Tempted to ignore the ringtone telling her the contractor was calling, Ashley Eagan clenched her teeth and fished the offending device from the depths of her purse. What now? Forcing a cheery note to her voice, she said, "Tell me it's good news, Carl." Phone to her ear, she pressed the elevator button. "I'm on my way."
Carl called daily with his updates, most of which were reasons why the construction work on her bakery was even further behind schedule—so much that she feared she might have to postpone her grand opening. If only the bank would let her postpone her payments. No way that was going to happen. But no way was her grand opening not going to happen. She'd find a way. The elevator arrived, and as soon as the doors closed, she lost the cell signal.
When she reached the lobby, Ashley punched Carl's number into her phone. Impatiently, she waited for him to pick up while she dug for her car keys. Distracted by her concern, she careened into someone as she rushed across the tile floor. Two someones, actually. The building manager, Mr. Spencer, and another man. She heard a hissed intake of breath.
"I'm so sorry," she mumbled reflexively, her attention centered on finding out what today's bakery disaster had been.
"No problem," the man said.
Ashley glanced up long enough to notice his close-cropped sandy-red hair, a jacket and tie. Here on some sort of official business, she supposed, since hardly anyone wore ties in Pine Hills. The two men moved on, and she returned her attention to her own problems.
"Pick up, Carl," she muttered under her breath. His voicemail kicked in, and she disconnected without leaving a message. The bakery was a fifteen minute ride away. Hearing about yet another snafu could wait that long.
She shouldn't have trusted Carl when he'd said his projected completion date would be absolutely no later than the middle of May. What contractor ever gave a realistic finish time? But he'd come highly recommended, and everything had zipped along at the beginning. She hadn't been totally stupid—she planned her grand opening for June 15th. Of course, as soon as she'd spent money on ads and promotion, delay piled on delay, bills piled on bills.
Moving to Pine Hills and opening her own bakery specializing in chocolate had taken all her savings, not to mention loans she'd be lucky to pay off in ten years. Everyone back in Pittsburgh thought she was crazy, and maybe she was, but it would be worth it, doing something she loved, something all on her own.
She tossed her purse on the passenger seat of her Chevy Sonic and tried to focus on the positive as she drove toward the Pine Hills business district. She passed the redbrick buildings of what passed for downtown, and headed for the old buildings converted into the charming retail space that had drawn her to Pine Hills. The sun peeked through breaks in the silver clouds, and the flowering plum trees danced in the breeze. Surprised to find a slot on the street, she grabbed it and headed down the sidewalk toward her store. She still got chills thinking of it that way. Her store.
As she approached, Maggie Cooper, who worked at That Special Something, the gift boutique next to the soon-to-be-bakery, intercepted her.
Ashley sighed. Maggie was sweet, but she did tend to ramble on. And on.
"Good morning, Maggie." Ashley smiled, but didn't stop walking.
"Did they find who did it?" Maggie asked.
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