(2018-12-12) Information Exchange
Nina arrives for tea and to provide polite advice.

It's a slow, winter-y Tuesday afternoon, and quite possibly an unexpected time for a nine-to-fiver like Nina to visit. And judging from her business-yet-chic attire, she has either just left work, or she's merely snuck out when her manager wasn't looking. Her RAV-4, despite being an all-wheel-drive vehicle, seems to be having a tough time with the slippery conditions, even as it pulls into the B&B's driveway. Disembarking, Nina isn't having much better luck walking through the snow, even with her long boots on. Nope, the large bag she is holding doesn't make the trip any easier.

But eventually she makes it to the front door, where she thoughtfully and meticulously brushes off the snow on her boots before stepping in. "Hello?" She calls out tentatively, as she makes her way towards the kitchen, which seems to be the center of all paranormal activities in the house.

Katherine is working quietly in the kitchen, quietly enough that one might not realize she was in there. She heard the "Hello" so she leans across the counter. "I'm in here." She calls out, not quite sure who the voice belongs to yet. "Come on in through the great room!" She adds, her clean hands pressing mashed potatoes into the top of a shephard's pie.

Nina appears at the kitchen door almost right on cue, since she is already on the way there when Katherine calls back. Once she sees the proprietress here, Nina is all polite smiles - as well as a quick glance around the place. "It's nice to have a quiet day now and then, isn't it?" She notes, moving towards the island to put down her bag first, before unbuttoning her black long coat while she wanders closer to see what Kate is making. "That looks delicious." She studies the shepherd's pie-in-progress. "I do hope I am not interrupting your cooking too much."

"It is rather nice to have a quiet day." Katherine agrees, grinning at Nina once she appears. "Would you like something to drink?" She asks, moving to wash her hands with some peppermint smelling soap. "Thank you. I was feeling like I needed something savory today. Comfort food at its finest." She waves away the talk of interrupting, pulling down two mugs so she can pour herself some coffee. She adds a few squares of dark chocolate and then waits to see what Nina might want.

"I don't suppose you have green tea?" Nina asks with a bit of hopefulness in her tone. "If you don't, I will have whatever you are having, thank you." She proceeds to finish undoing the rest of the coat buttons, so that she can shrug off the outer garment, which is held between her hands while she glances around for a place to hang it. "As I said before, I wish I can cook like you do. As it is, my comfort food is usually limited to store items, strawberry ice cream being a perennial favorite." She smiles faintly at that. "I brought some paperwork over, mostly reports and news articles on Westin Institute, like we talked about last time."

Katherine pulls down a few different teas, some of them not even in bags. She packs some green tea into a tea ball and drops it in some water from the kettle. "I do have green tea, I'm not a savage." She teases, watching Nina get comfortable. She points to a coat hook, smiling slowly. "I can teach you how to cook, if you would like. It's not very difficult. It's more like a science experiment with very strict rules." She beams toward Nina, nodding to a chair. "Have a seat, thank you so much for bringing that over, and your offer to help me not be…completely awkward around Xavier." She tilts her head slightly and sets down her cup. "Though I'm curious how you know how to navigate relationships with businessmen."

Nina's smile brightens a bit more at the availability of green tea. She nods a silent thanks before hanging up her coat on the indicated hook, and then heads over to the table to take a seat as Katherine bids. Idly she reaches up to brush her long hair back over her shoulders, then rests her elbows on the table and crosses her legs at the knees, getting comfortable. "One of my uncles bought me one of those children's science kits when I was a little girl. Test tubes, powder packets, that sort of thing. I decided to add some other powder I found in the kitchen, and I ended up burning down the kitchen." She smiles at the memory, even if she looks a bit embarrassed about it. "So, science experiments and I don't mix very well." At least Nina seems more comfortable with Kate's other question. "I don't want to sound like I am an expert in navigating relationships with businessmen, but I have seen enough of them to understand how they operate. I have worked with quite a few of them in my job, but I have known a lot more of them while growing up."

Katherine winces at the story, laughing softly when Nina smiles about it. "Cooking is a little bit less dangerous, most of the stuff is on fire within a confined space." She crosses her legs and picks up her coffee, drinking from it as she watches Nina. "I welcome any information you can give me, on the Westin Institute and on businessmen in general." She sets down her cup after she takes a sip. "I just would really like to feel comfortable, for once, in my relationship. I know the reason I'm uncomfortable is because of me…and I'm working on that."

