No matter what, the four very different Richardson sisters always uphold their family’s reputation and legacy—a historic bed-and-breakfast in Charleston, South Carolina. But romance that one sister never saw coming will up-end all their expectations . . .
She's the responsible sister, making sacrifices to run the family’s treasured B&B. But for once, Alexandria Richardson decides to take a vacation—a singles’ cruise, where she throws caution to the wind. And the handsome stranger she meets is just what she needs to make every moment sizzle—for all seven wildly sexy days. Energized and refreshed, Alex returns home—only to discover her holiday hottie is also the renowned architect tapped for the B&B’s major renovation project. How is she supposed to manage a business—and an all-consuming desire?
Wesley Prescott knows how easy it is to put success above everything else. And he has a lot riding on the prestigious Richardson deal—and on working smoothly with the suddenly serious, buttoned-down Alex. But he can’t resist teasing out the daring, adventurous—and lovable—woman he knows she truly is. Will mixing business with way more than pleasure convince them both that this is one fling that won’t be so easily flung? . . .
Release date: May 24, 2022
Publisher: Kensington Books
Print pages: 384
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Can't Hide Love
Maybe it helped that their brother-in-law, Dr. Logan Baptiste, was assisting in the delivery of Baby Morris. Alex glanced over her shoulder at her two other sisters, Nina and Robin. She wasn’t surprised that they were looking back at her, laughing.
“What?” Alex snapped.
“How about sitting down?” Nina said. “You’re making me nervous.”
Alex sighed and joined her sisters in the plush chairs they’d been sitting on. “Is giving birth supposed to take this long?”
“Labor and delivery don’t work on your schedule,” Robin said with a laugh. “I’m glad she decided to have our niece ...”
“Or nephew,” Nina interjected.
“Here in Charleston,” Robin said with an eye roll.
“Niece or nephew, I just hope the baby is healthy,” Alex said as she fingered her bun. “I can’t believe Yolanda is having a kid.”
“I really thought Nina would be first,” Robin said with a giggle.
Alex wondered how Robin was really feeling after her fertility issues. Robin had a life-saving surgery after a bout with cancer and was left unable to have children, which had been a longtime dream of hers. Robin didn’t talk about it much and Alex wasn’t going to bring it up today.
“Where’s Daddy?” Alex asked. Just then, the elevator dinged and Sheldon Richardson, owner of Charleston, South Carolina’s historic Richardson Bed and Breakfast, stepped off carrying a teddy bear and balloons in one hand and a bag of food in the other.
“Hey, girls, I figured y’all would be hungry. And I know Yolanda will be.”
Alex crossed over to her father and took the food from his hand. “Thanks, Daddy.”
“Any word on my grandbaby yet?”
“Still waiting,” Nina said as Sheldon sat beside her and gave her a kiss on the cheek and then did the same to Robin. “And this one,” Nina pointed at Alex, “is trying to say it’s taking too long.”
Sheldon laughed. “First babies are either early or late. Nora was in labor with Alex for fourteen hours.”
“Dear God,” Robin said. “This is going to be a long day.”
He patted Robin’s knee. “Relax, we’re all here together for a celebration of life.” Sheldon beamed as he looked at his daughters. “Now, I got enough shrimp and grits for all of us.”
“Daddy, you’re amazing,” Nina said as she reached for one of the boxes.
“So,” Robin began as she took a fork from Nina. “Are you going to be Granddad, Pop-Pop, or Papa?”
Just as he was about to answer, the door to Yolanda’s room opened and Charles Morris, Yolanda’s husband, known affectionally as Chuck, walked out of the room. The Richardsons stood up and Chuck smiled at them.
“It’s a boy and a girl,” he said.
Nina and Robin screamed, then hugged. “Twins! This is so awesome,” Nina exclaimed. “I can’t believe she didn’t tell us she was having twins!”
Charles laughed. “You know my wife likes to keep secrets, and she has a flair for the dramatic.”
“You got that right.” Robin laughed. “Two babies. I can’t believe it. Auntie squared.”
“How is Yolanda?” Alex asked.
“When can we see her?” Sheldon asked. “And congratulations.”
Chuck held up his hands. “Yolanda and the babies are fine. She’s tired, and right now they’re stitching her up.”
“Stitching her up?” Robin asked. “What happened?”
“Um, she popped out two babies,” Nina said. “It’s normal, right?”
“Yes,” Chuck said. “That’s what Dr. Logan told me to tell y’all.”
Robin expelled a relieved sigh. “Twins, though?”
