Crossroad to Love (Fab Five Series)
Author:Anna Kristell

chapter 8

The girls decided to have pizza and ice cream sent up to their room. After changing into their pajamas and putting their problems aside for the night, they began the age-old ritual of reminiscing.

“Remember that slumber party we had at your house, Katy? We must have been all of sweet sixteen at the time,” Lizzie asked as she popped a chocolate into her mouth.

“Oh, how could I ever forget it? We snuck the boys in the basement window and my dad caught us. I wasn’t allowed to see Bill for a month. I thought I would die before that month was over.” Katy giggled like a schoolgirl.

“And then there were all the sleepovers at Lizzie’s house, our resident junk food junkie. We ate so much junk food when were there,” Angie remembered.

“And you always knew what you were having for breakfast at Lizzie’s house, fried bologna on toast. I have not touched bologna since then, I don’t think.” Marianne remembered with a smile. She was actually beginning to relax a little. She had not had another glass of wine since she had poured her heart out to her friends earlier. Maybe this really is going to be a good week, after all, she thought as she looked at each of her friends and smiled.

“Ah, those were the days, weren’t they, carefree and fun?” Katy said wistfully.

They all nodded in agreement. They spent the rest of the night and into the morning hours remembering the days of their youth in an Indiana small town, and of course, filling up on junk food. When they finally gave it up and fell asleep at four a.m., each one of the girls had a smile on her face.

When they awoke on Sunday morning, they all felt refreshed and relaxed. After taking turns in the shower, they sat down to figure out what they would do with the rest of the day. It was decided that they would go across the street to the Galleria mall for a while. As they leisurely read the paper and finished their coffee, they also discussed where they would go for dinner that evening.

“I have had enough junk food to last me for a year,” Katy said. She was never one to eat junk food, being the petite one of the bunch. Last night had been a rare exception.

“You can say that again,” quipped Marianne with a sidelong glance at Lizzie.

“Now, girls, what’s a ‘Fab Four’ party without junk food?” Lizzie laughed.

“You could eat junk food without the ‘Fab Four,’ honey,” Angie answered with a smile.

They eventually decided on a restaurant that Marianne suggested. It had a great reputation and she had heard that they were planning to expand. “Supposedly they are going to be adding a party room and possibly more restaurants,” Marianne told them. “It’s owned by two brothers, Ryan and Shane O’Grady. All the articles I’ve read say Shane’s wife, Chloe, is an excellent cook and Ryan is said to have the distinct reputation of being considered one of Dallas’s most eligible bachelors.” Marianne continued to fill them in with all she knew about the family from local talk. “He’s quite the playboy from what I’ve seen in the society pages, never with the same woman more than a few times.”

“Well, then we have to go there, because I want to see this local legend in the flesh,” Lizzie laughed.

“I agree. If he’s so hot that all the women are after him, I want to see him too. Hey, maybe Katy can have a vacation affair with this dude. It’d be a great way to get back in the dating pool.” Angie burst into giggles.

“And why on earth would I want to do that?” Katy began giggling as well.

“I don’t think Katy wants to get mixed up with that one,” Marianne added.

“I can see it now. We’ll walk in there and all go into one of our giggling fits when we see ‘Mr. Sexy Dallas.’” Lizzie was giggling too by this point.

“And so my friends come to Dallas just to embarrass me in public. I see how you are,” Marianne teased.

“Ok, we’ll behave. But I still think Katy should have a fling with him,” Angie said.

“Oh, brother,” Katy rolled her eyes and threw a pillow at Angie’s head.

The girls left for the mall shortly after that, putting an end to the discussion of the infamous Mr. O’Grady.

It was just like old times, the four of them shopping together. They had spent many a Sunday afternoon in the malls together over the years. They each made a few purchases and headed back to the suite to get ready for their big evening out.

