Love on the Lake Series, Volume 1
Gabe Trainor is coming back to Moon Lake, and Tori Henderson's determined to win back her teenage crush. But millionaire Jed Trainor wants Tori for himself, and the only thing his brother Gabe is going to get is a taste of sweet revenge.
Jed rested his elbows on the bar and rubbed his eyes, trying to adjust to the darkness and the surreal turn his life had taken today.
He’d driven for miles without a destination, ending up at the deserted beachfront, standing in a cold, whipping wind. Then the rain began to fall, soaking his clothes and chilling him to the core. He made his way back to his car and called his lawyer Kevin Lambert, prepared to tell his old friend he was about to lose one of his biggest clients, Trainor Enterprises.
There would be more phone calls like this one, more people out of work because of him. Bridget and the rest of the office staff. People who relied on him for a paycheck. He swallowed hard against the lump in his throat and said what he needed to say.
Kevin didn’t miss a beat. “Disappear. An urgent matter out of town that requires your immediate attention.”
Jed ran his fingers through his hair. “What are you talking about?”READ MORE
“Before you sold off that last block of stock, I modified the charter. You approved it while you still had majority control, remember?”
A memory came floating back to Jed. “You said it was for my protection.”
“Exactly. We can’t keep them from taking control, but we can stall them. Buy you some time. You’ve got two weeks’ grace. They have to try to contact you for two weeks before they can hold a vote without you present.”
“In the meantime, I can try to buy some more stock.”
Hope rose up within him, and he worked to bank it down. This was not a reprieve, merely a stay of execution, but it was time he could use to his advantage. As a privately-held company, it wouldn’t be easy to find shares of Trainor Enterprises for sale. Still, the lightest smile played at the corners of his mouth. “You are my new favorite person.”
“You got somewhere you can go?”
“I’ll just lay low at home.”
“No. If they think you’re being evasive, that won’t fulfill the requirements of the clause. It can’t look deliberate.”
Jed thought of his father’s unwelcome invitation and frowned. “My father’s getting married in the Finger Lakes in two weeks.”
“Perfect. Make it an extended holiday.”
That was last night. Now he sat at the Moon Lake Bar & Grill, wondering what he’d gotten himself into. When he phoned his father and told him he would be at the wedding after all, Edward assumed Jed would be his best man. When Jed tried to clarify, his father put his foot down, refusing to take no for an answer.
That didn’t bode well, so Jed decided not to mention he was coming in early. He’d made arrangements to rent a cottage on the lake, though he was paying through the nose for the last-minute privilege and he couldn’t pick up the keys for another hour and a half.
“What can I get you?” A young redheaded waitress gave him a friendly smile. He placed his order but she lingered, her eyes full of feminine appreciation. “Are you staying for a while or just passing through?”
“Just passing through.” He deliberately ignored her hopeful stare. A woman would be one complication too many in his already over-complicated life.
He sipped his beer.
A few stools down, a chubby woman with dirty blonde hair was talking loudly to her friend. “I would hide a body for you, and you won’t tell me where you put a stupid little box.”
“Darn skippy, I won’t tell you.”
“Why not?” She turned, giving Jed his first view of the other woman, a pretty brunette chewing on a straw.
“Because you’ve got a mouth bigger than the Grand Canyon,” she said.
“I most certainly do not.”
“Oh yeah? Who told half the eighth grade I had a crush on Bobby Gentry?”
“When are you going to let that go?”
“I wonder whatever happened to Bobby.”
“He moved to Appalachia and married a goat farmer.”
Jed turned his head and met the brunette’s eyes, who raised an eyebrow. “She’s making that up. This is what she does.”
The blonde turned around to face him. “You’re a man. Let me ask you a question.”
The brunette grumbled and rolled her eyes, but the blonde continued. “Let’s say you had a crush on someone when you were a teenager, and you still think about that person all the time…”
“All the time, like every day or all the time like once or twice a year?” he asked.
The brunette shrugged. “Once or twice a month.”
Ah, so they were talking about her. He wondered who it was she couldn’t seem to get out of her system. “For how many years?”
He raised his eyebrows. “Ten?”
The blonde went on. “Do you think that person just might still think of you, too? Or do you think it was probably just puppy love and it would be silly to think you two might actually have the spark?”
“That depends.” He looked at the brunette and waited for her to meet his stare. She had hazel eyes, green and golden brown, and his stomach clenched. Any guy with half a brain would remember her. “You cared about anybody else since then?”
Her cheeks began to color, and his eyes lingered on her rosy cheeks.
She shook her head. “No.”
“But you’ve dated other men.”
He wanted more details, inappropriate questions hanging on his tongue. He took a sip of his beer. “He might remember you.”
And if he doesn’t, sweetie, you be sure to let me know.
She smiled, a knowing look in her eye. “He might?”
