Slade Hunter pulled into Cozy Cove on a custom Harley that let everyone know he was a force to be reckoned with. Not that it was his intention. Eighteen hours on the back of a motorcycle through rain, sleet, snow—aww hell—what the fuck? Now he was losing it, reciting the postman’s creed. He needed a shower and to drop into bed for at least a solid eight hours. Then he’d begin laying the ground work for this project. The equipment wouldn’t arrive for a few more days. Slade didn’t want to wait. His original plan to fly out of Boston had been cancelled when a freak late-in-the-season snow storm caused massive flight delays. His personal plane was grounded along with the every other airline. Impatient and pissed off, he decided to travel out of the city with the trailer hauling their equipment. Once he hit a break in the weather, he rolled his Harley out of the trailer and took off. He licked his lips. The flavor of the salty sea air on his tongue heightened his excitement. Eight years of planning was about to pay off. He smiled. Nothing and no one was going to get in his way.
He traveled on the main road through the center of Cozy Cove. Cute town. Perfect for his plans. Slade slowly drove by, making a mental note of the shops that lined the street. None of them were open yet. Too bad it was early, just after dawn.
In a decorative brick building stood Petals, a florist. Further down was the Crazy Crab, a rustic, restaurant and bar type of place. The next store he noticed was called Art by Cookie Lucas, interesting. A few people waved as he drove by. They seemed friendly. The sheriff passed him on the street and nodded. Nice town.
The sign up ahead directed him to the Cozy Cove Inn. He’d done his homework on this area and had made a reservation for a suite at the Cozy Cove on their web site. He pulled up to the inn. Very impressive. It couldn’t compete with his plans to build a luxury resort. The acquisition of the beachfront property was pretty much a done deal, but this place had a lot of style, plenty of charm, and was much larger than he remembered it being online.
One thing he could say about April in south Florida, the weather was a pleasure. Marketing his resort in this beautiful tropical climate would be a breeze. He grabbed his duffel bag off the back, ready to shed his dirty leather jacket. His legs ached and wobbled a bit after driving hours with his butt plastered in a leather seat without a break.
When he reached the front desk, an older woman with gleaming red hair peered over the red reading glasses that rested on her nose.
“I’m Gladys. Can I help you?” Her hot pink lips slipped into a smile.
“Slade Hunter. I have a reservation for a suite.” He dropped his bag on the floor, not wanting to expend an extra ounce of energy. “I’m exhausted. I would appreciate it if I wasn’t disturbed.” He ran his fingers through his hair and studied a captivating mural on the wall of the front entryway. A painting of the ocean so vivid, the sound of waves crashing against the shore echoed in his mind. It was the image of Cozy Cove from a distance.
“No problem, Mr. Hunter.” She handed him his keys. “That mural was painted by a local artist, Cookie Lucas. She has a gallery in town.”
He nodded. “I passed it on my way here.”
“I take lessons from her.” She walked over with her arm extended to a painting of what looked like it was supposed to be a rose hanging on the wall. “Her motto is anyone can paint,” she announced.
Anyone but Gladys Hanson. “I see there’s more than one local artist with talent.” He chuckled.
Gladys blushed. “Thank you. Is there anything else I can get you?”
“No. Sleep is all I need.” He reached down and hoisted his duffel bag, flinging it over his shoulder. “Directions too.”
“Follow this hallway to the stairs. Then—”
“Gladys, you’re never going to believe what…”
Slade snapped his head around to see a tall, gorgeous woman with long auburn brown hair burst into the room.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were busy.” She smiled wide eyed and flipped her mane of long hair to the side, her face frozen on his. She was tall, curvy, and sexy, with a designer body a man could appreciate. Full, ripe lips, thick dark lashes framed sparkling green eyes. The yellow bikini top strained to uphold her hidden treasures, while the tie-dye wrap-around hugging her hips hung dangerously low. So low he wanted to remove it with his teeth.
“Cookie Lucas, this is Slade Hunter. Slade was just admiring your mural.”
That’s not all he was admiring. He may have been tired, but he wasn’t dead. This was the artist. Beautiful and talented. Touches of artistic expression accented her appearance. Her toes were polished purple, highlighted with little white flowers and specks of glitter. A silver dolphin ring wrapped around her center toe. An unexplained magnetic energy crackled around her, luring him in. Cookie. The name suited her. She looked good enough to eat.