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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

CDMX - 30. CDMX • XXX

“You know who’d love this one, right?” CJ grinned while sipping from his flute.

Four days after returning from Cancun and their time with the Air Force cadets, he and Owen stood in the Davenport Family Pavilion at the California Museum of Art at Los Angeles, admiring a Roy Lichtenstein painting of a vintage fighter jet.

“It’s exquisite, isn’t it?” The dapper, bearded man had approached the couple without them noticing. He smiled at them. “Fernando Llorosa, CAMALA’s Executive Director.”

CJ smirked and raked his eyes over the man while squeezing the proffered hand a tad harder than socially acceptable. “I’m surprised you’re still employed and had the chutzpah to show up tonight. And where are your horns?”

The man flinched and dropped CJ’s hand as if it was burning him. He looked shocked. “Excuse me?”

“CJ!” Owen appeared ready to chastise his husband.

“What? Papa did say this guy was the devil incarnate. And I’m still wondering why the dads didn’t yank the entire collection out of this place. I sure as shit would have.”

The previous year, Brett and César had made an appointment to tour the pavilion named after the family and inspect the works of art on extended loan to the museum. Llorosa blew them off, angering Brett into demanding the return of the entire collection worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The museum’s board of directors chairperson had been able to negotiate a truce, but CAMALA was forced to relinquish several pieces. Most of those were now on display at the family homes in Malibu, Vail, D.C., and New York City. CJ and Owen had benefitted from Llorosa’s faux pas, and Brett’s anger. They became the proprietors of an Andy Warhol Mao currently hanging in the dining room at Everhope, their home in the District of Columbia.

“You’re Davenport and Abelló’s son?” Llorosa tried to appear calm, but it was obvious he was rattled.

“That would be Captain Davenport and Mister Abelló to you. And yes. CJ Abelló. I would say it‘s a pleasure meeting you, but I’d be lying. It isn’t. Not after the way you behaved last year around my parents. I’m the one they told you would back up a truck to your dock and reclaim our artwork. At the time, the thought of beating up your punk ass crossed my mind too.”

“I would have held you down while he did. And I would have helped him load all this shit up.” Bradley Kennedy pointed at the painting CJ and Owen had been admiring. “Ritch would love that one.”

CJ’s vigorous nodding threatened a neck injury. “I just said that to Ozzie! I think we should give it to him. The Air Force might not let him keep it in his dorm room, but they’d probably kill to exhibit it somewhere while he’s at the Academy.” Neither he nor Brad spared Llorosa a glance. As far as CJ was concerned the man was a non-entity.

Being insulted and subsequently ignored must not have sat well with him. “I do not appreciate being treated like trash in my own museum. You’re just as conceited and arrogant as your fathers.” The squared-off shoulders and haughty attitude may have intimidated others; it had the opposite effect on the three younger men.

CJ and Brad laughed and even Owen snickered. “You shouldn’t have said that, Mr. Llorosa. My husband prides himself on being just like his fathers. You actually paid him a compliment.”

“How can you be married to such an unlikeable person?” Llorosa shocked them by speaking to Owen. “You seem like a normal individual, I’m surprised you’re with such a… such a

“Such a wonderful, magnificent, loving, caring, generous man?” Owen’s friendly attitude dissipated; he poked Llorosa in the chest hard enough to make the man spill some of his champagne. “I’m usually the calm one in this family, but even I was upset when the dads told us what happened. And if you think insulting my husband will make you feel better, go right ahead. It’s your funeral. CJ’s a hot head and enjoys physical confrontations. I don’t think I’d restrain him the way I usually do. Just a word to the wise.”

“Are you threatening me?” Llorosa’s attempt to sound aggrieved failed.

“Fernando, go annoy someone else, please.” If Meryl Easton had any qualms about displaying her disdain for the man running the organization she chaired, there was no indication of it in her attitude or words. “You’ve already cost us part of the Davenport collection; there’s no need for you to antagonize Brett and Cesar’s kids too.”

“Kids? This… This person just insulted me and his husband threatened me physically.”

