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Baked With Love 2 (The Boardwalk Bakery Romance) - Excerpt
“Why aren’t you answering your phone, Gianna?” Ramsey asked the question as he sat in his Range in the parking lot of the building that housed Wedded Bliss. While still in Charlotte, he wanted to see Gianna before he drove back home to Lake Norman, but she wasn’t answering her phone and he was growing more anxious. More worried. Why? Because she had the appointment with Gemma’s doctor today that would determine if Gemma’s first round of chemotherapy had worked. He wanted to know if it did or didn’t. Hopefully, it did. Then he’d at least know she was on the path to beating this thing and if she came out a winner, then so would Gianna. But what if it hadn’t worked?
He sighed heavily and tapped his thumbs on the steering wheel. Should he drive to her house and wait there? No. Gianna wouldn’t like that. What about call every oncology doctor in Charlotte until he found the office where she’d taken Gemma? That was absurd, but he was giving it serious consideration. He had to find Gianna somehow.
He blew a breath, leaned forward and rested his forehead on the car’s steering wheel. He could shut off the engine, get out of the car and go back to Felicity’s office. She would know the name of Gemma’s doctor. But he’d rattled Felicity’s nerves so bad, she probably couldn’t take much more of him today. He came at her pretty strong with his proposal – with his insistence that she do her best to get Gianna to sign the papers. He could see the smoke coming out of her ears now if he stepped a foot back into her office.
He sat up and reclined in his seat. Maybe Gianna just didn’t want to talk right now. She was in big sister mode, taking care of Gemma. She needed to concentrate, right? Needed to focus. To pay attention to the doctor’s every word so she would know how to properly take care of Gemma when they returned home. But he needed to know that everything was okay. He was so desperate, he even considered sending a text message. Everyone who knew Ramsey knew he abhorred texting. He’d rather read an email than a text. He was an in-your-face kinda guy, and if for some reason you couldn’t be in his face, a phone call would suffice. But text messages? No way. But maybe texting was her thing – the way introverts preferred to communicate. He wondered if she would reply to a message if he’d sent one. Then again, if he sent her a message and she didn’t reply, he’d feel even more anxious.
He was stuck, but while he was waiting in limbo, he decided to make the best use of his time. So, he turned up the air conditioning a little, pulled in a few breaths and pressed the phone button on the steering wheel and said, “Call Judy Keffer.”
Ramsey listened to the phone ring, then heard Judy’s voice. “Good afternoon, Mr. St. Claire.”
“Judy, hi. How are you?”
Her voice was clear and professional. That’s what he liked about having Judy as his secretary. She was efficient and did her job the way he liked it done. But sometimes he didn’t like the way she shied away from telling him certain things, like if an email needed to be answered immediately, or if she had to be out of the office for a few hours to deal with some personal issues.
“How is everything at the office?” he asked.
“It’s going okay,” she said. “I flagged you on a few key emails that need your immediate attention.”
“Good. I’ll check into those when I get home. Right now, I need you to do something for me.”
“Of course, Sir.”
Looking at the photos he’d taken of Gianna’s bills on his phone, he said, “I need a good contact for a company called Queen City Properties, and by good contact, I mean the head person in charge.”
“Sure, thing. I’ll see what I can find. Do you want me to email it to you later today?”
“No. Actually, I need it right now.”
“Oh,” she said, sounding surprised. “O-kay, Mr. St. Claire. Just give me a moment. Would you like for me to place you on hold while I type?”
“No,” Ramsey said, listening as her fingers worked the keyboard.
“Ah…here we go,” Judy said. “The owner’s name is Dustin Claiborne. His number is 704-555-2009.”
“Can you repeat that?” he asked, taking a silver pen from his suit jacket. As she repeated the number, he scribbled it on the back of the most recent copy of Architectural Digest that he’d taken from the passenger seat.
“Perfect. Also, I need a number for Pinnacle Funding?”
Judy quickly looked it up, then called out that number as well.
“Thank you. I appreciate it, Judy.”
