Theater manager Teddy Carbone’s life has gone pretty much according to script... until now.
To his surprise, Teddy finds himself co-owner of the Oasis Theater with Carter Monroe, a corporate shark who’s looking at him like he’s chum in the water. Being in charge of the theater is one thing, but having to deal with Carter and his demands is another. With Carter’s proposed plan to sell the Oasis looming, Teddy must convince Carter the theater is worth saving. When Teddy introduces the bright, bold world of the stage to Carter’s cold, all-business lifestyle, though, he soon comes to recognize that the Oasis might not be the only thing he has a chance to save.
To Chicago, that fair city I called home for three years. Miss you, your charm, and even your subfreezing winters.
And to my fellow ladies of the gayborhood, J.H., Piper, Cate, and Jayden. May Heartsville always have a special place in our hearts.
Welcome to the gayborhood! In the cozy town of Heartsville, the streets are lined with trees, the shops are full of friendly faces, and happily ever after is just around the corner. Come get to know the boys next door—naughty, nice, and everything in between.
“Mr. Carbone, do you have any questions? Mr. Carbone?”
Jerking his head up, Teddy met the estate lawyer’s gaze and shook his head. “No. No, I think I understand everything.”
“Excellent,” she said, her smile restrained. Ruth Warren had been a consummate professional ever since she’d first contacted him about a meeting two weeks ago. “I’ve already spoken with Mr. Monroe, who unfortunately couldn’t be here today. However, he’s aware of the terms of the will and has agreed to our drafting the deed to transfer the ownership of the Oasis Theater into both of your names. Is that acceptable to you?”
Teddy blinked rapidly at the onslaught of information. Deeds. Ownership. Just last month he’d shown Richard the finalized schedule for the holiday season and now….
Teddy nodded automatically, running her words through his head. “Yeah, that’s fine. Uh… is there anything else I should do?”
“Nothing at this time. I’ll notify you and Mr. Monroe once the deed is ready for your review and signatures.” Her gaze softened, and she picked up a piece of paper off the tidy surface of her desk. “I know this is a difficult time, but you may want to contact Mr. Monroe soon to discuss the details of your joint ownership. Here’s his information, and with your permission, I’ll forward yours to him as well.”
The sheet of paper was smooth under his hand, and Teddy glanced at the name, phone number, and e-mail address printed on it. Carter Monroe. Teddy had a hazy recollection from the memorial service a few weeks ago of broad shoulders, a well-tailored dark suit, and dark brown hair.
God. The memorial service.
“Do I have permission to give him your information, Mr. Carbone?” Ruth asked gently.
Shoving all of those thoughts aside until later, Teddy nodded. “Yeah, go ahead and give it to him.”
“Thank you. The last thing is this envelope. It contains a letter Richard wanted you to have, to be read after our meeting in your own time. I don’t know the contents of it, but I gather it’s of a personal nature.”
Teddy took the legal-sized envelope and added it to the stack of papers Ruth had given him. The farewells that followed were perfunctory, but polite, and Teddy soon found himself in the parking garage behind the wheel of his Prius, wondering what the hell had just happened.
His boss, Richard Monroe, had been hale and hearty one day, and the next there’d been a phone call letting Teddy know he was gone. A brain aneurysm at the age of sixty.
There was nothing anyone could’ve done about it.
Teddy’d been shocked, to say the least, and he’d spent the last few weeks wrapping his head around the fact that the man who’d hired him nine years ago—and who’d promoted him up to his current position of the Oasis’s general manager—was no longer coming and going from the marigold-painted office at the end of the hall.
The show must go on, though, and Teddy and his staff had worked through the community play and improv set that had shown in the last month. They’d dedicated the theater’s earnings from that first night’s performance to the Mayo Clinic in memory of Richard, and slowly things had begun to feel a little more normal.
Vaguely, he’d known there would be a new owner, but because he hadn’t heard a word in the past month, he’d continued with the status quo.
To learn today that
was the new owner, though?
Shock City, Part Deux.
Well, the new co-owner with Carter Monroe, who held the other fifty percent of the interest.
Teddy glanced at the stack of papers he’d tossed onto his passenger seat, and his gaze caught on the white envelope. His name was written on the front in a bold hand he instantly recognized.
He started up the car and pulled out of the space. As he turned toward home in the late afternoon, a thought crossed his mind that brought forth a reluctant smile.
Maybe Richard will have some answers for me one last time.
