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The plane began its descent, lush mountains and a cerulean sea just outside the window.

Dani’s stomach flipped. She loved flying. She hated coming back down to earth.

It’d started with a phone call three weeks earlier. 

A brusque British voice at the other end of the line, just this side of unfriendly, calling to inform them that old Wingrave had died and left the estate to her.

“Be doin’ business with me from here on out,” she’d said.

“His groundskeeper?!” Edmund had ranted later that night. “He gave his entire coffee plantation to his groundskeeper?”

Dani had shrugged. “You always said he was eccentric.”

“She’s raising the price of beans,” Edmund had growled just a few days after the phone call. “Trying to take advantage of us already.”

“Can’t we just find a new bean supplier?”

“We’re contracted in for another four years, Danielle, honestly you need to know these things.”

But Dani didn’t want to know them. She’d seen what the business had done to Edmund and she wanted no part.

What she wanted was to be a teacher. She’d been studying early education when Edmund had proposed, then begged her to switch majors. His coffee shop business had taken off and two business degrees were better than one, he’d said.  

Down the road if you still want to be a teacher you can go back to school, Edmund had promised. Just as soon as things calm down.

But now, six years later, things hadn’t calmed down. If anything, they’d gotten busier.

Dani had hit her limit months earlier. 

“You’re just tired, Danielle,” Edmund had said, “don’t make this about us, you don’t want to break up.”

“Edmund,” she’d sniffled, “I can’t—”

“Tell me what to do. Give me something tangible that I can do to—”

“School.” The word had burst from her. It was easier than the truth. “You promised. I still want to be a teacher.”

He’d helped her research graduate programs that night. Told her he just wanted her to be happy. 

And maybe she could be. Maybe with a classroom all her own she’d stop feeling so restless. Stop wandering into the office to spin the globe, wishing she could spin it backward and rewind time. Wondering if somewhere between the lines of longitude and latitude there was somewhere else. Someplace happiness was a way of life and not something to be earned in small doses. 

Maybe she’d find it in a classroom.

But first, this.

One last task for Eddie’s. Flying down to Colombia to meet with the new owner of the Wingrave Plantation in person to see what she could negotiate. 

“Don’t leave without the deal,” Edmund had said. “Tell her we’re not paying a penny more than what we paid Wingrave.”                                             

