Mrs. Brewster’s late husband had left her comfortably well off, but you’d never know it. She clipped every coupon available to humanity—Claire had been behind her at the grocery store more than once. She put only two dollars in the collection basket at church each week, despite having enough money to leave more. And she gave out bite-size candy at Halloween. Bite-size!
“We can’t rely on Ryan’s mom as our major source of leads, and Mrs. Brewster spending big bucks on a remodel sounds improbable. Betcha she pretended to be interested so she could get the inside scoop about our business from Molly.” Claire leaned forward, elbows on the table. “Don’t make me beg. If you have a solution, I won’t dismiss it out of hand, I promise. I’m not an idiot. We need income. I’ll do whatever it takes to keep the doors open.”
Steffi went still, her chin just above the mug held midair. “Whatever it takes?”
Claire’s hair stood on end, but she motioned “Let’s have it” with both hands.
Steffi hesitated. “How would you like to redecorate a high-end condo in Chelsea?”
“In the city?” Her entire body prickled painfully at the thought of putting herself in the midst of that chaos and danger. She’d already been one madman’s random victim. Manhattan teemed with crazy people, not the least of whom were the ones who drove their cars like heat-seeking missiles. “Who’d hire us instead of any of the premier designers there?”
Steffi met Claire’s gaze. “Logan.”
Claire’s tongue seemed to swell and turn sticky. Work with Logan . . . Her blood thickened like warm syrup. Tingles and terror all at once—a sensation she both loved and loathed. Her own brand of crazy. Maybe she did belong in New York, after all. “No.”
“You just said you’d do whatever it takes.”
“Not that. Never that.” Claire didn’t need to look into a mirror to know that her fair, lightly freckled cheeks now looked like someone had smeared them with ripe strawberries.
“As I suspected.” Steffi shrugged nonchalantly, as if she hadn’t just pulled the pin from a grenade and dropped it on the table. “So that leaves us a little tight until something else comes up. In terms of our social media presence, I just read an article . . .”
Claire heard Steffi talking, but the words ran together like white noise because Claire’s brain was still stuck on the idea of working with—no—for Logan Prescott. His obvious ploy made her want to laugh. Did he really think he could buy her forgiveness for his sister? Well, Claire would never, ever forgive Peyton. Not even if he paid her a million dollars to renovate his condo.
The very condo Peyton had moved into while undergoing chemo because Todd had dumped her when she got sick. Given how Todd had treated Claire, his leaving Peyton shouldn’t have shocked her. Either way, it served Peyton right for breaking a cardinal rule of friendship.
Eyes closed, Claire pressed her palm to her hot cheek, silently asking for forgiveness for yet another bitter thought.
“Claire? Did you hear anything I said?” Steffi turned her hands out in question.
“Sorry.” She rubbed the scowl from her forehead. “I’ll find another way to turn up new leads. Working with Logan is a hard no.”
“Too bad. You’d have so much fun decorating his place. I’m sure he’d let you do whatever you wanted. Anything would be better than how it looks now. Guess he never cared before, since he was rarely around to enjoy it.”
Only a Prescott would own a million-dollar property that sat vacant as often as it was occupied.
Their family’s legacy stemmed from their great-grandfather’s famed body of literature. The Prescott mystique—and coastal home here in town—was like something out of The Great Gatsby. Logan, like his sister, had chosen a career that let him jet-set around the world. Former fashion photographer turned documentary photographer. Cool jobs. Suited to his enchanting mix of charmer, adventurer, activist, and artist. Not that she paid too much attention to his comings and goings.
“I’m not an idiot.”
“Did I call you one?” Steffi had the gall to look stunned.
“This has Peyton’s paw prints all over it. I’d bet my last penny that she put him up to it. I don’t know what I hate more—that she did it, that you took the bait, or that she knows we’re desperate for money.”
“It’s not a conspiracy. I mentioned that I felt bad about putting you in this situation because of this home. Logan tossed out the idea on the spot.”
“I can’t deal with the strings that would come with his offer.” Except now Claire couldn’t focus on anything else because thinking about Logan took up all the space in her head. If Peyton hadn’t stolen Todd, Claire might’ve pounced on a chance to work closely with Logan. Of course, then she wouldn’t have been free to act on her desire. Not that she had ever acted on it before Todd, either. The hawkish way Logan could stare at her turned her to jelly around him and—oh, just no. “I thought you finally understood that.”