Derrick stood over the end of the long table. He was flanked to each side by two of his younger associates. Derrick was pointing out various details on the drawings before them. One of the associates was taking notes on a pad as Derrick was talking. The sheets were slid back and forth in front of them. It finally looked like Derrick was done.
"Okay. Any questions?" Derrick asked softly.
"I think we got it. How many sets?"
"Standard five, I should think." Derrick answered, looking back and forth at both of them. "Tomorrow? Or the day after?"
"Day after would be best. That puts us into Saturday. Should be ready for Monday morning submittal."
"Good." Derrick replied. "I'm actually back on Monday. Terry, will you put them on my desk?"
"Are you handling this personally, boss?"
Derrick paused for a long moment. "Yes." He gathered up the sheets, putting them into order. He rolled them up, and handed them to Terry. The young associates smiled at him, and then walked out of the room. Derrick turned and walked over to his desk. He picked up the phone, as he sat down, and dialed. He waited a moment.
"Morning." He said into the phone. "Sam Beckett, please. Derrick Jacobson. Thank you." Derrick waited on hold for another minute. "Sam. It's Derrick. How are you?...good to hear. How's your schedule? No, I have a crunch job. He's a little pushy and on limited time. Budget? Probably the sky is the limit. No, it's a separate structure. I have a couple of my guys working on print now. I'd like to give you a set on Monday, if that's alright? Good. We can meet at your office...nine? Perfect. Thanks very much, Sam." Derrick chuckled. "My best to Carol. Ok, see you Monday. Bye." Derrick hung up the phone. He looked up and saw one of his business partners standing in his doorway. "What's up, Tom?"
Tom, a tall, thin wisp of a man, narrow face, and a receding hairline, walked over to Derrick's desk. He placed his hands on the glass top. Tom always had a serious look on his face. Derrick had known him since high school. After college, they decided to go into business with each other, bring in a third, Calvin, who was totally different from the two. Calvin was always in his office and never really came out of it.
"Everything alright, Derrick?"
"Why do you ask?"
"You seem...I don't know...a little stressed. The last time I saw you look like this, it was over..."
"Oh, don't remind me, please." Derrick stopped him, holding up a hand. "And no, it's nothing like that at all. It's this new job. These people are just...intense."
"Is that what you have Terry on?"
"Yeah. I was going to wash my hands of it all and throw it all in Terry's direction, but I can't do that to him. They would eat him alive. I was just talking to Beckett. He has cleared some time for me on Monday."
"Is it big?"
"Separate structure, residential on the same property as the main house."
"Who are they?" Tom asked, sitting down now, across from Derrick.
"Maybe you know the name, Van Owen."
Tom's eyes went wide. "Van Owen? As in the investment firm? The Van Owen from the shipping company?"
"I know about the investment part, but..."
"Derrick, he has his hands on one of the largest shipping outfits in the country. Trucking, rail, ships. Jesus, Derrick. How did you get involved with him?"
"He called me. Said he had been watching the firm and what we do for a long time."
"Holy shit." Tom said, quietly. "You know, I hear he's ruthless."
"You can say that again."
"You have bigger balls than I've got, if you can keep pace with him."
"Thanks. I think."
"If you make this work, it could lead to bigger things."
"There you go, Tom. Always thinking about the checkbook."
"That's why we're in business, right?" Tom paused a moment and just stared at Derrick. "Wait a minute...this wouldn't be personal, would it?"
"It has hit pretty close to home, yes."
"Close enough to keep me from sleeping."
"Oh, fuck." Tom said quietly.
"Don't worry. The firm is billing top dollar for this. But, I have to see this through to the end. It will be alright."
"Is this your hill to die on?"
Derrick paused for a long minute, turning his chair to look out the large window behind him. "Probably." Derrick answered softly.
Tom got up from his chair, tapping his finger on the glass top. "I hope you know what you're doing."
Derrick turned his chair, back to face Tom. "I won't compromise the firm, if that's what you mean."
