“What do you think?” Brett was happy with César’s obvious shock.
“The fuck, Jarhead?” César tossed his backpack in the rear and slammed the door shut. “You rent a Jeep in L.A. and now you get a Lamborghini? You’re taking this mid-life crisis shit too far.”
“Isn’t it gorgeous?” The men stood on either side of the bright yellow car, admiring its curves. Brett had memorized the specs for the Italian SUV and rattled them off as he stroked the vehicle’s surface. “Twin-turbocharged V8, 650 horsepower, and a top speed of 190 miles per hour.”
“Right. Like we’re gonna drive that fast through the streets of San Francisco. You’re not Steve McQueen in Bullitt. What made you pick this one?”
“Test driving it as an option for when you replace your Escalade.”
César shook his head and climbed inside the vehicle. “Fat chance that’s happening. I’m waiting for the Tesla Cybertruck.”
Assuming the manufacturer resolved certain issues highlighted during an unveiling the previous year, the futuristic vehicle would be available sometime in late-2021 or 2022. A shiny metal exterior and hard angles harkened back to the old DeLorean sports car. However, the electric vehicle incorporated the latest in technology. The triple motor, all-wheel-drive version would accelerate from zero to sixty in under three seconds and have a range of 500 miles per charge.
“Who’s into expensive toys now, old man?” Brett knew just how to properly tease his husband.
“Screw you! What does this thing sell for? A couple hundred thousand? The Tesla will cost us much less. Under seventy unless we order the Cybersquad ATV option.”
“Hey! Where the hell are we going?” César had been looking at his phone and apparently missed the exit sign.
Brett delighted in messing with his husband’s carefully crafted itineraries. It was why he had not mentioned his plans for a stop on the way to Napa Valley. Leaving San Francisco International Airport, he followed U.S. Route 101 north until merging into Interstate 80 to cross the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge. He exited at the sign for the Berkeley Marina but turned eastward instead of towards the water.
“We’re going to Cal, right?” Craning his neck out the window, César had noticed they were on University Drive. He sounded proud he had deduced the road led to the University of California, Berkeley—Brett’s alma mater. “Is this part two of the nostalgia tour?”
“Fuck you, nostalgia tour. I wanna stop at the bookstore to buy a Golden Bears onesie for Liebe.”
“That girl’s going to be so confused about what school to support.” CJ had bought her a Georgetown University outfit when she was born. Owen had followed suit and gotten her a competing onesie from George Mason University, and Chipper had given her a University of Miami Hurricanes green and orange one. “And you couldn’t order one from their website or from Amazon? That’s what I’m doing tonight. If she gets one from you and your school, I’m buying her something with University of Florida Gators on it.”
“This is so much more fun. I like to touch things before I buy them. And why would I get it through Amazon? Jeff Bezos has more than enough money already.”
“Don’t complain. He’s making us plenty.” Bezos, the founder and chief executive officer of Amazon, had befriended their son CJ a couple of years before and shared a few investment tips. César had bought into the suggested companies on behalf of the family, and they had already made significant profits. “And giving him money is better than giving it to the Walton Family by shopping at Walmart. Their foundation supports homophobic organizations.”
“Yeah, well, I appreciate Jeff making us money and not being a douche like the Waltons. But why make the rich richer?”
“Says the pot about the kettle.”
Although Brett had no aversion to making or spending money—as evidenced by a rental car costing over a thousand dollars a day—he despised wealth accumulation for its own sake, and most ostentatious consumption. Since leaving the military, he wore jeans and t-shirts more often than not. Even at work, since he claimed being the owner meant he did not need to impress anyone.
“Hey! At least our money gets put to good use. When we return to L.A., you’ll walk through the Davenport Pavilion at CAMALA. And if you want, we can go visit the Davenport building at Cal’s business school. Grandpa funded that one.”
“I know, Jarhead. Just giving you shit. But you shouldn’t be too hard on Bezos. Think of people like Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Vanderbilt. None was pure, but all gave most of their fortune away in the end. I lump Bezos in with Gates and Buffett.”
