Since I posted earlier in the week about my fellow Loopie, Jacquie D’Alessandro, I thought I would give you an excerpt from her new release, Summer at Seaside Cove. Hope you enjoy it. Feel free to leave comments.
And Happy Mother’s Day to everyone!!!
The sound of pounding penetrated Nick Trent’s coma-like sleep. He pried open one eye and groaned when a shaft of sunlight stabbed his pupil. Damn. He’d forgotten to close the blinds again. How was anybody supposed to get any sleep around here? And who the hell was making all that racket?
He closed his eye, but the pounding continued along with the added annoyance of someone ringing his doorbell. Add to that the dog’s incessant barking, and it was a cocktail of headache inducing cacophony loud enough to shake his brain inside his skull. He might have just slapped a pillow over his head, but damn it now that he was awake–sort of–he’d at least have to quiet down the dog who otherwise would bark nonstop until Christmas.
With a growl of annoyance he pushed himself into a sitting position and stared with sleep-bleary eyes at the bedside clock. Seven twenty-five? a.m.? Jesus. He’d only crawled into bed less than two hours ago. No wonder he felt as if a truck had hit him. He glanced down and squinted. He still wore his jeans from last night–unbuttoned and halfway unzipped. His Polo shirt, socks, and Reeboks rested in an untidy heap on the floor near his bare feet.
With an effort, he shoved himself to his feet, gave his fly a half-hearted yank, and made his way toward the door, wincing at the pounding and ringing and barking. Christ. That was one of the disadvantages of living in such a small community–everyone knew each other and there didn’t seem to be any “you don’t knock on your neighbor’s door at the crack of dawn” boundaries.
The banging and ringing and barking continued until he entered the kitchen. He whistled to his chocolate Lab who immediately turned and continued to bark, letting him know that someone was at the door.
Like with the pounding and ringing he hadn’t figured that out.
“Godiva, sit,” Nick said, simultaneously giving her the signal to stop barking.
Godiva’s butt hit the floor–for a nanosecond–then she hurled herself at Nick in a tail wagging, tongue lolling, frenzy of doggie adoration. Clearly more time was needed on her obedience lessons, but he found it impossible to be annoyed at a creature that loved him so profoundly and unconditionally.
“Good girl,” he said, scratching behind her dark brown ears while Godiva slathered his forearm with kisses. He tapped her rump and pointed to the floor. “Lay. Stay.”
This time Godiva obeyed, stretching out onto her belly, but her body quivered with excitement, her tail sweeping across the kitchen floor while pitiful whines emitted from her throat.
The banging and ringing had continued unabated and with a growl of impatience, Nick yanked open the door. And stared. At an unfamiliar woman he judged to be in her mid-twenties who sported a scowl he bet matched his own.
“It’s about time you answered the door,” she said.
His scowl deepened. He didn’t know who she was or what she was selling, but all that banging and now her attitude had definitely gotten him up on the wrong side of the bed. “I was asleep.”
Her gaze skimmed over him and he could almost hear her cataloging as she went: bad case of bed head, bleary eyes, three-day stubble, no shirt, wrinkled jeans, missing shoes. He did notice that she lingered for several seconds on his unbuttoned jeans. When her gaze again met his, pink stained her cheeks. “Wow, you really were on a bender.”
What the hell? “Really? Well you don’t look so hot either, whoever you are.” Actually, that wasn’t precisely true. In fact, she looked pretty damn good. Sure her honey-colored hair sported a finger-in-the-light-socket look, and her white tank top and tan pants that hit her mid-calf looked as if she’d slept in them–something he could hardly throw stones at–but her eyes were gorgeous. They reminded him of caramel sprinkled with dark chocolate. Probably they’d be even prettier if they weren’t filled with an expression that made it clear she’d like to thump him upside his head.
Even her thundercloud frown couldn’t hide the fact that she was pretty damn cute, any more than those wrinkly clothes masked the fact that she had more curves on her than a black diamond ski run. And those dimples flanking her full lips didn’t hurt either. But in his present mood, he didn’t really give a damn how cute or curvy she might be.
At least not much.
He crossed his arms over his bare chest and glared at her. “I’ve been on a bender? Hey, black pot–kettle calling. You reek of vodka.” Okay, maybe reek was too strong a word–but he definitely smelled a trace of vodka–and he damn well knew what it smelled like. But he also caught a whiff of something kinda good, something sweet he couldn’t quite put his finger on.
“That’s because I slept in a chair.”
“Personally I find it pretty difficult to get good rest on a bar stool, but whatever floats your boat.”
“Not on a bar stool–a chair.” Her tone indicated she thought he was three years old, which did nothing to soothe his annoyance. “A folding chair. Next door. AtParadise Lost. And let me tell you, it is really, really lost.”
“Ah–so you’re the renter.”
“Yes. And you’re the owner. I thought this place was supposed to ooze southern hospitality.”
“I’m not from the south.”
“I’m picking up on that.”
“Good. You want hospitality? Here it is: Welcome to Seaside Cove. Now go away and come back at a more reasonable hour. Likenoon.”
He made to close the door, but she slapped her palm against the wooden panel and wedged her curvy self in the opening. “I’m afraid not. We need to discuss this right now. After we’ve done so, believe me, I’ll be more than happy to go away and leave you alone.” She looked past him. “Is your dog friendly?”
He glanced over his shoulder at Godiva who was inching her way on her belly toward them, tail still swishing, tongue still lolling, her soft brown eyes filled with curiosity about this new person she was clearly dying to sniff. If Nick had been feeling friendly, he would have assured her that the only thing she had to fear from Godiva was getting licked to death.
