Rituals for Love (9781476761893) (8 page)

BOOK: Rituals for Love (9781476761893)
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“Bria, too. I'm impressed by what you've both managed to accomplish.”

“What are you drinking?”

“Black on the rocks.”

“For your entree I'm going to have something prepared for you that's not on the menu. It's crab brûlée and it's delicious. Is that all right?”

“Definitely. I can't wait to try it.”

I signaled one of my servers over to the table and placed our orders.

“Did you imagine when we met we'd end up being friends?” I asked.

“I imagined some things, but it had nothing to do with friendship.”

I swatted at his hand. “What has gotten into you?”

“I always test the waters when I see you. Cain still hanging in there?”

“Yes, he is.”

“Let me know when you cut him loose.” He laughed. “Hopefully I'll be available, but I'm warning you I can't wait forever.”

“I'm going to have your dinner brought out in a to-go box.”

“Don't do me like that. Seriously, it's nice seeing you.”

“What's going on with you and D—”

“Damaris and I are no more.”

“Really?”

“We broke up about a month ago.”

“No wonder you're cutting up. What happened?”

“Damaris had a lot going on in her life. When we first started dating, she was newly divorced.”

“I remember.”

“She has some unresolved issues. She needs to work them out on her own, not while in a relationship.”

“I'm sorry to hear that.”

“I gave it seven months. Now I'm just going to wait on you.”

“Don't wait on me. I'm happy in my current situation.”

“Think about it. If I had met you a month earlier, you would be mine right now.”

“Is that so?”

“I think so. The night we met there was definitely chemistry between us.”

A burst of laughter escaped me. “We met at the club. We had nice conversation, a couple of drinks, and a few dances. That's what people do at clubs.”

“See, you're all in love now so you forgot what a magical night it was.”

I enjoyed Omar. He kept me amused. “I recall when we met.”

“Then you have to admit if our timing was better we could be a couple.”

“Did you stop to think that maybe we're meant to be friends and that's why we met when we did?”

“Nope and you can't change my mind.”

We shared a laugh. I remember the night I met Omar very well. We were partying at Ernest's club. I genuinely had a nice night with him, but Cain and I had just started dating, and I wasn't even considering any other men. Omar had a great job, good looks, was funny as hell and a good dancer. At the end of the night, he said he'd like to come dine at Rituals, and I let him know he was welcome. However, the reason I invited him to dinner tonight stemmed from something else we discussed—his investment savvy. A portfolio manager at an investment firm, I wanted Omar's advice.

Our drinks arrived and I raised my glass to him. “To friends.”

“Friends.”

We each tasted our drinks and placed them on the table. I tented my fingers. “I have news to share with you, and I wanted your advice on something.”

“I hope I can help.”

“Cain and I have decided to go into business together. We're opening a spa and eatery in the city.”

“That's big news.”

“We're in the preliminary stages now. We have the building. We're filing the necessary paperwork and we'll be meeting with the contractor soon.”

“You must be excited. You'll not only have one successful business but two on your hands.”

“That's what I'm hoping.”

“Well how can I help?”

“I'm interested in finding out about alternative financing or investor information.”

“You already have the building, the contractor's coming, yet you don't have financing?”

“I'm exploring additional opportunities.”

“How much do you need?”

“I'm not quite sure yet.”

“How much do you have? What percentage of the capital?”

“Technically, all of it.”

Omar cocked his head to the side. “If you have the capital, why are you asking about financing?”

“I told you I'm exploring other opportunities.”

“Jade, I need more information.”

“All right.” I sighed. “Cain is providing the capital for our venture. He doesn't want or need to get outside financing.”

“So, he's putting up his own money?”

“Yes.”

“And the problem is?”

“We're equal partners. When Bria and I opened Rituals, we both bore the financial burden. I need to be able to contribute to this new venture.”

“Every venture is different. If Cain has the capital and you don't need to rely on traditional financing, it sounds like a low-risk investment for you.”

“That's one way to put it.”

“Well, how do you see it?”

I sipped my drink and thought of the best way to respond. “Genesis will be my business, too. I have to feel like I have as much invested as he does.”

Omar nodded. “I understand your point, but capital is one piece of a giant puzzle when it comes to launching a business. You'll be investing a lot of time and energy to get this business off the ground.”

“Hopefully with your help, I'll be investing money.”

“You've got it. Let me see what I can do. I'm sure I can find the right financial institution with the best terms and rates.”

“Traditional financing would require Cain to be a borrower or guarantor. Is that my only option?”

“I could find you some investors. I know quite a few clients that would back a venture like Genesis.”

“What would their stake be in the business?”

“It depends. I'd have to present them with the opportunity.”

“I'd need their involvement to be minimal.”

“It's possible they may be willing to be silent partners.”

“Right now, this is purely exploratory. I'm researching my options.”

“I understand. I'll need a copy of your business plan to share.”

“I appreciate your help, Omar.”

“It's no problem.”

I figured it wouldn't hurt to weigh my options. I could appreciate that Cain was in a position to finance our venture; however, if we were to be partners, I also had to contribute capital. It was starting to feel as if Cain was setting his girlfriend up with a business. I'd let Omar put his feelers out and then I'd make a decision on my course of action.

We had dinner and plenty of banter, Omar keeping me laughing the entire time. I sent him on his way with a giant slice of pink plush cake. He lamented that it was big enough for two and unfortunately he didn't have anyone to share it with. He made a few jokes about being single, available, and polling my staff for possibilities. I kindly nudged him out the door, shaking my head at his levity. It was a good meeting that left me with a sense of assurance. I planned to do my part to ensure Genesis would be everything I imagined it could.

