Abigail Fitzgerald has always followed her mama's rules when it comes to running their family's B and B. But her mama never had to resist a man like Grayson Smythe. A long-term guest, Gray spends his evenings having dinner with Abby in her kitchenand it's not long before their attraction begins to sizzle.
Although Gray's kisses are a delicious distraction, Abby's priorities are the B and B and the dream of opening her own restaurant. And Gray definitely has the means to help her. But when money seems to be all he can offer, Abby suspects she might get burned.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Rule #1The guests are always right, even when they're wrong.
Mamie Fitzgerald "Score one for Team Fitzgerald." Abby tapped the occupancy permit against the porch railing and waved to her contractor as he headed for his truck. The final room on the second floor could be used.
She propped open the bed-and-breakfast's bright blue doors. For February 1, the day was gorgeous, with temperatures hitting the mid 70s. Sunlight streamed through the leaded-glass side windows and sparkled on the foyer's crystal chandelier. The gold streaks in the green-marble entry floor gleamed.
Abby wanted all of Fitzgerald House to sparkle like the entry.
That meant renovating the rest of the third floor, and finally the carriage house. They just needed a reasonable bid, money and a whole lot of luck.
Her hand brushed the brass plaque set inside the door.
Savannah, Georgia Bed & Breakfast opened March 1, 1998Mamie Fitzgerald
OwnersAbigail, Bess and Dolley Fitzgerald
As always, she made a wish. Let the renovation costs be reasonable.
A fresh floral arrangement graced the console table. The tang of lemon wax mingled with the warm scent of the foyer's sandalwood candles. While she'd been with her contractor, the cleaning crew had performed their magic.
With no one in the entry, she held out her arms and twirled, tipping her head up, grinning. The sparkling prisms were all she could see.
Dizzy, she stopped. Whoa. Hadn't done that since she'd been young.
She'd call Mamma and her sisters later. Let them know they were one room closer to finishing the main house restoration. And she was one room closer to opening her restaurant in the carriage house. She gave herself a hug. One step at a time.
Abby walked over to the Queen Anne secretary they used for a reception desk. The front door opened as she logged on to the computer, and she glanced up. "Welcome to Fitzgerald House. How can I help you?"
A man stalked toward her. Black brows framed laser-blue eyes. He was tall and lean. My, my. Some days God took pity on working women and gave them something to dream about. She indulged in a quick fantasy of running her fingers through his thick black hair. Too bad he had a frown on his face and a cell phone glued to his ear.
Mr. Fantasy dropped his bag, smiled and pointed to the phone, holding up one finger. He patted his pockets.
She handed him a pen and a piece of paper.
He mouthed a thank-you.
"Severn," he said. "What was the contracted completion date?"
He wrote down the date in bold slashes.
"What's the remaining payout?" Again the hand-scrawled numbers on the paper.
Abby tried not to look, but the number was big. With that kind of money, she and her sisters could finish off the third-floor rooms and still have enough left over for new linens.
"So what's the problem?" the man growled.
Abby stepped back, giving him privacy. She wouldn't want to be the person failing to meet this man's expectations.
"The only way I'll extend the deadline is if we re-contract," he stated. "You have options. Overtime, more crew. Think about it and get back to me." He switched off his phone without so much as a goodbye.
Apparently Mr. Fantasy hadn't gone to the same customer-service seminars Abby had.
She stepped back up to the desk. "May I help you?"
"Grayson Smythe. S-my-t-h-e." The man's voice was as rich and smooth as bourbon, and his smile was just as intoxicating.
Abby searched the reservation system. Nothing. She tried incorrect spellings of the man's name. Nada. She tried his first name as his last. Still nothing. Her fingers tapped the desktop in a staccato beat.
The man's intense gaze weakened her knees. His dark eyebrows came together over his bright blue eyes.
Had the system eaten another reservation? She forced a smile. "Do you have a confirmation number?"
"No, I don't. My assistant confirmed the details yesterday." He leaned over the desk, staring at the computer screen. The temperature in the room seemed to climb ten degrees.
Abby kept smiling, but her mouth wanted to droop into a frown. She couldn't. She had a guest in front of her.
A quick patter of feet turned her attention to the open door.
"I told you, Mama." A blond boy, maybe four or five years old, darted into the entry. "I'll catch you a rainbow."
Catch a rainbow?
Sure enough, the sunbeams were now hitting the chandelier, and rainbows danced over her head. She hadn't noticed, too caught up in their guest. But she really hadn't noticed the rainbows since she'd been young. Since her dad had died.
Mr. Smythe whipped around at the noise.
"Joshua!" A thin young woman entered behind the boy. "Come back."
The boy jumped up and down, his hand outstretched. His clothes were clean, but the knees were patched. "I can't reach them!"
Mr. Smythe knelt in front of the boy. The little boy's eyes widened and he stepped back.
Abby moved out from behind the desk. She didn't want her guest snarling at this cute kid the way he had on the phone.
