A Few Days Later, Morning
Alison’s Apartment, Living Room
Alison Marriott sat on the sofa, still in her robe, drinking a cup of coffee – her second cup of the morning. Unfortunately, the double dose of caffeine wasn’t doing much good. She’d barely slept all night. In fact, she’d barely slept for the last few nights – she’d had far too much on her mind.
Paulson had completely pulled out of the Beaver Ridge project thanks to his discovery of the truth about the books and plans – a truth that both she and her father Andy Marriott had worked hard to keep from him.
“Damn Meg,” Alison muttered to herself. It was all Meg’s fault, as usual. Meg had managed to mail Paulson a copy of the real books and plans that looked nothing like the records they’d shown him. However, Alison’s stress and worry was really caused by the fact that, while Meg might have been the one to mail the documents to Paulson, she hadn’t been the original source.
It had been Alison, herself…
John & Suzanne’s Home, Kitchen
Suzanne Prentiss moved swiftly around the kitchen, finishing the last touches on the elaborate breakfast she’d woken up extra early to prepare. She was determined that, for a change, she and her husband John were going to sit down and have a meal together, even if it were only bacon, eggs, and toast.
She walked over to the kitchen door and called out, “John, I’ve got…”
“No time this morning, Sweetheart,” John Prentiss interrupted as he rushed into the room, pulling on a light jacket, a jumbled mass of papers shoved under his arm. He headed straight for the coffee maker and poured a steaming stream of coffee into his travel mug. “I’ve got to get out to Beaver Ridge. Andy and I have a meeting with a potential investor.”
“W-what about breakfast?” Her eyes were wide with shock and disappointment. She’d gone to so much work. “I thought we could have breakfast as a family this morning.” She walked over to the small bassinet in the corner and picked up their infant daughter Tess. “I mean, since you haven’t managed to eat a meal at home in weeks.”
“I’d love to, Honey, but I can’t.” John took a quick gulp of coffee and then refilled his mug. “We’re in a crisis right now. Without Paulson out, the entire project is on the line. If we don’t figure out something quick, the entire thing could go under.”
“Do you know how sick I am hearing about Beaver Ridge?” Suzanne could feel her temper begin to rise. “You’re never here because of that place! You’re gone before Tess even wakes up and she’s already down for the night before you ever manage to make it home! I swear, sometimes I feel like I’m raising our daughter as a single parent!”
“Honey, don’t you think you’re over exaggerating just a bit?” He paused as he quickly scanned some papers he needed for the meeting. “You know that until Beaver Ridge is up and running, it’s going to take up a lot of my time. I told you that before I ever signed onto this project.”
“I know, but…”
“Maybe because you’ve just forgotten how much time work actually takes up since you’ve decided not to work.” He shoved the papers back under his arm and hurried over to give both Suzanne and Tess quick kisses before turning to rush out the door. “Look, I’m running late. We’ll talk about this later when I get home. It’ll probably be late, though. There’s a lot of ground to cover today.”
Suzanne could do nothing but stand in stunned silence as her husband disappeared through the back door and out of the house. She turned and eyed the uneaten breakfast, now cold, on the table and she felt her jaw tighten before snatching up the plates of food in an angry rush, scraping everything into the garbage, and slamming the dishes into the sink.
“What’s going on in here?” her aunt Vanessa Sterling asked curiously as she stood at the back door, slightly alarmed by Suzanne’s demeanor. “I saw John leaving…”
“He’s always leaving,” Suzanne grumbled. “Always running off to Beaver Ridge.”
“Honey, it’s only going to be for a few more months.” Van put her hand on her niece’s shoulder. “Once the place is up and running again, things will settle down.”
“And then he’ll find something else to obsess over.” Suzanne leaned back against the counter, her shoulders slumped and weighted by the stress of her situation. “I remember when I was his obsession, but now…”
“John loves you very much.” Van looked her niece directly in her eyes, punctuating her statement. “Don’t you ever doubt that. And don’t you forget that you were once very passionate about your work, too. You should be able to understand what John’s going through right now.”
“You know, Van, you’re right.” A new look of determination washed over Suzanne. “Do you think you could watch Tess for a few hours? I’ve got… a few errands I need to run.”
“Of course, I can. You know how much I adore this precious little angel.” Van walked over to the bassinet and picked up baby Tess. “You take care of whatever it is you need to do. This little girl and I will be just fine.”
“Thank you, Aunt Van!” Suzanne gave her a tight hug and kissed her daughter. She was more excited and impetuous than she’d felt in a long time. As she rushed out of the kitchen and upstairs to change clothes, she quickly pushed aside any reservations and doubts that were lingering inside her head. There was no time for any of that now – no time at all.
Alison’s Apartment, Living Room
Alison rushed into the living room, hurriedly finishing dressing for work. She’d tried all morning to push thoughts and worries about Meg Marriott and those damning documents she’d sent to Paulson out of her head, but the more she struggled to forget, the more she remembered…
But Meg had been interested… very interested. Somehow, she’d discovered that Alison and Andy had been moving numbers around in the books and had been cutting corners on construction – activities that their other partner Paulson definitely was not privy to. Alison didn’t know how Meg had come upon her suspicions, but she most definitely did know that Meg was hell bent on doing whatever it took to prove them.
Alison walked over to the mirror and fumbled with her earrings as she tried to put them in. Placing her hands on the side table and leaning forward, she exhaled slowly, trying not to think about what she’d done.
A loud knock at her door roused Alison from her troubled thoughts. It was her mother, Amy Marriott.
“What’re you doing here?” Alison asked, shocked and a little annoyed by her mother’s unexpected visit. “Shouldn’t you be at the office by now?”
