Terms of Surrender(9)

By: Shirley Rogers


What was it about this woman that, after five years, he hadn't been able to get her out of his system? Apparently his father had seen something special in her, as well, or he wouldn't have asked David to take care of her. "But I'm all yours now."

All yours.

Tanya swallowed hard at the thought. Dressed in khaki-colored dress pants and a pale blue dress shirt that looked like they cost more than she'd spent on clothes in the last year, David was one very handsome man. Yet, there was little about him that reminded her of the young man she'd lost her heart to when she was seventeen.

The past five years had been more than kind to him. His shoulders and chest had filled out with well-toned muscles. His face, more chiseled and angular, made him favor his father more than she realized. He was enough to turn any woman's head twice.

But his piercing blue eyes drew her to him. There was an emptiness in them that she longed to fill, a sadness that she wanted so much to ease.

"Tanya?"

Realizing David was speaking to her, Tanya started. Getting her thoughts back on the business at hand, she said, "Um, all right. Let me show you around."

As Tanya talked, David listened attentively, and he had to admit he was impressed with her thorough knowledge of the workings of the plantation and the equipment used to run it. Apparently she'd been telling the truth when she'd said she'd been in charge for some time.

However, he was still stunned by Edward's decision to change crops. It was a decision that David just didn't understand. "What made my father decide to stop growing peanuts?" he asked as he examined the drill used to break the ground and seed it.

Biting her lip, Tanya glanced briefly at him. Knowing her answer wouldn't make things between the two of them any smoother, she had to be honest. "Several years ago, I did a study on the production of peanuts in the state of Georgia and in other states where peanuts are main crops. Production costs were on the rise, and Cottonwood's profits had begun to slip."

"That's part of the business, isn't it?" David reasoned, studying the apprehensive expression in her amber eyes, and wondering what caused it. "Supply and demand and all that."

Tanya's brows wrinkled. "That's simplifying it quite a bit," she answered, her tone taut. "The future earnings of peanuts was looking bleak. Changes in government regulations have hurt peanut farmers tremendously. Many growers have had to make adjustments in their crops and a lot of independent farmers have gone under."

"Was the plantation in danger of that?" David asked, realizing he'd inadvertently insulted her. That's what he got for letting his mind wander. If he hadn't been thinking about what was going on behind those expressive eyes, he wouldn't have said something so stupid.

Obviously, he'd been away from the agriculture industry too long. Busy running his own business, he hadn't even thought about the peanut market.

"I don't think it was that bad, but the plantation would never have been as profitable as it had in the past. Your father seemed worried. I began to research soybeans and pitched the idea of going into the soybean market to him." She gestured toward the door. "Do you want to take some time now to look over the accounts?"

David nodded casually, but inside his chest ached. His father would never have accepted such an idea from him. He reminded himself that it wasn't Tanya's fault that he'd never gotten along with his father. "Why soybeans?" he asked, opening the door for her. She walked out and he followed.

"The demand for soybeans has increased as people have become more health conscious. They're used for an array of foods, such as veggie burgers, granola bars, potato chips and even chocolate."

"Chocolate? You're kidding!"

She smiled, but the expression never reached her eyes. "They're used in many non-food products, as well," she continued as they walked the footpath to the house. "Like lipstick, plastic and paints. It just seemed like the right time to switch the farm over to a growing, marketable crop."

David still hadn't seen the accounts, so he reserved his opinion until he'd had a chance to study them. "I have to admit that I'm stunned you were able to convince my father to make such a drastic change," he stated, his eyes drawn to her face, which showed signs of strain. He knew his father's death hadn't been easy for her, but other than that one incident yesterday, she hadn't shared her feelings with him.

"At first, Edward wasn't exactly excited about the idea," she admitted, a little surprised that David actually seemed interested in what was happening on the farm. "We discussed it for months. I had to show him massive amounts of documentation, including detailed earning projections. Your father could be very stubborn."

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