"Okay everyone, we operate like the US Navy, but we are a civilian fleet, so unless we are aboard ship or around crew, I expect the officers to be less formal with each other. My name is Travis and this is Dale. Dale, I believe this is the first time you have met David Stavi?"
"True. David, I have heard a lot about you and look forward to working with you." I shook his hand.
"Cat, you and David met this morning. Did you get a chance to meet Lieutenant Shane Walker?"
"No I didn't, Shane, it's a pleasure."
I was curious about Shane. "Shane, how long were you in the Navy?"
"I wasn't. I went to Virginia Tech and Kevin Olsen and Cal Macintosh recruited me right from school. I am one of the few Fleet Officers at INS that was not in the Navy. It's one of the reasons why Mathis despises me. It doesn't bother me though." He seemed slightly dejected.
David looked over at him and then at us. "May I speak frankly?" His Israeli accent was not every heavy, which I found very surprising.
I nodded, "Absolutely, I want you guys to feel comfortable with telling me everything. I am sure Travis feels the same way."
"Of course I do. What's going on, David?"
David put and arm around Shane's shoulder, in a very brotherly way. "Well, when John offered me the XO slot I was thrilled. But, as the XO, discipline in the Officer ranks is my responsibility. I had HR fax me all the officer's personnel records. Shane has had outstanding reviews from everyone he has worked with except Mathis. I was intrigued by that, so I talked with a couple of guys that had worked with Mathis on a couple of ships. Mathis is a bully and he is homophobic. I think his dislike of Shane is because of that, plus he has been passed over for promotion to XO three times now".
I stopped him. "Wait a second. Shane, are you gay?"
He hung his head down. "Yes sir."
"First, and most important, don't you ever be ashamed by that. You hold your head high and be proud of who you are. Second, both Travis and I are also gay and we are a couple. I can promise you homophobia in the INS Fleet will not be tolerated, and if that is Mathis's problem, I will personally fix the problem if I have to, understand?"
He was starting to smile. "Yes sir!"
"It's Dale. Now you are going to meet a lot of gay guys tonight. It's up to you, if you want them to know about your sexuality. We will not out you, but I can promise you that if you do let them know, then you will have lots of guys trying to get your number." I laughed.
Travis nodded. "I don't speak for the whole fleet, but I will watch out for Mathis and if I see any hostility toward anyone because they are gay, I will run him off my ship."
Cat was smiling. "Are there any good looking officers in INS that are straight?"
We all laughed. David looked up at her "I am ma'am."
Cat giggled, "I was kind of hoping so."
I could not help myself. "Jesus, do I own a security company or a dating service?" Everyone chuckled. "I was thinking about taking Rick and Carl down to the beach tomorrow. Travis, I was hoping you would join us, but why don't all of us go?"
Everyone quickly agreed, and I saw Michael talking on his Bluetooth. He looked in the mirror "Dale, what time do you want to head to the beach?"
"I was thinking around noon why?"
"I'm, having the duty driver bring a fifteen passenger van over for you, he will be there at 11:30 and it will be yours for the day."
"Okay. Thanks, Michael." We were just arriving at the house and I saw the valet and security all set up out front. All the valets where dressed in black pants, white tuxedo shirts, gold vests, and bow ties. Security was dressed in formal black suites. The fountain in front of the house was all lit up with blue lights. The valet opened the door for us. "Michael, Happy Anniversary."
"Thank you. Dale. I will see you Monday morning."
We all trouped into the house and I was shocked to see the place was swarming with people putting last minute touches on stuff. Carl spotted us, grabbed us and shoved us towards the stairs.
"Travis' and Dale's tuxes are in your room. Commander Stavi has the room at the end of the hall. Lieutenant Walker has the room to the left of him and Cat, darling, you can use the other guest room. I assumed the commander and lieutenant where staying tonight, so I set their rooms up accordingly."
