I looked at the two of us as we rode in the backseat of the Town Car on the way to Kennedy’s parents’ penthouse, and I chuckled. He was holding my hand like it was a lifeline, and I was sure my laughing wasn’t what he expected. He was scared as fuck, but I was primed for battle.

“What, in the name of Moses, is so damn funny,” Kennedy asked, clutching the leather folio where he had the documents Taylor had given him to deliver in person.

“We look like we’re fresh out of a Town and Country magazine photo shoot,” I stated. He looked at what we were wearing, and he laughed with me.

We were both in flat-front chinos. Mine were tan with a chocolate-brown button-up, and Kennedy’s were navy with a blue and white, pin-striped, button-up. We were both wearing loafers, and we looked as if we were heading to a casual, upper-crust, cookout at someone’s country house. It wasn’t us at all.

“I see what you mean. Well, it’ll be one less thing for my parents to bitch about. I’m hoping Mother’s lunching and Father’s out so I can get my bearings a bit before we ambush them.”

Mother? Father? What happened to my sexy Texan?” I teased, trying to put him at ease. I wasn’t in favor of not alerting them of our visit, but Kennedy had decided the element of surprise was in our best interests. I deferred to his judgment, hoping it didn’t bite him in the ass.

“I’ll qualify my behavior up front. My parents despise their southern roots, and when I was growing up and spending summers with my grandparents in Texas, I’d get slapped for every consonant dropped when I got home. By now, it’s ingrained in my fucking DNA that when I’m within the tri-state area, I use proper grammar,” he articulated.

“I can pull out my Chicaahgo if it takes da heat off,” I offered in my best Chicago accent. He laughed and leaned over, catching my lips with his in a tender kiss.

“You just be yourself, darlin’. I love ya. Just remember that,” Kennedy drawled with a smile. I felt my dick take notice, so I concentrated on the scenery so as not to meet his parents for the first time, sporting wood.

I thought back to our college days and decided it was a blessing I’d never met his mother and father when we were in college. I wasn’t strong enough—physically or emotionally—to be able to defend myself back then, much less Kennedy. If the meeting had to happen, I was thrilled it was happening when I had more confidence and an excellent reason to protect Kennedy and Judah—I loved the two of them with all my heart.

When the car stopped in front of a large residential building and we exited the vehicle, Kennedy had a conversation with the driver and then took my hand, leading me through the lavish lobby. He pulled a key from his pocket and inserted it into the panel inside the elevator, turning it and pressing the button for the fiftieth floor.

When the car stopped, he removed his key and pulled me behind him down the bright hallway to a large, black door. He rang the bell and turned to me. “Nothing that happens inside this apartment is going to have any impact on our family, right?”

I leaned forward and pecked his lips in support, pulling away to offer a reassuring smile. “I’m right here with you, love.”

The door opened, revealing a short, curvy woman with a generous smile. “Kennedy! I didn’t know you were in town.” He released my hand to hug her.

“Hi, Barbara. We have business in town, and we thought we’d stop by to see them. Are they here?” he asked as he pulled away from her.

“This is the second surprise of the day. Come in, come in. Are you hungry? When did you get to town?” she rapid fired at Kennedy as we followed her through the marble entryway and the ornate dining room into the kitchen. Kennedy jerked to a stop, catching my attention because I’d been taking in the grandeur of the place. Opulent didn’t begin to touch it. There was so much gold—fixtures, trimmings, and statues—that my mind flashed to King Midas.

I turned to see what had caught his attention, shocked that Elijah and Rory were at the table with the paper and coffee. Elijah was wearing a pair of sweats and a t-shirt, and Rory was dressed as if she was going to afternoon tea with the Queen.

“What are you doin’ here?” Kennedy probed as we approached them. They both stood and hugged us with a friendlier approach than he was greeting them.

Rory stepped back and arched a manicured eyebrow his way. “Did you seriously think I’d let you walk into the depths of hell alone?” she said, as if it were ridiculous we wouldn’t expect them to be in New York.

“You didn’t have to come,” Kennedy whined a little, but I could tell he was happy they were there as reinforcements.

“Hey, you didn’t let us have Jude, so we decided to do the next best thing and come here to be with you. You told Rory yesterday morning that you were going to be out today, so we got a later flight out and got here this morning. The gruesome twosome should be home soon, according to Barbara. You got your ducks in a row?” Elijah asked quietly, sporting a friendly smile.

“Do they know… Did you tell them about Lark?” I whispered, not sure about Barbara’s loyalty. I didn’t know the woman at all, and while she seemed to be devoted to Kennedy and Aurora, I wasn’t certain she wouldn’t be loyal to her employers—her paying employers. If Kennedy planned on making the most of the element of surprise, I didn’t want to give it away.

