Shortly after returning from a business trip to the Caribbean where Webber Kincaid, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Kincaid International Corporation, (KIC) and his Executive Assistant Tristan Moreau act on their long hidden love for one another, they also discover that KIC’s Chief Financial Officer has been up to some very shady business transactions. Ultimately responsible for the actions of his CFO, Webber comes home with Tristan by his side to face KIC’s Board of Directors and a looming investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Justice.
Despite all the uncertainty surrounding them, Webber and Tristan embark on a new life together and with the support of Webber’s long time friend and one time beard Deanna Lynn. Together, they set out to plan an intimate wedding on the island of Martha’s Vineyard and despite Webber and Tristan’s strong and passionate love for one another, they quickly realize they have some hurdles to cross before they can start their very unexpected new life together.
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As Tristan lay there with the man he loved in his arms, his smile slowly faded and concern replaced the happiness. “Tris, I want to marry you as soon as possible,” Webber had said right after Tristan had accepted his proposal. He stroked Webber’s hair as Webber slept soundly in his arms and wondered if the rush to marriage was because of the investigation by the SEC and the Department of Justice regarding Nathan Bridges, his former CFO. The thought of the SEC investigating Webber sent shivers up his spine. Did Webber really think there was a possibility that the SEC would think he had anything to do with Nathan’s wrongdoings? Tristan’s mind started to drift back to when they’d met and how far they’d come in their relationship. ENGAGED to Webber Kincaid was definitely not a turn of events he’d expected when he interviewed for the position as Webber’s chief administrative assistant two years ago. Giving up his life in New York was difficult, but coming to work for Kincaid International Corporation, or KIC, was certainly worth it. Worth it in spite of Tristan’s fears—quickly realized—that he could easily fall in love with his new, seemingly heterosexual, boss. Tristan couldn’t tell Webber he loved him; he didn’t want to risk his job or Webber’s reputation, so he told himself he was content to care for Webber under the cloak of simply doing his job. When Webber had returned early from a trip to Australia to review potential acquisitions with Nathan Bridges, KIC’s then-CFO, he called Tristan to join him for a drink at the company lounge. Given that Tristan wasn’t even expecting Webber to be back yet, he was a little surprised to hear from him. He was even more surprised when he heard what Webber was proposing—an extended trip to a private Caribbean island to review fifteen potential acquisitions without the interference of the Business Development or Finance departments. Tristan was unsure why Webber was asking him—and whether or not it would be a good idea—but in the end, the need to be close to Webber, even for work, won out, and Tristan agreed to accompany him, knowing they would have to work right through the weekend to complete all of their outstanding projects. With a rush of excitement, Tristan smiled, remembering the powerful feeling of the helicopter vibrating under his feet and the feel of Webber’s arm over his shoulder pointing out the different islands. And the view as they approached their destination: man, he’d never seen anything so beautiful. The island’s lush green foliage was spectacular against the deep blue-green water. The sight reminded him of a pool of sapphires with handfuls of emeralds sprinkled here and there. That weekend, as they worked together, Tristan kept wondering if he was imagining things, or if Webber really was subtly flirting with him. As far as he knew, Webber had a longtime girlfriend named Deanna Lynn. But his smile quickly lessened and eventually turned into a frown as he thought back to how elated he’d been by Webber’s interest in him until he’d seen Deanna standing on the helicopter pad excitedly waving her hands in anticipation of their arrival. Shortly after they’d left Atlanta, Tristan had foolishly allowed himself to think, for just a second, that it would be he and Webber on this island alone together, but seeing Deanna had been a rude awakening and quickly crushed any stupid hopes he’d had of the man he loved ever being interested in him for anything more than an assistant. But unbeknownst to Tristan, Webber had fallen in love with him, yet because of his position and the potential for a sexual harassment suit if Tristan wasn’t gay or simply was not interested, Webber had never been able to tell him how he truly felt. After they got together, Webber confessed that although it truly was a working trip, Webber had hoped the time away would give him an opportunity to see if he could pick up on anything that might indicate where Tristan’s sexual preferences lay. But just in case Tristan wasn’t gay, Webber had invited Deanna, his best friend and confidant, along on the trip as a decoy.