"I'm not worried about that. I'm worried about you, old friend." Tom turned and walked to the door. He stopped and looked back over his shoulder. "If I can help, I will."
"Thanks, Tom." Derrick said as Tom walked out. Derrick got up from his desk and pushed the chair in. He walked out and went to the front desk. There was Kim, on the phone. She transferred the call to someone in the office. She looked up and smiled at Derrick.
"I'm done here, Kim. Anyone looking for me, have them call the house number, please."
"Certainly." She said. "Is everything alright, Derrick?"
Derrick smiled down at her. "It's fine. Why?"
"You look tired, that's all."
Derrick winked at her, and then walked out the front door. He walked around the back of the building and got into the car. He pulled out of the parking lot and drove in the direction of the house. Once he pulled in the driveway, he parked in the circular driveway in front, behind Paul's car. He got out and walked up the driveway to the back of the house. He stepped inside the garage, stopping at the big doorway, watching the hub of activity. Derrick chuckled seeing Paul, snapping away with his camera, mostly catching Bart's exposed butt crack while he bent over laying pipe. Derrick shook his head watching the whole scene. It wasn't long before Ty looked up and noticed Derrick standing there. They smiled at one another, and Ty crossed the large open area to meet him.
"He looks like he's making good progress to me." Derrick said in a low voice.
Ty looked back toward the others, then back to Derrick. "Yeah, he is. He'll go over everything with you in a bit."
"Something wrong?" Derrick asked.
"Yeah, you could say that. What's the big idea leaving this morning without waking me?"
Derrick chuckled. "I tried. You didn't move."
"Yeah, you just laid there with your mouth wide open. It was kind of cute, actually."
"That's because you got me drunk last night. Thanks for that, by the way. My head is still killing me."
Derrick openly laughed. "Have a little bit with dinner, and I guarantee it will quit hurting." Derrick put a hand on Ty's shoulder. "Have you eaten anything today?"
"Ah, no. Got up way to late, and I've been busy ever since."
"There's part of the problem. Come in the house and I'll fix you something."
"I need to help them out here." Ty said.
"I thought you were a carpenter? When did you become a plumber?"
"Come on, let's go into the house." Derrick said, leaning close, speaking softly. Ty was looking into Derrick's soft eyes.
Ty sat at the counter and watched as Derrick put together a light salad, while he toasted some bread for a sandwich. Soon, Derrick slid two plates in front of Ty, and then walked around the counter and sat next to him. Ty smiled out of the corner of his mouth at what was in front of him, and next to him. He put an arm out, going on and around Derrick's shoulders.
"This is amazing, thank you." Ty said softly, leaning toward Derrick.
Derrick turned his head, giving Ty a kiss on the cheek. "You're welcome. It's the least I can do after last night."
Ty removed his arm, smiling again. "Speaking of that...did we?"
Derrick chuckled. "No, we didn't. You obviously wanted to, but I thought you wouldn't remember it." Derrick said as he picked up his fork.
"It was obvious? What do you mean?"
"You were hard all night long."
"Oh." Ty whispered.
Derrick finally got up and picked up plates, cleaning the counters and then turned on the dishwasher, Ty offered to help, but Derrick had him sit there. Once he was done, Derrick came around the counter and sat back down, taking one of Ty's hands in his. They just stared at one another.
"Now, how's your head?"
"You were right, it feels better."
"Good." Derrick leaned forward and kissed Ty softly, then sat back. "Now, you can go play with the boys, if you want. I'm going to get changed, and then I'll come and join you."
"Can I go and play with you instead?" Ty asked, cocking his head to one side, wiggling his eyebrows.
Derrick chuckled. "Later, after everyone leaves. Paul still has his camera in his hand. I don't want to get caught with him around." Ty smiled wide, and then got up. He leaned in and kissed Derrick. Ty turned and walked toward the back door, Derrick watching him, and then sighed silently to himself.
