next week then."




Michael rolls his eyes as Lindsay and Grady walk us to the door.












"Why on earth did you say you worked for me for?  I'm not ashamed of our..."




"I can explain my darling.  But first how is Lindsay? I mean, how is her relationship with Michael?"




"Well she says she's been putting her resume out but nobody is getting back to her saying it's the Reichmann influence and Michael is behaving like a jealous teenager because she and Grady are official.  Not sure if it's a relationship in the true sense of the word but they seem happy enough why?"




I hand her the condom packet.  "Feel it."




"What's wrong with it? It feels bumpy."




"Pin pricks.  I'm not sure if this is collusion but I saw Michael putting holes in every condom in the box in their bathroom."




"Fuck."  She breathes.  "Now what do we do?"












"For now say nothing, see how it plays out."  Then I frown.  "Actually maybe we should tell Zee at least.  Because if this is collusion then you can bet that they will come to her for support.  I doubt that Grady will stick around."




"Okay let me give her a call."




"Before you do.  I'm not ashamed of our relationship, never think that.  It is just none of their business and they would only make nasty comments about it.  And unlike your condo, I won't have it sullied by the likes of them. "




"The call can wait.  Ever made out in the back of a limo?"  She purrs.












The moment the booking came through, I upgraded them to the Duplex Suites. They always stay here when they come and as per instructions, the Vinotherapié Rituals at Caudalíe has been booked for two of their guests.




"They're here."  The receptionist calls out to me.




I step out of the office and smile.  "Hello and welcome! How lovely to see you all again.  Now who is the birthday girl?"




Zee grins and points to a tearful woman.  "This is Lydia and the equally stunned lady next to her is Cara. They need to be treated especially well.  And have you?"




"Indeed, the car is waiting for them. Let me just show you to your rooms."




I lead them to the lift and immediately Faal notices we've gone a different way.  "Uh Hector?"




"Patience, all will be revealed."




As the lift comes to a halt, I try to keep the smile off my face.  "Here we are."




There is a stunned silence as they take in the terrace views.  "Hector we didn't book this."




"I know Faal but I upgraded you.  Now here are the elevator keys, this lift only comes to this floor.  I shall leave you to sort out who is in where but Lydia and Cara you must come with me. Timing is of the essence!"




"Timing?   What else are you horrors doing?"  Lydia demands, tearing up again.




"Looking after you, so suck it up buttercup."  Faal orders and steers them back to the lift.
















I'm sipping on champagne and wondering how the hell I ended up here in this lovely RTOAF.  Oh yes, this would be because of Michael Novotny of all people.  If he hadn't tried to set up Hunter for failure, I wouldn't have had to protect him.




"Cara are you okay?"  I call out.




"Let me see... I'm in a luxury spa being treated to two and a half hours of wonderfulness and then dinner at Guy Tackler Smith's house and you ask me if I'm okay?"




I giggle and help myself another glass of champagne.  












I still can't believe what's happened in such a short space of time.  Luther is finally out of the family, Zee and the boys are reconciled, Taylor is back in San Francisco facing charges and Dee, Del and Alice are joining Debs and Jennifer in sorting out the blessing for Matt and Hunter in Portland.




The boys are staying with Zan in his place for now before we all go to Guy's place.  And by place, I mean palace.  Lydia is going to be in seventh heaven!
















"Come in!"  I yell and the door opens to reveal Hunter.




"Grandma.  Are you really mad at us still?"




"No, but you could have told us at the same time as you told your parents that's all."  I sigh.




"We know and we're very so..."




"We?"  Carl barks, coming out of the bedroom.




Hunter looks behind him and grimaces.  "Matt!  What are you doing out there?   You're supposed to be in here, you know supporting your husband!"




"Uncle Carl sounds mad."  He calls from the corridor.




"I'll be a lot madder if you don't get your ass in here son!"




Matt comes in slowly.  "We're sorry, we really are.  We handled it badly when we came back."




Carl nods and we both wait for them to continue. "So we were wondering if you, Uncle Carl, would conduct the blessing?"  




I've seen many faces of Carl but I have never ever seen him so overwhelming proud as I did at that moment.




" would be an absolute honour.  I-I can-can't believe you asked me t-to do this."




I hand Carl a tissue and wipe my own eyes.




"You realise this means you have to go shopping with my dad and Brian?"  Matt points out.




"You do realise that you need to start calling us grandma and grandpa?"  Carl replies.




The door opens and Jen and Tucker come in and Jen is immediately at my side. "What's happened?!"




"Nothing bad Jen.  They've just asked Carl to conduct the blessing."




"Oh that's lovely!"  She gushes.




"And Tucker we would like you to be the Master of Ceremonies please."  Hunter asks.




Tucker opens and then closes his mouth, before nodding, his eyes filling with tears.




"So that just leaves you two."  Matt and Hunter are both looking at Jen and me.




"Us two?  We're organising the blessing."  Jen points out.




"So you don't want to give us away then?"  Hunter asks with a smile.




"Give you away, really?!"  Jen cries and bursts into tears when Matt nods.




"So that's a yes from grandmom Jen and..."  Hunter chuckles.




"As if you need to fucking ask!"  I sniffle.












"Okay what's put that expression on your face?"




Zee is looking a mix of confused and amused.  "Let me come back to you on that.  Need to speak to mom and Aunt Dee."




There's a knock on the door and Emmy Lou pokes his head round.  "Hey sweetie your alarm call is here!  You really need to get going.  It's so unfair! I can't believe you won't let me come with you, let alone show me the menu.  I'm your partner and, sorry Faal, chief..."




He trails off in the face of her smile.  "You!  You!  Wait let me get my things.   Oooh!"




"Seriously, lig what is it?"




"Can you grab Mel, Brian and Justin and give them a heads up that some serious shit is going down.  But we will talk about that tomorrow okay?"




"Okay, but tomorrow for sure yes?"




"I promise.  Now let me go do my second most favourite thing!"




She dashes out grabbing a chiding Emmy Lou on the way.




"So what's the shit?"  Brian startles me.




"Not sure, but the call was from Talon. So I think we have a Twatzilla and Wankerboy storm coming."
















Emmy Lou has done some tweaking and has made me promise to do give him the recipes as he wants to recreate this for Drew.




Guy pokes his head in.  "Is everything okay?  Do you need anything?"




"Everything is fine.  Um, you can come in you know, it's your kitchen."  I laugh.




"I know but it's safer, if you want to have actual food to serve, if I remain out here."  He beams.




"Fair enough.  But you have to taste just one thing. It's a fruit so it's healthy."  I cajole.




Sighing in defeat he comes in.  I had heard of Guy but never seen pictures of him. It's art so I'm not interested, but he's what I guess would be called cute.  He's just under six foot, wiry but has such an adorable face that he reminds me of a better looking Nathan Lane in the Birdcage.  And when he's not skewering artists with his succinct but constructive criticism, he is an absolute doll.  He's a big fan of Justin and of course we've not told him he's coming along.




"Okay hit me with it."  He opens his mouth reluctantly and I slide in a couple of segments.




He chews and then swallows.  "Just give it to me you evil woman!"




The door opens again and his long-term partner Jules comes in.  "They're here.  What's that?"




He takes a segment from the bowl.  "Oh God that's heavenly.  Now put that down sweetie, we have guests to greet."












I have just walked past a Monet and a Renoir!  Yes I have seen them before but not in Guy Tackler Smith's house!




"Lydia, my darling!"  Guy pulls me into a hug and once again, I burst into tears. Thank God Cara said waterproof mascara!




"Lucian and Dee, how lovely to see you both!  I'm so happy I can do this for you.  Now come, let us go the lounge where we have pre-dinner cocktails and nibbles."




"Shouldn't we wait for Zee?"  I ask Faal.




"No she will join us for dinner, don't worry."




As we are lead into the lounge I want to pick up something to throw and if it was my house I would!  When they said that I was having dinner at his house, I naturally assumed the rest of them would be doing something else but they are all here, right down to Gus and Jenny.




"Happy Almost Birthday Lydia!"  They shout and Cara hands me a glass of champagne.




"Horrors!  My revenge will be swift and brutal!"  I snivel.




"Oh my God! Is that Justin Taylor?  Justin Taylor is in my house!"  Guy squeals.




"It's a pleasure to meet you Mr..."




"Oh no-no-no!  Guy, you must call me Guy.  And she's right about you Zaden, you are a horror!"




Jules grins then clears his throat.  "Now, at the risk of sounding slightly bossy, this is where you bring out the food!  Seriously, the smells from that kitchen..."




"Okay kids, and yes Matt and Hunter that includes you two, with us!"  Zee orders.




Five minutes later, the smell hits us.  "Bao buns.  I know that smell anywhere!"  Justin drools.




And he's right.  "What is in that?"  I demand.  "And before the men move a word of warning, I have been known to kneecap a person for the last one!"




"Orange and pomegranate glazed lamb with red onion pickle and pistachios."  Zee grins.




"Zee!  Why?!  You know what he's like!"  Brian moans.




Guy and Jules look confused as anyone outside the family would.




I chuckle.  "Whenever Zee and Emmy cook, Brian spends most of his time fighting off Justin for food."




"Wait that's Brian Kinney?!"  Jules gasps.




"Yes he is.  It's not a secret that they are married."  Cara tells him.




"I know but I've been trying to get an appointment with him for months. Can't get past the receptionist."




"I heard my name mentioned, why would you want to speak to me?  Apart from Justin's art."  He sighs heavily.  "Excuse me, put it back Justin!  Sorry about that, apart from Justin's art I have..."




"Sorry Jules De Le Vere of the De Le Vere Winery of Napa Valley."




I don't think I have ever seen Brian so stunned.  "Here's my card with my direct line. Call me Monday."




"Thank you!  I will."  Jules gushes.




Brian heads back to Justin, who actually has a bun in each hand.  The pout on his face when Brian takes one off him is priceless.




The next hour Justin, Cara, Zeon, Thomas and I get a tour of his gallery and Lucian appears at one point and manages to persuade him, I hope, to let some of his pictures appear at Bloom.




When we get back downstairs, the smells coming from the dining room are incredible. Guy practically sprints in abandoning us almost entirely!




"It's okay Guy I'll make sure our guest of honour is seated!"  Jules calls out and Guy blushes.




It's clear he does a lot of entertaining. This table can seat at least forty people comfortably.  The dining room reminds me of the roof Qube House in Portland with all over glass.




Zee taps her glass and the room goes silent.  The waiters line the room waiting for the nod.




"Okay, there are four courses in this meal.  They are Root, Sea, Land and Pudding.  The Root menu is: New potato and onion tarte Tatin with crispy capers and pistachios and chickpeas with grilled asparagus with chilli grapes and bagel croutons.  The Sea menu is: salt hake fritters with orange alioli, tangy and spicy prawns and saffron and pomegranate steamed clams.  The Land is spiced duck with pancakes, bone marrow butter braised beef short ribs and roast chicken with saiji masala with fixings.  I will tell Pudding if you've got any room for anything else!  So let's get on with the feasting!"




Two hours later, Guy and Jules have been subsumed as only the family can.  Justin and Brian had to be separated twice when the Land course arrived, once for the duck and then short ribs.




"So are we boxing up the Pudding of banana and coconut ice cream with brandy and caramel sauce, rhubarb and amaretti cake with orange and rosemary glaze and spiced boozy clementines?"




"Like fuck you are!"  Justin turns to the waiters.  "Bring those in immediately!"




"Seriously where the hell do you put it?  I had to avoid the kitchen all day in fear of inhaling the calories!"  Guy grouses good-naturedly.




"Try living with it 24/7 - just sickening!"  Brian bitches.




I know we went to the lounge after pudding but after that it's pretty much a blur but I do remember snuggling up to Zeus in the car.  All in all a fucking fantastic almost birthday!












Hunter is struggling not to cry.  All the rings in front of us are gorgeous; there are four platinum and diamond, two white gold and sapphire and three twisted platinum.




"Well which ones do you like?"  Dad asks.




"I like this one."  Hunter replies, pointing to the twisted platinum one.




"Uh huh and which one do you want?"  Mom demands gently.  "Come on sweetheart, let us do this. Pick the one you want."




We look at each other and nod.




"Want them engraved?"  Dad is beaming as the white gold rings are carefully boxed up.




"Yes but we will..."




"You will do no such thing.  We will pay for the engraving."  Papa Steve orders.




"Right that's everything, let me go and pay for..."




"What is it?"  Mom asks.




"What is what?"  Dad hedges.




"Show me now or I shall come back and return it."  Mom orders.




I don't know why dad bothers to try and buy mom stuff when she's with him. His tell is so obvious - the schmoopy expression on his face - he shows her the earrings.




"No more understand?  I know what is in the safe. If anything other than this is..."




And then he shows her the watch and she shifts slightly guilty as she shows him the man's equivalent.




"Do you think we will ever be like that?"  Hunter asks me.




"I hope so."
















"This is small?"  Justin giggles.




"Uh huh.  It's a Stark thing."  Aunt Dee chuckles, pouring some wine.  "Not an overcompensating thing."




"So what's the shitstorm that's coming?"  Brian and Justin have commandeered one sofa and I can see Brian trying to work out where it would fit.




"Kinnetic along the right back wall of your office."  I tell him.  "Move the table to another conference room put a small table in front of the sofa opposite your desk.  And if you get a screen or build a glass wall in front of this sofa then you and Justin can at least be a bit more comfortable."




"I'll give you the details before you go. It's new."  Aunt Dee tells him earning a Kinney grin.




Ralph clears his throat.  "So the background to the shitstorm is this..."




By the time he's caught us all up, we are still a little confused as to how this affects us.




"Sorry Talon, not seeing why we should be affected by this."  I tell her.


Ralph takes another sip of wine.  "As you know, we went to Talon's condo to make sure it wasn't seized and whilst I was using the facilities, I discovered something... disturbing."




He hands Brian the condom packet. He checks it and hands it to Justin, who frowns.




"Holes?  Why and who?"  He asks.  "And why should we care?"




"Michael was putting holes in the condoms that Lindsay and Grady are using."




"Okay still not getting the caring part."  Brian prompts.




"Well you know them better than anyone and we wondered if this is something they would hatch together?"




"No."  Mel replies firmly.  "I don't see Lindsay in this. She has her faults but she's not stupid enough to poke holes in condoms."  




"People relax, Michael is wasting his time.  There is no way in hell she can get pregnant by Grady."




"How do you know?"  Mom asks relaxing a bit.




"I just do."  I wink at Faal and smile.  "And if she gets pregnant, it will be an interesting development. Let Wankerboy and/or Twatzilla do their thang, though Talon I think you should mention Rexdale Avenue the next time you see them."




"I thought you didn't care about Grady?"  Talon frowns.




"Oh I don't. But he, she or they are trying to use the Matt connection to get back in with the family..."




"So my hellcat is coming out to play?"  Faal grins and I nod.  "Excellent."












"Hellcat?"  I chuckle.  "Why do you call her that?"




"She has the temper from hell when crossed and will fight like a tiger to protect what's hers so hellcat."  Faal explains.




"Speaking of playing, one minute."  Zee kisses Faal's head and makes a call.  "Hey darling girl it's Zee, I'm good, listen can you do me a favour.  Actually excuse me let me take this outside for a minute."




She comes back looking very happy and drains the rest of her glass.




"More wine?"  I ask.




"Please.  What was with the gobsmacked expression on Friday night Brian?"  Zee asks.




"Gobsmacked?  Oh!  Jules, Guy's partner, owns De Le Vere Winery in Napa Valley and has been trying to get an appointment with Kinnetic for months.  But apparently there has been a bit too vigorous adherence to the no cold calls policy by our new receptionist.  Must have Cynthia reign her in a bit."




"De Le Vere Winery?"  Faal looks bug eyed at him.  "Are you kidding me?  My granddad loved their merlot.  As for dad, he loves the cabernet sauvignon. We have to send him a case every Christmas and birthday and Father's Day...and that's on top of the present."




"Not sure what they want Kinnetic for but he's calling me on Monday.  So are we done with the angst now?  Can we get back to spoiling Lydia?"




"Absolutely!"  Justin grins, knocking back the wine and practically galloping to the car.




"What's...?"  I look quizzically at Talon, who looks equally confused.




"Wolfgang Puck's The CUT for dinner."  Faal chuckles as if that explains everything.




"Think back to Friday and the bao buns."  Dee tells me and I nod sagely.




As we head to our car, Talon takes my hand.  "What did I say?"




"That I had nothing to worry about where the family is concerned."




"And was I right?"




I nod and kiss her neck, I still can't believe my luck.
















Talon is going to be pissed.  Michael has done a half assed job on the cleaning up of the whisky, as I can definitely see a stain there. The man is beyond idiotic.




"It's not just me then?  You can see it too?"  Lindsay sighs.




"Yep.  He needs to clean it properly. In fact, the whole place needs a good clean."




"It's as if he's trying to get us to leave here."  She sighs.




"Come on let's talk."




I lead her to the kitchen and glare at the breakfast things he's left congealing in the sink. We washed ours up.




"I think that's what he's trying to do.  I had a tenant who was exactly like this.  He would do just enough to keep the peace but behind your back he's putting the boot in."




"What would be the point of getting us to leave?  It makes move into your place, surely not?"




"Us to move back there and he stays here all alone, because trust me Talon is not going to let him out of her sight and he's not staying at my house.  Believe it or not, I think he's going to try and claim squatters' rights."




She starts to chuckle until I hand her the document that I found in his dungeon.




When Lindsay gave him the ultimatum, I kept an eye on him for a few days. And when he wanted to use the printer a lot, I knew he was up to something.  Luckily for us and stupidly for him, he had made notations in the margins so there is no way he could say it was anyone but him.




"It could take months for Talon to get him out."




"What do we do with this?"




She looks a mix between appalled and impressed and I have to admit I was surprised his tiny mind went there!




"Leave it with me."




We hear the door opening and I quickly put the document back in my pocket.  He calls out to us but I pull her into my arms and start kissing her. She's surprised but uncomplaining.




"Thank fuck they're not...whoa didn't you hear me calling you?!"  He demands when he comes in the kitchen.  "And can't you do that somewhere else?"




I lift my head and smirk at him.  "Yes we did and yes we can but no we won't.  If you don't like what we're doing, then you leave."




He glares at us before turning to leave.  "Michael."  He stops and slowly turns round to face us.  "Talon will be pissed when she sees that stain. I suggest you get it cleaned off properly this time."




Don't get me wrong; I'm going to follow through with Luther's original plan to get engaged to Lindsay by Christmas.  If I don't get the money from Zaden, her milksop of a husband will pay, because he loves her so much and only wants her happiness.  But watching Michael struggling to control his immediate response before stalking out muttering to himself was nice.  Messing with his head is going to be so much fun!












God the smugness of the pair of them!  I can't wait to hear about Lindsay being pregnant and how Grady is going to handle that.  Even better, once they calm down and I tell them about how I engineered it, how Zee and her family are going to handle that.  There is no way they will let any half sibling of Matt's be without.  And maybe Lindsay's parents will come back into the picture now they have a grandchild the old fashioned way!




And while she's getting fat and can't put out...I know Grady will get a hunger that only I can satisfy...and I won't hesitate to tell her about it in my own subtle way.












I know they're all about surprise and subterfuge but blacked out windows and a blindfold is a bit much!  But I'm having too much of an excellent time to complain, though I did gripe about the absolutely gorgeous Vera Wang suit and shoes that Hunter and Matt got for me, for all of about a minute!




"Okay Lydia, we're here. Now take my hand."  I reach for Cara and then hear her sniffle.  "Oh my God this had to be Hunter!"  She hiccups.




I start to think desperately, where could we be?  I have many restaurants I want to go to but my one top one is...please on the soul of Monet, let it be the one!




"She's inside now, I think we can dispense with the blindfold?"  Faal orders and presses a glass of, I assume by the chill and shape of the glass, champagne.




I look round and immediately turn to Hunter.  "You?"  He nods.  "You are such a horror, I will get you back for this, just wait until you want holiday!"




"Good evening ladies and gentlemen, welcome to The Cut.  My name is Lucas; I will be your head waiter for this evening and this is Catherine, she will be your sommelier.  Please follow us to the private dining room.




There is a low wide vase of black baccara and black jade roses in the middle of the table, I quickly take a picture.




"Honey you're taking them home."  Debs whispers to me.




"How long have you been planning this?"  My voice is so thick I sound like Barry White.




"A couple of months."  Justin smiles at me, kissing my cheek and handing me his handkerchief.




"Just how the hell did you manage it?"  I look round.  "I know you guys have had a lot of shit to deal with."




"That would be because of the other special lady in our lives, Lydia. Her name is Cynthia. She did all the bookings; we did the rest."  Brian pulls out my chair and I sit down before I fall down.








"Now Lydia, in the words of the words of our illustrious chefs, stop glowering Zee."  Emmy chuckles in the face of her annoyance. She hates being called a chef but of course Thomas loves it and beams.  "Have at that menu."




"Oh God!"  Justin groans.




"What's wrong baby?"  Emmy is immediately concerned.




"Short rib bao buns."  He looks imploringly at Brian.  "Please?"




"Can't you just order two lots? It's just us in here?"  He sighs.












"Seriously, what is that with you Justin?"  Zander asks.




"He thinks it tastes better from my plate..."




"Bullshit, don't let him play the food martyr.  He orders and suffers because he gets to work it off him later!"  Faal teases him.  "Their food fights are the stuff of legend.  Do you remember the messy fest with the scallops?"




Drew snickers.  "Yeah we didn't see them for the rest of the night...actually until the next afternoon I believe."




Justin cocks his head to one side.  "I would keep your smugness to a minimum Mr Boyd. Remember how chatty Emmy Lou can be?  I believe you had an ego..."




"Yeah zipping!"  Drew blushes.




"Dad do you think I should try the tartare?"  Gus calls down.




"You could. If you don't like it, give it to Faal."  Brian tells him.




"What about papa, why can't I give it to him?"




"Makes him taste funny."   He replies and go back to reading his menu.




