Love Under Construction – Chapter Three

WEDNESDAY MORNING, CHARLEE STOPPED in at Victoria’s office, armed with mocha caramel lattes. LyonsReal Estate Offices were located near City Hall in an old building that had been updated. In fact, the office renovations were part of a project Charlee worked on when she returned to work at Elliott Construction after college. She checked out the wood molding and refurbished brick, happy to see that it continued to look great.

She passed through the main room to where the receptionist sat, guarding the set of Realtor offices behind her desk. “Is Victoria available?” she asked the college-aged girl who was more interested in the bodice ripper romance novel a mere six inches from her face.

“Ya-huh,” the receptionist replied.

Charlee shifted from foot to foot. “Can I meet with her?”

“Yup.” The receptionist swung her hand in the direction of Victoria’s office, her gaze never leaving the pages she was enamored with.

Charlee shrugged, then crossed the room and knocked before nudging the office door open. She peaked her head inside. “Hey there. Do you have a few minutes to chat?”

Victoria put down her pen and whatever she had been reviewing and smiled. “Absolutely.”

Charlee moved into the room and pushed the door closed with her foot. She handed one latte over and was happy to hear Victoria’s sigh after her first sip. Charlee settled into the cushy chair across from the desk. “That’s quite the secretary you have.”

Victoria chuckled. “Heidi’s my niece and an aspiring romance author.”

“Really?” Charlee tentatively took her first sip of the delicious drink. She didn’t depend on coffee to wake her up each morning, but she certainly enjoyed a cup every once in a while.

“You’d be surprised how much she marks up those books. Something about mapping out conflict, resolutions and beats. I don’t understand it at all, but she claims all her reading is research. I thought those books were all about skipping to the good parts.”

Charlee grinned. “You mean the hot kissing scenes?”

“Well, if you think those are the good parts . . . Sure.” But Victoria’s wink and grin showed that she agreed with Charlee’s assessment. “Anyway, what can I help you with?”

“I’d like to talk more about the Indulgence Row project.”

“Excellent! I’m excited to have a female on board for the construction side.”

Charlee turned her latte in a circle in her hands. She met Victoria’s whiskey brown eyes. “About that. Some things happened with Elliott Construction and, except for a project I’ll have completed for them at the end of this week, I won’t be working with them anymore.”

Victoria tilted her head to the side. “What are your future plans?”

“I need to do a little research, but I plan to set up my own renovation company. No new construction or home additions, like I mostly did for Elliott Construction. Instead, I’ll focus on home restorations and upgrades that keep with the structure’s original integrity.”

Victoria leaned back in her chair, continuing to sip the latte. “How long will take to get fully running?”

Charlee gulped. If she could land part of the Indulgence Row contract, it would put her business on solid starting ground. If she didn’t, well, let’s just say things would be rocky for a while.

“I estimate it will be about three weeks. I’ll finish this project, then have two weeks to hire crews and set up terms with my subcontractors. But I need to be honest. I won’t have all the heavy equipment and resources Elliott Construction does. It will take some time for me to build up to that point, but I have enough money for a solid start.”

“Hmm . . .” Victoria set the latte down and folded her hands in her lap. “I assume you plan to work out of your home as the company starts up?”

“Actually, I was hoping to make a deal with your investor. If I’m chosen as one of your construction crews, I’d like to trade services for office space. My grandmother’s house is located on Indulgence Row. I would love to use the upstairs portion as my office. I would be willing to discount my bid by either 10% or the first full year of rent, whichever the investor prefers, as well as provide all of my own space renovations.”

“Well, I can’t promise anything, but I’ll discuss it with the investor. He’s very open-minded right now. Of course, he prefers to have long term leases.”
Charlee nodded, having already anticipated possible lease terms. “I’d be willing to negotiate those terms.”

“Excellent! How about I get back to you by the end of the week?” Victoria rose from her seat.

“That sounds fantastic.” Charlee stood and they shook hands. “Thanks, Victoria. I really want to be a part of this project. It means a lot to me, personally.”

Victoria stopped her before she could turn to leave. “One last thing, are you okay working with Elliott Construction or will that create problems? We anticipate hiring two or three construction companies to work on various homes. We would like to avoid any contention between crews.”

“There won’t be any from my end. I know Peter plans to bid for the project and I don’t anticipate any conflicts. He and I have already discussed it.”

Victoria nodded, seeming satisfied with her answer. “We’ll talk again soon.”

Charlee left the office, waved to Heidi who was still absorbed in the romance novel, although she did notice the girl had multi-colored pens and was, indeed, marking passages in the book. She tossed her latte into a trash can before leaving the building, then slid her sunglasses into place while she walked to her truck.

The Johnson project would be wrapped up on Friday. They were absolutely thrilled with the renovation project, how the walls looked after they stripped off all the paint and wallpaper, ripped out the carpets down to the original hard wood floors, then sanded everything and stained it back to its original color and shine. It was coming along beautifully. All that was left was some final painting, then everything would be wrapped up. The Johnsons already asked about getting a bid for their next project, but Charlee referred them to George. No way was she going to be accused of stealing business. She was there representing Elliott Construction and she wouldn’t say anything about her new company. At least, not until after her time with Elliott Construction was over.

Two more days. Then her new life would begin.

A new life she hadn’t told her best friend about yet. Once in the warmth of her truck, Charlee pulled out her phone and sent a text to Mari.

Hey chick chick. I finally did it. My last day at EC is this Friday.

She couldn’t remember if Mari was currently at her home in sunny L.A. or at one of her many other homes located around the world. It seemed lately like every other month Mari was off to either New York, Paris, or Milan.

The life of a model. Well, mostly retired model. She would be jealous if Mari wasn’t her best friend. The world only thought Mari was beautiful and brave, especially since the death of her husband and son. She could only imagine the amount of pain and suffering she had experienced over the past three years.

Her phone vibrated.

Excellent! Does this mean I get to snag you away to do those remodels for me?

Charlee laughed. Mari had been nagging her for several months to do some remodeling, but in reality, Charlee knew she could hire someone local with just as much talent.

I thought you were going to check out the beach for some hot construction guy to help you out? 😛  Actually, I’m starting my own business and bidding on a remodel project converting a set of older homes into a women’s shopping district. I’m really excited about it.

With the talent of fast thumbs and a good network reception, the time between texts was short.

I’m excited for you. And hey, I’m totally saving these projects for you. Any excuse to lure my bestie away for work/girls vacation. Just let me know when and I’ll fly you out.

When they wrapped up their conversation, Charlee started her truck and headed back to the Johnson’s house. She couldn’t help but feel like everything was brighter—the color of the sky, the fluffiness of the clouds, and a song she loved came on the radio. Heck, not even the wicked sharp Kansas City wind could dampen her mood.

Life was moving forward and she couldn’t wait for the next step.


Want more? Read Chapter Four!