By: Ron Robbins
(© 2012 by the author)
Editor: Frank Perry

The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent. Comments are appreciated at...

Chapter One 

"Well, Clay, it's all squared away with Doctor Evans," Doctor Kline said. "He has received your medical records. Please call him when you arrive in Florida. His Naples office is only a twenty-minute drive from your beach home."

Dr. Kline smiled and he looked at Clay.

"St. Vincent's will not be the same without you. I'm going to miss our daily visits. You've made the right decision to return to your home in Florida. It's much better to begin a new life in pleasant surroundings. I've always found the sun and the ocean to be great healers for the mind and the body. Anyway, there are too many unpleasant memories associated with Atlanta. Maybe you'll feel differently in a few years and come back. It will be good for your children, as well. I see no reason to stop the children from flying to Florida a couple times a month to visit you. It's not like you can't afford it."

Clay smiled and said, "You're right, Doctor. This sanatorium has been my home for two years and I'm going to miss some friends I've met here. Yet to be honest, I'm happy to be leaving. We both know it's going to take me time to adjust, but I feel like I'm strong enough now to live a normal life again."

"Would you mind answering a question I have always had in the back of my mind?" Dr. Kline asked.

"Why sure, Doctor, what's the question?"

"Have you ever had the desire to return to the medical profession, Clay?"

"Funny you should ask. My dad asked me the same question not two months ago. I know Dad would love to see me join him in his practice. I have given that a lot of thought, but the answer is, no. First, I've been away from it too long. Secondly, I'm not ready to immerse myself in a profession that is so demanding of both time, and energy. I'm sorry, Doctor, but the medical profession had turned into a rat race. I can see what it has done to my father. He is burned out and is old before his time. I don't know why I even bother to keep up my license. Actually, I do know why, it's to keep my dad happy. Thanks for asking, but Iíll stick with the brokerage business, at least with the stock market, I can walk away from it when the pressure becomes too much. Actually, all I need is my laptop and a telephone hookup and I'm in business, even if it almost cost me my sanity."

"It wasn't the business that landed you in here, Clay. It was a combination of many things. The drugs, your health, your business and the break-up of your marriage all contributed to your breakdown. Look, that's all behind you now. Try not to become a recluse, Clay. You've got to get out and mingle. I'm sure you'll meet a nice woman and remarry again. Just take it a day at a time."

"I will," Clay said as he stood and shook Dr. Kline's hand. "Thanks for everything; I've a lot of catching-up to do, and I don't want to keep Dad waiting. I'll call you in two weeks from sunny Florida."

Clay picked up his overnight bag and laptop computer and left the sanatorium. His dad's car was parked outside the main entrance.

"Sorry to make you wait, Dad; Dr. Kline kept me longer than I expected."

"No problem, Son," his father said as they drove away. "Did you want to make any stops on the way home?"

"No, thanks; let's head home. I'll need to spend some time on the telephone before I do anything else. My first order of business is to call Janet and arrange to have the kids visit this weekend. Then talk to my banker and the lawyers to settle everything I need for Florida. I'm glad I don't have to go through the boxes that Janet had the movers pack from the house. She told me that they marked and made a detailed list of the contents of every box before they went into storage. My plan is to have the moving company forward everything to me in Florida. I'll have more time to sort things out once Iím settled in Naples. They may as well take the Mercedes also, as I plan to fly into Fort Myers and lease a van. I'll need a van anyway when the kids come."

"I've decided to completely redecorate the house and change the rooms around. I never liked Janet's decorating taste. She tended to be a bit ornate. I'm going change the Florida room into my office. It has the most spectacular view of the cove and the Gulf. I figure I might as well enjoy the view while I'm working."

"Sounds like you have everything under control, Clay"

Clay smiled; "I had a long talk with my partners last week. They want me back full time, but as I told them, that is out of the question. What we agreed upon, for now anyway, was that I would ease back into my old job gradually. Then if I felt comfortable and wanted to move on, I could jump back in full force."

"That sounds like the right approach," his dad said. "Do you think you'll ever go back to New York and take over your old position with the firm?"

"No. It was nice that my partners wanted me back and I know that it's always an option, if I were dumb enough to consider going back, but I've given this a lot of thought and I'll never go back. In fact, my plans are to sell my share of the company to my partners. It's not fair to let them think that I may be back. They need to bring in a new partner if they want to continue to grow.

"Right now I have my children to think about and I need to get on with my life. I'm still going to dabble in the market to keep busy. I've been following the market closely for the last six months and have made a nice little profit on some stock I've been trading. Not too shabby at all; sometimes it's better to sit back and observe before jumping in Ö it works for me."

"You've been very successful in the market, Clay. Financially, you and your children are set for life. Please, for God's sake, take it easy until you're fully recovered. Give yourself time to heal. Don't get caught up again in the rat race that landed you in the sanatorium. You're still a young man with your whole life ahead of you. Get involved in an exercise program; take the boat out for some fishing. Your beach home is beautiful, and it wouldn't hurt you to jog every day, you could do with some color.

"You are an intelligent caring young man and I'm sure there are some beautiful women in Naples who are looking for a rich, handsome guy like you. Anyway, I want you to stick around to raise your children. Don't let that pompous ass that Janet married do it instead. Insist on your right as a father and see the kids as often as possible. I'm convinced that Janet will cooperate if you want to take the kids off her hands for the holidays and for the summer vacation. You know how she loves to travel and I know her new husband will relish the idea of not having your children around."

"I don't know what I would have done without your support, Dad. You've been great throughout this whole business and I appreciate it very much. I know this hasnít been easy for you and Mom. Believe me; I have no intention of slipping back to where I was before. From now on, I'm taking one day at a time until I'm off the pills and back to normal again. The medication keeps me on an even keel. I'll be very happy the day I can do without the pills entirely.

"You're right about me getting back into shape. I look like a zombie, and I need to build my body back up again. Like the old saying, 'Doctor, heal thyself'."

Chapter Two

Naples, Florida

Clay's regimen of exercise, good food and rest did wonders for him. He was up every morning at five, donned his tank top and shorts, drank a large glass of orange juice and set out for a five-mile jog along the beach. Upon returning he ate breakfast and did laps in the pool for at least an hour, and, depending on the weather conditions, would either take the boat out and fish, or putter in the vegetable garden. There was nothing more satisfying than catching fresh fish, and growing and harvesting your own fresh vegetables. The wonderful thing about Florida was the way everything grew all year round.

Since his last visit two years ago, builders had spoiled the panoramic view. They had built a huge villa on the last remaining fourteen-acre waterfront plot. Now, Clay wished he could have purchased that parcel four years ago. But at the time, he didnít have the two million they were asking. One of the selling features was that the entire waterfront was to be bulkheaded at the builder's expense. The builder agreed to bulkhead the property with a concrete and steel bulkhead. Not only that, the plans also called for a wide ramp that ran from the bulkhead out to a deep-water berth to accommodate a sailboat.

Clay really couldnít complain, the new villa was absolutely beautiful, with its white stucco finish and aqua trim. From its graceful balconies to its tall curved, arched windows, it was a sight to behold. The strange thing was that other than the help, he rarely saw the owners. Occasionally he would see signs of life some mornings, but not often. The place only seemed to come alive on the weekends. The owners knew how to entertain, hosting lavish dinners and lawn parties. He enjoyed sitting on the balcony and listening to the music floating across the water.

The children and their nanny were scheduled to arrive the weekend of July 4th to spend the summer. Clay wasn't sure if he liked the idea of having their nanny under foot. Yet, Dr. Evans thought it was a good idea for present. He felt the children needed to become reacquainted with Clay all over again as two years are a long time to be separated from a parent. It would be impossible to find a reliable nanny locally for the summer.

Janet and Clay had rarely spent much time at the cove. They treated the place more as a vacation getaway. Since they led an active social life in Atlanta, they found Naples to be a lovely place to unwind and relax.

At the time they bought the house, only six homes were completed in the sub-development. They didn't have the time or inclination to get to know their neighbors. Now that he planned to make this his residence, Clay wanted to become more active with the Community Association. He observed a few neighbors who were violating the charter and felt that should be addressed. Since the next meeting was in two weeks, he made plans to attend.


Chapter Three 

"Keep it down children; I'm on the telephone," Clay said. "Yes, this is Doctor Grayson speaking."

"Hi, this is Fred von Scharnhorst, your next-door neighbor. We're having a little dinner party this Saturday and I would like to invite you and your wife to join us. I must apologize for not calling on you sooner, but I only learned that you were in residence last week. Chance Barton, the association president said you had moved back into the house. It's nice to see some activity over there."

"I'm divorced, Fred, but I will be glad to attend. May I ask the attire?"

"It's casual, Clay; any time after five on Saturday."

"Thanks Fred, until Saturday then."

"Who was that Dad?" his son asked.

"That was our next-door neighbor, Fred von Scharnhorst. I've been invited for dinner tomorrow evening. He lives in that large estate up the road from us. I've been curious about that place for some time. Let me find Tracy to let her know that the three of you will be eating without me tomorrow night."


The parking attendant opened the door of Clay's Mercedes and handed him a claim ticket. Clay tipped him, "If you bring it back in the same condition later tonight there'll be a nice reward for your efforts."

The young man smiled, "Yes, sir."

Clay walked up the steps of the elaborate entrance to the von Scharnhorst villa. Before he could ring the bell, the door swung open and he was greeted by the butler.

"Good evening, sir, may I have your name please."

"Doctor Grayson; I'm Mr. von Scharnhorst's next door neighbor."

"Would follow me, sir? Mr. von Scharnhorst asked me to take you to him when you arrived."

Clay followed him through the large living room and out onto the terrace. He led him over to a group of people.

"Mr. von Scharnhorst, this is Doctor Grayson."

Fred shook his hand, "Welcome to my home; it is so nice you could join us, Doctor. I would like you to meet my friends."

Fred introduced him to the group he was talking with and then took Clay over to a quiet corner.

"Before I forget," Fred said, "I would like to invite you and your guests for brunch tomorrow morning at ten. It would be an ideal time to visit and get better acquainted without the crowd around us. Is that all right with you?"

"Thank you, we'll be here," Clay said.

"Good, and please call me Fred. Now let me introduce you to some of your neighbors, before I get sidetracked."

Fred led him over to a group of people on the other side of the patio.

"My friends, I have the honor of introducing to you, Doctor Grayson, my next door neighbor."

Fred introduced each couple in turn. After a few minutes, one of the roving bartenders approached him and took his drink order. Clay chatted with the group for a while and then began to circulate.

He introduced himself to a number of the guests as he made his way through the rest of the rooms. The house was elegant and tastefully decorated and furnished. There was quite a large crowd; Clay estimated the guests numbered close to two hundred people. He wandered into the large library where he noticed a grouping of photographs hanging on one wall. The large family photograph was surrounded by several individual pictures all mounted in heavy silver frames. It was obvious by the quality of the prints that were taken by a professional photographer. Similar to a Royal family portrait of Queen Elizabeth, with the entire family including the siblings groped with their parents.

The photograph that caught his eye was the one of Fred, his two brothers and his sister. The family resemblance left no doubt in his mind at all. The von Scharnhorst siblings were blessed with good looks. Clay judged Fred to be in his mid-forties, well over six-foot tall, with a trim body, black hair with deep green eyes set in a handsome chiseled face. He was a charming gentleman from the old school and spoke with a slight Spanish accident. Fred was sure he had not learned to speak English in this country or in England for that matter.

"Ah, I see you have discovered my family, Doctor Grayson,"

Clay jumped when he heard Fred's voice behind him.

"I'm sorry I startled you."

"That's fine; you have a very handsome family, Fred, and please, call me Clay."

"Thank you, there are four of us as you have discovered. My sister is the baby of the family. My parents kept trying until they got a girl. My brother Frank is the eldest, myself and then my baby brother Kurt. Kurt has the good looks and charm. A true Aryan German, with the blond hair and blue eyes. This picture doesnít do him justice. He is a bit taller than I and is a splendid athlete. I've always envied Kurt his athletic prowess. He has that natural talent for all sports; whereas I have to work at it. I did all right in sports but never achieved Kurt's record. He also happens to be the most prolific one of the family. He has produced five children and he is only in his early thirties. Unfortunately, his beautiful wife died of cancer last year. It was quite a tragedy. I must say though, he and the children have adjusted quite well and are doing just fine. He is quite a guy and my favorite. We are very close. Kurt is one of those charismatic people who is always up, and a delight to have around. I've never seen him down, even during the dreadful period of his wife's illness. He still keeps everyone's spirits up."

"It's obvious from the way you speak of him, that he is very special. I'd like to meet him one day," Clay said.

"You will have that opportunity if you're around for the year-end holidays. He and the kids are planning to spend New Year's with me this year. Our family tradition is to spend Christmas together in Argentina, but he and the children want to spend New Year's here with me. The kids have their hearts set on seeing Disney World. I would like to invite you and your children to be my guests. It would wonderful if the children would become friends. Give it some thought and let me know."

"Yes, my kids would like that," Clay said.

"Great, now let's have something to eat," Fred said. "I hope you will join me at my table so we can chat some more."


The next morning turned out to be a perfect day; the humidity was low and a light breeze was blowing in off the bay. Clay and the children decided to walk along the beach to Fred's estate. They arrived a little after ten and were warmly greeted by Fred and his lady friend, Carla. There was no evidence of last night's dinner party; everything was in perfect order. Fred and Carla looked relaxed and rested considering the party didn't end until well after midnight.

Clay introduced his children and said, "Thank you again for inviting me to your party last night, Fred. I really enjoyed myself. You had an interesting group of people here."

"I'm glad you had a good time. I saw you met some of the charming women."

Clay smiled, "Yes, I met some interesting people, thanks to you."

Clay did not elaborate any further on the subject. Being the perfect host, Fred did not pursue the subject any further.

Fred led them out to the patio where three other couples were sipping their drinks.

"My friends, I would like you to say hello again to my next door neighbor, Doctor Clay Grayson and his delightful children."

The bartender came by and took their drink order and left. Fred introduced Clay to each couple individually.

"My friends are up from South America on business. We are all flying up to New York tomorrow for a little sightseeing and to catch a few of the new Broadway shows."

"Sounds like a fun week," Clay said. "This is the best time of year to visit."

After breakfast Clay and the children left. They took off their shoes and socks and walked along the beach toward their house.

"Did you enjoy yourselves," Clay asked. Both children said, "Yes."

"Since you've both behaved like perfect angels up to now, you shall be rewarded. How would you feel about spending two weeks at Orlando and visit the fun places like Disney World and Sea World?"

Both children's faces lit up and they became very animated.

"You mean it, Dad? Are we really going to Disney World?" Randy asked all excited.

Mary Anne was skipping around them clapping her hands. "When Daddy ... when are we going?" she asked.

"How about tomorrow after lunch? That will give us time to pack and arrive at Disney World in time to see the fireworks display tomorrow night. Is that soon enough for you guys?"

"Yes, Dad, that's super," Randy screamed.

From then on they talked about their trip. When they returned home they both ran to tell Tracy about their good news.

Clay smiled, and studied them as they were talking to Tracy. They were wonderful kids, and he was proud of the way they behaved around adults. They were polite, well mannered and spoke perfectly, Clay thought, better than some of the adults at the party last night. Not only were they well behaved, but they were intelligent. He was delighted with the way they could keep up with the conversation. 'God, I'm going to miss them when they leave. It's hard to believe that a month has gone by.'

'Children are truly wonderful creatures,' Clay concluded. After that first week they acted as if they had never been separated for almost two years. The realization of how much he had missed them for the last three years sunk in. Clay vowed that he would never let that happen again. Their lives were too precious to him now. They loved him and they showed their affection for him in so many ways. 'They are very bright and beautiful children and I love them dearly.'

"I think it's great that you're taking the children to Disney World," Tracy said. "How long will you be gone?"

"It's one of those spur of the moment things, Tracy. They have been so good and patient sticking around here for the last month, I thought it was time they were around other children. What better place than Disney World? There is so much to see. Now if you would rather stick around here and amuse yourself, I'll understand. But, you are going to have to decide in the next few minutes whether to join us or not. I'll need to make reservations; I just hope that they are not booked solid."

"I'm like a kid myself," Tracy said, "I'd love to go."

"Good, I'll make the reservations; better plan on being away for at least two weeks," Clay said.


Chapter Four 

They returned home to Naples three weeks later. Clay had decided to take the children on a cruise on the new Disney cruise ship. It was a great adventure for everyone. Tracy and the children would be returning to Atlanta the following week. For their last week together Clay took the children on a four-day cruise along the Gulf to cap off the vacation. Tracy stayed behind as she did not care for boats.

They were heading back to Naples on the fourth day when Clay noticed the children's mood had change. They moped about and were not their usual animated selves. Clay anchored off shore to prepare lunch. They were seated in the galley watching Clay prepare the chef's salad for lunch. Mary Anne had set the table and Randy poured the ice tea into the glasses. Clay dished out the salad and served the two children.

He placed the napkin on his lap and looked at the kids' sad faces. "Are you going to tell me what's bothering you, or are you going to punish me for the rest of the week?" Clay asked.

"Dad, Mary Anne and I want to live with you," Randy said. "We don't want to go back to Atlanta."

Clay was surprised at Randy's statement. He looked from one sad face to another and smiled, "You have made me very happy, kids. Do you really think I want you to leave on Sunday? Having you two here has been the happiest two months I've known in a long time. You must know I love you both very much. It's going to be terribly lonely here without you. Wouldn't you miss your mom and your friends if you lived here with me?"

"We'll miss mom and our grandparents, but that's all."

"What about Andrew?" Clay asked.

"He's okay, I guess, but heís not really comfortable with us around," Mary Anne said.

"Uncle Andrew acts more like my school principal than he does a family member. I hate to say it, Dad, but he is a stuffed shirt," Randy said.

"It must be hard on you having to live that way," Clay said. "I've never met Andrew so I'm not in a position to judge him. I was in the sanatorium when your mother met him. My opinions of him wouldnít make any difference to your mother, in any event. My only concern is how he treats you two. Andrew is your motherís husband, he is not your father and that will never change. Always remember, you only have two parents, your mother and me."

"You don't have to call him Father or Dad either. Do you both understand that?" The children nodded their heads. "That would also be the case if I were to remarry. You must always be polite and courteous to Andrew because he is an adult and your motherís husband. Remember, I'm your father and I'm paying for your support. You also own half the house you are living in now. Your mother owns the other half. That was part of the divorce settlement; in case your mother neglected to mention it. I've also set up a joint trust fund for you both that will take care of you for the rest of your lives. Your mother and Andrew have no control over your trust. It is administered by a very old and respected law firm in whom I have the utmost faith. The trust will take care of your every need and also pay for your college education and for any emergencies. If anything happens to me again, you will be taken care of. So, I don't want you to worry on that score."

"Your mother and I share joint custody of you. We agreed that it would be best if you lived with your mother while youíre growing-up. However, I will talk to her to see if you can spend more time with me. I see no reason why you can't spend long weekends with me at least once a month, maybe more. Naturally, you will be spending your Easter and Christmas holidays plus your summer vacations with me. I plan to be in Atlanta for Thanksgiving week. We can hangout together; so it won't be so bad. If you feel lonely, or feel like talking to me, you can call me any time on the toll free number I gave you. I want you to call me every weekend, or any other time you like. I think it's better if you called me."

"Look kids, if you can't get away for a long weekend, I'll fly up to Gramp's every three weeks and you can spend the weekend with me. How do you feel about that?"

"That would be great, Dad," Randy said.

"Tell you what, you two plan what you want to do before I get there and we'll do whatever turns you on," Clay said.

Mary Anne was all smiles again, "Okay, Dad."

By the time they moored the boat, they were in good spirits once again.

♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦

After the children left, Clay had become a regular visitor at Fred's. He joined him every Sunday morning for brunch. Clay skipped the lavish dinner parties after a while mainly because of the fast crowd that was part of Fred's circle. He liked Fred, but found his guests too perverse for his liking. The liquor and the drugs flowed too freely for his taste and he did not want to walk down that path once again.

Fred had sponsored Clay for membership on the board of directors of the Owners Association. It came as a complete surprise to Clay when he learned he was elected to the board.

Fred had use his influence to get Clay elected. Now, Clay was in a position to make some of the changes and enforce the rules that had been ignored for so long. Most of the homeowners were globetrotters and were not really concerned about their little community, unless it impacted on their investment, or their creature comforts. Maintaining security and keeping the golf club and golf course in perfect condition were the most important considerations to the membership.

The homeowners were very happy that Clay took an interest in the sub-development and in addressing those issues without bothering them with the details. It didn't take Clay long to start making the needed changes. The board unanimously approved Clay's recommendations. With the boardsí approval, he fired the landscape gardeners and hired a competent maintenance manager to run the operation. He in turn hired a maintenance staff along with the necessary equipment to maintain the common property in the community. The results were a 40-percent savings of the overall maintenance budget. Besides which the grounds never looked better.

He enforced the leash law and ended the incessant barking of dogs every night. He had the entrance gates repaired and hired a security service to monitor the gatehouse around the clock. The security code on the gates was changed every Monday. He purchased a computer and programmed it to handle all the community's business; from changing the security codes for the gates to maintaining the homeowners' access codes changes. The owner only had to call the club's number and use their personal number to access the recording for the new code. The results were immediate; the theft and vandalism rate dropped by 80 percent within six months. So did the insurance rates on the complex.

Christmas Week 

Clay attended Fred's annual Christmas party the day before he took off for Atlanta to spend Christmas with his folks and his children.

Christmas day was cold and windy with a chance of snow. Clay had awoken early Christmas morning to attend the eight o'clock mass. His parents had attended midnight mass and were waiting for him to join them for Christmas breakfast when he returned from church. After a leisurely breakfast he excused himself and finished packing his bags before heading for his appointment with Dr. Kline at St. Vincent Sanatorium.

"It's good to see you again, Clay," Dr. Kline said. "You look terrific. What a difference nine months can make. How do you feel?"

"I feel like a new man, especially now that my kids will be joining me in Florida for a week. I've adjusted to my new lifestyle and I feel wonderful. I've been busy socializing and have become involved in my community. It's been very satisfying and has given me a feeling of accomplishment."

"That sounds encouraging. Have you met anyone so far?"

