A billionaire surfer… A down-on-her-luck hotelier… One hot summer fling…
Blurb: Esmerelda Quinn has been looking for a place to belong since her parents were killed in a car crash when she was young. The closest thing to home has always been Aunt Constance's villa in Puerto Vallarta, so after a string of dead-end hotellier jobs, she's coming home to run the villa.
Santiago Cruz has called the villa home for as long as he can remember. In between surfing events, Constance has always had a room for him. Color him surprised when Constance decides to retire - and leaves a joint interest in the villa to both Santiago and Esme.
Esme isn't thrilled to share ownership of the villa with the the youngest Cruz brother - especially when she learns Santiago's brother has been after the villa for years. But Santiago has grown up while she's been away at school and soon she finds herself falling for the rich boy down the hall.
“You forget yourself, Esmerelda. You’re talking about making this simple for the staff, that doesn’t mean I need to come to you for every new guest registration or idea I have. Besides, we need this campaign.” Santiago waved his hand. “We need more guests of a certain means to make the villa stand out. Families are great, but they won’t make Casa Constance a go-to destination. These people will. So, we use our new guests as features in a new campaign for the high-end travel magazines. A few shots in the tabloids wouldn’t hurt, either.”
“You weren’t even going to discuss this with me?”
“I’m telling you now. While we’re on the subject—” he tossed a few magazines from his desktop onto her lap “—what do you see in these pictures?”
Esme sent him a killing glance and then flipped through the pages. “Boring. Bland. Not home.”
“Exactly. This isn’t a home, or it shouldn’t be a home first. If you want Casa Constance to succeed you need to treat it like a business. So, make-over, what do you like?”
She tossed the magazines back onto the desktop. “Our guests love the color and textures of Old Mexico. They say so all the time.”
“Your guests haven’t been in residence, at least not actively, in more than a year. We aren’t appealing to anyone right now and we need to. So, makeover starts this afternoon and your new training begins in the morning.”
“I know what I need to know about running a vacation resort.”
“You need to experience a vacation to sell it. We need day-trips, we need amenities. I’ll bet you’ve never gone para-sailing or sky diving, much less enjoyed a couple’s massage.” Her cheeks pinked at the last suggestion and Santiago smiled. “Celebrities visiting Casa, playing on our private beach, being featured in an advertising campaign—with a few pictures leaked to the tabloids to get the word out even sooner. Casa needs this.”
Esme took a few breaths and then settled back into her chair. “I can’t afford to pay the salary of a New York advertising crew. Seriously, Santiago, you have to cancel.”
“My three months, remember? It won’t cost you a thing. The photographer owes me a favor. The only cost will be the campaign copy, which will be negligible. I do know what I’m doing, Esmerelda.”
“Okay, mail.” Esme shook her head as if clearing thoughts of the upcoming ad campaign from her head. “Marquez usually separates bills from letters—”
“As the mail will be delivered to the front desk, I’m happy to see to it. And let’s cut to the chase.” He leaned back in the chair and clasped his hands behind his head. “I don’t want to be tied down to a vacation villa for the rest of my life. But if you really want this, there is something you have to do for me. First.”
Esme swallowed, crossed and re-crossed her legs before clasping her hands in her lap. “What do you want? A payoff? You’ve seen the books, you know there isn’t much money. But if it’s money you want, I’ll agree to your price. I just need time to come up with the capital.”
She really didn’t know him at all. He shouldn’t be surprised, but he was. Surprised and a bit disappointed. “I need your money like I need another surfing championship,” he said, sitting up straight. “No, what I want from you is a bit more. . . ephemeral. I want your time. For three hours each day, you belong to me. No villa work. No guest handholding.” He walked around the desk to rest his hip against one corner. “No conferences with staff. No following the maids on their routine cleanings and no visits to the kitchen to give Gloriana instructions. For three hours each day, your time is my time.”
“You can’t be serious. That. . . that’s just. . .” She trailed off when his index finger traced the line of her jaw. He lowered his voice.
“No work. No phones. No villa. You do what I say, what I want.”
Once upon a time, Kristina Knight spent her days running from car crash to fire to meetings with local police—no, she wasn't a troublemaker, she was a journalist. When the opportunity to focus a bit of energy on the stories in her head, she jumped at it. And she’s never looked back. Now she writes magazine articles by day and romance novels with spice by night. She lives on Lake Erie with her husband and daughter. Happily ever after.