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Summary

Molly Malone is obsessed with putting herself on the map by building a prestigious housing development. All she needs to get started is a very large wad of cash. Romance is about the last thing she would ever pencil into her overflowing diary until she encounters the breathtakingly handsome Paul Farnsworth, front man for a group of investors who might back Molly’s project.

Published: Jane Oldaker on
ISBN: 9780988153301
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Nothing Ventured - Jane Oldaker

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Ventured

By

Jane Oldaker

Molly Malone is obsessed with putting herself on the map by building a prestigious housing development. All she needs to get started is a very large wad of cash. Romance is about the last thing she would ever pencil into her overflowing diary until she encounters the breathtakingly handsome Paul Farnsworth, front man for a group of investors who might back Molly’s project.

Nothing Ventured

Jane Oldaker

Copyright 2013 by Jane Oldaker

Smashwords Edition

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

ISBN 978-0-9881533-0-1

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Epilogue

Also By Jane Oldaker

About the author

Dedication:

To Jamie

Nothing Ventured is an Arlo the Barncat publication which is exactly the same as self-publishing.

Chapter One

Glancing up from the task at hand, Molly saw that a car had pulled up to the job site and parked. The occupant - a masculine figure in a dark overcoat - alighted and proceeded across the November mud. He stopped and spoke to one of the workmen who nodded and pointed toward Molly. The man began picking his way among the discarded ends of lumber and other debris that littered the area. Molly looked at her watch and saw that it was ten-fifteen.Certain it was the man she was expecting, Molly quickly removed her tool belt.

The appointment was scheduled for ten-thirty and Molly had planned on having fifteen minutes to make sure she had all her drawings and materials, collect her thoughts and check her appearance. She felt as if her confidence had gone out the window along with her preparation time.

Do I look presentable? asked Molly when her assistant Sue appeared at her elbow with the sheaf of drawings and several manila file folders that were required for the meeting. Sue scrutinised her carefully before answering.The wavy red hair was neatly contained in a ponytail, Molly's clear complexion was unsmudged, as were her clothes. Molly's trim figure was neatly clad in the faded clean denims and flannel shirt that befitted the kind of work she did. Sue noted the nervousness in Molly's green eyes.

You look just fine. she said firmly, Don't worry, this project will sell itself.

He's early. said Molly tersely as the man drew nearer.

You'll be fine. repeated Sue, walking away just as the man drew close.

Paul Farnsworth's eyes remained locked on Molly from the moment he got out of his car, hoping that she was the woman he was supposed to meet. When the workman he spoke to confirmed that she was, his step grew lighter. She was quite a looker and put him in mind of an Irish folk song his mother used to sing. Her name was the same as the song, Molly Malone. He could hear the song in his mind. 'In Dublin's fair city, where the girls are so pretty, t'was there I first met sweet Molly Malone. He would never hear that song again without thinking of this Molly, she was the perfect image for the song.

Are you Molly Malone? The man asked her.

Yes I am. said Molly with dignity hoping to set the right tone for a business discussion. If this meeting went well she would be one step closer to realising her dream. It was important to stay cool and professional. Paul Farnsworth had been formal and business-like on the phone so Molly felt compelled to follow suit. The man gave her an appraising look. Don't show any fear, Molly urged herself.

Sweet Molly Malone. Paul said absently. It suited her perfectly. He was still thinking of the song and didn't realise he had spoken.

Like I've never heard that one before. snapped Molly as stress flooded out of her. This clown was obviously not the person she was waiting for. Paul Farnsworth, with whom she was only acquainted by phone, was mature, intelligent and consummately professional, words which would never describe this idiot.May I ask who you are and why you're here? asked Molly in a tone that would freeze out an Eskimo. The man seemed both puzzled and startled by her demeanour.

I'm Paul Farnsworth. he said, extending his hand toward her. We had an appointment to discuss the possibility of my consortium providing you with venture capital for your development. Molly's heart sank like a stone and she wished the ground would open and swallow her up.

Of course we did. I'm terribly sorry, but you're early and I thought you were somebody else. she finished, wanting to throw up. She looked him over, trying not to let him see that she did. He was very good looking, she noticed. Tall, with an athletic build, he had straight dark hair that looked as if it would have to be frequently brushed out of his eyes. He had deep blue eyes that seemed to look right through her. A long straight nose and sensuous lips, the bottom lip fuller than the upper completed an arresting set of features. A slight fullness in the cheeks gave his face a boyish quality.

So I am. he said, consulting his watch. I apologise, shall we start again? Molly felt another sickening wave overtake her and was having difficulty ordering her thoughts. It's nice to meet you. he said offering his hand once more.

