I’ve been on a career path with my twin sister for as long as I can remember.
This was by no means, my dream but I’ve become comfortable.
At least that is what I thought until an unconventional trip has me crossing paths with a woman that is only dreamt about by men.
My comfort is being thrown away when I think about more with this woman.
It is time I found out what it would mean to step outside of my box.
Rebecca hung up the phone and spun around as I entered her office. “Where in hell have you been, Tyler? I tried to call you all night!”
I put my hands up defensively. “I lost my phone at the campsite and had to go back to get it.”
“Campsite? Why are you camping out when I need you here? This place isn’t going to run itself, and usually, I don’t mind if you slack off because I know this was never your dream to take over the business, but this is our busiest season.”
Rebecca’s cheeks were stained red with anger, and she had the same fire in her eyes that my father had during the holidays. There was never a dull moment running one of the largest event centers in New York City. My father had started out with a simple catering company and grown it into an empire he’d named Premier Palace. And even though I was the only son, my twin sister was the one who’d wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps. Strangely enough, I’d been the one who inherited my mother’s gypsy soul.
I plopped down in the chair near the window across the room from her desk. “I’m here. Christ, you act like you’re in this alone. Just because you know more than me and had father’s training, doesn’t mean I don’t do my fair share. I’m simply doing the only part you, and he, left me with.”
I’d often felt like I’d gotten the leftovers; whatever stray remnants of my father’s attention were left as he focused on my sister and trained her to take over. Our few camping trips, as I learned later, were my mother’s idea.
Gretchen, our secretary, stuck her head in the door behind me. “Mrs. Dobson is here to see you.”
“Shit,” Rebecca cursed under her breath. “I hoped I had more time before she came in. Send her in.”
Even though I didn’t know as much about the business as my sister, I knew that Mrs. Eloise Dobson was not only our most faithful client, but she was also one of the wealthiest repeat customers that we’d come to rely on. Rebecca looked shaken.
“Aren’t we ready for her?” I asked. It wasn’t like my sister to not have things done on time.
“No, Tyler. We’re not ready. The tree I ordered for the front room of the gala entrance didn’t show up, and there are still fall flowers out along the banister. She’s going to want to see how the place looks this year, and she’s not going to appreciate us not being at the top of our game.”
“Why didn’t it show up?” I asked.
Before Rebecca could answer, Eloise Dobson walked in with her head held high and her nose in a twist.
“Rebecca. Tyler.” She addressed us each with a nod. The woman was draped in white silk, fur, and diamonds, and she was as icy as a villainous queen. She had been the same since we were children. “I wanted to discuss this year’s gala, but I’m afraid there’s a problem.”
“A problem?” Rebecca leaned in closer as if Mrs. Dobson had her attention, but if I knew Rebecca, she was busy listening to her internal voices battle it out over not having everything perfect for the woman’s arrival.
She lowered herself into the chair beside me. “Yes, you know I like to see the decorations and make my plans from there, but there doesn’t seem to be the usual feel of Christmas. I noticed you don’t even have the tree in the front entrance. It was very disappointing to walk in and see you’re behind schedule.”
Rebecca nodded and gave the woman her best apologetic look. “We had a little setback on the tree delivery, but one is on the way, and we’ll have it up by the end of the week. I know you never book before that, but I’d hoped our long-standing relationship would prevail.”
“I see.” The woman shifted her handbag to the other arm. “Please don’t take this the wrong way, Ms. Bates, but my long-term relationship was with your father, not you and your brother, and while I can respect you for trying to carry on his legacy, I can’t help but wonder if you can truly pull it off. You’re the only business in town who isn’t decorated for Christmas, and Thanksgiving passed a week ago.”
“Yes, ma’am, and as I said, the problem with the tree was not our fault, the supplier—”
“I’m sorry,” Mrs. Dobson said. “I’m really not trying to be difficult, but let me stop you there. If you think I’m going to trust my yearly Christmas gala to someone who is going to pass the buck when things aren’t the way I want them, then you’re sorely mistaken.”
It was time for me to speak up. “With all due respect, Mrs. Dobson, we ran the gala for you last year. I’m aware my father was still a figurehead in the business until his death, but my sister was running things for him then, and your gala was a huge success. You have no reason to worry, I assure you.”