Since he was feeling particularly unfriendly, he said, “She’s unpredictable.” Right–you never knew if you’d get a Godiva kiss on your arm or your leg or your neck. “Especially when she hasn’t had her breakfast. So you’d better make this quick.”
The door-pounding/bell ringing renter didn’t look completely convinced that Godiva might pose a threat, no doubt because Godiva’s hopeful eyes and wagging tail and happy little whines practically screamed I love you! Who are you? I love you! If I don’t lick you and smell you I’ll just die! You’re my new best friend! Did I mention that I love you?
She cleared her throat then returned her attention to Nick. “The fact that you’re the owner–that’s why I’m here. To discuss the deplorable condition of your rental property.”
An invisible light bulb went off over Nick’s head as understanding seeped into his sluggish brain. Obviously Princess Vodka here wasn’t down with the rustic conditions. He should have known the renter would be someone who didn’t understand what “as is” meant. “There’s nothing deplorable about Paradise Lost. You didn’t have to sleep in a chair–there are beds you know.”
“Uh huh. But none that look overly comfortable.”
“Maybe not, but they’re better than sleeping on a folding chair.”
“Even after spending the night on a folding chair, I’m not necessarily convinced of that. Besides, I was looking out the window, waiting for you to come home.”
Oh, great. She was not only a door pounding, bell ringing whiner, but a stalker as well. “I take it the accommodations aren’t to your liking.”
“That’s putting it mildly. Those two missing bottom steps are a broken leg waiting to happen. Are you looking for a lawsuit?”
His gaze dropped to her legs which looked long and curvy and definitely not broken. “Of course not–“
“And then there’s the leaky roof. Water plopped on my head all night. No matter where I moved that folding chair, the damn drip seemed to follow. I’m lucky the ceiling didn’t cave in on me. The furniture looks like something you picked up on the side of the road, the entire place doesn’t look like it’s been painted since the turn of the century, there’s no dishwasher or air conditioner, and some idiot left a bag of clams in the sink.”
Clams…Nick’s memory kicked in. He’d stopped at Paradise Lost three days ago on his way home from his most successful clamming expedition yet and set down his catch while he’d fixed the dripping bathroom faucet. He’d put them in the fridge…hadn’t he? Damn–had he left them in the sink? He couldn’t recall, and he’d completely forgotten about them until just now. But thinking about the fridge suddenly reminded him about the bottle he’d left in the freezer–
“You drank my vodka,” he accused, his voice filled with righteous indignation.
She looked at him as if he’d grown a third eye in the middle of his forehead. “Right after I tossed your clams. Believe me, I needed a drink.”
“You threw away my clams?” Jesus. She really was the renter from hell. “Why on earth would you do that?”
For several seconds she didn’t speak–just sawed her jaw back and forth as if she was chewing glass. Then she said through gritted teeth, “Because they were dead. And they stunk bad enough to make your eyes water.” Each sentence grew in volume and added another layer of color to her cheeks. “And they were dripping that foul stench everywhere. It was disgusting. And in spite of wrapping my hands in three Piggly Wiggly bags, I may never get the smell off me.”
Wow. No doubt about it, this was one pissed off woman. She looked like Vesuvius about to blow. In fact, there might even be steam wisping from her ears. Normally he was smart enough to step away from any female with murder in her eyes, but he wasn’t feeling particularly brilliant this morning. Especially toward a woman who was a clam murderer.
“Look, whatever your name is–“
“Jamie Newman. How is it that you don’t even know the name of the person you rented your rundown, crappy shack to?”
Okay, curvy and cute or not, this chick was stomping on his last nerve. “Look, Jamie, I’m tired, cranky, sleep deprived, and in need of an I.V. drip of caffeine–“
“Well, that’s what happens when you go off on a three-day bender,” she said without a lick of sympathy in her tone.
“What makes you think I was off on a bender?”
“Word gets around quick in a town this size. Are you saying you weren’t?”
“I can’t see how that’s any of your business. Those clams, however, were my business. It took me hours to rake them, and they were fresh from the water when I put them in the fridge.” At least he thought he’d put them in the fridge. “Why did you kill them?”
“I didn’t kill them. They were dead when I arrived. And they weren’t in the fridge, they were in the sink. Do you have any idea what dead clams smell like?”
In spite of his annoyance, he had to concede that she had a point–which only irked him further. That, and the fact that he’d apparently not put his catch in the refrigerator at all. “Yeah, I do.” He cut his gaze toward Godiva who’d bellied forward so her front paw now rested on his bare foot. “Godiva found one on the beach last week and rolled herself all over it in ecstasy. She thought she smelled swell, but it was gag worthy–and since that was from just one clam, I can imagine an entire bagful really reeked. So, sorry about that–my bad.”
She appeared unimpressed with his apology and merely raised her brows. “You named your dog Godiva?”
Godiva woofed once and licked her chops at the sound of her name. “She’s a chocolate Lab,” Nick said. “And I like chocolate. You got a problem with that?” Yeah, ‘cause if she did, he’d sic Godiva on her and Jamie Pain in the Neck Newman would find herself slathered in doggie kisses.
Instead of answering his question, she asked, “Are you sober?”
“Are you?” he countered.
She blinked. “Of course. Why would you think I wasn’t?”
“By your own admission you stole my vodka and tossed back a few.”
“I didn’t steal it. It was in my freezer–which wasn’t working until I flipped the breaker switch, by the way. You’re welcome.”
“Since I own the place, it’s my freezer, and therefore my vodka.”
“Well, then I’ll be sure to see that your property is returned to you as soon as possible. In the meantime, I’m stuck here for now and I want to know, for starters, when you plan to fix the steps and the leaky roof.”
“They’re on my list of things to do.”