Love at Turtle Dove Inn
Love at Turtle Dove Inn
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After a string of bad luck, she needs a new beginning—not a boyfriend.
Start reading today and discover the small-town charm, irresistible chemistry, and sweet storylines of the Inheritance Bay series.
- Grumpy Hero
- Women Friendship
After a string of bad luck, she needs a new beginning—not a boyfriend.
Riley Jackson thinks she’s finally caught a break when she gets a job offer back home in Inheritance Bay. But when she arrives, the job has fallen through, and then nearly getting run over by a handsome bachelor—hardly surprising at this point. She can’t refuse his offer of a job, though, especially when it comes with room and board.
Conner Sanders bought the Turtle Dove Inn—a romantic notion to give his parents a chance to relive their honeymoon. But the inn needs a lot of work, which is why Riley is the perfect answer. If only he could figure out why he can’t stop thinking about kissing his beautiful new hotel manager or why he's having a hard time fitting into the tight-knit community.
Riley isn’t looking for love, and Conner doesn’t think love is in his skill set. Can two strangers learn to let go of their past mistakes and be healed by unconditional love?
Start reading today and discover the small-town charm, irresistible chemistry, and sweet storylines of the Inheritance Bay series.
Intro into Chapter One
Intro into Chapter One
not happening, young lady, so keep walking.”
Jackson stood in the doorway of the motel’s main office, with Merlin by her
side. Anger and disbelief with how things were going coursed through her body
as the older gentleman sitting behind the counter looked down his nose at her.
She could feel his disdain like the slight chill that filled the February air
from Inheritance Bay, if the brochure was to be believed.
to her, Merlin, her thirteen-year-old black Rottweiler, looked up at her with
his sad eyes as if he understood the words coming from the motel owner.
not asking for a handout. I can pay extra for his stay,” Riley said, holding on
to Merlin’s leash. Sometimes when he was spooked or unhappy, he could
backpedal, and if she weren’t prepared, they’d both be going backward.
don’t have enough money, little lady. Look at that monster. He’d tear up my
room. Business isn’t so good anyway, and it’d have to come out of pocket, no
way. Just turn around. You’re pretty, but my pockets can’t afford it.”
was wrong with men?! She had just left a boss who didn’t understand that just
because she worked in his restaurant didn’t mean he could order her to have a
relationship with him. When she had received a letter offering a new chance here
in Inheritance Bay, she figured she was finally going to get a break. Riley had
read the letter twice to make sure it was real and called the number. Once her
identity had been confirmed, she was told she could stay at the Sunny Motel,
and she would be picked up from there.
of it had been arranged by a woman named Marjorie. According to her, the town was offering prior
residents and their family an opportunity to come back if they would pick a
business do an internship and then the town would help them to open a business
and get resettled.
letter was perfectly timed. Riley was tired of her current job. The advances
from her boss were bordering on harassment, and Riley knew her days there were
numbered. Her boss was a pain, the pay was low, and there was no chance she’d
ever do anything else in the little restaurant except cook, and on some rare
occasions, be allowed to pick up a shift at the bed and breakfast next to the
restaurant. Riley wanted more, and when she told the woman on the phone about
her restaurant and hotel experience, Marjorie said they had a perfect
opportunity. So with no better prospects, she packed up herself and Merlin, the
only male she trusted, into her gray Land Rover and set out for Inheritance
Bay, Long Island.
was going to be a change, but Riley was ready for one. She’d have the
opportunity to learn the business in a small town with its own bay. They said
they’d provide room and board for her. The most important thing in all of this
was that she and Merlin would be together.
that she had arrived, it seemed as though her bad luck was catching up with
was invited here. I got a letter from Marjorie Talton. She said I could come
and that we could get lodging here.”
gruff man gave Merlin another look and then shivered.
Marjorie didn’t say nothing about pets. I don’t do pets, and they don’t like
me,” he said as he folded his arms across his spindly chest.
clenched her teeth and got a hold of her temper. She could hear the man closing
his mind to being rational. If he was like this all of the time it was no
wonder that pets didn’t like him. He didn’t seem to be a very likable fellow at
the moment. The motel owner—she supposed he was a manager or the owner—sounded
nothing like the nice woman who had emanated nothing but kindness about her
situation and gratefulness that she was willing to come.
had been on the road for the last six hours. Merlin could travel, but he would
need a break and some time to stretch his legs. Realizing the motel owner
wasn’t going to be helpful, she backed out and started back to her truck.
started to second guess herself. There was a ball of dread building in the pit
of her stomach. What was she going to do? This wasn’t her home town or even her
home state of Florida. She had done the one thing her father had warned her not
to do. Riley had put all her eggs in one basket and come to Inheritance Bay.