CHAPTER TWELVE
JADE

I
helped my mother in the kitchen while my dad and Cain talked in the living room. We were waiting on my brother and his fiancée to arrive for Sunday dinner. If we didn't all come together every couple of months, my mother would get antsy—as if her family unit was growing apart. She had summoned us together for dinner with the warning that it was mandatory, not optional. Cain and I shared a laugh at my mother's strong-armed approach. She thought she was such a tough cookie and nothing was further from the truth. My mother was a gentle soul with a kind heart and she loved her family passionately.

I removed the lid from a pot and gave the simmering string beans a stir. Even though I was a professional chef, my mother did not like anyone messing around in her pots. She quickly shooed me away from the stove.

“If you want something to do, you can cut up the cheese for the baked macaroni,” she said.

“You have certainly changed over the years. Growing up you had me in this kitchen all the time, making all sorts of things. Now you act like I don't know how to cook. How are you going to bust me down to cutting up cheese? I'm insulted.” I laughed.

“I had to make sure you'd be able to put a meal on the table for yourself and hopefully someone else…” She winked at me. “Thanks to me, you can do that. Now you need to stay out of my pots.”

She was joking and serious at the same time. My mother had me in the kitchen at an early age. I would help her prepare the meals, eventually doing it on my own. However, after I went away to college, she wouldn't let me in the kitchen anymore. She insisted on making everything all the time. If I offered to help, she'd give me little tasks to assist, hence, my cutting up the cheese.

“I do owe my love of cooking to you. If you hadn't insisted that I learn, I may not have become a chef.”

“That's what parents do. We cultivate the skills you're going to need one day when you're out on your own. I didn't
need
you to cook for our family. I wanted you to have the tools to take care of your own family one day. It just so happened that you loved it enough to make it your career. So when you come to visit and I won't let you in my pots, it's because I'm doing what
I
love to do—feeding and taking care of my family.”

I got it. I didn't need to be the chef or assistant or anything else. All I had to do was be the daughter and let my mother do what made her happy. She opened the oven door and basted the roast. I kept my distance, but I could see the browning meat sizzling as she poured the juices over the top. The kitchen filled with the aroma of well-seasoned beef. I announced that I was done with the cheese and left my mother to finish dinner. I went to join the guys in the living room.

My father looked at his watch as I entered the room. “What time is your brother getting here?”

“Your guess is as good as mine. We were both told to be here at the same time.” Cain and I had already been there an hour. Terrence was most definitely late. I sat next to my dad on the couch and the doorbell rang. I threw my hands up. “I'll get it.”

I went to let my brother and Dru in. I opened the door and they were pulling apart from a kiss.

“Hey, sis.”

“I know why you two are late.”

“There was traffic,” Dru said, with a smile.

“I bet.”

They headed inside as I closed the door behind them. My mother had come out of the kitchen and joined everyone in the living room. Terrence was giving her a hearty hug while Dru greeted my dad.

“Glad you could make it,” my mother quipped.

“There was traffic,” Terrence responded.

A grown man telling a fib to his parents.
I chuckled to myself. No matter how old we got, Terrence could still be mischievous at times. I didn't know how Dru put up with him but, somehow, they worked. My mother didn't waste any time before asking about their wedding plans.

“Yesterday, we went to the travel agent to book our honeymoon. Thanks to your son, we still don't know where we're going.”

“I know where I want to go,” Terrence said.

We looked from one to the other.

“We had decided to go to Maldives. Yesterday, out of nowhere, Terrence starts asking about Egypt.”

“Egypt?” my mother chimed in.

“That's the same response I had,” Dru replied.

“What's wrong with Egypt?”

“Technically nothing, except I don't want to honeymoon there. We agreed to a romantic honeymoon in Maldives in an over-water bungalow, white sands and beautiful sunsets.”

“There is plenty of sand and amazing sunsets in Egypt. And I'd get to see the pyramids—which I've wanted to experience since I was a kid.”

“This is our honeymoon, Terrence. Not a class trip for architects.”

We couldn't help but laugh.

“Don't encourage her, please.”

“I have to agree with Dru,” I said. “It's your honeymoon and it should be romantic.”

“I've heard Egypt is one of the most romantic places on earth,” Cain countered.

“Not if the person you're going with will be obsessing over the mystery of the pyramids rather than focusing on honeymooning,” Dru quickly replied.

“If I've learned one thing during almost forty years of marriage, it's that you want a happy wife.”

“It took him almost forty years to learn,” my mother kidded, “but your father's right. Over the years you'll both have to compromise to keep your spouse happy. One of you is going to have to start now.”

“Obviously you both want to go somewhere special. It seems you have different ideas of what the honeymoon should be. Dru seems like she wants sheer romance and relaxation in paradise.”

“Terrence wants more of an experience. Some history with a little adventure mixed in,” Cain offered.

“Where's the overlap? The only thing I heard both of you mention was the sunset.”

Terrence shrugged. “You have a point, Mom.”

“This is the beginning of a new phase in your lives. This should be the fun part. Use your honeymoon as a time to solidify your bond. It's up to you to decide the best place to do that. Now is a great time for one of you to practice selflessness and compromise.”

If I were Dru, I would stick to my guns. I'd take Maldives over Egypt for my honeymoon. I would want ultimate romance, as well. I could see Terrence dragging her on tour after tour in Egypt. If
that's not what Dru had her heart set on, then he needed to rethink his position. They could take a trip to Egypt another time. Especially if he was going there to nerd out and get absorbed in ancient history. I could be wrong, but it didn't sound romantic to me.

“We have time to work it out,” Terrence said. “Right, honey?”

BOOK: Rituals for Love (9781476761893)
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