“So what do you think of Kitchi Falls during the holidays?”
The bar had just opened up. Our lazy Saturday morning was about to get insane. Mid-December was the second busiest time of the year next to Fourth of July weekend.
“It’s nuts. Who would have thought so many people could pack into our little Main Street?”
“Our. Why do I love when you say that?”
Nate pulled me to him. Though it was just the two of us for now, my part-time gig at KC’s a perfect supplement to the day job since I got to spend more time with Nate, we’d be getting some help later this afternoon. By three or so, the place would be overrun.
Music to a new business owner’s ears.
“I still can’t believe Owen sold this place to me for what he did,” he said, nuzzling my neck. “It’s a gold mine. Especially this month.”
I leaned my head to the side to give him better access. “I’m glad he did.” Nate had thrived here, and because of it, our relationship had remained on solid ground. I really did think KC’s had a lot to do with how well things had worked between us.
“Who would have thought,” I mused, “when I wrote you that note, by the end of the year we’d be living and working together.”
Nate’s lips moved toward the bottom of my ear. “And having so much hot sex.”
“Understatement of the year,” I said as he finally reached my lips. A long, lingering kiss later, we finally, reluctantly broke apart.
Technically speaking, the bar was open, and it probably wasn’t great business to have the owner full-on making out with his girlfriend behind the bar.
But damn, it felt good.
With a wink, Nate set up, getting the bar ready. The cook would be here any second too. Time to get down to business.
“I was thinking about taking Tuesday off with you—”
The door of the bar opened with a slam. Both Nate and I looked in its direction.
“Oops,” Natalie said. “Sorry about that. Didn’t mean to be so aggressive.”
As if Natalie and aggressive went in the same sentence. “No worries,” I said as she stomped over to the bar. And there was no other way to describe it. She literally stomped, clearly furious. In fact, it was by far the angriest I’d ever seen her.
“What’s wrong?” I moved toward the edge of the bar.
“Hi, Nate,” she said, clearly distracted.
“Hi, Natalie. You okay?”
“No,” she said. “I’m not. How about a shot?”
Nate and I exchange a glance. “A shot?” he repeated.
Definitely an odd request from her at this time of day.
“Yes, please. Anything will do.”
I stared at her as Nate did, indeed, pour and serve Natalie a shot, which she promptly downed. What in the ever-loving. . .
“Alright, spill. What’s up?”
Natalie opened a manila folder she was carrying, pulled out a piece of paper, and slammed it on the bar. “That’s up.”
I picked up the paper. Scanning it, I still had no idea what was going on. “Land trust? Easement? I have no idea what I’m reading.”
“You know the landing spot at the northwest corner of the lake where we row out of?”
“The community rowing program?” Nate asked.
“Yeah,” she said.
Natalie had started that program pro bono a few years ago simply to get kids involved in her sport. Since she worked for a branch of the Finger Lakes Land Trust, she’d been given permission to use a swath of land to push out from. Natalie had fallen in love with that area and had even set up a little spot there with an Adirondack chair and table to use when she wasn’t rowing. It was her “private little heaven,” as she often called it. The cove afforded a beautiful view of the lake, and there was even a small waterfall nearby that really did make it a unique area.
“Your little heaven?”
“Yes, of course.” I explained to Nate, “It’s more than just a place to push out. Natalie really did find a little corner of heaven in this cove. It’s protected, so it’s completely untouched. No houses or anything. Very peaceful.”
“Yeah, well. Not for long.” Natalie took the paper back. “I went into the office this morning, long story, and got this. Some stupid, asshole, real-estate developer from Ithaca requested an interview. The dumbass wants to be vetted.”
I wasn’t catching on. Nate looked equally as confused.
“Vetted.” Natalie folded her arms on the bar and propped her chin on them. She looked forlorn, like a lost puppy. “First, an interview. Then he gets vetted. And then, if they approve the sale, he gets the land. To put whatever stupid building he wants on there.”
“Oh.” Now I saw the problem. “Can he do that? Isn’t it protected land?”
“Yes.” Natalie sighed. “But it’s technically possible to buy and build on conservation land. If he makes a good case on how he’ll do it responsibly, yada yada yada. And you know my boss.”
Natalie’s boss, unlike her and a lot of her co-workers, was less about the conservation aspect and more about just doing a job and getting paid. He wasn’t nearly as passionate as Natalie about Finger Lakes conservation, and on top of it, was a card-carrying member of the good ol’ boys club. So, depending on this developer guy’s angle. . . “I see the problem.”
Just like that, from sad to fighter again, Natalie’s head popped up. “You know what? It’s not happening. Screw him. I’m digging in my heels on this one.”
“The last time you dug in your heels, you came close to being fired,” I reminded her. Natalie and her boss did not see eye to eye, and it had caused a few problems over the years. This, it seemed, would be a problem.
“Yeah, well, some things are worth fighting for. I refuse to find a new spot for the rowers. It’s a fantastic program, and this big-city douche canoe is not going to ruin it.”
I didn’t point out that Ithaca was not exactly a big city. Natalie was on a roll, and there was no way I would get in her way.
“Give him hell,” I said as she popped off the chair.
“I intend to. Thanks for the shot,” she said to Nate, opening her purse.
“On the house,” he said. “For the cause.”
“Thanks,” she said. “I’m going back into the office for a bit. Catch you later?”
Her office was just a few blocks away, although Natalie spent most of her time outdoors.
“Sounds good,” I said, as the first patron of the day, Natalie excluded, came into the bar. “Catch you later.” As she walked away, I looked at Nate. “I have a bad feeling about this.”
Nate shrugged. “Natalie is a big girl. She can handle herself. And like she said, some things are worth fighting for.”
He wasn’t talking about my friend anymore. I sidled up to him and gave Nate a quick kiss on the cheek. “You’re damn right they are.”