Nina gestures over to the bag that she left on the island. "The reports and articles are in a binder in the bag; you can read through them at your leisure." She glances back at Katherine. "I should warn you though, while most of the financial statements and credit checks indicate Westin Institute is a successful enterprise, some of the news articles, reports and editorials are less…. encouraging." She lets that sit for a moment before continuing. "The company has a bit of a reputation of ignoring local interests in favor of profits, but do keep in mind that sort of negative local publicity is not exactly uncommon."

Katherine pulls the binder from the bag, opening it slowly as she listens to Nina. "I understand. I figure that it was going to be something I would see if I did some looking into things. I know that developers are not the most popular people in any rural community. People think that increasing the value of property is usually a good thing, but I know what else it brings. Taxes cost more, things become more expensive in general, because they're trying to attract people who can afford those things." She shoots a look at Nina, her voice quiet. "Do you think, personally, that Xavier's company being here is a good thing for Calaveras?"

Nina bobs her head slowly as Katherine draws her own conclusions; the faint smile on her lips seems like a confirmation that the thoughts are on the right track. "Like everything, depends on who you are and what you are looking for. As a rule, developers are not pioneers; in and of themselves, they don't generate growth and taxes for a community. They are like sharks; they smell blood in the water and it's a feeding frenzy. In other words, they follow growth potential, they invest, they develop, they sell, real estate market rises, and the community tax bases increases. It's not just about value of property for its own sake, but the long-term growth of any community. If you own a ranch or farm in the area who value your traditions, then this is definitely not a good thing. But with the loss of the mining industry, if there is no growth stimuli, where will Calaveras be in another ten years?"

Katherine drinks from her cup, nodding at Nina. "I like the way things are in Calaveras now, but I think that we're not going to go anywhere, and some people won't thrive in this environment." She cradles her cup, her eyes fixed on the liquid in the glass. "You know, I've given some serious thought to selling this house, splitting the money in our savings with my sisters and finding some place new to settle." She smirks and gets to her feet, moving to the counter to finish with the shephard's pie. "I'll never do it, it's just a thought I've had a few times. I have a yen to travel, see some new things."

Nina lifts a brow to Katherine's admission, looking at least a bit surprised by it. "Never say never, Katherine." She opines. Did she get her cup of tea yet? If so, she'll lift it up for a long, comfortable sip. "If you are seriously considering it, I wouldn't recommend selling it in the near future. Not for another two, maybe three years. Wait till the boom happens, if it ever happens. If not, you haven't lost anything but time." Beat. "And travel is always fun. If you ever want to go to Asia, I can be your guide."

"I never say never anymore." Katherine agrees, shrugging her shoulders as she slides the shephard's pie into the oven. She wouldn't have forgotten to give Nina's tea to her, setting sugar, honey and creamer nearby in case it's wanted. "Well I am going to have to sell this place after we acquire the hotel…if…we acquire the hotel. So I'll wait." She raises her eyebrows and leans against the table, resting her chin on her palm. "When is the last time you were to Asia? I kind of want to go to Hong Kong after Xavier told me some stories about it."

Nina presses a finger to her lips thoughtfully to that question. "Early 2016. I was there for Chinese New Year; I promise you, that's the best time to visit. Actually my family has a place in Hong Kong, if you want to have a convenient place to stay when you visit." Something about this makes Nina smile rather broadly. "Someone who grew up in rural Colorado, in one of the most heavily urbanized cities in the world. You are going to have so much fun there." She takes another sip of the tea, partly to hide her smile. "So Xavier is going to take you there some day?"

"I don't know. I haven't asked. I'm afraid if I say that I'm interested, he'll actually do it." Katherine grins at Nina, her cheeks getting pink. "We're going to Rio for New Year's, and I am looking forward to that enough that it's…" She looks thoughtful for a few moments, gazing toward the oven. "I packed already, bikini's and flowy cotton tops and the like." She shrugs and grins over at Nina. "We'll be gone for two days, so it will be a quick trip. There and back." She blnks and raises her eyebrows at Nina. "What are you and Julian doing for New Year's?"

"Rio? Oh I would love to visit Rio one day." Nina sighs wistfully, but her smile promptly returns as she shakes her head slowly. "I think maybe we will go up to his cabin again? I was there last weekend, and I have to admit it was quite charming." She doesn't comment on the packing of bikinis and flowy tops, but the mention does bring a faintly amused look to her face. "Don't mind if I ask, but is Xavier still charming and attentive to you? I would assume he is, given he is taking you on a Rio trip."

