When Molly Elliott went out to run errands one day she had know way of knowing that it would land her in the middle of a bank robbery -one that she would then be accused of committing. Although her name is cleared, the media attention and threatening notes are too much for her, so she flees to her Aunt Maggie’s bed and breakfast on the Northern California coast. Her escape is peaceful at first, until a handful of guests with hidden agendas head to the cottage one weekend.
Will Molly’s past come back to haunt her, or will she finally be able to leave it behind?
A pounding on the door woke Molly. She sat up, disoriented, as the paperback she’d been trying to read slid off her chest and landed on the floor. She rubbed her eyes and looked at the clock.
Had she imagined the sound? She picked up the book and set it on a side table, then reconsidered and put it back on the bookshelf. If it hadn’t caught her attention by now, it wasn’t going to.
A steady knocking, sounding louder than the pounding that woke her, confirmed that the last guest had arrived. Finally, she could check him in and retire to her room. She flung the door open and caught her breath.
The tall man who stood on the front porch could have walked straight out of a romance novel, with his dark hair plastered to his forehead, tanned, chiseled features and coffee-colored eyes. He wore a tailored business suit that looked like it had just been pulled from a washing machine. A suitcase sat beside him, wet airline tag blowing sideways with each gust of wind.
He cleared his throat. “May I come in?”
Warmth crept up Molly’s neck. Yes, that was the voice she’d heard on the phone when the reservation was made. His voice was gorgeous. So was he.
Molly snapped out of her daze and motioned him in out of the storm. “Of course! I’m so sorry, please come in.” She’d forgotten her annoyance over his late arrival, at least until she noticed his share of rain dripping off his trousers and onto the floor. Bryce ran a damp sleeve across his forehead, realizing immediately that it did nothing to dry off his skin.
“Let me get you something to help dry off.” Molly slipped into the hallway’s guest bath and retrieved a deep burgundy plush hand towel.
Bryce dried his face and hands, cleared his throat and glanced around. “Did I wake you?” His confused expression clashed with his otherwise attractive demeanor.
Molly managed a simultaneous sigh and smile. Honestly, not even an apology for arriving so late? This was one of many reasons she’d jumped at the chance to take over the B&B. City folk took so much for granted.
“Our check-in hours are usually from four to eight, Mr. Winslow,” Molly said. “But it’s no problem. I’m glad you made it safely. If I’d known a storm was coming in when you made your reservation I would have warned you about the long drive up here. It’s not too bad on a sunny day, but a rainy night is another story altogether.” Why was she chattering all of a sudden?
“I assumed the registration desk was open late.”
Molly didn’t reply. A city hotel might have a round-the-clock front desk, but a bed and breakfast wouldn’t. What was this guy doing way up in Cranberry Cove, anyway? He should have booked a room in San Francisco and saved himself hours of driving, not to mention a dry cleaning bill.
She handed him a pen and pointed to the registration card on the hallway table.
“Let’s get you into your room,” Molly said. “I’m sure you’re tired, not to mention anxious to get into dry clothes.”
She watched as he signed the form with a bold, self-assured movement. Moisture covered his steady, well-manicured hand. This was not a man who did manual labor. And certainly not one who was accustomed to driving winding coastal roads at night.
“Ocean view room, I believe,” Bryce said, picking up the suitcase. A trickle of water ran off onto the floor.
“Not at night,” Molly quipped, catching the guest off-guard.
“What?” he said.
“We only have ocean view rooms in the daytime,” Molly said as she turned toward the stairs with his room key. She heard a light laugh behind her. “Follow me, Mr. Winslow. Your room is upstairs and to the right.”
“Call me Bryce.” His footsteps echoed hers.
“It’s our largest room, aside from the suite in the back building.”
“Oh, you have a suite? Well then, I’ll take that, instead.” Molly heard the footsteps stop. She continued without looking back.
“Call me Bryce…”
“Bryce,” Molly said. “The suite is already occupied, and besides, it has no ocean view, which is what you requested.”
“Not even in the daytime?”
She turned to face him as they reached the door to the Lighthouse Room, finding him only inches from her. She stumbled a little. For the first time since he’d arrived, he was smiling. Grinning would be a better description, she thought. Yes, a smug grin. The kind that should come with a warning sign, since trouble usually accompanied it.
“No, Bryce,” Molly said, emphasizing his name, “not even in the daytime.” She smiled, but suppressed a full grin. She wasn’t going to fall for the charm, was she? She had sworn off his type years ago.
“You’ll find everything you need in your room,” Molly said.
“Dry towels?” Another grin.
“Yes, dry towels,” Molly answered, fighting back a laugh. “Breakfast is served downstairs from eight o’clock to ten o’clock.”
“I don’t eat breakfast.”
What man doesn’t eat breakfast?
“Feel free to help yourself to coffee then, any time after six-thirty, in the front hallway.” Molly handed him the room key, said goodnight and started back downstairs.
“See you at breakfast.”
“I thought….” Molly paused on the stairs. She could picture his grin without turning around.
“I was kidding.”
The door to the Lighthouse Room closed.
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