Four Gold Rings

an excerpt

Chapter One

"You ready?" Garrett Johnson stuck his head around the door frame, glaring at his twin brother.

Kasey grabbed his wallet and keys off the dresser before heading toward Garrett. "Explain to me again where we're going and why I have to go with you."

"Why? Don't you want to support your twin in his decision to take the next step in his relationship?" Garrett lead the way out of the house.

"Dramatic much?" Kasey muttered.

Garrett stopped and shot him a shocked look. "Me? Dramatic? I swear, it's like you haven't known me for twenty some years. When have I not been dramatic?" He flung his arms wide.

"Shut up and get in the car." Kasey shoved him in Quentin's direction. "I don't know how you can stand driving this guy around all day," he murmured to his brother's driver while climbing into the back seat of the black SUV.

"Oh, Mr. Johnson isn't so bad and I only drive him when Mr. Lamont's busy."

Garrett chuckled. "Yeah. You should know better than to think CJ would allow anyone else to drive him. Hell, it practically kills him to trust someone else behind the wheel when I need to go somewhere and he can't be there."

"True," Quentin commented after he slid into the driver's seat. "Mr. Lamont made me take a defensive driving course with him."

Kasey elbowed his brother. " sweet."

"It was bullshit." Garrett shook his head. "Like Quentin hadn't had to do all that stuff before he got his license anyway. CJ's just being overprotective."

"He used to race cars for a living. He knows everything that can do wrong and CJ loves you too much to leave it to chance." Kasey rolled his eyes. "At least, he's not trying to use your fame to buy drugs." He grunted when his brother flung himself at him.

"I know. I'm just being my spoiled whiney dramatic self. I'm lucky. How did we end up with two amazing guys?"

"I guess we were born under the right star." Kasey wrapped his arm around Garrett then hugged him tight. "So tell me why you need me to help you pick out a ring for CJ?"

He was happy to accompany Garrett, even though it was a rare time during the season when he had a few days off in a row and he'd rather have spent them in Phoenix with Gram.

Garrett poked him in the chest. "You said it yourself. I'm dramatic. I like bling: bright shiny things. CJ doesn't, plus he works with engines and cars. I don't want to get him something that he'd be embarrassed to wear."

Kasey snorted. "That's ridiculous. CJ would never be embarrassed by anything you gave him. Jesus, you got him the obnoxiously expensive Rolex for his birthday and he wears it everywhere."

"I know."

He laughed at Garrett's smug, yet somehow sappy, smile.

"So he'll love whatever ring you pick out."

"But I want to get the perfect one for him." Garrett eased back so he could meet Kasey's gaze. "What if he says no?"

Kasey and Quentin's snorts of disbelief filled the vehicle.

"Mr. Lamont is crazy in love with you, Mr. Johnson," Quentin stated.

"Yeah. No way would he put up with your bullshit if he wasn't. Ow!" He rubbed his side where Garrett had pinched him. "What was that for?"

"Stop teasing."

Kasey studied his brother. Garrett really did seem nervous, more nervous than Kasey had seen him in a long time. The insecure tone in Garrett's voice caused Kasey to straighten. "Are you truly worried about CJ's answer?"

Garrett looked out the window. "Well when the ruling was announced, he didn't seem all that excited. I was jumping up and down, screaming and dancing like an idiot and he just smiled. ‘That's great news' was all he said. He was more excited when I got nominated for a Golden Globe."

"Could be that he doesn't see marriage as all that special." He held up his hand to stop Garrett's protest. "He's been married before, even if he never should have been. Maybe because he's done it once, he doesn't see it as important. Not like those of us who thought we'd never be able to get married legally."

Garrett jerked as though some awful thought just hit him. "Oh my God! You're right. I never thought of the fact that CJ's been married before. What if he doesn't want to get married again? What if once was enough and he sees marriage as some horrible institution that'll drain the life out of him?"

"Jesus save me from overdramatic actors," Kasey prayed while reaching out to smack Garrett on the back of the head. "Get a grip, brother mine. CJ's played the straight card for most of his life, so in his mind, maybe being able to get married was never that big a deal. That doesn't mean he wouldn't want to marry you now that he can. It just means he's never really thought about it. Have you talked to him about the possibility?"

"I might have said something in passing a couple of months ago when we were at Violet and Rose's wedding. You remember my friends from that country band?" Kasey nodded and Garrett continued, "Anyway, I said something like I'd love to have a big over-the-top Gay Hollywood wedding someday."

"What was CJ's reply?"