"I've met some very attractive women, but I've had no desire to get involved in a relationship, if that's what youíre suggesting. I don't know what is happening with my sex drive, but for now it's nonexistent. There you have it, Doctor. And ironically, it doesn't bother me. I'm sure it will come back in time.

"Dr. Evans told me not to worry about it, and let nature take its course."

"Youíre making excellent progress," Dr. Kline said. "Keep up the good work. I envy you for heading back to warm and sunny Florida this afternoon. I have a feeling we'll be seeing snow here before the day is over. One nice thing about living in Atlanta, the snow will be gone in two days."

Naples, Florida

Clay and the children were celebrating their Christmas after they arrived home that evening. Before he left for Atlanta, Clay had decorated a ten-foot tall Christmas tree with all the trimmings for the children. It took Mary Anne and Randy an hour to open all their gifts. The doorbell rang and Clay went to the door to answer it. He returned with two large gift-wrapped boxes.

"I saved these special gifts for each of you." He handed Randy his box and set the other in front of Mary Anne. "Open the lid very carefully, honey," Clay said.

Mary Anne's face lit up when she saw the white Tea-Cup French poodle with a big red bow around her neck and a tiny red bow tied on the top of her head.

"Oh, aren't you beautiful!" Mary Anne lifted the darling little poodle out and held it close to her.

"Thank you, Daddy, she is so adorable."

"You're welcome, sweetheart; now, Son, you open your gift."

Randy unwrapped the box and peered inside. As he removed the tissue his eyes almost popped out of his head. He smiled and hugged Clay.

"Dad, this is what I wanted more than anything. I've seen lap tops like this in the computer store, but I never dreamed I would own one. It will take me a year to play all the games that come with this baby."

Clay rubbed Randy's back, "I'm glad you like your present, Son. You never saw one like this in your computer store. This laptop is a prototype and will be hitting the market in two months. I'm told it is years ahead of the market. That little baby can do more than that monster of mine in the library and it's one-tenth the size and weight."

Come on you two, it's time to take Mary Anne's little baby for a walk before we call it a night."

They strolled around the back garden for ten minutes before returning to the house.

"Well, kids, letís lock up and hit the sack; itís been a long day. We can all sleep in late tomorrow morning."

Randy hugged his father and kissed him on the cheek.

"I love you, Dad; thanks for everything. It's been a wonderful Christmas."

He picked up his computer and walked to his bedroom.

"See you in the morning."

"Good night, Randy. Come on, Mary Anne; let me dig out your poodle's cage. She is not house broken yet, so you'll have to keep her in the cage every night until she is house broken. I'll place the cage next to your bed. Tomorrow, we'll drop by the vet's office. They can tell us how to take care of her. You're going to have to name your little one so you may want to give that some thought."

Clay pulled back the bedspread and set the poodleís cage next to Mary Anne's bed.

"There, that should do it. The alarm is turned on baby, so don't venture out before I wake up."

Mary Anne hugged her father and kissed him.

"Thank you for everything, Dad. Randy is right; this has been the best Christmas ever."

"You're welcome, sweetheart; see you in the morning."

Clay was up early the next morning and completed his five-mile jog and was back by eight. He did his laps in the pool to cool down. By the time he showered and dressed it was nine o'clock. Gracie, his housekeeper had already made the coffee and was tidying up the living room when Clay walked in.

"Merry Christmas, Mr. Clay," Gracie said. "Thank you so much for your gift. I cried when I opened your Christmas present yesterday. That was so thoughtful of you to give me that airline ticket to Philadelphia to visit my mama. You know I've never flown first class before; thank you so very much. After spending a few days with mama, Iím planning to drive up to New York to visit with my family for a week, if it's all right with you. My daughter, Debra, will be here to take care of you and the children. The Kinder Care day care center is closed for two weeks so it will work out just fine. She loves to work with children. I'm sure you will get along just fine. She will even stay overnight if you are going to be out late. I know you'll be gone all next week, but if you need Debra, she be glad to give you a hand."

"Iím glad you liked your gift. Why don't you bring Debra by tomorrow to meet the children? I'm letting them sleep in this morning. We stayed up late last night opening our gifts. Don't worry about fixing breakfast for us this morning, Gracie. I'm taking them over to the Ritz for breakfast. So we'll be out of the way until after lunch. Why don't you pack a picnic basket for our dinner? I plan to take them out on the boat for the rest the day. We may even stay out overnight. I'll see if the kids are up to it."

Clay knocked on Randy's bedroom door and got no response. He opened the door and walked in. The draperies were drawn and the room was in total darkness. Clay opened the draperies and sat on Randy's queen size bed and gently shook his shoulder.

"Randy, it's time to get up."

Randy opened his eyes. "What time is it, Dad?"

"Almost ten o'clock. I know you would like to sleep longer, but, I want you to sleep tonight." Clay leaned down and kissed him on the forehead. "I'm going to wake up your sister. Why don't you take your shower and dress?"

Clay walked down the hall to Mary Anne's room. He knocked on the door. Mary Anne said, "Come in, Dad."

"Good morning, sweetheart," Clay hugged her and kissed her on the forehead. "Is your dog ready for her morning walk?"

"Sure, by the looks of the paper in her cage, I think she's already piddled."

"She's only a baby, Mary Anne, but it's a good idea to get her used to going outdoors as soon as youíre up and dressed; might as well start her training at an early age."

Mary Anne followed Clay out to the rear patio.

"Have you thought of a name for your dog?"

"I'm going to call her Chris. Christmas Day will be her birthday."

"That's a great name and it suits her. Good thinking sweetheart."

"Well here comes our tiger man all dressed and ready to fight the world," Clay said. "I thought we'd head into town and have breakfast at the Ritz then swing by the vet's. After that we can stop of at the supermarket and stock up on some food and maybe rent a few flicks. If you two feel up to it, I thought we'd take off on the boat and head down the coast and anchor at one of the marinas overnight."

"That sounds great, Dad," Randy said.

Can I take Chris along, Dad?" Mary Anne asked.

"Sure, sweetheart, she might as well get used to the boat. I want you both to learn how to handle the boat in case of an emergency."

By the time they docked the boat the following day, both Randy and Mary Anne had mastered the basics of handling the yacht. It was a forty-foot, wide-beam, twin-screw cruiser with a flying bridge. With the twin screws, she handled like a baby. Clay had purchased it new three years ago and it had sat in the boat yard while he was in the hospital.

Debra, Gracie's daughter, was sitting in the breakfast room having a glass of ice tea when Clay and the children returned. Gracie introduced her daughter to everyone.

"Mr. Fred called earlier and asked if you could return his call, Mister Clay," Gracie said.

"Thanks, why don't you fix one of your great salads for us for dinner before you leave, Gracie? I think I'll barbeque some chicken and corn on the grill tonight. The kids are beat after scuba diving most of the day."

Clay dialed Fred's number. "Hi, Fred, sorry I missed your call, we just returned ten minutes ago, what's up?"

"I'm having some special friends in from Columbia tonight. Would you like to join us for dinner?" Fred asked.

"I am beat Fred, I'm going to have to pass on this one. Have you made the reservations for Disney World for us?"

"It's all taken care of my friend," Fred said. "Kurt and his children will be arriving tomorrow. Why don't you and the children plan to join us for dinner tomorrow evening?"

"Great, what time should we be there?"

"Around five," Fred said.

"We'll see you then; thanks for thinking of me."

Clay put down the telephone and returned to the kitchen.

"Gracie, we'll be dining at the von Scharnhorst's tomorrow evening and I'll be working on the boat most of the day, so it's a normal day tomorrow."

Later that day Clay sat out on the patio enjoying the beautiful evening. The children were tired and turned in early. He could see Fred's villa and grounds all lit up and he could hear the music drifting across the calm water. He was sipping his glass of wine and felt mellow. He was enjoying his time with the children and was pleased he could spend the days with them. He finished his wine, checked the boat one more time and locked up and set the alarm.

Clay was up at and out of the house by six. He chuckled to himself when he noticed that Fred had left outside lights on all night. 'I'm glad my boozing and drug days are behind me.' He returned to the house did his laps in the pool and headed for the showers. He donned his old comfortable shorts and a polo shirt. Today he was going to spend most of the day cleaning and puttering around the on the boat. Mary Anne was the first to arrive in the breakfast room. She took Chris out for her morning walk. Randy was in the den watching TV.

Clay made them each an omelet with toast.

"Dad, did you know that Mr. von Scharnhorst left his lights on all night?" Mary Anne said.

"Yes, sweetheart, I noticed it when came back from my run. I called him in a little while ago and left a message on his machine. I'll stop by his house before lunch. He'd kill me if I woke him up at this hour."

"Randy, your breakfast is ready," Clay said. "Good morning, tiger, did you sleep well?"

"Good morning, Mary Anne, Dad," Randy said. "I slept like a log; Iím starved."

Clay fixed their plates. "I've nothing planned for today, guys; I need to spend time working on the boat. Don't forget, we've having dinner over at Fredís this evening. He wants us to meet his brother and his children."

"Do you need any a hand on the boat, Dad?" Randy asked."

"Sure, I can always use a hand. Tell you what, you and Mary Anne can empty the trash cans and make sure there's enough soda in the refrigerator for our next trip."

Clay called Fred's house at eleven, but still no answer. "Gracie, I'm going to drive over to Fred's place. Do you know if his housekeeper is off today?"

"No sir, she's working today. She told me that she would be bringing in another girl to help her out while Mr. Fred's family was here."


Chapter Five 

The gates were open as Clay drove into the von Scharnhorst estate. He pulled up to the front entrance and rang the bell several times. He walked around to the back of the house to check the boathouse and the guesthouse next to the pool. Fred has been known to take off in his boat and visit one of his cronies. Before he walked down to the boathouse he noticed that the sliding glass patio door to the conservatory was open. He walked into the conservatory and called again, no answer. The lights were all on and the stereo sound system was still playing. He called out to Fred again, still no response.

He walked into den, "Oh my God!" Clay cried out. He dashed out of the office and into the living room and picked-up the portable telephone on the coffee table and dialed 911.

"I found the body of Fred von Scharnhorst at his villa at Grand View Estates," Clay said. "No, I haven't touched the body. Yes, I'll wait for the police on the back patio."

Clay was shocked seeing the bullet hole in the center of Fred's forehead. The blood dried on his face and neck. He hands were still unsteady when he saw the two uniformed policemen and a plain-clothed detective walk up on the patio.

"Doctor Grayson?" the detective asked.

"Yes," Clay responded.

"I'm Lt. Dan O'Sullivan, and these are officers Painter and Watts. Would you please show us where you found the body?"

Clay led them into Fred's office, but did not enter the room.

"Lt. O'Sullivan took one look and said, "You guys stay out; you know the drill, check every room and don't touch a thing."

He walked over near Fred's body took a quick look around and returned to the hall.

"Doctor Grayson, what telephone did you use to make your call to us?"

"The one on the coffee table in the living room," Clay answered.

"Dr. Grayson, would you stand-by until I call this in to my boss? I'll need to take your statement."

The Lieutenant called his office and requested a homicide team be called to take over the case.

"Sorry about that, but this looks like a murder scene to me. I'll just take your statement and let you be on your way."

Clay gave his complete statement and his relationship with Fred. Half way through the statement, Officer Watts walked into the room to report that he had discovered the body of a black woman in the kitchen.

"Do you know who that might be, Doctor Grayson?"

"If she a gray haired black women, then it's Fred's housekeeper," Clay said.

"I'll understand if you can refuse my next request, Doctor Grayson, but could you identify the body? It would help us to notify her family before the news media smell a story? This place will be crawling with reporters and paparazzi within a couple of hours."

"I will identify the body, Lieutenant," Clay said. "I would like the police departments help to keep those people away from here, Lieutenant. This is an exclusive sub-development; it's private property and off limits to all trespassers. That includes the media. I'm a director of the Community Association and I'm asking you officially to inform the news media that we will press charges on anyone trespassing on our property. I'll call in our security people and have them put extra men on to make sure our privacy in not invaded. Will you make that clear to the media?"

"It will be my pleasure, Doctor Grayson."

"As soon as I leave here, I'm going to contact the president of our association and the residents warning them of this situation and what they can expect from the media. I'll contact our attorneys and ask them to cooperate with your department in dealing with the media."

"That's a wise move, Doctor Grayson. The police department will cooperate in any way we can to keep a low profile on this investigation."

Clay walked into the kitchen and identified the body of Fred's housekeeper. She had also been shot through the head. They returned to the living room where Lt. O'Sullivan made another call to his boss to let him know about the second victim.

Clay showed the Lieutenant where the controls were to turn off the outside lights and the stereo equipment. He also informed him that Fred's brother and his family would be arriving today from Argentina. He would be Fred's only next of kin in the United States.

"Thank you for your help, Doctor Grayson, I'll keep you in the loop as far as the security arrangements. You can have your attorney contact me. You realize that the homicide team will be calling on you once they take over this investigation. I'm sorry but that's the way it goes in this type of case. You knew the victim and may be able to shed more light on their investigation."

"I understand, Lt. OíSullivan; I have no problem with that. I would like to see the killers found and brought to justice. Fred was a good friend."

Clay left and headed back home. He went directly to his office and got the ball rolling with the president of the association.

"This is very tragic, Clay; I liked Fred and he did a lot for our community. Look, I know you have your hands full right now, but Iím going to call an emergency meeting for seven o'clock tonight at the clubhouse. I'll also call our lawyer and the security people to make sure they patrol the beach property as well. Don't worry about breaking the news to the other owners; I'll have Jim and Jake help notify everyone about what's happened. Keep me posted on any new developments and I'll see you tonight at the meeting."

Clay put down the telephone and gathered Randy, Mary Anne, and Gracie into the Florida room. He told them what he found at Fred's villa. They were as shocked as Clay. He warned them not to talk to anyone about this and not to answer the telephone. The answering service could handle all the calls from now on.

After lunch Clay busied himself with the boat. Randy came down with the cell phone to say that Mr. Kurt von Scharnhorst had called and asked if he would return his call. Clay called the number Kurt had left. It was the Ritz Carlton in town.

"Thank you for returning my call so promptly, Doctor Grayson, I wonder if I might drop by to speak with you this afternoon. I'm absolutely shocked and can't believe that Fred is dead. The police told me everything when I called from the airport."

"Please call me Clay; I'm sorry you had to learn the bad news over the telephone. I can understand your grief; perhaps you and the children would like to come over to my place and spend the rest of the day with us and stay for dinner? My kids can entertain them while we talk."

"Are you sure this is not an imposition, Clay? I know the children would love it, they really need to unwind; this has been hard on them too. I accept your kind offer, and please call me Kurt."

"I'll pick you up at the hotel in a half hour. Have the kids bring their bathing suits and a change of clothes. Keep it simple Kurt, shorts and polo shirts, nothing fancy. I'll ring your room when I arrive."

"Wonderful, we'll be waiting," Kurt said.

Clay told the children and Gracie of his plans and left for town. He pulled up into the parking garage and called Kurt's room.

Clay waited by the elevator for them to arrive. He could not miss Kurt and his family. Kurt was a strikingly handsome man whose photograph didn't do him justice. The children were as attractive as their father. They spoke perfect English and were very polite and well behaved.

"What a handsome family you are;" Clay said, "welcome to Naples."

He led them over to the vehicle and loaded their bags in the back of the van. Clay told them a little about Naples as they drove back to his villa.

Clay introduced his children and let them get settled in before heading to the pool cabana so they could change into their swimsuits. He showed Kurt around and they sat in lounge chairs and watched the children amuse themselves on the beach.

"I like your home, it has a pleasing flow to the house and grounds; I like it."

"Thanks, that makes me feel good; I designed it myself," Clay said. He pointed to the large villa down the beach, "That's your brotherís villa."

"Rather grand, isn't it? That's typical of Freddie's taste. I loved my brother dearly, but we could never agree on his flamboyant taste. Freddy made piles of money and liked to enjoy his wealth. Considering how he ended up, I can't say it was such a bad idea. It must have been difficult for you finding my brother as you did? Freddie told me all about you and your medical background."

"Yes, it was quite a shock," Clay replied. "We had become good friends. I'm going to miss him. In fact he had invited the children and me over to dinner this evening to welcome you and your family. We were all set to take you and the children up to Disney World tomorrow for four days."

"Is there any reason we still can't go ahead with our plans?" Kurt asked. "The police told me that my brotherís body could not be released for at least three days. They requested that we not move into the villa for at least two more days. My family will not be flying up here for the funeral, It will take the funeral director another two days to prepare the body and make arrangements with the local Catholic Church. I estimate that we are looking at one-week minimum. There is nothing we can do for Freddy right now, Clay. Sitting around and waiting with nothing to do will only make things worse. I would rather keep my mind occupied and this is the children's vacation. They had been looking forward to this vacation for almost a year now. It would be a shame to disappoint them. I know that this is what Freddie would want us to do if he were alive."

"Youíre right, Kurt. Why don't we let the police know where they can reach us in Orlando? While you're doing that, I'll call the Freddie travel agency and reconfirm everything. I've chartered a private jet to fly us to Orlando from Fort Myers."

Kurt smiled, "Fred was right about you, you're well organized. Why don't you handle everything and we'll follow your orders?"

"That's fine with me," Clay said. "You do have an international driverís license, don't you?"

"Absolutely, why do you ask?"

"Because, you're going to be following me in Fred's Mercedes tomorrow when we drive to the airport. We won't all be able to fit into the van, not with the luggage. You can check out of the Ritz-Carlton in the morning and have them drop your baggage off here tomorrow morning. Pack the things you'll need for Orlando and leave the rest of your luggage here."

"I'll let Lt. O'Sullivan know that you'll be stopping by tomorrow morning to pick up the car. I have the gate opener and know the codes to the alarm system. Fred gave them to me a while back to keep an eye on the place when he was away. He always left the car keys in the ashtray."

"By the way, we're having a community meeting at seven this evening at the club house to discuss your brother's murder. It might be a good idea for you to attend. The police department will be briefing us on the case. The board's lawyer will be on hand discussing the new security arrangements, and how to handle the media and any curiosity seekers. Gracie and her daughter Debra can take care of the kids while we're at the meeting. Do you feel up to attending, Kurt?"

"Sounds like a good idea," Kurt said. "Where can I use the telephone, to make a few calls?"

Clay led him into his office and left him while he headed to the kitchen to find Gracie.

"Gracie, I'm going to need your help."

He told her about the plans for the evening and for the next four days. He asked her to call the agency and hire a housekeeper and a maid for Kurt. He told her to go ahead and prepare dinner for the children and that he would fix something for the two of them after they returned from the meeting.

Clay told the children that he and Kurt had decided to go ahead with their plans to visit Disney World and of their meeting at seven. Kurt told his children that Gracie was in charge until he returned from his meeting.

Disney World

Clay and Kurt were sitting in lounge chairs by the hotel pool watching the children play.

"I hate to admit it, Clay, but I've enjoyed myself," Kurt said. "Itís hard to believe we will head back to Naples tomorrow. Iím not looking forward to the funeral service. I've been trying not to think about Freddie's death, but that's impossible. I think his death has finally started to sink in. Our children have become fast friends; itís too bad it all has to end so soon."

"Randy and Mary Anne told me how much they like your children. They will be returning to Atlanta in two days' time. I'm going to miss them. It happens every time they leave. Their next extended vacation is not until Easter. We take turns flying back and forth in between times for visits. But, there is never enough time."

"Do you miss your wife," Kurt asked.

"No, Janet and I have been divorced for two years now," Clay said. "Actually, we started drifting apart shortly after Mary Anne was born. I guess we stayed together because we were comfortable living together and it was better for the kids. We discussed our relationship and concluded that the magic was gone. We are still good friends. We shared so many good times and milestones together. But that is not a good enough reason to stay together as a couple."

"We did seek professional counseling, but in the end we decided to continue the marriage until one of us found someone else. At that time neither of us was interested in anyone else. So it didn't come as a shock to me when Janet asked for a divorce. It was just that her timing was bad. We had a civilized divorce and she seems happy with the guy she married. It appears that everything is working out for her now. I understand they are expecting their first child in May. It will be interesting to see how that is that is going to play out."

"My children are not entirely happy with Andrew, Janetís husband. They tolerate each other at this point. However, my feelings are that the new baby is bound to cause friction. My hope is that Janet will see this and allow my children to live with me."

"I hope it works out for you, Clay. Did you know that Fred was disappointed that you didn't become more involved with his friends? He said he enjoyed your company, yet you tended to draw the line with many of his friends. You always were an enigma to Freddie. You were friendly and outgoing as his neighbor, but kept your distance. He couldn't quite figure you out, yet he trusted you implicitly."

"I liked your brother. He was charming, witty and the perfect host. Yet, I refused to become involved in his lifestyle. It took me over two years in a sanatorium to become drug free and I didn't want to be exposed to that lifestyle again. I'm not a neophyte when it comes to the social drug scene. I could see what was going on; how Fred's parties ended up. No way was I going to drift back to that nightmare. If I had stuck around, and stayed sober, Fred would have dropped me anyway. No one can stand to be around a sober guy, not when everyone else is imbibing. What people forget is that itís much harder on a recovered addict. I did a lot of things when I was on drugs that I was ashamed of, so much so, that I can't discuss them even to this day. The scary thing is what I don't remember."

"You were wrong," Kurt said. "Freddie considered you his friend, and would never have dropped you. He was more concerned that you may have been an undercover narcotics agent, than anything else. I knew Freddie was mixed up with some shady deals. You're right of course, he was a drug user, yet he was able to keep his habit under control. He knew a lot of influential businessmen and rubbed shoulders with many prominent people. Freddie was the consummate dealmaker. He made Donald Trump look like a neophyte. He was a heavy gambler and a risk taker. It was not a surprise that he ended up as he did. He may have got caught up in a multi-million dollar deal that went sour. Don't be surprised if the authorities start asking you a lot of questions about your relationship with Freddie."

A gloomy look appeared on Clay's face. "That's all I need right now."

Kurt smiled, "Don't look so glum, my friend. It's not going to be that bad. You've done nothing wrong; be honest with the authorities and everything will be fine."

Clay grinned, "Your brother was right; you're really a nice guy. You know Fred thought the world of you. Look, Kurt, no matter what Fred was involved in; he didnít deserve to die the way he did. He was a decent person. Whoever was responsible for this should be made to pay for his death."

