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       Last Resort, p.5

           Jill Sanders
 

  Chapter Two

  Two years later…

  Cassey watched customers come and go. She knew what her financial books said and wondered why things weren’t clicking. It had been two wonderful years, and she’d paid off half her loan in that short time, faster than she had imagined. But now something was wrong. Customers weren’t coming as frequently. She had Sam change up the menus a little to reflect the changing styles. People always said how great the food and atmosphere were, but then she wouldn’t see them again.

  They had their regulars at the bar, and the weekends during the season were still good. However, in the last few weeks, she had seen a change and customers just weren’t coming.

  She stood out on the pier and frowned. There just weren’t enough people walking by anymore. Even the shops next to her had suffered. She’d talked to the owners and all of them were baffled. Some buildings now sat empty with “for sale” signs in the front windows. Enough buildings sat empty that it was a great concern to the other business owners. Some of the business that had disappeared had been bought out, but there were still enough businesses and owners that were determined to stick it out, no matter what.

  She’d been visited a few times by some of the larger resorts down the beach. Several had given her very appealing offers to sell out. But this was her family’s place, not just hers, and she wasn’t going to sell, period. She hadn’t even mentioned the offers to the Graytons, knowing what they would say. The place had been in their family for generations and they were determined to keep it that way.

  She leaned against the railing and watched as couples and children played on the beach. It was chilly today, with a cold wind coming in off the Gulf, so everyone was bundled up in jeans and light jackets. Fall was, in her opinion, the best season. The cool air rushed in off the ocean, cooling everything down.

  This time of year always made her think of her family. Maybe because she’d always enjoyed taking the long drive across the Dolphin Bay Bridge back to Spring Haven and the old house on the hill that overlooked her small hometown. Even though the weather was usually nice, she could feel the changes and knew that even cooler weather was on its way.

  Taking a deep breath, she went back to her office to work on a new business plan that would get the boardwalk and her bar and grill busy again. Walking into the main dining area, she looked around and noticed there were only four tables being served. For lunch, this was tragic.

  Walking past the bar area and waving at Wendy, she went up the narrow stairs quickly. When she pushed open her office door, she was shocked to see a gorgeous man sitting behind her desk, fast asleep with his feet up. It took her a second to regain her composure as she looked at him.

  His light brown hair was cut stylishly, with the top raised up and the sides shorter. Side burns ran to the middle of his ears. His long dark eyelashes lay on his checks. His jaw was square and one of the best features on his face. His lips. She couldn’t take her eyes from them. They were full and looked like they would be fun to kiss.

  He wore a blue, collared shirt, the top button open, with no tie. He wore a light tan leather bomber jacket and dark gray jeans. His black boots rested on the corner of her desk.

  She’d never been one to deny herself physical pleasures with a good-looking man. Men were easy to come by when you ran one of the largest bar and grills along the beach. They were easy enough to discard as well. She was always quick in her affairs, never letting the relationships fester into something that got out of hand. Usually they only lasted a few weeks before she would get bored and move on.

  Shaking herself from her thoughts and from watching the sexy man sleep in her chair, she closed the door loudly, and his eyes slid open slowly. They were dark brown and she could have sworn he was laughing at her.

  He smiled at her, keeping his feet on her desk and his arms crossed over his chest.

  “Oh, there you are,” the man said in a rich voice. “I’ve been waiting for over an hour, you know.” He finished as his eyes ran up and down her, much like she’d done to him.

  “Who are you?” she asked, frowning. “And what are you doing in my office?” She walked over and pushed his boots off her desk. He smiled even more.

  “Luke Callaway. I left you over a dozen messages.” He stood and she realized how tall he was. Of course, at five-four, most men were taller than her. But he was impressive, probably an inch taller than Roman, the tallest of her brothers.

  She quickly walked over and sat in her chair, making sure to straighten the papers he’d messed up. “I’m sure I would remember…” She dropped off as it dawned on her. Luke Callaway was the owner of Crystal Shores, one of the larger hotels in Emerald Beach, a few miles west of there. He and his minions had been the most annoying at trying to buy her out. Her spine tensed. “Yes, I remember now.” She flipped open her laptop and logged in. “As I told all of your employees, I’m not interested in selling.” She glanced up at him through her lashes. “Now, if you would be so kind as to leave my office.”

  He looked down at her and smiled as he took a seat on the leather couch that sat across from her desk. She tried not to sigh out loud as he leaned down and placed his elbows on his knees and looked at her.

  “I understand. I just thought a friendly visit was in order.” He looked at her and she felt heat spread down her body.

  She turned to her computer. “I really don’t have time for a chat at the moment.”

  He laughed at her.

  “What?” She frowned and glared at him.

  “I think we both know you have all the time in the world.” He nodded to her almost empty dining room. “It’s not like you’re overrun with customers at the moment.”

  She stood and rested her hands on her desk as she glared at him. “You think this is funny? Everyone along the pier knows what you and the other resorts are doing to small business owners. I suppose we should have seen it coming, but now you march into my place and make yourself at home.” She walked to the front of her desk, wishing she could grab the man up and force him out of her place. “Get out,” she said under her breath. “I will say this for the last time. I am not selling my place, especially not to the likes of you.” She walked to her door and opened it to wait until he stood and left. But he just leaned back on the couch and looked like he was going to make himself at home.

  “You are a conundrum.” His smile dropped away as he shook his head. “Like I said, I’m just here for a friendly visit.”

  She sighed and stood in the doorway as she crossed her arms over her chest. “We both know you are not here to visit,” she said while grinding her back teeth. “So, would you mind telling me exactly why you are here?”

  “Why don’t you shut the door and have a seat, so I can explain.” He motioned to her desk.

  She took a moment to calm herself before shutting the door again. Instead of walking behind her desk, she leaned on the edge and crossed her arms, waiting for him to explain.

 
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