By midmorning we’re headed toward the theater. It’s freezing out, but the cold keeps me from dragging my feet and putting this off any longer. No doubt Robert was tipped off that something was different when I didn’t show up with coffee from Madman, but I doubt he’s expecting Hey, I got married yesterday! as an explanation.
I remind myself that the hard part is over. Telling Robert will be easy because he’ll be thrilled . . .
Jeff, on the other hand . . .
“So they’ll both be here?”
It’s the first thing Calvin has said since leaving the apartment, and the sound of his voice jerks me out of my anxiety spiral. Clearly we are both on the same page.
“Yeah.” I texted Jeff this morning, asking for a good time to check in with both of them . . . he said he’d be at the theater with Robert all morning. “Robert’s barely left since Seth quit. Jeff threatened to drag him out if he didn’t at least let him bring fresh clothes and food that didn’t come from a vending machine.”
Calvin gives me a tiny wince. “Does it make me a terrible person if I’m relieved they’re still stressed about replacing Seth?”
We reach the front of the Levin-Gladstone and I turn to face him. “If you are, then I am, too, because it just occurred to me last night they could have found a replacement in the time it took to do all this.” I lift my hand and wiggle my ring finger. “That would be . . . inconvenient.”
Calvin gently grips my elbow, stopping me from opening the door. “Thanks for letting me come along this morning. It feels like the right thing.” He hesitates. “You don’t reckon they’ll murder me?”
“They wouldn’t murder you. They’d murder me.”
Just inside, Brian’s eyes land on me like a heat-seeking missile.
“Brace yourself,” I mutter under my breath.
Calvin follows my gaze to Brian barreling down upon us. “Who is that?”
“It’s my boss, the stage manager. Imagine Mr. Plankton and Effie Trinket rolled into one. He hates me.”
“What in the hell are you doing here?” Brian asks, pointing to the door. “You took four days off. Go take them.”
“I came to see Robert. Is he upstairs?”
“He’s upstairs with the rest of your family. I swear to God, are we running a show here or hosting a reunion?” His eyes shift to where Calvin is standing just behind me. I register the exact moment he recognizes him and puts the pieces together, because he glances at my left hand and his face contorts in glee. “Shut. Up.”
“You actually did it.” He takes a step closer and I step back, colliding with Calvin’s chest. “You let me sit there and get my ass handed to me in front of Michael and the Law brothers, and then you went out and did it anyway.”
I nod, taking these lumps. After all, he isn’t wrong. But the difference was, in the end, it was my decision, rather than some bartering chip Brian gets to claim as his.
“Well.” He takes a dramatic step to the side, throwing his arm out as if to point the way to Robert’s office. “By all means, head upstairs and inform your uncle that you did exactly what I suggested. I cannot wait to hear what he says.”
I take Calvin’s arm and lead him to the stairway, making a mental note to steal the lifts from inside Brian’s fancy Gucci loafers.
“Seems like a good chap,” Calvin says dryly, and despite everything, I burst out laughing.
Robert’s office door is half-open; I stop just outside. “Wait out here, okay? Just for a few minutes.”
Calvin hesitates before giving me a reluctant nod, and I lift my hand to knock.
Robert calls out almost immediately. “Come in.”
“Hey.” I walk in, taking a deep breath. Robert is seated at his desk eating a bagel, and Jeff is folding a pair of pants before tucking them into a leather duffel bag.
Robert looks up when he hears the door click closed behind me. “Hey, Buttercup. I thought you were off this week?”
I walk over and kiss Jeff’s cheek before rounding the desk to kiss Robert. “I came to talk to you.”
“Are you hungry?” Jeff asks. “There’s fruit and coffee and a bag of those little quiches you like.”
“Thanks, but . . . I already ate.” The idea of keeping food down at the moment is comical. I turn to face Robert. “How’s the search going?”
Jeff looks at his husband with an expression that says he’s been living with this particular mood for a few days. “Please don’t get him started.”
Robert rubs his eyes with the heels of his hands. “We’ve auditioned a dozen musicians.”
“And?” Hope mixed with anxiety burns a hole through my gut.
He sinks back in his chair; he looks exhausted. “And . . . we’ll probably audition a half dozen more.”
“Would it help if I said you didn’t need to?”
I become acutely aware of Jeff going still off to the side.
“We’ve already gone over this, Holland,” Robert says, and then adds, “He can’t.”
“Who can’t what?” Jeff asks very carefully, but I’m sure he already knows.
I ignore this for the moment, focused intently on Robert. “But, let’s just say—hypothetically—that he could?”