“I don’t see it working.”
“Not you too?”
“Once is lucky. Twice could be coincidence. Three times…”
“Requires skill. Which we have. You’ll see.”
Scrambling to fit one more project into his already stretched to the limit schedule, the last thing Grant Whitaker needed was delays from a downpour to rival Hurricane Hilda.
The truck’s speakers sounded an incoming call and without thinking he tapped the steering wheel to answer. “Whitaker.”
“You staying dry?” his grandfather asked.
“Doing my best. How about you?”
“Your Grandmother didn’t marry a fool. I know a good time to settle in with the sports channels.” Low chatter from the television announcers hummed in the background. “Don’t suppose you’ve found a good woman to keep you home?”
Grant opted to ignore the not so subtle jab at his bachelorhood. “On my way to a construction site. The retirement village. Phase one is ready for finishes. Phase two is framed and presales for the independent living have gone so well we’re moving the groundbreaking up for the memory care unit.”
“It was pretty smart of you to build the commercial side first. Most folks would have built the housing then added the shops.”
“Where’s the fun in doing things the way most people do it?” That was a phrase his grandfather had used so often in his life that it was a standing joke with the entire family.
His grandfather chuckled. “Won’t get an argument out of me. Have you reached out to the General yet?”
“I’ve tried. For a retired man, he keeps himself hard to reach.”
“That would be retired general. Sitting still isn’t anything they do well. You didn’t give up, did you?”
“No. I took your advice. Made reservations at the lake. I agree, deals like this are better fleshed out in person.” Which was one of the reasons Grant was good at what he did. In a modern world of online meetings and texts, he understood the value of face to face contact. He’d been taught long ago that the best deals of his career would be made on the golf course. Same could be said over a cup of hot chocolate at a lakeside cabin. “It’s why I’m driving in this mess. In order to carve out a couple of days I needed to bump a few things up on my schedule.”
“Sounds good, but stay safe and when you get there, let me know if I should book your grandmother and me a cabin. I’ve heard a lot of nice things about Hart Land.”
“Will do. Give Mums my love.”
The call disconnected and Grant smiled to himself. His grandfather had taught him everything he knew about business long before Grant truly understood what was happening. If his grandfather’s lead about the Hart Land was spot on, rearranging his plans to clear time to visit Retired Marine Corps General Harold Hart would be worth spending a few hours today impersonating a drowning rat. Every developer in the northeast knew the Hart family owned the single largest section of undeveloped waterfront land on popular Lake Lawford. Grant didn’t need his Harvard degree to know this next deal could be the coup of the decade. The largest planned resort community in decades.
Through the sheets of rain, he slowed to spot the dirt road that led to the main construction site. It had taken two years to pull this not so little project off. At almost every turn the investors doubted his vision. Even his partner, Joe Fiorello, had bucked him on building commercial space first. In three states, Fiorello Construction might be the most recognizable name whenever a new building goes up, but it was Grant’s eye for a deal and gift for making it happen that had put F&W Development Co. on the world map.
Despite sitting nearly a foot off the ground in his quad cab pickup, the pot holes from the large trucks hauling earth up and down this path had him rattling around like a kid at a birthday party bounce house. At least he knew a well-worn rut in the road meant that despite the weather’s uncooperative nature, the work for the new phase was well underway.
“Hey, Mr. Whitaker. What brings you here on a day like today?” The security guard popped his head out of the small booth at the gate. The days when a construction site of this size could go unfenced were long gone. At this stage of the game a human face had to be added to the loss prevention plans.
“Just popping in for a quick check.”
“Mr. Fiorello was here earlier this morning.” A construction man to the bone, Joe could work through a typhoon if needed. Though Grant had no idea what would need him out here on a day like today.
“You stay dry, Jeff.”
“Will do. You too.” The man slid the glass window shut.
Thanks to the torrential downpour, the crew all toiled at the finishing work on the first condos. The man he wanted to check on would be in the office trailer. As soon as the rain stopped they’d be able to move out of the trailer and into the facilities office for the new maintenance building. The building at the rear of the compound would be used for storage as well. An extra layer of security. With little activity on this end of the site, and only the new site supervisor’s truck in front, he parked his pickup near the entrance. A fresh gust of wind helped shove the narrow door wide open, blowing him and the rain inside.
