Dylan dropped into the padded leather chair opposite, nodding to Zach’s drink. “Well, at least you waited until five.”

“I’m lucky I made it past noon.” How could one woman be so frustrating? Her renovation plans went way beyond repairing her reputation. What she was planning to do to his building was just plain punitive.

Dylan signaled a waiter.

“I talked to a couple dozen more people today,” said Zach. “Nothing’s changed. I can get her an entry-level job, easy. But nothing that comes close to the opportunity she has at Harper Transportation.”

The waiter quickly took Dylan’s order and left.

Dylan shrugged in capitulation. “So, give it up. Let her go for it. You’ll have a weird, incredibly expensive building. And you’ll live with it.”

“She’s adding three stories,” Zach reminded Dylan. “Knocking out nearly five floors for the lobby. Did you see the marble pillars? The saltwater fish tank?”

Dylan gave a shrug. “I thought they were a nice touch.”

“I bailed out Sadie’s charity today.”


“Some jackass embezzled ten million dollars. My cash flow just tanked completely. So, tell me, Dylan, do I sell off a ship or slow down repairs?”

Dylan’s expression and tone immediately turned serious. “You need a loan?”

“No.” Zach gave a firm shake of his head. “More debt is not the answer.”

“Another partner? You want to sell me some shares?”

“And be a minor partner in my own company? I don’t think so. Anyway, I’m not mixing business with friendship.” Zach appreciated the offer. But this problem was his to solve.

“Fair enough,” Dylan agreed. “What are your options?”

“Nothing.” Zach took a drink. He needed Kaitlin to scale back on the renovation. Short of that, his options were very limited.

Selling a ship was a stupid idea. So was slowing down repairs. He’d need the entire fleet up and running so they could capitalize on any rise in demand. A company the size of Harper Transportation had to have serious cash flow to keep going. More ships, more cash flow. Fewer ships would result in a downward spiral that could prove fatal.

“Always the optimist,” said Dylan, accepting his own glass of Glenlivet from the waiter.

Zach tossed back a swallow. “Kaitlin is going to bankrupt me, and there’s absolutely nothing I can do to stop her.”

Dylan’s voice went serious again. “What exactly do you need her to do?”

Zach spun the glass again. “Come to her senses.”

“Zach. Seriously. Quit wallowing in self-pity.”

Zach took a bracing breath. “Okay. Right. I need her to scale back. Build me a reasonable quality, standard office building. No marble pillars. No fountains. No palm trees. And no mahogany arch. And especially no two-thousand-gallon saltwater aquarium.”

Dylan thought about it for a moment. “So, make her want to do just that.”

“How?” Zach demanded. “I’ve tried everything from bribery to reason. It’s like trying to use a rowboat to turn the Queen Mary around.”

Dylan was quiet for a few more minutes. Zach tried to focus his thoughts. He tried to get past the emotions clouding his brain and think rationally. But it didn’t seem to be working.

“What about Sadie?” asked Dylan.

“What about her?” Zach didn’t follow.

“Sadie left Kaitlin the company.”

“And?” How was that a plus in Zach’s present circumstances?

“And Kaitlin would have to be downright callous not to care about what Sadie would want.”

“You think I should convince Kaitlin to respect Sadie’s wishes?” That would be an awful lot easier if Sadie had actually left wishes. But her only wish seemed to be for Zach’s wife to control him.

Dylan lifted his glass in a toast, ice cube clinking against the crystal. “That’s exactly what I think you should do.”

“What wishes? Where wishes? Sadie left no wishes, Dylan.”

“Would she want a flashy, avant-garde showpiece?”

“Of course not.” Zach’s grandmother Sadie was all about heritage and tradition. She had been the guardian of the Harper family history Zach’s entire life, and she had an abiding respect for everyone that went before her.

“Then help Kaitlin learn that,” Dylan suggested.

Zach couldn’t see that happening. “She’s already accused me of emotionally manipulating her.”

“Did you?”

“No.” Zach paused. “Well, I made a couple of passes at her. But it wasn’t manipulation. It was plain old lust.”

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