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The Caffeinated Grape (A Buzby Beach Novelette) Chapter 08

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DW is a veteran, a father, a husband, and a teacher. He's published 9 YA/NA novels thus far. The story you're reading might be next.

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After dinner at Neptune’s Palace, Dallas and Donovan went back to The Caffeinated Grape to give Becky and Cedric a hand with the late-night crowd. Customers filled all the outside tables. Inside was standing room only.

Becky was taking care of a party of four on the patio and simply waved when she saw Dallas and Donovan. Cedric’s greeting was a bit more enthusiastic.

“Hooray! The cavalry has arrived.”

Quickly donning logo bearing aprons, Donovan took his place at the register while Dallas began checking tables to see who needed refills. The four friends stayed busy, and before they knew it, the last customer was gone, and Cedric was locking the door. Becky poured them wine, and the four friends were soon seated around the high-rise four-top.

“Becky and I sure do appreciate you two helping us out,” Cedric said as he set the wine bottle down. “We can’t go on expecting you to show up every weekend, though.”

Becky put her glass down and said, “We’re going to have to hire someone to help out at least on Friday and Saturday nights.”

Cedric took a swallow of his wine, laughed, and said, “Unless one of you wants to go on the payroll. We can’t afford to pay you both.”

“And we can’t keep paying you in coffee and wine,” Becky added. “There are laws against that.”

Donovan was looking over his glass at Dallas, his eyebrows raised. Dallas nodded.

“Cedric, Becky,” Donovan lowered his glass and said. “Dallas and I have been thinking about this very situation and have a proposal to make.”

Cedric and Becky exchanged what Donovan thought was both a curious yet dubious look.

“Okay,” Cedric said hesitantly. “Let’s hear this proposal of yours.”

Donovan took on what he called his business persona. “You, Cedric, told me y’all set up The Caffeinated Grape as a Limited Liability Partnership with you and Becky as equal partners. How would you feel about taking on a couple of junior partners? We’re not talking about a big interest. One percent each for Dallas and me just enough to make us legally partners who don’t draw a paycheck. What do you think?”

Cedric sighed and looked at Becky. Becky shrugged and turned to look at Dallas. Dallas gave her a hopeful smile.

Becky stood up and picked up the empty wine glasses. “Cedric and I will have to talk over your proposal. Honestly, you took us by surprise. Taking on partners, even very junior partners, isn’t something we’d given any thought to.”

“Don’t get us wrong,” Cedric added as he stood. “We appreciate everything y’all have done, but the shop has been a dream of ours for a long time, and selling even a small part of it is something we’d have to consider very thoroughly.”

“Sure,” said Dallas, getting up from her seat. “We understand. We did spring this on you out of the blue. Take all the time you need, and if the answer is no, there will be no hard feelings.”

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Donovan was the last to get to his feet. “It’s a standing offer, Cedric. You’ve got my cell number. When you’ve made your decision, give me a call.”

Donovan shook Cedric’s hand, nodded at Becky, and left the shop. He waited for Dallas on the sidewalk, where she joined him a couple of minutes later.

“Are you mad at Cedric and Becky because they didn’t take us up on our offer?” Dallas asked Donovan as they started walking toward the townhouse.

Donovan’s brows scrunched. “No, I’m not mad at them. Why would you say such a thing?”

“Becky said you seemed upset. She’s afraid they hurt your feelings.”

Donovan stifled a laugh. “Dallas, it was just a business proposition. I don’t get emotional about business. We made our pitch. They said they’d think it over. What else more was there to say?”

Dallas shrugged and took his hand. “What if they decide they don’t want us as very junior partners’ after they’ve thought it over?”

“If they don’t, then I guess we’ll have to find something else to do on Friday and Saturday nights.”

Donovan got a call from Cedric the following Monday morning. Dallas had already left for work, and Donovan was at EJ’s enjoying a freshly made donut and a glass of milk.

“Would you be able to come by the shop this evening after Dallas gets home?” Cedric asked.

“We were planning to stop by before heading up to Rick’s Place for dinner,” Donovan told him.

“Good,” Cedric said. “Becky and I have a counter-proposal we’d like the two of you to consider.”

“I’m intrigued,” Donovan replied. “We’ll stop by as soon as we can after Dallas gets home from work.”

“See you then,” Cedric said, and then he broke the connection.

Donovan finished his donut and washed it down with the rest of his milk. After he arrived at home, he sent Dallas a text message letting her know Cedric and Becky wanted to talk to them that evening. Then he settled down to work on his book.

Dallas got home from work around five-thirty. She and Donovan arrived at The Caffeinated Grape shortly after six. Business was light.

