Matt finished his stretches, toweled himself down, and walked to the door of the small gym. His arms burned after the chest and back workout he’d just completed. The door opened inward, and Isaak, the owner of the local bar, Traders, stepped into the gym.
“Hey, Matt, how’s it going?”
Isaak flexed his biceps. “Growing daily.”
Matt laughed. “Good for you. I might be in to see you tonight. I had some great news last night, so a celebration is in order.”
Isaak raised an eyebrow. “Great news? Sounds intriguing. Business or personal?”
Matt smiled. He and Isaak had had many late-night discussions over drinks at Traders about their lack of success with women. He knew that personal was code for a woman.
“Business. An unexpected opportunity came up last week, and the contracts were signed last night.” Matt glanced at his watch. “I’ve got to go. But I’ll tell you more tonight. Top shelf on me.”
“No arguments here,” Isaak said with a grin.
Matt strode from the gym, doing his best to contain his smile. Developments in Hope’s Ridge were never easy. Everywhere he turned, he seemed to come up against objections. But this was different. He’d purchased the town’s most iconic building, and his only plan was to make it an even better space for both the townsfolk and vacationers to enjoy. He was already picturing enjoying drinks overlooking Lake Hopeful at the new sunset bar he intended to build on the building’s existing roof. For once, the universe was working in his favor. He couldn’t imagine anyone in town objecting to this plan—the development of the buildings next door, perhaps, but not the Sandstone Cafe.
An hour later, showered and dressed, Matt gathered his computer and briefcase, ready to head to his office. Zane was officially starting work for him today, and he wanted to be in the office before him. His stomach rumbled, reminding him that the protein drink he’d had after the gym wasn’t enough. He picked up his car keys, deciding to stop off at Irresistibles on the way to his office. He definitely needed coffee and a muffin.
Ten minutes later, he stood in front of the serving window, already having devoured a muffin, holding his hand out for the to-go cup Orla was passing him.
“Asha taking a day off?”
Orla shook her head. “She had a meeting scheduled here with Andy, which is why I’m here helping out. The meeting only lasted a few minutes, and then Asha took off in a hurry. She looked furious.” She gave him a conspiratorial smile. “I’m glad she wasn’t after me; that’s all I can say.”
Matt laughed. “Thanks for the coffee. I hope for your sake she returns in a better mood.”
“There she is now,” Orla said, dropping her voice and nodding at the parking area.
Matt turned as the door of Asha’s van opened. She closed it and strode toward them.
“Morning, Ash.” He smiled as she neared. “Your raspberry muffins are to die for. I couldn't help myself, I ate the whole thing while Orla got my coffee ready.”
“Glad you enjoyed it.” Asha stared at him and seemed to be waiting for him to say more.
Matt couldn’t help but notice her red-rimmed eyes. He didn’t feel that he knew Asha well enough to ask, but he hoped everything was okay.
She was still staring at him. He shifted uncomfortably, feeling like he needed to say something. “Got a busy day ahead?”
Asha shook her head. “Not as busy as I thought it would be.”
“Well, I have.” He grinned and raised the coffee in a gesture of thanks. “Better get moving. Have a great day, and I'll see you again tomorrow for another muffin. Can't believe how good they are.” He turned and began walking to his car. Whatever had happened had affected her. He hesitated for a split second before continuing toward the BMW. Orla had said she was meeting with Andy, the town’s realtor. Surely Andy would have told her days ago that the Sandstone Cafe was no longer available for lease.
Matt turned at Asha’s voice and waited as she moved toward him.
“Why didn't you tell me you'd planned to buy the Sandstone Cafe?”
He frowned. “I don't usually discuss my development plans with anyone until they're finalized.” And he didn’t. He’d been burned before and now knew better than to share any information about opportunities with anyone.
“But I told you I was planning to lease the premises for my own business.”