She had given away or sold any possessions that couldn’t fit into her truck.
Riley had decided not to waste money on storage in a place she had no intention
of ever seeing again. With the majority of her money sewn into different parts
of her jacket, suitcases in the truck, and nowhere to stay, what was she going
whined, and Riley looked down at her bestie and smiled. She walked him to a
nearby patch of grass so he could relieve himself. While she watched him walk
around, do his business, and then rest in a patch of sun, she knew she’d find a
Merlin, it looks like we are going to have to make a change again,” she said.
Merlin glanced over at her and then laid his head on his crossed paws.
know this isn’t what I planned, but we will make this work. Don’t we always?”
Riley waited for Merlin to pick up his head. She looked around and had to admit
the motel owner was right about one thing. There wasn’t a lot of business
around here. Riley remembered seeing some stores a couple of blocks away. She’d
leave her truck and take Merlin on a walk. She was pretty sure her truck was
safe, and she needed the time to think.
threw a couple of blue pooper-scooper bags in her pocket for Merlin and started
down the street. The crisp air helped her to clear her mind. Save for the lack
of people on the street of Inheritance Bay, it looked like something straight
out of a Norman Rockwell painting. As she walked down the block, she assumed
she was getting closer to the water because the errant breeze was coming in
regular intervals. If she stayed, she was going to have to get a heavier
jacket. Riley cleared her mind. The question wasn’t if she stayed but how
she was going to make this work.
looked at Merlin, who was keeping pace with her, and smiled. Some days were
good for Merlin, and others not so much. He was a rescue that a friend of hers had
been fostering. When the former friend told her that she would have to take
Merlin back to the pound, where he would probably be put down because he was an
older dog, Riley wound up adopting him.
Riley went past first an ice cream parlor and then what looked like a
convenience store, her spirits picked up. She could get some food for her and
Merlin. Riley had learned long ago to take care of things one at a time. Food
first and then shelter, she hoped.
found a light post and tied Merlin to the post. He looked at the post and then
going in to get food, so don’t give me that look.” Merlin shook and then tucked
his tail and sat down next to the post. Riley was about to lecture Merlin on
guilt when she heard her name.
Is that you, Riley?” Marjorie Talton asked her. Riley turned and pasted on her
best smile. Marjorie was the contact Riley had reached out to on the letter.
They had done a couple of zoom calls so she knew what Marjorie looked like but
wasn’t the same as seeing her in person.
was the epitome of a woman who aged well. Her figure was willowy, time had been
kind to her, and her smile was ever-present. The only hint that Marjorie might
be around her late fifties was her neck. The neck never lied.
my goodness, you’re here. Has the time slipped me by? I thought you weren’t
supposed to be here for another day or two.”
thought coming a bit early to get settled would be prudent.”
I see. Have you been to the motel yet?”
Riley said hesitantly.
could see the distress on Marjorie’s face.
have to admit. I hadn’t told Larry about your dog. I thought I’d pay him first
and then tell him. I take it he was not pleased.”
knew she was nibbling on her lower lip, but she couldn’t stop the nervous
wasn’t pleased. In fact, he said—”
even bother to repeat what the old coot said. I’m so sorry if he was rude. I’ll
go speak to him. Let me see if I can reason with him. If not, this may be a challenge.
Larry is the only open motel in the Bay. I’ll try to get him to reconsider, but
if not, we may have to re-evaluate the pet situation.”
it was, a one-two punch that took Riley’s breath away. Re-evaluate the pet
situation? She wasn’t sure what Marjorie meant, but the panic that flared in
Riley’s body and the adrenaline rush that pushed her brain to think twice as
fast wasn’t going to re-evaluate a thing when it came to Merlin.
don’t you speak with Larry first, and we’ll go from there,” Riley suggested.
absolutely right. No sense in borrowing trouble if we don’t have to.” Marjorie
smiled and then made her way back down the four blocks Riley had just walked.
Riley could feel the heat behind her eyes. If another thing happened, she’d
just fall down and cry. She wanted to hide, but she had to get Merlin’s food.