“Not as far as I know. I mean, unless KC’s hired a private detective to investigate shit, there’s really no way they’d know, right?” Rory asked.

“Fuck, I hope you’re right,” Kennedy whispered.

We all sat down to coffee and pastries, waiting for Kennedy’s parents to make a showing. The small talk was about Catnip Publishing’s business and Elijah’s work as corporate counsel for an internet company. I knew the guy was a lawyer of some sort, but I’d never asked where.

“How’s Jude been? You guys are going out to Rob and Nora’s when you get home?” Elijah asked me as Rory and Kennedy had a heated discussion over some budgetary issues.

“Jude’s doing okay. Not great all the time, but I think he’s getting used to the new routine. He’ll never get over the loss of his mother, trust me, but it will get easier to accept as time goes by. If this ends earlier than we’d anticipated, we’ll get a flight out today and drive down to Portland tonight. I think having him in the country with my family will…”

Before I could finish my sentence, we heard heavy footsteps on the marble floor in the entryway. I turned to the kitchen entrance to see a big man who looked like Kennedy, except he had more silver in his hair than blond.

Rory slowly stood from the chair and walked over to the man. “KC. You’re looking well,” she told him, restraint evident in her voice as she hugged him without showing any emotion on her face.

When she pulled away, Elijah stood and walked over, extending his hand. “Sir.” The man shook it, giving Elijah a disapproving look regarding his chosen attire. Based on the grin on Elijah’s face as he retook his seat, he didn’t give a flying fuck. He’d learned to maneuver the Catrelle waters and arrived safely on the shore of ‘You’re a dick, and you’re not getting the best of me.’ I’d have to take a page from his book.

KC turned to look at Kennedy and me, and I nearly swallowed my fucking tongue. The hate coming off of him was like walking into a smoke-filled room and trying to take a deep breath. I looked at Kennedy, and I was proud of him for his stoic appearance. The slight shaking of his hand resting at his side was the only clue how nervous he was at that moment.

“Father, it’s good to see you looking so well,” Kennedy stated calmly as he extended his hand.

The man shook it and laughed. “Are you drinking again? Got the DTs?”

I was immediately pissed off. Kennedy’s father was a mean son-of-a-bitch, plainly evident by the sardonic comment. I slowly stood from my seat and walked over, cockier than I’d ever been in my life. “Mr. Catrelle, I’m Thornton Marsh, Kennedy’s lover.”

Yes, I’d said it to bait the douche. I could have used another term—friend, boyfriend, or partner—any of the terms would have been better than what I’d said because it brought sex to the forefront, and I wanted to make that mother fucker as uncomfortable as I possibly could. I wasn’t going to show fear in front of him. Kennedy was mine, and I’d defend him at all costs.

Jesus H. You had to bring home a fag, didn’t you, Ken? Where’s the whore? Where’s my grandson?” he snapped.

I turned to glance at Elijah, Rory, and Kennedy, seeing they were dumbfounded by the man’s words, so I took a deep breath. I’d have to speak for the group, apparently. “Jude’s with friends. Lark, unfortunately, has passed away, you fucking prick.” He turned to me with a look of shock at my words, I assumed, before his face hardened severely.

I wasn’t letting him get the upper hand, so I continued. “Oh, I’m sorry. Did my language offend you? I thought we just stated the obvious here. Yes, Kennedy and I are fags, and you called it as you saw it. So, I returned the favor. There’s no use for bullshit, is there? I mean, why would we beat around the bush?” I goaded.

He turned to his son, not ready to deal with me. “What do you want, Kennedy? You should have called before you showed up here with this mess,” KC snapped as he pointed to me. I laughed because a fucking bully was just a scared person who believed they had the upper hand. If you didn’t let them intimidate you, you held the upper hand. I hoped Kennedy could see his father’s behavior for what it was, terrorization, plain and simple.

“KC, that’s not necessary. Marsh is a good guy,” Elijah defended. I saw the older man sneer at Elijah, and I wasn’t about to let that kind man take the heat for my misbehavior, even if it was warranted. I was okay with KC turning his hatred on me.

“I’m sure he’s good at sucking my son’s dick, but as far as a guy? I doubt it,” KC answered smugly. It was definitely a challenge.

I, however, wasn’t worried so I offered him my brightest grin and added a wink. “Actually, Mr. Catrelle, I am good at sucking your son’s cock. As far as being a guy, well, I could show you if you’re unsure of my gender.”

I heard gasps behind me, so I turned to Kennedy and smiled. It wasn’t going to be an extended visit. “Love, give him the Response to his Petition and let’s get the hell out of here. We have far better places to be and much better people to see. No offense, Eli, Rory,” I ordered.

