“If you change your mind, you know where to find me,” I said, “Third floor. Facing east,” I smirked at her.
Up in my room, I went over my notes. I was going to conduct a thorough inspection before I made my recommendation. Part of me held out hope that I could suggest keeping the plant open. The girl downstairs was cute—strangely blunt and forceful about the factory closing—but cute. I wasn’t ruling her out as an option. If she thought there were hidden depths to sleepy little towns, I could show her there was more charm to a city boy than met the eye.
I called my brother Tyler to let him know I made it in okay.
“How’s the room? Is it some old woman’s creepy basement?” he asked.
“No, it’s not very big, but it’s nice. It’s an old house remodeled as a B&B. This place could attract tourists if it was marketed right. It’s quaint, pretty streets and that kind of thing. Anyway, I just want to get done here and get back to the city.”
“What’s going on?” he asked.
“Nothing. There was a hot girl at the front desk.”
“So do your worst. You’ve got a week. If you can’t seduce a farmer’s daughter in that length of time, you’re losing your touch,” Tyler said.
“She’s the innkeeper’s daughter, not the farmer’s. And I’m pretty sure she’d shoot me on sight if I tried. She’s already given me an earful about how important the factory is to the county. I figure I’ll wake up to find her staging a sit-in down in the breakfast room. I’ll have to listen to protest chants while I eat my oatmeal.”
“Sounds like she’s fiery. You always did like the difficult ones.”
“Well, you were the twin who went for the easy pickings,” I teased. “If it was blonde and looked at you twice, you were sold.”
“That was when I valued quantity over quality. Although some of those blondes were pretty fine quality, too,” he said.
“Before you start reminiscing about your greatest hits, I need to go get something to eat before the whole town closes for the evening.”
I headed out to Cecil’s for supper; a steak to start off the week right. And if the redhead happened to change her mind, I’d buy her a drink. If I wasn’t mistaken, there was room in my brass double bed for two of us if the opportunity arose.
“He’s that hot. I mean, you’d think GQ sent him here to do a photoshoot. Short dark hair, great smile, nice ass,” I said.
“So why’d you blow him off?” Sarah Jo asked. “Not that I mind coming out for a drink, but you could be here with Tall, Dark and Sexy.”
“He’s the Company Man. The one Hadley sent to shut down the plant. Speaking of plants, you won’t be selling many of those if the factory closes, because nobody will be able to afford their water bill, much less flowers. Sarah Jo, you know how many people depend on those jobs. Since the mines shut down, you either work for the plant or your business is supported by it. Think of all the families that’ll move away.”
“I know. It’s bad. Maybe we can convince him to keep the plant open. You should do that. You’re smart, persuasive, and have great cleavage.”
“Are you suggesting I offer to trade sexual favors for keeping the plant open?” I asked wryly.
“No. I’m saying if you go out with him and he really likes you, he’ll listen to you. You already said he’s hot. It isn’t like you don’t want to anyway.”
“Trust me on this one,” I said. “Jeremiah Leeds is the kind of trouble I don’t need.”
“She means she’s going to hate him in public and masturbate in private,” Layla said, eating an onion ring.
Sarah Jo laughed, and I turned bright red.
“That’s exactly what it means,” I muttered. “He’s also right over there at that table alone.”
“Oh my God, that guy?” Layla asked. “You’re not gonna be alone in your dirty thoughts. I’ve never had hate sex before, but if the corporate enemy looks like that, it might be worth a try.”
“He’s obviously an asshole. He is the uptight corporate dude from all those Hallmark movies,” I said.
“So it’s up to some adorable florist or baker or, I don’t know, daycare provider, to make him fall in love with the town and save the factory!” Sarah Jo laughed.
“No thanks,” I said.
“I’m asking him to join us,” Sarah Jo said. “Every Hallmark movie needs a meddling friend to bring them together.”
“Please don’t,” I begged. “I’m trying to enjoy myself tonight.”
“You’ll do that later,” Layla wisecracked. “Just admit it. You want him to come over here so you can snark at him and get a rise out of him. In more ways than one,” she teased.
“Shhh!” I hissed as Sarah Jo returned.