“That’s kinda why I’m here.” Amy anxiously glanced around the apartment. “I think I left my spare briefcase here a few weeks ago – you know, the monogrammed one you and Eric got me for Christmas that year? I don’t use it very much because I don’t want to ruin it, but I left some files in it on a case I’m working on and I think I left it here. I came by the other day looking for it, but you weren’t here. I guess you were busy out at Beaver Ridge.”
“Well, I haven’t seen it,” Alison sighed, heading for her bedroom. “I’ve got to finish getting ready for work. You can look around if you want.”
“Thanks. I’m sure it’s here somewhere.” Once Alison was out of the room, Amy immediately went to the large armoire in the corner of the room, knelt down beside it, and reached behind it. “Damn it. Where are you?” she grumbled to herself until she felt the briefcase with her hand. Quickly grabbing it, she pulled it out and heaved a sigh of relief. “Found it!”
“That was fast,” Alison commented, walking back into the room.
“Oh, I had a feeling I knew where it was.” Amy made a show of looking at her watch. “Look at the time. I really need to get to the office. I’ll call you later and we can go to lunch or something.”
“Yeah, sure, Mom.” Alison eyed her mother curiously as she watched her rush out of the apartment. She couldn’t help but think that her mother was acting rather strange this morning, but then quickly brushed those thoughts away.
Beaver Ridge Complex, Lobby
“I’m glad you agreed to meet with us, Rick,” Andy Marriott said as he extended his hand. “I think you’ll find the proposal John and I have worked up to be very informative.”
“That’s what you said on the phone.” Rick Latimer stood in the center of the room and looked around. “But I can pretty much assure you that you’re wasting your breath. Beaver Ridge is a thing of the past for me.”
“Maybe, maybe not.” Andy walked over to the coffee maker that sat on a stack of crates. “Would you like a cup?”
“Thank you.” Rick took the Styrofoam cup from Andy and then took a lengthy sip. “So, Andy, let’s skip the chitchat and get right to the point. Tell me about this proposition and what it has to do with Beaver Ridge.”
“You have a history with this place, Rick. You’re the one who made Beaver Ridge the destination spot it was years ago.”
“That was a long time ago. I turned over my interest when Cal and I moved to Canada. I haven’t been involved with Beaver Ridge in over 30 years.”
“But, still, you know this place better than anyone.” Andy paused and eyed Rick anxiously. He knew he had to play his cards exactly right. “As I told you the other day, we recently had an investor pull out for… personal reasons.” Yeah, right. “That gives us a partnership position available and John and I both thought about you.”
“Guys, sorry I’m late,” John said as he rushed into the room. “I got tied up at home with Suzanne and couldn’t get away.” He stopped and eyed both Andy and Rick. “I suppose you’ve been discussing the potential partnership in Beaver Ridge?”
“John, I was about to tell Andy that I don’t have any interest in Beaver Ridge anymore,” Rick explained cautiously. “Cal and I already have a business in Canada. I’m not looking to invest in anything else. Besides, we’ve got a lot of family issues going on right now. I have a son who’s missing in Iraq; Cal’s mother just died…”
“Suzanne’s grandmother,” John reminded. “I’m a part of the same family, Rick. We both married into it.”
“Yes, I know that, John, but I have other things I need to deal with right now.” Rick shoved his hands into his pockets and turned away from them, his eyes taking in the full expanse of the lobby while his mind drifted back to another time long ago. “Cal and I are only here temporarily for a visit because of Meg. We’re only here to deal with some family business.”
“Haven’t you said, yourself, that your resort pretty much runs itself?” John’s eyes went from Rick to Andy who stood in silence as a slight grin crossed his face. “I know you’ve left Will to run the place while you’re in town, so you know it’s in good hands.”
“You could consider this a family venture. You’re Suzanne’s uncle. I know she’d appreciate it if you were a part of Beaver Ridge.”
“Just look at our proposal.” Andy handed Rick a large packet of information. “I’m sure you’ll see that this place is definitely a worthwhile investment for you.”
Rick took several minutes and thumbed through the proposal, examining every financial record, building plan, and diagram presented to him. As he held up one diagram for the lobby, he could begin to visualize the end result based on the plans combined with the work already completed. He nodded slowly, yet resisted the urge to smile.
“Rick, I know you,” John finally spoke up. “I know you like a challenge. When was the last time the resort was a challenge to you?”
“It’s been a long time,” he confessed. “Like you said – it pretty much runs itself.”
“And what could be more of a challenge for you than to be a part of bringing Beaver Ridge back – not just to the glory that it once was, but even better?” John’s eyes darted from Rick to Andy who quietly nodded.
“If I agree on this,” Rick spoke tentatively, “I’d have to talk it over with Cal first. But I can pretty much predict that she’s not going to be in favor of it.”
“Do you really have to get your wife’s permission on every move you make?” It was a calculated risk on Andy’s part, but he was following a hunch. John, however, was less than pleased with his partner’s goading style and let him know as much with a stern glance.
“Not every move,” Rick replied, his eyes still focused on the proposal, “but she and I are business partners as well as husband and wife.”
“But I’m sure once you explain all of the positives of this to her, she’ll understand what an excellent move it is for you both professionally and personally. John and I are proposing a full partnership to you – equal ownership.” Andy reached into his briefcase and pulled out several documents. “I took the liberty of having our attorneys go ahead and draw up the necessary papers. All you have to do is go over them and sign them and all of this is yours again – partially, of course.”
Rick took the contracts from Andy and went over them carefully as his mind raced with the possibilities. Did he dare sign them and commit himself to Beaver Ridge once again? Did he really want to wait and allow Cal to talk him out of it, or did he want to take a calculated risk. As he came to the part of the contract where he was supposed to sign, Rick’s mind was a whirl with far more questions than answers and the only thing in his immediate line of sign was Andy Marriott holding a pen in his outstretched hand.