Mid Week Tease: The Perfect Choice

midweekteaseGood morning all. Halloween is behind us and Christmas looms large on the horizon. This season promises to be an interesting one this year. Lauren thanks you all for your kind and wonderful comments on her Halloween vampire story. You may hear more from her in the future.

A couple of weeks ago, you met the characters in Coming Home, Book 1 of the Taking a Chance on Love series which has 2 awesome five star reviews.

On November 1, I released the companion book to Holiday Magic. In that novel, you met twins Georgia and Eleni Baxter. The Perfect Choice is Eleni’s story. It begins with a day in the park in late honest and wraps up on Christmas Day. My lovely covers were designed by Melinda De Ross at Classy Designs.

Here’s the blurb:

The perfect choice (2)All’s fair in love and war…or is it?

Eleni Baxter has always been the impulsive twin requiring rescue from one scheme or another. Avoiding relationships because of trust issues, Eleni throws herself into her wedding and party fantasy firm, Holiday Magic. When her designs for a Halloween decorating scheme win her a shot at being the exclusive special events coordinator for the Ocean Front Casino Resort, she jumps at it, without reading the fine print. As always, twin sister Georgia comes to the rescue.

Reclusive millionaire casino owner Garth Joseph Smits Simmons has shunned publicity and gold-diggers for as long as he can remember, hiding behind a series of disguises to protect his identity. When beautiful, talented special events coordinator Eleni Baxter walks into his life, he’s determined to find a way to make her fall in love with him without revealing his true identity. Designing a contract to hire her and keep her in close proximity for three months seems like a stroke of genius, but having a double life becomes more complicated than ever.

With the holiday season in full swing, Joe decides it’s time to come clean, but will the magic of the holiday season be enough for Eleni to forgive him his deception, or will he lose it all on one throw of the dice?

Now, for this week’s tease, meet Joe.

August 27

 

“Thanks,” Joe said, handing the teenaged kid manning the hot dog cart a five-dollar bill. “Keep the change.”

“Sweet.”

Walking over to one of the empty benches, Joe cracked open the bottle of water, and chugged more than half of it in a single gulp. He ran his hand through his sweat-dampened hair, and replaced his cap. This was the last day of his so-called sabbatical, and he was more than a little frustrated.

As always, safeguarding his identity and protecting his privacy had been essential, but the loneliness it entailed seemed to get worse with each passing year. He’d stayed in a modest hotel and had enjoyed the anonymity that came from being a “nobody”. People didn’t realize how lucky they were to be able to come and go as they pleased. He’d flirted with the waitress at the diner where he’d eaten twice, but he’d been content not to pursue the relationship beyond the restaurant doors.

He’d revisited the places that held so many good memories of the years he’d lived here with his mom, the time when he’d been a normal kid from a single parent family. On the whole, people were friendly, and he’d had a great time chatting with them, something being himself would never have allowed.

The late August sun beat down on Logan Circle, one of Joe’s favorite spots in the city. It was nice, sitting there on the bench incognito, enjoying the simple laughter of children playing in the Swann Memorial Fountain. It was a rare pleasure he never took for granted.

A beach ball flew across the paving and hit his legs, pulling him back to the moment, and he reached for it. A cute little redheaded toddler ran over and stopped in front of him.

“Is this yours?” he asked, holding the ball out to her.

She nodded, and he handed it to her, well aware of her mother’s watchful eyes just a few feet away.

The child grinned. “Thank you, mister,” she said reaching for the proffered ball. As soon as she had it, she ran off to resume whatever game she’d been playing, her chubby little feet leaving wet marks behind her.

Joe sighed. He wanted kids someday, but to have them, he needed a wife, and finding the right woman seemed to be an almost impossible task.

