For Luc Ronan and Zain Simon, things could not be better; their new resort is almost complete, and Olive Barrett is their wonderful new friend. Zain’s sister Claudia Simon and Great-aunt Francesca (Franny) Simon are happily immersed in preparing for the lavish wedding. It seems their new life as a married couple is right on track.
Suddenly however dark clouds appear and the joyful momentum temporarily comes to a screeching halt. Without warning, Olive and Zain are seriously injured during a robbery at Olive’s home, when several pieces of priceless art are taken, leaving the family reeling. During this same time, Claudia’s usual fascination with sexy muscular men again lands her again into hot water. To top things off, Franny along with Claudia manage to mix it up with Olive’s neglectful family, leaving them suspicious of the estranged family’s motives.
Luc has problems of his own, being reluctant and frankly terrified when he is pulled into service to greet their formidable Great-great-great-aunt Gertrude Simon at the local airport. Other family members were delighted to scare the hell out of him with tales of her eccentric behavior, leaving him very unsure of how to entertain the elderly matriarch of the Simon family. His only clues to survival during Gertrude’s intense appraisal are that Gertrude can drink Franny under the table, and thoroughly knows her way around a gun if something bothers her.
When the big day finally arrives all is perfect, and following the wonderful ceremony, the extravagant celebration begins. Without warning, Franny and Olive unexpectedly go missing and a dark shadow quickly falls over the celebration. The immediate family races against time to find the unknown assailant, and stop the threat of murder that now threatens the newly married couple’s happiness.
Publisher: Independently Published
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Friends to Lovers, InstaLove / Love at First Sight
Word Count: 33550
Setting: Sedona, Arizona
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters
Weddings Are a Bitch
Looking around, Claudia Simon finally spotted her brother Zain Simon sitting on a water-worn rock alongside Oak Creek. The same gorgeous creek that meandered through his new resort located north of Sedona, Arizona.
"Zainy, did you get that damn wine cooler installed yet? Aunt Franny told me she'd arranged for the wine and champagne to be delivered this afternoon. You know there will be hell to pay if she has to drink warm champagne again," she reminded her brother after not finding him inside with the installers.
Zain looked over at her, not bothering to hide the irritation he felt by his sister intruding into his private thoughts. He took a deep breath to calm his response before turning to answer her.READ MORE
"Yes, I've got it all covered Claudia, now will you knock it off for a while and let me have some peace? Besides, Luc is down at her place and will keep her in order; you know how those two get along," he said with another heavy sigh.
"Sometimes I think my sweet Luc Ronan has taken my place with her. She dotes on him like there is no tomorrow and I'm beginning to think they have their own private language like babies. Almost like they can read each other's minds," Zain complained thinking about how his fiancé had conquered the hearts of his family.
"Well you have to admit Luc is sure a great looking guy and you know how Aunt Franny likes her younger men, and if he can read her mind, well I'm sure he'll be learning a few very unexpected things so you’d better watch out," she laughed.
Zain couldn’t help but smile at the visual image, thinking of his boyfriend, now fiancé and soon to be spouse.
"Well, he's mine and she can't have him, no matter what she might tempt him with," he snickered.
"Yea, the old wrong plumbing joke," she kidded, remembering that comment made to her when she first met Luc.
"Actually it was a match made in heaven; Aunt Franny likes great looking younger men, he likes to drink, she likes to drink, and they both enjoy the same type of humor. Plus Great-aunt Francesca Simon certainly doesn't look even close to her age," Zain began.
"Or act it and after all she's a virtually our parent's age and they aren't that old either," Claudia quickly added.
Zain glanced over at Claudia and was still amazed how much she resembled their Great-aunt Franny with her clear skin, jet black hair, and all the other prominent assets.
"But you do have to admit it's apparent which side of the family your looks came from," he added watching the smile grow on her gorgeous face.
"Well since I’m in a good mood, you're no slouch yourself Zain and thank you for that. And by the way, you look like Mom with the thick blonde hair of yours and those emerald green eyes I could kill for," she told him feeling weird for gushing so much.
"True, we seriously sound like our own fan club and I hope to God no one is listening to this drivel," he laughed, looking around the area, making sure no one was close enough to hear them kid with each other.
Claudia walked over to give him a quick hug.
"We do, it's a dirty job, but someone has to do it, so when is Luc coming back? We have a lot of details to take care of before the wedding and he should be here instead of playing around with Aunt Franny," she told him.
"She promised to have him back here soon, I made her swear; they went into town to look at some art that she wanted for her great room. Her excuse to take him out to lunch was that she needed his opinion and wanted someone without a bias. Oh, take a look, it seems the troops have arrived," Zain said pointing up at the road just in time to see a sleek white Mercedes sports car take the turn into the resort almost on two wheels.
Smiling broadly, Luc got out of the car and hurried over to Zain, kissing him soundly and then giving Claudia a long warm hug.
"Gee I feel left out," Francesca Simon complained as she sauntered over to greet the others.
"So Aunt Franny did you manage to pick up some art or was it that handsome new artist you've been mentioning, that you wanted to acquire," Claudia asked, taking a moment to examine her manicure.
Franny rolled her eyes at her great-niece.
"Oh Claudia don't be such a bitch. Just because I happen to like a man's technique," she began, as she watched Claudia’s wicked smile grow.
"Oh it's his technique now and not just how he works," she quipped, smiling to herself at Franny's expense.
"As I mentioned to you, don't be such a judgmental bitch. Just because you've decided to be celibate for the last several months doesn’t mean the rest of us are bound by that sort of thing you know," she said, causing Zain to roll his eyes.