"He said ‘of course you would, love' and patted my knee. That's not very encouraging." Garrett crossed his arms over his chest and frowned.

It might not have sounded encouraging to Garrett, but Kasey had gotten to know CJ over the year or so he and Kasey's brother had been together. CJ wasn't a guy who wore his emotions on his sleeve. He wasn't into huge dramatic expressions of his love. The man would hate the three-ring circus that a wedding to Garrett would entail. Garrett Johnson was the hottest commodity in Hollywood at the moment and he'd have to ‘go big or go home' as the saying was if he were to get married. CJ would loath all of it, yet Kasey knew CJ would do anything Garrett wanted if it made Garrett happy.

"So if you're this unsure of him, why are you even thinking about asking?" Kasey rested his hand on Garrett's knee. "Do you really feel as though CJ doesn't love you enough to marry you?"

Garrett sighed then flopped back against the seat. "That's just it. I know he'd say yes if I ask. He'll do everything just the way I want it because he loves me. But what if deep inside he doesn't want to get married, but only does it because he doesn't want to hurt me."

"Here's the thing. Have you ever known CJ to do anything he really didn't want to do, even if he knew it would upset you?" Kasey couldn't believe he was having to talk his brother off the ledge like that. Garrett was dramatic and could be annoying at times, but he'd never be that insecure about where he fit into CJ's life. "Has something happened to make you think CJ would rather not be your husband? I thought you guys were solid."

Garrett flapped his hand. "We are. CJ hasn't done anything. It's just Winston called the other night. You met him, right? He's the clothing designer I'm working on for my new line of suits."

Kasey vaguely remembered meeting someone named Winston. "What does he have to do with this meltdown you're in the middle of?"

"Well, he called in tears the other night. He'd asked Donovan, his partner of over fifteen years, to marry him and Donovan told him no. That he didn't need a piece of paper to tell him what he felt was right. They got in a huge fight over it. It wasn't that Winston wanted or needed the validation of a ‘straight' wedding to prove they were committed to each other. It's just that he's always dreamed of the perfect wedding with the right guy and everything. Finally, we can do that without having to sneak around or fly to some other country."

Garrett turned to look at Kasey. "Don't you want to be able to stand up in front of all your friends and family and declare your love for Gram? To have him slip a ring on your finger just like every straight couple has been able to do forever?"

Kasey shrugged. "I guess I never thought of it. I'm like CJ, Garrett. I'm not into huge public displays. I don't need the words or the ring. As long as I have Gram, I don't need the wedding."

"But if Gram were to ask you to marry him, would you?"

"Sure." Kasey had no doubt in his mind, he'd say yes to Gram. Hell, he loved the night club owner with everything in him. Even came out to the sports world for him. "Marriage would be just one more way for us to commit to each other, but it's not the end all and be all of our lives. If we couldn't get married, we'd still be together. Tell me, are Winston and Donovan still together? They didn't break up over this, did they?"

"What?" Garrett frowned. "No. Like I said they've been together for over fifteen years. Something like disagreeing about getting married isn't going to destroy their relationship."

"Right. There you have it. Buy the ring and ask the question, Garrett. Whether CJ says yes or no isn't going to affect how much you two love each other."

Garrett huffed. "I know."

"You just want the big wedding so you can be the center of attention, diva." Kasey laughed. "Try not to get so worked up. I know it's hard to put yourself out there, but you know CJ loves you and that's all that matters."

"We're here, Mr. Johnson," Quentin announced as he pulled up to the curb in front of a nondescript building.

"All right. Where are we and why did you need me to come with you? Aside from building up your confidence." Kasey exited the SUV then held the door open for his brother.

"We're at Goldenstein's. One of the most exclusive jewelers in Los Angeles. I'm hoping he'll design the rings for our wedding." Garrett motioned for Kasey to follow him. "And I brought you because you and CJ have the same kind of taste. Understated. Not crazy blingy like me. I thought you could help me figure out what CJ might like and wear."

Kasey nodded. "All right. I'm glad to help and I won't say a word to CJ about this."

Though he did pull out his phone and fire off a text to his friend.

Dude, send Garrett flowers or something.

Why? I didn't do anything to make him mad.

Flowers aren't just for groveling, asshole. They're a nice way of saying you're thinking about him.

Like I'm not always thinking about your brother. Is he okay?

Just feeling a little anxious about life.

Ah. Gotcha. All right. Consider them sent.

Kasey sent a thumbs-up emoji then slipped his phone back in his pocket. Sometimes you just have to drop a hint or two help things along.