Never walk alone - 24. Chapter 24
The three men took the turret staircase down to the lobby, amazed at how the larger windows had opened up the once dark and dingy staircase, leaving it filled with light and now very much a feature of the building. They stepped into the turret vestibule just as David and Janice came through the main doors carrying the framed artworks she had been doing. A dozen or so already stood against one wall. Andrew took the painting she was carrying and kissed her on the cheek.
"Hi mom, you should have contacted us. We could have come to help you carry all this in".
She grinned up at him.
"It was no problem Drew, we had plenty of help from young Abel. Shall we get these hung?"
"Yes definitely. Let's go".
They spent the next hour hanging the paintings that showed a number of landscapes around Fort William and the Lochaber district including two different perspectives of Loch Arkaig, Ben Nevis, the ruins of Tor Castle that Clan Cameron had apparently once captured from Clan Macdonald, and Achnacarry Castle which is today occupied by the head of Clan Cameron. or the Cameron of Lochiel. A number of artifacts were also dotted around the lobby, including a framed print of the Cameron coat of arms, a set of bagpipes and a mannequin wearing full Cameron regalia.
The five day 'soft opening' was a great success, with all the members of the media seemingly very impressed with what had been achieved and very happy with their short stay.
And then the big day was upon them 18 December , official opening day.
All the guests who had stayed the previous night had to be checked out and the rooms prepared for all the opening night guests, including a number who would be staying until after Christmas. The cocktail party was due to start at 5pm with the official opening occurring at 6pm, and the overnight guests being advised to check in from 2pm onwards. Those staying the night included the City Mayor and his wife, a few local politcians and councillors with their partners and the CEO'S of all the contractors who had worked on the project.
Andrew and Ryan had a quick lunch in the restaurant and nipped upstairs to their two bedroom standard suite to spend some time with the twins and Rascal, who were being cared for by Janice and David while their dad's were so busy. They both made sure to spend time during the day with the little ones and they would be at the celebration that evening in their fathers arms, dressed in their Cameron tartan, without Rascal, of course.
As requested, the guest's started arriving just after 2pm, and Andrew, Ryan and Paul worked the lobby, greeting everyone as they stepped through the doors. Among the first to arrive were Beth and Nicky, with Beth grinning from ear to ear as she looked around. She hugged Andrew and gushed,
"Oh my god Andrew. It's fantastic. I feel like I've just walked into a Scottish baronial hall. You' ve done the Cameron's proud."
"Thanks Beth", he replied. "We're very pleased with how it all turned out. Welcome to The Cameron, you two"
Nicky hugged Andrew and Ryan, smiling.
"Thank you for the invite! Beth has been so excited to see the place, I was hard pressed to stop her from arriving here at 7am this morning. But it was worth it. It is lovely. So different from Blue Bay"
Andrew and Ryan escorted them to the reception desk and handed them over to the front desk staff to get them checked in and up to their room, returning to the turret vestibule as yet another vehicle stopped at the bottom of the stairs. Ryan had noticed his husband surreptitiously checking his wristwatch every now and then, and just after 4pm, Andrew stiffened as a black limousine appeared at the bottom of the driveway and drove slowly up to the steps. Andrew took Ryan by the arm and whispered,
"Our surprise VIP has just arrived" and guided Ryan out under the portico.
The driver opened the rear door of the limousine and a distinguished, grey haired gentleman stepped out. He glanced up at Andrew and Ryan before mounting the steps, his hand extended in greeting.
''You must be Andrew. It good to meet you at last", he said with a distinct Scottish brogue. Andrew shook his hand and turned to Ryan.
"Ry, allow me to introduce Donald Angus Cameron of Lochiel, the 27th chief of the Cameron Clan. Donald will be performing the official opening tonight"
Ryan's gaped at Andrew and then at the older man. He eventually regained his composure and held out his hand.
"Please forgive my rudeness sir. Welcome to The Cameron. My dear husband here refused to tell me who our VIP guest was. Hence my surprise".
The Lochiel beamed at Ryan.
"Don't fret yourself young man. I was aware that my presence was a secret. You honour me and Clan Cameron by inviting me here today". He turned to Andrew. "And thank you for the invitation and the very comfortable flight. And please, call me Donald. I don't stand on ceremony"
Andrew took his elbow and shepherded him into the lobby, where he stopped and looked around. After a few moments he smiled and looked at them.
"Well, this is indeed a surprise. I feel as if I'm back in Scotland".
As they walked towards the reception desk, his eyes were examining everything. He stopped to examine Janice's painting of his home, Achnacarry Castle.
"Where did you get this painting? I'm not aware of ever seeing it before".
Ryan moved to stand next to him.
"It was painted from a photograph I took during our trip to Scotland in July. In fact, all the oils were done from photo-graphs Andrew and I took during our trip. My mother is the artist".
"It's beautifully done. The lighting is superb. You have a very good eye. And her talent is obvious. I would like to commission copy if I may?."
Ryan stared at the man, flabbergasted.
"Yes sir. No problem sir. Thank you".
Once he was checked in, Andrew escorted Donald up the the penthouse suite where he would be staying for two nights before flying home again and after making sure that he was comfortable and that he would make his own way downstairs for the opening ceremony, Andrew left him to relax and freshen up.
In the lobby, most of the overnight guests had arrived and been taken to their bedrooms, so Paul sent Andrew and Ryan upstairs to start getting ready, while he dealt with the stragglers. They quickly showered and after bathing the twins, and feeding Rascal, changed into dress suits, both wearing Clan Cameron cumberbunds and bowties, as would Paul. Then they got the twins dressed in their little outfits, with Andrew being pleased he had ordered them slightly bigger for the trip to Europe, as they now fitted almost perfectly with the twins growing so quickly. They had not started walking on their own yet, but were moving around supporting themselves on furniture or a convenient adult leg. They left the room andknocked on David and Janice's room door, next to theirs.
Janice looked amazing, dressed in a deep blue cocktail dress with matching heels and a double string of pearls around her neck. She wore pearl earings as well. David wore a black suit and white button down shirt and a Clan Cameron tie that they had brought back from Scotland for him.
They stepped into an elevator and descended to the lobby, which had been dressed for the cocktail party while they were upstairs.
The lights had been dimmed quite low, but to compensate, several large standing candlabra with fat while candles were arranged around the room, providing additional light.
Soft music played in the background, provided by a quartet on violin, cello, harp and piano, grouped around the piano.
Tall cocktail tables had been placed between the pillars, dressed in long white damask cloths
A bar had been set up against the wall that backed onto the elevators and a squad of hired function waiters dressed in black trousers, white shirts, bowties and white aprons stood in a line next to the bar waiting for the word to start service, which Andrew did. They scattered and took up positions around the room, ready to take any orders.
At 5pm exactly, some more waiters emerged from the kitchen with the first trays of snacks and began moving around the room, while a chef in pristine whites took up position behind a table that displayed an entire side of Scottish, whisky cured, wild salmon served on rounds of brown bread or oat cakes with the usual accompiaments of black pepper, horseradish, thinly sliced spring onion and capers.
David and Janice moved into the room proper, while Andrew and Ryan split up and began circulating, chatting to the guests that had already arrived. Out of the corner of his eye, Andrew saw Beth and Nicky emerge from the elevator lobby, both dressed on black cocktail dresses. Beth also wore a Clan Cameron sash, held at her waist by a Cameron crest clip. Andrew moved towards them and saw Ryan doing the same and they met just inside the main lobby, where they each took a glass of sparkling wine from a waiter.
They chatted for a while before Donald appeared as well, in full Cameron regalia of Clan Cameron 16oz worsted wool kilt, Black Barathea Prince Charlie jacket and vest, white wingtip collar dress shirt, black bowtie and cufflinks, dress sporran and flask, Ghillie brogues, kilt hose, tartan flashes, kilt pin and sgian dubh, the small single edged knife traditionally worn with a kilt. He looked every inch chief of the clan. He smiled as he approached the group, holding his finger to his lips, but as he neared them Andrew couldn't resist the temptation. He smiled and said,
"Hello Donald, you look incredible."
Beth turned to see who Andrew was addressing and choked on her drink.
"Uncle Donald, what are you doing here? When did you arrive?", she spluttered.
Donald chuckled and hugged his niece.
"Hello lass. Good to see you. I arrived this afternoon. Your young friend here has invited me to officiate at the opening ceremony tonight.".
Beth stared at Andrew.
"Andrew Devlin-Major! Full of surprises, aren't you?"
Ryan chuckled as well.
"You have no idea, Beth. I'll tell you the story about our engagement and wedding one day.".
Beth turned to hug and kiss her uncle.
"It's good to see you too, Lochiel. I cannot believe you are here".
"Believe me, lass, when I say I am very pleased to be here. I have taken a good stroll around and I can safely say, these two young men have done a good thing here. I am very impressed. They have done Clan Cameron proud . Now, can someone get me dram!?"
