Building Things

Chapter 43

Conner pulled up to the hotel and got out, leaving the car for the valet. He nodded at him, taking the receipt and walked into the lobby, going by the desk.

 “Oh, Mr. Van Owen?” The lady behind the desk called out to him, Conner turned and looked toward her as she smiled. He walked over to the tall counter. “You have a few messages, sir.” She said as she handed them to him. He looked at them, slowly turning away. “The people you were expecting are up in your suite, we let them in for you.” She smiled as Conner looked up.

 “Thank you.” He said softly and looked back down at the messages, walking away toward the elevator. He pushed the button as he flipped through the messages. He read them over and over again as the elevator arrived and he heard the chime. He looked up as the doors opened and a lady got out. He stepped aside and then got in, pushing 5 on the panel and stood back against the wall. The doors started to close and a young man stepped in, just barely making it. Conner did not look up, as he reached inside his jacket and pulled out an electronic pad from his inside pocket. He opened it and made some notes in a folder that was on the pad, then closed it down and put it back in his lapel pocket, as the elevator chimed. He looked up and it was 3. He looked at the young man, who smiled softly and gave him a sexy wink as he stepped out, Conner raised an eyebrow at him and his backside. The doors closed and the elevator continued, stopping at 5, the doors reopened and Conner stepped out, going to his right and continued till he reached the door of his room, sliding his key card, opening it, and stepping in. There were several people who were there, talking amongst themselves. Conner knew them as members of his division, but from the overseas branches. He stepped into what they were doing and they all looked up at him.

 “Mr. Van Owen, we have those briefs ready for you to check over, if you’d like.” A well-dressed lady said.

 “Mr. Van Owen, there are several notices that require your approval, when you have time, sir.” A man who was in his mid-forties, Conner thought, said as he looked up, holding out a file folder. Conner took it and sat down on the couch next to him, opening it. He scanned the various notices and pulled a pen, making some notes here and there on the various notices, then handed them back to him.

 “Check those for me please, and see if those changes will be alright. If they are, we can draft the new notices, and I’ll approve them then.” Conner said softly. The older man took them and nodded his understanding, and spread them out a little on the table in front of him. “I’m sorry everyone,” Conner said as he looked around the room, “I don’t mean to rush things but I’d like to get as much done as we can before I leave tomorrow. If it’s alright, can we work late until it’s complete? I know you probably have family or friends to go to, but if I could ask that, I would really appreciate it.” They all looked at him and nodded, some slowly, others quickly, all giving him a smile. “Thank you. I know that you have to catch your own planes in the next couple of days and return home, but if we can make this work, it will be smoother for all of us in the long run.” Conner saw them all smile back at him, and then go back to what they were doing. Conner turned to the well-dressed lady and reached out his hand for her. She hesitated for a moment and then handed him the briefs that she had mentioned. He was going through them slowly, one by one, when the bell at the door chimed. Conner got up and walked over and opened the door, without looking up from the paper he was reading.

 “Mr. Van Owen, that luggage you ordered, sir. I have it here.”

 “Oh, that’s fine,” Conner said looking up from his paper for a moment, “would you put it in the bedroom? I’ll pack later, thanks.” Conner continued to read and walked away from the door. He went over and sat down near the lady that handed him the briefs. She looked up at him, as he handed her the first one. “This is fine the way that it is, but I would like to give a little more of the percentages on the sheet, you know what I mean?” Conner asked and she nodded to him. “I think if we do that, then there is no question, leading to another possible meeting, right?”

 “I see what you mean.” She said. “I can have that changed and redrafted in less than an hour.”

 “Perfect.” Conner smiled at her. She smiled back. “I’m sorry, my manners are terrible lately, I have totally forgotten your name.” She gave him a soft look.

 “It’s understandable with everything going on, Mr. Van Owen. I’m Violet, Violet Caruthers.”

 “That’s right, you’re from…”

 “Our office is in Bern.”

 “That’s right. I’ll have to visit while I’m there. Thank you for doing this, I really appreciate it.”

 “You’re welcome, sir, it’s quite alright.”

 “Are you getting hungry?” Conner asked her, and she looked up at him, then he looked around the room, “Is everybody getting hungry?” Some nodded, some just smiled. “Fine, I’ll take that as a majority yes. I’ll order room service for us, unless anybody has objection?” No one said anything, so Conner went to the phone and picked it up. “Room service, please. Thank you.” Conner looked around, and then stood still, “Room service, yes, this is Mr. Van Owen in 502. I would like to order a dinner service for seven people please. I understand that it’s short notice, I apologize. Well, whatever you think you can do, would be greatly appreciated. Oh, that sounds very nice. Yes, that would be fine, too. Oh, and can you send up several different types of beverages, we will be working very late this evening. Yes, coffee as well. Tea? Hmmm, yes, I think I see a possible tea drinker here as well, yes, oh perfect. Yes, up to 502 please. That’s right. About an hour? I’ll keep them back with a whip and chair.” Conner chuckled, “Thanks very much for your help. Okay, bye.” Conner hung up the phone and looked at the room. “Room service in about an hour, they promised something very special for us.” Conner smiled and went back to the next brief. He continued to read it, but was interrupted a few times with some of them having questions about they were working on. Conner helped them or put them in the right direction and then went back to his brief. He read it through and then put it away, showing Violet where he had put it, and she nodded to him, as he started on the next one, letting out a deep sigh, settling back on the couch. The bell rang at the door again and he got up, crossing the room, and opening it.

 “Mr. Van Owen?” The soft voice said, and Conner looked up seeing one of the cutest faces he had ever seen, a young boy standing there holding a long black plastic bag.

 “Yes?” Conner asked, smiling softly.

 “Your dry cleaning.” He said and gave him the tightest dimples and Conner’s eyes lit up.

 “Uh, perfect.” Conner said, stepping out of the way.

 “Where would like it?” The boy was looking around the room, as Conner caught a look of him from behind.

 “Uh, the bedroom would be…the best place.”

 “Hey, wherever.” The boy turned and smiled up at him, looking him up and down.

 “Yeah.” Conner said, sighing. “Come on, I’ll show you.” Conner said, leading the boy across the room.

 “You sure have a lot of people in here.” The boy said softly.

 “Yeah, we’re working late.” Conner said, holding out a hand into the bedroom.

 “You want it on the…bed?”

 “Well for lack of any other place else, I guess so.” Conner smiled and the boy gave him a sly look. Conner watched him walk over to the bed as he held up the papers. The boy wiggled his tight narrow butt in front of Conner as he lay the plastic bag down for him, then looked over his shoulder.

 “This alright?”

 “It’s just about perfect.” Conner smiled and then lifted an eyebrow. The boy walked back over to him.

 “What time do you…get off?” The boy asked with a smile out of the corner of his mouth.

 “Not soon enough.” Conner said as the boy got close to him. “Might be past your bedtime.”

 “I doubt that.” He whispered, opening up a small leather book. He pulled out a tag and looked it over and then removed a pen from a side pocket. He wrote something as Conner was reaching into his own front pocket. “Here you go. You need anything, the number is on the card. We even do late night…deliveries.” He smiled a pretty little boy smile and Conner let out a deep breath.

 “I bet you do.” Conner smiled, handing him a bill. The boy looked down at it quickly and then back up.

 “Anything to make the customer…happy.”

 “Outstanding work ethic.” Conner smiled a devilish smile. “Maybe I’ll have some more cleaning that needs to be done…soon.”

 “I’m your guy.” He smiled again, giving tight dimples. Conner showed him out, and watched him walk away, then the elevator opened and several people got off, pushing rolling carts, heading for the room. Conner saw them coming and the boy lingering, who was biting his bottom lip as he watched everyone go into the room. Conner saw him and smiled again, and the boy winked at him. Conner turned and walked back into the room. 

 “Wow!” could be heard out in the hallway, as well as several other things, as the clatter of dishes and silverware could be heard. The elevator chimed and the boy looked back again before stepping into the elevator. Conner tipped the wait staff very heavily and they all smiled as they went out the door, leaving Conner and his people alone with everything. No sooner had they started to eat, they were done. Dishes were stacked on the rolling carts and Conner was sitting back reading another brief. Several people had mentioned how they were almost complete with what they were working on, and offered to help with each other. Soon everyone was about done with their tasks and the room started to thin out with people leaving, saying their goodbyes and getting a warm thank you from Conner. He walked each of them to the door as they left, and they waited their turn patiently for the elevator to come.

 Conner was reading his last brief, and it seemed to him, this was the toughest so far. It was far more complex than the others had been, and it took all of Conner’s concentration to focus on it and what its meaning was. She got up and put the folder near him, as he sat on the couch.

