“Did you hear him out?”

“Yeah. It was a long, detailed explanation that just proves what an asshole he is. I tried, and I wanted to believe him, but I’m not stupid. He only cares about himself and his job. He made his choice, and I’ve made mine. I’m not seeing him again. If he comes to the inn, you have my permission to pepper spray him till he leaves.”

“I don’t have pepper spray. You know I keep a Glock.”

“Mom, I love you. Please don’t shoot anyone. I emptied my 401K to pay my staff a severance, so I don’t have bail money,” I said with a laugh.

“I’m not shooting anybody. I’m disappointed in him. Because if you’re this angry, he can’t be the man I thought he was. I love you, baby. And I’ll make you a pie later.”

“Thank you.”

I flopped back down on the bed and slept for a while. Even in my dreams I was furious, hot murderous rage coursing through me. Rage was good. It could fuel my new beginning; help me solve all these problems.

26

Jeremiah

I learned something from taking Maggie to bed and watching her walk out. I loved her. And I’d never been in love like this before. So I had to tell her, before I left. Not the sweeping, romantic scene I had pictured. Not the way I planned. But she deserved to know, and it was my last gambit, the only chance I had left to win her back, to prove what she meant to me.

I used the hotel’s business center to print out the plans, to distill my entire project, into seven pages stapled together. It had to be enough. I talked to the bank, talked to the people I was moving into place to work on the project.

Then I drove to the Fun Factory, that soon-to-be-closed business she’d started all on her own and made a success. I parked and went to the door.

A blonde with a ponytail answered.

“She’s not going to talk to you,” she said balefully.

“You must be Kim,” I said. “Please. I have something to tell her that she needs to know.”

“Is it that you’ve found a way to save the factory?” she challenged.

“No,” I said.

“Then you should leave.”

She shut the door on me. I decided to come back later. At closing time, I drove up again and texted Maggie.

I’m in the parking lot. Come for a drive with me. Please.

I waited. I waited for expletive-filled texts full of emoji’s giving me the finger. I waited for a simple ‘hell no.’ I waited, knowing she said she never wanted to see me again. Half an hour later, she came out of the building and walked straight to my car.

“You shouldn’t be here.”

“Please come for a drive with me. It won’t take an hour. I’ll bring you right back here. There’s something I need to show you,” I said.

“I don’t want to go anywhere with you,” she said. She was so calm, so matter of fact that it chilled me.

“If you come with me now, I promise after that I will leave you alone if that’s what you want,” I said. I was betting on myself, on my ability to convince her of how I felt. If I failed, I would lose her forever. A knot in my chest warned me I’d better give it all I had. She was worth it, worth everything.

“Fine. I’m texting my mom to let her know I’ll be an hour late to cover the front desk at the inn. One hour. Then you leave me alone forever,” she said.

“If that’s what you want, I’ll respect that,” I said gravely, hiding my surge of triumph that she was willing to listen.

Maggie climbed into the passenger seat, and I cut my eyes at her. “I love your shirt. Eric Carle?”

“Very Hungry Caterpillar is a huge hit with these kids,” she said flatly, not looking at me. She would be civil, but she wasn’t going to make it easy. She wasn’t going to let me hold her hand and profess my feelings.

I drove out west and then north of town. She finally looked at me, confusion in her eyes. I parked and took a blanket and wine out of my trunk. I spread the blanket in the spot where we’d picnicked before. On the hill overlooking the creek. I motioned to her and she sat down on the blanket, facing the sunset. It was a ferocious red-orange melting into gold, the sky above us growing a pearly violet. I opened the wine and poured two glasses. She took a sip.

“Do you like it?” I said.

“It’s good,” she said.

“It’s very similar to what I’m looking for us to produce,” I said. “It’s early days, but I have the plans for you to look at. Along with my resignation letter from Hadley and the preliminary breakdown on how many local workers I expect to employ.”


Tags: Natasha L. Black Romance
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