A jack-of-all-trades, Zach Eliot is too handsome for his own good--and Allie's. But he seems to have a huge chip on his shoulder, and Allie can't help but take it personally. She might not know what's bugging him, but there's no mistaking their mutual attraction. How is she supposed to get any work done when they keep bumping heads--and all she can do is daydream about spending the rest of the summer in his arms?. . .
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Summer on the Cape
By J.M. BRONSTON
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 J. M. Bronston
All rights reserved.
Allie's fury was almost audible.
How did I allow him to talk me into this?
The little plane dropped several feet, wobbling as the pilot righted it, and a weak cry escaped from Allie's lips. She leaned her head back and closed her eyes, her hands gripping the edges of her seat.
I should never have agreed! Adam knows perfectly well I have important projects coming up.
The tiny commuter plane pitched and slogged along its course, like a toy powered by rubber bands, and Allie's fingers dug deeper into the seat.
Two new commissions and a couple of possible new clients. And there's the show at the Whiscombe Gallery in July.
The bouncing plane bucked a heavy headwind, and it helped her steady her nerves to lay the blame on Adam. She had completely forgotten that last night, when he set up this trip, she had been enthusiastic and eager to participate.
If he was right about it — and Adam was always right — it would be a real moneymaker. And it would be a big career move for her, too. That's what she'd thought last night. Now, the only thing she wanted was to get this awful flight over with and to be safely on the ground again.
She took a couple of deep breaths, opened her eyes, and forced herself to relax and let herself look around. She hadn't known commercial planes could be so small. The cramped cabin space wasn't any bigger than the kitchen of her little apartment back in Manhattan. The aisle running between the six little bucket seats was so narrow that even a slim woman like Allie had had to twist uncomfortably to get to her seat and although she was only an inch or two above average height, she'd had to bend her head and hunch her shoulders as she'd walked through.
Up ahead, the pilot and copilot were chatting comfortably with each other, and the other passengers — there were only two — were totally relaxed, apparently at ease with the rigors of this little commuter flight. Only Allie was clutching silently at her seat and praying that the fates would deliver her safely back to solid ground.
Think about something else. Think about anything but how this little crate is bouncing around here in the sky. Think about why you're going to Cape Cod.
She forced her mind back to this scheme of Adam's, wishing she knew more about it. Last night, at dinner, he'd been pretty cagey about the details, saying that he wasn't yet "at liberty" to disclose more than the barest outline. He'd taken her to that fancy little bistro over on the East Side that was one of his favorite places for twisting her arm and talking her into doing things she didn't want to do. And just about all she could get out of him, over the perfectly chilled Bollinger and the exquisite caviar, was that some big-shot clients of his would need promotional artwork for a major development project. Instead of her usual portrait work, he wanted her to spend the summer at his place on Cape Cod so she could put together a portfolio of seascapes.
And then he'd said an odd thing. He'd said, "You're a good American, Allie. This project should appeal to your patriotic spirit." And that was all she could find out.
"You sly devil," she had said to him as the waiter filled their glasses. "You've got something up that well-tailored sleeve of yours."
"Nothing nefarious, my dear, I can assure you," Adam had said in that patrician way he had, as he elegantly spooned caviar onto small points of toast. "And you can turn off that suspicious glint in your gaze," he said fondly. "Hazel eyes are much too gentle for such hard looks." Adam's cool smile always softened when he talked to Allie.
Allie brushed her bangs back. "So this scheme of yours is not at all improper?"
"No, Allie, this is straight business. The plan is still in a very preliminary stage, and all I can say at this point is that some clients of mine are interested in a land development project on Cape Cod." He sprinkled a drop or two of lemon juice over the caviar and handed her a bit of the caviar-laden toast. "Have you ever been to the Cape?" "I'm just a simple girl, Adam, and Cape Cod is for the rich and famous. And anyway," — she nibbled at the caviar, savoring its nutty oiliness — "I'm also a city person, born and bred. What would I do on those barren beaches and sandy, windswept shores? Without the city's traffic and racket around me, I'd probably shrivel up and blow away."
"You won't shrivel up. You'll get a good tan and some sun streaks in your hair." He contemplated her honey-colored hair, reaching just below her shoulders, the full, rich waves glowing in the soft light and beautifully set off by her pale silk dress and the pearls he'd given her on her birthday. "With your coloring," he said approvingly, "you'll look wonderful. And you're wrong about the rich and famous. Plenty of ordinary folks live on the Cape, too. And Provincetown — up at the tip of the Cape — that's been an artists' colony for many decades. A very famous one."
"Well, of course I know that, Adam."
How could she explain to Adam? Any place with even a whiff of wealth felt forbidding to her.
"All right, Allie. You know you can trust my judgment." He leaned back in his chair, sipping his wine and smiling expansively at her.
It was true. In the ten years that Adam Talmadge had been her agent — ever since he'd discovered her, a raw teenager at the Art Students League — he'd not been wrong once. That's a tough record to beat, she admitted to herself grudgingly.
