Chapter 11: Guy talk/girl talk
Except for the loud, steady buzz of fans, Tara had gone silent following a full first day of workers coming and going, bringing in tools and materials, and setting up to begin her lengthy renovation. Jacob and Mark sat across from each other in folding chairs Jacob had brought in, both relaxing after the long day, each sipping on a cold bottle of beer with their feet propped up on a large box of supplies.
“Cassie Monroe. She’s a hot one, she is,” Mark said.
“Think so?” Jacob asked.
Mark snickered. “Yeah, like you don’t, partner. You get in those shorts yet?”
“Hey, a little respect here, will ya! That’s no way to talk about a client!”
“Uh, huh. So, have you?”
“Why not? Hey, if you’re not interested—”
“I didn’t say I wasn’t interested.”
“So what’s the problem then?”
“It’s not that simple.”
“She’s hot. You’re hot for her. Seems pretty simple to me. You are hot for her. I got that right, don’t I?”
“Then I don’t see the problem.”
“When was the last time you even had any, dude?”
“It’s been a while.”
“Well, that’s too long. A man has certain needs. Food, water, sex. Not necessarily in that order, either. Oh, and booze. Booze and boobs.”
Jacob shook his head as he dropped his empty beer bottle in the cooler next to his chair and pulled out two more, tossing one to Mark, who caught it in the air.
“Booze and boobs, huh. You’re a simple man, pal. A simple man.”
“Yep. So, what’s Ms. Monroe’s story? You said she’s recently divorced, right?”
“Yep, and that’s pretty much all I know. Cassie’s pretty private and doesn’t say much at all about her personal life.”
“Hmm—no pillow talk, huh?”
Jacob kicked Mark’s legs off the box. “I told you—”
“Yeah, yeah, I know, you ain’t got there yet. I wouldn’t take too long, dude, a looker like that ain’t gonna be around for long.”
“Are you giving me a timeline before you move in?”
“Nah. I have two rules—”
Jacob laughed. “Mark Morgan has rules?”
“Oh, I got a lot of rules, just very few noble ones.”
“So, what are these two noble rules?”
Mark wiped his mouth with his hand, smoothed his full mustache. “Number one, don’t sleep with the boss’s wife. Not that I ever had any desire to sleep with Remi, no offense.”
“Man, you are so much better off without that woman. I was so glad when you finally dumped her. I couldn’t believe you gave her that Highland Road mansion we worked so hard to build to perfection. I would’ve kicked her fat ass out on the street.”
“It wasn’t worth the fight. I didn’t care about it; I just wanted out whatever way it took to keep her hands off of Miller Construction.”
“I hear ya there, partner.”
“So, what’s your second rule?”
“Don’t sleep with the woman your boss has the hots for. Cassie Monroe is all yours. You deserve a classy woman like that.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t know about that. Cassie is way out of my league, but that doesn’t keep me from thinking about her, just the same.”
“You sell yourself short, boss. Now, she’s way out of my league, for sure—”
“That’s an understatement!”
Jacob downed the last of his second beer, tossed the empty bottle in the cooler.
“Let’s get outta here. I’m in need of some refrigerated air. And food.”
“I’m with you, partner. I think I’ll head to Charlie’s Bar and Grill. Wanna join me?”
Jacob shook his head. “I’ll pass, thanks.” Turning off the fans, he added, “Good day’s work. See you bright and early in the morning, Mark.”
Cassie sat at a small table for two in the back section of the small restaurant, sipping on her glass of Cabernet Sauvignon while she waited for her friend to join her. Margo had called saying she was running late. Cassie looked forward to seeing her. She had missed her while Margo was on a month-long Caribbean cruise. Cassie wanted to hear all about it but was also eager to fill Margo in on the progress of Tara.
Two weeks had passed since the renovations began, and she had visited almost every day since. The fans made it much more tolerable than that first day, but there was so much going on, she always felt in the way and didn’t stay long. She looked forward to seeing Jacob each day and was disappointed the few times he hadn’t been there. She was getting to know Mark better and liked him. He was always pleasant and respectful toward her. She remembered the first day she had visited that Jacob wasn’t here, and what Mark had said.
Jacob had business in New Orleans today, but he should be here in the morning. I’ll be sure to let him know you were here. He’ll be disappointed he missed you today, not seeing you yesterday.
She’d had business to attend to the day before and had not had an opportunity to drop by the site. She was disappointed at not seeing Jacob two days in a row. She wondered if Jacob would honestly be disappointed at not seeing her for two days?
She’d been thrilled the second morning when she arrived and discovered a large, arched sign standing tall at the entrance to the plantation. Placed beneath two long Victorian scroll designs was the word Tara in thick, bold block style lettering. Under that, in much smaller Georgian lettering was the street address, followed by Miller Construction & Renovation in small block style lettering.
She had told Jacob how much she’d loved it as soon as she located him inside. He had beamed with pride.
“I made it! Finally!”
Cassie jumped at the sound of Margo’s voice.
“Well, you must have been a thousand miles away there,” Margo commented.
“Not nearly that far,” Cassie replied as she stood and hugged her dear friend, who was much more tanned than the last time they were together. Her hair was a much lighter blond; her skin glowed; Cassie thought she looked radiant. “I’m so glad you’re back, I’ve missed you!” she said as they both sat. “I want to hear all about your cruise.”
“Oh, hon, it was your normal, everyday Caribbean cruise. What’s to tell? Hot sun, hot naked men, fancy cold drinks with little umbrellas, luscious food—”
“Oh, yeah, sounds incredibly boring. So — is the glow all tan, or are you in love?”
“Forget me. I want to know all about you. And that abandoned mansion. And your hunk. What’s the guy’s name? Jason? Are you in love yet?”
“Jacob. And, no, I’m not in love! But his crew has started on Tara, and it’s exciting!”
“Yes, that’s what we decided to name it. It was Jacob’s idea.”
Cassie was tempted to tell her what he’d said about her reminding him of Scarlett, but she knew Margo would read way too much into it, make a big deal over it, so she refrained.
“So,” Margo asked, “you’re not in love?”
“Right. I’m not.”
“Not sure I believe that, my dear friend. You’ve said his name twice now, and each time your eyes lit up like a Christmas tree.”
“I’m excited about getting started on my Bed and Breakfast, that’s all.”
Margo flagged down the waiter and ordered a glass of wine. When the waiter served it and another one for Cassie, Margo offered a toast.
“Here’s to Tara!” After taking a sip of her wine, she asked, “It’s a pretty hot summer. Does Jacob look as fantastic without his shirt as I suggested he would?”
“Margo! Honestly! You have a one-track mind. Is that all you think about, Blanche?”
“Yes, pretty much. But you knew that already. And you are avoiding my question. Have you seen Jacob Miller without his shirt or not?”
“Yes, once or twice.”
“Oh, Cassie, stop it! You’re not that naive! Does the man have a hot body or not?”
“Yes! Yes! He does! He’s beautiful! He’s a hunk! I wake up in a cold sweat at night dreaming about him! There! Is that what you wanted to hear? Are you happy now?”
Margo’s smile was huge.
“Yes, my dear friend. That is what I wanted to hear. The last time I saw you I was afraid you had died inside. I am delighted to know that you are still very much alive, that Phillip—and Melanie—didn’t kill every single emotion besides hate inside you. I am ecstatic! And I want to hear every single detail of this dream.”