Sheila slipped her hand in Richard’s and squeezed. “You okay?”
Their footsteps echoed as they walked through the quiet hallways leading to the attorney’s office. “Sure, I guess. I just want get this over with.”
“I know. It’ll all be over soon enough.” Her blue eyes reflected the sadness Richard felt. Sadness for the end of a partnership, but more for the end of a friendship.
He’d never thought Joe would dig in his heels so deep. The last few days had been surreal, between the arguments, the mediation, and the final sickening realization that WhitSand Farm was choking out its dying breath. He paused outside the closed door, unable to force his hand to turn the knob.
Sheila ran her hand up and down his back. “There’s still time to change your mind. You don’t have to do this.”
He blew out a hard breath. “No, I’m right about this. Joe’s refusal to consider it and his willingness to shut down the whole thing is about more than just tea.”
They pushed the door open and saw a stone-faced Joe Sanders sitting at a shiny mahogany table, a glass of water dripping condensation onto the surface. WhitSand’s attorney sat at the head of the table, shuffling papers. Sheila walked in and took a seat, leaving room for Richard to sit across from Joe.
“Where’s Rebecca?” she said as she set her handbag on the chair next to her.
“Not coming.” Joe kept his eyes trained on the table.
The attorney cleared his throat and took a stack of papers from a folder. “Gentlemen, as discussed during your mediation sessions, WhitSand Farm will be formally dissolved and your partnership will officially end today. You’ll each leave today with signed documents for your records. Do you have any questions?”
“No.” Joe finally looked up, his eyes shooting anger directly at Richard.
With that, the ambivalence that had dogged Richard since mediation began disappeared. Joe’s refusal to consider branching out into tea was one thing; his bitterness and anger was another. They were friends and partners, practically brothers. Hell, their children had grown up together and their wives were joined at the hip. How could he throw it all away without a thought?
Their attorney pushed a stack of documents toward Richard and handed him a pen. “Sign by the arrows, and WhitSand Farm will be officially dissolved,” he said as he pointed to the pages.
Richard looked to Joe again, hoping to see a hint of regret or uncertainty in his eyes, anything that would stop this madness and put them on track to reconcile. He was met with steely determination and genuine anger. “So this is it, huh?”
“I guess. It’s not too late to change your mind about this insane tea farming idea, you know.” Joe smirked.
“It’s not too late to get on board with the idea that could put WhitSand Farm on the map, either, Joe.” Richard put his pen down, hoping for a last minute change of heart. Joe picked up his pen and scratched his name on the first paper, then flipped through to the end and signed again before shoving the stack towards Richard.
“When you run your farm into the ground trying to grow tea in Washington, don’t come crying to me.” He grabbed the second copy, signed his name, and stalked out of the room.
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