"If this works out as I anticipate," he continued, "it's going to be very good for you and, just incidentally of course, at fifteen percent of your fee, it's going to be good for me, too." Then he had sketched out his proposal: She was to spend the summer on the Cape, painting seascapes. She could return, as necessary, to the city, to keep up with prior commitments, commissions already agreed to, and for her show coming up at the Whiscombe Gallery in a few weeks. It was only an hour's flight by commuter plane between Provincetown and New York. She could prepare a portfolio of studies suitable for use in a Cape Cod development project, paintings full of the clear air, the sandy stretches of beach, the sea gulls, the sailboats.
"But, Adam —"
"You'll enjoy this scheme of mine," he said, placating her. "And don't worry. I'll explain it fully when it's jelled a bit more."
"But, Adam —" She was beginning to give in.
"Allie, it's a great place, right on the beachfront. There's some space in the house where you can paint. The caretaker will meet you at the airport in Provincetown." Adam had been so sure she'd agree, he'd already made all the arrangements. "Here's my card with his name on it. And here's the plane ticket. Your flight leaves at three o'-clock tomorrow afternoon, so go home and pack a few things." He smiled affectionately at her. "And you can stop being so obstinate!"
Well, Allie knew, it was true. She couldn't help it. She had a quick flash point and couldn't stand being bossed. But there were good reasons. And right from the beginning, Adam had understood. Adam Talmadge didn't get to be number one in his business without having a super-sharp sensitivity to people in general and to artists in particular, and he recognized in Allie Randall an unusual combination of fine artistic temperament and hard-nosed practicality.
And, because he always made it his business to know everything about his clients, he knew what no one else did. He knew how Allie had learned, much too early in her life, that she would not survive unless she had an absolute self-reliance, an utter assurance that she could rely on her own resources. And because he knew the terrible origin of Allie's fierce independence, he was always careful not to trample on it. With the smooth-talking skill that worked so well on patrons, dealers, and gallery owners, he knew how to get around her stubborn spirit while still reassuring her that she wasn't giving up any of her hard-won self-reliance.
So, by the end of their dinner, Allie had agreed to spend the summer at Adam's place on Cape Cod, and by the time Adam's driver had brought her back to her apartment in the Village, her mind was racing ahead, making busy plans for the summer.
She had run up the four flights to her apartment, stopping on her way down the hall to knock on her neighbor's door. She wanted someone with a sympathetic ear to keep her company while she packed her things, and Maria, her neighbor and best friend for the last seven years, had the most sympathetic ear in New York City.
"Come on, Maria. Come on." Allie barely waited to explain as Marie got all the bolts and locks on her door opened, and stuck her dark, curly-topped head out into the hall. "I need some help packing. Come on!" Allie was already down the hall, unlocking the door of her own apartment. "I'll tell you all about it." Maria dropped everything. She told her husband, Steve, to mind the baby and joined Allie in her apartment.
Allie packed her suitcase as though she were throwing darts at a board, scooping her clothes out of dresser drawers and closets and flinging them at the suitcase. Maria smiled indulgently as she retrieved the jeans and shirts and underthings that Allie tossed about, and repacked them in neat stacks. She listened patiently while Allie told her what little she knew of the revised plans for the summer and complained about being bossed around. She made Allie a cup of tea and got her to sit down for a bit.
"You know, Allie," she said, reassuringly, "a summer in a house on one of America's most beautiful beaches is not exactly a bad thing."
"But all my plants. What about all my plants?" Allie was digging under her bed, searching for her old deck shoes.
"Leave me a key. I'll keep them watered."
"You're a doll." Allie sat up, brushing at her mussed hair and tossing the retrieved shoes into the suitcase on the bed. "And in an emergency, call Adam." She grabbed a scrap of paper and wrote on it. "Here's his number. He's got a key to the apartment, too. If there's any problem, call him. He'll know how to reach me."
Finally, the suitcase was packed. Allie's nervous excitement was a little bit soothed and Maria left, taking Allie's extra key and promising to be in touch with Adam, if necessary.
And now, as she clung nervously to her seat, Allie tried to think ahead, to the summer that lay before her. She wouldn't have to do a thing except work. The man who takes care of the house when it's empty would meet her at the airport, and he'd keep an eye on things for her.
Allie pulled her bag out from the clutter she'd just created and rummaged around in it until she found the business card Adam had given her in the restaurant. Here it is, she said to herself, reading the name Adam had written on the paper.
Zachariah Eliot. Now that's a good name for a caretaker, she thought. A good Yankee name. Nice and rustic. Sounds like he stepped right off the Mayflower. Allie leaned her head back and closed her eyes again. Well, that's all right. If he's got an interesting face, maybe I'll do his portrait sometime this summer, behind Adam's back. She told herself obstinately that it would be a welcome change from painting the rich and powerful.
On the ground, Zach Eliot waited for the commuter flight from New York. Cindy, at the desk in the little terminal building, had told him the plane would be down soon, so he'd come outside to watch for it. Looking out over the silver tops of the scrub pine trees that surrounded the airfield, he narrowed his eyes against the sun, searching impatiently for some sign that the plane was arriving.