That had badly backfired when Webber found the nerve to kiss Tristan, and Tristan, having been hurt by a similar relationship in the past, thought Webber was cheating on Deanna and couldn’t be any part of that. Tristan brushed the fingers of his free hand over his lips, remembering the feeling of Webber’s lips pressed against his in the warm water of the swimming pool that evening so many months ago. But he also recalled the panic he’d felt when he realized what was happening. He gently stroked Webber’s hair and kissed his temple, partly out of habit, but partly to reassure himself that Webber was still there and this wasn’t a dream. His mind wandered again, as he remembered he had been so upset by the thought that Webber could cheat on Deanna, he’d even gone so far as to resign. Of course, after some turmoil, Deanna had straightened everything out, and they were finally able to be honest with each other. But now, Tristan wondered if he was going to lose Webber before they even really began. As the icing on the cake, their time away had become bittersweet, since Webber’s now former CFO threatened to blackmail them because Webber had used the KIC corporate jet for a questionable business trip—although Webber had personally paid for all of the expenses associated with the trip. TRISTAN was startled out of his thoughts by Webber’s sleepy voice. “Tris, I can hear you thinking,” he murmured. “Do you want to talk about it yet?” “God, Web, sometimes I hate how well you know me. I’m sorry if I woke you.” “You didn’t wake me.” Webber leaned up on one elbow. “I was just dozing. Tell me what’s bothering you?” “I’m just worrying about the SEC. They can be relentless in their investigations.” “I figured as much. Please don’t worry; it’s not going to change the outcome.” “I was just remembering everything we’ve gone through to get here, and I can’t lose you. Not now.” “You’re not going to lose me, Tris,” Webber reassured him. “I’m certain this is just a routine investigation, and I’ll be cleared very soon.” Tristan sighed. “But tomorrow’s the board of directors meeting. What if they decide you inappropriately used corporate resources for personal reasons? We both know it started out as a business trip, but it sure as hell didn’t end that way. And on top of that, what if they decide you knew what Nathan was doing all along?” “Well, to be honest, I don’t really care what they decide,” Webber said with conviction. “Not anymore.”
Tristan raised a brow and turned his head to study Webber. “What do you mean?” Webber dropped back down and again rested his head on Tristan’s chest while he spoke. “Well, since I met you, KIC doesn’t seem to be as important to me as it used to. I mean, for all of those years, KIC was all I had, my partner in many ways. But now that I have you, Tris, I want my life to be different.” “Different how?” Tristan asked. “I’m not sure I understand.” “For starters, I just keep thinking about my parents. They worked all their lives accumulating a fortune, and then they died way too soon without ever getting to enjoy the money. And now because of them, we have the opportunity to enjoy our lives without any financial worries. I don’t want what happened to them to happen to us.” Tristan pulled Webber close against him and kissed the top of his head, inhaling the clean smell of sandalwood shampoo while he decided how to respond. Before he could say anything, he heard Webber’s voice. “Would you… consider retiring with me?” he asked speculatively. “Retire,” he murmured as he began to stroke Webber’s hair again, mulling over his request. “I have to admit the idea does sound very enticing.” Webber reached for his hand and pulled it to his lips, kissing Tristan’s palm. “We could do anything and go anywhere we wanted. We would have so much fun.” Tristan knew he would consider it. In fact, he would do anything for Webber if he thought that’s what Webber really wanted. But he wondered how much of this was really Webber being unhappy at KIC and wanting to start a new life versus him preparing himself for the possibility of losing his job. “Web, I have to ask you a question, and please promise me you’ll be honest.” “Okay,” Webber responded. Tristan paused while he tried to put his feelings into words. “Did you propose to me because you think there’s a possibility that you’ll be indicted and could possibly go to jail?” he finally asked. Webber rose up to one elbow again and used his other hand to turn Tristan’s face so he could look him in the eyes. “No! Of course not,” he said quickly. “I proposed to you because I love you. Tristan, please tell me you know that.” Tristan nodded his head, needing to hear the words. “I know that,” Tristan whispered. “But,” Webber continued, “I promised you that I would be honest with you and I will. I have no idea if the SEC or the Department of Justice will think I had anything to do with Nathan’s indiscretions or what they’ll do, but I want you to be taken care of in the event they don’t believe I’m innocent and try to indict me.” Tristan sat up, his nervousness now getting the best of him. “So I was right. This urgency is all about the investigation.” Webber caressed Tristan’s cheek with the back of his hand. “Tris, you know me better than that. How many times have you said that when I want something I go after it? Why would I be any different when it comes to you?” Tristan’s concern ebbed a little and he lay back down. “I just don’t want to lose you, Web, and I don’t want you to marry me just because you think you might be going away.” Tristan took note of the confidence when Webber next spoke. “You’re not going to lose me. We both know I had nothing to do with my former CFO’s activities, and the truth will come out.” Webber sighed then took Tristan’s hand and pressed it to his cheek. “Baby, I love you and that’s all that matters.” Tristan turned his head and kissed Webber’s palm as his rapidly beating heart started returning to normal. “I love you too, Web. But I don’t need taking care of.” Webber turned his head up and pressed his lips against Tristan’s for a slow, gentle kiss. When the kiss ended, he pulled back and smiled at Tristan. “I always want to take care of you, but that doesn’t mean I think you need taking care of. And just for the record, I knew I