Andrew lifted a finger and a waiter appeared with a tray, 5 lead crystal glasses, a silver ice bucket, a small crystal jug of water and a bottle of 21yr old Ben Nevis single malt Scotch whisky. Donald's eyes widened when he saw the bottle.
"Now that's what I call a dram! Who is going to join me?"
They all nodded in assent and he poured a double tot into each glass, added a single ice cube and a small splash of water and handed them each a glass.
"Slange var", he said lifting his glass. They all raised their glasses and repeated the toast. "Slange var. To The Cameron".
Donald moved to Andrew and Ryan and looked at the twins.
"And I take it this is my great grand niece and nephew. Hello there my wee bairns. Ye are both so beautiful".
They turned Cameron and Elizabeth to face him and Andrew introduced them.
"Donald, this is our son Cameron, and his sister Elizabeth. Beth's son and daughter. They are just over a year old".
"They are lovely. Our Cameron babies are always beautiful. I must apologise for not being home when you visited Fort William. I was at a conference of clan heads in Inverness and returned the day you left"
"Well, you've made up for it by being here tonight. Now can I prevail upon you to do the honours? "
"With pleasure. Lead the way".
A piper appeared next to them and began playing 'Scotland the Brave' as he began a slow walk down the passage towards the reception desk, where a microphone had been set up. Andrew and Ryan flanked Donald as he followed the piper down the passageway. The guests moved to the sides as they walked and waited quietly until the music stopped and Andrew stepped up to the microphone.
"Ladies and gentlemen, for those of you who may not know, my name is Andrew Devlin-Major. Thank you all for being here to celebrate the opening of The Cameron. Please indulge me as I give you a bit of history. Why The Cameron you may ask?". He turned and beaconed Ryan closer holding Cameron. "Allow me to intoduce Ryan Devlin-Major, my partner and my husband. These two little munchkins are our twins. I am holding Elizabeth and Ryan has got Cameron. Beth, or Elizabeth, their mother is here tonight as well. Her surname is Cameron and she is a member of the Clan Cameron from the Lochaber region of Scotland. You will all have noticed the tartan that plays a big part in our decor. The tartan is one of the Clan Cameron tartans and the distinguished gentleman standing behind me, whom I would like to introduce, to perform the official opening, is Donald Angus Cameron, the chief or Lochiel of the Clan Cameron, who has travelled all the way from Scotland to be here tonight. Ladies and gentleman, Donald Cameron, the 27th Cameron of Lochiel."
Donald stepped up to the microphone and held his hand up to still the applause.
"Ladies and gentlemen, it is indeed a pleasure to be able to be here tonight. I have already told Andrew and Ryan, but I wish to tell you all as well. What they have achieved here, is wonderful and an enormous tribute to Clan Cameron and I thank them not only for that, but for wanting to ensure that their two children are aware of their heritage, which can be traced back hundreds of years and this establishment will ensure that Cameron and Elizabeth do not forget, because this lodge, as far as I am concerned, is a little piece of Scotland. Now , without further ado, and taking a phrase out of the maritime world, that Andrew and Ryan also know much about, I declare The Cameron officially open. May God bless all who stay and work in her. Thank you".
He stepped back amid enthusiastic applause as the piper began playing 'Rose of Scotland' and walked back towards the elevator lobby, where he stopped and turned to face the room until the song was finished. To polite applause he bowed and walked out the main doors as the musicians resumed playing.
Meanwhile, waiters were once again circulating with sparkling wine and more snacks were being carried into the room.The group around the microphone moved back into the room and began circulating, sampling some of the food along the way.
So far the guests had eaten cold foods, a mix of traditional Scottish and South African fare. - the smoked salmon, venison carpaccio, snoek pate, shredded biltong and cream cheese on oat biscuits and crayfish canapés.
The hot snacks that were now being passed around included demitasse cups of Scotch broth and Cullen Skink, miniature Scotch pies, pieces of boerewors encased in cooked maizemeal with a tomato and onion dipping sauce, and small bowls of bobotie and rice, and smoorsnoek. There was also fingers of sweet and buttery shortbread, small shot glasses of cranachan and cocktail milk tarts to finish.
By 8pm most of the guests who weren't staying over had left and those that were left we're heading to the restaurant for dinner, as was Andrew, Ryan, Donald, Beth and Nicky, David and Janice and Paul and Marie. They enjoyed a very pleasant dinner, made easier when David nipped upstairs to fetch the twins baby seats so that they could sleep and Andrew and Ryan could use a knife and fork. They didn't linger too long after dinner, as Andrew realised Donald must be tired after his flight, and that they had had a big day, so they went upstairs early. The Cameron was open for business.
The following morning, they came down to breakfast at 9.30 to find the restaurant quite busy. It seemed a large number of the guests who had stayed overnight has also decided to have late breakfasts, which meant that checkout was going to be later than expected, which in turn, meant that housekeeping were going to have their work cut out to get all the departure rooms ready for the new arriving guests.
Andrew knew that there was no room at the inn for the next two weeks, except for a couple of nights between Christmas and New Years eve when the penthouse was available. They were going back to the house after breakfast, as Andrew felt that Paul was quite capable of handling the new operation without having him breathing down his neck all the time. Andrew had done his bit by getting the lodge to its official opening, and now it was up to his manage-ment team to run with it. As with Blue Bay, he would have monthly financial meetings with his general manager, but other than that, he would be hands off unless his assistance was requested.
In the restaurant, Beth and Nicky were just finishing their breakfast with Donald. Andrew and Ryan walked over to the table to say good morning. Beth had mentioned the night before that she wanted spend some time with her uncle and show him some of the sights. It was going to be a whirlwind tour as Donald was flying out the following evening on the 8pm British Airways flight to London Heathrow and then on to Glasgow. Andrew invited them all to dinner at Blue Bay that evening, which they accepted. It would also be an opportunity for Donald to see the other property.
After a delicious breakfast, where Andrew took note of the food and service, Ryan went to fetch his SUV and bring it round to the main doors, taking, Cameron and Rascal with him, while Andrew popped in to see Paul and say goodbye. Paul had James, the executive chef with him and indicated for Andrew to come in when he poked his head around the door.
"Morning Drew, I was just thanking James for the great spread he put on last night".
"Morning Paul, morning James. Yes, absolutely. I would like to add my compliments and thanks as well. Everything was just perfect. You got the balance just right. And I certainly enjoyed everything I tasted. So thank you . Good job"
James blushed and shook Andrew's hand
"Thank you sir. It was fun and different. I'm pleased you enjoyed the food. How was your breakfast?"
"Excellent, thank you. Your food is great. Our service needs a bit of polishing, but it's early days yet. Not that there is anything drastically wrong. The waiters are just a little too eager, but I think it may be be that they just want to please the guests and possibly because Ryan and I were in the room. I think they'll settle down soon, once they have more experience and confidence. Paul, can you pass that on to Richard in a Food & Beverage. He can just keep an eye on it. I know you will too. And please, its not a criticism, just an observation."
Paul nodded. "Thanks Drew, I'll pass it on. Have you checked out already?"
"Not yet! That's my next stop. Ryan has gone to bring the car around. Thanks again for all the hard work, both of you. I will be sending out a memo to all the staff thanking them. If I get time, it will be today sometime. If not, definitely tomorrow. I'll be alone at home until the 23rd. Ryan, sails on 'Belle Catherine' tomorrow morning for four days with Darren and Kerry, so I'll have plenty of time on my hands."
"Okay, I'll circulate your memo as soon as I get it. I hear you're dining at Blue Bay tonight".
"Yeah, we are. With Donald , Beth and Nicky. And I felt I've neglected Claude and Blue Bay over the last two or three months. So I need to go and make peace".
"Claude will understand. He knows all about openings. Give him my regards"
"I will. Have a great day you two. And thank you again"
Andrew hurried to reception and signed his bill, just as one of the porters appeared with their luggage and his mobile rang in his pocket.
"Where are you? I was wondering what happened to you", Ryan said.
"Sorry Ry, I was chatting to Paul and James. By we're all sorted. I'm on my way".
The porter loaded the luggage into the car, while Andrew got Elizabeth into her car seat and then they drove down the driveway onto the beach boulevard heading for the house.
Yvonne was in the kitchen when they appeared at the top of the stairs in the living area. Rascal scampered to her in greeting, dancing around her feet, and she picked him up to scratch his chin and tummy, getting a lick in the face as well.
"Hi Vonnie. How are you,?", Ryan greeted enthusiastically.
"Morning Mr Ryan, morning Mr Andrew". She turned and walked to them smiling, taking both babies in her arms.
"Hello my little angels. Vonnie has missed you", she said. Both Cameron and Elizabeth were excited to see her, chattering in baby talk, reaching out to touch her face and smiling. Andrew smiled at her.