“My sisters are twins, and I guess it was my turn to add multiples to the family,” he said with a shrug.
“Will your family be coming to Charleston?” Alex asked.
“Probably at the end of the month. I think they’ve just accepted the fact that I’m really married.”
Alex always wondered about Chuck’s family, and how they could go so many months without speaking and visiting one another. But she couldn’t deny how much he loved her sister.
Logan walked out of the room and crossed over to Robin. “Hey, Auntie.”
“Oh stop.” She stood on her tiptoes and kissed him on the nose. “Thank you for taking care of my sister.”
He hugged her tightly. “She’s my sister, too. You’re all right?”
“So, when can I go see my daughter and my grand-babies?” Sheldon asked Logan.
“In about ten minutes,” Logan said as two nurses pushed the babies out of the room. “They have to go to the nursery and ...”
“Chuck!” Yolanda called out. “Where is my food?”
Sheldon pointed to one of the boxes of shrimp and grits, “If you give her hospital food, you’re going to hear about it for the rest of your life.”
Chuck grabbed a box. “Thanks. Let me feed her.”
“I have to call Clinton and tell him!” Nina said as she reached for her phone. “And I need to know if he has twins in his family.”
As everyone gushed over the twins and waited to see Yolanda, Alex’s smartphone vibrated.
Three days until you hit the high seas.
She was supposed to go on vacation, but she couldn’t leave now. Yolanda was going to need a nursey set up for two babies, and she was going to have to make sure her room at the bed-and-breakfast was set up for the twins as well. And there was still the summer season she needed to prepare for.
“Whatever is on that phone can wait,” Robin said when she approached Alex.
“It was just a reminder about my cruise. I think I’m going to cancel it. There’s so much that has to be done here for Yolanda and ...”
“You are not canceling your vacation. Alex, we got this. And Chuck probably has so many things prepared and we aren’t even going to be able to see the babies without a fingerprint and an eye scan.”
Charles Morris was a personal security expert and he’d met Yolanda after Sheldon hired him to protect his daughter after she’d witnessed a murder in Richmond, Virginia. Then she’d started getting death threats.
In between protecting Yolanda and finding out the truth about the man who wanted her dead, they fell in love. Only Yolanda could make that happen, Alex always thought, when she saw the over-six-foot man and her five-foot-five sister together.
Alex shook her head. “You’re right, but I don’t want to miss time with the babies.”
“Newborns sleep a lot. Alex, you know you don’t have to take care of everybody. It’s time for you to do something nice for yourself.”
“Robin, I just ... fine, I’ll go.”
Robin took Alex’s phone and confirmed her reservation. “Now your credit card has been charged and you have to go.”
“You make me sick.”
“That’s why I’m your favorite,” she replied with a smile.
About thirty minutes later, Alex, Nina, Robin, and Sheldon were surrounding Yolanda and her babies.
“What are you and Chuck going to name the Morris twins?” Nina asked as she stroked her sister’s hair. “I like Mercury for my nephew.”
“Don’t do that,” Yolanda said. “I’m not naming my son after a football player. Especially not that one. One day some other team is going to break that record.”
“I just knew you weren’t going to catch that.” Nina laughed. “And let Mercury be great. I don’t think another team will do what the ’72 Dolphins did.”
Yolanda rolled her eyes. “Chuck has been a Morris his whole life; we’ve discussed this. And before you ask, there will not be a Chuck Morris Jr.”
Nina glanced down at the babies and smiled. “They look like little dolls,” she said.
“Want to hold them?” Yolanda asked.
Nina took a step back. “Um, no. Not yet.”
Robin gently pushed Nina out of the way. “Let me hold our babies,” she said as she took her nephew into her arms. He whined a little before closing his eyes. Robin held his tiny hand and smiled. Then she reached for her niece, who was wide awake. She had eyes like her dad, big and emerald-colored. “She’s going to be a heart-breaker.”
“Let’s just hope she doesn’t have a mouth like her mama,” Alex quipped.
“Why are you even here?” Yolanda asked. “Aren’t you supposed to be on vacation?”
Alex stood beside her sister and stroked her forehead. “This was a day I wasn’t going to miss. I’m proud of you, Yolanda.”
Yolanda blinked and looked up at her big sister. “Who are you? And what have you done with Alexandria the Great?”
Alex pinched Yolanda’s forearm. “See, this is why I can’t be nice to you.”
“You just assaulted me after I had two babies,” Yolanda joked. “And I sent you a package to the bed-and-breakfast.”
Alex shook her head. “Do I even want to know?”