“Well, good for them. You know if it was up to me you would have been fired last year.” Her regal attitude left no doubt she was the queen of everything surrounding them, and Llorosa was nothing but an inconvenient nuisance. The woman turned her attention to Brad Kennedy. “Red! Can I call you that? It’s how Chipper always refers to you. Anyway, it’s so good to finally meet you. I’m Meryl Easton. I chair CAMALA’s board.”

“Red’s fine, Mrs. Easton. I’ve heard a lot about you from Cap, Mr. A, and Chipper. I understand you saw him when he was in town for the Grammys?”

“He mentioned the same to us when we spoke after his win.” CJ had already met the woman, an old friend of Brett’s mother, Lilly. He thoroughly enjoyed her saltiness, giving him insight into the grandmother he had never met, by getting to interact with someone she had associated with. Meryl may have been a glamorous socialite, but she could swear with the best of them. “But I also remember him mentioning you before. After he met you last year. He said you could keep up with my father drinking and cussing.”

Meryl smiled and patted her perfectly groomed hair. “It was a weak moment. Fernando had upset Brett and in the process ruined the reunion with my best friend’s son. Who I hadn’t seen in years. You mess with someone that close to me, you mess with me.”

“Gentlemen, since my wife’s being rude… I’m Kevin Easton, It’s a pleasure to meet the three of you.”

“Sorry, honey.” Meryl weaved her arm through Kevin’s and pecked his cheek. “Bradley Kennedy, Owen Liston, and CJ Abelló.” She pointed at each in turn. “Kevin and I tried to have dinner with Chipper when he was in town for the awards ceremony but were only able to meet for drinks. Hopefully, we’ll get to see him again when he returns to California.”

“Should be pretty soon. I know he was in New York for media appearances after winning, and he’s now back in Miami putting the finishing touches on a new album.” CJ winked at her. “You’ve now met four from our group, Meryl. You keep this up, you may have to get inked.”

“That’s right! The three of you have the same tattoo Chipper does. Right?”

“We do.” Owen shook hands with Mr. Easton. “I understand you’re in the gaming business, Kevin?”

“We are. The family owns a controlling interest in a couple of Vegas resorts, and one in Tahoe. I’ll extend the same offer I made your fathers and Chipper, you guys ever want to get away for a few days, you’d be our guests at any of our properties.”

“Thanks, Kevin. Ozzie and I love to travel but my current job limits my ability somewhat. Vegas’ on my bucket list though.”

Dismissed after being berated, Fernando Llorosa had slunk off to talk to somebody else. Meryl Easton had organized the fundraiser for Heroes Haven as soon as A Home for Warriors was nominated for an Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences award. She shamelessly admitted it was a kiss-ass move, an effort to further repair the strained relationship between the museum and Captain Davenport. She invited a bevy of Hollywood celebrities, corporate moguls, and California politicians. The same crowd she would rope into contributing to CAMALA any other time.

 

The flight from Mexico City had landed at Los Angeles International around lunchtime, CJ and Owen had collected their rental, and driven to Malibu. It was their first visit to the Davenport family home. César and Tom Kennedy, one of Brad’s fathers, were there to greet them and help them settle into the pool house’s second-floor guest room.

Bradley had been out at an Oscars-related luncheon while his other father, JP Smith, and Brett had taken the Jeep and boards ten minutes south to Surfrider Beach. Liebe clamoring to go swimming dictated the remainder of their afternoon. Wearing a safety vest, the girl had jumped in the pool as soon as her fathers had brought her downstairs after changing into bathing suits. They sat on the edge, feet dangling in the warm water, and allowed her to splash around by herself until visibly tiring. Her fathers joined her at that point. Fatigue did not interfere with her asking to be tossed higher in the air or further into the deep end. CJ was tired himself by the time they climbed out.

Because the cocktail party was scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m., the group snacked at home and made late dinner reservations at a Beverly Hills restaurant. Soon after the babysitter César had hired for Liebe arrived, the seven men had split themselves between Brett’s Jeep and the rental and headed to the museum.

 

“Whether our documentary’s awarded an Oscar this weekend or not, the real winners are Heroes Haven’s residents. On behalf of the organization, I’d like to thank all of you for joining us tonight, and for the generous contributions I’m certain you’ll all be making.” Brett paused, allowing the chuckles to die down.

“On a personal note, I’d like to acknowledge my son, CJ Abelló, for his service on the organization’s board of directors, and for bringing the film project to our attention.”

