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Authors: Jamie K. Schmidt

Life's a Beach

BOOK: Life's a Beach
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Life's a Beach
is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

A Loveswept eBook Original

Copyright © 2016 by Jamie K. Schmidt

Excerpt from
Beach Happens
by Jamie K. Schmidt copyright © 2016 by Jamie K. Schmidt

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Loveswept, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

L
OVESWEPT
is a registered trademark and the
L
OVESWEPT
colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.

This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book
Beach Happens
by Jamie K. Schmidt. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.

eBook ISBN 9781101886588

Cover design: Caroline Teagle

Cover photograph: © Yuri/Getty Images

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Chapter 1

Amelia Parker had to get through the next twenty-four hours and then she could reward herself with the world's biggest mai tai. Maneuvering over the slush-covered Manhattan sidewalks, she curled her toes back to keep them dry. She should have been wearing her boots, but there wasn't enough room in her locker for them and Mr. Kensington didn't like the desk staff in anything but dress shoes. But she couldn't think about work right now. Not before coffee anyway. Narrowly avoiding a puddle, she trudged toward the first place she went to every day. She could see the café's sign up ahead, and it gave her the energy to push forward that last block.

Each step was one step closer to Hawaii and flip-flops, she told herself.

Shouldering open the door of the Colombian Roasting House, she took a deep, appreciative breath. The smell of the coffee beans in this place gave her a contact high. She took her hands out of her pockets to hold the door open as two other customers came in behind her. The place was packed.

The barista looked up and called out, “Two extra-large house blends, milk, sugar, and a dash of cinnamon?”

Amelia gave her two thumbs-up. “Work your miracles, Quinn.”

Quinn, who was not just the barista but the café's owner, could have been a model. Tall, statuesque, and blond, she also had an impressive cleavage that she showed off to all the customers, but her coffee was the main attraction. Amelia always felt a little faded and frazzled next to her, but that could be the lack of caffeine talking. Adjusting her ponytail to catch all the dark brown strands that were trying to escape, Amelia wondered if she should get her hair braided island style. She could picture herself under a large canopy by the ocean, sipping a piña colada and gazing at the hot surfers.

Standing with the other people waiting for coffee, Amelia unwound her scarf to take advantage of the heat inside the café. Her numb toes unfurled and she wiggled them to get feeling back into them. She couldn't wait to dig them into the sand. Maybe she'd even take surfing lessons. Thousands of details zoomed around in her head, but she knew from experience nothing would fall into line until her first cup. Eventually she got to the counter and leaned over it to watch Quinn grind the beans to mix into the perfect blend of coffee.

“When are you and Jay leaving for Maui?” Quinn asked without looking up from tamping down the beans.

“Tomorrow,” Amelia said, bouncing on her heels. “I can't wait. Sunshine and sand, here I come.”

Quinn made a face out the window. “Wish I was going. I still can't believe you haven't told him yet. I couldn't keep something like that a secret.”

“He suspects something's up,” Amelia admitted. “Although I'm pretty sure he thinks I'm taking us out to dinner to celebrate our second anniversary.”

“Has it been two years already?” Quinn poured the coffee into to-go cups.

“Seems like forever,” Amelia said. Sometimes not in a good way either. But she brushed that thought aside. Things would be better once they could get away from the city and relax for a little while.

“You don't think he's going to feel weird?” Quinn surprised her by continuing the conversation. She was still cranking out espressos, but it wasn't like her to be chatty, especially with her morning rush going on.

Amelia took a sip and closed her eyes in bliss. “Nah, it's not like he's got anywhere else to be. I checked his calendar.”

It helped that Jay was a trust fund baby who researched video games all day in preparation for one day launching his own company.

“And I packed for both of us last week. All he has to do is get up at four a.m. tomorrow.”

That was going to be the hardest part of pulling all this off. Maybe she'd just do an all-nighter with him playing Dragon Age or something.

“So you're probably going to have to work late tonight?” Quinn sprayed whipped cream into several containers and capped them.

“No doubt.” Amelia sighed. “Got to make sure they can live without me for two weeks.”

Quinn gave her a wide smile. “Well, have a nice vacation. Take lots of pictures.”

“I don't know what I'll do without your coffee every morning,” Amelia said over her shoulder as she wound her way through the crowd to go back outside.

“You'll figure something out,” Quinn called after her.

