Read Building Up to Love Online

Authors: Joanne Jaytanie

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Building Up to Love (3 page)

BOOK: Building Up to Love
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CHAPTER FIVE

Laura tapped her foot as she waited at the entrance of the restaurant. Two days ago she stopped by the wine shop and told Tegan about her brief date with Frank. What a mistake. Tegan pulled the darn basket out from under her counter and here she stood waiting for Samuel to show up. She figured this would be a safe date since they were both Chamber of Commerce members and already planned to attend the yearly meet and greet. She smiled and greeted another couple as they entered the restaurant. Now she was getting antsy. She pulled her cell phone out of her clutch and checked the time. He was fifteen minutes late. The door opened again and Samuel strolled in.

“Hey Laura, I had a late client. Let’s go get this party started.”

Is that his idea of an apology?
she thought, but before she had the chance to ask him, he grabbed her arm and nearly pulled her into the ballroom.

“I’ll go get us a couple of drinks, what’s your poison?” As he leaned in to talk into her ear, she caught the odor of whiskey.
Late client, right. Let me guess, his name is Jim Beam.

“I’ll have a glass of merlot, please.”

Twenty minutes later, Laura went on the hunt for Samuel. Somehow he got lost between her and the bar. She saw him shadowed in a far corner with his back to her. She could hear a woman’s giggle. She couldn’t see the woman, but she did see two arms wrapped around Samuel’s waist.

Someone tapped on her shoulder. “Hey, Laura,” Tegan said, “I thought I saw you.”

“Tegan. I thought you weren’t coming tonight?”

“I wasn’t, but I changed my mind. So, how’s your date with attorney Samuel going?”

“See for yourself.” Laura nodded her head in Samuel’s direction.

“Ouch. What a snake. No wonder he’s still single. No matter, there are more names in the basket,” Tegan said.

“I’m beginning to think the basket is cursed.”

Laura avoided
Que Syrah Syrah
all week. She knew she couldn’t keep it up, but for now she needed a break from the dating scene. “What scene? I never even really made it to the scene stage.” She shook her head.

“You say something, Laura?” Travis asked, as he popped his head into the kitchen.

“Ahhh…just thinking about my next recipe out loud.”
That was lame,
she thought.

“The guys are whining. They were wondering if you had any of your iced tea.”

“Sure, I’ll bring it up.”

“You don’t need to bring it up to us, I’ll wait. You’re really spoiling them, you know.”

“We get good work from them.” She went about getting the tea. Of course she couldn’t stop there. She pulled out a plate, went into her pantry, and came out with a plateful of homemade chocolate chip cookies. She put the cookies and the tea on the tray.

“Thanks. Like I said, you’re spoiling them,” Travis said. “Hey, are you busy tonight? I mean, it is Friday night. You don’t have a hot date, do you? There’s a few items I would like to go over with you.”

“No hot, or cold date. I’ll be in my office when you’re ready.”

* * * *

“Knock, knock.” Travis said, as he leaned in the doorway of Laura’s office. “I ordered a pizza. Figured we could eat while we talk, then I have a few things around the house to show you.” He cut her off with the wave of his hands. “Don’t even start. I know you would’ve been more than happy to make us something to eat, but I have a craving for pizza, and there’s a lot to cover tonight. I didn’t want you spending your time in the kitchen.”

“Okay. At least let me throw together a salad.”

“If it will make you happy.” He shook his head.

They finished their pizza and their list at the same time.

“What’d I tell ya?” Travis asked. “Perfect timing.” He helped her clear the table and wash the dishes. “Let’s head down to the basement.”

They walked down the flight of steps to the basement level.

“This is to be your storage level. Your new storage shelves to hold all your canning, seasonal items, and overflow will work better with a different layout. Over here the floor might need reinforcement.”

Travis walked over to a section of the floor and bounced up and down to show her the give in the floor. Laura walked over and did the same. Then she put more force into it.

“It shouldn’t give that much should it? The basement should be at ground level.”

Without realizing it, she jumped up at the same instant Travis did. As their combined weight hit the aged planks, the floor gave way. She and Travis fell through and landed ten feet below in the dark.

CHAPTER SIX

“Laura…Laura, are you okay?” Travis asked. He lay sprawled on the hard-packed ground. His back hurt everywhere, but he didn’t think he’d broken any bones. His calf was another story. It felt like someone drove a pitchfork through it. “Laura, wake up.”