was going to ask you to marry me when we were still in the Caribbean. It has nothing to do with the SEC or the investigation, but everything to do with you and the way I feel about you.” Tristan couldn’t help the smile that spread across his face. “In that case, let’s do it as soon as possible. I can’t wait to be Tristan Moreau-Kincaid.” Webber smiled. “I like the sound of that.” “Me too,” Tristan said as he kissed Webber’s temple. THE next morning Webber stood in front of the full-length mirror tying his necktie. He looked exceptionally calm for a man about to be put under a microscope by a room full of his peers. Tristan walked up behind him, slid his hands around Webber’s waist, and kissed the back of his neck. “You okay?” he asked. Webber looked at Tristan in the mirror confidently. “Yeah, I am.” Tristan turned Webber around and slid the knot on his necktie up to Webber’s collar and straightened it. “You look incredible. And you smell good too,” he added, leaning in and taking a deep breath. “Thanks. How about you, you nervous?” “A little,” Tristan admitted. “I do feel somewhat responsible since I’m the one you took to the Caribbean.” Webber smiled and took Tristan into his arms. “You are not responsible. I’m the one who invited you, remember?” Tristan laughed nervously. “Okay, let’s not split hairs.” Webber squeezed Tristan tighter and released him. “Tris, you realize I’m going to have to be completely honest with the board. That means outing both of us.” “I realize that, Web, and I’m fine with it,” Tristan said rather adamantly. “I love you and I don’t care who knows.” Webber leaned in and kissed him. “Thank you. I feel the same way. But if you think you’ll be the least bit uncomfortable in that meeting, I can get someone else to sit in and take the minutes.” “Hell no,” Tristan protested. “We do this together. And besides, taking the minutes of the board meetings is my job, and I’m gonna do it with my head held high until someone tells me I can’t do it anymore or until I decide I no longer want to.” Webber chuckled. “I love you so much,” he whispered as he pulled Tristan into his arms for another embrace. Webber stepped back and looked Tristan in the eyes. “There are a few more things I wanted to talk to you about.” “Shoot,” Tristan answered. Webber didn’t hesitate. “I don’t know how this is going to go today, but I decided that whether or not I get to keep my job, when the SEC and the Department of Justice clear me, I’m gonna resign.” Webber paused. “If it’s okay with you, that is.” Tristan raised an eyebrow, taking note of the “when” and happy Webber hadn’t said “if.” “Are you sure that’s what you want?” “I am,” Webber offered. “I’ve thought about it a lot. KIC is no longer the company my dad and I ran. In the back of my mind, I knew that would happen when I took it public, but it was the best thing for the company and my father’s legacy, so I did it.” “Then I’ll support you one hundred percent,” Tristan said. Webber took Tristan’s hands in his. “Which brings me to my next question.” “The answer’s yes, Web.” “What do you mean, ‘yes’?” Webber asked. “I haven’t said anything yet.” “You don’t have to,” Tristan assured him. “I’ll resign with you.” Webber grabbed Tristan around the waist, picked him up, spun him around, and put him back down on his feet. “We are going to have such a great life, Tris.” “I know it,” Tristan said. “So is that all the significant stuff?” “Almost,” Webber confirmed with a more serious look on his face. “The last thing is the press conference.” Tristan tilted his head to one side. “What about it?” he asked. “Well, once we go public with our news, it’s going to get crazy for a while. The paparazzi are going to go wild over this, and I want to make sure you’re prepared.” Tristan mulled over his answer. “I suppose I’m as prepared as I can be.” “Look, Tris, we don’t have to do this. If this bothers you, we have another option.” “What’s that?” Tristan asked. “We can lay low, not out ourselves, and wait until someone outs us.” “It’s not the outing that bothers me,” Tristan confessed. “It’s the fact that our lives might not be our own for a while.” “Whatever you want to do is fine by me,” Webber said. “But we either pay the piper now or pay him later.” “I say we go for it and get on with our lives,” Tristan proposed. “I don’t want us looking over our shoulder every time we leave the house.” “I see your point,” Webber agreed. “I say we go for it too.” “Then it’s settled,” Tristan said as he raised his arms and locked them behind Webber’s neck. “We’re in this together, for better or for worse, ’til death do us part.” Webber chuckled. “Those words sound very familiar.” “They better,” Tristan teased. “We’re gonna be saying them very soon.” THEY decided to take Webber’s car into work, neither of them caring if anyone saw them arriving together. When they reached the closed boardroom door, Webber stopped and turned to Tristan. “You ready, Tris?” “As ready as I’ll ever be,” Tristan said in shaky voice. “Let’s do this,” Webber said as he nervously pushed the door open. Two of the six board members were already seated and stood up when they saw Webber and Tristan enter. “Scott,” Webber said, extending his hand. “Nice to see you.” “Good morning,” Tristan said to Scott, extending his hand as well. Scott Mullin was the chief financial officer of Restaurant Group South, a large chain of high-end restaurants, and had been on the board for four years. “Gentlemen,” Scott said, sheepishly looking at Webber and Tristan. “Nice to see you both, but I wish it were under better circumstances.” Webber nodded and smiled. “Tell me about it.” Webber watched as Tristan gracefully moved on to the next board member. “Ms. Jordan, how are you?” Tristan