“How did we go from buying a onesie for our granddaughter, to discussing titans of American business?” Brett had made a couple of turns and driven into a parking garage adjacent to the Cal Student Store. “Come on, old man. If you behave, I’ll buy you something too. I know I want a new sweatshirt. The one I own is old and faded compared to the ones Ritchie gave us for Christmas.”
“It’s Ritch.” César climbed out and stretched. “Not enough leg room in this thing either.”
Brett purchased the items he had mentioned, plus enough Cal branded merchandise they had to have most of it shipped. “We’ll come back in four years and spend some serious time hanging out on campus.”
The drive from Cal to their final destination was about ninety minutes; halfway through, Brett left the highway, taking the exit for the city of Napa.
“Lunch?” César asked.
“Yeah, thought we would stop at Oxbow.” The city’s downtown was known for its late-1800s and early-1900s architecture, a riverfront promenade with shops and restaurants, the Oxbow Public Market housed farmers' stalls, a cheese shop, and the Napa Valley Wine Train depot. The historic railroad provided winery tours via vintage Pullman cars.
Napa was one of the original California counties organized at the time of statehood, and the eponymous city served as its government seat. The wine industry flourished from the middle of the nineteenth century through 1920 when the Volstead Act took effect.
Prohibition made wine illegal but not grapes. Although orchards replaced many vineyards, the sale of grapes, raisins, and grape juice allowed others to survive the failed experiment. Repeal brought the industry back with a vengeance. Napa Valley wines gained acclaim, and in the mid-1970s, began winning medals over established French labels. The sheer number of wineries was evidence of this success.
Brett scanned the multitude of food booths trying to decide what to eat. “I think I’m gonna keep it simple and get a burger. What do you want?”
“Sushi. How about we get our food and eat outdoors?” The 40,000 square foot marketplace featured a scenic deck with seating along the Napa River.
Ninety minutes later, they were back on the road.
“Welcome to Spark. I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.” Aqua eyes mesmerized Brett. He recognized the man from honeymoon pictures CJ and Owen had shared. A tight, purple, knit shirt hinted at a gym-toned body, and bronzed skin attested to time spent outdoors. The man, as tall as César, was pure eye candy.
“Yves, right? I’m Brett.”
Yves nodded and extended his hand. “And you’re César. I recognize you two from pictures on your sons’ social media.”
César chuckled and shook his head while grasping the man’s hand. “You know? I accused Brett of being on a nostalgia kick a little while ago. I’m relating. It blows my mind that complete strangers know who we are. We used to lead a quiet, anonymous life.”
“Until CJ came to live with us and ruined it,” Brett finished the thought.
“Your son and his husband are quite the pair. I enjoyed meeting them, and I hope they come back some time soon.” The bed and breakfast employed an old-fashioned, leather bound-register. Yves turned it around while offering his guests a pen. “If you’d sign on the open lines next to today’s date, I’ll run your credit card and then show you to your room.”
Purple Flame Winery sat on the edge of Bothe-Napa Valley State Park. A family-owned enterprise much like Liston Winery, the boutique nature of the business guaranteed constant attention by the proprietors. The owners had befriended Owen’s parents years before, their relationship growing closer when they discovered their first-borns were gay.
Whereas Owen eschewed a life cultivating grapes and turning them into wine, leaving the family vineyards behind to study law, Yves Jackson did not stray far from home when he declined to become a vintner. With parental support, he built and operated a guesthouse on a corner of the property not suitable for planting.
Brett returned the pen and pushed the ledger towards their host. “How come you’ve been looking forward to meeting us?”
“I’m working my way through your extended family.” Yves grinned and closed the book. “I met Owen’s parents a few years ago, so it was time to host CJ’s fathers. Oh, speaking of the Listons, Spencer and Tilda say hello.” Owen’s brother and his bride had checked out a few days before. “They said they loved your place in Vail, but the way those two couldn’t keep their hands off each other, I’m not sure they did any skiing.” The couple had spent the first week of their honeymoon at Brett and César’s place in Colorado.