"Uncle Brian!"  Jenny squeals.




"Perhaps we should be questioning how you know what he means?"  Ben turns to her.




"Zipping!"  She replies quickly.




"Mel, Leda."  I stage whisper.  "I think a chat is called for."




"Excuse me Lucas?"  Jenny calls out.  "Is there another table we kids can sit at and still have them pay the bill?"




"No but we can remove that part from the video if you want?"




"Video?"  I splutter.








"Yep, special dispensation for a special lady."  Debs raises her glass.  "You took on my grandson and believed in him.  Thank you."




"Now come on let's order."  I instruct and I order 3 lots of the bao buns, I know my Sunshine!




Four hours later we are making our way back to the hotel.  Everyone has full bellies and happy hearts.  Lydia is buzzed so Cara has to get her into the car and then there's the matter of the flowers.  She got very emotional when she realised that her beautiful flowers - it only took her four attempts to say the word - would wither and die, but Emmy told her they are having them freeze dried for her before being delivered safely to Pittsburgh.












I just stare at them.  Then look at the horrors and back at the bed, which has box after box of gifts.




"Champagne my lady."  Hunter hands me a glass and even though I have had more than enough, I take a sip.  "Now we can say it!"




"Happy Birthday Lydia!"  They all yell.




"Open this one first, it's from me!"  Cara orders.




Inside is a beautiful dark blue velvet smoker's jacket.  "Oh Cara I..."




"Everything is monogrammed so you can't return it."  Faal rubs my shoulder.  "Guys, let's leave her to it for a while, yes?"




As the door gently closes, I burst into tears again. I don't think I've cried so many tears of happiness in my life.








"So my darling, what are we eating?"  Zee has been suspiciously quiet about the return journey food.




"Ham butter with warm bagels, pulled brisket in milk buns and baked potato broth with dumplings - completely vegan for those who don't want a carbfest and smoothies and of course Guinness and bubbles for those who feel only Black Velvet will do."




There are murmurs of delight and Justin is almost running towards the bar.




Chuckling I take her hand.  "My lig I think we should move out of the way for own safety."












I had tried to meet with them this morning but Lindsay said they were out so I decided to go there and wait.  I grimace at the reception floor, but that's nothing compared to the look on Ralph's face.  He was incandescent and had to step out and make some calls.




He motions for the clean-up crew to come in and starts instructing them in a tone that has me aching to drag him back to the limo.




"I can't wait for them to come back."  I tell him fiercely.  "Getting in is going to be an issue for them."




Four hours later the condo is back to my standard of perfection, so I settle down to wait for the return of my temporary house guests.








I'm happy but tired.  I got a call from one of the galleries and they want to see me for an interview.   So I decided to celebrate and take Grady out for brunch before a spot of shopping but because of the trust issue with Michael, we insisted he come too.  So we had the ignominy of his table manners and then the drone of his whining as he followed us around.




If he hoped that whining would get him home quicker, he was sorely mistaken. But we gave him a taste of his own medicine when he found a comic book store but left after our litany of ‘are you done yet' got to him after 10 minutes.  I did regret deciding to take the subway as we got delayed but now we are finally home.




"I can't wait to have a coffee."  Grady sighs.




"Me too.  And to take these shoes off, my feet are killing me."




"I can't believe I spent most of the day out and didn't buy a single fucking comic!"  Michael gripes and we both try not to roll our eyes.




"What the hell is wrong with the lock?"  Grady demands, trying his key again.




We turn to Michael who stares back at us blankly.  "What?"  He eventually asks.




"What?  You say what after the stunt you pulled the last time?  Why can't we get in Michael?"




"I don't know Lindsay.  I've been with you all..."




Suddenly the door opens and we're faced with a glowering Talon.




"Inside now!"  She hisses.




We obey and we all look at each other as we follow her to the lounge.








I take the chair opposite the sofa - or as Ralph calls it, the power chair - and they sit down warily.




"What the fuck do you think you are doing?"  I snarl.




"Um, what exactly is it that you think we've done?"  Michael unwisely decides to answer




"You let my condo, not yours, mine become a hovel, a pig sty and you ask me that!"




"I can explain that. We've tried to..."  Lindsay begins.




"And I blame this entirely on you Michael!"  I snap.




Lindsay and Grady exchange surprised looks but nobody is more surprised than Michael.




"Me?  Why me?  There are three people living here!"




"And only one person who eats childish cereals and still believes that people should pick up after him!  While I was getting this place disinfected I noticed that the areas that are shared with Grady and Lindsay are tidy but when it came to your room and..."




"You had no right to go in..."




"As the owner of this property, I had every fucking right!"  I take a breath.  "As I was saying, when I got to your room I found at least three cereal bowls under the bed, the basement that was even worse and we are not going to discuss the bathroom!"




Michael gets up to go to the cart.  "Sit the fuck down!"  I growl and surprisingly he does.




I clear my throat.  "And as for the stain in reception that required special cleaning which cost $1200, which will be added to the amount you owe Michael, not you Lindsay."




He slumps back glaring but says nothing.




"Now, please humour me and write down the following; this is Talon's condo and I will treat it with respect and keep it clean always.  And then hand it back to me."  I hand them each a pad.




"Do you want us to sign it?"  Michael snipes.




"If you wish."  I reply tightly.




As they hand the pads back to me, I shake my head.  "Oh I found this. Can one of you explain?"




I hand each of them a piece of paper and predictably Michael goes ashen.




"And by one of you I mean Michael, because that is your handwriting is it not?"




"This is..."




"A premeditated attempt at squatting, yes I know."  I sneer.  "So here is what is going to happen. I have taken out insurance to make sure that you don't do that."




"What have you done?"  He asks nervously.




"Taken away half of everything in the basement.  Once you repay the loan, then you'll get it back and I will even provide the van for you to fuck off in.  More than generous, don't you think?"




Michael is just sitting there in shock.




I stand up smooth down my dress and pick up my purse.  "Here are your new keys.  And because I just don't trust you I'm going to give you what you want, Michael, and that's staff.  They will be live in, yes Michael in the basement.  But make no mistake they work for me, not you. Any attempts to treat them like shit will be reported and I will act accordingly."




As I head to the door I pause.  "Oh Lindsay, didn't you used to live in Canada?"




"Yes why?"




"Oh, great, it's just that I've got a lovely place over there, um 21 Rexdale Avenue, such a sweet name.   It was a 2 bed knock down hovel but now it's a 4 bed, 2 bath gorgeous home.  And since I've yet to live in it, I just wondered what you could tell me about the area?"




"Rexdale Avenue is a lovely area."  She clenches her fists.  "Very picturesque; you'll like it there."




"Great thanks.  Bye all."  I smile.








The slamming of the door seems to bring Michael out of his catatonia and he rushes downstairs.




"Are you okay?"  Grady asks carefully.  "You look like you're going to explode."




"21 Rexdale Avenue is where I used to live.  That bitch bought my house and..."




I'm cut off by the scream of Michael and then he runs out shouting Talon's name.  A few minutes later he comes back in, white with fury.




"She wasn't kidding!  And she's locked the remaining collectibles in a display cabinet that is bolted to the floor that only she has the fucking key too, as per her fucking note!"




"Maybe she put the electricals upstairs. Did you check your room?"  Grady suggests.




He brightens and dashes upstairs. We look at each other and start to count. We don't make it to three when he starts swearing and actually stomping his feet.




"Feel better about her living in your house?"  Grady grins.




"Just a bit."  I giggle.




















I can understand why he wants to do this, but also I don't understand why he wants to do this.  I don't think it serves a purpose as we will be covered but there you go.




"I'll get it!"  Hunter shouts and lets in Pop and Papa Steve.




"Hey boys, how you guys doing?"  Papa Steve kisses me on the cheek.




"Okay."  I reply quietly.




The door goes again and this time it's Grandmom Jen and Tucker and Grandma and Grandpa.




"Okay so what's this about?"  Grandma as usual gets straight to the point.




"Mom and dad aren't here yet..."  Right on cue the bell goes again.




"Gang's all here."  Hunter sighs.  "Okay let's go to the lounge so we can talk there and then eat."




They all sit down and Hunter looks at me. He knows how I feel about this and I will support him.  But this is his joyride.




"Okay."  He takes a breath.  "The thing is...I mean, um.  Wait, let me just..."




"Just say it sweetheart."  Grandmom Jen orders firmly but gently.




"We know something is happening with Matt's dad and that could cause problems for the family.  Also, it may get back to Lindsay that we're married now and if it gets back to Lindsay, then it will get back to Michael.  So, mom if..."




Mom sighs and then nods.  "You want me to leave them all to you?"




Hunter sags in relief.  "Yes. Matt's my husband and it's my job to defend him.  I know he's your son but..."




"You are both my boys.  But husband beats mom.  No matter how mom feels about it.  Okay I'll back off.  But tap me in if you need me."




"Us."  Grandpa corrects her.  "If you need us."




"I just don't see why we need to tell them."  I protest.




"I didn't say I was going to tell them.  I said it could get back to them especially when we go to New York next week.  And now that mom's told Melody to lift the blockade on Lindsay, she's bound to be there.  And I am not taking my ring off!"  Hunter states emphatically.




"God help them!"  Dad chuckles.  "So was that it?  This was the big discussion?  Can we eat now?"




"Yes, yes and yes Papa Faal."  Hunter smiles.




Everyone heads to the dining room except Grandmom Jen and mom.  "He'll tap you in and if he doesn't, I will."




"You'd better."  They say in unison.
















She's not happy but she's got to let him fight this if a fight is coming.




"Okay, I'm being a psychotically over protective tiger mom! I will leave them to it, but with one condition."




"And what's that?"  I lift her chin.




"You ask Justin to give him some WASP pointers."  She bites her lip.  "Please?"




"Okay.  Now what is all of this?"  I wave at the cookery books spread out on the counter.




"Well we have Thanksgiving, a wedding, a blessing and Christmas to cater for.  Luckily we've done our last event for the year."  She snuggles in deeper; I love moments like this.  "So we can concentrate fully on the wedding and the blessing. As for Thanksgiving and Christmas, Emmy Lou and I aren't allowed to do a damn thing, apart from maybe suggest food."




"I'm glad.  So who's doing what?"




"Thanksgiving is Debs, Jen, Alice and Thomas. Christmas is mom, Aunt Del, Debs, Alice and Thomas and it's going to be in Portland."




"Is it?  Why...oh yes the wedding is on the 22nd so there's really no point coming back, is there?"








I squirm a bit as she rolls her wedding ring finger up my spine.  "Stop it. They'll be fine."
















Ted and Brian have been going through Taylor Electronic accounts and talking to Tobias at the same time.  Judging by the grins on their faces when they are on the phone, he has a major Schenking coming his way.




"So how bad is the business?"  I ask warily.




"Not too shabby.  The stock is overpriced though.  I think that... no let me start again.  Maybe you should consider hiring someone like a business manager who can oversee all the stores for you?"  Brian suggests.




He gets a sunshine smile and a kiss for that because there are times he tends to tell me rather than suggest.




"Okay, but who and do you have the time to help me interview them?"  I ask.




"Not sure and not really.  I've got some crucial pitches coming up in the next few weeks and there's the De Le Vere meeting.  We can't leave the staff hanging on like this. It's not fair to them.  There must be someone else who could do it that isn't going to be a pain to train."




"What about Zeus?"  Ted looks up at us.




"What about him?"  I ask.




"You know the BroHouse?  Who do you think got it kitted out?  He knows his stuff and I know for a fact that he's getting bored at Feeley."




"Do you think he'd do it?"  Brian asks, starting to smile. I know that look; Ted's getting a raise.




"No harm in asking."  He replies, going back to his accounting.












I still can't believe my birthday weekend.  Sara is cooing over the presents I got as I was told, when I got there, to take as many pictures as possible. So she's going through my camera.




"Oh my God the flowers!"  She groans.  "You must have been gutted to leave them!"




"No they are on their way here, should be here at some point this afternoon." She looks confused.  "They had them freeze dried and are shipping them."




"Where are you going to put them?"




"In the place I spend most of my time.  Here of course, now let's work out where!"




There's a tap at the door and Zeon pokes his head in.  "There's a big ass box for you in reception."




Sara almost runs him over to get to it.  He smiles at me and I smile back but then there is an almighty scream.




I dash out and Sara is standing there staring and the entire gallery is quiet.




"What is it?!  What's wrong?"  I quickly get to her side, stare and then look at Zeon.




"Happy birthday! This is from me and Thomas and no I won't take it back."




"This, this is the Kemtope that was in-in my bedroom in Paris!"  I gasp and fish for a chair.  "No Zeon, I can't take this!  This is too much."




"You can and you will.  Personally, I don't like his art so you're doing me a favour and besides it's part thank you for persuading Zee to swap bequests.  So it's yours."




Suddenly the door opens and it's a FedEx guy.  "Delivery for Lydia Glendale."




He looks very confused when the entire gallery bursts out laughing.
















"So what do you think?"  I ask Zeus, whilst holding a nervous Justin's hand under the table.




"The layout of the stores are horrible.  The stock is not only over-priced but outdated.  It needs a complete refresh. Basically I wouldn't shop there in the condition it's in.  And what kind of company doesn't have a website?"




He leans back in his chair frowning.  "But fuck it, I like a challenge so yeah.  I'll hand my notice in at Feeley and be here in a month."




We both let out the breath we'd been holding.  "Thanks."  Justin smiles.  "Is there anything you need me to do?"




"Have a sale in all stores.  Get rid of the stock.  Actually, just give it to hospices, schools and the GLC for them to sell, keep or whatever that will really chap Craig's ass.  I want the place to be empty of any of that shit by the time I come back."




Justin gapes at him.  "Are you serious?"




"Yes.  When you said you wanted to talk to me about this, I asked the best brain I know what I should do?"




"And what did Zee say?"  I chuckle.




He snorts softly.  "Strip mine it.  Get rid of the deadwood.  Start from the basement up if needs be but make is something to be proud of.  But don't get rid of your greatest assets unless they cause problems."




Justin frowns and looks at me.  "The staff."  I explain.




"So I'm going to sit down with the manager of each store before I head back to Ohio.  But first I want to send everyone an email telling them to give me their opinions as to what they want in their stores."




He pauses and looks at us.  "What do you think?"




"I think that Taylor Electronics is going to be fine."  I smile and kiss Justin's hand.  "But you might want to reword that email a bit.  Let me get you someone who can help."












It's been just over a week since the spies for Talentless moved in.  I'm still fucking pissed that she took my stuff away but I have toed her line for now, but that stops.  These people are staff and they work and live here. So no matter what she wants to say, they work for us.




Lindsay and Grady are still in bed. I hope working on our project, and I'm hungry.  I head downstairs to see what's cooking for breakfast and find them sitting there gossiping.




I clear my throat and glare at them.  "What exactly are you doing?"




Gerald, who used to work for Luther, and Jason look up at me, before resuming their conversation.




"We don't pay you to sit around gossiping.  You should be doing stuff and..."




"You don't pay us at all."  Medea, another one of the spies, interrupts me.  "Ms Kho pays us.  And as for what we are doing, we don't start work on a Saturday until 1200 and it is now 1045. So what we are doing is none of your business."




I don't like Medea or Medusa as I tend to think of her.  Gerald and Jason I can tolerate because frankly they are guys.  But Medusa is a woman and not only that but she has rooms on the floor above us, which I think is wrong. She should be below stairs with the other two.




"Well I would like something to eat."  I look at all three of them impatiently.




"Ah.  Now come on boys. He needs privacy for the culinary masterpiece that is pouring Captain Crunch into a bowl and adding milk."




Gerald and Jason snicker and follow her out.




"That's not what I meant Medusa!"  I mutter.




Part of me wants a bowl of cereal but the other part wants them to remember their place.  So I head to the basement to check my collectibles and am surprised to find that the display case has been moved to outside their rooms and is different, but still bolted to the floor.




I try the door but it is still locked and now instead of a lock and key there's a keypad.  I storm back up to them.




"What happened to the other display case?"  I demand.




"We have a more mature use for it now."  Jason and Gerald exchange smirks.  We asked Ms Kho if she could provide another case for your stuff and move it elsewhere and she did."




"But why couldn't it be taken to my room?"




"Because you need concrete to bolt it to the floor."  Medusa replies.  "Now come on you, two time for breakfast. After the night you two most likely had, you need the energy boost!"




They head back to the kitchen chuckling and I glare at their retreating backs.  "Well I'm going out!"




"Bye then!"  She calls back.




I head back to my room and gather my wallet and keys.  Lindsay and Grady are still not out of bed yet.  I smirk at their closed door and head out.








I watch the leech leave and shake my head.  I do understand why Ms Kho didn't kick their asses out the moment she found out what she found out.  They owe her money and letting them out of her sight is a bad move.




I like Ms Kho, now that she's with a man who treats her with respect.  I only worked briefly for Stark.  I had to leave because I just could not tolerate his attitude, especially to Ralph.  He was as nice as pie to me of course.  As far as I am concerned there is one race and that's the human one.




"I'm so glad I'm not hungover."  Jason smiles and nuzzles Gerald's neck.




"That whine is like a drill bit."  I chuckle.




"Good morning all."  Lindsay comes in smiling.




Now her and Grady I also don't trust but at least their manners make their shenanigans somewhat tolerable.




"Morning.  Are you in or out today?"




"Out.  I have to check out a couple of things for my new job.  And I've got to get a new outfit for next Friday's show.  I'm so pleased that I'm finally working!  Is Michael still in bed?"




"No he went out about 40 minutes ago."  Jason tells her.




"Oh I wanted to tell him about my job.  Never mind, I'll tell him later.  Well Grady and I are going to be gone most of the day, so see you later."




The boys quickly head downstairs.  I smile and shake my head.




Not seeing them for most of the day either.












This is some place.  I still can't believe that she's said that whatever we don't want, in the condo to arrange for it to be delivered to local charities.  The boys and I just stared at her as if she'd gone mad.  She just said she wanted everything that he had here, except the artwork, out of the family.




But when we showed her the wardrobes full of clothes some with the tags on it, she said she'd take them.  Not sure Faal was too happy about her taking them but she, as usual, sweet talked him.




So now we are in a strip mined condo.  We're not moving walls or anything, just redec and new furniture.  Faal has insisted on chandeliers in all the rooms except the kitchen, which she has insisted is redone.




"Hey Baz the kitchen's cleared.  Let's get going shall we?"  Fredericks nudges me.  "I still can't believe what she let us take!"




"She's full of surprises that lady."  I smile at him.  "Come on she wants it done by New Year."
















I still can't believe it; I have a job!  And it happened so fast.  I was interviewed on the Tuesday and they offered on Thursday night.  Of course, Grady took me to celebrate on Friday.  Michael was at a convention somewhere so he doesn't know yet.




But I get to tell him tonight as it's just us.  Grady has gone back to his place for the evening as he's going Atlanta for the Falcons vs Jets game and is back on Monday night.




I hear the front door open and tiptoe to the door.  I've heard them complaining already about the way he looks at them and speaks to them sometimes. Well not them as a whole per se, it's more Medea.  He's still pissed that Talon refused to let him move to the upper floor instead of her.




As he comes in the phone rings and Medea answers it.  "The Kho residence, how may I help you?  I'm afraid she's not in at the moment, may I take a message?  Of course thank you, goodbye."




"Medea."  He sneers.  "This is not Talon's residence. She doesn't live here.  Why do you say that?"




"Two reasons: just because she doesn't live here it doesn't make it any the less her residence.  And two, by the time I've said, ‘Peterson, Holster and the Whining Manchild Residence, how may I help you', they've hung up."




She turns smartly on her heel and heads back to her room and I quickly sit down silencing my chuckle with a cushion before switching back the volume on the arts channel and hoping he goes to his room.




After half an hour, I think I have the lounge to myself but no such luck.  He comes in and swats at my ankles and since my feet are tired, I really don't appreciate it.




"There are other seats here."  I point out, not moving them.




He glares at me.  "But I want to sit on the sofa."  He looks up at the TV and sighs.  "Do we have to watch this?"




"No we don't but I do."  He sighs again.  "Michael.  You do have a TV/DVD player in your bedroom, which you still haven't thanked Grady for persuading Talon to bring back for you.  Why not watch whatever you want to watch up there."




"This is a bigger screen. You can really see the Transformers..."




"How many times have you seen that movie?"




"It doesn't matter. I want to watch it down here!"  He snaps.




"Well we don't have a TV in our room!"  I couldn't resist the dig.  "And I need to watch this to make notes for Monday!"




He rolls his eyes. "Oh? So what's so fucking important about Monday?!"




"I start my new job!  Yes Michael I got a job!  And to celebrate I was going to take you for lunch tomorrow but you can forget that!"




He looks angry.  "What in fuck's name have you done that for?"  He demands.




"Because I miss the art scene and..."




"You have Grady now and..."




"And we still owe Talon that money, and I want to pay my way too!"




He stands suddenly and looks me up and down.  "You are so stupid!  Where's the WASP you fucking purport to be.  Just let Grady look after you for crying out loud!"




And then he storms out.




What the fuck was that about?












How can she be so stupid?!  I can't believe she was serious about getting a job. I thought she was using the fact that she was being blocked as an excuse.  Once she gets back in the art scene, she'll be hobnobbing at events, which means less time for her and Grady,  which means less chance of her getting knocked up, which judging by the brandy she was drinking hasn't happened yet.  Fuck!




And of course, this means that I have to get one too.  Double fuck!
















"Mr Taylor, I have read the documentation pertaining to this case and before I pass sentence, I want to understand something.  What made you come to San Francisco after all this time of being out of your son's life in an attempt to sabotage his art show?  You must be aware that San Francisco is one of the gay capitals of the USA?"




He snorts but doesn't answer my questions.




"Fine.  Since you are determined to be so recalcitrant, let's get to the sentencing.  For the premeditated attack on the gallery, I sentence you to 6 years.  For the attempted obstruction of justice, I sentence you to four years and for contempt I sentence you to another year."




That gets his attention.  "But Luther Stark said..."




