The Wedding Guest (Colorado Billionaires Book 5) (15 page)

BOOK: The Wedding Guest (Colorado Billionaires Book 5)
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Madlyn giggled. Then said, “You’re cold. I’ll turn up the furnace.”

“I have a room waiting at the Cattleman’s Inn,” said Kirby. “I should go check in.”

“Oh not yet! I need to stare at you for at least an hour before you head for the hotel. And you promised to read me your list.”

Kirby gave her the lopsided grin she adored. Madlyn turned up the furnace.

“Come into the kitchen.”

The doorbell rang.

“Busy place,” said Kirby. “I was visualizing my beautiful redhead all alone in the wilderness.”

Madlyn couldn’t bring herself to let go of his hand. She loved the way it felt in hers. “That’s probably Mina. My boss.”

“I remember.”

“She’s bringing dinner.”

“Good, I’m starved.”

Madlyn laughed. She pulled him back to the door and opened it.

Mina held up a large white take-out bag. She took in the scene before her in an instant, then smiled warmly. “It’s a good thing I brought extras. You must be Kirby. I’m Mina.”

Madlyn took Mina’s jacket sleeve and pulled her inside, then shut the door.

“I just turned up the heat. Kirby, Mina. Mina, Kirby. Let’s eat.”

The kitchen was warm and inviting. Madlyn pulled the drop leaf table out from the wall and extended the leaves. Mina unpacked the bag onto plates.

“Part of me feels like I should quietly steal away,” she said, “and let you two have a romantic dinner together. But most of me has been waiting to meet this mystery man, and I have no intention of leaving you two alone, so you’ll just have to tolerate me until we finish dinner.”

Kirby helped Mina off with her jacket and pulled out a chair for her. “I’m delighted to meet you. Madz talked a lot about you. I know what a good friend you are to her.”

Mina beamed. “Thanks. This is nice.” Her brow furrowed and she turned to Madlyn. “Did I see a familiar pickup truck driving away from your house as I arrived?”

Madlyn made a face. “Yes, you did. But once he met Kirby, he seemed to accept the inevitable and left.”

“What’s he doing back?”

“L.A. didn’t turn out the way he thought it would. He was hoping I’d forgotten all about him breaking my heart and dashing my hopes and dreams. He wanted to pick up where we left off. Or rather, the day before we left off.” She shook her head. Her expression softened as she gazed at Kirby. “I think he recognized the winner and knew I would never go back.”

Kirby puffed up, exaggerating his look of self-satisfaction. “Why, thank you.” He nodded to each of the ladies. “Thank you both.” He lifted a hand in a Queen Elizabeth wave. “Thank you all,” he said to the imaginary multitudes. “I am the winner.”

Madlyn and Mina laughed.

Madz said, “It was so thoughtful of you to bring extra, Mina.”

Mina leaned toward Kirby and whispered behind her hand, “I was preparing for a pity party and a pig out. I’m not really psychic.”

“I heard that.” Madlyn opened the fridge and asked, “Milk? Soda? Juice?”

Mina countered with, “Coffee?”

“Already brewed.” Madlyn pulled mugs out of the cupboard and poured three cups. She set one in front of Kirby. “Is coffee okay?”

“Perfect.” His eyes followed her everywhere.

Madz blushed.

Mina unwrapped her burger and took a bite, her eyes twinkling with amusement.

As Kirby unwrapped his own food, he spared a glance for Mina. “I’m familiar with pity parties and pig outs. As I recall they’re generally precipitated by some kind of bad news. May I ask what’s causing your distress? Will there be ice cream involved?”

Mina looked surprised, then pleased. A hint of sadness tinged her features, but she shook it off. “I’m having trouble with my landlord. I made an offer to buy my building so I could expand my shop, and he announced that he’s doubling the price.”

Madlyn shook her head. She picked up her mug, stirring sugar into her coffee.

Mina paused, shifting her gaze from Kirby to Madlyn. Then she sat up straight. “Maybe it’s time for me to retire.”

Madlyn’s mug crashed to the floor.

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

“Y
ou can’t do that!” Madlyn was horrified. “You’re so young.”

Kirby got up at once and began cleaning up the mess. He listened as Madlyn tried to talk her boss out of retiring.

Mina said, “I’m pushing sixty, dear, and all this financial worry is wearing me down.”

“But what will happen to the Boutique? Oh, Mina, please don’t retire.”