 

~~~

Bogotá—what she’d seen of it, anyway—had been a metropolis of vibrant neon and rhythmic music. The streets of Quibdó were more subdued. It was a fascinating contrast of old Spanish architecture and slums along the river, the shanties sinking into the muddy banks. 

She called Edmund on the drive out to the estate, the hired car stopping every now and then to let a local farmer pass by, their rickety wood-framed truck bed piled high with bananas. 

“It’s beautiful here,” she shouted into the phone, finger to her ear to keep out the rumble of the old car’s engine. “My Spanish is dismal, though,” she said, wincing as they hit another pothole, “I’m thinking I’ll take a class in the fall as an elective though, brush up on it a bit in case any of my students—"

“Danielle, you can’t possibly think going back to school is still an option? With this groundskeeper robbing us blind, we can’t afford—"

He cut out completely then, and Dani spent the rest of the ride with her forehead against the window.

A text from Edmund managed to get through to her phone as they were pulling up the steep gravel driveway of the Wingrave Plantation. 

Get her to cut us a deal and we’ll talk about school when you’re back. 

Fine. If that’s what it would take. 

 

The car pulled up to a two-story adobe manor with a roof of Spanish tiles and a wooden porch painted in yellows and greens.

A woman was waiting, hands on her hips like she was already annoyed. Behind her the plantation stretched—swooping hillsides of emeralds and olives and every shade of green between.

“Dani Clayton,” Dani stuck her hand out and smiled wide.

“Jamie Taylor,” the woman muttered, ignoring Dani’s hand and leaning forward instead to sniff the air. “Are—are you wearin’ perfume? In the fuckin’ rainforest?”

So she was rude in person, too. Lovely. “Is perfume…bad?”

“Not for the mosquitoes.” Jamie chuckled. “Hope you fancy malaria.”

“I—I didn’t—” Dani tried to subtly smell herself. It wasn’t that bad. 

The woman nodded at Dani’s outfit. “Need to scrub up before dinner?”

“Dinner?”

“You’re in Colombia. We do everythin’ over a meal here, includin’ business.”

“It’s just that—” Dani had to hurry after her, Jamie had turned back for the house, “the car’s only hired through this evening and I still need to go back to town for lodging.”

Jamie shrugged. “Send the car back, stay here for the night.”

“Oh—no, I—”

“There’s no lodgin’ for a good three-hundred miles. One of my workers can drive you to the city tomorrow.”

“Al—alright, if that’s—”

Jamie cut her off with a short nod. “See you for dinner.”

 

A woman named Marietta brought Dani to a guest room on the second floor, all pastels and gauze curtains billowing on the breeze from the open window. 

There was another text from Edmund. Records of what they’d been paying Wingrave over the last four years. 

Not for the first time Dani found herself wondering why Edmund had sent her to do this. Why he hadn't just flown down himself. 

Dani showered and slipped on a white sundress—formal enough for business, scant enough for the humidity.

 

The dining room had a high ceiling with dark wood beams and walls of warm caramel. The far wall was all windows and glass-paneled doors that opened to a stone veranda, the sunset and sweeping vista in full view beyond. 

There were men and women seated at the long table—seven of them, and they smiled when she walked in. 

One of the men stood and reached out a hand. “Bienvenido, estamos muy contentos de conocerte.”

Dani felt her cheeks flush, “I don’t—“

“That’s Santiago,” Jamie said, wandering in from the veranda. She’d changed into a clean white tee tucked into loose linen trousers. “He’s welcomin’ you.”

The man had a golden front tooth and his eyes crinkled when he smiled.  

“Look lively, you lot,” Jamie nodded to the others, “este es Dani, ella está aquí para hablar de negocios.” She smirked. “Ten tu mejor comportamiento.”

They all greeted Dani with friendly faces as Jamie introduced them one by one.

Sophia and Andres. Sebastian, their teenaged son. Esteban and Gabriela. Juan David, Santiago’s younger brother.

Dani settled into a chair at the end of the table and Jamie sunk into the one at the opposite end. Marietta appeared, bringing plates of fish. Whole fish, Dani realized with dawning horror. Eyeballs and all.

Pescado frito,” Marietta said proudly, setting Dani’s plate before her.

Dani busied herself with the rice, stopping every now and then to glance around at the others who were watching her with abject fascination.

“So,” Dani said brightly, best to square away business before she lost her nerve, “unfortunately we’re not going to be able to pay more than what we were paying Mr. Wingrave. We’re a relatively new business and we’ve got expenses too.” Like going back to school. Being happy. Being free. 

Just then there was a commotion outside on the veranda, small voices laughing and hollering. A band of children appeared in the open doorway, all shiny black hair and brown skin, cheeks rosy from running, foreheads slick with sweat.  

“Figures,” Jamie muttered, “when there’s chores you’re nowhere to be found, when there’s food you come runnin’.” 

The oldest, a boy who looked to be about twelve, eyed Dani and grinned. “Jamie, finalmente conseguiste una novia?”

Jamie whipped around to chuck a piece of fish at him while the table erupted in laughter and the children took off, giggles and squeals fading into the dusk. She chuckled, shaking her head. Then she turned to Esteban and asked him something in Spanish, nodding as he answered. She jerked her head in his direction, translating for Dani.

“Was askin’ about his daughter, Camila. She’s fourteen and she moved to Quibdó for school, first one in her family, should’ve seen these two,” she gestured at Esteban and Gabriela, “properly proud, they were. But,” Jamie sighed and popped a piece of fish in her mouth with her fingers, “got too expensive. Now Camila’s sellin’ fish at the river market, tryin’ to make ends meet.”

Dani looked at Esteban, then back to Jamie. She…didn’t know what to do with that. Didn’t know why Jamie was telling her. “Camila sounds like a hard worker.” Dani cringed internally.

“She’ll have to be,” Jamie said. “She’ll have to work her fuckin’ fingers off to make an honest livin’, but it won’t be enough. She’ll end up turnin’ tricks like all the others who moved to Quibdo for school. She’ll be pregnant or dead in a year or two.”