"Quiet, I am not finished!  Then there is the matter of restitution to Lucien Stark for the damage to his paintings and the gallery for the loss of business, will not be in monetary figures, they don't want the money from a homophobe, but restitution must be made.  Once you are released from prison you will have two years of tagged community service to the local AIDS hospice of wherever you reside."




"What?  No!  I'm not fucking doing that!"




"Well unless something happens to you in jail.  That's exactly what you will do.  Take him down!"
















I'm so pleased with what's happened to those bastards.  I'm less pleased that I got roped into helping Zeus with the admin side of things for Taylor Electronics. Well that's what I told Brian. Actually, I can't wait to get in there and rip that fucking thing to pieces!




Zeus Stark is due in ten minutes.  I've never met him. I knew Zeon and Zee but we lost touch after school.




"Hey Cyn," Ted pops his head round the door.  "Zeus Stark is here.  He's in conference room 5."




Ah early, good start!  "Thanks Ted, I'll be right there."




I grab my iPad and research and stride towards the conference room.












Feeley took my resignation better than I thought he would.  I've just got to train my successor over the next couple of weeks and then I'm here.  Should be interesting.  Despite what we thought initially, Zeon and Thomas decided to stay in Mount Lebanon.  So I'll rent out my place and stay in the BroHouse instead.




"Zeus Stark?"  A striking blonde strides in with her hand outstretched.




Fucking typical!  I groan inwardly.




"Yes, you must be Cynthia, a pleasure to meet you."




"Likewise.  Shall we get started?"




"Yes.  First with the emails..."




Almost five hours later, we've sent the email out and we've already had 50 plus responses.  Some of the stalwarts have pushed back saying they're happy with the way things are but she's been stern and firm and said to offer them severance packages.  But mostly they've been positive and the ideas some have had have been great.




"You hungry?"  She asks. We ate earlier but it's past five now.




"I could definitely eat."  I smile at her.




"Good let's go.  Have you heard of Speakeasy?"  She asks gathering her things.




"It's Zee's favourite place for whisky."  I laugh.




"Mine too.  Give me about 15 minutes and I'll meet you in reception."
















I've checked my emails.  Nothing that can't wait.  Lipstick on, hair perfectly mussed, now remember Cyn, this is not a date repeat to yourself this is not a date.
















I love flabbergasting my husband.  He was unhappy that I took the clothes from his house but now that I've explained what I'm going to do with them he comes round the desk and kisses me soundly.




"So let me get this straight.  You have given all the clothes and jewellery that was in his condo to Debs and Kiki to auction at Babylon to raise money for the GLC and Vic Grassi House?"




"Yep.  Well not all of the jewellery. All of our grandparents' pieces we've kept and personal stuff.  And the real pieces, I've already sold on, and that money is with them but the rest goes to auction early December."




"He'll hate that."  He chuckles.




"Shame.  Now how did the De Le Vere meeting with Brian go?"




"Excellent!  He's going to have to call Justin in for the ad campaign though. Jules insisted but another good coup for Kinnetic."




"I'm glad. Love the wine, hate the packaging and that bloody advert with the woman wafting about like she's got the vapours or something..."




"Speaking of panting and being hot and bothered?"  He grins at me and locks the door.










I can't believe that he was doing the presentation for the Ray-Hundt Exhibition!  Once he finished his little speech, I hung back a bit waiting for the inevitable lovefest that is his family fawning over his greatness but that didn't seem to happen.  I wanted to talk to him but had to be careful of my new boss, Anouk, who has had her eye on me all during the presentations.




Finally, it's reception time!  I spot Melody Reichmann but decide not to approach her after the last time.  Besides I don't want any word to get back to her that I'm back; so much for her vaunted blocking powers!




I grab a glass of wine and decide to walk round and see the paintings without the mass of people crowding them.  The Ray-Hundt is not quite up to my Impressionist standards, too modern, which is most likely why he was doing it!




I finish off the wine and search for a waiter when I spot Miranda standing by herself. Time for the whelp and I to get reacquainted.




"Hello."  I whisper in her ear. She turns and looks me up and down, not the reaction I expected.




"Ms Peterson."  She responds coldly.  "What are you doing here?"




"I'm a gallery manager in one of the finest galleries in New York so of course I would be here and..."




"Miranda, there you are!"




She turns to smile at Sidney, who looks right through me.  "Come my dear, Pieter van Kop is someone I need to introduce you to. He's already met Hunter."




He links her arm in his and as they walk away I hear him ask what I was doing here. The fucking nerve!  If anyone should be being introduced to Pieter van Kop, it's me!  I was about to follow them when Anouk intercepts me.




"Come on Lindsay, I need to introduce someone who has an amazing talent in one so young."




I plaster on a smile and follow her, managing to grab a glass of wine on the way.




"Lindsay, this is Hunter Bruckner.  Hunter works for Uptown Gallery, in your former hometown of Pittsburgh but he's done this as a favour for Sidney Bloom.  Hunter, this is Lindsay Peterson. She's our gallery manager.  I'll leave you to get acquainted."




Matt joins us and I look round for the rest of the family. They don't appear.




"So where..."




Sidney approaches him and clears his throat.  "Hunter, we need to do the press interviews."




"Sidney, good evening."  I greet him.




"Lindsay."  He coldly replies.  "Matt, we won't be long and I'll bring him back in one piece."




Without another word to me they walk away.




As they walk away, I smirk at Matt.  "So where's the rest of the family?"




"Pittsburgh.  Excuse me. May I have another glass, please?"




"Of course sir."




As he reaches for it and takes a sip, I notice the ring and can't help the gasp of surprise.  But before I can say anything else, Anouk is again by my side, telling me that we need to go circulate some more.




By the end of the evening, my feet are killing me and all I keep seeing is his ring.  It was white gold and sapphire. Even those two had better fucking rings than I did!  I watch them get into a limo whilst I have to hail a cab and feel my resentment simmering.




It takes an hour to get home and I'm exhausted.




"How was your evening?"  Michael looks up from the movie he's watching with Grady.




"Oh just fucking wonderful."  I snipe and pour myself a glass of brandy.  "By the way, Hunter and Matt are married."




"What?  When?  How do you know?"  Grady demands angrily, which surprises me.




"Hunter was doing the presentation so naturally Matt was there.  As for when, I don't know but you should see their rings. White gold and sapphire and you know damn well that they didn't buy them themselves."




I pour another brandy and sit down rubbing my aching back.  "Can we pause that for a while? It's giving me a headache."




"I wonder if he has a pre-nup."  Grady looks thoughtful.




"I doubt it.  Look you guys carry on. I'm going to bed."  I tell them.




"You okay? Need a massage?"  Grady asks, frowning.




"Maybe in the morning. Just need a shower and bed."  I reply, giving him a kiss on the cheek.




"I'll come with.  Goodnight Michael."  Grady takes my hand and leads me out.








Married?!  They got fucking married!  I can't believe I wasn't even told!  I'm still his father in my heart!  I chuckle to myself, for a second even I believed that!
















I know I've stunned them but I hope in a good way.




"Can you repeat that?"  Emmy Lou asks.




"Despite his name, Tobias is from Kansas and absolutely loves BBQ and smokehouse food and I say this one time he can be indulged.  Don't you think?"




"Absolutely.  But we need to speak to Emily, Francine, Faal and Brian."  Zee looks thoughtful.




"Emily and Francine I can understand but Brian and Faal?"  I ask.




Emmy Lou grins.  "One of them has to source the smoker and the other the BBQ."




Zee sighs.  "God help Justin and me.  The last time they went to look at something online, they bought something completely different though from the same region"




"So..."  I begin.




"It's a villa in the mountains in Italy..."




"They can't possibly do anything bad with a smoker and a BBQ."  Emmy Lou asks.  "Right?"




"You didn't let me finish. They bought a villa in Italy, when looking for a pasta machine."




















I brush the hair out of his eyes and look adoringly at my husband.  He arches his head back and grabs the headboard tightly.




"So..."  I kiss him softly and deeply as he groans with frustration.  "Do you promise?"




He opens his mouth to say something but pressing the remote silences him.




"No talking or cumming until I say so.  Remember?  Or I will have to start again."




He nods his head frantically and clamps his mouth shut.  We could've used the Toy Room for this but I wanted to catch him off-guard.  I press the remote in a staccato rhythm that has him grunting with each pulse.




I slither down his body, planting kisses as I go.  I don't think I've ever seen his cock this colour but then again I've never edged him for this long, either.  Gently, I pull out his butt plug and watch the relief flood his face before he almost screams when I slide it back in.




"So you promise..."  I swallow him down whole and suck for one minute.  "To not..."  I repeat the action.  "Buy any...," he's fisting his eyes and heaving breaths, "...thing but a smoker for Portland..."  I lower my mouth but pause.  "And promise not to get anyone else to surprise us with a new property?"  I suck leisurely on my favourite cocksicle.




He's struggling to keep his legs apart and is thrashing his head from side to side.  "You can speak but don't come."




"I-I promise.  P-Please... I p-promise!"




"Good."  I press twice more and slide up his body.  "You may come."  I whisper in his ear.




"Oh fuck!"  He yells as his cock explodes and I watch in fascination as his hips jerk and he thrashes on the bed.  Finally he quiets down and the shaking stops.  Gently I remove the butt plug and clean him off.




"Brian, babe, drink this.  Come on."  I nudge him gently and his eyes flutter open.  Slowly he sits up and drains the glass.  "More?"  I ask and he nods.




"Shower."  He croaks quietly.




"Sleep for a bit, then we shower."  I mould myself to his side and in seconds he's asleep.




Wonder what she did to Faal to get his agreement.  That was my last thought as I succumbed to sleep.
















"Do you think we should get them to do their homework down here?  It seems awfully quiet up there."




David sighs.  "I agree and I also think we may need to speak to Mel, Leda, Ben and Steve."




I head upstairs as quietly as I can and check that I'm not being an overprotective stepdad and no I'm most definitely not!




I head downstairs quickly.  "Yes we do that like tomorrow!"  I hiss and drain my glass of wine.
















I'm planning to appeal this farcical sentencing so I figure this is my lawyer.  When the door opens, it's not my lawyer but he looks familiar.












"I am Tobias Schenk from the IRS. We met briefly before your incarceration..."




"And..."  I snark.




"You owe the IRS $3.7mil in back taxes and of course there is the fine for non-disclosure, which would be $600K so all in all you owe $4.3mil payable within 30 days."




I feel my stomach hit the ground.  "I don't have that kind of money available."  I stammer.




"Yes I had a feeling you would say that.  So we've placed a garnishing order on all, and I mean, all the accounts that you hold so, here's your receipt and balance.  And another thing, putting your home in your daughter's name was a bad idea because she's too young, so she's signed that over to her mother.  Good day Mr Taylor."




I stare at the closed door in fury.  I look down at the piece of paper he handed me; I have just over a million dollars left. I can start somewhere new with that when I get out of here.




I stand and knock on the door to be let out.  "Where are you going?"  The guard asks.




"Back to my cell."




"You have another visitor.  Sit down sweetcheeks."  He eyes me and I grimace at the affectation but sit down to wait.




This time it is my lawyer.  "Where the hell have you been?"  I snarl.  "I want to appeal this bullshit and..."




"You are no longer my client.  My bill is due.  If you want to appeal this then you need to get a court appointed lawyer in San Francisco to help you."  He cuts me off.




"What?"  I bluster.




"This is the total and it is payable immediately."




"I'm not paying you squat!"  I spit.




"This is a copy of the garnishing order that has been placed on your accounts and there is the matter of the ‘robbery.' The insurance company will not be processing your claim.  You will have to pay the new owners for the loss.  This is your receipt.  Good day Mr Taylor."




After he leaves I wait for a minute, because as they say all good things come in threes but I'm simply taken back to my cell. As the door clangs shut, I wish I could die here.
















I keep looking at my ring.  We both do.  "Why did you ask me?"  I take Matt's hand.




"Because I didn't want to leave this planet without knowing how it felt for you to be my husband."




"Have you always been gay?"




"Um.  Well yeah.  What about you, have you ever...I mean with a girl?"




"Once."  I wait for the outburst.




"Me too.  What did you think?"




I turn off the movie and wriggle back against him as he pulls the blanket over us.  I love spooning on our sofa in our home.




"It was okay I guess.  It felt weird."  I confess.




"You too.  I just love the grip and the warmth you feel and you don't get that from girly parts."




I giggle and turn round to kiss him.  "You know that J and Hank have done it, don't you?"




"Thought they had.  As long as they are being careful..."




"But she's only just turned 16..."




"And this is J we are talking about.  She's smart and sensible and despite the freaking out that is most likely happening at Squirrel House, they know that too."
















Nobody says a word.  Leda is inhaling her wine and Steve looks like he wants to kill Hank.  Of all the people to react like that, I didn't think it would be him.




"So how...I mean when?"  Ben asks.




"Just after my 16th birthday."  Jenny replies, her defiance somewhat abating.




"But what about protection?"  Charles is almost hyperventilating.




"We used that and we always use that."  Hank replies.




"Ooh squickiness!"  Gus shudders.




I have to hide my smirk and not look at Brian.  Gus is here because Jenny said since he's having sex too, he deserves the talk as well.




"And what about you Gus, are you being sensible?"  Ben asks.




"I'd cut his balls off if he wasn't."  Brian growls and that wipes the smirk off Gus's face.




"Listen."  Justin looks round to see that he has everyone's attention.  "These are our kids and they are smart, sensible and we should trust them.  Right?"




Leda nods.  "Let's not make a bigger deal of this than it needs to be.  It's just sex and they're having safe sex.  And after what they've been through, they need the release!"




"Momma!"  Gus and Jenny yell.
















We're all crammed into the house, Zee's brothers are here, and I'm so happy.  I'm currently looking on Google for blessing rules as I don't want to screw it up.




"Can we have your attention please?"  Matt calls out.




The room goes silent.




"As you know Hunter and I went to New York on Friday for the showing and we bumped into Lindsay."




"Was she a bitch to you?"  Zeon is immediately on the defensive.




"No. She didn't have the chance to be but she knows we are married.  So that means that Michael will know."




"So ZayZay, Faal what are you going to do?"  Zeus asks.




"Nothing."  Zee replies.




There is a stunned silence.




"What do you mean nothing?!"  Zeus is in full rage. He's become very close to Hunter.




"Husband beats mom.  But we do get a tap in."




"And in English that means?"  Blake looks round.




Zee takes a deep breath.  "Hunter and Matt want to handle this themselves and we've agreed to let them.  But they have agreed to come to us, the tap, when they need us."




"Oh that's why you want me to talk to him!"  Justin gasps and then grins.  "Ooh consider me your Henry Higgins to your Eliza Doolittle."  He chortles.




"This is going to be a nightmare."  Hunter grumbles.




"Speaking of nightmares."  Jen grins.  "The final nail in the Craig Coffin was dealt this week.  It's official; he's destitute!  Well in WASP circles, he is."




"What happens to his house?"  I ask and Jen smirks.




"Since Molly doesn't want to have anything to do with it, I was going to sell it.  But Debs had a much better idea."  She pauses for a sip of wine.  "We're going to give it to Kiki."




"Why?"  Not that I'm displeased with the idea but it does seem a little out of left field.




"Remember if it wasn't for Kiki then we would never have known about Craig.  And she mentioned to Debs that she was looking for somewhere to live.  It fulfils two purposes... well three.  One to say thank you.  Two, it will chafe Craig's ass to no end when he finds out and he will and three, and I can't believe I'm going to say this of this particular nest, but they absolutely adore Kiki at the country club.  After her talk and having heard what she did for Bernie, they have seen past the cover and read the book.  I can't believe I'm quoting Kiki!"  She laughs.




"So onto even more pleasant subjects, the wedding!"  Blake is grinning.  "I understand it's going to have a Kansas theme?"




"Food wise, yes.  Brian and Faal are tasked with getting the smoker and BBQ and that's all they're getting."  Zee chuckles.




"Yeah right."  Ted scoffs.




"No, honestly, I made a promise to Justin and I never break my promise."  Brian kisses his hand.




"So did you promise too, Faal?" Ted teases him.




"No.  But I won't do it because I know she will..."




"Will what?"




"Compact my Spyder."  He replies calmly.




"She wouldn't dare!"  Leda snickers.  "You'd most likely divorce her; you love that thing."




"She would and I wouldn't.  She's done it before."




"I smell a story.  Hang on!"  Zan ambles to the kitchen and gets more wine.  "Proceed."




Faal looks at Zee who shrugs.  "I had a couple of friends from South Africa who Zee didn't like and I couldn't understand why.  Anyway, she tells me that they are always nice as pie to her when I was there but not so much when I wasn't.  So she asked that if I had to meet up with them that they didn't come to the house."




"And you ignored that."  Zeon snickers.




"Yep.  She was fucking pissed and told me that she would not be disrespected by anyone in her home and that included me.  She said that if I brought them to the house again she would compact my Mercedes Coupe; which my Oupa gave me for my 16th birthday."




"So you brought them back again and..."  Jenny's looking hopefully at her Aunt Zee.




"Compacted it."  Zee replies.




There is a stunned silence.  "B-but his Oupa gave him that.  How could you?"  Steve asks.




"How could he?"  Zee asks.  "I had to follow through and even though I cried with every crunch, it had to be done."




"Faal how did you feel?"  Steve asks, for some reason he's taking this badly.




"I was fucking pissed and called my dad and Oupa about it and you know what Oupa said...?"




"You can get another car but can you get another wife?"  Ben suggests.




"How did you know that?"  Faal asks.




"Just a guess.  Steve, think about it.  They disrespected her and by bringing them back to his home against her wishes then he disrespected her.  She is first, not his friends, she is.  If she hadn't have done it..."




"But you replaced the car?"  Steve questions. Faal shakes his head with a smile.  "Why does that make you happy?"




"Because I realised how brave she is.  The car had great memories for her too but she had to make me realise how far I could go."




"What happened to your friends?"  Justin asks as he and Brian share some torte.




"Well they encouraged me to leave her saying that she disrespected me and I shouldn't be pussy whipped by the likes of her."




"Likes of her.  What the hell is that supposed to mean?"  Jen huffs.




"I never found out.  Haven't seen them since."




"How long ago was that? I don't remember you rowing about that?"  Matt asks.




"You were six or maybe seven.  We'd been married for about three years."  Zee explains before turning to face Steve.  "Why does it bug you?"




He sighs.  "I just don't get how you could deliberately hurt him like that I guess."




"I deliberately hurt and disrespected her.  Besides it's not as if I wasn't warned."  Faal argues.




"You wouldn't do something like that to me though, would you?"  Steve turns to Ben.




"Absolutely."  Ben replies firmly.  "Don't give me a reason to though okay?"




It seems to finally make sense to Steve.  "I won't."
















I am trying very hard not to cry as I bury my head in his neck.




"Come on it's only 3 weeks."  Sol rubs my back and I heave a calming breath.




"It's getting harder and harder to go home."  I mumble.




"And it's harder and harder to let you go, but you can't stay here and I can't go there."




"I know."  I hiccup.  My flight is called and with one more kiss, I head to security and home, which doesn't feel like that anymore.
















I look in on Sol and of course he looks miserable as he always does when Menno goes home.  On day three he's back to normal but it's best to leave him be until he feels more Dump Truck like.




"Shall we attempt to get him to have something to eat?"  Adam asks.




I shake my head.  "Not on day one of mourning, day two yes.  Have you learned nothing from the Dior tie incident?"




He shudders at the memory and we both try not to snicker but it was priceless when Rafe, one of the other lawyers, thought that teasing an emotional 6 foot two man about missing his partner was a good idea.  He realised the error of his ways, when his tie was stapled to the desk, while he was still wearing it.  Sol apologised but Rafe had to snark so he cut his tie up...again while he was wearing it.




"What about that sometime emissary of love that is Zee?  Can't she do something?"




I shrug but resolve to call her tonight.












The store has been completely gutted and Cynthia and I are staring at the space. It's huge!  We've been in touch with his previous suppliers and they are delighted to be able to provide us with the up to date stock at a reasonable price.




The staff couldn't believe it when we told them what to do with the stock. Turns out at least 3 of them are gay but said nothing through fear of losing their jobs.  Cynthia has drawn up new contracts for everyone and pretty much all of them have signed.  We didn't have as many severance packages to organise as we thought.




"What colour do you want the walls?"  Cynthia interrupts my day dreaming.




"Light grey and the frames, dark silver so it looks like..."




"...the stock is floating.  Nice!"




"What are you going to do with his office?  It's pretty grim.  He was clearly overcompensating with that desk!"  She chuckles.




It's an oak monstrosity that takes up almost two thirds of his office.  And we are not even going to discuss the sofa that has some dubious looking stains on it.




"How the hell did he get that in here?"  I ponder, watching in amusement as she crawls under the desk. "What exactly are you doing?"  I ask, moving from the very nice view.




"Seeing if...ouch fuck it...if the desk was a put together job.  Yep it's a put together job.  Let's call in the sales team."




"What on earth for?"




"So they can rip it apart and pretend it's him of course!"  She crawls out backwards, grinning.




"How long have you worked with Brian?"  I smile at her.




"Long enough!  So what are we going to use this for?"




"Presentation room.  I mean rooms.  One for home entertainment and the other for computers.  What do you think?"




"There's a brain in that hands...head of yours."




"Thanks."  I grin at her and head to gather our sales team.




I hear a thud and turn round to see her hitting her head on the desk and groaning.
















"Are you sure we can't open an office in South Africa?"




I try not to laugh at his mournful expression.  "Yes I'm pretty sure.  Why does he keep going home though?"




"To help his dad on the homestead.  Not that he needs the help but he misses the high plains aspect of that."




"Well there must be some way to compromise surely?"  I gather my papers.




He sighs.  "If there is I'm fucked if I know what it is.  Let's go I feel like kicking some fucking ass today."
















Jesus, he looks even more miserable than normal.  It's really taking its toll on him.  Nothing is cheering him up.




"Only another two weeks."  He scowls at me and sniffs. Oh he has it bad!  "Menno, this is painful. Come on, speak to me."