“Did they show you pictures of their wedding?” Brett and César had seen them after CJ and Owen returned from Australia.
Yves licked his lips. “Those men looked hot in their kilts!”
Brett tried to sound innocent. “Really? I didn’t notice. But then again, I’m an old married stiff.”
“You’re full of crap, Jarhead.” César gave his husband a shove. “You may not touch, but I know you look.”
“I see where your son gets his personality. Come on, let me show you to your room.” Yves handed each a brass keychain shaped like a wine bottle and helped stack their luggage on a wheeled cart. “We have a complimentary tasting in the afternoon. You can meet our other guests and sample local wines. We feature a different vintner every day.”
“We’ll definitely be there.” Brett looked forward to sampling some of the wines CJ and Owen had raved about. “I have a question: where would you suggest we go for dinner tonight?”
Yves opened the door and held it for the couple. “Actually, my dad wants to meet with you guys.” He focused his attention on Brett. “He’d like the two of you to be his guests at the winery’s bistro this evening.”
“Hey, Dad.” When the man at the table stood, Yves leaned in and kissed him on both cheeks. “François Jackson, Brett Davenport and César Abelló.”
“A pleasure to meet you, César.” Although the white-haired, Purple Flame Winery scion shook César’s hand first, his sight did not waver from Brett. When he reached over, he placed his other hand on the Marine’s shoulder. “Brett, it’s good to see you again, son.”
Brett was confused. “We’ve met before? I’m sorry. I don’t recall, Mr. Jackson.”
“Please, sit. And both of you call me Frank.” He reached for a wine bottle resting inside a standing ice bucket. “I doubted you’d remember me.” He motioned for his guests to hand him their wine glasses and poured. “Although Napa’s known for its cabernets, and Sonoma supposedly has better whites, we’re quite proud of our Viognier.” Once everyone had a full glass, he raised his. “Cheers.”
He waited until they had all sampled it, smiling as the visiting couple nodded appreciatively. “You and I met some twenty years ago, Brett. I attended your parents’ memorial service. Mine was one of countless hands you shook that day.”
“Really?” Brett was flabbergasted. “You knew my parents?”
“I did, although we weren’t really close friends. Your dad and I were both active in California Republican politics. I was the county’s party chair at the time. A few of us had been trying to convince him to run for office. Tucker was smart, a good businessman, and had a kind heart. He would have been a phenomenal governor.”
Once again, strong memories buffeted Brett. “Wow… I… I didn’t pay much attention to my dad’s political involvement. I know he and grandpa argued regularly. Dad was much more conservative. And Mom tried to convince him to run too. I can almost hear her saying, ‘Tuck, take a stand instead of just giving money to campaigns. You’d be good for the state.’ Of course, once he made up his mind not to, it was impossible to make him change it.”
Yves waved at the server quietly standing nearby. Once at the table, she welcomed them to Blaze and recited the daily specials. Before either Brett or César could speak, Frank made a recommendation. “Unless you don’t eat it, I suggest coniglio in porchetta. It’s out of this world.”
“Haven’t had rabbit in years. I’m in.” César smiled at his hosts. “With names like Yves and François, I’m surprised to see Italian food inspiration on your restaurant’s menu. I’m guessing it’s prepared like the traditional porchetta?”
Frank tilted his head, apparently surprised César knew enough Italian to decipher the offering’s name. “Blame or credit my wife. She hated not being in town this week to see you. She was close to your mother, Brett. Anyway, she’s an amateur chef and developed this recipe. You place a filling made from rabbit mousse and confited rabbit legs down the center of each whole animal, wrap them, and tie them with kitchen twine. Then you seal them in plastic and cook them sous-vide.”
“Jesus, Dad!” Yves rich laughter filled the cozy restaurant. “You sound like Martha Stewart.”
“Hush, you know I’m your mother’s guinea pig when it comes to cooking. You have any idea how many versions of this dish I watched her prepare and tasted before she was satisfied? It took months before she pushed to add it to the menu.”
