“Noah, need a beer?”
Noah looked at Lawrence standing at his front door. Surprise at seeing him there.
“I’m in the middle of something. But, you’re welcome to hang here if you want,” Noah answered, stepping away in a gesture of invitation.
Lawrence entered and looked around the house. “Man, how do you live here?”
Noah had seated himself on the sofa and looked up at Lawrence. “What?”
“It’s so quiet.”
“Kinda happens when you’re alone Larry.”
“How’s that going by the way?” Lawrence asked him.
“Pretty good actually.”
“Sure, if your purpose is to piss her off. Man, what did you do?”
Knowing the relationship between them, it didn’t surprise Noah to hear Lawrence knew she was angry.
“Pushing her buttons,” Noah smiled.
“And that’s going to help you how?”
Noah smiled bigger. “Look, I’m just trying to work with her.”
“Thought you guys were getting along. In the office anyway.”
“Oh, we are.”
Noah stood and made his way to the kitchen, Lawrence following. Once they each popped a top on their beer, Lawrence asked, “Then, what’s the problem?”
“You remember the designer we’ve been working with the past three years?” Noah asked as he walked to his den.
“Paradise Designs, yeah. Why?”
“Have you ever met with them?”
Lawrence furrowed his brow not knowing where Noah was going with this. “No. But, I’ve been thinking of connecting to work out something with Larson Construction. Why?”
Noah took a swig. “What would you say if I told you we know who owns Paradise Designs?”
“Noah, c’mon. That’s impossible. We’ve never worked that closely with them. They always work on a separate contract and don’t start any work until we were long gone.”
“And I know why.”
“Buddy, you aren’t making any sense. Why are you getting all worked up about this?”
“Because they are part of the senior housing contract. I’m trying to finalize the partnership.”
“Partnership? Noah, what the hell is going on? I thought Eden was working with them.”
Noah entered his den, Lawrence following. “Eden’s doing more than working with them.”
“Then why are you concerned? If Eden has them on board, let her do that and you concentrate on the building.”
It didn’t surprise Noah that Lawrence was pleading her case. “See, there lies the problem. I want to work with Eden on this and she’s not being …” Noah paused trying to find the right word. “Cooperative.”
“Noah, you’ve finally gone off the deep end. For heaven’s sake, Eden is basically doing Lorraine’s job. I have no idea what you needed to get a new receptionist for.”
“Eden isn’t doing Lorraine’s old job. The new receptionist is.”
Lawrence had confusion written all over his face. Noah’s jovial mood was also throwing him off.
“She actually is on the site of the senior housing quite often.”
“What the hell is she doing there?”
“Noah, she took my shares! She can’t do construction work. Are you out of your mind?”
“She’s not doing construction work. She’s doing Paradise Designs work.”
“Then what’s the problem?”
“She won’t work with me.”
“Obviously your definition of working together is different than the rest of us.”
“We’re working together. She isn’t working with me.”
“No wonder she’s angry with you. What do you expect from her? She’s …”
“Paradise Designs,” Noah interrupted.
“Eden is Paradise Designs.”
Lawrence paced around Noah’s den. “Now I know you’ve lost your mind.”
Noah took a piece of paper from his desk and handed it him.
“Mac’s son got that information for me.”
“But, what is it? And why did Mac’s son find whatever this is for you?”
Noah leaned up against the front of his desk. “I was having a hard time connecting with Paradise Designs. They wouldn’t answer my phone calls. Would send evasive e-mails back.”
“So. There was no name to talk to. Nothing. So, I asked Jason if he could figure out who owned their website.”
Lawrence looked at the piece of paper in his hands. “This is …”
“The IP address for the website. Owner…”
“Eden Falcon,” Lawrence finished for him.
“Maybe Jason made a mistake,” Lawrence said after a moment in thought.
“You’re gonna believe a kid at MIT is gonna make a mistake on this?”
“Maybe because she’s been working with them for you…”
“Lawrence, Eden created Paradise Designs three years ago. I don’t remember how we ended up choosing them, but she’s been doing all the interior work on buildings we built.”
