Authors: Geeta Kakade
THE OLD FASHIONED WAY
Books We Love Ltd.
Copyright 2013 by Geeta Kakade
Cover Art Copyright 2013 by Michelle Lee
THE HOMESPUN SERIES
BOOK 1 – FAITH HOPE AND LOVE
BOOK 2 – PROJECT VALENTINE
BOOK 3 – THE LONG ROAD HOME
BOOK 4 – THE OLD FASHIONED WAY
BOOK 5 – MR. WRONG
BOOK 6 – DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL
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Abby swallowed hard as her gaze tangled with the speaker's. She shouldn't have chosen a seat in the front row. Shouldn't have placed herself within range of the powerful magnetism he exuded. Her mind flashed a warning. She had vowed to stay away from men like Daniel Hawthorn. Forever.
She told herself it was the artist in her that took note of every detail about him. A second later she admitted that wasn’t right. It was the woman, not the artist, that noticed everything. Confidence that could be scooped up with a shovel, sexy eyes, potent charm. Added to his looks, it spelled intense, dangerous, mind-numbing.
Every action of his produced a reaction within her. The deep baritone voice strummed a chord deep in her heart. He lifted a brow and her pulses thrummed. Every time their gazes met, her skin tingled.
The ebb and flow of color in her face confirmed the truth. Awareness at fever pitch had done this. Uncovered emotions Abby never wanted exposed again. Tuning in to the man on a personal level spelled danger. For her. She shouldn't have come.
Daniel Hawthorn's seminar, `How to help an ailing business,' wasn't going to help her, or Gran. As for the man's potent charm, that was more trouble than she needed.
Rod, her late husband, had been charming and a glib talker too. And so cold. Unfortunately Abby hadn't discovered the latter till after they were married. Blinded by her feelings, she hadn't seen the warning signs till it was too late. Thinking of the past was like poking her fingers into an electric socket...the shock jarred Abby back to the reason she was here.
Gran. The dearest person in the world. Abby's rock. She owed her more than could be repaid in one lifetime. Gran had raised her, been there for her whenever she needed her. Now their roles were reversed. Gran needed her help. Only Abby was making as much headway as a butterfly trapped in a net.
The Busy Bee, the craft store they jointly owned with two others, wasn't doing well. The bank manager's warning still rang in Abby's ears. They had a month to pull the store out of the red, or the bank would be forced to foreclose on its loan.
Fear gripped Abby, overtaking her initial nervousness. The Busy Bee was Gran's lifeline. It gave her a reason to get up in the mornings, an interest in life. There had to be a way of saving it. Twenty other seniors depended on the store’s community room as a place to meet and spend time. Life in small places was simple but harder to sustain since California’s economy had taken a steep swing downwards. Did svelte successful people who belonged to the upper echelons of the social strata know how hard it could be?
She looked at Daniel Hawthorn. Thoughts of Gran and the store had fuelled the worry inside into a blaze. The man had no right to have this effect on her. Sparks of anger sent heat through her. The advertisement she had seen regarding this seminar in a leading business magazine had boasted that Daniel Hawthorn was a genie when it came to helping any business in trouble. So far his magic hadn't worked for her. Nothing he had said could be applied to The Busy Bee.
Abby's eyes narrowed at the thought of the money she had spent on this seminar. The last of her money. Pictures whirled in her brain. Mr. Hawkins, the bank manager, refusing to extend them any more credit. Gran's face, pinched with the worry that she always tried to hide. Gran's friends, wondering what would happen to them when The Busy Bee closed. Worry pumped courage into Abby's blood stream. She had to do something. Right now.
Daniel's gaze went back to the woman in the first row. Now, as all through the day, the green eyes regarded him seriously. The mass of black wavy hair that bordered a wide forehead was raked back by slim long fingers. His gaze rested on the tumble of hair on her shoulders. The realization that he wanted to touch it, shook him.
The feeling was an unfamiliar one. She wasn't the sophisticated, every-hair-in-place-type he normally dated. For one thing she wasn't skinny thin, for another she wasn't wearing a business suit.
It had become a habit of Daniel's to classify the people attending these seminars into successes and failures. She belonged to the latter category. She didn't take notes, or ask any questions. Her desperate look had remained fixed on him as if she hoped the process of osmosis would transfer all he knew to her. Instinct honed during years of conducting these seminars told him she absorbed very little of what he said. And she was worried.
It's really none of your business, Hawthorn.
Daniel forced himself to look away, unclench the hand in his pocket. He had a personal rule not to get involved with anyone in the audience. Yet the woman drew him like a magnet. Maybe he was more tired than he knew. Daniel looked at her tag. She'd printed her name in large, block letters.
Abby Silver. The name went well with the black hair and enormous green eyes.
He glanced down at his notes. Better focus on the finish. This was his last seminar for a while. The next eight weeks were to be his first vacation in three years. The first unscheduled time he had allowed himself since his accident, three years ago.
Daniel put his pencil down and looked up, "That about wraps up what I have to say. I'll be glad to take your questions now."
The first hand up in the air, surprised him. She was the last person he would have expected to have a question.
As surely as the chemistry that had flashed between them earlier, he now received different vibes. The set of her mouth reminded him of the Mona Lisa. Her shoulders were squared as if she had accepted some private, mental challenge. Lifting the glass on the podium, Daniel took a drink of iced water and wondered at the sudden dryness in his throat.
"Yes?" The mercury grey jacket she wore provided a perfect backdrop for her jet black hair.
Abby Silver stood up, wet her lips, and said. "I own a small craft store in Carbon Canyon. It is in trouble since a big outlet plaza opened a mile away from it. What would you suggest I do?"
She looked the craft store type.
"Advertising could make a difference, increase sales. Do you do any?”
