Check out the Prologue first.
A Wakeup Call
“Crew, sweetie, I’m so glad you could make it.”
Crew smiled at his grandmother when he walked into the retirement home’s large common room where she was playing cards with her friends. “I wouldn’t miss it. You know that. This is easier for me than Christmas. Maybe I should fly you to me for Christmas.”
“Heavens, no,” she said. “Did you hear that, Ethel? My grandson wants to fly me to some remote island in the East.”
“Go,” Ethel said. “Take a bikini with you. You can borrow mine.”
His eyes went wide and then he heard his grandmother laugh. “I don’t need to borrow yours when I’ve got plenty of my own. How’s the ocean this time of year? It’d be just like taking the Polar Plunge.”
Thoughts of his grandmother in a bikini running into the freezing ocean were causing his heart to hurt in more ways than one. “How about we save the ocean until it’s warmer? Maybe you could visit in the summer?”
“We’ll talk about it another day,” his grandmother said. Which probably meant no. He’d been trying to get her to move with him for the six months that he’d lived on Amore Island.
Nope, she was content to stay in the retirement facility that he paid for back in Boulder, Colorado. She understood his need to leave and he just wished she would have come with him.
He only came back to visit one or two times a year and never the same time. He didn’t want his remaining family to know when he might be in town and he knew his grandmother would keep that secret.
“Are you ready to get some dinner?”
“I am. No one came to visit with you today?” he asked.
Lucy Hanson was his maternal grandmother. The only one he wanted to be around after his parents died tragically. He’d been in college burning through their money and partying the same way they were. It was a wakeup call to find out the small plane his father had just purchased and was flying crashed during a storm one night and there were no survivors. Pilot error had been the final call.
“Your Uncle Richard only comes around if he thinks you will be here. The same with his greedy kids.”
“You mean your other grandkids,” he said, smirking. Dina and Derek Hanson weren’t that close to him growing up even though they were around the same age.
Crew’s parents were just blue collar workers living paycheck to paycheck their whole lives until they struck it big on the lotto.
His mother’s brother decided that maybe his younger sister was worth something now. Like a handout when he’d never helped his parents when they needed it. After it was all left to Crew, his uncle and cousins thought they could squeeze some green out of him. Not happening.
“It doesn’t matter what their names are, they rarely come around. They are too busy with their lives.”
“Good for them,” he said sarcastically. He’d never abandon the one person to take him in and love him unconditionally. His grandmother loved everyone the same. Or she used to. She had little tolerance for her son and other grandkids now. “Let’s go back to your rooms and get your jacket.”
He offered his hand and helped her up even though she didn’t need it. She might be seventy-five, but she’d give most fifty-year-olds a run for their money in many things in life.
Once they were in her two-room suite on the first floor of the complex, he looked around the open area. There was a decent-sized living room with a four-person table near the galley kitchen. Her bedroom and bathroom were off to the side. She loved it here and he knew if he couldn’t get her to go with him, she was at least being looked after.
She came out of her bedroom with her jacket on over her black pants and UGG boots and he couldn’t hold back the laughter. “What?” she said. “You bought them for me.”
“I did,” he said back. He’d been stunned when she said she wanted a pair but figured they would be nice and warm on the grounds, not that she’d go out in public in them. Even her black pants were stretchy with a longer sweater. She looked pretty modern to him too.
“Then don’t laugh at me,” she said.
“I wouldn’t think of it,” he said back. “Even if I did.”
She slid her arm through his and they went to his rental, then drove to the restaurant for a Thanksgiving dinner.
“How long are you staying?” she asked after they’d placed their order.
“I’m flying out tomorrow,” he said. “I need to work this weekend.”
“You couldn’t take one extra day off?” she asked. “You flew in last night late and then tomorrow you’ll be gone again. It’s like you’re barely here.”
Which was the way he wanted it. The less chance of running into not only his mother’s family, but his father’s as well. Leeches were everywhere.
“Packages need to be delivered. I was lucky to get tomorrow off to travel and I managed to get out early yesterday.” Which hadn’t been easy either. It’s not like he could just drive to the airport. He had to get on the ferry, then go to Boston International. He got the earliest flight he could tomorrow so he wouldn’t have to worry about missing the ferry back to the island as it was.
