Can't Help Falling In Love

BOOK: Can't Help Falling In Love
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Can’t Help
Falling in
Love

CHERYL HARPER

 

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

An Excerpt from
Stuck On You

About the Author

By Cheryl Harper

An Excerpt from
Less Than a Gentleman
by Kerrelyn Sparks

An Excerpt from
When I Find You
by Dixie Lee Brown

An Excerpt from
Playing the Field
by Jennifer Seasons

An Excerpt from
How to Marry a Highlander
by Katharine Ashe

Copyright

About the Publisher

 

Chapter One

W
HEN
R
ANDA
W
HITMORE
pushed open the limo door, the furnace blast that was Memphis in August nearly knocked
her over. She cursed under her breath about this latest assignment and straightened
her shoulders before she slid over the cool leather seat to stand on the sidewalk.
Thanks to the shade in this drop-off area at the front doors of the Rock’n’Rolla Hotel,
the concrete was solid instead of tarry goo, as she’d expected. Eggs wouldn’t fry
on the sidewalk; they’d sprout legs and run away screaming.

“Can I take your bags, miss?” Randa turned to see a tall young man wearing a tacky
Hawaiian shirt. He had a pleasant smile even in this heat. His name tag said
Sam
.

She smiled her “Mother Teresa” smile and tilted her head to the side. “Why, Sam, I
would appreciate that so much. Thank you. Could you take them on inside? I want to
take a quick look at this beautiful hotel before I go in.” She pressed a tip into
his hand and nodded as he turned to the sliding doors of the hotel. She made a mental
note that Sam seemed like he would fit in well after the hotel changed owners. Since
she hoped to be the one running the place, she planned to carefully evaluate all the
staff.

“A very quick look,” she muttered as she forced herself out into the bright sunshine.
The Rock’n’Rolla Hotel was boutique property situated right in the shadow of Graceland.
Approximately ninety rooms, several small meeting areas, and a full service bar and
restaurant… all of them dedicated to the King of Rock and Roll. She shook her
head. When the W Group bought it and renovated it, all that would be washed away in
a sea of beige sameness. Then it would match every other property of the W Group,
and every member of her family for that matter.

She knew the routine very well. She’d been renovating properties like this for more
than five years. The process for every one since she’d started in Fargo had been the
same. But the Rock’n’Rolla Hotel was different. Up until now, she’d spent too much
time wishing she had her own hotel to run. This time she was going to handle the renovation
and then manage the first Whitmore hotel in Memphis so well her father would realize
he should have given her a property of her own sooner. Maybe he’d even give up on
marrying her to some hotel heir with more money than sense too. She couldn’t face
another disappointing fiancé, another messy breakup, or another shouting match with
her father. She wanted her own hotel, a place where she was in charge and people listened
to what she had to say.

The façade of the hotel was acceptable. Pink brick. White columns. It looked a little
like what she’d seen of the pictures of Graceland. But when she turned the corner
to check out the parking lot and the rest of the hotel, she knew she was in for an
experience. Instead of the brick, these outer walls were painted with black silhouettes
of music notes, records, and the King, shaking his hips and doing his thing. Randa
smiled as she tried to imagine hiring a mural painter who could translate pelvic gyrations.
This one had done a damn good job. It was too bad it was about to be wiped away. This
would never do on a Whitmore hotel.

She wiped the beads of sweat off her forehead and wished she’d put her hair up in
a sleek ponytail as she walked back to the front door. Sweat was another thing that
would never do on a Whitmore. Cold-blooded, calculating, and nearly perfect was the
way to be in her family. She hadn’t quite mastered any of those things, but her father
and brothers did their best to lead by example and sometimes by lesson. And when they
were on a teaching spree, she ended up in places like the Rock’n’Rolla Hotel. In Memphis.
In August.

Randa stopped in front of the doors but they automatically swung open. The music notes
on the doors were probably a nod to the gates of Graceland. They weren’t so bad. She
decided to take a picture and think about it before she made a recommendation to replace
them. But the air conditioning that wafted out was as beautiful and welcome as the
smell of fresh-baked cookies. If she were a cartoon character, she would have floated
in with her eyes closed in ecstasy.

Sam nodded as she waved and she stopped to absorb the lobby of the Rock’n’Rolla. It
was green. Really, really green. And not like green paint or carpet. Green like the
rainforest. Plants exploded along one wall of the lobby and she could hear the faint
trickle of a waterfall. Heavy wood chairs were scattered around and the floors and
walls were some kind of natural stone. What she could see of them. She could feel
the cool stone through her shoes and she wanted to sigh with relief.

But she was distracted because right in the middle of the lobby floor was what appeared
to be a dead dog. Well, not dead, but surely dead to the world. Every now and then
the loose lips would twitch. Randa approached it carefully because while she loved
dogs, she didn’t really have much practical experience. Dogs didn’t work with the
all-white, all-designer, all-expensive Whitmore design aesthetic. Her mother had told
her that often enough. Eventually, Randa had stopped asking.