 “I have everything completed, Mr. Van Owen, is there anything else that you need?”

 “No, I’m fine, thank you.” Conner looked up and smiled. He saw someone to his right and looked, it was the older man that had been working on the notices. They looked at each other and he smiled at Conner.

 “I have everything cleaned up on those notices and they have been reprinted for you. Is there anything else?” He asked Conner.

 “No, you did great, I really appreciate what you guys did. We are about two months ahead of schedule now, this was perfect.”

 “Well, I’ll say good night then.” He said as he picked up his jacket putting it over his arm. Conner got up off the couch, as he was loosening his tie even more, opening another button on his shirt. He stretched out his hand to him and he took it. “Perhaps we shall see you in France, during your stay.”

 “I hope so.” Conner smiled, letting his hand go. He turned and walked to the door, opening it for him, as she was gathering a few more of her things in the room. He smiled and nodded toward Conner as he walked out, as the elevator dinged and he looked down the hall at it.

 “I’d better catch that.” He said as he dashed down the hall, speaking to someone in the elevator, but Conner wasn’t paying attention to it as he waited for her to come to the door where he was waiting.

 “Again, thank you very much, Violet. What you did this evening was absolutely perfect, and I won’t ever forget it, believe me.” Conner said, to her as she walked by, and she stepped out a few steps and turned back to him.

 “I hope I’ll see you again when you’re there. Remember, you have the number, don’t be bashful.”

 “Oh, I won’t, you should know that by now.” Conner chuckled, as he was closing the door, and she turned and then she almost gasped when she saw him walking toward her from the elevator. She blinked her eyes hard a few times and he smiled at her, and she blushed as he walked by her. She looked back over her shoulder as he walked on toward the door she had just left, and he stopped and knocked softly, looking back at her, giving her a strange look. She continued to the elevator and then she stepped in, as the older man was holding the elevator door for her. The door opened and Conner went wide eyed.

 “What are you doing here?” He asked as he backed up a step.

 “Am I disturbing you?”

 “I still have a few hours of work left to do. What do you want, Alec?”

 “I wanted to talk to you, if I could?” Alec gave him soft pleading eyes.

 “Say what you came to say, get it over with.” Conner sighed.

 “Can I come in and talk?” Alec asked.

 “Sure.” Conner said, holding the door open, wider to let him in. Alec stepped in and looked around.

 “Are you alone?”

 “Would it matter?”

 “Look, I know you’re upset, I am too.” Alec said, looking around the room. “Nice room.”

 “Thanks.” Conner said, as he picked up his paper and set it on the table from the couch. He sat down. “I know you didn’t come here to check out the décor, say what you have to say, Alec. I have a lot of work to do before I get packed.”

 “Where are you going?” Alec asked.

 “Oh, I’m sure you know, as you’ve probably talked to Ty.”

 “I did, but he didn’t say you were going anywhere.”

 “Yeah, whatever.” Conner said as he rubbed his forehead.

 “Headache?”

 “Alec, come on, just say what you want to say, so we can get this over with.” Conner said, looking very tired. Alec stepped closer and sat down on the couch close to him. Conner crossed his legs, and sighed softly.

 “Conner, I wanted to say, I’m very sorry about that night.”

 “Yeah? What part? You almost blowing your boyfriend Kurt on the couch?”

 “No, before that, the most important part that started the whole thing. I blew it way out of proportion. You were right. You were trying to tell me something, and I just couldn’t see past the guy you were with. I know it was business, and I know that it was not your fault for him hitting on you.”

 “Okay, but that’s not as important as rubbing Kurt’s cock right in front of me, you guys necking like high school horn dogs.”

 “You’re right about that as well. I was so wrong. I was wrong about so many things, and  because I was wrong, I might have wrecked the best thing in my life, the only thing in my life that really matters to me.”

 “Might have? Yeah, I guess you could put it that way.” Conner said as he got up off the couch. He walked over to a cabinet against the wall, and opened it. It was a liquor cabinet, fully stocked. Conner pulled out a tumbler and set it down. He opened the bottle of scotch, breaking the seal on it, and poured. He turned, and looked. “Can I make you a drink?”

 “No, thank you.” Alec said softly.

 “Too bad really,” Conner said, as he recapped the bottle and set it down. “I haven’t opened this since I checked in here a week ago.” Conner picked up the glass and turned slowly. He looked at Alec and his heart swelled so much seeing him sitting there, waiting. Conner had missed him so bad, longed for him, needed him, and he was so mad, so hurt that he had refused to call him, contact him in any way, leaving Alec out in the cold as it were. Conner pulled himself together and walked over to the couch, this time sitting on the arm, away from Alec. Conner took a long pull from his glass and licked his lips. Alec watched him intensely as he did it, wanting him as well, needing him worse than he had ever known, worse than what he had hoped Conner might be needing him.

“So, you talked to Ty did you?” Conner asked and Alec nodded. “And what did our friend have to say?”

 “Mostly that they’re worried about you, wondering what’s going on, what’s going to happen.”

 “And what do you think is going to happen, Alec?”

 “Well, I…”

 “Let me tell you what’s going to happen, Alec. I’m getting on a plane in the morning, I’m leaving and I’m not coming back for quite a while.”

 “How long is a while? Where are you going?”

 “Does it matter? I mean really, does it matter?” Conner asked as he took another pull from his glass. “You have your life here, and I am going to start another one, somewhere else. Somewhere far away from all of this, the pain, the hurt, the heartache. I think we need to make a clean break of it, Alec. So why don’t you say whatever else you need to say, get it off your chest, and I can go back to work, and get ready for my flight in the morning.”

 “Conner, I don’t want to lose you.” Alec said, his eyes welling.

 “You lost me when you walked in the door to the apartment that night. What you did later was not cool, not at all. You did more than hurt me, you spit on me and everything I have ever done for you, everything I was ever going to do for you. You trashed me beyond anything else that James or my parents could have ever done. You showed me what you really thought of me that night.” Conner said as he lifted his glass and took a deep pull from it, looking Alec in his reddening eyes, as the tears ran freely now. “I gave you everything freely, without thought, without wanting any return and you spit on me, you showed me how much you really care. And actually, I have to thank you, Alec, for doing that what you did, showing me who you really are deep down. I could have made a really huge mistake marrying you like I wanted to. I thought you were going to make me happy for the rest of my life. And maybe you will, years from now, I might look back at this and say ‘wow, you really dodged a bullet when that guy fucked up’, so yeah, I thank you Alec, it was awesome while it lasted.” Conner said as he drained his glass. “Sure you won’t have a drink? Kind of a,…last goodbye?” Conner stood up, Alec just sat there, “No? Okay, can’t say that I blame you really, who would want to drink with me, the dipshit surfer blonde dude.”    Conner walked over to the cabinet, setting the glass down, picking up the bottle, opening it and pouring another glass. He set the bottle back down, and picked up the glass. “You know, I just thought of something. This is kind of like the last night we had together. Yeah, isn’t it? Only I’m the one drinking, and not you. Let’s see, what else are we missing? Let me think.” Conner paused as he looked up at the ceiling, shaking a finger, and then he looked at Alec. “I know, we’re missing someone for me to fuck in front of you, that’s what it is.” Alec sobbed hearing Conner.

 “Conner, please don’t,…please.” Alec said as he got off the couch. “How many times do I have to say I’m sorry?” Alec sobbed. Conner came slowly across the room toward him.

 “The other thing we’re missing is, wait,… hold on,” Conner snapped his fingers. “now I remember, while you’re crying your eyes out, I was packing to leave, and what? You were way more drunk then than I am right now. Hold on, let me catch up.” Conner tipped his head back and gulped the scotch, and turned back to the bar, pouring another one. He set the bottle down and picked up the glass, when the doorbell chimed. Conner spun back around, glass in hand, and his mouth wide open. “Now who could that be?” Conner said, as he looked at the door, and then looked back at Alec, giving him a look of surprise. “The whole thing may be perfect, I’ll bet that’s the new boyfriend. Oh wow, someone to fuck at last. Let me just go get the door.” Conner smiled and wiggled his eyebrows. “He may not be as hot as Kurt, but I’ll bet he’ll scream really loud when I hammer his ass.” Conner said as he reached the door and opened it. “Oh, not who I was expecting, but please, do come in and join the going away party.” Conner stepped out of the way and the older man walked into the room. Conner shut the door behind him. Alec was shocked to see the elder Van Owen standing there. Conner went back to the cabinet as he emptied his glass. Conner set his down and then pulled out a fresh one, pouring scotch into it.