“You’re a busy man, I know. If I haven’t said it enough, I’ll say it now. I’m proud of you for settling down.”
He wasn’t so sure he was settled. At thirty-two years old, he’d been traveling around for five years. After the death of his parents, he’d dropped out of college. It wasn’t like the degree in business he was getting was going to do much for him. He was barely passing as it was.
But he had to do something with his time and, for the hell of it, he applied to the post office. Good benefits and a nice federal job, what the heck. He only applied for part time and stayed that way for years allowing him the time to hang out with friends and party all he wanted. Even travel when he wanted most times.
Five years ago he’d had enough though and put in for a transfer to Phoenix for a full-time position, then later to Houston which he’d left to come here about six months ago. The cold was getting to him and it was time for warmer weather. Until he realized the heat wasn’t much better when he was walking around in it all day.
That started his journey to different places until he landed on Amore Island and felt like he might have found his home.
“I’ve got a good job and a nice house. If that’s considered settled, then yay for me.”
“I’d love to see you with someone special,” his grandmother said. “Have you been dating anyone?”
“I haven’t really dated anyone in years and you know it. You know why too.”
“One person, Crew. She was a piece of shit.”
He started to cough on the drink he’d just taken. “Good point.”
Lisa knew about his money and she liked to have fun. He was fine with that. Then his parents died and she was there for him. Until she told the biggest lie imaginable and cost him a shitload of stress and another major wakeup call. That had been the final straw for him to begin making plans to get out of Dodge.
“It was years ago, Crew. How many?”
“Almost ten,” he said. “And yes I’ve dated in that time. Of course I have. I just haven’t found anyone as wonderful as you.”
She laughed and he was glad of it. “And you never will. But you shouldn’t be comparing. Do you at least have your eye on anyone?”
“Yes,” he said before he could stop the word from tumbling out like snow during an avalanche. What the hell was wrong with him?
“Tell me about her,” his grandmother said.
“Not much to say. I paid three thousand dollars to have a date with her. I’m still waiting to set it up.”
“Crew! I hope you’re lying to me. Good Lord, that is one high-priced call girl.”
This time he couldn’t stop the laughter and decided not to correct her.
“Have you called the guy you owe a date to?”
Emily looked at her mother as she set the table for Thanksgiving. It was just her parents and her sister, Penelope, for Thanksgiving. She was fine with that as she was exhausted from traveling this past week.
“No, Mom. You know I’ve been out of town and we’ve had one issue after another at the hotel.”
“Which your sister and I have dealt with,” her father said.
Her parents and Mitchell Bond together owned thirty percent of Atlantic Rise Hotel. They’d fronted the cash for her and Penelope to get their start and then the two of them split the remaining seventy percentage and maintained majority shares. Not that her father or Mitchell did much more than offer suggestions or help when they needed it.
Her mother, Sophia, had introduced Mitchell to his wife, Janet; then Mitchell had returned the favor introducing Sophia to Mason Rauch. Mason, her father, was semi-retired now, just working remotely as Mitchell Bond’s Vice President of Marketing. Mason’s family was in the tourism business most of his life so he came by it naturally. Marrying her mother just added to his portfolio that would be handed down. Lots of rental properties and other investments more than anything, but the girls had no shortage of things they could do when they were older.
They went the hard route though and wanted to start from scratch.
No, neither she nor her parents were as wealthy as Mitchell or Scott Bond, or some of the other Bonds in the family, but they held their own.
“But it’s Emily’s baby,” Penelope said. “You know she can’t disconnect for one minute.”
“You’re no better,” Emily said back to her sister. “You’re just as much of a control freak as me.”
“I wouldn’t go that far,” Penelope said. “You bring freak to a whole new level. I just like to be organized. You want things your way or it’s the highway. I’m the nice one the employees like to talk to. You, you’re the one that they run from.”
“Your sister has you there,” her mother said.
“I can’t help it if I’m serious and determined. Penelope is just as much and you know it.”
“But I’ve got a softer approach than you.”
“Which is why we make a great team,” she told her younger sister.