"Well, we can make it up to you over the next few days. Ryan is going to be away on the yacht, so we're at home with you".
"Good, so we can have some fun, my babies"
"We have a surprise for you as well". Ryan took Cameron from her, set him on his feet in the floor and held his hands until he was secure on his feet, then stepped back a little, letting go of the little boys hands.
His little face took on a look of intense concentration and he looked at his dads hand before taking a tentative step forward, followed by three more until he had his hands in Ryan's.
"There's a clever boy. Well done!", Ryan praised him and he clapped his hands. Cameron clapped his hands together as well, smiling and gazing adoringly at his dad. Yvonne stood, clasping her hands to her chest, eyes bright with tears.
"Oh my word. He's starting to walk. Is Elizabeth walking yet?"
"No, not yet. But she's not far away. Any day now, I think", replied Andrew.
Yvonne clapped her hands.
"Right, let's get this family back to normal. Where is the dirty laundry? And do you need anything for your trip, Mr Ryan?"
"Laundry is all in the soft blue bag, Vonnie. I don't think there's anything in there that I need"
She picked up the bag and took it through to the laundry, and Ryan and Andrew went upstairs with the twins and Rascal to unpack. They closed the door and set the twins down on the carpet do do their thing while they unpacked and changed into shorts and t-shirts.
Back in the lounge, Ryan made sure all the safety gates were closed, mindful of the fact that Cameron was more mobile and would have to be watched like a hawk and they let the toddlers play on the rug with some toys. Andrew had a quick look through the cupboards and fridges before going shopping, knowing it would be difficult to do while Ryan was away. To get to the supermarket, he had to drive past The Cameron, and couldn't prevent himself from grinning widely as he looked at the lodge as he drove past, feeling a huge sense of accomplishment. There were vehicles parked in the roundabout at the main doors and guests using the swimming pool and sunbeds. Children were playing on the grass and generally just having fun.
When he got back, Yvonne put together a very tasty chicken pasta salad with a light, slightly sweet, curry dressing which they ate with homemade rotis and in the late afternoon they took the twins for a paddle in the pool, enjoying the cool water and warm sunshine. While they were in the pool, Beth had called Ryan and asked to make dinner early, as they were all quite weary after their drive around the peninsula. Ryan called Claude and changed their reservation to 6.30pm and as it was already 5pm, they went upstairs to bath the twins. Then they showered and dressed before feeding the twins, keeping the bottles of formula until they were at Blue Bay, so that they would hopefully go to sleep after having their bottles. Then they dressed the twins in their bedclothes, so that they would be comfortable, packed the baby bag, got them into the car and drove a short distance to Blue Bay.
Thomas was at the door when they arrived and he beamed widely as they parked in the executive parking area. He hurried to open the back doors so that Andrew and Ryan could get the babies out with their chairs.
"Good evening Mr Andrew, good evening Mr Ryan. Congratulations on the opening of the new lodge. Abel tells me it is very beautiful".
They greeted him and Andrew replied,
"Thank you Thomas. It is beautiful. Have you been to see it yet?"
"No, not yet Mr Andrew. We have been very busy, so I haven't had the time to go. Abel showed me some photographs on his cell phone and of the opening last night. It was very nice, I think".
"Yes it was Thomas. Have Miss Beth and Miss Nicky arrived yet?" Ryan replied.
"Just before you did Mr Ryan. With an older gentleman".
"Yes. He is the man who opened the lodge for us last night. He is the chief of a big tribe, or clan as they call them there, in Scotland. He is Cameron and Elizabeth's great uncle", Ryan told him.
"So he is an important man. Heh heh", he chortled, "But you are important as well. Without you and Mr Andrew our family would have nothing. Me, my wife and Abel would not have jobs. We would not have a home or food on the table. Yes, you are important. To all of us"
Andrew and Ryan were very touched by his words. Andrew took the old man's hands in his.
"Thank you Thomas. And you are important to us. Every one of you".
He picked up the baby bag and walked ahead of them to the doors and opened them. He handed the bag to Ryan as he passed him.
"Enjoy your dinner gentlemen"
"Thank you Thomas. We'll see you later".
Andrew studied the lobby of his first lodge and was gratified to see it was business as usual. The floors gleamed, furniture was squared exactly as it should be and all the light bulbs worked. Soft piano music filtered through the lobby while a handful of guests examined Janice's artworks on the wall. A quiet but steady hum of conversation drifted in from the restaurant and patio, interspersed with the clink of cutlery on crockery. A tall fresh Christmas tree stood in it usual place in the centre of the room in front of the landing, decorated in Blue Bays signature blue, white and silver balls, bells and stars and strings of tiny white lights.
They found their dinner guests at a secluded table on the patio, overlooking the pool, garden and beyond that, Table Bay and Table Mountain. They greeted them and sat down, placing the twins on two spare chairs next to the table. A waiter came to bring menus and take a drinks order from Andrew and Ryan, another scotch for Donald and topped up Beth and Nicky's white wine. Andrew studied the patio and restaurant, which was quite busy with lingering sun-downers and early diners. He had not been to Blue Bay in weeks, and was pleased to see that under Claude's guidance, things were still operating like clockwork. It seemed the general management transition had taken place without a hitch.
The waiter came back with the drinks order followed by Peter, the Maitre 'd.
Donald had liked the look of the offerings on the buffet so they all ordered the buffet and Andrew was both amazed and impressed when Donald proceeded to sample every dish on the buffet, albeit small portions, but all two dozen items on the buffet. While they were eating, Claude came to the table to say hello and they introduced him to Donald, who proceeded to rattle off to Claude in flawless French. After a few moments, they grinned at the other occupants of the table.
"My apologies, we're being rude", Donald said to them.
"No problem, Donald. Claude took over from Paul when he moved over to The Cameron and we stole Claude from the Paradise Beach Resort on Mauritius where we stayed for our wedding. We've been so busy concentrating on The Cameron, that Claude has been somewhat neglected and dumped in the deep end. Not that he hasn't managed fantastically. Blue Bay is looking, and running as she always has. Perfectly!", Andrew said." As soon as Ryan is back from this charter, we must have a meeting, okay" he said, turning to Claude.
"Thank you, Andrew, I would like that. Please continue your dinner, your food is getting cold".
After dinner, they were drinking coffee when Ryan passed a small wrapped gift to Donald.
"Just a small token of our appreciation for your presence at the opening last night".
Donald opened the box and smiled, looking up at Andrew and Ryan.
"You laddies don't do things by half do you. These are magnificent."
Beth craned her neck to see what was in the box.
"Well don't keep us all in suspense, Uncle Donald. what is it?"
"Black onyx cufflinks set in 24carat gold with a gold inlay of the Clan Cameron crest", Andrew answered.
Beth's eyes widened and she stood up to have a look.
"Oh wow, that's amazing. It's magnificent. Now you can wear those when you're in full regalia, Uncle Donald".
"Aye, lass. That I surely can. Thank you gentlemen. I will treasure them. As short as my stay has been, I have thoroughly enjoyed myself. It's been an honour to meet you and your two gorgeous children. Please know that the resources of Clan Cameron are always available should you or your children ever require them. And if ever you are in Scotland, you have an open invitation to stay at Achnacarry".
"Thank you Donald. We appreciate the offer and would love to take it up at some stage. Which brings me to the details for your journey home.
Your flight departs from Cape Town International at 20h00 tomorrow. You are booked business class, unfortunately there is no First Class on the Cape Town route, so you have to check in two hours before departure instead of three. A limo will pick you up at The Cameron at 17h00 and take you to the airport.
Beth, would you like to go to the airport with Donald? , Andrew asked.
Beth nodded. "We'd both like to go if it's possible. Thanks Andrew"
"No problem, I'll arrange it with the limo company and they will drop you back at The Cameron. So be there before 17h00 to leave with Donald. I'll arrange for the limo to wait for you until you are ready to come back".
"Thank you Andrew. You just proved again why I knew you and Ryan would be good fathers to the twins. You're both caring and thoughtful and nothing is to much trouble.".
Donald nodded, looking thoughtful.
"I agree with Beth. Clan Cameron has always been known as the fierce clan. But ferocity is not only aggression, it is also passion. Which you two young men have in spades. And that makes you Cameron. I am officially extending an invitation for you and the wee bairns to come to Scotland in our summer. The best time is around the same time you were there earlier this year. And, you may not have Cameron blood, but I want to acknowledge you both as honorary clan members. We will make it official when you come to visit us at Achnacarry. And I give you both official permission to wear the Clan Cameron kilt. I will courier kilts to you as soon as I return home.
