Chapter 12

"Where the hell have you been, Keagan?" the teen's big brother demanded as he walked up the stairs to the living quarters above the bakery.  "If you did anything already, you know PawPaw and the Queen are going to skin you alive and that ain't nothing to what they'll do to Chay and me and Cass.  Oh, we're all dead.  Dammit, I knew I should have gone after you instead of….."

"Claude, will you shut up for a moment and let me answer you?" Keagan laughed. 

"I'm so happy my impending torture and death are so funny to you, little brother," Claude pouted.  "Well, at least if I die, I can go out knowing the details.  Dish up, bro.  Was it everything your first time should be?" 

"CLAUDE!" the younger teen squealed and blushed profusely.  "We just went up on the levee and talked.  We haven't even kissed yet, for your information, nosey." 

"Wait, you went out on the levee with your man, you stayed gone for two and a half hours, and you didn't even get a kiss?" Cassius demanded as he stepped out of the living room.  "I reckon maybe I need to have a whole different talk with that baker man." 

"No you don't," Chay snorted as he came up the stairs carrying the beautiful black tailcoat of Keagan's new tuxedo.  "So if this is your suit, why am I carrying it inside to put it away?" 

"Cause you can't carry him inside and put him away yet," Claude teased.  He then yelped as Cassius smacked the back of his head.  "What?  I didn't say where he was going to put him." 

"Will you shut up already?" Keagan hissed as he blushed once again.  "Honestly, you are determined to embarrass me to death, aren't you?" 

"Big brother," Claude said simply with a smile.  "It's in the job description." 

"I guess it's a good thing I put my pants and shirt back on before I came up the stairs," Keagan mumbled. 

"What were they doing off of you?  I thought you said nothing but talking happened tonight.  Chayton you better tell me that he's playing a joke on me," Claude gushed as he switched right back to overprotective mode again. 

"Calm down, Mother Hen.  All we've done is talk tonight.  Keagan took the tux off so it wouldn't get as messed up riding in my delivery van on the way home.  I only have one seat in that thing.  Now, fair is fair, if we're talking about embarrassing states of undress, why are you coming out of my living room in just your underwear, Claude?" Chay asked pointedly.  It was now the older blond brother's turn to squirm and turn red. 

"We're allowed," Claude mumbled, but he quickly ducked back into the room and snatched his pants off the floor and stumbled and staggered as he put them back on quickly. 

"You're allowed to do what you want, that is true," Chay called out.  "That doesn't mean you're allowed to do it in my living room.  You are cleaning that sofa, you perv." 

"Prince Chayton, I assure you nothing beyond cuddling happened here tonight," Cassius told the baker formally. 

"Well, in that case, maybe someone needs to have that talk with you," Chay teased.  "You don't have to wait for your boy to grow up." 

"I knew it, I'm too young for you," Keagan whispered.  He turned to run up the next set of stairs, but Chay caught his arm. 

"I'm sorry, my sunshine," the man apologized.  "I was just teasing Cass and your brother.  I didn't mean to make you feel that you are anything less than everything I have ever wanted and dreamed of, the most perfect gift I could ever wish for, the absolute best parts of me as my split apart as your family calls it, even if we do need to wait a few more months before you are legally able to do anything more than kiss." 

"I'm really all that?" Keagan questioned softly blinking up at Chay as his cheeks pinked up profusely. 

"All that and everything more in the universe," the baker smiled back at him.  "Now, as we are home and in the presence of your guardian….  Prince Cassius, is it permitted for me to give Keagan a kiss goodnight tonight?" 

"I think we already covered that part of the conversation," Cassius laughed.  "Just, you know, keep it to an age appropriate kiss.  Not my personal rule, I just don't want to face Aunt Dixie or Mr. Henri if they get the idea I ain't done my job protecting the innocent virtue of our High Prince." 

"Should I just get the word virgin tattooed on my forehead?" Keagan grumped and pouted with his hands crossed over his chest. 