said, shaking the woman’s hand. “Fine, Tristan, thanks for asking.” Hillary Jordan was the president and CEO of Landscape America and was a personal friend of Webber’s late mother and father. She’d been the first person Webber called to sit on his board when he decided to take the company public. “Hillary,” Webber said, putting his hand on her shoulder. “Good to see you. How’s Paul?” “He’s good, Webber,” Hillary said. “We’re a bit surprised by all of this, but we’ll get through it. You know we’re on your side.” She looked at Tristan and smiled. “Thanks, Hil,” Webber said, looking between her and Tristan. “You have no idea how much that means to us.” Before Webber could say anything else, three more board members appeared in the doorway: John Reynolds, president of HomeCare, a nationwide home improvement store, Cynthia Bowen, chief marketing officer for Talk US, a cellular provider, and Betty Katz, chief operating officer for the local ABC affiliate. Before everyone could say their hellos, the final board member, Robert Yellos, chairman of the board for Global Media Corp, a broadcast media buying company appeared, not looking too happy. After greetings were exchanged, Webber moved to his seat and Tristan to his position in the corner of the room at a small desk designed for him to quietly take the minutes of the board meeting. Webber called the meeting to order. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “I thank each of you for taking the time out of your busy schedules to attend this unscheduled meeting of the board for KIC. As you are all aware, Nathan Bridges has confessed to inflating the cost of one particular acquisition we made back in 2005 and divested in 2007, and was trying to guide us to purchase the company again, which has now changed its name and moved Down Under. We are also here to discuss a discretionary business trip taken by Tristan and myself, which may or may not have been appropriate. But we will get to that later. Before we discuss what action may be taken toward me or KIC by the SEC and the Department of Justice, I’d like to play the recording of Nathan’s confession. I don’t have to remind you that in the state of Georgia, a recording can be admissible in a court of law if at least one person knows the conversation is being recorded. Here we go,” Webber said as he pressed the “on” button on his recorder. “WHAT can I do for you, Nathan?” “I’ve been told that you requested the file for the divestiture of Marquis Advertising.” “That’s right.” “May I ask why?” “I’m doing a little research,” they heard Webber respond. “Come on, Webber, we’ve known each other too long to play games.” “I’m not playing games; I’m just trying to do my job.” “Really?” Nathan said sarcastically. “First, you held back the Moniker Communications file when you turned over all of the other potential acquisitions to Finance, then you checked out the acquisition file for Marquis Advertising, and then you requested the file for the divestiture of Marquis. I’m not stupid, Webber. That’s a very strange coincidence. “We’re adults here, Webber, let’s put all our cards on the table and be honest.” They didn’t hear Webber respond. “Okay. I’ll go first,” Nathan said. “How did you find out?” “Find out what?” There was a loud sound like someone slamming a hand on a desk. “You know exactly what I’m talking about and I want to know what you’re going to do about it.” “How did you do it?” Webber asked. “Oh, it was simple actually. I merely convinced the owner of Marquis to inflate the asking price then supply me with a list of bogus contracts to support that price and we’d split the difference. Clean and simple.” They heard Webber speak next. “But why risk everything? You make a good living here.” “I needed money,” Nathan responded. “I was in the middle of a divorce, being taken for everything, and my girlfriend wanted more and more.” Webber’s voice was clear. “And you might have gotten away with it if you hadn’t gone back for a second round. Did you really think I wouldn’t put two and two together?” “Hey, can’t blame a guy for trying,” Nathan said. “I’m curious, though, how did you find me out?” “Actually Tristan did, but only because he looked at the Moniker files before I had a chance to. It turns out that when I was mentoring him on evaluating acquisitions, I gave him a handful of KIC’s previous acquisitions to review and Marquis happened to be one of them. So when he was reviewing the files for Moniker, he recognized the client list and financials.” “I’m impressed,” Nathan admitted “I didn’t give the twit enough credit.” Webber laughed. “You’re calling him a twit? But I must admit you seem awfully calm for a man about to be in very big trouble.” “Oh, I don’t think I’m in that much trouble,” Nathan said with confidence in his voice. “Really, why not?” was Webber’s response. “Well, because if I go down, you go down right along with me,” Nathan warned. “You signed off on the transaction, remember.” “I remember the argument we had over this transaction and you producing a series of contracts supporting the purchase price,” Webber said. “But I had no idea those contracts were fabricated and worth nothing.” “It’s your word against mine now, isn’t it? Come on, Webber,” Nathan said. “That transaction was a long time ago. If you keep your mouth shut, no one will ever be the wiser.” “I’m afraid I can’t do that,” Webber responded. “I’m sorry to hear that, because that leaves me no choice but to out you and that twit back there,” Nathan said. “What are you talking about, Nathan?” “There you go playing games with me again, Webber,” he hissed. “I think the board will be happy to learn that you’ve been cavorting around the Caribbean on company resources with