Alex turned toward Robin and reached for one of the babies. She took her nephew in her arms and stroked his cherublike cheek. “These babies are so precious,” she said as she walked over to the armchair in the corner next to the sofa, where Sheldon and Chuck were talking.
“What’s up, Grandpa and Daddy?” Alex asked.
“Give me that baby,” Sheldon said as he stood up and took his grandson from Alex’s arms. The little boy opened his eyes and seemed to smile at his grandfather. Chuck watched his in-laws and smiled.
“Have you two come up with names for the babies yet?” Alex asked as Nina and Robin joined them in the corner.
“Yolanda is knocked out,” Robin said. Chuck reached for his daughter and stood beside Sheldon.
“Well, since all of you are here now,” Chuck began, “we wanted to name the twins Bradford and Nora.”
Tears shone in Sheldon’s eyes. His middle name was Bradford. “I couldn’t be prouder that you want to name these babies after me and Nora.”
Robin didn’t try to hide her tears. “That’s just beautiful. I love it.”
“Bradford and Nora Morris,” Nina said with a sweet sigh. “No one is going to make up a funny nickname about these kids.”
Alex shook her head. “Only you would think something like that,” she said.
“No, Yolanda was on the same page.” Chuck laughed. “She said we weren’t going to have baby Chuck Morris. I had to agree with her. If I wasn’t athletic and into martial arts, life would’ve been hell growing up. I wouldn’t want to put that on my son.”
“We should let you and the babies rest, too,” Alex said. “And I need to ...”
“Get ready for your vacation?” Chuck said. “Yolanda said our babies aren’t an excuse for you to cancel.”
“How was she thinking about me when she was giving birth?” Alex shook her head.
When the nurses came in to examine Yolanda and the babies, the Richardsons left, and Alex did just what her sisters thought she would do: head to the office at the bed-and-breakfast. Yes, she was still going on vacation, but she needed to tie up a few things. Including the meeting with an architect from Prescott Architects. The bed-and-breakfast was expanding and Sheldon wanted the new wing to reflect the history of the property. Alex had been on board with the idea, but she wanted and hoped her father would agree to adding a few modern touches to the new wing as well. She hadn’t had a chance to talk to him about it since Yolanda’s pregnancy had taken their attention from the business. Alex smiled as she sat down at her desk and thought about her sister and the twins. She was happy to be an auntie and couldn’t wait to see the changes that motherhood would make in Yolanda.
“Hey,” Clinton Jefferson, the bed-and-breakfast’s marketing director and Nina’s husband, said as he stuck his head in Alex’s office. “How is Yolanda?”
“Resting. Nina told you she had twins, right?”
Clinton nodded. “My wife said the pressure is off now.” He laughed. “I know Pops is excited.”
“We all are.”
“Nina and I are going to see the babies tomorrow, so I’ll be a little late.”
“Take your time, Uncle Clint,” Alex replied with a smile.
“Are you all right? Because you’re usually not about anyone missing the morning meeting.”
“It’s canceled,” Alex said. Her relationship with Clinton had started out rocky because before he’d started working for the company, he’d been employed by Randall Birmingham, an underhanded property owner who wanted to buy the bed-and-breakfast. The first time Clinton had come to the Richardson Bed and Breakfast, he had been offering to buy the place. The next time he was in Sheldon’s office he was asking for a job, and Alex wasn’t having it. As much as she tried to act as if she was in charge, Sheldon was the king of his castle and hired Clinton. Then he and Nina met. When he’d started dating her, Alex had been sure he was trying to use her sister. Thankfully, she had been wrong and the love was real.
“So, you’re really going on vacation?” Clinton asked.
“I’m getting tired of y’all asking me that. And thanks to Robin, my cruise is paid for. They have a strict no-cancellation policy, so I’m going.”
“Alex, you do need to relax. I’ve never seen anyone as nonstop as you. Whether it’s business or family. It’s time to do something for yourself.”
She shrugged. “You’re right.”
“Oh, and I have a box for you,” he said, then crossed back to his office. When he returned to Alex’s office with a huge box, she could only shake her head.
“Is this from Yolanda?”
“How long does she think I’m going to be gone?” Alex asked as Clinton set the box on the floor.
After Clinton left Alex took the box to her room and checked the time. It was still early enough for her to decompress at her favorite place, the Alice Davis Dance Studio. There were a few things Alex did for herself; ballroom dancing was the main one. It was great exercise, and that was one place where she didn’t think about business or legacies.
She changed into her navy-blue leotard and headed to the Savannah Highway studio.