“Mom runs the restaurant with my other half,” Yves explained. “And as for the French names, Nana—Dad’s mother—was from France. She named him after her grandfather. I was named after her father.”
Brett enjoyed the rabbit served on a bed of red lentils, praising the truffle-rich stuffing. “This is delicious. I have a question for you, gentlemen. The next two days, we’d like to get in a round of golf in the mornings and tour a few wineries in the afternoons. Suggestions?”
“You brought clubs?” Yves sounded surprised.
“Yeah, we left them in the car. Figured why schlepp them around until we needed them?”
Frank looked interested. “Do you have a tee time?”
“Nope. We don’t even have a course. Brett planned to look at our options tonight. I know our club back home has reciprocity agreements with a couple of local ones.”
“Bah! You won’t need that.” Frank reached for his phone and tapped at it. “Nine o’clock good enough? We’ll be done in time for lunch.”
“I’m not ready for the PGA, but I break a hundred.” The man chuckled. “If you boys don’t mind an old geezer tagging along, you’ll be my guests at the Vintner’s Golf Club.”
“Morning, Miles.” Brett’s words were slightly muffled as he finished slipping a sleeveless, Golden Bears sweater over his head. The forecast called for a sunny but cool day. “Sorry, man. Finishing getting dressed so we can grab a little breakfast before we hit the links. What’s up?”
“Golf? Maybe we can get a round in when you guys return?”
“Sure, it all depends on what Nalbo decides. If he turns down our offer, we’ll head back to D.C. and let you handle the foreclosure.”
“I don’t think that’s going to work. Alanna asked me to tell you you have an appointment with CAMALA’s executive director Tuesday morning.”
“Awesome! Tell her thanks for us.”
“I will. But that’s not the reason I called. Nalbo left a message yesterday. He agrees to your proposal.”
“FUCKING A!” Brett stared at César who had already dressed and stood waiting. “Nalbo surrendered. Hey, Miles, César’s smiling and giving me two thumbs up. So he called within a day, eh?”
“Yep. You guys read him right. He’s already hired movers. The house will be empty by Friday, and he wants to close as soon as possible. I could schedule something for Friday afternoon or Saturday morning.”
“Oh, no. Fuck that shit. Let’s make him sweat a little. Since we have to be at the museum Tuesday morning, schedule the closing for that afternoon. But make sure we have early possession. We’d like to go back to the house on Saturday and really take a good look around.”
“Already arranged. You guys mentioned having to furnish the place, so I took the liberty of asking around for interior designer suggestions. I have three with good reputations lined up. If you’re interested, I can arrange for meetings at the house on Saturday.”
“Hang on. Let me put you on speaker. I want the ball and chain in on this.” Brett turned his attention to César. “Nalbo bit, and the house will be empty by the time we get back to L.A. Miles has three designers lined up in case we want help furnishing the place.”
“Miles, this is César. Can we meet with only one of them Saturday? I’d like to get a feel of what we need before we commit to doing anything.”
“Yeah, I’ll have my assistant call and make the arrangements. We still on for Friday?”
“Hell, yeah!” Brett was in an even better mood than he had been when he woke up. “We’re gonna stay at the Ritz again. We’ll confirm our reservation today. And we’ll call Chipper. Meet at the hotel half an hour before game time?”
“Perfect. Enjoy your golf, and I’ll call again if anything comes up.”
The drive to Purple Flame’s main buildings was longer than their stroll through the vineyards the previous day. Frank shook his head and smiled, watching the Lamborghini stop in front of him. “Is this what you drive back home?”
“Oh, hell no!” Brett took the man’s clubs and stored them in the back along with the other two bags. “I have an old Ford pickup, and this one”—he used a thumb to signal César—“has a Caddie SUV. This was a vacation wild hair.”
“Hope you guys are okay with just the three of us playing. My usual golfing partner canceled this morning.” Frank slipped into the front when César held the door for him.
“You play a lot?”