 “Father, you remember Alec, don’t you?” Conner asked, as he poured more into his own glass. He turned and walked back to his father carrying both glasses, handing him one. “Please, father, do come in, make yourself comfortable. Alec was actually getting ready to be on his way, weren’t you, Alec?”

 “Hello, Mr. Van Owen.” Alec said, doing his best to keep his head down and not to show his red eyes. Van Owen just stood there, holding his drink in his hand, looking back and forth at the both of them.

 “Your timing is perfect as always, father.” Conner said as he looked up at him, before plopping into a cushioned chair. “The staff just left a little bit ago. You will be pleased to know that we worked incredibly hard and I have notices and projection forecasts for our division, putting us two months ahead. And with this little trip that you’re sending me on, I can see that it will be very profitable, very profitable indeed. I would venture to say that we stand to make at least thirty to forty million when I get to the south of France. It will more than pay for the expenses of the trip, even if I don’t fly in coach. I think it’s worth it, father, don’t you?” Conner said, holding up his glass. The elder Van Owen moved toward the couch and where Alec was standing. He set his glass down on the coffee table as he got close to Alec, looking him in the face. Alec was trying to turn away, but Van Owen reached out and put a hand on Alec’s arm, stopping him.

 “Mr. Marquez, are you alright?” Van Owen asked in his deep voice. Alec nodded.

 “Don’t worry about Alec, father, he’s a real tough one, you know the type that you really like and like to have around, like Caleb for instance.”

 “Conner, I think that will be enough.” Van Owen said.

 “Father,…you didn’t come all the way down from ‘atop the mountain’ just to check on my ex-boyfriend now, did you?” Conner said as he got out of his chair. He set his glass down and stepped to the other side of Alec, looking at his reddened swollen eyes. “Such a shame, Alec, you have the most exquisite eyes I have ever seen in my life. They take my breath away every time I look into them, and now they’re all red and swollen like you’ve just peeled a truckload of onions, yep, what a shame. Have you ever looked into his eyes, father? They really are a wonder of nature, it’s too bad that they are also full of lies and deceit, something you would know all about, father. You two would make quite the team. Perhaps you can work something out while I’m gone, you’ll have plenty of time.” Conner said.

 “Conner, that’s about enough. I’m not going to say it again.” Van Owen growled in his deep tone, pulling Alec closer to him.

 “Or what, father?” Conner said, putting his back to them, picking up his glass. “I seem to be holding all of the cards right now.” Conner took a drink, and turned. He stared at his father with a deep glare. “Would you like to know? I’ll bet you would, and what would even better still, is if mother was here to hear this, yes, it just might make her decade, wouldn’t it, Alec?” Alec looked at Conner, as he leaned into the older Van Owen, who eased his grip on Alec’s arm. “Alec and I are no longer together, father, you should be pleased with that, as I’m sure mother will be doing cartwheels when she hears it. Phoebe will probably cry for a week in pure joy and relief. I will be free to do what you and mother have demanded since I was twelve, find a girl and get married and have that grandchild you both want so desperately, but sadly, there will be a catch to the whole thing, as I will probably end up marrying some local street trash from the south of France, that mother would disapprove of anyway, not in social standing with a pedigree.” Conner continued ranting but paused to drink more from his glass. “There is nothing but bad from that, as I probably won’t have her in the states in time to make sure that the child is born as a US citizen, and the marriage will probably be annulled anyway do to some stupid grounds that I’m sure she’ll come up, and the whole thing will fall apart, but the bright side to it all, and a really, really bright side is I will make you richer than you have ever known, and I will finally become your golden boy, father, besides the hair color I mean.” Conner smiled really wide after he drained his glass.

 “Are you through?” Van Owen asked as he pulled Alec away, getting him behind the elder man.

 “Why, doesn’t that make you happy father, you get what you want, everything, the whole shootin match.” Conner said as he went toward the bar again, but Van Owen stopped him, grabbing him by the arm. Conner looked down at him holding his arm and lifted his eyes as they changed, going angrier, cold. “Get your hand off me.” Conner growled.

 “You’re going to listen to me, for once in your life, your sad little life, you’re going to listen. Sit down.” Van Owen growled and Conner’s eyes narrowed with more than anger, it was pure hatred. Conner went to pull away, but the elder used his massive power he still possessed and tossed Conner into the chair that he had been in. He stepped over to him and leaned down getting into Conner’s face. “Now, are you going to listen?” Conner changed tactics.

 “Sure, father, tell your sad little son whatever you want to tell him, but you’d better make it quick, I have a plane to catch in a few hours.”

 “You are going to keep your mouth shut until I tell you can speak again, do you understand me? I’ve heard just about enough from you for one night. Speak again before I tell you that you can and I’ll hit you so hard, I’ll put one eye into another.” He growled and Conner knew he meant it. He let out a slow breath and settled into the chair, watching his father turn toward Alec, moving to him, and Alec looked up at him with sad, but fearful eyes, as Van Owen took Alec by the arms and lowered him to the couch, having him sit back. Van Owen set himself down next to Alec, sitting at an angle, his back to Conner. He lowered his head and cleared his throat and then looked at Alec.

 “Mr. Marquez,…Alec,” Van Owen said, his voice deep, but softened, “I have done a great many things in my life, I have worked hard to get where I am, sacrificed, cheated, lied, things not to be proud of really. My son knows of some of it, but not anywhere near all of it. If there is one thing that my son can tell you, it would be that I have never, ever apologized to anyone for anything in my life. Alec, I need to apologize to you with everything that I am in this life. Of all of the people in this world that I have ever known, ever dealt with in business or in pleasure, you are the only one that deserves the most sincerest apology, and before I die, I will find a way to make it up to you, I swear that, and my son can tell you that I keep my word, always.” Van Owen said, as he fought back any emotion that was trying to emerge. Conner went wide eyed and was listening so intently to every word from his father now. “A great injustice has been done to you, and you were totally unaware of it until the other night, when you had the issue with my son. None of that was any of your doing at all, you were simply being used in a larger game, as well as my son, the both of you were being used and manipulated.” Van Owen reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out an envelope slowly, and then slowly handed it to Alec, who looked down at it, and then into Van Owen’s eyes.

 “What is this?” Alec asked softly.

 “It is for you, for in the morning. Once you open it, you will understand more, even after I’ve explained it to you. You have to believe me when I tell you, that I was not a party to any of this, and did not find out about this until just a few days ago. I was sitting in my study and overheard a conversation outside the door, I got up from my desk and went to the door, which was open slightly. I heard a conversation taking place between two men and my wife. I listened to what was said and only catching part of it, and started to put things together. I now know that these two men were working for my wife, Conner’s mother. She put a plan into work to bring an end to you and your relationship with our son.”

 “What?” Alec asked softly, looking him in the eyes.

 “It’s true. I did some of my own checking and started to find out a few things about what she had been doing. She made arrangements to have these two men work their way in between the two of you and cause enough problems to have you two walk away from each other. I am sorry that I was too late to do anything more about it. I had made arrangements to have Conner go on this business trip to Europe, but I needed to get you away from this as well.”

 “Europe?” Alec asked leaning around the elder to see Conner, now knowing where he was going for sure.

 “Yes, but I was trying to secure a passport for you to have you go along as well, to get you both away from it and what might happen. I was having problems with getting your passport for you and getting it expedited, that’s why I didn’t contact you. If you had been told, it might have made tensions even greater. The final piece to all of this was your employer. I asked for him for secrecy in all of this and he was very happy to help, as he thinks the world of you, as if you were a son to him. He closed the restaurant early that day, saying that he wasn’t feeling well, am I correct?” Alec nodded wide eyed, “He went home, making calls overseas to family there to make sure that you both were going to have the best time of your lives. Everything was arranged except for the passport, and at the late hour of the day, is when I finally received it in my possession, but it was too late, and the plan was already underway and working.” Van Owen looked over his shoulder seeing the look on Conner’s face, it was one of horror and disbelief. Van Owen shifted off the couch and sat on the table across from Alec to see them both now. He was sitting next to the scotch that Conner had poured for him when he came in. He picked it up and swallowed it fully, then set the glass down on the table.

