A Lasting Proposal
Book Three of the Shannon Sisters Series
He made her an offer she couldn't refuse--but did she ever try!
Jake Hartman‘s heli-skiing operation in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies has been hugely successful. But because of the major outlays he now wants to make, he needs a capital infusion. A bank loan is a nonissue–Jake’s not keen on debt. But a silent partner would do the trick.
Widowed Maureen Shannon, eldest of the Shannon sisters, has just moved back to the sleepy town of Canmore, hoping that slow-paced living will help mend her deteriorating relationship with her twelve-year-old daughter. Jake’s proposal sounds good.
But then Jake makes Maureen a second offer–a lasting proposal she’s much more reluctant to accept…
- In this last book of The Shannon Sisters trilogy we finally have Maureen--the first born of the Shannon sisters--and her story
- With this character I knew I was going to be addressing deeply emotional issues. While her sisters have always seen her as forceful, confident and opinionated, in truth Maureen is plagued with insecurities about her failed first marriage and the strained relationship she has with her twelve-year-old daughter Holly.
- There were times when I was writing A Lasting Proposal that I wondered if Jake Hartman was the right man for Maureen. He runs a heli-skiing operation and that's dangerous. But Jake won me over in the end. Just as he does Maureen--and hopefully you, too.
- Writing this story was a joyful and deeply satisfying experience for me. I hope you'll feel the same as you settle in to visit the Shannon sisters one last time.
Enjoy an Excerpt
Jake was pleased that he'd managed to snag an outdoor table in front of the Bagel Bites Cafe. From the tray in his hand, he unloaded two coffees in foam cups and two toasted bagels with cream cheese. Out of the back pocket of his jeans he pulled a one-page partnership agreement.
He smoothed out the folds in the paper, then placed it on the table in front of the unoccupied chair.
Maureen Shannon was ten minutes late.
No big deal. She was driving from Calgary, so it had to be difficult to time her arrival exactly. He had coffee, a comfortable place to sit and warm sunshine on his face. Settling in his chair, he stretched out his legs and told himself he didn't mind waiting.
"Something wrong, Jake?" One of the women who worked behind the counter was clearing tables. "You seem a little edgy. Mind moving your foot so I can get past?"
Jake shifted his legs out of the aisle and frowned. He wasn't edgy. It was just that these damn plastic chairs were too small for someone of his size. And his new hiking boots weren't as comfortable as the old ones had been. And he didn't think he'd put enough cream in his coffee...
Okay, so he was nervous. Embarrassing to admit, but true. He tapped his foot and checked his watch again. Fifteen minutes late.
He didn't know why he was uptight about this meeting. If this didn't work out, he'd find another investor.
Yeah, right. They'd be lining up at his door, checkbooks in hand.
Jake sipped his coffee while he scanned the dribble of people passing by. Monday mornings in May were pretty quiet in Canmore. Few tourists this early in the season. And the regulars had their jobs--many of them commuted to Calgary.
He wondered what Maureen's plans were. According to Cathleen, she was toying with the idea of making the move herself. Somehow he couldn't picture her living here, though. Unlike her two sisters, she was obviously a city woman.
Of course, he'd only met her a few times, the last occasion being at Cathleen and Dylan's wedding last fall. Her husband had been dead just a few months, so he'd expected her to be pretty shaken up. But she'd been so together it was almost scary. She'd reminded him of the Christmas trees he saw every season in The Bay department store window. Everything about her was so perfect, she didn't seem real.
From her appearance, which was all big-city polish, to her take-charge manner, to her perfect composure throughout the occasion. She'd been one of the few not to tear up during the exchange of wedding vows. Jake had recognized the cynicism he'd glimpsed within those china-doll blue eyes--he, too, held little faith in the happily-ever-after myth. But he'd never been married, and Maureen had. What life experiences had put that chilly smile on her soft, pretty lips?
And what was going on between her and her daughter? The only time Maureen displayed any vulnerability was when she was watching Holly. But Holly studiously avoided her mother's gaze at all times. Something was definitely wrong there.
Out on the street a black BMW slowed. Jake watched as the driver skillfully maneuvered the vehicle into one of the parallel parking spots half a block down from the cafe. It seemed like a big-city kind of car, so he wasn't surprised when Maureen Shannon stepped out from behind the steering wheel. Holding her blond hair back with one hand, she checked for traffic before hauling a big leather briefcase from the back seat.
Early thirties, he figured, knowing she was the eldest of the Shannon sisters. Still, she had the composure of an older woman, and the stride of someone with no time to lose. He watched her approach, appreciating her tall, long-limbed form. She wore a black pants suit with a white blouse. Sunglasses hid her eyes. He removed his own, preparing to flag her down.
Seemed like she was talking to herself. As she neared, he saw she was speaking into a small microphone attached to the phone in her other hand.
"Didn't you get my e-mail?"
He could hear her now.
"Don't worry. After this meeting I'll go to my sister's and connect my laptop. You'll have another copy before lunch."
Then she was at his table, and smiling brilliantly. "Jake Hartman?"