"I've never really been out of Calaveras, so I'm pretty excited." Katherine beams over at Nina, smiling as Julian's cabin is mentioned. "It's beautiful up there, and there should be some interesting weather, so if you want a White New Year, you'll likely get it." She takes a drink from her coffee cup and nods at Nina. "He came up here the other night in a sleigh, picked me up, and took me for a ride. We made snowballs, and he carried me.." She covers her heart with her hand and laughs softly. ".. to the Indian place, ordered a ton of food and then took me to his place to eat it." Her cheeks get pink and she shakes her head. "He's lovely to me, and that's why it bothers me so much that people talk down on him. Everyone has problems, nobody is perfect. If I waited for perfect, I'd be waiting forever."

Nina listens, bobbing her head every once in a while and looking quite pleased at what she's hearing. She even rests one slender finger near the corner of her eye, and the rest of that hand cupping her cheek. "There is no perfect anyway; if you like someone, you have to grab the chance before it passes you by. Whether he is the right person or not… you won't know until you get to know him, but ultimately it is up to you to decide." She states sagely. "Do you mind if I offer some advice then?"

"Please do. If it's not, run away he's horrible for you, I might even offer you a hug." Katherine says, a wry grin curving her lips. She brushes her fingers through her hair and she watches Nina for a few moments. "I agree on the grabbing a chance when it presents itself to you. Things pass you by so quickly, and all I want is to live and enjoy my life." She gestures for Nina to speak, sipping from her coffee.

Nina's smile widens into a grin. "No, I won't tell you that. Like I said, whether he is good or bad for you, it's your judgement and yours alone." Lowering her hands, she clasps them together and sits up straighter. "And I don't intend to speculate whether he is a sophisticated casanova and playboy, or your very own Prince Charming. I just want to note some universal truths about rich, sophisticated men, based on a lot of rich, sophisticated men I've met." She pauses for dramatic effect. "There are a few things you should know about them. First and foremost, is that a lot of women throw themselves at these men, mainly for the money. So typically they are accustomed to a certain type of behavior from women… which includes certain behaviors that turn them off." She holds up a hand and begins counting fingers. "Things to avoid: don't pry into his business practices unless he discusses with you first; learn to read his moods, but generally speaking try to avoid being clingy or needy; don't act jealous if he is being friendly with another woman; and last but not least, keep him guessing. I won't generalize Xavier, but most men of his financial stature are, to some extent, in the game for the thrill of it; they tend to enjoy some level of spice in their romantic lives, as well."

Katherine nods at Nina, laughing softly. "I don't believe in Prince Charming, so we'll see what he is." She listens to Nina carefully, only drinking her coffee once she starts to speak. She blinks at a few things, her head tilted slightly when she discusses jealousy. "Honestly, Nina, and I'll pretend that I never said this if it comes up again? I don't mind if he sees someone else, as long as he is honest with me. I know what I am, and I know what kind of man he is. He expects certain things, and goes to certain events that I might not fit into. If he can find someone to fit that mold for him…it is what it is." She leans back in her chair, sipping again from her coffee. "If women in town are throwing themselves at him, I haven't seen it. If he was sleeping with other women and keeping it from me, he probably wouldn't have given me a key." She lets out a soft breath. "Thank you for all of that advice though, I'm going to take it to heart. I just want him to be happy, you understand? If it's with me, excellent. If it's not, hopefully we can be friends. Moreso than how things ended up with my ex."

"I didn't mean necessarily in Calaveras, but overall." Nina clarifies. "Xavier is at a somewhat disadvantage here because, from what I gather, he is seen as this big, bad corporate presence in town. Things would be quite different if he is in a big city." Beat. "But I think you are in a fairly good position with Xavier, to be honest." Nina nods sagely. "You have your own business, and own family to focus on. If he is not the center of your existence, then you are already avoiding most of those pitfalls." She pauses to take another sip of the green tea. "I take it things ended poorly with your ex?"