“Usually three times a week. I hate the weekend crowds, but I’ll play now and then if it’s with someone not available during working hours.”
“You can get away from the winery easily?” Brett was curious about how much time Frank spent at work.
The man chuckled. “More every year. I keep cutting back the hours I work. Yves runs the guesthouse, his boyfriend runs the restaurant, and my other son handles the winery. I’m easing my way into retirement.”
“Do you miss the day-to-day of a full-time job?” Brett followed Frank’s directions until he saw the signs for the golf course. “There are grape vines growing around it!”
Frank chuckled. “What do you expect in Napa? Follow the driveway. It’ll take us to the clubhouse.”
Brett thought the valet attendant drooled a little when he dropped the Lamborghini’s keys in his hands. “Take good care of it, okay?”
While someone took their clubs around the building, the three men strolled into the pro shop. César needed to buy balls, and Frank had to sign them in. He took the box from César when the man approached the register. “I got these.”
Outside, they found their bags already strapped in the back of two golf carts. “You boys drive, I’ll ride along with Brett to start.”
Brett’s jaw dropped, watching Frank’s opening drive soar down the middle of the fairway. He and César had hit decent shots, but the septuagenarian’s must have traveled over 200 yards. He clasped Frank’s shoulder and shook it. “You, ole, sly devil. Break a hundred? That’s the drive of a scratch player!”
Frank shrugged. “Not anymore. I used to break par regularly, but this old body can’t these days. I’m probably a five handicap now.”
“That’s better than either César or I! We may need to start playing more often.”
“Based on what you guys said last night, that shouldn’t be a problem. Sounds like your nephew can run the business.” They had discussed Third Line Development over dinner.
“Yeah, Rod’s pretty good. He can handle almost everything at the company.”
“Either one of your sons have any interest in taking over it at some point?”
“I don’t think so. Ritchie’s going to be in the Air Force for a while, and CJ’s gonna run for public office one of these days.”
“Have you ever considered it? Running for office, I mean.”
“Nope. Not interested. César and I aren’t apolitical, but we prefer to remain in the background.”
“You sound just like your father.” Frank remained quiet as they followed the asphalt path to where the shortest-hit ball landed; he seemed lost in thought. When the three eventually reached the putting green, he spoke again, with César now part of the conversation.
“I asked Brett about him running for public office.”
“Ha! He’d never make it. Too much of a hothead.”
“Sounds like what you two said about your eldest last night. Yet you’re both certain he’ll be elected one day. Now that you have a home in L.A. again, you can establish residence in the state. You’re young, good looking, wealthy, and educated. Being a gay Marine and a family man would open a lot of doors in California. From both sides of the political spectrum.”
Brett shook his head. “Not happening, Frank. Even though César and I’ve been rattling around our Georgetown townhouse for the last six months or so. When CJ got married and moved, it was within walking distance of home. We saw them daily. He and Owen finally settled into their house last summer, and we don’t get to enjoy their company as often. About the same time, Ritchie left for Colorado Springs.”
César joined the conversation after tapping his ball too hard and having it roll past the hole. “We even considered selling that place and moving into a condo. We’re staying put for now, but we’re going to travel more than we have in the recent past. If nothing else, we’ll visit Ritch in Colorado and CJ wherever he gets posted by the state department.”
“What about the construction company?”
“Rod’s gonna be running more of it.” Ready to play the second hole, Brett leaned on his driver after placing his ball on the tee. “I started it because I was too young to retire when I left active duty. It was something to do. But we don’t need the money. We don’t want the business to grow a lot more.”
“Brett and I plan on giving my nephew an ownership interest soon. We’ll let him run most of the show. We want to concentrate on being good corporate citizens without worrying too much about profits. It’s why our next two residential projects will be affordable housing. We’d like to carry on the Davenport family’s altruistic efforts.”
The corners of Brett’s mouth ticked upward as he watched the speedometer’s needle creep right. He had to tear his eyes away from the vineyards bordering the deserted, country road. With no other vehicles around, he gently increased their speed.