He stood to take her hand.
"Good to see you, Maureen. How was the drive from Calgary?"
"Beautiful. Absolutely stunning." She removed her glasses to look at him, but the sun was so bright she crinkled her eyes and put them back on. "Great weather, isn't it?"
He agreed, pulling out her chair.
Maureen glanced at the table and frowned. "You ordered for me?"
He shrugged. "To save time. How's your daughter doing--Holly, right?"
Maureen shifted her gaze uncertainly. "She still misses her dad."
"I guess that's to be expected."
Settling her briefcase at her side, Maureen sat. "Cathleen tells me you have a business proposition."
So there was to be no more time wasted on chit-chat, Jake surmised. It wasn't his style, he preferred to ease into serious subjects the way you tried on a new pair of shoes--cautious not to bend the stiff leather, or jam your foot into balled up tissue the clerk had forgotten to pull out of the toe.
No, the deep plunge wasn't his way, but he could be flexible. "I have plans for upgrading my heli-skiing business--Grizzly Peaks. Problem is, I've never liked dealing with banks, so my accountant suggested I look for an equity investor--" what had Dylan called it? "--a silent partner."
"Right. Tell me a bit about yourself, Jake. When did you start this business? What do you see as your strengths and weaknesses?"
She was making him feel like a job applicant. It was amusing in a way. He'd earned enough of a name for himself at Grizzly Peaks that most people around here were well aware of his reputation. But Maureen wasn't from Canmore, and she had every right to know about the man she was considering investing her money with.
"I started Grizzly Peaks about ten years ago on seventy-five hundred square kilometers of untouched backcountry. Our customers fly in by charter helicopter to home base. And they're treated to the best. Besides a combined hundred thousand vertical feet of skiing, we provide guides, gourmet food and lodging. We've even got hot tubs and saunas and a complete health club in our main lodge."
"Rod always wanted to try heli-skiing," she muttered, tearing off a small corner of her bagel and eating it tentatively, as if she expected it to be laced with cayenne pepper or something.
"It's a total blast. I'll take you and your kid on a complementary junket one day."
"Oh, I don't think so."
"It's not dangerous if you're with an experienced outfit."
"I've heard that line once too often in my life." She picked up the partnership agreement he'd written and read it through.
Jake leaned back and sipped more coffee. Basically the agreement stated that in exchange for her money, he'd provide annual financial statements and a cut of the profits equal to her stake in the business. He hadn't seen any need to make the agreement more complicated than that.
Watching her read, he felt a new tension, unrelated with the business prospects of this meeting. Damn, but she was gorgeous. But without her daughter around, there was no hint of the vulnerability he'd thought he'd glimpsed at the wedding. This woman was tough, he conceded. And yet something about her tight smile and the defiant angle of her chin made him want to touch her hand, reassuringly.
He had little doubt she'd slap him if he dared.
"Well?" he asked, when she appeared to be done.
She dropped the page on the table with no comment. "You said you had some financial projections prepared by your accountant?"
"Oh, yeah." He'd almost forgotten about them. Now he reached into his other back pants' pocket and pulled out the folded square package. Seeing Maureen's mouth pull down at the sight, he regretted not taking Harvey's advice and having the report printed and bound professionally. With care he pressed out the stapled sheets, then passed them over.
"Thanks." Maureen checked everything very carefully. As she read, she tore away at the bagel, eating it molecule by molecule. She was only a quarter of the way through the bread when she was done with the documents.
"What if you don't get enough snow?" she asked.
"Hasn't happened yet. Before choosing my location, I researched into the weather patterns, and we get the best precipitation in the Rockies."
"I see." Maureen didn't look at all impressed. "Also, when you mention sharing profits, I assume that would be before depreciation and amortization?"
He realized she was trying to bamboozle him. Just because his presentation was a trifle unsophisticated didn't make him a fool. "No," he said firmly. "I can't pay out profits without making provision for replacing my equipment as it wears out."
She gave a slight smile. "Fair enough."
"So..." He watched her take another nibble from her bagel. "What do you think?"
She gave a slow nod. "Your numbers are fantastic. And Cathleen and Dylan have every confidence you can continue to deliver in the future."
"So will you before this season is out."
She slid the sunglasses down her nose a fraction of an inch and peered over the top of the frames. "You seem pretty sure of yourself."
"Really? I was thinking you could give me a few lessons."
Maureen laughed and it transformed her entire face. The tension he'd felt earlier tightened like a belt across his chest. He thought about how long it had been since he'd been with a woman...
Then told himself he was a raving lunatic to even entertain the thought. This lady was the antithesis of what he looked for in a date. He preferred women who dressed for fun, not business. Women who could let their hair down, who took nothing seriously, especially not him.
This woman had baggage. She was a widow with a troubled daughter. Most scary of all, she brought out feelings in him he couldn't understand, let alone name.
And she had the power to write him a check for several hundred thousand dollars. He couldn't forget that.
End of Excerpt
Find out more about the Shannon Sisters Series →