The cold dampness smacked into Amelia's face as it started to sleet.

“Maui,” she repeated to herself over and over again, like a prayer. One more day of New York in January to get through and then she'd be snorkeling and parasailing. Assuming, of course, that the sleet didn't turn into snow and JFK grounded her flight.

“Noooo,” she moaned. She would check her phone once her hands were free.

She made it to the bus stop with plenty of time to spare. Her crazy aunt Zarafina was sitting in her usual spot, huddled in five woolen shawls, each a different vibrant neon shade. She wore a Yankees knit cap and black fingerless gloves. She scooted over to make room for Amelia on the bench.

Amelia handed her one of the coffees. “Please tell me that my fortune is clear for tomorrow. I am going to fly out okay, right?” She checked Weather.com just in case.

Zarafina screwed up her wrinkled face and whispered a few words in Albanian. She was her father's sister and the only family she had in New York. The fact that she spent most of her days looking homeless and wandering around telling fortunes was a source of embarrassment for most of her family. Amelia adored her.

After a few moments, Zarafina nodded. “You will find adventure on the island.”

“And romance?” Amelia prompted.

“Yes, that too.” Zarafina slurped her coffee. “Is good.” She nodded in approval. “You're a good girl. Your life will change in Ha-vah-ee.”

Amelia blew out a relieved breath. Zarafina was never wrong. She had predicted that Amelia would get the job at the Goldfish Hotel. She'd foreseen her meeting and moving in with Jay. Zarafina was also her guru, her mentor, her best friend, and her stand-in mother all rolled up in one. She made her money telling fortunes and reading tarot cards. Business was better in the summertime. Amelia worried about her when the weather was bad.

“Are you going to be warm enough today?” Amelia looked up at the gray sky. Big white flakes were starting to come down.

“I'll be fine,” she said. “I'll go to the Y if it gets too cold.”

Amelia bit her lip. “You can come to my place. It's just down the street. Jay won't mind. He probably won't even be up yet.”

“It's not your place,” Zarafina said, patting her hand. “It's his. And I would not want to disturb his plans for the day.”

“I live there too,” Amelia said indignantly.

“Do you pay rent?”

Amelia shook her head. “No, but that shouldn't matter.” They had an arrangement. He took care of rent and she took care of the rest. That was what made it possible for her to keep living in Manhattan, where she had a good job.

Her aunt smiled.

“Don't worry about me, honey. You need to prepare for your own adventure.”

“I'm already packed.”

“Yes.” Zarafina closed her eyes and nodded. “You are ready. And you will know what to do when the time comes.”

“That sounds a little ominous,” Amelia said as the bus pulled up.

“You need to be on that plane tomorrow. It is your destiny.” The older woman's eyes popped open. “Promise me.” She gripped Amelia's arm.

“I promise.” Amelia tried not to be a little freaked by her aunt's insistence.

“Good.” Zarafina released her. “Now, don't be late for work.”

“I'll see you later?” Amelia gathered up her stuff and got in line to get on the bus.

“Sooner than you think.” Zarafina waved to her as the bus pulled away.

She probably wouldn't see Zarafina until after her trip. Amelia hoped someone would bring Zarafina coffee and make sure she was safe during the two weeks she'd be gone. Fretting a little, she wondered whom she could call to look out for her eccentric aunt. There was no one, really. Jay's friends weren't entirely reliable. All her friends and family were in Connecticut. Her father would tell her not to worry, that Zarafina could take care of herself.

Finishing up her coffee, Amelia felt the jigsaw pieces of her day snap into place. Eight hours or so of business as usual and then she was free. She'd have to call Jay later and see what he was in the mood to have for dinner and she'd pick up something on the way home. Hopping off the bus at her stop, Amelia added that to her mental to-do list.

The scuba divers were cleaning the floor-to-ceiling aquarium tanks in the lobby of the Goldfish Hotel. She knocked on the glass and waved as she passed by. Constructed to look like the inside of an aquarium, the themed hotel attracted a lot of tourists—and pet store conventions.

Ducking behind the faux pirate ship wreck that served as their front desk, Amelia stowed her purse under the concierge station and hooked up her earpiece. After fielding a few questions about local restaurants and theater tickets, Amelia thought it looked like it was going to be a slow day. And then the hotel manager, Mr. Kensington, approached her.

“I need you to stay late tonight.”