"Okay Carl, we will be ready in a few minutes if you need help." I told him as I walked up the stairs.
"Oh no, Rick has this under control. Wait until you see him, he is so in his element, it's amazing. Never thought we would have a little General, but he has the troops hopping every time they hear his voice."
Travis laughed. "I am not really surprised. Come on, Babe. Let's show these guys where to get dressed and get ready ourselves. Carl, can you have someone bring a round of cocktails up to Dale's room for all of us. We will have one round up there to stay out of the way."
"Sure thing, Captain Gorgeous." We all laughed and started up the stairs. I stopped halfway up.
"Shit, Carl. I didn't do anything for Michael's anniversary."
"What are you talking about? Terrapin's has a bottle of Dom chilled and will be at table side, compliments of you when they arrive."
"Damn, Carl, you are amazing." I turn and finished going up the stairs. I showed everyone where the sitting room was outside my bedroom and then showed them to their rooms.
Travis and I got ready pretty quickly. When we went out to the sitting room, David was already dressed and sitting reading a book.
"Wow, David that was fast." Travis exclaimed.
"In the Israeli Navy, you sometimes have to change uniforms in less than thirty seconds. It's a hard habit to break."
I nodded. "I am going to check on Shane. Be right back."
I knocked on the door and he opened it. "Is everything alright, Shane? He was dressed, but his bowtie wasn't tied yet."
"Honestly, Sir, I have no clue how to tie this."
I laughed and reached over and tied it for him. "There you go. Are you a little a nervous about this tonight, and it's Dale?"
"Yes, I grew up in a pretty small farming community in Nebraska. We didn't ever have "Black Tie events". I don't really have any family anymore, when I came out, my mom and dad disowned me. If it weren't for Kevin and Cal promising to help repay my student loans, I wouldn't have been able to finish school. I really owe all of you at INS everything. And now, here I am in the house of the most powerful man in INS and he has to tie my tie for me."
"Shane, we are your family now. You just stick with us, okay? Tonight I want you to relax and enjoy yourself. There are a couple of people here your age and you need to just let all the stress go. Okay."
"It's Dale. Stop calling me Sir; it makes me feel old. Now, let's go have a drink and with the others." We went back to the sitting room and David, Cat and Travis were chatting. Just as we walked in Rick came in wearing a formal starched white chef's coat and carrying a tray of drinks.
"Rick, I didn't expect you to bring the drinks. Don't you have enough to do?"
"Everything is well in hand. As our hosts for this evening, I thought it would be nice if I had a special aperitif made for you and the VIP guests. I had the bartender make Church cocktails - they feature both Aperol and Cocchi Americano, which have a fruity sweetness and low-alcohol content that is accented by a brisk herbal bitterness. Lemon and gin round out the drink; while gin is a heavier spirit, its juniper thrust is just the sort of flavor to set your appetite pumping."
Cat took a drink and sipped it. "I am impressed, not only by the drink, but by your description."
Rick went around the room handing out drinks and when he got to Shane, he paused and they both kind of smiled for a second. When Rick handed him the drink, their hands sort of lingered together for just a second longer than they should have. Rick recovered quickly. "Enjoy the drinks, Gentlemen and Lady."
A chorus of thank-you's followed him out the door. As soon as he left, every eye turned to Shane and he didn't even realize it. He was staring into his drink. We all looked at each other and grinned.
After finishing our drinks, which where fantastic, we headed down stairs and out into the pool area. I was again shocked, as there where decorative lights everywhere, a fire burning, the tent lit up and a chamber quartet playing. There was a bar set up right outside the tent and some round tables were set in the tent with linens and floral arrangement on each table. It looked like a party right out of Hollywood. Carl spotted me and came over.
"Here is the seating chart for the evening. Are there any changes you want to make?"
I looked it over and noticed Travis and I wear sitting with the Senators and their wives as well as the two US Navy officers and their wives. I looked over the rest of the chart. "Yes, can you make an adjustment to put Cat and David Stavi together with Shane Walker?"
