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Chapter 8: Lonely tonight

Sitting in the business office of his modest home in Donaldsonville late in the evening, Jacob sorted through the monthly bills. His ex-wife, Remi, had always hounded him to hire a bookkeeper/secretary, but he preferred to handle all business matters himself, including maintaining the business website, though he found that more challenging than the rest. He considered himself far from tech-savvy. Not having the added expense of a separate business office or bookkeeper helped to keep his overhead low, allowing him to pay higher wages to his crews. Higher salaries meant better, more skilled, more inspired workers. The more economical overhead had also allowed him to build Remi the mansion on prestigious Highland Road in East Baton Rouge she had always wanted—the one she still occupied. It had been part of the divorce settlement. She got the house and everything in it except his personal belongings and his office furniture, a generous sum of money, and her luxury sedan, while he got his business free and clear of her. That was all he wanted out of the divorce—his company.

He’d wanted to be a carpenter for as long as he could remember. His favorite toys as a toddler were his plastic hammer and saw. As a young child, he always had a tool belt around his waist, and his toolbox was within reach at all times during pretend play. In high school, he worked after school, on weekends, and during the summer as a carpenter’s apprentice. His favorite television program during the 90′s, when he had time to watch television, had been Tim Allen’s Home Improvement. After high school graduation, while all his friends headed off to college, he sought full-time employment as a carpenter for local home builders. He was the youngest of five children, and the family budget had been tight. Jacob’s dad, a blue-collar worker, had moved the family from East Texas to Baton Rouge looking for work when Jacob was in seventh grade. His dad had found employment at one of the petrochemical plants along River Road in Carville, just south of Baton Rouge. Jacob’s mother had worked part-time cleaning homes for the more affluent families in the area.

Jacob worked his way up over the years with various construction companies before finally achieving his lifetime goal of starting his own. Over the years he’d developed an interest in all the magnificent plantation homes in the area, and later in the restoration of those in need. It had become his specialty, though he still took on other projects as well.

He’d not had much of a social life during high school. Working after school and on weekends left little time for dating, plus he’d always been somewhat shy. He met Remi a few years after he’d graduated from high school; she worked in the office of the construction company he worked for at the time. They dated almost two years before he finally asked her to marry him. She continued to work for the company for years after they married. He’d been eager to start a family, but she had insisted on putting it off until they could afford things like private schools and other luxuries she and Jacob never had growing up. Jacob, coming from a loving, Christian family, had never felt deprived, never desired the fancy things in life, but Remi did. She craved them to the point of obsession.

By the time they could afford those private schools, Remi was no longer interested in a family. She wanted the big fancy home, the social club memberships, the designer clothes, shoes, and handbags. She wanted to socialize with the local elite, to be a guest in their homes, to host lavish parties. Jacob had no interest in any of that, and it became a subject of constant arguments. He tried to accommodate her as much as he could handle, but it was never enough to please her. The more parties they attended, the more parties they hosted, the more she wanted. It wasn’t the lifestyle he was accustomed to, it wasn’t the lifestyle he was comfortable with, nor was it the lifestyle he wanted. When he began refusing to participate, she went without him, often staying out until the wee hours of the morning, returning smelling of alcohol and cigarettes. When he finally confronted her about whether or not she was cheating on him, she didn’t deny it, only blamed him for making her go elsewhere for fun. He moved out the next day, filing for divorce two months later. That had been five years ago. Since then, he had devoted his full time and attention to his company.

But this evening, while he tried to concentrate on the bills, his attention kept returning to Cassie Monroe. She was beautiful, refined, classy, everything that Remi hadn’t been, but had wanted so much to be. Jacob had no doubt Cassie was quite accustomed to the private social club scene, the fancy dinner parties. She would fit in perfectly, while Remi never had, no matter how hard she tried. But there was more to Cassie. She had to be the most complicated woman he had ever met. One minute he found her cold, distant, mysterious, the next charming, vulnerable. The more he tried to understand her, the more complicated she became.

Did she feel the need to keep her distance to maintain her position as the person in charge? Was it some inferiority complex because she was a woman? Did she feel the need to keep her guard up to gain and maintain his respect? Did she merely consider herself better than him? Or was there something more to it? Why had she been reluctant to ride with him in his truck?

He had been so sure she would be excited about the condition of the mansion once his crew had cleared out the raccoons and other critters that had managed to find a way in and make it their home over the years. He had been disappointed by her silence, but when she had turned to him and agreed with his assessment of it, he had seen a sparkle in her eyes that he hadn’t seen before. When she gave him the history of the abandoned plantation home and its resident ghost while he chowed down on the breakfast special and she nibbled on a bagel at Cal’s Kitchen, he’d seen that same sparkle, that same excitement.

That sparkle in her eyes, that excitement in her face and her voice aroused emotions in Jacob that he hadn’t experienced in years. Of course, the shapely, tanned legs exposed by her shorts, the snug fit of her red tank top, and the sweet, floral scent of her cologne had certainly added to that arousal.

Jacob wanted to know more about Cassie Monroe, to get into her head.

He gathered up the statements he’d sorted, returned them to the folder marked "this month’s bills", and tossed it on the desk. After flipping off the desk lamp, he headed into the small kitchen to retrieve a bottle of beer from the refrigerator before settling down in the living room.

He turned on some music— country, his preferred genre. Sitting in his favorite chair in the dimly lit room, he propped his feet on the coffee table and sipped his beer. While Blake Shelton crooned his hit “Lonely Tonight” over the surround system, Jacob closed his eyes and imagined what it would be like to have his newest client, Cassie Monroe, in his bed, minus the tight shorts and the red tank top.

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