Bohemian Girl (Southern Girl Series Book 1)Georgia Cates
A Southern Girl Novel
Georgia Cates Books, LLC
1. Lucas Broussard
2. Lawrence Thorn
3. Lucas Broussard
4. Lawrence Thorn
5. Lucas Broussard
6. Lawrence Thorn
7. Lucas Broussard
8. Lawrence Thorn
9. Lucas Broussard
10. Lawrence Thorn
11. Lucas Broussard
12. Lawrence Thorn
13. Lucas Broussard
14. Lawrence Thorn
15. Lucas Broussard
16. Lawrence Thorn
17. Lucas Broussard
18. Lawrence Thorn
19. Lucas Broussard
20. Lawrence Thorn
21. Lucas Broussard
22. Lawrence Thorn
23. Lucas Broussard
24. Lawrence Thorn
About the Author
Also by Georgia Cates
Copyright © 2019 Georgia Cates Books, LLC
All rights reserved.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be resold or given to other people. If you would like to share this ebook with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
Editing services provided by Lisa Aurello
Formatting by Jeff Senter of Indie Formatting Services
Cover design by Georgia Cates
This quarter’s sales are profitable. Damn profitable. Buying into Iron City Brewery as a partner four years ago has proven to be a wise decision. Oliver, Porter, and I are well on our way to becoming three very wealthy men.
A knock at the door steals my attention away from this quarter’s numbers. “Hey, Lucas. You got a minute?”
“Sure, come on in.”
My business partner, Oliver Thorn, enters and shuts the door behind him. He shrinks into the chair across from me, hunched with his forearms resting on his thighs and his face nearly hidden in his palms. This isn’t the typical carefree Oliver who launches himself into the chair opposite me and kicks up his heels on the edge of my desk to annoy the fuck out of me. The disheveled guy in front of me looks… defeated.
I’m quiet as I wait for him to look up at me or say something, but he does neither. Maybe I should prompt him to say something. Anything. “I was just going over the numbers. They’re up again. This time by fourteen percent. That’s almost two times what they were last quarter.”
It’s unbelievable how quickly this company is growing. The whole thing began with two college guys brewing beer in their apartment. They dreamed of turning their hobby into a multimillion-dollar company. And they’ve done it.
We’ve done it.
I was taken by surprise when Porter approached me about buying in as a partner. I was his boss at the time. And although I wasn’t much older, he and Oliver seemed like a pair of naïve college graduates with zero business experience. Dreamers. But then I sampled their beer and knew that these guys had something special on their hands. That was four years and several million dollars ago.
Lords of the hops.
Masters of the craft.
The founding fathers of Iron City Brewery have been called many things. The list is endless because these two know and understand the science behind producing high-quality, good-tasting ale.
Oliver is a chemical engineer. Porter is a graphic designer who also manages the marketing department. And I’m the business and finance guy. I run the numbers. Dollars. Evaluation. Return on investment. Those are the things I know and understand.
I trust Oliver and Porter to produce a top-quality product. They have confidence in me to manage all the business and financial aspects. Each of us does his part. That’s why we make a great trio.
Oliver still isn’t talking, so I guess I’ll have to probe. “I assume you shut the door because you want to talk privately?”
“Yeah. I’ve been having a hard time since things ended with Eden.”
No shit. He’s been on a three-month party streak with booze and women.
“These last few months haven’t been your finest.” I’m pretty sure Oliver has partied more this summer than he did during his entire college career at Alabama.
“I have a problem.”
Oliver turned to the party life to numb the pain of an ugly breakup. I guess most guys have done that at one time or another, but he took it beyond what I consider reasonable. Not the best way to deal with a problem when you have beer within your reach at any given time. “I’m glad to hear you’re taking charge before it spirals out of control.”
“It got a little out of control already. I spent a night in the slammer last weekend. Got a DUI.”
Oh hell. A DUI conviction stays on your record for five years in the state of Alabama. “I can’t believe this shit, Oliver. You’re a partner in a company that advocates responsible drinking with a designated driver. Do you understand how poorly that reflects upon our company?”
“Trust me, I know.” He runs his hand through his hair and sighs. “I’m working with an attorney. He’s almost certain he’ll be able to get me out of it.”
“Avoiding a conviction only fixes part of the problem.” This could mean bad publicity for Iron City if this gets out.
“My attorney says he’s certain we can divert my case out of the court system and avoid a criminal record if I go through a rehabilitation program.”
“That’s your only option?”
