Undeniable Demands(6)

By: Andrea Laurence

 She had been raised with a naive spirit by hippies who wanted  only to experience life and culture. They didn’t have a malicious bone in their  bodies and never thought other people did, either.

 Life had taught Tori differently. Wade had taught her  differently. He had heard her pleas of innocence and turned his back on them. He  hadn’t believed her. So why should she believe him now?

 The people who had sold her this land—Molly and Ken Eden—were a  very sweet older couple. No way they’d spawned a son like Mitchell. They didn’t  even have the same last name. It wasn’t even a well-planned lie. She wanted to  be insulted by his lack of faith in her ability to see through his crap. Did he  think she would just melt into a puddle at his feet the minute he knocked on the  door and flashed those deep green eyes at her? Or started waving cash?

 She didn’t need Wade’s money. She’d paid cash for this  property. She was one of the most highly sought after green architects in  America. She’d traveled thousands of miles in this Airstream to build  environmentally friendly buildings, homes and businesses. Tori had several large  and successful projects in Seattle, Santa Fe and San Francisco. She was wrapping  up one in Philadelphia just after the first of the year. She did well enough  that she could laugh at his offer. But it couldn’t hurt to push him and see how  far he was willing to take this.

 “What if I said I would sell it back to you for half a  million?” There was no way the land was worth that much unless there was oil,  gold or diamonds hidden beneath her feet. She doubted it, though. She’d never  heard of Wade Mitchell being interested in any of those things. The only thing  about land he cared for was what he could build on top of it.

 Wade didn’t even flinch. “I would get out my checkbook and sign  on the dotted line so you could find an even better piece of land and everyone  would be happy. Let me assure you that nothing is more important than preserving  my family and my history.”

 Wow. He was certainly desperate for this land. She almost felt  bad for him. Any other person might have immediately given in and made his day.  Four times the value was a great offer. A crazy offer. One that she was probably  crazy to turn down. Even with her success, half a million was quite a lump of  cash. Tori could certainly do a lot with it: buy new land, build her dream house  without a mortgage attached to it, get a new hybrid pickup truck. She had to  admit, if it were any other person sitting across the table from her, she’d  probably take the money and tow her trailer off into the sunset.

 But it wasn’t any other person. It was Wade Mitchell. And she  wasn’t about to sell him this land. Not for any price. Just because it was worth  it to watch him squirm. This would be as close to payback as she would ever get.  It was his bad luck that he wanted her land.

 “You’re really quite good,” she said, nodding and watching her  tea instead of his handsome face. She wouldn’t let herself get pulled in and  swayed by his mesmerizing eyes and fabricated sob story. She’d already caught  herself being a sucker once this year, and that was enough. Maybe if he came  around in a few weeks, she’d let him be her dumb mistake of the New Year. “Did  you practice that speech long or was that off the cuff?”

 Wade stiffened, pushing the half-empty cup of tea aside and  shelving the charm. “Is all this animosity over your termination years ago?”

 Now it was Tori’s turn to stiffen in her chair. He made her  seem petty for holding that over him all these years later. “Absolutely. I don’t  take affronts to my reputation lightly.”

 “You weren’t worried about your reputation when you slept with  one of our suppliers and put my company in jeopardy.”

 “I didn’t sleep with anybody. I told you then that I didn’t do  any of the things you accused me of. Nothing has changed. Just because you  didn’t believe me doesn’t mean I wasn’t telling the truth.”

 “They were serious charges, and I needed to deal with them as  such. I did what I had to do.”

 “And I’m doing what I have to do. I’m keeping this land. It’s  mine. Whether or not I like you or resent what you did is irrelevant.”

 “This isn’t about me or you and your damaged pride. This is  about Ken and Molly Eden and everything they worked for. I want to give them  back what’s rightfully theirs.”

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