"Not a problem, I will put them at my table and put the Master Chiefs and their wives at the table with Cal, Mike and John and their wives." He started making adjustments.
"Thanks, Carl, and keep an eye on Shane, he is a little out of his element. I think he has the 'hot's' for Rick, so give him a tour of the kitchen later."
"Who doesn't have the 'hot's' for Rick? It would be my pleasure. Shane is a 'hotty' himself. They would make an adorable couple." He grabbed someone wearing a black vest. "Move the seat assignments to these, please."
He paused for a second and touched his ear and I realized he was wearing an earpiece. "Well Mr. Ryan, it's show time. Your first guests are arriving." He headed off to the greet them.
Travis came over with his group and they all had fresh drinks. He handed me another and whispered in my ear. "I love you."
I smiled and all my nerves just melted away. I could face anything with him at my side. I looked him straight in the eye and made sure everyone could hear me. "I love you too."
Shane blushed and Cat made a cooing noise. David just smiled. Just then, Cal came in and introduced me to Ellis, his wife. Right behind them were Mike and his wife, Mary. John and Jessica arrived next, and we all went to the bar to get a drink. As I got another drink, I look up to see Clara approaching with a stunningly beautiful woman.
"Dale, I would like to introduce you to my partner, Shelley. Shelley, this is Dale Ryan, my new boss."
Shelley smiled as she shook my hand. "So, this is the guy I have to thank for Clara talking about putting off her retirement."
Clara laughed. "As if you want me doddering around the house all day, anyway."
I was laughing too. "Shelley it is an honor to meet you. Let's grab a drink. "
The Master Chiefs and their wives arrived next; then the Senators and their wives, followed by Admiral Wilson and Captain Rarely and spouses. The party was in full swing. At 7:15, Rick came out side and stood off to the side.
I walked over to him. "Rick, everything is going perfectly. The appetizers that the waiters are serving are delicious. What's up?"
"I have dinner ready and don't know how to get everyone seated."
I chuckled, "Can I have everyone's attention please. Chef Rick tells me dinner is about ready and I would like him to tell you all what he has prepared."
"Thank you, Dale. If everyone would please make their way to their seats! If you need help finding your seat, the servers will be happy to help you."
It took a minute, but soon everyone was seated and Rick stood in the middle of all three tables. "The first course tonight is a Smooth Lobster Bisque. We used fresh Maine lobsters and it is served with a side of ManzanillaSherry from the port ofSanlúcar de Barrameda. Pour a small amount of the sherry over the soup; it will float on top and will enhance the flavor." As he was talking, servers where bringing crocks of the Bisque to each guests. "If anyone has a seafood allergy or other aversion to the soup, please let a server know, I have prepared a second soup for you." No one seemed to and we all dug into the Bisque. To say it was divine is an understatement. After a few minutes, the servers returned and took the crocks away; Rick took his place. "The next course is a Charred Black Morchella Mushroom and Arugula salad." The salad that was set in front of me looked and tasted amazing. The buzz around the room about the food was exciting. I could not wait to see what was next.
Mrs. Everett was laughing. "Dale, you really know how to host a party."
"Thank you, although this is a bit more than even I expected. I will think twice before giving Carl a blank check for a party, I dread seeing the bill for this." Everyone laughed.
Mrs., Warner, Senator Warner's wife, had a puzzled look. "Where did you find this caterer, Dear, we have to use him for our next party."
I laughed. "He is actually my private chef. Kind of a long story, but I just hired him earlier this week. He lost both of his parents in a car accident and couldn't afford to finish culinary school on his own. I made a deal with him and I am paying him a salary and paying for him to finish school."
Admiral Wilson nodded. "That's very admirable of you, Dale. Did you realize you where getting the better end of that bargain."
