Read an Excerpt
"Every woman I knowno matter how successful and ambitious, how financially and emotionally securefeels panic, occasionally coupled with desperation, if she hits thirty and finds herself unmarried."
Sage Alexander huffed after reading aloud an article by R. G. McCall. "I think panic overstates it, let alone desperation!" She tossed the magazine on the coffee table, nearly knocking over her glass of lemonade.
In a swift move, Sage rescued the glass and took a sip. Still fuming over the article, she uttered, "He's a man. What does he really know about women?"
"Perhaps you should finish the article before passing judgment, dear?" her mother suggested with a tiny smile. "Besides, R.G. may be a woman." Barbara Alexander took a long sip of the ice-cold lemonade before setting her glass down on a side table.
Barbara Alexander had decided to spend the day in Beverly Hills, leaving the peaceful estate home in Pacific Palisades she had come to love. She spent the morning talking to employees and hotel patrons. Sage had prepared a light lunch of grilled chicken salad, yeast rolls and steamed broccoli. They had just finished eating and sat down to relax in the living room while finishing off their glasses of lemonade.
Sage set her glass down, making sure it was secure on the Brazilian-cherry coaster. She wrinkled her nose and shook her head, saying, "Oh, he's definitely a man, Mama. I can tell from the tone of his articles. He comes across as cynical and bitter in his writing as far as I'm concerned. He is someone with a serious chip on his shoulder."
She ran her fingers through her soft curls. "I have no idea why Kellen likes his work so much." Sage made a mental note to ask her brother why he was such a fan of R. G. McCall. "Maybe it's because he's so mysterious. All anyone really knows about him is his name," Sage said.
"I've read a few of his articles," Barbara stated. "I can certainly understand why he is so protective of his identity. He tends to get to the heart of the matter, and a lot of people would prefer to keep the truth buried. I think he's usually unbiased in his articles."
"What he does is throw rocks at you and then hides his hand," Sage sniped. She had no idea why she'd allowed this writera man she had never metto get under her skin like this. Maybe it was because he had chosen a topic that was a bit too close for comfort for Sage.
That topic was her state of singleness.
Barbara chuckled. "Well, he's certainly got you riled up this afternoon. Maybe it's a good thing that you didn't finish reading the article."
Sage gave a grudging nod. "Mama, I'm going to be thirty in October. I really don't need R. G. McCall telling me that I'm in panic mode or desperate just because I would like to settle down and have a family. That man has rubbed me the wrong way this time with his choice in subject."
"Don't take it so personally, dear."
Her mother was right, but it was hard to just ignore the article. It was just one of many on the subject of women reaching the thirty-year mark. It was Sage's birthday wish to find the man of her dreams, although deep down she felt as if her knight in shining armor was nothing more than a dream that would never come true.
Sage had dated a few times since her arrival in Los Angeles, and some of the men were really nice, but they were not the type of man she wanted in her life long-term for various reasons. Sage knew that she had to really be careful in her choices of men due in part to her sudden fame. The Alexander family had been thrust into the limelight, and Sage soon found herself with no shortage of admirersmostly men who were hoping to land a wealthy heiress.
Her father had inherited the late Robert DePaul's vast estate nearly a year ago, which included the luxury chain of what was now known as the Alexander-DePaul Hotel & Spa. Before the inheritance, they were just a family living a normal life in the small town of Aspen, Georgia, located forty miles west of Atlanta. They were still the same people before the fame and money, but it seemed as though everyone else had changed around them. People close to them treated them differently.
"I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting to be married and ready to start a family before thirty-five," Sage blurted. "I want to be able to enjoy my children before I'm too old."
"You're right, sweetie," Barbara agreed. "There's nothing wrong with the way you feel. As for a family, I wouldn't worry about it. Just trust that the Lord will bring the right man at the right time."
Sage embraced her mother. "Thanks, Mama. I'm so glad I decided to come to Los Angeles. I would have hated being so far away from you." Sage and her brothers Ari, Blaze and Drayden all relocated to Los Angeles to work with their parents at the newly named Alexander-DePaul corporate offices. Her expertise was in real estate, which is why her father had given Sage the responsibility for overall sales of the portfolio of residences located at the hotel in the heart of Beverly Hills and steps from renowned Rodeo Drive.
"I'm glad you're here, too," Barbara responded. "I don't know if Malcolm could handle all this without his children." She rose to her feet. "Thanks so much for lunch and the conversation. I'm supposed to meet your daddy in an hour. I've finally convinced him to give his wardrobe a face-lift."
