“Cass, why are you so nervous?” asked Cris when they pulled into the driveway at her parents house. She’d been extra quiet on the drive from Willow Creek, which was very much unlike her, especially since they started talking about Purple, she was constantly throwing around ideas. “You know we have a good plan, your dad’s gonna be fine with it.”
“I’m worried about letting them know that I’m investing my sister’s insurance money, plus I haven’t told them I’ve moved in with you yet.”
“You haven’t told them we’re together?” he asked surprised, although they never talked about it, he figured she’d told her parents.
“They know we’re dating, but not that we’re serious enough to live together.”
Cris was slightly relieved. That was probably what was really making her nervous, not the bar. “You’re going to tell them tonight, right?”
“Of course I am. I guess it’s a lot to lay on them all at once, the bar and us living together. It’s just that I’m afraid Dad wouldn’t get on board with this partnership otherwise.”
Dammit, she’s worried about nothing, he thought getting frustrated with her. “Cass, I’m glad your going to tell them but I think you’re wrong. He’s going to see the business plan and agree to help out, and not because you and I are together, but because it’s a solid plan.”
“You think so?”
“I know so, now put on a smile on that pretty face and let’s go charm your folks.”
The heavenly smell of garlic and oregano greeted them at the front door causing Cris’ stomach to rumble loudly. “Wow, that smells so good,” he gushed to Cassie’s mother.
“Thanks,” said Reagan, “I hope it meets your approval. Being Italian, you’re probably an expert on all Italian food.” The she looked at her daughter. “Cassie, I could use a hand in the kitchen for a minute if you don’t mind.”
“Sure,” replied Cassie, then shot him a nervous look before disappearing into the kitchen, arm in arm with her mother.
“Cris, would you like a drink?” asked Evan as he scooted behind the bar to grab a bottle of wine.
“Sure,” replied Cris and then followed him to the living room.
“Your business plan looks good,” said Evan, “so I had our finance guy look at it as well and they think it’s viable – depending on how much financing you’re going to need. You didn’t include a number.”
“Maybe we should wait for Cass before we discuss that part,” said Cris, “we’re planning to create a partnership for this venture and I prefer she tell you about it.”
“Really?” asked Evan, “and why would you take on Cassie as an inexperienced business partner? Don’t get me wrong, she’s my daughter and I think she can do anything she puts her mind to, but I’m trying to be realistic – for financing.”
“I beg to differ about her experience, Mr. Connor. This whole thing was her idea, her dream and she’s not inexperienced. On the contrary, she’s part of what made the Blue Velvet what it’s become. She’s intuitive and creative and has been a valuable asset to me even before she became my manager.”
“Please, call me Evan, Mr. Connor makes me feel old. So this is Cassie’s idea huh? Still, it doesn’t quite answer how you’re taking her on as a partner, I would think you might give her a percentage for the idea, but a full partner? How?”
Reagan walked in before Cris could formulate a response. “Evan, Cris, dinner’s ready,” she said with a smile.
Cris was grateful for the interruption and quickly took a drink to further delay responding Evan’s question. He really needed Cass to be with him for this entire discussion, she might feel like he didn’t trust her and that was far from the truth. “We can talk about it more over dinner,” he finally said and followed Reagan into the dining room.
“This is delicious Mrs. Conner,” said Cris around a mouthful once they sat down.
“Thank you, that’s very sweet.” She looked at her husband before continuing. “So, Evan, Cassie and Cris have exciting news!”
“So I heard,” said Evan and glanced at Cris, “Cassie is going into partnership with Cris, he just told me.”
“Well, I guess a partnership is one way to put it when two people live together. Veronica, her roommate, is going to stay in her house for now, so she’s not selling it.”
“Mom” said Cassie, “this wasn’t how I meant to tell Daddy.”
“Oh, don’t be silly,” said her mother, “you looked so happy when you told me, I couldn’t wait to share the news, but Cris already told him so I didn’t spoil anything.”
Cassie’s smile lit up the room and it made Cris’ heart soar. “Daddy, Mom’s right, I am happy, we both are, very much so.”
“Cassie honey,” said Evan, looking between Cassie and Cris, “congratulations I guess, but Reagan, I didn’t know they’d moved in together, that’s not what Cris told me, I was talking about – ”
“Evan,” interrupted Cris, “may I explain? Unless Cass, you would like to do the honors.”
