The greatest gift is getting what you never thought you wanted.
Mitch Magruder, rich, successful, wildly popular surfer and entrepreneur, is always on the lookout for the next big wave or the next great deal. So when he's home for the holidays, he jumps at the chance to build one of his famous hotels right on the white, sandy, Florida beach where he grew up. The only thing standing in his way is Greta Mason.
Divorced with two children, Greta welcomes the struggle to make ends meet at the ramshackle beachfront motel her father left her. The motel means everything to her, and no amount of money--or hot nights of persuasion--offered by gorgeous, sexy Mitch is going to change her mind. No matter how much his touch unravels her defenses.
For once, Mitch finds he's the one doing the chasing, and Greta's doing more than throwing a monkey wrench into his perfectly orchestrated world. She's making him think about things he's never considered before, things other than the pursuit of money. Things like settling down with the right woman.
Now if only he can convince her he wants more than hot sex, moonlit nights, and her hotel...
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December 23, 2008
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Excerpt from Unraveled by Jaci Burton
Mitch Magruder didn't hear the word "no" very often, especially in business, and usually never from a woman. So when he heard that Greta Mason had said no to his offer to buy her rundown, dilapidated shack of a fifteen-room motel right on the sands at Ft. Lincoln Beach, Florida, which just so happened to be his hometown, he knew he had only one choice. He'd have to go home for the holidays, and take care of a little business while he was there. Turning down his sales team and an offer on paper was one thing. Turning down the CEO and a friend of her brother, someone she'd known since she was a kid? That might be different.
Besides, he could be damned charming in person. And surely she wouldn't say no to him--not after he offered her enough money to put her two kids in private school and settle herself in a nice beach condo. Hell, he might even buy the condo for her. It was the Christmas season, after all, and he was feeling generous. Especially if he could get her motel out of the way and clear the beach for one of his resorts.
He turned left at the stoplight and headed down to the beach. The waves rolled up against the white sand shore, beckoning to him and making his stomach tighten. One would think at forty-three he'd be well past surfing age, but it seemed like he could never stray too far from the need to grab a board, climb on top of a wave and ride it in, no matter where he was. If there was an ocean, he wanted to be in it.
And hell, why not? He'd worked hard to build Magruder Enterprises into the multimillion-dollar organization it was. Last year he'd divested himself of his sporting goods company, which gave him more free time to concentrate on the resort aspect of his business, and more importantly, more time to play. He had money, he had time, and he enjoyed his life.
Just him and the waves, which greeted him as he pulled into the parking lot of the Crystal Sands Motel.
Oh, man, this location was perfect. The motel sat on the white sand, not more than fifty yards from the water. There was plenty of room east, as well as north and south of the motel to allow for an expansive resort area. Beachfront property, baby.
He stepped out of the car and took a walk down beachside to get a feel for the traffic in the area.
It was pretty remote. Great when he put up the resort. Not so great for a fifteen-room motel. A few families enjoyed the water with their kids, but Greta had nothing else to offer them other than the ocean. No catamaran, no jet ski rentals, though he did see a net for beach volleyball. She was trying, at least, but her resources were obviously limited.
She needed a lot more.
She needed him.
He turned around and was gut punched by a stunning woman. Sun-streaked auburn hair pulled back into a high ponytail on top of her head, she impatiently pushed back tendrils that the wind had blown against her face. Her shorts showed off tanned, well-toned legs, her polo shirt fit tight against luscious breasts and curved down around a waist made for a man's hands. Damn. Dark sunglasses hid her eyes. He wanted to see them.
"Hi yourself. Um, you're parked at my front door. You checking in or just looking at the waves? I mean, you're more than welcome to park and take a walk on the beach, but if you could move your car, I like to keep the front of the motel open for guests who want to check in."
"Your front..." Holy shit. This was Greta? He was never, ever at a loss for words. He'd stood in front of international conglomerates and executive board rooms and spun multimillion-dollar deals without blinking, but for some reason staring down at the gawky adolescent who'd turned into a siren had suddenly made him a tongue tied teenager again. "Yeah, sure. Let me go move my car."
Then she smiled, and his dick took notice. Perfectly even white teeth and those full, kissable lips.
What the fuck was wrong with her ex-husband? This woman was a prize.
She pivoted on her bare feet and headed back to her motel.
He groaned. Her ass was just as good as the rest of her body. Rounded, touchable. Kissable. He was getting a hard-on. That just didn't happen to men like him who prided themselves on control.
He focused his attention on the sand instead of Greta and made his way around the side of the motel back to his car. Unfortunately, she was waiting right there by the front door.
"I said I'd move it."
"Sorry. We get beach walkers all the time using this place as a parking lot. I have to protect my paying guests."
He took a glance down the parking lot. Yeah, all three paying guests. How did she stay in business? He climbed into his car and moved it to the back of the lot, then came back to her. "You don't recognize me, do you?"
She peeled her sunglasses off, revealing emerald green eyes he remembered all too well. With a frown, she searched his face, then scanned his body quickly before looking up at his eyes again. "No. Should I?"
Okay, so maybe it had been twenty years or so. Still, it wasn't like he'd aged badly. He was in great shape, dammit. He held out his hand. "It's Mitch, Greta. Mitch Magruder."