“Grant?” Larry looked up, eyes brimming with surprise. “Didn’t expect to see you here.”
“Yeah, well.” He shook off as much of the drenching as he could and walked over to the work table, leaving a trail of droplets in his wake. “I’ve got to head up north for a few days. This is the only time I could squeeze in coming by. How are you settling in?”
“Fine, thanks.” The supervisor cast a quick glance out the window then back. No doubt thinking the same thing Grant did—what the hell did he think he could do on a day like today?
“The investors are all over me like white on rice. I’ve never seen such a jittery bunch. I need this next phase to go off without a hitch.” Not even the dollar signs from hefty presales could squash the complaints of building too much too fast.
“Yeah,” Larry nodded, “I heard.”
Grant looked up from perusing the plans sprawled open on the table. Why had Larry heard? Grant was the only contact with the investors. Joe handled the construction and Grant handled the suits, having just enough interaction with the work sites to keep abreast.
“Something wrong?” Larry asked.
“No.” Grant brushed off his concerns. Of course Larry knew about the investors. Even though he’d kept his reports to Joe at a minimum to avoid making his partner any more doubtful about the pace of this project then he already was, the PITA investors wasn’t a secret. Especially with Larry; the guy had been supervisor on dozens of projects through the years and knew the business almost as well as he and Joe. Had saved their butts on this one, shifting projects at the last minute. “Should have had more coffee this morning.”
The foreman moved from where he’d been standing next to Larry, filled a travel mug and handed it to Grant. “Fresh pot.”
“Thanks.” He practically inhaled the first long hot gulp. Definitely the elixir of the gods. How did anyone survive a work day without coffee? He loved watching a project grow from drawing to turn key. And F&W provided the epitome of turn key. The best quality guaranteed. And they charged for it too. “Are we still running ahead of schedule for the main building?”
Larry nodded. “Told Joe we should be delivering about two weeks early.”
The size of his best supervisor’s grin was no surprise. There were hefty bonuses for everyone if a project came in early. Grant believed in spreading the windfall around and every crew member knew it. He walked over to the tiny window in the trailer. From here all he could see was the excavation. “How far behind on phase three will this weather put us?”
“Hard to say. If the squall doesn’t stall we’ll be fine. If it sits over us for a few days, well, you know how that goes.”
“Yeah.” Phase one had gone surprisingly well despite the shift in supervisors. He’d never known a project not to run into a snafu of some sort and this particular project seemed to be running almost too good to be true. Maybe his luck was about to run out.
* * *
“Namaste. And that’s it for today.” Violet clicked on the remote control, fading the music to silence.
“Will we still be here next week?” one of the two women in the class asked.
Pushing to her feet, the other woman shook her head. “I hope not. I never realized how spoiled I was having a yoga studio only a short walk from my apartment.”
Boy, did Violet know that. In the time since her yoga studio had flooded, one by one, almost all her regular clients had found an excuse to skip class at her temporary location. She’d never realized how much of her customer base was due to convenience and not a reflection on her. “It doesn’t sound like the old studio will be ready as quickly as I had hoped.”
The first lady nodded, but her expression didn’t look any more happy about the news than the other woman’s.
“Perhaps I’ll postpone classes until further notice.” She wished the two ladies didn’t look so pleased with that announcement. “You can continue to stretch on your own and as soon as we’re up and running again I’ll send out notifications.”
Grinning from ear to ear, the ladies bobbed their heads and gathered their belongings. Violet hoped silently that by the time the studio was open again she still had a client base and wouldn’t have to start her business from scratch.
“See you soon,” the shorter blonde waved.
“We hope,” the other woman added.
A towel in one hand, Violet forced a smile and waved with her free hand. Her mat rolled up and her belongings somewhat neatly tucked in her bag, she looked around the place and wondered now what? Mrs. Renfru was what. The building owner had not uttered a word in over a week. Giving the woman her space to deal with a difficult situation was one thing, but it was definitely time for Violet to speak up. After all, if she needed to find a new permanent location, the sooner the better.