Lawrence paced. “Why didn’t she tell you?”
Noah ran his hand through his hair. “That’s what bothers me the most. She didn’t say anything for years. And now, she’s acting like they’re a company she’s talking to. She’s on the sites to start designing.”
“Man, this isn’t like Eden.”
“But, it all makes sense now.”
“Three years ago. You said it yourself, she found something that made her smile again. She was rarely home when you’d stop by. She needed to hire the cleaning service. Hell, have you seen some of the work she’s done? Not just for us, but senators, governor, couples. And because I was working long hours, I didn’t see or suspect a thing.”
“Okay, so now you know. Just tell her.”
“Why the hell not?”
“Lawrence, there’s a reason she doesn’t want me to know. I need her to trust me. She and I have been working together all this time.” Noah paced, combing his hands through his hair.
“What are you saying Noah?”
“I’m saying I need her to trust me. I need her to come to me and tell me we’ve been partners this whole time.”
“And, I need her to tell me why she couldn’t tell me.”
That had Lawrence as confused as Noah. She’d never said a word to him either.
“I don’t know how she’s going to tell you since she can’t remember.”
“She’s been going through her old journals. Since she’s still not confiding in me, I’m assuming she has read why and at least knows that way.”
Lawrence stood silent for a moment. “I can’t believe this.”
Noah looked at him. “Tell me about it.”
“Okay, so I get that you know and she doesn’t know that you know. Why exactly do you think she’ll tell you now?”
“Because I’m pushing it.”
“I told her I want to meet with the designer.”
Lawrence chuckled. “Yeah, that went over real well.”
“Not as well as the lawsuit, but yeah.”
“Lawsuit?” Eden hadn’t said anything to him about a lawsuit.
Lawrence couldn’t get over how casual Noah was being about this. Still jovial.
“Look, I’d wanted to meet the designer before knowing who it was. Once I found out it was Eden, I admit, I came on a little strong.”
Lawrence chuckled. “Oh my God Noah.”
“There is no way she can keep stalling my meeting the designer.” Noah paced a little more. “Lawrence, she’s good. Damn good.” He turned to face Lawrence now. “Just imagine working together knowingly.”
“Man, this is so not like Eden. Damn Noah! A secret life?”
“And all I’m trying to do is get her to confide in me on that secret.”
“Noah, you guys are separated. What makes you think she’d confide in you now if she didn’t while you were married?”
“If she didn’t want me to know, why move into your office? Why put herself through seeing me every day? It doesn’t make sense. She could have easily walked away completely. But, she didn’t.”
“Yeah, that is a mystery.” Lawrence fingered his hair. “This whole thing is crazy.”
“She’ll have to come forward as the designer in order for this meeting to take place.”
“I hope you know what you’re doing.”
“I’m taking your advice. I fell down. Now, it’s study time.”
“If I’m not mistaken, wasn’t she the one who did the teaching in college?”
“This is a whole new lesson, Lawrence. A whole new lesson.”
Eden spent hours on the phone making arrangements. Noah wants to meet with the designer, he’s gonna meet with the designer.
She’d been avoiding him as much as possible. You’d think the man had nothing better to do than harass her about meeting with the designer. And, he was constantly in a good mood. Something else that was unsettling for her.
Before leaving for the kitchen to retrieve a greatly needed cup of coffee, Eden sent an electronic meeting invite to Noah.
Entering her office, she was reading over a file and didn’t see Noah sitting in her visitor chair.
“Y’know Eden, you could’ve just talked to me about the meeting,” he said.
He hadn’t meant to startle her. He couldn’t help the chuckle from escaping as she dropped the file and her mug on the top of the desk.
“God Noah! Ya mind letting me know you’re there?” she shot back as she frantically cleared things away from the puddle on her desk.
He stood to help her and she batted his hands away.
“Eden, calm down,” he chuckled.
She looked up at him. “I’m so glad you find this amusing Noah.”