He got up and walked down the hall to the bedroom. He changed his clothes, getting into his shorts and a tee. He made the bed, and then walked out of the room, to the back door, then down the steps. He crossed the grass to the garage and walked in the big door. He again watched all of the activity in the new bathroom area. There was a mound of dirt on the concrete slab and Bart down in a hole in the floor. Ty was standing next to the edge of the hole, while Paul was standing next to Bart's nephews, camera in hand. Derrick slid up next to the group and looked down at Bart.
There was quite the web of pipes now in the hole, going out through the foundation wall. Each of the pipes was a different color. It appeared that the water pipes were plastic, blue and red, the drain pipes were black. Bart looked up over his shoulder, seeing Derrick now in the group.
"Looks good, so far." Derrick said, making eye contact with Bart. Bart stood up and smiled a quick smile.
"Let me show you what we've done." Bart said, stepping up out of the large hole. He had Derrick follow him out the side door, out behind the garage. He showed Derrick the new on demand water heater that was mounted outside, pipes running up to it. Bart explained that Ty was going to build a cover over it to match the siding, and allow for the vent stack. He explained that they were going to have to trench a line over to the septic tank and tie the new drain into the system, Derrick nodded in agreement, and that another trench was going to have to be done to connect up to the gas lines. Derrick understood, and had only one question.
"I'll bring the trencher in tomorrow. Have to go and rent one. Mines not working right now."
"Perfect." Derrick answered. He noticed that Bart was a little hesitant and nervous. "What else?" Derrick asked. Bart paused. Derrick thought a moment and then knew what the issue was. "Bart, I need you to give me a bill for everything so far. I don't think it's right that you have been doing this without a down payment." Derrick watched the relief come over Bart's face.
"If that's what you'd like." Bart said.
"I would. I'll cut you a check right now. Come on into the house." Derrick smiled out of the corner of his mouth. Derrick reached up with a hand and patted Bart's shoulder. They walked into the house together after Bart retrieved his clipboard from his truck. A few minutes later they came back out together and rejoined the others in the garage.
Bart got busy with the boys, a renewed vigor in his task. Paul was snapping pictures again, and Ty stood next to Derrick, both of them out of the way. They both watched for a few minutes, and Ty pulled Derrick away. They walked around the floor area, discussing details of what needed to done still. Derrick said he needed to call the electricians and see what they required left to do for inspection and the trim out. Ty calculated what he needed for insulation and said he would have that delivered so he could put it in after the inspection. Derrick agreed and gave Ty a couple of ideas for details in wall finishes. Ty said he could handle that as well.
"Hey, I was wondering if maybe you'd want to go do a little shopping with me?" Derrick asked.
"Oh? Shopping for what?"
"A little stack stone, perhaps."
"Sure, why not." Ty looked back at the group still working.
"I mean, if you can tear yourself away." Derrick said, with a smirk.
Ty laughed. "They don't need me, that's for sure. Do I need to change?"
"No, you look great. Why?"
"Well, usually a trip with you means you have to dress for the occasion."
"No, smartass. This is for material, you know, not a social club trip. Client, contractor, material search, that kind of thing."
"Oh, I get it. I just wanted to be prepared for..."
"Just go get in the car." Derrick said, as the grinning Ty turned and headed for the big doorway. "I don't know why I put up with this." Derrick sighed. He looked over his shoulder and called out. "Paul, we're leaving. Be back in a while."
"Ok. Don't get lost."
Derrick drove into the downtown area. He knew a supplier there for tile and stone. He made a left turn and then pulled into a small parking lot and stopped the car. They got out and walked around the building, Derrick opened the wide glass door, Ty following him inside.
"Derrick?" came a soft voice.
"Hello, Candace." Derrick answered, reaching out both hands to the thin, pretty woman that was walking toward them. She took Derrick's hands in hers, and Derrick leaned down and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "You're looking well. How's business?"
"Better, now that you're here." Candace replied, giving Derrick a kiss on his cheek, and a hug. "Let me look at you." She said, backing up a step, her eyes running up and down over Derrick. "You look better and better every time I see you."
