Disclaimer: I do NOT own these characters. This is for entertainment purposes only. No infringement intended!

A/N: This story was requested by a reader at Midnight Whispers. Just a short briefing before we get started - Ruthless!Brian. Now, I know I've warned this in other stories, but this is an entirely different world. Brian is half American/half Arab. In his homeland he is an Arab Prince, with his grandfather being the King. Brian is next in line for the throne; however, that is not his wish. Brian will use some questionable tactics throughout this story to get what he wants. Will he succeed remains to be seen. Also, Brakania is completely fictitious. I do hope you enjoy it. Comments are always greatly appreciated!

Chapter 1

"Mr. Taylor, I was beginning to suspect you were avoiding my calls," Brian purred silkily into the phone.

Craig Taylor sat up straight from behind his desk. "Mr. Kinney? No, of course not."

"Good to hear." Brian paused for a moment, knowing how intimidating a delayed response from him could be to a weaker man. This one was considerably weak. "It has come to my attention that you have asked for yet another extension on your payment. I can't tell you how distressed I am to hear this."

"I – uh – was meaning to call you personally. I – I just know how busy you are..." Craig stammered, wiping at his suddenly perspiring brow with a tissue.

Brian smirked on the other end, knowing the fear he instilled in the older man, and reveling in his power. He didn't like the man... nor could he even barely tolerate a man that didn't adhere to his word. Brian prided himself on knowing when to move in for the kill; never had there been a moment more precise than this one. "Yes, I am an extremely busy man, Craig. Nor am I one to be trifled with... but, you know this, don't you?"

"Yes, of course, Sir. I would never play games with you-" Craig rambled on, quickly cut off by his creditor's ire.

"Enough!" Brian barked into the phone. "You have consistently over extended yourself when you don't have the revenue to back it up. I took a risk with you... one that I thought had the chance of paying off in accordance with your original ideas for your company. You have failed miserably in meeting your own goals; and more importantly – my expectations. I am not in the business of losing money. It is time for me to step in and assess the situation more personally."

Craig swallowed deeply, knowing exactly what that meant. He didn't want Brian Kinney poking around at Taylor Electronics... most particularly, he didn't want him to see his son. Brian's reputation was quite renowned in his romantic pursuits, or what qualified for them in the playboy style of Brian Kinney; he would take one look at Justin and begin to hunt. Craig didn't doubt it for a moment. He had long ago accepted the fact that his son was gay; however as much as he'd love to change that fact – he didn't attempt to do so. Initially, he had tried... only to find the risk of losing his son wasn't worth it. As far as Craig knew, Justin was still relatively inexperienced. He didn't want to see one such as Brian Kinney getting a hold of his son.

"Mr. Kinney, I just need a little more time. I am showing a profit... just not enough to make my payment and keep my business afloat."

"Not my problem," Brian snapped. "You made a commitment. One you are not upholding. I am coming to Pittsburgh and I will assess your operation. I expect you to be available to show me around on my arrival."

"Of course, Sir. When can I expect you?" Craig asked, the sweat dripping from his face now.

Brian frowned thoughtfully, detecting something in Taylor's voice that he couldn't quite decipher. He knew that Craig feared him, as most men did who entered into a business contract with him and failed to deliver on their promises; but, there was something more. Craig Taylor was hiding something from him... something he feared Brian would discover on his visit. He didn't like secrets... most especially when they were held by a man he didn't trust. During his visit, he would uncover all that Craig Taylor was hiding... then, he would proceed from there.

"I will phone you once I arrive. I'd advise you to use any remaining time to get Taylor Electronics in shape. The future of your company rests on this visit, Taylor. If things are not in order, I will begin foreclosure proceedings." Brian smiled as he heard the muffled gasp across the line. "You've nothing to worry about as long as things are in order. If things are being maintained as they should, I will consider a 30 day extension. If not... well, I think you understand."

"I understand, Mr. Kinney..." Craig whispered tremulously, knowing he had precious little time to get his company, not to mention his books in order. He only hoped he had enough time to effectively cover his tracks.

"Cynthia, come in here, please..." Brian growled through the intercom.

No sooner than he'd issued the summons, Cynthia knocked lightly on his polished mahogany door, and stepped inside. "Yes, Sir?"

Barely sparing her a glance, he clipped out, "I need you to clear my schedule for next week."

"The entire week?" she asked, almost flabbergasted... as this was not the normal procedure for Brian Kinney.

"Yes, Cynthia. The entire week." He raised his eyes to pierce her with a razor sharp gaze. "Are these instructions particularly difficult?"

"Uh no. I'll get right on it," she told him, leaving as quickly as she'd entered. Having worked for Brian Kinney for over five years now, she knew when to face the lion... and when to gracefully retreat. Today, was a day of retreat.

Brian picked up the phone dialing directly to his personal accountant. "Theodore, I need to see you."

"Are you making an appointment, or are you summoning me?" Ted blandly asked his friend, and most lucrative client.

"What do you think?" Brian hissed softly.

Ted sighed. "That's what I thought. You know, all of that anger can dangerously affect your blood pressure."