Now me laddies, this old man is feeling quite weary. It's been a long day and tomorrow will be even long
er. Beth lass, will you take me back to The Cameron. I need a good night's sleep"
They all stood up and Andrew and Ryan thanked Donald again for coming all the way from Scotland for the opening. Then he, Beth and Nicky left after softly kissing Cameron and Elizabeth on their foreheads. Andrew and Ryan ordered another coffee as it was still fairly early and just sat quietly taking in the view spread out before them. Claude appeared at the door to the lobby and Andrew called him over.
"Claude, come join us. Would you care for some coffee?"
"Oui, thank you. Coffee will be great"
The attentive waiter hurried away to get another pot of coffee and a cup and saucer for Claude, who held
out a newspaper.
"I don't know if you have seen this. Page 5"
Andrew opened the newspaper and page 5 revealed the social page and read out loud.
'A little piece of Scotland.'
These were the words of the chief of Clan Cameron, Donald Angus Cameron, the 27th Cameron of Lochiel, when he officiated at the opening ceremony of The Cameron last night. The new accommodation establish- ment is the second lodge to be opened by Andrew and Ryan Devlin-Major, two rising stars in the tourism community of Cape Town, where they already operate the well known Blue Bay Lodge in Bloubergstrand, and a luxury charter catamaran, ''Belle Catherine", working out of the Waterfront Marina.
The new lodge was inspired by a visit the couple made to Scotland in July to introduce their twin babies,
Cameron and Elizabeth, whose mother is the niece of the clan chief, to the family in Scotland.
This reporter was privileged to be invited to spend two nights at The Cameron as part of the soft opening
a week ago, and it truly is a small piece of Scotland. The building, originally an abandoned apartment building, has been thoughtfully refurbished with much the of the original structure being preserved. Almost all the changes are confined to the ground floor reception lobby, lounge and restaurant where several columns in, what was, a parking garage, were removed, after a very careful inspection by a structural engineer, to open up the room to make it airier and more user friendly. The concrete columns that remain are now clad in warm, stained oak to waist height and cream and gold striped wallpaper. A stunning brown and gold veined cream granite cover the passage-ways in the lobby with thick carpets woven in the Clan Cameron tartan fitted on either side with comfortable leather couches and high backed chairs. Bespoke wrought iron chandeliers hang from the double volume ceiling and a black baby grand piano dominates one corner.
While the tartan is a very big statement downstairs, it is used very sparingly and thoughtfully in the apartments. Yes, these are still apartments not merely hotel bedrooms. The developers have cleverly aimed the lodge at both full service and self catering business with all the apartments, from the one bedroom bachelors to the three bedroom penthouse on the top floor, retaining their lounge/ diners and kitchens. The two bedroom executive suite which this reporter stayed in was spacious and luxuriously appointed, having twodouble bedrooms and two full bathrooms, an open plan lounge, dining area and kitchen and a small balcony with wrought iron railings with a view over the pool and gardens to the beach just over the road. The establishment is highly recommended for those who want the best of both worlds - cooking your own meals or having a full service stay and is a welcome addition to the options available in the Tableview/Bloubergstrand area.
Andrew put the newspaper down and looked at Ryan and Claude. Ryan smiled and nodded.
"Very nice write up. Just remains to be seen if we see a result from the reservations. This column is normally syndicated nationwide if I remember correctly", he commented.
"It's early days yet. The test will come once we move out of the holiday season". He turned to Claude.
"How are you doing Claude. I really must apologise for neglecting you and Blue Bay recently"
Claude waved his hands in typical French fashion.
"Non, mes amis. It is all okay. Claude and Blue Bay are fine. Everything just carries on as normal. The only thing that has changed is me, the general manager. It helps that we are busy. We are fully booked until the end of February. And the year end office parties have been very good this year too. This Saturday will be our last big one, a dinner dance in a marquee on the front lawn. The staff seem to have accepted the change in management. It is not like I am a stranger to them and it helps that all the staff are happy. The shares they have give them a feeling of pride, not only in the lodge, but in themselves as well. And they are all looking forward to their dividend cheques. We will be paying on Tuesday so that they have extra finances for Christmas".
"Good. You've done very well. I want to be here when they get their cheques in case there are any queries. I have a copy of the spreadsheet on my laptop. I'll just bring it with me.". Andrew glanced at Ryan.
"Tuesday is the day you are due back, so you won't be there. I'll leave Cam and Elizabeth with Yvonne for a couple of hours while I'm here."
"Unless you can make it in the afternoon, no I won't be able to make it. Speaking of which, I have an early start tomorrow. I think we must get going. I need my bed and so do our munchkins."
Andrew called for their bill and Claude said good bye before returning to his office. They paid the bill, gathered the twins and headed for the car, saying goodbye to Thomas on the way.
Back home, they got the twins down for the night, sitting with them until they settled down. Andrew went downstairs to make some hot chocolate, while Ryan packed the few items he needed. When Andrew came back, they undressed and got into bed naked, sitting with their bodies touching from shoulder to foot, sipping at the hot chocolate and watching SkyNews on the TV. It was a routine that they had got into before either of them left on a charter. When the mugs were empty, Ryan put the mugs on the dresser and turned off the lights, getting in next to Andrew again, where they cuddled for a while before flipflopping and reaffirming their love for one another. Afterwards, sweaty, but happy and satisfied, Ryan spoonedagainst Andrew's back and they slept.
The next morning, Ryan was up early, needing to be at the marina at 06h00 to do all the last minute checks to "Belle Catherine". He told Andrew to stay in bed and fetched the twins, still sleeping, to put them in the bed with Andrew. When he was ready to leave, the three centres of his life were all sleeping peacefully, so he just kissed each of them tenderly and quietly left the house. Andrew woke just after 7am and was instantly aware that Ryan was not there, that a part of him was missing. He often marvelled at the intense connection between them and how they 'felt' one another, even when miles apart.
While Ryan was away, Andrew kept himself busy pottering around the house and spending time with Cameron and Elizabeth. The first thing he did was call the limo company to make the arrangements for Beth and Nicky and fired off an email in confirmation. Then he got the Christmas tree and decorations out and set it up. Normally, the tree would have been up a week ago, but with having been at The Cameron, that had not happened. He had a sudden thought and called Paul on his mobile.
"Paul, hi. Andrew"
"Morning boss, what'sup?"
"Have you given any thought to putting up a Christmas tree? I'm doing the one at the house so thought I would check. I know I had forgotten about it until I saw the tree at Blue Bay last night".
"As it happens, I have. We'll have a fresh tree this afternoon . Richard and Lisa, the housekeeper and Marie have offered to do the decorating. Marie and Lisa are out at the mall now buying decorations.".
"Thank you my friend. I knew I could rely on you. Ry and I will pop in to see it when he gets back. Have you seen Donald this morning?"
"Yes I have. He had an early breakfast and the girls picked him up to take him up the mountain and lunch in Camps Bay. Then they're all coming back here to relax and change before the airport pickup".
"Yeah, about that. I've arranged for Beth and Nicky to travel to the airport with him. The limo will bring them back to you after he has left".
"Okay, I'll brief the late duty manager."
"Thanks Paul. Have a good day"
"Thanks Drew. Same. Bye".
When Andrew disconnected his call to Paul he discovered he had a problem. Two of them actually. The twins, attracted by all the sparkles on the tree were both standing next to it, removing all the lowest decorations that he had put on and were in danger of pulling the tree over onto themselves. Fortunately, he had help close by.
'Yvonne, help!", he yelled.
Yvonne hurried down the stairs from the bedroom wing.
"Mr Andrew, what's the matter. What has happened".
"Sorry Yvonne, can you get the playpen for me. These two little vandals are destroying my Christmas tree. I need to find something to keep them away."
Yvonne giggled at his predicament.
"Yes, now the fun starts. With them starting to walk, we are going to have to watch them all the time". She walked to the guest room to fetch the playpen, carried it into the lounge and opened it on the rug. Andrew picked up the twins, who were not happy at having an end put to their fun, and put them in the playpen, both throwing a tantrum. Andrew left them to cry and went to the garage storeroom to see if they had anything he could use as a barrier. After a look around he found a few lengths of sturdy ornamental fencing, the type that you just push into the ground around flowerbeds.He grabbed a bunch of cable ties and took everything back upstairs where he tied the lengths together then encircled the tree with the lengths and tied the two ends together. It wasn't perfect and it certainly wasn't pretty, but it would do the job.
He tidied up the bits and pieces and turned to the playpen. And his heart broke! Two forlorn, tear-streaked little faces gazed at him from inside the playpen where his son and daughter stood holding onto the bars., both with runny noses and hiccupping from crying. He went to the guest bathroom and fetched a box of tissues and a warm face cloth and gently cleaned their faces before picking them up and cuddling them, sitting down on the couch. Once in their dads arms, they quickly calmed down and it wasn't long before they were both asleep. He gently put them on the couch, one on each side of him and fetched his laptop to check emails and do a bit of work.
