Just as Victor pulled into Violet’s driveway, his cell phone rang. He frowned at the unfamiliar number before answering it.
“Victor Romanoff,” he said.
“You called about some land for sale?” a gruff voice sounded in his ear.
“Yes, I did. Is this Morris Kramer?”
“Who gave you this number?” he suspiciously said, ignoring the question.
“I truly couldn’t say,” Victor said, slightly taken aback. “I found your number on my desk. Someone who knows I’m interested in purchasing land must have dropped it off at my office.”
“A real estate office?” the man angrily asked.
“No, I’m an attorney. My office is in Catalpa Valley,” Victor said.
“Well, I won’t sell to a developer, so you can forget that, if that’s who your client is,” the man snarled.
“I have no client, Sir,” Victor said, calmly. “The land would be for me. I have been hoping to build a nice home for my retirement years, but I have since been told this land is currently used as a recreation area and…”
“Who told you that?” he growled.
“My receptionist, Ella Kessinger,” Victor answered. “She’s lived here all her life and knows Somerset Hill quite well. It sounds lovely by her description.”
“It is. It hasn’t been on the market for years, though, so who told you it was for sale now?” the man said.
“I was told it had been up for sale for some time,” Victor answered, determined to remain civil even though the cantankerous man was intent on the opposite. “I know of your desire to keep the land in its pristine state.”
“And how do you know that?” the man snapped.
“You haven’t yet sold it to developers and you just told me you wouldn’t. I wouldn’t either. I would do the same, keep it exactly as it is now, assuming it’s still useful for recreational purposes,” Victor said.
“It is!” the man growled.
Victor had to stifle a chuckle. “Good. Could you tell me a bit about the property? How much land are we talking about and how much do you want for it?”
“That’s assuming I’ll sell it. Still haven’t decided,” the man said.
“Of course,” Victor said, holding back a laugh with difficulty.
“It’s two hundred and eighty-five acres and I’m not splitting it up, so you can just forget it! It’s been in my family since before the civil war and I’m the last of the Kramers, so I guess I gotta sell it, but I’m not giving it away!”
Victor listened without interruption as the crotchety old man gave a detailed description of the land, directions to the property and the price tag. He winced at the amount, but said nothing. He didn’t expect the entire town to fetch such a hefty dollar, but he’d sooner cut his hand off than tell this man his thoughts on the matter.
“Well? Still interested?”
“Yes, I am indeed. I at least want to see it. Thank you, Mr. Kramer. We’ll be in touch after I get a chance to see it,” Victor said.
“Yeah, we’ll see about that,” the man said then hung up with a loud click.
Victor laughed and stuffed the phone into the glove compartment before stepping out of his truck.
Violet was not in the house.
Victor discovered this when he walked through to the kitchen and found no sign of her. He would have started to panic if he hadn’t heard singing coming from the backyard. From the back door he saw her bending over a cold frame, her cute little backside tucked into snug fitting shorts.
Without making a sound, he stepped out of the house and watched as she filled a large bowl with strawberries. Looking around he saw she’d been busy. There were another two large bowls overflowing with berries. Did she get all of them from this tiny garden plot?
“Victor!” she suddenly shrieked, spilling half the contents onto the ground.
“Hello, Violet,” Victor said.
“I wish you wouldn’t sneak up on me,” she pouted. “You scare me half to death.”
“Sorry. You looked so peaceful I didn’t want to disturb you,” he replied.
“Well, you ruin my peace when you startle me like that,” she whined as she stooped to gather the dropped strawberries.
“I’ll do that. My fault you dropped them,” he said crouching down and taking the bowl out of her hands. “Did you really get all these berries from here?”
She glared at him. “No, I got them at the farmer’s market. Of course I got them here!”
He laughed and then she giggled.
“It’s too nice a day to be upset, so I’ll forgive you,” she said smiling up at him.
“For disturbing your peace or doubting your berry growing abilities?”
She laughed and stood up. “Both.”
“Thank you, Violet,” Victor said. “You are so very kind.”
She looked at him, taking in his apparel. “You look nice today. Going somewhere special?”
He grinned. “That was my hope actually.”
She gave him a curious look and grabbed one of the bowls, while Victor took the other two and they headed to the kitchen.
“This is going to make one heck of a strawberry short cake,” Victor said.
“How do you do that? How in the world did you know I was thinking of a shortcake?” she said, astonished.
“Brilliant minds think alike,” he said smirking.
“I’m sure, but what does that have to do with me?” she retorted.
“So, Victor, what brings you here on such a lovely day?”
“I was hoping you would do me a huge favor,” he said, placing the bowls on the counter.
“Don’t tell me. You want your own strawberry shortcake?”
He chuckled. “You gotta know I want that, too.”
“Okay. What’s the favor?” she asked.
“I need your opinion. Come take a ride with me and I’ll show you. Then we can have a picnic. Would you like that?” he asked.
“The ride or the picnic?” she asked.
“I’m sure I’ll like them both, but how is that a favor for you?”
“The favor is you coming with me to give me your opinion about something very important to me. Will you, please?”
She shrugged. “Okay, I’ll pack a lunch and ....”
“No need. I’ve already got it in the truck.” He grabbed her hand and started pulling her to the front door, before she could change her mind.
She yanked her hand out of his. “You barbarian! I have to change. I’m dressed for nothing but berry picking,” she shrieked.
“But you look great,” he insisted.
“I will not set foot off my property wearing this. Now, sit down and be quiet while I change. I’m doing you a favor, remember?” she said.
“Where are my manners? Mama would be so disappointed in me. Please, forgive me,” he said, bowing low, taking her hand and kissing it tenderly.
Her breath caught in her throat. “Silly man,” she mumbled, breathless. “I’ll be right back.”
She ran up the stairs, pulled off her t-shirt and shorts and slipped on her favorite sun-dress, sandals and a wide-brimmed hat. She ran back down the stairs within ten minutes.
Upon seeing her, Victor’s heart did a tumble.
“What?” she said, misinterpreting the expression on his face. “Too dressy?”
He smiled and shook his head. "You weren't kidding when you said you were doing me a favor," he mumbled.
She smiled and he held out his hand to her. She took it and they went out the door.
How he wished he could keep it forever.