Kirby dumped the pieces of the mug into the trash and found paper towels to mop up the coffee. “You said the owner doubled his asking price. Can he do that? Did he give a reason?”

Mina rubbed her temple. “Hmmm. I didn’t even ask about that. My first conversation with him was a casual inquiry over the phone. He threw out a figure. Then later, he said he had a realtor and I should contact her when I got funding. And when I met with her today, she informed me the asking price was double what he’d originally said.”

“Hmph. Is he serious about selling? Or is he checking the waters?” Kirby disposed of the sopping paper towels and rinsed his hands under the faucet.

“I don’t know.” Mina dipped a fry in catsup. “That’s a very good question. When he said he had a realtor, I assumed he was serious. But the new price is way above my fundraising ability.”

Kirby found a fresh mug for Madlyn, spooned sugar into it, and poured her coffee. “No bank behind you?” He set Madlyn’s mug on the table and guided her to her chair.

“Long story.” Mina made a face and popped the fry in her mouth. “I was discussing the possibility of bringing my gallery partner into the deal.”

“Oh, you own a gallery as well? Sounds like you have plenty of collateral.” He pulled his phone out and tapped the screen a few times. “Who’s the realtor?”

Mina gave him the name. “But things will work out,” she said. “One way or another. It’s just frustrating. Madlyn and I had some great plans for expanding. Eagle’s Toe is growing. Lots of money moving into town, and thanks to our town council, shops like mine are not being pushed out by big box stores. People can still go to Pueblo for that kind of thing, but here in Eagle’s Toe, if you want to shop for clothes, there are a limited number of places to do so, and Mina’s Boutique is the top of the line.” Her voice filled with pride. “Madlyn is one of the reasons for that. She’s amazing.”

Kirby wagged his brows. “I can’t argue with that.”

Madlyn protested. “I’m only good because you taught me everything you know. And I can handle things because I know you’ll be coming in the door any minute so I can ask you questions. Oh, Mina, you’re not serious, are you? What will I do if you retire?”

Mina patted Madlyn’s arm. “Don’t worry, dear. It was just a passing thought. I’m just feeling sorry for myself. I’m not cut out for this high finance stuff, I guess.”

“You’re the one who said everything will work out,” Madlyn reminded her. “Maybe you’re not giving it enough time.”

“Could be. But the realtor hinted that there were other offers on the table.”

Kirby resumed his seat and picked up his burger. “Other offers, huh?” He took a bite.

“That’s what she said.” Mina sighed at her plate. “Guess I wasn’t as hungry as I thought.”

Kirby offered a reassuring smile. “You’ll need your strength if you’re going to make a life-changing decision. The hamburgers are delicious. I suggest you sleep on it and don’t worry. I know a few people I can call. This whole thing sounds fishy to me.”

Madlyn brightened. “Do you think Brewster can help?”

Kirby grinned. “I wouldn’t be at all surprised.” He winked at her and took another bite.

Madlyn nibbled at a fry. “Don’t forget our plan to expand into children’s clothes in the gallery. What about their building? Do they own it? Can they lease us space? Then we can just move.”

Mina perked up. “I never thought of that. I should talk to Ashley about it. I don’t know if the Garrisons own that whole building or not, but she certainly managed to procure space for the gallery without much trouble.”

Madlyn said, “See? We’re thinking outside the box. Maybe we can learn more tomorrow night. The gallery will be open until eleven for the Old Town Christmas festival.”

Kirby sipped his coffee. “Tell me more about this Boutique,” he said. He spared a smiled for Madlyn.

Mina started talking, and before they knew it, three hours had passed.

“Midnight!” Mina stood up quickly. “It’s Friday morning already? I’m so sorry. You two didn’t get any time alone. And my cats must be mad as they can be.” She pulled her jacket off the back of her chair, where Kirby had draped it. “I expect you to take tomorrow off, Madz. You have company in town.” She gave Madlyn a conspiratorial look.

“Will you have enough help?”

“Thanks to your creative scheduling, yes, there will be extra help from now until New Year’s. Kirby, it’s so nice to meet you. I really must go.”

Kirby stood up as well. “I’ll walk you to your car.” He took Madlyn’s hands. “I need to find that hotel.”

Mina offered, “Follow my taillights. I’ll drive right up to the front entrance before I head home. It’s only a couple of blocks away from my shop.”

“Thanks,” said Kirby.

Everyone paused. Then Mina got the message and scurried toward the front door. “I’ll meet you on the porch.”