It's a pleasure to finally meet you. stammered Molly. The hand she took was smooth and manicured, but strong as well. The heat that radiated from it warmed her hand which was cold and clammy from the November chill. I'm Molly Malone. She was completely rattled by now.

Yes. I know. Paul Farnsworth said, shooting her a look. I asked you that. Remember? Molly's eyes flew wide open in horror as she saw her chance, for which she had worked so hard, slipping ever further away.

I'm sorry. I.. she couldn't remember what she had started to say.

It's perfectly alright. he said crisply to cover his own embarrassment. Perhaps we should look at your plans.

Worser and worser, Molly thought. On the telephone he had sounded interested and enthusiastic, now he seemed utterly indifferent. His manner was detached and smoothly professional. He can't wait to blow me off, Molly thought. Paul cursed himself for the idiotic reference to the folk song. He was finding that Molly had a peculiar effect on him.

I have the drawings right here. said Molly dejectedly, spreading them out for him to see. She was certain that the opportunity had gone sailing down the river and that he was now only looking at her proposal to be polite. They spent the next hour and a half discussing Molly's plans for an upmarket subdivision just north of Uxbridge, Ontario. Molly had purchased a tract of land there and wanted to build reproduction Victorian mansions.

Uxbridge was expanding, Molly explained and had already acquired many of the charms required to entice prospective owners for these luxurious and costly homes. It had chic stores and a couple of fine restaurants, in addition to a reputation for good schools and peaceful living. Not to mention the setting, she continued, the town already had many homes dating from the period Molly wished to emulate, that had been lovingly restored, creating the feeling that one had stepped back in time. The whole effect was charming and picturesque, the perfect complement to the enclave Molly proposed to build. It would be situated north of the town, less than ten minutes from the central shopping district. The tract of land was gently rolling with plenty of mature trees, many of which Molly intended to integrate into the final landscaping scheme.

Molly's vision was truly breathtaking. She proposed to build seven estate homes on the twenty-one acre parcel. Utilising the natural features of the landscape, Molly had sited the homes so that none had any view of any of the others, affording the residents the ultimate in privacy. Each was to be a lavishly appointed representative of Victorian design. Historically accurate, they would nonetheless have up to the minute modern amenities, making for a brilliant marriage of old and new. Victorian houses of all types, Molly pointed out, were both common and popular in Ontario. Authentic reproductions with state of the art conveniences were absolutely unheard of and therefore bound to be sought after.

Molly finished her pitch on auto pilot. She was acutely embarrassed by her faux-pas at the start of their meeting and was certain that all that followed it was nothing more than a humiliating waste of time for them both. She found the presence of Paul Farnsworth somewhat distracting as well. She was unsure if her discomfiture was due to the egg on her face from their introduction, or due to the way his expensively cut overcoat draped over his broad shoulders and his custom made suit flattered his lean frame. She found herself suppressing the urge to push his hair off his face. It had fallen into his eyes, just as she had known that it would. The fact that she found him attractive irritated her no end. The first thing she had done when she met him was to humiliate herself, and there couldn't have been less sign of encouragement. The mischievous glint had vanished from his eyes, they were now flat and expressionless. He had not smiled since she began her proposal, and he hardly spoke, barely acknowledging that he heard anything Molly said.

As they stood elbow to elbow looking at the professionally executed drawings Molly had provided the nearness of him was having an irksome effect on her. It was as if energy radiated from him, causing her pulse to pound in her temples and her breath to come more quickly. She convinced herself that it was nothing more than nerves and embarrassment. She managed to maintain her composure in spite of it, but she couldn't take her eyes off him as he studied the drawings. She quickly averted her gaze every time he looked up at her. When they finished discussing her proposal she offered him a tour of the site.

To give you an idea of the kind of work I do. she said. To her surprise, he accepted. Because his demeanour throughout the meeting had been cool and almost indifferent, she was certain that he would decline, citing a pressing engagement and bolt for his Jaguar. Concealing her amazement she proceeded to show him around.

Molly's current project was a custom bungalow of modern design. It didn't reflect her tastes, she preferred working on Victorian renovations and reproductions, but it paid the bills and it would do to demonstrate the skill and quality which were the hallmarks of everything she worked on.

As they walked over the site she couldn't help noticing that his long slim legs carried him with an easy, self-assured grace. Unbidden, the recollection of the warmth of his hand recurred to her over and over again, obscuring her thoughts and intensifying the drumming in her temples. She felt a flush rise in her cheeks.