“You’re welcome, Sir. And—”
Ramsey was about to hang up when he heard her say and. “Was there anything further, Judy?”
“Yes. Actually, there is. I have a question.”
“Okay. What is it?”
“You’re off this month,” she said.
“That’s not a question, but yes, I am.”
“And I’m your secretary.”
“Judy, get to the point. What’s your question?”
“I was wondering if—if I could work from home a few days a week until you’re back. It would be nice to have some flexibility with the kids and—”
“You can work at home as much as you like, Judy, but if I have the slightest feeling that the quality of your work is diminished by your not being present in the office, I will ask you to work from the office.”
“No worries, Sir. I’ll stay on top of everything.”
“See to it that you do. Now, is there anything else?”
“Alright. Enjoy the rest of your day.”
“You do the same, Sir.”
Ramsey ended the call then immediately dialed Dustin Claiborne of Queen City Properties.
“Queen City Properties. This is Dustin.”
The man had the heaviest, countriest accent Ramsey had ever heard. It always baffled him how big city people – and Charlotte was a big city – had the accent of someone from a country backwoods town – town people have never heard of before like Colerain, North Carolina. “Good morning, Dustin. This is Ramsey St. Claire.”
“Oh. What can I do for you, Mr. St. Claire?”
Ramsey could hear the recognition in the man’s voice. While he was sure Dustin didn’t know him personally, it was apparent to him that Dustin had heard of St. Claire Architects. Maybe he’d read about them. St. Claire Architects was a big deal in Charlotte.
“I want to inquire about a property you’ve leased out at the Shoppes at University Place. The—”
“You mean out there at the boardwalk?” Dustin interrupted to ask.
“Yes. That area.”
“I got a slew of properties out there. Which one are you interested in?”
If you would allow me to finish talking, I’d tell you. “The Boardwalk Bakery.”
After a slight chuckle, Dustin responded, “Well, ain’t that a co-inky-dinky. If you’re interested in that space, it’ll be up for grabs real soon, partner. I’m putting the owner out on her tush as soon as the thirty-first rolls around. She’s late on the lease. Apparently, she ain’t selling enough cupcakes.” Dustin chuckled.
Ramsey’s jaw hardened. It’s a good thing he was talking to country Dustin over the phone because if this was a face-to-face meeting, he’d put hands on the man. Even now, he tried to let the comment roll off of his back and if the comment was made about him, he probably would have. But Dustin was talking about his Cupcake and he couldn’t let that ride. “Any, what’s so funny, man?”
“Oh, just a little humor. I didn’t mean nothing by it.”
“You’re actually laughing at someone else’s misfortune?”
“Whoa, Mr. St. Claire…I think we’re getting off on the wrong foot here, buddy.”
“I’m not your buddy and my feet are fine. It’s your feet that are crossing over into territory where it doesn’t belong.”
“My apologies, Sir. Sometimes I go off on a tangent. I get that way when tenants don’t pay their rent on time.”
Ramsey didn’t want to give him a cent. Not one copper penny. But he knew how much Gianna liked this location and besides that, the boardwalk was prime real estate for businesses. So, swallowing his irritation, he asked, “When does the lease expire?”
“Well, it’s supposed to expire at the end of the year, but I’m not sure if it’ll go that far seeing as how the property is two months behind on the lease.
“Two months behind…” Ramsey repeated.
“Okay, here’s what I want.”
“Yes, Sir. I’m listening.”
“I want to pay off the current balance and renew the contract for the next ten years.”
“You say what now?”
Ramsey frowned so hard, his forehead tightened. “I said, I want to pay off the current balance and renew the contract for the next ten years.”
The man chuckled. “I admire your ambition, Mr. St. Claire, but we only offer five-year leases. Not ten, and I’m sure you know why. In ten years, the lease could increase on a property by ten percent. Maybe even fifteen.”
“Yeah, it could, but that’s no guarantee.”
“Well, I don’t know if I’m willing to take that gamble. I’d be short changing myself if I locked this property in for ten years. Five years is all I can offer you.”
