Ben had fifteen minutes to put his game plan together while he walked. He’d only have a few minutes to talk to Tracy, not only because he wanted to limit her chances of saying no, but because Austin would be there. Last year had been extremely difficult for the teen. Ben understood everything had vastly improved now, but he wanted to respect their privacy. Unlike his visit in the summer, where he’d offered Tracy the job, this was ad hoc. He didn’t want to intrude on their privacy longer than necessary.
The houses in Westmount, many probably at least sixty years old, were set on large properties, often with deep front yards. Ben liked neighbourhoods like these, each home custom built in its time. Some were two-storeys in a range of sizes, others small bungalows. This was one of the more well-to-do neighbourhoods in the region. Tracy’s house was on the outskirts, near a golf club. It was one of the smaller two-storeys.
Ben shook his head in wonder at everything he imagined Tracy had had to juggle as a single mom this past year. It couldn’t have been easy. He’d have five minutes to woo, um, wow her with his charm so that she’d allow him to put her name down on his application. She wasn’t the type to renege on a commitment. He needed to be as cunning now as she had been in the summer with Pauline’s unmasking.
But as he walked up the street, he saw several cars parked outside Tracy’s house.
“Probably a women’s book club,” he said to himself. “Time to turn on the charm.”
He rehearsed his script and several variations in his head as he walked up the driveway. He straightened his glasses and rang the doorbell.
Tracy, in a cream-and-pink blouse and dark-brown slacks, opened the door. Her tastefully made-up face was smiling at him, her brown eyes warm.
“Ben! How wonderful to see you. Thank you so much for coming!”
How was this the same woman who several hours ago had probably wished him death by quicksand?
When in shock, be professional.
“Nice to see you, Tracy. Thank you for fitting me in at the last minute. I don’t want to take up too much of your time.”
“Not a problem at all. And come in. No need to rush. Make yourself comfortable.”
Every bone, vein, artery, intestinal twist, blood cell, and neuron in Ben’s body told him something was very, very, very wrong. And it was turning him very, very, very on.
This was not a good combination.
No sooner did he step from the foyer into the family room than he noticed a small circle of people: three women and two men. No books in hand, so not a reading group. Friends? But why would Tracy allow him to interrupt a social evening?
“Everyone, this is Ben Landry, the marketing professional from Toronto I told you about.”
So his reputation had preceded him. Was that good or bad? They smiled at him, so probably good.
“Ben, this is the Belmont Village Autumn Festival volunteer committee. Your timing is perfect.”
Volunteer committee? Ben hadn’t found himself in the midst of a book club—he was surrounded by a pack of wolves.