A child of Vegas, Brett Hennessey knows about luck--especially the bad kind. But when this poker superstar hops on his Harley to outrun Lady Misfortune and ends up at a pretty B&B run by an even prettier proprietor, he can't help thinking he's stumbled onto a winning streak. . .
Sure, Kirby Farrell's new B&B ski lodge opened to the warmest winter in Vermont memory, but fate brought her a bad boy on a hot bike and settled him into her best room. She's still broke, but the view across the breakfast table has definitely improved. . .
Only now Brett's past has finally caught up to him. He has two choices: run again--and lose the best hand fortune's dealt him yet. Or stay and risk everything for something he never thought would come his way. . .
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Here Comes Trouble
By Donna Kauffman
BRAVA BOOKSCopyright © 2010 Donna Kauffman
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWhere was all the damn snow?
She'd even begged Santa, but none of the white stuff had magically appeared under her tree. Or any other tree in Pennydash, Vermont, for that matter.
"Enough with this gorgeous weather crap." Kirby Farrell drummed her fingers on the sides of her ceramic mug as she gazed out at yet another perfect, springlike morning. That would have been ever-so-lovely, really. If it were, you know, actually spring. Not the first freaking week of January. In the middle of high season. For skiing. Which was damn hard to do on bare grass and rock-strewn slopes, as it turned out.
What the hell had she ever done to piss off Mother Nature anyway? Or Santa.
She thought she'd done everything right. No, she had done everything right. She'd found the right house in the right location for the right price. She'd been smart with her hard-earned money, working for eight months straight, starting the last few weeks of the previous winter season. She'd done as much of the renovation on her weathered, neglected yet charming, and character-filled little Victorian as she could by herself. She'd worked with local contractors on the rest, which had earned her a good reputation in her newly adopted hometown.
Kirby had haunted area antique shops and flea markets, refurbishing some oldfurnishings and discovering secondhand treasures for use in her guest bedrooms and public rooms. She'd also found the best resources for everything from food and wine, to handwoven blankets and rugs, right down to organic soaps and shampoos. She wanted to offer a unique experience, enhanced by the use of local and regionally made products. One her guests could only get by staying at the Pennydash Inn.
She'd made sure her little inn would meet the specific needs of the hoards of skiers who would be descending on the new nearby Winterhaven resort, but who might prefer her more intimate, less pricey digs. Racks for guest's snow gear had been built in the detached garage, which was now accessible right from the house through a short, enclosed walkway. She had overhauled an aging Chevy Suburban for transporting skiers to the nearby resorts when needed, and was also available to rescue a stranded skier when the snow proved too much for their often unsuitable rental car.
Everything was in place. And had been for going on nine weeks now, since the beginning of November. She'd known it would take some time to reap the rewards of her hard labor, but she'd been fairly optimistic about her first season. Given the otherwise rural and, as yet, undeveloped locale, she'd envisioned her place bursting at the seams right now, with guests who preferred intimate and specialized care at a more economical price than the resort hotel could offer.
However, all the research, preparation, hard work, and reasonable, optimistic attitudes in the world were not going to have even the remotest impact on Kirby's one, unavoidable vulnerability: the weather. Or record-breaking lack thereof in this particular case.
Kirby continued drumming her fingers as she glared out the bay window of the breakfast nook. A freshly shaken snow globe. That was the view she should be having right now. Everything blanketed in a fluffy layer of white, with fat flakes swirling in the air, smoke curling from the chimney tops, the smell of homemade hot chocolate brewing in the kitchen ... the picture postcard of a perfect winter wonderland playground.
Oh, it looked like a postcard all right. "But the only snow that goes with this picture is Snow White." In fact, all she needed was a few dancing butterflies and adorable chirpy bluebirds flitting about to complete the scenario. Walt Disney would be orgasmic.
Kirby Farrell, on the other hand, not so much.
She'd stopped listening to the news completely. If she heard one more report about this being the warmest winter in the history of recorded weather, she was going to throw something.