Before he can do that, Zee bustles in with Zeus and Sol.  Immediately, Menno goes to switch off. They have this rule that they don't see each other between visits.  It's so sweet!




"No Menno please don't!"  Zee is practically bouncing of the walls.  "Sol face the wall!"  She orders.




"What?"  Sol looks confused.




"Please!"  She begs.




"Fine."  He turns round and my heart breaks for my little brother as he wipes away tears.




"Zeus and I were out last night and he was complaining about not being able to rent his place out and how he might just sell it.  But... well... go on and tell them!"  She's jabbing him in the side.




"Stop it Zay or I won't say a word!"  She stops immediately but does poke her tongue out.




"As I was saying.  I have a five bed, 3 bath house and..."




Menno clears his throat.  "I can't do city living. I just can't and..."




"150 acre ranch."




"A what?"  I gape at him.




"Well, I wanted to move after Meredith left and then dad staying there, what with everything he did, I just wanted rid of it.  So I decided that country life was for me but I've never been so bored in my life. I lasted 2 days before I rented an apartment in town.  And now I'm in Pittsburgh for keeps it's just..."




Zee interrupts.  "Pittsburgh to Ohio is an hour flight wise.  You can stay at the BroHouse when you're working cases or you can stay at your place but then you can go back to Ohio and be with your man.  What do you think?"




"Sol, look at me."  Menno's voice is barely a whisper so Sol doesn't move. "Sol."  He repeats louder and firmer.




Slowly Sol turns round and looks so hopeful.  "What do you think babe?"




A smile is starting to tug at his face.  "Is it furnished?"




"Barely.  So you could put your own stamp on it."




"Can you send pictures?  I want an idea of the space inside and out."  Menno is now grinning.




"Give me half an hour."  Zeus gets on the computer and I wink at my lig.




She winks back and jerks her head to the door and I follow her out.  I close the door and pull her into my arms and kiss her.  "You little romantic."




"Not romantic, okay maybe a little.  Papa said that if he heard him sniffle one more time..."




"What's for dinner?"  I ask, shuffling her along to the kitchen as she wants to eavesdrop.




"Spoilsport."  She snickers.  "Yellow duck curry with rice.  But for lunch roasted tomato soup and grilled cheese and bacon sandwiches."




"Have I told you lately how perfect you are?"




"No but you can show me later."  She kisses my nose.  "In the meantime, slice the cheese and fry the pancetta."




Twenty minutes later Zeus and Sol come out with the latter grinning from ear to ear.  "So when is he moving to the good ole USA?"  I smile at them.




"Two weeks' time.  And I need to speak to Jen about putting my place on the market or renting it out.  I only want one home and that's in Ohio with my man in it."  Sol beams.




Zee does her ‘that's that' hand movement and pours some wine.  "My work here is done!"












Lindsay has been bitching about her sore back.  I'm not happy that she and Grady are on my case about getting a job again!  I don't want to work, plain and simple. Well unless it's in a comic book store.  I couldn't wait to get out of that job in Canada and now that she's back in the art scene, she's Miss Hoity Fucking Toity!




And don't get me started on the spies!  Talon said she was giving us staff, but what's the point of having fucking staff if they don't do what they are told?  Medusa especially.  She's a stickler for her duties. Every time I tell her to do something, she comes back with that's not in my remit.




"Grady!"  I call out to him.  "Lindz!"  I wait for their response and there is none.




I head to the basement and the door is locked. So they are either doing whatever the fuck they are doing in there or they're out.  I head upstairs to her quarters and again it's locked.




I sigh in relief and head back to the driveway to collect the extra collectibles that I bought today.  Lindsay can't complain about me buying this as I bought it with my money but I don't want Talentless to see it.




I can't believe how much I got these for.  As I pick up the first box, it slips but I manage to save it before it hits the ground. Heaving a sigh of relief, I turn to go back inside but find the door closed.




Putting the box down, I go to grab my keys but they are not in my pocket, neither is my phone or my wallet.




"Fuck!"  I take a deep breath.  "Okay Michael, you are panicking and because you are panicking, you can't find them.  Be calm and you will find them."




I come up empty.  Scratching my head, I'm not sure what to do.  I pile the boxes by the front door and head round the back to see if there is a way in that way but after 15 minutes, I can't find it.




I look through the panes by the front door and sure enough there are my keys and phone!




I look at the time and realise I can be stuck out here for a while unless the spies come out or back from wherever they are.  Lindsay won't be back until this evening.  And fuck alone knows where Grady is.




I sit on the stoop and try to think of a way in.  Then it hits me!  If I break one of the panes, I might be able to reach in and open the door that way!  I make my way round the back of the building again to find a rock or something that I can break the glass with.




I'm surprised when I come back to find not only the door open but the parcels gone.




"Hello!  Who's here?!"  I call out, as I head inside; there's no response.  "I'm calling 911!"




"What on earth for?  I live here."  Grady laughs at me but I'm too relieved to care.




"When did you get back?"  I look around and frown.  "And where are my parcels?"




"About 10 minutes ago and what parcels?"




"The ones that were on the steps.  Where have you put them?"  I demand.




"Nowhere. There was nothing on the steps when I got here."  He replies, looking confused.




"This isn't funny Grady!"  I snap.  "I paid a lot of money for them. Now where are they?!"




"Look I don't know what the fuck you are talking about.  I met Lindz for lunch and I bumped into Talon on Fifth and she gave me a lift home and that's it!"  He snaps back.  "Ask Jason if he did something with them.  He came in at the same time."




"Talon and Jason were here?"  I ask weakly, silently sending up fervent prayers.




"Yeah.  Why? What's the big deal?"  He starts to head upstairs with his shopping in his hands.




"Nothing.  Nothing at all."




I wait till he closes the door and immediately head downstairs and knock on Jason's door.




"Yes?"  His tone is less than friendly.




"Did you pick up some packages from the steps when you came in?"








I heave a sigh of relief.  "Great! Thanks."  I head upstairs to the kitchen and make myself a sandwich and relax for an hour.




Then I notice the time and realise that Lindsay will be home soon and it won't do if she finds the packaging in the bin.  I head to the kitchen but the packaging isn't there; the bin is empty.




I smack myself on the forehead when I realise that he wouldn't have opened it so head to my room but they're not there.




I knock on his door again and when he opens it he has a toothbrush in his mouth.  "Ummf?"




"Where did you put my parcels?"  I smile tightly at him and then my heart sinks when he points to the cabinet and then shuts the door.




I knock again.  "What is it now?"  He sighs.




"Why did you put them in there?"  I ask, near tears.




"Why wouldn't I?  It's where the rest of that stuff is."




















"Okay guys we have a problem."  All eyes turn to me.  "Darius and Tobias have gone a bit nutso on the food and want practically everything we've suggested and that's just not possible.   Well, unless we split the food over the wedding and the blessing"




"Would Matt and Hunter go for that though?"  Cara asks.




"Would Matt and Hunter go for what?"  Right on cue Hunter lopes into the room.  "Hi mom.  Lydia sent me for and I quote ‘butter confit turkey wings stat'."




I head to the kitchen and box her up a portion by the time I come back Hunter is looking through their menu and picking up his phone.




"Hey, can we have a BBQ/smokehouse themed menu for our blessing?  Why?  Okay so far I'm reading mead salad dressing, beef short ribs, anchovy salad cream...and you love anchovies.  Also there's some things with smoked bacon rub, duck rub and then of course there's the pulled duck and caviar burgers and..."




He grins from ear to ear.  "He said yes."
















Lindsay is really trying and I mean really trying!  She doesn't quite grasp that as gallery manager she has to muck-in wherever is needed and be proactive about that not waiting to be asked.  However, her one redeeming feature is that people seem to like her brand of pushiness when it comes to opinions... well to a degree. I had to put out a potential fire with a regular customer who she got sniffy with.




But we have a busy schedule next week and I need her to be on top of her game.




"Lindsay, may I have a word?"  I call from my office.




"Of course."  She takes a seat and does that annoying hair-flick-fluff thing.  "What can I do for you?"




"As you know we are very busy next week with four showings..."




"Yes I'm looking forward to the Truffaut one. He's one of my favourite modern artists and..."




"I'm glad you said that because it's no longer going to be in New York."




She looks surprised.  "Oh where has it moved to?"




"As luck would have it, your hometown of Pittsburgh.  So I want you to be our main point of contact for him, making sure that everything runs smoothly.   You would need to be there for Monday morning so you'd have to fly out Sunday night.  Here is your pack, your tickets are inside; I'm counting on you to do Kaden proud."




She smiles but I know she's unhappy.  She wanted to be here for the French Renaissance Show but she has to earn that right and thus far she hasn't.




"I won't let you down."




"See that you don't.  Have a good evening and a safe flight."




"You have a good weekend too."
















She's been in a pissy mood since last night.  I know it is work related because when she came in she grabbed a brandy and was muttering about her experience and fucking Anouk.




"Want to talk about it?"  I ask, as she comes back into bed with a cup of coffee.




"I wanted to do the Renaissance showing next week but instead I have to go to fucking Pittsburgh for the Truffaut show instead!"




"And why is that bad?"  I know the answer but she needs to vent.




"Because it's something a junior person should do, not a gallery manager!  My knowledge of Renaissance is better than anyone in that gallery!"  She inhales deeply.  "But I shall go there and do her proud."  She sneers.




"Lindsay, babe, this is a godsend."  I tell her smiling but she looks confused.  "You're not seeing what else we could accomplish whilst we are out there?"




"We?  You're coming with me?"  She smiles and curls into my side.  "What else could we accomplish?"




"Well, I can get to know my son-in-law for a start."  She sits up quickly and stares at me.  "Well he is.  Matt is my son ergo Hunter is my son-in-law, and besides you could try and build bridges with Gus and Jenny."




"I'm not..."




"Enough time has passed and you've left them alone.  You've changed from who you were before, right?"  I reassure her.  "Prove that by letting them know; for example, that you've accepted the decision of the courts, which you have but you want a relationship on their terms..."




"What about Michael?"




I contemplate that for a minute.  "Bring him with us.  I still don't trust him to be alone here."




She nods and settles back down against the pillows.  Slowly she begins to smile.  "Coming to that backwater town with my own show. Yes this will show them!"  She smirks.
















Justin is trying and failing not to laugh.  "Where on earth are Emily and Francine going to put that?"




The family is gathered for our usual Saturday get together and Faal and I are doing show and tell with the BBQ and smoker.  Faal got the smoker and I thought I had the perfect BBQ but judging by the silence I'm in the minority.




Zee shakes her head in amusement.  "Uh Brian, remember the kitchen has a six foot spit roast fireplace, which can cook a cow?   Admittedly it takes about 4 days but it can be done."




"I had forgotten that.  So with that in mind, it's too big isn't it?"  They all nod.  "But it's fucking cool though."




"No, absolutely not! You are not having it here."  Alice tells me firmly.  "That is going to be hell to clean and you've only just got the last one.  It's not even been used yet!"




I huff a laugh and hold my hands up.  "Okay I'll send it back and get the next size down."




"Wait hang on.  Not necessarily.  Cool the evil looks my lig, I was thinking more along the lines of Sol and Menno...when they move to Ohio. It would be great, though it might need to be sunk in so that it can't be taken."




"You beauty."  Zee blows him a kiss and he blushes.




"Okay let me send this to them and see what they say..."




"Trust me he'll say yes and Sol will do anything that Menno asks him to do."  Faal laughs.




"It's true. They are so in love it makes my teeth ache."  Mel snickers.  "But at least we don't have to go through the mourning period every three weeks anymore; it was hideous!"




"Uh momma, dad, papa have a look at this."  Gus comes in with his phone in his hand.




"What the fuck?"  I snarl and hand it to Justin. The room goes quiet and Mel calls for Jenny.




"What's happened?"  Carl demands.




"Lindsay texted him to say she's coming to Pittsburgh and wants to take him to lunch next weekend."




Everyone stops and stares at me in shock.




"No fucking way is that happening!"  Jenny comes storming in and almost throws her phone at Mel.  "That-that-that thing has sent me a text to say..."




"He's in Pittsburgh and wants to take you out for lunch next weekend?"  Leda surmises.




"How did...?"  She begins and then turns to a shell-shocked Gus.  "Did she contact you?"




He nods and I pull him into my arms.  "Sonny Boy, what do you want to do?"




"I-I don't know.  Part of me wants to tell her to fuck off but the other part wants to know what she's up to."  His voice wobbled and I look immediately to Justin.  "We'll be right back."








"After all this fucking time!  Why contact them?  What the fuck is...are they thinking?"




"They're not!"  Leda stormed.  "And if they are, then it's about themselves."




"Oh fuck, it's work.  It has to be that."  Hunter sighs.  "Wait let them come back and I need to check something, before I can explain further."




Another five minutes and they're back. Gus is looking a little red eyed but more composed, but Hunter looks pissed off.




"Fuck it, I thought so."




"Hunter has a theory."  Red tells them.




"There is a the Truffaut Renaissance Show next week and it was supposed to be in New York at Kaden Galleries but because of a certain someone having a fangirling moment, they've moved it to here.  When we were in New York and we bumped into Lindsay, I found out where she now works and it's..."




"The Kaden Galleries."  Faal sighs.  "So what are you going to do?"




"What do you mean by fangirling moment and who are you talking about?"  I demand.




"Lydia is an enormous fan of his work and as a birthday treat Melody got him to move it to Pittsburgh."




"Wow.  Does Lydia know?"  Justin asks.  "Truffaut is one of the best modern renaissance artists out there. I have a couple of his pieces.  He's related to Francois Truffaut, the late French film director and art critic."




"No she doesn't and this is now going to ruin it for her!"  Hunter laments.  "What can we do?  Mom, anyone, any ideas?  Tapping you in here."




"So you're going to be her escort correct?"  Jennifer asks and smiles when he nods.  "Lindsay's one big weakness is her social climbing, her need to be top bitch. I've got this one don't worry.  And you two..." She turns to Gus and Jenny.  "I think you should see them for lunch."




"What?  Why?"  Red demands.




"Because, Michael is the opposite of her in that he's apt to run his mouth..."




"In other words, gather intel!"  Jenny is already reaching for her phone.




"Exactly.  And Justin, time for your Henry to meet Hunter's Eliza."
















"What are we doing here Hunter?"  I gripe. I've had a long day and all I want to do is hit a bar.




"We won't be long, I just need to pick something up and then we can get some whisky down you."




"Hurry VDT being wasted here!"  I grumble, he looks at me.  "Valuable drinking time."




"Less than a minute I promise!"  He calls over his shoulder.




"Lydia, there you are come with me!"  Sarah surprises me and grabs my arm.




"What's going on?"  I gasp, as she pulls me to the bathroom.




"You need to get dressed.  You can't meet Enrique Truffaut like that!"




"Enrique...?  Oh what have you guys done now?!"  I catch sight of a grinning Hunter.




Twenty minutes later, Cara and Sarah have got me dressed in my Vera Wang suit and refreshed my make-up...well almost.




"Get the tears out of the way first before I do your mascara."  Cara orders.




I take a big sniff and then blink them back.  "Ready and once again you're not longer my friend and Sarah you're fired."








Everything looks great, though the pictures could be straighter.  I still don't understand why it was moved from such a prestigious place as NYC to here.  But, more importantly, Gus and Jenny have agreed to meet us for lunch on Saturday.  I can't wait.




As I look round the room, the crowd looks great.  I told Grady and Michael not to come after I said I could handle this on my own.  Grady said he was going to try and reach out to his former brothers-in-law so that should be an interesting discussion to have when I get back.  Not sure what Michael is doing. As long as it isn't anything stupid, then all will be well.




Then I spot Lydia and she's with Hunter.  Well now's my chance to show them how a show is done properly!




I make my way over to them.  "Hunter, Lydia, what a surprise to find you here."  I smile sweetly.  "How's business in this little burgh?"




"Fine.  How long have you been with Kaden?"  Lydia asks, Hunter ignores me.




"A few weeks.  Well if you'll excuse me, I must go wait with Enrique for his special guest of honour."  I smile and make my over to him only to find him talking to Melody Reichmann!




"Lindsay, how lovely to see you?  How's New York treating you?  Well I hope."




I'm completely thrown by her change in attitude and for a minute don't speak.  "Melody, lovely to see you too.  New York is treating me well.  If you don't mind, I need to steal Enrique away for a minute. His guest of honour is..."




"Melody, you gorgeous creature!" A man interrupts and I almost faint. It's Guy Tackler Smith!




He and Melody greet each other before turning to Enrique.  "Have you met her yet?  She's an absolute dream and her...ah there she is!  One minute!"




I take a few settling breaths and turn in readiness to greet the person who had the power to move this showing.




"Lindsay, Enrique, please meet the woman of the hour, Lydia Glendale, and her escort Hunter."




My face locks into a rictus grin.  "No introductions necessary Guy.  Lindsay used to work for me before she went onto pastures new.  And Hunter, Melody you are in so much trouble!"




"Well while you beat up Melody, I need to, actually before I do that.  Hmmm, I see Stark on your badge. Does that mean you're here in a friend capacity, Hunter?"




"Yes why?"




"Do you think you could be Hunter Bruckner, darling curator of the art world for one minute?  I really do need you to meet Simone Basquiat. Yes that Basquiat, not quite got his touch but someone to watch."




I watch stunned and furious as he waltzes off with Hunter before turning to Enrique, who is smiling for the first time this evening.




"So Lydia, which picture would you like to see first?"  He loops her arm into his and takes her away.




It leaves myself and Melody, who smiles at me again.  "Lindsay dear, that painting, third from the left is listing badly. You need to fix that."




My heart is racing with rage and embarrassment as I stalk over and order my assistant to fix it and then check the guest list. How did I miss Basquiat?!




I tried to avoid them for the rest of the evening but being the host and her being the fucking guest of honour made it impossible.  Finally, this evening is at an end and we've packed up. As I head outside, Hunter calls out to me.




"Need a lift to your hotel Lindsay? It's raining."




I look at him in surprise.  "No thank you. I'll just get a cab."




"Suit yourself but it's after eleven and chances are you won't get one."




I sigh and nod, getting in the limo.  I'm surprised to find myself alone. He leans in.  "We're going with Guy and Enrique to a private club they know.  Get home safely."




The door slamming jolts me straight into a migraine.




















Thank goodness that is over and done with.  Not only did the Truffaut exhibition run for another day but I also had to help them close it down and do yet more tiresome admin.




"So what's the plan for tomorrow?"  Michael is sprawled on the sofa.  His jumper has ridden up a bit and he is stroking his stomach. Well I hope that's what he's doing, as I really can't watch.




"Michael stop that; it's repulsive."  Grady berates him and I could just kiss him.




He scoffs at him and stops.  "Had no idea you were this delicate."  He's being obnoxious again.




"I'm not.  I just don't appreciate you digging at yourself like you're a baboon in tick season.   In our suite.  Save your grooming habits for your room."




Before this escalates into yet another argument between the two of them, I stand up.  "The plan was to meet Gus and Jenny at the country club but they didn't want to go there so we're going to Steelhead Brasserie & Wine Bar at one and..."




"Fine.  Are you guys ordering room service?"  He gets up, looking at us hopefully.




"No we're heading out in about an hour.  My lady deserves a cocktail or two for all the hard work she's done this week."




"Okay.  Shall I meet you back here or in reception?"




"Neither, this is a date for just the two of us.  You will have to find something else to occupy your time.  Now excuse us, we need to get ready."




Grady stands and opens the door.  With one baleful look at me, Michael stomps out.












"This is a date for just the two of us." I mutter once I slam my door shut in frustration.




Fucking dick!  Actually, how I wish I was fucking his dick.  It's been so long since I've had company.




I can't believe Lindsay is not pregnant yet, though I have been looking up early pregnancy symptoms and I think she's displaying some of them. Might start to drop a hint or two.




So I'm going to go revisit my old haunts. See how much this place has changed or not, as the case may be!












I almost barfed when Michael was playing with his stomach. Ugh, and he wonders why he's single!  He doesn't have a bit of decorum or class.  We're meeting up with Matt and Hunter on Sunday before we go back to New York, surprisingly enough Lindsay still had Hunter's work number. It will be just Lindsay and I, as we thought with Michael there, it would be too contentious.




I'm still waiting to see if the brothers want to meet.  I contacted Zeus and he said he would call back and so far I'm still waiting.  




Lindsay has finally stopped bitching about having to slog it out with the minions, as she calls them; for the last two days.  Apparently, this Truffaut guy was very demanding and on top of that the guest of honour at the party treated her like shit. So hopefully this evening and tomorrow will improve her mood.












I look at Stuart and can't believe it's the same guy that we took on almost two years ago.  He looks so healthy and more importantly happy.  And we still couldn't believe it when he and Miranda started dating!  It was so out of left field considering his major crush on Brett Keller, but they are still going strong.




I head back to the office to complete the week's paperwork and even Ted can't believe this place is doing as well as it is.  Brian and Justin have reduced their share in it and soon, if it maintains its profitability, it will be 100% ours.








I look up as the door opens and I can't believe my eyes.  Michael Novotny is in our store!




"Excuse me..."




"I don't need any help, I used to own this place."  He tells me smugly.  "I'm just going upstairs to..."




"Actually no you're not.  You're barred for life, remember?"  Blake picks that moment to come out of the office.




Michael's stops and heads to the door, scowling.  He looks me up and down.  "At least your staff has improved. What happened to the lost soul that you took under your wing?  Relapsed, did he?"




"No.  I'm fine thanks. Now leave or I shall have you arrested for trespass."




I took great pleasure in slamming the door in his stunned face.








I can't believe fucking Blake!  And that was Stuart?!




I wave at the barman for another beer and look around for some action.  The clientele has improved since I've been away.  I spot a guy at the bar, who looks like he could use some company.  I make my way over.




"Hi."  I smile at him and he smiles back. He reminds me of Grady in a way.  "The name's Michael and you are?"




"Zeph and..."




"You are a beautiful man.  First time out?"  I run my hand up his thigh. He moves it away.