"Thanks." Derrick said.
"And I like this look you're wearing. Kind of a grunge DIY look. Better than the business attire I've seen you in. So stuffy. And, who do we have here?" Candace said, her eyes lighting up, seeing Ty.
"Candace Martin, this is Ty Caldwell." Derrick said.
"Pleasure." Ty said, reaching his hand out.
"Not yet, but it could be." Candace replied, taking Ty's hand with hers. She smiled at Ty's wide eyed look.
"Easy honey," Derrick said, getting in between them, breaking their clasp, "off market."
"Damn, Derrick. Just like old times, you breaking my heart, again." Candace said, as Derrick wrapped an arm around her shoulders.
"What can I say? Old habits." Derrick said softly. He looked over at Ty, who was clearly lost. "Candace and I dated, once upon a time."
"Dated?" She chirped, "Is that what you call it?" She punched Derrick in the side closest to her. She looked over at Ty, then up at Derrick. "We were engaged, you big jerk."
"Really?" Ty blurted. "Is that true?" Ty asked Derrick.
Derrick shrugged his shoulders. "Yes. It's true. That was right after high school, just before college."
"And then he left me for a guy." Candace said, disappointedly. She punched him in the ribs again making Derrick exhale. Ty chuckled.
"Is this how you treat all your customers?" Derrick asked.
"No, only the special ones." She said, punching him again.
"Maybe we should come back another time."
"No, I kinda like it here." Ty said, smiling wide.
"Oh, Derrick, I like him. A man who's not afraid, someone with a little backbone. Where ever did you find him?" Candace asked, letting Derrick go, grabbing Ty by the arm with hers. "Oh my, and he's got big muscles too. I'm in heaven."
"Yeah, you go and punch on him for a while. I'll just look around for what I want." Derrick said, rubbing his ribs with one hand.
"Oh, you big sissy, come here." Candace said, taking Derrick by one arm, while still holding onto Ty. "What are you boys looking for? And if either of you says 'a good time', I'll kick both of your butts."
Derrick's eyes were wide, Ty was smiling even wider, and Candace was looking back and forth between them. "Well," Ty started, leaning his head down toward Candace, "he is never looking for a good time, but, what he is looking for, is stack stone for the garage."
"Garage?" Candace asked loudly.
"Office." Derrick answered quickly, and just as loud.
Ty shrugged, throwing up his hands, "Office, slash, garage."
Candace looked back up at Derrick. "You're building an office...in the garage?"
Derrick sighed heavily. "No, it's not like that."
"Are things that bad for your firm? You're working out of the garage?"
Derrick glared at Ty, who had wide eyes, looking back at Derrick. "You don't understand."
"Of course I don't understand. You haven't told me anything."
"You haven't given me a chance, just punching me for just walking in the door!"
"Do you guys need a minute?" Ty asked.
"NO!" They both answered.
"Wow." Ty replied. "Ok, I guess I'll look over here." Ty walked away from the pair, looking at tile, laid out on a table.
Derrick explained everything to Candace about the garage, what he wanted, why he came here. She cradled his cheeks in her hands and smile up at him. She pulled her hands back, and used one to pat him on his muscled chest.
"I've missed this, Derrick."
"Shhh...come on, let me show you what I have in stone, it's near the back." Candace said, leading Derrick, who grabbed Ty as they walked past him.
"Hey...I was looking at that." Ty said, as Derrick was shooting him the wide eyed look.
They reached the stack stone samples. Derrick looked them over, pointing at two different ones. Derrick looked back at Ty. Ty stepped forward, looking them over. They were pretty much the same pattern, both netted backs for easy of installation, one sample was light greens and beiges, the other was darker browns, with soft natural reds.
"I would suggest a neutral grout for this green, and a dark grey for this darker one. Probably sealed with a wet look sealer to make the light reflect. You know those fluorescent lights in a garage, hanging from a ceiling on chains, it's pretty dark..." Candace said, making Ty laugh out loud.