CJ raised a hand and slightly bowed to acknowledge the applause.

“And of course, our eternal gratitude to retired U.S. Army Ranger Bradley Thomas Kennedy for running with the opportunity and doing a superb job as narrator. Although he wasn’t homeless, the community’s residents embraced him during his time there, and gave him their support. It is time for all of us to reciprocate. We must show our appreciation for the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our country. Thank you again, and we hope you have a good night.”

CJ and Owen decided one more glass of champagne while chatting with departing attendees would hit the spot. They ambled over to the bar while shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries with guests.

“It must be gratifying to have your father thank you publicly for inspiring him. Quite unusual. It’s often the other way around.”

“Not in our family.” Owen offered the man a handshake. “Owen Liston. My husband’s often the instigator for most things we decide to get involved with.”

“Sam Seaborne. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Owen.”

CJ knew who the man was. “CJ Abelló, Governor, It’s truly an honor, sir. I’m a big fan.”

“Then it’s mutual, CJ. When I was invited by Meryl and Kevin, I had my staff run a little background check on you and the others involved in the project. I kicked myself for not immediately remembering you. Your work on behalf of Secretary Clinton in the 2016 campaign was outstanding. I recall being impressed someone as young as you were had such a command of the English language. Some of your speeches and interviews were quite impressive.”

Owen slapped his forehead. “Oi, another CJ fan. As if his ego wasn’t big enough already.”

“Hush, Oz. Forgive my husband, Governor, he gets frustrated with my public persona at times. Thank you for the compliment. However, I have to confess to pilfering a sentence here and there from your own speeches.”

Seaborne grasped CJ’s shoulder while chuckling. “I’m flattered. Not sure if you’re aware, but I was a White House speechwriter during a previous administration. One time, after I admitted to borrowing a phrase from a famous author, my boss uttered a nugget of wisdom I still rely on. ‘Good writers borrow from each other. Great ones steal.’ Feel free to pilfer from anything I’ve ever written or said.”

Once the reception was over, and they had enjoyed dinner at Maude in Beverly Hills, the group returned to Malibu and indulged in a final cocktail while sitting around the fire pit. CJ and Owen had incessantly grumbled about the restaurant’s owner, Australian-born chef, Curtis Stone, making a fuss about them once he learned they were Oscar nominees, and Owen was a fellow Aussie.

 

“Who’s the dude talking to our dads?” The following morning, CJ and Bradley sat on adjoining Adirondack chairs on the sand expanse behind the house. Brett and JP surfed a few yards north, while Owen and Liebe kicked a ball by the shoreline.

CJ lowered his sunglasses and turned around. Tom and César had remained by the pool and were talking to a good-looking guy with a dazzling smile. “That’s Miles.”

When CJ resumed his previous position, with sunglasses on his hair and eyes closed, Brad reached over and slapped his forearm. “Don’t be a dick. Who the fuck’s Miles?”

CJ’s grin engendered a reciprocal one. The two had been together for less than a day, and things were back to normal. They were once again acting like fifteen-year-olds. “Miles Abramonov’s an attorney in the L.A. office of Ethan’s firm.” Ethan Feldman was one of their fellow Squad members, and an attorney living in New York City. “He’s the one who handled almost everything concerning the documentary. And I guess he’s the dads’ West Coast lawyer now since he worked with them when they got the house back. He also helped them with the artwork bullshit.”

“Crap, I keep forgetting there were people involved in the background I never met.” Brad peeked at the three men again. While Miles wore khakis and a button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up, César and Tom had earlier stripped off their tops and wore only shorts. Tan, well-built, with sparkling salt-and-pepper hair, the attorney looked like what central casting would send out to play a lawyer.

The three sat at a table on the limestone deck between the pool and the sandy beach. “Have you noticed our old men are getting dad bods?”

Bradley had lost a lot of weight immediately after his ordeal began, gained a ton during his initial recovery period, and had slimmed down significantly since moving to Heroes Haven. He was not yet in as good shape as when he had been a lacrosse player—leading School Without Walls High School to a district championship his senior year. There was more hard work left to do in the gym and on the track.