Alone at last, Madlyn gazed longingly at Kirby. “I wish you didn’t have to go.”

“We both believe in marriage, remember?” He leaned down and planted a warm kiss on her mouth. “And it’s going to be worth every second of the wait,” he murmured. He tapped the tip of her nose with one finger, then headed for the front door. “I’ll call you from the hotel.”

“Okay.” Madlyn was all atingle. Would it really make a difference if…? She trotted after him. “One more kiss?”

Kirby obliged. “I’ll probably want to talk a while,” he said gruffly.

Madlyn nodded eagerly. Then exclaimed, “The list! You never got to read it to me.”

“I’m saving that,” he said sweetly, “for dinner tomorrow night.”

Madlyn clapped her hands together. “Okay.”

“Good night.”

“Bye.” She watched as Kirby, the perfect gentleman, escorted Mina to her car and waited in the cold for her to start the engine. Then he trotted to his rental, got in, waved at Madlyn, and pulled out to follow Mina.

Madlyn closed the front door and threw the bolt. He was going to call from the hotel. From his hotel room. In his jammies! She was all atingle again. She whisked through the kitchen, tidying up. It was swell of Mina to give her the day off. She doubted she would be able to sleep a wink tonight.

Once she was done she turned out all the downstairs lights and went up to change for bed. Then she lay there, waiting for her phone to ring. The landline was on the nightstand, and her cell phone was on the counterpane next to her. She replayed the evening in her mind. Suddenly she shrieked and sat straight up.

She’d gotten to the good night kiss, the part where Kirby’d said, “We both believe in marriage, remember? And it’s going to be worth every second of the wait.” Kirby had asked her to marry him and she hadn’t even gotten a chance to answer.

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

Friday, December 4th, 2:05 a.m.

T
he pinging of her cell phone jarred Madlyn out of a deep sleep She fumbled for it on the counterpane. It was a message from Kirby.

“Are you asleep?”

Madz rolled onto her side and fought to clear her gummy eyes. She texted, “No. Waiting for your call.”

A moment later, her cell rang.

“Hello,” she mumbled.

Kirby’s voice was soft and loving. “You little liar. You were sound asleep.”

“It’s okay.” A burst of adrenaline at the sound of his voice cleared the cobwebs out. “I only just drifted off.”

“I’m sorry it took me so long. There was a little confusion at check-in. It turns out the night clerk is a junior college student and didn’t really know what he was doing. We had to wait for another employee to arrive from God knows where. I just got into my room ten minutes ago.”

“Poor thing,” cooed Madlyn. She could have sworn there was something she wanted to ask him about, something vital. She’d fallen asleep thinking about it.

“You all right?” he murmured.

“Just trying to remember something.”

“My name?”

Madz giggled. “No, silly.” She let her inner jokester shine through. “It’s Hoover, right?”

Kirby laughed. “Close. And how are you old enough to know about Hoovers?”

“My mom had one.”

Kirby’s voice softened again. “We never got to finish our conversation this morning.”

“Yesterday morning.”

“Right. There’s something I need to explain.”

“About your uncle?”

“Yes.” Kirby sounded relieved.

“May I ask a question first?”

“Of course.”

“You told me you would never inherit any of your stepfather’s money. Is that really true?”

“Yes. Ray gets everything.”

“Oh.”

Kirby paused. “You sound disappointed.” He was teasing her again. “I thought you despised rich people.”

“Well, Brewster’s rich and I don’t despise him.”

“I’m so glad to hear that.”

“And Vicky and Jason are rich, and I love them.”

“Good. You’re making progress on that issue.”

“And right about now, it would be very convenient to be able to add four or five zeros to my bank account. Maybe even six.” She sighed. “When we were talking to Mina about her worries about being able to buy the building, it occurred to me that if I were rich, I’d be able to buy it for her.”

“I see.” Kirby cleared his throat. “In that case….” He seemed on the brink of saying something important, but after a pause, he finished, “I’m going to discuss Mina’s problem with Brewster. Is that okay?”

“Yes, that’s a wonderful idea. Thank you so much!”

“No worries. And….” He bit his tongue. There were some things he needed to discuss face to face.

“And what?” Madz prompted. Sleepiness crept back into her voice. If only she could remember what it was she wanted to ask him.

“May I come pick you up in the morning? I want our day to start as early as possible.”

Madlyn snuggled under her covers. “I would love that. How early?”

BOOK: The Wedding Guest (Colorado Billionaires Book 5)
3.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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