 “Conner became involved with a certain client, Calvin Hartman. Mr. Hartman was to lay the seeds in Conner’s mind of doubt toward how he felt and what he felt, and according to my own informant, Caleb West, it apparently worked. You, Alec were to be pulled away by someone you know, and know well, a former co-worker. He was to get in close to you and work his way in between you two. That worked a little too well apparently, which is why you came here, Conner, to try and sort out everything and possibly move on. The plan was working well and was almost going to be completed, but what your mother did not know was that the bond between you two was more than she had thought or could imagine. She thought that the attraction between you two was purely physical, not emotional, she did not understand that you could have a deep feeling toward one another,…love, something she doesn’t understand.” Van Owen got up from the table and went over to the bar and poured another scotch for himself and then looked at his son. “Conner, would you care for another?” He asked and gave the slightest hint of a smile. Conner looked at him and then shook his head at him. Van Owen took his glass and turned back, as Alec was sitting there on the couch, his hands covering his face as his elbows rested on his knees. Van Owen came back over and sat down on the table again, in front of Alec, putting his glass down. Van Owen took Alec’s hands away and Alec slowly looked up at the older man, who watched the tears stream down Alec’s cheeks. Van Owen actually smiled at Alec, and Alec opened his eyes wide as he saw Conner in the older man’s face as he smiled. Alec sobbed and then leaned forward and hugged the elder. He slowly put his arms around Alec and patted him on the back gently.

 “This is why I owe you the deepest apology, Alec. You have the heart that could save this entire world within you. You give to everyone around you, and make them feel truly loved. You should have never been made a part of this, and I will make sure that she will never do this to anyone ever again, as long as I’m alive. Alec,…” Van Owen said he pushed back from Alec slowly, “I am very, very sorry about all of this, you deserve every happiness in the world.” Van Owen said, and Alec wiped his eyes with the backs of his hands. Van Owen hugged him again, and Conner was softly sobbing to himself, watching all of it, his father, the rock, the total statue of stone that he had always been to Conner all of his life, never showing emotion at all, only anger and frustration for all those years, and now here he was, smiling, caring, compassionate to an almost complete stranger. Was this even possible, Conner asked himself, shaking his head, thinking this through as he had heard it, it had to be true, his father knew too many things, too many details to just be spinning another elaborate lie, and if it was, what was there to gain now, what was the prize to be won if everything was out on the table as it were. Conner wondered having been dealing with it for almost all of his life. He wondered.

 “Alec, I’m going to ask you, and I want you to answer me truthfully, do you love my son?”

 “Oh yes, sir. I do so very, very much.” Alec said, giving him soft pleading eyes.

 “Why?” Van Owen asked softly.

 “He means everything to me. The first day that I saw him, I saw someone who was caring and gentle. He was genuine, honest, real, unlike anyone I’ve ever known. He has this thing that he does with his eyes, they shine more brilliantly when he talks about something he cares about or loves, and almost from the start, day one, he always looks at me like that, and I knew he always would.”

 “Do you believe that he loves you?”

 “I pray that he does, and I will always find a way to have him love me. If I were to lose his love for me, I would have no reason to live at all. There is nothing so important to me than to have him love me.”

 “That’s all I wanted to hear.” Van Owen said,  putting a hand on Alec’s shoulder, smiling wide at him again. Van Owen looked over at his son, who was shrunken in the chair, taking in everything that was going on in the room. “Conner,…” Van Owen said in his louder voice, making Conner shift his eyes only toward him in response, “tell me.”

 “I’m not sure of what to say, father. I feel so cheated right now, and so,…dirty. I’ve been used before, I know that, and I’ve accepted it, but this is something completely different, something that is almost disgusting, beyond that even. How dare she do this to me, to us. I can forgive a lot and have over my life, but this, I can’t forgive this, ever. This made my life, and Alec’s a living hell, far worse than New York ever was. I hated feeling this way, hurt, alone, and then you tell us all of this, and it’s what, supposed to make us feel better? Make us happy, warm and fuzzy? I don’t think so, father. Nothing can make up for this, nothing at all.” Conner got up, seeing Alec and came over to him, sitting on the table next to his father, but ignoring him completely. “Alec, I can’t begin to tell you how so very sorry I am. I said so many mean and hateful things to you. I never would have thought that any of this was possible or true, I can’t even imagine it. I can only say I’m sorry so much, and then it becomes meaningless, but if it takes a lifetime of saying it countless times during each day, then I will do it, I will say that I’m sorry.” Conner said softly. Alec sobbed softly a couple of times, then wiped his eyes on the back of his hand.

 “Conner, I don’t want you to say you’re sorry every day, I want you to say I love you, every day. Would that be so bad?” Alec gave him a slight smile. Conner smiled wider himself.

 “No, that wouldn’t be bad at all. Alec Marquez, I love you, and even though I said I didn’t, that was because I was so mad and hurt, but Alec, I never stopped loving you, and I don’t think I ever will.”

 “Then you have made me the happiest man in the world.” Alec said, as tears dropped more, and they came together in a tight hug. The elder Van Owen got up from the table and walked back to the bar, pouring more scotch. Alec pulled back from Conner, looking at him with his swollen red eyes, “Do you really love me?”

 “Do birds fly?” Conner smiled the million dollar smile, and Alec grinned from ear to ear and they kissed each other, as if for the first time, soft and tender, then it became more passionate, and then they heard a sigh and they pulled apart, looking back over his shoulder, Conner saw his father smile again, and he smiled even wider at it.

 “Conner, I think we need to have a talk.” The elder said as he sat down on the table next to his son.

 “Well, that will be a first.”

 “Conner.” Alec said in a whisper.

 “No, he’s right, Alec, we’ve never really talked actually, in all of his life. I’ve only given him direction.” The elder said, sipping from his glass. “Conner, I want you to know, that I am truly trying to understand all this that is between you and Alec. I accept it, but it’s really strange for me to understand how it all works between two…men.” The elder, gave his son a side glance. “You may find this hard to believe, but all I really want is for you to be happy.”

 “Thank you, father, and you’re right, I do find it hard to believe.”

 “Yes, given our past with each other, I can understand that.” He sipped more from his glass, then focused on Alec, giving him a soft look. “Alec, why don’t you open that envelope for me, please.”

 “A ‘please’…father, you’re full of surprises tonight.” Conner said softly. “I’ve never seen you smile, ever, even over money.”

 “I have had a revelation in my life, Conner.” The elder said softly, and leaned against his son, surprising Conner, making him smile softly.

 “And what would that be?”

 “I finally figured out that there is more to life than just business, and I seemed to have missed out on quite a bit of it.”

 “You have a lot of life left.” Conner said softly.

 “No, that’s where you’re wrong.” Van Owen said, and finished his scotch. “My doctor has told me that my heart condition is worse than it could possibly be. He has me on a transplant list, but doesn’t hold out much hope that a donor will be found in time.”

 “Mother had mentioned something about your condition.” Conner said, looking at his father.

 “There is another reason why I’m sending you abroad. I want you to wrap up everything, get all the loose ends together for the company. I will probably be dead before you get back. I want you to consolidate our holdings, and bring everything back here to just the states, that’s why I’ve brought everyone here from our offices overseas. Once I’m gone, Conner, you will be named as CEO.” He said so plainly, as if he was talking about the weather, Conner just stared hard at him with his mouth hanging open slightly, “My personal assistant, Greggson, has all the documents for the board. He will call a special meeting when it finally happens.”

 “Father,…dad…” Conner said, putting a hand on his father’s shoulder.

 “No, it’s alright, really.” The elder smiled at him out of the corner of his mouth, patting Conner’s knee. “I have only two real regrets, the first one is not spending the time, or the quality of time with you as you grew up, listening to your mother to have you sent off to all those boarding schools, and second, I didn’t marry for love, I married for the sake of a business transaction. Don’t make the same mistake, Conner, marry for love, be as happy as you can be in the time that we have on this Earth. Do that for me, take that small bit of advice and always remember it.”

 “I will, Dad.” Conner said, as his eyes welled, looking at his father in a totally different way now.

 “I never told you that I loved you, but I really do, son.”

 “Oh God, Dad.” Conner choked, and let tears drop from his eyes, “I’m so sorry I never told you that either.”

 “Well, it’s water under the bridge now.” Van Owen said, patting Conner’s knee again, looking at Alec. “So, do you see and understand what’s there, Alec?”

 “I can’t believe it.” Alec whispered softly.

 “What is it, babe?” Conner asked softly looking down at what was in Alec’s hand.

 “Your passports are in order, the one for France, and the other for South Africa,” Van Owen said, just as soft, “the other document is part of my way of apologizing to you.” Alec looked at him with wide eyes, and then looked at Conner.

 “It’s an entrance letter to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.” Alec whispered, holding out the document to Conner, who took it and read it.

 “Entrance acceptance to a semester of training at Le Cordon Bleu, Paris, France granted to Alec Marquez in recognition of excellence for…” Conner read aloud softly, then looked up at Alec and smiled, “it’s always what you dreamed of, babe. Congratulations.”

 “Mr. Van Owen, I don’t know what to say.” Alec whispered softly, taking the older man by the hand.

 “As I said, a moment ago to Conner, be as happy as you can.” He smiled and then Alec threw his arms about the older man’s neck, holding him tight.