"Hey..." Derrick said loudly. "There aren't any fluorescent lights." Derrick reached out and touched the darker one. "I like this one. What do you think?" He asked Ty.
"It's entirely up to you,...boss." Ty looked over at him and winked. "It's easy to put up, easy to grout, and I agree with Candace's color choice for grout. No problem."
"Fine." Derrick replied. "Do you have it in stock? Or do we have to order it?"
"I have to order it. I can have it by mid next week from the supplier. How much do you need?"
"I would say roughly five hundred square." Ty answered.
"Alright. Lets go up front so I can order it for you."
Once the order was written, Candace called it in. She asked Derrick if he wanted it delivered at the house or will called at the shop. Ty stepped up and said it would be better if he picked it up here, saying the driver might have problems at the house with other construction going on. Candace finished the arrangements on the phone, then hung up. Derrick paid for the stone and the grout. He gave Candace a kiss on the cheek before walking out of the shop.
She gave Ty a kiss on the cheek. "Thank you for coming in. You take really good care of him, you hear me?" Ty nodded and smiled. He winked at her and walked out the door behind Derrick.
They got into the car together, and Derrick pulled out of the parking lot. Ty was drumming his fingers on his bare knees as Derrick drove.
"Alright, say it." Derrick said, as he pulled up to a red light.
"What?" Ty asked.
"What's on your mind?"
"Nothing. What makes you ask that?"
"Drumming your fingers, being cute in the store with her...I don't know...what would make me think..."
"Green." Ty muttered.
Derrick jumped off the line. "...that there might be something on your mind."
Ty chuckled. "Clearly, there's something on yours...car..." Ty pointed at a car coming out of a side alley. Derrick swerved a little. "Want me to drive?"
"Okay. Pretty girl. I like her. She's got spunk and fight." Ty laughed. "And, she knows how to put you in your place." Ty said, grabbing his knees firmly. "Yep, if you two had gotten married, she'd probably have your balls so squeezed by now..."
"What? I'm just saying..."
"I got it." Derrick said, as they reached the outskirts of town, Derrick put his foot in the pedal. Ty's head went back a little with the thrust.
"Obviously, you do." Ty muttered.
In no time at all, they reached the house. Derrick pulled into the circular driveway and parked. He got out before Ty, and walked up the steps to the front door. He opened it and walked in, as Ty was getting out of the car. Ty shook his head, and walked up the driveway toward the garage. He saw Bart and the boys walking out.
"Quitting time, boys?" Ty asked with a smile.
"Yeah." Bart replied. "We'll be back in the morning, after I rent the trencher."
"Did you get one?"
"I called and reserved one. It's a rider, and it'll make the job go fast."
"Awesome." Ty reached out a hand, Bart took it. "Thanks. You did great today."
"It's worth it."
"I agree. See you in the morning." Ty said. Bart nodded in reply.
Ty walked in the back door of the house. He saw Paul in the kitchen, opening a bottle of water. Paul tipped his head to one side indicating to Ty the direction of where Derrick was. Ty sighed, and walked down the hall into the bedroom. Derrick was picking up his clothes from this morning, folding them and laying them on the bed. He glanced his look up at Ty and then back to his task at hand.
"Bart and the boys just left. I think they got a lot done today. He'll be back in the morning." Ty said. The silence in the room was deafening. "Speaking of morning, I guess I'll see you then." Ty turned to leave.
"Nonsense. I thought you were staying?"
Ty turned back around and looked at Derrick with narrow eyes. "Look, I don't know what happened today with you in town, but you knew where you were going, you knew that she would be there. And you, really,... you're bothered by all of this? You clearly have a lot of soul searching to do, and clearly don't need another distraction, like me being around. So, once you get this all figured out, then maybe we figure us out. That's why I'll see you in the morning." Ty turned again, and headed out of the doorway.
"I need you." Derrick said in a low tone.