"Don't be silly, Keag," Claude told him.  "A tattoo is permanent.  We'll just get you a sign to wear around your neck.  OWW!  Cass, he kicked me.  Protect," he ordered as he pointed at Keagan.  "Hey, me not him," he blurted when the big, dark man smacked the back of his head not that gently. 

"You forgot, my job is to protect him, not you," Cassius chuckled as Claude rubbed his shin with one hand and his head with the other while still pouting. 

"I don't have to take this abuse," Claude sneered and he stomped up the next flight of stairs.  "I'm sleeping in the brat's room tonight, alone." 

"Suits me," Keagan called out.  "I can bunk in with Chay tonight." 

"Oh no you can't," three voices bellowed out. 

"I was just teasing," the teen snapped as he stuck his tongue out at them as Claude ran back to put himself between Keagan and Chay.  "I know we have to be good until my birthday.  I know.  Don't mean I have to like it," he added with more pouts. 

"One kiss, Sugarman, and then the hormone kid and I will go to your room," Claude instructed.  "You and the future king can fight over the couch and Keag's bed." 

"Don't call me hormonal," Keagan snapped.  "It makes me sound like a girl on her period.  GROSS!"  He then squirmed around his big brother and puckered up his lips for Chay. 

Chay kissed him on the cheek, though.  "Until your birthday, we are good boys," the baker said softly.  When Keagan pouted yet again, he winked and added, "But good boys can bend the rules occasionally."  He dipped his head in quickly and kissed Keagan properly. 

Keagan was nearly catatonic as he was led upstairs by his brother and into the main bedroom of the apartment.  His eyes were wide in shock and his fingers brushed over his lips as his cheeks blossomed an adorable shade of bright red.  It wasn't until Claude had his shirt off and was starting to undo his pants as well that Keagan blurted in a happy squeal, "HE KISSED ME!" 

"Yeah, I know, I was there," Claude groaned.  "Now get into your pajamas unless you want me to give you a cold shower before I tuck you into bed." 

"No, no, I'm good," Keagan protested quickly.  He rushed around the room and was soon laying in the bed with a big dopey grin on his face as he drifted off to dreamland. 

Downstairs, the two older occupants of the apartment had settled at the dining table for a drink.  "I'm sorry about the dinner tonight, Cass.  I hope we didn't cause too much of a stir for your business." 

"It's a restaurant, man," Cass laughed.  "Things get stirred every day." 

"You know what I mean," the baker groaned at the bad pun.  "I got the impression that you had wanted to talk business and me and my big mouth totally blew that out of the water.  I really do apologize." 

"It needed to happen, my friend," Cass told him sincerely.  "You and the High Prince now both know where you stand and where you hope to go from here, right?"  When the baker nodded, he waved dismissively.  "Then it's all good, man.  It's all good." 

"What did you want to discuss, though.  I mean we don't have to talk about it now if you're too tired or something." 

"My business opens at lunch, yours opens before God wakes up, and you're worried about me being tired?" Cass snorted.  

"I'm too wired to sleep right now," Chay told him.  "That's why I suggested the drink.  I hardly ever drink liquor, but I thought it might help me calm down and sleep." 

"Well, talking about my business idea won't help with that, I don't think," the other man replied. 

"Go for it, man," Chay urged.  "I'm the boss, so I can make my two employees get up early in the morning." 

"Well, alright then," Cass shrugged.  "I want to offer you a partnership.  I've had the idea for a long time, but I never had the other people around me to make it work before.  My old dessert chef at the restaurant was good, but you're incredible.  With Claude's food and your pastry, it will be awesome.  We just need someone that can run the theater, and Claude gave me a line on that tonight.  This'll be something this old city ain't seen since the antebellum days.  And with it being on a paddle wheeler, we could even do cruises up the river a couple of times a year.  It'd be like the Love Boat, but on the river." 

"Wait, let me get this straight," Chay responded.  "You want to run a dinner theater on a paddle wheeler with Claude as the Chef De Cuisine and me as the Pastry Chef?" 

"Yeah, I think we could make a killing and have a great time doing it, too," Cass blurted excitedly. 

"What about my shop here, and your place on the levee?  Would we close those?" 

