If the rumors were true, I was about to get an archenemy. I wasn’t a superhero or anything, and I’d never had a real enemy before, unless you counted the really cute, thin cheerleaders in high school.

But this… This was some shit actually getting real.

“Good luck tonight,” I said wryly to Mrs. Cooper when she came to pick her son up from daycare. “Brennan would not take his nap again today.”

“Oh. Did he do the thing where he freaks out like the blanket is a poisonous snake or something? He’s doing that at home at bedtime like I’m trying to kill him or something instead of just getting him to sleep at a decent time.”

“Pretty much. It was all hands on deck in the toddler room at naptime. I even pulled Kim from pre-K to try and help out. But he wouldn’t calm down.”

“Maybe he’s feeling our stress at home, you know? Because it’s all over the factory now, that corporate is sending somebody to shut us down,” she said.

“I’m sure that’s not going to happen,” I said cheerfully as I handed over her grouchy two-year-old and his elephant backpack.

When she left, I popped my head into pre-K and motioned for Kim to leave the aide in charge. “That’s the third one this week to tell me they’re shutting down the factory,” I said.

“What would we do? That’s our entire group. They’re all factory kids, Maggie,” she said. “If that place shuts down, so do we.”

“I know. There’s not another big industry in town. This area can’t handle a plant shutdown. It would basically kill the town. And they may be sending some guy from the parent company to do the dirty work of announcing it.”

“Some a-hole city slicker?” Kim asked.

“Yes. But if it’s more than a rumor, we’re not going without a fight. One man shouldn’t have the kind of power to do that, to go ruin an entire way of life of so many for profit. It makes me mad.”

“It makes me depressed. I’ll have to go work at the hospital daycare in Pendleton or else go back to school,” Kim said.

“You’re a great early childhood teacher. They’d hire you at the school in a heartbeat.”

“Yeah, at less than I make here. And teaching who? Families will move out of town for jobs,” she said dismally.

“Okay, now that I’ve depressed you further, back to your happy place. I’ll keep you posted,” I said.

But I meant what I’d said. I wasn’t going to let some rich, business suit-wearing creep shut down the factory that happened to be the lifeblood of the area.

By the time I got off work and left Helen in charge, I’d had four more factory employees confide their worry to me about a closing. When I got home, I called my mom. She was working the front desk at the family B&B.

“What have you heard about a corporate executive coming to shut down the plant?” I said.

“All I know is I’ve got a reservation here for a Jeremiah Leeds who’s paying with a corporate-issued expense account card out of Boston. He’ll be here for a week. It doesn’t take a whole week to shut down a plant surely. Maybe it’s just a quality inspection.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “But I’m pretty sure everything this Jeremiah Leeds character stands for is going to be the opposite of what we need. But if he thinks we’re just going to fold up and cry, he’s underestimated us. I’ve spent too long building up this daycare business and making a success of it to go and let someone destroy it and most of the jobs in this town along with it.”

“That’s my girl,” she said. “But remember, you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. You have to kill them with kindness.”

“What if you don’t want to catch the flies, Mom? What if you just want to swat them?”

“All I know is you get better results being sweet and minding your manners. Maybe if this fellow likes you—”

“Do not tell me you’re going to suggest I seduce a corporate drone sent to ruin all our lives,” I warned.

“Well, maybe not him, but maybe he’ll bring a friend.”

“Do you think he’s going to bring a friend along to shut down the plant? It’s not a house party in Jane Austen, Mom. No one is bringing their handsome, eligible friends around for me to meet,” I quipped.

“You’re so funny. And single. Try using that brain of yours to get a man,” she said.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I said.

“Have you tried that Tinder thing I’ve been hearing about?” she asked.




My plane landed at the nearest airport, twenty-five miles from my destination. I rented a car and followed the GPS to my lodgings. The place was too small to have any chain hotels—definitely not Four Seasons material. So I was staying at some locally owned inn that was likely to be some crappy AirBnB over someone’s garage. I braced myself for a few nights of roughing it. I was really going to owe myself a vacation after this stop.

Tags: Natasha L. Black Romance
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