Bayou Baby (Butterfly Bayou 2) - Page 44

Sylvie wasn’t backing down. “Yet you only decided to call code compliance in when Seraphina took over the deed.”

She’d sat up thinking about how she would sidestep that particular point. It wasn’t like she didn’t know Sera had a friend in city hall. Sera, Sylvie, and that pudgy blonde with the baby were always hanging around together. “Well, I certainly wasn’t going to turn an old woman out of her home.”

And she’d believed Irene Guidry when she said if Celeste tried anything, she knew how to cut brake lines.

“Of course, this is all about you being an upright citizen,” Sylvie said with a shake of her head. “I’m here to explain to you that you will not intimidate city employees into doing your dirty work.”

“I was unaware that enforcing city codes was dirty work, Madam Mayor. It sounds more like you’re bending the rules for your friend.” Any argument could work both ways, Celeste knew. Turnabout was fair play. “I’m sure that might come up in your next election.”

Sylvie snorted. “Bring it on, Celeste. If you want to import a ringer to be mayor to all the crazies of this town, I welcome it. I can go back to my original plans. And you can deal with the fallout when whoever you bring in resigns six months in.”

She did have a point, but it was terrible not to have someone she could intimidate at the mayor’s office. The younger generation did not pay the proper respect. “Well, you should understand that I do expect to live next to properly maintained homes. I’m certain Angela will be thinking about a family after she gets married. I won’t have my grandbabies endangered because the Guidrys can’t take care of their own property. And if code compliance can’t enforce its own rules, then I’ll take that up with the city council.”

“I assure you Darnell’s reports will be perfect. He’s a straight shooter. Per the city’s codes, Sera has ninety days to come into compliance. Code compliance is about making sure everyone is safe. Not kicking out people you don’t like or condemning houses we all know you want to buy.”

Celeste sat back. Sylvie might have youth on her side, but Celeste had found that sometimes patience was a far better tool than anything else. “It’s not the house I want. I assure you Sera is wasting her time since I’m going to raze the entire thing and build something new.”

“She’s working hard on that house,” Sylvie argued.

“You know she won’t be able to afford the taxes and insurance on that place.” Maybe there was another way to win this particular war. If Sylvie could convince her friend to sell, she would make leaving Papillon a condition of the contract. “Not to mention the upkeep on a place like that. She certainly can’t afford it when she can’t seem to keep a job.”

“You know exactly why she can’t keep a job. Don’t think you can use city hall to force my friend out of town.” Sylvie turned and strode to the door before turning back. “I know you think that the Beaumont family is as respected as the Daroises, but you’re wrong. This town adores Pamela Darois, and they love her son just as much. They fear you. That’s the only reason they defer to you.”

“Well, you know what Machiavelli said.” And yet she’d always hated that quote. It is better to be feared than loved if you cannot be both. She wasn’t sure anyone could be both. Hadn’t she always hated the fear her mother-in-law brought every time she walked into a gathering, how every single woman there knew she was about to be judged and found wanting?

Sylvie glanced around. “I’m surprised you didn’t take over your husband’s office. It has a much better view.”

“I’m only here until Cal settles in.”

“Really? Because you’ve been running this place since Ralph died. I heard you implemented a few changes and last year the stock was up. Cal never struck me as the type to take over such a large operation. He was always happier being creative.”

Celeste felt her shoulders go rigid. “Cal will be a wonderful CEO. Ralph always meant to leave the company to one of his sons. That’s been the Beaumont way for a hundred years.”

Sylvie seemed to think about that for a moment. “Well, you’re the last Beaumont standing, Celeste. It’s your family now. How are you going to run it? Maybe you should stop worrying about Sera and start being who you could be. Start setting an example for the women of Papillon, and not the one your mother-in-law set. You’re good at running Beaumont Oil. The town could use a female CEO.”

Celeste stared at the door as it closed.

Sylvie was wrong. The job was Cal’s and she wasn’t going to take it from him.

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