Before she could rescue the child, Mr. Smythe said, "Would you like me to lift you up?"
The boy held up his arms. "Yes, please."
Abby's eyebrows popped up as Mr. Smythe held him in the air. Joshua's hands waved, trying to grab hold of the colors.
"Hold still and the rainbow will shine on your fingers," Mr. Smythe said.
"I'm sorry." The woman leaned a hand against the desk, catching her breath. "He's so fast."
"Are you looking for a room?" Abby shouldn't judge the woman, but her clothes were worn.
"Oh, no." Color washed over the woman's pale face. "I'm here about the help-wanted ad."
Abby nodded. "The housekeeping position?"
Both the man and the boy had rainbows coloring their palms. Mr. Smythe whispered to the little boy and Joshua giggled.
Joshua's mother straightened. "I know the ad is a couple of weeks old, but is the position still open?"
"It is." Abby smiled, trying to put the woman at ease. "Marion, our head of housekeeping, has left for the day, but if you come back tomorrow morning around ten, I'll make sure she knows you're coming in."
"Thankyou, thank you." The young woman's smile erased the furrows in her forehead. She turned. "Oh, what's your name?" Abby asked.
"Nice to meet you, Cheryl. I'm Abby." She hoped Marion would hire the young mother.
Mr. Smythe set the boy down. "Mommy, I held a rainbow." Joshua threw his arms around her legs. "But I let it go so other kids can see it."
Cheryl took her son's hand. Staring at Mr. Smythe, she whispered, "Thank you."
"No reason to thank me." He grinned, flashing a dimple. "I held a rainbow, too."
A flutter filled Abby's chest. She loved dimples. And her guest had been kind to the child.
Cheryl gave him a nervous smile. Joshua took a little bit of the sun with him as the two of them headed down the porch steps.
"That was nice," Abby said, starting to type again. Where was Mr. Grayson Smythe's registration information?
"I like kids. The world hasn't screwed them up yet." His shoulders rose and fell. "Are we done?" The don't-screw-with-me tone was back in his voice.
Sometimes Marion or her sisters left her notes about reservations, so she searched the desk. A piece of paper peeked out from underneath the keyboard. The breath she'd been holding whispered out.
AbsThe Kennedy Suite is booked for six months starting Feb 1! Guy named G Smythe booked it. Marion's awareyou were in wine tasting when I finished the deal. Until I move other reservations around, I can't get his info in the system. 10% discount for the long-term stay and charge by the week. Two-week trial. We have to replace the reservation system!!! This yearnot next. It's.
Abby refolded the paper without finishing Dolley's message. Her techy sister always ranted about their software. The replacement reservation system had to wait at least one more year, possibly two. Dolley knew that.
"I'm sorry that took so long." She wanted this stern man to know the Fitzgerald House team weren't incompetents. "I've found your information."
Her professional smile was fixed in place, but her heart rate revved into overdrive. She wanted to twirl and hoot. A six-month booking in their biggest suite meant cash. It wouldn't refill the gap left by last year's emergency purchases, but even at a discount, this was fantastic. "You're staying with us for six months?"
"That's correct." The man's bourbon-infused voice came with a crisp Yankee accent. "I've agreed to a two-week trial."
Abby quickly made his key cards. They would show Mr. Smythe Southern hospitalityFitzgerald style. After two weeks, he'd be begging to stay.
As his credit card processed, she gave him her spiel on breakfast, tea and appetizers. "And since we're Irish, there's always Jameson whiskey in the library."
The man took it all in without reaction. Usually a guest nodded or smiled.
"Your room is on the second floor and to the left. There's an elevator down this hall." She pointed. "If you have any other questions, please ask our staff. We at Fitzgerald House want you to have a pleasant stay."
"Thank you." He slung his briefcase over one shoulder. "I'd like dinner brought up at seven o'clock tonight."
"I'm sorry." Abby shook her head. "We don't offer dinnerjust breakfast, tea and appetizers."
He raised an eyebrow. "My assistant negotiated dinner with my extended stay. Your chef's reputation is the reason I chose this establishment." He did a little finger wave. "Perhaps you should call someone."
She reopened Dolley's note.
We have to replace the reservation system!!! This yearnot next. It's archaic. One more unusual request on this restwenty-five dollars extra per day for providing box lunch and dinner. Agreement's in the mail.
Her stomach churned. Dolley hadn't just been ranting about the software glitches.
She blinked, hoping the message would change. No luck.
She'd already seen how Mr. Smythe reacted when people didn't live up to their commitments. As upsetting as it was to be blindsided like this, she couldn't violate Dolley's agreement.
She dug deep for the graciousness Mamma had drummed into her daughters. "You're correct. However, we don't have room service. May I invite you to eat in the kitchen?"
"I'd prefer eating in my room."
Panic bubbled up in her chest. His room wasn't an option, since there wasn't enough space. And the dining room was already set for breakfast. Swallowing, she said, "I know you'll be more comfortable in the kitchen."