“Actually, I do,” he responded. The Eden of old was always in control. Never flustered, and if she was she sure as hell didn’t let anyone know it.
“I figured I had to be totally professional with this request of yours,” she shot back.
“C’mon Eden, what made you think that?”
“Gee, I don’t know. Maybe harassing me on an hourly basis to set this thing up. You know, the meeting you really don’t need to be at but you don’t trust me to handle.”
“Again, I trust you. Never said I didn’t. You’re the one making that assumption.”
She stood straight and put her hands on her hips. For some reason, this Eden getting angry was amusing. The temper of the old Eden scared the crap out of him.
“What am I supposed to assume Noah when you’re brow beating me about it?”
“Tell ya what,” he began, “you can come to all my meetings with foremen.”
“Don’t be ridiculous Noah, I don’t know anything about that stuff.”
“And, I don’t know anything about this design stuff,” he answered back. “The guy’s a genius. I simply want to see him in action.”
She cleaned up the last of the spilled coffee, not looking at him.
“Why do you keep saying genius with this?”
“Have you looked at the website? This guy has done work for some pretty big customers. Hell, I’m almost intimidated to meet him.”
She stood straight and cocked her head to the side in a disbelieving manner. “Intimidated,” she repeated. “Like what you do is any different?”
“I’ll take the compliment,” he smiled.
He watched as she organized her desk after the spill.
“Why don’t we go to the site together?” he asked.
“I’ll meet you there,” she answered.
“Eden, if we both have to be there…at the same time, don’t you think it makes sense just to ride together?”
“Look at me Noah! I have to go home and change. I can’t exactly go there with coffee all over myself.”
“If we leave now, I can take you home first.”
Oh she was being stubborn. Was she going to wait until they were at the site to finally fess up?
Eden changed at home before racing out the door to get to the meeting on the site of the senior housing. She was in conversation when Noah approached them.
Noticing Noah’s arrival, Eden made introductions.
“Noah Carrington, this is David Edwards from Paradise Designs. David this is Noah Carrington, owner of Noah’s Arkitects.”
Noah’s face showed a hint of confusion as the men shook hands. This David was quite young.
“Ms. Falcon and I were just discussing some ideas Mr. Carrington,” David told him.
“Care to share?” Noah asked.
David had a nervousness about him as he looked first to Eden, then to Noah.
“Is there a problem?” Noah asked.
“No,” David answered. “It’s easier to see ideas form when there’s more completion on the building.”
“Mr. Edwards, let me walk you around,” Noah offered. “I can do my best to explain what the finished room is supposed to look like if that will help you.”
“I think that’s a great idea,” Eden added.
“Eden,” Noah started, “you don’t mind if it’s just Mr. Edwards and I, do you?”
“Are you saying I can’t help?” she returned.
Noah stood face to face with her. “No, I’m saying I’ll give him details on what my crew is doing to give Mr. Edwards a better idea. So he can begin creating, or whatever it is he calls it.”
Eden wasn’t sure what it was she saw pass along Noah’s face, but looking past his shoulder at David she had no doubt. David wasn’t comfortable with this.
Eden tugged on Noah’s arm to pull him out of ear shot of their guest.
“Noah, you said yourself, they’ve been working with me.”
“That they have,” he said with a smile that unnerved her. “I’d just like some one-on-one time.”
He didn’t leave an opportunity for argument. He simply turned and guided David away from her.
Eden was with Matt, the senior housing site foreman, when she saw Noah and David exit one of the buildings. The men shook hands before David went to his car and Noah began walking toward them.
“Hey boss,” Matt greeted.
“Matt, can I have a minute with Eden?”
Matt shrugged and walked away.
Noah knew she’d be angry. There was no mistaking the fire in her eyes as they glared back at him.
“Oh, now you want to talk to me?” She turned to walk away. “I don’t think so.”
Noah grabbed her arm and jerked her around, causing her to meet up with him, chest to chest.
“Don’t you want to hear how the tour went?” he asked.
She pulled her arm free and stepped back. “I’m sure David can fill me in.”
