“If I told you what you needed to know, I couldn’t let you leave this house,” he smirks with playful, malicious intent.
After having a meltdown at her job, and her boyfriend of 6 years dumping her, Scarlett Roth has been pushed into going on a vacation to Key Largo, Florida to get away. The isolated bed and breakfast where she plans on staying for the month turns out to be anything but what she expected.
A near death experience, and a new romantic prospect, Joshua, who works at the B&B, will help her evaluate her life, after he saves her from drowning in the ocean.
Joshua helps her rediscover what it means to be alive and in love, while he learns what it really means to trust and care for another person. See, in his isolation, he has forgotten how to.
The real problems arise when Joshua’s sister, Debra, gets involved in their relationship. She isn’t shy about showing her wants quell their love.
Why? Scarlett needs to know. And in trying to solve the mystery, she discovers more about Joshua, Debra, and even herself than she ever thought possible.
This tale is about love, trust, hatred, but, considering what Scarlett finds out about the two, she discovers that the most important lesson in life is accepting one another.
Read an excerpt from the first chapter:
She is half-awake in bed when her phone rings. Scarlett Roth looks at the ID. It’s Clarice. She contemplates picking up, staring as the phone rings on the nightstand in mute urgency.
After a long series of rings, she answers.
“Hey, is everything okay?”
“I’m fine Clarice. How are you this morning?”
"So you didn't back out, did you? You’re really leaving today?”
Scarlett sighs audibly, “I’m really going Clarice. I really appreciate everything you’ve done.”
Clarice says nothing for a moment. Then, “you know we’re only asking you to take a vacation because we’re worried about you.”
“I know Clarice, I know.”
“You’re being sarcastic.”
“Let’s just drop it, I have to go, I’m almost at the airport,” Scarlett lies. “I’m going to have a good time on your behalf, I promise.”
“...Don’t you think it’s good to get out of that apartment, clear your mind from work, and break away from this cycle you’re trapped in? It’s okay to take time off to get over Henry, there’s no shame in it, Scar.”
Scarlett is pushed to the brink of anger. After all, she needs her work. She liked working before, but right now, she needs it. She needs a distraction to get over two of the most challenging events in her life, which seemed to occur in conjunction: having a meltdown at her workplace, and her boyfriend of six-years dumping her and moving out.
But she doesn’t explain this to the woman that went up and convinced her boss that Scarlett needs to use her vacation days, that it’s obvious that she’s suffering after a meltdown like that. Instead, Scarlett recites the I-was-going-to-be-perfectly-fine speech.
“I’m just trying to help, Scar, but you’re acting delusional. I had to walk you out to your car and drive you home to keep from having you mental breakdown, and you’re saying that you’re fine?”
Scarlett hangs up. She’s glad that her cell phone cuts off when she leaves the state.
When she leaves her room, her bags are waiting by the door. Scarlett is reluctant about vacationing in south Florida--reluctant to do anything really, but she knows that if she stays home she’ll just wallow in her bed, feeling shame and regret. And could it really be called a vacation if it’s against my own will? She wonders. All of these things swirl in her mind as she crosses the living room to the bathroom.
Scarlett brushes her teeth. She plucks a freshly surfaced hair that grew from a beauty mark on her neck, and then she runs a finger along the rim of her light brown eyes. Black rings have formed around them. She considers them a sign of virtue; after all, she’s working through the heartbreak, instead of being helpless to it.
Indeed it is after she gets home from work, around midnight, when the busyness of the day simmers down, and all of her thoughts about work abandon her, that Scarlett is haunted by the memories she’s made with Henry in that apartment.
She looks into the mirror for a minute, her eyes searching for something--then she suddenly pulls at the mirror, taking an Advil from a bottle hidden in the medicine cabinet behind, and pops it dry. Then she runs the cold water in the sink, splashes her face, dries off, and then leaves the bathroom.
“Those pills are going to go straight to your liver,” he would say. Not in a “oh I’m right, you’re wrong” demeaning kind of way, she reflects. But as though he really cared. Subtle flashes of regret have shocked these last few months, and, often not a day goes by where she envisions what life would be like if she’d done things differently.
She leaves the bathroom, looks around her apartment once more. She concludes that nothing important has been left behind. She has everything she’ll need. She’s set.
Moving to the door: she holds a finger flourished over the light switch, dramatically, as though this little flick will determine so much more.
The apartment was ours. Now it’s just hers...though his, like the smell of stale cigarettes on the drapes, from when Henry would smoke window side. That scent belongs to him--now mine. All of it. Then with a flick of a muscle: OFF.
She exhausts a heavy sigh, and then leaves. She has a flight to catch.
Despite the fact that she is sitting in an airplane seat, it still doesn’t feel like she’s going anywhere.