an employee of yours, doing who knows what,” he threatened. “I’ve always suspected you two had something going on. I could just tell by the way you looked at each other, but I didn’t know for sure until your little display of affection in the parking lot yesterday. Thanks for giving me some leverage.” “What Tristan and I do behind closed doors is no concern of yours or the board’s.” “You’re quite right, but what you’re forgetting is when you use corporate resources to fund your little rendezvous, that becomes a very different story.” “Nathan, you know perfectly well we were on a legitimate business trip,” Webber insisted. “We evaluated fifteen potential acquisitions in a quarter of the time it would have taken your business development department to do it.” “Oh, Webber, you disappoint me sometimes. The reasons why have nothing to do with it,” Nathan said. “You took a personal trip on a company-owned jet with an employee with whom you were romantically involved. That doesn’t bode well in your favor at all. “Webber, you just think about it for a little while and we’ll talk again before the end of the day. I’m sure when you think this through, you’ll agree it’s better for everyone if we both keep our mouths shut and forget this ever happened.” They heard silence and then a door slam. “SO THIS is what the SEC and the Department of Justice have,” Webber stated. “My attorney says it is admissible in court and will, in the end, clear me of any wrongdoing. Any comments?” The board members looked at each other and Hillary was the first to speak. “It appears to me from what we just heard regarding this matter that, pending any other evidence, you are in the clear.” “I agree,” Scott added. John, Cynthia, and Betty all nodded in Webber’s favor. Robert cleared his voice. “How could you not know that those contracts were bogus?” Before Webber could answer, Scott spoke up. “How would he know? He questioned his CFO like he should have and his CFO fed him bad information. Short of calling each of those contracts to make sure they were legit, there is no way he could have known. Would you have verified every contract?” “Come on,” Betty added. “We all trust our CFO. If we didn’t, they wouldn’t be in the position. Webber has a great track record here and I believe he will be vindicated.” Webber stood. “I appreciate everyone’s kind words, but I did sign that contract and I am ultimately responsible, so I’m not trying to dodge a bullet here. The issue at hand, though, is if I was negligent or not, and I do not believe I was. I did my homework and I asked the right questions. Hell, I even fought with Nathan about the price. When he produced executed contracts, I had no choice but to propose it to you for approval.” “I say we put it to a vote,” Cynthia suggested. “Is everyone in agreement that we show a united front to the SEC and the Department of Justice and support our chairman, president, and CEO?” Webber looked over at Tristan, his heart racing. He watched Tristan close his eyes and sigh when they both heard “ayes” from all the board members, although a reluctant one from Robert Yellos. He smiled and winked at Tristan before turning back to the board. “Thank you,” he said. “I appreciate your support. Does anyone want to take a break before we move on to the next issue at hand?” Everyone looked around, but no one moved. “Okay then,” Webber said. “Moving on to the next order of business.” Webber glanced over at Tristan and took a deep breath before he spoke. “The next matter is of a very personal nature and may be difficult for some of you to hear or understand, but it’s important to us that you know the truth. Although my personal life and whom I spend it with is of no one’s concern but mine, I want to tell you the complete story and then allow you to decide if I acted inappropriately or not. If you find that I did act inappropriately, I will accept whatever consequences you deem appropriate and not take it personally.” Webber again looked over at Tristan, who seemed to have lost most of his color but was holding it together very nicely. “My, I mean, our,” Webber corrected, “story began a couple of years ago when Tristan Moreau, who you all know very well, joined KIC as my chief administrative assistant. On my part, there was an immediate attraction and for reasons I didn’t understand at the time, I still made him an offer and ultimately hired him. Unbeknownst to me, Tristan had the same initial attraction and over the last two years, we managed to fall head over heels in love with each other.” The board members again looked around the room at each other, but no one made any comment. “However, during those two years, neither of us acted upon our attractions for fear of what the outcome might be. From Tristan’s standpoint, he wasn’t sure that I was gay, so he was fearful of losing his job, and if I was gay, he was concerned for my reputation and the reputation of KIC if he acted on his feelings. From my standpoint, I didn’t know what his personal preferences were, and not wanting to open myself or KIC up for a sexual harassment suit, I kept my feelings to myself. The longer we worked together, the harder it became for me to hide my feelings, so I decided to try and get a handle on where Tristan’s head was.” Webber paused and poured himself a glass of water, taking a sip and then putting the glass down in front of him. He glanced around the room and smiled, appearing to have everyone’s attention and even a little sympathy from a few of the board members, mostly the women. “As most of you know, I’d just returned from a trip Down Under to look at possible acquisitions, and although we discovered fifteen possibilities, you as a board had only approved five for the remainder of the fiscal year. I wanted to sort through the fifteen before I gave them to the business development department and decided to take a much-needed working vacation. I’ve shared with some of you that I was mentoring Tristan in acquisitions and divestures and he had a knack for it, so I invited him along to help me sort through the mounds of paperwork. And I know what you’re thinking: it was a way to spend time alone with Tristan and you are right. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t. But all I wanted was a little time to see if I could figure out where Tristan’s sexual preferences lay to determine if I would at some point approach him with my feelings. Fortunately for us, I got my answer and we’ve been inseparable ever since. As a matter of fact, I proposed, he accepted, and we will be married very shortly. But, please allow me to be very clear. I did nothing inappropriate, what we did was between consenting adults, and in the end, we sorted through all fifteen potential acquisitions with Tristan discovering that something wasn’t right with Marquis/Moniker. Furthermore, I did use the company jet, but I paid for all expenses surrounding the trip with no costs to KIC. In the folder in front of you, you will find my credit card statements with all expenses highlighted in yellow pertaining to this trip.” Webber stopped then took a deep breath and another sip of his water. “Any questions?” Hillary was the first to speak. “I know you said that neither of you acted on your attraction during the two years leading up to the trip to the Caribbean, but it’s very important that you tell us the truth. If we chose to support you and something to the contrary is leaked—” She paused and looked around the room at the other board members. “—none of us will be very pleased. Come on, Webber, if your relationship is anything like my relationship with my personal assistant, I’m sure you must have worked many long nights together and had many opportunities.” “Yes, we have had many opportunities, but the answer is still no,” Webber assured her and the other board members. “Unless you consider sharing a scotch after a very long day acting on feelings.” Before Hillary could respond, Scott spoke next. “So, you are right in that your personal life does not affect your ability to do your job, but you must know that it would be very questionable for us to allow Tristan to be your personal assistant knowing what we now know.” Webber nodded. Scott continued. “But the real issue I see here for us to determine is if you used company resources for personal interest.” “He’s already said he invited Tristan to join him to try and gauge his sexual preference,” Robert said. “That to me screams personal interest.” “Yes,” Cynthia said. “But he also worked while he was away and in the end, caught Nathan in some very heavy deceptions.” John Reynolds had been quiet up until now. “Look, ladies and gentlemen, Webber has done nothing but run this company and run it well for a very long time. Yes, this was a questionable decision, but are we prepared to terminate a damn good man because of one questionable decision?” No one answered. “Thank you, John,” Webber said. “But maybe it’s time for Tristan and me to step out and allow you to speak more freely. Hillary, will you please take notes so we can incorporate them into our minutes when this is all over?” She nodded and smiled. Webber held out his hand to Tristan, and he accepted it as they walked out of the boardroom and closed the door behind him. “Well,” Tristan asked. “What do you think?” “Your guess is as good as mine,” Webber said. “Hillary and John seem sympathetic, Robert as always is a pain in the ass, and I couldn’t get a read on Scott, Cynthia, or Betty.” “Am I going to lose my job?” Tristan asked. “I’m sorry, Tris. It appears that way, but by no fault of your own. I take full responsibility,” Webber admitted. “But since we’re going to retire, I don’t think it matters one way or the other.” Tristan appeared to think this over. “I guess you’re right,” he said, shrugging. “That’s my boy,” Webber said, pulling him into a hug. Just then the door opened and Hillary invited them back in. Webber didn’t release Tristan, but instead led him to the head of the table where they stood hand in hand and awaited their fate. “Please take a seat, gentlemen,” Scott offered. “Thank you,” Webber said. “But if it’s all the same, I think we’ll stand.” Scott nodded and began. “After listening to your heartfelt and very honest confession, we as the board, not unanimously I might add, believe your account and believe you did not set out to deceive KIC’s board, its employees, or its shareholders in any way, shape, or form.” Webber closed his eyes, sighed, and squeezed Tristan’s hand. Scott continued looking at Tristan. “It is, however, unfortunate that Mr. Moreau will not be allowed to keep his job as your personal assistant and must be laterally moved into another department where he will have no interaction with you in a professional capacity.” Tristan nodded and squeezed Webber’s hand. Webber looked around the boardroom. Everyone was smiling, but Hillary and John were beaming. “Congratulations, gentlemen,” John said. “We wish you the best.” Webber nodded as he glanced at Tristan, barely able to contain himself. “Thank you all very much, and I appreciate the faith you’ve put in me over the years and the support you’ve shown us today. I’ve enjoyed working with each of you and want only the best for KIC. To that end, Tristan and I would like to turn in our resignations, Tristan’s immediate and mine as soon as the SEC and/or the Department of Justice clears me and you can find a suitable replacement. You’ll each have a copy