Late in the morning, he heard the faint sound of a familiar horn and stepped out onto the balcony to see 'Belle Catherine' cruising under sail just beyond the breakers. By his estimates, they were opposite The Cameron and heading towards the beach below the house. He could see someone standing on the starboard bow and guessed it was Ryan. Five minutes later, he could positively identify his grinning, waving husband and the horn sounded again as the yacht sailed past the house. Andrew waved back and moments later, 'Belle Catherine' jibed to port and sailed away from the beach out to sea. Ryan made his way back to the stern, waved and blew a kiss before moving into the cockpit where Andrew could see the guests sitting while sipping cocktails. It never got old, watching 'Belle Catherine' at sea. Catamarans could never be considered pretty boats, but to Andrew she was beautiful and she was theirs.
For the rest of the time Ryan was away, Andrew just took time out to relax and spend time with the twins, after the hectic past few months in the run up to the opening of The Cameron. One thing he did do was move anything breakable up high out of the toddlers reach.
The only time he went out was for his meeting with Claude and the staff at Blue Bay. Ryan was not back yet, 'Belle Catherine' having been delayed due to very light winds.
Claude had arranged the meeting with the staff from 3pm onwards so that Andrew would be there for the shift change and therefore would see as many as possible. Andrew could hear the buzz of conversation as he and Claude walked towards the staff dining room where the meeting was being held. The staff had not been told what the meeting was about, so speculation was rife. When he and Claude walked into the room, there was immediate silence .
"Good afternoon everyone", Andrew said as he greeted them all.
"Good afternoon Mr Andrew", they chorused.
"I don't want to keep you all to long. So we'll do this as quickly as possible. I know it's not payday yet, but I have your payslips here with a small bonus and cheques for the 40% of your dividend payout for the past financial year for those who are eligible. As your are aware, part of the dividend has been paid to you monthly with the balance due now, and the rest will be paid as normal with your monthly salaries.
If you have any queries, please stay behind afterwards and Mr Claude and I will do what we can to answer your questions. Now, I suggest we do the late shift first as you all have to get to your work stations and there are guests to look after. I would think Food and Beverage, and Reception are the most critical points at the moment, so if we can get two of you from each department on the late shift to come up, you can sign for your payslips and get to your stations. After that, I want the remainder of the late shift and then we will deal with the early shift. I promise not to keep you early shifters long. I know you have transport waiting and want to get home. Okay, let's do this"
It all went as planned, with only two having queries about their payslips. There were however a handful who had started after Blue Bay had opened and wanted to know if they would ever be eligible for the dividend payment. Andrew told them that the dividends were paid out to staff that had all been employed at the lodge before he had bought it, and had stayed on after he took over. He then explained that dividends were only paid to those who were still working at the lodge and that those who had left were no longer eligible. The members of staff who had been employed in their place would become eligible after two full years of employment at the lodge. They were all satisfied with his explanation, knowing that, in all the cases except two, they would be eligible at the end of the current financial year. The remaining two would have to be patient for another year. By 4pm, it was all over with everyone
thanking Andrew for looking after them.
After the meeting, he and Claude discussed the arrangements for Christmas and New Year and then Andrew left for home to allow Yvonne to catch her transport to her home and hoping that Ryan would be home as well which, to his delight, he was. His SUV was in the garage.
Except he was fast asleep on the bed, flat on his back, with the twins nestled on either side of him in his arms and Rascal stretched out at the foot of the bed.
He padded to the bed and gazed lovingly down to the most important people in his world. Smiling, he bent down and gently kissed them and Ryan opened his eyes.
"Hi there, love. How was your meeting?", Ryan asked, drowsily.
"It was good. Everyone seemed to be happy. Come the new year, we must sit down with Paul and put together a similar scheme for The Cameron", Andrew replied.
Ryan carefully extricated himself from the twins, stood up, took Andrew into his arms and kissed him deeply.
"Hmmm, you can go away more often if that is the welcome home I get", Andrew said when they came up for air.
"I just missed you, that's all", Ryan replied. "And you get kisses like that at least once a day! So you're not exactly starved , my love"
"Wrong, my love! I haven't had a kiss like that in four days", Andrew countered.
"Okay, point taken. I'll make it up to you, I promise"
"You better! How was the trip?"
"Not bad. Only had one day of decent wind though, which was a bit of a disappointment. We had to do a lot of motoring to keep to the schedule. Then coming back, the wind was dead ahead so we tacked out to sea to dog-leg it back, and the wind died on us way out to sea, so it was more motoring. Which is why we were late arriving back. Plus, of course, it cost us money for the extra fuel used. Wind is free!."
"Well, we win some and we lose some. Goes with the territory"
Andrew heard a sound from the bed and peered over Ryan's shoulder. Elizabeth was showing signs of waking up. Rascal was also on high alert, standing looking at them enquiringly his tail wagging madly.
He walked to the bed, picked her up and came back to where Ryan was standing watching them. Andrew kissed her softly on her cheek and she gazed at him, still not quite awake. When they reached Ryan, he bent his head and kissed her as well.
"Hi there daddys little angel. Did you enjoy your nap?"
The instant she heard Ryan's voice she became more alert and smiled up at him. He ran his finger gently over her cheek and then she lifted her arms up to him. Ryan stared at Andrew in stunned amazement and he lifted her out of Andrew's arms,
"When did she start that?"
Andrew shook his head, grinning.
"First time I've seen her do it. Methinks she missed her dad too", turning his head as he spotted movement on the bed as Cameron started waking up. It was uncanny how they would both wake up within a few minutes of one another. Cameron was wide awake when Andrew bent to lift him off the bed, kissing his cheek as well.
"Hello there little man. Come to dad".
He moved toward Ryan and Elizabeth, glancing at the bedside clockradio.
"It's almost time for their bath and dinner. Speaking of, what do you feel like for dinner tonight?"
"Let's not go to too much trouble. It's too late to take something out of the freezer now to defrost, unless Vonnie took something out", Ryan said."If she hasn't, I want to suggest one of us nip out to the supermarket for some meat and we can throw it on the BBQ. Maybe just buy a few salads as well".
They carried the twins downstairs to the kitchen where they found Yvonne had taken out two large chicken breasts on the bone to defrost. Ryan nodded towards the Christmas tree.
"What's with the security fence?", he asked Andrew with a grin.
"Our darling children were destroying my Christmas tree as fast as I was putting it up. It's to keep little inquisitive hands far away". Ryan nodded, still grinning at him.
"Okay, we can still put the the chicken on the coals, but I'm in the mood for some red meat as well", Ryan told Andrew. "Will you run to the shops while I get the fire started. I see your car it still out. And while you're out I'll run the bath for our two munchkins and we can bath and feed them while we wait for the coals. How's that sound?", Ryan suggested.
"You have everything all worked out, don't you, Mr Devlin-Major ? Yeah, we can do that. What meat shall I get?"
"What about some of those marinated steak kebabs, or some spare ribs", Ryan replied
"Okay, sounds good. I'll debone the chicken breasts when I get back and get some marinade or spices onto them."
Andrew put Cameron into the playpen, reached for his wallet and car keys on the counter and headed for the stairs to the front door.
"Don't forget something tasty", Ryan yelled as Andrew went downstairs.
Andrew's resigned voice came up from the entry foyer.
"Yes my love, I will get something tasty".
Ryan heard the door close behind his husband and he put Elizabeth into the playpen with her brother, then stepped onto the patio to get the BBQ fire going, which only took a few minutes. Then he ran upstairs to start running the twins bathwater before coming back to fetch them and carry them to the main bathroom. He let them stand next to the bath while the tested the warmth of the water and when he was happy he undressed them and put them into the bath with some toys to play and splash. Rascal hopped up onto the laundry basket next to the bath and sat watching them, his tail swishing from side to side.
They loved their bathtime and within minutes both of them were wet from head to toe, squealing with delight as the water splashed them, and Ryan loved watching them play, which he did for a while before turning on the spray attachment and reaching for the baby shampoo and washing their hair. Then he gently washed them with a soft cloth and them let them play again while he fetched two big fluffy towels to wrap them in and carry them into the bedroom, where he put them on the bed, cosy in their towel nests. He heard Andrew arrive back and a few minutes later he came into the bedroom.
"Oh, wow, you got them all bathed already. Do you want some help or can I go down to the kitchen?",
"I'm cool, thanks babe. I'll bring them downstairs for their dinner when I've got them dressed"
Andrew went downstairs and checked the fire which was still too hot and not quite ready, then got busy in the kitchen with the chicken breasts, letting them marinade in olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and fresh oregano. The other meat he had bought was thick meaty, precooked pork spare ribs that just had to be grilled to become sweet and sticky and unctuous. He had also bought a potato salad, a Greek salad and some beetroot in a balsamic and honey dressing. For Ryan's something tasty, he had two large slices of baked cheesecake with a sachet of strawberry coulis and there was ice cream in the freezer.