“Well, I’ll be damned,” mumbled Evan and looked lovingly at his daughter, “now it’s all starting to make sense, the partnership, moving in together, wanting her to tell me – Reagan honey, they’re pregnant. We’re going to become grandparents.”
“Evan!” said Reagan, “she can’t be pregnant, she’s drinking wine – silly man, let them talk, maybe they’re getting married.”
Cassie just sat there with her mouth open so Cris rescued her. “Oh God, no, she’s not pregnant and we aren’t getting married, at least not yet. That’s not why we moved in together, we were simply ready for that next step in our relationship. I’m very much in love with your amazing daughter. So, Cass, do you want to explain the partnership part and why?”
“Sure,” she said and looked at her father. “Daddy, you know I’ve wanted to own my own bar since I started working for Cris. Cris and I have been talking about it for awhile and the idea of a wine bar came up. I really think it would be a terrific fit for Newcrest – it might even draw from both Willow Creek and San Myshuno if the reputation gets out there. Also, I want to be part owner, not just a manager, so I’ve decided to invest Alex’s money in the bar, provided you feel Newcrest is ready.”
“Honey,” said her mother softly, “it’s not Alex’s money, it’s yours.”
Cris reached for her hand under the table because he knew this part was hard for her. “No Mom, it’s hers,” she said bravely, “and I think she would’ve wanted me to use it for something that was important to me and this really is.”
“I apologize to you both for jumping to conclusions,” said Evan. “Sweetheart, if this is what you want, I think you’re in excellent hands with Cris as a partner, and not only as a business partner.”
“Thank you,” said Cris embarrassed, but warmed by his endorsement.
“I agree Daddy,” said Cassie and smiled at Cris. “So does this mean we are good to move forward?”
“Yes. We can start looking for a location. Somewhere close to Ryan’s gym would be good since it gets a lot of traffic.”
“So,” said Reagan, clearly holding back her emotions, “is everyone ready for dessert to celebrate? We’re having an old family recipe and favorite.” She paused and looked lovingly at her husband before adding, “Tiramisu.”
Cris and Cassie’s house the next morning ….
“Gahhh – I can’t believe my mother told that story! I’m so embarrassed,” said Cassie when Cris rolled over and asked if she was ready for more tiramisu.
“Hey, it’s a great story,” he said laughing, “one that should be handed down. And for the record, I happen to like tiramisu very much, both literally and figuratively.”
“You have a one track mind Cristiano!”
“Only with you Bellissima,” he said, his eyes twinkling with mischief.
Cassie ignored his unspoken request and changed the subject. “Cris, I’m just so excited! We’re going to build Purple! I could hardly sleep last with all the ideas running through my head.”
“Yes, I know,” he said and flopped back down on the pillow, “then when you finally did fall asleep, you snored Cassandra! Snored.”
“I do not snore!” she shot back mortified.
“It’s a cute little snore,” he said grinning and flicked the end of her nose. “And yes, we’re building your wine bar. I never thought I would want to open another bar, but this one has me itching to get started. Maybe it’s because we’re doing it together, or just because your excitement is damn contagious.”
“I am excited, and I don’t snore. But seriously Cris, thank you so much for believing in my dream, and well just being there for me in general these past few months. And yesterday, you were so good with my folks, you had them eating out of your hands. They absolutely adore you, Dad had me pregnant and Mom had us married! I think they even love you more than me.”
Cris suddenly got serious. “No Cassandra, that’s not true, they only tolerate me because you love me. When you and your mother went back in the kitchen for coffee, your father thanked me for giving them back their daughter. He said he hasn’t seen you smile this much or get this excited about anything since you lost your sister, but in the same breath went on to say if I ever did anything to hurt you, I wouldn’t live long enough to see the light of the next day.”
“He really said all that?” she asked, and suddenly realized how hard it must’ve been for her parents to see her functioning, but not living life.
“He did. He loves you very much, and so do I.”
“Cris, I was awful for so long, depressed and full of survivor’s guilt. I isolated myself, cut my hair, dyed it black. He’s right you know.”
“That he won’t think twice about killing me?”
Cassie laughed grateful for the change in mood. “No silly, he would never do that, but he’s right that I’m happy, really truly happy. Honestly, it’s been hard for me to let it happen, and I’m sorry for that, I just didn’t know how to be any other way, so thank you for being patient with me and showing me that the way to honor Alex is to live, not simply exist.”