And to think how smug she'd been. This area had been about as goof-proof a location as she could have hoped to find. Well, east of the Rockies, anyway. Pennydash was tucked up against the highest peaks of the Green Mountains in such a way as to create a perfect winter effect. Even when other parts of New England experienced less than optimal snowfall conditions, Pennydash and the surrounding area were generally blessed with the most of whatever snowfall came their way.
Historically, it had been mostly a mining and farming community, until advances in technology made it possible to bring in the kind of supplies needed to build a world-class-level resort. One she'd known about through her connections back in Colorado before they'd even been publicly announced. It had been the exact break she'd needed at exactly the right time. And, historically for Kirby Farrell, the good breaks were very few and far between.
Now Pennydash, Vermont, would become an exciting new vacation spot for skiers, and at the moment, Kirby's inn was the only other game in town. She was well aware there were other start-ups under way, but she'd been the only one to open up on time for the new resort's inaugural season. A prime, once-in-a-business-launching chance to build a loyal customer base before the competition started.
She sipped her hot chocolate, defiantly made despite the seventy-degree temps, her own personal little nose-thumbing at Mother Nature, and studiously avoided going into the office she'd created behind her bedroom in what had once been the mudroom by the back of the house. Now the attached garage served that function and kept her from having to scrape clean her lovingly restored hardwood floors from all the muck her vast numbers of boarders would surely be tracking in, what with all the mud, snow, road sand, and salt out there. Or so she had planned, anyway.
Besides, she didn't need to look at the books to know how broke she was. And even after spending close to a year renovating the three-story, gingerbread-laced, lone house up on the hill, there was still a long list of things she needed to do. Those were slated for the off season, later this spring and summer, bankrolled by the profits made from her first successful ski season as an independent innkeeper.
Now her main objective was to keep the bank from rolling over on her business, which also happened to be the roof over her head. Either the snow had better start falling, or she'd better come up with another way to keep a full house and quick. She didn't think she could handle having her dreams crushed twice.
Although, at least this time she'd see the end coming.
"Yeah," she muttered, turning her back to the window. "Like train lights in a very short tunnel."
She sat her half-empty mug down on the counter and walked into the front parlor where she'd been working on repairing a wedding ring quilt she'd found at a flea market the weekend before. It was going to make a gorgeous bedspread for the third-floor queen suite. But she wasn't feeling up for the intricate needlework required. And quite frankly, sitting around indulging in another pity party for one was simply too pathetic, even for the mood she was in. Instead she grabbed a notepad and pen and went outside. Might as well utilize the sunny skies and bare ground to plot out the design for her spring flower and vegetable garden.
Take that, Mother Nature.
She was crouching in front of the weathered mulch at the base of a small willow, frowning at a tidy circle of crocuses that had the absolute nerve to even think about poking their little purple heads out of the dirt, when the loud, rumbling sound of a motorcycle vibrated through the warm, morning air.
She looked up in time to see a big, black, dust-covered Harley slow and swing into the narrow drive that led up the hill to her inn. The guy straddling the noisy monster was wearing a thick black leather jacket, jeans with what looked like black leather chaps over them, heavy gloves, heavier looking boots, and a black helmet that looked as dusty as the bike.
"Stealth biker," Kirby murmured as she straightened to a stand. She could only assume he was either lost, or ... well, she didn't know any other reason why he'd be idling in her driveway. When he didn't turn around at the leveled-out gravel lot area at the top and head back down the hill, she walked over to see what was up. Maybe he was looking for work. Which, good luck with that. The area wasn't an economic boomtown in the best of times, and while the excitement over the coming ski hoards had been palpable in terms of expanding the local workforce, that excitement had waned rapidly in the face of the relentless, unseasonably warm weather.
"So, I hate to disappoint you," she murmured under her breath, "but I'm definitely not hiring."
As she drew closer, he turned off the bike, settled the weight on the kickstand, and then threw his leg over the back and straightened. He looked ... well, the word "powerful" came to mind. Maybe it was all the black leather, but he was a big man, easily over six feet, with or without the heavy road boots, broad shouldered, and just very ... imposing. He slid off his gloves and laid them across the seat; then he turned as he unbuckled his helmet. Affording her a lovely view of a mighty fine backside. She decided right then and there she was a big fan of whatever those chap things were he was wearing. Damn.