Kurt nodded his head in agreement. "Will you like to fly back with me for Freddie's internment? I would like you to spend a couple of weeks with me and the family. I'd like to show you my country."

"Thank you, Kurt; I would be honored."

Kurt nodded his head, "Good; I think Freddie would like that. All you'll need is your passport. I'll take care of everything else."


Chapter Six 

Clay and Kurt were sitting on the fantail of Clayís yacht.

"You miss the children, don't you," Kurt asked.

Clay smiled, "Very much. I guess it's because I won't see them again for a while. Of course, my trip to Argentina will take my mind off them for a while. I'm looking forward to the trip. I thought the funeral mass here for Fred was very nice. That was the first time I've attended a Catholic High Mass. The service is similar to the service in my church. He had so many friends. The days have flown by so fast. New Year's has come and gone and I don't even remember it." Clay smiled, "In case I forgot to say it;" Clay raised his wine glass, "Happy New Year, Kurt."

Kurt chuckled, "You did happen to mention it in passing, but it means more now that I've gotten to know you. You know the funny thing is, Clay, I feel that I've known you all my life. Well, I think I'll be heading back to the villa to see if the children are all packed for the trip. I enjoyed dinner; it was a pleasant and relaxing evening, as always."

"You're welcome; I enjoyed your company as always. Let me walk with you to your villa, I can use the exercise," Clay said.

As they walked along the beach to Kurt's villa, he said, "I'll pick you up tomorrow at seven. The limo service is sending a special bus to pick us at seven thirty."

"Thanks, I'll be ready. Kurt, don't laugh at me for saying this, but, I knew we would become friends from the day I met you. Good night."

Kurt smiled, "Why would I laugh at you when you were right."


Kurt and Clay were lying by the pool having lunch.

"I can't believe that two weeks has slipped by already," Clay said. "Everything has been perfect; you are really a delightful person to be around. I can see why Fred liked you so much. Maybe this is not the time to bring this up, but I can see that Freddie's murder has been hard on you. Don't think I'm not aware of your deep sense of pain over his death. You don't fool me, Kurt; I can see right through you. You're really hurting inside over his death aren't you?"

"Yes, I didn't know it showed. I still can't believe he is gone. Freddie was more than a brother, he was my friend and confidant. We spoke every week and more often if either of us had a problem. I'm going to miss that now."

"I've had time to observe you in your natural habitat," Clay said. "Anyway I've had a lot of practice and the time to study other people. I can see you're a lonely man even with the children and your family around to keep you company. Fred told me that we were a lot alike in so many ways. I guess that is why he took me under his wing."

Kurt smiled, "You're one of the few people who have taken the time to understand me. You're really wasting your time, Clay; you should have been a doctor."

Clay chuckled, "I am a doctor, Kurt."

"Youíre putting me on! I thought you were a Ph.D. Are you really an MD, Clay?"

"I kid you not. I am a Medical Doctor, licensed to practice medicine in the states of New York, Georgia and Florida."

"Well I'll be dammed," Kurt said. "You never cease to amaze me. Why aren't you practicing medicine then?"

"I found that I had a talent for making money in the stock market as a broker. So I changed my profession. I really did not have the commitment my father had for medicine."

Kurt smiled, and stared at Clay in admiration. He thought a long time before he spoke.

"You are an easy person to live with, Clay, and I have enjoyed your company more than you'll ever know. You're a talented and intelligent man and you're not afraid to express your feelings. The more I learn about you the more I understand what a unique person you are.

"My brother loved the United States and wanted me to move to Florida. Life was so difficult for Freddie in South America. He felt we were living in the past. That is, my family was still living in the past. They are very formal and steeped in old world traditions. Freddie and I are non-conformists and of the new generation. I thought seriously about taking him up on his offer, believe me. Argentina is a beautiful country and it's where my roots are. I have a good life here and I make a comfortable living. Of course, I could run my business from the United States just as easily. I just don't think it would be better for the children, at least not until they are ready for college. I've already told them that they will all be attending college in the United States. You see I firmly believe that our country's future, as well as my children's, will be tied to the United States. The old saying goes, 'All roads lead to Rome.' The United States is the Rome of the 21st century and beyond. That is why I send them to private American-run schools."

"I loved Freddie dearly, but he was way out of my league. I shared his love for the United States, but I don't aspire to those heights. I'm happy making a comfortable living and raising my children. As close as Freddie and I were, he never really understood how I should not do both. But, that's not possible for me. After all, I'm a single parent and my children need me. I think Freddie would see it differently if he had children. I think you can understand my motives. Do you understand what I mean, Clay?"

"I do, Kurt, and I happen to feel the same way. We think alike in what we want for our children. You are the second person in my life that I've felt really comfortable with, Kurt. I'm glad that I came."

"Was this person another man?"

"Yes, he was my college roommate, Randy Lodge. We met in our first year at Yale and became instant friends from the first day. We continued rooming together in Manhattan even after college. Of course we both went to Columbia University. Randy for his MBA and I went to medical school. We were closer than brothers were.

"Are you still close?" Kurt asked.

"Yes, I am. Randy died of cancer over ten years ago. He is still alive to me and I think of him often." Clay smiled as he spoke of Randy. "We were still living together in our apartment when Randy discovered he had a malignant brain tumor. I took care of him right up to the end. I still get together with his parents for dinner on his birthday. Do you know his parents flew to Atlanta to have dinner with me in the sanatorium to celebrate his birthday? They are wonderful people."

"Was Randy the one that got you interested in the stock market?" Kurt asked.

"Yes, it was unintentional on his part. I was finishing up my residency at Bellevue Hospital at the time. Randy was working out of the apartment. We were both whizzes on the computer ... but Randy had trouble focusing ... as a result of the tumor. I gladly helped him with his trades. Well one thing led to another and I became hooked on the stock market."

"Randy sounded like a super guy," Kurt said. "I'll try not to develop a brain tumor. Is there anything special you would like to do this afternoon?"

"Letís go native today. I'd like to go sightseeing in the country. Maybe we could make an early start and have dinner at one of your famous native restaurants. I'd like to hear some of the local music. How does that sound to you, SeŮor?"

"Sounds like fun, I haven't done that in a long time," Kurt said. "You read your book while I call that attorney in Ft Myers."

They were driving into the country in Kurt's Mercedes convertible. "Looks like I will be heading back to Naples next month. The attorneys want me there for the reading of Freddie's will. I've been named as executor and the attorney wants me there in three weeks' time."

"Good, I insist that you stay at my place," Clay said. "There's no sense of you hiring help and rattling around in Fred's place all alone," Clay said.

"Are you seeing anyone at present?" Kurt asked.

"No, and I've no desire to become involved with anyone right now. It's a little too soon for that. I'm doing just fine, thank you. I don't want to complicate my life right now. What about you, Kurt?"

"I feel the same way," Kurt said. "Anyway, what woman in her right mind would marry me with five children? I don't care how good my kids are."

"Evidently, you haven't met some of the women I know," Clay said. "You have a lot going for you, you're charming, handsome and the big plus ... you're rich. That alone puts you at the head of the line."

Kurt found a charming restaurant in one of the larger towns. It was immaculate, with linen table cloths and fresh cut flowers and candles on each table. The waiters were dressed in black pants, black bow ties and crisp white shirts and jackets. There was a small trio playing softly.

"This is quite an elegant restaurant, Kurt; you should have warned me in advance. Are you sure we're dressed properly?" Clay asked."

You are dressed perfectly," Kurt said. "I dine here regularly, this happens to be one of my favorite haunts. I called ahead; we'll be seated at my regular table on the patio."

They were seated at a corner table that was isolated from the other tables. Kurt ordered a bottle of red wine.

"This is nice; I can still hear the music, yet it is private. I can see why you like this place," Clay said. "I can't believe it's time for me leave already. I hate to go now. You and the children have treated me like part of the family, it's a nice feeling."

"You know you don't have to leave, Clay. What's to stop you from staying longer?"

"That's nice of you offer, but house guests are like dead fish, the longer the lay around the worse they smell. No, as tempting as your offer is I must leave the day after tomorrow."

The waiter came over and took their order. "Gentlemen, your entrťe will take about forty minutes to prepare. I'll bring your appetizers out in twenty minutes."

Kurt thanked the owner.

"He is preparing a special duck dinner just for you," Kurt said.

"Why are you staring at me like that Kurt, you're making me feel uncomfortable?"

"I'm sorry Clay, it just that you are absolutely radiant tonight. I think you are the most attractive person I have ever met and I canít keep my eyes off you."

Clay was taken aback by Kurt's comments. "Kurt, that kind of sentiment should be reserved for your sweetheart."

"I've chosen my words carefully, Clay. My feelings for you have gone beyond the bounds of friendship. The thought of you leaving has prompted me to tell you exactly how I feel about you."

Clay was speechless. He stared at Kurt.

"I had no idea you felt that way, Kurt." Clay look around to make sure no one was within earshot, "Are you gay, Kurt?"

"Of course, didn't you know that?"

"Kurt, how could I know that?"

"Oh my God, Freddy never told you I was gay."

"No, not one word, Clay said." He told me a lot about you, but not that you were gay."

"Why that devil; he sang your praises to me. He told me how handsome you are and that you werenít interested in women. He told me you were the ideal match for me. I sorry Clay, I just assumed that you were gay. You have been so friendly to me and my family ... forgive me if I've embarrassed you."

Clay smiled, "God, I hope I haven't given you the impression that I felt anything more that friendship for you? Certainly, I've never suspected that you were a homosexual; you look and act more macho than Superman."

"We've become good friends, Kurt, and I enjoy your company. These last six weeks with you have been wonderful. If I were gay, I wouldn't let you out of my sight. I was being honest when I mentioned to Fred that you were an extremely handsome man. I've learned from firsthand experience, that you are also intelligent, charming and delightful as well."

Clay looked deeply into Kurt's eyes, "I'm sorry to disappoint you. I can see you were expecting a different reaction from me. I don't have a problem with your being gay, Kurt. I wonder though, feeling as you do, if this will hurt the close friendship we've developed?"

Kurt smiled, "My wonderful, thoughtful Clay. One of the things that make you so endearing is your gentle nature. I would become a lost spirit if we could not continue our friendship. We rarely get what we want in this life, Clay; why should it be any different for me? I will take the friendship you offer and dream of what it could be like. I promise never to make you feel uncomfortable, but don't deny me your friendship."

"I would never do that, Kurt; I'm too selfish for that. Neither one of us had much success in holding on to our wives. Who knows, maybe friendship is the answer for us?" Clay chuckled, "In a way I'm relieved, I don't have to find a date for you when you visit me next month."

Kurt laughed, "You're something else. At least I don't have to share you with anyone. Don't worry, Clay; we'll have a good time together. Now, you just be your enchanting self for the rest of your visit and everything will be perfect."

"Did you want to do anything special for your last two days?" Kurt asked.

"No, I think I'll stick around the villa. Tomorrow morning, I plan to go horseback riding while you see the children off to school. Then we can spend the rest of the day together. Your parents have invited us to dinner. So that's pretty much it."

"Sounds like a good plan," Kurt said. "Just make sure that you take Palo along with you tomorrow morning, these trails can be tricky if you don't know your way around."

"I will," Carl said, "Palo is good company."


Chapter Seven 

"Doctor Grayson, this is Kurt von Scharnhorst, your son Clay, is my houseguest. I'm afraid I have some bad news for you. Clay was thrown from his horse this morning and is in critical condition."

"Clay has spoken about you often, Kurt. Can you tell me about Clayís injuries?"

"He is in a coma. I have a team of the top specialists in Buenos Aires taking care of him. The horse Clay was riding stumbled and fell. Clay was thrown head first to the ground. He was traveling at a good clip at the time and he was not wearing a helmet. His injuries are serious. He landed full force on the right side of his head. He has a concussion and a traumatized spinal cord in addition to a smashed jaw. The Orthopedist and Neurologist agree that his spinal cord is not seriously damaged. However, the fall caused some nerve damage. They will not know the full extent of that for several days. His head injury is their main concern right now. The plastic surgeon has completed the reconstructive surgery to the right side of his face and jaw. He was in the operating room for over four hours. Dr. Steiner, the chief of staff is personally overseeing Clay's case. I've asked him to call you within the hour to discuss your son's case."

"It sounds like you're on top things Kurt. The doctors appear to be doing everything possible for Clay," Doctor Grayson said. "My wife and I will book the first available flight out tomorrow. Could you recommend a good hotel that's near the hospital? I'll have my travel agent make our reservations."

"Forget that, I insist that you and your wife be my guests, Doctor," Kurt said. "I have two empty guest cottages, so you needn't worry about inconveniencing us at all. My house is a short drive from the hospital in Buenos Aires. Call me when you know your flight information and I'll meet your plane."

"That's very considerate of you, Kurt; we will gladly accept your offer."

"Good, I feel much better," Kurt said. "You can't imagine how devastated I am over this, Doctor. Clay has become like one of the family. The children are so upset. We'll talk again later, Doctor; I don't want to tie up your telephone."

Kurt ended the call and returned to Clay's private suite. The von Scharnhorst family was a well-respected and influential family in Argentina. The private wing that Clay was staying in was donated by the von Scharnhorst family. It came as no surprise to the hospital staff that the top doctors in the country were flown in to attend Clay. Kurt walked into the room and nodded to the RN who was sitting next to Clay. A few minutes later Dr. Steiner entered the room.

"I've just spoken to Dr. Grayson in Atlanta. He feels satisfied that we are doing all we can for his son. You look beat, Kurt. Clay's condition has stabilized and I don't expect to see any change in his condition for several hours. Why don't you go home and try and get some sleep? I promise you I'll call you if his condition changes."

"Perhaps I will; I need to change anyway," Kurt said.

"Here, Kurt, take these pills, they will help you to relax," Dr. Steiner said. "Don't worry, they are not sleeping pills; they are a mild tranquilizer that will calm your nerves. Just don't drive while youíre taking them."

Palo drove Kurt back to the estate. "Palo, I want you to get some rest. Have one of the other men stand by, in case I have to rush back to the hospital. I'll be using the Mercedes limousine from now on. We're going to need another car and chauffeur for Clay's parents while they're in town. They will be staying in one of the guest cottages."

"I'll take care of it, Patron," Palo said.

The children were in bed asleep when Kurt returned. He told his housekeeper about Clay's present state of health and about the guesthouse. After he checked on his children, he headed to his own suite and climbed into bed exhausted. He was awakened by the sound of the telephone ringing. The sun was streaming in the bedroom windows. The clock read 10 a.m.

Good morning, Kurt," Dr. Steiner said. "I thought you would like to know that Clay regained consciousness early this morning. He is asking for you."

"I'll be there as soon as I can," Kurt said.

"Take your time, Kurt. He's sleeping now and is still under heavy sedation. Did you manage to sleep last night?"

"Like a log, in fact your call woke me. What is the latest on his condition?"

"The neurologist examined him this morning and feels that with the proper therapy he should be able to walk again. He's in a lot of pain right now, but at least we're out of the woods. Fortunately, he was in top physical condition when he fell. His specialists are confident he will completely recover."

"Doctor, I want Clay to be moved to my villa as soon as he is out of the woods. I will be in your debt if you are able to find me a first rate staff to take care of him. I'm having one of the ground floor suites equipped with everything he'll need. I think he'll do much better in this environment, don't you?"

"I agree, Kurt," Dr. Steiner said. "I'll be happy to take care of that for you."

Kurt showered and dressed. By the time he walked into the breakfast room everyone had gone. The children had long since left for school. The housekeeper came in and rattled off the long list of telephone messages, including a call from Dr. Grayson. Their flight was due in at three o'clock. He picked up his cell phone and began returning his calls while the cook was preparing his breakfast.

After breakfast, he walked over to his office building. His staff had been working since eight-thirty. He walked into his private office. Kurt sat at his desk and signed the stack of letters and checks his secretary had left on his desk. After returning his phone calls, he picked up his laptop computer and headed down the long corridor to Palo's office.

Palo was in conference with two of his staff. "Good morning, Patron," Palo said.

"Good morning, men," Kurt said. "I'm ready to leave for the hospital now, Palo."

Palo stood and slipped on his jacket and followed Kurt out of the office. Kurt used the time to return more of the telephone calls that had accumulated from the day before. They pulled into the hospital's parking deck and took the elevator to the top floor. The duty nurse greeted him and ushered him into Clay's suite. Several doctors were seated at the conference table in the lounge area. Clay's private nursing staff was seated at the large table listening to the doctors as they discussed Clay's treatment plan for the next several days.

"Good morning, Mr. von Scharnhorst," the nurse said. "Mr. Grayson is alone right now. Would you like to see him?"

"Yes, thank you," Kurt said. "Sorry to interrupt your meeting, please don't let me disturb you; I'll visit your patient. Nurse, see that we're not disturbed and turn off the video camera, please."

He closed the door behind him after entering Clay's room. He walked over to the bed and stared down at him. Clay eyes were closed. He was hooked up to several monitors and an IV tube was stuck in his left arm. Kurt stood next to the bed and took hold of his right hand and gently rubbed it. Clay opened his eyes.

"Hi, baby," Kurt said. He kissed Clay on the forehead and smiled. "The doctors told me you wouldn't be able to move your jaw, so don't try to talk. You can answer my question with a yes or no. Squeeze my hand once for yes, twice for no. The doctors said you will be back to normal in no time. I almost lost my mind when I heard about your fall. My God, Clay, I thought I lost you. I'm going to have a seat belt installed on your saddles. That's if I let you near another horse. Clay, I hate to bother you right now with this, but I'm making arrangements to have you moved to my home as soon as you can be moved.

"If you agree, I'll plan to have the suite next to mine turned into a bedroom and physical therapy unit. Iím hiring a professional staff to take care of you. You'll be well cared for with all the comforts of home. Will you please stay with me?"

Clay squeezed his hand once. Kurt smiled, "Wonderful; your parents are arriving at the airport this afternoon. They will be staying with us until you feel better. I know youíre in a lot of pain right now; would you rather I leave?" Clay squeezed he hand twice. "I'm glad. The children were so worried about you. They were so upset I decided to keep them home from school yesterday. God works in mysterious ways, Clay. You know I didn't want you to leave and I prayed that you would change your mind at the last moment and stay longer. Today is the day you were to fly home."

The tears welled up in Kurt's eyes, "I love you, Clay, and it hurts me to see you in so much pain. All that matters is that you are alive. Thank God for that. Forgive me for losing my composure, but I feel so relieved that you are going to be all right. I promise, I'll not upset you with any more displays of emotions. I'll act like the perfect gentleman from now on."

Clay starred into Kurt's eyes and squeezed his hand.

Kurt took a tissue and wiped his eyes, "Then youíre not annoyed with me for making an ass of myself?" Clay squeezed his hand twice.

Kurt smiled, "Thanks, baby. Your medical staff is out there hatching some form of torture for you. You know these doctors; they canít leave you alone for a minute. He leaned down and kissed Clay on the forehead again. "That's for being my brave soldier. I'm staying with you until I leave to pick up your folks."

Kurt walked over and opened the door. Dr. Steiner, and two other doctors and Clay's charge nurse entered the room. Kurt walked back and stood by Clay's bed. They discussed Clay's prognosis and the new treatment plan they were going to follow. Kurt told Dr. Steiner that Clay had agreed to the move to his villa.

"Doctor Grayson will be in here for at least a week, Mr. von Scharnhorst. He's made a remarkable recovery in the last twenty-four hours. Fortunately he was in excellent physical shape before the accident. We are monitoring his condition very carefully and will transfer him to your estate as soon as possible."

"Thank you, doctor," Kurt said.

He turned to Clay; "I guess youíre stuck here for a little longer than we thought. Would you like for me to bring in your notebook computer so you can type out a simple message for the staff?" Clay squeezed Kurt's hand once. "I'll have Palo drop it off this afternoon," Kurt said.

After everyone left, Kurt leaned close to Clay and whispered, "Everything is going to be fine; now close your eyes and rest; I'll be right here." Clay squeezed Kurt's hand gently. Kurt smiled; "You're welcome."

Clay closed his eyes and relaxed his grip on Kurt's hand. The nurse returned and changed the bag on his I.V. She also injected a tranquilizer into the I.V. tube.

"I'll sit with Doctor Grayson, while you have your lunch, Mr. von Scharnhorst."

"Thanks," Kurt said. He stood and walked out to the sitting room.

One Month Later

Kurt's face and hair were covered with perspiration as he slipped quietly into his bedroom suite through the patio door. His sweats were soaked from his morning workout. He took off his running shoes and walked through the connecting door into Clay's bedroom to check on him. Satisfied that he was breathing normally, he walked into his dressing room and stripped before heading for the shower. He emerged thirty minutes later dressed for the day.

Kurt looked into the mirror as he tied the knot in his blue and white striped tie. Kurt was as fastidious with his clothes as he was with everything else. His clothes were tailor-made to complement his trim muscular body. Today he wore a blue oxford button-down shirt, tan linen slacks, blue hose and dark blue Gucci loafers. Kurt was a handsome man by anyone's standards. He was 6'4, with the body of an athlete. He had broad muscular shoulders that tapered down to a 30-inch waist, long well-developed thighs and legs, and a full head of platinum blond, curly hair. His green eyes, dark brows and lashes accented his perfectly chiseled facial features. The one feature that set him above everyone else was his warm friendly smile. His had a honey colored tan that completed the picture of an exceptionally handsome man.

He walked into the sitting room and opened his laptop computer to catch up on the latest news. After a while Kurt noticed the lamp go on in Clay's bedroom. He turned off his computer and walked in.

"Hi, baby, how you are feeling this morning," Kurt asked as he sat down at the end of Clay's bed.

"It's too early to tell; I'll let you know after I start moving around," Clay answered.

Kurt smiled, "It's upsetting to see you so distressed, but Iím happy that you are here. You fill my every morning with happiness and I thank God every day for saving your life. Sometimes I check on you at night to make sure you are all right. I often fantasize on how wonderful it would be to be married to you. Then reality sets in when I realize that you are growing stronger every day and soon you will be leaving once again."

Clay didn't respond. He stared at Kurt. "I'm at a loss sometimes as to how to respond to you, Kurt. I can't deal with this so early in the morning."

