Kristy Neumeyer waited until the tall, sexy man in front of her finished his silky-smooth spiel before she put her paint-brush down and wiped her hands on the rag looped into the belt of her jeans. Turning back to him, she decided not to mince words this time, and she gave him her most stubborn smile. "I've got just three words for your proposition."
He waited, hope shining in his gorgeous gray eyes, as Kristy tightened her lips and continued. "Not. Gonna. Happen." Not ever, no matter what he did. No matter how attractive Connor Templeton looked standing there with his neatly cut, dark blond hair, the hint of autumn tan on his handsome face. No matter how easily his confident and commanding presence could take her breath away. And it was high time the ultrasuccessful real estate tycoon realized that, Kristy determined. His development projects might attract gold, not just in Charleston, South Carolina, but all up and down the East Coast of the United States, but they did not interest her. Not for a red-hot second.
For the briefest moment, Connor Templeton's chiseled jaw dropped, and he regarded her in stunned amazement, as if unable to believe she was going to pass on the oh-so-lucrative proposition he had just politely and painstakingly laid out for her. His own smile fading, he watched as she finished painting one of the shutters beside the double lobby doors a deep pine-green. "You obviously haven't fully calculated my offer," he stated finally.
As the warm October breeze ruffled her hair, Kristy picked up her bucket and brush and moved a little farther down the covered porch that faced the Atlantic Ocean, to the next double hung window. Ignoring his frank perusal of her, she took a tranquilizing breath and continued painting. She'd had the outside of the 1950s lodge painted a snowy white by a professional crew, but to save money, had left the trim work around the first floor doors and windows for herself. "And I don't intend to, either, Mr. Big Business," she said. If he had his way, he'd swiftly have her leading the life of the rich and idle, instead of bringing life back to the resort she had inherited from her beloved aunt Ida.
Connor followed her, being careful not to get paint on his casually elegant clothes as he leaned against one of the square posts that supported the porch roof. He thrust his hands into the pockets of his khaki slacks. "The name's Connor," he reminded her cordially. "Connor Templeton."
Kristy slanted him a glance, ignoring the way his broad shoulders filled out his classic navy blazer and patterned shirt. "Daisy Templeton Granger's older brother, I know." Daisy was a good friend of hers. They had gotten to know each other through mutual friends the previous spring.
"Then you should also know," Connor insisted, "if you're friends with my baby sister, that I am a nice guy."
Who wouldn't hurt a flea? "I don't care if you're the king of England, Mr. Templeton," Kristy told him firmly. "I'm staying put. So take that back to your business partner and all the investors you and Skip Wakefield have rounded up." She stopped what she was doing and marched forward until they were standing nose to nose. Refusing to let that slow, sexy smile of his turn her knees to jelly, she continued, "Because I am not selling Paradise Resort. Not now. Not ever."
The oceanfront lodge, twelve cottages and a stretch of beautiful private beach that comprised the Folly Beach, South Carolina resort, was not just Kristy's inheritance, it was her future and long-held dream. And she was not parting with it. Not even for the five million dollars purchase price Connor Templeton and his partner, Skip Wakefield, were waving in front of her nose. Money that would more than obliterate both mortgages on the resort and Kristy's own mountain of debt.
She knew she still had a lot of work to do on the interior of the lodge, particularly in the individual guest rooms. But thanks to the grueling work she had put in all summer, the rest of it, including all the common areas, were shaping up nicely. Plus the resort had old-fashioned charm, reminiscent of relaxing family vacations of a bygone era. There were no tennis courts here, no golf courses or video arcades, just the lodge, the dunes and the beach. It was quiet and lowkey and appealing, a place where people who simply wanted to spend time together could come. The two-story, white clapboard lodge had a dramatically pitched gable roof over the lobby, club and dining rooms, kitchen, reservation desk and private office, all located in the central part of the building. Two rectangular wings spread out on either side. Native palmetto trees thirty feet in height surrounded the hotel and stood sentry on the short drive from Folly Beach Road to the parking area. An array of flowering bushes - camellias, bougainvilleas, magnolias and azaleas - added color around the lodge and cottages.
"You don't have to decide today," Connor continued, persuasively stating his case. "You can take some time to think about it."
"I don't have to think about it," Kristy stated. What was it about these two guys that they didn't understand when a business offer was being refused?
Before Connor could reply to that, Kristy's obnoxious neighbor to the south, Bruce Fitts, suddenly rounded the side of the lodge. As always, the too-tanned, penguin-shaped man with the thin black mustache was dressed in swim trunks - trunks that were, in Kristy's estimation, way too brief. He also wore expensive Italian sandals and an open shirt accessorized with several thick gold chains.
"I told you and your partner she was unreasonable!" Fitts declared as he rushed across the wide front porch the locals liked to refer to as the piazza. Looking to Connor for help, Fitts ran a hand over his slick-backed ebony hair.
Kristy turned to Connor, barely able to believe that an aristocratic man like Connor would associate with the oily "entrepreneur" inhabiting the luxurious new beach house just south of her resort. Unlike the other hardworking inhabitants of Folly Beach, Bruce Fitts made his money from sleazy schemes. He was constantly threatening lawsuits, ripping off insurance companies and doing whatever he could to rake in easy money. And when he wasn't scheming and conniving, he was spying on other residents, including Kristy and her girls, through the telescope mounted on his deck. She had been trying to ignore him, and his near constant complaints, but with him in such close proximity, it wasn't easy.
"What are you doing here, Fitts?" Connor turned to glare warningly at Bruce.
"Yeah," Kristy said sarcastically to Connor, "I bet you've got a real deal on some prime marshland you want to sell me. For a friendly little discount, of course." How stupid did Connor and his partner think she was? Clearly, they would do anything to get her to throw in the towel, even, it seemed, employing her thoroughly disreputable neighbor. Not that the idea was without merit, Kristy had to admit. Being around Bruce Fitts for any length of time did make her want to split.
Bruce glared at Kristy resentfully as he declared, "You're just like your aunt."
Kristy smiled. Her poor aunt had had to put up with this, too. "Thank you," she said sweetly. "I'll consider that a compliment, since my aunt Ida was one of my all-time favorite people."
"Forcing the rest of us homeowners to look at this eye-sore!" Bruce sputtered.
Kristy conceded that Paradise Resort was in need of a lot of tender loving care. But that was why she was here - to bring it back to life.
"Mr. Fitts, please leave us," Connor stated firmly.
Bruce stared at Connor. Obviously realizing that he was not a man to tangle with if you could help it, Bruce backed down reluctantly. "Fine." He snorted, then wagged a finger at Kristy. "But not before I tell you, missy, that I am not going to let you keep on devaluating my property with this dump for very much longer, even if I have to personally find a way to shut you down!"
There was no way he could do so legally, Kristy knew. She had complied with all state and local regulations as she worked to get the aging property looking good again.