Dani sat there, stone still and horrified. She glanced at Esteban and Gabriela, but they seemed oblivious to Jamie’s words.

“They don’t speak English, if that’s what you’re gawkin’ over. Doesn’t mean they don’t know everythin’ I told you to be true.”

Dani looked around the table at all the others, slowly realizing—

“They work here,” Jamie confirmed. “They’re the ones in the field pickin’ your beans.” There was a curl at the edge of her mouth.

“Figured they should be here for the meetin’,” the curl grew into a smirk, “considerin’ they’re the ones’ll be affected by the outcome.”

Dani swallowed. “And the children?” 

“All theirs. Nephews, cousins, grandchildren. Plantation’s the safest place for them. But one day they’ll outgrow it. Want more. End up like Camila.”

Dani decided to try the fish. The way she saw it, fish eyeballs couldn’t make things any worse.

It was…not bad, surprisingly. Tangy and full of flavor and spice—so much spice—more than she was used to. She started coughing.

A shot glass appeared in front of her and Andres leaned over to fill it, nodding and grinning, encouraging her.

“Guaro,” Jamie shot a pointed look at the shot glass. “Made from sugarcane.”

It was better than nothing. Dani threw the shot back, wincing at the burn but only just—it was actually quite smooth.

The table let out a cheer.

Ahora eres Colombiana!” Andres said, and Jamie translated. Now you are Colombian.

Shot glasses were passed around. Filled and refilled. Someone turned on the radio and bright, rhythmic notes filled the room. Cumbia, Sebastian said proudly.

An hour later they were all drunk and dancing, Santiago was spinning Dani across the tiled floor. At one point she caught sight of her reflection in the window. Edmund would be furious. This wasn’t what she was supposed to be doing.

She’d studied the numbers, came down to play hardball. She just hadn’t planned on them being so nice. 

Air. She needed air. 

Out on the veranda she closed her eyes, tried to let the cool breeze sober her up. 

“Havin’ fun?”

Dani whirled around to find Jamie standing in the shadows, a cigarette in one hand and a bottle of guaro in the other.

It was the way she’d said it that sparked Dani’s temper. “Can I speak with you? Privately?”

Jamie shrugged. “Sure.”

 

They meandered through the rows of coffee plants, arguing as they went.

“You’re gouging us,” Dani said. “You’re asking for like—a third more per pound than Wingrave, and that’s just—greedy! And rude? And capitalistic!” She definitely should’ve stayed sober for this. 

“Capitalist, is it?” Jamie nodded thoughtfully. “See there?” She pointed to a collection of wooden huts in the distance. “When Wingrave was in charge the workers lived in those huts year round. No electricity, no runnin’ water. They picked beans sun up to sun down for him and he paid them less than two dollars a day. I’m uppin’ the price incrementally so I can pay them a livin’ wage. So Camila doesn’t have to turn tricks. So the kids here can go to school, learn a trade, not end up as statistics. Colombia’s complicated. Beautiful, and the people are the best I’ve met. But this part of the country—” Jamie shook her head. “Has a history, you know? These people’ve been exploited for centuries.”

Dani grabbed the guaro from her. Took a swig, because she realized she wasn’t going to get Jamie to cut them a deal. She realized she didn’t want her to anymore.

Jamie looked at her. “I’ll let you out of the contract. Can find a different supplier if you want.”

What Dani really wanted was to talk about something else. Anything else. “How did you end up here?”

Jamie shrugged. “Didn’t like my life back home. Traded it in for a new one here.”

She made it sound so simple. 

The moonlight kept catching in the bow of Jamie’s lips. She was…really pretty. And Dani wanted to blame the guaro but honestly she’d noticed before she’d even stepped out of the car that afternoon. 

“I don’t know why he sent me,” Dani groaned. “My husband. I’m—I’m terrible at this stuff—”

“I know why he sent you.” Jamie smiled at the ground. 

“If you’re about to tell me I’m doing great you can save it, I wasn’t born for business—”

“I’m gay.”

Dani looked at her.

“Likely did his research, this husband of yours. Probably figured I’d take one look at you in that sundress and cave to your every whim.”

“He’s an idiot.”

Jamie laughed. “Bloody clever, honestly. Gotta give him credit for—”

“He’s an idiot.” Stop. Quit talking. Don’t say— “The plan could’ve just as easily backfired.” 

Jamie eyed her. Dani held in a smile and felt her cheeks grow warm.

Jamie slid her a smile, then—thankfully—changed the subject. “So what were you born for? If not business?”

Dani smiled. “I want to teach. I’m going back to—well. I’d like to go back to school for it.”

“You should. Need more good teachers out there.”

Dani smiled again, then swept her hand out across the dark landscape. “So. Teach me something about coffee.” 

“Yeah?” Jamie seemed surprised. “Alright, lemme think.” She squinted into the darkness. “Here’s one. Hundreds of years ago in Turkish culture, women could divorce their husbands for not bringing home enough coffee.”

Dani snorted. They’d reached the huts and Dani leaned back against one of them, her head starting to spin. Then, “I wish I could divorce mine.” 

When Dani got brave enough to look she found Jamie staring at her, the tiniest furrow in her brow. Her eyes flickered to Dani’s lips, just once.

“You can kiss me if you want.” What the fuck was in the guaro? “Sorry, that was—” Dani covered her face with her hands. 

Then Jamie was pulling her hands away, gently pinning them against the wall on either side of Dani’s head. Leaning in. Brushing her lips over Dani’s before pressing in.

A desperate noise escaped Dani’s throat and then her tongue was poking at the seam of Jamie’s lips, stroking against Jamie’s tongue when Jamie opened her mouth. 

Jamie pressed her into the wall and Dani groaned at the feeling, Jamie’s thigh sliding between her own and fuck that was—God, it’d never felt like this before, not ever.

Dani wrestled her hands free, slid one into Jamie’s curls, the other grasped at her hips pulling her closer, grinding into her.

Jamie ghosted kisses along her jaw in a path to her ear. “You’re beautiful,” she whispered, “and I want you. But you’re drunk.”

Dani scrunched her nose. “So are you.”

“Another night?” Jamie pulled back to look at her. 

Dani smiled sadly. “Only here for the one.”                                                        