Kurt smiled, "Forgive me, I forgot, you are not a morning person. I think I liked it much better when you didn't speak, at least I had a reason to hold your hand."

Kurt became serious, "Clay, I want you to be completely honest with me. Is my banter making you uncomfortable? If I'm making you uncomfortable expressing my feelings, please say so? I would feel terrible if you thought I was becoming a bore. Above everything else, you're a guest in my home and I don't wish to impose on that friendship, or your good nature." Kurt stood, "Do you need my help, or can I get you something before I leave?"

"Please ... sit down, Kurt. You're right about one thing; I am not a morning person. Now, what have I done to upset you?"

"I got the impression that that you feel that I'm being insensitive?" Kurt said.

"If I have offended you, I'm sorry; it wasn't intentional."

"I enjoy your visits, Kurt. You've been a good friend and you don't upset me. You've become very special to me and I don't feel uncomfortable having you around. You're a caring and warm-hearted man and you've made me feel at home. Oddly enough, I've gotten used to you expressing your feelings; personally, I think you're a little crazy. There are so many attractive men out there who would jump in your arms if you gave them the nod." Clay smiled and shook his head, "What do you possibly see in me that turns you on. So much has happened to me in this last month. I've really not been in the proper frame of mind to address something as important as our relationship. Most of the time, I just don't feel like talking at all. Even though I'm taking painkillers, the pain is still there. I am a little out of sorts and tend to lose my patience easily. Please try to understand that, if I become short-tempered with you.

"My Mother is anxious to get back home. Dad needs her more than I do. In any event, I've convinced her that I'm in your care and insisted that she should head home this weekend. I am feeling stronger each day, and in time I should be back to my old self. You haven't offended me by expressing your feelings. I think of you as a dear friend, and I wish you would stop being so sensitive. You must stop interpreting ever expression of discomfort, as a rejection of you. For God's sake, stop being so apologetic all the time. It doesn't bother me if you kiss me, or touch me. When I feel you have crossed the line, I will tell you. My only concern is how it will affect you, Kurt. This one-sided relationship could end up hurting you in the long run. I don't want to see that happen."

Kurt smiled, "Let me worry about that, baby. It's understandable that you cannot see why I am in love with you. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and to me, you are beautiful in every way. You are a sincere and gentle person and you genuinely care about other people. That's the reason I fell in love with you. Now, is there anything I can get you before I leave?"

"Please help me into the bathroom."

Kurt helped him out of bed and supported him as they walked to the bathroom. After he finished, Kurt helped him back into bed. He adjusted his pillows and kissed him on the forehead.

"That's for being such a brave little soldier. I'll see you for lunch by the pool."


Chapter Eight 

Clay and his mother were sitting on the balcony overlooking the grounds. "I'm going to miss this lovely place," his mother said. "It's so relaxing and peaceful. I have no qualms leaving you here tomorrow. You're in good hands. Kurt is a fine man and his family adores you. They are a warm and affectionate family; I really like them."

"Yes, they are a unique family," Clay said. "Mary Anne and Randy got along with them when they were visiting us in Florida. Did I tell you that Kurt wants them to come down for Easter vacation?"

"No. I think they would have a wonderful time. Randy and Mary Anne love this place. Why don't I call Janet when I get home and lay the groundwork? The children will need their passports and shots, so it would be a good idea to get the ball rolling now. Easter is only two months away. The doctor told me yesterday that you still have another three months of therapy ahead of you."

"I know; I'm thinking seriously of flying back home. I'm sure I can get the same medical treatment in Florida."

"Surely you're not serious, Clay? Why in the world would you want to leave here? Kurt has a good medical team taking care of you. Besides which, he has the household staff to cater to your every need. It goes without saying, that you're a welcome guest here. Why would you want to go back home and struggle on your own? Clay you're not strong enough to take care of yourself yet, dear. My advice to you is to stay here."

"Yes, Mother. Besides, I don't think that Kurt would let me out of here. I have the feeling that Kurt would chain me to my bed until the doctors said I was well enough to leave. Frankly, I don't want to leave right now anyway. This place grows on you after a while and I do enjoy the children."

"Look, honey, take my advice and stay until you're fully recovered. It's not as if you had anyone to rush home to in Florida."

"Here comes my nurse to get me settled in for evening."

"I'll be by later to tuck you in. I want to have a chat with Kurt."

She found Kurt in the library reading. "Kurt, could you spare me a few minutes?" Mrs. Grayson asked.

"Of course, please sit down." Mrs. Grayson took the chair across from Kurt. He smiled, "Now, what's on your mind?"

"I wanted to thank you for everything you have done for Clay and me. I am delighted that Clay has found a good friend like you. It's too bad you didn't know him before his breakdown. He and his ex-wife, Janet, were a popular couple, always on the go. You've made me feel welcome in your lovely home. If I didn't have a husband to take care of back home, I would stay longer. I hope you will allow me to reciprocate on your next visit to Atlanta. You've spoiled me, Kurt. By the way, I've think I've talked Clay into staying on here with you until he's well."

"I'm glad to hear that; Clay can be headstrong sometimes," Kurt said.

Mrs. Grayson chuckled, "Oh, you noticed? I don't know how much Clay has told you about himself, but he's like his father. Clay has been through a lot in the past several years. For a while there I was worried that he might not ever be cured. It took him a long time to recover. Clay is one of those people who have complete control over their emotions. That's why we never suspected that he was headed for a major breakdown. Outwardly, he appeared unperturbed and upbeat, never realizing he was a volcano about to erupt. He's made a miraculous recovery since he was released from the sanatorium. He appears to be happy and content now, even though he has not fully recovered from his accident. Mentally he is back to normal. I can see it in the way he reacts with your children. Clay loves children and they respond in kind."

"Clay is a wonderful person and I couldn't be happier for him. I wanted you to know how thankful I am that you were around when this happened. I hate to think what could have happened if you had not acted as quickly as you did. I know your life has not been a bed of roses either. It's not easy losing a wife and a brother within two years of each other. I certainly admire your strength."

"You're right, it has not been easy, but things have a way of working themselves out in life. The children and I have adjusted to their motherís death. My brother's death came as a terrible shock and was so unexpected. Yet, something good has turned out of this tragedy after all. I found a new friend. Oddly enough, I feel I've known him all my life. It's really quite remarkable the way Clay and I hit it off from that very first day. I don't think I would have gotten through that mess without his help. I would never want to experience that again. We all were in a state of shock when the police greeted us at the airport with the news of Freddie's murder.

"I would like you and your husband to come and visit as often as you wish. We would all love to see you again," Kurt said.

"Thank you for the open invitation, and I promise you we shall return. Well, thank you for your time. I have some last minute packing to do and I want to say goodnight to Clay. He'll be asleep when I leave tomorrow morning. I'll see you in the morning, Kurt."

"Good night, Mrs. Grayson."

Two Months Later

Clay regained the feeling in both legs. His workouts in the pool three times a day were helping with his coordination. The swelling in his face and jaw had disappeared and his scars had faded. Kurt joined him for lunch every day on the patio when he was not traveling.

"Do you feel strong enough to have dinner at Don Carlo's tonight?" Kurt asked.

"Absolutely," Clay said. "What's the occasion?"

Kurt smiled, "It's no occasion, we haven't been out in ages and I want to show off my handsome lover. I've missed you, Clay. I'm sorry I was gone so long. Did you miss me?"

Clay laughed, "Of course, I missed you."

"That's comforting to know," Kurt said. "Dare I hope there may be light at the end of the tunnel for me?

"Don't start," Clay said.

"I need to make these extended trips quarterly. Looks like I'll be going to Florida again in two weeks, but I won't be away more than a few days this time. I've never seen you look so fit. You're downright gorgeous. I want to take you with me on my next trip. I think youíre strong enough to travel now."

Clay smiled, "As much as I would like that, Kurt, I really have to get back home. The doctor said I would be well enough to leave next month. I can't stay here indefinitely, Kurt."

"Let's talk about that later. Do you think you can be ready by five this afternoon?"

"Sure, I'll push my session up an hour with the therapist; I'll be ready."

"Good, this will give me some time with the children," Kurt said.

Don Carlo's

They were seated at Kurt's special table on the patio enjoying their wine.

"Don't plan to go horseback riding tomorrow," Kurt said, "Remember what happened the last time we had dinner here?"

"You had to remind me?"

"Do you feel like telling me about Randy?" Kurt asked.

Clay smiled, "It's funny you should bring up Randy, he has been in my mind for the last several days. You must be reading my mind. What would you like to know?"

"Everything, what was he like, what did he look like? Tell me everything you remember about him."

♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦

"I met Randy the day I arrived at Yale. We were assigned to the same dorm room. I guess we both knew after that first day that we were compatible. Randy was a clean cut, straight-arrow kind of guy. He was a remarkable man and the most charming outgoing person I've ever met. You are a lot alike. He was an intelligent, well-educated man. He had a smile and personality that would charm the birds out of the trees. His family lived in Greenwich, Connecticut and was from a conservative old-line New England family.

"Randy was really handsome. He was over six-foot tall, with thick reddish-brown hair which he always wore parted in the middle. Not many guys could wear their hair like that, but it looked good on Randy. I learned later on that he had it styled by one of those exclusive salons in Manhattan. Randy was into sports in a big way. This fanatic involvement in sports had a lot to do with the death of his twin brother, Garth, who died of cancer four years before we met. On the rare occasion he talked about Garth, he became choked up and quite emotional. I was shocked when he told me he had wished that he had died with him. He was convinced that it was only a matter of time before he would join Garth. This was the reason for his physical fitness programs. He hoped he would have a increased chance of bettering his odds.

"As I said, we became instant friends from the beginning. We became the joke around campus. If you saw one of us, the other was close behind. It was true, but in a good way. It wasn't something we consciously planned, it just happened. We laughed about it more than our classmates. We spent all of our time-off and holidays together. I don't remember a vacation when we weren't together. Randy's folks were super people, although they looked old enough to be his grandparents. I learned later that Randy and Garth came as a happy, yet unexpected, surprise to his parents. They were told that they could never have children and had given up. They were into their late thirties when their sons came along, proving the point that their doctors were wrong.

"After we became fast friends, Randy took me along on his trips to Manhattan. On those, and on many other occasions, his folks took us out on the town. I think I saw every show and every performance at Lincoln Center and on Broadway during our college years.

"Randy's parents owned a large and elegant apartment in a high rise building in the mid-60's right on Fifth Avenue facing Central Park. Coming as I did from Atlanta, I was completely in the dark about New York City real estate. I had no idea of what was considered the better areas of Midtown Manhattan. To me, all the high-rise apartment buildings in Midtown Manhattan looked great. New York City was incredible and bigger than life. It wasn't until years later that I realized what apartments sold for on Fifth Avenue. The decor and security should have given me a clue. My parents' home was furnished with antiques, so I was aware of the value of the furnishing in the Lodge's apartment.

"At eighteen, I was more impressed by the way Randy was able to maneuver his way through the heavy traffic and congested streets. I've never seen such aggressive drivers. They cut Randy off without warning and were absolutely, downright rude. But, old Randy was a match for them. We'd arrive in town on Friday afternoon to spend the weekend at his folks' and then drive back to Yale after Sunday brunch. Those were great times. Sometimes his mom arranged dates for us with debutantes, or the daughters of their social set. Naturally, Randy's dad insisted on paying for everything.

"The Lodges were globetrotters who would take off to visit their friends all over the world. It wasn't unusual for his folks to send a pair of airline tickets to us to fly to wherever they happened to be at the time. At first, I felt uncomfortable accepting these gratuities until Randy sat me down and explained the facts of life to me. Beside which, he made it clear he wouldn't go unless I went with him. After that, I went along with the program.

"It wasn't until I was invited to his folks' anniversary party at their estate in Greenwich that I realized what Randy meant when he said his folks were comfortable. That was the biggest understatement he ever made. Their estate in Greenwich makes Fred's place look like a cottage by comparison. It took Randy the better part of a day to show me everything on that estate. That's how big the place was. It was beautiful. The artwork alone was priceless. The household staff was larger than at some hotels.

"As I said before, Randy did say his parents were comfortable, but that estate just blew my mind. The odd thing was that Randy enjoyed spending the holidays and vacations with me and my family more than he did in the family mansion. He adored my parents because he said they treated him like one of the family. He liked the idea of pitching in with the chores like the rest of the family. He told me he liked that better than being waited on in his own home.

"The years flew by for us. After graduation, we shared an apartment together in midtown Manhattan. Randy's dad found us a newly renovated brownstone on Madison Avenue and 62nd Street. I later learned that it happened to be one of the most desirable areas in midtown. Oddly enough, it was only two blocks from his parents' building. The only expenses we had to pay for were the utilities. Because of my high marks, my application for internship was accepted at Columbia University Medical School. Randy studied for his MBA at Columbia as well. Every night we worked out at his father's club.

"During our third year in Manhattan, I began to notice that Randy was slowing down in our workout sessions. He couldnít understand why. One Friday I was in the middle of dressing for our evening out, when Randy came into my room in his shorts. He sat on my bed and said he would have to beg off from our double date because he was too tired to make it through the evening. I called our dates and canceled. I was becoming very concerned at this point. This was not like Randy at all. I changed into my casual clothes and examined him. He was running a temperature.

"It didn't take long to realize that he was a sick puppy. His lymph nodes were swollen.

"I called my Chief, Dr. Hartley, and told him I did not want to take Randy to our emergency room. I asked him to recommend a good private hospital for Randy. I was not going to have him waiting around for two hours before he was examined. Dr. Hartley told me to take him to the Park Side Hospital and he would meet us there.

"When we arrived, Dr. Hartley was waiting for us. He ushered us into an examining room where a Dr. Loader was waiting for us. Dr. Hartley examined Randy and asked Dr. Loader to do a complete work-up on Randy. He drew two vials of blood and took them to the lab. Dr. Hartley and I headed to the lab with the samples. The lab promised to rush the test through. We were seated in the lounge when Randy walked in and sat down. Dr. Loader returned with the x-rays and a stack of papers. He said Randy would need further testing and arranged to have him admitted that night. The following day they did a bone marrow test and PET scan. We were put into a semi-private room and I spent the night with Randy.

"I'll never forget the scared look on Randy's face that night. When we were alone, he broke down. I tried to reassure him that the tests were necessary and it could be nothing more than a viral infection. The doctors would not know for sure for a few days. I undressed and climbed into bed with him and held him in my arms until the pills took effect and he drifted off to sleep.

"I woke up the next morning with him still in my arms, sleeping like a little boy. For the first time in all the years I'd known him, I had this gut feeling that Randy was not going to make it. I also realized that I was in love with Randy. I kissed him on the head and lips and held him in my arms until he woke up a few hours later. That afternoon I met with Dr. Loader. All the tests showed that Randy had Acute Leukemia. Dr. Loader felt that it would be best if I broke the news to Randy and he would stop by later that afternoon to talk to Randy and his parents and to go over the treatment plan.

"Randy's folks were visiting him when I arrived. We sat and chatted for a while until the nurse told his parents that afternoon visiting hours were over. After his folks left, I told Randy what Dr. Loader had said about his malady. I explained the treatment program he was to undergo and the positive outlook regarding his recovery. The only question he asked was how long did he have? That was a question that was impossible for me, or any doctor, to answer. I could see the frightened look on his face. I told him that everything depended on how he responded to the chemotherapy and his recuperative powers. But, Randy still wanted numbers. I gave him the worst case scenario of two years up to twenty years or longer.

"That was the second time I saw him break down. It was a real downer. I thought he would never stop crying. I crawled into bed with him and took him in my arms. We both had a good cry. Finally, Randy calmed down and stopped sobbing. I straightened up his pillows and dried his tears and took him in my arms again and rubbed his back. We didn't speak for a long time. I kissed him on the forehead and told him everything was going to be fine, that I was there for him, and would stay by his side until he beat the cancer. He rose up on his elbow and stared into my eyes."

"'I love you, Clay,' he said, and kissed me on the lips.

"It took me a few seconds to react. Somehow, I was not surprised. I stared back into his eyes and could see the love there. I could not take my eyes from his beautiful face. It was as if I were hypnotized by this wonderful man. I reached up and took his head in my hands and pulled his lips to mine and kissed him for a long time. I pushed him back until I could look into his eyes and said, 'I love you, Randy.'

"We lay in each other's arms afterward and felt the warmth of each other's body. The next thing I remembered was waking with Randy's parents sitting on the opposite sides of the bed smiling at us.

"Randy opened his eyes and smiled at his parents. He kissed me on the cheek and apologized for breaking down. He was very calm and completely relaxed, acting as if nothing was amiss. He pushed the button and raised the bed up so we were in an upright position. When I tried to release him in order to stand, Randy tightened his grip on me and took my hand. Randy calmly told his parents about his cancer and that we were in love with each other.

"His parents were not fazed by this at all. They took it matter-of-factly and smiled at us.

"'Don't look so shocked, Clay,' Mr. Lodge said. 'We've known for some time what you two felt for each other. It just took an incident like this to make you realize just how much you cared for each other. While you were sleeping, Dr. Loader came by and told us all about Randy's condition. He said he would be in to see you both tomorrow morning to go over your treatment schedule. He also informed the nursing staff that you were to remain with Randy. The nurse said she would be back after dinner to get you set for the evening.'

"His mother chuckled; 'Your father and I guessed it would only be a matter of time before you two figured it out yourselves.'

"Randy stayed in the hospital for a month while he took the treatments. He continued with his Masters Studies at Columbia while I was winding up my last three months of Internship at Bellevue.

"His dad took his illness much more seriously than I expected. He called me several times a week to talk about Randy's condition. There was not much I could tell him, other than he was responding to the treatments. Deep down, I felt he knew that. It was more a matter of trying to convince himself that the same disease would not rob him of his second son. Those conversations were tearing me apart. Randy was my best friend and my lover and I was trying to put those same fears out of my own mind. The pressure was starting to affect my work and my studies.

"With less than two months to go for my boards, I needed a clear head to bone-up for my exams. I hated to do it, but I leveled with Mr. Lodge and explained to him the pressure he was putting on my shoulders and asked him to speak to Dr. Loader directly.

"After that conversation, when he did call, he never brought up Randy's medical condition again. I continued to bring Randy's class notes from his teachers and would study with him for hours calling it quits after ten o'clock every night. He usually fell asleep around eight and was in a deep sleep when I left for the night. I really felt sorry for the guy because he was a light sleeper and woke up every time he heard voices outside his room. I solved that problem my packing cotton balls in his ears. After that he slept like a log until the next morning.

"We were able to stabilize Randy's condition with medication and blood transfusions. He was also seeing a shrink every day to help him deal with his mental attitude. After three weeks in the hospital, he was back to normal and well enough to move back to the apartment. A few days before Randy was to leave the hospital, I received a call from his dad asking me to join him for lunch. I met him at the Princeton Club the following day. Mr. Lodge was in good spirits. Randy was responding well to his treatments. He thanked me for being so supportive and for spending every night with Randy. It was then that he made me the most extraordinary proposition, and one that was to completely change my life ever after.

"Mr. Lodge asked me to postpone my going into a practice for a year. He wanted Randy and me to take a year off after graduation and tour the world. If I agreed, he would pay me a salary equal to what I would earn as a doctor for that year. In addition, he would finance the cost to set me up in my own practice after I returned. He said we both worked hard to receive our degrees and we could consider this as our wedding gift. He hoped with all his heart that Randy was in remission and would live a normal life in the future. But, he thought that this would build up Randy's strength and give us the time we should have together. Randy was his only child now and he would spend every penny he had if he had to, to keep him alive and happy.

"'My wife and I love you as a son and we are happy for you and Randy. You see, Clay, Randy would never make this trip without you. But he will go if you agree to join him. Not only would you both have a great time, but you'll be there to keep an eye on Randy. I've been planning this trip for three weeks now and my travel agent has already begun to book your reservations.

"'This will be a first class trip in every way. Not only will you be flying in our own private jet, you will also have use of our own private yacht. In addition to that, you have an array of fully staffed villas to choose from.

"'The money is of no concerned to me,' Mr. Lodge said. 'You and Randy have an unlimited budget and can buy whatever you want. As a token of my appreciation for what you have already done for Randy, I have made arrangements with Mercedes Motor Car Company to have you and Randy each pick out any car of your choice while you are in Germany. The cars are your graduation presents from my wife and me.

"I expressed my shock and amazement and told him that if Randy agreed to his fantastic offer, then ó and ONLY then ó I would be ready to go.

"'Thank you, Clay, that's what I hoped you would say. Why don't you ask Randy, yourself? If Dr. Loader approves, I'll start the wheels turning.'

"I agreed to his request but told him I was going to have a hard time walking on the ground after this. I was so overwhelmed by Mr. Lodge's proposal that I could not sleep a wink that night. I think I finally dozed off around three o'clock. When my alarm woke me early the next morning, I was not a happy camper. Needless to say, I was not at my full powers that day. I was one tired bunny when I walked into Randy's room that afternoon. Randy was amused when he woke me up at ten that night. He was still chuckling over the fact that I fell asleep in the middle of our conversation.

"Naturally, I repeated everything his father told me the night before. I couldn't keep anything like that from Randy; he would have gotten it out of me anyway. We kicked it around for a couple of hours and decided to go for it no matter what Dr. Loader had to say. Randy agreed that he would not let his dad know that I spilled the beans.

"When Randy returned to the townhouse it was like old times again. He was recovering from the ill effects of the leukemia and was gaining weight again. The telephone calls returned to the normal flow of traffic. We settled into our normal routine and spent any free time planning our vacation. Randy kept up with his weekly meetings with the shrink and made arrangements to speak with him every week while we were out of town.

"Dr. Loader thought the trip would be good for Randy as long as I was along to keep an eye on him. Randy's dad told us the good news and we both acted surprised when he presented us with our wedding gift. I really began to feel the love his folks showered on us and felt good inside about our life together. A month later, Randy passed his tests with flying colors and we took off on our honeymoon the week after graduation.

"This was going to be the first time either of us had an extended vacation together. After the second month, we really got into the swing of things. Up to this time we both had worked hard during our internships, I at the hospital, and Randy learning the ropes at his father's brokerage firm.