 “Thank you, so very much. You made my dream come true.”

 “You’re welcome, son.” The elder patted his back, “If anyone deserves it, you do.” Alec pulled back, taking the document back from Conner and stared at it. “Your employer, Mr. Lozano, wants you to return to him better trained, not that he isn’t happy with your current ability, but he also knows it was your dream.”

 “You are far more sneaky than I ever gave you credit for, Dad.”

 “Ah, it’s just good business, Lozano gets a trained chef, Alec gets to be formally trained in something he enjoys doing, and I might get a chance to sample some of that good food that I’ve heard about, if I live long enough.” Van Owen smiled softly.

 “Thank you very much, sir.” Alec whispered.

 “Well, I must be getting back to the house.” Van Owen said, getting up and walking toward the door. Conner got up and followed his father. He turned as he opened the door, looking at his son. “Conner, remember I was always very proud of you. You have turned out to be quite a man, and I know also it’s long overdue, but,…I love you, son.” He put an arm around his son’s shoulders and pulled him into a hug, and Conner let the tears fall more.

 “I love you too, Dad.” Conner whispered. Van Owen pulled back and turned and walked down the hallway to the elevator. Conner watched as he pushed the button and waited for the elevator to come. Conner shut the door softly, and leaned against the wall, facing it, his arm up, against it, with his face buried in it, sobbing softly. Alec, set everything he had in his hands on the table and went to Conner, putting his hands on the backs of Conner’s shoulders.

 “Conner.” Alec whispered. Conner sobbed once and slowly turned and wiped his eyes, looking at Alec. “I don’t know what to say.”

 “Just tell me that you love me.” Conner smiled. “Tell me that everything in this past week didn’t matter. Tell me that there will never be anyone else to come between us ever again.”

 “You know that I’ve always loved you, since that first day, at the store, and then at Derrick’s, when we were talking on the couch. I fell in love with you right then and there. And everything this past week has been a nightmare for me,” Alec said as he stepped close to Conner, feeling his warmth, and his breath, “and I will never, ever let anyone come between us ever again, not family, not friends, not even the next to hottest guy on the planet.”

 “Who’s the hottest guy on the planet?”

 “Well, it’s you of course, my dipshit surfer blonde dude.” Alec smiled that cute boyish smile of his, giving Conner the dimples that he loved so much.

 “Duh, I guess I am the blonde dipshit, huh?” Conner smiled as he put his arms over Alec’s shoulders. “You know, I kept thinking the whole time, something just wasn’t right, the thing with Cal, then you, Kurt,…everything.”

 “You know, you need to quit thinking so much and take me to bed.”

 “Hmmm, is that what you really want?” Conner asked softly, raising an eyebrow.

 “Is there something else that you might want?”

 “Yes, there is.” Conner said, making his eyes narrow, and Alec gave him a shocked look.

 “What?” Alec asked as his jaw dropped open.

 “I want you to go back to the apartment and pack.”

 “What?”

 “Pack.” Conner said, getting closer to him, going face to face. “We have a plane to catch in the morning, remember?”

 “Uh,…okay.” Alec sounded deflated, and turned away, mumbling to himself, “I guess I’ll go home and pack. I wasn’t really thinking about that, but I guess you’re right, I’ll just go home and pack,…” Alec was mumbling so softly that Conner was grinning ear to ear.

 “Has it been awhile?” Conner asked following Alec as he had gone to the coffee table, bending to get his keys. Alec turned and looked at him, with sad puppy eyes.

 “Yes, since that afternoon that you and I were on the carpet, but that doesn’t matter I guess, I have to go home and pack,…” Alec was mumbling again, as he had his keys in his hands and went to leave. Conner was still grinning from ear to ear over it.

 “Let’s get you something to pack in first. Just grab your essentials. We can get the rest over there and some luggage when we’re in France.”

 “Really?” Alec’s eyes lit up. Conner put his hands on his shoulders again and kissed him softly.

 “Yes, really. We’ll be Lyon, first, then we go on to Marseille. We can get your things there, then you can go on to Paris from there and do your Cordon Bleu thing.”

 “Okay.” Alec said softly, feeling a little nervous about it, thinking strange country, being alone.

 “While you’re doing that, I have to go to our office in Bern, and take care of all of that.”

 “Where’s that?”

 “Switzerland.” Conner said, looking at him with questioning eyes. “Don’t you know where that is?”

 “No, it’s kind of all new to me. Geography was never my best subject.”

 “Scared?”

 “Yes.” Alec said with a hushed voice.

 “It’ll be alright, I promise. Now let’s get you something to pack in, and then I have to make a couple of calls while you’re packing.”

     ****************************************************

 Derrick rolled out of bed quietly and got in the shower. He needed to get ready for work and be there early today. He had a meeting with that corporate attorney with Tom this morning and he wanted to have everything ready for it, not to give him any problem or question. The meeting was supposed to be held with Conner as well, but Derrick had been told that he was leaving on his trip and was not available, that someone else would be there from the corporation. Derrick dreaded this meeting as Conner was supposed to be handling the situation entirely as he said he would. The call had come and the corporate attorney had told them that their time was up and they needed to proceed with the firms end of the contract or there would be a lawsuit pending for breach of contract. Derrick didn’t want this over his head, as word of it would spread quickly and it would severely damage his and the firms’ reputation. Bad press as they say, Derrick sighed to himself as he let the water from the rain head cover him, drenching him.

 “You trying to drown yourself?” Ty asked and Derrick smiled under the water hearing his voice, then stepped out of the water, looking at the beautiful body of Ty, standing naked at the shower entrance.

 “That might not be a bad idea.” Derrick sighed as he rolled his eyes.

 “Look, babe, I know you think it’s gonna be bad, but I have a feeling you’re gonna turn this all around. I know you and what you can do.” Ty smiled as he stepped into the shower putting his powerful arms around Derrick’s waist. Ty kissed Derrick softly.

 “Thanks.” Derrick said softly and then pulled Ty in under the water as well. “But, I’m not sure about this one. They keep fighting us at every turn, and with Conner leaving, and not being able to help, I think I’m fucked.”

 “Hmmm, would that help?” Ty wiggled his eyebrows. Derrick smiled softly and then kissed Ty.

 “It might, after the meeting, when I’ve taken it raw and unlubed.” Derrick frowned now.

 “Babe, listen, I know you think it’s bad, but what if you just gave in and did it? You know, just do the project?”

 “It’s a matter of principle. They want the firm to go out on a limb and present something that’s…shaky at best, a disaster at the worst, and then we’re responsible. It could have devastating results and I could be sued in so many ways, it could destroy the firm and cause us to go bankrupt. No, it’s better to force their hand and let them try and sue us for breach of contract, it’s only one suit and I contest it easier for the lack of cooperation that we’ve received. The only bad part of it is Conner. It will drag his ass through all of this as he’s the head of that department of whatever the fuck he calls it.”

 “Division, babe, that’s what he calls it.” Ty said, as he washed Derrick’s back.

 “Whatever.” Derrick said, rolling his eyes. “Corporate bullshit names, blah, blah.” Ty chuckled and then pinched Derrick’s butt hard. “Hey!”

 “Now, be nice.” Ty whispered.

 “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” Derrick said turning around. “You know,” Derrick said softly as he put his arms on Ty’s thick shoulders, “maybe I’ll get fucked before I get fucked at work.” Derrick wiggled his eyebrows a little and Ty smiled wide.

 “I would love to help you with that.” Ty said, and kissed Derrick softly.

 “Why do I feel there’s a ‘but’ coming.”

 “But,…you said you needed to prepare, and go in early, right?”

 “Yeah, but you know, I’m the boss, and if I’m a little late, I think it’s okay.”

 “Yeah, right.” Ty chuckled, chewing on Derrick’s earlobe, “You also need to set the good example,…boss.”

 “Fuck, why do you have to always be so…levelheaded?”

 “It’s a character flaw of mine.” Ty pulled back and smiled, “Now let me wash your hair and you can get your tight ass out of here and get to work.”

 “You really know how to start my day, don’t you?”

 “I try.” Ty said, turning Derrick around and scrubbing his hair.

     ***************************************************

 Alec woke up and rolled over next to Conner. He smiled at him as he snuggled up next to him, kissing the base of his neck at his shoulder. Conner took in a deep breath through his nose and stretched himself. His head was throbbing from all of the scotch from last night as he slowly became awake. Conner opened his eyes, as Alec rolled out of bed and walked to the bathroom near the bed. Conner heard water running, knowing Alec was brushing his teeth. Conner propped himself up on one elbow and watched Alec walk back toward the bed. Conner smiled at him.

