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“I’m sure you’re right, Mr. Kopecky —”

“What is it, Ollie?” a voice interrupted. This one was deep, and very loud.

“Excuse me a moment,” Mrs. Weeks said to Adam, and then her voice was slightly muffled. “I’ve got it,” she said to the loud voice. “It’s that show – the American Food Trip thing.”

“What do they want?”

“To feature the Hideaway, apparently.”

Adam took a slow breath. Maybe one of the other owners would respond appropriately.

“Oh,” the deep voice said, and his tone reminded Adam of the woman’s first response. Flat.

How was this bad news? Adam felt like he was being pranked. Was this Bess and Neil’s idea of a joke?

“Really?” someone called out from a distance – another deep voice, but this one more enthusiastic. “They want to put us on their show?”

“Yes,” Mrs. Weeks responded. “But don’t —”

A few cheers interrupted whatever she was going to say. Adam didn’t relax. He couldn’t feel any change directly on the other end of the line.

“You want me to talk to him, Ollie?” the loud voice asked.

“No, go deal with them,” Mrs. Weeks said. “Nathaniel might need a stiff drink. Maybe the waitstaff, too. I’ll take care of this.”

“Wilco.”

“I apologize for the interruption, Mr. Kopecky,” Mrs. Weeks said, her voice clear again. “And truly, thank you so much for the offer. I’m very sorry it won’t work out.”

“I don’t understand.” Adam could hear the deflation in his own tone and was sure she could, too. “We can be flexible, like I said. I’ve… I’ve never had anyone who didn’t want this.”

Now her voice was more animated – soothing, kind. “And we would want this, absolutely, if it was possible. You see…” A short pause. “There’s an issue, a legal issue, that we’re dealing with. A lien situation with my brother-in-law’s former girlfriend. Was it a business loan, was it a personal gift? Yada yada; you get the picture. It’s all very delicate – sticky, you know, and no press is good press for now. We have to keep a low profile. I hope you can understand. We are very flattered.”

He could hear the loud brother arguing with someone in the background, more barking, and some quieter mumbles that sounded like complaints.

This was more like it. A concrete reason, even if he didn’t totally understand how a legal case would be negatively impacted by the restaurant’s involvement with the show… unless they thought they were going to have to pay out some percentage of what the place was worth?

“I’m sorry to hear that, Mrs. Weeks. Maybe sometime in the future? I could give you my —”

“Absolutely. Thank you so much. I’ll be in contact if we are ever in a position to accept.”

The line went dead. She hadn’t even let him give her his phone number.

Adam stared at the papers in front of him for a few seconds, trying to shake off what felt very much like being shut down after asking a charity date to the prom.

A few minutes passed while he stared at the phone. Finally, he shook his head and reached for the file with the backups. The coffee shop in Parker would be only too grateful to be chosen. Adam needed a few good screams.

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