"Randy kept up with the market every day. He managed his own portfolio and those of some of the key accounts his father assigned him. Randy loved the stock market. He told me how it gave him a rush of excitement when he picked the winners. His track record of success was remarkable and that's what drove him on. Randy's enthusiasm was infectious. Darn if he didn't get me hooked on the market. I let him take the fifteen thousand dollars I had saved, and invest it in the market. With my own money invested, I really took an interest in the market.

"Randy taught me how he researched each company he invested in. He went a step further than just researching the company. He researched the niche market the company was involved in and delved into the background of the men running the company. He spent many days investigating each stock before he invested. The process was time consuming, but his diligence paid off. Randy gave me three companies in the medical field to research. One was a pharmaceutical company and the other two were medical equipment companies. I really got involved in the work, to the point that I was spending several hours every day, until my survey was completed.

"Randy stopped my moonlighting after he found me up in the middle of the night working at his computer. The next morning he purchased me a laptop and we agreed that we would work a maximum of five hours a day. Nothing was going to interfere with our quality time. Frankly, I was becoming restless and needed a change of scenery. We decided to pull up stakes in South America and move on to Ireland.

"I don't know if it was the colder weather, or something in the food, but Randy picked up a virus and had to be hospitalized. He was only confined to the hospital for a week this time. It was at this point I decided to get him out of Ireland and into a warmer climate. We settled on the Riviera.

"One thing I found disturbing about Randy's condition. He was not gaining back the weight he lost since that viral infection in Ireland. When I weighed him before we left Ireland, he had lost another pound. That in itself was not serious, but, I decided to make a concerted effort to build him back to where he was before this all started. I told Randy of my intentions and he offered no objections. I began giving him massive doses of vitamins and placed him on a high protein diet. I checked his vital signs every day after that. His condition began improving after three weeks and soon he was back to normal again.

"Our love life was beautiful. It was perfect from the very beginning and only grew more satisfying as time passed. I never experienced true love until I met Randy. He was the most sensual and ardent lover, and I will love him from now throughout eternity.

"Randy was lying on his bed as I examined him early one evening. I was really pleased with his progress and also by the fact that he became aroused by my examination. I loved to touch his beautiful body. He became aroused as I undressed and lay next to him. I caressed him and kissed him tenderly.

"He returned my kisses and told me how much he loved me and how his feeling first began. He told me that he had fallen in love with me in our first year at Yale. The only reason he doubled dated with me was so he could be close to me without arousing my suspicions. He felt the charade wouldn't hurt me and it was a small price for him to pay to keep me as his roommate. He felt it important that I know how much I meant to him. Randy told me that I had made him happy and his life was enriched because of me. He did not feel that most married couples could make the same statement.

"The trip revealed a hidden part of Randy I never knew. It was a beautiful time for both of us. Randy was open and had a keen sense of humor. We talked for hours about our dreams and what we wanted to accomplish in the future. He revealed a secret part of his life that was quite surprising. He was a complex young man with an intellect far superior to mine. I would sit for hours enthralled by his grasp of business and his theory on how to push the Lodge Company to greater heights. He promised to teach me everything he knew about the market and to show me how to invest my money wisely."

"It wasn't long after that he finally spoke of his brother. He had never spoken of Garth; that was a closed book. I understood why, after he explained their unique relationship. Garth and Randy were more than just brothers, they were lovers. He told me about the loving relationship they shared as young boys. They were very clever in hiding their relationship from their parents and everyone else."

"Randy and Garth were identical twins. It was almost impossible to tell them apart. Randy told me how they used that identity to their advantage to find other boys who were also gay. They called it watch the watchers. One of them would go about his normal business while the other brother scanned the field to see if any other boy showed any interest. Once they found a boy they liked they took him to bed for sex. They made one firm rule, and that was never to fool around in Greenwich.

"Unlike Randy, I was never exposed to male sex while I was in grammar school. The boys in my school never discussed homosexuality and it was something my parents never discussed until I was in high school. I was more interested in girls at that age. Dad sat me down early on and told me the facts of life and about being responsible for my actions. He stressed the dire consequences for getting a girl pregnant. Dad grimly spelled out my options. It other words don't screw around."

♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦

"Didn't you have sex with other boys when you were younger?" Kurt asked.

"Sure, lots of us did, mostly with old friends, but never with my classmates. We got together and masturbated on weekends or by ourselves. But, nothing more than that," Clay said.

Kurt smiled, "I'm sorry to interrupt your story, but I think they would like us to leave."

Clay looked around and they were the last two in the restaurant. "Why didn't you say something, Kurt? This is embarrassing."

"To be honest, I was so engrossed in your story I didn't want you to stop. Promise you will continue the story after we leave?"

"Don't worry, I will."

Kurt paid the bill and left a generous tip. The waiter was all smiles as they left.

Kurt pulled on the highway and headed back to his estate.

"My God, it's ten-thirty," Clay said. "I should be in bed by eleven."

Kurt chuckled, "I think you can stay up one night don't you? I'll let you sleep in the morning, how about that?"

"Oh, thank you, Patron, you're so kind."

Kurt laughed heartily, "Anything for you, my love."

When they were comfortably settled in the car, Kurt asked, "Feel like finishing your story?"

"There is not much more to tell," Clay said.

♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦ 

"Our next stop was Rome. We were both anxious to spend time in Italy. Randy made arrangements with the captain of our yacht to shove off the following afternoon. However, the captain postponed our departure due to the weather conditions. That was fine with me. Anyway, I wouldn't want to get caught in a bad storm on any ship on the open sea, and particularly not with Randy. He is terrified of lighting. We had plenty of time; one more day was not a problem.

"After an early dinner in town we returned to our villa. The captain was right. By the time we reached the villa the weather turned ugly. We had our nightcap and turned in early. I was sound asleep when I heard this loud crash of thunder overhead. At first I thought the house had been hit. Our villa sat on the top of a hill and the thunder sounded much worse than it was. I'll admit I'm not too fond of lightning myself.

"Randy was gone. I jumped out of bed and closed the French doors to the patio. That's when I noticed the emergency lights had switched on. I tried the light switch and realized the power was off. I walked down the hall to search for Randy. I checked in the second master suite. The windows were open and the rain was blowing in. I closed the windows. That's when I saw that Randy was curled up in a ball with a pillow over his head. He was shaking like a frightened rabbit. I crawled in bed with him and pulled the pillow off his head and took him in my arms. I thought he was going to crush me. He buried his head into my neck and held on for dear life. I pulled him into my arms and pulled the covers over us and rubbed his back until he stopped trembling.

"I remember that the storm raged for over an hour before it slowly moved away from us. Randy lifted his head and kissed me, gently at first, then more passionately. He was naked and he reached under the covers and removed my briefs. He rolled on top of me. I could feel his erection slip between my legs. He kept telling me how much he loved me and how much he wanted to feel me deep inside him.

"We make love that night in ways I never dreamed of and fell asleep shortly before dawn. It was the most beautiful and satisfying night I ever experienced. I also lost my virginity that night and it felt for the first time that Randy and I were one. Randy turned out to be the perfect lover. He enriched my life and I will never regret a moment of the wonderful life and love we shared together. He was the perfect spouse and friend. I finally realized that I had been in love with him for six years. I'm thankful that I was able to make him happy for the last two years of his life. That is all he ever wanted from me.

"Randy was the one who introduced me to Janet. He encouraged me to date her. I know this sounds bizarre, but it seemed perfectly natural at the time. Janet and Randy were good friends and she liked spending time with us. She knew how close Randy and I were and understood the reason why I had to stay with him at the time. Towards the end, Randy was spending most of his time in bed. He was receiving blood transfusions on a regular basis. His doctors were trying out some new miracle drugs that showed promise. He even started to regain some of his strength back.

"Then, bang, one afternoon we rushed him to the hospital. He was bleeding internally and they couldn't stop the bleeding for almost twenty-four hours. That's when they discovered he had developed cancer of the liver. There was nothing they could do for him at that point other than make him comfortable. We cried together for a long time after learning the news. I never suffered such pain in my life before. I was a doctor, yet I couldn't believe God would take Randy from me; it was so unfair after all he had suffered. Where was the justice in this life?

"I slept with him in his hospital suite from then on. His final days were very peaceful. The day he died, his parents came in to say their last good-bye and then left us alone. We talked about silly things. He asked me to lie next to him and hold him. I told him that I could never love anyone as much as I loved him. He asked me to always keep him in my heart and to never forget him. He made me promise to marry Janet and start a family and name my son after him. He told me he did not want to leave me now, but we would be together forever in eternity. He said he had Garth to keep him company until I joined him. He leaned up and we kissed. That was his last gesture in this life. He had died in my arms.

"I don't know how long I held him. I felt empty and lost. You know I couldn't cry. His dad came in the darkened room and stood over us. He kissed his son on the forehead, and then me. He didn't say a word; he took my hand and helped me up. I covered Randy and we left the room.

"I was completely wiped out. How are you supposed to act when the most important person in your life no longer exists? The light of my life was gone.

"Mr. Lodge stopped by the next day. He began talking about his son.

"'Randy took Garth's death very hard. He withdrew into himself and didnít eat or speak for weeks after we buried Garth. My wife and I became worried and called in a specialist. Randy was in a deep state of depression and had to be confined to a sanatorium. It wasn't until nearly three months later that he began to come out of his deep depression. That was when he told me that his love for Garth went further than a love for a brother, that he and Garth were lovers. Of course, I was shocked. There was never any indication that they were gay. It took me some time to adjust to this. Randy had told the doctors that he did not want to go on living now that his other half was gone. He wanted to join him. Randy stayed in the sanatorium for another three months and stayed in therapy for two more years after that. Sometime later, after he was in private school, he apologized for not being able to give us grandchildren.'

"'In his first year in Yale he met you. He was, again, like the son I knew when Garth was alive. You know the rest.'

"'Then this leukemia disease hit him. Naturally, he took it badly. He saw his brother die of cancer and hated to watch him waste away. You know it was Randy who decided on the vacation trip. He knew that once you received your certification, you would be out of his life. He wanted to spend one more year with you. Janet had told him that she intended to marry you come hell or high water. Randy knew, no matter what the doctors said, that he would not live long. He said there were so many things he wanted to do in his life, but that's true of us all. He told me he had accomplished the one thing he wanted in this life. That was to become your lover. He never thought that would ever happen. He said a man's life is incomplete unless he falls in love and is loved in return. He was lucky, he had two lovers. Naturally, he didn't want to die, but he felt he crowded more happiness into the last eight years of his life that most people have in a lifetime. He asked me to encourage you to marry Janet and raise a family.'

"'I knew you and my son were like brothers and Randy was happy that you and he became lovers. Randy asked me to take you into the firm and see that you stuck with it. His last wish was that I train you in my business, because you are a natural.'

"'Clay, I'm offering you a partnership in the company. I want you to take over Randy's office. You don't have to give me your answer right away; I want you to think about it and let me know later. I love you like a son and I want you to stay in our lives.'

"Then the flood gates opened for the first time since Randy died. I must have cried for a couple of hours. My throat and lungs were so sore I could not speak. Father Lodge stayed with me the entire time. I finally took a sleeping pill and slept straight through for twenty-four hours."

"Randy was buried three days later and I took up my position as a junior partner with the Lodge Company. I had had a good teacher in Randy, but his father was brilliant. But that's another long story. About a month after Randy's funeral, I received a letter from a Mr. Ellis, of Ellis, Dowd, and Miller, Attorneys at Law, asking me to contact him regarding Randy's will. I met with Mr. Ellis the following morning."

"Life was full of surprises. Randy had left me the brownstone on Madison Avenue. He never told me he owned the building until I saw the deed. He left me two million dollars in cash and his stock portfolio worth over ten million dollars. I almost passed out on the spot. The lawyer told me not to lose any time in seeing a good tax lawyer. Naturally, I talked to my father-in-law right away. He smiled and told me that he was sorry that he didn't tell me about the will before. But, he thought that it would be better coming from the lawyer."

♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦

"Well," said Clay, "that's what happened."

"God, what a sad story," Kurt said, "It is tragic that a wonderful man like that had to die so young."

"You would have liked Randy, everyone did; he was that kind of a person."

"Well, now you know about Randy," Clay said. "You are the first person I ever told about my relationship with him. I've never told my parents or Janet about my true relationship with Randy, or of my inheritance. I will tell you, though, Randy was with me through those bad days in the sanatorium. It was his love that pulled me through."

"Interesting," Kurt said. "How soon after Randy's death did you marry Janet?"

"Janet and I were married six months after Randy died. She was three months pregnant with our first child at the time."

"Randy was right on that score," Kurt said. "Did Janet have any idea what was going on between you and Randy?"

"If she did, she never mentioned it. She had her cap set for me and she got what she wanted. She knew how close we were and was smart enough not to push the envelope while Randy was so sick. I will say she was there for me and helped me through a difficult time. Don't forget, she and Randy were close for many years before I came into the scene."

"Did you love Janet?" Kurt asked.

"Not in the way I loved Randy. In my own way, I think I did. At that point I wanted a normal family life with children. Maybe if Janet and I tried a little harder we could have made our marriage work. It's hard to say. I certainly don't blame her for our breakup; I take responsibility for that. At the time, I was working seventy hours a week and traveling around with a fast crowd. That's when I got hooked on drugs. It's not a pretty story. I let a lot of people down. Now, I'm back to normal again, and with the help of God, I'm going to stay that way."

"I pray that you do," Kurt said. "You were smart to stay away from Freddie's crowd."

They pulled into the garage and walked directly to their bedroom suite. Kurt called security and told them to lock up for the night.

Clay walked into his own bedroom and undressed for bed. He brushed his teeth and climbed into bed. Kurt walked in a few minutes later clad only in his shorts and sat next to Clay on the bed.

He took Clay in his arms and kissed him.

"Thank you for the wonderful evening, my love," Kurt said. "I'm sorry I've keep you up so late. You get a good night sleep, baby, and I'll see you in the morning."

"Thank you, Kurt; you're a great guy. If it's any consolation, I'm going to miss you."

"Good night; sweet dreams," Kurt said, as he was leaving.


Chapter Nine

The telephone woke Clay up out of a sound sleep. He turned on the bedside lamp and answered the phone. It was the answering service.

"Sorry to wake you, Dr. Grayson, but the man on the line said he must speak to you, that it was an emergency. His name is Kendal, and he's Mr. Lodge's attorney."

"That's all right; you did the right thing, put him through," Clay said.

"Dr. Grayson, I'm sorry to wake you up in the middle of the night, but I had no choice. I'm Mark Kendal, the attorney handling the estate of the Randal Lodge."

Clay was still a little groggy, he glanced at the clock, and it read three o'clock.

"I don't understand, Mr. Kendal, why is it so important to call me this early in the morning to discuss Randy's estate. He's been dead for over seven years."

"I'm calling about Mr. Randal Lodge, Senior, Dr. Grayson. I regret to inform you that both Mr. and Mrs. Lodge were killed in an automobile accident two days ago. It had taken me this long to find you."

"Oh my God! This is quite a shock. I only spoke to Father Lodge last week. I was expecting them down here next week."

"I hate to press you, Doctor, but our hands are tied until you return. You are named executor of their estate and we cannot proceed without your approval. We would like to make the funeral arrangements."

"By all means, Mark, please go ahead with the arrangements. I'll be leaving as soon as I can make flight arrangements."

Clay jotted down the phone numbers that Mark Kendal gave him.

"I'll leave a message with your service when I take off. I plan to hire a private jet. I don't think there are any commercial flights out of here in two hours. I'll fly directly into White Plains Airport. It's a short drive to Greenwich. In any event, it would be helpful if we can meet at the Lodge estate later today."

"Thank you, Doctor; I'll call the house and have the chauffeur stand by for your call."

"Good, I'll talk to you later today."

Kurt had walked in and sat next to Clay while he was on the telephone.

"What's up, baby?"

"Randy's folks were killed in an auto accident. That was their lawyer on the phone. I've been appointed executor of their estate and I'm needed in Greenwich as soon as possible. I'll be leaving as soon as I can hire a plane."

"How long will you be gone?"

"I don't know at this point; I'll let you know after I meet with Mark Kendal."

"I'm going to miss you, baby," Kurt said.

"I know, Kurt. Should the truth be known, I'm not that keen on leaving myself. The doctor told me that I needed another month of therapy. I'm not looking forward to this tragedy in Connecticut. God, what a sad history of woe this family has suffered. They are the last link to Randy."

"Do you know if the Lodges had any relatives?" Kurt asked.

"The Lodges never mentioned any, if they did have. I vaguely recall Randy mentioning aunts, but I never met them. He never talked about them much."

"Let me help you pack," Kurt said. "You concentrate on leasing the aircraft."

"Thanks, Kurt. Look, only pack my shaving kit, my suit and two changes of underwear. I'll leave my things here; I plan to be back after this is all over."

Clay hung up the telephone and walked into the dressing room where Kurt was finishing up the packing.

"Well, it's all arranged," Clay said. "The plane will be ready to take off in two hours. Will you stick around until I finish taking my shower? I'd hate to slip on that tile."

Kurt stayed with him while Clay showered and shaved.

"Do you need any help dressing?" Kurt asked.

"No thanks, I've got that down to a science now, you go on and do your thing while I get dressed."

The butler arrived and packed his toilet kit. "I'm sorry you have to leave us so soon, Doctor. We're all going miss you."

"Thank you Antonio, please convey my thanks to the staff for all their help. I'm going to miss you all."

"Yes, sir."

Kurt returned in a few minutes and closed the bedroom door behind him. He took Clay in his arms and held him. He lifted Clay's chin and kissed him on the lips.

"I love you, Clay, and I'm going to miss you. If you need me up there for moral support, don't hesitate to call. Please call me this evening if you have a chance?"

"I will," Clay said. "Please understand, I'm overwhelmed by everything right now, Kurt. My feelings for you have been growing stronger every day and I'm going to need some time to put everything into perspective. You've been wonderful throughout my stay. You've been a warm and caring companion and have become an important person in my life. I feel comfortable and safe in your arms, even more so now with the untimely death of my two dear friends."

Kurt kissed him on the forehead and released him, and led him out to the garage.

"I'm driving you to the airport myself."

The Lodge Estate

The ornamental iron gates swung open as the limousine entered the drive that led to the Lodge manor house. The chauffeur pulled up to the front portico. He opened the car door and helped Clay out of the car. Clay steadied himself with his cane and slowly walked to the front door and rang the bell. The butler opened the door and greeted him.

"Good afternoon, Doctor Grayson, it's good to see you again."

"Thank you, Jeffrey, it has been a long time. It's good to see you again."

"Pardon my asking, sir, did you have an accident?"

"Yes, Jeffrey, a very bad one I'm afraid. I would like you to set up an appointment for me to see a Neurologist and also line up a physical therapist for me. It would be great if you could arrange these appointments for tomorrow."

"Yes, sir, I'll take care of that. Mr. Kendal is waiting for you in the library."

"Thank you, Jeffrey. After Mr. Kendal leaves, I would like to have a chat with you."

"Yes sir."

Clay walked down the hall and into the sitting room.

"Mr. Kendal, I'm Clay Grayson."

They shook hands.

"It was good of you to fly up on such short notice," Mark said. "Your father told me about your accident. I hope the journey didn't put too much of a strain on you?"

"I'm a little wobbly on my legs right now. I felt compelled to be here under the circumstances. Your news came as quite a shock. I'm still not over it yet. I've thought of nothing else since receiving your called this morning. I loved the Lodges very much. We were very close. I will mourn their loss with a heavy heart."

"They felt the same way about you, Doctor Grayson."

"Please call me Clay."

"My firm has handled the Lodges' affairs for many years. My father handled Mr. Lodge's account before me."

"Mark why don't you tell me exactly what is expected of me as executor of the Lodge estate?"

"Fine," Mark said. "Since our conversation this morning, I met with the funeral director and made the preliminary arrangements for the funeral. I had a private viewing of the bodies and thought the funeral director did an excellent job of restoring them. Of course, the decision to have open caskets is up to you. I've pretty much followed the instructions that Mr. Lodge left for just such an eventuality. In fact, I was able to locate the papers that detailed the procedures used for Randy's funeral. All we'll need from you now is the funeral date. Once that has been established the funeral director can make all the necessary arrangements. "

"We've been inundated with telephone sympathy calls from all over the world. The President of Lodge Corporation told me the same story about calls at his end. I think we can expect a large turnout for the church service and then for the internment. Naturally, the internment itself will be in the family mausoleum. I expect you will want to keep that private. Mr. Lodge requested that in lieu of flowers, memorial donations be made to The Lodge Charities. The obituaries will go out as soon as you decide how you want this to be handled."

"What about the Lodge family relatives?" Clay asked.

"Mrs. Lodge's two nieces and one nephew will be attending," Mark said. "Mr. Lodge has been distanced from his family for a long time. I doubt if they will attend anyway. His only living relation is his sister and I understand she is in a sanatorium. His two older brothers died years ago. I've heard he has six nephews and two nieces that he never met."

"The strange thing is they are all beneficiaries in his will. I suppose he had his reasons. Mr. Lodge was very specific about the terms of his will," Mark said. "It stipulated that the will must be executed one week after his death, if he was not succeeded by his wife. Since they both died at the same time, I'm bound by his instructions."

"With your permission, I would like to notify all the beneficiaries that the reading will be this Saturday, if that is agreeable with you?" Mark asked.

"That's fine," Clay said. "Where will that take place?"

"Since there are only a handful of beneficiaries, I thought we could use the library?"

"Good," Clay said. "Tell the funeral director to begin the viewing the day after tomorrow. The church service will be next Friday. The internment will be private. I will talk to the funeral director about that myself. That should allow plenty of time for the people who are coming in from out of town. Ask him if we can stop by tomorrow afternoon for a private viewing."

"Great, I'll have him handle the newspapers. I've asked the Lodge's public relations director to come by tomorrow to field all the condolences calls," Mark said. "The next order of business is for you to sign-off on a stack of invoices we received to date. You'll also need to sign the letter of agreement with the funeral home and for their expenses to date. We should be receiving the estimates from the caterers for the buffet after the church service on Tuesday. We should have a pretty good idea of how many guests will be attending."

"I was wondering how we were going to handle the expenses on this?" Clay said.

"All the expenses are covered by a special escrow account that Mr. Lodge set up for this eventuality. As executor, you are required to approve the disbursements from that account. Don't worry; I will make sure that everything is correct and legal. I represent you as well as the estate."