Sage broke into a grin. "Good luck with that." Her father hated shopping with a passion.
She and Barbara embraced and then headed to the door.
They took the private elevator down to the garage. "I'll give you a call later in the week," Sage told her mother. "If you and Daddy don't have any plans, I might drive out to the house this weekend. I want to see the new renovations." Her parents had decided to change some things in the house. They wanted their blended personalities echoed throughout every room.
"We'll be home," Barbara responded.
They embraced again in the parking garage before Barbara headed to her car.
Sage watched her mother get into the car, and she remained glued to the spot until Barbara drove away.
Instead of returning to her penthouse, Sage decided to walk through the hotel. The Beverly Hills property had been inspired by the Spanish Revival architecture and Mediterranean styling that was so prevalent in the area. The interior evoked timeless elegance in sun-drenched colors of gold, salmon, coral and cream, which Sage found awe-inspiring and beautiful.
Her life was perfect, Sage thought to herself.
But it would be even better if she had someone to share it with.
Ryan Manningaka R. G. McCallwas thirty-two years old, living in New York, and had been working as an investigative reporter for the past ten years with a major newspaper. After his painful divorce and suffering from writer's block, Ryan decided to take a year off. His other love was cooking, so he opened a restaurant in Manhattan. However, his passion for the written word and the truth called him back into news reportingthis time as a freelance writer. His restaurant had turned out to be a very successful venture and was currently managed by his brother.
A news short on television caught Ryan's eye.
The story of Malcolm Alexander inheriting the De-Paul estate was still news, even though Robert DePaul had been gone for almost a year. People were still hungry for any information about this family from a small town in Georgia who had captured the hearts of the people in Los Angeles.
What's so special about them? he wonderedoutside of being fortunate enough to have Robert DePaul's blood running through their veins.
The late Robert DePaul had been a very generous man during his lifetime. Ryan had heard many stories of Robert paying off medical bills of complete strangers, bestowing cars upon some who could not afford to buy one and even taking in a homeless man, giving him a job. He had often championed the rights of the homeless over the years.
Ryan's current project was going to be a series of articles on the plight of homeless people in large citiesmore specifically, Beverly Hills and some of the wealthier areas across the country. He had always been vocal in his criticism of how many of the wealthy residents complain about the homeless, but instead of trying to help, they treat them like criminals. There were those who were eager to spend thousands on a pair of shoes instead of giving a few dollars to a homeless person. To prove his point, Ryan spent some time on the streets of New York gathering firsthand information for his article.
Later that evening, he was flying to Los Angeles. He was going undercover as a homeless man in Beverly Hills. He wanted to profile some of the homeless people who lived in the shadows of Southern California's most affluent areas.
Ryan decided to include the Alexander family in his series along with a select group of celebrities. He wanted to see whether Malcolm Alexander had inherited his father's philanthropic nature. He was curious to see if the Alexander family was as wonderful as everyone assumed. People could only keep up an act for so long.
He knew that the members of the family would eventually slip up, and then the truth would come out about them. Ryan intended to be the one to report it.
To pass the time on the airplane, Ryan decided to draft parts of his article. He hoped that his writing on the subject of homelessness challenged those who were more fortunate to experience what these people had to deal with on a daily basis and moved them to take action.
His hands tapped a steady rhythm on the keyboard of his laptop.
In this manicured community of35,000, Rolls-Royces and Lamborghinis glide around the city streets of Beverly Hills and movie stars live in grand mansions .
Ryan paused a moment, reading what he had typed, then he added, However, this city does not just boast of celebrities but is also well-known for its small population of scruffy residents who live in parks, bus shelters and alleys.
He was not sure that was exactly how he would begin the article, but it worked for the moment.
Ryan leaned his head back and closed his eyes, resting them. He had not realized just how exhausted he was until this very moment. Before leaving New York, he'd had to make sure that his brother had everything under control at the restaurant. Ryan had also wanted to finish another project, so he'd stayed up late last night and woke up early. He closed up the laptop and put it away before falling asleep.
He woke up an hour later. They would not be landing in Los Angeles for another two hours, so Ryan retrieved his laptop and opened it. He decided to attempt to complete the introduction for his article.
The hair on the back of his neck stood up.
Ryan glanced around until he met the gaze of a beautiful young woman. She smiled brightly, pleased that she had caught his attention.
He smiled in return.
Ryan had dated some since his divorce, but his constant traveling prevented him from investing any real time into a relationship. However, Sandra had put him through two years of pure hell. Ryan was pretty sure that he would never marry again.
He refused to allow another woman to shatter his heart into a million pieces ever again.