"Thank you.  And I'm not out at all. I'm just having a quiet drink before meeting my friends."




"I could keep you company."  I move closer to him.




"No you couldn't even if I was gay, which I'm not.  I'm not interested in anyone who invades my personal space from the get go and starts feeling me up.  You need to hone your technique."




"If you're not gay, what are you doing in a gay bar?"  I demand.




"One, they do great beer."  He drains the rest of his bottle and stands up.  "And two; there's no law that says that only gay people can go to a gay bar.  Only a heterophobe would believe bullcrap like that.  Bye."




He grabs his coat and leaves and I look round to see if anyone noticed our interaction but it doesn't look like it; so I take that opportunity to retreat back to the hotel for another lonely night.












We decided to get here early and take our places at the bar and wait.  Dead on time, in comes Lindsay. She's with another man, who I've not seen before.




"Jenny!"  She comes over as if to give me a hug but I step back.  "Um, where's Gus? I thought he would be here."




"He is.  He's in the bathroom."  I look behind the two of them.  "So Lindsay, no Michael?"




She flinches a bit but keeps that stupid smile on her face.  "He's just coming."




Judging by her gasp, Gus is coming back.  "Lambskin you've..."




"Hated that when you were my mother, hate it even more now.  My name is Gus."




"Honeybun!"  Michael comes towards me, smiling. Seriously these two are fucking smiling!




"Jenny."  I step back further. 




Gus nudges me in the ribs.  "Before we go, who are you?"




"Grady, Grady Holster.  I'm a friend of your mother's and..."




"You can't be.  I've not seen you round Squirrel Hill at all."  Gus cuts him off.




Michael's eyes narrow but he doesn't say anything and an awkward silence descends.




"Shall we go to the table now?"  I prompt.




"Yes let's do that."  Michael gets between Gus and me. I grit my teeth and say nothing.




"Hunter!  Matt!  What are you doing here?"  Lindsay gasps.




Hunter stands up and pulls out her chair.  "Thought we'd kill all the birds with one stone.  Besides we now have plans with the family tomorrow.  It's not a problem, is it?"




"Thank you.  And of course not."




"So what do you want to eat?  Order whatever you want."  Grady tells us.




"Why are you here?"  Gus asks, looking at Lindsay.




"I-I want to rebuild the relationship we had and..."




"No, I don't want that relationship. It was based on lies."




"So Michael, is that what you want too?  And are you going to include Hunter in this as well?"




"I would prefer you to call me dad as..."




"Well I wouldn't, Michael."  I retort. I hold back my wince as Gus kicks me under the table.




"And I would like to get a chance to know you all better, especially my new son-in-law.  I can't believe my baby boy is married!  So when did it happen?"




"September in South Africa."  Matt replies.  "Excuse me waiter, can we order some wine please? The South African merlot and the chardonnay.  You want beer babe?"  Hunter nods.




"The family must have loved it."  Lindsay gets misty eyed.  "Do you have pictures?"




"No it was just us so we're having a blessing in Portland, over Christmas."




"May I see the rings?"  Grady asks and they hold out their hands.  "You can take them off."




"We could but we're not going to."  Hunter responds.




The wine arrives and Michael looks round the table.  "They're too young to have wine."




"You don't get to do that, so cut it out!"  I snap.




"You are only 15! You aren't old enough to..."




"16, I'm 16!  And I'm old enough for a lot of life experiences..."




"And what's that supposed to mean?"  He demands.




"Again.  You don't get to do that!"




Gus clears his throat.  "What are your intentions towards Lindsay?  Are you her boyfriend or something?"




She blushes and they look at each other.  "Well we are in a relationship, which we both hope has a future."




Michael scoffs into his water and rolls his eyes.




"You don't seem happy about that?"  I turn to him.




"It just came a little of the blue, that's all."  He retorts.  "From the pair of them."




The look that Grady gives him is not friendly.  "Don't worry Michael. There's someone out there for you somewhere..."




"You know who you three remind me of?"  Matt pipes up and they shake their heads.  "The herd from Ice Age."




I snort into my drink and we all just stare at him.




"A rag tag of people brought together by opportunistic circumstances as opposed to love, trust and friendship.  Lindsay you're Diego, Grady you're, obviously, Manny and lastly, Michael.   You're a combination of Sid, for the looks, and Scrat...continually chasing things that don't want to be caught, well not by you anyway."




The food arrives and the one thing we can agree on is that it looks delicious.  And of course eating the food that Zee and Alice prepare means that we have built up our tolerances so the ghost wings were nothing for us but for them, well judging by the bright red faces Michael and Lindsay are sporting, I'll go with too much.








Fuck me those wings were hot!  My nose is running and my eyes are watering.  I wipe my hands on the napkin and then go to wipe my eyes.




Hunter stops me.  "Uh Michael, I wouldn't touch your face with that if I were you.  Use another napkin, you'll thank me in the end."




I scowl at him and wipe my lips dab my eyes.  Within about 10 seconds, the stinging starts.




"Ow my eyes!"  I yelp and spring up.  "Where the fuck is the bathroom?!"  I scream at the nearest waiter.




"Just by the stairs sir."




"Do I look like I can fucking see to you?!"  My eyes are streaming and I daren't blink.




"Of course sir, my apologies. Come with me."




Fifteen minutes later my eyes feel better and by the time I get back to the table they seem to be finding something amusing.




"What's so funny?"  I ask, sitting down.




Grady beams at his baby boy.  "Matt was just telling us how he proposed to Hunter whilst he was spear fishing and in surprise, he almost shot him in the foot."




"I see.  So where did you get the rings?"  I take a sip of my water.  "Where's my food by the way?"




Matt waves to a waiter and he comes back with a covered plate.  "We had them keep it warm for you."




I shake my head at the waiter.  "Could I just have another serving of this?"




Lindsay's eyes widen but I ignore her.




"Diamond district."  Hunter replies.  "Mom and Papa Faal insisted on replacing the ones we bought and dad and Papa Steve are doing the engraving in time for the blessing."




"Mom?  Papa Faal?"  I question.




"Yes that's what he calls Aunt Zee and Uncle Faal and he calls papa, Papa Steve."  Jenny tells me, grinning.  "It's really quite sweet but can be a bit confusing when we're all together."




"Where is the diamond district in South Africa?"  I ask and Lindsay rolls her eyes.




"There isn't a diamond district in South Africa.  Actually, the whole country could arguably be called a diamond district.  We got them in New York."  Matt says.




They are just so fucking smug and self-satisfied, it's annoying.




"How's Zee feeling now that her dad's in prison?"  Grady glares at me so I ignore him too.




"She couldn't care less.  He stopped being a father a long time ago.  Something you two should be familiar with."  Matt snaps.




"Look can we please just not fight?"  Lindsay pleads.  "We're trying to rebuild the relationship, not make it worse."




"Speak to him with his bitchy, not witty, bon mots."  Hunter spits, glaring in my direction.




"What the hell do sweets have to do with this?"




Unfortunately, I took that moment to throw my hands up in the air, which coincided with the arrival of my food.  Which I bumped out of the waiter's hand.  Who in trying to save it from hitting the table, knocked over both bottles of almost full wine, which thankfully didn't hit anybody.




"Wow just wow."  Hunter shakes his head.  "Can't take you anywhere."




"Well I think that this lunch is at an end."  Matt declares.




"I'm...I just don't know what to say."  Lindsay sighs and glares at me again.




"You could always invite them to your engagement party instead.  You know that's one of the reasons we're here, isn't it?"




And the moment the words left my mouth, I knew I had made a huge fucking mistake.












We're quiet while the waiter clears up the debris of our lunch.  I try not to smirk when the waiter defers to Matt and not Grady as what to do.  And after a quiet word with him, he nods and walks away.




"Engaged?  You two are engaged?"  Hunter looks amused.  "And what brought on this sudden attack of amoré?"




Of all the reactions I was expecting, amusement wasn't one of them.  "And why are you smirking about that?"  I demand.




"So have you set a date?  Have you picked out a ring?"  Hunter continues, as if I haven't spoken.




"No and no..."  Lindsay starts, still flustered and no doubt highly fucked off with me.




"You haven't said anything Matt.  What are your thoughts?"  Grady turns to him.




"Irrelevant, it's your life, nothing to do with me."




"Nothing to do...but you're my son and she will be your stepmother..."




"Still trying not to be mom, aren't you Lindsay?   Or should I start calling you mommy dearest?  You know just to see how it rolls round my tongue."




"Gus, what do you feel about this?"  Lindsay turns to him.




Gus barks out a laugh.  "What do I feel about this?  Why should I have feelings?   It doesn't affect me.  You're nothing to me so whatever, you want to do, you do.  But if you two are coming into this marriage with the intention of hurting Matt or Hunter, I will make Aunt Zee look like a teasing kitten by the time I'm finished.  I've learned a few things in the months you've been blissfully out of our lives.  If you want to know what they are, then try and fuck my brothers over, just try."




Jenny turns to me.  "And Michael, if you are attempting to orchestrate something from the sidelines so that you can use them as an in, much like the same way you used me...don't.  You need to realise that there is more of us now.  And we have far bigger reach you than three do!"




"Can we have the check please?"  Matt calls out to the waiter.




"No son, I've got this."  Grady takes out his wallet.




"I know you do dad, which is why I asked for separate checks for us.  Wouldn't want you thinking we owed you anything."




He settles their bill and without looking back they leave.








I can safely say I have never been so stunned or mortified in my life.  Grady and I exchange looks before turning to Michael.




"First you will settle your part of the bill.  Then we will go back to the hotel and have a discussion..."








"No seriously Michael."  Grady stops him.  "Not a fucking word!"




When we get outside they are still there.  "No cabs?"  I ask.




"Waiting for papa."  Jenny replies shortly.  "Here he is."




Steve gets out.  "Lindsay."  He curtly acknowledges me.




"You said you were waiting for papa."  Michael snipes.  "Thought that was Ben."




"No he's dad...oh you weren't there when that was made official."  Jenny throws over her shoulder and gets in the car with Gus following, Matt and Hunter wave them off.




They start to head down the street, but Grady calls out to them.




"Son, I don't want to part on such a sore note.  Can I at least have a number to call you on?"




"We parted on a sore note about 18 years ago."  He bites back.  "Remember, when you walked away, twice.  Once, because I wasn't perfect and the other time because you took the money."




They carry on walking until we can no longer see them.
















We are all exchanging worried looks.  Okay, so they can hardly have kidnapped them and we agreed to back off and let them handle it but it's been almost 4 hours now.  Gus and Jenny were surprised when they discovered that the boys weren't back.  They're waiting for them to come so they can tell us together.  Problem is, they aren't answering their phones.




When my phone rings, I snatch it up on relief.  "Hey.  He needs him?  Oh them, okay, where?  Okay on their way.  We'll see you tomorrow.  Love you."




I feel the tears prickle and I try to blink them back.  Taking a breath, I turn to Faal.




"Matt's in bits and needs his dad.  He needs the rest of you guys to go with to stop Faal from hunting down Grady.  They're at the Brownstone.  Gus and Jenny, you go with them.  C-can you take them to Britin and we'll work out where we're eating in the morning okay?"




Within 10 minutes they are gone.




I feel a strong pair of arms come round me and turn my face into Leda's neck and start sobbing.  Finally, I calm down and take the proffered whisky from Jen.  After knocking it back, I fix her with a hard stare.




"Tell Melody to have at her.  Make sure that the only way they can come is to us!"
















We've been waiting for Michael to join us for the last hour.  For some reason he thinks that if he delays, it then it will get better!  Finally, the door knocks and he comes in.




"Before you start, it seems that you and I aren't too different Grady..."




"How so?"  I reply calmer than I feel.




"We both work a situation to suit our own ends and..."




"First, never, and I mean never, put the two of us together!  The very idea makes me boak!    I'm way out of your league in every way.  You're half-cocked and I mean literally half-cocked and..."




"Boak?  What the fuck does that mean?"  He looks between the two of us.




"Vomit."  Lindsay explains tiredly.  "Michael, why did you tell them that we're engaged?  This I don't understand."




His face contorts in anger and I know he's going to bring the stupid.




"Well you know how proper you are.  I thought you would prefer to get married first.  Your parents are going to be pleased and maybe they will acknowledge this grandchild, since he or she has been brought into the world the proper way."




"Proper?  Grandchild?  What on earth are you talking about?"  Lindsay growls.




"Well you're pregnant, aren't you?  I mean you've been at it like rabbits and what with the weight gain, I naturally assumed..."




"Let's put that aside for a second.  Again, why did you say we are engaged?"




"It's obvious!"  His mouth is running and his brain is way-way-back.  "So they would stop you from getting married."




"So you told them that we were getting married so we wouldn't?"  Lindsay scoffs.   "And how, pray tell, do you figure that is going to happen?"




"They made it so we were gone before."  He's warming up to his theme.  "They'll do it again.  This time without involving the courts."




"You think so?"




"Of course. Let me handle it though; I have the perfect solution."




I look at Lindsay and nod.  "So about the pregnant thing?  Why do you think she's pregnant?"




He starts to look shifty and guilty.  "Li-like I said the weight gain..."




"Thanks Michael. I really fucking appreciate that!"  Lindsay ranted.




"Look, let's all stop now!"  I storm.  "We all need distance!  So Michael get out of here and we'll see you tomorrow!"




I yank open the door and he almost runs out in relief that this is over.  Except for me it isn't... not by a long shot.




"Do you think I've gotten fat?"  Lindsay looks down at herself.




Truth be told, she's put on a bit of weight but I think it looks good on her.  "I don't do fat, so the answer to that is no.  Come on, he's just being a bitchy queen because he's not got what you"




She grins at me and I pull her into the bedroom.




Two hours later and after a shower, we're feeling better.




"So exactly why are you letting him go through with whatever half-cocked plan he's got going?"




I kiss her gently.  "Because if he follows through with the stupid, this half-cocked plan has a legal name...extortion."








So I have planted the pregnancy seed.  Soon she'll be running out for a pregnancy test and that will be the last thing in place, after all they went for the engagement stopping idea. I knew this would work!
















I really don't want to make this fucking call but after seeing Matt last night, it is imperative that they know who the fuck they're dealing with!




"Grady, it's Zeus.  Yeah let's meet up... had some shit to deal with so couldn't get back to you sooner."  I keep staring at Spit and Spot, the octopi, to remain calm.  "How about we meet here?  Bring your friends, say about 13:00; we can have lunch."




I take a deep breath and head back upstairs.  "They'll be here about 13:00.  Let's order in. It's enough that they are coming here but they're sure as fuck are not eating Tom's food."




"Why are they coming here?"  Zan asks.




"Oh don't you know.  This used to be Lindsay's family home. Thought she'd like to see what we've done with the place."




"Seriously, you are spending way too much time with Za...uh Zee."  Zan chuckles.




"I know, I love it...and well saved."  I smirk, getting an eye roll for my troubles.




"Okay explain that to me. I don't get it?"  Tom turns round from the range.




"Explain what?"  Zeon comes in.  "What am I doing?"




"Toast and coffee please."  Tom replies with a smile.  "I was asking Zeus to explain Zay to me."




"Oh this bone of contention."  He snorts.




"Shush.  Continue Zeus."




"When we were little I didn't like Zaden, the name not the person, so I called her ZayZay instead.  As we got older and closer, dad didn't like that and ordered me to use her correct name all the time, which of course I being the stupidly obedient big brother, I did.  But there were times when she needed to know that I was there for her and that's when I'd whisper ZayZay and she'd know.  He would go absolutely mental if I said it out loud.  And now that I can say it out loud, I will do so every chance I get, but only me."




"Did he ever hit you guys?"




"God no!  Grandpa would have his hide if he did.  He did raise his hand to Zay once, you know a phantom slap but the look she gave him stopped him.  It said to him, yeah please hit me because I will hit you back.  It was just before her deployment, so she had a lot of marine training and a whole host of anger for him."




"His jealousy of her must be eating him up inside right now."




We all look at him in surprise.  "Yeah, she's better at business and stuff but jealous, I don't think so."  Zeph frowns.




"He is.  He's jealous of her strength.  Her strength of courage, character and resolve, something he clearly doesn't have.  Think about it. She's come through absolutely everything he's thrown at her and was still brave enough to walk away from him to be happy.  Even though she most probably desperately wanted to be daddy's little girl."




He turns back to the range and starts to plate up the bacon and eggs while we all stare at each other in shocked realisation.




"Oh by the way, we are not ordering from Nakama, Kaya, Meat and Potatoes or anywhere else we frequent.  Find somewhere where we will never order from again, okay?  And this is the only room they are allowed in; I can scrub it down afterwards."




He looks round at our stunned faces.  "What?  What's wrong?"




"You."  Zeon pulls him in for a kiss.  "Are a very smart man."
















"Just spoke to Alice."  I call out to Jen.  "She says she's doing oxtail."




"Oh thank goodness for that!"  Jen sighs. "We all need an inner hug this weekend, I think."




"How many bottles of the Chocolate Box shall I bring?  I think four of that and maybe three of the Rust En Vrede?"




Jen sticks her head round.  "Yeah that should do it.  The Rust En Vrede is so lovely. Do you think we should have it for the blessing or get something else?"




"Oh my God!"  I shriek when the realisation hits me.  "We've got less than six weeks till their blessing. We have got to go to New York and then Portland to sort this out!  What are we..."




"Debs!"  Jen exclaims.  "Calm yourself.  Not only do we have Del and Dee, we also have Emily and Francine."




I take a deep breath.  "Sorry I just want it to be perfect for them, especially now."




"And it will be."  Jen kisses my cheek.  "Come on girl, we've got this.  Now to quote Del, let's get to getting."
















"I think I may have made a bit too much oxtail."  I call out to George, only to hear Justin snickering.




"There's no such thing as too much ox..."  He stops when he reaches the range.  "Okay I was wrong.  Four pots Alice?"




"The boys can take some home and have for later in the week maybe?"




"Let me go check with them.  You and Debs are so alike."




I stare at the pots in silence and it isn't until there's a soft chirrup at my feet and warm arms round my shoulders that I realise I'm crying in the arms of my George.  He steers me to the chair and manages to wrestle the spoon out of my hand.




"Now you look here.  This family is strong and has gotten bigger and better and we are more than capable of protecting our grandbabies."  He brushes my tears away.  "That's better.  There's my beautiful wife."








I was about to go and find Lilah when I spotted her at the feet of Alice and I went to find George.  I see Justin heading back to the kitchen with Matt and Hunter in tow but I cut them off and direct them to the lounge with the rest of the guys.




"Stay clear of the kitchen until George comes in please."




I'm surprised at the door knocking as Zee has a key so I head to open it to be faced with Daph and Vince.




"I thought you guys were in New York this weekend."  I give Daph a hug but she seems unusually subdued and doesn't hug back with her normal enthusiasm.




"We were but I, well we, need to talk to you guys.  When's everyone getting here?"




"About two hours.  You okay Daph?  Actually are you both okay?"  I'm starting to worry.




"We'll explain when everyone's here, Mr K.  Promise."  Vince is also quiet.  "Can you call me when they are please?  We just need some time alone."




I nod and watch them head to his apartment before heading back to the lounge.




"Who was it?"  Justin asks.




"Daph and Vince."  I reply and he leaps up.  "No Justin, they want to be alone."




"Alone?"  Justin repeats puzzled.




"Yeah that's what they said.  Also, they'll be down when the rest of the family arrives."




We exchange worried looks both thinking; what fuck of a fresh hell of a clusterfuck has happened now!
















We ordered from a Mexican place, everything off the menu.  They're due in 10 minutes.




TAXI TO BroHouse








This route is familiar.  "Why are we coming here?"  I hiss at Grady.




"Because, duh, this is where the house is."  He pats my thigh.




"Yeah obviously Lindsay."  Michael snorts.




As we pull up outside my former family home, I rage inside.  "Anything familiar Michael?"




He shakes his head and practically runs to the front door thus avoiding the taxi fare, despite being the last one out.




"Are you sure?"  I ask again before Grady knocks on the now silver front door.  "BroHouse?  Why on earth would he call it that?"




The door swings open and whatever the guy was laughing at dies when he sees us.  "Grady you made it.  Come in."




"Zeus, nice to see you again."




Grady whistles when he comes in and we follow Zeus. Naturally, he's full of praise saying he could live here easily.  Michael is vacillating between being sycophantically obsequious to Grady and trying to get Zeus's attention.




I pause to look at what they've done to the lounge.  It has been knocked through with what used to be the dining room and is a huge open plan space.  One end is used for working and the other end has a huge TV screen and comfortable looking sofas. It looks very macho but homely.




"Lindsay, you coming?"  Grady calls out.




"Yes, sorry, just admiring what they've done with the place."  I smile tightly.




As we come into the kitchen, I know that Zee did this.  It has been extended and very high end.  I feel nauseous when I look out the window and see the covered BBQ area and frown.




"What's next to the BBQ?"




"Pizza oven.  Couldn't fit one in here.  Guys, they're here!"  Zeus calls down to the basement.




"What's down there?"  I ask, dreading the answer.




"Aquacave.  We love fish so we've got all kinds down there as well as..."




"I love fish!  Can we go and see?"  Michael's approach is blocked by people coming up.




"No."  Zeus replies, bluntly.  "Now that everyone's here, let's make the introductions and eat."




"Of course. Hi guys, this is Lindsay, my girlfriend, and her friend Michael. These are..."




"This guy?!"  Zeph is incredulous.  "This guy got Ben?"




Michael glares in his direction.  "And what's that supposed to mean?"




Zeph is now laughing.  "You re-remember I was telling you about the guy in Woody's?"




They all nod and he just points at Michael, who immediately goes red.




"What are they talking about Michael?"  I ask.




"Nothing."  He grumbles.  "So who are the rest of you?"  He demands rudely.




"Wow.  Your manners match your technique...poorly executed."  Zeph scowls at him.  "Well I'm Zephaniah, this is Zeon...Zee's've met Zeus and this is Zander."




