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Jewel of the Highlands

Author(s): Jennie Andrus

Julie Murdock planned to renovate the old Tiara Islands Inn for her reality television show, then sell it at a nice profit.  Simple. No complications, no commitments.  She didn't count on falling in love with the place, nor did she anticipate reuniting with Noah Kerry, a summer fling from her teen years.  Now, with problem after problem plaguing the renovation, and Noah's persistent flirting, she's got more complications than she can handle.

Noah was one step away from achieving his dream of leaving Highland Hills forever.  All he had to do was prove his directing skills during the shooting of the Tiara Islands Inn reno project.  But Noah had a project of his own, catching Julie, the proverbial one-that-got-away.



“I’m sorry, Julie, it’s just not possible.” Scott Parks informed her, crossing his well-manicured hands on his desk.  “I like the idea, but we can’t afford to take on a project of this magnitude.”


“You’ve bought restaurants before and fixed them up for resale.”

“Restaurants, not an eight million dollar resort.” As usual, he looked perfectly turned out in a designer suit.  He’d obviously been to the salon lately because his brown hair was sporting some summery highlights that she knew he didn’t get from being outdoors.  Scott didn’t even like shopping in an open market, let alone doing anything that would require enough sun to affect his hair.  He was as city as they came, and damn proud of it.

Julie sighed. “I’ve been going over the financial reports, and I know what it would take to get this place back in the black.”

“Then tell the owner not to sell and we’ll make it a full season project.”

“He’s not selling because of financial reasons.  He’s seventy-eight years old and wants to retire.” Though she was sure the money was part of it.  Tiara Islands Inn had been sliding into bankruptcy for years.  A few bad decisions, and the recent recession had snowballed and the place had finally closed down.

“I’m sorry, Julie.  Unless you find someone willing to buy it and let us feature it for a show, there’s nothing I can do.  We can’t afford that kind of expenditure.”

In the back of her head, she heard Hailey’s excited voice shouting for her to take that leap.  Julie had gone through her own finances, and she could probably manage a good down payment if she cashed in some of her investments.  That old business plan she’d been tinkering with for years every time she saw a property she thought she could buy and run herself could be tweaked to fit the Tiara, and she could apply for a business loan.

Robert, the sneaky bastard, had enclosed a brochure with the paperwork he’d given her two days ago.  Seeing the pictures had brought back so many memories. 

The Tiara had originally occupied the middle of three islands off the shore of Kitchi Kabekong Lake, which meant great falls in Ojibwe.  A causeway had been constructed fifty years ago to connect the first island to the shore, then bridges had been added to link all three.  The islands, and the dozens of smaller ones that branched off them, resembled a tiara, hence the name chosen for the inn. 

It had always seemed like a magical place to Julie. Some of the islands were only a leap away from each other, and some required small footbridges.  She’d swam at the dozen beaches scattered over the islands, and lugged trays of mouthwatering meals over those hard wood floors.  When it stormed, she’d watched the lightening light up the sky from the safety of the main inn’s screened in porch and drank hot chocolate and cake left over from the previous nights dinner.  She’d lost her virginity there, to a smooth talking local boy who’d worked waterfront.

Chills of pleasure danced up her spine as she remembered that night.  Just the two of them, the ski boat adrift in the middle of the lake with the moon casting a silvery glow over their bodies.

Blushing, she cleared her throat.  “What if I bought it?” She announced.

Scott’s astonished gaping lasted about four seconds before a piratical grin took over his handsome face. “Now that would add to the audience appeal.  Not only are you renovating the old place, but if it fails, you’re the one taking the fall.  Your fans will go insane.”

Julie’s stomach twisted with dread.  She’d meant it hypothetically.  Yes she could dig up the money for a down payment, and probably get a mortgage for the rest, but that didn’t mean she was serious about it.  “I’m not saying I want to.”

“Nonsense, it’s the perfect sell.  Famous celebrity chef and restaurant consultant puts it all on the line to save one of the last iconic pieces of Highland Hills history.  I can see the ratings now.” Scott fished a notepad out of his desk and started scribbling plans.  “What are you doing sitting here?” He demanded. “Get out there and buy that lodge.  I’ll start hiring the crew.” He began to hum in the scary way that told her he was coming up with brilliant ideas, ideas that would cement his resolve for her to do this.  “You liked working with Tim Burly, right?”  Julie nodded; too numb to comprehend where the question was coming from. “He was asking if we had anything different, bigger.  This would be a perfect way to meld two shows.”

Tim hosted Handy Man Disasters, on of the networks highest rated shows, and it’s longest running one.  He was the face of The Home Network, and a household name.  They’d worked together on a restaurant makeover and gotten along well.  They’d even dated a few times before deciding they weren’t right for each other.  “Wouldn’t he want a show of his own?”

“Doesn’t hurt to ask.” Scott waved a hand dismissively. “Let me know when you’ve got the deeds.  We’ll need to start soon I suspect, if you want to be able to open for summer.”

Her gut clenched again.  It was the third of May.  Summer season started on Victoria Day weekend, only three weeks away.  And how in the hell did she get roped into agreeing to this?

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ISBN (Print):
ISBN (Electronic): 978-1-4543-0092-2
Genre: Fiction
Date Published: 09/15/2011
Publisher: Red Rose Publishing

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