 “When is the flight?”

 “At ten, remember?” Conner replied.

 “Yeah, that’s right.” Alec sat on the bed, sitting at an angle facing Conner.

 “Nervous?”

 “A little, I guess. This is really a big step for me, you know.” Alec said as he looked down at the mattress. Conner reached out and took one of Alec’s hands in his. Alec looked at him softly.

 “I know. You don’t have to do this, if you don’t want to.”

 “That occurred to me last night after you went to sleep. I sat up for a while just thinking about all of this. This really is the chance of a lifetime, isn’t it?”

 “Alec, do you realize that we can actually do this at any time we want?” Conner asked as he sat up in bed, letting Alec’s hand go. Alec watched as the covers of the bed barely covered Conner at all, and Alec looked at him with such a look of longing seeing him sitting there so sexy the way he was, his body, the bed, the wild love making they did last night after Alec came back from the apartment and packing, and Alec more than realized that Conner was more than everything in the world to him, and had actually cried during their love making as he had missed Conner so.

 “What do you mean?” Alec asked, snapping back to reality.

 “I mean, love of my life, that I make more money than God himself. We can afford to go to Europe any time that we want. We can afford to go anywhere in the world that we want, any time.” Conner said it, dragging out the words, his eyes wide. It never dawned on Alec at all, even though he knew what Conner made, it never really struck him that way, and then with the words, the reality sank in, and Alec was dumbfounded. “So, my point in all of this is, if you don’t want to go right now, that’s fine. I have to go because it’s business and it’s already preset with talks and meetings, I don’t have a choice, but you do.”

 “I never thought of it that way.” Alec said softly, and Conner reached up and cupping Alec’s chin in his palm.

 “If it’s too much for you right now, it’s alright. I’ve been to Europe several times, so to me, it’s no big deal. I know that climbing on that big plane can be a little scary.”

 “Well I’ve flown before, but it’s just the fact of new places, I guess. I’ll be alright.” Alec smiled. “Pull myself up by the straps, right?”

 “There you go.” Conner said. “So, come here, dragon breath.” Conner smiled as he pulled Alec to him.

 “That wasn’t nice.” Alec said softly, as he was pulled into Conner. Conner smiled wide.

 “I want you make me bowlegged before we get on the plane.”

 “Really? What about the ‘dragon breath’?” Alec asked looking hurt.

 “Isn’t that why you went to the bathroom? I can smell that mouthwash, and it is so…sexy.” Conner said as he pulled Alec into a deep kiss, and Conner moaned softly into Alec’s mouth.

     *****************************************************

 “Hey, don’t worry, just try and have a good day, alright?” Ty asked as he hugged Derrick. Derrick smiled as Ty was being so supportive, so caring, and he loved him so very much right now.

 “I’ll give it my best shot.” Derrick whispered as he patted Ty’s back. They pulled apart and looked at one another. “What are you doing today?” 

 “That flooring, remember? It’s had more than enough time to acclimate to the structure, I thought I’d get it down, like we talked about, and then tile the bathroom.” Ty wiggled his eyebrows.

 “How about having lunch with me after the meeting?”

 “Hmmm, that sounds good. I know this really good taco truck not far from…”

 “Killin me.” Derrick said, and rolled his eyes. He turned to walk away.

 “Don’t knock it till you tried it.” Ty said, swatting Derrick’s tight ass as he walked away.

 “Don’t abuse it, I want to use it when I get home, after I get fucked at work.” Derrick said looking over his shoulder as they walked for the front door.

 “Oh will you stop?” Ty asked as he walked to the door and opened for Derrick. Ty leaned forward and kissed Derrick. “Now go to work, you whiney bitch. Kick some ass, like you always do.” Ty smiled. “Now, hurry up, my other boyfriend is supposed to be here already. I don’t you two to see each other.” Ty raised an eyebrow and Derrick went wide eyed.

 “You’re an asshole.”

 “You wouldn’t have it any other way.” Ty smiled and leaned in and kissed Derrick softly. Ty pulled back. “I love you, Derrick Jacobson.”

 “And I love you, Ty Caldwell. And I want pictures of this other boyfriend.” Derrick said as he walked away toward the car. Ty smiled wide watching him. Derrick got in the car and waved at him as the car started to pull through the circular driveway and then out onto the street. Ty smiled and shook his head a little as he closed the door.

     ******************************************************

 Derrick had everything set out for the meeting on the table in the conference room. He let out a deep sigh as he walked out and down the hall to Tom’s office. Derrick was about there when he ran into Terry.

 “Morning, boss.”

 “Morning.” Derrick said.

 “I was wondering, do you want me in that meeting this morning?” Terry asked with bright eyes.

 “No, I don’t think so. Tom and I can handle it.”

 “Okay.” Terry said, looking a little deflated.

 “It’s just going to be lawyer type stuff. I’ll probably have my ass handed to me. It shouldn’t last too long.”

 “If you’re sure.”

 “I am. He can you check on Beckett for me, and those proposals that he wanted to be looked at again? I want to get those cleared up before anything else happens, alright?”

 “Sure, boss. I’ll give Annie a call.”

 “Hey, by the way, how are you two doing?”

 “Oh, it’s great.” Terry smiled briefly.

 “Oh, that’s sounds really convincing.”

 “No, it’s fine really.”

 “You want to talk about it?” Derrick asked softly.

 “Well, she wants me to move in with her.”

 “Really, that’s great, isn’t it?”

 “Well, I guess,…but it’s just a big step, you know?”

 “Bud, if you care for her, and I know you do, don’t you think maybe it’s time?” Derrick asked.

 “Maybe, I don’t know.” Terry rolled his eyes a little.

 “Think about it. Is she being pushy about it?”

 “Kinda,…but not really, you know what I mean?”

 “Yeah, I know.” Derrick smiled and then pat Terry on the shoulder. “It’ll be alright, you’ll see.”

 “Yeah. I’ll go give her a call.” Terry said and walked away. Derrick walked on to Tom’s office. Derrick knocked and walked in, Tom was on the phone.

 “Okay, thanks Kim.” Tom said and then hung up the phone, looking at Derrick. “That lawyer is here.”

 “Oh, great.” Derrick rolled his eyes and then sighed. “Ready?”

 “Yeah, I guess.” Tom said as he came around his desk, walking toward Derrick. They went out and down the hall, to the conference room, and went in. The lawyer was sitting there already, waiting. He stood up when they walked in.

 “Mr. Rentner,” Derrick said as they walked in, “It’s a pleasure to see you again, I’m sorry if we kept you waiting.” Derrick took his hand and held it out toward him. The lawyer shook it and then shook Tom’s. “Please, have a seat. Can I get you anything, coffee, water?”

 “No, thank you, Mr. Jacobson.” Rentner said as he sat down, “We should come right to it, but I was supposed to be joined by someone else from the corporation, as he hasn’t arrived yet, I must apologize.”

 “It’s no trouble.” Derrick said, and looked at Tom, and then back to the lawyer. “Then we should wait for whoever it is.” Derrick stopped himself from sitting down as there was a knock on the door. Derrick turned toward it as it opened and then he saw Terry standing there, Derrick went to say something but stopped as Caleb West walked in, followed by an older man that Derrick did not know, and then Derrick’s eyes went wide, he almost gulped when Clayton Van Owen was standing there.

 “Mr. Jacobson, it’s good to see you again.” Van Owen said in his booming voice. He held out a hand toward him. Derrick reluctantly took it in his own.

 “Mr. Van Owen, I wasn’t expecting you.” Derrick said, taking his hand back. “Uh, this is my business partner, Tom Donahue.”

 “Mr. Donahue.” Van Owen said, giving a firm shake to Tom with a nod, “This is Greggson, my assistant, and Caleb West from our real estate division.” Van Owen said, everyone shook hands and began to sit down. Terry closed the door as he left the room. Derrick felt trapped and completely caught off guard with everything.

 “Mr. Jacobson, let me begin by saying that we are going to pursue a lawsuit for breach of contract against your firm for not meeting the requirements of time under the proviso of that contract.” Rentner said as he pulled out his copy of the contract. Derrick became very angry over the whole situation being called out like this without even the slightest hint of being polite. Tom was wide eyed, seeing the look on Derrick’s face over it. Tom knew there was going to blood, very quickly, even if anything else was said.

 “Now, wait just,…” Derrick said in an angry tone.

 “Mr. Jacobson, if I may?” Van Owen boomed, holding up a hand, making Derrick stop. “Greggson?” Van Owen looked at his assistant. “If you’ll just bear with us just a moment,…” Van Owen said as Greggson pulled out a set of papers from a folder that he had and slid them across the table toward Derrick. Derrick looked at it, and then Van Owen as he sat back in his chair, “if you take a moment to read that, you will see that the contract is being rescinded, and there is no lawsuit that is pending, all I need is yours and Mr. Donahue’s signatures, next to mine.” Van Owen said.