Then he turned back, helmet off, and she forgot all about his amazing ass. She was too busy noticing the way his thick, dark curls, unshaven, hard-looking jaw, and lethal black sunglasses jacked up the intensity of his overall outlaw appearance. Her steps faltered, partly because he looked dangerous, and partly because, well ... any woman with a pulse would probably have stumbled at least a step or two. Half of her wished there was a county sheriff close by, just in case ... and the other half wished she could afford to pay this guy to tackle the list of odd jobs that were slowly piling up. Starting, of course, with the tasks that would require him to work with his shirt off. As often as possible. Warm weather might as well come in handy for something, after all.
She noted the bike had a Nevada license plate. Interesting. A bit longer than a day trip from Vermont. But given the amount of dust and dirt that had accumulated on the sleek machine, and on him she noted, it wouldn't have surprised her if that's how long he'd been on the road. So ... not a local looking for work.
"Can I help you?"
He slung his helmet on the back bar of the bike. "You have any rooms available?"
His voice was deep, a little rough. He sounded more than a little road-weary. Or maybe he always had that kind of laconic drawl. Whatever the case, it only enhanced the whole road warrior vibe he had going on. He did things to her body just standing there that she hadn't felt in ... clearly far longer than she wanted to think about. "You want a room?"
In retrospect, she realized how comical her honest surprise must have seemed. His smile was slow, but brief, more a quirk of the lips. Which were also kind of chiseled and perfect. She really needed to stop staring. Anytime now.
"You do rent them out, right?" For all his pulse-pounding, over-the-top sex appeal, he was actually fairly soft-spoken. If gravel could be soft. In fact, now that she was close up, she thought her early suspicions might be right. He didn't just sound road-weary, he looked downright exhausted. She couldn't see his eyes, but the lines bracketing his mouth, the flexing and tensing of his jaw, and just the way he stood there, shoulders hunched a little, all but shouted extreme fatigue.
He nodded at the carved wood sign, painted periwinkle blue and leaf green, and planted in front of the house. Under the name, Pennydash Inn, it read: Proprietor: Kirby Farrell. "Is that you?"
"I am. I mean, yes, that's me. I'm sorry, you just caught me by surprise."
His lips curved again, a bit wryly. "You not in the habit of folks wanting to stay here?"
She forced herself to snap out of the hormone fog that was clearly only affecting her-no shock there, as she had at least a dozen years on the guy-and smiled as she swept her arm to encompass the view of the very green looking Green Mountains. "Not exactly the vacation destination for the discerning skiing enthusiast this winter."
"Ah. My lucky day, then." That last part was said with a particularly dry note as he pulled out his wallet. "I don't ski."
Kirby smiled at that and quickly shifted gears the rest of the way into innkeeper mode. "Why don't we go inside, get you registered?"
"My bike okay here?"
Her smile widened as she continued to find her footing. He wasn't exactly the sort of guest she'd visualized hosting as she'd been slaving away all last summer and fall. In fact every single one of her instincts, both as a woman and as a business owner, were screaming that this guy was not what he appeared to be-or maybe too much of exactly what he appeared to be. But, given the current state of her bank account, she was in no position to get all picky-choosy about what kind of boarders she'd prefer to have under her roof.
"It would appear you have the run of the lot," she said, then immediately could have kicked herself. Right, Kirby, just announce to the down-on-his-luck-looking, lone-wolf biker dude that there are no other guests in the inn. Not that he would have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure that one out, but still.
He opened one of the side compartments on the back of the bike and lifted out a black gear bag, which he slung over his shoulder. Even that unconscious motion was sexy as hell. Seriously, get a damn grip. She was coming off like the stupid cliché of single, sex-starved, middle-aged innkeeper, when she was anything but that. Okay, so she was exactly that. But she definitely wouldn't have used the term "starved." Sex wasn't everything. At least, for the past two years and right up until five minutes ago she'd had herself firmly convinced of that.
