This is a really good investment, Gavin thought, entering Mrs. Thompson’s house again after touring the property on horseback. He loved everything he’d seen during the tour. He was already calculating and planning how he could get the greatest return on this investment.
“Are you all right, honey?” Mrs. Thompson asked Ruby after noticing how gingerly she sat down on the brown sofa beside him.
Ruby blushed. “I’m fine. I think I overdid it by riding one too many horses bareback today. Now my body is protesting.”
Gavin snapped his gaze to hers. He knew exactly who’d given her that first bareback ride – him. If he’d known that they would tour the property on horseback, he would have told Ruby to wear jeans and keep on her underwear today. He definitely wouldn’t have been so frisky with her in the car. Now he was seriously thinking about postponing all future intimacies until after the wedding.
“I’m so sorry for your discomfort, baby. I’ll see what I can do to ease your pain when we leave, okay?” Gavin said soothingly, reaching for her right hand.
“Okay.” Ruby smiled, looking enthralled by his gentle concern, as if she wasn’t used to someone putting her needs first.
Mrs. Thompson smiled with approval at them. “My husband used to be just as tender and loving with me,” she said with misty eyes. “That’s one of the reasons I never remarried.” She swallowed, looked down briefly at her weathered hands, and then lifted her gaze again. “That’s also why I have to go back on our deal. Please forgive me Ruby and Gavin, but I can’t…I simply can’t bring myself to sell the property after all.” Tears rolled down her cheeks.
Gavin and Ruby looked at her with open mouths. Only he was able to squeeze out any words. “Why the sudden change of heart, Mrs. Thompson?”
“Seeing the love between you two made me realize what I’d be giving up here. My husband had this house built for me from the ground up. My only son was born in this house and learned how to swim in that small lake out back. Not only that, but both of them are buried on this property.” Mrs. Thompson reached for a tissue off a nearby oak end table and wiped her eyes. “How can I give all that up? How can I leave…them?”
Gavin nodded with understanding.
Beside him Ruby shed her own set of tears. Yes, she cried for Mrs. Thompson’s losses, but she also cried for herself. Without this sale, they were back to square one with her father. No other houses were up for sale in the whole town, which meant they’d have to build a house. No way could she expect Gavin to build a house for a woman he was only going to be married to for a year. Surely the sex wasn’t that good between them?
If they went ahead and got married anyway without the house, what effect would that have on her father’s health? If he suddenly took sick again, would the whole family go back to hating her?
Suddenly Ruby heard the most amazing things coming out of Gavin’s mouth. Things that made her wonder how in the world she was going to last twelve months without falling madly in love with him. That’s if she wasn’t halfway there already. Actually seventy-five percent there.
“I understand your concerns completely, Mrs. Thompson. Therefore, I’d like to amend our agreement so that we all will come out winners in this deal,” Gavin began. Then he laid out plans for them to go into partnership by turning the house into a country Bed & Breakfast. The money that he would have used to outright buy the property would now be used to get this new venture started, add other features like personal baths in each bedroom, and design a private apartment in the spacious attic for him and Ruby to dwell in when they were in town.
“Your contribution will be to manage the place, Mrs. Thompson,” Gavin continued. “The salary you earn will help get you out of debt and allow you to build up a nest egg for yourself in case you ever want to take that trip to Europe you told us about during the tour. Last and most importantly of all, you get to stay close to the place and to the people you love most.”
Ruby and Mrs. Thompson grinned from ear to ear by the time he finished.
“I accept your second offer with open arms,” Mrs. Thompson gushed out, standing to give him a warm hug.
“I got next.” Ruby clapped excitedly, ready to hug the wonderful man beside her, as well. “Why didn’t we think of this before?” she said, hugging him after Mrs. Thompson released him.
“We didn’t have as much incentive before,” Gavin replied, looking at her with deep love in his eyes. “Otherwise I would have remembered that idea I had a long time ago.”
“Correct.” Ruby quickly looked away before her own eyes told on her.
Gavin lifted his left brow and cocked his head to the side. For a moment there he thought he saw love staring him back in the face. But then Ruby blinked and looked away. When she met his gaze again he saw desire in its place.
I can live with that…for now, Gavin thought as they all sat back down and hammered out this new plan.
(c) 2014 by Mi'Chelle Dodson/Suprina Frazier
(c) 2014 by Mi'Chelle Dodson/Suprina Frazier