“What do you know about this David guy?” he asked.
“Noah, get to the point.”
She knew he was fishing. She just wasn’t in the mood.
“He’s pretty young,” Noah told her. “Only twenty-two.”
“Noah, you were twenty-two when you started the Ark.”
“Precisely,” he answered.
“Noah, the point?”
“My point is he isn’t the designer I expected to meet with.”
“You wanted to meet with a designer who’ll be working on the senior housing project. David will be.”
“Eden, c’mon. He’s an apprentice. He’s not going to come up with the ideas. He’s going to sit behind and watch. Learn.”
“He’ll still be working on the project. It’s what you wanted.”
Noah stepped closer, looking into her eyes. “I said I want to meet the designer.”
“The designer isn’t available,” she answered back.
“You really don’t trust me, do you Noah?”
“Sure I do. Mr. Edwards is going to talk to the designer and see what he can do to get her to meet with us.” He smiled at the look on her face. “Yeah, I know our genius isn’t a man now.”
“What else did David tell you?” she asked.
“The kid’s smart. He wants to work with this woman from start to finish to learn. Told him I couldn’t think of a better one to start out with.”
“But, you’re not happy with the designer,” she said confusedly.
“I’m not happy with all the evasiveness. The work she does is why I’m trying so hard to work with her.”
The intensity of his eyes as they looked into hers unnerved her. She stepped back and turned away.
“I need to get Morgan to pre-school,” she said before walking away.
Three days later, Noah was on the senior housing site with Morgan. Ashton asked to meet with him on the site to go over a few specific questions from the senators.
Morgan enjoyed seeing the men work and build things. His own specially made hard hat strapped on as he walked hand-in-hand with his father.
As Noah was walking through one of the units, he noticed Eden’s car parked at the site. It intrigued him, so he asked around and found out where she was after Ashton had left.
While Morgan was in the trailer, Noah ventured out in search of Eden. He found her in one of the units speaking with an elderly couple. Making sure he stayed out of sight, he watched and listened.
He noticed she’d taken some photos and taped them up in various spots around the unit. He stepped closer and just watched her.
“Oh Ms. Falcon, are you sure we can do this?” the older woman asked.
“Mrs. Walker, this is going to be your home,” Eden answered soothingly. “With Mr. Walker in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, the transition will be easier if there are more familiar things here.”
“But Dear, you’re doing so much. First you visit with us at our home, and now this?”
“Mrs. Walker, this housing center is being built for people like you and your husband. Each unit is someone’s home. If they’re all the same, I wouldn’t be able to have much fun now would I?”
“Your parents must be so proud of you Dear,” Mrs. Walker emotionally said.
Noah watched as Eden took the woman’s hand in hers and waited for their eyes to meet.
“Mrs. Walker, if my parents were still alive, I’d like to think a place like this would be available to them. You’ll still have independence with your own unit, but not the stress of upkeep and yard work.” Eden patted the woman’s hand. “And if the time comes Mr. Walker needs more care down the road, the assisted living side will provide the same with more help for you.”
Mrs. Walker embraced Eden. “I wasn’t sure about making this move, Ms. Falcon. If it weren’t for you, I don’t know what we’d do.”
Eden stepped back and smiled at her softly. “Noah’s Ark is committed to this project, Mrs. Walker. Mr. Carrington will build the best complex he knows how. After, Paradise Designs will work with you to make it your home.”
Noah simply took in the scene. How could he make her see they were a team? The two of them could make this, and future projects successful.
Eden turned sharply at the sound of Morgan’s call out to her as she walked Mr. and Mrs. Walker to their car.
As Eden held her son in her arms, he wrapped his arms around her neck for a toddler hug.
“Why, who is this darling little boy?” Mrs. Walker asked.
Eden smiled. “Morgan, this is Mrs. Walker. Can you say hi?”
Morgan reached out his right hand to this new friend. “Hi Miss Walker.”
The older woman shook his little hand in hers.
“Oh, and such manners too,” Mrs. Walker gushed.
Noah now approached them.
