CHAPTER 29: LYDIA, LOVE, DIAMONDS & SCUPPERING STUPIDITY
"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.
HECTOR, HOTEL MANAGER
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.
CAUDALÍE VINOTHERAPIÉ SPA - AN HOUR LATER
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.
LUCIAN & DEE'S CONDO
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!
CARL & DEBS' SUITE
"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.
"It...it 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.
FAAL & ZEE'S SUITE
"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."
GUY TACKLER SMITH'S MANSION - EARLY EVENING
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!
DIAMOND DISTRICT - SATURDAY AFTERNOON
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."
LUCIAN & DEE'S SMALL CONDO - LATE AFTERNOON
"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."