Finally, the cumulative effect of several stressful months spent trying to secure a prospect for financing, combined with the uncertain optimism and anticipation that had preceded this day, not to mention her disappointment and dashed hopes at the start of the meeting all became too much for Molly. Not looking where she was going, she stepped awkwardly on a large loose stone, leftover from the excavating and bulldozing, and consummated that morning's humiliation by stumbling over it. It just about sent her flying.

Watch out. Paul Farnsworth shouted. Suddenly she was seized by two amazingly strong arms. Molly drew her breath sharply as everything went black for an instant. The persistent pounding in her head was almost intolerable now and she could barely hear over it. The tantalising warmth of his hand that she kept recalling was replaced with the heat caused by his chest pressing up tightly against hers as he kept her from falling to the ground altogether.

Are you alright? he asked, looking directly into her eyes and further disconcerting her.

I'm fine. she told him. Thank you.

Good. he said, reluctantly letting go of her. He immediately looked away from her, but not before Molly saw that the look of concern that appeared in his eyes had faded back to the aloof lack of expression that had been present throughout the meeting.

You really need to look where you're going on a construction site. he said diffidently, instantly regretting the remark.

Molly's mortification was now complete. Eyes downcast, she nodded her head in agreement. They completed their tour of the site. Molly gave detailed, if mechanical answers to Paul's questions.

Is this house typical of your work? he asked.

It's typical of the level of workmanship. But it's a modern design I'm building on contract for a client. Most of my work has been on Victorian houses, originals and reproductions. she shrugged. I guess it's my first love. Molly was so deflated that she no longer took in the trim, athletic form or the intense blue eyes. She was no longer disconcerted by his presence and wished they would end the meeting soon so she could suffer her disgrace in private. The throbbing in her temples had been replaced by a flatness and weariness brought on by that morning's discouraging turn of events.

Well I guess I have everything I need. said Paul abruptly. It'll take some time for the other investors to make a decision. We have several proposals on the table at the moment. Don't expect to hear anything until after Christmas. I'll contact you if we need anything in the meantime. With that he turned on his heel and started for his car. He covered the ground with an athletic smoothness and quickness that seemed at odds with the fact that he was a lawyer and a businessman. Molly was pressed to keep up with him. Opening the door of his Jaguar, he turned towards Molly.

Thank you for coming out and considering my project. Molly said. She paused. I'm sorry I was rude. I thought you were a salesman. She immediately wished she hadn't spoken.

I see. he said drily. Well don't worry. It's perfectly alright. Good bye for now. He got into his car, his smooth professional demeanour completely intact. He closed the door and turned the key in the ignition. He nodded at Molly and drove away. Molly watched his Jaguar, along with her dreams, disappear rapidly into the distance.

I'll take him off your hands if you're not interested. As if by magic, Sue appeared at her elbow. Although, judging by the way you were looking at him, I'd say you probably are. Molly gaped at her. And the way he was looking at you, she continued blithely, I thought that any moment your clothes would catch fire. It was all too much for Molly.

Nobody was looking at anybody. she snapped, It was a business meeting. And it was a complete wash-out so I'll have to start all over again. she finished bleakly, and strode away in the direction of the site trailer. Sue's brown eyes filled with dismay. She started after Molly, almost jogging to catch up to her.

What happened? she asked when she drew up to her.

I thought he was somebody else and bit his head off. He immediately cooled off on the project. He barely spoke to me, after that. I don't know how you could think he was interested in me. said Molly dispiritedly.

Molly. Sue said patiently, He couldn't take his eyes off you. We all noticed it. Molly didn't believe her. The meeting couldn't have been worse if she had planned it that way and anyhow, what man would ever notice her dressed as she was in her work clothes? Molly was completely oblivious to the appeal she radiated in her work clothes. Her slender legs were set off by faded denims that were comfortably snug and her tool belt framed a firm behind. The down vest and check shirt demanded by the late fall chill left a lot to the imagination, but the pony tail showed off her delicately featured face and large green eyes. Obsessed with running her business and getting her project off the ground, Molly rarely noticed the attention men paid her and never believed anybody gave her a second glance.

When's that guy coming you're supposed to be having a meeting with? Joe had wandered over out of amiable curiosity. He was Molly's head carpenter.

That was him. said Molly through clenched teeth. She wanted to be left alone.

Oh. said Joe in surprise. I thought that was your boyfriend from the way he was looking at you.

Molly flipped. He is not my boyfriend and if you people put as much effort into your work as you do into spying on me, this house would be closed in by now. Joe flinched at her tone. He was offended, but said nothing as he returned to his work. Sue would explain to him later why Molly had lost her cool.