“Slow down.” Straightening his back, César extended his legs in the footwell, stepping hard on a non-existent brake pedal.
“Relax… There’s nobody around.” Continued pressure on the gas made the indicator needle hover over and quickly surpass the 100 miles per hour marker. The occasional roadside sign blurred as their speed mounted.
César grasped the seat belt’s shoulder strap resting against his chest. “I’m not kidding, Jarhead. Slow the fuck down!” His apprehension at careening down the black ribbon at breakneck speed was quite a contrast to the Marine’s glee.
In a surprise move, Brett stepped on the brake pedal, hit the turn signal, and slowly pulled off the road. César turned to look through the car’s rear window and started laughing. The motorcycle with flashing lights pulled behind them.
“You think it’s funny?” Brett was not amused.
“Kinda… How fast were you going?”
“Not sure. A hundred something?”
“Crap! You’re in for it now.”
Earlier in the day, although Brett had mounted a late offensive, Frank cruised to a victory over the younger men. Unable to join them the next day, he arranged for the visiting couple to play the course again as his guests. After a shower in the locker room and lunch in the clubhouse, they dropped Frank off at Purple Flame and went exploring.
With no timetable to follow, and not wanting to drive under the influence, they only visited three wineries. Spending about an hour at each, they sampled a multitude of wines but only miniscule amounts. Brett took pictures of several labels to facilitate finding the ones they liked when in Washington.
“Good afternoon, gentlemen. License, registration, and proof of insurance, please.”
Brett nearly giggled. He half expected to see Erik Estrada, the star of the old CHIPs television show, when he stared into the trooper’s mirrored lenses. Left to look at his reflection, he coughed to hide his grin. The cop’s nametag read J. Starr.
Brett kept both hands visible atop the steering wheel when he noticed the cop’s unsnapped gun holster. “Afternoon, Officer Starr. License and insurance are in my phone case in my back pocket. It’s a rental, so the registration should be in the glove compartment.” Brett buried his mirth to ensure he appeared to take the stop seriously. There was never a need to spook an armed man. “There are no weapons or contraband in the car.”
The man smirked. “Go ahead, sir. Are you aware of how fast you were going?”
“Sort of. I know it was north of a hundred. Sorry about that. I’m not used to driving a sports car and got carried away.”
“It’s good traffic’s light this afternoon. Had you lost control at that speed and struck another vehicle, the consequences would have been disastrous. Have you gentlemen been drinking or smoking?”
“We’ve had wine. No pot.”
“Could you step out of the vehicle?” The trooper glanced at the meager traffic in both directions while moving away from the SUV, allowing Brett to open his door. “Please step to the other side. We don’t want to risk getting hit by a speeding car.”
The dig made Brett shake his head before complying. On the road’s shoulder, he followed the trooper’s instructions, touching his nose and walking alongside the white demarcation line, carefully putting one foot in front of the other. Satisfied Brett was not impaired, Officer Starr asked him to wait in the car.
Back in the driver’s seat, Brett banged his head against the steering wheel a couple of times. “This sucks.” He still smiled, though.
“At least we aren’t drunk.” César leered at his husband. “Had you been, a musclebound inmate would have had a good time sharing a cell with a blond, surfer boy.”
“Nope, your turn tonight. More so now that I’m picturing that big guy doing you.”
A chill in the air accompanied the mid-January sun’s retreat. Twilight triggered sensors around the property, making light fixtures come alive. Yves had mentioned all illumination was from LED bulbs, part of the winery’s eco-friendly culture. Clear weather promised a sky full of stars.
“Do they pay you to promote their products?” César pointed at the brochures for Black Stallion Winery, touting the evening’s offerings.
“They give us the wine for free. We try to promote Napa wineries, particularly boutique ones like ours.” Yves refilled his guests’ glasses from the bottle of 2016 Limited Release Napa Valley Red Blend he held. “It’s only a few bottles at a time, so it’s not a big expense for them, and our guests tend to be people in their target demographics. A little older and wealthier. How do you like this one?”
