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Authors: Kathryn Shay

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Thomas glanced at his watch. “I don’t have much time, so I hope this doesn’t take too long. I’m taking the car at one.”

As usual, unlike Logan, who was as patient as Job, Thomas was in a hurry. And often made others feel as if they were imposing. “We’ll be thorough but efficient,”
was all Logan answered. And he and Mags would stay as long as necessary, then catch a cab.

After they parked a discreet distance away, they walked to the store. Magdalena noted that The Natural Life in this upscale portion of New York had a somewhat unremarkable front. It appeared to be an ordinary grocery market
.
“Huh!”

“What’s wrong?” Thomas asked
.

Logan knew. “The front windows
are cluttered. All those cardboard boxes of Coke and water are piled up. Flyers are scattered everywhere.”

“When we move them to the strip malls, that’ll change. Even the ones we can’t relocate will have to address the mess.”

“This is why we don’t announce our initial walk-through,” Logan murmured.

Thomas held the door open for Magdalena, then preceded Logan inside
.

The place was
filled with people on this Saturday morning, and Magdalena noticed the shopping carts were all gone. A little thing, and perhaps a sign of booming business, or maybe they didn’t provide enough.

To remain anonymous, they’d dressed in casual clothes—Magdalena wore jeans, black boots and a short, fur-lined, suede jacket. Both Thomas and Logan came in jeans and boots, too, with heavy sweaters
and quilted vests. They did not stand out among the patrons. But Magdalena did notice how Logan’s jeans accented the long, lean line of his body, and the vest his broad shoulders. Damn it, the girls had put ideas into her head last night.

They started down the first aisle. Thomas made idle comments about some things they did right and just grunted or nodded at others. Magdalena took mental
notes on the layout. Closest to the door were oils. From Sofia, Magdalena had learned the popularity of these items. Logan said softly, “Who knew there were so many oils on the market.”

Thomas pulled out one. “Whew. Twenty dollars for half an ounce of lavender. Why would anybody buy this?”

“I do. It’s a mood calmer. It soothes you when inhaled, sprinkled on a pillow or applied to the skin.”

“Which do you do?” Thomas asked, again his tone a bit suspect.

“On her pillow,” Logan told him sharply.

“How do you know that, little brother?”

“She told me.” Which was a lie. During the week of the guys’ deaths, Logan had slept in her guest room and became familiar with her habits. Even now he spent the night sometimes if they were working late or had dinners at her house.

Magdalena took note of the inventory. Fiber bars, protein powders, vitamins and energy bars filled the first aisles. A big frozen section spanned the back wall
.

Down another aisle they saw gluten free and all natural flours, breads and packaged food. Magdalena picked one up. “I’ve had these brownies. They taste great.”

“Five times what a package would cost in a grocery store.” Again, Thomas
made a disparaging remark.

“That’s expected in an upscale store, Thomas. I’m going to buy them for Sofia. She eats gluten-free foods.” Browsing the rest of the shelving, Magdalena also chose rice macaroni and some cookies for her sister.

They turned down a third aisle, which contained nonfood items like wine, lotions and dish liquid. Then they came upon another display. “Seriously?” Thomas
asked.

Logan and Magdalena exchanged a look. She said, “It seems silly to us maybe, but people’s dogs are like their children. Especially in New York, where there are a lot of working animal owners.”

Eventually Thomas left, and Magdalena saw Logan relax. “He’s a tough nut to crack, as they say.”

Magdalena nodded. “Though most of these products aren’t my kind of thing, we have to respect
the fact that people like them. That’s their business.”

Purposely, they didn’t talk about any improvements they’d make, because this was an unannounced visit. They’d wait until lunch to discuss what they’d seen. At least the rest would be more pleasant, now that they were alone
.

oOo

Despite the heavy clothing they wore, Logan shuddered when they got out of the cab and hurried
into Max’s, one of their favorite spots back in Manhattan. Once inside, Magdalena un-looped a gray scarf that appeared soft to the touch from around her neck.
She
looked soft to the touch, too, Logan thought, and always so feminine. A waiter showed them to a table.

Logan sat down and rubbed his hands together. “Something warm. I need something warm.”