That wasn't unexpected. “Sure. What's going on?”

“Marco quit. He got a callback for the traveling troupe of
Aladdin.

“That's great.” Catching Mr. Kensington's glare, Amelia added hastily, “For him, I mean. Who's going to cover this weekend?”

“You are.” He frowned at her, then began to walk away.

“Wait.” She grabbed hold of his sleeve, snatching her hand back when he raised an eyebrow. “I'm leaving for Maui for two weeks tomorrow morning.”

“Oh, right, your vacation. I'm sorry,” he said, shaking his head. “You're going to have to postpone it.”

“I can't,” she said, trying desperately to keep her voice from squeaking.

“The hotel will reimburse you for your down payment. Cancel the rest of the transaction.”

She cleared her throat, willing herself not to cry. She would handle this like the professional she was. “Sir, you don't understand. It's already paid in full. I've been paying this off for the last year.”

He looked at her like she was an alien. “Who does that?”

Amelia crossed her arms. “People who don't have the open credit on their credit cards.”

“I'm not going to be able to get the hotel to reimburse you ten thousand dollars,” Mr. Kensington chuckled.

“I put in for this vacation a year ago.”

“I don't mean to be unsympathetic. If you can convince Marco to cover for you for the two weeks, that would be acceptable.” His phone rang. “Excuse me.”

Amelia refused to panic. She went back to her station and called Marco's cellphone; when he didn't answer, she left a message. No one picked up at his home either. Numb inside, she made lunch reservations around town for guests and arranged for a tour bus for a group of veterinarians visiting the city for the first time. She smiled automatically and did her job as if she was on autopilot. By lunchtime, Marco's phone was no longer accepting messages and Amelia had to come to terms with the fact that she was well and truly screwed. She didn't even have a coworker to commiserate with: the reservation staff was busy working on their own daily snafus. Not that the desk clerks would as much as piss on her if she was on fire, so she didn't even bother asking them to cover. Marco had set the stage for animosity between the concierges and the desk and bell staff long before she arrived, because of his attitude toward them—he liked to put on airs and order them around with snaps of his fingers. Even though she never did that, they gave her the cold shoulder on good days and outright tried to sabotage her on bad days.

After returning a few calls and handling some issue that came up, she had a moment free. Leaving her station, she knocked on Kensington's door. She let herself in at his terse “Come in.” He held up a finger at her while he finished a phone call. Tugging down on her skirt, Amelia tried not to fidget.

“Yes?” he asked, putting the phone back on its cradle.

“I haven't been able to get hold of Marco.”

He grunted. “That's probably for the best.”

“I can't cancel my plans.” She wrung her hands. “It's my second anniversary.”

“You're married?”

“No. Second anniversary of our first date.”

“Ms. Parker, let me stop you right there. You're a good worker. You have a career here. I can see you working your way up to hotel manager in a few years.”

“Thank you, sir,” she said automatically.

“But these opportunities come with sacrifices. Your boyfriend will understand.”

“It was supposed to be a surprise.” It was supposed to be a way to show him that she appreciated that he'd let her move in with him and not pay rent. It was supposed to be two weeks unplugged where they could find each other sexy and fun again. It was more than just two weeks in paradise to her. But how could she tell Mr. Kensington all that? He took off for Barbados at the drop of a hat. He didn't realize how much she'd scrimped and saved to take Jay on this trip of a lifetime.

“Then he doesn't even know? Perfect.”

Amelia slumped.

“Just call the resort and have them switch the dates of your vacation.”

“I'll try that.” It wouldn't have to be forever, just a couple more weeks. “When would be a good time for me to take off?”

He clicked through the schedule on his computer. “Wait until after conference season. April. Or better, May.”

Stifling a whimper, Amelia nodded. “Okay. I'll see what I can do.”

“Good. And if there's a reasonable fee, I'll put in for the hotel to reimburse you.”

“Thank you.”

This couldn't be happening to her. When she'd seen the ad for the all-inclusive resort in Hawaii last year, it had been like a dream come true. Fishing around under her desk, Amelia pulled out the brochure. It was creased and wrinkled from her having looked at it a million times. The hotel was shaped like a horseshoe around a gigantic pool and tiki bar. The beach in the distance showed cerulean blue waves with just a hint of whitecaps. She wanted to be on that beach so much, her teeth ached.

BOOK: Life's a Beach
4.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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