Wednesday morning, Alex and Josh packed, then had breakfast, and Gertrude took them to the airport for an uneventful flight to San Francisco. When they landed, Luc was waiting with a car to drive them to Josh's apartment. On the way, Luc said, "Cândido and I would like to treat you and Alex to a night on the town if you're up to it Saturday night. We have tentative reservations for dinner and we have found this wonderful club called Waiting for the Sunrise. It's owned by a Brazilian couple and they play a combination of fifties, sixties and seventies American music—which, for some reason, the owners love—and traditional Brazilian music.
"Sounds fun," Alex said.
"It is," Luc said. "Oh, and you have to dress up. Choose one of the decades, or something Brazilian. Cândido usually stops everything when he walks in. It's feathers and piercings, the full Bororo outfit, or," he laughed, "non-outfit, because, let's face it, it doesn't cover a lot!"
"I think we can manage," Josh said. "I'm going to love my Babe in tight jeans, T shirt and maybe a DA."
"DA?" Luc asked.
"Duck's Ass," Alex laughed. It was a hairstyle in the fifties."
"Dinner reservations are for eight thirty. How about coming to our place around seven for a drink before we go?"
"Sounds good. We're going to Oakland to have dinner with Bull and Mr. VanWinkle Friday. Pretty heavy social calendar for two country boys."
"Country boys my ass," Luc laughed. "More like joint rulers of a small mountain kingdom."
"I like that. King Josh and King Alex, Kings of the Mountain. It has a nice ring to it."
"Maybe you should start referring to the House as the Hall of the Mountain Kings," Luc laughed and started imitating the bassoon part from the opening of the Grieg piece. "But how are you ever going to marry off the prince and princess who are, if you will pardon me, real horsey looking."
"That will be a problem. There'll probably be a move by the Right to pass a law forbidding their being married."
"Well, I understand one argument against couples like us being married is it will lead in incest and bestiality and all sorts of nasty deviate behavior," Alex laughed. "I bet the Prince snd Princess will end up engaged in bestiality."
"No doubt," Luc said. "Look at me. I'm married to a man who wears feathers. You never can tell what allowing us gay boys to marry will bring on. It's a slippery slope." They then came up with the usual nonsensical arguments advanced against gay marriage and added their own. They were all soon laughing so hard they had tears in their eyes.
Josh suggested they have an early lunch before Luc dropped them off at the apartment and they went to a small sandwich shop Josh had frequented after he moved into his present apartment. He had recommended it to Luc and Cândido when they moved in.
As soon as they were in the apartment, Josh called Gertrude to let her know they had arrived safely. Before he hung up, he said, "Gertrude. I have a favor to ask. In my closet are a garment bag and a hat box. Will you please box them and overnight them to me?" Gertrude said of course she would. "Mavis says the Royal Couple are obviously missing daddy and daddy, They keep coming to the front of the pasture and whinnying."
"Hug all three for us," Josh said, "Mavis, Prince and Princess."
When Josh finished talking to Gertrude, he said, "Gertrude said the Royal Couple are missing us which reminded me I need to make arrangements for their trip to the Mountain. When he found the cost to transport two horses compared to what it cost to transport twelve, he did a double take. The difference between the two was relatively little. Thinking about the future, he thought he probably need a trailer and truck to transport horses and they probably wouldn't cost more than twice what transporting the horses would cost. He called Winston and asked him about recommending someone who could get a truck and trailer ready in a hurry. Another thing about Winston was his incredible memory, he gave Josh the name and phone numbers of three dealers in Colorado in the order he thought Josh should call them. The first call was to a dealer in Pueblo, and when Josh described what he needed, he asked Josh what color he had in mind. "Remember, your choice of colors in trucks will be pretty limited."
"A blue," Josh said.
"I'll get back to you in half an hour to see what I can do."
While he was waiting for the call, Alex reminded Josh that he had Winston to handle such matters and he was trying to take over and he was in no way qualified. "Shit!" You are so right, Barefoot Boy."
Liam called back and told Josh what his options were in terms of the truck. "I've found several within a reasonable distance," he said.
"Look, we can keep going back and forth, but I'll have my purchasing agent contact you within the hour. I'll also workout the artwork for the truck and trailer as soon as possible."
"Fine. I'll be waiting."
Josh hung up, called Winston and, when he answered, said, "Winston, Josh. Look, I don't know why I even thought about purchasing a truck and trailer when you are as available as I am. I have contacted Liam Larson in Colorado and told him to get a blue truck and paint the trailer to match. He gave me several choices of trucks within a reasonable distance. Call him, and negotiate a deal. Even if you have to pay more than you might otherwise, I need it by Wednesday so Alex and I can head home with Prince and Princess.
