Authors: Nicole Smith
She shrugged. "Sure." They turned to the street
where he had parked. "Nice car!"
He felt a bit of owner's pride about the silver Jaguar XK.
"It's a dream to drive."
They got in and started down the street. Holly explained how
the town had made a park in the center of the town square with lots of small
business around the sides of the square. As they advanced to Main Street, Holly
"I totally forgot this is one of the first big tourist
Lots of people were in town with corresponding traffic. He
moved the car onto Main Street and saw the park she'd referred to. There were
people everywhere, crossing the street in a chaotic manner on foot.
"We could park the car and walk if you'd like,"
"Might be a good idea. But I don't see any parking spaces,"
"Don't worry. I know there's a spot behind the
She directed him to the back of the bakery and he parked the
car. "Let's go in the front and surprise the employees. They always get
nervous when I show up."
"That's right, you own this bakery."
"Yes, it was my first business and is still close to my
They walked in and Jason was hit by a swirl of incredible
smells. "Wow, this place smells fantastic."
"Come on. Let's see what kinds of goodies we have
Jason watched as she said hello to the girl at the counter
and questioned her about the specialties of the day.
"Oh Jason, you have to try one of these. They're a new
item called a Harvest Muffin."
"I usually don't eat muffins," he said, but took
it in his hand as she gave it to him. "Well, I suppose I could taste
He took a bite and looked at her in surprise.
"Good!" he mumbled around the muffin. It was filled with walnuts and finely-chopped
dried fruits in a cinnamon spice muffin. He swallowed and said, "That is a
spectacular muffin. Very moist. There's some flavor in there...I can't quite
figure it out."
She grinned at him. "That would be our secret
"Which would be...?"
She laughed. "A secret!"
He continued eating the delicious muffin, surprised at
himself for finishing it, while she moved behind the counter and bagged up
cookies and rolls.
"We can take the rolls to Deb's Deli for lunch. She
does sandwiches on them. For now, let's leave them in the car."
"I always forget people eat things like muffins or donuts
for breakfast," he said as they walked to the car.
"What do you usually have for breakfast?"
"A protein shake."
"You know, when you said that, you got this frown on
your face. Does it taste bad or something?"
"Horrid actually," he said honestly, and then
looked at her and laughed. "I always think it helps keep me healthy
"Maybe there's more to life than protein shakes."
"Just so you know, the Harvest Muffin is chock full of
things that are good for you."
"I'll remember that."
As they walked down the sidewalks of the square, Jason
noticed how many people, not tourists but townspeople, knew Holly's name.
"Does everyone know you?"
She laughed. "Yes, I think so. I've lived here all my
life, except for some time in the city. It's a small town and everyone knows
everyone's business. A high level of gossip goes on here. But there is also the
nice feeling of knowing people care about you and think about you. Places like
a big city can feel so lonely, I think. It's easy to keep your business private,
but much harder to make connections with people. I think that's why we have so
many unhappy people there."
He wondered if she ever got lonely. She seemed so vivacious
and outgoing, like she would have a million friends. He thought about his own
life. In his scramble to succeed, he hadn't held on to many friends. Actually,
now that he thought of it, all the people he knew were business acquaintances.
Old friends from college had fallen by the wayside as he focused on work. He
supposed losing friends happened when you went after your goals.
Holly had stopped to talk to a woman Jason recognized, the
woman who ran the motel he was staying at.
"I had no idea you were home, Holly," the woman
"It was a last-minute decision on my part,
"And your date here is staying at my motel--Mr. Jason
Jason started at the comment and Holly smiled. "Now
Maelynne, nobody said we were on a date. Jason is a client of mine from the
city. Don't go spreading rumors about this being a date."
"Well, you look awful pretty not to be on a date,"
Maelynne said and then walked away.
"Oh dear. There really is no telling what she's going
to report about seeing us."
Jason frowned. "But you told her I was a client."
"Ha, that won't stop her. Whatever. I said you were a
client because I'm assuming the family won't want it spread around town what
you're really doing here."
"Good idea. Especially since I'm still not convinced I
should do the project."
"Ms. Grainger--Holly. I design buildings. Large buildings.
This is a small town. I'm not sure just what I can do that would fit in with
what's already here."
"Hmm. If Rob Tremaine thinks you can do it, I wouldn't
bet against him. This actually reminds me of a town in Indiana. I was through
there on a business trip once, and the architecture in the town was stunning. I
asked about it and discovered the founders of the town and some wealthy
businesspeople had brought in architects of some renown of their time. They
were told they had carte blanche, to go wild and build interesting, different
kinds of places. So the town ended up with schools that looked like works of
art, and banks and stores that were startling in their design. Eventually, the
town developed some tourism just because of the architecture."
"And you think that's what your family wants?"
"Not quite. Clearly, the town already exists. Except
for the old post office, I'm not sure anyone would go for tearing down what's
here to put up something new and different. But what they're talking
about--yes, I think it might fit in just fine."
He looked into her earnest dark brown eyes and felt himself
being persuaded--a little bit. He already realized she was a very persuasive
woman. She was so damned enticing. Today she was wearing simple white pants and
a stretchy pink shirt tucked in at the waist. The woman was perfectly
proportioned, he noticed, and even in a basic outfit like this one, was quite
sexy. She seemed to exude sensuality.
She touched his arm and the feel of her hand against his arm
sent a jolt of energy through him. He looked at her, startled. She looked
surprised too, and moved her hand away.
"Sorry about that, did I just miss something you said?
I sometimes get too caught up in my thoughts when design ideas come to
"I wondered where you were. Let's go see a local
artist. She makes jewelry--Lucretia Evans."
"Lucretia, as in Borgia?"
