Abandoned

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Chapter 12: Dinner only

A week after Margo and Cassie celebrated Margo’s return from her extended cruise over dinner, followed by drinks at Margo’s favorite nightclub in Baton Rouge, Margo arrived at Cassie’s small rental home in Vacherie at ten on a Wednesday morning. They had made plans to meet there, allowing Cassie to give Margo the two-minute tour of her temporary dwelling, and then on to Tara.

“It’s—quaint,” Margo said after the quick tour.

“No, it’s not. It’s simply small and boring. But it’s all I need right now. And the location is perfect.”

“Well, it is certainly a change from the Baton Rouge Country Club home and Aunt Sissy’s mansion. Are you seriously planning to live at the Bed and Breakfast once it’s completed?

“Yes, I seriously am! For a while, anyway. If I find I don’t like it, then I’ll live elsewhere. You sound just like Jacob. He was as skeptical about my plan as you.”

“And he doesn’t even know you that well. But it’s obvious even to him that you are accustomed to a lifestyle other than a small apartment on one end of a B&B, no matter how elaborate the apartment or Bed and Breakfast.”

“Yes, I’m a rich, spoiled woman who lived the pampered life for over twenty years. I know. But, I’ve been there, done that. I don’t need it anymore. Now, do you want to see Tara, or keep standing here criticizing my choices for my future?”

“I don’t mean to criticize, my dear friend, I'm just concerned about those choices. But you’re right. Those choices are not carved in stone, and I applaud you for wanting to make changes in your life. I only want to be sure you’re thinking them out clearly, and they’re not knee-jerk reactions. So, let’s go see Tara and the man of your dreams!”

Cassie scowled at her friend. “Very funny. I knew I would regret telling you all that.”

Her face beaming with delight, Margo replied, “Oh, but I’m so glad you did.”

Once they arrived at Tara, Cassie led Margo from one downstairs room to another, explaining the plans for each, weaving their way through the scaffolding, piles of lumber and Sheetrock, and workers.

“Nice. Not bad. No, thanks—” Margo commented along the way.

Cassie rolled her eyes, well aware that Margo was rating the crew, not the mansion. After checking out the large kitchen, they headed back into the main room.

“Hey, Cassie! ’Bout time you showed up!”

Cassie and Margo both looked up to see Mark looking down on them from the balcony that wrapped around the upstairs.

“Hi, Mark,” Cassie replied.

“Come on up, Jacob’s up here.”

“Okay. Thanks.”

“Oh. My. God!” Margo exclaimed, her eyes still glued to the upstairs, though Mark had disappeared.

“What? What’s wrong?” Cassie asked, concerned.

“You have not mentioned that, Cassie Monroe!”

“What?”

Pointing upstairs where Mark had stood moments earlier, Margo said, “That! That gorgeous Sam Elliott look-alike!”

“Mark?” Cassie replied, scrunching her face. “Huh. Guess he does look a bit like Sam Elliott. I hadn’t thought about it. A younger Sam Elliott. The actor has aged, hasn’t he? Anyway, Mark is Jacob’s foreman. And Jacob's close friend from what I can tell.”

“And you’ve not noticed him enough to see the comparison to Sam Elliot. Wow, you are in love.”

“Shhh!” Cassie tried to silence her as two workers walked past them. “I’m not in love,” she insisted in a whisper. “Stop saying that.”

“Whatever. So, are you going to introduce me to Mr. Elliott, or not? And, does he look as incredible without that T-shirt as I think he does?”

“That I couldn’t say. Mark always keeps his shirt on.”

Margo sighed. “That’s too bad. I bet I can get him out of it."

Shaking her head in disapproval, Cassie said, “Come on, Blanche, I’ll introduce you, though something tells me I will regret it.”

Once upstairs, Cassie searched for Jacob, not seeing him or Mark.

“In there, ma’am, if you’re looking for the boss,” a worker coming out of one of the bedrooms said to her, motioning with his head in the direction of the room he had just left.

“Thanks, Charlie.”

“Goodness, it’s warm up here,” Margo commented, attempting to fan her face with her hand.

“Yes, it is. Which is why I normally stay downstairs with the larger fans.”

Margo followed Cassie into the room, and immediately whispered, “And it just got warmer!”