"That's comforting to know," Clay said. "Do you happen to have a list of the beneficiaries mentioned in the will?"

"As a matter of fact I do," Mark said. He opened his brief case a pulled out a folder and handed it to Clay.

"My goodness it's quite a long list," Clay said. "I see my parents are beneficiaries as well? Do you think the library is large enough to hold all these people?"

"I think so, attendance is not mandatory. Each person will be notified of his or her inheritance by Registered Mail. They will receive their inheritance after the will is probated," Mark said. "Some of the bequeaths are really token amounts."

"Well, you seem to have everything under control," Clay said.

Mark smiled, "That's why you pay me so much money," Mark said. "If you don't mind, I'm going to head back to my office and take care of the matters we discussed. I'll call you tomorrow to confirm our meeting time with the funeral home."

"I appreciate your help, Mark."

Shortly after Mark left, Jeffrey walked into the library.

"Jeffrey, please sit down," Clay said. "It's good to see you again, old friend. You have not changed at all. I was not anxious to come back to this house again after I heard the news. I wanted to remember it the way it was during happier times. With Father and Mother Lodge gone, I've lost all ties with Randy. Is Randy's suite still the same, or have they changed it since the last time I was here?"

"Mister Randy's suite has never been touched since the day he died. Everything is exactly as you remembered it," Jeffrey said.

Clay smiled. "It's as if time stood still in this house. I will stay in Randy's suite while I'm here, Jeffrey."

"I've anticipated that, Mister Clay. Your clothes have already been placed in the dressing room."

"My dressing room?" Clay said.

"Yes, sir; Master Randy told me before he died, that the room was to be yours and it was never to be changed. Master Randy told me all about your relationship a long time ago."

Clay smiled and slowly nodded his head, "I see."

"Both Master Randy and Garth were as fine as they come," Jeffrey said, "and those of us who knew them will always remember them fondly."

"I've made an appointment for you with Doctor Morton tomorrow morning at 9AM," Jeffrey said. "Your physical therapist will be here at eleven o'clock tomorrow."

"Thank you, Jeffrey. I think I would like a chef's salad and a red wine with dinner tonight. I would like for you to arrange to have it served in my sitting room. This has been a long day for me, and I'm exhausted."

"It will be taken care of Mister Clay. Would you like to sit in the whirlpool for a half hour before your dinner?"

"That's exactly what I need at this point," Clay said.

"Come then, Mister Clay, I'll help you undress and help you into the tub," Jeffrey said.


Chapter Ten 

Clay felt much better after he relaxed in the whirlpool. He changed into a lounging suit and poured himself a glass of wine. Jeffrey returned a few minutes later with his dinner.

"Jeffrey, when was the display of photographs added to the bedroom wall?"

"The last time Master Randy was home he had a professional artist mount the photographs and hang them the way he wanted them. I thought he did a great job."

"They are great," Clay said. "It sure beats a family photographic album. It's really a family history in a way. They were a handsome family. Randy and Garth were really beautiful children. I feel flattered that Randy included me in with his family. I never realized how many times we were photographed. Randy was never without a camera. He was quite a creative photographer."

"Mr. Lodge used to sit here by the hour at times just enjoying the pictures. After Master Randy died he came in here every day to view the wall. I knew he cried, because his eyes would be bloodshot when he left on many occasions. Mr. Lodge was never the same after he lost Randy. I know he loved you, Mister Clay, because he was so cheerful when he knew you were coming to visit."

"I know that he was hurting, Jeffrey. I've felt the same way. Everyone who really knew Randy felt the same. He was a beautiful person."

"Yes, sir, he was that."

Clay finished his light supper and call Kurt. Clay could feel that something was troubling Kurt, but knowing Kurt as he did; he attributed his mood to their being separated. Kurt kept the call very light and almost business-like. He spoke as if someone were in the room with him. Kurt said he was going out of town, and it would be better if I could e-mail him as it would be almost impossible to reach him during normal hours. After he hung up Clay plugged in his lap top computer and checked his e-mail. Sure enough, there was an e-mail attachment from Kurt.

My Dearest,

My security chief discovered that my telephone lines are tapped. Security discovered the bug during a routine scan. That prompted them to complete a detailed search of the entire estate. They turned up some very sophisticated listening devices and reported it to our friends at the Office of National Security. He assured us that I was not under investigation by his department and thanked us for turning over the devices to his department. He concluded that these advanced electronic devices could only come from the United States, Europe, or Asia. In exchange for our cooperation, they will give us an electronic jamming device to use that would prevent any future problems. Until this equipment is installed, our conversations must be guarded. You being the creature of habit that you are, I had thought you would have checked your e-mail before calling.

I received a very carefully worded letter from the United States Treasury Department, Special Investigations Office, saying in essence that Freddie is under investigation and that all his assets were frozen until their investigation is completed. I'm at a loss as to what Freddie was up to. All I know is that they asked me to fly up to Washington, DC to meet with them next week. However, before I do that, I plan to hire one of the top legal firms in Washington to look into this matter before sitting down with  your government.

Doesn't it strike you as rather odd that these two unrelated incidents should happen at the same time?

I'm really annoyed that I can't express my true feelings for you over the telephone. I worry about you and miss you terribly, my love. Please try to call, at least I can listen to your voice.

Right now, my plan is to fly up to Greenwich; however, I can't make a move until I hear from my lawyers.

Take care of yourself and try to get plenty of rest.

Along with the children's best wishes and all my love, I am yours faithfully.



My days were busy from morning until night. In addition to my duties greeting the guests at the funeral home, I was working with the public relations staff, and having daily discussions with the executive VP of the Lodge Corporation, at the office in New York. Not to mention my physical therapy sessions twice a day. I was pleased with the arrangement because it didn't leave much time to think about the Lodges. It was comforting to have my parents stay with me. Kurt's evening calls helped me to unwind. I began to realize how much Kurt's friendship meant to me. He was a dear friend even if he did come on a little too strong with his affections.

The incident with his telephone was a blessing in disguise. He had to keep his conversation normal. Of course his e-mail letters were like those of a young man in love. That was easier for me to deal with since I skipped over amorous parts. Of course I knew that once the phones were secure, he would be burning up the lines. I was uncomfortable with him at times. But in a way, I thought it was kind of nice. Kurt was the first person I felt really comfortable with since Randy. After playing this over and over again in my own mind I began to realize that in spite of his ardent display of affection, I realized I was becoming attracted to Kurt.

♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦

Thank God the nightmare is over. Yesterday, after the Lodges were placed in the crypt, I sat alone with the family in the mausoleum. I needed this time with them and my beloved Randy. It was the first time I could cry openly for my dear friends. Their time had come, as it will for me one day. It came as a shock that it happened so suddenly. I never thought they would both go at the same time. It was God's gift that he took them together. This way neither would suffer the loss of the other. Now they have been reunited as a family once again. They were a devoted couple and it's fitting, I think, that they leave this life together.

My duties as executor were coming to an end. The estate will be passed on to someone else. It two hours I will have discharged my obligations to the Lodges and will be free to return home to Florida. Although I'm strongly tempted to take off for Argentina for another two months with Kurt, I must wait until my therapy is completed and the surgeon removes the plastic bridge from under my eye socket. I know the folks were hoping that I'd stop with them in Atlanta for a few weeks, but I just don't feel like having yet another physical therapist to contend with. The therapy session took longer that morning because my leg was acting up due to standing so much in the last several days.

Jeffrey helped me to shower and dress after the therapist left, since I had to be in the library in a few minutes for the reading of the will.

"Well, Jeffrey, it looks like I'll be out of your hair after today," Clay said. "I wonder what's going to happen to this old estate now."

"You're no trouble, Mister Clay, it's like old times having you back again. I guess it's old age, but I keep expecting to see Mister Randy pop in and hurry us along. You know how he was, sir?"

"Yes, only too well, Jeffrey. Don't laugh, but I have the most extraordinary feeling that his spirit has been with me in this room. I felt his presence most strongly yesterday." He held up a small glass vial. "I had the funeral director fill this with Randy's ashes. I plan to have a jeweler create a medal that will hold his ashes so that I can wear it around my neck." Clay smiled, "Now, he will always be with me."

"Jeffrey, I want you to remove the pictures from the wall and send them to my Florida home. They mean much more to me than to the people who will take over this estate."

"I'll take care of that, sir," Jeffrey replied. "I plan to retire as soon as they can find my replacement. I couldn't stay here now, sir. My children and grandchildren are all living in Seattle now and I want to move closer to them. Master Randy's bequeath to me was quite substantial and will allow me to live in comfort for the rest of my life. I think it's time to move on."

"Randy took good care of us all."

"Mister Clay, this will be probably be the last day we will be together and there was always something I wanted to ask you. Was Master Randy telling me the truth when he told me that you were his spouse?"

"Have you ever known Randy to lie, Jeffrey?"

"No sir."

"What Randy told you about us was true."

"But, I don't understand Mister Clay. You married shortly after he died. How is that possible?"

"Oh, I see what you mean" Clay said. "Randy and I had a unique relationship not unlike the one that he shared with Garth. I did not know Randy was a homosexual until he developed cancer. There always had been chemistry between us. The friendship we had, had gone well beyond the bounds of brotherly love, if that is possible to understand. We had a platonic relationship from the beginning. I'm sure you remember how close we were."

"We were all devastated when it was discovered he had Leukemia. When he didn't respond to the chemotherapy as we hoped, he became terrified. I wanted desperately to make him happy for the short time he had left. Something wonderful happened between us that I never thought possible. We become lovers. I've never regretted it for one moment. I was really happy to give him the love he so desperately wanted from me. Randy was a loving person and gave so much of himself. All I can tell you is that he died happy and I will always be thankful for the wonderful years we spent together. I am not bi-sexual, nor am I a homosexual. I have never had any desire to be with another man, either before I knew Randy or since he died. I always wanted to marry and raise a family. Randy knew this and insisted that I marry Janet."

"Mister Randy was as close to a saint as we will ever know," Jeffrey said. "He told me he was in love with you and that nothing would ever happen between you. I asked him why he didnít find a lover who would return his affection. He smiled in that way he had and told me that you were the only person he could ever love, and what he felt for you was better than living with someone else."

"I hope you will send me your new address when you get settled in Seattle," Clay said. "You and I have been through a lot over the years with the Lodge family. I would like to keep in touch for old time's sake."

"I would like that, Mister Clay. I've sent a maid into your parents' suite to help them pack. I'll see that your bags are packed after your meeting."

"Many thanks, Jeffrey. We may as well go down together; the staff and guests should be assembled in the library by now."

The library was full. Clay made his way to the front of the room and sat in a chair next to his mother and father.

Mark was seated behind a large mahogany desk with a stack of folders neatly arranged in front of him.

"May I have your attention please," Mark said. "We are all here for the reading of the Last Will and Testament for the Estate of Mr. and Mrs. Randal Lodge. For those of you who have been notified that you are a beneficiary, please see my assistant, Ms. Decker, after the Will has been read. She will give you your copy of the document. This Will is a rather lengthy document as you can imagine. But, in order to speed up these proceedings, Clay Grayson, the executor, has suggested we go right to the distribution of the estate. Before I begin, I would like to point out the most important clause that could affect your inheritance. That clause reads, any beneficiary who contests this will shall be eliminated as a participant."

"That being said, let me proceed. The total estate exceeds well over two billion dollars. The cash distribution is as follows:

   One hundred million dollars to various charities,
   One hundred million dollars to the Yale University Foundation,
   One hundred-fifty million dollars to the Lodge foundation,
   One million dollars each to each of the Lodges' nieces and nephews,
   One million dollars each to Doctor and Mrs. Clayton Grayson, Sr.,
   Five hundred thousand dollars to Jeffrey,
   And five thousand dollars to each of the household staff for each year of service.

"It'll take too much time to time to read the bequests under fifty thousand dollars."

"Now before I proceed, I've been instructed to hand this envelope to Doctor Clay Grayson, Jr."

Mark handed Clay the sealed envelope. Clay opened the envelope and read the letter.

Dear Clay,

You have been like a son to us since you and Randy met at Yale. I understand why Randy loved you so much. You have been a loving son-in-law to us and a loyal spouse to Randy. You were there for Randy and made him very happy right up to the end. You have shared your life and those of your delightful children with us. You made us feel we were not alone and filled our loneliness with happiness. I love you and wish you a long and happy life. I will go to my grave happy in the thought our family home will be in your hands. I know you love the old place as much as I did. We certainly shared a lot of happy times in that house together.

With all our love, Father Lodge.

With tears in his eyes Clay pocketed the letter and nodded to Mark to continue.

"The balance of my estate and all my worldly possessions go to Doctor Clayton Grayson, Jr.," Mark said as he closed the folder. "Ladies and gentlemen that concludes the reading of the Last Will and Testament of Mr. and Mrs. Randal Lodge. Are there any questions?" Mark looked around the room. "Well then, thank you once again for coming and please see Ms. Decker before you leave."

Mark stood and walked over to the Clay.

"Clay, you're as white as a sheet," Mark said. "Come with me, we need to talk in private. Dr. and Mrs. Grayson will you excuse us for an hour, I must speak to Clay? We'll be back in time for lunch."

"Of course," Dr. Grayson said. "We're still in a state of shock ourselves. Clay, are you all right, son?"

"Yes, Dad, we'll meet in the dining room in an hour," Clay said.

Mark led Clay into the study and closed the door behind them.

"You acted quite well under the circumstances, Clay. If I learned I was a billionaire I think I would have flipped."

"I'm too numb to think right now, besides which I'm already a millionaire. Somehow, my becoming a billionaire will complicate my life more. What do you think is going to happen when this information reaches the news media, counselor? I'll be an instant celebrity and will not have any privacy at all. You have no idea of the scary things that went through my mind when you read that will. Now, I'm not free to travel as I did before. I'm also going to need a security team to protect me and my children. Right now my main concern is the Lodge Corporation. It's ironic in a way. I walked away from the firm three years ago, because that business almost destroyed me. Now I'm thrust back into the hot seat again. I still have not recovered from my accident. I'll need at least two more months to recover before I even begin to think of running the Lodge Corporation."

"Calm down, Clay. Don't let your new fortune overwhelm you. Let's put this all in perspective and take one step at a time. First, the company is not going to fall apart if you take three months off," Mark said. "You've been under a lot of stress for the last week, which has not helped. There is no reason for you to rush into anything. Take it easy for the next week until the dust settles. When you're feeling stronger we'll get together again and discuss the business. In the meantime, I'll contact James Hutchinson, the CEO on Monday and tell him to sit tight until you're ready. It may be a good idea to invite him up for the weekend for a get together session. He can brief you on what is going on in New York without any distractions."

"Sounds like a good plan," Clay said. "Mark, one question? Why didn't you tell me that I was to inherit this estate?"

"Believe me, I wanted to, Clay, but Mr. Lodge wanted it done this way. I was only allowed to tell you that you that were a beneficiary. I had to deliver that letter to you before I could proceed."

Clay chuckled, "Father Lodge always had a flair for the dramatic. I want you to read the note, maybe it will explain why he made me his beneficiary."

Mark read the letter and handed it back to Clay.

"That answers a lot of questions I had about Mr. Lodge," Mark said. "I could never quite figure out the relationship you had with the family. When Mr. Lodge referred to you, it was always as a son. You kept Randy alive in his eyes. It was as if you were one and the same person. He spoke of you all the time. I felt I knew you when you walked in here last week and you are exactly as Mr. Lodge described you."

"Did he ever show you the wall of pictures hanging in Randy's suite"" Clay asked.

"No, I've never been beyond the first floor," Mark said.

"I showed you that letter because I wish to retain you as my lawyer," Clay said. "Now that you know about me, you can let me know your decision next week. Come with me, I want you to meet Randy." Clay smiled, "Don't be alarmed, Mark, he is quite a friendly spirit; he won't bother you."

"You're not on anything ... right?" Mark asked.

They took the elevator to the second floor and into Randy's suite. Clay turned on the spotlights over the photographs.

"Take your time. Before you is displayed the most loving family in the world. Jeffrey told me that Father Lodge spent many hours alone in this room. Randy was unique in every way. He was full of life, intelligent, charming, and handsome and the best friend you could ever want. I think that shows through in his photographs."

"Yes, I can see that," Mark said. "What a terrible waste. His life ended before it really began. That large color picture of you two together says it all. Thank you for sharing this."

"Well, I don't know about you, Mark, but I'm starving; how about lunch?"

They joined his parents in the dining room.

"Well, son, what are your plans now?" his father asked.

"It looks like I'm going to stick around here for a while. I'm going to call Janet to see if the kids can join me for a few days. I've leased a plane to take you back to Atlanta this afternoon. If Janet agrees, the kids can fly back on the same plane. They haven't been up here for some time. I think they should become reacquainted."

"Mark and I have had a long chat. My plans are to meet with my CEO next week. After that's all squared away, I'm flying back to Argentina to stay with Kurt for a month or so."

"What do you know about private jets, Mark?" Clay asked.

"Quite a bit," Mark said. "I'm a licensed, instrument-rated pilot and qualified to fly multi-engine prop and jet aircraft."

"Just the man for the job," Clay said. "Think you can find me a jet aircraft and a helicopter?"

"I'd be glad to," Mark said.

"I want to use the helicopter to commute from this estate into New York and the airport. However, before you buy that chopper make sure the town will allow me to land on the front lawn."

Mark chuckled, "Anything else, boss?"

"You might check with James Hutchinson to find out if we can charge off the helicopter to the company. I would also like you to find me a good flight crew. One last thing, I want at least two private sleeping compartments as well as Pullman type seating for ten people in the jet."

"You've got it Clay, anything else?"

"Just a couple of questions before you leave, how do I pay the staff and who takes care of the household accounts?" Clay asked.

"Sorry I forgot to mention that," Mark said. "You have a Management Group that handles everything for you. A Mr. Howell will be calling you Monday to go over the accounts with you. Before I leave today, I'll have you fill out signature cards for the bank. There are some other documents you'll need to fill out for me as well. I'll be filing the papers for the courts next week transfering everything over to you. I'll have fifty million transferred into your account before the close of business Monday. Don't worry; we'll go over everything in detail next week."

"Thanks, Mark, you've been a big help. Call me when you're ready for me to sign those papers. I've have a few calls to make, folks, if you'll excuse me."

Clay found his parents in their bedroom suite after he made his calls.

"Well, it's all arranged folks; your plane awaits you. Janet has agreed to allow the children to visit me this weekend," Clay said. "Mom is there something going on with Janet. She acted down right relived that I was taking the kids. She didn't put up a fuss when I told her I would be keeping them out of school for almost a week."

"Janet has her hands full right now," his mother said. "She is pregnant again and she is having her problems with her new family. According to Andrew, Sue can do no wrong, that's their four year old. She is very spoiled. Mary Anne and Randy are great kids, but there is a little friction building between them and Andrew. I think Janet let this go too far. Now, I feel that she has created a problem that she can't handle. I'm sure the children will tell you all about it."

Jeffrey walked in with the chauffeur to pick up his parents' luggage.

"Well, folks, it looks like you're leaving a lot richer that you came," Clay said. "Now I'll know who to tap if I need a loan."

"Your mother and I are still in a state of shock," his father said. "We just don't understand, Clay. Look at what the Lodges did for you, my God, Clay ... a billionaire, it's hard to believe."

"Well, Dad, you did the right thing sending me to Yale; it really paid-off big time."

"Clay, that's an awful thing to say," his mother said.

"Why, Mom, Randy would agree with me."

His father chuckled, "He would indeed. You know, son, I still miss him, even though it will be nine years next month."

"Before you leave I want you to read this letter that Father Lodge wrote. It may explain the reason for our sudden good fortune."

He handed the envelope to his mother. She read it and handed to his father.

"I see," his mother said. "This day has been full of revelations. I don't think I'm prepared to deal with this right now, Clay." She hugged Clay and kissed him on the cheek, "Let's save this for another time, dear."

His father hugged him. "We must be off now, please stop in Atlanta before you leave for Argentina."

"I will, Dad."

Clay walked with them to the Limo and saw them off. When he returned to the library, Mark was speaking on the telephone. He sat in a chair in front of the desk and waited.

"Clay, are you all right?" Mark asked.

"I'm fine thanks, I was deep in thought, sorry. What did you say?

"Nothing important," Mark said. "Feel up to signing some papers, Doctor?"

Mark handed Clay a folder stuffed with documents.

"Maybe I should have rested before tackling this lot," Clay said.

"Did you really think you were going to become a rich man without some work?" Mark asked. "Sign your legal signature where the red stick-on dots appear, please."

Clay returned the folder to Mark. "Officially, you are now a rich and powerful man. How does it feel?"

"The same as it did before I signed your documents."

"Right, I've already spoken to a friend at Trade-a-Plane," Mark said. "He's faxing me list of some used corporate jets that just came on the market. I'm going to enjoy this assignment. And Clay, I'll be happy to represent you as a client. I'll draw up a letter of agreement to make everything nice-nice. How much of your legal work do you want me to handle?"

"I want you to take charge of all my legal affairs, Mark. At the present time I have three law firms on retainer representing me, one each in New York, Atlanta, and Florida. They are all competent and I have no complaints about their work. You appear to be a bright young tiger, so I want to use you not only as my lawyer, but as my consultant as well. I would expect you to critique my present firms and submit your recommendations. We'll discuss this in detail next week."

"The Atlanta firm handled my corporate account and my divorce. I'm very concerned about my children. My former wife, Janet, married a guy by the name of Andrew Woods. He's nice enough, but my two kids don't like him. That's for starters; Janet and Andrew have started their own family. There is big time friction with all concerned. Susan, a four-year-old, is turning into a spoiled brat. Now, Janet is in a family way again. And guess what? The doctor said its twins. I feel my kids are going to resent the new addition to the family. They know for instance that they own half the house they're living in and that I'm supporting them. You know how jealous children can be. Before the baby came along, they were the favorites. Now their nose is out of joint. I feel the situation is not going to improve."

"The children will be here in a few hours. If you're free for dinner tomorrow, I'd like to have you and your wife join us for dinner. I'd like you to meet my children and draw your own conclusions. One more thing, if this is anything like their last two visits, they won't want to go back to Atlanta. I want you to use that creative mind of yours to see about gaining full custody. My feeling is that Andrew resents the fact that my children own half of the house he is living in. What if...?"

