Jules Grayson sat behind the mahogany desk in his office. “Why me?” He propped his elbows on the leather desk pad.
“Trust me,” Tony said.
Jules glared at his friend. Trusting others might be someone else’s nature but not his. “Why can’t one of the others be best man at your wedding?”
“They come in pairs. Lauren doesn’t want her friend to feel out of place. You’re the only bachelor left in our circle.”
And he intended to stay that way for a long time. “Why do I have to meet her now? The rehearsal will suit me.”
Tony grinned. “Trust me. The trip will be worth the time. You’ll like Grace.”
Jules straightened. He had once known a girl named Grace. She’d been the only female to turn him down. Just thinking about her brought memories of a time and place he didn’t want to remember. “I really don’t want to cross the river until the trip is absolutely necessary.”
“Just for the weekend meet and two days for the wedding. You can manage.” Tony rose. “What do you have against the village?”
“Do you have to ask? The group home. Remember how your father had to rescue me from that…that…her accusations.” Jules grasped the steel letter opener. “I’ll come. Some time on Saturday, do the meet and greet and leave Sunday morning.”
Tony paused at the door. “There is a plus. To reach my house you don’t have to enter the village.”
“Go. Let me finish some work.”
“Yes and I’ll bring the wine. Found a new shop.”
Moments after Tony left Mrs. Jamison entered with a stack of mail. She dropped the pile on his desk. “Buzz when you need me.”
“Will do.” He slit the top envelope and groaned. Not what he wanted to see. Before leaving for her honeymoon, Allie Blakefield, editor of Good Eatin’ had given him an assignment. Having contracts signed wasn’t his usual chore for the Good Magazine Group but he’d agreed. Allie wanted the owner of Sweet and Spicy Cupcakes to agree to a feature.
With three letters and four phone calls the woman owner’s answer had been no. A visit to the bakery might do the trick. He didn’t want to go there. The bakery was in the village he didn’t want to visit. Allie returned on Monday. Today was Friday. He sucked in a breath. Never leave a job undone was his rule.
His hand hovered over the phone. A call hadn’t worked. When Allie had asked he’d figured obtaining the contract signature was a no-brainer. What bakery wouldn’t want to be featured in a national magazine? He’d had a failsafe plan. Mail the contract. Make a phone call or two. Answer questions. Contract signed. Hadn’t happened. The time had arrived to use some personal charm.
Jules buzzed Tony’s cell. The moment his friend answered, Jules’ gut clenched. Though he hated asking he would. “Tony.”
“Are you backing out?”
Jules chuckled. “Not happening. Just wondering if I could stay tonight. I’ve some business fro Good Eatin’ across the river today.”
“No problem. I’ll call Lauren. What time will you arrive?”
“Around noon. I’ll drop off my bag, see to business and swing back.”
“Good enough. TGIF. I’ll be home around three. Good luck with your whatever.”
“Sales pitch for Allie.” Jules disconnected. He shoved two copies of the contract in his briefcase and tended to the rest of the mail. Nothing urgent. The clock chimed the half hour.
With briefcase in hand he paused at his secretary’s desk. “I’ll be out of town until Monday. Buzz my cell of anything needs to be handled quickly and I’ll check in with the service. Take the afternoon off.”
Jules waved. When he thought about his destination his stomach churned. Though he didn’t want to spend time in the village of his nightmares he had to finish the task. Lately he’d grown to hate the investigative work. Was a career change possible? He had other skills and knowledge.
After a stop at
his apartment for clothes he sat behind the wheel of his Jeep. He clutched the
keys in his fist. Waves of nausea assaulted him. He gulped a breath. He could do this. Two events had forced
his tip across the bridge to the
Trouble comes in threes. Business and a wedding weren’t the problem. Trouble existed in the memories of the place where his life hand imploded.
His weekender and briefcase sat on the passenger’s seat. He’d packed enough clothes for the weekend.
You can do this. The words spiraled in a
never ending chain in his thoughts. He shoved the key in the ignition, revved
the engine and drove from the underground garage. As the vehicle emerged into
the light, Jules grinned. Something about being higher than the taxis and
sedans made him feel powerful. He wove through the lines of cars and headed for
the upper level of the
A glance at the sky showed clouds gathering. Snow predicted meant an early covering to white over city sidewalks and brown suburban lawns.
Not long after
He gripped the wheel. The vehicle veered right. If he didn’t calm down he would run off the road or into another car. He spotted the turnoff for an overlook and pulled into the parking lot.
Get a grip.
down and walked to the railing at the edge. He stared at the gray waters of the
You can do this. The mantra ran through his head. He revised his plans. He would drop his clothes at Tony’s, charm the owner and obtain her signature. No sweat.
He strode to the Jeep and entered the flow of traffic. After leaving the Parkway he sped along the winding road and finally found the turnoff into Tony’s street. He reached the development and located his friend’s massive house. He pulled into the circular driveway, grabbed the overnighter and walked to the house.
Lauren answered the door. She held her nephew on her hip. Jamie burbled. “Ju. In. In.”
“Hello to you.” He tapped the small boy’s nose and kissed Lauren’s cheek. “I gather you were warned.”
“He phoned. Good to see you but you make me lose the bet.”