"Twin?"  I'm surprised but can see it.  "You and Zee are twins? She never said..."




"She keeps things on a need to know basis.  Now let's eat and catch up."  Zeus drawls.




We take our seats and another man comes in wearing an apron and I'm sure I recognise him.




"Hello Lindsay."




"Hello uh, um..."




"Thomas.  Bernadine and Arnold's son."




"Oh my goodness!  It's been years!"  I smile at him.  "I haven't seen you since, well since you know..."  I trail off.




"Ever the WASP I see.  Ever since I ran away from home in a fit of pique."




"Well yes.  How on earth did you end up here?"




"Kiki and Carl found me and brought me back."




"Kiki and Carl?  I don't understand..."




"Mom and dad are good friends with Kiki and..."




"Kiki?"  Michael is as stunned, as am I.  "As in that drag queen that works..."  He continues




"Transsexual, not a drag queen, as you well know."  Tom cuts across him.  "Kiki and Carl reconciled my parents and me and..."




"She got you a job here?"  Michael scoffs, derisively.  "As a butler?  You must be so grateful."




"What is it that you do again?"  His tone is glacial.  "Now let's eat."




As he starts to plate up the delicious smelling food, Michael has that smirk on his face.




I look at Grady who just shakes his head.  "So what are we having?"




"Mexican.  There's enough to feed a small army here!  How much did you guys order?"




Zeus huffs a laugh.  "Don't look at me, I left that to Zan."




Once the food is placed on the table, Tom sits down much to our surprise.




"We have staff in our condo in New York," Michael begins, after loading his plate.  "We don't let them eat with us.  It gives the wrong impression."




Zeon slams down his glass.  "And the moment we have staff, we'll take that on board!  My brothers, my boyfriend and I were trying to keep a civil tongue in our heads but that's all blown to fuck now!"




"Thank God!"  Zeus snaps.  "You know what?   Fuck this!  We're done here.  Get out."




"Guys please!"  Grady exclaims.  "Let's all remain calm and..."




"I said out!"  Zeus yells.  "We know all we need to know about why you are here.  Now fuck off!"




Less than five minutes later we are outside the front door.




"Well thank you Captain Twatsticle!"  Grady rages as we head to find a cab.  "You couldn't just keep that big mouth of yours shut!"




They glare at each other.  "So I got it wrong about him being..."




I manage to hail a cab and tug Grady to a stop and let Michael carry on walking. We get in and he winds down the window...




"You always get it fucking wrong Michael!"  He shouts at him and Michael whirls round.  "Like now!"




The last thing we see is Michael running back towards us. We watch until he is a mere speck in the distance.
















I don't think I have ever been at a more subdued lunch than I had today.  The tension between Vince and Daph has thrown the vibe off kilter to such an extent that Justin didn't finish his food.




"Please just tell us what's wrong."  Alice begs.  "You're not splitting up, are you?"




"No, not that."  Daph gives a small smile but immediately starts to cry. Vince pulls her into his arms and kisses the top of her head.




"Vince?"  Alice prompts.




"She's pregnant."




"And..."  Justin presses.




"We, we don't want to keep the baby."




"Oh.  But why not?"  Debs sits next to her taking her hand.




"It's too soon."  Daph has regained her composure.  "Don't get me wrong I want a baby with Vince but not now.  I want to make a difference in the medical world and..."




"We will support whatever decision you make, you know that."  Carl reassures her.




"It's too late."  She whimpers before taking a breath.  "For an abortion, I mean."




"Why?  How many months are you? You can't be more than..."








To say we were astonished is an understatement.




"How?  How are you seven months pregnant and look like that?!"  We all glare at Faal.




"Sorry, bigger picture.  But come on look at her!"  He pouts.




"So what are you going to do?"  I ask.




"Put the baby up for adoption."  This sets them both off again and we wait until they are calmer and I stroke Justin's back as he tries to hold back tears.




"We want one that means we can at least explain why we've done what we've done and give the baby a chance to find us when he or she is older.  But we don't know how to go about it.  So Mel..."




"Wait a minute.  Let me just...  Justin, Mel you two with me!"  I order and run to the study.








I look round the room expecting to see disappointment, but just see love and support.




"Excuse me Vince."  Carl waves him aside.  "My cub needs a hug."  As his arms come round me, I let it all out.




"I-I'm such a terrible person not wanting my child."  I wail.




"NO!  Don't ever think that!"  Debs is hugging a sobbing Vince.  "You two are doing what's best for you two and the baby right now and don't ever forget that!  It takes a lot of love and bravery to do what you are going to do.  And..."




Whatever she's going to say is cut off by the doors bursting being flung open.  Justin's face is blotchy and he's wiping his nose on his sleeve while leaning against Brian.  Mel collapses into Leda's arms and we all stare at Brian for an explanation.




"So you want a private adoption?"  He asks, his voice is thick and Justin starts to cry again.




"Yes Mr K we do.  Do you know someone who can help?"




"How about an adoption when you can see the baby whenever you want?"




"Huh?"  I look at him.




"All you have to do is get on a plane to Portland."




"What's in Portland?"  Vince asks.




"Not what is in Portland but who is in..."




"Emily and Francine!"  Emmy gasps.  "You spoke to them?  Would they take the baby?"




"Yes and yes."  Justin manages to choke out.




I look at Vince and we both nod tearfully.




"So that's a yes then?"  He asks.




"Oh God Brian!"  I whimper and fling myself into Vince's arms.




"Now, now none of this.  You need to speak to Emily and Francine.  They're waiting on-screen in the study.  Get to getting."




We break out into a run and after an hour's worth of tear-filled conversation, we head back to the lounge.




"Well?"  Carl demands.




I can't speak I'm so happy.




"So for December, we're catering a wedding, a blessing, a baby shower/adoption thang and then a welcome to the world party when he/she arrives?  Excellent."  Zee grins, wiping her eyes.




"Yes, we will give up our rights and they will tell he or she that I was the surrogate" I finally am able to speak.  "And in return, they've agreed to a couple of things."




"What are they?"  Ben asks, gently.




"Godparents, as in we get to choose them.  So the godfathers are, if they say yes, Brian and Justin and the godmother, singular, as there could only be one.  Jenny."




Brian and Justin just nod but Jenny is quiet.  Slowly she stands up and makes her way over to me and places her hands on my stomach.




"Hey in there.  My name is Jenny and I'm going to be your godmother.  I'm going to teach you so many things.  I can't wait to meet you."




There isn't a dry eye in the room.




















She looks so beautiful and for the first time in months, at peace.  And I know it sounds silly but she actually looks like she's grown overnight. There is definitely more of a bump there.  I kiss her lips softly, she doesn't wake up, just snuggles back into the bed.  I cover her up with the duvet and head down to the main house.








"Morning Alice."




"Morning Vince.  How is your day looking?"  She's plating up breakfast for us all.




"Busy.  The TKs are..."




"Vince how long have you worked for them?"  Alice interrupts me with a smile.




"You know the answer to that Alice. Why you asking?"




"She's most probably wondering, like us..."  Mr K stops to put Lilah down.  "When you're going to call us by our first names..."




"When I'm not working and today I am."  I reply simply.




He smiles at me and Lilah hops onto my lap and taps my plate for my scrambled eggs.




"Ah you're the reason my scarf has been getting heavier."  He grumbles as Lilah eats out of my hand.




We laugh quietly and then of course I have to do the same for Milo who's trotted in after Mr T.




"Told you it wasn't me or George!"  Alice berates him.




I check the time, if we are to make it to the airport we need to go soon.  "You've got twenty minutes.  I'm going to bring the car round and double check we've got everything for the flight."




Eighteen minutes later, we're still waiting.  I turn to Mr K.  "Where'd you let him go to?"  I sigh.








I shake my head and glare at him; he just holds up his hands.  I get out of the car and head back into the house.  Less than 20 seconds later, I have Mr T over my shoulder and carrying him grousing to the car.




"Vince this is not the way that a chauffeur and bodyguard treat their bosses!"




"Mr K, the door please."  I call out and the door opens.  I plop him onto his lap and take the brush out of his hand.




"I just wanted to finish the outline!"  He protests.




"Which you can do on Wednesday.  Thanks Vince.  Let's go."




As we drive to the airport ahead of the three day trip to California, the partition goes down.






"Yes Mr T?"




"I knew you were strong but not this strong."




I frown at him in the mirror.  "It takes a lot of strength, emotionally I mean, to do what you and Daph are doing."




"You think so?  You don't think that we're know."




"No, we don't.  And we're so very proud of you."  Mr K smiles at me.




"Thanks, it..."  I clear my throat and they nod.




"So when was it?"  Mr K waggles his eyebrows.  "Don't want the intricacies, just month and place..."




"You're running a pot right?"




"Of course, that's what this family does!"  Mr T giggles.
















I am fucking furious!  They are out at the moment. It's fucking date night!  But that's not what has annoyed me!  




Not only did they abandon me to make my own way back to the hotel, which took 40 minutes because I had to find a bank first.  But when I got there to give them a piece of my mind, they had already checked out!




I had hoped that I could catch them at the airport but they got an entirely different flight altogether.  And when I finally got back to the condo, they weren't in.  One of the spies told me that they were staying at Grady's instead.




When I got home earlier this afternoon, Grady was back but didn't speak to me, and then spent most of his time upstairs.  And the final insult was that when I went to try and speak to him, his door was locked and Medea told me he'd gone out about an hour before.




I have been waiting up for them and it's now gone eight.  I don't care how tired Lindsay is. It's her fault for wanting to work, but we are having this discussion tonight!




I hear the door finally open and they are laughing and joking.  I storm into the hallway.




"Where the fuck have you been?"  I yell.




"Working and then out with my fiancée."  Grady sneers.  "Or did you forget that we bring in money, and you don't?  Or that you announced our engagement at the weekend?"




"You were fine about that!"  I snap.




"That was Saturday and then Sunday happened!"  Lindsay's barks back.




"Yeah when you abandoned me in Pittsburgh, which..."




"If you hadn't acted like Little Lord Fauntleroy we wouldn't have to do!"  Lindsay shouts.  "What is it with you, Michael?  Where do you get this misplaced superior attitude from?  You had it with Talon, you have it with Medea and you had it with Tom."








"I'm not finished!  You were borderline racist when you first met Matt and..."




"What do you mean borderline racist?"  Grady growls.




"I made a joke that Faal didn't find funny, that's all."  I mutter.




"What did you say?"  Grady demands.




"It was a joke and besides he accused me of being an Italian Mama's Boy!"  I protest.




"But after you said what you said not before!"




"What did you say?!"  Grady demands again.




"I said that instead of doing motocross that they should be playing basketball.  That's not racist, that's..."




"No Michael, you're right it's not racist.  It's crass and stupid and a true reflection of you."  Grady snipes.  "So why are you up?  You don't normally wait up for us on date night."




I scoff at his words.  "You two owe me an apology and I want to know why you have taken to locking your bedroom door?"




"No we don't.  And why would you need to be in our bedroom?"  Lindsay glares at me.




"I wanted to talk to Grady but when I went..."




Lindsay puts her hand up.  "Stay out of our room Michael. There is nothing- and I mean nothing- in there for you!"




"You two don't have the right to treat me like this!"  I shout at them as they head towards the stairs.




"We don't have the..."  Grady pauses and then smiles.  "Oh my God I don't believe it!  Out of the mouths of idiots!   For once you being an annoying, fucked up, spoilt gobshite has its benefits.  Thanks Michael!"




Lindsay looks at me and then at Grady.  "What exactly has he said?"




"Rights!"  Grady yells.  "Lindsay, he said rights!  Come on you, let's celebrate!"




I head to my room completely confused and still seriously fucked off.








I have been listened to them go at it for the last half an hour and it has to be said that it's quite entertaining.  But the way Grady has reacted has me concerned and I have a horrible feeling about this.  Why would he be so excited about what that...oh hell the fuck no!  If this means what I think it means, then they need to be warned!












Well the big reopening is happening tomorrow.  We're just doing this store for now and then go across the city with the others.  Cynthia has proven to be an absolute godsend.  It helps that she's whip smart, gives and takes zero bullshit and looks the way she does.




"Earth to Zeus!"




I pull my head out of my ass and turn to face her.  "Sorry was just thinking about...oh never mind.  What were you saying?"




She laughs and shakes her head.  "I asked if you want to walk round the store once more and then we leave it in the capable hands of your sales team tomorrow."




"Yeah, let's do that."




My mind is still on the weekend and how I wish I hadn't kicked them out so quickly.  Zay seems really quite calm about the entire thing, which is also a worry. A pissed off but calmly reacting Zay is a bad thing!




"Seriously, could you concentrate on what I'm saying for a minute?"  Cynthia jabs me in the ribs.  "Want to talk about it?"




"Just some family shit I'm going through."  I sigh.  "I won't bore you with the details..."




"Please bore me because you sure as fuck aren't listening to me.  So come on out with it!"




We head to the presentation rooms and I tell her what happened at the weekend.  I was actually surprised how much she already knew about the family.  I had no idea she was Brian's best woman at his wedding!




"Do Matt and Hunter, now don't take this wrong way because I think you really like Hunter, have a pre-nup?"




"No.  They wouldn't do that.  Though he did mention to the fucker about the money he took to give away...Cynthia you genius!"




I kiss her on her forehead and grab my coat.




"You're...uh...welcome.  And I take it we're done here?"




"Yeah!"  I call back.




Dashing to my car, I call Zay.  "Hey where you at?  Can you meet me at the BroHouse?  Great, bring the documentation you got from the condo."
















I am beyond happy!  First, there's no school today and secondly any minute now I should get a picture of the sonogram.  Aunt Daph has sent me all the other pictures that she and Uncle Vince have and I am making a scrapbook for Emily and Francine as a surprise.




"How's it going?"  Momma asks.




I show her what I've done so far.  I had bought some suede covered books in Paris and at first I was loathed to use them but now they are all going to be given to Emily and Francine for photos and stuff.




"Great but I have a problem."  I sigh.




"What's that?"  Mom asks kissing Momma good morning.




"Actually two problems.  The first is this picture."  I show them the one of Aunt Daph and Uncle Vince, it's one of my favourites.  "I understand the surrogacy thing and that they can see the baby whenever they want but should I put the picture in the scrapbook or just give them the picture so they can do what they want with it?"




"Just give them the picture, but in a nice frame.  Not an ornate one, oh I know what, why not speak to Justin about getting a canvas frame done?"  Mom suggests.








"So what's the second problem?"  Momma asks pouring coffee for mom.




"Are you two happy?"




They both look at me in surprise.  "Of course we are.  What made you think otherwise?"  Mom asks.




"I don't.  It's just...I don't want it to be like before, except you're quiet about it."




"You've lost us sweetheart."  Momma stops my fiddling.  "Quiet about what?"




"Arguments.  You guys never argue and it's weird."  I rush out.




"Of course we argue!"  Mom laughs.  "We just don't do it in front of you and we make sure that we make up afterwards."




"Told you they were okay!"  Gus scoffs as he makes his way to the door.




"Thank you Freud. Go play kissy face with Phil now!"  I chuckle, earning myself the finger.




"How long have you been thinking we were having problems?"




"I haven' was just seeing Lindsay again.  I remembered what it was like and..."




"You can't compare the two relationships.  With Lindsay..."




"You were always competing with Uncle Brian?"  I ask.




"Uh yes."  Mom is blushing.  "But with Leda, I mean momma, I don't have that.  We just are.  So please stop worrying."




"Okay.  Ooh look the sonogram has come!"  We stare at the picture.  "Is it me or are there...?"




"And she's that fucking small!"  Mom growls.
















I have a lapful of happy crying Justin because Daph has dropped the twins' bombshell on us.  Turns out that the other baby was tucked up top. How it got there nobody knows!




"Ohmygod!"  Justin hiccups.  "Look at them!"




I have to admit to a heart squinch when I saw the pictures.  I never saw anything about Gus.




"Did you ever consider..."




"For one second, yeah I did."  I kiss his temple.




"Me too."




"But this is the right thing to do."  I give him a small smile.  "Though you would make beautiful babies."




"Tell you what."  He snuggles into my lap a bit more.  "How about we discuss this a year from now and see how we feel about it then?  Right now we are in the middle of baby fever and a family shitstorm is coming according to Zeus."




"A year?"




"Okay two years."




"No a year's fine."




"Let's seal this."




He grins coquettishly at me and slides under the desk.  "Hips up."  He orders.




"No this deal sealing needs a fucking, so come up here and do so!"  I demand.




I push my papers off my desk and hurriedly take off my jeans and boxers.  "Now!"




Five minutes later, I'm holding onto the other side of my desk as he hammers into me and I come hard.




"Fuck!"  He squeals seconds later and slumps on my back.




"I can feel why we've never fucked in here before.  Desk height is all wrong!"  I mumble.




He gently pulls out and we both groan at the loss.  "Yeah this is definitely a working place only."




I peel myself off the desk and pull my boxers back on, then use our jeans to clean up.




"Were they in any particular order?"  He points at the papers.




"Yeah but I need a bath more than I need to sort out that.  I'm sure I'm going to have some interesting desk marks."




"Come on stud, let's get you in there."
















"You ready for this?"  I ask Zay.




"As I'll ever be."  She waggles her eyebrows and smirks.




"Who's answering?"  Jen asks as the doorbell goes.




"I should imagine, from what Talon said, that they're all here."  I look round the room.  "So whoever can resist the temptation to punch first I guess."




After two minutes the doorbell is still being leant on.




"Fine!  I'll go!"  Carl grouses and heads to let them in.








I steel myself and take a breath.  "Can I help you?"




"Carl?  What are you doing here?"  Lindsay asks in surprise, while the manchild glowers.




"Come in I suppose.  You must be Grady?"




He smiles at me and proffers his hand, which he withdraws after a few seconds.  "Please take off your shoes. She's just had the floors done."




"Of course."




At first the manchild doesn't seem to want to comply but a sharp nudge in the ribs from Lindsay has him undoing his laces.




As I lead them to the lounge, Phil passes me and gives me a wink.  What has Gus got him to do now?  That boy has way too much of his father in him!












Wow this place is spectacular!  I thought the kitchen in the condo was great but that is nothing compared to what she has here!  I walk into the back of Lindsay, who for some reason has come to a halt.




"What are you all doing here?"  She asks.




"Grady wanted to discuss something with the family.  Here we are."  Zee replies.




I look round and there must be about 20 people easily here and on the massive cushion at least two dogs and two cats.  And on the window seats two magnificent, but definitely unfriendly, Toyger cats who hiss at my approach.




"Extra prawns for those two."  Faal snickers.




I glare at him and think just you wait.  "Well I'm Grady for those who don't..."




"Care."  Matt interrupts, earning a kiss from Hunter.




"Look we're not going to introduce ourselves to you.  State your business and then be on your way."




"And you are?"  I ask the fiery woman.




"That's Leda."  Lindsay tells me.  "She's the woman that Mel..."




"Got with after you got divorced and not before.  And before you start introducing Steve as the man that Ben cheated on you with Michael, just don't!"




"Seriously, Ben what were you thinking when you got with him?"  Zeph asks.  "He came up to me breathed in my ear, stroked my thigh and thought I was ready to drop trow."




This elicits giggles as I can just see him doing that!




"I could keep you company."  Zeph does a pitch perfect imitation of Michael, who blushes.




"Can we get on with this?  You won't be laughing when we're finished."  Michael snarks.




"For once I agree with the berk.  Let's get this done."  Zee sighs.  "What do you want Grady?"




I look around for somewhere to sit but it becomes clear that nobody is going to move and I'll be damned if I'm going to sit on the floor!




"Okay.  As Matt's father, I feel that I have the right to..."




"You're not his father."  Zee interrupts and I smirk at Lindsay and Michael snickers.




"Yes I am.  I still have my rights therefore..."




"No you don't..."




"Yes I do.  I never signed the papers and your grandfather..."




"But you accepted the money.  And by doing so it was assumed that you had accepted the terms of the agreement."




"I couldn't return the money to a dead man.  And sadly, your grandfather died before I could return it."




I look round everyone and smile.  There are looks of concern.  Although I don't know why Michael is looking so fucking smug; it's beginning to grate on my nerves.




"Nice try."  Zee smirks and heads to the cart for a drink.  "Anyone else?"




"A beam if you have it."  Michael replies.




"Sure, I have a two by four with your name on it in the garage."  She pauses in mid-drink.  "Still want it?"




Wow, she really doesn't like him!




"As I was saying.  You must have read the agreement right Grady?  You accepted the money and the agreement, you have your copy?"  I nod.  "Oh good turn to page 12. What does it say in section 4 sub paragraph 6?"




"If the agreement is unsigned but the money is still retained by Grady Holster after a 30 day period, it is presumed that this agreement is accepted in its totality.  However, should Grady Holster wish..."  My stomach churns.




"Shall I continue?"  Matt asks, turning to Zee.  "Seems he's lost the power of speech."




"Carry on."  Zee shares the brandy with Faal.




"Where was he?  Oh yes...should Grady Holster wish to reinstate his parental rights before the advent of Matt Hawkthorn Stark's 25th birthday, the money would be repayable to either Hawkthorn Stark, Delia Amelia Stark or Zaden Zion Stark, whomever should be living at that time.  If none of them should be living the money will be held in trust to Matt Hawkthorn Stark until his 25th birthday.  The repayment of monies will also incur a yearly interest of 6% per year from the time it is accepted to the time the reinstatement is requested..."




"Hawkthorn?"  Faal looks at Zee with nauseating adoration.  "Was that the aitch in your name?"




"Yep.  Grandpa said I could give it up as long as I passed it on.  So I did."




"Uh guys a little bit of focus here!"  Zeus exhorts.   "So Grady, what's it to be? Repayment or fuck off and come up with another plan to get back into the family?"




"Which we will be ready for."  Tom adds.




"$540,000."  Hunter tells me.








"That's how much you would need to repay in interest.  18 years at 6% a year is $540K."




"Come on let's go!"  I snap and I storm out of the room with Lindsay and Michael following quietly.