"I can see where you're heading. I'll check with the missus and let you know about dinner tomorrow."

"Good," Clay said. "Well, I'll leave you now. I have to have a chat with Jeffrey to see what his plans are now. I want to make sure I still have a staff to run this place. Talk to you later."

Clay took the elevator to his bedroom suite. He rang for Jeffrey and began to change into more casual clothes.

Jeffrey walked into the dressing room and assisted Clay.

"Well, Jeffrey, you can forget about taking down the pictures... how about that Will?"

"I think Mr. Lodge made the right decision, sir."

"We're the only ones left now," I said. "I've decided to make this my home now and I would like you to stay on, Jeffrey, and take care of me."

"Thank you for asking, Mister Clay, I really didn't want to leave. This has been my home for thirty years and I like it here. I'll stay as long as you're satisfied with my service. Seattle is a great place, but this is my home."

"Thanks, Jeffrey, let me know about the rest of the staff. Have the car brought around in two hours; I must meet the children at the airport. Mr. Kendal and his wife will be joining us for dinner tomorrow evening."

"Yes, sir, will you be dining at seven this evening?"

"That will be fine."

Clay placed a call to Kurt and told him about his good fortune, and would e-mail him a long letter this evening.

Randy and Mary Anne were happy to see Clay. They hugged and kissed. They sat on either side of Clay in the back seat on the ride home. Clay was tired after the long day he put in and felt better having them close to him again. Naturally, they asked him a million questions about the Lodges. They had watched one of the new Disney feature movies on the flight up.

After arriving home they went to their rooms and changed into their casual clothes. Clay was waiting for them in the family room.

"Are your rooms all right, kids?" Clay asked.

"Mine is super," Randy said.

"So is mine," Mary Anne said. "The TVs are huge, Dad; are they new?

"I thought you would each like the 48-inch screen. I also ordered a bunch of DVD's for you as well. So you have plenty to choose from."

"Dad, is this really all yours now?" Randy asked.

"Yes, son, this will be my permanent home from now on. It will take some getting used to in the beginning. I'll have Jeffrey take you two on the grand tour tomorrow after breakfast. The Lodges were extremely generous to me and we need to talk about this after dinner. In the meantime let me take you around and introduce you to Jeffrey and the rest of the staff."

After dinner Clay took them into the drawing room.

"Children I want to talk to you briefly about the inheritance the Lodges left me. Your mother told me that I was on the national news last week. It seems that someone leaked the news that I inherited the Lodge Estate. Did your mom mention that to you?"

"Yes. She said you were a wealthy man."

"That's true, Randy. You two are too young to grasp the enormity of this inheritance, but in time you will understand. Because of it, all of our daily lives will change quite dramatically. From now on, you will have your own security detail guarding you at all times. You'll not be able to take off with your friends as you did before. You must be wary of strangers at all times. The security company I've hired will be responsible for your safety twenty-four hours a day. I've arranged a meeting with them tomorrow. They will brief your mother on the program as well."

"I've been avoiding the news media and will continue to do so. So far they don't have a picture of any of us. Your security detail will make sure you're not harassed by zealous photographers or news reporters. I don't want you to feel intimidated by all this, but for your own safety I expect you to cooperate with the security people. I realize this is an unwanted burden on your mother and Andrew, but it can't be avoided. I'm sure that Andrew and your mother are concerned about their own safety as well as yours. I plan to meet with them next week and work this out after the security team has had a chance to talk with them."

"You know I love you both very much and I'm not going to let anything happen to you."

"Dad, Mary Anne and I want to live with you," Randy said. "We are not happy living with Mom and Uncle Andrew. You told us a year ago that things would get better. Well, they haven't, in fact things couldn't be worse. We've really tried to make it work, Dad. Mom said we have to try harder to be more understanding of Sue and more friendly toward Andrew. It hasn't been easy when Sue can do anything she wants and is never punished for the wanton way she trashes our things."

"She is really spoiled rotten. If she decides she wants something she'll grab it from you. If you won't let her have it, she will bite you, or scream until she gets her way. Usually Mom, or Andrew, blames us for antagonizing her. We realize she is young, but she has had her way so long, she's to the point now where she is uncontrollable. Why should we always be in the wrong? That's the reason we refuse to give in to her and that's why we keep to ourselves. Mom accuses us of being antisocial and cutting ourselves off from the family. What's the point of trying if Andrew has a closed mind and Sue's bad behavior continues? Let's face it, Dad, he resents us."

"If Mom won't let us live with you, Mary Anne and I have decided we would prefer to go to a boarding school."

"Is it that bad, Mary Anne?" Clay asked.

"Yes, Dad, we would like to find a coeducational boarding school where we can be together," Mary Anne said. "Randy is lucky; he has managed to be away every afternoon with his piano lessons and school activities. I only have my ballet and piano lessons to keep me busy."

"I'm delighted that you two want to live with me," Clay said. "I'll fly back to Atlanta with you and talk to your mother and Andrew. I want you to put it out of your mind while you're here. Tomorrow, Mark Kendal and his wife will be joining us for dinner. Mark is my personal attorney and will be handling all my affairs from now on. Mark is your attorney also, if you can't reach me and you have a serious problem, you're to call Mark immediately. Any other problems you can discuss with your security team leader or any of his team. Anything you tell Mark will be held in strict confidence. Tell him everything you've told me about your living conditions in Atlanta. You should try to recollect some of the incidents that upset you in the past, before you talk with him tomorrow."

"Dad, would it be okay if we call the von Scharnhorstís?" Randy asked.

"Sure, if you think it's not too late," Clay said.

"Uncle Kurt said it would be all right," Mary Anne said.

"When did you talk to Kurt?" Clay asked.

"Last Sunday," Randy said. "We talk to the von Scharnhorstís every week. Uncle Kurt wants us to fly back with you and spend a week with them. Mom said it would be fine. Uncle Kurt softened her up by sending us a freezer full of prime beef. He also sent us the most beautiful leather coats."

Clay chuckled, "Leave it to Kurt; he's a sweetheart, he knows how to finesse the ladies."

"Uncle Kurt is a super guy," Randy said. "We like him a lot."

"I agree, he's been good to me," Clay said. "You two go on and make your call. I'm really tired; I think I'll turn in early. Don't stay up too late, kids."

He hugged and kissed Randy and Mary Anne and then took the elevator to the second floor. After he showered, he slipped into bed and called Kurt's secure private line.

"The kids are still talking on the other line," Clay said. "My children think you're a super guy. Are you trying to get to me through my children?"

"Absolutely! The question is, am I making any headway?"

Clay laughed, "I think you're racking up those brownie points. When are you planning to be in Washington?"

"Next week, why do you ask?"

"Well, I thought you might like to spend next weekend with me in Connecticut."

"I'll be happy to," Kurt said. "I'll try to wind up my business and fly up to Connecticut Thursday night to make it a long weekend."

"That would be great Kurt, so much has happened since I saw you; I can't believe it's only been two weeks. We have a lot to talk about. I thought I could e-mail you some of my news, but there is just too much, I'd be sitting at the computer for hours. I'm so exhausted at the end of the day; all I want to do is sleep. I'm still not back to normal yet."

"I understand, your health is more important than any e-mail. I'm anxious to see your new home."


Chapter Eleven 

Mark really got into his search for the two aircraft I wanted and acted like a dog with a bone. His good buddy at Trade-a-Plane came up with some remarkable deals. He found a ten-year-old 737 jet in mint condition. Mark called me and made arrangements for us to test fly it to Atlanta.

"Well, what do you think of this baby?" Mark asked.

"She's a beauty. Everything looks brand new. Are you sure they used this plane?"

"She was completely refurbished inside a year ago. This is one of three aircraft a Japanese firm owns. After spending big bucks with the refurbishing they decided they wanted to trade up to a larger aircraft. This plane was the chairmanís personal aircraft before they forced him out. That's why everything is first class. He took his family and his household staff with him on every trip. That's the reason for the plush sleeping quarters. Riley checked out the plane himself and said it's in excellent mechanical condition and has passed FAA inspection."

"Can I purchase it through the company?" Clay asked."

"Yes sir, I've checked that out already."

"Do you think it's a good deal?" Clay asked.

"Yes, sir, but I think I can do a little horse trading and do a little better."

"Go ahead and purchase the aircraft," Clay said. "I trust you to make the best possible deal for me. And, Mark, make sure you get a finder's fee on this sale."

Mark smiled, "I don't know about that Clay, it could be interpreted as a kick back in certain circles."

"Nonsense," Clay said. "This has nothing to do with your role as my attorney. This is a finder's fee for your expertise as an aviator. If it will ease your conscience, have Riley spell it out in the contract. This way everyone is covered."

"You're the boss."

"What are your thoughts after your session with the children yesterday?"

"I don't feel this is a healthy environment for them. You have so much more to offer them. The important consideration now is their well-being and safety. I've talked to the attorneys in Atlanta who handled your divorce. They feel you shouldn't have any problem gaining full custody. They were quick to point out, that your new status won't hurt your case at all. It's obvious, after talking to Mary Anne and Randy, that they would be much happier with you. Everything you have done up to this point has been for the children's sake. Even though you wanted them to come and live with you, you set aside your personal feelings for the sake of what was best for the children. Now that you are a super wealthy man, it is vital for your children's safety that they live with you."

"Incidentally, they're great kids; they are also very bright and well behaved. Who wouldn't be upset with their situation at home?"

"Thanks, Mark, they are very precious to me and I'm very proud of them. They are well adjusted and I don't want their minds screwed up at this stage of their lives. I would never forgive myself if I let them down. They are counting on me now, and I don't plan to let that happen."

"Now, let me tell you how I think this is going to play. Andrew is the key to this puzzle. He's not an overachiever and I have a feeling he can be persuaded to come around to my way of thinking. First thing tomorrow, I want you to make a $500,000 contribution to both the Children's Shelter of Atlanta and the Children's AIDS Foundation of Atlanta. Then get the paperwork ready for transferring the children over to my custody. I think I can persuade Janet to turn the children over to me without a fight. I'm going to offer her the Atlanta home and the Florida property as a gift. In addition, I will continue to pay the monthly maintenance on the both properties since the children will be visiting her on their vacations. Naturally, I'm going to tell them both how the children feel and what they can expect now that they will be expected to have the childrenís security guards under foot. I will also suggest the alterative that the children suggested about a private boarding school. "

"That's a good plan, Clay. I also think your offer is very generous and one that Andrew will jump at."

"That's what I'm counting on, Mark. They are meeting us for dinner tonight. That's when I plan to present my proposal. I'll ask Janet for her answer by the end of the week. If that doesnít work we will fight it out in court. That's one of the reasons I donating the money to Atlanta."

"Sounds like a good plan. I'll get together with your Atlanta firms tomorrow. When are you planning to return to Connecticut?"

"Wednesday afternoon; will that give you enough time to wind up our business here?" Clay asked.

"Unless I run into any serious glitches that should give me enough time. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll get started on buying this aircraft."

"One thing I forgot to ask," Clay said, "Öis, what about a crew for this plane?"

"I'll let you know after I talk to Riley. Oh, by the way, did you want anything special painted on the plane."

"The Lodge logo and the name Randy painted over the Logo. Why don't you have our advertising agency come up with some ideas," Clay said.

"That's a nice touch, Clay."

"I'm changing the name of the company also; it's going to be known as the Randal Grayson Lodge Corporation. He was a great man and didn't have the time to make his mark in the world. Now, he won't be forgotten. I'll be with the kids if you need me."

Mark read over the contract that Riley e-mailed him and called James Hutchinson at home and faxed him a copy of the contract. He went forward to find Clay for his signature. Clay was seated on the lounge, flanked on each side by Mary Anne and Randy with his arm wrapped around each child. They were watching a movie on the large screen. There was no doubt in his mind of the love between these three. He smiled and returned to his cabin. Clay could sign it later. Quality time with his kids was more important.


Clay and Mark were seated in the back of the limo on the way to Clayís  parents' home in Bulkhead they were returning from their meeting with Janet and Andrew.

"Well, counselor, what was your impression? Do you think that they'll accept my offer?" Clay asked.

"I got the impression, watching Andrew, that he'd wanted to rush home and pack the kid's clothes," Mark said.

"I could see him doing that," Clay said. "I could see a sense of relief in Janet's face as well. Knowing Janet, she is going to give this a lot of thought. But, in the end, she will do what's right for the children. I know she was hurt when she learned that the children would rather live in a boarding school then stay at home with her. No parent wants to hear that from her children."

"I think you're right about Andrew. He is going to push Janet on this," Mark said.

"Here we are," Clay said. "Do you want to use the limo tomorrow?"

"No, thank you, I'd rather use a cab," Mark said.

Clay's father and mother were in the den watching TV when they arrived.

"Your answering service tried to reach Mark; they said it's urgent," Doctor Grayson said. "You can use my study to make your call, Mark. Clay, show him where it is."

Clay returned to the den a few minutes later.

"Well, how did it go?" his father asked.

"It's hard to say, but I think it looks good," Clay said.

"I think this would be a good time to talk to you about Randy and me," Clay said.

"You don't have to explain anything to us, son," his mother said.

"Look, Mom, if you feel uncomfortable about this, I'll understand," Clay said.

"No, please go on," his mother said.

Clay closed the door to the den and sat in a chair opposite his folks and told them about his relationship with Randy up to the moment he died.

"How sad," his mother said. "Randy was such a wonderful person. He left you some money didn't he, Clay?"

"Mom, Dad, I've never told you the exact amount, but in addition to my partnership in the firm, Randy left me twelve million dollars."

"You mean you were a multi-millionaire ten years ago and never said a word about it?" his father said.

"The reason I didn't tell anyone was because I felt that I would have to explain my relationship with Randy."

"Did you really love Janet?" his mother asked.

"I loved her in my own way, but I was in love with Randy. I don't expect you to understand this; I didn't understand it myself at the time. But, that is how it was. I wanted to have children and Janet and I were content with each other. I don't blame her for divorcing me. I think she's having a good life with Andrew."

"Do you think you'll marry again?" his mother asked.

"It's hard to say, at this point, Mom. But, definitely not in the way you mean."

"Clay, are you a homosexual?" his father asked.

"Yes, Dad, I finally accepted that fact before I left the hospital. It took a long time, but I'm finally at peace with myself."

"You don't have to answer this question, but I have to ask it," his mother said. "Is Kurt a homosexual?"

Clay smiled, "Yes. But there is nothing between us other than a platonic friendship."

His mother smiled, "I wouldn't be too sure of that," his mother said. "Kurt is in love with you, Clay."

"Bingo," Clay said. "You know I never suspected that he was gay until he came out and told me?"

"When you reach my age, you take the time to observe people," his mother said. "Kurt is a handsome, charming man and hides his feelings well. But, Clay, darling, I've seen the way he looks at you when he lets his guard down. He is crazy about you even if you feel otherwise. I hope you keep him as a friend. I like Kurt very much, and his children are adorable."

"He is a good friend and I know he loves me, Mom. If I wanted to have a relationship, he would make the ideal partner. But I don't know, Mom, you're going to think I'm crazy, but I'm still in love with Randy."

"There is nothing wrong with honoring his memory, Clay. Randy was your first love and your partner. That will always be so. But Life is for the living, Clay. Knowing Randy as I did, he would never have expected you to walk through this life alone. It's unnatural and you're lonely. You need companionship. Kurt is the only person you've been this close to since Randy died. You're a different person with Kurt, like you used to be around Randy.

"I hope you'll give this some serious thought. My feeling is that Janet will let you have the children. You need them as much as they need you now."

"Thanks, Mom; I know you have my best interest at heart. I hope you're right about the kids. Well, thanks for listing; I've had a long day. Thanks for being so understanding. I love you both very much."

He kissed his mother and hugged his dad and left.

Clay called Kurt and chatted for an hour and then turned off the light and fell asleep.

He was up early the next morning and made breakfast for himself and Mark. They were having a cup of coffee when the phone rang. It was Janet. He talked for a few minutes and hung up.

"Janet wants to meet me for coffee at the Ritz," Clay said.

"Interesting," Mark said. "James Hutchinson wants to know if he can meet with you Thursday morning in Connecticut.

"What's this all about?"

"I think his nose is a little out of joint that you're making major decisions in the organization via long distance and not keeping him in the loop."

"I see," Clay said. "I'd feel the same in his position. Tell him I'll meet him in Randal's New York office at eight o'clock, Friday morning. I need to call Florence Ward, Randy's old secretary and have her schedule a meeting with the executive staff in the boardroom at ten o'clock, Friday morning. I'll also have her make reservations for the three of us at the Four Seasons, Wednesday evening. We'll meet with Flo for dinner and get the lowdown on the executive suite. We can stay overnight at my apartment in the city."

"It looks like it's turning out to be another busy week, counselor."

The Ritz Carlton

Atlanta, Ga 

Clay was waiting in the lobby when Janet arrived.

"Thanks for meeting me on such short notice, Clay, but I had to talk to you," she said. "I've been up most of the night thinking about what you said last night. I had a long talk with the children after dinner. It was as you said; they want to live with you. It was quite a shock to learn how unhappy they were. Frankly, I thought it was something that would work itself out eventually. Kids are funny that way. It is not an easy thing to accept. I love them as much as you do, Clay, but I also realize what you can offer them. I'm not going to stand in their way if they want to live with you. It hurts me to have to say this, but you can take the children. However, I want your promise that they can visit me regularly."

"Of course, Janet, I would never deny you that. You are their mother and I think you did a wonderful job raising them. It's not a case of them not loving you; it's just not working out as far as your new situation with Andrew and Sue are concerned. You let me know when you want to see them and I'll fly them down as often as possible. You may want to come and spend time with them by yourself. It would give you a chance to get away for a while."

"Thanks, I know you'll keep your word. You know it's hard to believe that I'm having coffee with a billionaire," Janet said. "Have Mark call me and I'll sign the papers. When do you want to take them to Connecticut?"

"As soon as I can enroll them in a private school. How are the security people working out?"

"So far, everything is working out just fine. It's only been one day so far. I don't think I want it on a daily basis. The kids told me you have your own private 737 now. It must be nice."

"It is rather nice. You're welcome to come up and see the children anytime you want, Janet, I'll even send the plane to pick you up. How's that for service?"

"I just may take you up on that," Janet said. "Do you have a body guard now also?"

"Yes, his name is Curtis and he is sitting at that table to the right of us," Clay said.

"Wow! He is a big one. Well, I must get back home. I appreciate your generous offer. Are you all over your accident?"

"No, it will be another two months before I'm back to normal. But I'm getting stronger every day. Janet, if you ever need anything, let me know. Of course you know the children will inherit everything if anything happens to me. I want you to promise me that in that event, you will see that they are brought up to accept their responsibility."

"I will, Clay," Janet said. "I love them as much as you do. Don't worry; I won't let Andrew or anyone else hurt them."

"Thanks again, Janet, I'll have Mark call you. If it's okay with you, I'd like to have the children spend the night with me tonight; I'll send them home after breakfast tomorrow."

"Fine, the security people will drop them off after school. You can tell them the news yourself."

They walked out the main entrance of the Ritz. Clay waited until Janet's car was brought around. He tipped the attendant and closed the car door after she was seated.

She laughed, "It's kind of rough sliding behind the steering wheel sometimes. Three more months to go," she said.

Clay waved her off and walked with Curtis to his waiting limo."

He reached Mark at the lawyer's office and told him to draw up the contract for the arrangement he proposed to Janet last night. She has agreed to the let him have the children and he would like to sign the agreement today. Mark said he would take care of everything.

New York City 

"We made good flying time from Atlanta," Clay said. "It's so nice to own your own plane. Have your heard from Riley about hiring this crew?"

"Not yet, he has not been able to reach the owners. Riley said the plane is yours and you could use this crew until we hear from the former owner. The legal paperwork has been completed and everything is filed. We've leased a hanger at Westchester County Airport big enough for this jet and for your helicopter. I've already lined up two good pilots, one fulltime pilot and one backup pilot. Jason Wall, your fulltime pilot is also an FAA approved mechanic. I've ordered a heavy-duty passenger van to keep at the airport. We won't have to worry about hiring a limo to pick you up at odd hours. Curtis won't get up-tight worrying about a vehicle he hasn't personally inspected."

"Sounds like a smart move," Clay said.

"I've always liked this apartment," Mark said. "I have made many trips to this place over the years. The Lodges spent most of their time here, as they grew older. You canít blame Mr. Lodge for staying in town. It's a pleasant stroll to the office."

"This apartment holds a lot of pleasant memories for me, too," Clay said. "It's been a while since I was here last, but everything looks the same. That's one of the advantages of decorating with antiques, they only improve with age. I think I'll call Flo Ward to see if she was able to get her hands on the executive profiles I asked her to pull."

Clay returned to the living room a few minutes later.

"Flo came through for me; she has everything I asked for and will bring the files with her," Clay said. "Were you able to come up with some private schools for the children?"

Mark handed Clay a computer printout, "The first four on the list are the best. Those schools cater to children who travel with their parents. Each day's classes are recorded so the student can download the class work off their web site every day that they're away. So if you want to take the kids with you on your trips abroad, you won't have to worry about them missing any lessons."

"Now that's what I call a progressive school," Clay said. "I plan to hire a full time governess to supervise the children when I'm not around. My shrink in Atlanta recommended an agency here in New York City that is working on it right now. I was very impressed with the caliber of the candidates they represent. Most of their candidates have Master's Degrees in education and some have undergraduate degrees in psychology. All I need now is to find someone compatible with the family."

"Sounds like you're moving in the right direction," Mark said. "We haven't had an opportunity to discuss your plans for our meeting with Flo Ward, and your meeting with James Hutchinson tomorrow."

"James Hutchinson was not around when I left the firm three years ago. I know very little about him. He must be competent or Randal would not have kept him around. Randal asked me to come back and take over running the company. I'm sure that was the reason he and his wife were visiting me in Argentina. I think James was hired as a backup in case I was unable to return to work. Randal wanted me to take over the company. Were you aware that Randy left me his stock?"


