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From foes to friends to forever?
Screenwriter Wyatt Taylor can't let his dying father's work on a book about century-old Ladera Inn by the Sea come to naught, even if fulfilling that promise means going toe-to-toe with the innkeeper's spitfire daughter. His history with Alexandra Roman dates back to a competitive childhood rivalry, so he expects more of the same animosity. He must really be grieving to be caught off guard by Alex's beauty and ...
From foes to friends to forever?
Screenwriter Wyatt Taylor can't let his dying father's work on a book about century-old Ladera Inn by the Sea come to naught, even if fulfilling that promise means going toe-to-toe with the innkeeper's spitfire daughter. His history with Alexandra Roman dates back to a competitive childhood rivalry, so he expects more of the same animosity. He must really be grieving to be caught off guard by Alex's beauty and compassion.
For Alex's part, working with Wyatt is unfamiliar territory. The sooner she helps him realize his father's dream the sooner he'll be on his way and she can get back to caring for her family. Yet all it takes is one unexpected kiss to teach her that sometimes change can be for the better. Much better.
The old Victorian-style bed-and-break-fast inn played a part in Alexandra Roman's earliest memories.
Majestic and regal, the Wedgwood blue-and-white building had seen its share of history. A more compact version had been standing there long before she was born and, Alex had no doubt, the inn would continue to be there long after she was gone.
Unless, of course, it was torn down for having been transformed into a nauseating eyesore because her father, in one of his neverending bouts of kindheartedness, had given the go-ahead to a fast-talking general contractor whose taste, she was more than certain, began and ended in his mouth.
Periodically, Ladera-by-the-Sea, the 119-year-old bed-and-breakfast Alex's father owned and ran, underwent renovations. Those renovations either involved expansion—which took place when business was booming—or inevitable repairs as they became necessary. Sometimes both.
This time, they seemed to also involve a contractor who admittedly spoke only one language—English—but for some reason, did not seem to understand the word "no." No matter how many times she repeated it.
Or how loudly.
When J. D. Clarke smiled, it always looked like a sneer to her—and he was smiling now. However, at this point, the smile—in any form—was wearing a little thin.
As thin as Alex's patience.
Taking off the baseball cap that pledged his allegiance to the San Diego Padres, Clarke wiped his damp brow, then repositioned the cap on his completely hairless head.
"Look, trust me, honey, you're gonna love the changes. All we need to do is knock out that wall " He pointed vaguely in the direction of the load-bearing wall that separated the reception area from the dining room. "And then you'll have—"
"What I'll have is a huge gaping hole I not only will not 'love' but also definitely don't want." Alex narrowed her sharp blue eyes as she did her best not to glare at a man she found to be incredibly annoying. "Do you even realize that's a load-bearing wall?" she questioned. Not leaving him time to answer, Alex continued her verbal assault to get him to back off. "You're not knocking out anything. I am not your 'honey.' And I have no reason to trust you since you won't listen to reason and seem to have only half the attention span of a mentally challenged striped shoelace."
Clarke stared at her as he obviously attempted to untangle her last sentence so he could strike it down. But he failed. What he didn't fail at was displaying his contempt for her and her opinion. His smile was now very much a sneer.
"Look, lady, your father told me to use my judgment—"
Alex cut him short before Clarke could get going. "That was when my father believed you had some, which, looking at those scribbles you showed me that you call 'plans'—" she waved at the papers he had spread out on the reception desk "—you clearly do not."
The smile/sneer completely vanished, replaced by an angry scowl. "I intended to show these to your father before you cornered me," he accused her. "And if you think I'm just going to stand here and be insulted—"
"No," she informed him sweetly. "What I think is that you and your oversize ego should be getting ready to leave now. I'm really hoping I'm right about that."
There was neither patience nor friendliness in her voice. Those had become casualties in the last volley of words. It never ceased to amaze her how her father could see the good in everyone, including someone who was so obviously a con artist. Her father definitely belonged in a gentler, kinder era. Possibly the era that had seen the original construction of the building they were presently living in and running as an inn.
Her father also seemed to be preoccupied lately. Something was bothering him, which would account for why he'd agreed to contract this renovator without a more detailed quote and then approve his renovation plans after the fact. That meant it was up to her to make sure the contractor was reined in—or, in this case, sent packing.
She saw it as her job to protect her father. The way she had from the moment her mother had died.
His chunky legs spread wide apart, Clarke took a stance that fairly shouted, "I'm not going anywhere." His words reinforced his body language.
"I take my orders from your father," the contractor said haughtily, as if that was going to make her instantly retreat.