Katherine nods at Nina, biting down on her bottom lip as she listens. "Yes. It ended because of Xavier, sort of." She wrinkles her nose and glances away. "I wasn't really happy with him, he is a good guy, but he's not very emotionally available." She glances back at Nina, and after a moment she takes a drink from her cup. "He can't be the center of my world, my world is rather large and kind of scary at the moment. I got some answers about Sarah, and ..I'm not terribly sure what to do about /that/." She folds her hands and places them in her lap. "Do you practice these things with Julian? Pardon me being nosy, if you don't want to answer, you don't have to. But I'm curious…"

"It's only fair to share if we are talking about relationships." Nina smiles crookedly in response to Katherine's question. "I do, but maybe to a lesser extent. Julian isn't a rich developer with sensitive information to juggle, for instance, and he does enjoy talking about his work. Men like Julian tend to be… what's the right word? Loyal, I suppose, because they are not constantly faced with temptation. But keeping things interesting is general enough, that it's useful in any relationship." She trails off here, and aims a rather cautious glance towards Kate, as if gauging the other woman's tone and mood. "Julian mentioned in passing that Sarah may have a serious illness. I hope it's not what he was guessing…"

"Multiple sclerosis." Katherine says quietly, gazing down at her hands as the words come out. "I need to find her a doctor, she's looking on her own too. Xavier offered to call in some favors from Chicago, but I think I should save that for a last resort. If we can't find something here." She gets to her feet, moving to take the pie from the oven, pouring herself another cup of coffee. "Julian is a wonderful person, and I'm happy that he's found someone like you. I think that he was lonely for a long time, and I wanted him to not be." She moves to retake her seat and she stirs her coffee slowly. "Things will work out as they're meant to, I think."

Nina purses her lips and nods slowly at the revelation of Sarah's mystery, and what plans are being put in place. "I am sorry about Sarah." She finally says, her voice quiet. "Dealing with a family long-term sickness is never an easy thing, but at least it's a condition that can be somewhat controlled. Let me know too if I can help in some way… I know traditional Chinese herbal medicine isn't well trusted or understood in America, but it didn't exist for two thousand years without some basis in fact. So if at some point you and Sarah decide to give alternative medicine a try…" She leaves the offer open, and as always, doesn't push for an answer. Instead, she heaves a sigh and resumes a weak smile at the talk of Julian. "Yes he has been lonely for a long time. He's also hurt inside for a long time. I'm trying to slowly draw him out, and help him to return to normal." Beat. "I just wish he'd stop slapping me on the behind." Cue eyeroll!

"I'll ask Sarah if she wants to give it a try. She's very ..very much wanting to stand on her own two feet." Katherine wrinkles her nose and she shifts in her seat, drawing her legs up underneath her. "She wasn't going to tell me anything, I only found out because she was talking on the phone outside and I overheard her." She brushes her hair back, and when the talk turns to Julian, she giggles. "If anyone can do it, Nina, it's going to be you and I imagine…" She blinks and clears her throat, tilting her head slightly to the side. "I imagine he does that because he thinks you like it." She smothers any more giggles, gazing down at her coffee. "Men, right?"

Nina can't suppress the helpless amusement on her lips, but she's trying. Instead, she spreads her hands. "Until Julian, I haven't met a man who does that to me. At first I thought it is a Calaveras thing, because of all the ranches and rodeos. Maybe the local men treat the women like horses?" She shrugs both shoulders and shakes her head. "I find it a bit disrespectful. Don't you agree? Or is it only me?"

"It isn't a Calaveras thing." Katherine responds, giggling softly. She almost coughs when Nina asks if men treat the local women like horses. "Not that I know of, and I haven't had my ass smacked in quite a while, so it might only be you. I thought it was hilarious the last time it happened to me."

Nina bobs her head at Katherine's confirmation, and can only heave another sigh. "Then I don't know why he would think I enjoy it. In my recollection, at no point did I ask him to… as you said, 'smack my ass'." Those words sound almost strange coming from Nina's mouth, who is always prim and proper and professional. She picks up the cup again, and downs the rest of the tea. "I think the next time he does it, I will ask him if he wants me to gallop faster." Is that a deadpan? It sounds like a deadpan.

Katherine chortles softly and she leans her cheek against her hand, quirking a brow at Nina. "Well, maybe he thinks you enjoy it, I guarantee if you ask him if he wants you to gallop faster, he'll at least laugh." She gazes down at her coffee and shrugs. "He does things that you do enjoy though, right? I mean, you're not unhappy in that department, I do hope."

Nina glances over to the chortling Katherine, as if not sure whether she should answer that! But she ends up grinning a bit and indeed does respond. "That was the only thing that bother me slightly; otherwise we definitely enjoy each other's company. And the things we do together." She lifts a hand to comb her long hair back, and maybe just a tiny bit of a blush enters her cheeks. "We are happy in that department. Sometimes, maybe, a bit TOO MUCH happiness. Sometimes I just want to sit down together and watch a movie, and be a little LESS happy." Even as she says all this, Nina can't help but chuckle a little. "I apologize if that's more than you wanted to hear."

