The Last Boyfriend(5)

By: Nora Roberts

“Once you shut up, I can get started.”

“Brochures, website, advertising, finalizing room rates, packages, room folders.”

“Not my job.”

“Exactly. Count your frigging blessings. How much longer for the revised plans on the bakery project?” Owen asked Beckett.

“I’ll have them to the permit office tomorrow morning.”

“Good deal.” He took out his phone, switched it to calendar. “Let’s nail it down. I’m going to tell Hope to open reservations for January fifteenth. We can have the grand-opening deal on the thirteenth, give us a day for putting it all back together. Then we’re up.”

“That’s less than a month,” Ryder complained.

“You know and Beck knows and I know there’s less than two weeks’ work left here. You’ll be done before Christmas. If we start the load-in this week, we’ll be done by the first, and there’s no reason we won’t get the Use and Occupancy right after the holidays. That gives two weeks to fiddle and fuss, work out any kinks, with Hope living here.”

“I’m with Owen on this. We’re sliding downhill now, Ry.”

Stuffing his hands in his pockets, Ryder shrugged. “It’s weird, maybe, just weird thinking about actually being done.”

“Cheer up,” Owen told him. “A place like this? We’re never going to be done.”

On his nod, Ryder heard the back door open, shut, the sound of heavy boots on tile. “We’ve got crew. Get your tools.”

* * *

OWEN KEPT BUSY, and happy, running crown molding. He didn’t mind the regular interruptions to answer a call, return a text, read an email. His phone served as a tool to him as much as his nail gun. The building buzzed with activity, echoed with voices and Ryder’s job radio. It smelled of paint and fresh-cut wood, strong coffee. The combination said Montgomery Family Contractors to him, and never failed to remind him of his father.

Everything he’d learned about carpentry and the building trade he’d learned from his dad. Now, stepping off the ladder to study the work, he knew his father would be proud.

They’d taken the old building with its sagging porches and broken windows, its scarred walls and broken floors and had transformed it into a jewel on the town square.

Beckett’s vision, he thought, their mother’s imagination and canny eye, Ryder’s sweat and skill, and his own focus on detail, combined with a solid crew, had transformed what had been an idea batted around the kitchen table into reality.

He set down his nail gun, rolled his shoulder as he turned around the room.

Yeah, his mother’s canny eye, he thought again. He could admit he’d balked at her scheme of pale aqua walls and chocolate brown ceiling—until he’d seen it finished. Glamour was the word of the day for Nick and Nora, and it reached its pinnacle in the bath. That same color scheme, including a wall of blue glass tiles, contrasting with brown on brown, all sparkling under crystal lights. Chandelier in the john, he thought, with a shake of his head. It sure as hell worked.

Nothing ordinary or hotel-like about it, he mused—not when Justine Montgomery took charge. He thought this room with its Deco flair might be his favorite.

His phone alarm told him it was time to start making some calls of his own.

He went out, then headed toward the back door for the porch as Luther worked on the rails leading down. Gritting his teeth, he jogged through the cold and bitter wind across the covered porch, down to ground level, then ducked in through Reception.

“Fucking A it’s cold.” The radio blasted; nail guns thumped. And no way, he decided, would he try to do business with all this noise. He grabbed his jacket, his briefcase.

He ducked into The Lounge, where Beckett sat on the floor running trim.

“I’m heading over to Vesta.”

“It’s shy of ten. They’re not open.”


Outside, Owen hunched against the cold at the light, cursed the fact that traffic, such as it was, paced and spaced itself so he couldn’t make the dash across Main. He waited it out, his breath blowing icy clouds until the walk light flashed. He jogged diagonally, ignored the Closed sign on the glass front door of the restaurant, and pounded.