She wasn’t even concerned for herself. Riley wasn’t sure she could eat a thing
anyway. She looked down at Merlin and nodded.
got this, old man. You stay and let me go get you some grub.” Riley looked at
the few cars on the road and the four-way stop that seemed like it was the
middle of town. There was a sports BMW on the road. It looked out of place in
the little town. She patted Merlin on the head and then walked to the store
had taken four steps when she saw the light turn green, and then a truck
crossed the intersection with the sports car behind it. She saw the truck go
over what looked like a small crater in the road, and then as the sports car
tried to pass the truck, it hit the same ditch and sounded its horn. The sound
jolted Riley, and then she turned to see Merlin had jumped up as well. Merlin
was backing up trying to get off of the light post an inadvertently putting his
rear end into the street. The sports car was swerving, trying to go around the
ditch. Then Riley saw that the sports car was heading straight for Merlin’s
hindquarters, which were stepping off the curb and into the street.
she yelled, frantic to grab her bestie. She had just leapt for Merlin and had
her arms about his neck when she felt him go off-center and fall towards her.
She thought the sports car had slowed down enough, but it hadn’t been a
complete stop. Riley felt a weight hit her shoulder but she was sure it was
Merlin. The only thing Riley could think about was protecting her old friend as
much as possible.
* * *
Sanders’s hands tightened on the steering wheel as he mentally beat himself up.
If he hadn’t been in his sports car, there would have been no way he could
have stopped that quickly. Still, it wasn’t quick enough. The dog had come out
of nowhere, or at least his butt had. Then he saw the woman going for the dog.
all the things that could happen to him in this town. He couldn’t believe that
his attempt to avoid a ditch had put him here. If only he had known, he would
have let his car drive right through the ditch to spare the dog and the woman.
He had seen the large truck in front
of him bobble up and down letting him know there was something in the wrong in
front of him. Conner’s thought was to avoid the ditch. Then when he had swerved
the car just enough to avoid the ditch he saw the dog and woman. The worse
moment was when he felt the tap on his car.
heard moaning as he exited the car. Moaning had to be better than silence. Conner
strode to the front of his car. He needed to be as calm as possible. Conner
knew, even when he was panicked, to present confidence. It was one of the many
things he knew and practiced being the owner of a multi-million dollar software
finance company. The source of the moans was coming from the woman. He wondered
why no one was attending to her. When he took a step towards her, he heard the
low growl. Conner held his hands out in front of him. It was clear the dog was
hers, and he wasn’t feeling very friendly. Even tied to the pole there wasn’t a
clear way to get to the woman with the dog standing guard.
there boy. I just want to get a look at her,” Conner said in a calm voice. For
a moment, it looked like the hulking beast was going to step aside, but then a
couple of other people came walking up, and any minuscule headway he had made
was gone. Back in the place of the reasonable giant was the devoted watchdog.
pulled out his phone and dialed one for the saved number of the sheriff. It was
one of the pluses when you bought a third of a town. Conner couldn’t tell you
what the sheriff looked like but he could get him on the phone. Conner didn’t
wait for the pleasantries. This line was for him and if he used it both parties
knew it wasn’t a social call.
need someone to come down here and pick up a dog. I’ve hit a young woman, and
it seems her dog is on the defense.”
could see the woman’s chest moving up and down, and that, coupled with an
occasional moan, gave him hope. Every time the woman moaned, the dog bent down
and gave her face a lick. Conner could see he was a gentle giant, or at least
he was with her.
was anxious to get to the woman, but the dog wouldn’t budge. It was only moments,
but it felt like hours before the cops came with the rope leashes for the dog.
One of them pulled out a carrier case, but when they saw the behemoth, they
shook their heads and put the case back in the trunk.
the dog wouldn’t move from her side it was easy for the police to loop the dog
with multiple leashes. When the leash tightened, the dog sat and wouldn’t
budge. Looping the dog was one thing, but actually getting him to move, that
was looking like a whole new beast. One of the officers reached around to untie
the dog from the post. When that was done, they tried to pull the dog along.
When the dog started to resist, Conner told both cops to stop.
saw the dog constantly looking from the cops to the fallen woman.
big guy. I’m going to take a big chance here, and hopefully, I won’t get my
face taken off for it,” Conner murmured.