The smile that curved Alex's mouth had no humor behind it. "That might be true. However, I'm the one who writes all the checks, Mr. Clarke. You want to get paid, you either agree to work with me—and I do not approve of this particular set of renovation plans—or you take your 'helpers'—you can't miss them, they're the ones who have been doing an incredible imitation of 'still life' around the inn for the past week and a half—and your scribbled cartoons, and leave. Now." Her smile, no more genuine than Clarke's, returned. "The choice is yours."
J. D. Clarke scowled at the tall, willowy blonde with the viper tongue, clearly weighing his options.
She could almost read his thoughts. She was the owner's daughter, but she didn't exactly pose a physical threat to him. For a moment, Alex suspected he might actually try to physically confront her. She almost welcomed the idea. Then she'd show him precisely what kind of physical threat she could prove to be. Bring it on, guy!
Before he could take a step, however, Dorothy came into the reception area. Alex saw the older woman at the same time the contractor did. Their head housekeeper was staring straight at the man and Dorothy didn't look any friendlier than she must've. Dorothy, with her gray hair pulled back, could appear rather formidable when she wanted to. And she had the unquestioning loyalty of a German shepherd to the Roman family, even though, when it came to animals, she resembled a Saint Bernard a lot more than she did a German shepherd. A rather large Saint Bernard.
Her very body language announced just whose side, sight unseen, she was taking.
"Is there a problem, Miss Alex?" she asked, her deep gray eyes fixed on Clarke. She made no attempt to hide her contempt. Time and again, thought Alex, she had demonstrated she had no use for people who didn't show the proper respect for her family.
She shook her head. "No, no problem, Dorothy. Right, Mr. Clarke?" she asked pointedly, sparing the man a quick glance.
"Right." The contractor bit off and spat out the word as if it had been dipped in sardine oil that had gone bad months ago.
Muttering under his breath about having to deal with crazy women, Clarke collected his papers that illustrated the new—and pricey—"vision" he had for the inn, tucked them under his arm and marched toward the front door.
"I'm still sending you a bill," he declared, tossing the words over his shoulder as he paused for a beat at the threshold to the inn.
"And I'll be sure to look it over closely," Alex informed him amiably.
"Your father should have had sons," Clarke said as if he was uttering a curse. With that, he stomped out of the building.
He certainly wanted them, Alex couldn't help thinking. Her expression remained unchanged, giving no hint to her thoughts or that the disgruntled contractor had managed, through sheer dumb luck, to hit her exactly where she lived. It was a sore spot for her.
Dorothy took a step forward, her shoulders tensed, braced. Everything about her declared that she intended to make the man literally eat his words or cough up a serious apology. But Alex put a hand out to stop the woman before Dorothy could go after the contractor.
Instead she shook her head at Dorothy and raised her voice to call after the departing man, "I'll pass that along to him, Mr. Clarke. I'm sure my father will give your comment all the attention it deserves."
Now out of sight, they could hear Clarke gathering his team as he stormed off.
Dorothy turned and studied her. The woman had watched her grow from a gangly, awkward preteen into the poised, self-confident young adult she hoped people saw her as now . She sure worked hard enough to convey that image.
"Why did you stop me?" she asked. Alex knew that she and her three younger sisters were like daughters to Dorothy, who had no family to call her own. And since their mother's death, they were even more glad to have Dorothy in their lives. "I just wanted five minutes alone with him."
Alex laughed, shaking her head. She knew the offer came from the woman's very large heart, but it was still better not to allow that sort of one-on-one "meeting" to take place.
"That's four and a half minutes more than he could have handled, Dorothy," Alex told her with a wink.
Though polite, Dorothy was clearly angry. "He had no right to talk to you like that. He deserved to be put in his place," she said with feeling.
Alex flashed a smile at the older woman. This time there was absolutely nothing forced about it. Dorothy was one of the good ones. Like her father. "I appreciate you standing by me."
Dorothy laughed softly, shrugging off the thanks. "Not that you needed it. You fight your own battles well enough. You always have." Seemingly without realizing it, as she spoke she fisted her hands at her sides. "It's just that seeing him trying to put you down made me so angry—that fool isn't good enough to lick your boots." Dorothy glanced down at her feet. "Or high heels, as the case might be. So he's gone for good, right?" she asked, just to be certain that there was no need for her to hang around.
"Right," Alex confirmed. "Seems Clarke had a totally different vision for where the inn should be going than what was established by the family years ago."
Ladera-by-the-Sea Inn had begun as a modest little five-bedroom home, converted into an inn as an attempt by Ruth Roman, the original owner, to keep a roof over her children's heads after her husband was brought down by a stray bullet fired during a heated dispute between two other men.
