Part 2 - Chapter 21 - Baxter

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Hailee slipped into her seat beside me at the patio table. She had changed into her default short shorts and tee-shirt.

Mr. Morgan looked at his wife. "Is dinner soon ready?"

"Give me five minutes to set the table." She disappeared into the house.

"Mom's prepared Pork Osso Bucco," Hailee said, "and it's to die for."

Mr. Morgan cleared his throat. "Sing, you work in personal protection. I can imagine you've had some wild experiences."

He didn't know the half of it. Hailee and I exchanged glances. "Escorting your daughter to her premiere was plenty wild enough for me. She has frenzied fans." Wanting to change the subject, I deflected any further questions along that line by asking, "I understand you are a developer. Did you develop this neighborhood?"

"The Oxnard Channel Islands? No. I wish I had a piece of this place though. People continue to flood Southern California, a trend that hasn't changed during my lifetime. That puts pressure on existing housing and encourages more development. The real trick is to be able to determine geographic patterns of growth and buy up land on the cheap, build homes when the timing is right, and demand confiscatory prices."

He went on to describe his successful projects. The man was passionate about his work.

Mrs. Morgan called for us to come inside. Dinner was ready.

Hailee hadn't exaggerated when she told me her mom's Pork Osso Bucco was to die for. During dinner, I asked Mrs. Morgan what her secret was. I meant my question to be rhetorical, just for conversation, but she revealed everything in step-by-step detail and made me repeat it all back to her until she was satisfied that I could prepare the meal myself.

After dessert, a yummy baked Alaska, we continued to talk. Hailee's parents fascinated me. They were so cool. She was lucky to have them in her life.

Eventually, Hailee started squirming. I could sense her impatience. She broke into our conversation. "Dad, how about if I show Sing around the house?"

He looked between the two of us and smiled. "Sure, Hails, I didn't mean to monopolize all of your time."

We excused ourselves from the table. I followed Hailee into the main foyer and told her how much I liked her mom and dad. "Did you grow up in this house?"

"Yep."

"Great place to spend your childhood."

"Not a day goes by where I'm not mindful about how fortunate my life has been."

She led me into a room where the walls were covered with dark paneling. The whole room smelled like leather. It was furnished with a large desk, stuffed chairs, and a sofa. Adjacent to the window sat a gun cabinet holding a pair of shotguns and a rifle.

"This is Dad's office."

I pointed to the gun cabinet. "Does he hunt?"

"Mom and Dad both are into trap shooting at the club. Dad used to go on hunts, but he hasn't done that for a long time."

"Does your mom also have a home office?"

"Nah, she never brings work home." She laid a hand on my chest. I loved the little gesture of hers. "Do you really want to see the rest of the house? It's just a house. I'd rather we talk."

"Well, I'd like to see your bedroom."

She raised an eyebrow.

"You told me on the phone that you have a pink canopy bed. I want to see if that's true."

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