Page 6 of Suited for Love

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"How has the drive been?" Cara speaks loudly to cover the noise in the background.

"Stressful, but there were no major detours or accidents, thank God. I think I'd have ditched the car and walked to Georgia."

She laughs. "It's a shame you can't just hail a cab when your feet get tired."

"One of New York's many benefits," I agree. All of my doubts and fears bubble to the surface. "Have I made a huge mistake?"

"About what?"

"Leaving Boutique Chrysalis. Moving to Georgia. Starting a business. Take your pick."

There's a long pause before she speaks. "You're my best friend, and I'd love to tell you to turn the car around. I hate that you're so far away. But this opportunity is a godsend. If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't be an investor."

My chest swells with affection for her. "I can never thank you enough for that."

"Nonsense. It's a wise investment. Hang on…" The sound is muffled and I can picture her cradling the phone to her chest. Even so, I wince at the volume of her voice when she yells, "Coming!" She hastily speaks into the phone again. "Got to go. Text later."

And then she's gone. The sudden silence is jarring. Tears sting the backs of my eyelids, but I blink them away. Cara's right. This opportunity is a gift.

After losing my job, I cried for days, ignoring all calls and messages, including those from the mystery caller. When I finally answered, a lawyer told me I'd inherited beachside property from a long-lost great-aunt that I hadn't known existed.

When one door closes, another opens.

Those were my father's last words before he died. I kissed his forehead and told him to go through the open door. But inside, I seethed with anger, not ready to say goodbye. I'd have given anything to keep that door closed—to lock it and throw away the key.

But these last few weeks, I can't get his words out of my head. If he were alive, he'd be great-aunt Hildy's heir, not me. In my heart, I believe he opened this door for me. And I can almost feel his hand on my back, gently pushing me through.

With the inheritance, Cara's investment, my severance pay, and my meager savings, Sticks & Stones Boutique was born. I will dressallwomen and carry clothes in a variety of sizes. No one will feel like a caterpillar in my store—they'll all be butterflies.

It's a dream come true.

For three weeks, contractors from Savannah and Atlanta worked to make the dream a reality. Almost none of the inventory at Hildy's Hut was usable, so it was sold, donated, or tossed. In its place, mannequins and shelves stand ready for gorgeous clothes.

And the cherry on top: a spacious upstairs apartment. It couldn't be more perfect.

A flashing sign on the side of the road catches my eye. ROAD CLOSED AHEAD.

Shouldn't the GPS be rerouting me?My GPS app remains silent.

Tapping the wheel nervously, I search for a detour sign. All I see is marsh. Tufts of grass stick up from the water. A beautiful white egret sits on a mound of mud.

Half a mile later, the road is blocked by a row of orange cones. Beyond them, the road disappears, swallowed whole by the marsh. Unable to believe what I'm seeing, I step out of the car and walk past the cones for a better look.

I can't help but laugh. I told Cara if there were any major detours, I'd ditch the car and walk. But I never said anything aboutswimming.

There's a ripple on the surface of the water, barely ten feet from where I'm standing. Alligator? Anaconda? Creature from the Black Lagoon?

Shrieking, I dash back to the car and lock the doors.

What?I sawJurassic Park. If velociraptors can open doors, why not alligators?

After a few deep breaths, I attempt to turn the car around, and immediately regret it. There's not room for the maneuver on the narrow, two-lane road.

So, inching forward, then backward, then forward, then backward, over and over again for what seems like forever, all the while on the lookout for door-opening alligators, I'm finally heading back in the direction I came.

There's still no sign of a detour, but I spot a plank of wood tacked to a tree. "Farm fresh eggs" is scrawled across it in red spray paint, with an arrow pointed toward a gravel road.

Do I go down the scary road?I've seen enough movies to know it's a bad idea.