“Yeah, I’ve been giving César and Brett shit about it.” CJ took his own peek at the men. “Tell you what, Red. I’ll be happy if we look as good as our dads when we get to be their age.”

Brad visibly struggled to avoid laughing or making a snarky remark when CJ ran a finger through his abdominal ridges, clearly an unconscious reaction to the conversation.

“Screw you, Red. I don’t get to spend as much time working out as I used to. You’d be surprised how a forty-hour week and having a two-year-old interferes with playtime. I’m afraid the six pack’s gonna turn into a pony keg.”

CJ paused long enough to sip from his beer. “Oh, and about people working on the documentary in the background? There was a hell of a lot more of them behind the scenes than in front of the cameras.”

“What’s the lawyer doing here today?”

“Dad said something about reviewing the contract with the distribution company. Miles suspects they may not have been entirely up-front about some of the numbers.”

“Money?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you guys gonna make a profit out of this?”

“I think so.” CJ sat up when Liebe squealed. Owen had picked her up, and he and the girl were headed in their direction. “You know most of the funding came from the family foundation. Ozzie and I put up a tiny amount in comparison. Dad says we’ll recoup our investment and should clear a small return. The foundation will contribute their share of profits to Heroes Haven.”

“Ceej, agua es fría.” Liebe crawled up on CJ’s lap when Owen placed her on the ground.

El agua está fría, Liebe.” Correcting his daughter’s grammar in both English and Spanish was becoming second nature.

Owen took one of the other chairs and tossed CJ a beach towel. “A wave caught up with us. That’s why she squealed.”

“It’s all good, Munchkin. I’ll warm you up.” CJ used the towel to wipe sand and water off his daughter’s feet before wrapping it around her and holding her close.

“She speaks Spanish to you, and you answer in English?”

“We use Spanish too, but that’s what she hears all day long from the nanny. We want her to be fluent in both.” Owen reached into the soft-sided cooler they had carried outside and retrieved a sippy cup. “¿Liebe, quieres jugo de guayaba?”

Brad gave his friends a questioning look. “Wayaba?”

“Guava. We first gave it to her when we took her to Australia. It’s her favorite juice now.” Liebe confirmed her father’s statement by greedily taking the plastic cup and slurping its contents down.

“Anybody else hungry?” JP leaned his board against the retaining wall and reached for a towel from the stack on the unoccupied fourth chair.

“You guys done surfing?” Owen had passed on joining his cousin and father-in-law, so he could play with Liebe.

Brett nodded “I think that’s it for today. I’ll be out here first thing tomorrow morning, though. A silver lining to climate change’s the water temperature’s warmer than I remember for this time of year.”

“I’ll join you tomorrow. There better be a wetsuit that fits me. Let’s go, Munchkin. Ceej and I need to clean up and get dressed. You wanna shower with us?” Owen had to scramble after the girl when she slipped off the chair and made a run for the steps. Her reaction was likely due to enjoying both fathers scrubbing her under the water spray.

CJ stood and shrugged. “Guess those are my marching orders. Come on, Red. I’ll introduce you to Miles.”

“What about the chairs?”

“Leave them. We may want to sit out here later. We can store them tonight.” They climbed the steps to the pool deck and stopped at the patio table. “Hey. Miles.”

After greeting CJ and Owen, the attorney coaxed Liebe to sit on his lap, and CJ decided the man looked like a definite DILF while talking to the girl. “What’s up, CJ? I think I want to steal this one and take her home with me.”

“Nooo!” Liebe squirmed, trying to get away until Tom reached over and grabbed her.

“Where do you think you’re going, little one. Don’t be scared, Uncle Tom will protect you.” She must have felt comfortable with the man, she held on to his shaved head while standing on his thighs.

“Miles, you haven’t met Brad or JP yet.” CJ tilted his head in their direction. “JP Smith, Miles Abramonov. JP’s Tom’s better half.”

“And you’re the other Aussie in the group, right? Good meeting you.”

JP raised a hand to stop Miles from getting up. “Yep. Owen and I are cousins. He and CJ ended up together because of me.”

“They ended up together because they fucked when they first met.” Brett had lowered his voice in an apparent effort to avoid getting chastised by his granddaughter for using a grownup word.

“Jarhead!”