"Entirely up to you, my man," Cass told him.  "I'm just the owner of LeVeau's these days, anyway, so I can manage both of them business-wise.  I hire on the crews I need to work, most of them from the family allies." 

"My last name isn't LeVeau, nor is it Rockefeller," Chay blurted.  "I have sunk everything I've got into this place.  I mean, I can't even afford a second seat for my delivery van yet." 

"I need your expertise, not your money," Cass told him seriously.  "I never meant for you to think that you had to invest money into this.  The boat is coming up for auction next week.  If you agree to this with me, you and Claude would be listed as one-third owner along with me, due to the investment of your time and talents, that's all.  If you let me make the suggestion, though, I think you already have someone that can take over this place for you if you want to keep it.  I would definitely at least keep the apartment if I were you.  You got twice the space here that I have in my apartment, and a better view from that rooftop of yours." 

"You would actually list me as one-third owner, and all I have to do is show up and bake?" 

"Man, you got some serious self-esteem issues if you can't tell that you really are the best pastry chef in this town, and being that this town is famous for its food, that's saying a lot," Cass assured him.  "I am kicking myself for not listening to my Aunt Dixie a few years ago when she said I should have hired you on as Pastry Chef for LeVeau's.  That bad decision of mine is what made her wait so long before she named me her heir, by the way." 

"So she did use her… influence to try to get me set up here," Chay blurted. 

"She didn't use the gifts, Chay," Cass explained quickly.  "She just told me that the best baker she had ever met was trying to find a place in the city, and I would be a damn fool if I didn't hire you.  But my Mama's brother needed the job at the time.  He's the one I was telling you about, he was good, but not on your level, and more to the point, he has just retired last week, as his mother is very ill over in Alabama, and needs him and my aunt to move there to care for her." 

"Wow, this is…. Wow," Chay stammered as the truth and sincerity in Cass' words sunk in on him.  "I can hardly believe….  I would have to talk it over with Keagan, of course.  He's still in school and I don't want his education to suffer because he took on too much work here." 

"Which is why I had wanted to talk to all of you at the same time, but I still knew you would need to discuss it privately," Cass nodded.  "I would love to give you all the time you need, but remember the auction for the boat is next week… in Cincinnati, Ohio.  I'll need to know two days in advance if you are in.  I have to go up there to look over the boat the day before the auction and make sure it's in as good shape as I've been told." 

"I'd be happy to come with you for that, if Keagan agrees to take over here," Chay nodded.  "One of the reasons I have so many pictures in my room of steamboats is that my father was a naval engineer.  I spent a lot of time around boatyards learning to not be what I wanted to be when I grew up." 

"Oh, man, I don't want to bring up bad memories for you," Cass said quickly. 

"On the contrary, I think it will be an honor to his memory to put some of what he taught me to good use.  I did love him, even if his opinion of me wasn't the greatest."  He took a big swig of his drink and grimaced as it burned its way down his throat.  "I was the only son, and all I wanted to do was hang around the house with my mother and make cakes and cookies.  It was a bitter disappointment to a man like him.  I did my best to do what he wanted, but when he died of a heart attack, well, I took that chance to live my own life.  I enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America, and worked my way here to New Orleans once I graduated.  I thought owning this place was the greatest thing I would ever do, but I have to say, I'm very interested in what you're offering me.  I swear sometimes I wonder if your family has put a spell on me, everything has turned out so well for me ever since I met Dixie on a cable car." 

"Trust me on this, Chayton Anthony.  I have used none of my gifts on you, and if Aunt Dixie had done it, you wouldn't forget to take her the beignets when you go to see her.  You would visit every day too.  That woman got a sweet tooth like you wouldn't believe."  They both laughed and then to Chay's surprise, Cass hugged him before turning to leave the apartment.  

"Hey, where are you going?  I thought you had to protect Keagan's innocence," Chay called out as the other man walked down the stairs. 

"Keagan will always be innocent, and his virginity will be safe for two months.  I trust you, Chay.  Besides, if you do anything you're not supposed to, it won't be me you answer to, it'll be Aunt Dixie and Mr. Henri, and I know you got better sense than to risk that."