"I'll keep that in mind." He tapped his fingers on the desk impatiently. "So, have you left yet?"

"I'm on the way, my liege," Ted retorted, hanging up with a resounding click.

Brian hung up the phone laughing at Ted's choice of words. My liege indeed, Brian thought humorously to himself. He was relieved his dear grandfather couldn't hear the words. The aged, yet still vital King of Brakania would roar in a savage and unparalleled rage. Liege would be to his grandfather a vast put down to what was Brian's true heritage. A claim to the throne of Brakania.

Brian realized he had smiled for the first time today as his thoughts fell to his grandfather. They had always been close; in fact the King had virtually raised him, while his own shallow parents had traveled the globe with his younger sister. He had always known that the King had wanted to groom him to take his place as ruler of Brakania. It hadn't been a life Brian desired. Then or now. That would never change. Sadly, Brian had broken the King's heart when he sought out his own fortune outside of Brakania.

In the end, his grandfather had accepted that Brian didn't aspire to the life of a King. Brian didn't see any circumstances to propel him into accepting that life.

"Dad, have you got a minute?"

Craig sat up straight, smiling up at his son as he walked into his office. "Come on in, Justin."

Justin stepped forward carrying a large board in his hand, a self satisfied expression curving his lips upward. Waving the board in his hands, without showing him the front, Justin told him, "I have something for you, Dad."

Leaning over, Craig made the pretense of looking at the calendar before he said, "I don't think it's my birthday, Justin."

"Funny," Justin responded with a dry laugh. "Remember I told you I had an idea that could boost your sales?"

"Yeah. And, I told you I didn't have money in my budget right now for an advertising campaign," Craig grumbled, wishing he had the revenue to afford the skills of an agency such as Vangard.

Justin nodded. "It's not an ad campaign. Just a new and improved look."

"Meaning?" Craig demanded to know.

Turning the board around, Justin showed his father the graphics he had created for a new sign for the front of the store; one that featured an eye catching font, and with an array of colors designed to capture both the eye and the customer's attention. "I know this is an expense too, Dad; however, not nearly as costly as a full fledged ad campaign. You need to do something to draw the customers in here. Once you get them, well the products and your sales people can do the rest."

"What's wrong with my sign? I have the same one in all my stores..." Craig protested, uncertain of how this expenditure would benefit him to the point of being worth the cost involved.

Justin arched an eyebrow. "Exactly. That is the same tired old sign you've had since you opened your first store. You copied the image in all the rest. That just doesn't cut it anymore, Dad. You need something to catch the younger generation's eye. Then you will have an influx of diverse clientele."

"So speaks my son the intern," Craig replied drolly, knowing Justin was onto something; while uncertain if he could handle the expense. "Okay, I'll give it some thought."

"Do that. If you are worried about the risk, why not just start out in this store? If it works out, you can put them up one at a time," Justin suggested.

Craig laughed, nodding his head in agreement. "Let me take this home and look it over. You just might be on to something."

"It's all yours to do with what you like. Call it a perk of having a son at PIFA." Justin scowled as he looked at the time. "I have a date tonight. I need to go home and get ready. Shall I tell Mom you'll be home for dinner."

"Hmmm?" Craig asked, his brow furrowed in thought as he looked at the board. "Dinner? No, tell her to start without me. I'm going to be putting in a lot of long hours in the near future. I have a big shot about to descend on me, and I need to make certain everything is in order. With that man, there is no margin for error."

"Big shot?" Justin asked curiously.

Craig nodded. "My financier, Brian Kinney. Well, the bank that I sought out when I went for all my expansions. I owe him a small fortune, and he's coming here to check out the operation."

Justin's eyes widened. "The Brian Kinney?"

"The one and only." Craig looked at his son closely, wanting to say more about the visit... but, deciding the less said the better. The last thing he needed was Justin being curious about Brian. It was his goal to have Kinney back to Paris, or wherever else he called home without their paths crossing. "Enjoy your date, son. Give Ethan my best."

Justin's eyes narrowed suspiciously on his father. Give Ethan my best, he thought. His father detested Ethan. In fact, he barely tolerated any of the men he had dated. As much as he tried to accept the choices Justin had made, it was never reflected towards the men in Justin's life. Justin knew that deep down his father didn't approve, and hoped that someday he would change... but, he didn't make any waves. His father knew Justin wasn't one to back down or deny who he was. Both of them knew the result would be the breakdown of their family. Justin inclined his head, uncertain of how to take his father's demeanor, yet deciding to take it at face value for now. "I'll do that, Dad. See you in the morning."

Craig watched his son leave, eyes heavy with the turmoil of all that he faced. He didn't know how long he had to make a clean trail of his books... but, he knew he had to try. He was already two months late in his payments to the bank; a bank that was owned and administered by the ruthless Brian Kinney. If the intuitive financier found a hint of what was going on here, Craig knew he had much more than foreclosure to worry about. Not only could he lose his company... but his freedom as well. That was a fate he intended to avoid. No matter what methods he had to employ, that would not happen.