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Who does Zack Denning think he is?
As if Zack has any right to come onto Jamie Conroe's property and demand she sell to him. So what if he wants to buy this land for the guests at his high-end resort to enjoy? This was Jamie's grandfather's land—where he fell in love with her grandmother—and now this shoreline property is her fresh start.
Still, Zack's persistent, she'll give him that. And when he isn't issuing ultimatums, he's quite good-looking—sexy, even. But he can't have her land. And no matter how many dances they share, and kisses they steal, he can't have her heart, either....
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Callie Endicott grew up loving books so much it frequently got her into trouble. She majored in English and works as a teacher. Still loving storytelling, she turned to writing. Now when she isn't hiking a forest trail, she often has her nose stuck to a computer screen. Her cat and the guy in her life don't appreciate the time she devotes to her fictional characters, but that's another story. Visit her Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/callie.endicott.author.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Zack crossed the golf course in a loping stride. Now that the resort was open for business, he was too busy for the lengthy runs he liked, so he fit in exercise whenever he could.
The rising sun shot gold rays across the landscape. It was a favorable time of day to take promotional pictures, and he made a mental note to mention it to the photographer. A webcam on the website might also be worthwhile—a long-view camera that showcased the elegant sweep to the Pacific Ocean.
"Hey, boss," Rick Lopez, the senior grounds-keeper, said as Zack got to the seventeenth hole and surveyed the yellow blotches of dying turf, glaring against the surrounding green.
"Have you figured out the issue?"
"Too much fertilizer and it burned the grass. We'll lay fresh sod immediately. We're lucky this happened toward the end of the course or the early players would catch us working."
Zack scanned the nearby scenery. "Are you positive this is the only site?"
"Yep. All clear."
"Find the idiot responsible and send me a memo."
Rick bent and pulled at the grass, examining a few blades. "Two of my guys were out here Monday night. The equipment could have malfunctioned. It's hard to see in the dark and the burns aren't critical. In most cases I'd let the grass come back on its own. But I'll follow up."
Zack nodded and sprinted to his SUV. He knew there wouldn't be an idiot report. Rick hired his own crew and was loyal to them. He also came as a package—his wife, Trudy, was a top-notch office manager. Zack had lured the duo from a prestigious golf course on the East Coast. It wasn't easy persuading Rick to make the move, but a hike in salary and the chance to build his reputation at a new California resort had finally won him over. As for Trudy, she was happy as long as she could work in the same location as her husband.
Sliding behind the wheel of his Mercedes SUV, Zack seized the radio microphone.
"Base," he snapped.
"Good morning, boss," Trudy answered. "Has anyone teed off yet?"
"Several went a quarter of an hour ago." Zack tensed, despite the situation being under control. "Rick says he'll resod before they get that far."
"I can delay them with my Lady Godiva impression," she offered.
"We don't have a horse available," Zack told her, trying to choke down his annoyance. Trudy's light-hearted approach usually made him smile; lately it was wearing on his nerves. Didn't anyone else understand how critical it was that the resort run perfectly? It wasn't just his money on the line—his parents had invested their retirement savings in Mar Vista.
"I'll take the riding mower. My alabaster skin will look fabulous in the rising sun."
For a moment Zack wondered what people would think if they overheard this conversation. "Uh...your husband might object."
"Yeah, he's a real killjoy. He insists on full safety gear when you roll that shiny machinery out for a spin. I keep telling him that he shouldn't fuss—I've driven everything from an 18-wheeler to a baby carriage."
Were babies on her mind? The Lopezes didn't have any kids and had never mentioned starting a family in the years he'd been acquainted with them.
Zack's stomach churned as he recalled a box of saltines lying on Trudy's desk. She'd been sick a couple of days the past week...improving by noon. He pinched the bridge of his nose. It was best not to dwell on potential complications—it only drove him crazier.
"Did the early birds go together, or are they in separate groups?" he asked.
"They're together, and they decided to walk instead of using your fancy golf carts. That gives us longer to fix things. Anyhow, Rick says it's mostly cosmetic and doesn't affect play."
"Appearances matter. We're aiming at a five-star rating," Zack retorted.
The microphone amplified Trudy's breath as she sighed. "That's why Rick is taking care of it at the crack of dawn."
"Okay. What's the status on the linen?"
There was a brief pause. "No need to worry about that, either. I'll make certain the delivery guy stays while each piece is checked and double-checked. The head of housekeeping is also on the warpath, and you know how she gets."
"Tell me when the delivery arrives. I want to be there."
"Sure, boss," Trudy said after another pause.