When Ryan came down with Cameron and Elizabeth, Andrew had a big jar of chicken and vegetables baby food warmed up and two bottles of formula ready and he fed the twins while Ryan got the meat onto the coals and fed Rascal. Ryan fetched the pillows out of the guest room and put the twins into the playpen to drink their bottles.
Andrew decided not to set the table and brought out two lap trays that he set with tray cloths and the silverware and just set all the salads out in the containers he had purchased them in. When Ryan came in with the cooked meat, they quickly helped themselves and sat on the couch to keep an eye on the twins and watch the sun go down. Ryan turned on the TV, keeping the volume low and they ate their dinner in comfortable, companionable silence while watching an English Premier League soccer match.
When dinner was over, Andrew put the leftovers away and packed the dishwasher while Ryan made coffee and plated the cheesecake. His plate got a ball of ice cream as well. Ryan reclined on the couch, his back against the armrest with his legs on the cushions. Andrew reclined between his legs with his head on Ryan's chest and Rascal lay between Andrew's legs. The TV was still on but with the volume turned down. Andrew giggled as he heard and felt his husbands murmurs of contentment as he ate his cheesecake. His plate was balanced precariously over Andrew's head.
"Babe, if you drip ice cream on me you're dead", he warned.
Andrew felt Ryan's chest move as the laughed.
"Ha, it will just give me an excuse to lick it off you", he teased.
"As much as the idea might appeal to me, no thanks. No ice cream!"
"Okay babe, I'll be careful". They were quiet for a while, then Ryan spoke again.
"Drew, do you realise that with the opening and me being away, we haven't done any Christmas shopping yet. We have three days to Christmas".
"I know. I thought about that when I was at the shops earlier. Maybe we should go to the mall in the morning", Andrew replied.
"Good idea. Let's go early before it gets mad. We can get some breakfast at Mugg & Bean and then hit the stores", Ryan suggested.
"I'm cool with that. Actually, it's good if we go tomorrow. Monday is Yvonne's last day before she takes her Christmas break. We need to get her gift before she leaves. By the way, I'm going to tell her to come back on the 10th. We're going to be away on the Kinley charter from the 5th until the 12h. It's no good her coming back if the house is going to be unoccupied for a week. She's still going to get her full monthly salary, so she won't be losing out", Andrew said.
"Works for me!", replied Ryan. "We have really left things very late this year".
"Yeah, things seem to have caught up with us. But with Donna and Craig staying with mom and dad, things won't be quite so hectic this year. And I'm taking the easy way out this festive season. We're having Christmas Eve dinner at The Cameron and Christmas lunch at Blue Bay. And New Years Eve at The Cameron. No entertaining here at home! We can't miss The Cameron's first Hogmanay celebration. Paul is refusing to reveal what they have got planned, except to say that all guests have been requested to have tartan somewhere on their clothing. You and I can just wear our cummerbunds I think with black pants and white shirts and we can dress the twins in the outfits they wore for the opening".
"Who is joining us this year?"
"Just the usual. Mom and dad, Donna and Craig, Marie with Jonathan, Beth and Nicky and Darren and Kerry will be joining us this year as well. I invited Kevin and Vanessa but they have a family thing on".
When they had finished their dessert and coffee, they packed the dishwasher and locked up the house, gently lifted the babies out of the playpen and carried them upstairs to the nursery and put them into their cots and Rascal made himself comfortable on his bed.
Ryan went for a shower as he was smelling a bit smoky from the grill so Andrew joined him, leaving the bathroom door open in case the twins woke up.
They stood under the rainshower, letting the warm water cascade over them as they kissed and allowed their hands to roam over one another's bodies. Andrew had Ryan sit on the built-in seat in the shower, poured sandalwood shampoo into his hand and lathered up his short blonde hair, giving his scalp a sensual massage as well. He rinsed off the shampoo and pulled Ryan up onto his feet and started soaping up his body, working the soap into a good lather in the fur on his chest and belly. Andrew turned him around and did the same to his back, and Ryan groaned when Andrew massaged his back, shoulders and neck.
He knelt down and soaped Ryan's feet and legs, moving up to his buttocks where he worked the soap into the cleft of his butt, and he groaned again when Andrew's fingers caressed his butthole. He slid his hand around Ryan's waist and found his husbands erection, stroking it up and down its full length. Andrew was leaning against Ryan, his own hard cock sliding through the soap in Ryan's crack. Ryan pushed back, allowing the head of Andrew's cock to rub against his butthole. He turned his head and found Andrew's mouth, kissing him deeply but tenderly. When they broke apart, Ryan said breathlessly,
"Babe, I want to feel you inside me. Make love to me, my love"
Andrew needed no second bidding and pushed gently against Ryan, his cock slipping into him easily due to the lubrication of the soap lather. Ryan bucked back again taking the full length of Andrew's cock into him. Andrew found Ryan's cock again and started stroking him in rythym to his own thrusts , his other hand teasing one of Ryan's nipples. The intensity of their lovemaking meant neither of them would last long. Andrew felt the muscles clench around his cock as Ryan erupted against the tiled wall of the shower, and he grunted as he came as well, thrusting all the way into Ryan's body. They kissed again, both breathing heavily as the water still washed over them. Andrew's cock slipped out of Ryan as he turned and took Andrew's face between his hands, kissing his eyes, nose, cheeks and mouth.
"That was amazing. Maybe I should go away more often", he whispered, emphasising the should. "Now its my turn to wash you". Which he proceeded to do, with very similar results, only it was Andrew whose butt was getting a good workout.
By the time they were all cleaned up again, the water was just lukewarm, but they hardly noticed as they turned it off and started drying one another and then slipped into their bathrobes and padded back into the bedroom. They checked on the twins and then turned off the lights, reclining on the bed with Andrew's head on Ryan's shoulder, the fingers of their hands interlinked, just being quiet together. Andrew gave a deep sigh of contentment and whispered
"I love you, Ryan Devlin-Major. With all my heart"
Ryan turned and kissed Andrew's head
"And I love you, Andrew Devlin-Major. For ever and ever".
They sat like that for a while until Andrew's regular breathing told Ryan that he had fallen asleep. He smiled at the dark head on his shoulder and moved away, guiding Andrew's head onto the pillows. Not wan
ting to wake him up, he left Andrew in his bathrobe, but just straightened him out a little before fetching a blanket out of the cupboard, throwing it over the bed and getting under it with Andrew. Almost as soon as Ryan was settled, Andrew rolled closer, still fast asleep, to nestle against Ryan, his hand on Ryan's chest and his head on his shoulder. Ryan gazed at the sleeping man beside him, smiling softly, his heart bursting with pride and love. He moved his head against Andrew's , breathing in the scent of sandalwood from the shampoo and seconds later he too was fast asleep.
The next morning, after another shower, separately this time while the other watched the twins, they fed the toddlers their breakfast cereal and headed for the mall, letting the twins drink their bottles of formula in the car. They arrived just after the mall opened its doors and were among the first tables in the restaurant for breakfast, taking a large banquette against the wall, placing the baby seats between them.
After the exertions of the night before, they were both ravenous, so full house breakfasts were the order of the day accompanied by sides of potato wedges. Two cups of coffee and a shared custard Danish later, they were ready for their Christmas shopping with the first stops being the toy shops and toy departments of the various chainstores. Just over four hours later they emerged from the mall to head for home having managed to get gifts for everyone, and several for the twins, but not as many as the previous year. They had also each managed to slip away and buy gifts for one another. It wasn't a moment too soon as the twins were getting niggly from being cooped up in their chairs.
They let the rugrats, and Rascal, loose on the lounge rug to get rid of their pent up energy as soon as they arrived home, keeping a watchful eye on them as they crawled and tottered around the living area, but eventually they returned to the rug and sat quietly playing with their toys, while watching some Coco Melon kiddies videos that Andrew had downloaded on the TV. They were facinated by the bright colours and catchy tunes, Cameron took a shine to 'The wheels on the bus go round and round' while Elizabeth enjoyed "Old MacDonald'. Andrew fed them some mashed banana and yogurt and then gave them their bottles of formula to drink, while Ryan carried everything up from the car. Within fifteen minutes, peace had returned to the house, as they had fallen asleep. After a quick lunch of ham, cheese and tomato rolls and a big mug of tea, they spent the rest of the afternoon wrapping and tagging the gifts and placing them under the tree behind 'Andrew's security fence' as Ryan called it.. They had just finished wrapping the final gift when the twins woke up.
It was still quite hot outside even though it was past 4pm, so they took them for a splash in the pool, covering the toddlers heads with sunhats and rubbing on some sunscreen. Rascal ran around the pool, yapping excitedly and jumped on to the step into the water every now and then. The weeks leading up to Christmas had been quite hot, so the water was slightly warmer than normal, but still refreshing and the little ones had a blast, splashing and squealing and getting themselves and their dads thoroughly wet. Time passes quickly when you're having fun and before they knew it, they had been in the pool for an hour and with the sun now heading towards the horizon, the air was starting to cool, so they wrapped the twins in towels and took them back into the house to put on fresh diapers and just let them play like that until it was time for their bath.
