Home > Cream of the Crop (Hudson Valley #2)(11)

Cream of the Crop (Hudson Valley #2)(11)
Author: Alice Clayton

I quickly scanned toward the bottom, and right there were the words BAILEY FALLS, HUDSON VALLEY, NY.

It seemed that Roxie’s small town was looking for some big-city direction.

“I’ll take it!” I shouted, surprising everyone in the meeting, including yours truly.

“Natalie, I admire your enthusiasm, but it can wait until the end of this, yes?”

“Yes,” I answered back, a little embarrassed and more than a little confused by my outburst. I quickly rallied, listening to everything he had to say.

Bailey Falls, like most small towns in the Hudson Valley, relied heavily on tourism as a source of income. But with the rise of cheaper flights to Europe again, they’d seen a drop in their tourist business, especially noticing that not nearly as many New Yorkers and New Jerseyans were as interested in weekending there as they were even ten years ago.

People were gun-shy now about buying; they wanted the freedom of renting a summer house, a lake house, a winter camp. They wanted to rent and come and go and not suffer like an owner when the roof leaked or the plumbing broke, or a family of owls set up shop in the attic, which apparently was a common occurrence up in the sticks.

Therefore, some of these smaller towns that featured a slice of Americana as their very bread and butter were not doing so well. And rather than wait, the town council of little Bailey Falls had pooled its town’s resources and decided to hire a big-shot New York advertising firm to put its town back on the tourist map.

Huh. Roxie had just been saying she thought I should come up for a visit. Then Saturday, for the first time ever, something new happened with the dairy farmer, who just happened to live in Bailey Falls.

Could be . . .

Who knows . . .

As I tuned out the last bit of my boss’s new-business speech, I heard the words of West Side Story: something’s coming, something good.

When selecting a soundtrack for your life, it’s always good to throw a little Sondheim into the mix.

New business was concluded. I took a deep breath. But before I could make a play for the Bailey Falls pitch, Dan looked straight at Didn’t Check His Email Over the Weekend and said, “Hey, Edward, how’d you like to work on the Bailey Falls pitch?”

I fumed.

I was still fuming when Intern Rob came through the door with hot coffee and I burned the back of my throat downing my venti double with three extra shots.


Throat crackly, I stormed down the hall to Dan’s office, practically dragging Edward by the collar. He knew better than to protest.

“Dan. What the hell?”

“You’re asking that question? I’m not the one who’s trying to hang Edward up like a trench coat. And stop doing that, by the way,” he said, sitting down behind his desk with a curious look in his eyes. No doubt wondering why his usually easy-breezy employee was foaming at the mouth over something like—

“Bailey Falls?” I asked, settling Edward into a chair and beginning to pace in front of Dan’s desk. Edward just looked relieved to be off his feet. “You gave junior here that account without even asking if anyone else was interested. When did that become standard practice?” I gave Edward the side-eye. “No offense.”

“None taken?” he said.

“It’s not standard practice, but I decided to switch things up a bit. I knew Edward here would never step up to the plate unless I put the bat in his hand. No offense, Edward.”


“None taken, we know,” I interrupted, resisting the urge to pat him on the head.

“Besides, why in the world would you be interested in working on a campaign like this anyway? It’s not your usual kind of job,” Dan continued, like Edward wasn’t even there. “What’s in this for you?”

Orgasms. Endless orgasms. Brought forth into the world by a man who used his mouth and lips and tongue for something way more important than hooking up silly words and phrases and clauses. But not the kind of thing you could explain to your boss, and expect to keep your job . . .

“What’s always in it for me, Dan. A chance to create something truly incredible, to elevate, to illuminate, to take something no one is talking about, and make it the thing that everyone is talking about.”

Edward applauded. I smiled graciously. Dan was having none of it.

“I have no idea what’s actually going on here, but I’m not buying any of it. You realize where Bailey Falls is, right?”

I blinked innocently. “Hudson River Valley, upstate.”

“In the country.”

“Yes.” I blinked innocently.


“Yes, Dan.”

“You once commuted three hours a day when working on a job in Paramus because you refused to, and I quote, “sleep in this godforsaken state.”

“Well that’s entirely different,” I stated matter-of-factly.

“Why is that different?” he asked.

“That was New Jersey,” I said just as matter-of-factly. Dan groaned and buried his head in his hands, scrubbing at his face. “Look, Dan, before you go working yourself over here, this isn’t such a big deal. It’s something new, something different, and aren’t you always saying it would do me good to get off my island occasionally?”

“You have an island?” Edward asked, looking impressed.

“I do, you’re sitting on it right now,” I replied, no longer resisting the patting-on-the-head urge. I looked at Dan as if to say, See, this is exactly the reason you need me on this job.

He shot me back a look that said, I agree with you on that point, but I still think you’re up to something.

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