Zack started the ignition and turned onto the road, pleased with how well the new SUV handled. He didn't require such an expensive vehicle for his daily inspections, but a Mercedes signaled luxury and success to the clientele. Attention to detail was his trademark.
As a high school senior he'd deliberately begun working through each position in the leisure industry. Initially he'd gotten a job as a bellboy, then one in laundry, followed by housekeeping, groundskeeper's assistant, a turn at the reception desk and various other jobs, including a summer as activity director on a cruise ship. It had helped pay expenses as he earned his MBA and complemented his education with practical experience. Many managers or owners took the fast track to the executive's suite, spending a token stint in the different departments, but he'd wanted to learn the business at every level.
Yawning, Zack sucked down a gulp of coffee. Morning wasn't his favorite part of the day. He liked sleeping in, preferably next to an attractive female companion. That hadn't happened in a long time; too much was riding on the project to let anything distract him.
With his digital camera, he clicked photos at various sites around the resort. They were for his personal records; professional tripod jockeys were handling his advertising needs. But he routinely compared his snapshots to the project blueprints and his original vision. So far so good.
All at once he slammed on the brakes and stared.
What is that?
Dumbfounded, he gaped at a row of colorful sandwich boards toward the end of the public road.
Local Produce—Opening May 19
First Come, First Served
Loganberries Leaf Lettuce Greens And More....
An arrow pointed down the small unpaved track on the undeveloped portion of his acreage. Sitting smack-dab in the middle of one of the finest ocean views on the California coastline was a bright blue trailer adorned with more signs, each wilder than the last.
His foot hit the accelerator.
Jamie Conroe held the trailer awning with her right hand, pushed the brace with her other hand and nudged the pole with her toe. She'd been struggling to get it up for ages. Why her grandfather had invented such an ungainly system she'd never know. When she'd tested it in the barn last October, she had promised herself to devise a better plan. Now she was getting ready to open the fruit-and-vegetable stand, and thanks to her procrastination, she was performing an acrobatic act.
In the back of her mind she registered the sound of tires on gravel. It was probably a farmer. Whoever it was, they'd have to wait. If she could just get that darned brace in the spot it needed to be.
A harsh voice broke her concentration.
"What the devil are you doing?"
She jumped, the canopy slipped and the pole whacked her left temple.
"Ouch!" she yelped as the heavy canvas dropped and shoved her against the trailer's painted aluminum siding. Slouching, she considered remaining in temporary defeat, but it wasn't very comfortable. The corner of a box was digging into her hip, while the awning's fabric was sandy and had a musty odor after three years in storage.
Jamie wriggled her head free and glared at the man. "Could you have found a slightly more awkward moment to shout at me? Perhaps when I was blindfolded and walking a tightrope?"
To give him credit, he lifted a handful of canvas, poles and ropes so she could hop out of the mess.
"You didn't answer my question," he said.
"Which question was that?"
He gestured incredulously. "I should think it's obvious. What are you doing here?"
Jamie gazed dolefully at the tangled lines and poles. Rats. She'd have to begin all over again. "I thought you were being rhetorical. This isn't rocket science. It's a sun canopy."
"No. I mean the whole thing. This...this trailer and those signs."
Massaging the knot forming on her forehead, Jamie studied the stranger. She knew him from newspaper articles—Zack Denning. The Warrington Gazette regularly printed editorials on the "genius" entrepreneur who'd built the luxury resort next door. His picture was hard to miss, though she hadn't paid much attention to the world since arriving in Warrington this past September.
She'd spent the winter in seclusion, making the excuse that she was busy with her silver jewelry casting, but mostly she was sorting out her new life. Now that she'd emerged from solitary, she was focused on reopening the seasonal produce stand. Local growers were delighted; Granddad's business had been a profitable outlet for them.
"Well?" Denning demanded.
She had no idea what the trouble was, but would enjoy giving him a verbal runaround for his belligerence.
"It's a fruit-and-vegetable stand. Farmers bring their harvest. We sell it. Selling is when you exchange one product for another commodity, usually money," she explained as if he were a child in need of instruction.
"You can't put anything here," he said, barely containing a growl.
"Sorry. Free trade is an old tradition, commonly called 'commerce,' or occasionally 'capitalism.' Look it up. Communists don't approve, but Americans are fond of the practice."
"I've no objections to what you do, as long as it's not on ground belonging to me."
"Poor fellow," she commiserated. "I always heard men were supposed to be spatially adapted—you know, with the roaming ability for tracking game.
Maybe you missed getting that gene. My section is the acre including the beach that's immediately north of the public road. You own the rest, except the state beach and the tract with my house on it." She traced a simplistic map in the dirt to illustrate.