 “What?” Rentner asked, looking at Van Owen. “Motion has been filed, Mr. Van Owen, this is highly irregular. I have no sanction from the board on this matter.”

 “I overruled the board on this matter, Mr. Rentner, a copy of this has been sent to your office this morning already. Mr. West, would take Mr. Rentner out to the lobby, please?” Van Owen leaned a little in his chair.

 “Of course, Mr. Van Owen.” West said, quietly and got up.

 “Mr. Van Owen, this is highly,…” Rentner said as he got up from his chair.

 “Yes, I know Mr. Rentner, thank you.” Van Owen said. He sat straight in his chair, as Derrick and Tom watched this happen around them. Van Owen sat silent until they left. Derrick narrowed his eyes at Van Owen, as Tom was wide eyed and didn’t understand any of it. The door closed and Van Owen lifted his chin a little. “Mr. Jacobson, it’s all there in black and white for you, all I need is your signatures.” Van Owen said as he waited. Derrick pulled a pen from his shirt pocket and signed his name on the line, and then slid it in front of Tom, who looked at it, and then up at Derrick. Derrick nodded slightly toward Tom and then he signed it as well. “Greggson.” Van Owen said and the older man got up and walked up next to Tom, picking up the document and put it back in the folder and then walked out of the office. “He’ll be making copies of that for you both.” Van Owen said. Derrick and Van Owen just stared at each other and Tom looked back and forth at both of them. “I’m wondering if I might have a word with you in private, Mr. Jacobson.”

 “Tom.” Derrick said softly, Tom got up and stood next to Derrick.

 “You sure?” Tom asked and then looked at Van Owen. Derrick didn’t say anything or move at all. Tom lifted an eyebrow, turned, and walked out.

 “What is this all about?” Derrick asked.

 “It’s about business, Mr. Jacobson, bad business.” Van Owen said, “Bad in the fact that you have been taken advantage of. I’m here to put a stop to it.”

 “How was I taken advantage of?” Derrick asked, trying to keep his anger in check, but it was proving difficult with the senior Van Owen sitting there.

 “You’re good name, your reputation. As you know, I have followed you and your firm for quite some time. You have always maintained true professionalism in everything that you do. This contract that your partner was part of was signed under false pretense. There is no hotel proposed to be built at that site, you were duped.”

 “Why?” Derrick asked softly.

 “To ruin your reputation, to start the beginning of your,…destruction as it were. You not providing plans that were contracted for, meant possible lawsuit, damaging your firms reputation, as well as your own. Had you provided those plans, under that contract, you know as well as I do that the building would have failed, leading to other lawsuits, property damage, mechanics leans, and so on.”

 “Why would you do this? Why would you start something like this when you knew?”

 “That’s the trouble, I didn’t.” Van Owen said, lifting his chin up slightly.  “All of this, everything was started by someone who wanted to destroy you, bankrupt you, see your good name ruined.”

 “Who?”

 “Let’s just say, that’s being dealt with as we speak. I want you to understand that my company had nothing to do with this.” Van Owen said in his cold calculating baritone voice.

 “I find that hard to believe.” Derrick said flatly. “Especially when it was your attorney that provided the original contract and then filed the lawsuit.”

 “Again, under false pretense.” Van Owen said, now leaning forward on the large table, putting his hands together out in front of him.

 “I want to know who is responsible for this.” Derrick said with a bit of a growl.

 “If you must know, it was my wife.”

 “What?” Derrick asked with wide eyes, “Why?” Derrick asked softly, his eyes saddened with her mention in all of this.

 “It’s because of who and what you are, Mr. Jacobson.” Van Owen said as he got up from the table. He walked around and towards Derrick slowly. “She hates, and hates rather strongly the type of, what do you call it, lifestyle?”

 “What?”

 “My son has recently become involved with someone, as you may know.” Van Owen said.

 “Alec.” Derrick said softly. Van Owen came up close to Derrick and sat on the edge of the table, staring at Derrick as he folded his arms over his chest.

 “Yes. I have met Mr. Marquez. He’s quite the young man.” Van Owen turned his gaze away from Derrick for a moment, and then looked back at him.

 “What do you mean?”

 “I mean, that he gave me reason to look at you and my son in a different light. I will always be eternally grateful to him for that.”

 “I don’t understand. Your wife, how is this possible?”

 “My wife is a very powerful person. I suppose it’s my fault for letting her reach such a position. I probably should have paid more attention to matters at home than at the office. Regardless, she has manipulated several things through her hatred of homosexuality. My son and his relationship with Alec was almost destroyed because of it. I had to intervene in that, and it wasn’t until last night that that situation was saved.”

 “What? Alec and Conner? Are they alright?” Derrick asked.

 “Yes.” Van Owen looked at his watch, “They should be boarding their flight right now actually.”

 “What? Their flight?”

 “Yes, I am sending Conner to the south of France on business, I made arrangements to have Alec go with him, and also something more, to help them to be together, and to be happy.”

 “Wait a minute, let me get this straight,…” Derrick said, shaking his head and holding up a hand, “Conner and Alec are leaving on a plane,…together, and you’re sending them to the south of France, Conner for business, Alec just going along.”

 “Yes.” Van Owen said.

 “Your wife hates gays, I know that from our previous conversations, but, you seemed to also have a problem with it, if I remember right.”

 “Well, let’s just say, I’ve had a change of heart in that.” Van Owen said, as he refolded his arms as he looked at Derrick. “Remember what I said about Mr. Marquez, Alec, he showed me that I should be looking at the picture in another light.”

 “This is incredible.” Derrick shook his head. “Alec has a conversation with you and you totally turn your view around about gays?”

 “Let’s just say that I understand a little more about it, and that’s as far as I want to go.”

 “Okay, so back to your wife, you said that it was being dealt with as we speak, what does that mean?”

 “That means that she is more than likely being arrested as we are speaking,” Van Owen said, “and without doubt that my office is being served with a search warrant right now for records.”

 “Dear God.” Derrick said, “You’re having Evelyn arrested?”

 “Mr. Jacobson, you have to understand that my wife is a very manipulative woman, beyond what others can do, she has power and money behind her, and she can be very,…dangerous. What she has done, is criminal to say the least, forging documents, falsifying corporate records, falsifying court documents, wouldn’t you say that that is dangerous?”

 “Yes.” Derrick answered softly.

 “Do you not agree that this needs to be stopped?”

 “Yes.” Derrick replied and nodded.

 “Not just for your sake or your firms’ sake, but for Conner and Alec?”

 “Yes.” Derrick almost whispered. “Mr. Van Owen, forgive me, all of this is a little more than overwhelming.”

 “I can understand that. I have wrestled with this myself and for a very long time. I don’t see any other course of action that could have been taken.”

 “I’m very sorry about all of this. Evelyn, for all of her manipulative ways, always was very so sweet to me.”

 “Like a spider, waiting to spring her trap.” Van Owen said, and then sighed. “She did that to me as well, before we got married all those many years ago.”

 “I’m sorry, I had no idea.”

 “I told my son that just last night actually, to marry for love and not settle for anything else as I did.” 

 “Mr. Van Owen, I don’t what to say, you have me rather dumbfounded.” Derrick said softly.

 “Mr. Jacobson, I want to apologize to you for all the troubles you have been through with my company,” Van Owen said as he rose to his feet, standing in front of Derrick now, “and I want to thank you for helping my son. I know that you have been a good friend to him when he needed it most, I’m very grateful to you for that.” Van Owen put out his hand. Derrick looked down at it and took it in his own, getting that familiar firm shake now. “I hope that we can part finally on good terms.”

 “It would be my pleasure, sir.” Derrick gave him a slight smile, as he took his hand back. Van Owen turned and walked out of the conference room, leaving Derrick alone. He slumped in the chair that was next to him, trying to take it all in.

     ****************************************************

 Conner sat in the seat of the plane, getting comfortable. Alec sat next to him, and they smiled at one another. The flight attendant was letting the other passengers aboard the plane now, and Conner was adjusting his seatbelt as they walked by in the aisle heading back to the rear of the plane.

 “These first class seats are very comfortable.” Alec whispered as he leaned next to Conner.

 “Yeah, and when we take off, I’ll bet you’re asleep in the first half hour, always happens to me.” Conner smiled at him, looking Alec over very slowly. “Are you sure about this?”

 “What do you mean?” Alec asked.

 “I mean, all of this, going to Europe, the whole trip?”