Everyone chuckled again just as Rick came out and addressed the group. "Ladies and Gentlemen, I hope you are enjoying yourselves so far this evening. For your main course, you have two choices. The first choice is a traditional Hearty Beef Wellington - a Kobe beef filet crusted with Dijon mustard and wrapped with a shitake mushroom pate and prosciutto baked in a flaky pastry. The Wellington is served with duchess-roasted potatoes and garlic steamed asparagus. The second choice is Icelandic wolf fish roasted whole in a saffron and citrus glaze. The fish is served with mushroom risotto and garlic steamed asparagus. While the servers are clearing your salad plates, someone will come by and take your order. It will take us about twenty minutes to plate your meals, so please feel free to mingle and get fresh cocktails."
As soon as he walked away, Travis excused himself to get us both a glass of wine and no sooner had he left the table than Nick took his seat.
"Oh crap, Dale, we need to talk. I am thinking when Rick and Billy finish school we should discuss a fine dining restaurant." He was obviously excited about the food.
I laughed. "Everyone, this is Nick, he and his dad own the Vitrelo Pizza shops here in town."
Senator EverritWarren nodded. "He is right, Dale, these guys are a hidden treasure."
I smiled. "It's something to give some thought to. I am open to having this discussion again as they get closer to finishing school."
Nick excused himself as Travis returned with three bottles of wine. "I figured I'd just grab a couple of bottles for the whole table." As soon as he sat down, a server appeared out of nowhere to open the bottles and pour the wine. I was impressed with the wine service.
We all placed our orders for dinner. I went with the Wellington and Travis opted for the fish as we figured we could share them and try both. The whole table copied our idea and each couple ordered both. Dinner arrived and the main course was the crowning achievement of the night. The Wellington was cooked perfectly and the fish was extraordinary.
After everyone finished, we started to mingle between the tables. Rick came out once again. "Ladies and Gentlemen, first I would like to thank you all for the opportunity to cook for you tonight. The last course of the evening is dessert. While I would love to take credit for dessert, I cannot. We contacted Sugar Plum Inc. here in Virginia Beach to create a cake for us. If you are not familiar with Sugar Plum, it is a non-profit bakery that teaches people with mental and physical disabilities to become cake artists. When I told them of our event and what we were celebrating, they were overjoyed to come up with something. And, I have to tell you it is amazing. I left the creation in their hands and I only got to see the cake for the first time right before dinner. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you INS Cyclone". We all turned as a cart carrying a giant cake sculpted to look just like Cyclone was pushed into the dining tent. Everyone was amazed, as it was done perfectly. I have never seen a more perfect cake sculpture.
Rick asked me to cut the cake and I made the first cut as everyone applauded. Sugar Plums was going on my charity list, I had to remember to ask Rick more about them. After I took my seat, the servers began pouring coffee and doling out cake. All of a sudden, spotlights flooded the entire back yard and security officers began running to the back wall. The guests where shifting around to get a better look when I saw a person tumble over the back wall. He hit the ground hard and was surrounded by security officers, with guns drawn. Karen and two more officers came tearing out of the house and ran to the commotion.
I stood up "Musicians, can you resume playing please. Everyone, I am sure it's a misunderstanding. The security staff has it under control and I will go find out what is going on. Please continue to enjoy your dessert."
As I started to walk away, Travis got up to go with me. "No Babe, stay here and grab Carl. You guys keep everyone talking I will be back in a second."
I walked down towards the commotion. "Karen, can someone please tell me what's going on here."
Karen came over. "We have an intruder. The motion detectors picked him up seconds before he decided to scale the wall. Local police are in route. He claims he knows you."
"Really! Let's go have a chat with him." I started to walk toward him just as one of the security guys hauled him to his knees. I saw his face and it was as if I had been punched in the gut. "Scott, what the fuck are you doing here?"
Karen looked at me. "You do know him?"
"Yes he is my ex. Tell the police to stand down and take him to my office. He is not to be left alone for one second." I spun on my heels and walked away just as he noticed me.