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A Story written by Omolola…

The next morning, Tomilola headed down the stairs, her bare feet sinking into the thick carpeting. It had been another long, sleepless night. Shaking her head, she wondered, for perhaps the millionth time, what Demola’s deal was. Wondered what his cryptic remark about not belonging in the picture with her meant. Wondered why he was running the other way so fast when the chemistry between them was obviously so good.

She smiled ruefully. A few days ago she’d been glad of his reserve. Now, it was just frustrating. Unfortunately, she wouldn’t be getting to the bottom of that little problem this morning. She’d seen the cowardly beast’s truck disappearing across the field before the sun came up this morning. She’d have to snag him later. In the meantime, there were other questions she needed answered. Questions about the estate. She thought Charles could help her with those, and she’d noticed his truck was still parked in the yard. Once she had her shoes on, she’d hunt him down. She hit the bottom of the stairs and headed toward the kitchen, tennies in hand. The three pairs of socks she’d had with her when Demola had snagged her in Port Harcourt were in the dryer.

She pushed through the swinging doors – to find Charles leaning against the counter, eating a bowl of rice.

“Hey,” she said. “Thinking of the devil.”

He looked up at her. “Looking for me?”

“I was going to be as soon as I finished dressing.”

He looked down at her. “Those tennies doesn’t do you justice.”

She looked at the tennies, taking in their soft construction. “You’re probably right. But since I barely have enough money in savings to cover the rent on my place in Port Harcourt until I can get back there to collect my things. I don’t think shoes are in the budget.”

“I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that. While you won’t have access to any of your dad’s money for the next six months, he did create a fund so you could pay your bills and have a little spending money during this time. He didn’t want you to be out anything if you decided not to stay. There’s plenty of money there to cover your rent.”

“Great. Then shoe shopping is back on. Is there a store nearby?”

“Yes.”

“That little down about ten miles down the highway?” she asked in disbelief. The place didn’t look big enough to have more than the petrol station that sat on the highway. He smiled, spooning up another bite of rice.
“I’ll give you a signed cheque from the estate. You can fill out the amount once you’ve picked out the shoes – and whatever else you need. There’s plenty of money in the fund, and I know Demola dragged you here on short notice.”

She grabbed her socks from the dryer and strode back into the kitchen. “Fine, but I have a better idea than sending the cheque with me. Can they spare you from work today?”

“I imagine.”

“Good. Then come with me to town. I have a ton of questions about the estate. You can answer them while we drive. Then you can just write the check for the store.”

“We can do that. But Demola is probably the best person to talk to about the Big W. He’s involved with every aspect of the place.”

“Don’t worry, I have every intention of lassoing that boy later.” Boy did she. “But what I’m interested in at the moment is the estate’s finances. That’s your bailiwick, isn’t it?”

He nodded.

“Good, then grab your keys and let’s go.”

Five minutes later, they were bouncing down the dirt road in Charles’ car. “So what do you want to know?” he asked.

She chuckled. “I’m not exactly sure. Why don’t we start with how much this place made last year. Maybe that’ll give me an idea of what’s possible and what’s not.”

“Last year, it cleared almost half a million dollars.”

“Half a . . .” She stared wide-eyed at him. “The Big W sold half a million dollars in cows?”

“Cattle, Tomilola. Cattle. And yes, a big chunk of the profit came from beef and fish farming. But your father also has other investments and a stock portfolio. And the poultry made good money last year. Very good money.”

She took a deep breath and expelled it slowly. Cattle, poultry, investments and stock portfolios? Maybe she should have taken her business classes more seriously. “Okay, this is more complicated than I thought. Let’s take a different direction. Demola said Dad funnelled against most of his profits back into the estate to grow it. But as far as I’m concerned, the Big W is plenty big enough. So I’m going to want to channel that money in a very different direction.”

He cleared his throat. “Can I ask what you have in mind?”

“You know what the Alpine Angels do, right?”

“Fund-raisers for people in medical crisis.”

“Right. And I want to use the profits the Big W makes to do more of the same.”

His expression turned thoughtful. “Sounds interesting. And as long as you’re careful not to cut into the money needed to run the estate, you should have a steady source of income for the Angels. And there are some great tax benefits to that scenario.”

Excitement skittered through her. “So you think it’s doable?”

He nodded, obviously intrigued by the idea. “Absolutely. However, if your goal is to turn the Big W into the base for a charity organization, you might want to keep some of the money for growth. Because the bigger the Big W is, the more money it will make. And the more you can give away.”

She thought about that for a sec. “Okay, you have a point. But making the Big W bigger might be a little tricky, since I’m not sure about the cattle. As you noticed the other day, I have some problems with how that end of the operation is being run. I’m going to make some changes. And some of those changes might cut into profits.”

He thought for a second. “Then think about increasing the cow end of the business. Or go heavier into investments. Your dad used investments strictly as a way to diversify. So he’d have money coming in during the down years in the cattle industry. But you could use them more proactively.

“I like that idea. Except. . .I don’t know anything about investing. Did Dad make his own investment decisions or did someone do it for him?”

“Your father always made the final decision, but I found the investments for him.”

“Really? I thought you were just the accountant.”

To Be Continued…

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