Randa squatted and teetered on her four-inch heels for a minute before she reached
out to pet the dog’s long, silky brown ears. Little green bows fluttered as the dog
drowsily stretched and moved closer to her. She knew she was wearing a stupid grin,
but the softness of his—no,
her
droopy ears—and the satisfied “hmph” she let out before she went back to sleep were
reasons to smile. Randa didn’t care who saw it.

“Can I help you?”

Randa glanced up across the empty lobby to see a thug in another ugly Hawaiian shirt
standing behind the front desk. Thug might be too harsh. He was tall, dark, and not
handsome but… attractive in intensely focused kind of way that made her nervous.
Randa froze as her eyes locked with his. Close-cut hair gave him a military look,
but the dark ink that ran from his wrist to the sleeve on his left arm said he was
dangerous. Or different. Or both, but he
was
wearing a Hawaiian shirt after all. Unless he was robbing the place, he was part
of the staff.

She’d spent most of her life swimming in deep waters where the sharks were hard to
see behind designer labels and expensive haircuts. This man was so different that
he might have been a whole new species. One with really nice muscles, big hands, and
enough controlled power to merit a second and third look. He watched her like he knew
her, knew everything about her because he
saw
her. He didn’t give her the obvious leer that she’d seen and dismissed a million
times. This guy, when he looked, saw more than most people. Randa had spent a lot
of time blending in with the perfectly bland Whitmore woodwork. Being the subject
of that much focus made her restless. She knew exactly how a fluffy bunny felt when
it looked up to see a hungry mountain lion. Well, except the bunny would run away.
She wasn’t sure which direction she’d run if he crooked his finger right this second.
Away was definitely safer, but all of sudden she was tired of safe.

Randa straightened slowly and felt his stare sweep a hot path from her long blonde
hair to the ridiculously high heels. She had the impression that he cataloged every
inch in between efficiently and she hoped that was a gleam of appreciation she saw.
Maybe it was just a trick of the light. She teetered precariously for a quick second
before she pulled herself together and put a little extra prowl in her step as she
walked over to stand in front of him. No one had ever actually asked her to sashay
on the catwalk, but when she was younger, she’d practiced her walk in the mirror.
Randa knew she hadn’t lost the skill.

Instead of showing his appreciation with a smile, a wink, or even a catcall, all time-honored
responses to her prowl, he raised an eyebrow. And that was it. He didn’t say another
word.

She pulled out her mental checklist and put an X next to
Tony
. He didn’t have the outward appearance expected of a Whitmore employee, certainly,
and he clearly didn’t have enough sense or good manners to show his appreciation for
a very fine walk. She ignored her mother’s voice in her head, the one that told her
men didn’t enjoy it quite as much with thighs like hers. She also did her best to
shove the small pang of hurt and doubt that flared up over his disinterest. She was
Randa Whitmore. He was a hotel clerk. Forget that he was the first man to get her
attention in forever. His opinion should be beneath her notice. And if she could just
get it through her head that it wasn’t necessary for everyone to love her, she’d do
a much better job at being a Whitmore.

“Good afternoon, Tony. I’ll be checking in now.” She put enough frost in her tone
to make it clear that she was so far above him that he should be glad she acknowledged
his presence. Randa had never had to practice that tone. It was like the Whitmore
family’s unifying superpower: the ability to freeze someone in his or her tracks with
the right tone and a cutting word or two.

He nodded once. “Reservation?”

Randa pushed her shoulders back and her best assets forward as she flipped her hair
over her shoulder. “Oh, I don’t have a reservation. I’ve just heard such good things.”
She glanced around at the empty lobby. “Surely you have one room available.”

Tony didn’t heave a sigh but something about the way he click-clacked on the computer
said that he really wanted to. “For how many nights?”

Sex appeal didn’t appear to be working. Why she wanted it to so badly was something
she’d have to think about later. She decided to try sparkling. “Why, I’m here for
Elvis Week, of course!” She looked very obviously down at her chest, which was covered
in bling. Crystals outlined a silhouette of the King’s head and spelled out
Elvis
. She’d had to search high and low for a T-shirt she’d actually be seen in. And she
would
not
be happy if she were caught dead in it. Still, it did draw attention to her chest.
And if given the chance, Randa would always choose bling.

Tony flicked a glance at her T-shirt and sniffed.

That better be a summer cold he’s fighting and not a comment on what I’m working with
. Randa’s lips tightened and she started to get mad. She could tell. Her hands were
ice cold.

“We’re all booked beginning on Friday. I can only give you two nights.” His face was
impassive as he waited for her decision.

Randa fought the urge to jump at the chance to take only two nights at the Rock’n’Rolla
Hotel. She might have enough time to take a good look at the hotel. She needed to
get a report together for her father and brothers by the end of the next week. This
was the first time Randa had been involved before the negotiations started. They usually
targeted failing properties or those that were up for sale. Thanks to its prime location
and room for expansion, the Rock’n’Rolla was different in every way, and the W Group
was going to acquire it. The only question was how much it would cost. To come up
with that figure, they needed to know just how much refurbishment they were looking
at.

BOOK: Can't Help Falling In Love
10.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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