Laura landed a few feet away, but hadn’t moved or made a sound. Travis dragged himself closer to her. Through the gloom he thought he could see that her face was covered with dirt and and she had a cut above her right eye. He pulled the tail of his shirt out and ripped a piece away. Carefully he blotted at the blood and cleaned the dirt from her face.

“Ouch,” Laura moaned. “What happened?” She cracked open her eyes and looked into Travis’s face.

Relief flooded through his body. “We fell through the floor. Lie still,” he said, as she attempted to sit up. “You have a good-sized cut on your head. I’d be surprised if you didn’t get a concussion. How do you feel?”

“Like I just fell through the floor of a creaky old house. I think I’m okay, sore, but okay. How about you?”

“Pretty banged up. No major injuries though.”

Laura slowly slid herself up and leaned against the dirt wall. “I guess it’s safe to assume this is not in the original plans.”

“Not in my set of plans. They show the basement sits on the ground level. This is a total surprise,” Travis said. He started to slide himself up next to Laura but gasped as the throbbing in his calf increased to ten pitchforks. “Damn!”

“Travis, stop moving. Look at your leg.”

Time froze in place as Travis and Laura both stared at the piece of floor plank protruding from Travis’s calf.

“Don’t make another move. I’ll call-9-1-1.” Laura reached into her pocket and gave him a doomed look. “Crap. I left my phone on my desk. Tell me you brought your phone.”

“Yeah, hold on.” Travis fished into his front pants pocket and pulled out his phone. The screen was shattered. He pushed the power button…nothing happened. “You gotta be kidding me.”

“What?”

“It broke in the fall.”

“So, now what do we do? It’s Friday night. I don’t expect anyone back here until Monday morning. Will your grandparents worry about you?”

“No. I come and go at all hours. They have no clue what my schedule is.”

“You lay still. I’ll go find the way out,” Laura said. “Any chance you have anything to use for light? It seems to be getting darker by the minute.”

Slowly, Travis reached down to the side pocket on his work pants. He pulled out a tiny flashlight. “I hope this didn’t break too.” He pushed a button and a small beam of light appeared. “I know it’s not much. It’s my backup. I left the other flashlight up on my workbench.”

Travis held Laura’s hand tight as she reached for the flashlight. “Please, be careful. Don’t move anything, and I mean anything. Things could shift and give way.”

* * * *

“Scout’s honor.” Laura took the light and cautiously stepped away from him. As she moved farther away from the opening, the darkness wrapped tighter around her. She shone the tiny beam down at her feet to make sure there were no obstacles in her way and then bring it up in front of her. A door came into view and she hurried to it. She turned the knob and pushed. Nothing happened. She remembered Travis’s warning and decided not to try the door a second time. She turned in a slow circle and saw no stairs or other ways to get out. She headed back to Travis.

“There’s a door back there, but I can’t get it open. I tried, but it’s stuck. I didn’t keep trying because of my promise. I didn’t see any other way out. It’s really dark back there. I think we will have to wait until the morning to do further investigation. We need to get your leg wrapped.”

“I hate to say this, but you need to pull the piece of wood out.”

“No. It will bleed,” Laura said.

“Yes, it will. But the longer the old wood stays in my leg the more likely I will get an infection. Besides, I can’t help you find a way out of here with a piece of wood hanging out of my leg. It’s in the meaty part of my calf; you should be able to pull it out without the risk of an arterial bleed.”

* * * *

Laura stared at him for awhile. He could see she was weighing the options. She pulled off the flannel shirt she had thrown on before they started down to the basement. She knelt down next to his calf, took a good long look at it and looked back at him. He nodded. She focused on the wood and wrapped both hands around it. When she placed her hands on the wood, his leg started bleeding once again.

“Shit!” Sweat covered his brows, but he stayed put.

“We need to leave it in. I know you want it out, but it’s too dangerous.” She gingerly, yet quickly wrapped the shirt around his calf, leaving the piece of wood framed by flannel.

“I’m sorry,” Laura said.

“For what?” Travis asked, through panted breaths and gritted teeth.

“For causing you so much pain.”