“Let’s start with coffee and talk a
bit.” The waiter fetched their drinks and they ordered food.

“So, how’d you think it went?” Logan asked. He really wanted to know. Her insights were invaluable
.

“I wasn’t impressed by the layout.” Magdalena shook her head, sending that long hair everywhere. “It was too packed with inventory. More than once, I bumped into displays when I turned around.”

“And I’d say that the overall
aura of the store wasn’t up to the clientele who thrive in Westchester. For the strip malls, with Chico’s and Nordstrom’s, that will have to be cleaned up.”

“We should definitely check out more stores. Unannounced, again. We can do the formal walk-through with management after we see a couple on our own.”

“I agree.”

“Did you see the overlap in employees?”

“Some. None of these things
are deal breakers, though, do you think?

“No, they’re mostly cosmetic. The stock seems great to me.” Logan rolled his eyes. “Despite what Thomas thought.”

The food arrived. “Hmm. No business talk while we eat.” They’d always followed that rule. “‘Food should be eaten slowly without the interference of the outside world.’” He quoted a saying she’d sent to him and made the corners of her
mouth turn up. He realized then how much he liked making Magdalena smile.

Over Caesar salads with grilled salmon, they discussed ordinary things. Logan had a few buddies from college he saw occasionally. His best friend had been in New York City for a while but got transferred to the West Coast. He was glad to have Magdalena to share things with. “Everything okay with the family?”

Magdalena
laughed. It was a sultry one to match her looks. “Yeah. The seven sisters had a sleepover at
Matka’s
house last night. We got rid of the guys.”

“Man, all that estrogen and blond hair in one place. Must have been something.”

“Hmm. All of us were exceptionally open. Nia, especially. She’s a changed woman.”

“She’s in love.”

“She says she’s not.”

“I’m surprised. Women fall in love
at the drop of a hat.”

Eyes wide, she tossed her napkin down. “What an incredibly sexist thing to say, Logan Price.”

He enjoyed teasing her, too. “Women love to be in love, Mags. And they know before men what they want.”

“Is that how it was with Janine?”

Mention of the one that got away—in college—made him frown. “Yeah, she fell first, though I wasn’t far behind.” He stared over
her shoulder. “We could have been happy together.”

But she’d been tied to the small, upstate hometown where she’d lived before college. He and Magdalena had that in common from their pasts, as she’d had a similar experience
.

“How do you think Thomas is doing?”

Logan shook his head. “Who knows? He didn’t seem very happy today.”

“He never seems happy.” She bit into a piece of salmon,
her even white teeth sinking into the fish. “His wife and kids are great people.”

“They are. It’s Thomas who’s unfulfilled. Always has been.”

“Do you think it’s because he wanted the job you got?”

“That was a long time ago. He wasn’t skilled at operations. He’s fantastic at finance. If he is still disgruntled, I wish he’d let go of it.”

“You said you wished you were closer. I’m
sorry.”

“Not everybody is as lucky as the Ludzecky sisters. Tell me more about Lizzie. Those stories are always fun.”

After the meal, they were paying the bill when Magdalena’s phone rang. She answered it, since they were finished. Another rule they had: no taking calls while eating. “Magdalena Ludzecky…Who? Oh, yes, Ms. Parks…Yes, of course I remember. It was a bit ago, so I guess I thought
you decided not to run it…Oh, fine. I’ll talk to Logan and get right back to you.”

Logan had checked his phone while she was talking on hers but looked up when she disconnected. “Ask me what?”

“That was
TIME
magazine’s Joni Parks. Remember her?”

“She interviewed us. Together. Like you said, I thought they decided against using us for an article.”

“I guess not.” Her grin was cute,
as was the sparkle in those hazel eyes. “As a matter of fact, they’re running the article and photos they took of us, but they want us to come down for another shoot next Friday.”

“Why do they need more pictures? As I recall, they got several at the office.”

“Mr. Price,” she said flirtatiously. “How would you like to be on the cover of
TIME
?”

oOo

Donuta loved all her children
equally, but some were more thoughtful than others. Magdalena was generous with her money but also with her time, which was much more precious to her.