of my resignation letter by tomorrow morning.” Webber saw the shocked looks on the faces of every board member. “What?” Hillary asked. “But….” Webber put his hands up. “May I speak freely?” “Please,” John responded. “I’ve not been happy for a while, and I’ve been considering this move for quite some time. But in light of the recent developments and accusations, I want to be cleared of any wrongdoing before I resign. I’ve had a great track record, and I don’t want that tarnished by a scandal.” Webber looked around the room for any indication of how they were taking the news. “In addition, because of my philanthropy and my position here, I’m heavily covered in the media, so as soon as I’m cleared, Tristan and I will be giving a press conference to confirm our relationship before TMZ or some other tabloid reporter outs us and we have to do damage control.” Still no one said a word. “In addition I would like to have a staff meeting for my direct reports and explain the situation before they hear it in the news. They deserve that. I’d love your input and your support for both, but we will move forward with or without it.” “Of course,” Hillary said, looking around and getting nods from the other board members. “But we have to handle this very carefully.” Webber put one arm over Tristan’s shoulder and looked at the board members again. “You can decide how much or how little involvement you want from me until you find a suitable replacement. My exit package is on record, so I don’t expect to have any issues there. If you need me in the meantime, I will be reachable by cell phone.” Webber removed his arm from Tristan’s shoulder and brought his hands together with his fingertips touching. “Ladies and gentlemen of the board,” he said. “Unless you have any other questions…?” Webber looked around the boardroom, waiting for any sort of response. When the room remained silent, Webber said, “This meeting is adjourned.” He threw his arms around Tristan’s neck and whispered, “I love you. Let’s get the hell out of here.” They bolted for the door and once they were in the hall, Webber lifted Tristan from the waist and spun him around like a twelve-year-old. “We did it,” he said, almost giddy. “Web, put me down,” Tristan begged. “They’ll be plenty of time for celebration later; we’re still at the office.” Webber did as he was told, and Tristan regained his footing about the same time the boardroom door opened and Hillary stepped out. “I guess congratulations are in order,” she said, hugging Webber. She turned to Tristan and smiled. “I’m very happy for you both and I wish you the best of luck,” she added. “Tristan, do you mind if I have a word with Webber?” “Not at all,” Tristan said. “I need to pack my office anyway. Meet me there, Web?” Webber smiled and kissed Tristan on the cheek. “Will do, baby,” he said. As soon as Tristan was out of earshot, Hillary smacked him on the shoulder. “Webber Kincaid, how could you not tell me something like this?” Webber smiled and rubbed his shoulder. “Because it was a nonissue,” Webber responded. “Until now, that is.” Hillary chuckled. “Still, you could have told me,” she whined. “But I must say, you do look happier than I’ve seen you in years.” Webber corrected her. “No, I’m happier than I’ve ever been.” She took both his hands in hers. “And I’m happy for you. Promise me you boys will come over and have dinner with Paul and me. We need to get to know Tristan better.” “We’ll do that, Hil,” Webber promised. “But first we’re gonna take some time, find a place to get married, and do a little traveling.” “That sounds nice,” Hillary said. “I hope we’ll be on the invitation list for the wedding.” “Of course you will.” Webber paused. “I just wish….” His voice trailed off. Hillary finished his sentence. “You wish your parents could be there.” Webber nodded and a single tear slid down his cheek. Hillary wiped the tear away and kissed him tenderly. “They’ll be there in spirit, don’t you worry.” “Thanks, Hil.” Hillary hugged him. “I need to get back in there and see what we’re going to do about replacing you.” Just as Hillary put her hand on the doorknob, the door opened. “Oh, sorry, Hillary,” John Reynolds said as he stepped out of the boardroom. “I just wanted to congratulate Webber before he left.” Hillary smiled. “Okay, I’ll give you two a little privacy,” she said as she went back in to join the other board members. “Thanks, John,” Webber said. “I really appreciate your support back in there.” “Hey look, no problem,” John said. “You’ve done a great job here, and I’m truly sorry to see you go.” John bounced from one foot to the other and Webber thought he looked a little nervous. “Thank you, John,” he said as he offered his hand for a shake. John accepted it and they shook, John hanging on a little longer than usual. “Is there something else, John?” Webber asked. “Well, I, ah, just wanted to invite you and Tristan to dine with Charles and me at the Buckhead Club sometime,” he stammered. “Charles?” Webber asked, a little confused. “My husband.” Webber raised an eyebrow. “John, are you telling me that you’re gay?” John looked around the hall to make sure they were still alone. “Yep,” he replied. “Charles and I have been together for twelve years, married for two.” “How did I not know this?” Webber asked. “I guess for the same reason I didn’t know about you,” John responded. “Touché.” Webber laughed. “I’m sure we’d like that,” Webber said. “As I told Hillary, we’re going to take a little time off, look for a place to get married, and travel for a while, but we would love to spend some time with you guys when we return.” “Sounds good,” John said. “But hey, before I get back in there, I’d like to suggest a little place for your wedding. Have