Welcome to another Sample Sunday at The Sweet Escape! I’m sharing a snip from the Brunch at Ruby’s followup, Dinner at Sam’s. It is the continuation of the story of three lifelong friends and good, southern food. If you haven’t read Ruby’s, this week would be a great week to pick it up — I’ll be running a Kindle Countdown Deal beginning March 17th!
From March 17th- March 24th, Brunch at Ruby’s will start at 99cents and over the course of the next seven days go back to it’s regular sale price of $2.99. Make plans to grab it while it’s cheap!
In addition, Anonymous will be FREE from March 17-March 21 and I’ll lower the price on Same Time Next Week to match the price of Ruby’s as it rises!
And now… on with the show!
I frown at the massive red Cadillac parked in the spot where Vanessa’s Audi usually sits. I knew she’d been having issues with her car lately, but…I stare at it for a few minutes, trying to decide if Vanessa would be the type to trade in a sporty Audi for a behemoth classic Caddy before I bypass it and head into the tower that houses Donovan Luxury Real Estate.
The elevator zips me to the 26th floor and I step out onto the plush carpeting that welcomes each guest to the visitor lobby. Nodding at the receptionist, I breeze into the suite and wave at the agents as I pass their offices.
I swing into Vanessa’s office and dump my satchel in an empty chair. “Please tell me someone parked in your space today, and that that big red monster is not your new car.”
Her head pops up from the listings she’d been studying and notating. Laughing, she lays down her pen and angles back in her chair. “Yeah. I bought a car the size of my apartment, Maxine. I plan to meet lots of clients in it, take them to lunch and dinner. Show them houses. You don’t mind, do you?”
“That’s not funny.” But I’m laughing. Because it is silly. “That car is as old as you. Why are you driving it?”
“It’s older than I am,” she corrects. “My car died on me yesterday. My cousin is poking at it, trying to see if he can do anything to it but I know I’m going to have to take it to Audi and have them fix it once and for all, to the tune of a few thousand dollars, I’m sure.”
“Vanessa, you sell expensive houses for a living. Why don’t you buy a new car?”
“I… can’t. I have so many other priorities besides spending money on a car.”
“Then make that deadbeat husband of yours get you something. He’s making all that software salesman money, enough to keep another bitch in a house and clothes and you’re driving his babies around in a jalopy?”
“Warren…” She sighs, her brown eyes rolling to the ceiling. This is her usual reaction to bringing up her soon-to-be-ex-husband. “Warren hasn’t paid anything toward child support. Warren hasn’t paid anything toward anything. He says he’s about to declare bankruptcy. I’ll believe that when I see it.”
“Why hasn’t he paid anything? Isn’t it the law?”
“If you’re divorced.” She offers me a tense, tight grin. “But when he won’t file for divorce because he doesn’t want to pay the fees, and we can’t do a quickie divorce because of assets and children…”
She tosses up her hands in a helpless gesture. “I can’t file for child support because we’re not divorced. I can’t force him to pay me because there is no child support order. If I want a divorce, I have to file and I need an attorney to make sure my girls get taken care of.”
The expression on Vanessa’s face brings me right to my knees. I want the Universe or the algorithm or whatever controlling being that exists to mete out second chances and good luck to rain some on her right now.
I grab my satchel and turn to step out of her office. “I’ll be right back.”
Virgil is on a call at his desk, his feet propped up on the edge, the receiver tucked between his shoulder and ear. His hair, in it’s usual trendy, tousled style is impeccable, as is his attire— Gucci shirt and slacks and the Prada slippers he wears in the office. He offers a cursory nod at me as I pass him.
I drop my satchel in the bottom left hand drawer of my desk and pull out my card file. I almost never use physical business cards anymore but I’m still so used to reaching for the card file that it has never left my desk. I rifle through the heavy card stock, stopping when I reach the one I am looking for.
I pluck the card from the file and walk back to Vanessa’s office, plunking it down on the dark wood and sliding it across the surface toward her. “Sylvia Kincaid. I sold her and her husband— he’s a sitting judge—a house when I worked for Caldwell Realty. I swear the thing takes up a city block and she only paid a million for it. Total steal. She owes me.”
I tap the card with the tip of my fingernail and point at Vanessa. “Tell her I sent you. She’ll give you a deal.”
“Sylvia… wait. Sylvia Kincaid? The famous attorney? The Silver Haired Shark?” She slides the card back across the desk. “Listen, thank you for trying to help me, but even with a super sweet deal, I can’t afford her. I’m about to hock my wedding ring to fix my car.”
Impatient, I slide the card back over to her. “At least talk to her, see what she says. It’s a place to start, at least. And tell her that Maxine Donovan sent you. It’ll help smooth things along.”
She takes the card, but grudgingly so, tucking it into a pocket on her jacket.
“Are you any closer to showing Dre Prescott something he’ll want to put an offer on?”
“That’s the goal today,” she says, rubbing her palms together. “I’ve got him for three hours while his mother and his girlfriend are… unavailable.”
“And how did you manage that?”
She shrugs. “I sent them to some out of the way places to check on a few properties, just in case Dre wants to live a bit outside of town.”
I snicker. “Sneaky. But I like it. Show him something good and don’t take no for an answer. He’s a grown man. None of this I need to wait for my mom business. I want to see an offer on a house from him today.”
“Believe me, Maxine… so do I.”
I start to walk out, but pause before I do. “You’re not driving him around in that car, are you?”
She laughs a loud cackle. “No! He’s picking me up and we’re looking at houses in between meetings with his attorney and his manager.”
A sigh of relief slips from my lips, which makes her laugh harder. I walk out to the sound of her laughter dying down. At least she can laugh now. It had been a long time since I heard that sound.
Ever since I’d walked into her office one evening to find her sitting at her desk, crying over that ole dirty bastard Warren, she’d inhabited a special place in my heart. As much as I hated to admit that Virgil was right about her, she was a lot like me, especially when I started out in real estate. Hungry, scrappy…naive.
I’d lost count of the number of men that wined and dined me, that I let get close enough to whisper sweet nothings — and I do mean nothings—in my ear, only to send me spinning when I figured out that I meant little to them. It only took a few of those men before I’d decided I would take control and upgrade the quality of men that I allowed in my life.
I like to think that I’ve learned from my mistakes and my successes, both professionally and personally and that I can share some of that with Vanessa. I was once an inexperienced agent, rejoicing in every meeting, every sale, bursting with excitement at every closing. I was once a brand new business owner with an office and a phone line but no employees and no customers, with no idea how to reach the elite clientele. Until I met Virgil, I was floundering, trying to find my footing in an industry that moves like whitewater rapids.
And I was once a young woman who grew up without a father, with a mother on welfare who did all manner of things to keep food on the table, who sought male attention and material things, who wore validation like a badge… until I met the man that I never imagined I would end up with, but turned out to be everything I needed.
I pass Virgil again, who is off of the phone, but his feet are still propped up on the desk. He’s rifling through listings, which he tosses down when he sees me enter my office. “You will not believe how busy this day has been. Has the world gone crazy?”