Petite Katy chose a simple black dress. She finished it off with pearls that Bill had given her one year for their anniversary, matching earrings and bracelet, and a pair of strappy black sandals. With her short dark hair cut in the latest style, she looked very chic. Lizzie had bought a beautiful floral skirt with a peasant blouse while shopping. The bright turquoise had always been a good color for her. She was a blonde with a classic pageboy hairstyle, the back cut just a tiny bit shorter than the sides and stacked. She wore southwestern-style turquoise jewelry. Angie, ever the career girl, donned a navy pinstripe skirt with matching blazer. She dressed it up with a feminine white blouse and gold jewelry. She had decided to wear her long hair up for the evening. Marianne walked into the room with a cute, green paisley dress that accentuated her figure nicely.

“Well, I think we are ready to take on the Big D in style,” Angie laughed as they grabbed their purses and walked out the door, happily anticipating the evening ahead.

Since Marianne knew the way to the restaurant, she offered to drive rather than take the rental. The girls were all chatting at once the entire ride, taking in the lights of Dallas on the way.

Marianne pulled into the parking lot of ‘Chloe’s Place’ and quickly parked her SUV in one of the few remaining parking spots. The nearly full parking lot was a good indication that the food would be excellent. They piled out of the car and strolled into the restaurant, which had a pleasant atmosphere. The dining room was tastefully decorated in shades of mauve and gray and a fire was burning in the huge stone fireplace in one corner. Fresh flowers served as centerpieces on each table. Everyone was bustling about doing his or her job, but everything seemed to be running quite smoothly.

“Marianne, this is lovely. I am so glad you suggested this place,” Angie stated in awe.

The others quickly agreed with her.

“Welcome to Chloe’s Place, would this be your first time here?” asked the man who had just walked up to greet them.

The four women stared at the man in disbelief. He had to be the most gorgeous hunk of manhood any of them had ever seen. He was tall and well-groomed, with dark hair and big brown eyes that held a tiny fleck of gold in each of them. He looked to be in his forties, very muscular and definitely all man. Now, Michael, Jon, and Rex were all good-looking men, but there was definitely something different about this one.

Katy could not seem to take her eyes off him. He smiled at her and she struggled to regain her composure as she answered, “Yes, it is. We are visiting Dallas and heard great things about ‘Chloe’s Place,’ so we thought we’d try it out.”

“We will try to live up to the good things you have heard, then. I am Ryan O’Grady. I own the restaurant with my brother and sister-in-law, Shane and Chloe. And you lovely ladies are…?”

“We are the ‘Fab Four,’” Angie laughed.

Ryan gave them a quizzical look and Lizzie laughingly explained, “It’s a childhood nickname we gave ourselves when we were growing up in Indiana. I am Lizzie from Ohio, this is Marianne, who actually lives near Dallas, that’s Angie from Iowa, and you have already had the pleasure of speaking to Katy, who hails from Chicago.”

The gold flecks in Ryan’s eyes sparkled as he answered, “Indiana you say? I lived there once, a lifetime ago, in Indianapolis. It is a pleasure for us to be serving the ‘Fab Four’ this evening. May I show you to a table, ladies?” He led them to a table near the beautiful fireplace. After they were seated, he took their drink orders and handed them menus. “Your waiter will be with you shortly. I’ll check back with you ladies later and see how you are doing. It has been a pleasure.” He winked at Katy as he turned to go.

“Wow, did you girls check out those eyes of his?” Angie asked.

“Eyes, schmeyes, I was too busy checking out the rest of him,” laughed Lizzie.

“No wonder he’s Dallas’s most eligible bachelor,” Marianne added.

“What did you think of him, Katy?” Angie nudged her friend, who had been very quiet. The wink had not been missed.

“I think that I have never been as attracted to a man in all my life,” Katy quietly answered.

The other three looked at her in surprise. Katy had not so much as shown the slightest bit of interest in a man since Bill’s death, other than the occasional casual date. Maybe she really was ready to move on.

“Well, on that note, let’s think about ordering some food, because, honey, I don’t think Ryan O’Grady is on the menu tonight,” Lizzie said as they all burst into yet another fit of girlish giggles.

The waiter soon brought their drinks and they placed their orders. Marianne ordered the filet mignon, Angie a seafood dish, Katy a shrimp salad, and Lizzie the prime rib.

As they settled back to enjoy their drinks and each other’s company, a woman walked toward their table. Katy noticed her first-she was strikingly beautiful, probably in her mid-thirties, with short, blonde, bobbed hair.