Katherine nods at Nina, almost fascinated when she starts to blush. "Too much happiness, is that really a thing?" She purses her lips and she shakes her head at Nina, laughing softly. "It's a lot less than I figured you'd say, really. Well tell him that you could do with a little less happy and see what he says. Xavier is busy enough so that we're only that happy maybe twice a week? Which is..almost perfect for me." Her cheeks heat up and she blushes, gazing down at her hands. "Uh..Nina? Julian once told me that he was like a hammer, and I have a little bit of a problem that might need a hammer. It doesn't have anything to do with Xavier, it actually has to do with Mister Malone. I don't want to ask him to help me, but I'm not sure if this is something that really /needs/ a police presence."

Clearly, that's enough talk about HAPPINESS! Nina's hands hold the now-empty cup, and she takes a deep breath to bury THAT particular topic. But her attention is on Katherine's next comment, which brings a curious, yet also serious expression to Nina's face. "But… it might?" She follows up on the implied meaning of Katherine's words, but otherwise lets the other woman elaborate on this problem.

"I need to ask Mister Malone to leave and I'm afraid to." Katherine says, tilting her head to the side, wincing slightly. "Do you think I should call the police instead? I'm pretty out of my depth with this."

Nina lapses back into her unreadable face at that, which evidently is also her thinking face. "I think that depends. I mean, it's well within your rights as proprietress to ask a guest to leave, but did he do something wrong… or illegal? And more importantly, do you think he will do something violent if you ask him to go?" There's a thoughtful pause. "Because if the latter is true, what's stopping him from coming back later?"

"He made me uncomfortable. He expressed a desire to have my attention focused on him when I told him that I was seeing someone. We got into a shouting match, but it was mostly me that shouted?" Katherine gazes at Nina, eyebrow raised slightly. "People think I should ask him to leave because of that, but I think he was leaving shortly anyway."

Nina and Katherine are sitting at the dinner table, nursing a couple of (mostly empty) mugs. They seem to be engaged in a fairly serious discussion at the moment, that Nina has folded both arms on the table top. "Have you talked to Xavier about it, and see what he thinks? I imagine if you ask Julian, yes, he may take the 'hammer' approach and make things worse."

"He was the one who said I should ask him to leave." Katherine remarks quietly, gazing down into her coffee. "I have never had to ask a guest to go before." She remarks quietly, nodding at Nina. "I don't want it to get worse so I suppose I'll have to hike up my big girl britches and make this work." She gets to her feet, moving over to the stove. "Dinner Nina, or do you have to run?" She asks, scooping shephard's pie into a bowl.

Esme walked in to the B&B, taking a look around before walking towards the Kitchen. She slowed to a stop in the doorway, watching Nina and Katherine. She didn't want to eavesdrop, but couldn't help overhear a little bit. She had slipped off her coat and was wearing a pair of black slacks with a cozy green sweater. A beat of pause but once Kate asked Nina about dinner, she spoke up. "Good evening you two." A small smile gracing her features.

As if on cue, as soon as Katherine asks the question about dinner, Nina's phone starts buzzing. She brings it out of her handbag — it's not a call, but an alarm. "I actually have a conference call I need to get to, in 15 minutes. But I appreciate the offer; maybe this weekend?" She gets to her feet and moves over to get her coat. Once she puts it on, she starts to head towards the kitchen exit… just in time to cross paths with Esme. "Good evening to you." She offers politely, smile and all. "I apologize but I'm in a bit of a rush to head out." So introductions? Next time. But Nina does add to Katherine. "If you think it helps and you can schedule it, Katherine, I can make myself available and be here when you tell him. Having a third person around who-is-not-a-hammer might help diffuse the situation."

"It's okay." Katherine's cheeks get pink when Esme walks in, but she blinks and clears her throat, gesturing for her to come further in. "Thank you Nina, I'll keep that in mind. Esme? Would you like something to eat or drink?" She asks, stepping around the counter to pull out a chair for her.

Esme gives a little wave to Nina and then walked over to the counter, offering Kate a smile. "Water, I think, would be great. I'm feeling a little off today, so I'm not sure on the eating part. Not that I don't love your cooking." She took her seat, studying the woman. "Are you okay? I didn't mean to overhear but…I overheard a little bit. It sounded like it was…maybe about Xavier? You don't have to go into it." She added in quickly - not wanting to seem like she was being nosy.

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