Sanders, let us do our job,” the officer said warily.
moved slowly around the beast and ignored the officers. Conner had built a
financial empire based on his instincts, and right now, they were saying for
him to take a chance. He was moving slowly, and he was more aware in this
moment than ever before. It wasn’t surprising to him how aware he felt. It was the
same life charged moment he got before he made an important deal. It was funny
to have the feeling and no money was involved.
boy,” he murmured as he reached out to the woman dressed in blue jeans and a
on, little lady, get up so your protector doesn’t decide I’m not doing what he
wants me to do,” he said as he knelt next to her on the sidewalk.
him, he could hear the officers trying to make sense of what had happened.
know we’ve been working on the roads, but I told them to start with the main
road. I can’t believe it happened to him of all people,” the first officer
commented to another.
the luck this town has had—just bad,” the other officer murmured.
didn’t have time to address the officers. He was aware of the sentiment in the
town. The common sentiment was he was a plague that was making a bad situation
worse. In truth, he didn’t understand the issue they all seemed to have anyway.
Conner couldn’t focus on their problems right now. Right now his attention was
completely focused on the young lady before him. There were a lot of things
that Conner didn’t do well, however the one thing he did exceptionally well was
focus. At this moment all of his focus was on making sure the woman was okay. He
had made his success on being able to focus, and that was what he was going to
Sanders, please pull back,” the officer said a little firmer, hoping to
move Conner away from the situation. He heard the faint whimpering of a
woman in the crowd.
my, oh my, is that Riley? Poor girl!” an older voice said.
had no time for the foolishness of the officers or the pity of the town. Having
money hadn’t deprived him of his faculties to act in emergency situations. What?
Did they think that he couldn't assist in an emergency with a real
person because his eyes looked at financials and built the wealth of some
of the leading people in show business and politics? He ignored them all when
the woman on the ground started to open her eyes.
woman reached out, and her hand ran into Conner’s face.
her lashes opened, and she blinked twice as if she weren’t sure what she was
looking at. Her eyes were a rich brown that looked like melted chocolate. They
had the glow of silk and a pull that he couldn’t seem to resist. He was only distracted
from her eyes by the feel of her hand on his cheek. He knew she hadn’t meant to
touch him, but her hands were just as smooth as the silk he was imagining. Then
she pulled back, and the words she was saying suddenly became louder and
from side to side, she twisted.
beast nudged Conner in the back, and he lost his balance and fell to the side.
When the dog went towards the woman, the officers tightened their grip, but Conner
waved them off. It was too late anyway. He supposed this was Merlin, and if he
wanted to do some damage, he had plenty of time to do so.
woman threw her arms around Merlin and then began to run her hands over him. Conner
could see the dog meant more to her than her own status. She still hadn’t
gotten up from the ground.
if realizing that there were other people around her, she looked at Conner and
then tried to sit up.
on there. I want you to sit up but not too fast. I think—”
think? Who thought to put these rough leashes on Merlin?” she said indignantly.
“I don’t need your help unless it’s removing these things off of my baby.”
Riley. You need a doctor to look at you because I think I hit you when you dove
in to protect your dog,” he said.
hit her?” the question reverberated through the crowd.
he would,” someone else commented. Conner didn’t have time for town
do you feel?” he asked.
a very expensive car hit me,” Riley quipped. “Listen, I’m good. I’m a little
banged up, but I’m good.”
tried to sit up, and Conner could see her wince as she did so. He had already
speed-dialed the doctor, so he knew she’d be here soon.
glad you think you’re okay, but it would be negligent and illegal of me to let
gave him a long look and then seemed to look behind him. When he turned, the
doctor was there in her white coat. The doctor had a black bag with her and
didn’t look too happy to be here. She looked young, like she was fresh out of
college but hardly med school. When
he would have questioned her, she just turned her attention to her patient. She
didn’t even ask Conner to move. She just nudged him and started to ask Riley
questions and take her vitals.
like her to go to the hospital,” the doctor said over her shoulder.
was like the dog understood. Merlin lay down next to Riley and whined. Conner
wasn’t a dog person. As a child, he had suffered from allergies that had made
having a pet problematic at best. Certainly, being an orphan didn’t encourage
any of his other foster families to get him a pet. By the time the Sanders
adopted him, Conner had all but given up on the idea of finding a family that
would keep him. He bent down and placed his hand atop Merlin’s head. Merlin
lifted his head, gave him a look, and then focused on his mistress.