Her frown remained for a fraction of a second, then her eyes widened. "Mitch? Holy shit." She bypassed the hand he held out and threw herself into his arms, pressing those full breasts against his chest. He wrapped his arms around her and tried really hard not to get an erection. That would be bad for the business he was going to propose to her.
"Oh, my God, Mitch," she said when she pulled back, still holding on to his hands. "I haven't seen you in years. Like twenty years or something. How are you?"
Her smile was infectious. "I'm doing well. And you?"
She shrugged. "I'm managing just fine. What brings you here? Don said your parents retired to Hawaii to be closer to you. I heard you were quite successful. God, I'm so sorry to keep you standing out here in the overhang. Come inside." She let go of one hand, kept holding on to the other and dragged him inside.
"Heath, this is Mitch Magruder," she said, pulling him past the scarred tiny front desk where a young man shot his head up and stared at Mitch, wide eyed.
"Mitch Magruder the famous surfer?" Heath asked as they walked by.
"Yup," Greta said. "The one and only hometown success story. I'm taking him to the house. Handle things, okay?"
"Sure." Heath stood to lean over the counter as they walked down a short hallway and to a door that Greta opened with a key in the lock. She pushed it open and he followed her through.
He thought she'd take him to her office, but this was like a tiny house--really tiny. A small living room, kitchen area with eating area adjacent, and a short hallway that must lead to bedrooms. He turned to her. "You live here?"
She nodded and motioned for him to sit on one of the threadbare cloth sofas. "I have to. I run the motel, so I'm sort of on call twenty-four hours a day."
This place was a box. His hotel suites were bigger than this. And she lived here with two children? Of course, she didn't know that he already knew that.
"So, you live here by yourself?"
She had gone into the kitchen and came back with two glasses of iced tea, handing one off to him before sliding onto the sofa next to him. She pushed her hair off her face and smiled. "No, with my kids."
"You have children?"
Her smile widened. "Two. Jeff is twelve and Zoey is ten."
"So you must have a husband lurking about."
Her smile died. "No. I'm divorced. It's just me and the kids now."
"I'm not. He wasn't good for me and definitely not good for the kids. We're all better off without him."
He felt the pain in every one of her words, in the haunted look on her face. He was never one to surround himself with women who had an ugly past. Most of the ladies on his arm were single. And younger than him. Of course Greta was younger than him, too, but not as young as the women he usually dated.
Not that he was thinking of dating her. Not at all. He was here to buy out her motel.
He took a sip of the tea and smiled. "Sweet tea. I haven't had it in a long time."
"They probably don't make it in Hawaii, do they?"
He laughed. "No, not really. My mom still does, though."
"How are your parents?"
"Loving Hawaii, and retirement. Dad golfs, Mom has a bridge club. They stay busy and travel. They're taking a cruise over the holidays."
"That's great. I always did like your parents. I was so happy you moved them to be closer to you."
"And how's your mom?"
Greta rolled her eyes. "Feisty as ever. Always in my business. She never interferes in Don's life like she does in mine."
"You're her baby girl. That's why."
He laid his hand on her arm. "I was sorry to hear about your dad. He was a great guy."
Again, the shadow crossed her face. "Thanks. We all miss him a lot. He was the light and life of the family. Losing him was hard. And even though he's not around anymore, I feel like he's still here watching over me."
"I wanted to come for the funeral but I was in Japan at the time."
She placed her fingers on his knee. "Don't worry about that. Don understood. We all did. The flowers you sent were beautiful. So was the note and the card."
"Is your mom doing okay?"
She nodded. "She's fine. She copes, stays busy--mostly by getting into my business, like I said."
He laughed. "Does she help you here at the motel?"
"Sometimes. But this is my baby. Dad left the place to me in his will. He knew how much I always loved this part of the family business. Don had the fishing business and he's set with that. Me, I was always down here working the motel." She took a glance out the window at the ocean. "Dad built this place from scratch. It's not much, but it's all I have left of him. He loved it, I loved it, and now it's mine."
Oh, shit. Now he was going to have to take a different approach entirely. He hadn't known Greta would attach a sentimental value to the motel. He set his glass of tea on the coffee table. "Did your dad ever talk about doing any...improvements to the place?"
She nodded and put her feet on the table. "Yeah, we talked about it, but we're not exactly a money making enterprise. We break even most years. Enough to pay the bills. With the house being attached to the property, I can live here and make enough to see to the upkeep of the facility. That's about it. There's never really enough to do much in the way of upgrades. I have ideas, though, so maybe someday."
Then her eyes widened and she turned to him.
"Hey, you're a bigwig in the hotel business."
Come on, Greta, make the connection. Ask me to buy you out. Make this easy on both of us.
"Maybe you could give me some pointers on inexpensive ways I could freshen this place up, make it more exciting and attractive. I really need to bring in more visitors."
Not exactly the opening he was looking for, but he'd take it. "Well, now that you mentioned it..."
She leaned forward, her eyes glittering. "Yeah?"
"I have an idea that I think will really excite you."
She wriggled on the sofa. "Come on, tell me."
He took her hands in his. "Greta, Magruder Enterprises would like to buy the Crystal Sands Motel property. Our intention is to build a resort right here on this spot."
She looked at him for a moment, then her smile died. She jerked her hands away from his and leaped off the sofa, her bright eyes narrowing in anger.
"Are you out of your goddamned mind?"