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"I'm proud of you, Diamond," Donald Drake said as he continued to flip through the latest report that she had provided. "The sketches are fantastic, and your attention to detail continues to be impressive. These innovative interior-design ideas are going to make ours one of the best resorts in California."
"One of the best resorts, period," Diamond corrected. "I told you that I could do it, Dad. I'm glad you trusted me with such a major aspect of our expansion." Diamond beamed from her father's words of praise. She considered herself the ultimate daddy's girl and never wanted to disappoint. And being the only girl in the family made her quite competitive with her two brothers for their father's attention.
"I don't know how much trust had to do with it," Dexter Drake drawled. Diamond's always lovable yet sometimes annoying younger brother reared back in his chair and placed his interlocked fingers behind his head. "I think it was all of that whining and begging you did that finally wore him down."
"I believe the correct verb is negotiated, dear brother. Mine was the best proposal submitted, period." Even as she said this, Diamond knew that there was a thread of truth to Dexter's statement. Her older brother, Donovan, handled most of the construction projects and had overseen the first phase of this one. It had taken a lot of research, idea submissions andokay, maybe a little whining and beggingto convince Donald, the company's founder, board president and chief operating officer, that when it came to the interior-design work and final stages of construction for Drake Wines Resort & Spa, Diamond was the woman to oversee the job.
Dexter continued his needling. "Was it the best proposal? Or just the only one submitted twenty times?"
"Ha! Come on, Diamond. Fess up," Donovan said with a chuckle. "You did send that thing in several times."
"I sent in several addendums to keep everyone up-to-date on the evolving ideas and projections," Diamond retorted, with a tilt of her chin. "Which you would know, Mr. VP of Sales, if you pulled your head out of the books long enough to see what's happening with the rest of the company."
Donovan calmly rubbed his goatee. "I don't miss a thing that happens around here, baby sis. Believe that."
"How could you," Dexter queried, "with those Dumbo-size ears on the side of your head?"
Diamond laughed as Donald frowned. "Watch yourself," he said, his narrowed eyes fixed on Dexter. "Donovan's ears are shaped like mine."
"Dad, I'm not sure that is something I'd be pointing out," Diamond said, still laughing.
"Sister, it's something that he has no need to point out." Dexter's dark brown eyes twinkled and his brow wriggled as he looked pointedly at his father's ears and then at the replicas on his big brother.
Donald couldn't keep the frown on his face any longer. He burst out laughing. It had always been this way among his children: friendly teasing and healthy competition all held together with huge doses of love. From the beginning, he and his stay-at-home wife, Genevieve Drake, had raised their children to be a part of the business and had involved them in every aspect of their award-winning vineyard almost from the time they could walk. And while each person had their specific job title, theirs was a working knowledge of the business as a whole, and they were encouraged to multitask along those lines. This is how Diamond, the director of marketing and public relations, was now overseeing the major expansion project of turning Drake Vineyard into Drake Wines Resort & Spa.
Donovan was the most serious among the siblings, and no one was surprised when he steered the conversation back to business. "Do you believe the job will stay within the latest budget you've presented?"
"I'll have a better answer for you after I meet with the interior designer" she looked at her watch "which is happening very shortly. So if there are no more questions, gentlemen, I need to go."
A few minutes later, Diamond sat at her desk, speaking with her assistant before heading out of the office. "Kat, I'm going to the site to check out the construction, not the candy,," she chided, though a smile belied Diamond's sternly delivered words. "Man candy" is what Kathleen Fitzpatrick had deemed the construction workers who'd invaded their space. For months, a crew of around fifty men had been hard at work building the five-star facility that upon completion would include restaurants, a bar, lounge, day spa, gym, expanded gift store, executive offices and boutique hotel.
"Besides," Diamond continued, "I'm not into candy right now. I'm watching my wait, spelled W-A-l-T!" Kathleen fixed Diamond with a chagrined look. "I'm just not ready to jump back into the dating game." She reached for a batch of drawings and placed them in her briefcase. "And even if I were there's no time for that. Duty continuously calls."
"Pretty good speech but that's hogwash and you know it." At fifty-six years old, Kathleen was not only Diamond's assistant, but sometimes she felt like a second mother to the woman who was twenty-plus years her junior. And after many years as a dedicated Drake employee, she felt comfortable speaking exactly what was on her mind. "It's been two years, girl. How long are you going to let that jerk of an ex-boyfriend run your life? Oh, my, did I say run? I meant ruin!"
"Ha! Stop exaggerating, Kat, before you set that Irish blood to boiling. My ex, whose name is no longer worthy of being uttered from my lips, has not ruined my life. He just helped to enhance my search skills and made me very selective. Right now, my man's first name is Resort and his last name is Spa."
"Go ahead. Hide behind your pesky professional obligations."
"You call a thirty-million-dollar renovation pesky? You go, girl!"
"But just remember," Kat continued, not missing a beat or taking the bait. "You're not getting any younger. You may have pushed it to the back of your mind, but I remember a young woman who not so long ago was eagerly looking forward to marriage and motherhood. The right man to make that happen is still out there."
"Amid the glass, bricks and plywood that currently litter our vineyard?"
"No, sweetie, perhaps amid the blood, sweat and mass of muscles moving that stuff around! I'm not saying you should marry one of the workers, but you should at least take a look. I have and let me tell you there's some honeys in the bunch."
Diamond's phone rang. It was just as well that the conversation end and that she take her mind off menher sore spotand put it back on workher salvation. Besides, when it came to those particular M&Msmen and marriagethere was no use arguing with her trusty assistant. Kathleen had wed at eighteen and borne five children. In her mind one hadn't lived until they'd snagged a man, had a child, adopted a dog and got a house surrounded by a white picket fence. She'd been married longer than Diamond had been alive. So when it came to heartbreak and breakups, what did she know?
"That was the designer," Diamond said after completing the call. "She's at the site. I'll be back in less than an hour."
The clicking of Diamond's four-inch heels punctuated the air as she walked to her parking space. She unlocked the door of her shiny sports coupe and slid inside. Belatedly realizing that the heat index in sunny Temecula, California, had risen, she shed her suit jacket, grabbed a pen in the cup holder and hastily placed her shoulder-length dark auburn hair into a chignon. The construction site was less than a mile away from Drake Wines' executive offices. As she drove down the picturesque lane lined with colorful maple trees boasting red, orange and yellow leaves in the autumn sun, Diamond knew her focus should be on windows, tiles and color swatches and making sure that every aspect of the job to which she'd been entrusted was being executed to perfection. Instead, it was on man candy.