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Authors: Christopher Koehler

Tags: #Gay & Lesbian

Tipping the Balance (8 page)

BOOK: Tipping the Balance
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“He what! That little—”


“Man I love,” Nick said flatly. He sounded gruff, but Drew could tell he was kidding. Mostly.


“Yeah, I’ll pay you more. It’s only fair,” Drew said. Before Nick could change his mind, Drew pulled out his cell phone and called Emily. “Okay, I know this is voice mail, but I’m suddenly very busy. I’ll do the bed/bath job for you, but this is the last job for a while, do you hear me? The very last! Love you, babe. Bye.”


“That’ll learn her. You sure showed her,” Nick snorted. “You also just caved like a spelunker.”


“Yeah, I know,” Drew said, shrugging. “But what can you do? She’s a good friend, and we help our friends out. Thanks for helping me out with this, friend.”


“Any time,” Nick said.


They worked their way through the Abernathy house one room at a time, going over the work with the proverbial fine-toothed comb. The silence was companionable, but Drew could tell Nick was working his way around to something.






“I’m almost afraid to ask, and I think I can guess, because quite frankly, you’ve been a bit of a downer for the last week or so, but what’s up with Brad?”


“Nothing, that’s what,” Drew said. “A big fat nothing.”


“I’m sorry,” Nick said. “I tried to warn you. I just don’t think he’s into you, not like that.”


“I know, and I don’t actually hate you for that ‘I told you so’, but I thought there was something there… the looks, the shy smiles.”


“I don’t know what to tell you that I haven’t already said before, but you know I’m here for you, and so is Morgan,” Nick said quietly.


“I know, and I appreciate it,” Drew replied.


Nick regarded him for a moment and then hugged him.


“I thought I was happy with my single life,” Drew said, face muffled by Nick’s chest. “I’ve got a great job, keep myself busy, but then this spring… when I saw Brad. When I thought I saw something in Brad and thought maybe he saw something in me… I realized I want what you’ve got with Morgan. I want… I want to share my life with someone.”


“I’m sorry,” Nick murmured, kissing Drew’s head softly.


“It’s okay.” Drew sniffled. “Maybe he’ll still be my friend. Jeez, that sounds pathetic.”


“A little, yeah,” Nick said.


Drew let go of Nick and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “I don’t know when I turned into such an emotional bag of slop.”


“Feeling doesn’t make you a bag of slop, and you’d pinned your hopes on Brad. It’s natural to be disappointed, to be upset,” Nick said.


“Thanks, Oprah. Good to know.”


“Aaaand he’s back!” Nick laughed. “I’ll be right back. There’s something I need to get out of my backpack.”


When he returned to the bathroom they were inspecting, Nick handed Drew a piece of paper. “I can’t believe I’m doing this, and in light of previous discussions, I run the risk of hypocrisy, but this may take your mind off Brad.”


Giving Nick a skeptical look, Drew took the paper and read it silently for a few moments. “Holy shit,” he breathed.


“About that, yes,” Nick said. “That interest you?”


“Are you kidding me? The city’s calling for bids from up-and-coming designers and architects for the renovation of the Bayard House,” Drew said, eyes glued to the circular. “This is what I want to do, but… it’s too soon!” He met Nick’s eyes. “I mean, I can’t pull this off, not yet. We’re freaking out getting this project done and then a bed/bath. The mayor’s residence is an historic house that goes back to the Gold Rush, when Sacramento was built on stilts because the American and Sacramento Rivers flooded like clockwork every winter. I don’t know much about historical preservation, let alone how to update and adapt such an old and important structure. I….”


Nick let Drew sputter on for a few more moments but then cut him off. “Look, the city obviously knows this is a huge undertaking, but they’re calling for up-and-comers anyway. You’ve got some experience, you’ve got a contractor you can work with. Give Emily a call. She’s got the design chops. Between the two of you, you should be able to come up with something.”


“You think so?” Drew said.


“Drew, I know so,” Nick said gently. “This is your big chance.”


“The only way I can do this is if you help me,” Drew said. When Nick started to protest, Drew cut him off. “No, seriously. We work well together. You’ve been helping me with flips since you moved up here. You’re the only crew leader I’ve ever had. You probably know more than I do at this point, frankly.”


Nick shook his head. “There’s no way on earth. I’d have to take a semester off school, and that’s just not happening.”


“Please, Nick, I’m begging,” Drew said. “I went along with your insane scheme to get Morgan off your scent before you two decided to give it a go. Now it’s time to return the favor.”


“This is totally different, and you know it,” Nick said, an edge to his voice. “That turned out to be one night out. You’re asking me to take half a year off school. It’s not just me anymore. As it is right now, Morgan and I will finish up at the same time. There’s no way I’ll screw that up. You’re my best friend, but he’s the man I’m going to marry.”


“Fine. I can’t believe you’re going to be that way, though, not after all we’ve been through together,” Drew said.


“Don’t make this a choice between you and Morgan,” Nick warned. “We’ve been friends a long time. Don’t fuck it up.”


“But the Bayard House!” Drew wailed. “This could make me.”


