Abandoned

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Chapter 10: Tara

Cassie woke early Monday morning, too excited to sleep. With all the prep work now completed, Jacob’s construction crew would start arriving at Tara this morning to begin the renovation. She couldn’t wait to get to the site this morning to check on the proceedings.

She had approved the final edition of Beau’s renovation plans for her plantation home the Thursday before. They had even chosen a name for the mansion during that meeting. During the month-long process, Beau had labeled the plans as “Cassie Monroe’s B&B”. When Jacob asked if she planned to use that name, she replied “no”, explaining that she preferred something more appealing, though drawing a blank so far on what that might be. What she didn’t add was that there was no way in hell she would put Phillip’s name on it. She’d even contemplated taking back her maiden name of Nelson.

“Well, it needs a name, even if it’s temporary,” Jacob had said. “You could call it Savoy’s in honor of the owner. Might be fitting, his ghost still hanging around and all.”

“Ahh. So you agree your cleaning crew didn’t run him off,” Cassie had replied.

Jacob smiled, his dimples deep, his eyes sparkling. “I think he may still be around.”

“Good.”

Jacob had laughed at her reply. “Think he’ll be a draw?”

“You never know. Might have to work that into the title somehow. I’ll have to give it more thought.”

“So, in the meantime, how about we call the place Tara?”

“As in Gone With The Wind?”

“Is there another?” Jacob teased. “Seems fitting. You do remind me of Scarlett.”

“Really? As in a rich, spoiled, self-centered woman?”

“No,” he replied. “As in a beautiful, determined woman who knows what she wants, and not afraid to go after it.”

Jacob’s words had made her blush.

“I completely agree with Jacob,” Beau had said. “I think Tara is a perfect title, temporary or permanent.”

“Well, that settles it, then. Tara it is.”

When she arrived at Tara, she was shocked by all the action. Old cars and pickup trucks were parked everywhere, with men coming and going from inside the mansion. It took her a few minutes to locate Jacob’s truck. The sight of it pleased her. She hadn’t been able to get him or his words out of her head all weekend. He thought she was beautiful. She hadn’t felt at all beautiful since the evening of her fortieth birthday party. Even the few times when Margo had persuaded her to go “clubbing” with her in the past few months where different men had tried to pick her up by buying her a drink, she hadn’t felt beautiful; she had felt cheap and dirty.

She had thought about the name Tara for her B&B over the weekend. If she was Scarlett O’Hara, who was her Rhett Butler? Phillip? She had considered him her Clark Cable for over twenty years, but now he seemed more like Ashley Wilkes. He certainly had his precious Melanie, and he could have her for all she cared. She didn’t need him, or a Rhett Butler. She had her Tara and needed nothing or anyone else. Yet, the sight of Jacob Miller’s truck caused butterflies to flutter in her stomach this morning. She wanted to blame the lack of breakfast on those tummy flutters, but they appeared again when she finally located Jacob inside.

“Yuck. Welcome to South Louisiana in July,” she growled under her breath as after stepping out of her car. The shower earlier in the morning had turned the air into a sauna—muggy, steamy, and quite miserable.

Entering Tara, she noticed men everywhere, most of them shirtless. No surprise, as the air was stifling. Tall scaffolding filled the main room. Tools laid everywhere—saws, drills, sledgehammers. Long, thick extension cords snaked across the room. She tripped on one when the toe of her sandal caught on it.

“Careful, ma’am," said a tall, attractive gentleman with a thick mustache when he caught her arm to prevent her fall. His hand was damp with sweat, as was his thin white T-shirt. “Can I help you?”

“Umm—” Cassie scanned the room as she replied. “I’m looking for Mr. Miller.”

“You must be Ms. Monroe,” he replied, removing the large coil of extension cord from his shoulder and tossing it on the thick plastic sheet covering the wood floor. He wiped his hand on his faded, tattered jeans, and then offered it to her. “I’m Mark Morgan, Jacob’s head foreman. Nice to get to meet you. I’ve heard a lot about you. Nice to put a face with the name. Jacob’s around here somewhere. Let me see if I can find him for you.”

At that moment, Cassie heard a voice behind her.

“Cassie! Good morning!”

Turning toward the voice, she found a shirtless Jacob standing directly behind her, carrying a small stack of lumber over his shoulder.

Shit!

He was every bit as ripped as he appeared in her dream. His pecs, his six-pack abdomen, his thick biceps—all as tanned, as impressive. And glowing with sweat.

“Give me a minute to put these down, be right with you,” he said.

“No problem,” she said as she watched him add the lumber to a stack already in place next to the wall before joining them.

“I see you’ve met my main man, Mark. Anytime you need something or have a problem and I’m not around, he’s the guy you want to see. He’ll take care of you, won’t you, Mark.”

“That I will, indeed. Now I had better get back to work. Nice to have met you, Ms. Monroe.”

“You, too, Mark, and please, call me Cassie.”

“Will do, ma’am,” he said, and then picked up his coil of extension cord and headed up the stairs to the second floor.

“Kinda different than the last time you were here, isn’t it,” Jacob said.

“Very!”

“By the way, sorry for all the lack of shirts, including myself. The big fans haven’t arrived yet, and it’s pretty miserable in here, as you can see. I do have a shirt around here somewhere I can put back on, though, if you’d prefer.”

Cassie wiped moisture from her brow as she replied, "No, it’s fine. It is quite warm.”

“Here,” Jacob said, grabbing two cold bottles of water from a nearby ice chest and handing one to her. “This helps,” he said, holding his to his forehead, and then rubbing it around on his chest.

“Thanks!” she said, trying hard not to focus on his actions or his chest.

Here’s to perfect vision and Louisiana summer heat.

Touching her forehead, and then her cheeks with her cold bottle of water, she said, “Well, I don’t want to keep you from what you’re doing. I just wanted to see how things were going this morning.”

Jacob smiled. “As you can see, it’s starting to roll. I’m excited."

“I am too.” She smiled back at him.

“You’re welcome to hang around. Those fans should be arriving soon. We need a good breeze through here, but don’t expect one this time of year. Some of the guys will be shirtless most of the time, but if that bothers you—”

“No, it doesn’t. Really.” Cassie was still trying to concentrate on his face, and not his perfect, sweaty body.

“Good. You’re the boss, though, so anything that you don’t like let me know. I do have rules. No smoking, no loud music, no crude language, though you’ll hear an occasional slip of the tongue.”

“That’s good. Especially the smoking. Well, I’m going to go, get out of the way. Hope your fans arrive soon.”

As she started to leave, Jacob said, “Cassie, hope you check in often. Nice to see a pretty face once in a while with all these ugly mugs running around all day.”

“I plan to do that, Jacob, just as soon as those fans arrive. See you tomorrow.”

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