He let his eyes wander down her slender throat to her chest, her small waist and the shapely legs that dangled toward the floor. “Honestly? I think you would be hard to forget.”
She raised her drink. “Let’s hope Gabe feels the same way you do.”
He turned his head to the side. No way she was talking about his brother. That was crazy, but still he heard himself ask, “How do you know this guy?”
“His family rented a cabin here one summer.”
The blonde laughed. “Would you believe her mother is getting married to his father?”
He took a bigger sip of his beer. “You don’t say.”
“Yep, which gives Tori here the perfect opportunity to get him back.”
This cute little woman with the wide hazel eyes—Tori—was going to pursue his idiot half-brother, and Jed was pretty sure she’d have no problem getting his attention.
But if it was love she was after, she was in for some serious disappointment. Gabe didn’t love anyone or anything but himself.
For a moment Jed considered telling the women who he was, but he hesitated. Tori was sure to be embarrassed. “What if this guy’s a jerk?”
“They say love is blind,” he said. “Maybe you were blinded years ago, and now the guy’s a jackass who chases every woman who crosses his path.”
She tilted her head, her lips forming a perfect pout. “Why would you say that to me?”
Because I’m looking out for you.
Because I don’t want you to get your heart broken.
Because I want you for myself.
“I’m sorry. Don’t listen to me.” He finished his drink just as the bartender brought out his food, and he turned his attention away from the women. He would finish his dinner, pick up the keys to the cabin, and hideout until the ceremony, without his father or Gabe even knowing he was in town.
The perfect plan in place, he sighed as he bit into his hot juicy burger.
“They’re here!” said Tori excitedly.
He turned around like a man facing a firing squad. There stood Edward and a beautiful woman who could only be Tori’s mother. He stood shock still in the beat it took Edward to spot him.
When he did, his father’s face lit up with happiness. “Jed, you’re here! You made it.”
His father hugged him, an awkward display of affection that made Jed want to squirm. Edward released him and turned to the group, Jed’s eyes glued on Tori.
“Let me introduce you. This is my older son, Jed. He’s going to be my best man.”
Jed watched as the expression on her face changed from shock to embarrassment to anger, all in the space of a moment.
* * *
Tori’s Treasures, a jewelry and gift boutique in nearby Moon Lake, is holding a real live treasure hunt for more than ten thousand dollars’ worth of one-of-a-kind jewelry.
Clues to the treasure will be released every day between now and the Grape Festival the second week of September. Each clue refers to a local point of interest. In the exact center of all the points, the treasure is buried.
You can download a copy of a board game, which includes a map with key points of interest around Moon Lake highlighted, at the website for Tori’s Treasures.
Whoever finds the hidden chest of jewelry gets to keep everything inside. And if they bring the chest to the Grape Festival, they’ll also receive a real diamond pendant. Finders keepers. Good luck, everyone!
Here’s your first clue, treasure seekers:
* * *
Rubies are red
Of all different hues
Like passion and flowers
And lovers brand new
For this is the place
Where we shout for the world
Put forth our best effort
And sing, flag unfurled
One kind of treasure
Is brassy and bold
The other is found
In places untold
Deep in the heart
Not deep in the ground
Is where the best treasures on Earth
Can be found
* * *
Tori threw open the sliding glass door with a little too much force and stepped into the warm night air. “How could you not tell me you’re Gabe’s brother?”
Jed closed the door gently, irritating her. Since the moment she found out he was Edward’s son, everything about this man annoyed her. That was two days ago, though she hadn’t had a chance to talk to him privately until tonight, when her mother invited everyone over for the most awkward dinner of the year.
Tori had worked hard not to bite Jed’s head off all the way through the shrimp scampi and spinach salad. Several glasses of Crescent Moon’s chardonnay had helped in that regard, though now that she was face-to-face with him, her anger had returned full-force.
Jed had his hands in his pockets as he walked toward her, and she fought to ignore the sexy way he swaggered. Swaggered, for goodness sake! How many men actually swaggered?
Surely Gabe had swaggered, too. She simply didn’t remember it.
Jed stood closer than she would have liked. “By the time I realized who you were, it was already too late,” he said. “You would have been embarrassed if I said something, just as you were embarrassed when our parents arrived.”
The smell of him reached her nostrils, spicy and clean. “But at least you would have demonstrated you were a decent human being, not some lecherous schlep who gets off on watching other people look like morons.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Lecherous schlep?”
“That’s right.” She was breathing heavily, her anger laced with a certain excitement she refused to examine too closely. He was big and imposing and she didn’t like him one bit. He was staring at her, and she wanted to slap that expression off his too-cool, obnoxious son-of-a-gun face.
His speech was slow, his voice impossibly deep. “You still planning on making my brother fall madly in love with you?”
Humiliation swept over her in a rush. Why, oh why, had she opened her mouth about something so personal to a complete stranger? A complete stranger who just happened to be the brother of the man of her dreams, and a jackass to boot. “That’s none of your business.”