"No, that would have been her mother, not meaning to
speak ill of the dead--well, okay maybe I am. Anyway, Lucretia is a lovely
woman and a talented artist."
They entered a very narrow shop with a long case of jewelry.
Lucretia was sitting on a stool behind the counter. She smiled at them as they
approached her. "You have to be the intriguing Mr. Earlington that Maelynne
told me about."
"And you're out and about with our Holly today. Holly
you have to see the latest necklace I designed with you in mind." She
reached into the case and pulled out a gold necklace with a pendant of topaz
and onyx. The stones were set within an abstract swirl of gold. "This one
I just know will look great on you. Don't you think, Mr. Earlington, Holly
should only ever wear gold with her hair?"
Jason looked at Holly. Her large brown eyes gazed back at
him thoughtfully. "Absolutely. She should always wear gold." He
couldn't decide if her deep brown eyes or her golden blond hair was her best
Lucretia smiled at him. "With your green eyes I'd make
you a tie tack out of jade."
Holly laughed. "You've got us all figured out haven't
you? What's new Lucretia?"
As the two women chatted, Jason looked at the other pieces
in the case. They were equal to what could be found in the city. He was
impressed. The small town of Sully Point had a lot to offer. The unique little
shops like this one gave it an air of creativity and artisans hard at work.
He watched Lucretia wrap up the necklace for Holly after
running her credit card. Suddenly he asked, "Did you make the pin? Holly
wore a pin to my office on her jacket. I noticed how different it was."
Holly nodded. "Yes, it was one of yours, Lucretia. The
one with the citrine stones."
"I'm glad to hear you're getting good use out of
it," the jeweler said with a delighted smile.
"I always wear your jewelry, more than any other
They said good bye and left the shop, Holly tucking the
package with the necklace into the white leather handbag hanging across her
body. "We're very lucky she's stayed in Sully Point instead of going to
"I wonder," Jason mused. "I need a gift for
someone. Maybe while I'm here I can talk to her about making something."
"We can go back now if you'd like," Holly offered.
"No, that's okay. I need to think about what kind of
piece I want to give her."
"Ah, a woman friend."
"Not exactly," he said with a grin. "My
grandmother. Even at seventy, she still loves pretty things. She's always had
bohemian tastes." He saw Holly's eyebrows had risen in surprise.
"Well, I'm sure Lucretia will be able to help you out.
Let's go get the rolls and head to the deli."
When they walked into Deb's Deli, a crowd of people called
out "Holly!" as she waved to everyone. They gave their order for
sandwiches to a woman behind the counter, after which Jason watched as Holly
moved from table to table greeting friends. He was again amazed at her ability
with people, conversing with ease whether it was to an older fisherman fresh
off the boats, a teenager with spiked hair or a young woman with two little
kids running around. Holly quickly corralled the children and had them seated
at the table eating their lunch. Jason had seen the whole thing and he still
couldn't figure out how she'd accomplished that trick.
Another woman approached him at the counter and handed over
their sandwiches. "Hi, I'm Deb, the owner."
"Hello. I'm Jason Earlington. I'm here with
Holly." He waved a hand in her direction and then pulled out his wallet to
"You know, the rumors are flying hot and heavy today
about you two. How long have you been together?"
"Together? Oh, you mean dating? We haven't. I'm one of
"I see," Deb said, looking thoughtful. "And
your business as her client brought you to Sully Point? To...what...find
personnel down here?"
He felt nonplussed and knew his face must have just gone
blank. "Uh, that is, Holly..."
"I'm back," Holly announced as she grabbed the
sandwiches off the counter. "Sorry we can't stay to chat Deb, but we have
work to do. See you later."
Before he knew it, she'd herded him out the door and across
the street into the park. "How did you know to get me out of there? I
didn't know what to say to her questions."
"I heard her. She's a good friend and a great person,
except for her love of gossip. She can rival Maelynne on a good day."
They sat down at a picnic table in the middle of the park.
Jason turned and looked at the area and was impressed by how natural a space it
was in the middle of the town. In between bites of delicious turkey sandwiches,
they talked about the project. After a while, the talk changed.
Holly asked, "So what do you do for fun, Jason? Or are
you a complete workaholic?"
He said, "Pretty much a complete workaholic. Aren't
She smiled ruefully. "I try not to be but success takes
work. Fortunately I have this place to come home to, for decompressing and de-stressing
from life in the city. How do you deal with the stress?"
He thought about it. "I guess I use my workouts at the
gym for that. I go there every day except Saturday when I let myself sleep in.
Then on Sunday I go to my grandmother's for a big leisurely lunch every weekend
I'm in town. She lives in the city."
"What about your parents?"
"They're dead," he said stiffly.
"Oh I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bring up bad
He sighed. "No, I'm sorry. I don't mean to sound so
abrupt. They died a while ago, before I had made it in my business. They missed
seeing me succeed."
Jason looked into her eyes and found only concern. No pity.
That was good. He never could stand the pity looks. She remained silent and he
found himself saying, "They were murdered--a senseless random mugging gone
wrong. It was a teenager with a gun, out for some fast cash. My father didn't
hand over the money fast enough and the kid shot them both. He's in prison
He stopped talking and wondered if Holly was some kind of
witch. He never talked about his parents' deaths with anyone. Ever. He was
staring down at his hands which were fists on the table. Gradually he
unclenched them and looked up to see a single tear fall to the table from her
eye. She wiped at her eyes and then took a deep breath.
"Thank you, for telling me."
"I don't know why I did."
"Sometimes people tell me things unintentionally."
"I'm not sure. Maybe they sense that I won't go telling
She began to pick up the wrappings from their food to stuff
into the paper bag.