be careful, Mr. Sanders,” the matronly Marjorie said from behind him. He stood
up and gave her a reassuring smile.
seems pretty calm as long as Riley is up. You know her?” he murmured, not
wanting his voice to carry over the doctor who was still asking Riley
yes, she’s part of the program to relocate past members. She came early, we
originally thought to pair her with Larry, but he doesn’t like dogs. I’ll find
something for her to do, though.”
looked at Riley and thought about how she had gotten off to a rotten start in Inheritance
doctor finally stood up.
say it again. I think she should go to the hospital. I can do some things here,
but I’d like to watch her overnight.”
the doctor,” Conner asked skeptically.
her hands over her chest she cocked her head to the side.
name is Doctor Carrie Egbert. I’m the doctor, the pharmacist, and in a pinch,
the science teacher. Welcome to Inheritance Bay, Mr. Sanders.”
she hoping to hit him up for money? Her timing could be worse.
road is a problem. My brother is on the renovations board so we can reach out
to him about when this part is scheduled. It’s hard to get work done with so
few and so little. I know the town mayor; I’m sure she’ll cover the hospital
cost for the young lady.”
heard the words and thought they sounded forced. Did she think he was going to
wield his name to make things happen or disappear? While they were talking, the
ambulance showed up.
appears she is going to the hospital,” Conner said with a raised brow.
smiled. “I love a man with commonsense.”
EMTs got out of the truck to pick up Riley.
I can’t leave Merlin!”
EMTs looked at Carrie. Carrie shook her head. “Nope, not gonna happen. Pets are
against hospital policy.”
tugged Conner towards her. When he bent down, Riley took off her jacket.
this is all your fault. Take my jacket and keep it next to Merlin. He’ll be
good for a couple of days if need be.”
no time to wait. He let you touch him, so you’re it. You take care of my baby,
or I’ll hunt you down. Do you hear me?”
can I refuse such a request?”
turned to Merlin. “Merlin, stay with him. Momma will be back soon,” she said
after she gave Merlin a big hug.
nodded, and the EMTs took her away. In minutes the street was clear, and Conner
was holding on to Riley’s jacket, and Merlin was looking in the direction the
ambulance had gone.
couldn’t help but think about the large beast next to him and how he was
probably allergic to him. He sighed. He’d never had any luck with women. He
could predict numbers but women, he just shook his head at a loss.
untied Merlin and then called his name.
Merlin. I am going to see your owner in the hospital. I’m going to call my
assistant to meet us there, and you will like her,” Conner said to Merlin.
Merlin gave him a sideways look and then turned back to gaze down the road.
dangled the jacket in front of Merlin. The dogged perked up right away and
looked at Conner.
old man, let’s go,” Conner said. He walked Merlin to his car and opened the
back door. Merlin jumped into the car, and Conner nodded. This wasn’t going to
be as bad as he thought. He went to the driver’s side, and just as he was
taking his seat, Merlin climbed into the passenger side seat.
have got to be kidding. Get in the back,” Conner said. He took Riley’s jacket
and tossed it into the back of the car. Merlin looked at the jacket and then
back at him. Conner closed the door and leaned his head against the headrest.
he was, stuck in his car with a behemoth of a dog who was looking at him as if
he had the problem. Conner called his assistant, who was in town, and asked her
to meet him at the hospital. When she commented that she had to make a stop by
the inn and he would be waiting, he assured her that wouldn’t be the case. In
fact, he didn’t think he would make it anywhere in a timely fashion with Merlin
in the car. He had precious cargo in his
car, and he would be going very slowly. When he hung up the phone, Merlin gave
him a look and then looked over his shoulder, almost as if to point him in the
didn’t like surprises. He planned everything. He hadn’t planned on doing
anything but going to Turtledove Inn and making sure all the arrangements were
good for his parents. However, it was his fault, and Riley had entrusted her
beloved animal to him. Trust was important to Conner. Before the Sanders, a lot
of people had abused his trust. The Sanders had taught him to value trust when
it was given, especially when it was given with no guarantees or proof it would
He started his BMW
convertible that boasted going from zero to sixty in less than five seconds and
drove it fifteen miles an hour on the side streets to make sure nothing jolted
the precious cargo he had been trusted with. His thanks was Merlin leaning his
wet nose on the window as the car moved.