As he watched the children play and the couples stroll by hand-in-hand, he realized how empty his life was. He was thirty-five years old, and, for the most part, he was alone. He’d gone out with women, of course, had even been intimate with a couple, but always he’d worn some sort of disguise—wigs, false beards and mustaches, and contact lenses. It hadn’t taken long to see their attraction for him was rooted not in his personality but in his bank balance. Once he’d realized that, any allure he’d felt quickly vanished. He almost understood what had motivated his father, but he’d be damned if he‘d carry it to the limit the way his dad had.

Today, Joe wore a Phillies’ ball cap over his closely cropped brown hair, mirrored aviator-styled sunglasses, an old, sun-bleached Rolling Stones T-shirt, faded jeans torn at the knees, and Nikes. He carried a shabby, red backpack in which he’d stuffed a worn jean jacket and a couple of bottles of water, now empty. Instead of his Rolex, he wore a no-name watch and had removed his father’s signet ring, the last thing his mother had given him before her death.

He hadn’t shaved since he’d arrived in the city, and the scruffy beard added to his disguise. People rarely looked beyond the obvious, and they saw what you showed them. He looked like any other guy down on his luck—nothing like one of the world’s top ten most eligible bachelors and the mega millionaire he was.

What would it be like to be just an ordinary guy all the time? Build a life for himself around his pseudo identity, meet women who saw him for who he was not who he was supposed to be, go on dates, and perhaps even fall in love with someone who cared for the person he was and not just his wallet? The idea intrigued him, and he mulled it over for a few moments and then frowned. That’s what his father had tried to do, and look where it had gotten him.

Joe sighed. He should have left Philly yesterday. Silly daydreams wouldn’t solve his problems.

He’d come to Philadelphia for two reasons, the first, a much needed rest, and the second, to find a unique special events coordinator for his Ocean Front Casino Resort in Atlantic City.

The ten days of freedom he’d enjoyed in the City of Brotherly Love, had provided a much deserved break from the hectic activity preceding the reopening of his newest jewel in his crown of world renowned gaming resorts, but it had failed to provide the most critical aspect of his plans for the future. After hours of reading resumes and looking through portfolios, he still hadn’t found the elusive piece to his puzzle.

Ocean Front’s official grand re-opening was scheduled for Labor Day weekend, just a week away, and he had yet to find the elusive piece that would make it stand out from all the other casinos on the Boardwalk. He wanted people to come to the resort for more than just the gaming. He’d hired top notch entertainment, Cordon Bleu chefs, and a spa manager with experience in Europe. He wanted to make it the place to go to celebrate special occasions—a Continental United States go-to destination vacation place. For that to happen, he’d need a special events coordinator with fresh and unique ideas and designs.

While most casinos did some basic decorating to acknowledge the changing seasons and holidays, they didn’t want to do too much to detract the gamblers from their games. Joe, on the other hand, wanted to make the shifting themes the showcase of the resort. Ocean Front would celebrate the seasons and holidays on a grand scale. Each time you visited, there’d be something new and unique to add to your enjoyment. The resort would be an ever-changing wonderland where people built memories that would last a lifetime, not just a place to win or lose money on a weekend getaway.

In addition, each month, the resort would host a benefit for charity—groups could apply and be short listed. The events—dinners, dances, auctions, or something else—would raise money for the specific charities, his way of giving back, not just taking anymore, and raise the resort’s prestige.

While Atlantic City might be known for the Boardwalk and casinos, he wanted Ocean Front to stand out from the rest. The media would have a field day with the concept at his opening, but when he presented two hundred and fifty thousand to the relief and restoration fund to offset the damages from the tropical storms these last few years, they’d see he wasn’t just paying lip service to the idea, and if some of the other casinos followed suit, so much the better.

Gambling was the basis on which his empire had been built, but it didn’t have to be that way any longer. With his investments in other areas, he had a solid portfolio, and could close all the casinos and go onto other things, but thousands depended on him for employment, and he’d never shirk his responsibilities like that. So, he’d come up with a new way to do things, one he hoped would benefit everyone, but the special events coordinator was the lynch pin, and so far he hadn’t found one.