Scrolling through her contacts in search of Renfru, the phone buzzed and the screen lit up with the landlady’s name. Maybe the universe was finally on her side. “Hello, Mrs. Renfru.”
“Hello, Violet. You always sound so nice and relaxed.”
“Thank you.” She’d worked hard most of her life to not allow the chaos of a busy city like Boston to steal her peace. Despite the upbeat words, something in her landlady’s tone left Violet unsure that right now she’d be able to win that particular battle. “What news do you have?”
“I’m afraid it’s not good.”
Oh, how Violet hated it when her gut instinct and her peace of mind collided.
“It seems that after the water cleanup, the company found traces of mold.”
Alarm bells rang loud and clear in Violet’s ear.
“Enough that they had to call in someone to test. That’s what’s been taking so long.”
Nothing about this woman’s tone of voice was reassuring.
“All the ground floor space affected by the flood needs to have mold remediation. Thankfully that much is actually covered by my insurance policy. At least most of it.”
Okay, Violet felt some of the tension in her shoulders ease. That wasn’t as bad as she had braced herself for.
“But not the electrical.”
“The water damaged some of the wiring. The insurance will cover the damaged wiring but according to the electrician’s estimate, once he touches any of the wiring, he’s required to bring the entire building up to code.”
And the other shoe came crashing down with the full weight of Jack’s giant.
“I simply can’t afford to do that. Not to mention once we start opening up walls, who knows what else they’ll find. Without the updates the city won’t issue a certificate of occupancy for the retail spaces.”
“No.” Hands full, Violet sank to the floor in a butterfly pose. “I can see where that’s a problem.”
“I need the rental income. I can’t—won’t—raise the tenants’ rents enough to offset the losses.”
Thank heaven for that. Violet’s rent hadn’t gone up in all the years she’d lived in Mrs. Renfru’s building. Though she suspected it was because of what she paid for the studio.
“I’m considering selling the building.”
And that would be a locked and loaded guarantee of her rents for both the apartment and the studio skyrocketing.
“My only other option is a loan from the bank, but frankly I don’t know if that will work for me. I’m not as young as I used to be.”
“You’re as young as you feel, Mrs. Renfru.” And the woman did seriously look a decade younger than her years.
“Yes, well today I’m feeling ancient. I’m sorry to keep you in limbo, but as soon as I have this together, I’ll let you know.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Renfru. And make sure to take care of yourself.” The situation might be messy, but that didn’t change the fact that her landlady was a likeable old woman. “Worrying won’t change anything.”
“No dear, no it won’t.”
Lifting to her feet, Violet disconnected the call and slid the phone into her bag. She needed to follow her own advice. Worrying wasn’t going to do anyone a bit of good. Planning, on the other hand, that was something her mother and father had drummed into her from the cradle. One of the many reasons she was able to have her own yoga studio at her age. Unfortunately, rewiring a building was not anywhere in those plans. Maybe she should ask her dad to help Mrs. Renfru. After all, what good was having banking connections if you didn’t pull a few strings now and then? And though she’d promised herself she wasn’t going to worry, she liked the idea of Mrs. Renfru fixing up the place a whole lot better than she liked the idea of a new landlord.
Violet pulled the glass door shut behind her and turned the lock. Her phone buzzed. Missed call from her grandmother. She let out a heavy sigh. What she needed now was a little of Lily’s chocolate chip banana bread, Lucy’s garlic shrimp, and her grandmother’s smile. Not necessarily in that order. A bonfire on the beach with her cousins wouldn’t hurt either, even if it was freezing outside.
Checking the time on her cell, Violet did some fast math. If she hurried home, by the time she showered and threw a few things into a bag, the height of rush hour would be over and she could make it to the lake by the first deal of the cards. The thought brought a smile to her face. She’d spent more weekends on the lake the past few months than she had in all of the last couple of years. Whatever changes this temporary setback brought, the bright side would be a plan that included more time at the lake. Yep, she could feel her Zen returning. Everything would work itself out. She was sure. She couldn’t afford not to be.
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