“Eden, what a surprise seeing you here this morning,” he said from behind her.
“Noah! I didn’t know you’d be here this morning.”
Noah shrugged and turned his attention, and charm to the older woman.
“Noah Carrington,” he introduced himself.
Mrs. Walker blushed like a school girl at the attention as she shook his hand.
“Ms. Falcon has been telling me your commitment to this project, Mr. Carrington.”
“I don’t usually get visitors to the site,” he told her. “I hope you like what you’ve seen so far.”
“Oh yes. Ms. Falcon was telling me…”
“All about the partnership between Noah’s Ark and Paradise Designs and how she has nothing to worry about with the unit they’ll be moving in to,” Eden spoke up.
“Well, I certainly hope both of us can live up to your needs,” Noah said to Mrs. Walker.
Noah watched as Eden escorted the couple to their car and chatted a moment longer before they drove off.
Noah finally had an afternoon in the office. The senior housing complex was coming along and the senators indicated the applications for the units were coming in quickly.
He heard Eden in her office. She was a busy little beaver. She was on the phone often, lowering her voice when she heard him in the office. He smiled. His plan was coming along nicely. And, so far she hadn’t said anything to him on the amount of space he wasn’t giving her this time. He made sure he was in her face as often as possible. The next step to his plan was just about done. He knew it was going to take her by surprise.
Just a little more time Carrington.
They had something. He knew it. She just wouldn’t admit it.
He read over some invoices when he heard Eden speaking to someone in her office.
He stood and made his way to the adjoining door. He leaned on the doorjamb, arms crossed at his chest, his ankles crossed as she and Matt spoke at the table in her office.
“Look here,” she said as she pointed to … a blueprint? That got his curiosity going.
“I was at the site this morning and the units on the top two floors are not at the dimensions here.”
He watched Matt lean forward for a closer look. “But each floor is the same.”
She took out a pad of paper and showed him something. “I measured the hallways of these five units. There is no way a wheelchair is going to fit through these measurements here.”
Matt took the notepad from her. “Are you sure about this?”
She cocked her head slightly, “I know how to use a tape measure Matt.”
“Oh, I wasn’t questioning your ability Mrs. C. I’m just glad you caught it before the dry wall went up.”
“Matt, I know I saw Greg working on these units yesterday.”
“Mrs. C. this isn’t his first mistake. If this one had slipped through, it would be major.”
Eden set her hand on Matt’s forearm. “I know. I’ll take care of this. Please, don’t tell Noah.”
“Don’t tell Noah what?” Noah called to them.
Eden gasped and spun around. “Noah!”
He stepped further into the office and made his way to them. “Matt, is there a problem?”
“Noah, it’s nothing,” Eden answered.
He arched his brow. “Matt doesn’t come into the office for nothing Eden.”
“I’ve got this Noah,” she stressed.
Noah looked to Matt. “Matt?”
“Mrs. C. noticed some measurement discrepancies at the senior housing site.”
Eden sighed and stepped away.
“Eden?” Noah called.
“No harm done, Noah. It’s fixable.”
He stepped to stand before her. “Who made the error?”
“Eden,” he called.
“It was Greg,” Matt said from behind him.
Greg had been part of Noah’s team for three years. This was an apprentice mistake. Not someone who had his experience.
“Is Greg on site?”
“Just have him come in.”
“Will do Mr. C.”
Matt removed his cell phone from its holster and used the walkie talkie to call Greg in.
Eden walked over to him. “Noah, please.”
“Sorry Babe, this is a multi-million dollar project. A slip up like this, especially if not caught in time, could jeopardize the whole thing.”
She turned to Matt. “Will you please go back to the site and get the studs moved?”
Matt felt uneasy at the moment. Noah hadn’t had an issue on his sites since Eden came on board. Technically, they were both his bosses.
“Mr. C?” Matt verified.
“Go ahead Matt. I’ll be there this afternoon.”
He turned to her now. “Eden, why didn’t you come to me with this?”
She was now leaning on the front of her desk, arms folded across her chest. “I can handle it.”