Leaning against the counter in her daughter’s big kitchen, stocked with only the best, Donuta gazed fondly as Magdalena prepared the meal. “Have I told you how much I like these dinners together,
kochanie
?”

“I do, too,
Matka
.” She still
wore work clothes, which included high boots, and had thrown on an apron to cook. “When we’re all together, we don’t get to talk much.”

Donuta shook her head at this lasagna Magdalena was finishing. “I could have come early and had all this done before you arrived home.”

She glanced at
Matka
and took a sip of her wine, then set it down. “The point is to spoil you,
Matka
, like you spoil
all of us. Besides, I made this yesterday, and it just needed a few things.” She sprinkled the top with cheese. “All done.” She opened one of the two ovens in her condo kitchen, slid in the pan and closed the door. Turning, she said, “Let’s go in the living room.”

They sat in front of a warm, blazing fire. Donuta had asked for tea because of the bitter, cold weather. “Speaking of spoiling,
how’s Gerald?”

“Gerald is wonderful.” Donuta knew she had an ear-to-ear grin, but she could not help it
.

“I can’t believe you met him at Ham and Eggs.” A diner in Queens.

“He says it was for…I cannot remember the word.”

“Fortuitous?”

“Yes. I go there once a week for breakfast after the boys leave for school. Gerald was out in Queens on business, and he had heard about the little
place, so he happened in, sat down next to me at the counter and started a conversation by asking what was the best dish on the menu.”

“I didn’t know that’s how you met. You were vague about it.”

“I do not tell my children everything.”

“How romantic.”

“I suppose. I thought I was too old for romance, but I am not.” Donuta knew she blushed. “He came back every Thursday when he learned
that was my breakfast day. I missed it once, and he was very concerned the next week. So I made sure I stuck with the routine. The rest you know.”

Reaching out, she clasped her mother’s hand. “I’m so happy for you,
Matka
.”

“Thank you. Now, tell me how Ana is doing.”

Magdalena shook her head. “No, we aren’t going to talk about the family. These nights are for you and me.”

“Then,
tell me about yourself. You always listen to others, but I do not hear much about you.”

“Work’s going well. We’re investing in a business and are doing all the pre-work before the final offer.”

“Due diligence.”

Her daughter’s brows rose. “How did you know that?”

“Gerald explained it to me once when you were in the midst of a project.”

“Ah.”

“What about the rest of your
life?”

Kicking off her shoes, she curled her feet under her. “You know there’s not much to tell.”

“That is a problem,
moja
córka
.”

“Sometimes,
Matka
, it is. I date, but no one has caught my fancy.”

“Since Carl.”

Carl had been her first boyfriend in high school. They were both smart and went to Cornell. He was a couple of years older, but they’d started the same year.

Magdalena
shook her head, but the light in her eyes dimmed. “He didn’t cause my lack of commitment,
Matka
.”

“He hurt you.”

“That was years ago.” She sighed. “And I assure you I’m not suffering over that loss. Do you know how he is, though?”

“Yes. His mother told me the marriage is not happy. My guess is he could never forget you.”

“He couldn’t have lived the life I chose,
Matka
. He’s just
wasn’t that kind of boy. He was a good one but not for me.” She shrugged. “He was meant to be a farmer I guess.” He’d studied in the agricultural school.

“That is a hard life.”

“Can we talk about something else? Thinking of Carl and how much I cared about him makes me sad.”


Tak
. What about others you date now?”

“Mostly they’re men like me. Busy, with little time for fun.”

“But time for sex, I hope.”

Magdalena grinned. Her mother had made sure all the girls got educated early on about facts of life, but only lately did she seem so comfortable talking about it. Though it wasn’t quite true, Magdalena said, “Yes, I have a wonderful sex life, and apparently, you do, too.”

Resting her head back against the couch, Donuta appreciated the warmth from the fire. “For
the first time.”

“I’m sorry you had to wait so long.”

“Your Pa was not the kind of man who would take time with a woman. It was not his fault. It was how he grew up in Poland.”

“Then, I’m really glad you found Gerald.”

“What is the saying?
Better late than never
?”

BOOK: Risky Business
8.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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