Friday, July 26, 2013

Harvey and Lori Ferguson Ch. 23 Saturday Morning News

Previously:

Young Valrae Ferguson talked her mother, Lori, into accompanying Val on a play date with her best friend, Scarlett Caswell. This was because Scarlett had a two year old sister who was very cute and Valrae had been urging her mother to consider having a baby.

The visit went well and Lori did spend some time playing with little Monie but, unfortunately Valrae's father, Harvey, said that Lori's new bakery had only been open a year and took a lot of her time. Too much time to be able to have a baby. A baby that would most likely turn out to be twins since both Harvey and Lori are twins and so are Gray and Valrae. He also pointed out that they were still living with Harvey's parents since their home burned to the ground and had not yet decided whether to rebuild or find another place entirely.

The Present:

It was a potentially blistering Saturday morning when Harvey made the announcement to the family that they had decided not to rebuild the burned out house. They had just sold it, as was.

"We bought another place," he said, and his blue, blue eyes went in turn to each face at the table and then came back to Lori who gave him a slight nod of encouragement.

"Is it far away?" Mamie asked, concern on her softly aging face. She'd loved having them so close all these years and especially now that they'd stayed with her and Grandpa Shep. What if they moved out of town? Her husband put his hand over hers,

"Now, Madeleine, it would be much easier for them to be in Bluewater where the bakery and gym are."

Harvey shook his head no,

"We're staying in Pleasantview, don't worry; after breakfast I'll show you the place."

Gray and Valrae instantly began to squirm in their seats with excitement,

"I'm full, I don't want any more pancakes," Gray insisted. He loved his mother's sausage pancakes and he'd only demolished one and a half, whereas she usually had to stop him after 4. But the thought of seeing where they would be living was just too much.

"Me, too," Valrae tried to disguise her breakfast which was mostly uneaten, by conspicuously crumpling up her napkin and tossing it nonchalantly over the plate of food.

Lori smiled at Harvey,

"I think you'd better stop a minute and do it now or no one will eat their breakfast."

"Oh, my goodness, I'll have to clear the table first and--" Mamie said, jumping to her feet.

Grandpa Shep was looking down at his plate with clear regret; his appetite hadn't been diminished one bit. Nothing ever did that especially when a steaming hot plate of sausage pancakes covered with boysenberry syrup was concerned.

"Don't do that, Mom, this won't take long at all and we can be right back here," Harvey said.


With everyone but Lori confused yet filled with curiosity, Harvey led them all out to the front yard. Lori stood at his side but the twins and his parents were looking at him questioningly.

"Turn around and face the street," he instructed them, "I want you to look out at the town from here. Look to the left and all the way to the right. Then tell me what you see."

He stood behind Valrae and put his hands on her little shoulders. Gray spoke first, pointing to his left.

"Over there I see our first house we ever lived in and the Little Woods on the corner."

The "Little Woods" was a vacant lot with a large stand of trees on it. The twins had sometimes played fort there when their parents didn't know; Harvey and Lori being strict about respecting other people's property. Grandpa Shep knew, but he pretended not to see.

"And behind the Little Woods I see the Burb house," Valrae added.




"You bought back your old house?" Mamie asked, "Isn't it too small?"

Harvey didn't answer her but only said,

"What else do you see?"

Their eyes scanned across all the way to the ocean. Grandpa Shep spoke up, looking at the barn red house,

"I see the Wilson place, Mark put it up for sale? Say, that's some prime property. There's only three of us in town right on the bay; your folks, Lori, the Wilsons and us. You'll get that additional little house that they use as an office for his car restoring business. I never thought he'd sell it, though. He has the biggest pond in town besides the one at the park.

"You don't see anything else?" Lori prompted, looking perplexed. How could they not see it?

Gray shrugged.

"Thee is a fourth house on the bay; what about the Brace-Gidion mansion?" Harvey asked, "That big pink Victorian?"

The mansion had been empty nearly 20 years. The owner had kept the large yard in repair, but there were windows broken here and there and then boarded up due to kids throwing rocks on a dare.

"The ghost house!" Gray muttered, awe in his voice and fright on his face. He had loved talking to the ghost captain on the derelict pirate ship on Twikkii Island, but the chance of waking up one night to chains rattling and a shadowy apparition hovering at the end of his bed was another thing entirely.

Meanwhile, Valrae clasped her hands together in rapture,

"Oh, it's so awesomel, Daddy, so quaint and old-fashioned!"