The woman greeted them with a genuine smile as she stopped at their table and introduced herself, “Hi, I’m Chloe O’Grady. Ryan said there was a lively bunch of gals that I needed to meet sitting in this corner. Welcome to our restaurant.”

“Are we being too loud? We’re sorry, we haven’t seen each other for a long time and have a lot to catch up on,” Angie answered, slightly embarrassed.

“Oh, no, quite the contrary, Ryan thought y’all were having a good time, so I thought I would come over and chat a minute. What brings y’all to Dallas?” she asked with the typical Texas drawl.

“Well, we’re childhood friends who live in different states now. We decided to drop everything and get together for a week,” replied Lizzie.

“I think that’s wonderful. I would love to get away like that, but we are so busy right now.” Chloe O’Grady had a way about her that could draw you into her world with her smile.

“Yes, we heard that you are doing some expanding. That sounds great.” Marianne remarked. “You must be doing very well here.”

“It is great, but very time consuming to try and plan all that and run this place, I’m afraid.” Chloe smiled as she spoke, the same sweet smile she had on her face when greeting them.

“I hear you. I work in a resort-casino and we are planning a huge expansion too. When I get back to work, I will certainly have my hands full,” Angie piped in, understanding in her voice.

“We have hired an excellent architect. We’ve seen preliminary sketches and are meeting with him on Tuesday morning. He really had some good ideas. Now if I could just decide on a new advertising campaign and hire a decorator, I would be halfway home.” Chloe sighed.

The girls looked at each other and laughed.

“I’m sorry, why was that funny?” Chloe asked in a surprised manner.

“No, it wasn’t funny, but Lizzie’s husband owns an ad agency and Katy here is thinking of starting an interior design business. I have already offered her a job helping me with decorating our new hotel expansion,” Angie answered, the wheels spinning in her head already.

“You have got to be kidding. It has to be fate that brought you to us tonight. I am so excited. You don’t know how much this has been weighing on me to get these things done. I feel like a hundred pound weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Shane and Ryan will not believe this in a million years.” Chloe could not believe her luck and even Marianne, the great believer in fate, was dumbstruck by the sudden turn of events.

“What will I not believe?” Ryan had returned to the table. He seemed to be drawn to the table with the petite Katy from Chicago and her friends.

When Chloe related her latest findings to Ryan, he was shocked. “Well, indeed, that is interesting. Katy, why don’t you drop by tomorrow after the lunch rush and we’ll discuss some of the decorating ideas with you?” he answered, not quite believing his luck in getting to see her again so soon.

“This place is so tastefully done, who designed it?” she replied, not giving an immediate answer to his suggestion.

“I did, but I just don’t have the time to do it this time around, what with running this place and planning the new projects,” Chloe answered wearily.

“Well, it certainly is beautiful. You did an excellent job on it, Chloe.” Katy appreciated taste and Chloe certainly had shown good taste in decorating the restaurant.

“Thank you, Katy. But seriously, would you be interested in stopping by tomorrow or will you be too busy with your friend’s hotel to take on a second client so soon? We would love to have your input.”

She is seriously asking me to do the job, Katy thought excitedly.

“We could really use your help if you are serious about starting a design business.” Ryan was looking at Katy, smiling, and she was captivated by it. How could I refuse anything this man asks of me?

“We don’t want to cut into your vacation time, though. I’m sorry, I didn’t even think of that.” Chloe had forgotten for a minute that the girls were on vacation, disappointed that things may not work out after all.

“No, that’s not a problem, I can drop by around two if that works for you.” Katy decided to go for it.

“And Lizzie, why don’t you have your husband work on some ad ideas for us?”

“Actually,” Lizzie said thoughtfully, “why don’t I come up with some ideas of my own and come by with Katy tomorrow? Sound good to you?” The wheels were turning in Lizzie’s head. If she could win this account, it would be a big feather in Rex’s cap to expand his business as far as Dallas and it would gain Rex’s confidence that she could do the job. Wouldn’t that be something? She could kill two birds with one stone, as the saying goes.

“Sounds like a winner to me, what do you think, Ryan?” Chloe looked up at her handsome brother-in-law questioningly.