While Josh was on the phone, Alex wandered through the apartment. When Josh had finished with his calls, Alex said, "Josh, anyone who knows you would know this is your place."
"How would they know?"
"You mean aside from the fact that your scent—that warm, comfortable, loving scent—that tells me my beloved has been here? Had I walked in with my eyes closed, I would have recognized it as yours."
"Oh, you mean like when I bury my face in your pillow to drink in Alex?"
"Of course, but there's not only that, it's just that this place says 'Josh'.
"What about the House?"
"It has said, 'Elijah', but now it's beginning to say 'Josh and Alex'. Soon it will announce that it is our place."
Josh had decided to have a metallic blue truck and trailer with silver lettering. The truck would have a picture of Sentinel Rock and arching over it would be 'Sentinel Mountain', and below 'Wren, North Carolina'. The trailer would have the picture of Sentinel Mountain with a rampant black Mustang on one side and a rampant white Mangalarga Marchadore on the other.
Josh called Elizabeth to ask if she knew a graphic artist who could do the logos.
"I'm sure our art department can handle that. It's small, but the work I have seen has been excellent. I'll connect you."
"Linda Graham, Blankenship LLLP Art Department." Josh told her what he needed and asked if she knew anyone who would like to take it on as a freelance project. He explained it would be freelance as it was a personal project and not Blankenship's. He outlined what he had in mind.
"Sound like something I could do," she said. "How soon do you need it?"
Josh laughed and said, "Yesterday, but tomorrow would do."
"I have some vacation time," the woman said, "I'll take tomorrow off and do it. As soon as it's approved, I can send it to the dealer, who can get it to an airbrush artist. I assume you have some pictures of the horses, or are they just horses?"
Josh tried to sound indignant, and said, "Of course they're not just horses! And, yes, I have dozens of photos, but of course, none of the horses are rampant."
"Is it possible for you to come by after work and bring me the disk and we will select the photos you want?"
"I'll do better than that. I'll have them to you within the hour; that way I'll avoid rush hour."
"See you then, Oh, by the way, as I said, my name is Linda Graham."
"And mine is Josh Taylor."
"Oh, I recognized your voice, Mr. Taylor. I hope you don't think I would speak to a stranger and agreed to do a project for him."
"It's Josh. Remember this is a freelance project and I expect to pay what the project would cost me if I got someone else to do it."
"Maybe a freelance project and I expect to get paid what you would pay an outsider, but I assure you it will be up to Blankenship standards."
"Reason enough to have called you. I'll bring the photos over shortly."
"See you then."
"Barefoot Boy, we have Sentinel Mountain business. We need to pick out some pictures for Linda Graham in Blankenship's art department to design logos for a truck and horse trailer. We need several pictures of horses, both Mustang and Mangalarga Marchador, as well as Sentinel Rock. They soon realized there were no decent pictures of horses rampant and just selected several of Prince and Princess—only Josh and Alex could really have told the difference in the two, so they were interchangeable—three of the white Mangalarga Marchador with the black tail and mane, and several of Sentinel Rock, including one of Josh sitting on the boulder at the very edge of the rock ledge, because Alex insisted on it. Josh called a cab and they went downstairs, climbed in and headed for the Blankenship building.
They arrived before two and Josh used the directory to locate the art department. "I've been here a few years and am now CEO the company and I didn't know we had an art department. That says something about me that I don't like."
"I suspect, my dear Josh, there's much you don't know about Blankenship, LLLP. It's not a little three-man operation, you know, and how large is the art department anyway?"
"Alex, I don't know. I have no idea what a Blankenship art department would do." As they entered the elevator, he added, "I suspect we'll find out soon."
They found the room with Art Department on the door and walked in, Josh expecting to find a receptionist behind a desk, instead they walked into a very bright room filled with art supplies and a young woman sitting on a high stool, bent over a light box. "I'm looking for Linda Graham of the art department," Josh said.
The young woman stood, smiled, and said, "You've found both."
"You're the art department?" Josh asked.
"I'm it, Josh," she said.
"Linda, this is Alex Bledsoe, my husband."
"Good to meet you, Alex."
"I brought you some photographs," Josh said, handing her a disk.
She put the disk in a computer and took a quick look at the photos. "Should I stick strictly to what you suggested or could I try other things if I get inspired?"