“Maybe I didn’t make myself clear,” Ramsey said. “I want to lock in the lease for ten years. I’ll pay you the $120,000 today, in addition to the past due amount of $2,100.”
Dustin chuckled. “Ten years it is, then!”
That’s what I thought. “Have the new lease dropped off at St. Claire Architects.”
“Over there on IBM drive?”
“Yes. I won’t be there, so ask for Regal St. Claire when you get to the receptionist’s desk.”
“Sounds good to me. I’ll be there before five, Sir.”
I bet you will. “And there’s no need to notify the owner of the lease update. I’ve already taken care of that.” Actually, he hadn’t but he would.
“Alright, Mr. St. Claire. Nice doing business with you, Sir.”
Whatever, moron. “Yep.” Ramsey hung up the phone and immediately voice-called Regal.
“What’s up, Ram?”
“Hey, FYI. Dustin Claiborne from Queen City Properties is going to stop by there today.”
“Why?” Regal asked. The name didn’t ring a bell.
“To pick up a check for $122,100.”
“What business do we have with Queen City Properties?”
“We don’t. I do. It’s for Gianna’s bakery.”
“Whoa. You’re investing in this chick now?”
Ramsey smiled. “I am. I need you to cut the check for me since I’m not coming over there today.”
“No problem. I got it handled, but dang, Ram. You’re going all-in for this girl, huh?”
“It’s only money, Regal. It’s not like it’ll set me back any. Even if it did, I’d still do it. For her, anyway. She’s worth it. She’s worth a lot more.”
“What’s the latest with that Wedded Bliss situation? Did you talk to Gianna’s friend yet? What’s her name? Felicity, was it?”
“Yes, and I did talk to her but I didn’t go your route of trying to juice her for information. I told her to convince Gianna to sign the marriage agreement.”
Ramsey grinned. He thought his brother would find that interesting. He didn’t expect that he’d pop a blood vessel. “You want to marry her?”
“Yes. I want to marry her. It’s the perfect arrangement, don’t you think? You can’t tell me that these individual happenings are coincidences. On a whim, I sign up for Wedded Bliss. Without even knowing why I walk into The Boardwalk Bakery. The owner of Wedded Bliss and the owner of The Boardwalk Bakery are best friends. These occurrences all came together for me and Gianna, and I was going to marry someone anyway. I had given up hope of meeting anyone who could actually mean something to me. Then she comes along…”
“I hear you man, but you’re forgetting the reason you joined Wedded Bliss in the first place. You were looking for a woman who would fulfill the roles of a wife in your life, yet remain distant enough that you could never love her. Is that what Gianna is?”
Ramsey closed his eyes briefly. “I can’t tell you what Gianna is right now.”
“Then why do you want to marry her? I get it—you have this weird fascination with her, but you’re taking it a step further with marriage, especially if you don’t think you could fall in love with her. Be real with yourself, Ram. Does she have a chance? And ask yourself if you’re willing to break her heart all because you need to fill a void.”
“I know what I’m doing, Regal.”
Regal sighed. For once, he doubted that statement. There’s no way he would fall head over heels in love with Gianna when he’d been insistent that he would never fall in love again. Now, he was making plans to marry a woman whom he really didn’t know and he knew what he was doing? “What if Gianna declines your request? What will you do then? Go back to Wedded Bliss and handpick some other woman?”
“No, I won’t handpick another woman. I just have to make sure Gianna doesn’t decline my offer. I’ll talk more about it with you later. I have to make another call right now, Regal.”
“Okay, Ram. I’ll catch up with you later.”
Ramsey pressed the button to end the call, thinking about what Regal had said. What if Gianna didn’t go along with his plan? He told Felicity to lay out the details to her on Friday which meant he had all day today, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to make Gianna realize how much she needed him. He was fully aware of his need for her.
* * *
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Paperback: Amazon | Createspace Paperback
Paperback: Amazon | Createspace Paperback