He’d spent his last morning in the city visiting one of his favorite places, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, and while there were many new things to see, his favorite exhibit was the Tylosaurus, the largest of the Western Interior Seaway predators—the T-Rex of the water. He’d always been fascinated by the giants who’d roamed the Earth and the oceans, and then had mysteriously vanished.

At one time, he’d dreamed of becoming a paleontologist, but Mom had died, and his life had gone in another direction. He’d sponsored a Paleo-Adventure tour last summer in the South Dakota Badlands, where he’d helped uncover a T-Rex jaw. He’d hoped to return this summer, but the casino had prevented it. He’d paid handsomely to keep the T-Rex hand claw he’d found. The dig would be funded for many years to come on that contribution.

It was almost noon, and he had to eat lunch before heading back to Atlantic City, but he couldn’t seem to get his ass off the bench. It was almost as if something were keeping him here, making him wait for a reason.

Now, I’m beginning to sound like Mom with all her mumbo jumbo about fate and destiny. Too bad she didn’t foresee her own future.

He let out a deep breath and finished the rest of the water, putting the empty plastic bottle in his bag to recycle later.

If he couldn’t find that events coordinator soon, one willing to try new things, go out on a limb, and make his casino the showplace he envisioned, all his dreams would be for nothing.

He might be able to come up with a few ideas of his own, like the Apple Extravaganza for the grand opening, but he was a doer, not a dreamer, and he needed a dreamer. So far, he’d gotten ideas from twenty-five top notch designers, and every one of them had failed to meet his expectations. There hadn’t been a unique idea in the bunch—all cookie-cutter examples of the same old thing he’d seen done for years. He’d even tried looking at recent graduates, but so far nothing. He  was down to his final candidate, and he wasn’t hopeful. He closed his eyes to enjoy the sun on his face, opening them when he heard the musician start to perform again.

The blues guitarist playing just down the sidewalk from where he sat quickly attracted a crowd. The elderly black man with grizzled gray hair reminded Joe of the man who’d played when he’d come to the park with his mother all those years ago. He’d always smiled and played Georgia on my Mind for her, but he’d never let her put money in his guitar case. “Music’s free for you, darlin’,” he’d say, and she’d smile. It had been her favorite song. This guy was really good. She’d have loved him. He was old enough… no, it couldn’t possibly be the same man.

The Moore College of Art and Design was his last hope. He’d thought that someone young and new might be able to give him what he wanted. The graduates from the women’s college had come highly recommended. He’d spoken with the Dean, and she’d endorsed several alumnae. The candidates had been told to create something unique for a Halloween party. There’d be financial compensation for all those who applied, and a lucrative bonus for the winner. All rights to the winning designs would remain with the sponsor. It had been an unusual request, but he’d made a donation to the college to smooth the way. He didn’t know where he’d look if this last candidate failed to meet his expectations.

He’d been disappointed. Twelve people had taken him up on his offer, and like those of the  professionals, he’d rejected countless proposals because of their sameness. He’d examined the sketches two of them had submitted last night. They were fresh, a bit different, but in the end, they’d lacked the creative spark he wanted. He didn’t know precisely what he wanted, but he knew he’d recognize it when he saw it.

The last entry, lucky or unlucky number thirteen depending on how you saw things, something from E. Baxter, was supposed to be scanned and sent to him before two o’clock this afternoon. He pulled out his cell phone and checked his email. Nothing yet. Maybe she’d decided not to submit after all.

Asking for an extension had been ballsy, but the Dean had assured him that anything from Baxter was well worth the wait. She ran a special events business of some sort and apparently had a reputation for originality. He’d agreed to an extra day—no more. In his business, time was money.

Don’t forget to check out the other teasers. There’s something for everyone. Thanks again to Sandra Bunino for making all this possible. Have a great week. See you next Wednesday.

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