“No,” said Abby. They didn’t have money to advertise. Wishing she hadn’t said anything, she looked down.
“Place an ad in craft and women's magazines. Create a website. My other recommendation would be to convert to a mail order business and reduce your overheads of rent, utilities and staff. There’s a chapter in my last book about marketing that could help you."
He was looking at her to see if she accepted his answer.
“Th…thank you.” Abby sat down her legs shaking.
Abby Mouse. That’s who she really was. The Abby lioness phase hadn’t lasted two nervous beats of her heart. She should have said something more.
Daniel Hawthorn had turned to the next person with their hand up in the air.
He answered questions but his gaze returned to the woman in the first row. Abby Silver sat with her head down her hands clasped in her lap and he got the feeling he hadn’t really gotten to the root of her problem. For some reason that irked.
The applause at the end signaled she could leave. Abby got to her feet and reached the end of the aisle before she realized a volunteer stood there. He handed her a note and Abby opened it.
‘Please wait. I would like to talk with you,’ was scrawled in red.
“Mr. Hawthorn asked me to give it to you,” said the volunteer with a smile. “If you would follow me.”
They exited the auditorium and went into a small sitting room. “He’ll be with you as soon as he can.”
Abby wondered what Mr. Hawthorn had to say to her. She didn’t have to wonder long.
“Ms. Silver, won’t you sit down,” he said coming in with a man behind him.
Turning he said something to his companion who left. Daniel closed the door.
Abby wet her lips. “You wanted to see me?”
“I thought you weren’t satisfied with my answer and I thought we could discuss a few more ideas.”
Abby opened her mouth and no sound came out. He was willing to help her?
“Yes?” said Daniel Hawthorn encouragingly.
The thought of Gran’s dear face wrinkled with worry lines made Abby go on. Here was the mouse being given a second chance.
She cleared her throat and said, "How much actual experience do you have in helping small businesses?"
The silence in the room confirmed she had actually said the words aloud. Daniel Hawthorn's eyes widened as he said, "Excuse me?"
"I'd like to know if your seminars are based on actual experience, or on theories.”
"As I said earlier, I have my own import export business."
Abby ignored the coldness in his voice. If she stopped to think about it, she would
lose. The rush of adrenalin that had spurred her into challenging him, was already draining away.
"I know. This pamphlet..." Abby waved it in the air, "says you have a turnover of a few million dollars. That's hardly a small business. Solutions to problems for large enterprises will not always apply to a store like mine. Maybe you should leave the word small out of the title of your seminar. That way you won't mislead people in future."
That was the frustration of being down to the last of their money speaking.
Daniel looked at the woman and wondered why he had labeled her a failure. She might not know how to operate a small store successfully, but she was getting through to him.
"I never attempt to mislead my audience," he said coldly. "If you make an appointment to see me in my office in LA in two weeks, I can discuss your business problems more fully with you."
"I cannot afford to make an appointment with you, Mr. Hawthorn," was her quick reply. "This seminar has taken the last of my money. I’m sorry if I was rude just now but have you ever been down to you last dollar?"
Her voice broke on the last word and she bit her lip. The mouse couldn’t start crying now.
The surge of adrenalin hadn't lasted long. As it ebbed, Abby knew she shouldn't have challenged Daniel Hawthorn. Humiliation wrapped her like a second skin.
Daniel stared at her bent head. Irrational guilt was like a hair shirt. The catch in her voice had made him realize her situation wasn’t serious. It bordered on desperate.
“Tell me what you want me to do,” he said.
Abby raised her head. How could he help her when he didn't know how The Busy Bee was run? If his offer of help was genuine, there was still a slim chance. Desperation forced her into risking everything on one last throw. "Discussions will achieve nothing. The only way you can help is to visit the Busy Bee and give me on-the-spot recommendations."
Daniel frowned. She was asking the impossible.
"I'm afraid that's out of the question. I’m long overdue for a vacation that starts tomorrow."
He saw the light dim in her eyes, the droop of her shoulders. Her expression conveyed she hadn't expected anything more from him. "I thought you might say that. Well thanks anyway for talking with me.”
She was gone before he could say anything. The door shutting behind her was like a reproach spoken aloud.
Daniel sank into a chair. Had he really ceased to care about the content of his speeches? It had taken a total stranger to point out flaws he should have been aware of himself. The emptiness that was so much a part of him these days, returned in full force.
Her face haunted him. He rubbed a hand against his temple. According to Jerry, his business manager, he'd become a phenomenal success. If he was one, why hadn't he been able to help Abby Silver.
He couldn't remember details, only impressions. Eyes as dark as shadows. The direct gaze, the questions at odds with the trembling lower lip. Abby Silver had managed something no woman had in the last three years. She had gotten under his skin.
This seminar has taken the last of my money.
The ring of truth in her voice as she had stated the fact, made him feel like a criminal. His mind refused to let go of his last glimpse of her. Defeated, sad, without hope.
His stomach tightened. The feeling was a familiar one. He had been like that three years ago. Today was the anniversary of his accident. Daniel flexed his hands. Their stiffness was a grim reminder that life was like a board game...unexpectedly one could suddenly find oneself back at the starting line. He didn't like the thought he was partly responsible for pushing Abby Silver to that point.
Her suggestion that he make a personal survey of the store was impractical. If he set a precedent like that, others would expect the same from him. He'd had to turn it down.
I didn't think you would, but I had to ask.
Daniel sighed. She'd inferred he wasn't the type to bother about a small cog in the big world of business.
Had success hardened him to the point where he really didn't care about people anymore? He had conducted these seminars for three years. No one had ever challenged him, judged him, and found him wanting.
It wasn't a comfortable feeling to know Abby Silver had done all three. That she might be right.
If he couldn't put into practice what he advocated in these seminars, he was no better than a con artist.