“Not bad, but not as good as what we had at dinner last night. Since you guys mentioned it’s not widely available, we told your dad we wanted to order two cases for shipping. We think our kids will enjoy it, so we’ll share.”
“Speaking of my dad and your kids, I hear he tried to recruit you to run for office.” Yves smiled at Brett. “I thought CJ was the political animal in your family.”
Brett sipped his wine before responding. “I’m not running for anything, and CJ’s definitely the one with political aspirations.”
“I was surprised he wasn’t actively involved in last year’s presidential campaign. We talked a lot about the work he did for Clinton when he and Owen stayed with us.”
“He decided working for the federal government, he shouldn’t be as visible as when he was a student.” Brett had told CJ he was silly considering how Trump’s appointees had made professionalism and impartiality obsolete. “And even though he’s not affiliated with either party, there was no way he was supporting Trump. He was concerned if he supported a Democrat, he would be penalized at the politicized State Department.”
“Yeah, guess I can see that. Even Dad, a life-long conservative, hated the Donald from the start. Die hard never-Trumper.”
“Not that some of the Democratic candidates didn’t scare the crap out of us.” César lowered his voice so only Brett and Yves could hear him. “I’m on the Human Rights Campaign Board of Directors these days. I ended up meeting all of them at one point or another. Bernie Sanders’ a stuck up ass. My family escaped a communist regime in Cuba, and I’m not a big fan of socialism. His Medicare For All bullshit led to an argument between us.”
Brett jumped in enthusiastically. “And then, he found out although we’re not part of the billionaires club he despises, we have some money. He looked down his nose at me, and told me I was part of the problem. I so wanted to punch the condescending ass in the face. He’s just a leftist version of Trump. Hell, the Bernie Bros and Donny Despicables are probably the same people. Idiots, all of them. ”
“If Brett wanted to punch Sanders, I wanted to slap Warren. The shrill voice combined with her hatred of wealth drove me nuts. She’s the poster child for the old conservative tag of tax and spend Democrats.”
Yves shook his head and grinned. “Well, if Brett won’t run for office, you guys let me know when CJ decides to. He’d be popular in California. Dad would raise money for him by twisting arms, and we’d hold a fundraiser at the winery. Last one we did in the cellar was a huge success.”
“I like this.” Brett sank into the bubbling, steaming water and sighed. Stars and an Edison bulb encased in a wall-mounted, industrial fixture provided most of the illumination. Logs burning in the adjacent fire pit added to the rustic effect. Following dinner and a nightcap with fellow guests, they had retired to their room, swapped their clothes for a complimentary terrycloth robe, and meandered outside. The clothing-optional hot tub, perched on a courtyard ledge, offered a view towards the state park bordering the property. The swirling waters were a perfect place to unwind.
Head tilted back while staring at the Milky Way spirals created by distant suns, César agreed. “We should think about installing one of these on the rooftop deck back home.” He scooted closer and draped an arm around Brett’s shoulders.
The Marine leaned his head back and looked upwards at the same flickering points of light. Except for the speeding citation, it had been a great day, and the current setting was idyllic. “Wouldn’t be the same. Light pollution in D.C. wouldn’t let us see all these stars. This reminds me of walking through the darkened vineyards when we were at Ozzie’s place in Australia.”
“Speaking of Ozzie, one of our stops tomorrow has to be at Opus One. Our son-in-law was right when he said their Cabernet was out of this world.”
“Yeah, but the fucker would only share that one bottle. He said they were laying the rest of the case down and waiting twenty years to drink it.”
“I trust he knows what he’s doing, Jarhead. We’ll pick up a case and have it shipped. And we’ll only let him and CJ have one bottle too.”
Brett leaned in and kissed his husband. “I like it when you’re devious.” One kiss followed another until their arms and legs were entangled. He rose and sat on César’s lap. “Damn! Are you happy to see me or is that a wine bottle I’m sitting on.”
“Vintage 1977. Your favorite.”
“Hmmm, got that right. And as soon as we get in bed, I plan on draining that bottle.”