Molly went in to the trailer that was parked on the site and sulked for half an hour over a cup of coffee. Then she turned her attention to the house they were building. It was mid-November now and there was intense pressure to get it closed in before the tricky late autumn weather gave way to the fury of Ontario's winter. They had been lucky so far. The concrete foundation had been poured and the sub-floor and walls erected and closed in. Once they had the roof built and sheeted, the worst would be behind them. They would install the windows and doors then work on the interior throughout the winter. Molly went to work with her crew building the roof.

Damn. Molly swore after cutting the same piece of lumber incorrectly for the third time. She couldn't concentrate. She got a new piece to try and was just pulling out her tape measure when Joe came down from the roof.

Molly. he said reasonably. It's time the lads had some lunch. Indeed it was after two o'clock. Molly had lost track of the time as she tended to do when she was troubled, forgetting as she drove herself hard, that she also drove her crew hard. She nodded apologetically at Joe. Over the lunch hour, Joe and Sue conspired to put Molly to work reviewing the books in the trailer with Sue. She was so abstracted she was liable to become something of a menace with power tools, both to herself and to others around her. Molly was aware that she was being handled, but she didn't resist because she was equally aware that she was something of a liability at the moment. She humbly allowed Sue to occupy her with busywork for the short time that remained of the work day. Images of Paul Farnsworth's cool detachment and the development that she now didn't believe she would ever build flitted through her mind constantly and she accomplished little. She was relieved when it was time to go home.

Home was a charming one and a half storey Victorian gem that Molly had purchased and lovingly restored. It had classic Victorian design elements, a high narrow window on either side of the front door, and a third that looked out from the centre of a steeply pitched dormer. The house was red brick with contrasting yellow brick accenting the windows and corners of the structure. The original gingerbread was missing in places when Molly bought it, where it remained much of it had been damaged beyond repair. Molly had faithfully reproduced it. It was not a large house, but it was a pleasing representative of its era, and it was more than adequate for Molly's solitary existence.

Going directly upstairs Molly stripped off her work clothes and got in the shower. Hot water and soap seemed to wash away some of the shame and disappointment of the day. She turned the water off and stepped out, reaching for her favourite robe. Then she blow-dried her hair. Gleaming and fresh-scented it fluffed out around her delicate face.

She surprised herself by suddenly wishing that Paul Farnsworth could see her now that she was freshly bathed and smelled of soap and shampoo. She was shocked to find herself thinking that she would like to have his chest pressed tightly up against her naked breasts. To distract herself she went downstairs and made herself some supper and a cup of tea.

Settling down in her living room Molly turned on the television set. The tea calmed her somewhat, but she couldn't concentrate on any of the programmes because she kept thinking of Paul. In exasperation she forced her thoughts toward business.

She had staked everything on her development. Her investment portfolio, which she'd worked so hard to build, her RRSP and other savings, she had even mortgaged the house that she loved so much. It was a huge gamble, but if it paid off it would springboard her from the level of successful small to medium-sized contractor to the status of a developer capable of conceiving and executing a daring plan for a prestigious development. She would be able to write her own ticket after an accomplishment like that.

It had been two years since she had purchased the land and it had taken all that time to get the necessary permits and planning approval. And it had taken a continuous commitment of time and money to accomplish that much.

She had scouted prospective backers throughout that period and the results of that search had been dismal. She could find no one willing to make the leap of faith in spite of how promising the project looked on paper. Few would even discuss it with her beyond the initial contact. Then she had found Paul Farnsworth. Initially he had seemed genuinely interested and then excited by her project. His consortium had a reputation for backing unknowns and walking away with their pockets stuffed full of money. Molly hoped against hope that her project was up their street. She was encouraged by his interest, then blindly optimistic when he started to sound keen. It was hard to believe she had practically run him off her site the moment he got out of his car.

Molly slept badly because of her jangling nerves. She awoke exhausted from the lack of rest and alarmed by a pre-waking dream that Paul Farnsworth was beside her in her bed, gazing lovingly at her with his deep blue eyes. She shrugged the image off and went about her business for the day feeling run-down and depressed.

In the weeks that followed Molly worked obsessively on the site and off. They made gratifying progress on the house. It was completely closed in with the roof shingled by the first week of December. The electrical and plumbing services had been roughed in by sub-contractors who often got underfoot, and all the windows and doors had been installed. They were ready for winter, Molly thought gratefully. The completion of the house would proceed smoothly now, whatever the weather. With so much tied up in her development, Molly needed the contract to keep the wolf from the door.