He stood close, looking into her eyes. “Eden, we are a team. Partners.”
“So, tell me Noah, do you come to me with every discussion you have with the crew?”
“But, you want me to as well as report in to you on the designer progress.”
He began pacing. “I never asked you to report in.”
“Yeah right,” she huffed. “When was the last time you talked to Greg?” she asked him.
“What has that got to do with anything?”
She pushed off the desk and stood in front of him. “Did you know his wife is having a complicated pregnancy? That she’s in the hospital hoping not to go into premature labor?”
“Noah, he needs understanding right now.”
Noah was at a loss. He couldn’t let mistakes like this pass.
“Please, let me talk to him,” she asked quietly.
“Mr. C?” Greg called from the door. “Matt said you want to see me?”
Eden stepped between Noah and Greg. “No Greg, I wanted to see you.” Clearly stepping over Noah’s authority.
“Have a seat,” she gestured for him to take a visitor’s chair. Once he was seated, Noah remained silent standing back as she took over the meeting. “How’s Mary?”
Greg looked to Noah then back to her. “She’s doing better today.”
“She was having contractions again. The doctors are getting worried that she won’t hold out the three weeks we need for the baby to have a better chance.” Eden sat in the other visitor chair. “I know I screwed up yesterday. I swear, it won’t happen again.”
Noah was right. A multi-million dollar account couldn’t be jeopardized. But, Greg had been one of his top crew until his wife was hospitalized.
“Greg, I need to ask you a favor,” she said.
“The lower level in section one is at a point where some of the design work can begin. I’d like you to work with me on it.”
“You want me to do interior design?” Greg was shocked at the request.
“I won’t ask you to design. I’ll ask if you can do the physical work the designer needs. You know, trim, paint, stuff like that.”
“But, won’t the units all have the standard white paint and light oak trim?”
“Greg, each unit is going to be different. I’ll be,” she looked at Noah trying to find the right words, “getting specifics from Paradise Designs. I’m already ordering supplies for six of the units.”
Greg looked from Noah to her.
She further explained. “I’ll be coming to the site once the supplies start arriving. In two to three days,” she told him.
“Two to three days?”
Eden leaned forward and placed her hand over one of Greg’s. “What I need for you to do, starting now, is take care of Mary. Check in with me at nine each morning. I’ll let you know when the supplies arrive.” She smiled softly. “And, if Mary needs you at any time during the day,” she shrugged, “we have plenty of time to complete the units.”
Greg looked at Noah expectantly. “Mr. C?”
Noah had to admit, she had a solution. A damn good one. Getting a reprimand would only make his situation worse.
“Like she said, Mary needs you. Call if you need anything.”
Greg stood, relief apparent. He hugged Eden before shaking Noah’s hand. He truly thought Noah would fire him. After all the previous issues, he knew Noah wasn’t as patient as he used to be.
“Greg?” Eden called before he left her office. He turned to face her. “Tell Mary I’ll stop by later.”
“Thanks Mrs. C,” he gratefully said before looking at Noah. “Mr. C.”
Once Greg was gone, Noah watched as she made her way to her chair. Standing on the opposite side of the desk, he looked down at her.
“Noah, don’t start. I know you’re mad. I stepped over the line.”
“No, I was thinking Greg’s gonna do some great work.”
“Nice goin, partner,” he said before turning and making his way back to his office then stopped. “But aren’t some of the supplies arriving already?” he asked, turning slightly.
She smiled coyly, “Yeah. But Greg doesn’t need to know that…for two or three days.”
“You are a sneaky one, aren’t you?”
“Only when I have to be.”
“What other secrets does your pretty little head hold?”
She didn’t answer. Simply looked at him with a poker face.
He smiled and turned toward his office. She thought he’d argue or something. It surprised her he didn’t. She’d clearly stepped over the line of his authority. Yet, he was taking it in stride.
“Wow!” he heard her say just after he cleared the door to his office.
“Yeah, wow,” he whispered. “She’s finally realizing how good we can be together.”