Two large white guys follow us out and when we find our shoes they have been slobbered and pissed on.




"For fuck sake!  These are Ferragamo shoes!"  I yell.




"Oops.  Bad Butch.  Bad Sundance.  Very bad."  The blond haired guy snickers.




"Very mature Ben!"




"Mature?  This from a guy who is wearing a Captain Asshat tee!"  He looks up the road and a taxi is approaching.  "What perfect timing."




As the door opens a young woman gets out and Lindsay gasps.








I turn to look at Daphne, who is obviously pregnant and then look back at the two of them. They look pissed off and, in Lindsay's case, disappointed.




"Let me guess?"  Michael snarls.  "You're carrying for Brian and Justin?"




Without saying a word, she's helped into the house.




"Grab the cab Michael."  I order.




The journey back to the hotel is quiet, each lost in our own thoughts.
















"I knew it!  I knew that she would carry for them eventually!"




"And you can bet that they are paying her to do it!"  Michael is pacing angrily.




"Of course!  Nobody's that altruistic, not even the great Saint Daphne!"  I am furious!




"Well when your baby arrives then they'll be dealing with us on our terms."  Michael grins.




I look at Grady who hasn't said a word since we got back.  "Grady you okay?"




"Yeah, just a little surprised by what was in the agreement that's all.  Look let's go to the airport and get home. We've got a lot to think about."
















Tom and Zee have come up with a midnight feast, which they want us to test in advance of the wedding.




"So what do we have here?"




"Toasted cheese and pulled pork sandwiches, prawn and pork potstickers and Black Velvet brownies.  And of course, red wine and brandy hot chocolate."  Zee grins.




"Mom?"  Hunter bites his lip.  "Supposing he gets the money?"




"Makes no odds.  Matt's not Grady's."




"What!"  I gasp.




"He's Faal's."  She replies calmly and pops in a pot sticker, then noticing the silence, she chews quickly.  "I mean legally, biologically Grady's his father."




"So how is he not Grady's?"  Jen asks.




"Legally, Matt was emancipated when he was 16 and I adopted him formally when he was 17."




We all look at Mel, who is reading the agreement.  "Holy fuck, you guys don't mess about!  Yes he can get his right reinstated upon repayment of the money, but and it's a big but, listen to this: in the event of the reinstatement of the rights of Grady Holster to Matt Hawkthorn Stark before his 25th birthday, Grady Holster agrees that all decisions monetary, legal and medical are to be the final decision of Zaden Zion Stark and Faal Jabari Ugerstacht.  However, in the event their deaths this will transfer to Delia Amelia Stark and in the event of her death to Lucian Stark and Deidra Stark."




"So in English?"  Blake asks.




"He can repay us but he has as much power now as he did before.  As in fuck all."  Zee smirks.




"Let's drink to that!"  Faal cheers.




















Grady has been at his place since Sunday. He said he had to look at the paperwork and then see his lawyer.  He's now back and is looking absolutely furious!




"What I need you two to do is gather all the paperwork you've got from Talon and bring it down here quickly!" Michael and I exchange confused looks.  "What part of quickly are you not understanding?!"




We find the paperwork and rejoin him. "What's going on Grady?  I have things to do..."




"What Michael?  What movie that you have seen about a thousand times before could you possibly want to watch this time?"  He snarls at him.




"I really don't like the way you are speaking to me!"




"And I really don't give a fuck!  You two need to sit down and read the documentation that she gave you properly and right now."




I sit down and read the tenancy agreement and can see nothing untoward but then I get to the email about the $50K.




"Uh Michael.  You did have this checked by a lawyer right, I mean, before you signed it?"




"No, it seemed pretty straightforward to me. She gave us the money for the misrepresentation trial and until such time as they are settled, we don't have to pay it back.  Okay, it is cancelled now but we simply reinstate it.  Problem is solved.  Although I could have her arrested for theft since she's taken half my collection and..."




"MICHAEL!  You complete imbecile!  Have you forgotten the other document we signed?  You know the one with his aunt?  Promising not to do what you just suggested?!"




He opens his mouth and then closes it again.  "Actually you signed it, I didn't!"




"Can I see it?"  Grady asks and after a bit of a search, I finally find it.




"Uh Michael, you were named, it is notarized by an attorney; it's binding.  So no the problem is not solved, for you anyways..."




"What is that supposed to mean?"  He glares at him and then at me, but I don't know either.




"How much money is in the shared account right now?  Lindsay, would you mind checking?"




After a while, I'm relieved to see that there is the same amount in there that was initially deposited.




"The $40K."  I reply.




"So where are you going to get it Michael, when your plan fails." Grady demands.




"Get what? And my plan won't fail."




"$10,000 and judging by the way they kicked us to the curb, I don't think they will be paying us money any time soon!"




"Well, you can lend it to Lindsay to..."




"No.  There will be no lending to Lindsay to give to you pay Talon, as I believe you were going to suggest.  Because you jointly took that money and since Lindsay was sensible enough not to spend her part she's covered. You, not so much."




"What's brought this on?"  He pouts.




"My lawyer read the finer points of the agreement to me.  And the position of power, when it comes to Matt, is with the Starks and the Ugerstachts.  And it turns out that even if my rights are reinstated, I would then need to go back to court to reverse both the emancipation and legal adoption of Matt by Faal as well as pay back the money they mentioned..."




Michael laughs.  "So you're not as smart as you make out..."




"But I'm not going to get my rights reinstated, so the money won't be owed.  Whereas you need to find money for Talon, for Brian and Justin, and, of course for Lindsay's parents or had you forgotten that?"




"Lindsay's parents? What do you mean her parents? They've cast us out so..."




"But you still owe your side of the attorney fees."








"And, let's face it, they haven't really cast Lindsay out.  They've just taken a timeout to teach her a lesson.  But you... you signed an agreement saying you would pay the money back. Remember when you took the job in McCandless?"




I look at him in surprise.  "How did you know about McCandless?"




He laughs.  "Luther Stark is, well was, a millionaire. You don't think he had you guys looked into before he met you?"




"Good point."  I turn to Michael.  "I have to admit that I had forgotten about that money.  And you will pay it back."




"And then there is the matter about your collection..."




"What about my collection?" Michael bristles.




"The reason that Talon took half your collection and locked the rest away was not as insurance against you using squatters' rights here but so she can easily collect it when you can't pay her back."




His mouth drops open in shock.  "But she...she can't do that!"




"She can, you agreed to that, and trust me, she will!"  Grady laughs bitterly.  "That's the thing with the Starks, as you have found out to your previous cost.  They always follow through and they keep fighting until they win."
















This is incredible.  I mean seriously incredible.  I'm not a fish lover as such but it has got to be the most relaxing place I've ever been in.




"Spit and Spot."  Zeus tells me, pointing at the octopi.




"Seriously?"  I raise an eyebrow and he taps the glass gently and immediately Spit spits and Spot flashes.  "Oh okay point made.  Now do you want to know the figures for the first week?"




"Yes indeed."  He settles down on the purple Barcalounger.  "So how'd...what?"




"What's with the different colour loungers?"




"My brothers and I don't share well. So we got exactly the same chairs but covered differently so that there wasn't arguing over whose chair is whose."




"Again.  Seriously?"  I chuckle.  "I'm so glad I'm an only child."




"So how'd we do?  Oh wait, do you want a drink? Got the Togouchi one we had in Speakeasy."




"Oh yes please."  I settle on the sofa and it just moulds to my body.  "Oh that's just like a hug."




"Here."  He hands me a glass and then drops to his knees and before I could stop him has whipped off my shoes.  "Now will you just relax?"




I snort and put my feet up on the sofa and settle the cushion behind my head.  "Been a pig of a week."




"It massages..."  He presses a button and after a few minutes, I sigh.  "Good, isn't it?  I want one for upstairs but she won't tell anyone where she got it."




"I'll get it out of her and let you know."  I groan, as it does my calves.




"Cynthia, the figures..."




"One sec."  I plant my feet and practically purr.  "Oh this is the best I've felt below the waist in years!"




"Well...uh I've got nothing."  He looks away before composing himself.  "Ready with the figures then?"




"You know what I'll just email them to you!"  I squeak and try and find my shoes. I'm so glad of the subdued lighting because my face is most likely as red as my Louboutin soles!




I drain my glass and stiffen my spine.  "Good night Zeus."




"At least let me walk you to the car or call a cab for you?"  He gets up.




"No, I'm fine.  Nobody would dare try anything with the mood I'm in right now."  I assert. He mutters something but I don't quite catch it.  "What did you say?"




"Nothing."  He answers, pouring himself another drink.




"Look I've had a pissy week and I've just humiliated myself. The least you can..."




"I said I would."  He looks over the rim of his glass at me and raises an eyebrow.








"So can I?"








He clears the space between us quickly and the kiss is surprisingly gentle and chaste.




"Well that's a start."




"No that's the warm up."  He growls, before kissing me deeply.
















Never have I seen Zee so miserable over food.  She's cooked a duck pithivier with ale and juniper and it's great but it's the atmosphere between the grooms that's killing her. Darius, Tobias, Hunter and Matt are arguing over who has what at their respective receptions.  She doesn't want to play favourites but neither is willing to compromise.




Time she lets me take over because we've been here for 2 hours now.




"Okay, everyone to the office.  Zee get Daph, Emily and Francine online."  I order.




Once everyone is on, I quickly get the ladies up to speed and immediately the boys start in each saying they want this and they want that until I whistle loudly.




"Your mom is catering all of these but you can't expect her do that and have a good time too. It's too much and unfair.  So how about this?  Daph, Emily and Francine, you have the baby shower on the Dec 21st and the food is agreed on already, yes?  Great."




I turn to the boys.  "Now you four listen very carefully. You will have your wedding and blessing on the you will shut up and you will listen!"  I growl.




"Tobias and Darius you have it in the morning like you were going to and boys your blessing will follow after a brief interlude in the afternoon.  The interlude will be a light lunch.  Seriously shut up!  Then in the evening you go out for dinner. Not together, before you get hysterical, just go out and celebrate privately that evening.  And then on the 23rd you hold a joint reception in the afternoon with every food you both want."




Zee looks at me and then them.  "That's the perfect compromise.  Please guys?"




They look at each other and nod; she sighs in relief.  We head back to the kitchen with me massaging the back of her neck gently.




She gathers their coats and smiles somewhat tiredly.




Tobias looks rightfully sheepish.  "Sorry about that. We were just being bitchy queens there."  She just blinks at him.  "So now that it's all sorted. so does this mean we can take the duck thing home with..."




"Get out!"  She yells.












"Would you be quiet? The whole point is to sneak in without making a noise!"




Brian being sneaky and horny is a bad combination. He gets too giggly.  I'm determined to restore our lead in the 100 fucks first bet.




"So where we going to do it?"  He asks, excitedly.




"You know the rules... any room but their room, the kitchen, the office, the lounge..."




"So we can..."




"Or the dining room!"  I assert.  "Oh wait, what about the workshop?!  Not been in there for a while."




His eyes light up and he nods already undoing his belt and unsnapping his jeans.  My eyes zero in on his bush and his bulge.




"Hurry!"  I grab his hand and we dash across to the workshop. As we get to the door, he starts on my neck.  "Hang on the whole point is that we fuck inside!"




"Actually the whole point is that you're not supposed to make enough noise to wake half the street."  Zee drawls from inside and opens the door.




"Fuck!"  Brian blasts.  "You're kidding me?!"




"To your room boys, go work off that angst."  We troop back to the house with them snickering behind us.




"And the scores are still tied."  Faal crows as we head upstairs.  "And remember the sound machine!"


















Poor Daph.  Well not poor in the fullest sense of the word.  Now that they've made a decision, all the tension has left her body and of course now she's expecting twins.  Currently she's got Ralph massaging her feet; he gives the best ones.  And Zee is sending the plane over to take her to Portland as she's now officially on maternity leave.




Del is going to be going with her as she used to be a nurse before Luther got all macho on her.  When Daphne questioned her skills she said, unless they've changed the physicality of a woman, it's where the dick went in that the baby comes out...unless it a C-section?   So we're good.




And according to Medea and the boys, there was a major row over money in the condo.  Turns out that Michael also owes money to Lindsay's parents for the previous cases.  Although, I can't see her parents letting her back in as Grady seems to think.  From what I've heard from the family she gets her bequest, if that.




Personally, I can't wait to get back to Canada.  I never thought I would like the smallness of our little home.  Don't get me wrong I love NYC, born and bred after all, but when it's just us there it feels cosier.  There, I don't feel like I have to wear my armour.  And Ralph, despite what he says, doesn't have to prove his worthiness...roll on Friday!




I head to the kitchen to make coffee and a few minutes later feel his arms round me.  "She's asleep.  The flight can't come soon enough for her, I think."




"Me too, I can't wait to get home.  Though I will have to pass by the condo to stir the pot a little."




He kisses the side of my neck.  "My wicked woman.  I may have to punish you."




"Oh I do hope so."  I moan, before pinning him to the fridge and kissing the hell out of him.
















"Well hello Jennifer.  How are you?  Me, well to be honest I'm bored with waiting!  Can I...I can? Oh marvellous!"  I look round for the rolodex and find the details for Anouk's gallery.




"So what exactly brought this on?"  I listen aghast to what they did and shake my head.  "She needs to learn and learn hard, as does he.  That Novotny creature has taken on her sense of worth, without any justification."




I wave at Franklin, who's frowning at me from the doorway. I write down Lindsay and he merely nods and sits down opposite of me.  When I finish with Jennifer, I catch Franklin up.




"Hmm... it seems that she needs to be ousted from her self-appointed position of power.  I heard about the Truffaut show and she was less than gracious to all those in attendance.  She seemed to be determined to once again get at young..."




"Hunter?  Why doesn't she leave that boy alone?!"  I huff, angrily.




"When you've discovered the great Justin Taylor but don't give time of day to one of the best curators the art world has seen in a long time because he's not from your social circle, well, it does tend to make you look a little foolish. Since Hunter had a thirst for knowledge and was right under her nose, she could have taken the time to cultivate his talent. Instead she chose her supposed position of power and treated him as insignificant. It was completely absurd and utterly vacuous.  As with most foolish people in a defensive position, she hits back first. Now I don't see why you get to have all the fun.  Let me set this up and the final denouement is yours."




I look at Franklin and nod.  People think that I'm the one with the power and the savvy but I'm a cub compared to this lion.




Yes, he can deal with Lindsay, but that Novotny needs to learn too.
















I can't quite believe it but that is Daphne- a very pregnant Daphne- grinning tearfully at me.  Del is bustling about making something to eat.




"So we've put you on the 1st floor, both of you, and..."  Francine starts to cry.




"Please guys don't!"  Vince chides us.  "You'll start me off again!"




"Come on sit down."  I guide her to the sofa and she gratefully stretches out before starting to rise.




"Oh we have something for you.  It's from Jenny.  She wanted you to see it first."




Vince hands me a suede covered box and we both sit down to open it.  As we leaf through the book we're both in tears.  "It's so beautiful!"  I sniffle.  "Here, please have a look."




Vince scoots in behind her and rest the book on her stomach and they quietly look through it.  Their silence is unnerving.




"Perfect, just perfect.  And when they are old enough, can you give them this letter?"  Daphne hands it to me.




"Of course along with this picture."  And that sets us all off again.
















She looks really tired. Carl pulled me to one side and insisted we do something.  The run up to Christmas is going to be hellish.  We're worrying that with the catering she's going to burn out, so I've made a decision.  All bets are off until the New Year. Her competitive nature is such that should they get ahead, then she will try and factor that in.




Zeus is coming to get her today and she's going to spend time with her brothers doing nothing but recipe test with Tom and Emmy Lou, as in she tastes; they cook.  Well that's what I told her.




She's stirring and I go still, hoping she goes back to sleep and happily she does. I huff an albeit quiet sigh of relief.




"For a guy in the security services and in the military for a spell, you are the worst person at stealth."  She mumbles and stretches, before curling back into my side.




She sniffs before getting up and hitting the bathroom, then bringing back two cups of coffee.




"So spill. What's bugging you?"




"You.  You're so tired.  I thought you were going to cry over the menus.  And I didn't think it was possible to scare an IRS man but Darius said that Tobias was on the verge of tears on the way home."




She sighs.  "Them coming after the kids...  I just can't get my head round it.  Luther and Justin's dad I get because quite frankly they are cunts.  But they purported, okay not Grady, to love them before..."




"Stop it."  I take the cup off her and press her into the mattress.  "You are supposed to be having fun with this.  Now come, get dressed.  Zeus is coming to get you and there's a surprise for you too."




Three hours later, we're in Ohio and she is beating Menno with a cushion.  Sol wisely took refuge behind a bottle of Chocolate Box.




"Stop beating up my man and have some wine for heaven sake!"  Sol chuckles.




"I can beat and drink at the same time!"  She takes another swing.




"ZayZay stop or you're not allowed to furnish the place!"  Zeus orders.




That gets her attention.  "What?"  She looks round at us.  "I can do this place?"




"Yep."  Menno hands her the wine.  "You've got a week and papa said the sky's the limit.  We did the annex so you've at least got somewhere to sleep, but have at it."




"You need time alone.  Somewhere to get your groove back."   I pull her into my arms.  "I shall miss you of course but I shall have Menno to keep me company.  But you need this, so enjoy."




"I love you."  She sniffles.  "Stay safe."




"I love you more."  She brushes the tears from my cheek.  "Stay safer."
















I look incredulously at them.  "Say that again?"




Lindsay is just shaking her head in disbelief.  "Anouk has let me go.  It was a complete misunderstanding!"




I can't help but notice the smug look on Michael's face.  "What exactly happened?"  He asks.




"The customer..."




"Who is always right, correct?  That's what you've always told me."  Michael snickers.




"Questioned the pricing of some of the artwork."  She continues, glaring at him.  "Asking if they included commission for the gallery."




"And did they?"  I ask.




"I said no and she added the amount on top but it turns out that it did and Anouk was not happy at my attempt at duplicity.  I tried to explain what I had thought but she didn't want to listen.  And..."




"You're unemployed now."  Michael adds.




"Yes Michael, I'm unemployed!"  She snaps.  "But unlike you, I have at least worked and qualify for unemployment because of my dismissal.  You are still relying on the money from Brian and Justin to live on. Isn't that running out?"




That takes the edge off his smugness and I'm surprised when he turns to me.  "Is it true?"




"Is what true?"  I ask.




"Well two things.  You can take my collectibles away if I can't pay the money back?  And that Daphne is cooking for Brian and Justin?"




"Yes for the collectibles and if you want to know about the lives of Brian and Justin, ask Brian and Justin.   Oh can't."




His bravado is evaporating and now the smug expression is on Lindsay's face.




Grady has a combination of disinterest and amusement and clears his throat.  "Tell me Michael, how much do you owe exactly?"




Leave it to the money man, I think to myself.




"I don't know."  He mutters, folding his arms.




"Let's work it out, shall we?"  He looks at him with a raised eyebrow.




"Not right now."  He grouses.




"On the contrary, I think now is the perfect time."  I sit down and smile thinly.  "As one of the people to whom money is owed, it is my right to know what my chances are of getting paid. You work it out and I'll wait and see if I should get the truck to come this evening.  Or tomorrow morning, give you a chance to say a proper goodbye."




"What do you mean?"




"Come now Michael, you know what I mean."  I tuck my hair behind my ear and smirk.




"So Michael, how much do you owe Brian and Justin?"




"I don't know!"  He shouts.  "And I don't like the way you guys are ganging up on me!"




"We're not ganging up on you..." I pause and let that sink in, "...don't see it as that.  See it as us merely letting you know exactly what you're dealing with."




The door knocks and Lindsay goes to answer it.




He sits down resentfully at the computer and brings up his spreadsheet.  "There!"




Grady and I look at it and I whistle.  "$42,000?  Ouch."




"So there's that and the money for Lindsay's parents is?"  Grady smirks and waits for an answer.




"I don't know."




"$62,000 and then there's the money you owe Talon, which is $25,000 and of course there's the payments for the college fund."




We both stare at Grady as he leans back and smiles again.  "Yeah, Luther is a very thorough man. You really don't give your friends credit. I mean they could have added to the total but even though they haven't, I feel that it should be noted.  So about a year's payment would equal $18,000.  So in total you owe $147,000."




Michael has gone an extraordinary colour as the reality of his situation hits him.  "Obviously this will go down to under $125 grand when Talon calls the truck."




He suddenly springs up.  "No!  I'll get Talon's money!  As I said earlier, there is nothing to worry about. I just need to rework the figures that's all."




"Why are the toys so important to you?"  I ask.




"For the last fucking time!  They're not toys, they are collectibles, which appreciate in value the longer you keep them and when I come to..."




"Sell them or give them to Talon now."  Lindsay's voice is cold and clear.  "Brian and Justin will wait for their money but it seems that my parents won't.  While this was addressed to me, it's actually for you."




She hands it to Michael and he shakes his head.  "They want their money back Michael and they're taking you to court to get it."




"I said fucking no!  This will be settled the way we originally discussed and that's an end to it do you guys fucking understand?!"  Michael all but screeches and storms out; the slam of his door reverberating round the condo.




"Well on that note."  I try not to laugh at his histrionics.  "I'll bid you all goodnight."




As I rejoin Ralph in the car, I tell him what happened.  "Something is off.  Nobody in that situation would willingly bankrupt himself."




Ralph nods.  "I agree.  Get the boys to photograph all his collection in the condo individually and send it to you.  We'll do the same.   I think we're missing something."


















"Can't you sleep?  And where are you?  It's so dark in wherever you are."




Zee chuckles and puts on the light.  "Sorry about that, I'm outside on the annex porch. It's so quiet out here, I can see why Usez couldn't stand it but can understand it for Sol and Menno; they will love it here."




"Ah hence the early rising."




"And I miss my heater but love him for forcing me to do this."




"I miss you too.  If I wasn't for Menno wanting to come too and that leading to a spat between him and Sol, I would come up tomorrow."




"Seriously, this place is just amazing.  Oh can you get the behemoth BBQ deets from Brian so I can get it bedded in by Tuesday?"