“I know it could, Drew, and that’s why I brought it to your attention, but reno isn’t what I want to go into. It’s your dream, not mine. I do this to make money on the side and as a favor to you, but you can’t ask me to derail my life for it, to say nothing of Morgan’s, you just can’t,” Nick said.


“I know,” Drew said softly, deflated.


“Talk to Emily,” Nick urged him. Then he smiled. “Save your manipulation for her. After all, she owes you a few favors, now, doesn’t she?”


“You’re a baaaaad man, Nick Bedford.” Drew smirked. “That’s why I like you.”


Nick winked. “Now let’s get back to work. If you’re going to go after the Bayard House bid, you need this and that bed/bath to be perfect.”


“So you’ve
heard about the Bayard House, have you?”


Drew sat across from Emily Schoenwald at a small table at a trendy coffee shop. Both had notebooks and calendars open in front of them. Drew stared at the blank page open before him, toying with a pencil. “My crew leader showed me the circular. What do you think?”


“I think it’s a tremendous opportunity,” the small blonde spitfire said. “I’m just not convinced it’s an opportunity for us.”


“It’d be a stretch, that’s for sure, but then, that may be the point of aiming it at younger designers and builders. It’s supposed to be a stretch, and it’ll turn into a boost up,” Drew said.


“I’m just not convinced that either of us operates at the scale this job will require. You do fantastic work, but you handle only one or two jobs at a time. I usually have a few more jobs going at once, but we’re neither of us used to handling things like this,” Emily said.


Drew shifted in his chair. “Of course we don’t operate on that scale. The point is to make the jump up to that scale.”


“Possibly,” Emily replied. She took a sip of her latte to maintain the caffeine levels in her blood. “It’s also a gamble. You’d have to back way off on selling houses, and I’d have to devote most of my resources to the project too. That means either we have to have money in the bank to carry us or we have to secure loans until the city pays us, and in this economy, I’m just not optimistic we could get the financing.”


“We work pay-as-you-go, you know that. I don’t see how these public projects would be that different,” Drew said.


“You know these government contracts don’t tend to have large profit margins,” Emily said, looking at him.


“Maybe we should stop thinking about why we can’t do it and start thinking of how we could do it,” Drew said, losing patience.


Emily smiled. “I was wondering how negative I was going to have to get before you pushed back.”


“You bitch.” Drew laughed as he sat back in his chair.


“I could tell you wanted to do it just by the way you brought it up, but you needed to get the reasons for not doing it out of your system,” Emily said, pulling a laptop out of her briefcase. “Let’s look at this and start brainstorming. This is the chance we’ve both been waiting for.”


Drew pulled his own laptop out, and together he and Emily called up the webpage devoted to the contest. There they found the information they’d need to start their bid, including detailed schematics of the existing Bayard House and a list of requirements for the renovated structure, along with so much more. Two hours later, Drew and Emily felt a lot more optimistic about the possibility of making a go of it.


“So what do we need to update this thing?” Emily said, thinking aloud. “HVAC, for sure.”


Drew nodded. “Probably two separate systems, one upstairs and one down.” When she looked at him quizzically, he said, “Because the building is so old, the walls may not take well to having ductwork run through them. Separate systems for the upstairs and then the downstairs and basement gets around that.”


“But what about new wiring? Won’t that need to go through the walls?” she asked.


“Yes, but if we have to run conduit in the walls first, it’ll be much less intrusive than effective HVAC ducts,” Drew said. “Even if it turns out that the walls just can’t take that much, conduit is unobtrusive, and can be run along baseboards. You see it in a lot of old homes. But there’s one thing that may change all this, and it’s going to involve some research. Seismic upgrades.”


“I hadn’t thought of that,” Emily admitted, “but you’re right.” She thought for a few moments. “Okay, one real problem I’ve got as a designer is that this is an historical building, and the city very explicitly wants it preserved as much as possible, even as we adapt it to modern needs like the HVAC or wiring for computer networks.”


“Would we even need it to be networked? It’s the mayor’s official residence, not the working offices,” Drew pointed out. “We might be able to solve that problem with Wi-Fi repeaters. They’re small and can be hidden almost anywhere. Something else to check into.”


Emily scribbled a note. “I’m on it. Let’s do this.”


“Not so fast. Another issue is that we’re not contractors. This is a problem I face in my flips, and since Bob Miller’s retired, he may not want to commit to something this large. He’ll need to be paid, too, and that means more money in our bid beyond what we might need for salaries,” Drew said. “It reduces our competitiveness.”


“That’s just something we have to face,” Emily said with a shrug. “Others might not have it. We will.”


“Let’s both look into how little we really need to live on while this is going on,” Drew said.


“Short our salaries?” Emily said, wrinkling her nose.


“Says the doctor’s wife,” Drew said. “Besides, you said this was a gamble. Talk to Missy and see what she says. If we don’t pay ourselves as much so we can pay for someone to sign off, that might make us more competitive.”


“I guess,” Emily said glumly.


“Hey, no guts no glory,” Drew said.


“I wish you were a contractor,” Emily said.

BOOK: Tipping the Balance
6.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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