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Deacon

By´╝ÜKristen Ashley

Chapter One


Not Reality



“Cassidy, are you fucking kidding me?”

“We need to update the units, Grant.”

“Eleven microwaves?”

I stared at my boyfriend, the love of my life, the man who gave up home in Oklahoma six weeks ago to follow me to Colorado to live my dream. The dream that was born when I was thirteen and Mom and Dad took us on a skiing trip. The dream I nurtured every time they gave in when I begged them to take us back. The dream of having every day what I felt the minute I hit the Rockies. The feeling of being precisely where I was meant to be, in the mountains, living a quiet life constantly in the midst of sheer beauty.

And, of course, living that dream with the addition of a lot of snowboarding.

I had found the cabins for sale on the Internet and talked Grant into coming with me, fixing them up, caring for them and the patrons who’d use them to have their time by a river in the middle of rock, pine, aspen, columbine, fireweed, wild iris, and glacier lily.

We were young and being young, embarking on such a huge-scale adventure, possibly stupid. I knew that.

My dad knew it too. He was concerned. He tried to hide it from me but he didn’t quite succeed.

My mom wasn’t concerned. She was silently terrified that I was sinking my savings, something I’d been carefully hoarding since I was thirteen, into a broken down bunch of cabins in the middle of nowhere in the Rocky Mountains. Doing it practically just out of college. Only twenty-four years old (though, Grant was twenty-six).

That didn’t mean Mom and Dad didn’t give us their blessings. They did. With Dad giving me twenty thousand dollars besides.

“An investment,” he’d said. “You can pay me back when you make those cabins thrive.”

When you make those cabins thrive.

When. Not if.

That was my dad. He believed in me. He was worried. He knew it was risky. But he did what he always did. Made a statement—this time a grand one—that he believed I could do anything.

Even take on a bunch of ramshackle cabins, the even more ramshackle house that went with them, and make them “thrive.”

“Since I’m buying so many, I’m getting a screaming deal on those microwaves, Grant,” I informed him of something I’d already informed him of. “Forty percent off and free delivery.”

“Those units don’t need new microwaves, Cassidy.”

I stared at him again since he knew they did. The ones that were working (and in the eleven cabins we owned, only eight microwaves were working) were old, crusty, and gross. I wouldn’t even pop popcorn in one of them.

“Three of them don’t work,” I reminded him.

“Folks can get along without microwaves,” he retorted.

I shook my head. “Babe, seriously, we went over this. All of it. I wrote out that business plan, you read it, and—”

“Jesus, fuck,” he interrupted me in exasperation and lifted up his hands to do air quotation marks. “Your fuckin’ business plan. If I hear about that fuckin’ thing one more fuckin’ time, I’m gonna shoot myself.” He’d dropped his hands but threw one out. “Fuck, Cassidy, you don’t need a business degree from some Podunk university in Oklahoma to write some stupid document that tells us to make a go of this fuckin’ place, we don’t need microwaves.” He leaned in to me. “We need to rent cabins.”

I stared at him yet again, seeing as he’d never spoken to me like that. We’d started arguing these past few weeks but he’d never said anything that mean.

And as I stared at him, I tried to stop the hurt his words sent piercing through me. Hurt he hadn’t inflicted when we were back in Oklahoma and he was a good boyfriend. The kind who was up for adventure. The kind that listened to me in the night after he made love to me as I whispered my dreams to him. The kind who told me he was all in. He was there for me. He, too, believed in me and wanted to live the dream.

I managed to do this as I managed to reply quietly and with forced calm. “Yes, Grant, but to rent them at the prices where we need them to be in order to make a decent living, we need to fix them up.”

“We can fix them up when we got some fuckin’ money in the bank.”

It was then I knew where he was coming from.

Because I bought the cabins. I had the mortgage. I had the rest of the money I’d saved and didn’t invest in buying the property and Dad’s money besides.

Grant didn’t have much of anything except experience as a journeyman electrician and a fabulous body I’d hoped he’d use to help me paint walls and refinish floors.

In the six weeks we’d been there, he’d painted walls. Three of them. Then he’d spent a lot of time “getting to know the locals” in order to “get referrals.”

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