"You didn't, Harvey," Mamie's hand flew to her cheek in shock.

"Of course, there will be a lot of work to do, but we think it will be an amazing project, Mom, and we got it for a song. Don't forget Harvey is an architect," Lori said and she smiled indulgently at him, "A really wonderful architect who has been away from it for far too long."

"It's a beautiful old house with good bones; it just needs some special attention," Harvey obviously relished the idea, "Lori and I want to keep it as much like original as possible allowing for a modern day family living there and requiring some new technology."

"Well, I'm glad you will be so close; the kids can easily walk over here in a few seconds to use the pool or the pond," Mamie said hopefully.

"That's true," Harvey said, "Although I expect we will put in a pool at some point. The yard is hilly but not impossible."

"It's going to be the showplace of the town by the time we're done," Lori smiled.

"You'll be competing with that huge new home they built on the other side of town, young lady," Grandpa Shep warned with a grin.

"Yes, it will be bigger than ours, but we'll have more character," Lori teased back.

"Well, that's all the news for now. We will be closing soon and when we get the keys we will all go over and you can have the tour," Harvey said, turning and leading the way back to the kitchen to their no longer steaming, but still warm pancakes.

Valrae's Journal

We are going to live in a mansion! And Mumma told me it is all old-fashioned inside and I just love that! We may even be able to keep some of the old furniture there to use. I have been looking up Victorian houses online and they are so pretty. She says ours will be beautiful when she and Daddy are done. And Gray and I will have our own rooms at last. It's exciting but Mumma says it will take some time and a lot of work. We'll stay here with Grandpa Shep and Mamie for now. It IS called the ghost house by everyone in town, but Gray and Daddy have both talked to the ship captain ghost at Twikkii, so they can talk to any ghosts and ask them politely to leave. Unless it is a beautiful lady ghost and then she can stay but not in my room.

A lot of times my Aunt Debbie puts pictures up online about her life in Pinenut Dorm at University. She is Grandpa Shep and Mamie's youngest child. She was adopted as a little girl, but that was before I was born when Daddy and Aunt Holly were kids.

She is dating Brand Generica, and her cousin and best friend, Jessamyn Blackford, is going with Brand's friend, Danny Williams. Brand has long hair which I don't like long hair on boys, do you? But...he is still kinda cute. I guess. I think Danny is cuter though, even though he wears glasses. So I think Aunt Debbie and Jessamyn should swap boyfriends so Aunt Debbie can have the cutest boy. I mean, they are best friends, couldn't they work something out? I like our cousin Jessamyn, but my first loyalty must be to Aunt Debbie.

Mumma said in her strictest voice that I was definitely NOT to mention any of this to Aunt Debbie when I talk to her on Facebook, or when she comes home. Then she added,

"It's none of your business anyway, young lady."

But I overheard Mumma (yes, I know, I was eavesdropping again) telling Daddy about my idea of swapping boyfriends and she was laughing. I couldn't hear what Daddy said about that because his voice is so low that if you're not right in the room with him or unless he is yelling like this: "Who opened two cartons of milk--again!" all you can hear is a deep rumble. You can't tell what words he is saying. So I only get to hear half of their conversation most of the time. Rats.

Here is Mamie with Aunt Debbie when she first came to live with them, isn't she adorable?


Here are some of Aunt Debbie's pictures on Facebook. 1st one: Aunt Debbie and Danny. He is Jess's b.f., see, isn't he cute? 2nd one is Aunt Debbie and her friend Colleen playing pool in the lobby at Pinenut Dorm.
                     
                     
Below the 1st one is Jess, Danny, Aunt Debbie and Brand. The 2nd photo is Brand. He does have pretty eyes, I just don't like his hair or that wispy thing on his chin. I like boys to have a regular mustache like Daddy mainly. And the third photo is of Aunt Debbie playing poker with Danny, Sierra and Drew.
                    
                                          

Grandpa Shep always looks at Aunt Debbie's photos on her Facebook page and says,

"I hope she's managing to squeeze a few academic classes into her busy social schedule."

When he says that it makes Mumma giggle. When it comes to Grandpa Shep, Mumma just loves him to death and she teases him all the time and he teases right back. He says it makes him feel young again. Daddy looks a lot like him when you look at old photos or the portraits on the wall of Grandpa when he was younger and even when he was a private eye. When Mamie was young she was a famous society beauty in San Francisco. I've seen the pictures and paintings and she looked like a movie star. Grandpa Shep met her when he was on a case--isn't that exciting and dramatic?