Kennedy looked at me with fear in his eyes, but when I cocked an eyebrow at him, he snapped out of it. “You’re right. KC this is my Response to your useless petition. Since Lark killed herself, your case is dead in the water. You have no basis to try to take Judah away because you have no evidence I’m an unfit parent. Just because I’m gay doesn’t mean you can take him and poison his mind with your fucked-up values. This document refutes your Petition for Custody. My attorney’s information is at the end of it,” Kennedy announced. I couldn’t have been prouder of him.

“I can guarantee you this is one you won’t win. You’ll never, ever get custody of my son. There’s a lot you don’t know, and if you push it, you’ll regret the outcome,” Kennedy informed him as he handed the man two copies of the papers, which his father promptly shoved away.

“We’ll just see about this shit, Kennedy. You’ve done everything you can to destroy this family, and if it weren’t for your momma, you’d be layin’ in a gutter somewhere. She took pity on ya because you’re so fuckin’ weak and she had to protect ya. She’s had to save your pussy ass all your life, and this time ain’t no different,” Kendall Catrelle drawled.

I was about to open my mouth when Kennedy laughed darkly. “Careful, Daddy—you’re Texas is showin’. Come on, darlin’ let’s go. Rory, tell Momma I’m sorry we missed her,” Kennedy stated as he took my hand and led me out of the room after tossing the papers on the kitchen table.

We walked out of the apartment to the elevator and through the lobby without a look back. When we reached the sidewalk, Kennedy hailed a cab. As we were on our way back to the hotel, he produced his phone and began texting away. He didn’t say anything, but I couldn’t hold my tongue. I took his hand and kept it. “I’m proud of you, Kennedy.”

He turned to me and smiled. “I’d have never been able to do it if you weren’t with me. Thank ya, sugar.” I kissed his soft lips and smiled a mile wide.

When we arrived at the hotel, I was surprised to see the car service there waiting for us. Our bags were at the curb, and the driver was talking with the bellman. “I’m gonna go check us out. We only have an hour before our flight. Can you pay the cab?” I nodded as he hurried off.

I paid the cab and walked over to the driver. “Hello. I guess we’ll be going to the airport, uh, LaGuardia.” I tipped out the bellman as the driver loaded our bags into the car.

Kennedy came out a few minutes later, and I could see his hair was a bit wet, so I assumed he’d washed his face and ran his hands through his hair in frustration. He sat next to me in the back seat, and I took his hand. “You okay?” I whispered.

He turned to me with a worried look on his face. “I’m so damn sorry for the way he treated you…” I leaned forward and kiss him to stop his words. They weren’t necessary at all.

“Don’t ever apologize for anyone’s behavior but your own. You’re not responsible for your father’s narrow mind. That’s all his own. We just have to make certain we raise Jude to be a well-rounded, open-minded man. That’s our responsibility, not the way anyone else reacts to the fact we’re together. I shouldn’t have goaded him, but I couldn’t help myself when I saw how he was going to react. Hopefully, his lawyer is smart enough to see it’s a losing battle and tell him to drop it,” I responded. Fuck, I hope so.


I had Kennedy drop me off at the house so I could pack bags for the three of us to go visit my aunt and uncle in Portland. He was going to pick up Jude at Brenda and Franklin’s, and I knew he needed a bit of time alone to think about what had happened that morning. He’d been silent on the flight, and I was worried about him.

I quickly packed casual clothes for the three of us, not forgetting our swim trunks. I called Aunt Nora to alert her we would be on our way, and it only rang once. “Thorn? How are you, sweetheart?” I could hear the excitement in her voice, and it made me smile.

I chuckled. “Hi, Aunt Nora. You have room for three weary souls? I think my boys could use a nice break for a few days. Can we come early?”

She giggled, which made me laugh in turn. “Oh, we’d love it. I’ll call Rob and get his butt home to skim the pool. Any favorites I should know about?” she asked.

“Well, as for Jude, he’ll eat anything you put in front of him. Kennedy is a meat and potatoes guy. Oh, and Aunt Nora, no wine, okay? Actually, could you put away the liquor? Kennedy’s three-years sober, and after the last twenty-four hours, I don’t want to jeopardize it,” I told her.

She sighed. “That poor man has had more than his fair share lately. Yes, of course, Thorn. I’ll do a sweep of the house, dear. We’re looking forward to your visit. Be safe. See you soon,” Aunt Nora stated as we said our goodbyes.

I finished packing for us and moved the bags to the front porch, grabbing waters and cookies for the six-hour drive. Kennedy and Jude had finally arrived at the house, and after they were ready, we loaded the car, and I drove us to Portland. Kennedy and Jude both fell asleep, and I was happy for some time to contemplate and analyze the last twenty-four hours. I knew Kennedy hadn’t really had a good sleep on the way to or from New York, and I wanted him to enjoy our time in Oregon. He certainly deserved the break.

To be continued…

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