He threw the sheet off his legs and spun himself so his feet hit the floor, but in just a second, his legs buckled. I ran into his room and grabbed him before he collapsed, barely able to hold his much larger frame up as he tried to stop himself from falling.
Helping him back into bed, I couldn’t help notice he had great legs. Perfectly shaped, tanned, and muscular, they fit the rest of him I’d seen the other day. Whoever this guy was, he took care of himself before he ended up lying in the weeds on the side of Highway 27. He looked like he would be right at home on a beach somewhere.
A nude beach. In some exotic location where gorgeous people with beautiful bodies spread out sensually on the sand. Far away from Hansonville.
I found myself lost in thought imagining him lying on that beach with those sexy legs and washboard abs slathered in oil and didn’t realize he saw me staring at him until he cleared his throat.
“So, are you a nurse or just someone who likes to check out people at the hospital?” he asked, tearing me from the final remnants of my fantasy.
Looking up from his legs now covered by the sheet again, I shook my head far too quickly and felt my cheeks grow hot from embarrassment. “What? No. I mean…no, I’m not a nurse and no, I don’t like to check people out. I’m here for something else entirely.”
He smiled and tried not to laugh at my social clumsiness, but it was no use. Chuckling, he said, “Well, if you aren’t either of those things, why were you looking into my room? Are you a patient? Do they have a psych floor and you got off it?”
God, he was rude!
“Well, why were you looking in at me then?”
I didn’t answer since I didn’t have anything to say that didn’t make me look like a fool. His smile faded away, and a darkness settled into his expression. “Are you another one of those reporters from the local yokel newspaper curious if I got my memory back or someone from the police to grill me for the hundredth time?”
Instantly, I became defensive. “No. I was just walking down the hall and you barked out that you wanted a drink. That’s all.”
He leaned back and sighed. “Oh. Well, okay.”
I wanted to tell him to stick his attitude straight up his ass, but then I stopped myself. The guy was trapped in a hospital without any memory of who he was or what caused him to end up on the side of the road on the outskirts of a small town few people had ever heard of. No wonder he was cranky.
Not that he had to be nasty about things.
“I’ll get a nurse for you now,” I mumbled as I turned to leave.
“I’m sorry about thinking you were a nurse. In my defense, it was an honest mistake, don’t you think?” he said, confusing me for a moment before I remembered that I was still dressed in my vet tech uniform.
Looking back at him, I smiled. “Yeah, I guess so.”
He flashed me a smile that was a perfect mix of sexy and sincere, and for a moment I just stood there next to his bed staring at him. Dark-haired and fit. The newspaper had definitely gone with understatement this time. If I had to describe him, I would have said drop dead gorgeous with dark hair and eyes like a Greek god.
For the second time in five minutes, he caught me lost in thought about him and asked, “So if you’re not a nurse, why are you dressed like one?”
Once again embarrassed by the effect he had on me, I mumbled something about taking care of animals and then said, “I’ll go get that nurse for you now. For the water. A drink of water.”
Jesus, you’d think I never saw a good-looking man before in my life. I mean, he definitely didn’t look like the local guys, but what was I thinking calling him a Greek god. Even if it was only to myself, what the hell was that about?
On Saturday morning, I paced back and forth across that ugly rug in my room while I waited for my meeting with Becca. I was very rarely nervous about seeing people and even more rarely nervous about how I looked, but with each pass by the mirror, I wondered if I should change my shirt from the blue one I’d chosen.
I didn’t necessarily feel insecure, but I wanted to be someone more than the person she thought I was. I looked good, but I wanted to be more than that.
More than just an attractive outside like I’d always been.
Stopping in front of the mirror, I looked at the man in the reflection and saw what I’d always been. Dark brown hair, brown eyes, my mother’s son.
And that was the problem, wasn’t it? Zane Gilford, the spoiled son of Deidre Gilford was all I’d ever been, so how could I expect to be something more now, even if I wanted to be for Becca?
I ran my hand through my hair and tried to dismiss those thoughts from my mind. I could be more than that person.
Pep talk finished, I walked downstairs and immediately was bombarded with employees in my face asking me questions as soon as I stepped foot into the lobby.
“Mr. Gilford, a man called today asking when you were planning on sending the payment for the repairs in the bungalows. What should I tell him?” Mandy asked.
“Mr. Gilford, I need next weekend off to go help my brother move. Is that okay?” one of the maids asked.
“Mr. Gilford, for the Saturday night meal, what should we be preparing for dinner? No one has sent me any menu, and as such, I have no idea what to order,” Tim, one of my two diva cooks, asked.
Nothing like being met with a cacophony of questions the moment my feet hit the dark red carpeting. I suspected they thought I’d snap at them, but I needed to keep trying not to be that man.
Even if I wanted to walk right past all three people right out the front door.
In turn, I answered each of their questions. “Mandy, if he calls back, tell him I’ll send the payment out tomorrow morning. If you need time off, talk to Kathy about scheduling or try to switch shifts with someone. As for dinner, I honestly don’t know, so I’ll leave it to your expert judgment. Cook what you want, Tim.”
It may not have been the happiest version of myself, but it was certainly civil. I was trying, if not always succeeding, at making an effort at being the kind of owner The Gilford House Inn needed.
While they hurried off to do their jobs, I headed to my office to get ready for my meeting with Becca. I’d compiled all the data I could find on the inn going back for the past five years. Tapping the papers on the top of my small desk to straighten them, I wondered if my mother had ever thought of doing any advertising for her beloved inn. Somehow, without spending anything, she had been able to keep the hotel filled most months out of the year.
But now, I wanted to see if I could do better.
A knock on my office door pulled me out of my daydreaming about how my mother had built a successful business on little more than word of mouth, and I stood to open the door.
Mandy smiled at me and said, “Becca Fox is here. She’s waiting at the front desk.”
I grabbed the papers and headed out to see Becca standing in front of Mandy, the two of them talking like they knew each other. She looked good in a pair of black pants and a pink shirt that hugged her body perfectly. Suddenly, the last thing I wanted to do with her was talk advertising.
“Becca, thank you for making the trip. I truly appreciate it. Can we get you anything? I’ve got a cook or two around here somewhere who I’m sure would be happy to whip you up something.”
She smiled and looked a little surprised at first before shaking her head. “No, no I’m fine, but thank you so much for offering. It’s very sweet of you.”
“I’m sure you’d like to relax after your drive, so what do you say to meeting up for dinner at seven?” I asked, changing plans and hoping this time she wouldn’t say no to my offer.
She smiled and nodded. “Well, since it’s for business, I don’t see how I can say no.”
“Seven o’clock it is then. I’ll meet you right here,” I said, my smile growing larger as I saw a look of confusion come across Becca’s face.
“Why wouldn’t we just meet right here in the dining room? What better spot to talk about how to advertise this wonderful place than right in the thick of things?” she asked.
“Because I’ve got another place in mine that I think you’ll love. I’ll see you at seven, Becca.”
I left her standing there with her key in hand, her mouth hanging open, and her eyes wide. Good. That’s exactly what I wanted. She was curious, which was a good thing. The more Becca was unsure about what I wanted, the better.