When she arrived, her favorite instructor, Alan Kelly, greeted her at the door. “Miss Alex,” he said excitedly, then gave her a peck on the cheek. “Where have you been? I know you aren’t cheating on me with that new dance studio downtown.”
Alex slapped her hand on her hip. “Absolutely not. I’ve just been busy at work, becoming an auntie, and getting ready for vacation.”
Alan clasped his smooth, cinnamon hands together. “Where are you off to?”
Alex walked over to the mirrored wall and began warming up. “A little singles cruise my sister rudely confirmed for me today.”
“I don’t understand how a stunner like you is single in this city,” Alan said.
“All the good men have married my sisters,” she quipped.
“Whatever, Miss Alex. I know there’s that special guy out there for you.”
Alex shrugged. “Not worrying about some man. Let’s dance.”
“All right, but remember, I lead the tango, all right?”
“Okay,” she said as she got in the ready position. The tango shifted into the foxtrot, where Alex showed her skill by dropping down and kicking her leg up like she’d seen Eartha Kitt do in an old video.
Alan clapped. “Wow, see, it’s moves like that ... Why aren’t you entering the ballroom dancing state competition?”
“Because I do this for me and to keep in shape.” Alex shook her head. “I don’t want to be judged.”
“Listen, you are what this studio needs to get statewide cred. Think about it,” he said as he clasped his hands together.
“I’d tell you that I’d think about it, but I don’t want to lie to you.”
“Now, Miss Alex, you know you’re one of the best dancers I’ve seen in a long time. You’re in here channeling Ms. Eartha Kitt and I have dancers who can’t make a move on the one and two. Come on, you have to do it.”
“Alan, I’m sorry, but that just isn’t who I am,” she said. “But I’ll put your studio on the bed-and-breakfast’s list of go-to places in Charleston.”
“That’s nice and all. Alex! I want a trophy! I need you to make that happen.”
Alex wiped the sweat from her brow. “What if I help you find someone else who can do what I do?”
Alan smacked his lips. “You know no one else can do what you do. And you can work out anywhere. The way you dance, you should be on somebody’s stage.”
Inwardly, she beamed under his compliments, but Alexandria Richardson wasn’t getting on anyone’s stage.
Wesley Prescott wasn’t a man who believed in all work and no play. Even though he was the principal architect and owner of Prescott Architects, Wesley played as hard as he worked. He never allowed himself to be the face of PA, which was a world-renowned firm. Wesley had created structures across the globe for business and royalty. But he never made himself the focus of the company. It was all about the team. Wes liked flying under the radar when it came to showing up in trade magazines. Media coverage led to questions about one’s personal life, and that was nobody’s business. He didn’t have time to fight off rumors and he made sure any woman he played with felt the same way. Hell, his ex-wife had disappeared from his life quietly.
This upcoming vacation was just what he needed before assigning one of PA’s most important projects of the year. While he planned to oversee the designing of the new wing at the historic bed-and-breakfast in Charleston, he was planning on going to Las Vegas to work on designs for a new casino. Work and play at the same time made him happy. But nothing was as exciting to him at the moment as his third cruise of the year. An exclusive singles cruise to the Cayman Islands. He’d taken cruises like this one before and they were always so much fun. For the most part, the women he’d met on those cruises stuck around for a good time and not a long time.
The intercom on his desk phone buzzed.
“Yes, Karen,” he said to his receptionist.
“Your brother is here.”
Wes smiled. Johnathan was going to be in charge while he was on vacation. Johnathan needed plans to go over plans. It didn’t matter that he knew as much about the company as Wes did. That was one of the reasons why Wes made him co-CEO. But he hated that his brother was so much like their father and thought every minute of the day had to be consumed by work.
“Send him in, and you can take the rest of the day off.”
“But—it’s only eleven.”
“With pay, Karen.”
“All right, I’m out of here.”
Seconds later, Johnathan walked through the door with a scowl on his face. “How are the phones going to get answered now?”
“There’s this super great invention called voice mail and people can leave a message. The 1950s are over, J. People don’t expect some woman to be sitting by the phone waiting for them to call.”
Johnathan shook his head. “Where are you running off to now?”
“Haven’t you been on vacation enough for three people this year?”
Wes nodded, then kicked his feet up on his desk as Johnathan took a seat across from him. “You’ve seen the financial reports, right? My vacations aren’t hurting anyone.”
“And if you took things a little more seriously, we would be doing ten times better.”
“I’m not Dad and I’m not working myself to death. You might want to try to take a break yourself. I’d hate to find you at your desk dead one . . .
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