But Ryan’s gaze was fixed on Katy. She was such a petite, pretty little thing. He wondered if she was married. Rein it in, big boy, never going down that road again, remember? What in the world is happening to me? Meet one cute and smart little lady and the resolution made so many years ago was going by the wayside. Keep this strictly business if you know what’s good for you.

“I’m sorry, what were you saying, sis?”

Chloe looked at Ryan closely. “I was asking would it be okay with you for Liz to bring by some ad ideas tomorrow when Katy stops by?” she asked again, wondering what was wrong with him. He seemed to be a million miles away tonight.

“Sure, sure, that would be great. I need to get back to work. I will bid you ladies farewell.” He bowed to them as he turned to leave. “See you at two tomorrow.” And with that, Ryan O’Grady walked away from the table, leaving all five women staring after him.

“I need to get back to work, too. It was great meeting y’all, and I look forward to seeing both of you tomorrow. Marianne and Angie, it was great meeting you too. Have a good evening and enjoy your meal.” Chloe turned and walked across the room, stopping to say hello to a couple at another table, before walking back into the kitchen.

The four looked at each other silently for a few seconds until Marianne broke the silence. “What do you make of all that?”

“Your good old fate at work, Mari,” answered Angie as she took a sip of her drink. They all giggled. Marianne’s belief that fate has a hand in all things had long been a source of good-natured ribbing.

Their dinners arrived shortly and true to legend, it was delicious. The steaks were tender and perfectly cooked and the seafood was seasoned to perfection.

They ordered coffee and for dessert a heavenly cheesecake drizzled with caramel topping. As they lingered over the coffee, discussing the evening and the opportunities it had brought, Katy was silent, thoughts whirling in her head. Thoughts of decorating the restaurant, the hotel, and in the back of her mind, as if too timid to make their way forward, thoughts of a tall man with the gold flecks in his eyes.

They finally decided it was time to go back to the hotel. Lizzie and Katy had a long night of work ahead of them, if they were going to be ready for their important two o’clock meeting with the O’Gradys tomorrow. They were both already deeply engrossed in their ideas.

Lizzie had decided not to mention anything to Rex until she was sure this was going to work out. After all, she may find out that she really did not have any talent, after all. Then, she would have her answer as to whether or not to pitch her idea of joining the agency to Rex. Or, it could go the other way, which would be the answer to all her prayers. Oh, he could still create the ads for the O’Gradys and possibly expand his business to Texas, but she hoped it was her ads that did the trick.

Katy was thinking about how ironic it all was. Two days ago, I was wondering what I was going to do with the rest of my life. Now I have two possible clients for a design business I haven’t even opened yet, and I have met the most amazing man. Actually, amazing was not a strong enough word to describe Mr. Ryan O’Grady and the effect that meeting him was having on her. She knew he was a widower, that he had lost his wife in the same manner that she had lost Bill. She knew he had lived in the Midwest before moving to Dallas. They had those two things in common, but what else did she know about him? That he was a confirmed bachelor, he had many lady friends and Katy probably did not stand a snowball’s chance in hell with him. Maybe Angie had the right idea earlier. I should just have a vacation affair with him. What am I saying? Deal with it later, she told herself, you have work to do. That’s what I’ll do. Concentrate on the work and not the man. But could she do that?

She wondered what surprises the rest of the week would bring as the waiter stepped over to the table to see if they would like anything else. They conveyed to him how wonderful the meal and the atmosphere of the restaurant were, much to his obvious pleasure.

When Angie asked if they could have their check, the waiter replied, “I have been instructed to tell you that your dinners are on the house tonight, compliments of Mr. Ryan O’Grady. Enjoy the rest of your evening, ladies.” They looked at each other and laughed. What a strange night this had turned out to be. They had met two wonderful new people and a whole new chapter could be starting for some of them. And now, the most eligible bachelor in Dallas had treated them all to dinner.

How could they have known their lives would be changed forever by that one simple visit to ‘Chloe’s Place’ on that fateful autumn night?

They arrived back at the Prava to begin a long night of work for Lizzie and Katy. Angie and Marianne had the job of keeping the coffee pot going and offering opinions when asked for them. It was just like old times, once again, with the four of them working together as a team.