Almost Like Being in Love (4 page)

BOOK: Almost Like Being in Love
2.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

“He did not!” There was a pause on the other end of the phone. “Wait! Who is Nancy Miller?”

A half-formed laugh died in Caron's throat. Even after moving cross-country for a job, Margo was such a faithful friend—outraged for her even when she didn't know why.

“Nancy Miller is a top Realtor in town. She may be five years older than me—she's probably no more than ten. She's this prepackaged thirty-or-forty-something professional on the rise.” Caron pressed her lips closed to stop the words spewing from her mouth. “To be honest, I respect the woman. She's worked hard to get where she is. Won a ton of awards. Today he announced they merged companies to form Hollister Realty Group.”

“Why would he do that?”

Nancy Miller has years of experience that you don't have . . . she's rocketed past anyone's expectations for her success.

The echo of her father's words interrupted her conversation with Margo. The woman was her father's dream employee. She, on the other hand, had merely surprised him by “settling in” as a Realtor. Where did she fit in her father's grand plan for the future?

She didn't.

“Hey, did I lose you?”

“Sorry. I asked my father the same question. According to him, this partnership is the future of Hollister Realty.” Caron clutched a round, tasseled pillow to her chest. “But it's not my future.”

“What are you going to do now?”

“I have no idea. I just . . . quit.”

“This is bad, Caron. Bad.”

“I know that. I'm sitting here trying to imagine not going into work tomorrow—”

“You need a break.” Margo rushed past her. “Before you make any more life-altering decisions, why don't you come out here for a week or two?”

“What?”

“Come to Colorado. Catch your breath, get your bearings again.” Margo's words piled on top of one another as she warmed up to her idea. “And you can help plan my wedding up close, instead of always being long-distance. It's been a challenge, planning everything solo, since Ronny's job transfer isn't happening until right before the wedding. There's a big bridal fair soon. I'm hoping to find some beautiful bridesmaid dresses for you all at these supposedly amazing prices—”

“I can't—”

“Why not? What are you going to do? Stay in Niceville and avoid your dad?”

Margo's question was like running into a towering defender on the basketball court. Blocked. But did it make any sense to quit her job and then run away to Colorado and play bridesmaid instead of figuring out her future?

Her phone beeped, indicating another call.

Alex.

“Margo, I've gotta go. Alex is calling.”

“Fine. But think about what I said, okay?”

“Sure. Fine. Love you.”

“Wait.” Margo's voice stopped her from hanging up. “I need to mention one thing, though—”

“We'll talk tomorrow. And I promise I'll think about coming to visit.”

•  •  •

Three rings. No answer. Looked like he wasn't going to catch Caron in between his two emergency work calls.

Alex exhaled, scrubbing his palm across his face, the stubble on his chin a reminder he was running well past five o'clock. He'd wait for the phone to roll over to voice mail, leave a message, and then head to the next client's home—

“Hello?”

Caron's voice, when he was expecting to be greeted by her voice mail message, stalled his reply for a moment.

“Alex?”

“Yeah, I'm here. I was expecting to have to leave a message. Thought you must be busy with clients.”

“No . . . no, I'm home.”

“Nice.” Alex started the van, cranking up the air-conditioning to combat the eighty-three-degree heat and one hundred percent humidity lurking outside. “Busy day?”

Caron's voice dropped low. “I would say . . . it's been more of an interesting day.”

“Interesting in what way?” Alex pulled a plastic sandwich bag half full of beef jerky from a crumpled brown paper bag on the passenger seat. “Did you find the perfect house for that one family—?”

“I quit my job.”

The salty chunk of meat seemed to lodge in Alex's throat, causing him to cough and struggle to speak. “What . . . did you say?”

Caron raised her voice as if Alex were hard of hearing. “I quit my job.”

A quick gulp of lukewarm grape Gatorade helped him swallow the beef jerky. “Why would you do that?”

“My father made some changes at work that I didn't agree with, so I quit.”

“Your father is your boss, Caron.
He can do whatever he wants.”

“Nancy Miller isn't that much older than me, but she's earned my father's respect so much that the same morning he compliments me in the staff meeting, in the next breath he announces that she's his new partner.”

“Who's Nancy Miller?”

“A hotshot Realtor in town who had her own company.”

“Well, I'm sure your father knows what he's doing.”

“Would you stop defending my dad and listen to me?” Caron's voice sharpened. “I'm your girlfriend. You're supposed to take my side.”

Alex tossed the plastic bag back onto the passenger seat. It was past eight o'clock in the evening and he had one more emergency call waiting for him, thanks to another malfunctioning air conditioner. If he was lucky—and if he didn't get caught up in an unexpected argument with Caron—he'd be home before eleven.

“I know how hard you worked for this job. I hate for you to throw it away without really thinking your actions through. I'm sure if you went and talked things over with your father—”

“There is nothing to talk over with my father. My decision was abrupt, yes, but that doesn't mean I made the wrong decision. My father waived the customary two weeks' notice—”

“Waived the two weeks' notice? Caron, what did you do to upset him so badly?”

“I quit because I couldn't stay and see my father give Nancy Miller everything I've always dreamed of.” A soft sniff hinted that Caron might be crying. “I may admire the woman professionally, but that doesn't mean I'd enjoy watching her live my dream. And why are you so worried about my father? Why aren't you defending me?”

“I'm concerned about both of you.”
He searched for the right thing to say. “I apologize. I'll try to be more understanding.”

“Thanks for that.”

Too little comfort, too late.

Alex opted to just keep asking questions. “What are you going to do now?”

“I think . . . I think I'm going to take Margo up on her offer.”

