Ben was working on his plans when Leroy called him to come into his office.
Ben walked in and and was surprised to see Sofia sitting across from the desk, talking to Leroy. He hadn’t seen or spoken to her since the uncomfortable birthday party incident almost a year ago.
When she saw him, a huge smile split her face and she jumped up. “Ben!” she gushed and threw her arms around him.
“Hi Sofia!” he said with a laugh when she released him. “It’s good to see you. What are you doing in Willow Creek? Are you, uh, here alone?”
Sofia’s smile faltered for a minute. “Yes. You are safe. I am so sorry about how Jesse acted last time I saw you. I had no idea you had a history.”
Leroy looked between them, totally confused. “Safe?”
Sofia shrugged apologetically. “Ben and Jesse, my boyfriend, they don’t get along so well. Something about dating his sister.”
“Oookaay,” said Leroy, drawing out the word, understanding Sofia’s deeper meaning. “Is that going to be a problem for you taking a job here?”
“No. Of course not,” she said.
“You’re sure? I don’t need trouble,” said Leroy.
“Yes, I’m sure,” replied Sofia with a convincing smile.
“All right,” said Leroy and turned to Ben, “You can talk to Sofia about what her responsibilities would be. If you two agree, she can start tomorrow.”
Ben was confused and began to stammer. “Sofia is who…I thought you were just….”
“Oh…is there a problem?” asked Sofia.
Ben felt his ears start to burn. “No…I just wasn’t expecting…never mind.”
“Perfect,” said Leroy grinning, “I will leave you two alone and you can discuss the job duties and let me know your decision.”
Leroy walked out, closing the door behind him, leaving Ben and Sofia alone. “Uh, why don’t we sit down,” he said, and motioned to the couch. “Um, so Sofia, I thought you lived in Twinbrook. Are you moving to Willow Creek?”
“Jesse is got a promotion at work and is being transferred here to the headquarters. He is going to be in charge of some product development thingie. I really don’t know exactly what he does,” she said and laughed, “It’s all so corporate. He doesn’t want a long distance relationship, so I was hoping I could find a job.”
“So you moving in with him?”
A blush spread up Sofia’s chest and to her cheeks. She avoided his gaze and chewed her lip like she was carefully considering her answer. He studied her while she wasn’t looking at him. He remembered thinking how beautiful she was at his party but was so pissed at Jesse he didn’t have time to really look at her. Now that he did, he noticed that she had a certain exotic beauty that he didn’t think she was even aware of. His little fishing buddy had grown up.
“Never mind,” said Ben quickly. She was probably embarrassed to tell him she was living with Jesse. He felt like he crossed a line somehow and shouldn’t have been watching her so intently. “That’s none of my business. I’m sorry. So that sounds good. How much did Leroy tell you about the job?”
She quickly fell back into her bubbly, happy demeanor. Her smile was infectious. “To be honest, I called him to ask if he had anything. Landscaping is my specialty. I was actually surprised to hear from him yesterday. When I called earlier he said he didn’t have anything. Anyway, I was so excited when he called back, that I drove in last night. I came here first thing this morning. So, he really didn’t tell me much at all – including that I would be working for you.”
Ben proceeded to tell her about his plans for the park. Sofia’s enthusiasm for the project got Ben fired up again. She started throwing out ideas and Ben began to make notes. Suddenly he stopped and started laughing.
“What’s so funny?” she asked sticking out her bottom lip, “You think a lighted trail is a silly idea?”
Ben had an almost irresistible urge to take his finger and push her bottom lip back so she would smile again. He grinned at her instead. “No, I love the idea. It’s just I haven’t even hired you, yet we are working on this together so easily. Pia, the job is yours if you want it. We make a great team. We always have, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. I will let you and Leroy work out the pay, but I will put in a good word.”
Sofia jumped up and threw her arms around Ben. “Thank you! Thank you sooo much! This so awesome. So, I can start tomorrow?”
Ben adored Sofia. It felt good to be in her company again. He stepped back and looked at the notes he had made with her suggestions. He laughed and pointed to them. “Looks like you started already. Got plans for the rest of the day?”
Her face lit up. “Not anymore!”
Ben started going over the map of the subdivision with her, discussing how things would be laid out. They were so engrossed in their discussion they didn’t hear Leroy walk in.
“Well, looks like you have made a decision!” he said laughing, “I whole heartedly approve.”
They both jumped. “Oh. Mr. Chapman, yes, thank you,” said Sofia, “I absolutely love what you are doing with the park.”
“It’s all Ben,” he said, “When can you start?”
Ben laughed, “Can you start her today? I want to drive her out and show her the property.”
“Sounds good,” said Leroy, “Sofia, when you two get back, stop by my office and we can make it official. Congratulations.”
“Thank you again, Mr. Chapman,” replied Sofia.
“Leroy,” repeated Sofia. She kissed her new employer on the cheek and ran out the door with Ben.