With autumn firmly upon them, the skies began to darken by the early evening. At the Oasis, they had shows four nights a week on average, which had made scheduling a meeting with the lawyer somewhat difficult. The upcoming holiday season was particularly tricky, especially with the Halloween special they hosted each year.
Once back in his apartment, Teddy poured himself a glass of white wine from one of the mini bottles in the fridge. He picked it up, along with the letter, and made his way to the living room, where he settled into his recliner. After taking a sip, he set the glass down on the side table and looked at the letter in his hands. He ran his thumb over the writing.
Teddy took a fortifying breath before turning the envelope over and sliding his finger beneath the flap. The plain white paper inside was folded in thirds. Pressing his lips together, Teddy smoothed it out and began to read.
If you’re reading this, I guess I’m not around anymore, and you’ve already heard the news. I’ll make this short and sweet because I’d rather not dwell on that fact, to be quite frank. The Oasis is all I have, and I’m leaving half of it to you. You’ve helped it flourish these last few years, and I trust you to keep its legacy in this community alive. My nephew Carter once was a part of the Oasis family. Even though he’s gone off and made his fortune, I’ve left the other half to him in the hopes he’ll rediscover such roots—and find there’s more out there to life than just the bottom line.
Thank you, Teddy, for all you’ve done over the years. Thank you for loving the Oasis like your own. Thank you for being my friend.
Through misty eyes, Teddy stared at the scrawled signature for a moment. He’d seen that name every two weeks on his paychecks, but today it held so much more significance.
Richard trusted him.
Teddy already loved the Oasis and what it meant for Heartsville, but now? Now it was his to nourish. His to groom. His to own.
He was going to do right by the Oasis.
Heartsville could count on it.
Teddy hadn’t grown up wanting to be a theater manager. He doubted many people did. His dream, circa eleven years old and a school trip to see the local high school’s production of
, was to be an actor. A star of the stage, treading the boards and making the audience laugh and cry, night after night. Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t meant to be.
Teddy couldn’t act if his life depended on it. He simply didn’t have it in him to manufacture the artifice.
He’d had to readjust his dreams early on, which led to assisting with the production of several shows while he was still in high school. Theater management became the new dream, and finally—
—he was good at it. He could still bring magic and awe to the world; he could still revel in the audience’s gasps and sighs.
He simply did it from behind the scenes.
Richard had hired him his senior year of college, and they’d seen the theater for what it was: not just a theater, but a place of community and camaraderie. A place where magic could happen onstage and folks could forget about their lives for a little while. A place for happiness and heartache and all the wonder of make-believe.
It was good for him.
The Oasis was good for him.
A couple of days after the meeting with Ruth, Teddy was going over some numbers at his desk in the marigold-colored office when his cell phone rang. Glancing at the display, he saw a local area code, but he didn’t recognize the number. After sliding his thumb across the screen, he lifted the phone to his ear.
“Hello?” he said cautiously.
“Mr. Teodoro Carbone?” the woman on the other end asked. Her voice was clear and her pronunciation of his decidedly Italian-infused name was remarkably accurate.
“Yes, who’s this?”
“Mr. Carbone, I’m calling from Carter Monroe’s office. He’s requesting a copy of the financials for the property he recently inherited. It’s his understanding you’re the current manager and also the co-owner of this property. The Oasis?” Her voice rose in a question, even though it seemed clear she knew exactly what she was talking about.
“Yes, the Oasis,” Teddy said, his mind whirring at the exchange. “Please, call me Teddy. And you are…?”
“Alicia. Alicia Green.”
“Alicia, please thank… Mr. Monroe for me. I’ve been meaning to contact him. Now, you said he wanted a copy of the financials?”
“That’s correct. We can send a courier to pick them up if that’s agreeable with you.”
Teddy gave a short laugh and smiled ruefully. “I don’t mean to be mistrusting, but how do I know you are who you say you are, Alicia?”
There was a pause on the line before Alicia spoke again. “While I understand your concern, Mr.… Teddy, there’s really no need in this case. Mr. Monroe simply wishes to expedite things and gain a more comprehensive understanding of this new holding. If you’d like, you can e-mail him and confirm the request first.”
“I’ll go ahead and do that. In the meantime, I’ll let our accountant know to prepare a copy with the most recent numbers.”
After Alicia gave him Carter’s e-mail address, Teddy hung up and compared the information against the one he’d received from the lawyer. Yep. Same address. And… monroecapital.com? That sounded fancy.
Subject: The Oasis