"Randal owned 60 percent of the stock and his wife 15 percent. I own the other 25 percent. As of last week I own the whole ball of wax. My gut feeling is that James is not happy receiving orders through an intermediate. As I said before, I'd feel the same way if conditions were reversed. However, if he has chosen the name change issue to challenge me, he's picked the wrong issue and the wrong person. Unless I'm completely off base, I know exactly what his argument will be. I've already done my homework and checked this out with my own experts. The name change will not have a negative impact on the company. If anything it will benefit the firm. New management; new broom; that sort of psychology."

"If I thought it would have hurt the firm, I would have found another way to honor Randy's memory. It should be an interesting meeting tomorrow; I'm looking forward to meeting my top executives. Well, I'd better change for dinner, I don't want to keep my secretary waiting."

Flo Ward was waiting in the lounge when Mark and Clay arrived at the Four Seasons. After the introductions were over they were shown to their table.

"Thank you for joining us on such short notice, Flo," Clay said. "It's been a long time, hasn't it? Why don't you tell me who is still around that I knew from the good old days?"

Flo gave him the rundown on the people who were still with the company and a brief description of some of the new executives who joined the firm in his absence.

"Do you work for James Hutchinson," Clay asked.

"No sir, Mr. Hutchinson has his own secretary. She came with him from his former company."

"It must be hard for you now that Randal is gone," Clay asked.

"I'm still not over the shock," Flo said. "I've been with Mr. Lodge for ten years and he was a great boss and a gentleman. Iím thinking seriously of leaving. It would be difficult to work for a new boss at Lodge. Most of the executives already have their own secretaries. It would be better if I went with another company."

"I would like you to stay and become my secretary, Flo. I plan to take an active part in the firm once again. I'll need someone whom I can rely on, and you fit that bill. You don't have to give me your answer right now, think it over and let me know next week."

"I don't have to think it over," Flo said. "I'll be happy to be your secretary."

"Good," Clay said, "Now tell me about Mr. Hutchinson and don't pull any punches."

"He's aggressive, dedicated and loyal, but he's not a leader and never will be. Mr. Lodge said he hired him 'to watch the store' while he was away. Randal said he is a great number two man but didn't have the personality or the vision to run his firm."

"That's interesting; I formed a different opinion of him. I thought he was trying to usurp my authority."

Clay related James' reaction to the name change.

"Typical of James," Flo said. "That explains the flurry of meetings with our Director of Marketing. I'm afraid James has not faced reality, yet. I'm sure he thinks he is protecting the Lodge Corporation. As far as he is concerned, you're an outsider. Don't misunderstand me; he knows who you are and about your medical history. Maybe he thinks you're too weak to run the company? I don't know. He doesn't share his thoughts with me."

They were having an after dinner drink with their coffee.

Clay said, "I'd like you to have breakfast with us tomorrow morning. I want you to tell me about some of the new executives on the list you gave me. I noticed that four of my old buddies have moved up the ladder."

"What time tomorrow morning," Flo asked.

"Seven o'clock," Clay said. Why don't you drop us off at the apartment, Flo, and take the limo home."

"Thanks, Mr. Grayson." 

The Lodge Corporation Headquarters 

"It feels strange sitting on this side of the desk," Clay said. "You know, in reviewing the VP list, I was surprised to see that Jack Johnson made the grade. He was a nice guy and all, but I would never have promoted him based on his performance when I was here. He must have really improved a lot."

"He is the same happy-go-lucky person," Flo said. "That was one of Mr. Hutchinson's decisions. Mr. Lodge agreed to it on a trial basis. If Jack's numbers increased he could keep the title."

"Have his numbers increased?" Clay asked.

"No sir, they dropped."

"Thanks, for your help, Flo. Mark, you can use my old office next door, or the conference room. I'll call you after I've finished with James."

Mark elected to use Clay's former office.

Clay called Kurt's hotel to confirm his arrival time. He called the agency to confirm his scheduled appointments for eleven and one o'clock. Then he pulled out his laptop and began typing. The interoffice buzzer sounded.

"Mr. Grayson, Mr. Hutchinson is here to see you."

"Send him in please."

Clay stood as James Hutchinson walked over to his desk. They shook hands.

"It's nice to meet you, James. Sorry it couldn't have been sooner, but I've been kept busy for the last two weeks."

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Grayson," James said. "Mr. Lodge spoke of you often. Are you fully recovered from your accident?"

"Not fully," Clay said, "thank you for asking. We have a staff meeting at ten so I'll come right to the point. I've given a great deal of thought about this company and I have decided, against my better judgment to return to work and run this company. It was not an easy decision for me to make. This business was partly responsible for putting me in the sanatorium in the first place. It has taken me three years to get back on my feet again. The Lodges trained me well and I owe it to them to see that this firm not only survives, but becomes a living memorial to their memory. I can assure you that I don't plan to repeat the same mistakes I made in the past running this business, but I intend to take charge of this company and run it the way Randy and I had planned. So I'm planning to make some long overdue changes in the way we do business from now on. Some of which I will discuss with you after the meeting this morning.

"For health reasons, I will not be in the office after today. I will be in Argentina for at least six weeks. However, this does not mean that I will not be making the corporate decisions affecting this company. I'm sure Mark has told you that I own this company outright, but that is going to change. I plan to set aside a percentage for my executives and our employees. I want everyone to feel they have a stake in this corporation. This is going to be an exciting place and I intend to take us to number one in this business. I can't do this all alone; I'm going to need the help and cooperation of you and my other executives. I also want every employee to pull his own weight and I expect my executives to set the example and work as hard as the people they supervise. I want to see a lean and efficient organization. I am going to eliminate any position that is repetitious and any employee who does not contribute to the bottom line.

"I've hired the Creative Management Consultants to evaluate our operation and make their recommendations. They will be in touch with you next week to discuss their overall plans.

"I know this must come as a complete surprise to you, but it's the only way I know of to clear the air and start this company on the right track. The Lodges are gone and I intend to run this company my way. I'm sure you have a lot of questions so let's use the time we have left to address your concerns."

"I'm certainly surprised," James said. "I had no idea how this meeting was going to go. Mr. Lodge told me three weeks ago, that he was going to ask you to take an active part in the firm. He was also worried that you might turn him down. I knew he looked on you as his son. Yet, it still came as a surprise when he left you this business in view of your reluctance to come back to work. He told me he had contingency plans if you turned him down. I naturally assumed he was going to sell the firm to our employees, or put it on the block. My feeling was that you have decided to do just that.Ē

"You're right; Mr. Lodge is gone, but the company cannot continue to operate without direction," Clay said; ďI'm not going to be running the business on a day-to-day. However, there are decisions and new directions that have to be made Ö now! Ö that can't wait. From now on, my plan as the owner will be to make those decisions, myself. It's also necessary for me NOT to run our company through an intermediary or President whom I can't trust. That's where YOU come in.  There are a number of issues that you must decide on a daily basis that donít require my approval. Those decisions can be made by you.

"I thought you wanted to see me because of the name change?" Clay said.Ē

"That was in the back of my mind, but that was not as important as knowing how you are going to run this company. As far as I'm concerned you've answered that to my satisfaction.

"I want you to stay on and continue to run the company as you have," Clay said. "If you have a question, or a problem, call me and we can discuss it. If we are not compatible, we'll know soon enough.

"I'm sorry that I could not talk to you before this, James. I've been through hell for the past several months and I've not recovered completely from my accident. I'm really lucky to be alive. The muscles and nerves in my left side have almost recovered but I'll need six more weeks of therapy in addition to some additional plastic surgery. I still tire easily toward the end of the day. My family life was in turmoil up until yesterday. Now, on top of everything else, two people whom I love dearly are gone. You have no idea how tragic and painful the loss of the Lodges has affected me, and you can't possibly imagine how this inheritance has upset the lives of my family.

"My reason for changing the name of the company is really quite simple. It was to honor the two people who made this all possible: Randal senior and Randy junior. My marketing gurus feel it would be in keeping with the new image I'm trying to create for the company."

"I'm glad we had this meeting," James said, "I feel a lot better now."

Clay chuckled, "Let's head into the boardroom; it wouldn't make a good impression on the troops if I were late for my first board meeting."

James said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my pleasure to introduce the new owner of Lodge Corporation, Doctor Clayton Grayson."

Clay smiled and began his little speech. He reiterated what he had told James earlier. Twenty minutes into the meeting, Jack Johnson entered the room and took his seat at the table.

"Thank you all for rearranging your schedules to be here this morning," Clay said. "I know you will all do your best and will continue to cooperate with James Hutchinson."

Clay shook everyone's hand as they left the room. Jack Johnson said as he was leaving, "Sorry I was late. It will be like old times again."

Clay smiled, "Just like old times, Jack. I'm sure Flo will fill you in on what you've missed."

"James, could you step into my office a minute?" James followed Clay into his office. "I want you to demote Jack Johnson. I read his last two reviews and I'm not impressed. Make sure he knows that he is being demoted because he has not cut the mustard, and he was late for the board meeting. He had six months to get his act together. It wouldn't hurt if you discreetly let it be known that I expect top performance from my managers."

"I also reviewed your performance, James," Clay said. "You've done an outstanding job. The truth now, do you think you can work for me?"

James smiled and nodded his head. "Youíre going to take some getting used to, but I like your style. One thing's for sure, you don't beat around the bush. The old man was right about you, you're one smart cookie."

"Good, you watch my back and we'll get along just fine and, James, you are still President, my title is CEO and Chairman of the Board. I'm raising your salary by fifty-thousand effective as of Monday." Clay smiled, "James, why are you standing there like a dummy. Don't you have anything to do?"

James was dumbfounded, "Are you serious about this?"

"Of course I'm serious; we doctors never joke about things like that. Now leave me alone, I have memos to write before I leave."

James shook his head and smiled, "Thanks, boss; you're all right." He stood and shook Clay's hand, "I'm numb, and this is such a wonderful surprise."

"I'd take you out to lunch to celebrate your promotion, but I have two back-to-back appointments. We'll do it the next time I'm in town. Why don't you surprise your wife and take her out to a nice restaurant and celebrate."

"Good idea and I plan to hold you to your promise," James said.

"I'll call you tomorrow," Clay said. "One last thing, I want you to be friendlier to my secretary. Flo is a good person and she's in your corner. Flo and I go back a long time and she knows where the bodies are buried." Clay smiled, "And James, call me Clay. Do you think you can remember all that, or should I send you a memo?"

James laughed, "I think I can remember all that."

"Good; ask Flo to step into my office on your way out," Clay said.

Clay dictated a memo announcing James' promotion and the new corporate name change. He called the VP of Finance and told him to raise James' salary by 50K and Flo's by ten percent.

He walked into his old office and told Mark he was returning to the apartment and would meet him there at two. He wanted to be back in Connecticut by three.

Mark knocked on the door to Clay's bedroom suite. "Clay, it's time to leave." He opened the door as Clay sat up in bed.

"Thanks for waking me, I thought I'd rest after my Board Meeting. I needed that shut eye."

Clay slipped into his jacket and they left. Craig drove the van.

"Mr. Grayson, your limo's at the airport."

"Thanks, Craig."

Mark said. "I've got to hand it to you Ö that was a fancy piece of work you did on those poor unsuspecting lambs. You've whipped them all into shape in a few hours. James thinks you're the greatest and canít praise you enough."

"Don't you just love it when everything falls into place," Clay said. "James is my kind of guy, he'll do just fine. I want to get started on that stock plan for the company. I've talked to the VPs of HR and Finance to come up with a stock option plan. When they're ready, they'll be calling you to have a look. I don't want any problems with Uncle Sam with this. I told James to follow up on this. I'd like to have it in place as a Christmas present for my employees."

"I'll follow up with James on a regular basis," Mark said.

Clay had his workout with his therapist and relaxed in the whirlpool for a half-hour. Jeffrey helped him out of the whirlpool and into bed.

"Jeffrey, I'm going to take a nap. Please come back in an hour to help me dress, I have to meet Mr. von Scharnhorst at the plane."

"Yes sir." Jeffrey said, dimming the lights as he left. 

Westchester Airport 

Clay watched his aircraft touch down from the observation deck. It was a great feeling watching the sleek aircraft roll up to the arrival gate.

"She is a beauty, Mr. Grayson," Curtis said.

"Let's walk down and greet Kurt," Clay said.

They stood just inside the entrance door. Kurt and the flight engineer entered the terminal and Kurt smiled as he spotted Clay. He walked over and hugged him.

"Kurt, I would like to introduce Curtis Ames, my chief of security." They shook hands.

"Mr. Grayson, the pilot wants to know if you'll need the aircraft any more this evening."

"No, thank you," Clay said. "You can stand down for the evening. Unless there's an emergency, I won't be need the aircraft over the weekend, unless ... Kurt when are you planning to return to Washington?

"Not until Monday afternoon," Kurt said.

"Tell the captain I'll call him Monday morning," Clay said.

"Yes sir. Good night, gentlemen."

Curtis took Kurt's bag and led them out to the entrance where the limo was parked. The chauffeur opened the door to the limo and put the bag in the trunk. Curtis sat in the front seat next to the chauffeur.

Clay closed the partition window and looked at Kurt.

"It's good to see you; I sure could have used your support for the last three weeks."

Kurt took Clay's hand in his, "I've missed you, baby. My life is not the same without you. I want to hold you in my arms and kiss you."

Clay smiled, "Control yourself. Tell me about your meetings in Washington."

Kurt frowned and told him about his depressing meetings with the State Department.

The car drove through the gates of the Lodge estate and up to the front portico. Craig opened the door and helped Clay out of the back of the limo.

The chauffeur set the luggage on the porch and rang the bell. Jeffrey opened the door.

"Jeffrey, this is my good friend, Kurt von Scharnhorst. Please put his luggage in the suite next to mine," Clay said. "Come on, Kurt, I'll give you the five-cent tour."

They ended up in Kurt's bedroom suite.

"Did you want to freshen up or change?" Clay asked. "Dinner is in thirty minutes."

Kurt closed the door to the hall and walked over to Clay, took him in his arms and held him. He kissed him tenderly, "I've wanted to do that for over an hour. I've missed you, sweetheart. Now, let's go down stairs and have a glass of wine."

Clay smiled, "You are refreshing, I missed you, too; come on I've so much to tell you."

They were sitting in the drawing room having an after-dinner brandy.

"This is a beautiful estate," Kurt said. "I envisioned a moderate-size estate, but from what I've seen so far, this is a palace."

"I felt the same way on my first visit years ago," Clay said. "It grows on you after a while. I'll give you the complete tour tomorrow. Tell me about the Government's case against Freddie in Washington."

"I'd rather not talk about it tonight," Kurt said. "It is a real mess; I don't want to spoil this delightful visit thinking about it any longer."

"Is that what is making you so ill at ease?"

"What I could use is a good workout; it's been a trying day."

"There is a sports building with an indoor track if you would like to work out," Clay said. "Come, I'll show you the way."

They took the elevator down to the basement and through the underground passage that led to the sports complex. Clay used the touch pad panel mounted to the right of the sliding doors to enter. The doors sprung open.

"The code is 'Yale'," Clay said, as the doors automatically closed after them.

Beyond the doors was a large foyer, "To the left is the swimming pool," Clay said.

Ahead was the door that opened into a large circular room that had track lanes marked out on the perimeter. In the central portion of the room was a regulation tennis court. To the side was an array of professional exercise equipment including weights and bench presses.

"The locker room, showers, steam room and sauna are down the hall and to the left." He led him to the locker room. "You have your pick of sweat suits, spandex gear and jock straps."

"I'll leave you to your workout. You can wear my robe to your suite. Jeffrey will see that your clothes are returned to your room," Clay said. "I'll be in my room. I have to make some calls, see you later."

Kurt returned to his suite. His bedside lamp had been turned low and his bed was turned down. Jeffrey had laid his nightclothes on the bed. The door leading to Clay's bedroom was ajar. He walked in and saw that Clay was asleep. He walked over to the side of the bed and took his hand and kissed him on the forehead.

Clay opened his eyes and stared at him. "Are you feeling better now?"

"Much better now that I'm here with you," he leaned forward and kissed Clay on the lips, then on the neck and eyes. Clay didn't resist. Kurt leaned back, "I love you, Clay."

"I know, Kurt."

He could see the bulge in Kurt's groin. He reached up and pulled Kurt to him, returning his kiss.

Clay moved over on the bed, "Take off your robe and lie next to me."

Kurt pulled the covers back and discovered Clay was naked. Kurt slid into bed and took him in his arms. He kissed him passionately. Clay reached over and gently rubbed Kurt's hard erection.

Kurt moaned, "Oh, my beautiful baby, you're in my arms at last."

Clay kissed him passionately and forced his tongue into Kurt's mouth.

"Do you still keep company with your sex toy?" Clay asked.

"No, I dropped him after I met you," Kurt said.

"Have you been tested for AIDS?" Clay asked.

"Yes, I'm negative. Look, baby, I have always been extremely careful. I've even had my partners tested for AIDS before I had sexual relations with them. There have only been two men in the last five years."

"I want you to make love to me, Kurt. The condoms and the KY are in the drawer."

Kurt kissed him passionately, "Are you sure you want this, baby?"

"Yes, Kurt, my deep feeling for you has gone beyond a platonic friendship. I've tried to remain detached because I didn't want to get involved in a long distance relationship. I'm lonely and I need a loving companion. You've awakened a desire in me that I only felt with Randy."

Kurt took his time and made love to Clay, he was passionate and deliberate, and he did not rush. He brought them to the edge of orgasms again and again until they were both so passionately aroused they could not hold back any longer. Clay was so numb after his climax that he couldn't move. Kurt held him close and showered him with kisses and they fell asleep in each other's arms.

Kurt awoke at four o'clock and led Clay into the shower. He washed and oiled Clay's body and led him back to his bed and where he fell asleep again. Clay woke at seven and sat up and stared at Kurt as he slept. He leaned down and kissed his cheek and nibbled his ear until he awoke. Kurt smiled, pulled Clay into his arms and kissed him. They didn't speak, just held each other close.

"God, you're sexy," Kurt said. "You were worth the long wait. I've never before experienced a sustained orgasm like that in my life. I love you so much, Clay. What are we going to do? I don't want another long separation from you again. Will you marry me?"

Clay didn't answer, he just kissed him passionately and they made love again. Clay ended up lying on top of Kurt. Kurt gently rubbed Clay's back and kissed him.

"Kurt, you make me feel so alive and safe. It feels so good lying on you like this. I could cry when I think of all time we've wasted. Are you comfortable with me lying on top of you like this?"

"Sweetheart, you are not a burden on me. You have given me an erection that won't go away and I like the feeling."

"Good, because I intend to stay like this until you've had enough," Clay said. "A lot has happened in three weeks that I couldn't tell you over the telephone. At the end of the day I was too exhausted to e-mail it to you. I'm a very wealthy man, my love. The Lodges left me everything including the business. That plane that picked you up in Washington today is mine. Father Lodge left my parents over a million dollars apiece. They just couldn't understand why he would leave me everything."

"That's when I told my parents the truth about Randy. It was the first time in my life I was not ashamed to admit I was gay and how much I loved Randy. It felt good to tell my parents that Randy was my spouse. Everything became clear to them after that. Mom wanted to know if we were a couple."

"What did you tell her?"

"I told them the truth, that you were in love me. Mom guessed as much after that first week. She said she could see that love sick look in your eyes every time you looked at me."

"I guess that means they won't be visiting me again?"

Clay smiled, "No, sweetheart, it doesn't mean that at all. They like you," he kissed him tenderly. "Mom said something that made a lot of sense. She said that life is for the living ... and knowing how Randy would feel, he would have wanted me to find another spouse. That was true. Randy pushed me into Janet's arms and insisted I marry her. I was so much in love with Randy that I'd do anything he asked. I never wanted anything to come between that special love we shared together. It was easy for me to marry Janet and have children. I lived in my own little world with Randy. I never made love to Janet, it was always Randy. The only people that I let into that world were my children."

"I never fully accepted Randy's death. He was so much a part of my life that I thought of joining him many times. I missed the intimate moments we had shared together. The drugs brought me close to him, so I thought, and they almost did. That's when I snapped. You know the rest."

"Baby, I'm starved," Kurt said. "Let's make out in the shower again and dress."

Clay smiled, "I'll let you up and feed you if you promise we can do this again later."

"Hey, if it were up to me, we could stay naked like this for the rest of my stay and have all our meals in our room."

They showered and dressed casually. After breakfast, Clay took him on a tour of the house and grounds.

"There something I want to show you in my bedroom suite," Clay said. He closed the hall door and showed Kurt the wall of pictures of the Lodge family.

Kurt carefully looked at each picture, finally the large photograph of Randy and Clay. He put his arm around Clay and led him over to the sofa. They sat down and Kurt wrapped his arms around Clay and kissed him.

"It's all there, baby; you were a handsome couple. Randy was a sweetheart, but you, my love, are beautiful and very special to me. I know how I would feel if I were to lose you.

"I knew the chemistry was there from the moment we met. As our friendship grew, so did my love for you. I have never loved anyone as deeply as I love you. I need the love only you can give me and I know in time you will love me the same way. My marriage proposal is good forever, because there could never be anyone but you."

"Kurt, I do love you, more than I thought possible. But, we must decide how we can live together as a couple with our children. I donít need to be in New York all the time, but I do need to run a business. On the other hand, you have a business to run in Argentina. We need to come up with a solution to both our problems. I agree with you that if we are in a committed relationship, I want to be with you every day and live as a normal couple. We must find a solution to make this marriage work."

"I should be able to leave the week after next for Argentina. I will also establish a satellite communication network between my offices here in New York, my lawyer's office, and your home in Argentina. You should set up the same system between your office in Argentina and my estate in Connecticut. This way we can spend time in both countries and run our businesses. Your children can enter the same progressive school that my kids are attending in Connecticut and mine can do the same in Argentina. Alternatively, we can home school the children with our own teachers."

Kurt said, "I agree with your solution, Clay. I feel confident that it will work out for us all. As it is now I spend much of my time traveling to my client operations, so it would not be a problem for me to be away from my business. But in the future, I plan to promote and train one of my juniors to take over more of the out of town travel. I want to stay home more now that I have you to take care of."

"I feel confident that this will work out just fine. Now that Janet has agreed to let me have my kids, I can plan their future without having to worry about giving them up or consulting Janet or the slug she married."

Kurt took Clay in his arms and kissed him.

"Now we are a committed couple, finally."

♦      ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦


The End


Posted: 11/16/12