"No. The water forms my property line, making it a private beach for the acreage between the main road and the salt flats. I realize you have a house lying north of my section with access two miles east, off the main road. But you aren't entitled to cross my land to get there, and it definitely doesn't mean you can drag that horrible trailer onto my resort. This site may not be developed, but it's still Mar Vista."
She raised her chin. Zack Denning didn't need to sneer as if Granddad's 1950s travel trailer broke the law. Admittedly, the brilliant aqua was startling. An enterprising junk man with a load of overstocked paint had peddled it to her grandfather over a decade ago. The neighbors had joshed Granddad until they got used to calling the trailer that "Little Blue Fruit Stand."
"As I explained, this particular acre isn't yours, Mr. Denning. It's mine, and the attorney gave me the documents to prove it. Granddad may have been color-blind and a little odd from living alone, but he was sharp as a tack and didn't sign a scrap of paper unless he was sure of the facts."
"I own this land," Denning said. "Understand? It's mine. You can't fast-talk your way around it."
Jamie waved a finger at him. "Repetition does nothing for you legally."
"We'll see about that."
He stomped to his Mercedes, groping for something in his pockets. After a moment he slapped his thigh in apparent frustration, as if he couldn't find what he was looking for. Then he reached into the SUV, pulled out a radio or walkie-talkie and spoke into it. From the little she could hear, it sounded as if he was talking to someone named Trudy.
Interesting. The newspaper had endorsed him, and they were normally conservative when it came to newcomers. Presumably they'd never had the pleasure of seeing him acting like a jerk. Of course, anyone could have a bad day; her ex-husband specialized in them, especially the arrogant-asshole kind of day.
Granted, Zack Denning was good-looking with his dark brown hair and eyes. If he ever smiled, he'd devastate feminine hearts right and left.
She shrugged. It made no difference that he was a hunk. Life had gotten simpler since she decided to forgo romance. No more hassles about dating. No more hopes dashed. And best of all, no more worries about how to dress. She wore whatever she fancied without wondering if a guy would find her appealing. It was incredibly freeing. Her friends marveled at her willingness to do without sex, but it had been so lousy in her marriage, it didn't seem much of a loss.
Right now her only concern was getting the awning in place. She knew it could be done. Granddad had managed it, even when his arthritis acted up. Adjusting the poles and ropes, Jamie tugged the canvas, pushing, poking and nudging until the stupid structure fell into the correct position. A sea breeze rippled the edges and she hurriedly tied the lines to their stakes.
Pleased, she inspected her accomplishment. This used to be her grandfather's favorite season; he loved the company of his customers after a winter in isolation. He'd passed his summers sitting in a worn wooden chair, talking to tourists and townspeople, filling dozens of journals with their stories...some of them scandalous. They made a fascinating social history of the area.
As a kid she'd spent Augusts in Warrington. While Granddad chatted with customers, she played in the sand or devoured library books. And when he let her, she sold produce. But now that the Little Blue Fruit Stand was hers, she didn't know if she wanted to work there daily, or hire someone to run it for half the week.
Humming, she began scrubbing the trailer floor with a bleach solution. The small interior space was for personal use and she wanted it clean.
"I need you to deal with this, Deputy." She heard a voice through the open door.
It was Zack Denning.
He must have summoned the authorities to enforce his opinion. Fine. The overbearing jerk would learn what immovable meant after dancing that tango with her. She scrambled to her feet and stepped out to see a blond man in a khaki uniform standing next to the darker and leaner Zack Denning.
"Is something wrong?" she asked.
"Uh—yes." The officer shifted nervously. "Trespassing is against the law. You have to...um...leave if you don't want to be arrested."
"Hmm," she said. "That's a serious threat, and I won't resist if you take me in. However, false arrest is also serious, particularly since you haven't questioned my side of the story. Sadly, it could be a careerender if the people of Warrington hear you helped a rich outsider bully a resident who's legally on her own property."
The young man swallowed, his Adam's apple bobbing with ridiculous speed.
"Not that I want that to happen to you, Officer," Jamie assured him. "But even if folks appreciate the income Mr. Denning brings to the community, they won't like him using the sheriff's office to throw his weight around."
She turned and assessed Zack Denning.
"You know, Mr. Denning," she said, "you ought to be law-abiding and neighborly in these rural parts. For example, I could have charged you with trespassing and disturbing my peace, but I chose to let bygones be bygones."
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Book Description Harlequin Superromance, 2014. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0373608241
Book Description Harlequin, 2014. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110373608241