Cedric invited them to the back of the shop where his office was.

“Becky needs to stay out front and cover the store,” Cedric said to start the meeting, “but we’ve discussed everything I’m going to say.”

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Donovan and Dallas silently waited for Cedric to continue.

“You both have helped us enormously since we opened the shop. We appreciate all you’ve done. But after talking it over at some length, Becky and I agree we don’t think selling each of you one percent of the business is the right thing to do. We do, though, have a counteroffer if you’d like to hear it.”

Donovan and Dallas looked at each other and nodded. “Okay,” said Donovan. “We’d like to hear your counteroffer.”

“We’ve taken into account, Dallas, that you and Becky have been best friends for years. Donovan, we’ve also considered how much time and effort you’ve already put in, uncompensated time and effort, to help us make such a strong start. All that said, what Becky and I would like to do is offer you each a ten percent share in the business.”

Donovan, having expected an offer to pay them an hourly wage when they worked, was momentarily taken back by Cedric’s offer. Once the shock wore off, he knew he wanted to make the deal. He just wasn’t sure if Dallas could or even wanted to invest so much.

“Cedric,” Donovan began, “could Dallas and I have a few minutes to talk it over?”

“Of course,” Cedric replied. He stood up and walked around his desk. “I’ll go out front with Becky. Y’all come out when you’re ready and let us know what you decide.”

“I don’t know if I can afford to buy a ten percent stake Donovan,” Dallas admitted.

“We can do this together if it’s something you want to do,” Donovan assured her. He reached out and took her hand. “I know owning a stake in The Caffeinated Grape is something I want, but only if we do it together.”

Dallas smiled at him and said, “Then we’ll do it together. Let’s go tell Becky and Cedric.”

Cedric and Becky were thrilled to learn that Donovan and Dallas wanted to join the business.

“There are some details we’ll need to work out,” Cedric said as they toasted the news with glasses of his favorite Chardonnay. “I’ll have my CPA and my lawyer take care of those. Donovan, I know you’re an MBA, but you should get your lawyer to look at everything before we sign papers.”

Nothing more could be done that night, so after one more toast, Donovan and Dallas said good night to their new partners and went to find some dinner. They just made their reservation at Rick’s Place. After dinner and a walk on the beach, they returned home and, because Dallas had to get up for work the next morning, retired to their separate bedrooms.

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Alone in his bedroom, Donovan sat on the corner of his bed, looking at the closed door. Part of him ached to walk down the short hall and ask Dallas to come to his room and spend the night in his bed. A stronger part, though, kept him where he was.

He opened the drawer to his nightstand and took out the blue velvet box sitting in it. Then he reached for his phone and sent Thomas a message. He sent the same message to William.

If you’re available, I need to talk to both of you. Video conference. Let me know when.

It was nearly midnight there in North Carolina. Donovan figured William wouldn’t see the message until morning. In South Korea, where Thomas was, it was just past lunch. Donovan wasn’t surprised when Thomas sent back, 0700 your time-2000 my time.

Donovan replied with a simple, K.

The next morning, after a fitful night’s sleep, Donovan saw Dallas off to work and then sat down at his computer. William called in first.

“What’s up, Dad?” his youngest asked before giving in to a big yawn.

Thomas joined the call before Donovan could answer William. “Morning, you two. At least where you are. I just ate supper. So, Dad, what’s going on?”

Donovan got straight to the point. “I’m going to ask Dallas to marry me.” He dropped the news and waited for his sons’ responses.

William was the first to react. “I think that’s great, Dad. Kate and I like Dallas.”

Donovan turned his focus to Thomas’s image on the screen. “I’ve only met her on video chat, Dad, but I know she makes you happy. Besides, you’re already living together...”

“With separate bedrooms,” Donovan interjected.

“... with separate bedrooms,” Thomas amended. “I think getting married is the next logical step.”

“Neither of you think I’m rushing into this?” Donovan asked.

Thomas answered first. “Dallas is the first woman you’ve even dated since mom passed away. I want you to be very sure she’s the right woman before you pop the question. If you feel certain Dallas is the right woman, Dad, I’d hate for you to let this chance slip away.”

“I agree with Thomas, Dad. If you’re sure you’re ready, and you’re sure Dallas is the right one, then I think you should go for it.”

“Thanks, guys. After we lost your mother, I never thought I’d even consider getting married again. Then I met Dallas. She changed my whole outlook on the future.”

The three of them spent a few more minutes chatting before Thomas had to meet friends, and William had to go to work. After signing off with his sons, Donovan began to work on how and when he’d propose.

Donovan's story concludes in Chapter 9

© 2021 DW Davis