She started up the cobblestone walkway, leading to the wide wooden steps, smiling as she always did when seeing the front of her newly restored place. It was probably hokey to some, and she seriously doubted this particular guest would even notice, much less appreciate it, but she loved the lacey gingerbread pattern that scalloped along the edge of the wraparound porch overhang. It made the place look lively and inviting to her. Very ski chalet. She'd painted the house in a flat, Wedgwood blue to offset the cream and pale green-painted adornment, so it wasn't too over-the-top cutesy, but it looked like a happy house. And that had been her goal. Both for herself and her guests.
She heard his heavy boots on the steps behind her, and a little tingle shot straight down her spine. Okay, so maybe she was a teeny tiny bit hungry. But she was also a well-educated, savvy businesswoman and any second now she was going to start acting like it.
She'd already decided to fax a copy of his driver's license over to Thad at the sheriff's office and get him to check the guy out. Smart business even if her hormones were acting stupid ... and she was admittedly curious to know more if she could. Her new guest didn't exactly strike her as the chatty sort.
She stepped behind the small counter she'd had designed and built under the stairs where they made their turn up to the second-floor landing. "I'll need to see your driver's license or some other form of photo ID." She smiled as she turned the antique guest book around, hoping her chatter made him less aware of the fact that there weren't many names filled in before the line where his signature would go. In fact, other than Aunt Frieda, who'd come up from Florida over the summer to help her with the window treatments and the finishing touches of her interior design plan, and a small group who'd stayed for a wedding in the area around the holidays ... well, the page wasn't exactly full of scrawled names.
"Interesting book," he said, surprising her with voluntary conversation. If you could count two words as conversation. He lifted the worn and faded leather cover to look at the front.
"I found it at an antiques market. It was the guest register for a hotel that was here back in the late eighteen hundreds when the town first started up. And, don't worry, I use more technologically advanced record keeping, but I kind of liked the idea of the more personal touch, too." She'd actually envisioned folks leaving little notes about their stay, perhaps coming back again and again over the years and looking back over previous entries. At the moment Kirby was just thankful that there was a stack of previously signed pages in the book. No one had to know that the signatures on those pages had been signed with a fountain pen. Well over a hundred years ago.
Excerpted from Here Comes Trouble by Donna Kauffman Copyright © 2010 by Donna Kauffman. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Did not like Kirby's character at all, just could not get into the book.
You get to know the main characters Kirby and Brett and their budding relationship. I love the parts about the kitten it made me laugh since I used to have a cat. Trouble comes bear the end of the book that is why I only gave it 4 stars instead of 5. I recommend this book.
I enjoyed this book, it was fast paced, well written and had very interesting characters with unusual histories. This would be a great afternoon read when you just want to relax and chill with a good book.
I read this book in one day! It was funny, a little sad, had a little suspense and was overall a great book. I enjoyed the characters Brett and Kirby. The background was believable and story line was great. This was the first book of Donna Kauffman's that I have read and I will be looking for more!
If anyone told Kirby Farrell that global warming is a hoax she would tell them to visit her bed and breakfast ski lodge in Vermont as the weather outside is tropical for winter in New England. She fears if it does not snow soon she will go out of business. Brett Hennessey grew up in Las Vegas where he has become a poker superstar. Fleeing some trouble, he bikes across the country finally stopping for R&R at Kirby's rustic B&B. The innkeeper and the cyclist are immediately attracted to one another forgetting their woes as she thinks she is fortunate with her new guest and he believes Lady Luck has given him a royal flush. That is until his past arrives in Vermont to call him out and he has doubts after a recently failed relationship and her being older than her card playing biker. A bit over the top of the Green Mountains, Here Comes trouble is a fun contemporary romance. Kirby and Brett are a likable pair as he is a charming rogue and she is a hesitant damsel. Their debates over age, life, and love make for a humorous frolic with late suspense. Harriet Klausner