Andrew suspected that Cameron and Elizabeth might be drowsy after their swim, so he wasn't as all surprised when Elizabeth's head suddenly drooped onto her chest. She snapped her head up looking around, eyes wide as if say WTF, but less than a minute later her eyes closed and her head drooped again. A grinning Ryan bent down to pick her up, cuddling her.
"Come to daddy, my angel. Are you exhausted from your swim? Let's go get your bathwater ready!, he crooned to her. She just nestled against his chest looking very sleepy.He stroked her head gently as he carried her upstairs to run the bath Not wanting to be left behind, Cameron tried to follow them but found his way blocked by the baby security gate at the bottom of the stairs and made his displeasure known by first jabbering loudly and then starting to cry. Andrew picked the unhappy little boy up and carried him up the stairs to the bathroom. He left Cameron with Ryan and returned downstairs to heat up the Lamb and Butternut baby food for dinner that night and make formula and start preparing their own dinner, which was going to be grilled lamb cutlets with a roast vegetable couscous and a Moroccan carrot, red onion and orange salad. When Ryan came down with the freshly bathed babies, he and Ryan fed them and put pillows on one the couches for them to lie down, drink their bottles and hopefully fall asleep, which they did before they had even finished the bottles. The two men stood, arms around one another's waists, gazing down at the two precious bundles that that been entrusted to them. Ryan shook his head and said softly, "You know, as much as they have changed our lives, I would not change it for anything. Had no idea what my capacity for love was, until these two munchkins came along. They never fail to amaze me. Watching them grow up and start developing personalities of their own is the most awesome privilege.".
"I know exactly how you feel. I feel the same way. I thought that my love for you was all I had. And quite honestly, that was enough . And then they exploded into our lives. And I suddenly found I had sooo much more. And yes, they turned our world upside down but I can honestly say it doesn't matter one bit. Sure, we probably miss out on some social life, but for me, between the two lodges and "Belle Catherine", it more than makes up for it. And from the beginning of the year, if you are happy with it, I want to spend one day a week at both Blue Bay and The Cameron on Paul and Claude's days off to cover for them. We really need to appoint deputies for them but until then, I would like to do it. And maybe once a month, cover for one of them for a weekend. We could always move into a room for the weekend. What do you think?"
"That's fine with me. What will that mean as far as the charters go?, Ryan asked.
"Nothing, as far as I am concerned. I still want to do my share of charters as well. I enjoy them far too much to give them up. We'll just have to coordinate everything".
"You seem to it all worked out, babe. We can only try it and see how it goes. Now how about we get our dinner going. What can I do to help?"
"It's such a stunning evening, can you set up for us on the patio. When you're done , come to the kitchen and I'll find something for you to do", Andrew replied with a grin.
"Such a slavedriver!" Ryan said and ducked as Andrew took a swipe at the back of his head. He hurried away, giggling to himself.
Andrew had earlier cut some butternut, onion, red, green and yellow peppers, baby marrow and aubergine into a medium dice, drizzled it with olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin, coriander and some chilli flakes and popped it into the oven to roast. The aromas wafting from the oven were mouthwatering, which told him the vegetables were probably done, so he took them out and covered them with foil to steam for a while.
The carrot salad was already made and in the refrigerator. He put a cast iron grill pan onto the stove the get smoking hot and when Ryan came back, he fed Rascal and then took the couscous out of the cupboard.
"Okay, so how do I do this?, Ryan asked, holding the box of couscous in his hand.
Andrew handed him a measuring cup.
"Fill the cup with dry couscous and put into in a bowl. Add two cups of boiling water, give it a quick stir and cover it with clingwrap. Then when the cutlets are almost ready, you can fluff it with a fork, add the veggies and all the juices, mix it all together and it's ready to go.
We may just have to pop it in to the microwave to heat up a bit more. But it's just as good at room temp."
They set to their tasks, moving around one another with surprising ease and ten minutes later everything was ready. Andrew tasted the couscous, added a bit more seasoning and offered a taste to Ryan. Do you want it any warmer? I like it as it is"
"No its great just like that. Let's eat, I can't handle all the lovely aromas any more. They're Moroccan aren't they".
"Yeah, they are. Cumin and coriander spice are the backbone of North African cuisine. That's mainly what you are smelling. It's on the lamb cutlets as well."
They filled their plates in the kitchen and carried them out to the patio to enjoy their meal. The night was windless with just a touch of heat remaining from the day, leaving the night air calm and slightly balmy.
When the plates were empty, Ryan packed them in the dishwasher and put the leftovers into the fridge while Andrew rustled up a salted caramel sauce to pour over ice cream.
Afterwards they lay on the couch in front of the TV, facing one another, watching a movie, or at least Ryan was. He glanced at Andrew who was deep in thought. He tapped his foot on Andrew's leg.
"Okay, I know that look! What are you planning now?" he asked his husband, grinning.
Andrew looked at him and snickered.
"You know me too well, my love! I was thinking that I want to have Cam and Elizabeth christened early in the year, maybe end of January of early February, if it's okay with you."
"How will it work with us not attending a church?", Ryan asked.
"I don't want to do it in a church. We can do it here at home or at either of the lodges. I think Paul has a cousin or an uncle who is an ordained minister. We could ask him if he would be willing to officiate at the ceremony. It will just be the usual crowd, maybe a few extras, maybe twenty in total. Come to think of it, we could even do it on 'Belle Catherine'. She's got seating for twenty. It just means the guests will be split up between the saloon and the cockpit. But it could work", Andrew said, expounding on his idea.
"I like that idea. It's something different" Ryan said, adding, "We could leave mid morning, sail round to Clifton or Blouberg and anchor off the beach, have the christening and lunch, spend the afternoon and sail back. Make a day of it. If all the guests are willing of course and it's a nice day. We want wind, but not a howling southeaster".
"I'll contact Paul tomorrow to get the ministers number. I think we must aim for the end of January. If we decide to do it on 'Belle Catherine', it will obviously have to fit in between charters". He stood up and picked his laptop up from the dresser. "If I remember correctly, there is a free weekend at the end of January", he said, opening up the laptop and booting it up. He went into the reservations app and studied it.
"Okay, the free weekend is the first one in February. I'm going to show it as 'Reserved'. Darren and Kerry get back from a four day on the Thursday before. So we have time to get her cleaned and squared away for the weekend. Come to think of it, we could do it on the Saturday. It doesn't have to be a Sunday"
"Let's wait and see what Paul's minister has to say before we make a decision. He might have services to do at his own church on Sunday", suggested Ryan. "Just one thought though. If we do have it on 'Belle', what about life vests? Everyone will have to have one.!"
Andrew looked thoughtful for a moment. "I think we may have enough. Remember, each of the cabins have two in the lockers at the foot of the bed. Then we have enough for a full complement in the locker under the helm seat. We may have to get a couple of smaller ones for the kids. The twins have theirs. And we bought one for Jonathan when they sailed with us the last time. I want to invite Yvonne and her family, and Kevin, Vanessa and Simone as well. So we would need to have another three kiddies sizes. We can tell everyone when we see them at Christmas and I'll contact those who aren't there once we know about the minister".
Having missed half of the movie, they decided to call it a night and locked up, carrying the twins upstairs and getting them to bed before getting into bed themselves and watching the replay of the English Premier League featured match of the day on TV. Andrew nodded off just after half time, but Ryan watched to the final whistle with the volume down low. Ryan set the security alarm and then turned off the bedside light and cuddled against Andrew, throwing his arm over Andrew and holding him close. It wasn't long before sleep claimed him as well.
Andrew woke in the morning the moment Yvonne entered the house, the 'thunk!' of the front door closing and the muted beep, beep, beep, beep of the alarm control pad as she entered her code, penetrating his subconscious. He peered at the bedside clock and scowled at it. It was already 7am. He and Ryan were still spooned together and he turned his head to listen if the twins were awake. He didn't hear anything, but paternal instinct had him slipping out of the bed to check on them. To his surprise, they were both wide awake with Cameron standing in his cot at the end adjacent to Elizabeth's, watching her play with a teddy bear. When Andrew came into the nursery, he got very amimated, moving his legs up and down as if he was marching in place and broke into a huge smile. Elizabeth looked up to see what he was getting so excited about and on seeing Andrew, she abandoned the teddy bear and also stood up, holding onto the side of the cot.
"Morning daddy's angels! You've been so good this morning".