“We do,” Penelope said coming over and putting her arm around her shoulder. “See. Soft approach.”
She rolled her eyes at her sister. “To answer your question, Mom. No. I haven’t reached out to Crew, but I plan on it next week.”
“What do we know about this guy?” her father said. “You said he’s your mailman? That’s a lot of money to pay to have a date with someone when he could just ask you. Do you even talk?”
“We talk all the time,” she admitted. “I mean when I’m home and he delivers a package. He normally rings the bell so I know it’s there. I’ve asked him to so it doesn’t sit on the porch.”
“So he drops a package off and leaves after he rings the bell?” Penelope said. “Maybe he has a crush on you to do that.”
“I doubt it,” she said. “Men like him want nothing to do with someone like me.”
“Uptight and a control freak?” Penelope said.
Emily didn’t think she was that uptight but understood many thought otherwise. Including her ex, Simon. He didn’t think she was so uptight when he was riding on her coattails. Maybe she shouldn’t have voiced that to him during one of their fights.
Oh well, in the past.
“Whatever. He’s nice. He’s always smiling and has a joke to say or something funny. I’ve given him cookies and drinks. Sometimes it’s really hot out and since he does go out of his way to ring the bell, it’s the least I could do. You know others just toss things and run off the porch.”
“You’re feeding the mailman,” her mother said. “That’s so sweet.”
She wanted to grind her teeth. This was why she didn’t tell her family things. But over the summer it could get hot out and there had been a few days Crew was carrying up some of her packages. They were big and heavy and he was sweating, his biceps and forearms were flexing, even his thighs and calves when he squatted down.
She’d actually been almost embarrassed to be staring and more so when he’d caught her. She immediately offered him a bottle of water that day and then a few more times when she saw him.
Most times he dropped her mail in the box by the end of the driveway, but if she was home and had a package, she’d almost always go to the door to get it and offer him something and talk for a minute. It’s not like she had packages sent daily, and she did track them to know the day they’d be delivered and worked her schedule around to be there for them.
Sometimes she wondered if she was just lonely that she was looking forward to seeing him.
But the last thing she expected was that he’d buy a date with her.
“That’s me. Sweet. Maybe he just wanted to pay me back for being nice to him. See, Penelope? Soft approach here too.”
“By upping the bid a thousand?” his father said. “No. There has to be more to it. I’m waiting for Helena to get more information on him to do a check.”
“Dad, he works for the federal government. Don’t you think they’d do a background?”
“No clue and don’t care. Mitchell will run the check once Helena gets the information. We just want to make sure there is no criminal background,” her father said.
“Which I’m sure Mac can do for you easily enough too,” she said of the chief of police. Mac Bond was family, he knew about the auction and though he said there was no way in hell he was getting on stage when he was asked, he still understood why the event was done. Though this was the first year Helena got the hair-brained idea to auction people off.
“Maybe I’ll have Mac deal with it then,” Mason said. “Especially if you are calling him next week to set up this date. Remember, stay in a public place.”
“Dad,” she said. “I’m thirty years old. I’m a big girl and know the dating rules. It’s a few hours and we’ll stay on the island. The date is his choice, he bought it.”
“I wonder what he has planned,” her mother said.
“Maybe he wants to take the time to tell Emily to cut back her shopping so he isn’t breaking his back,” Penelope said.
“You buy just as much as I do,” she complained.
“I do. But I don’t have a hot mailman delivering mine. Maybe I need to move to your neighborhood. Hmm, maybe that is why you are buying more and more lately. What do you think of that, Mom?”
She wasn’t going to agree with her sister that Crew was hot. It was bad enough they already knew she was giving him food and drink while he worked. And right now everyone was eying her funny too.
She was done talking about this. “So did you find out what it would cost to add more selections to the room service menu?”
“Emily has spoken,” Penelope said. “Back to work mode. It was fun while it lasted.”
Her mother sighed and looked at her watch. “One hour until the turkey is on the table. That means no more shop talk after. Understood, everyone?”
“Understood,” everyone said back.
If anyone wanted to know where she got her personality from, it was her mother. She speaks and everyone listens.