“I really wish you’d consider my proposal.” The second the words were out of his mouth, her smile and the light in her eyes were gone. He regretted the need to keep bringing it up, but there was nothing for it. He had a job to do, and a huge deal to close.
“There is nothing to consider, Mr. Stevenson. I won’t sell you my store. Look around you. I’d be a fool to let this go.”
She was right and he was smart enough to know it. “You’re a fool if you don’t. You can’t win against me.” He delivered the rehearsed line with all the false bravado he felt coursing through him.
She shrugged. “Maybe not, but I sure as hell won’t be going quietly. So, you do what you need to do, and I’ll do what I need to do which right now, is play with some knives and try my damnedest not to imagine that I’m stabbing you.” She grinned at him but it never reached her eyes. “Have a good day.”
“Think about your employees.” He appealed to her as he glanced to the two young workers behind the counter.
“I don’t have employees.”
“Then what are they?”
“They go to the culinary school. This is part of a new hands-on training class.”
Samuel considered her for a moment longer. He couldn’t help but wonder what she was playing at. What did she mean by new? New, new? An experimental thing? Or was it just a ploy to keep him at bay?
They stared one another down for a few long, drawn out seconds before she nodded curtly and turned on her heel, disappearing into the kitchen.
Several people stared at him. He still held the box of what was likely the only nice thing she would ever give him. He nodded and tried to smile at those around him, but probably didn’t carry it off well. He would take her refusal back to the board. They would want to move on it legally and much as he hated that thought, they didn’t have any other choice but to force her out.
He maneuvered through the crowded bakery and out the front door. He tried not to think about the fact that the condos they were planning to build would erase the smell of homemade pastries from this section of the downtown area and erase a thriving piece of her childhood memories.
In an otherwise deserted area, thanks to his company’s money, Samantha Dawson’s sticky bun shop was the only bright spot of color and chatter along this stretch.
He glanced around the front of The Sticky Cowgirl with its bright white and lemon yellow awning and sign that looked hand carved and carefully crafted. The metal tables and chairs, liked ones found years ago outside cafes were painted the same shade of yellow. She’d created a cheerful atmosphere and a warm welcome.
“Damn,” he whispered to himself. He didn’t want to know all this. He didn’t want to see her as a person or as providing something valuable to the people who patronized her shop. That would only make things harder on him. She’d been right earlier when she said it was easier for him to see numbers, to never see the humanity.
Samuel closed his eyes and took a deep breath, opened them again and started walking, but not before he opened the box he held and cut through the pastry with the fork she’d given him. He should toss it into the trash, but he couldn’t. It was a gift and she’d seemed genuinely puzzled that he’d never had one before.
The sugars melted on his tongue. The dough was perfect, or what he imagined was perfect in terms of dough. The flavors all blended together and as he swallowed, a slight hint of orange tickled his throat.
He’d never tasted anything like it and couldn’t resist another bite and then, another until it was gone. His mother would be appalled by his eating from a cardboard box with a plastic fork while standing on the river walk, but it had been heavenly and he hadn’t been able to stop.
He had a feeling he’d have been that way with the baker too if they’d met under different circumstances. He wiped his mouth with a napkin, also given to him by Samantha Dawson and tossed it, the box, and the fork into a recycle bin. With one foot in front of the other, a single thought floated on repeat through his head: Sometimes business sucked.
Have a great Tuesday.