“I can fight it. Maybe I win, maybe I don’t. But one thing’s for sure—if I don’t do the program and I lose… I’m fucked.”
A conviction would be disastrous. “Then you don’t have a choice. You have to attend the meetings.” Which is probably not a bad idea considering the amount of drinking that he’s been doing.
“It’s not outpatient meetings. I have to enter a thirty-day inpatient program.”
“Inpatient for thirty days?” Fuck.
Porter will have to pick up Oliver’s load, and I’m not sure how he’ll handle more work at this point. He’s already snowed under with his own responsibilities. We all are. “You think Porter can take on your workload in addition to his own?”
Southern Taste Beer Festival is just around the corner, and we’re in charge of hosting the event this year. Sixteen breweries will be traveling to our home turf in Birmingham for the festivities. It’s a ton of preparation even when we join forces. Being short a partner won’t be helpful.
“I’ve arranged to hire an assistant for him while I’m away. Molly is working with a temp service to line up interviews.”
At least he’s making preparations for his absence. “We’ll do what it takes to make things work while you’re away. Just concentrate on getting your shit together.”
“That’s the plan.
I’m no stranger to how a man can let his life spin out of control. “You’ll pull things together.”
“I have to. If not for myself, I have to do it for Lawrence.”
I try to place who he’s talking about but I’m stumped. “Lawrence?”
“My sister, Lawry.”
Oh, right. His sister. “I’m sure you don’t want to disappoint her.”
“I don’t, and that’s why I’m not planning to let her know I’m in a substance-abuse program. She’d freak if she knew.”
I’ve always been under the impression that he was close to his sister. I’m surprised he’d keep something like this from her.
Four years as his business partner and I’ve not met his sister. Never even spoken to her. “You obviously don’t have to worry about me saying a word since I’m not acquainted with her, and I’m sure Porter won’t tell her anything.”
“I know neither of you will rat me out, but I have a kink in my plan. I can only have outside contact on visitation day so the program won’t allow me to bring my phone into the facility. That’s a problem because I text or talk to my sister almost every day. She’ll know something is up if I go radio silent.”
“What kind of rehab program cuts you off from your friends and family?” That’s his support system.
“They don’t cut you off. I can make calls from the pay phone and have visitors on Sundays.”
I can see how that’s going to be an issue if Oliver and his sister usually have daily contact.
“Have you come up with a scenario to explain your sudden disappearance?”
“No, but I’ve come up with a plan. Not sure you’re going to like it, though.” Oliver hesitates a moment before continuing. “I need you to be me while I’m gone.”
Well, that’s dumb as hell.
“You want me to be you? You must be wasted right now because that makes no sense. There’s no way I could pass myself off as you to your sister.” She knows his voice. Plus, I’m Cajun. She’d hear one word out of me and immediately know that I’m not her brother.
“You won’t have to talk to Lawry. I just need you to pacify her with texts.”
Oh fuck no. “I’m not getting sucked into that.”
“I know I’m asking a lot of you.”
Why ask me? “Porter knows your sister. Wouldn’t he be the better choice?” That makes better sense to me.
Oliver chuckles. “Porter goes completely stupid when it comes to Lawry. He’d probably forget he was supposed to be texting as me and hit on her.”
I’ve never known Porter to be interested in one particular woman. I have no idea what his type is. I guess the Lawrence type.
“I’m already putting my workload off on Porter. It would be pretty shitty to place double duty on him.”
Well, he isn’t wrong about that. I lean back in my chair and rub the scruff on my chin as I consider the task being asked of me.
There is no way I could come off as Oliver. We are so different. He’s a dreamer. An idealist. I’m a numbers man. Logistical. I know nothing about his relationship with his sister or their history. But Iron City needs this problem to go away. And fast. If a thirty-day inpatient program is what it’ll take, then I have to help make that happen.
“Why do you feel the need to keep this from your sister? You’re an adult. Can’t you tell her what happened the same way you told me?”
“She’ll immediately assume that I’m an alcoholic. I’m not. I swear. I can lay the booze down today and never take another drink.”
Oliver likes to have a good time, but it’s never caused a problem. “I know you’re not.”
“We have a strong family history with drug addiction, so I don’t want to upset her.”
He’s never mentioned that. “You think that I’d have to text her once a day? Something like that?”
“Probably more than once a day but still not a big deal. She mostly messages about random stuff happening in her life. Porter could help you out if you run into a problem.”