I have to go now on account of Mumma just looked in here and said "Lights Out, sweetie".

I love you and you love me,

Valrae Melora Ferguson






Monday, July 22, 2013

The Brothers Everhart Ch. 22 Big Changes


Pepper slipped into Prince's office quietly and stood in front of his desk as he looked up from his screen.

"Sit down, Pep, you're gonna give me a crick in my neck," he smiled, "And relax, you look tense. That's not like you."


She sat down gingerly and when he looked at her with one eyebrow quirked she realized she was perched on the edge of the chair as though ready to take flight. Taking a deep breath she made herself sit all the way back.

"Good girl. Okay, here are some of the things I've been thinking about."

She had brought in her tablet and as she readied it he said,

"Oh, don't worry about making notes just yet. I simply want to explain a few things first," he said and she laid it down on the chair beside her.

"You have noticed, I'm sure, that the two offices next to ours have been vacant and up for sale for months with no takers," he went on and she nodded, "Well I've decided I want to buy those. So, I will need you to get in touch with Lassiter-Caswell Realty so we can make them an offer."

"Yes, sir. Right away."

"Don't you want to know why I'm buying them?"

"Why you wish to purchase them is none of my business, sir. Making sure it happens the way you want it to is my business."

"I wouldn't ask you if I didn't want your opinion," he said, his face not giving away a thing.

"Well, then, I'm a bit confused as to why you want to buy them--are you planning on renting them out?"

"No, they're for Everhart Financial Consulting. I want to get rid of the wall between them and make them into a large boardroom," he was back to smiling now as though well content.



"But...," Pepper floundered, "But, the company doesn't have a board of directors, sir."

"Well, I plan to remedy that. I'd like my brothers and my father to be on the board. We don't have to meet all the time, a board of director can even meet just annually, although I expect it will be more like bi-monthly or every three months."

"Yes, sir," she was fighting to keep the surprise off her face.

"It makes sense; my father is a trust fund baby and banker, but he also was successful at starting a a string of electronic stores before he retired a couple years ago; Perry quit his job as D.D.A. and went into private practice doing corporate law. As it turns out Prescott did not really leave the police force to become a grease-monkey like he told us, but was undercover and is now a police detective. Even my baby brother, Parker, is finally shaping up nicely, he just started working as an architect, although he is just at entry level. I think they could all have valuable input since I want the business to expand."

Pepper was amazed to hear him talk about his family; she knew his brother Perry was a lawyer, but what he said regarding Pres and Parker was news to her. And he never talked about his parents; she only wished he'd tell her more about them. But she hid all this, letting only the normal interest of an assistant show on her face.

"Now, I want this transaction to go through as quickly as possible," he told her, "And to expedite it, tell Lassiter & Caswell we can pay in cash. They're losing money with each month that goes by and they should jump on it. Besides I don't want them to decide to try renting the offices instead."

"I'll get right on it," she promised.

"As soon as we own it I want you to see about the wall doing down and making one room and then redecorating the room."

"Certainly."

"You know my taste by now so I'm confident you will do well," he'd been scanning some notes of his own. He wanted to make sure he didn't forget anything. Unfortunately, as usual, he'd pulled out a couple of crumpled paper balls and then attempted to un-crumple them. Pepper watched him try to make sense of them for a few seconds and then she leaned forward,

"May I, sir?" she asked and, looking sheepish, he let her scoop up the crunched notes,

"I did it again," he muttered, rolling his eyes and giving her that wicked grin of his.

Pepper permitted a small smile, then said,

"Okay, this one is in regard to a female friend, evidently. There is an address and a phone number...the name Bambi...and I believe these must be her...oh, no they can't be; that would mean...well, okay...yes they are a woman's measurements. I see it is not your handwriting, though. But if you will you be seeing her again I need to put her in the system. Do you want me to do that?"

Prince leaned over the desk and snatched it out of her fingers, his face grim,

"Um, no, that was just the other night and I...no."

Pepper had stumbled through that one but had not revealed anything by her expression. Someone had obviously written down what all they thought Prince wanted to know about some woman probably the curvaceous "Bambi". Bambi, indeed. Well by her measurements it should be "Barbie".

He noticed her still watching him and he crumpled up the note again and threw it in the wastebasket.

She perused the other wrinkled note,

"Okay, this one is your handwriting, but you wrote it so hurriedly I can't read all of it. You've got "caterer" and "bar" underlined, though, does that help?"