 “Like we talked about, it’s the trip of a lifetime.”

 “Well yeah, but, I mean your family and all, the restaurant.”

 “No, it’ll be great, just wait. I just wished we had a chance to say goodbye to Derrick and Ty before we left.” Alec said softly.

 “We can give them a call when we get to New York and change planes.” Conner said and gave Alec a slight smile.

 “Okay, I’ll call my folks too.” Alec smiled his soft smile, and pat Conner on the back of his hand.

 “That should be an interesting call, your mother is really going to be upset with me, taking her boy to Europe and keeping you away for a long time.”

 “She’ll get over it.” Alec rolled his eyes a little, “We’ll get her something over there and send it to her, something French, she’ll squeal like a little girl and be completely happy.” Alec wiggled his eyebrows. Conner chuckled as the last of the passengers came aboard the plane and walked by them slowly moving to the rear. The door to the plane was closed and sealed, and then the sound of the engines could be heard whining up. The flight attendant picked up the microphone and began to speak about the departure and the arrival time to New York. The seatbelt light went on and the plane began to move.

 “Here we go.” Conner said softly, and then squeezed Alec’s hand in his. They looked at each other and Conner saw the bump under Alec’s shirt, the ring on the chain that Conner had given Alec, the night that he had proposed to Alec. He had never taken it off, the entire time that they had been apart, and Alec had it on all night long when they had made love in the hotel room after he returned from the apartment from packing. “Are you happy?”

 “When I’m with you, I can’t help but be happy.” Alec smiled and then lifted Conner’s hand and kissed it. “But, you know, we’re missing something.”

 “What’s that?”

 “A ring, for your finger.”

 “Yeah, we’ll have to take care of that won’t we?”

 “Yeah, I don’t want any of those hot French boys to try and grab you.”

 “Don’t worry, I won’t let them touch me.” Conner smiled as the plane started moving down the runway, gathering speed, and then they lifted off.

     ******************************************************

 “Hey, you okay?” Tom asked as Derrick just sat there and stared out across the table. Derrick didn’t move at all. Tom reached out and touched his shoulder. “Derrick?” Derrick looked up at Tom. “You okay?”

 “Uh, yeah.” Derrick said, looking lost to Tom.

 “I have the copies of the termination of the contract.”

 “Sure.” Derrick said as he got to his feet. “Call Sid, I’d like him to take a look at them as well as the original contract.”

 “Okay.” Tom said. “Don’t you trust what the old man said?”

 “I do, but I want to make sure. I don’t want any loopholes or anything to show up and cause problems down the road. Let’s be safe about it, alright?”

 “Fool me once?” Tom asked, raising an eyebrow.

 “Yeah.” Derrick smiled. “I need to make some calls. Did they leave?”

 “Yeah, a couple of minutes ago. That lawyer was really having a fit out there.”

 “I’ll bet he was. This was so unlike him to do something like this.” Derrick frowned. “There’s something else, I don’t know what it is yet, but, something’s not right. Let’s get this to Sid right away and make sure we haven’t fucked up by signing this.”

 “Okay, I read it, and it looks alright.”

 “I’m sure it does, but I want to compare the two. She’s way too smart to leave it open.”

 “Who’s she?” Tom asked.

 “Mrs. Van Owen, the real person behind all of this.”

 “The old man’s wife?” Tom asked.

 “Yeah, I’ll explain it later, let’s get going.” Derrick said, walking toward the door, Tom following him. Terry met them in the hall and Derrick told him about Tom going to Sid, as he walked to his own office. Terry left Derrick, going to his own office as Derrick walked into his, and went around to his chair. He picked up the phone and dialed. It rang a couple of times on the other end and then he heard the familiar soft voice.

 “Hey, what are you doing?” Derrick asked softly.

 “Laying the pad for the floor. What are you doing? Meeting over already?” Ty asked as he got to his feet in the structure.

 “Yeah.” Derrick answered softly.

 “You don’t sound good, did it go bad?”

 “No, it didn’t, it just didn’t go the way I thought it would.” Derrick replied as he sat down in his chair.

 “What’s wrong? Are you alright?” Ty asked. “You’re not getting sued are you?”

 “No, we’re not getting sued. Hey, could I ask you to come down here early?”

 “Yeah, sure, I can come now if you want?” Ty asked.

 “That’d be great. I just need to see you, you know?” Derrick asked softly. He looked up as there was a knock on the door. “I’ll see you in a bit, okay?”

 “I’ll be right there.” Ty said and then hung up on his end. Derrick hung up the phone.

 “Come in.” Derrick said, and Terry was standing there in the doorway.

 “Boss, I’m sorry, there’s someone here to see you.” Terry said and Derrick got up from his desk, trying to snap out of everything from this morning. He walked around the desk and Terry led him to the front reception area. Derrick smiled when he saw who was there, the young couple that he had done the plans for, with their newborn baby. Derrick walked over to them, smiling wide.

 “Morning.” Derrick said as they got to their feet, taking his hand first and then hers. She let him go and then gave him a hug. Derrick looked down at the stroller, it looked brand new to him. “How are you guys?”

 “We’re just fine.” She said as she pulled back from him, and Derrick leaned down looking in the stroller. “We’re sorry to just barge in like this without making an appointment.”

 “Oh, you guys don’t need an appointment.” Derrick smiled looking back up at them, “You’re more than welcome here, anytime.” Derrick smiled and then looked back down at the baby, who was moving slightly, making soft little sounds. “I’m glad you’re here actually. I want to show you what I’ve gotten done with the plans for the house.”

 “Really? You’ve gotten some of them done?” He asked, as Derrick stood up.

 “Yes, why don’t you come with me, and I’ll show you. They’re on one of the tables in the back still.” Derrick smiled and they set off past Kim at the front desk, who looked down at the baby and smiled as they walked by. Derrick led them to the Core, and to his own table. He waited until they were standing next to him and then showed them the elevations of the front of the house. “As you can see, I took what you wanted from the notes that we made and if you follow the lines of the house, you can easily build that addition on top of what is already there.” Derrick was pointing, and then looked at them, they were both smiling wide at what they were seeing, their dream home right in front of them. “Now, here is the back of the house,” Derrick said as he pulled another page out and put it in place over the top one, “and you can follow the same line as on the front elevation to go up with a second story.” Derrick stopped as the baby started to fuss. She turned and bent down, seeing what was going on in the stroller. Derrick looked behind him over his shoulder and smiled, but the baby was still making sounds, and sounded like he was starting to cry. “You think he’s hungry?” Derrick asked. She looked up at him, and saw the look on Derrick’s face of slight concern.

 “No, he’s just fussy. He gets like this sometimes, and just wants to be held.” She said as she gently took him out of the stroller, holding him in her arms, bouncing him gently in her arms. A couple of the girls that were apprentices came walking over and looked at the baby, smiling. There was a small crowd all of a sudden around Derrick’s table. Derrick looked at all of them and smiled. The baby was still fussing a little in her arms and she looked at Derrick. “Here, why don’t you try. Remember what he did in the hospital when you held him.” She said softly as she stepped closer to Derrick. Derrick went wide eyed and his mouth opened slightly.

 “Well, uh,…I,…uh,…” Derrick stuttered. She handed the bundle to Derrick and he took him gently in his arms. The baby fussed a few more times, and then started to go quiet.

 “I knew it, you have that touch.” She smiled and put a hand on Derrick’s arm. The apprentices were smiling wide at Derrick, and then Derrick heard the sound of a throat being cleared. He looked over at the door and Ty was standing there. All eyes looked at him, as he walked in.

 “What do we have here?” Ty asked as he walked up, looking at the bundle Derrick held. Ty looked up at him and lifted an eyebrow, “Starting them a little young, aren’t you?” Ty smiled.

 “He was fussing and well,…” Derrick said softly, and Ty smiled wider and then shook his head at him.

 “Sure, I totally understand.”

 “Ty Caldwell, this is Mr. and Mrs. Swanson.”

 “Hi.” Ty said, smiling and nodding to them. They smiled back. “And who is this?”

 “This is Matthew Derrick Swanson.” She said with a smile.

 “Oh, really?” Ty smiled wide again, and then winked at Derrick. 

 “Yes, Derrick had helped us so much when I went into labor, and then after the baby was born, he held him and quieted him, we both knew what we wanted to name him.” She said softly.

 “Yeah, I heard something about that.” Ty smiled and saw the look in Derrick’s eye. “Was there something you wanted to talk to me about?”

 “Yes, uh,…there is actually. But I need to finish up with them first, if that’s alright?”

 “Yeah, I can see you’re kind of busy here.” Ty smirked and Derrick lifted an eyebrow.

 

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