Nell Newbery has trust issues. It’s hard to trust when you’re the daughter of a fallen financial scion who bilked people out of billions. Nell’s done everything in her power to keep away from men who see her as their ticket to fortune and fame. All she wants to do is run her ultra-successful business, HELPFUL HUNKS, in peace.
But it wouldn’t hurt to find a guy who doesn’t know a thing about her father’s felonious past; one she can give her heart to and trust it won’t come back to her battered, bruised, and broken.
Is Charlie Churchill that guy? On the surface he seems perfect, all polished manners and quiet mirth. Nell’s convinced he knows nothing about her, other than she likes superhero movies and views junk food as a food group.
Can she trust him to be what he appears to be? Or is he just pretending?
For Nell, trust is everything in life…and in love.
ANd since it’s pumpkin spice time here in the US….enjoy….
“Let’s take dessert outside and sit. It’s not full-on dark yet,” he suggested while filling a tray with dessert plates, cups, and utensils.
A girl could get used to being waited on like this. Charlie was a much better host than I’d ever been, and that was the simple truth.
A few minutes later we were each in one of the lounge chaises I’d spotted earlier. Twilight was darkening the sky and the horizon danced with stripes of bright orange and red. The avenues outlining Central Park were lit and bright, the streetlights sparkling around the trees.
“If you’re cold I’ve got throw blankets in the storage cabinet,” Charlie said as he handed me a teacup.
“This’ll keep me warm.” I took a sip and sighed. “I love a cup of tea in the evening.”
“Even though you drink coffee? Most people choose one or the other.”
“I seem to remember you with a coffee mug in your hand in the diner, Professor, so…” I waved my free hand.
He laughed and settled back, his long legs spread out before him on the chaise, crossed at the ankles.
I’d slipped off my flats and tucked my feet under my legs.
“It’s nice out here,” I said, glancing at the city beyond the railing. “We’re high enough up the traffic sounds aren’t annoying; it’s private, without nosy neighbors right on top of you; and you’re buffered from the wind. If I open a window at my place, the wind shear off the Hudson River can be like a cyclone on some days.”
Charlie sipped his tea as his gaze followed mine, and nodded. “The difference between a park view and a water one. I love looking out over the tree line, especially in spring and fall.”
“Two opposite seasons. Kinda like foliage birth and death.”
He turned his attention to me. “I never thought of it that way, but you’re right. I enjoy watching the trees come into bloom, and I like watching them turn color.”
“I like that, too. Fall is my favorite time of year. The air is crisp, with a tiny bite to it; you can start wearing sweaters and boots. Plus,” I grinned at him, “pumpkin spice.”
A theatrical grown blew from him. “Oh, good Lord, are you one of those who loves pumpkin spice flavored everything? Coffee? Donuts? Tea? I even saw a pumpkin spice-flavored marshmallow cereal in the market last fall. People were buying it by the case. That was a bit much.” He shook his head, a ghost of a grin on his lips.
“Never underestimate the influential power familiar branding has on advertising to the consumer,” I said.
Charlie’s chuckle floated in the air next to me.
“That should be the topic of your next lecture.”
“What? Pumpkin spice?” I asked, cocking my head at him with what I hoped was a serious expression on my face.
Laughter danced in his eyes. “The class would most likely all be able to relate to that topic, but, no. Has Dean Dietrichson asked you to speak again?”
“I got an email yesterday asking me if I could sub again this Wednesday. Seems Dr. Chang’s mom still isn’t doing well. I haven’t replied to him yet.”
As I sipped my tea he silently regarded me. “What?”
“Would you like a little unsolicited advice?”
“If I said no would you give it anyway?”
“No. I’d respect your request,” he answered.
And right there was the reason he was different from every other man I’d ever known.
“You think I should do it, don’t you?”
“Yes,” he said without hesitation. “I’ve told you how much chatter there was about your lecture from those who sat in on it. How enlightening the class viewed your insights. Several times I heard what a wonderfully natural speaker you are. That’s a gift, Nell, that ability to connect to a group of strangers and have them not only be comfortable with, and open to, what you’re teaching, but engaged as well. A true gift.”
I can’t explain why his words meant so much to me, but they did. Validation as a savvy business owner is something I’ve strived for. I’ve struggled to be respected and successful on my own, through my own deeds and actions, and not simply because someone’s DNA coursed through my system. I’d had two bank managers deny my start-up business loan because they worried my father’s behavior had been passed down to me.
How ridiculous is that? The sins of the father aside, how truly ridiculous?
I took another sip of my tea and considered Charlie’s words.
“I have to admit, it was…fun, speaking to them. Not nearly as stressful as I’d imagined it would be.”
“And it was kinda cool that they all”—I flipped my free hand in the air again—“valued the points I was trying to make.”
“I’d say you made those points, not tried.”
I bit down on the corner of my mouth and stared back out at the quickly darkening horizon. “I’ll email him back when I get home,” I said. “But I need to come up with a better topic than the benefits of pumpkin spice branding.”
His rich, deep laughter sent a rivulet of pleasure down my spine.