Off site Molly beat the bushes with a manic fervour for new prospective backers. She followed up two leads that she had dropped when Paul Farnsworth and his group of investors had appeared so promising. One contact was away in Europe for a month, the other said his group wouldn't consider any new projects until after Christmas. Undeterred Molly laboured diligently, reviewing her lists of contacts, looking for advertisements by people looking for prospective investments and generally racking her brain for anything new to try. She was certain that Farnsworth and his group were a non-starter.

If she was discouraged, she didn't let it show. Joe and Sue noticed that she seemed intensely preoccupied at times and would nod knowingly at each other. They made no comment, knowing that Molly had to work it out for herself. Sue was still certain that Molly would hear from Paul Farnsworth. She could feel it in her bones. But that too, she kept to herself.

Christmas was coming, not that Molly noticed. She drove herself relentlessly, convinced that determination alone would see her through. The mood of those around her lightened perceptibly in anticipation of the coming festivities. But Molly threw all her energy into breaking down the wall that stood between her and her dream. She was dimly aware that there were some extra-curricular days off coming during which she would not be able to make any calls or do any business.

The house continued to proceed smoothly. Then came a Wednesday so fraught with petty trials so as to test the mettle of the most optimistic and persevering soul. A mid-December storm had dumped half a foot of snow overnight and was now finishing up it's handiwork with lazy sprinklings of ice pellets. Molly's Jeep wouldn't start and she was obliged to ask Sue to pick her up and drive her to the site. The journey that followed was an adventure in terror that Molly hoped never to repeat. Joe couldn't make it in to work because of the storm and Mark was off sick. That meant Molly had to try and do their jobs as well as her own and supervise Tim and Al. It was impossible. The highlight of the day was a screaming match with the plumber who was not one of Molly's usual tradespeople, but had been picked by the client. He wanted her to completely rearrange the placement of fixtures in two of the house's three and a half bathrooms.

Molly had stormed away from the plumber to call the client and have him fired when Sue burst into the house. She was obviously very excited and was out of breath because she had run all the way from the trailer through the snow.

You have a call. she panted. It's very important. I asked him to hold.

You what? screeched Molly who was at the end of her rope. As a rule she didn't take calls on the job. It was Sue's job to handle the phone and take messages. Asking someone to hold while she was located on the site, and maybe couldn't even leave what she was doing to come to the phone, was unthinkable.

It's Paul Farnsworth. said Sue, still panting. The news completely silenced Molly. She turned and ran for the door, pelting across the lot through the snow to the trailer.

Molly Malone here. she said into the phone. She was much fitter than Sue and managed not to sound out of breath.

It's Paul Farnsworth calling. he said in the smooth professional voice that she remembered so well. We met several weeks ago to discuss your proposed development. Molly thought she detected the faintest trace of hesitation beneath the coolness.

Yes. I remember you Mr. Farnsworth. Molly said evenly. She tried to suppress a tiny glimmer of hope.

I've made a proposal regarding your project to our investors. Molly braced herself for rejection. A couple of them would like to meet you personally to get a better feel for your project.

I'd be happy to meet with them. said Molly casually, not believing her ears. What would you like to set up?

Dinner. said Paul. Friday night in Toronto, but I don't know where yet. We'll pick a restaurant once we know everybody's available. He paused. I generally use a car and driver for these things because they often run late and people expect you to drink. I'll pick you up at five o'clock and brief you on the way down. It won't hurt to have an idea of what they expect. If that arrangement is satisfactory to you that is. Now he definitely sounded unsure of himself.

That would be fine. said Molly smoothly, successfully concealing her euphoria. I'll look forward to it. Thank you for calling. Molly was speechless when she hung up the phone. It was a month to the day since their disastrous meeting. From the moment Paul Farnsworth's Jaguar had pulled away from her site she had ceased to hold out any hope that such a call would come. I don't believe it. she said slowly, I just don't believe it.

Sue was overjoyed. She was happy for Molly and more than a little smug at having been right as well. I told you he'd call. she said exultantly, I told you.

She had two days to absorb the fact that she still had a chance with Paul Farnsworth's consortium, but Molly was so busy that she scarcely gave it another thought until Friday afternoon. The earliest she could get away from the site was two o'clock, giving her little more than two hours to get ready once she got home.

She had chosen her clothing the same day that Paul had phoned, turning her closet upside down until she found what she wanted. That meant she could proceed directly to the bathroom scrubbing down vigorously with an expensive, scented soap and rubbing an equally expensive shampoo energetically into her scalp. Stepping out of the shower with her hair wrapped in a towel she went to the vanity. Opening a jar she smoothed moisturiser all over her face, then lotion all over her body. Shaking the towel out of her hair, she proceeded to blow it dry. Then she selected a