He looked at his watch. Damn, he said to himself, I don't have time for this. At this time of the year, he was needed down at the harbor, and the plane had already been delayed over an hour, really messing up his plans for the day. He leaned his long frame back against the white-painted cinder block wall of the terminal and looked at his watch again, trying to control his irritation.
He knew, of course, what was really bothering him, and it wasn't having to get back to the boats. It was having to pick up this woman who was coming on the plane. Not that he cared who Adam had in his house. That was entirely Adam's affair, and if Adam wanted to have a girl there, it was all right with Zach.
But ever since this other thing, this damned project of Adam's, Zach was in no mood to accommodate anything or anyone associated with Adam Talmadge. When Adam's secretary had called to notify him that this woman — what was her name? Allie Randall — was going to be on the three o'clock plane, he'd been about to tell her that Adam could go screw himself.
But he'd held his tongue. There was going to be plenty of trouble over this development scheme of Adam's, and the time for the real fight between them was still down the road a piece. When that time came, there would be many changes, and this old arrangement — providing transportation from the airport — would be ended, of course. In the meantime, he would continue to honor it. The Talmadges had set it up with Zach's father when they first started to rent that house on the beach, back when Zach was just a kid, and he didn't like to terminate an old custom.
He looked at his watch one more time. Damn! Well, he couldn't do anything at this minute to stop Adam and that bunch of barracudas Adam was representing. And there was also not a damn thing he could do to bring that plane down any sooner. Zach thrust his hands deep into the pockets of his jeans, rested his head back against the wall and closed his eyes, letting the sun warm his face.
Bad weather in the New York area had delayed their takeoff, and heavy winds were still buffeting the plane as it made its way above Long Island Sound. Allie watched in fearful fascination as the plane's wings rocked on either side of her, like a seesaw.
Pressing her forehead against the window, she stared down at the water, five thousand feet below her, the wind-whipped whitecaps visible on the waves' surface even at this height. Through thick, swirling patches of cloud, she could see the little towns along the Connecticut coast, and, in their harbors, the bright clusters of sailboats, jerking at their moorings in the choppy water, the rough waves breaking up against the shoreline.
Abruptly, as though she'd been slapped, Allie recognized the real source of her anxiety. A wash of terrible memory clutched deep inside her body.
Of course. The recognition came with heart-wrenching clarity. Of course.
The bad weather, the rough waters below her. How could she not feel fearful? Inevitably, like cold hands over her face, it all came back.
It was down there, in one of those little seaside towns where rich people had their summer homes and where they kept their pretty sailboats in the town marinas, that she'd had to go to claim her father's body. The Coast Guard had been holding him in a horrible little local morgue, and a union representative had been sent to her home in the Bronx to tell her of her father's death. She was a few months short of her eighteenth birthday, barely old enough, they thought, to handle the details, so the Coast Guard officer told her only that the winds of a sudden winter storm had swept her father from the deck of the barge as it fought its way through the fierce waves. What they didn't tell her, she already knew. Probably he'd been drinking. They thought a girl who was still in her teens should be shielded from such harsh realities. But it was too late for that. Allie Randall already had a firm grip on reality, in all its harshness.
Those men at the morgue had no way to know, but Allie had been handling "the details" ever since her mother's death, six years earlier. While Mike Randall, bereft, sank into ever-lengthening periods of bitter self-pity, raging piteously against his fate, his daughter took on the care of their shabby little house on Etheridge Street, a sad little fringe of a decaying old neighborhood in the Bronx, only steps from the river, under a dirty network of railroad bridges and factory smokestacks. Young as she was, she quickly learned to manage the real demands of everyday life. She learned to manage the meager wages Mike earned working the barges along the Sound, and on the infrequent nights that he came home, she had a hot meal ready for him — and stayed clear of his helpless rages as he grew increasingly hard on himself and on everyone else. He drank too much and, though he never struck her, she learned to be wary around him.
Excerpted from Summer on the Cape by J.M. BRONSTON. Copyright © 2016 J. M. Bronston. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a copy of this book! Allie is an artist, who's career has taken off. Even with a show coming up, she's is talked into going and spending the summer on Cape Cod. Hmmm, was that a good idea? She's going there to work, of course. She falls in love with the place, of course! What's not to love about being on the beach!? The bonus is the hot caretaker...Zach. Zach is jack of all trades and is sexy as all get out! Allie, of course, thinks he's smoking hot..but, wow what a chip he has on his shoulders! Does he really have a chip on his shoulder? This was the first book I've read by J.M. Bronston and it won't be my last! Such a good book!
Very enjoyable read! The characters of Allie and Zach were both passionate and determined. There is no wonder they clash at every point. Or it may be that they are attracted to each other but are both fighting it with all they have. Allie is suppose to be getting work done but it's impossible when all she can think about is Zach. There's a lot more to him then he let's on though, can she get past his barriers? Does she want to?? These two have great chemistry can they let each other in? Definitely a book you want to read and find out!