"Oh, yes, I just needed a reminder. As soon as all the decorating is done I want to throw a sort of "after hours" cocktail party for our clients. I want an open bar and catered appetizers. Don't buy a table and chairs for the boardroom until after the party, but furnish it with seating around the perimeter of the room."

Pepper's head was buzzing, but she was determined to do a good job and live up to his expectations. She'd never designed a room before; the two offices they had now had already been seen to by an interior decorator before she was hired. She'd never organized a party before either, but surely it would be no problem.


"I'll have it all set up for you," she assured him confidently.

"I know you will," Prince nodded and then looked askance at her carefully neutral, brutally dull pantsuit and sensibly ugly shoes, "You'll need to get an appropriate cocktail dress, I think. I know you like to dress low-key, but your your usual suits won't be quite right for the party. Now, my sister-in-law, Lalique, could go with you if you're unsure about what to get, she's a real fashion plate and she loves to shop according to my brother."

"Me?" Pepper gasped, her eyes almost popping, "But why do I have to be there? I'm just your secretary. I can get it all ready and just stick around in my office where they always see me, just to make sure everything goes smoothly regarding the refreshments. But I don't think it's right for me to be at the party with you."


He looked at her, a frown puckering his forehead,

"Of course you have to be there with me. I--I need you," he insisted, "You know all the people on the guest list as well as I do. And you're more than a secretary and you know it; you're an executive assistant. I told you that I consider you a vital part of this company; I want the clients to know that and feel when they talk to you they are talking with someone in authority who represents Everhart Financial Consulting."

Pepper didn't know whether to cry happy tears over his opinion of her work, or cut her own throat at the thought of being center stage at this party. Whenever she'd attended any party in her entire life it had been an awkward and humiliating failure. When it came to business, conversation was easy and she was always in control of every aspect, but she was absolutely no good at small talk in her personal life.

Then it occurred to her; she'd been wishing she could spruce up a bit, hoping somehow that Prince might think of her as not just his employee. Yet she didn't feel she could contradict the impression she'd made initially when she'd been hired. She hadn't wanted Prince to notice her as a woman then. This could be her big chance to make a change. He actually had requested that she not dress as she usually did for this particular social event. It was a big step and taking a big chance--did she dare? Yes, she did.

"All right; I'll find an appropriate garment, sir," she told him, "No need to bother your sister-in-law."

He looked dubious but nodded,

"Good."


She retreated to her office but after an hour or two Prince came out to get coffee and hung around for a bit, gazing out the window, not revealing his thoughts. He was almost introspective and Pepper had never seen him when he didn't seem to be be simply living in the moment. This day seemed so topsy-turvy to her. Some wonderful things had occurred; like Prince getting a clean bill of health at last, and his complimentary comments about her work. But this party would be hanging over her head like the sword of Damocles for weeks.




****************************************


Six weeks later Prince strolled through Pepper's office for the after-hours party expecting to see her there already. She'd done an amazing job on the new boardroom, supervising everything while still taking care of the day to day office concerns.

Prince had gone home to shower and change at 3:30 p.m. and had told Pepper to close the office for the day as he left, only unlocking the door at 5. She lived in Bluewater Village, though, so she'd told him she would shower and change in the small washroom off the new boardroom. She'd made sure to install a shower so that when Prince came back from jogging at lunch he could use it. Walking through his own office, he heard her in the boardroom talking to someone. Were the guests arriving already?


He'd almost forgotten about the caterers who would set up two bars along with attending bartenders and a buffet of appetizers. He wondered who the very attractive guest was talking to one of the bartenders and he started over there to greet the woman, still not sure where Pepper was, but figuring she was still changing. Quiet jazz was playing over the speaker.

And then he realized the "attractive guest" was Pepper and she was giving the bartenders a few instructions.


She looked like another person entirely and he was totally blown away. She was wearing a black and white polka dot dress--but what a dress. Short and clingy, it bared her shoulders; he'd never imagined she had such lovely shoulders. Her usual owlish glasses were nowhere in sight and clearly he'd also not been aware that her eyes were so large and bottle-green in color. They slanted up a little on the outside corners and were surrounded by lashes a mile long.

Her hair was swept up, but it wasn't the severe style she usually wore, it was casual and almost playful. Made a man want to remove a few pins and let it fall down loose.

Then he noticed she was even wearing lipstick and if he'd thought her lips were fascinating before; they were a sensual invitation now. He knew some men didn't care for girls wearing lipstick, but Prince loved the look of a woman with glossy red lips.