“And if the owner hadn't agreed to sell, then that probably would be exactly what would have happened, and I would be disappointed to have missed out.”
“You don't think you owe me an apology?”
“An apology? Asha, it's business. I’ve been in discussions, planning the development of the other three lots on that corner for months. The cafe coming onto the market was a huge bonus. It means what I am planning won’t just be good, it’ll be fantastic.”
Asha shook her head. “You don't care, do you?”
“Would you be apologizing to me if the sale had fallen through? Of course not. You'd be pleased that it all worked out in your favor. Exactly as I'm pleased for myself and the town. It will bring more tourists. The shops will all benefit, as will the rental operators. I won't be able to supply everything to the vacationers; they'll get the benefit of the overflow, as will you.”
“If your plans are approved,” Asha said.
Matt's eyes narrowed. “What's that supposed to mean? Are you planning to lodge objections?”
“On what grounds? Sour grapes?” She was serious. He couldn’t believe it. His discussions about the real estate on that corner had been going on for months. Well before Asha had shown any interest in leasing the Sandstone Cafe. The look on her face, however, told him she was dead serious. He laughed. “I don't think the council will pay too much attention to that line of attack. Grow up, Ash. If you want to succeed in the business world, you roll with the punches. One door closes, you make another one open. Playing the victim won’t help you.”
Asha’s face hardened. He glanced down at her hands, which were now in fists. He would have laughed again, except he knew it would just make her angrier. Was she seriously considering punching him?
“I'm not playing the victim. I told you about my plans for the cafe weeks ago. If the situation were reversed, I would have come to you and let you know that I had plans for the premises. I wouldn't have let you be blindsided the morning you went to sign the lease.”
Matt shrugged. “Not my problem. Andy should have been in touch with you earlier. Listen, I need to get to work. I have a meeting with my project manager this afternoon to prepare for.”
He turned and strode the last few feet to the BMW. She was furious, he could see that, but this wasn’t his fault. Andy should have done his research better to see if the owner was thinking of selling. It was smart business.
He slipped into the driver’s seat, put the coffee in his drink holder, and glanced in the rearview mirror. Asha, hands on hips, was staring at the car. She looked like she might explode. He hesitated for a moment. He should probably get back out and make peace with her. He didn’t need any objections to his plans for the café, or an enemy. They’d known each other for years, and Hope’s Ridge was a small town. He glanced in the mirror again; her face was even redder than before. No, he wouldn’t get out now. He needed to wait until she had a chance to calm down. Hopefully, she’d realize that it was business, and he hadn’t set out to sabotage her plans. Regardless he’d come back later with some flowers and try to smooth things over.
He put the car into drive and slowly drove in the direction of Main Street and his office. He was only fifty yards along the road when a loud bang caused him to slam on the brakes. Something had hit the trunk of his car. He looked in the mirror to see Asha brushing her hands together. Had she? No. He shook his head in disbelief. No, she wouldn’t have thrown something at the car, would she? Looking at the satisfied smile spreading across her face, he realized that not only would she, she had.
Fury rose inside him. Something to celebrate, he’d said to Isaak earlier. What a joke. He reversed and opened his window. Imagine if he threw a rock at her food truck. She’d probably call the police. He took a deep breath, wanting to demand an apology. But the look on Asha’s face told him he wasn’t going to get that or any other civil conversation from her. Fine, if she wanted a war, she’d get one. He had a lot more power to damage her than throwing a rock. He did his best to push aside his anger and instead spoke calmly.
“You'll regret that, Asha. You'll really regret it.”
Matt shook his head and pressed the button to close his window. He pushed on the accelerator harder than needed, and the car lurched away from her. So much for the universe working in his favor. His jaw clenched as his anger escalated. He hoped she realized that when he’d said, you’ll regret that, it wasn’t just words; it was a promise.
Matt definitely keeps this promise to Asha, as you’ll discover in the full story of Finding Hope’s Ridge. Click here to keep reading.
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