Ty stopped, but didn't turn around. "Need me for what? Sex? A distraction? No, you need a therapist." Ty walked out of the hallway, into the kitchen. Paul was standing there with a shocked look on his face.
"What was that all about?" Paul asked. Ty stopped, lowering his head a little.
"Candace...Candace Martin?" Paul asked in a shocked voice. "Rut roh. Ty, don't you go anywhere."
"I'm going to my truck."
"Don't you leave." Paul said in a firm voice, getting into Ty's face. "Do you hear me? I'm going to settle this shit, once and for all." Ty nodded, but walked out the back door.
Paul stormed down the hall into Derrick's bedroom. Derrick looked up, and rolled his eyes. "I don't want to hear it." Derrick said.
Paul charged up to Derrick and slapped him upside the head. "What are you, stupid?" Paul backed up a step. "I thought you had it together, my friend, but apparently I'm the stupid one for believing that. You saw Candace? With him? You must be stupid! Don't you remember what she did to you? To us? Now, to you and Ty? When are you going to learn? The best thing in your life just walked out that back door, and like an idiot, you're going to lose him. If you don't pull it together and go after him, and dump this ghost you're carrying, I swear to God Derrick..."
"What do I do, Paul?"
"Stop him. Change this. Tell him how you feel! It's going to kill you if you don't. Go...now!"
Derrick stepped around Paul and dashed out of the room, out the back door. He trotted across the yard toward Ty's truck, as Ty was putting his tools in the bed. Derrick caught Ty by the arm, turned him, and kissed him, deeply, wrapping his arms around Ty, pulling him in deeper and deeper. Ty went limp under Derrick's onslaught on him, then slowly wrapped his own arms around Derrick. Finally, slowly, they pulled back from each other, resting their foreheads to each others.
"Wow." Ty whispered.
"I'm sorry...I really need you...I really want you to stay..."
"Why?" Ty asked in a whisper.
"Because, Ty, I'm in love with you."
"That's sweet, honey. But, what about today? What about Candace?"
"My life that could have been, and wasn't. That's not a regret, it was a choice. And it was the right one, because it brought me to you. I love you."
"Truth be known, I love you too."
"Kiss him, you fool!" Paul yelled from the back door.
Derrick kissed Ty again, softly at first, and then slowly he went deeper and deeper, pulling Ty tighter and tighter to him, as if he was trying to crawl inside of him. They held together for a long minute, and then pulled apart.
"Now, won't you come back into the house?"
"I would love to." They turned arm in arm and walked toward Paul and the open back door.
"Not bad." Paul said, camera in hand. "It's a beautiful picture."
"It had better be." Derrick said as they walked by. Paul followed them in, as they reached the kitchen, Derrick led Ty over to the table, and had him sit down. Paul sat across from Ty, Derrick sat at the end.
"Ty, let me tell you a story about Candace Martin. A sweetheart of the devil incarnate. That woman can wreck a soul faster than..."
Paul was interrupted by the doorbell. Derrick narrowed his eyes, and rose up from the table. He motioned to Paul to keep going with one hand, and then walked toward the front door. Derrick opened the door, and took a deep breath. His eyes went from top to bottom, then back again at what was standing in front of him. In spite of himself, his mouth opened.
He stood about 6'4", blonde windswept hair, that hung over his right eye a little, deep piercing blue eyes, tanned skin from spending too much time on the beach. His smile was captivating, with the most perfectly white teeth. He wore a tight bright blue nylon tee that clung to what appeared to be a perfect swimmers body, and then down to the skinny jeans that clung to him, outlining everything perfectly.
"Ahem." Derrick pulled himself back together. "Can I help you?"
"Are you Mr. Derrick Jacobson? The architect?"
The young man stretched out his hand toward Derrick. Derrick slowly took it in his. The grip was warm and firm. The shake was somehow familiar in manner.
"Conner...Conner Van Owen."
Derrick's eyes went wide, as his mouth fell open.