"By all means try other things, if you like. After all, you're the art department." Josh laughed. "So long as it has Sentinel Mountain, Wren, North Carolina, and Mustang and Mangalarga Marchador on it. Oh, and be sure there are photos of both Mustang and Mangalarga Marchador and not just one or the other.
"The Mustangs are the black horses and the Mangalarga Marchador the white with black tail and mane," Alex added in response to the confused look on Linda's face.
"Thanks, Alex. Since I have no work to do for Blankenship right now, I can start to work right away, if you promise not to tell the Old Man."
"I promise," Josh said.
Josh took Alex's hand and led him to the elevator and pushed the button for the top floor. When they arrived, still holding hands, they walked into an office where two women were working. "Elizabeth, Prue, this is my world famous and absolute hottie husband Alexander David Bledsoe. Alex, the equally famous, hardworking and stunningly beautiful Elizabeth and Prue.
The two women both hugged Alex, then Josh. "We have had hottie Josh around for years and have heard much about Alex, so it's good to see you and learn you're not a figment of the Old Man's warped imagination. Welcome to San Francisco and Blankenship LLLP," Prue said.
"He's free," Prue said. "Josh, just walk in. We won't bother telling Himself you are here."
Josh did that. "Alex! Josh! I didn't know you two were in the building. Have a seat. Something to drink?" Luc asked.
"I'll have a water," Alex said.
"Make that two," Josh added.
"So, what brings you to Blankenship LLLP?"
"I hired Blankenship's art department to do the art work for a horse trailer and the truck which will pull it," Josh said.
"We have an art department?"
"We do. One woman. This is a freelance job and I'll pay her. She said she had nothing to do for Blankenship LLLP right now and would start right away."
"I suppose we have work for her or she wouldn't be here, but perhaps I need to check on that. Maybe we could do without her."
"Or let her do freelance and split the fee, as you do the engineers," Alex suggested. "You want to keep good talent and besides you don't want to shut out the humanities."
"Josh, you didn't tell me he was smart, too," Luc said.
Josh leaned over and kissed Alex on the cheek and said, "He's got a lot of talent I don't broadcast," and Alex blushed. "Anyway, just wanted to let you know we were here. I'll empty out the few things I have in the Old Man's office before I leave town and you can move in."
"Not sure I like that," Luc said. "That will say you are no longer at the helm."
"I won't be and I'm not worried at all," Josh said. "You, Mr. T'an and Senhor Dimas are as fully capable of running this company as Mr. T'an, Senhor Dimas and I."
"I'm sure. Well, we'll run. Need to take this boy shopping as he's getting his body back…"
"I couldn't help but notice that," Luc grinned.
"Look, but don't touch," Josh said, and slapped Luc's hand.
"Alex, there's a small menswear store down the street which has the best selection of underwear and jeans in the city. It's the only place I have found to get jeans which fit that nice ass of Cândido's. I'm sure they have some to show off the butt of Josh's dreams," Luc laughed. He wrote down the address and handed it to Josh. "I didn't ask before, but would you like a company car while you're here?"
"Not a bad idea if one is available."
Luc picked up the phone and asked Prue to check that out. "Check with Prue when you leave."
"We're leaving. Just want to say hi." The three exchanged hugs.
When they stepped into the outer office, Prue said, "Josh, Mr. Sun's company car is here. I think you'll like it. He won't be back for a week. He's in Wren, North Carolina at some place called Sentinel Mountain. He says the accommodations are excellent, the food exceptional, the wine cellar superb, and he suspects he's putting on more than a few pounds."
"I bet he is," Alex said. "Tell him he better spend some time on that buckskin Mustang stallion. He'll keep his weight down—down on the ground."
"What's he doing on the Mountain?" Josh asked.
"A second delegation from Peru arrived today to take a look at the communication system and as soon as they are gone a Chilean one arrives. A fourth one, from Montana will be there as soon as they are gone. Mr. Sun says that's it. After these, anyone interested can check an installation elsewhere. 'Let the manufacturer do his own selling from now on,' he said."
"Good man," Josh said. "He doesn't drive a SUV does he?"
"Hardly. Here's the key, and the car's in slot nineteen."
Slot nineteen was occupied by a nice, sedate fire engine red Mazda MX-5 Miata.
Editors: Jesse and Scott.
As always, I own the copyright, so no use beyond personal copy, without permission. If you are too young or whatever to read literature which may describe explicit sex, don't or take any consequences.
All persons and places are fictional and any similarity to persons or places living or dead is coincidental. Again, it's fiction, folks.