“When you said you were going to use Alex’s money to build Purple, something changed in your Dad’s demeanor, and the way he looked at you when he thought you were pregnant blew me away. He adores you Cass, and was truly happy for you, not upset at all that you might be pregnant. It’s the unconditional love a parent has for their child.”
The tenderness in Cris’ voice made something inside Cassie slide into place. “Stop, you’re making me all emotional and we need to get out of this bed and get dressed.” She turned to scoot off the bed and called over her shoulder, “Remember, Tyler and Veronica are coming after work with some folks from her agency, they’re celebrating a win – oh,” she added as another idea hit her. She stopped and turned around to tell him and when she did he grabbed her and rolled on top of her, making her making her laugh.
“I knew it,” he teased and tickled her, “you can’t get enough tiramisu.”
“No,” she squealed, but then the air in the room suddenly changed, and she needed to kiss him. “I’ll never get enough of you,” she said softly, “but Veronica just gave me an idea, we can hire them to help us advertise Purple when we get close to opening.”
“Don’t you ever turn off?” he asked laughing, “but I suppose it is a good idea, partner. But if you don’t stop throwing yourself in my arms we’re gonna be late.”
“Ohhh, I really like the sound of that.”
“Partner of being late?” he asked as he leaned back into her.
“Partner!” she said laughing, “now get off of me and let’s get ready!”
Later that evening ….
“Look, Paul’s already here,” said Veronica when she and Tyler walked in the Blue Velvet.
Paul met them halfway. “There’s my star employee,” he said with a huge grin on his face.
“You mean intern,” corrected Veronica, “I do appreciate you coming to celebrate with us, it’s so exciting to win my first big account.”
“Oops, did I say employee?” asked Paul and looked at Tyler, “Tyler can you excuse us for a second? Veronica and I have some business to get out of the way before the celebration can truly begin.”
He looked at his girlfriend and she shrugged. “Sure,” replied Tyler, “I’ll be at the bar when you’re done.”
“Hey, where’s your date?” asked Cassie, and handed him his favorite beer.
“She and Paul are having a ‘work’ meeting’, I’m not quite sure what just happened but I have sneaking suspicion she’s getting a promotion.”
“Ohhhh, I bet that’s why he ordered champagne, it’s chilling in the alcove. He reserved it for your party.”
“Guess we’ll find out for sure in a minute. So how are things going with you and Cris?”
“Daddy’s going to help us find a lot to build a wine bar in Newcrest! I’m so excited.”
“Looks like congrats to you too. That’s what you’ve wanted for awhile, right?”
“Yes, oh look, here they come and she’s grinning like crazy, I bet you’re right.”
Tyler smiled back. “She’s incredible,” he said to Cassie wondering how he got so lucky to have someone like her care about him.
“And perfect for my nerdy cousin,” added Cassie.
“She does everything better than me, except video games. I have to work hard to keep up, but at least she makes it fun.”
“Not everything Ty” replied Cassie, “you’re the sweetest guy I know, except for maybe Cris. He charmed the socks off my parents yesterday.”
“Tyler!” squealed Veronica as she ran up to him and threw her arms around his neck, “Holy guacamole! I made it! I got a full time position with BCL! Can you believe it?”
“Of course I can believe it,” said Tyler, so proud that he couldn’t stop smiling, “You’re nothing short of amazing.”
“She earned it fair and square,” said Paul when he caught up with her. “Let’s go pop the cork on that champagne. Once everyone else gets here, I’ll make the announcement.”
“Oh yes, that’s gonna be sorta awkward,” said Veronica.
“They’ll be happy for you,” insisted Paul, “trust me, you have nothing to feel awkward or embarrassed about.”
Cassie felt Cris’ arms wrap around her from behind. “What’s going on in the alcove?” he asked.
“Veronica got a full time position with BCL and they’re celebrating.”
“Oh that’s great news. You should send a bottle of champagne – on the house.”
“Already done. Look at Tyler, he can’t keep his eyes, or hands, off her. He’s smitten, you can tell how much he loves her. He was never like this with Keira. I’m really happy for them.”
“Maybe she’ll want to buy your house now that she has a good income.”