Cameron was so excited, he was trying to climb up the bars on the side of his cot. Andrew picked him up and the toddler squirmed in his arms, so happy to be with his dad. Andrew kissed him on the side of his head and bent to take Elizabeth out of her cot, kissing her as well. His nose told him they both needed clean diapers, so he lay them down on the changing table in the nursery, just as Ryan walked in, yawning.
"Morning my love, have you been up long?, he asked Andrew.
"Morning babe. No just a few minutes actually. I couldn't hear any sounds when I woke up, and found them awake and keeping themselves amused. I woke up when Yvonne arrived. Can you go downstairs and ask her to make them a bottle. And get their cereal. They must be hungry. And some coffee. Please! I'll get them cleaned up in the meantime".
Ryan pulled on a pair of track pants and a t-shirt, then hurried downstairs. Yvonne was just making herself some coffee.
"Morning Vonnie. How was your weekend?"
"Oh, good morning Mr Ryan. It was very nice thank you. Restful!"
"Good to hear. Could you make bottles for the babies while I get their cereal and make coffee. We're a little late this morning. They didn't wake us up so Andrew and I overslept"
Yvonne giggled. "Yes sure Mr Ryan. Why don't you go back and help Mr Andrew and I will bring everything up as soon as it's ready. Give me five minutes".
"Thanks Vonnie. You're a star", he replied as he turned to go back to the bedroom. He helped Andrew get the twins cleaned up and they were dressing them when Yvonne knocked on the door.
"Come in Yvonne", Andrew called and poked his head around the doorframe of the nursery."Morning. Thank you. Just put the tray down on the dresser. We're almost done getting them dressed"
"Morning Mr Andrew. It's a pleasure. I put some rusks on the tray for you and Mr Ryan as well. Can I take the laundry basket while I'm here?
"Yeah, just go through to the bathroom. It all in there", Andrew replied.
She went into the bathroom and reemerged moments later with the basket, leaving the room and closing the door softly behind her.
Ryan gazed after her and shook his head.
"That woman is an absolute treasure. I don't think I have ever seen her in a bad mood".
"You're absolutely right. We're lucky to have her. And Cam and Elizabeth love her to bits. She's a part of the family as far as I am concerned".
They fed the twins their cereal and while they were drinking their formula on the bed, Andrew and Ryan got them-selves showered and dressed, before carrying them downstairs and leaving them in the playpen to play while they had breakfast. While they were eating, Andrew called Paul but he was in a meeting with his department heads going over arrangements for Christmas lunch and he was told Paul would call him back. When he was disconnected, Andrew looked up at Ryan and said,
"Do you felt like a bit of exercise, babe?"
"What do you have in mind, my love?", he asked with a grin, wiggling his eyebrows.
"Behave yourself, Ryan Devlin-Major, there are children present. I was going to suggest we take Cam and Elizabeth for a walk on the beachfront and go pay Paul a visit. His meeting should be over by the time we get there and I can speak to him about the pastor", Andrew explained while battling to keep a straight face.
"You should know not to ask loaded questions. But yeah, okay. A walk would be good. We actually haven't walked with them for ages."
"Let's go then. The harnesses are in the drawer of the dresser downstairs", Andrew told him. "I'll just run upstairs and grab the backpacks and their sunhats".
Ten minutes later, after telling Yvonne they were taking the twins for a walk and would be back for lunch, they were out the door and heading for the beachfront and The Cameron.
It was a stunning day with just a light southeasterly breeze and the beach was already getting quite busy with large numbers of holidaymakers and locals already sitting under umbrellas and gazebos on the sand.
Several windsurfers were taking advantage of the light winds to skim over the water and a number of surfers and waveskiers were floating just beyond the breaker line.
They encountered the usual, joggers, walkers and cyclists along the way, both young and old, with everyone getting into the spirit of the season with smiles and greetings.
It took them almost thirty minutes to walk the few blocks to The Cameron, stopping several times to watch a windsurfer or a surfer do their thing. They were also thrilled to see a school of dolphins sharing the waves with the surfers, their bodies clearly visible in the face of the waves before they broke.
Abel swept the door open with a flourish as they ascended the stairs on arrival at The Cameron, his usual smile of welcome lighting up his face. The boys stopped dead as they stepped into the turret vestibule, taking in the scene in the lobby.
The space at the centre of the two granite passageways where the oak table and flower arrangement had stood, was now occupied by a large, fresh Christmas tree, decorated in the traditional colours of red, green, and gold using gold bells in different sizes, red and green balls and bows in the Cameron tartan. Strings of tiny white lights spiralled down the length of the tree that was topped by a large angel in a cream dress with a Cameron tartan sash. Dozens of boxes of various sizes, wrapped in several different patterns of paper were arranged under the tree. It was very different to the one at Blue Bay, but it was equally beautiful. As they were admiring the tree, Paul appeared from the stairs to the basement conference room and walked towards them smiling.
"Morning guys, I got your message. I was just on my way to my office to call you back", he told them. "Why were you calling, Drew?"
Andrew and Ryan shook his hand and they walked down the passageway towards the reception desk Andrew said,
"Firstly, your tree looks amazing. And I really like the pine cone and poinsettia wreathes around the wall sconces"
"Thank you. It was all Richard and the housekeeper, Lisa's work. What were you wanting to speak to me about?"
"We want to have these two munchkins christened in the new year", Andrew explained, indicating the now sleeping twins. "We don't want to do it in a church and I seem to remember you had a family member who is a pastor".
"Yeah, that's right. My uncle. He's retired now, but still preaches when he gets invitations to so".
"Do you think he would do the honours for us?, Ryan asked Paul.
"I don't see any reason why he would refuse. Do you have a date in mind?"
"First Saturday or Sunday in February. We haven't decided where yet. The options are either at home, here, Blue Bay or on 'Belle Catherine'. It will be a mid morning thing with lunch after and we expect to have roughly twenty guests", Andrew told him.
"Okay, I'll contact him and get back to you. I must admit I don't have his number. I'll have to get it from my mom".
"Great, thank you. We won't keep you. You're busy. We'll see you tomorrow night for Christmas Eve dinner anyway. You are joining us aren't you? "
"Yeah, I'll be there. Richard is duty manager tomorrow night, so I am free".
"Good, see you then mate. Have a good day ".
Paul walked away to his office and Andrew and Ryan headed towards the main entrance, taking note of how the lodge was buzzing with activity and feeling a huge sense of satisfaction. Instead of turning right to the main doors, they walked straight ahead past the elevator lobby and lounge, to the restaurant and strolled through to the end, taking note of the small trees on each table, in place of the usual slim vase and flower, decorated with tiny tartan bows. They exited the restaurant onto the sundeck which was quite busy with late morning guests, some having tea and scones, while others were having an early lunch or just a snack to tide them over to lunch. They stepped down onto the grass and strolled around the pool deck and then took the pathway across the garden to the bottom gate and back onto the beach boulevard. Andrew looked back and broke into a wide smile.
"You know Ry, I'm really proud of what we achieved here. Not that I'm not proud of Blue Bay. On the contrary, Blue Bay will always have a special place in my heart. She was the first. But when I bought her, the basics were already there. I just had to refine it. The Cameron was a sad, derelict building in danger of being demolished. And we saved it and turned it into something, I think, is very special. I truly believeit was money well spent".
Ryan put his arm around Andrew's waist and held him close.
"You put a lot of hours and yourself into it, babe. So don't sell yourself short. It's thanks to you and your insight that The Cameron is what it is today. You saw the potential from day one".
"True, but I had lots of support along the way".
They retraced their route back down the beach to the house, making sure that the twins were protected from the sun that was now beating down as the day headed towards midday. The beach was much busier, with the car parks adjacent to the beach being fully occupied and some cars even parked on the sidewalk.
The twins woke up when they were halfway home and they gave them bottles of diluted grape juice to drink to keep them occupied and hydrated, that had been kept cool in the insulated holder in one of the backpacks.
Yvonne had a simple salad wrap lunch ready when the arrived home, just utilising the left over meat from the BBQ two nights previously which they tucked into with gusto on the pool patio.
Immediately after lunch, Andrew told Yvonne that she could go home and enjoy her festive season and short break while they were away on charter with the Kinleys. They gave Yvonne two Christmas gifts.
One for herself and the other was a huge food hamper including a turkey and a gammon that they had in the freezer. In addition Andrew transferred her salary for the month and a double 'cheque' as a bonus which she got very teary eyed about and embraced them both tightly in thanks.
Once she had left, they spent time with the twins, letting them open an early Christmas present which were little pull-carts that they put the toddlers into and pulled them around the garden, much to the little ones delight and then having a paddle in the pool.
Paul called back in the mid afternoon to inform them that he had spoken to his uncle and that the christening was on for the first Saturday in February and that he had given his uncle their mobile numbers to call them and make all the arrangements. Paul also passed on his uncles number to Andrew.
David and Janice also popped in for a visit, but didn't say long as they were on their way to the airport to collect Donna and Craig.
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