It’s texting. How bad can it be? “All right, I’ll do it for you.”
“Thanks for doing this, man. I really appreciate it.”
“No problem.” At least I hope there’s no problem. “When does the charade begin?”
“I’m scheduled to check in to the clinic tomorrow morning.”
“That soon, eh?”
“No reason to wait.”
“No, I suppose not.” The sooner this is behind him, the sooner he returns to work.
“I owe you one, Lucas.”
“Yeah, you do. A big one and don’t you forget it, buddy. I plan on coming up with something good to make this worth my while.”
“I’d expect no less out of you.”
My brother isn’t answering his phone. Again.
“Oliver Thorn. This is the third time I’ve called you this week. Are you ever going to call me back? I’m beginning to think that you’re avoiding me, and it’s pissing me off big time.”
I press end and drop my phone on my lap.
Angry. Annoyed. Aggravated.
I’d normally never interrupt one of my beach outings with my girls to call my brother, but I thought I’d have a better chance of catching him today because it’s Sunday. This is always his day off and he should be answering.
Kelsey glances over at me. “What’s got you so perturbed?”
“Ollie and I haven’t spoken in a week. I’m worried.” We’ve never gone this long without checking in with one another since he left Savannah and moved to Alabama.
Ivy leans up from the back seat. “I thought you said that he’d been texting.”
I don’t want texts. I need to hear my brother’s voice. “Occasional vague messages. That’s all I’ve gotten from him this entire week.”
He’s been acting strangely the last few months, but his texts have been different this week. So much weirder than usual.
“The brewery has grown a lot this year. I’m sure that a successful company like his demands a lot of his time.”
I’m sure that Ivy’s right, at least partially. The brewery wouldn’t be thriving if he wasn’t devoting the majority of his time to it. But there’s something more to it. I feel it deep down in my gut.
“I understand that he has a lot on his plate, but he always makes time for me. Lately, it feels like we’re a million miles apart instead of four hundred.” I don’t like the growing distance between us.
Kelsey briefly takes her eyes from the road and glances over at me again. “Do you think something else is going on with Oliver?”
I sure do. “I don’t think that he’s gotten over Eden and what she did to him.”
“It’s hard for me to imagine Oliver being upset over a woman. He’s always the fun-time guy. The life of the party. A manwhore.”
I don’t like hearing Ivy call my brother that name even if it’s probably true.
“It’s been months since their relationship ended. He must have loved her if he’s still upset.”
I love Eden and I’m going to ask her to marry me.
I can still remember the joy in his voice. The smile on his face. The sparkle in his eyes. I’ve never seen my brother look so happy. He loved her with all his heart.
His heart, his trust, his love… those aren’t gifts that he easily gives to anyone. And she completely shit all over them.
“He told me that he thought Eden was the one.”
The one. Separately, those words mean little, but together they become very powerful.
“What in the ass?” Ivy swiftly brings her hand down against my seat. “I can’t imagine those two words coming from his mouth.”
“I know. I thought I’d heard him wrong when he told me.”
Ivy pokes her head into the front seat. “I can’t see him settling down for anyone. I thought he loved being the life of the party too much for that.”
“He does, he d
id, but he changed that part of himself for her.” Because he thought he’d found someone he could trust with his heart.
I’m devastated for Ollie. Because I’m the same way, I know how hard it was for him to open his heart to anyone.
My brother and I are alike in so many ways, both so careful who we choose to connect with and how we choose those connections. It’s a lesson we mastered very early in life. We were children who learned how to emotionally disconnect before we knew our ABCs thanks to Jimmy and Christie.
God, I need to talk to my brother so badly.
“If you’re that worried, call Porter. Tell him to have Oliver get in touch with you.”
Kelsey’s suggestion isn’t a bad one, and I will if it becomes my only choice, but the thought annoys the piss out of me. I shouldn’t have to do that when all he has to do is return my call.
Kelsey pulls into the public parking area for North Beach, taking the last spot. “Looks packed today, girls.”
No surprise there. It’s crowded every day in the summer. Vacationers come from all over to swim at Tybee Island Beach.
Kelsey pulls in and backs out, driving forward again to the left, maybe scooting over all of one inch. “How does it look over there, Law?”
I bet she’d be directly in the middle of the parking spot if we took measurements. “Looks centered to me.”
“Think there’s enough room so they won’t hit my car when they open their doors?”
I carefully swing mine open to measure while holding it to ensure I don’t hit the car beside me. Kelsey would have a shit fit if I did.