Two young men on tall ladders were holding on to a large chandelier disconnected from the high ceiling. Jacob and Mark stood under the light, both reaching up to take it as the two men on ladders lowered it down. Their massive biceps bulged under the short sleeves of their T-shirts.

Glancing in their direction, Jacob said, “Cassie! Hey! Be right with you.”

“No rush. Take your time. Please. I’m rather fond of that chandelier.”

Jacob flashed her a dimpled smile, then turned his attention back to the task at hand.

“Umm—Mark. The chandelier,” Jacob said, pointing up.

Mark had his eyes glued to Margo. “Oh—sorry, boss,” he said, slowly turning his attention from Margo to the chandelier above.

Jacob chuckled as he shook his head.

Once they’d lowered the light to the floor, Jacob spoke to the two young men as they stepped down from their ladders. “Take this downstairs and put with the others. Carefully. You heard the lady; she likes it,” he said, winking at Cassie.

“Yes, sir,” they both replied. “Excuse us, ladies,” they said as they headed out of the room.

“Jacob, you remember my friend, Margo Cox,” Cassie said.

“Yes, I do,” he said, offering his hand to her. “Good to see you again.”

Mark cleared his throat. Jacob turned to him, then back to Margo. “Ms. Cox, meet my head man, Mark Morgan.”

“My pleasure,” Margo said, batting her eyes as she offered her hand to Mark.

“Oh, I believe the pleasure is all mine, ma’am,” Mark replied as he took her hand and held it.

“Ladies, how about we head downstairs where it’s cooler. I could use some water,” Jacob said as he wiped the sweat from his brow.

“You two go on down, I’ll be right there,” Margo said.

Cassie looked at her, started to argue, then realized it would be a waste of her time. Margo was about to put the moves on Mark, she knew, and there would be no stopping her. With the way Mark was eyeing Margo, she didn’t think he was going to mind one bit.

When they finally left Tara and headed down River Road back to Vacherie for lunch, Cassie asked Margo, “So, did you get his phone number?”

“Oh, no need for that, darling,” Margo replied as she flipped her long hair back away from her face. “He has mine. And we’re meeting this evening for drinks. I’ll get it then. Or later tonight. Or in the morning.”

Cassie looked at her in disbelief, her mouth agape.

“Close your mouth, hon,” Margo said. “Didn’t your mother ever tell you about flies?”

Cassie closed her mouth, turned her eyes back to the road, then back to Margo.

“You just met him, you already have a date with him, and you already plan to spend the night with him. My God, Blanche! You really are a slut!”

“I beg your pardon. I am not a slut. I’m just a healthy, vibrant woman with needs. And I’m pretty sure Mark Morgan is just what I need.”

“You are unbelievable,” Cassie replied, rolling her eyes as she focused again on the road.

“Oh, please, don’t be so damn judgmental. You could stand to be a bit more like me, Cassie. How long have you known Jacob, how long have you been drooling over him while sweating over his naked body in your dreams, and I bet you haven’t even kissed the man yet.”

“No, I haven’t kissed him! I haven’t even been out on a date with him, for heaven’s sake! And he’s not naked in the dream. He has his jeans on.”

“So, he still hasn’t gotten past that first button in the dream, huh.”

“No,” Cassie replied, unable to disguise her disappointment.

“Isn’t it about time you two had a date?”

“Well, if you must know, not that it’s any of your business, we do have a date. Jacob just invited me to dinner Friday night.”

Margo’s smile was broad. “Well, my, my, my! How about that. It took him long enough. I was beginning to wonder about Mr. Miller. If perhaps the gentleman preferred other gentlemen.”

“Margo!” Cassie was quiet for a few moments as they arrived at the restaurant. After parking the car and turning off the motor, she turned to face Margo.

Frowning, she said, “I’m not so sure it’s a good idea. The dinner. I should have said no.”

“Oh, my God, Cassie! It is a good idea! It's a great idea. And it’s just dinner. Right?”

“Yes, just dinner. That’s all.”

“Then go. Enjoy a nice evening out. You’re divorced. There is no reason you shouldn’t enjoy the company of the opposite sex over dinner. And if it leads to more after dinner—”

“It won’t! Dinner only.”

“We’ll see,” Margo said as she stepped out of the car.

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