“Don’t be silly. If you weren’t here I would have yanked the damn thing out and probably bled to death. It’s getting dark. There’s nothing left to be done tonight. Let’s sleep a bit. We can tackle this predicament in the morning. Come on up here.” He motioned with his open arm. She gawked at him. “I’m the only warm, soft spot you are going to find tonight. Take it, or leave it.” Laura shuffled back up and hesitantly snuggled into Travis’s side.

Travis woke and found Laura wrapped around him. She was all feminine and soft supple curves. If his blasted body didn’t ache from head to toe, this would be the perfect moment. He tried to remain still and soak in her essence while her guard was down. He knew the instant she came awake. Her arms stiffened, she winced, and then she slowly backed away from him.

“Good morning,” he said.

“I hoped I dreamed all this.”

“Nope, still here. At least there’s some light from the basement windows and we left the basement door open. It’s not much, but we will be able to see more as the day wears on. How are you feeling?”

“Bit of a headache and sore. How’s your leg?” Laura asked.

“Not happy. Everything is stiff and it throbs with any move I make.”

“Look at all those shelves. They’re old. How long do you think they’ve been down here? Can you tell by the construction?” Laura slowly rose to her feet and walked over to the shelves. One set of shelves held a few canning jars filled with a dark liquid. She picked up one of the jars and took it back to where Travis sat. “What do you think this is? Looks pretty nasty.”

“My first guess: one-hundred-year-old house, secret room—moonshine.”

Laura cracked the jar and took a small sniff. She coughed. “Oh my goodness.” She handed it to Travis. He opened it and took a whiff.

“Wow. I bet it could take the paint off of a car. How long has this house been in your family?”

“My family built the house.”

“Well, well, Ms. Tate. Seems your lineage includes bootleggers.”

They both laughed.

“I’ll need to do some research. It would be an interesting angle for my Bed & Breakfast. Do you think we can salvage this and keep it open for tours?”

“Sweetie, you are a true businesswoman at heart. It will take loads of inspection and special permits, but if anyone can do it, I can.”

“There must be a way out of here. We only need to locate it. Maybe a tunnel or something. Now that there’s more light, I can conduct a more complete search,” she said.

“Let me go with you,” Travis said, as he tried to get up and moaned.

“No.” Laura gently pushed him back down. “If you stumble, you could start bleeding again, or move the piece of wood. Let me go look. I’ll come back and report to you everything I find.”

“You were quick,” Travis said, when she returned a few minutes later.

“There are six rows of shelves and the door. I tried again to get the door open, but it’s still stuck, or there’s something blocking it; but it’s our only way out of this place.”

“Come sit down for a bit and rest. You look pale. After a while you can help me get up and then we can go try the door together,” Travis said. “Sit down and take your mind off your aches and pains. Tell me Ms. Tate, ever think about spreading your wings and leaving Vine Grove?”

“I did. I followed my high school boyfriend and went to college in California. He graduated a couple years ahead of me. He got a job with a finance company in San Francisco a couple hours away and I went to his loft on the weekends. One weekend it was his birthday and I wanted to surprise him. There was a surprise all right. I heard the music playing clear down at the end of the hall when the elevator doors opened. I used my key and went into the loft. I should have known. Something didn’t feel right, but I shrugged it off. Even when I saw the two wine glasses sitting on the island, it didn’t register. I trusted him. The door to the bedroom was open and I walked back. I found him and his assistant in bed. He saw me. Can you believe he actually tried to blame me? I threw his key at him and left the loft and his life.”

“Don’t tell me you haven’t dated anyone seriously since.”

“No, I date, casually. I’m not looking for anything serious at this point.”

“You seem to do a lot of dating for not wanting serious.”

“It’s my girlfriends’ doing. I hadn’t dated in over five months. They thought it was time I did. Personally, the way it’s going lately, I think it’s a waste of time. Enough about me, how long are you here to stay?”

“I haven’t decided. Although I think my grandparents are on to something here. Of course my father is fit to be tied. He wants me home and back to work at the company, yesterday. I keep telling him I can do what I need to do via Skype, but he doesn’t agree. Yes, the firm is a family business. I’m third generation. I got my architectural degree to make him happy. But I’m not made for the office. I want to be in the field, work with my hands. I’ve really enjoyed this old house. I think I’d like to specialize in historical houses.”

BOOK: Building Up to Love
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