Over the years, as different generations came to helm the inn, more rooms were added. Slowly, more rooms turned into wings, then modest guest houses until the inn seemed to become its own miniature village, but always with a single, distinguished Victorian motif. A motif that Clarke was obviously determined to change, turning the inn into a hodgepodge of old and modern, that would have resembled nothing specific and been part fish, part fowl and all very off-putting.
Clarke had seen it as making a statement. And who knows? Maybe he might even have convinced her father, who didn't have a strong sense of design. That would have been criminal. Of course, Alex would have been able to convince her dad of that. In her emotional reaction to seeing Clarke's plans first, she'd just skipped that step.
As far as Alex was concerned, her statement said, "Your services are no longer needed," in a loud, clear voice.
"That kind always think they know best," Dorothy sniffed, shaking her head as she looked off in the direction that Clarke had taken. "You can do much better than the likes of him." She sighed. "Your father's just too kindhearted, giving anyone work who shows up on his doorstep with a sad story."
The woman pressed her lips together. She had to know how that sounded. But Alex knew Dorothy hadn't meant to be critical of her dad, the man she looked up to and respected more than anyone else. "Of course, I shouldn't talk. If it wasn't for that wonderful man, heaven only knows where I'd be right now."
Alex didn't want Dorothy to dwell on the past, or what had initially brought her, destitute and desperate, to the inn.
"Well, all I know is we'd be lost without you, so there's no use in speculating about a state of affairs that mercifully never came about." She squeezed the woman's hand. "We all love you, Dorothy. You mean the world to us."
The other woman blushed.
Dorothea O'Hara had been a guest at the inn some twelve years ago. Down on her luck, abandoned by the man she'd given her heart—and her savings—to, she had checked into the inn, wanting to spend one final night somewhere warm and inviting. Before she ended her emotional suffering by taking sleeping pills. After the fact, Dorothy had been quite frank about her intentions, much to the upset of the Romans.
Years later Richard told his daughters he must have subconsciously sensed how unhappy Dorothy had been because something had prompted him to knock on her door that evening and engage her in a conversation that went on for hours.
Newly widowed, he'd talked about his four daughters, about the adjustments all five of them had had to make because of his wife's sudden passing, about how strange life had seemed to him at first without the woman he loved by his side.
He'd talked about everything and anything until the first rays of the morning sun came into Dorothy's room.
For Dorothy, dawn had brought with it a realization that she was still alive—and still without options. She confessed to the man she'd been talking to all night that she wasn't going to be able to pay for her stay.
Embarrassed, she'd offered to work off her tab.
It hadn't taken long for her to work off the debt. Once she had, Richard told her that if she didn't have anywhere else to go, he would consider it a personal favor if she stayed on at the inn.
She'd quickly become family. As had some of the other guests at the inn who were initially only passing through.
The inn, Alex firmly believed, was the richer for it.
But there were times, few and far between, when her father made a mistake, a bad judgment call. This latest contractor had been one of those calls.
Christina Roman MacDonald walked in, munching on an apple. Alex knew her sister would have preferred a breakfast pastry—one of her specialties as the inn's resident chef and one of the most requested items on the breakfast menu. But she was trying to instill healthy eating habits in Ricky, her four-year-old son, and that meant apples rather than pastries.
Swallowing what she'd been chewing, she said, "Hey, I just saw J.D. and his motley crew climbing into that beat-up truck of his. The guy almost ran right over me to get to it." It wasn't a complaint, just an observation. "Fastest I've seen the lot of them moving since they got here last week." Cris nodded in the direction of the rear of the inn. "What's up?"
"Miss Alex's temper," Dorothy told her. There was no small note of pride in the woman's voice. "She finally got fed up with that so-called contractor's grand plans."
Leaning forward, the heavyset woman confided in as close to a whisper as she could manage, which meant it could undoubtedly be heard in the center of the closest San Diego shopping center, "No disrespect intended, Miss Alex, but it certainly took you long enough. The man was charging you for breathing—times five, since he was also padding the bill to pay for those five 'helpers' of his."
"Now," Cris pointed out, "they did work sometimes."
"Yeah," Dorothy snorted, "every time your father walked by."
"Well, the main thing is that they're gone and we won't have to put up with them any longer," Alex said, trying to put an end to the matter. Of course, they still had to deal with the contract her father had signed, but in it her father had outlined specific things he'd wanted done. Clarke's plans strayed dramatically from the contract. The fact that he'd backed down so easily—without first speaking to her father—clearly told her that she was right.
Posted July 28, 2013
No text was provided for this review.