Authors: Marilyn Brant
Copyright 2012 by Marilyn B. Weigel
Cover Design by Rebecca Young
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the copyright owner and the publisher of this book, excepting brief quotations used in reviews.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, businesses or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Kindle Edition, License Notes:
is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This
may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return to Amazon.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author's work.
Learn more about award-winning author Marilyn Brant at her website:
Other Books by Marilyn Brant:
According to Jane
Friday Mornings at Nine
A Summer in Europe
On Any Given Sundae
Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Match (coming January 2013)
**EXTRA: Three Romance Novel Excerpts Are Included At The End Of This
For Jeff, who loves
and can croon “White Christmas” as beautifully as Bing.
Shannon Quinn made a final adjustment to the heart-shaped banner above the inn’s reception desk and sighed.
Yet another holiday weekend spent alone. Well, at work, which amounted to the same thing. If this romantic dry spell didn’t let up soon, she’d have to consider investing in an inflatable man.
her clipboard across the counter to her assistant Jake. “You get to register the next set of guests,” she told him. “I’m all out of ink.”
Jake studied her fuzzy pink Cupid pen with one of his I’m-too-sexy-for-my-ballpoint looks. “And I’m all out of love, babe,” he crooned, bringing his palm to his chest as if struck by the romance god’s arrow. “I’m
lost without you. But, maybe, if you give me a kiss to recharge my batteries, I could—”
“Knock it off,” she said, laughing. “A guest might overhear you.” The guy brought sexual suggestiveness to every conversation and wasn’t above singing sappy love ballads for effect, but she knew better than to take him seriously. Her smooth-talking assistant was a Grade-A flirt.
Which was part of his charm.
But it was the kind of charm best kept out of an employer-employee relationship and better used to keep the young female guests at her Door County, Wisconsin inn amused and intrigued on “holiday” weekends. Jake
never had trouble scoring girlfriends, and Shannon knew her brush-off wouldn’t deter him from finding companionship that weekend. Or any weekend.
The front door swung open and a gust of February chill swirled inside, along with three snow-covered adults. Two men. One woman. An easy registration. Jake could handle this.
Shannon took a few steps toward the backroom to restock the printer paper and grab a couple of new Valentine pens.
“Hi, I’m Trevor Wainwright, and this is my wife Gina,” the shorter of the two men said, finger-combing his blond hair with one hand and rubbing the young woman’s snowy shoulder with the other. “We have a reservation for this weekend.” He winked at his lady, a petite brunette who looked to be about four or five years older than Shannon’s twenty-six. “For a room with a king-sized bed.”
“Of course,” Jake said, typing the name into the computer. “The
from St. Paul, Minnesota?”
The blond man nodded.
Jake hit a key to print out the
record. “Here it is,” he said, putting the sheet on his clipboard along with a pen covered with red, white and pink hearts. “Please read this over and sign it, sir.” To Shannon, Jake said, “That was the last of the printer paper.”
“I’ll be right back with more,” she told him, feeling two sets of eyes on her—the woman’s and the other man’s. That taller, darker one who wasn’t her husband. He was an intense-looking guy with jet-black hair, and he had an unsettling but somehow provocative gaze. It was a Come-here-baby/Don’t-touch-me look, the kind Bad Boys who’d grown into Dangerous Men possessed.
“Thanks,” Jake said. “And, hey, if you find a plain old
back there, that’d be fine by me…”
Shannon just laughed, but she heard Jake mutter something to the male guests about his “masculinity taking a hit with all these
pink things lying around.” The woman, Gina Wainwright, chuckled slightly.
Shannon raced through her chores in the backroom so she could get back out to the reception desk again, unable to account for her curiosity about the new guests. True, the three of them made an attractive trio, but she wasn’t quite sure where the powerful-looking dark-haired man fit into the lovey-dovey couple’s weekend’s revelries. A threesome? It didn’t seem that way, exactly, but she was willing to shamelessly eavesdrop as Jake processed the guy’s registration in order to find out.
Hey, it was within her rights. She owned the place, after all. Had to know what kind of guests she was dealing with, didn’t she?
She emerged with an armload of paper, refilled the empty printer tray then laid out a few new cutesy pens on the countertop. Gina grinned at her, so she returned the friendly gesture. Then the woman’s attention shifted to the unadorned fingers of Shannon’s left hand, which still rested on the countertop near the pens.
“Trevor, honey,” Gina said sweetly to her husband, her grin broadening. “I want a little tour of this quaint inn. Right now.” She raised her eyebrows in his direction.
Her husband raised his eyebrows back. “A
Gina glanced pointedly at Jake. “Excuse me, sir. Would you be so kind as to show us around for a few minutes? Perhaps your colleague,” she gave a cheery nod to Shannon, “would be able to register our friend? He wishes to settle in for the night in his own room, but we’re
anxious to explore our surroundings.”
Shannon wasn’t certain, but she could’ve sworn the dark-haired man rolled his eyes at this pronouncement. Gina’s husband, Trevor, let out a short laugh that he tried without success to cover up with a cough.
Jake peeked over at Shannon, not in on the trio’s joke but not opposed to stepping away from his desk duties either. With a smirk that seemed to say
What can I do? A guest’s wishes always come first
, Jake stood up and turned to Gina. “At your service, ma’am.”
This left Shannon and the tall, unsmiling man just watching as Jake led the happy couple sashaying down the hall. Terrific. Now she was alone with Mr. Intensity.
She cleared her throat. “Welcome to Holiday Quinn, sir. May I have your name, please?”
The man’s glance appraised her—there was no other way to describe it—from her chest upward. Granted, her chest, shoulders and head were all that were visible behind the registration desk’s counter, but
. She mentally fumed over this distinct act of rudeness until she saw his stony face break into a full smile.
