The Gull Motel
A Sweet Contemporary Romance
by Amie Denman
Skip McComber, The Gull’s former maintenance man, has been working on Savvy’s nuts and bolts for years. Now the new owner of the bar next door, his mission is to renovate a pirate bar while being a walking temptation for the girl he can’t get off his mind.
For Savvy, keeping her cool running a motel in Florida heat is one thing, but navigating the steamy waters of a former fling takes a whole other kind of savvy. In addition to the motel and the man next door, Savvy stumbles on a plot to swindle land from the residents of Barefoot Key. Devalued properties tumble like dominoes until Savvy musters her colorful crew from The Gull Motel to make the pillagers walk the plank.
The next night, I stood with the small staff of The Gull and watched my aunt and uncle get ready to roll out of The Gull’s parking lot. Rita and I were flanked by the two full-time maids, Maria and LeeAnn. Skip came over for the occasion, too, as an emeritus employee and friend.
“We’re so glad you’re here to watch over the place,” Carol whispered to me as she hugged me goodbye. “Barefoot Key isn’t the place it used to be.”
I wanted to ask what she meant, but she moved quickly to her long-time employees to dispense goodbye hugs.
“You take good care of our Gull, Savvy,” Mike said. He motioned me over to the trunk of their car where he fiddled with arranging their luggage. In a low voice, he said, “I hope we’re only gone a week at the most. I’d like to be back for the next Chamber of Commerce meeting. Businesses here in the Key are dropping like flies.” He looked more serious than I’d ever seen him. “Now’s the time we all gotta stick together.”
“Don’t worry about The Gull,” I said lightly. “I’ll only sell it off if I get enough cash to open the bait shop I’ve always dreamed of.”
“I hope to bail the old gal out and be back before anyone notices we’re gone,” he said, shutting the trunk. He put one arm around my shoulders and gave me a quick squeeze. “And I won’t worry knowing I have the smartest person in the family in charge down here.”
They climbed in, we caught one last glimpse of big blond hair in the passenger side window, and Aunt Carol and Uncle Mike were gone. Tulip leaned against my leg, watching the departure along with us. She licked my ankle and gave me sad eyes.
“We need a drink,” Maria said. “My mother-in-law’s putting the kids to bed tonight because I figured it would be a late one.”
LeeAnn looked at her watch.
“It’s gonna be a late one, right?” Maria said. “I need a break from those kids.”
Maria had four kids under the age of ten. Her husband drove a semi and only stayed home long enough to get his wife pregnant and his tires changed. The kids who weren’t old enough for the joy of public education spent the day tailing their mother’s housekeeping cart, torturing Tulip, or turning the swimming pool into a wave pool.
“Hell yeah,” LeeAnn said. “I had a date with some fish tacos, but they’ll wait.”
“I found the owner’s manual for the margarita machine and I think I can pull it off,” I said. I thought this was a good time to show confidence in front of my staff.
“We could get started with the hooch while LeeAnn runs home and cooks for us,” Skip offered.
“Bite me,” LeeAnn said.
Divorced, thirty, and no kids, LeeAnn had a grouchy side that flirted with bitter. If there were honeymooners in the motel, she always got special assignment in some other area. Only one thing made her happy—cooking. And her fish tacos made other people happy, so it balanced out.
“Have they ever gone on vacation before?” I asked. My whole life, it had never occurred to me to wonder. Living in a beach motel in Florida seemed like a permanent vacation, but I wondered for the first time if they’d ever actually gone away. They didn’t come to my college graduation because they had a full house and a fishing tournament in town. I told them they weren’t missing anything because college ceremonies were notoriously dull.
“Not that I know of,” Rita said. “Carol’s gone home a few times. They’ve been on a few overnighters or weekenders I can think of. But leaving for a week, both of them? Can’t remember a time. Guess they figure they can do it this time because you’re here.”
“They trust all of you,” I said. “You’re like family.”
“But you are family,” LeeAnn said. “They know you won’t lock the doors and have an orgy.”
Everyone turned and stared at LeeAnn.
“Not that we would,” she said.
Their taillights were long gone down the access road The Gull shared with the Sunshine Souvenir Stand on one side and Skip’s bar on the other side. Not technically a street, the two lanes of blacktop leading to our three businesses were owned by the Sunshine and ran across a chunk of its property.
Although my aunt and uncle were out of sight, I still stared in the direction they’d gone, feeling like a little girl entrusted with playing house for real. How bad could I screw up? They’d be home before I even had to order more toilet paper. And maybe this would be a good opportunity for me to bolster my resume and improve my chance of getting into the trainee program. The experience columns on my application were emptier than a beach with a shark sighting. Probably the reason for my wait-list status on the program.
“I’ve got a good feeling about their trip,” Maria said. “They’ll get the old bat straightened out and have fun seeing the trees turning colors up north. We should drink to them.”
“A feeling, huh?” LeeAnn asked.
Maria nodded seriously. LeeAnn sighed like a sibling who was tired of her little sister. Although not remotely related, the two housekeepers had been a team for at least a decade. I used to call them Miss Maria and Miss LeeAnn until they told me to knock it off sometime during my first year of college.
“Got some stuff in the cooler next door,” Skip offered. “Be right back.”
We all checked out his ass as he swung across the parking lot.
“That’s one fine package,” LeeAnn said.
“Shit,” Rita said, grinning.
“We could share him,” Maria said. “He likes kids and tacos.”
Rita glanced over at me but didn’t say anything. Whatever she suspected about my relationship with Skip, she was keeping it under her highlights for now.
“I bet he likes tacos more,” LeeAnn said.
“All men do,” Rita said.
Amie Denman: Where Falling in Love is Fun!
Amie Denman lives in a small town in her native Ohio with her husband and sons. Her two cats and large yellow labrador are kind enough to share a sunny office where she lets her imagination run wild. Reading books was her favorite escape as a child, and growing up four houses away from the community library encouraged her addiction. When she's not reading or writing, she enjoys walking and running outside. The helpless victim of a lifetime of curiosity, she's been known to chase fire trucks on her bicycle just to see what's going on. Amie believes that everything is fun: especially roller coasters, wedding cake, and falling in love.
Amie is the author of six contemporary romance novels:
The Gull Motel
Blue Bottle Beach
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Please visit her at www.amiedenman.com
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