Torn between love and obligation.
Smitten with feisty gift-shop owner Dana Ricci from the moment she moved to Willow Bay, reserved mayor Josh Morgan is ready to invest in their future together until a suave entrepreneur sweeps into town. Certain the proposed mega-resort will destroy the small town ambiance of their coastal community, Josh battles the draw of increased tourism, something that Dana, buried in debt, direly needs.
This sensual, friends-first story, complete with a wily matchmaker and an endearing dog named Duffy is the first in the Willow Bay series, which can be read in any order.
“Where is she?” Josh Morgan muttered under his breath as he stared across the rain-drenched street, his gut churning. Dana opened her shop every single day, and on time. Well, mostly. He glanced at his watch. Almost noon. She was two hours late.
The streets were empty except for pools of water and the constant barrage of Mother Nature’s rain-spout. Not a moving car in sight. Even the quaint C&C Coffee Shop where Josh waited was devoid of customers, except for him. Welcome to February at the beach in Washington.
“Looking for someone, mayor?”
Connie, the café’s owner, filled his coffee mug. Setting the pot on the table, she plunked down onto the booth seat across from Josh with an oomph, shoulders rounded and worry lines etching her face. She looked older than her forty-five years, and her short brown hair framed her face with touches of gray.
“I noticed the gift shop isn’t open yet.”
“Look around. Nothing is, except me. Too much rain, too few tourists.”
Focused on Dana’s shop, Josh hadn’t bothered to look around at the other stores in the little strip of shops and Connie was right. Everything was closed. Not unusual for a Monday, unless you were Dana Ricci.
“She’s open every day, though. Maybe I should check on her.” Except he didn’t know where she lived, only where she worked. Josh reached for his coffee.
Connie grinned. “Why, Mayor, if I didn’t know better, I’d say you were sweet on that girl.”
The cup hit the table with a thunk, coffee sloshing over the sides. Her statement hit a little too close to home. Josh willed himself to stare Connie down, to keep his face bland and emotionless. He broke first, looking back out the window toward the gift store. Damn it.
Connie stood and reached for a rag to wipe up Josh’s mess. “Oh, yeah, you’re in deep.” She laughed and tossed the rag back in the pail.
Josh hated to admit it, but she was right. All the promises, all the talks he’d had with himself after Sandra left him had flown straight out the window when he’d met the dark-haired gift shop owner. He’d fought it, and still tried to, but his damn heart wouldn’t budge. Neither would other parts of him. Dana was full of life, zest, and happiness and he was drawn to her like numbers to a spreadsheet. Damn. He was in so much trouble.
“You want anything to eat?” Connie asked, still grinning.
“Not yet. I’m waiting for someone.”
“Who you meeting up with?”
“Some guy who wants to propose…well, I’m not sure what. Said he wanted to talk in person.” Josh hadn’t liked how ambiguous Alexander Granson had been on the phone. He’d googled the man, an architect with a lot of grand ideas, and Josh had first-hand experience with that kind of vision. He grimaced.
Granson didn’t seem like a good fit. A small town, even by oceanside community standards, Willow Bay snugged up to dunes filled with grasses and willow, had beaches that seemed to go on forever, and curved with the land in a somewhat sheltered alcove of the Pacific Ocean. But with mid-winter just behind them, the town was hurting. Most tourists wanted sunshine when they came to the beach. They wanted to play, to shop, to listen to the ocean’s grandeur as it crashed upon the shore. This season, the coast been inundated with rain, not a big enough draw even for storm-watchers. As mayor, and the only accountant in town, he had first-hand knowledge of how much Willow Bay needed people to come visit and spend money.
He owed it to the people who lived here to listen to any ideas that would increase tourism and revenue, so he’d agreed to meet the man.
“Do you think he has a plan to boost things here?”
Josh shrugged. “I won’t know until I talk to him.”
“It would be nice if someone did something to help.”
Connie Lassiter didn’t have a mean bone in her body, so Josh tried to take her comment for what it was. Frustration and worry.
“I’m doing what I can.”
“Ah, I’m sorry, Josh.” Connie patted his shoulder like she was placating one of her three children. “I know you are. You’re sure a darn sight better than old Ben. Change never set right with him. Neither did the opinions of the people here. You care and it shows. I’m just…worried.”
“Charlie still not working?”
“In this rain? Not much construction going on when you have to work in the mud.” She stood, straightening with a shake of her head. “Another month or so and things will pick up.”
“Yes, they will,” Josh said, trying to stay positive as he noted how her hand trembled.
“Yep. Just holler when you’re ready to order.”
“I will. Thanks, Connie. And…hang in there.”
“I always do, mayor,” she said with a non-committal wave of her hand as she headed toward the kitchen. “I always do.”
Turning back to the window, he watched the steady rainfall. Long-range forecasts indicated another couple weeks of this, then a gradual change over to spring and a warmer than usual summer. Willow Bay just needed to hold out until then. The tourists would return. They always did.
He glanced again at the gift shop, still not open. Where is she?