“You’re just jealous, Papa. Anyway, Miles, Brad here was asking me what you guys were discussing. I repeated what Dad told me. That you’re reviewing the distribution company’s bookkeeping.”

“It’s great to meet you, Brad. About time! And yes we’re going over those figures, but I also brought a list of offers. You guys ready to monetize your social media or appear in print ads?”

“NO!” Bradley, Owen, and CJ were emphatic in their response.

Miles chuckled. “That’s what your dads said your reply would be. I’ll leave the list though. Look through it. If you feel comfortable working with any of the prospects, let me know. Our firm would take it from there.”

“I think I speak for CJ when I say we don’t need to look at it. Neither one of us will be interested.”

“I’m not either, Mr. Abramonov.” Bradley swatted his metal legs with a towel trying to dislodge sand from them. “I’m gonna need to use the vacuum cleaner. Anyway, I’ve seen Chipper on a Times Square billboard wearing Versace underwear, and one Squad member up there’s enough.” Bradley could not have predicted he would end up on a similar one, wearing TMPL camo underwear, when the company donated a container’s worth of product to Heroes Have as part of his fee.

“If all my clients declined promotional offers the way you guys do, my firm would go broke.”

César raised an eyebrow in obvious disbelief, but Brett provided the clincher. “Right. How much are you charging us per hour again?”

“Not as much as I should, I think. At least Chipper’s willing to listen to offers.” The man paused and scanned the three younger men. “So, how many more of you are there? I’ve seen the identical tattoo on Chipper and Ethan.”

Brad shrugged. “My brother, Patrick…”

“And mine. Ritch’s the youngest in our group,” CJ added.

“Carson was the last one to get it. He went to Georgetown with CJ. Tank who’s one of my rugger friends. And Harley and Thiago who went to high school with CJ, Brad, and Chipper.”

“I’m glad Ethan did the paperwork to trademark the design. We recently filed a suit against someone producing unauthorized t-shirts with the logo and Chipper’s Squad on them.”

“I heard about that. Next time we’re in New York we’ll be discussing the issue with Ethan. Chipper’s fans wanting to wear the logo means we’re gonna have to consider licensing it. I’m sure you’ll hear about it.” CJ had taken a seat next to the attorney but stood at that moment. “We need to feed the little one and get ready for the photoshoot. We’ll see you tomorrow night.” Miles had more than one client nominated, and he and his wife would be at the Dolby Theatre for the awards presentation.

 

“He’s a hottie.” Owen adjusted the shower’s water temperature while CJ stripped Liebe. She had already complained about being hungry, so they wanted to get ready quickly and feed her before the photographer arrived.

“Who, Miles?”

“Yeah… Chipper said his two buddies out here drooled when they met him.”

“He’s a babe… I’m really upset we didn’t get to meet Chipper’s boys. Based on how much the dads raved about them, I was looking forward to seeing if they could really turn water into wine.”

Chipper had met Bryce Canyon and Zion Arches at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, the three had become friends with benefits, and Chipper had introduced them to Brett and César while they were in California the previous year. The fathers had hired Zion, an aspiring designer, to decorate the pool house, including the second-floor guest quarters. He had done such a good job, they set him loose on the rest of the property.

Chipper had moved in as caretaker soon after the house was back in Brett and César’s possession, vacating the premises a few months later when he went on tour as Maroon 5’s opening act. Bryce and Zion replaced him, living in the pool house. Influencers with a large following, they were at the time in Hong Kong, as guests of a luxury resort. The free trip and cash incentives would earn the hotel multiple posts promoting the property over a couple of months.

“As much as the dads like those two, and as much as Chipper brags about them, I’m pretty sure we’ll meet them sooner than later.”

“Here, hold Liebe while I soap myself. Anyway, we have to leave them a nice note. Not only did we take over their bed, but we made a mess on their sheets.”

“I’m pretty sure they knew what would happen. I mean, what did they expect when they left us that welcome basket full of lube packets and hand towels?”

Copyright © 2021 Carlos Hazday; All Rights Reserved.
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Thank you to my support team, you improved the story. Any remaining errors are my responsibility. And thank you to all readers for supporting me. I hope to hear from you.

Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

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I miss interacting with readers. And since CDMX won't be published for a while, how about a look at part of chapter one?  
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