How did Caron's best friend end up in the conversation?

“And what offer was that?”

“I talked to her right before you called. She invited me to come out to Colorado for a short visit. Catch my breath and get my bearings again.”

“Do you think that's the best choice right now?” As soon as he asked the question, Alex knew he'd lost more ground with Caron.

“I realize you don't understand my decisions today, but yes . . . yes, I do. I'll only be gone a week, ten days at the most. I'll get away. Get some perspective. And then come back here and start job-hunting.”

“You're upset—understandably so.” Best to retreat to the understanding boyfriend stance. “Why don't you sleep on it, and then make a final decision tomorrow morning? If you still want to visit Colorado, let me know. I'll get you to the airport and be waiting when you get back to Florida.”

Their goodbyes were brief. An abbreviated exchange of “I love you” and a promise to talk in the morning.

Alex put the work van in gear, focusing on the task ahead of him. He had a customer and a nonworking air conditioner waiting for him. They were his main concern now. He'd talk with Caron again tomorrow morning, when the emotion of the day had worn off and she was calmer. More reasonable.

THREE

I
f he was going to achieve his dreams—at least the professional ones—he needed to continue thinking like an up-and-coming Realtor, but act more like an Army Ranger. When Kade was in the military, he'd demanded more of himself. More physically. More mentally. Why should it be any different when it came to selling houses? Success wasn't going to track him down. And he wasn't waiting around for someone to show up and hand any career victories to him, either.

Kade paced his small office, outfitted with the essentials. A basic oak desk. A high-backed leather chair. Several coordinating dark brown cloth chairs for clients. Oak bookshelves. The requisite art pieces he'd selected because he liked the mountains and the autumn colors reflected in the lake and the perspective of the aspens zooming up against the clear blue of the Colorado sky. Mitch, who knew the quirks of his personality, allowed the quiet to stretch out between them.

“So I've been thinking—”

“Uh-oh.” Mitch positioned his wheelchair to face Kade.

“Hear me out.”
Kade settled into the chair behind his desk, swiveling forward. “This is a good plan. One almost guaranteed to bring in more business, if the other guy goes for it.”

“The other guy? You looking to bring in another Realtor?”

“No. Webster Select Realty is doing well for now with just you and me. If this project succeeds, then we'll probably need to talk about bringing on another Realtor.”

With two quick motions of his muscular arms, Mitch maneuvered his wheelchair closer to the desk. “Appreciate being included in the process, boss. Now tell me your plan.”

“How many times do I have to tell you to stop calling me boss? You invested in this company, too.”

“Employee. Boss.” Mitch pointed to himself, then to Kade, his grin meant to yank Kade's chain. “Enough of this lighthearted banter. Back to telling me about your
good plan
.”

“Right. I have a friend in the homebuilders' association. He told me about this new builder who's entering this year's Peak Tour of Homes. Already entered.” Kade leaned forward, resting his elbows on his desk, steepling his fingertips. “He's started a small subdivision. He's got half a dozen new homes in the plans. I'm going to approach him. Offer to pay his entry fee and provide signage—something better than that little sign on a stick you get. Then I offer to be onsite when the people start visiting the homes—”

“Ah. Put the Kade Webster charisma to work.”

Kade waved away Mitch's statement. His plan was much more than some personal “razzle-dazzle.”

“We can both take turns greeting the visitors. See if they're just looking at all the new homes or if they're actually in the market to buy one.”

“I like the way you think, Kade. This is why you moved on from Hollister Realty.”

“Mitch, that's the past. I'm
focused on the future of Webster Select. Besides, your suggestion to try my luck in Colorado if I was going out on my own was a smart one.” He motioned around the room. “It's gone well. But I'm not the only one who's going to see this opportunity and want to take advantage of it.”

“So when are you talking to this guy?”

“His name's Eddie Kingston and I'm talking to him tomorrow. Had to get through the holiday weekend. We're meeting for breakfast.”

“Turn on the Webster charm—the one that sells houses and attracts the ladies—” Mitch's smile widened with every word he spoke.

“Hey, I sell houses because I've worked hard and learned the business. We both do. And I'm not interested in attracting anyone right now. That's the last thing on my mind.”

“The Hollisters really did a number on you, didn't they?” Mitch rubbed his fingers through his dark blond hair, still cut in a military style.

“I'm focused on the future now—the future of Webster Select.” Kade shifted his position, reaching for the ballpoint pen labeled with his business information and tapping it on the desk. “So, you still feeling good about the Mudder?”

“Very smooth, changing the subject.” Mitch gave him a quick thumbs-up. “And yes, I'm looking forward to the chance to splash some muddy water in your face.”

“We'll see who's muddier by the end of the course.” Kade knew his grin matched his friend's. “Lacey coming to watch?”

“Yes, and she's declared herself the team photographer, too. She's studying the online map and trying to figure out where she can take pictures along the way. She also said to invite you over for dinner tonight.”

“I'm in. It's always good to see Lacey and remind you two—”

“That you introduced us to each other. Yeah, yeah.” Mitch rolled his wheelchair a few feet backward. “You'll be best man at our wedding.”

“You plan on proposing anytime soon?”

“Did I say anything about proposing?” Mitch broke eye contact.

“Just asking. You don't want somebody to move in on Lacey while you're biding your time—”

BOOK: Almost Like Being in Love
2.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

3 Sides to a Circle by Perry, Jolene, Watts, Janna
Closer Than You Think by Karen Rose
The Source by Brian Lumley
The Night Caller by Lutz, John
The Last Single Girl by Caitie Quinn, Bria Quinlan
Little Kingdoms by Steven Millhauser