“I apologize,” he said in a voice that was far deeper and much more resonant than she’d expected. “I could see immediately why Gina selected you as my personal desk attendant for tonight, but you must excuse her matchmaking tendencies. She’s incorrigible.”
Shannon looked into his sharp hazel eyes, stunned by his candor and even more shocked at being “selected” as any kind of a match for him. Alpha males weren’t the type to appear often on her dating radar. And this one was too, too…just too much.
Of something. Of everything.
-thank you,” she stammered. “I think.” Then added, “Your name, please?”
He laughed briefly. “Yes, of course. The reservation is under
.” He paused. “Unless it’s under
.” His forehead creased and he frowned. “Perhaps try searching under that name first.”
Shannon stubbornly typed in “
” and found his computer file, but it was cross-referenced with, yes, an Angie
—the woman who’d originally made the weekend reservation. Shannon didn’t know why, but her stomach roller-
downward at this news. From the “matchmaking” comment, she’d foolishly assumed this towering, commanding man was single. Silly her.
“I’ve found your reservation, Mr.
. You’re from Minneapolis, Minnesota, correct?” she asked him in her most professional voice. He seemed the type to demand a professional demeanor in all things.
He nodded once.
“We’re all set, then.” She printed out his form and handed him a pen. “Will Ms.
be arriving later tonight, or shall we expect her in the morning?”
The handsome Mr.
didn’t immediately respond, but his face turned to rock-like seriousness again in an instant. He pressed his lips together in a line of clear displeasure, and Shannon was certain of only one thing: This was
the kind of man she’d ever want to upset. He looked capable of biting off the heart-shaped heads of all her Valentine’s Day pens, starting with the red-sequined one he was holding in a death grip. Not an image she wanted to cling to, thanks.
will not be coming tonight. Or tomorrow. Or Sunday. You may safely remove her name from the reservation,” he said stiffly.
“Very well, Mr.
.” And Shannon had to admit to feeling a perverse pleasure in deleting the heretofore-unseen Angie
“And what would be
name, if you don’t mind my asking?” he said to her, still intense-looking but his lips turned up a tiny notch at the corners.
“My name is Shannon Quinn, sir.” And why, exactly, did so much as telling him her name make her heart rate speed up and her fingers twitchy? It must be that Bad-Boy/Dangerous-Man Factor again. Truth be told, this trait was starting to bug her.
, of course, did not look nervous. He did, however, appear downright surprised, and he couldn’t seem keep the shock off his face.
“Is your last name a lucky coincidence, Ms. Quinn, or are you related to the original owners of this charming establishment?”
“The luck of the Irish is always with me,” she shot back, determined not to let him intimidate her. “But, yes, I’m a direct descendent. The original owners were my grandparents. They opened the inn back in the mid-1940s.”
He quirked a brow. “Fans of the classic film, then?”
She knew what he was asking. Everyone wanted to know if Holiday Quinn was named after the famous Bing Crosby-Fred Astaire movie musical
“Yes,” she informed him. “The picture came out in 1942 and it was one of my Grandma Quinn’s all-time favorites. When she and my grandfather opened up their inn a couple of years later, the play on the name was intentional. However, until a few years ago, we were open all year round, not just on holidays. My parents made that change themselves.”
“Hmm.” He tilted his head, leaned in toward the counter and said, “Why?”
Because, as much as she tried to help them, they could no longer take care of the inn day after day by themselves. Because they loved her and wanted to leave her family’s legacy in good condition. Because they deserved to finally retire and enjoy the relaxation their elderly years afforded them.
Only, once they did, they died.
But Shannon wasn’t about to confide her personal life story to a man whose face, as far as she could tell, resembled a block of granite.
“Because they had a great sense of humor,” she said instead.
“Ah.” He glanced around the lobby, a glint of interest in those intelligent eyes. He focused them again on her. “And what about you, Ms. Quinn? Do you have a great sense of humor, too?”
“I’d like to think so, but everyone believes that about themselves. I could be sadly deluded.”
actually laughed. “Delightful,” he murmured, just loud enough for her to hear. He signed the forms, pushed her copies back across the counter toward her and pulled out his
. After a moment of squinting at it and fiddling with the buttons, he said, “So, Gina tells me there are also singles’ events at the inn this weekend. What’ve you got scheduled?”
“We have a High Tea Mix-n-Mingle tomorrow at four, the Queen of Hearts Singles’ Dance tomorrow night from eight until midnight and the Valentine’s Morning-After Breakfast on Sunday at nine.”
“The Queen of Hearts Singles’ Dance…” he repeated, staring down at his cell phone again. “That sounds almost promising.”
He gave her one of his cool, assessing stares. “Well, I’d only be sure if I knew who was planning to attend the function.” He paused. “Any chance you’ll be there?”
A strange but thankfully temporary panic gripped her throat. “Of course, Mr.
,” she managed to reply. “I run the inn. I oversee everything.”
He broke into a near-grin, one clearly calculated to subdue women into compliance. “In that case, count on me to show up.” Then he leaned forward, as if about to ask a personal question, when the electronic version of an old dance tune, “La Vida
,” blared from somewhere inside his clothing. Curious choice of ringtone.
He grimaced and reached into his coat pocket. “Excuse me,” he told her before clicking on his cell phone. “
,” he said into it. Then, “
.” He listened, winced and took the room key she extended toward him. He waved his thanks, grabbed his bag and strode in the direction of the stairs. The last words she heard him say were
. The man spoke rapid-fire Italian. How weird was that…and, okay, how very cool. For someone with such a stately façade, she never would’ve guessed he’d be fluent in a Language of Love. What other surprises hid behind that composed demeanor? She stared after him.