The stranger beside her was already in his seat and half asleep against the window when Scarlett sat down. The stranger squirms for a minute, trying to settle in such a way that’s comfortable enough to fall asleep. But he just keeps squirming and squirming beside her. But he’s stuck in that seat, she regards his struggle, he’s stuck in that seat and there’s not a damn thing he can do. God, then presses two fingers to her temples to suppress a coming headache.
It strikes her that she’s really not going anywhere. Scarlett is stuck on these last few weeks, which, in her memory, is likened to a nightmare: bearing a strong semblance to urgency, fear, confusion.
The day that she knew she would have to leave began just like any other morning of the last few months. Scarlet woke up in a frenzy, feeling all over her bed over for Henry, but she found no one. Struck with worry, she reached to turn on the nightstand lamp--but didn’t, for she suddenly remembered that he’d gone. Been gone for two months by then. Waking up alone hadn’t quite settled in yet.
She got up for work and got ready as usual. Clarice came to pick her up. They were carpooling to work. They didn’t speak too much. Clarice asked if Scar was doing okay. She said she was okay and returned the question.
“I’m okay, you just, you know you can always talk to me, okay? I know what it's like after a breakup. Remember me and Dave?”
“I remember you and Dave” she had said, and then rode silently to work. The rest of the afternoon was a blur, until it came the time to take her lunch break. Clarice strolled up to her cubicle and suggested that they go out to eat; it was “such a gorgeous day out.”
And when Clarice nudged her shoulder and said jokingly: “I swear you’re a hopeless workaholic.” Those words exactly, a hopeless workaholic. The night of the breakup flooded back to her as she sat under Clarice’s gaze: coming home to his packed bags, to him saying I don’t want to fight about this. It’s just time, and when she tried to explain why she had to cancel their plans again and again, he cut her off and said you’ll always be a hopeless workaholic.
That was the last straw. Her head was throbbing from lack of sleep and her hands and eyes ached from working 10 hour shifts in front of the computer, without break--and then, to be called a workaholic. Scarlett became a saturated red, heaving dry sobs--dry because she’d been crying the night before--and when anyone tried to touch her to calm her, to console her, to help if they could: she screamed at the top of her lungs.
Looking back on it now, Scarlett isn’t sure what got into her that day. It’s embarrassing to even think about, but she’s glad, she--
“Ya’all right there?” The man sitting next to her interrupts her thought. “I normally mind my own but…” Scarlett looks at him, her eyes wet and beady.
“No, no thank you, I’m fine.”
“Well good, I could use some com’pny then. You know, they make it impossible to fall asleep in these chairs.”
She laughs a little and says she saw him trying. They talk a bit. Talking about where they’re coming from and where they’re going. He’s an older fellow, tan skin, long lanky arms and legs. He lights up when Scarlett says she’s taking a vacation in Florida, on south beach. He informs her she has it all wrong, that that place is too touristy.
“Key Largo, that’s where you want to go. An’ I’ll tell you what, it’s about the most romantic place in all of Flor--, no, I’ll damn well says it’s the finest place in the entire south, and I travel regularly. I so happen to own a little bed n’ breakfast out there.”
“Oh you’re not just trying to hook a customer, are you?” she asks coyly.
“I’m an honest man,” he grins, “I’ll tell you what, I’ll even give you a discount.”
She pauses for a second, “I’ll think about it.”
“It’ll be good. Sure, you can stay in a high class hotel--and it’ll be like you’re anywhere. But in my place, you’ll know you’re in south Florida. You’ll wake up to the sound of the breeze and” then he looks at her directly, and says in an earnest voice, “you look like you need to get away.”
Then after a moment, “Well, I won’t pester you about it. Just come on down if you feel like it. I’ll be in Fort Lauderdale till Monday, but I got two workers there that’ll take care of ya.”
She nods, and gives him a slight smile so that he knows she’s really considering it. When the plane lands, they leave the white tunnel together.
When the cab driver pulls up and asks her where she wants to go, she is rushed into making a decision--why not? Like Clarice said, she needs a break from routine. With this thought, she says “Bonaventure B and B, in Key Largo please.”
Scarlett rolls the window down, something she never does back in Richmond, and lets the cool wind trace its many fingers along her hair; lets the sun fall upon her pallid face. I’m in Florida. Suddenly, she doesn’t feel very tired and is excited to see how her day will pan out.
Available on Amazon
Get insider info on new releases, bonus stories and special deals by signing up for her email list at her publishing company website:
Callie Hartwood is the author of a number of paranormal romance fiction shorts and novellas. Her heroines are sometimes BBW's and the male leads are sometimes billionaires, werewolves or werebears.
The stories revolve around romance but there is also plenty of room for some steamy moments and unusual paranormal encounters.
More books are in the pipeline so stay tuned!
You can read all my stories for FREE with your Kindle Unlimited subscription.