"Sure but what's the rush?"




"No rush..."  She trails off finding anything interesting.




"Lig whatever you're up to have fun with it and don't burn yourself out understand?  Actually why not have the kids come up and help with whatever it is you've just added to your plate."




She beams at me and goes to speak but I cut her off.  "I'll call Mel later. You go back to bed!  Lief vir jou."




"Good night geliefde and lief vir jou too."












"Guys can you come down a minute?"




Mel and I just smile. We know the question is moot but it will be fun to see the expression on their faces.




"Zee is out of state for the week, getting some much needed rest."  Jenny scoffs.  "Well you know what I mean."




"Yeah.  Where has she gone to get this rest?"  Gus rolls his eyes.




"Ohio."  Mel replies trying not to smile.




"What the heck's in Ohio?"




"Sol and Uncle Menno's ranch that she's furnishing."




"Wait, back up.  When did they buy a ranch?!"  Jenny gasps, looking affronted she didn't know this.




"They didn't.  Zeus did but he's letting them live there so that Menno can move to the States permanently."




"What?!"  Gus exclaims.  "Uncle Menno is...that's excellent news!"




"I know.  And she was wondering if two strapping teenagers on holiday until the beginning of December would like to give her a..."




It's a fight to see who can get up the stairs faster.




"If that's a yes, the plane will be here this evening at six!"  Mel shouts at their retreating backs.




"We'll be ready!"  Jenny shouts back.




"Pack warm clothing and sturdy boots!"  I add.




"Okay!  Ohio here we come!"  Jenny yells.
















"Hey Zay, you sound happy, oh I see, thought it was them.  What can I do for you?  Uh huh and when is this?  Okay I'll make sure.  Sure, you take care baby girl.  What?  What guest? What makes you think I'm bringing a guest?  Zay, hello?  Zay?"




"What's up?"  Zeon looks round from the sofa.




"Oh Zay wants us to fly to Ohio. She's doing a housewarming for Menno and Sol on Saturday."




"Uh huh. So you gonna ask Cynthia to come with?"




"What?!  Why would I ask Cynthia?"  I shift slightly on my feet.




"Well if you're not going to try with her, I suggest you don't make out so much.  And if you don't want people to see you making out, make sure the house is empty first."




"Fuck off!"  I grouse.




"Sure. You need privacy for that call."  He smirks and gets out before I can throw something at him.
















We've got all the pictures of the collection and sent it to someone that Talon knows and we're just waiting to hear back from him.  Apparently, the atmosphere in the condo is back to normal with Michael sucking up to them.




"How much?!"  I hear Talon gasp, then comes in and puts the phone on speaker.




"Yep as a whole the figurines are worth about $20K and that's just the ones you have. I will get back to you with the price of the others.  And of course, there's the crown jewel of his collection..."




"What crown jewel?"  I ask.




"Yeah, now I know whose collectibles these are, I'm not surprised he doesn't want to sell. I know the guy.  He used to run Red Cape Comics and he is a bit of a shark when it comes to negotiating. I bid against him years ago in Portland for something he really wanted but I got.  About a year later he bought it off me for $5000 more than I paid for it."




"What did you pay for it and what is it?"  I ask.




"Working replica of the Batmobile car from the Michael Keaton movie and I paid $50K so he paid me $55K."




"Where the hell did he get that kind of money from?"  Talon asks.




"That was my immediate question because he backed out real quick when it hit fifty.  He said that he cashed in his husband's insurance policy when he passed away."




"But his husband, well now ex-husband, is still alive."




"That's what he told me at the time and then added the five to sweeten the deal."




"Thanks Riley."  Talon hangs up and looks thoughtful.  "Without involving Zee in this until we need to, we need to speak to the family."




I nod and she starts to make calls, by the end of the evening we have flights booked for Pittsburgh for Tuesday morning.












Jenny and I just stare her.  "Aunt Zee..."




"Don't be looking at me!  Blame his father!"  She laughs.




"Okay but you didn't exactly put up a fight did you?"  I point out.




"Honey, why would I ruin the view for the rest of us?  I mean it's going to look so good."




"Aunt Zee!"  Jenny tries to sound appalled but fails.




"Oh come on!  To quote your Auntie Ems...married and faithful but neither blind nor dead."
















I know it's been years but that must really hurt Ben.  "I didn't even notice."  He says quietly.




"Well it would go some way to explaining why he was so very keen to get the money back from David.  But then when you guys split..."  I take a calming breath.  "He must have thought if he could get the money back from David, he could just keep it.  Christ what a..."




"Cunt."  Jennifer states.  "That's the word you're looking for."




"Oh my God what happened to him to do all of this?"  Debs is being comforted by Carl.




"Greed, plain and simple Red.  He sees what others have and wants it no matter how he gets it."




"But how did he cash in the policy without your signature?" I ask.




"He had my POA then and we agreed that should I have a health issue, then the policies should be cashed in to settle the bills." Ben tells us.




"But this was before your pneumonia!"  Hunter yells, pacing.




"Babe sit down please."  Matt grabs his arm and pulls him back down.




"Remember I did get sick before..."




"But not enough to warrant a fucking $50K policy cash in!"  Hunter snarls.




"And how did he keep it from you?"  Mel is steaming.  "Actually who was the policy with?"




"I don't know but he did and I've gone through everything and the only one missing is Pearl Green Assurance."  Ben laughs bitterly.  "He was paying the policy for it because he liked the name."




"Let me look into this a bit more and get back to you."  Mel is grim faced.  "How the hell am I going to tell Jenny?"




Leda takes her hand.  "We'll all tell her."  She looks at Ben and Steve and they nod.  "But after Ohio okay?"




"We're letting Zee know about this but letting you deal with it Mel, agreed?"




We all nod, sickened at the duplicity of Michael Novotny.












I can't believe I got fucking caught!  Luckily, I was just fired because she could've had me arrested if I hadn't pleaded ignorance and sobbed my apologies for the misunderstanding.  I've been blocked from the art scene again, but no matter since I made a nice tidy sum of $30K, doubling up the commission. If that stupid woman had only kept her voice down, it would've been fine.




Michael, of course, has made no effort to respond to the suit from my parents but at least they haven't sent me anything.  I hope Grady is right about this being a temporary estrangement, albeit a long term one.




Michael and Grady are out rebonding as the atmosphere in here was awful on Saturday. I hope they are having a good time.
















"Oh yes!  Right there yes!"  I grip the sheets as he continues to thrust into me.  "Fuck me, just fuck me!"  I yell.




"Is it good?  Is it better than before?"  He croons in my ear.




"Yes!  Yes it is!  Ah!"




His hand wraps round my dick and he jacks me to the best orgasm in a long time!




"That was just what was needed!"  I pant out and smile.




"Yeah for me too!  My turn!"  He orders excitedly, I groan but get up.




Five minutes later I'm balls deep in him, thrusting hard.  "More!  Harder!"  He yells.




"Oh this is so good!"  I growl, gripping his hips tightly.




"I'm gonna cum from this al...aaaah!"  He screams and I follow soon after.




Ten minutes later, I peel myself off of the bed and head to the shower.  I kiss him gently on the cheek as he's dozed off and head out to meet Michael.




There's no way I could spend time with him without having something to get me through it.  And going bareback with my favourite fuckbuddy was just what I needed.












I look at Zeus and then behind him before looking expectantly at him.  "What?"  He asks.




"There is a distinct lack of Cynthia."  I point out.




"Fuck off."  He growls and stomps into the house.




Faal comes up and wraps his arms round me.  "I can't believe what they've done and what you've done. It looks perfect for them!"




"Thank you, again, for getting me out of there. I needed distance but I feel better now."  I turn into his arms.  "And whatever is bugging you can wait, alright?  Let's just have a good time."




"How did..."




"I know you.  And again, it waits."  She kisses me gently.  "We have a shit load of food and booze to order."
















"Jesus.  I mean... just Jesus."  I look through what she's brought to me and after what she's told me, I want this guy to go down!




"He looks so innocent, right?"  She looks pissed off and tired.




"You know we can't represent the case though; the firm is too close.  What about Chase? They could do it. In fact, why not get Ephraim to do it.  He needs to pay for this.  I can call in a favour with Pearl. They should be able to give me a copy of the insurance policy and I think we have the copy of the old POA, right?"




"Yes.  Ah here.  What are you thinking?"




"Jail time, proper jail time."




"Oh, okay. I'll leave it with you."




"Please.  I'll have something for you by Tuesday next."  I rub the annoyance off my face.  "Now onto more pleasant subjects.  What do I bring for Saturday?"




"Cowboy boots and a Stetson. Everyone has to wear cowboy boots and a Stetson."




"We can get changed when we're there right?"




She laughs and nods.  "I think everyone is doing that!"
















"I still don't see why we have to wear what we have to wear!"  I call out from the en suite.  "I mean for God sake it's not as if..."




All thoughts collect in my cock as I walk in to find Justin leaning against the post chewing a Twizzler cheroot and wearing a Stetson, cowboy boots and a holster and that's it.




"Howdy pilgrim."  He growls and walks slowly up to me, I can hear a tinkling sound.  "I'm new round these here parts and was wondering where a cowpoke should go for fun and if you could show me them thar places?"




As he walks around me, I look down and see spurs on the back of his boots.  My cock approves further.




"I should be able to help you stranger."  I start to push him back towards the bed.  "For instance, this place here is called Place of Heaven..."




"Oh is it..." He purrs and I gasp as he palms my cock.  "I heard say that this is the place of heaven."




I lower my head and take the end of the cheroot in my mouth and start to chew towards him.  Soon we're swapping Twizzler between us until I have the last bite.




I slide my hands down to his butt and feel that he's already prepared himself.  "Oh God."  I moan and take a breath.  "I happen to be the owner of the stud farm in these here parts. Perhaps I could take you for a ride on the Pole of Heaven?"




"Well thank you kindly sir, I'd be much obliged."




I toss his Stetson across the room and push him flat on his back.  Sucking his tongue into my mouth elicits one of my favourite sounds and I start to grind into him.




"Now are you...oh...the stud of this stud farm?"  He pants, as I suckle his nipples.




"Reckon so."  I swirl my tongue into his navel.




"Mmm.  Well then, you'll pardon me if I form my own op-op-opinion on that?"




He grips the sheets as I slowly twist the butt plug out of him and flip us over.




"It's rude to wear spurs in bed and if you could remove your belt, I wouldn't want anything to go off before time."  I groan and writhe as he repays my nipple and navel play and then briefly takes me into his mouth.




He slides up to share my taste with me before straddling my hips and slowly lowering himself down.




"Ride it cowboy!"  I order and he does exactly that.




Ten minutes later we're panting and trying to find his other boot.  He looks adoringly at me and brushes the sweaty hair out of my eyes.




"We need to buy another pair of boots for me.  These go in the Toy Room."




"Along with the spurs...those are definitely being kept!"




"Next time you be the prisoner and I be the sheriff."












"Wait, pull over for a second."  I tell a surprised Menno.  "I just want to see it from here."  We get out and look down the drive. It is incredible.  "I can't believe we're going to live here!"




"Me neither.  Come on we have a barn to christen!"  He leers at me and we dash back to the car.




He guns the car down to the front door and we run to the barn pulling on our clothes and come to a screeching halt at the sight of the firm buttocks of Brian moving rhythmically as he pounds into Justin, who is hanging off the stall with his legs wrapped round Brian's trim waist, moaning and groaning with his eyes closed.




"Guys!"  Menno guffaws.




Justin's eyes fly open but Brian doesn't stop.  "Al...almost there!  A few...minutes."  Brian groans.




"Uh.  Well okay.  We'll be in the house then."  I stammer.  "Nice boots."




We back out grinning and turn to the house.  "So Zee's doing a housewarming then?"




"Reckon so."  He giggles.  "Attention in the house!  We found Brian and Justin in the barn so we know you're in there!"




The door opens and Zee hauls us in.  Menno shakes his head and gives her a huge hug.




"Zeus, you are rubbish!"  She chides him.  "Just for that you can show them round!"




By the time we've been shown round, Brian and Justin are back, looking very smug.




"Seriously you two!" Jennifer chides them, grinning.




"What?  We were just making sure that Justin is still not allergic to hay.  He's not."




"Come on!"  Jenny tugs on both our hands.  "Oupa sent a present!"




Menno groans wearily and allows himself to be pulled along.  "What's wrong?"




"Oupa and presents.  This can't be good."




As we are led outside I just stare, then blink and then stare again.  "Are those?"




"Yep stallions."  He sighs and then grabs his phone.  "Papa!"




We listen in silence to his end of the conversation as he tries to explain to his dad this wasn't what we had in mind.  But as much as we appreciated the gesture they would need to go back.  He sighs heavily when he hangs up.




"Everyone.  Meet Truman, the chestnut and Capote, the grey."




"Only papa!"  Faal chuckles and Menno nods.




"Right who's for food?"  Zee calls out.  "Have some short ribs stew braising."




"Uncle Menno, what you going to call it.  Oh actually I mean Uncle Zeus."  Gus blushes.




"No it's theirs to name as they wish."




"Cow Pies II."  Menno grins.  "Cow Pies I is in South Africa."




"Of course it is."  I mumble against his mouth.  "To Cow Pies II!"  I yell and raise my glass.




"To Cow Pies II!"  They shout back.
















"She's going to be absolutely fucking furious."  I murmur and swallow the lump round my throat.  "And you know what's ironic?"




Zeus looks up from basting the wings.  "Nope."




"We went for Michael to be the father as we thought he would cause the least trouble!"




"When are you going to tell her?"  He shakes his head in disbelief.  "Still can't believe it."




"When we get back home."  I watch Jenny curl up next to her grandpa and I can see Carl really struggling.  "Think I need to go save Carl from a pitbull pressurising."




"He doesn't..."  Zeus looks worried.




"Oh God no!  He loves her very much.  But he's very honest with her and if she asks a direct question, he'll answer it.  And she's a very perceptive girl."




"Hey Jenny, come give me a hand!"  Debs calls out and I see the relief wash over Carl.




I head to his side.  "How you holding up?"




"Walk with me?"




We walk for 5 minutes towards the back field and lean against the fence and for a while he doesn't say anything and then I realise why. The big strong papa bear is crying and I do the only thing I can. I hold him.




"She's going to kill him."  He sniffles.  "And Zee will help her bury the body."  He smiles.




"We will help her bury the body."  Debs' voice startles us.  "Go on back Mel, I got this.  Come here papa bear, it wi-will be alright..."  She sobs.  "It has to be, lord fuck it has to be.  How could he?"




As I head back to join Leda I sniff and compose myself as I see she's with Jenny and judging by the expression on her face, she's this close to cracking.




"Momma I mean it!  I know there is something going on so what is it?"  Jenny demands again.




"Honey we promise to tell you but not tonight. Let's just have a good time tonight, please?"




She sighs crossly.  "Fine!  But first thing in the morning and if not I'm going to speak to papa bear!  I was this close!"




"At least she uses her tenacious powers for good!"  Leda chuckles.








I'm wrapped round Justin, who is feeding me bits of the short rib stew.




"It's Thanksgiving in a few days...."




"Uh huh and?"  I kiss the side of his neck.




"Where are we hosting it?  He looks up at me, his eyes pleading.  "Do you think...?"




"Okay twat, let me talk to Faal.  But not today. This is Sol and Menno's evening."




"Thank you!"  He burrows further into my lap.  "How many rooms does it have again?"




"Twelve and the cottages can sleep six in each comfortably."  I look round and do a quick head count.  "Yeah that's doable."




"It's a shame we can't take the furballs with us."




"Mmm, but they're spending Christmas."   I suck on his neck, causing him to gasp.  "Keep still then."  I murmur and he giggles.




I catch Faal's eye and mouth at him and he nods.








I watch my family and sigh. I feel strong arms wrap around me and lean back against Zeus.




"So you and Cynthia?"  I nudge him in the stomach gently.  "You realise if you hurt her and there's anything left by the time she's done, Brian will be the last person you see?"




"Yeah.  Oh and by the way totally your fault."




"How the heck do you work that out and where is she by the way?"




"Aquacave and she already had plans for this weekend."




"Ah so it lowered her defences did it?"  I look up at him and he's got that dopey look on his face.  "So you going to invite her to ours for Thanksgiving?"




I hear him catch his breath.  "Th...Thanksgiving?  We're spending it wi-with you?"




"Oh unless you had other plans?  I had assumed that we could...well you know now that..." I trail off embarrassed to have hoped.  "Look I need to sp...speak to Faal be right back."




He tightens his arms round me.  "Your bros are spending Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year and any other fucking holiday with family from now on.  And this ragamuffin group is now our family.  So yeah, I'll call Cynthia and ask about Thanksgiving!"  He growls in my ear.  "Now you can go find your husband."




He gently pushes me away and grabs his phone.  "Hey Cynthia, it's Zeus..."




I grin and almost skip to Faal.  "So what's got you so happy?"  He asks giving me a kiss.




"Two things.  One Zeus is bringing Cynthia for Thanksgiving.  Actually, it's three things.  And he's making sure the rest of them come.  Two, they're spending every other fucking holiday with family from now on and..."  I swallow the lump in my throat.  "And three it would seem we're going to be spending it in Italy correct?"




"Yes, Justin has baby blued his own way again!"  Faal laughs and wipes away my tears.  "Should be interesting."




"Where's Sol and Menno and are you going to fess to Menno about your part in Truman and Capote?  And before you do that innocent look, there is no way on God's green earth that papa came up with that."




"They were in the barn replacing Brian and Justin's funk with their own and I bounced the idea off of papa and he bravely placed himself in the line of fire..."




"You're a wonderful husband but a fucking brilliant brother."  I give him a tongue filled hip grinding kiss.  "Brietling?"  I murmur against his mouth.




"Good night everyone see you in the morning!"  He yells, dragging me to the annex.




"We'll turn the music up real loud!"  Zeon shouts.




"You do that!"  Faal shouts back.




As I turn to poke my tongue out at him, I see Brian and Justin heading to the barn.
















Well so much for rebonding!  Grady's back to being sniffy with me again.  Lindsay just had to mention the suit from her parents.  I still don't know what possessed them to decide to do this after all this time.  I'm pretty fucked off about that if I'm honest.




I head to the kitchen to get something to eat.  The boy spies cooked for themselves and have left it in the fridge with do not eat written on it.  Now that was just rude, we share in this house.  It looks nice whatever it is. I think it's chicken mixed with something else.  I heat it up in the microwave and take it back to the lounge to finish watching my movie.




I don't care what they want to say... these movies are a classic.  This time it's X-Men.  The food has an unusual texture but it's very good but could do with more seasoning.




I hear the basement door open and see Gerald heading to the kitchen and feel smug that it's them that has to do take out this time!




"Michael?"  He calls out. I stop eating waiting for him to come in, as I want to see his face when he sees me eating.




"In here!"  I call out, then he comes in he's carrying a very cute looking dog.  "Why are you carrying a dog?"




"Because he needs feeding and..."




"Let me rephrase that.  Why is there a dog in this place?"  I slowly put a spoonful of food in my mouth, savouring it.




"It's a surprise for Miss Talon.  We've been asked to look after them whilst she's away and..."




"Away?  Where's she going?"  Another spoonful.




"Just away and..."




"Gerald!  What's taking so long?"  Jason calls out.




"Come and have a look?"  He calls back.  "We're in the lounge!"




Jason comes in with another dog. He stares at me and then looks to Gerald.  "Is he eating what I think he's eating?"




"Yes and he's savouring every bite!"  He snipes.




"What are they?"  I ask, scraping the bowl clean and licking my lips.




"Dobermann puppies.  Did you enjoy that?  Looks like you did.  So did you leave them any?"




"I did, though it could've done with a touch more salt and...them? What do you mean them?"




"You've just eaten their dinner.  That's why we wrote the note on the dish so that people wouldn't eat dog food."  Jason snipes and hands the puppy to Gerald.  "I'm going to see how much is left!"




"Dog food!"  I squeak and start to wipe my tongue on my sleeve.




"For fuck sake!"  Jason shouts and Gerald makes his way swiftly to kitchen. I follow, still disgusted at what I've eaten.




Just as we both arrive, Medea comes in chatting with Grady and Lindsay.  




"What's going on?"  Medea asks, stroking one of the puppy's ears.




"Oh aren't they just darling!"  Lindsay coos.  "May I?"  She reaches for one but Gerald steps back.




"Sorry Lindsay but they're hungry and tend to get a bit bitey when they're hungry."




"Oh in that case it's fine."  She steps back.




"Half... he fucking ate half of it!"  Jason growls and glares at me.




"Oh nice, Michael, just great!  You ate the dogs' food?"  Medea stares incredulously at me.  "What is wrong with you?!"




She looks in the dish and shakes her head muttering about selfishness and assholes.  "Okay.  Just blend this down for now and add the kibble.  I can make up some more but it will take time.  Shall I get extra tripe and trotters for you on my next shopping trip Michael?"




"Tripe?  Trotters?"  I ask weakly and feel my stomach start to roll.




"So what are their names?"  Grady asks.




"Not sure. Miss Talon has to name them first, since they are her dogs."  Medea replies over her shoulder.  "And nobody is to tell her about them. They're a surprise."  She warns.




I look round at them nodding like fucking dogs and shake my head at their patheticness.




"I mean it!  She finds out before she's supposed to and I find out whoever told her, they will answer to me.  And trust me you won't like that!"




The puppies make short work of their food and look expectantly up at us.  "Don't look at us!  Look at the asshole over there."  Medea jabs a finger in my direction. I scowl and storm out.












I quickly follow Michael and, of course, he's on the phone!  I quickly snatch it off him.




"Oh for heaven sake Michael! Can you stop being so fucking childish?"




"Give me my phone Lindsay!"  He snaps, standing up and trying to reach for it.  "That's private!"




"So you weren't attempting to ruin Talon's surprise?"  He folds his arms and glares at me.




I look at his phone and he was part way through a message to her.  "Why Michael?  Why can't you just let people have things to themselves?"