The woman looked down her nose at me. “You smell like smoke.”
Silence hung in the air for one of the longest and most awkward moments of my life.
Rebecca cleared her throat. “Are you willing to at least give us until next week to get a tree up? Perhaps if you come in on Monday?”
My eyes widened. Monday? Was she out of her mind? I wanted to reach out and shake her so she’d wake up. Finding a tree in a week’s time might not be terrible if we were talking about a seven-foot-tall artificial thing from the storage closet, but our usual trees were more like twenty to thirty feet tall.
“I’ll be back in a week, and I expect to see this place sparkling with Christmas cheer,” Mrs. Dobson said. “If not, then I’m afraid we’ll have to renegotiate next year’s booking. And for the future, remember that one of the only reasons I use this venue is for the pre-decorated option. So, if this place isn’t decorated to your normal standards, I’m going to consider that a breach of contract.”
“Yes, ma’am,” my sister said. “I’m terribly sorry, and as I said, I already have a team on it.”
My sister cut me a pointed look, and after we’d said our parting words to the old woman and she’d gone, Rebecca let loose a long-held breath.
“It’s going to be okay, Bex. We’ll get this sorted, but I can’t believe you promised a week! You know the tree is going to take me a while to find.”
“Yes, and wait—what?” She shook her head. “No way! You’re going to have to stay here and help me!”
“Do you know anyone else who can drive out and scout for trees? Besides, you know this kind of thing is right up my alley. I used to go get our family tree with Dad every year.”
“That’s true, and you do smell like smoke, by the way. Couldn’t you have taken a shower before you came by here?” She shook her head. “As much as it pains me, we’re in our thirties now, brother, and you need to find your focus in life. You can’t keep up this wandering off shit. You’re not a hobo.”
“I fell asleep on the ground next to the fire. I was coming home early this morning and had to turn around, so I just said fuck it and stayed until daylight.”
“You slept on the ground?” My sister could never understand my spirit or how all of my journeys were as much about me holding on to the memories of my father as keeping the business running was for her.
“I had a sleeping bag and shelter, Bex. It’s not like no one’s ever done it.” My father would take me camping and hiking now and then, and that had always been our only bonding time. I’d been camping solo for years, once I got old enough.
“Yeah, well, you need to grow up.” She let loose a sigh. “I want around twenty-three to twenty-five feet. You know thirty is our limit with the ceiling, and I’ll need you to let me arrange the truck pickup.”
“Awesome!” My smile spread so wide, my cheeks hurt, but she shook her head like I was getting ahead of myself.
“Tyler, I know this is going to be fun, but please take into consideration that everything is riding on this tree. If we lose her booking for next year and she takes part of this year’s fee back, we’re going to lose the business. She’s our top client.”
I got to my feet, and she came around to join me as I stepped to the door. “You can trust me.”
“I hope so. And don’t screw this up and get sidetracked like you did the last time I sent you out on a mission. I’m all for you having a nice girl in your life, but letting some chick tag along for the ride is not going to fly this time.”
I let out a grumble. She wasn’t going to ever let me live that down. The one and only time I had really screwed up, I’d brought my girlfriend Mia along with me. Rebecca had sent me out to pick up a new statuary, and because the girl had gotten food poisoning and had to be rushed to the ER, I’d missed the pick-up appointment.
“I couldn’t just leave Mia to suffer,” I said. “Besides, she was sick in my car. I had to have it detailed before the smell permeated the entire thing.” My car was my baby. I’d gotten the convertible black Porsche 911 on my sixteenth birthday, and we’d had a kinship since. I even bought an old Jeep to go camping.
“I’m just saying. Don’t bring along any baggage, and don’t get sidetracked. This is too big of a deal.”
“Fine, I won’t bring anyone,” I said. “I hadn’t planned on it anyway.”
“Good. Now go home and pack.” She stopped and turned to give me a tired look. “Oh, and take a shower. You stink.”
I stepped closer and gave her a hug. “I love you too, Sis. I got this.” I wasn’t worried in the slightest. What the hell could go wrong?
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