His eyes narrowed. "How much will it cost me for room service?"
The B and B wasn't set up for room service. Mr. Smythe would end up hunched over his coffee table. "I'm afraid it's not a matter of money."
"It's always about money." He raised an eyebrow. "Why don't you get your manager?"
Didn't anyone ever say no to him? She stood a little taller. "I'm Abigail Fitzgerald, owner, manager and your chef. This is an unusual request, and I apologize that Fitzgerald House can't accommodate room service. I would be pleased to serve your dinner in the kitchen at seven o'clock. Your dining experience will be more pleasant there."
He took a long, slow scan from her head down to her sneakers. She refused to squirm under his scrutiny.
He turned toward the stairway, his long legs taking the steps two at a time.
She headed down the hall. What was she going to cook? Catching a glimpse of her reflection in the mirror, she saw a streak of dirt on her face and dust all over her shirt.
What must he have thought? Now his dinner would have to be even more amazing.
The room was spotless. Gray wondered what the "owner, manager and chef" had been doing to get so dirty. Well, he had two weeks to decide if this arrangement would work.
Two people had recommended staying at Fitzgerald House. Derrick, the man who'd needed to liquidate his Savannah warehouse, had raved about the food, and his attorney. Gray hadn't planned to acquire property in Savannah, but his frat brother, Derrick, had been desperate.
And Gray had needed a break from Boston. Drawing in a deep breath, he pressed the aching sinuses between his eyes. God, he'd had this headache for what seemed like months.
Maybe Savannah would bring him peace. Maybe his mother and sister would leave him alone. Maybe he'd figure out what was wrong with his life. He rolled his shoulders. Right now, all he wanted was to get settled in his room.
While he unpacked, he listened to the CNBC newscasters dissecting the financial markets. He rolled his shoulders. The past two weeks in Boston had been a work marathon. Standing in the entry while trying to register, all he'd wanted to do was get into his room.
But helping the kid catch rainbows had been fun. He used to do the same thing with his little sister. He hadn't thought about that in years.
He set his laptop on the small desk. It barely fit. Now he understood why Ms. Fitzgerald had asked him to eat elsewhere, but, damnthe kitchen?
He was in the Jacqueline Kennedy room. Her biography on the coffee table had him smiling. His face ached a little, as though he hadn't smiled much lately.
He opened the French doors to his private porch overlooking a courtyard garden. Leaning on the railing, he took a deep breath. The air smelled green. New. Nothing like the snow he'd left this morning.
There was a tiny table and a couple of chairs on the porch. He could imagine having a beer or a glass of wine or even a shot of whiskey in the evening. But dinner? No way. At least the sofa in front of the flat-screen television looked comfortable.
His cell phone rang. Reluctantly he moved back into the room and answered it. "Smythe."
"Adam Severn." Severn's frustration vibrated through the phone. "We'll meet your deadline. Everything will be demolished and drywall installed and taped on time."
"Good." Severn didn't respond. Gray's eyebrows shot up. Did Severn expect gratitude for meeting his contractual obligations? "Anything else?"
"You're all business, aren't you, Smythe?"
Should Gray tell him he'd helped a little boy catch rainbows? Nope. Wouldn't want to ruin his image. "When I grant bids, I expect the work to be done as agreed."
"Well, the plumbers and electricians better not hold us up."
"Phillips will coordinate the other subs." His manager would monitor the timelines. "Make sure you keep him informed."
"I won't be held accountable for other people's screwups," Severn growled.
"Get your own work done in a professional manner, and we won't have any problems." Gray shook his head. Severn's company would never work on another one of his projects.
Severn grunted an acknowledgment and hung up.
If his time in Savannah was going to reduce the pressure he'd been under, he needed to turf problems like Severn to his project managers. Next time.
He opened one of the complimentary bottles of water and booted up his laptop. He rolled the cold bottle across his forehead.
Gray quickly worked through his emails. He hesitated, staring at Gwen's familiar address. He paused with the cursor hovering over the open-mail icon.
He shook his head and deleted the message. Why was Gwen still emailing him? He'd broken up with her. Just last week he'd asked her to stop contacting him. One of the bonuses about being in Savannah was that he wouldn't constantly run into her.
He worked through the rest of his mail. Nothing he couldn't handle from here. Pushing away from the desk, he checked his watchalmost five-thirty. The B and B's wireless connection had worked flawlessly. Excellent.
He had time to kill before dinner. He could walk around town or have a glass of wine. What quality of wines would a B and B serve?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was a page turning debut. Can't wait to read more about the Fitzgerald sisters.
Great story! Characters are believable and you care about them. Story really evoked Savannah. Anxious to see what will happen to other characters in the future!
Amazing debut, this is a must read! I could not put the book down. I was instantly sucked into the characters world and transported right to Savannah. Real characters with real situations with just the right amount of tension. I can't wait to read more from this author.