His thoughts drifted to several interesting but explicit scenarios and when he realized it he immediately and regretfully shoved them out of his mind.

Guests would soon begin to arrive but it suddenly seemed unimportant to Prince as she turned and spotted him. For each of them it was as though everything had frozen in motion, the sounds of music and the voices of the bartenders drifted away and only Prince and Pepper were real. And conscious only of each other.


The moment passed and everything went back to normal, at least as normal as it could be under the circumstances. Pepper thought giddily, my goodness, I think he does like my dress, at least, I hope so.

Prince thought, she is magnificent, how the hell did I not know how magnificent she is? His next thought was that he was in big trouble; Pepper was a well brought up, convent schooled girl, moreover; she was his right hand man, er, woman. He needed to take a step back, but right now that seemed impossible.

When he got close he could see that, in spite of how beautiful and confident she appeared; inwardly she was terrified. He knew her well enough to recognize it.

"The place looks awesome, Pep. Now tell me what's scaring you?"

Her teeth were actually chattering,

"I--I'm not good at parties, I don't know what to say, I can't relax," she whispered, more afraid of the night ahead than showing weakness to Prince, "I think maybe I should just greet people from desk in my office."

"You're never afraid to talk to clients, and--"

"That's different," she cut him off which ordinarily she would never do.

He leaned near to her ear so she could hear and whispered back,

"That's the thing, Pep, it's not different. This isn't the senior prom; it's a business function. Just remember that and rely on it. You're here, in fact we're both here, to make clients comfortable and enjoy themselves."

He was so close that she could feel his warm breath against her ear. He smelled wonderful, as always, it wasn't just his cologne; he always smelled delicious. If she could bottle his scent she could make millions. Eau de Prince. And what he had just said made all her butterflies go away.

"Thanks, I guess I needed to be reminded. I'll be fine now."

"Good," his eyes unconsciously ran over her from top to bottom, "You look...wonderful, but I see you're not wearing your glasses. Remember when you broke them that time and couldn't even see across the room and I had to get your coffee and even guide you over to the ladies restroom? I drove you home, too. Will you be okay tonight?"

Pepper laughed, blushing a little,

"Oh, yes, I remember; that was so humiliating! No, I'm wearing contacts. I used to wear them all the time."

"Oh? Well, why don't you--"

She sighed and had to come up with a valid excuse,

"They bother my eyes sometimes, especially when I'm reading or using the computer and I thought glasses would look more professional anyway."

Prince nodded. Her figure was amazing; the dress hugged her waist and emphasized the breasts he, frankly, hadn't even been sure she possessed until this moment. Her usual suits bagged so badly in the derriere that he was amazed to see that she she actually had a cute little tush. Pepper had clearly been hiding a tiger under her hood. Reminding himself again that she was a "good girl" and his Girl Friday (okay his Person Friday) he mentally gave himself a kick.

"Pepper, you'd be professional no matter what you wear or do," Guests had just being to drift in and he added, "Guess we'd better start schmoozing."


It wasn't as large a gathering as Pepper had hoped for but those who came were enthusiastic and Prince seemed pleased and that was what mattered the most to her. And now that he'd pointed out that it was not a party but a business function she was fine.

Spending a little time talking to each guest, out of the corner of his eye Prince kept seeing Pepper, laughing and talking to various clients and she was more than holding her own. It was hard not to want to hover over her, inhaling her fragrance and fending off male clients who were obviously standing too close.



After the last guest had left and Prince helped her gather up the refuse from the party he turned to her,

"I can't thank you enough, Pep. You handled everything and you're the reason it was a success."

"It did seem to go well," she admitted, "But it's my job, you don't have to thank me. I'm glad you're pleased, though."

"I certainly am. And I'm thinking this might be a good idea to have an after-hours once a year, a little touch base with clients and they can network at the party as well as we can. Maybe we should invite not just clients but invite a few business people in town who could turn out to be prospective clients."

"Sounds like a plan," she smiled.

He surprised her by squeezing her with a quick hug, saying,

"I don't know if I've told you before but you have turned out to be a jewel of an assistant, Pep. I just don't know what I would do without you."

She was ecstatic; Prince had put his arms around her; even if it was only for a nano-second. He nodded at the bartenders who were on their way out finally.

"Well, I'll walk you to your car, it's late," he told her.

Miracles, Pepper thought, would never cease...






Next chapter on the Brothers Everhart: Ch. 23 Perry and Lalique