He sucked in his cheeks. “Gabe will be here in a few days. Maybe I could put in a good word for you. Mention the beautiful woman I met at the bar who hasn’t been able to get him out of her mind for the last ten years.”
“What, you don’t want my help?”
“You’re teasing me, and I don’t like it.”
He leaned into her personal space, making the hair on the back of her neck stand up. “You think I’m teasing? Because I’m not kidding. I’d be happy to help you, Tori.”
She cursed her body for responding to his nearness. “Back up, mister.” She pointed her finger at his retreating chest. “I am not a mouse you can bat around with your claws. I’m sorry I said those things in front of you at the bar. If you had any decency you would apologize to me, but there’s no use wishing on stars, is there?”
He chuckled. “I guess not.”
“I only have one request.”
She took a shaking breath in. “Don’t tell your brother what I said.”
“What, that you love him?”
“I didn’t say I loved him. I said I thought about him.”
“But you do, don’t you? Love him?”
“Stop it. Why do you keep harassing me? Do you like hurting my feelings?”
The stress was really getting to her the last few days. Between the calls from creditors, the pressure of the treasure hunt, the plans for her mother’s wedding reception that Tori hadn’t even begun to work on, and Gabe’s impending arrival, she was stretched thin and beginning to snap, her nerves frazzled and her emotions running high.
Jed moved toward her and tipped her chin up with his hand, surprising her with his intimate touch. She should pull away, something. Instead, her focus trained on him, his ruggedly handsome face, so different from his brother’s. Her mouth went dry.
He dropped his hand, putting it back in his pocket. “I didn’t mean to hurt you. And I certainly don’t want you to cry.”
She was physically shaken from his touch, unsettled. She needed to get out of here. She turned to head back inside.
“Tori, what if he’s not as wonderful as you remember?”
She frowned, his words hitting on one of her biggest fears.
She was twenty-seven years old, and her feelings for Gabe were as close as she’d ever come to being in love. She wanted to believe that meant he was the man for her, but deep down, she was afraid of an idea she couldn’t even give voice to.
That maybe there wasn’t a man for her.
Several of her friends were already married, and those who weren’t were either in serious relationships or had been in them. But Tori was different. There had been other men, but there hadn’t been anyone who mattered since Gabe.
The boy she remembered had been sweet and kind, a fun-loving adventurer who enjoyed life more than anyone she knew before or since. Now Jed was suggesting Gabe wasn’t really the knight in shining armor of her memories, which was a very real possibility that scared her to death.
She lifted her chin. “I never said he was perfect.”
He laughed. “Not even close.”
He was so smug. She gritted her teeth. “Do me a favor and stay out of it. Don’t get involved. I’m a big girl and I can take care of myself. Do you understand?”
For the longest moment he said nothing at all, just stood there in the moonlight. “You want me to leave you alone?” he said quietly.
He walked back to her.
Damn that sexy walk.
Her heart beat quickly in her chest and she wondered if he would touch her again.
He smiled a devil’s grin. “I have a better idea.”
* * *
This was asinine.
But the idea was rolling through Jed’s mind like a snowball down a snow-covered mountainside. The fact that it was a terrifically bad idea didn’t make one single bit of difference.
“Be my date for the wedding,” he said.
Tori’s head reared back. “Excuse me?”
He stared at her beautiful face, the scent of her perfume floating on the evening air. He wanted time to explore their connection, to see if the chemistry between them could actually combust.
It has nothing to do with revenge.
The thought stopped him cold.
Was that why he was doing this? A lingering anger over his brother’s all-too recent betrayal?
No. If anything, Jed owed Gabe a favor for pulling him back from the edge of disaster. Jed knew he had come close to making a horrible mistake, and his brother had inadvertently saved his skin by keeping him from marrying Evelyn.
His eyes slipped down her shapely brow, the crease of confusion only adding to its appeal. A few days. That’s all he wanted. A few days to assuage his own interest while piquing that of his brother. They’d both be happy.
“Gabe always wants what he can’t have,” he said.
“You are a despicable person.” She turned on her heel and he caught her by the elbow. Her gaze snapped to his.
The skin under his fingers was warm and soft, inviting. He was pulled toward her, attracted as if by some outside force, the desire to touch her hair, her face, suddenly overwhelming him.
Jed loosened his grip on her arm. “Despicable? I think you have me confused with someone else.”
She pulled her arm away. “Gabe is a good man.”
“You haven’t even seen him in years.”
“I knew him.”
“You knew nothing.”
She narrowed her eyes. “I cared about him, something I’m willing to bet no woman has ever said about you.”
Icy resentment spread through him as her words hit close to their mark. Evelyn had claimed to love him, but clearly that wasn’t the case.
“Touché.” He stepped around her, slowly opening the door that led into the house. “I will leave you to your man-chasing, then.”COLLAPSE