Title: Redesigning Max (Foothills Pride #2)
Author Name & Publisher: Pat Henshaw (Dreamspinner Press)
Publication Date & Length: July 29, 2015 – 73 pgs
Renowned interior designer Fredi Zimmer is surprised when outdoorsman Max Greene, owner of Greene’s Outdoors, hires Fredi to revamp his rustic cabin in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Fredi is an out-and-proud Metro male whose contact with the outdoors is from his car to the doorway of the million-dollar homes he remodels, and Max is just too hunky for words.
When Max comes on to Fredi, the designer can’t imagine why. But he’s game to put a little spice into Max’s life, even if it’s just in the colors and fixtures he’ll use to turn Max’s dilapidated cabin into a showplace. Who can blame a guy for adding a little sensual pleasure as he retools Max’s life visually?
Max, for his part, is grateful when Fredi takes him in hand, both metaphorically and literally. Coming out is the most exciting and wonderful time in his life, despite the conservative former friends who think they’re saving him from sliding into hell.
That night in bed, thinking of the delicious Max, I understood a little more why he wanted the forest in his house. I could understand how soothing the wide open-spaces could be to someone who spent his formative years as an outcast. Now I felt even more driven to give Max the vision he sought.
Three days later, exhausted from a couple of all-nighters but ready to show Max the portfolio of drawings and plans for his renovated cabin, I put on my other designer jeans, orange sailor shirt, green high tops, and lavender scarf. I was ready to knock Max’s socks off.
Max drove us to the Rock Bottom again for lunch. The grungy foothills cafe was just as tacky as it had been before and smelled just as delicious. The tables of surly-looking he-men in their Levis and wife-beaters or beat-up Western-cut shirts still stared and then whispered to themselves as I slid into a booth, the artist sketchbook tucked safely in my bag.
“So we’re ready to make some changes.” Max eyed the sketchbook as I took it out and laid it on the table.
“Whoa, not so fast.” I put my hand over the top of the book to keep it closed. “We’re a few steps away from starting. Let’s just take a look at the sketches and then talk money, and then if you’re still happy in a day or two, we can sign a contract. Remodeling isn’t anything to jump right into.”
The excitement brimming from Max’s face said Yeah, yeah. Blah, blah, blah. Open the damned notebook.
I sighed. I always hated this part of the job. Clients either loved the sketches and wanted the work done yesterday or they wanted to haggle every nut and bolt to the ground, changing the floor plan, the color palette, or complete idea on an almost minute-to-minute basis. It was exhausting either way.
“Okay, first, what you need to do is look at these drawings and imagine yourself living in these rooms, not just looking at pretty pictures. Ask yourself if you would be comfortable here. At this point, everything is changeable, but it won’t be the case when we start tearing down and making the plan concrete. So take your time. Be sure you’ve fallen in love before you begin.”
I waited until Max lifted his eyes from the sketchbook, looked at me, and nodded before I opened the book.
I went through the pages one by one quickly, not asking Max for a response and not watching him. This was the private, internal part, and I let him have his space. Max wasn’t my first client who kind of knew what he wanted but couldn’t articulate it.
The first glimpse tainted the vision the client originally had going into the project. I could steamroll clients into taking what I’d given them, but in the long run, they had to live with the new reality and I wanted them to be happy. I really wanted Max to be happy.
“It’s perfect,” Max whispered just as the waitress brought our food. “Let’s do it.”
“Let’s eat first, before we break ground.”
I didn’t talk during lunch even though Max wanted to get me to sign him up and start moving.
After we finished the cherry-apple pie, I said, “Now I’m going to go through and point out some pricey details. Think about if you really want them because they add time and money to the design. We can easily discard them.”
“No, I want it just like you’ve got it in here.” Max tapped the sketchbook with his elegant fingers. “Just exactly what you’ve got here.”
I sighed. “Let’s try it my way, okay? Will you just listen?” I was holding an edge of the sketchbook closed and looking into Max’s eyes. I didn’t want Max to be an ultimately unhappy impulse buyer.
Max tentatively touched my hand. “I trust you.” He rubbed his fingers over mine.
I was surprised by the touch of his fingers, which had immediately made my body tingle. I’d read about people being attracted and feeling a zap of electricity, but I’d never experienced it before. As far as my past liaisons with men went, we’d both showed up, which was enough for gratifying sex.
“Just a few minutes of listening.” I could hear a shaky quality in my voice.
“Okay,” Max agreed, sitting back and putting his hands together on the table.
I took a deep breath to steady myself. I looked around the cafe, hypersensitive to the quiet scrutiny of the other diners. Were they leaning out of their chairs to listen to our conversation? Why did they make me feel uncomfortable?
I looked back at Max, who seemed oblivious to their attention. His eyes went from the sketchbook to me. He seemed to lean toward me, and his eager look seemed to be trying to hurry me along. His impatience made me smile.
I took a deep breath and started my spiel. “There are some carvings in the pictures you should think about. Atop and along the sides of the windows in the living room, master bedroom, and the kitchen, and on the headboard and bedposts in the master bedroom. You said you wanted to bring the outdoors in, so I thought these carvings would be perfect.”
I turned to the pictures. I’d drawn animals like squirrels, foxes, and badgers carved into the wood.
In the master bedroom, the four bedposts looked like geese landing at the head of the bed and taking off toward the windows from the foot of it. Across the headboard and footboard, I’d drawn pussy willows swaying with frogs, butterflies, and small birds among the reeds, all carved from one piece of hardwood.
Having worked with a wonderful carver so many times in the past, I knew he would take my ideas and flesh them out, probably change them as he saw fit, and leave Max with stunning pieces of art—if Max could afford them and, more importantly, if Max liked this idea as much as I did.
“Beautiful.” Max traced the birds taking off in flight.
“Yes, it is. You’ll notice the wood on the floor, around the windows, and making up the furniture is the only brown. The rest of the room is blue.” Actually the blues ran the scale of hues from Alice blue to ultramarine, but I made it a policy to use only the most basic names for colors since many of my less artistic clients got lost in the fancy color names.
“I like other colors, not just brown,” Max protested.
I nodded, not about to remind him that he’d only wanted brown and green. Except for the touch of Max’s fingers on my hand, my spiel had been pretty standard. As far as I was concerned, no surprises were good surprises.
“In the living room and kitchen”—I found those pages—“you’ll notice that the predominant colors are yellow.” Well, from canary yellow to goldenrod, but who was counting? “Also, I added more rustic carvings to the decks. Animals between the posts of the back deck and birds on the bedroom deck,” I said, flipping to the relevant sketches and pointing them out.
On each page, Max ran his finger over the details I mentioned. It was distracting, so much so I had trouble keeping to the script. Max might not be an artist, but he definitely had an artist’s soul. His fingers were gently stroking my soul as well as the pages.
The diners at the other tables seemed to be trying to see what had Max so enthralled. I wanted to stand up and announce, “This is a private showing. Go back to your meals.” I didn’t, but still, sweat had started to drip from my pits.
Finally I closed the book and passed it to Max. It was hard to stay on task with Max so focused on the drawings and the diners seemingly intent on us.
“I want you to take this book and really study the pages. Take notes in the margins. Circle things you don’t like or have questions about. Go to the cabin with the book and try to imagine every room looking like the sketch. What would you change to make the sketch more you?”
When I peered up at Max, I was surprised to see glistening eyes looking back at me. Was Max crying? Oh hell no. God, I hoped not. I don’t do crying people. Ever.