Undeniable Demands(5)

By: Andrea Laurence

 Finding out the Edens were selling some property had been the  chance of a lifetime. The lot was perfect. It sloped down, slightly, but would  allow her to design a stilted, multistory home that had a living room with a  wide vista of windows overlooking the valley below. Being surrounded by two  hundred acres of tree farm on two sides guaranteed she wouldn’t have a strip  mall out her back door anytime soon.

 She had a couple months in between projects to start designing  and building her house. It was the perfect opportunity just when she had the  time and money to jump on it. And he couldn’t have it.

 “I know that you’re used to getting your way, Mr. Mitchell, but  I’m afraid it isn’t going to happen this time.”

 On cue, her electric teapot began to chirp on the counter and  spit out steam. She’d turned it on before she’d stepped out to put some trash in  her compost bin, and now it was ready for her to extend some unintended  hospitality. When she turned to look at Wade again, he had seated himself at her  dining-table booth, a look of smug expectation in his eyes.

 With a sigh, she set down the shotgun. It was hard to make tea  when you were holding a heavy, loaded firearm.

 “May I ask how much you paid for the land?”

 “You may not, although I’m sure it’s public record somewhere if  you take the time to have one of the corporate minions you haven’t fired look  for it.” She pulled out two teacups from her bamboo plywood cabinet above the  sink. She shook her loose leaf tea into two infusers, put them in the cups and  poured the hot water over them.

 “My guess would be about a hundred and twenty-five thousand.  There’re no utilities run out here yet.”

 Tori refused to look at him. Of course the real estate guy  could nail the price within a few thousand dollars. “What’s your point?”

 “My point is that I’ll offer you double what you paid for  it.”

 At that, Tori fumbled the jar of organic honey and sent it  crashing to the Marmoleum floor. Fortunately, it didn’t shatter. She quickly  crouched down to grab it, but he had reached out for it as well and beat her to  it. He held out the jar to her. Tori looked down at him, only inches away, and  felt a familiar and unwelcome tingle deep in her belly. When she took the jar  from his hand, her fingers brushed his and the tingle turned into a surge right  to her core.

 Jerking upright as though she’d been burned by his touch, she  quickly recovered and removed the infusers, then added a dollop of the honey to  each cup. She plunked his tea down in front of him and took a seat on the  opposite side of the table.

 “That’s ridiculous.” She said the words knowing she meant both  her reaction to him and his offer for her land. Tori knew better than to let  herself fall for Wade’s good looks or his seemingly good offer.

 “Maybe. But that’s what I’m offering.”

 “You’re hiding something,” she accused. “You’re the guy who  built your business buying cheap buildings and flipping them for a fortune. No  way you’d pay one penny more than is necessary to turn a profit on whatever  project you’re wanting to build out here.”

 Wade turned to look her in the eye. A lock of brown hair had  fallen into his face, giving him a boyish charm she had to steel her resolve  against. “I’m not building anything out here. This isn’t about money.”

 Tori scoffed. “You don’t get to be a millionaire before you’re  thirty unless you’re born into money or driven by it. Either way, everything is  about money.”

 Wade watched her. He took a sip of his tea before he answered.  “This is about family. That’s more important to me than even money. This  property belonged to my parents. They sold it without telling me or my other  siblings. We never would’ve let them do that if we’d known. They worked too hard  their whole lives for this land. We grew up here. Our childhood was here. If  we’d known they were having financial problems, I would’ve taken care of things  before they resorted to this.”

 Tori felt herself being sucked in by his story. The expression  on his handsome face was one of sincere concern. The words sounded so  convincing. But this was the same man who had praised her potential and work  ethic, then fired her the next day. Ryan had also seemed sincere, and nearly  every word out of his mouth over the past two years had been a lie.

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