"C'mon Aunt Franny, Claudia is just trying to live her life after her recent and terrible experience. Personally I'm glad she's decided to be a bit more discerning and move on from the past," he said carefully, and then he noticed their new construction supervisor walking up to them.
"Is something up Jake," he asked, concerned they'd hit yet another snag with the latest cabin's renovations.
The muscular handsome man smiled at everyone stopping to look long and hard at Claudia before he spoke to them.
"Nothing that important, so don't worry about it. I just think it is a good idea to put some extra reinforcement on the chimney to make sure it doesn't shift when we shore up the cabin's foundation. I'm sure this is the original construction that was done by an experienced amateur, but an amateur none the less."
Zain looked relieved since it wasn’t another expensive fix.
"It sounds like a good idea and thanks for bringing it up," Zain told him, noticing how Claudia was still staring and smiling at him.
"Good deal, I'll have the men start the shoring up process right away; you can’t be too careful with all these old buildings," he told him, and then turned to Claudia.
"Are we still on for dinner later tonight," he asked, surprised at how Franny covered her mouth and turned away to keep from laughing.
Claudia flashed her a dirty glance great-aunt and then turned back to answer Jake’s question.
"Of course we are Jake, I'm looking forward to it," she said, making sure to lock eyes with him.
"Great, I'll pick you up at your residence around seven or so and we can try that new Italian place down by the creek," he beamed at her.
"I can't wait," Claudia purred slowly back at him, reaching out to sensuously place a finger on his muscular arm.
With another big smile at them, he turned and strutted away, with Claudia and Franny both checking out his sensational muscular butt.
"Wow, Claudia Simon in action," Luc chuckled, and then followed it by a low admiring whistle.
"More like the slut is back in in the saddle," Franny quipped, shaking her head in amazement at her great-niece.
Several hours later after the construction team had left the work site, Luc, Zain, and Franny were seated on the stone patio near the murmuring creek. It was a quiet evening and they wre enjoying watching the late afternoon sun painting the high canyon walls.
"The transformation here has been simply amazing. In just over two months now, seven cabins have been renovated and are ready for occupancy. The care to maintain the feel of the original resort is exceptional," Franny enthused.
"We were very lucky all things considered especially when they had been neglected for so long. The original buildings were still sound and only required electrical, plumbing, and climate along with the usual cosmetic changes. As it turned out, there was only one exception that had a bad foundation issue. The roofs on the buildings were all slate and were built to last; major chimney cleanings have been completed. Once we have the last buildings finished, we've got a fantastic plan for the landscaping starting early next week and right on schedule," Zain explained to her.
"Bearing in mind all the people coming from out of town and especially family and close friends, we wanted to have the place virtually done about a week before the wedding," Luc mentioned, smiling and reaching over to take Zain's hand.
"Personally, I can't wait until you renovate the rest of the bar and keep it firmly in mind, that's one aspect of the hiring I want to participate in," she laughed.
"Better you than Claudia," Zain breathed, thinking about her latest conquest, and hoping anew that she wouldn't screw up the progress on the renovations.
"So what's going on with that Olive character, the one who was the condition for the sale of this place," Franny asked, glancing up the pathway toward the distant hidden cottage.
Franny thought back to the tedious negotiations about what the former owners called their elderly relative. There was the iron clad condition that the Simons would first renovate the old caretaker’s house located out of sight of the resort, where she could live out her life in a peaceful home.
Arguing against such an unusual condition proved futile and if they wanted the property, their Great-aunt Olive Barrett was part of the package deal, or there would be no sale.
Per the contract, the renovation to be completed before the resort opened to the public, and other than her occupying the cottage, that was the end of their obligation to her.
If they sold the resort, the condition stayed in place during her lifetime, if she vacated it due to her health, death, or disinterest in living there any longer, the condition was considered whole and complete.
Franny's attorneys made it very clear that her continued occupancy was the only condition, and she or the Simon family members were not responsible for any other things that might arise. It was stipulated that they were in no way liable for her health, welfare, entertainment, support, or legally responsible for any type of accident or occurrence natural or otherwise.
"The lawyer guy that you bargained with called three days ago to tell us she would be moving in tomorrow, and thanked us for doing such a great job on the house for her. He also mentioned that she might be bringing along a small dog to keep her company," Zain explained to them, watching the surprise on their faces.
"Oh great a difficult old who knows what, and a yappy little dog, thank God they didn't demand one of the resort houses," she said rolling her eyes.
Zain frowned feeling a pang of empathy for the older lady whose family was making it very clear they didn’t want her around.
"While talking to him I asked him what she liked to eat and drink and had the place stocked for her. It was odd, as it seems she just about lives on things like cookies, and Ramen type noodles, along with some bread, salad things, fruit, and cheeses. In addition, here is one for you Aunt Franny; he told me to make sure I laid in two cases of good Russian Vodka as she likes to have a little 'something in the evening," he laughed.
Franny’s features softened in a smile.
"Well then I guess she can't be all bad; after she arrives I might just stroll on over there, just to be neighborly you understand, and see if we girls might be able to hit it off over a smart cocktail or a little something," she reasoned.
"Or maybe three or perhaps more little somethings," Luc quipped, barely avoiding the back of Franny's hand.
Much later Luc and Zain were again sitting out on the rustic stone patio enjoying the sound of the creek as it splashed along past the cottage.
There had been precious few moments of quiet lately since all the renovations began but now as the shadows overtook the light, Luc breathed in the heady scent of Cottonwood trees lacing the warm air.COLLAPSE