“Cristiano Braga! No, I’m not gonna push her to do that, that’s just rude, I already told her she could stay at the same rate she was paying. Plus she’s paying all the utilities now that I’ve moved out, so I feel better that the extra expenses won’t be a burden. So, if this is your ploy to ensure I don’t have anywhere to run, stop worrying, because I don’t plan on running. You got the gold seal of approval from my parents, plus we’re going to be partners, like it or not, you’re stuck with me mister.”
“Oh I Iike, partners forever.”
Cassie felt a happy chill run down her spine at the way he said forever. Something changed when we were with my parents, she thought, seeing them together and hearing them talk about our future together, one that had nothing to do with work, got me believing in us, and then what he said this morning about unconditional love, that solidified it. I want it all now. But we need to get Purple established and running like the Blue Velvet. How long will that take? Is he willing to wait that long? Am I? Cassie sighed happily and leaned into her lover’s embrace. “Forever,” she echoed, and felt his hum his approval in her ear.
Two hours later….
“Let’s call a Suber,” suggested Tyler when they were ready to leave, “that champagne went to my head. I can pickup my car tomorrow.”
Veronica giggled, “Okie-dokie, but I’m pay-ing,” she sang, “I can afoooord it now.”
“You’re drunk,” accused Tyler playfully.
“Only a little tipsy, and feeling happy. Hap-hap happy with my new job and veeeery happy with the guy I love celebrating with me. Yep, happy.” She nodded her to head to confirm it.
Tyler laughed and pulled out his phone and ordered a car. “Come on Happy Girl, our ride will be here in two minutes.”
Once they got outside and the driver pulled up, Veronica stopped. “Tyler,” she said, the smile slipping from her face, “stay with me tonight, I don’t want to end the night alone.”
Tyler’s heart clenched at the raw emotion in her words. If he dropped her off, she’d be all alone and it didn’t seem right. She’s not even asking for sex, he thought, but for my company. “Of course Happy Girl, I could never say no to you, didn’t want to leave you alone anyway, so win-win.”
“Win-win,” she repeated, her smile firmly back, then turned and climbed into the waiting car.
“Here’s another glass of water,” said Tyler as he handed the glass to Veronica, “best drink this now. You should probably eat something too.”
“Thanks, I’m really better now, but a sandwich might be good, gah, I can’t believe I got so tipsy.”
“Hey, it was a big night and we hadn’t eaten,” said Tyler over his shoulder as he made her sandwich, “It happens. Congratulations again, I’m so damn proud of you.”
“Do you realize that with bonuses I’ll soon be bringing in six figures. I can’t wrap my head around it yet.”
“You’re shittin’ me?” said Tyler and pushed the sandwich to her. “But damn Veronica, you deserve it, you put your all into everything you do.”
“Well you know the old adage, if anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing right. My motto.”
“I believe that – it shows in everything you do.”
“You know Tyler,” she said and looked at him from under her lashes, “you’re included in things I have to do right.”
Tyler started laughing, “So I’m a project now that you have to ‘do’ right. I kinda think I might like that.” He waggled his eyebrows.
“I’m serious Tyler Murdock, and I’m not talking about sex you brat, though I’m pretty sure we do that right. I mean you – you’re it for me and I need to make sure I don’t mess this up.”
Is that the alcohol still talking? wondered Tyler. “Veronica, baby, you’re it for me too, I’ll never want anyone else, there’s nothing you could do to make me feel differently.”
Tyler chuckled. “I’m not a catch, Veronica. I’m a nerd, but this nerd loves you.”
“But you’re wrong Tyler, you are a catch, no one will ever love me the way you do. You got me water and made me a sandwich.”
“Anyone would have done that for you.”
“No, they wouldn’t – we should get married.”
“What?” Tyler couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Where did that come from? he wondered, we haven’t even discussed it, although I’ve thought about it, but figured we wouldn’t be ready for a few more years.
“Well, we’re in love? Right?”
“Yeeeesss….” he said, drawing the word out waiting for her to fill in the missing pieces.
“And we just said we’re it for each other, so what’s stopping us?”
“That’s the alcohol talking Veronica. Let’s wait until you’re sober, and me too because right now, I really can’t figure out a good reason to say no.”
“Okay, then let’s go to bed, since we got that part down, and promise me, we’ll talk about it again in the morning. I’m serious and I don’t want you to think it’s only because I’m drunk.”
“Okay, I’m up for that,” agreed Tyler thinking she might have a whole different perspective in the morning.
”That’s what I was counting on,” she said and raised her eyebrows at his unintended double entendre.