you ever been to Martha’s Vineyard?” “I’ve heard of the island, but I’ve never been there,” Webber admitted. “Great place, secluded and private. There’s a little place called the Inn at Lambert’s Cove and it’s really beautiful. You know gay marriage has been legal in Massachusetts since 2004, and Charles and I were married there. It’s owned by a gay couple, and they did a great job for us.” “Sounds wonderful,” Webber said genuinely. “I’ll tell Tristan and we’ll look it up later tonight. Thanks for the tip.” “My pleasure,” John said with a pat on the back. “I’d better get back in there and help them figure all this out. Good luck, Webber.” “Okay, and thanks again,” Webber said, still stunned at John’s admission. TRISTAN had just finished going through his files, placing his personal items in a file box, and was about to start packing away his small stereo when it really sunk in that he would no longer be coming to this office every day. He sat in the chair opposite his desk and looked around. No more late nights and weekends taking off his shoes, turning up his stereo, and getting lost in his work. He’d spent some of the best times of his career and his life in this office working with Webber, loving Webber from afar, and he realized how much he was going to miss it. But a smile formed on his face; knowing he was going to spend the rest of his life with Webber instead of simply working for him was so much better. He was startled out of his thoughts by a hand lightly resting on his shoulder. He turned to see Webber standing behind him smiling weakly. “You okay?” Webber asked. Tristan nodded. “Yeah, just doing a little reminiscing.” “You want some time alone?” “No, it’s okay,” Tristan responded. “I’ve just spent so many long enjoyable hours here with you that I’m really going to miss this place.” “I’m so sorry. Tris, all this is my fault,” Webber said as he gently massaged Tristan’s shoulders. Tristan laid a hand on top of one of Webber’s. “It’s no one’s fault, Web,” Tristan assured him. “And just for the record, if I had to choose between spending the rest of my life with you or keeping my job, you win hands down.” Webber kissed the top of Tristan’s head. “Thanks, baby, I feel the same way. Now what can I do to help?” “You can start packing up those CDs while I pack up the stereo,” Tristan instructed. “How did it go after I left?” “Hillary was great. She wants us to spend some time with her and Paul. But that’s not the shocker.” Tristan held a stereo speaker in his hand, about to start wrapping it up when he stopped and looked at Webber. Webber simply smiled. “What?” Tristan asked in an impatient tone. “If I told you one of our board members is gay, who would you choose?” Webber asked, still smiling. Tristan thought about the question. He knew the board members pretty well, and he ran down a mental list of their marital statuses. “John Reynolds?” he guessed. “Bingo,” Webber said, his smile broadening. “Get out,” Tristan responded. “How did you guess?” Webber asked. “I started with him because he’s the only one that’s single,” Tristan said as he started wrapping the speaker again. “You’re so smart,” Webber teased. “But he’s not single. He has a husband named Charles, and they’ve been together twelve years. Oh, and they were married a couple of years ago at a place on Martha’s Vineyard, and John said it’s very private and secluded.” Tristan placed the wrapped speaker in the box and reached for the second one. “Isn’t that the island off the coast of Massachusetts where President Obama and his family vacation?” “That’s the place,” Webber answered. “Maybe we can look it up on the Internet tonight,” Tristan suggested. “Perfect,” Webber said. “But as your last official task, can you call my direct reports and set up a meeting in twenty minutes while I go pack up a few things in my office?” “Yes, sir,” Tristan said with a mock salute. Thirty minutes later, Webber and his direct reports, minus Nathan, were seated in Webber’s office around the small conference table. Webber explained to them everything that had happened over the last couple of days and what they could expect in the near future regarding the investigation. He answered all their questions as best he could and asked them to be honest, straightforward, and cooperative with the SEC and the Department of Justice if they were questioned. Then he told them about his and Tristan’s relationship and their resignation. Everyone was shocked about Nathan’s activities, but seemed very supportive of Webber and Tristan, although sorry to see them both go. He also asked everyone to be as supportive of his replacement as they had been of him and assured each of them that their jobs were secure and KIC’s future was very strong. The meeting ended with everyone a little dazed and confused, but they all wished Webber well on the way out of his office. Webber was silent as he threw a few things in a box then sat down behind his desk and rubbed his temples. He looked up to see Tristan standing in front of his desk and their eyes locked in silence. When Webber finally spoke, his voice was a little strained. “Well, I think that went as well as could be expected,” he concluded. Tristan moved behind Webber at his desk and put his hand on his shoulder. “I’m glad. You know they respect you, Web. They always have.” Webber covered Tristan’s hand with his own. “Thanks. What do you say we get the hell out of here, find a place for lunch, and start planning a wedding? I can get this stuff later.” Still at Webber’s side, Tristan dropped to one knee then brought Webber’s palm to his lips and gently kissed it. “Sounds like the perfect plan,” he assured him. “I just need to stop by my office and get a couple of boxes.”