Which left her with Pierce Brothers Construction.
She pushed the door open.
A structured type of chaos swirled around her. Phones rang, the receptionist at the front desk juggled multiple calls and folders, and a handsome dark-haired man was involved in a lively discussion with Sydney, the executive assistant who frequented My Place with Morgan. Her magnificent red hair caught the light, making the strands shimmer. She was dressed in a structured black business suit and smart heels, and peered at the man over trendy glasses that gave off an air of arrogance.
“I told you if I didn’t file the new plans with the zoning board we’d be delayed,” the man said with a touch of frustration. “Tristan’s going to have my ass in a sling.”
Sydney puckered her lips as if she’d caught a bad taste. “Tristan didn’t give you the right date,” she clipped out. She uttered the name with bitterness. “Tristan got all crazy about securing the property, forged ahead without giving me the correct timeline for the renovation project, and now both of our asses are in a sling.”
The man groaned. “For God’s sake, why is every conversation between you two a battle of wills? Didn’t he talk to you?”
“He sent me an email with the wrong date.”
“An email. We all work together and he can’t go into your office and tell you what his plans are? I’m not getting caught in the middle anymore. You both need to work it out. I gotta go, I’m already late for my lunch appointment.”
The man stormed away. Sydney grumbled something under her breath.
Trying not to be noticed, Raven tiptoed to the reception desk and waited. The receptionist looked in her sixties, with a smooth complexion, pale hair, and a serene smile. “May I help you?”
“I’m here to see Caleb.”
“And you are?”
She tried to whisper. “Umm, Raven.”
“First door to the right. I’ll tell him you’re on your way.”
“Great, thanks so much, I—”
“Raven! What are you doing here?”
She winced at Sydney’s enthusiastic greeting. So much for flying under the radar. She was desperate not to see Dalton, and was hoping he was out on a job site and not in the office. She offered a weak smile. “Hi, Sydney. I just wanted to speak to Cal about something.”
“Oh, are you looking to do some renovation for the restaurant? I can track down Dalton for you, if you want.”
“No! Umm, no, thanks, I want to speak to Cal.”
“Okay, let me know if I can help you with anything. I’ll see you tomorrow for dinner. Becca is in love with the chicken fingers, and I love that Al makes them with whole wheat flour and organic meat.”
“I’ll make sure I tell him. Thanks again.”
Raven shot down the hallway and stepped into Cal’s office. He looked up from his desk and gave an easy grin of welcome. “Raven, good to see you.”
Though they knew each other casually from the bar, she stuck out her hand, and he took it with a firm grip. She studied his face in an honest assessment. There was a definite resemblance between the brothers, but Cal had inherited gunmetal-gray eyes instead of blue, and his hair was a deep hazelnut color and seemed thick and unruly. His face was an interesting mixture of sharp angles set off by a hooked nose and bushy brows. Not as pretty or classical as Tristan or Dalton, but no woman could easily look past him without thinking about him once or twice. He held a powerful presence that shimmered with authority, even in worn jeans and work boots. Thankfully, there was nothing that attracted her to Cal, or even Tristan. It seemed only the youngest in the crew had her like Ryan Gosling winking and uttering, “Hey, girl.”
She forced herself to focus. “Thanks for seeing me on short notice. I wanted to know if you’d take on a job for My Place.”
His brow arched. He motioned for her to sit, and he fell easily into the chair across from her. “What are you looking to do?”
“I want to have the bar completely restored. I also need new stools. And I need it all complete within three weeks.”
An odd tension simmered between them. She frowned, trying to sort it out, but why did it seem like he was suddenly studying her with a hawklike stare, as if he suspected she was up to something? “I’m sorry, but I can’t do it,” he finally said bluntly.
She blinked. Never once had she imagined Pierce Brothers would turn down the job. She expected them to be happy she was giving them her precious business. Her tummy tightened. “Is there something I can do to change your mind?”
A faint smile ghosted across his lips. “Not me. I’d be happy to take on the job, but any type of wood restoration is handled by Dalton.”
She tried hard not to wince. “Oh. Well, is there any way someone else can do it?”
“Got a problem with Dalton? Has he made you uncomfortable in some way?”
“No. Well, he’s made his interest well known, but he’s always been respectful.”
“Good. I can promise you he takes his jobs seriously. I can talk to him if you want. Warn him to back off.”
She tapped her finger against the arm of the chair, her thoughts furiously scrambling. “No, I can handle myself. He’s never put me in an uncomfortable position. I just think it may be easier to discuss the details of the job with you. I’m in a serious time crunch.”
Cal crossed his arms in front of his chest, leaning back. “Sorry, like I said, this is Dalton’s territory. I’m sure he’ll be flexible if you tell him what you need. But you’ll have to ask him directly.”
The memory of their conversation floated in her ears, reminding her of wants and needs of a different kind. Swallowing, she knew she had a choice. She could forget the whole idea of restoration and take on the interview anyway. She could tell Good Food & Fine Spirits the bar would be restored over the summer. Buy herself time. It could work.
But the idea of having such an important source photographing her beloved bar in broken-down condition hurt her heart. No. This was her chance to show the world what My Place was about. Damned if she couldn’t put on her big-girl panties and ask Dalton to do what he wanted to do in the first place.
“Then I’ll need to talk to Dalton now, won’t I?”
Cal nodded and stood up. “I’ll text him and have him meet you at My Place later this afternoon. Will that work?”
They exchanged good-byes and she headed back to her restaurant to wait.
Dalton got the text just as he was climbing into his truck. He read it three times, then once more to be sure.
Raven had gone to Cal about her bar?
Pure male temper flooded his system. He punched in the numbers and heard his brother’s clipped voice come over the line. “Thought that would get your attention. What the hell did you do to her? Oh, you’re on speaker. Tristan’s here.”
Great. His brothers were about to witness his humiliation as a tag team. And no one did it better than his siblings. Tristan’s smooth, cultured voice rose in his ears. Dalton pictured him elegantly perched in the chair, suit and tie pressed to perfection. “Talk about crash and burn, bro. Has a woman ever rejected you? Losing your mojo in your older age?”
Muttering a foul curse, Dalton barked at the phone. “Can we save the witty banter for later, dude? I need to know exactly what she said to Cal.”
“Said she needed the bar redone with matching stools, and she wants it within three weeks. I told her you were the one she needed to talk to.”
Amusement laced his voice. “And she said she preferred to deal with me. Did you come on too strong and scare her off? I know you’ve been begging to do her bar for a while.”
Had he? Hell no. That woman shut down men with pure glee and seemed to savor every moment. For some reason, she was afraid to deal with him directly. That told him one thing.
She wanted him. She just didn’t want to want him.
Dalton knew every hidden aspect of the mating game, and she was playing to its potential. By asking his brother, she had issued him both an insult and a challenge. His temper settled while he analyzed the best way to approach the situation. “Nah, it’s not about that at all. It’s hard for a woman to admit she wants someone that doesn’t check all her boxes. She’s just in denial. I’ll take care of it.”