~~~

It felt like a fever dream, waking up in a strange bed, pieces of the night before coming in flashes. 

Not making the deal. Kissing Jamie. Wanting Jamie. Trying to get Jamie to—Jamie being a gentleman. Bringing her upstairs. Tucking her in.

It was all rather mortifying, honestly, and Dani spent all of breakfast avoiding Jamie’s eyes. 

At noon Santiago’s truck was idling in the drive, waiting to drive Dani back to Quibdó. 

Jamie walked her out and Dani stopped her before they could leave the shadows of the porch. 

“Edmund will pay whatever you’re asking,” Dani said. “I’ll make sure.” She didn’t know how, but she would.

Jamie nodded. “Pleasure doin’ business.” She reached out a hand and when Dani went to shake it she lifted Dani’s hand to her lips, kissing it with a quick smile. 

The truck started down the driveway. Out the window the fields stretched endlessly and the children raced after the car, shouting their goodbyes in Spanish. 

There was a stone in Dani’s stomach and she couldn’t name it. Couldn’t understand why it felt like something was slipping through her grasp like silk. Why she suddenly felt like crying. 

Suddenly Santiago was chuckling, muttering in Spanish and pointing at the crooked rearview mirror. 

Jamie. She was tearing down the driveway after the truck while the children cheered her on.
Santiago hit the brake and a moment later she appeared in Dani’s window, red-faced and panting.

Dani rolled down the window. 

“Want to be a teacher, yeah?” Jamie managed, still gasping. 

Dani nodded. She was smiling and she couldn’t stop. 

“Been tryin’ to figure out what to do with this unruly lot,” Jamie jerked her head at the crowd of children surrounding the truck, all grinning and giggling as they watched the scene unfold. “What if I offered you a job here?”