Madison Alcott was back in her hometown, caring for her sick mom and working long hours at the best resort in Laguna Beach. She never imagined she'd return to the place where she became famous on the hit reality TV show Laguna Nights, and the place where she was humiliated on national television. Fortunately, the past had stayed tucked away until her old high school boyfriend appeared in the lobby.
Josh Welsh was a superstar by age eighteen, the bad boy break-out star of Laguna Nights. Since then, his star had lost its shine and he barely was holding onto his Hollywood status. When he was asked to host a new reality travel show, he jumped at the chance. The only problem was the first episode was shooting in Laguna Beach. Of all the reasons Josh didn't want to return home, he hadn't even imagined the worst scenario: running into Madison "Holly" Alcott.
Josh's connection to Madison was still as strong as her anger at his betrayal. When the new reality series forces them together, they must face Laguna Nights past and present, and navigate a journey where nothing is as it seems.
It was an early Friday afternoon in February and Madison Alcott stood on the balcony of the Mondrian Laguna Beach, a luxurious Craftsman-style hotel perched on an oceanfront bluff. She needed a moment of zen before her latest group arrived from LA and her favorite place to breathe was this balcony. Typically, the winter breeze would be chilly, but not this year with global climate change. She was comfortable outside in her simple black dress, no jacket needed.
Her long blonde hair blew softly in the ocean breeze as she looked out at the sparkling blue water stretching out to the horizon. Waves crashed on the shore, a sound she found soothing and had since she was a child. It was a constant, that swooshing water sound, more dependable than anything or anyone else she’d known. She closed her eyes and imagined herself lying on the warm sand, wearing her favorite red bikini, soaking up the sun, laughing with friends, maybe even holding hands with Dolby, lying side by side.
She opened her eyes and looked down. Directly below her, a young family – two fit, gorgeous parents with two towheaded toddlers – frolicked in the resort’s signature mosaic swimming pool. The young father tossed one of the children up in the air, eliciting squeals of joy from the child, before he swam to his wife and pulled her to him for a kiss. Madison sighed.
“That should be me, us,” she said, her words drifting on the warm air of the empty patio, and checked her watch. The group check-in would begin in just twenty minutes and she needed to be sure everything was ready. All the she knew about the group was that they were a bunch of picky entertainment execs. The booking agent had been light on details about the group’s members, but heavy with expectations of service, food, and confidentiality.
“My group will expect complete privacy, the finest in service and flexibility,” the man had said to Madison over the telephone.
“Of course. Um, flexibility?” she had asked. She’d stopped taking notes as flexibility was typically not one of the demands.
“Sometimes, they change their minds. So, although we’ve set the agenda for the week, well, it is all subject to change,” he had said.
Madison had leaned back in her chair, inhaled a deep breath and had counted to ten. She was up to her eyeballs with entitlement, especially with Hollywood types. “I’m sorry, but we’ve scheduled the best table at our oceanfront restaurant just for your party. They cannot simply decide not to show up on Saturday night.” She had been proud of herself, being firm and she hadn’t let her voice waver.
“We’ll pay whatever. Just know, it may happen. See you on Friday,” he had said and hung up.
Flexibility, Madison thought, walking toward the front desk, crossing the thick carpet of the lobby before stepping onto the dark wood floor of the reception area. All three staff members smiled at her and she returned their grins.
“Can’t wait to see who’s in this group,” Chrissy said, eyes twinkling behind her wire-frame glasses. Chrissy had been with the resort for as long as anyone could remember and she still became star struck every time a celebrity checked in. Even if she didn’t recognize the person until Kevin, also a guest reception employee, showed her online. They still joked about her lack of rock star knowledge, missing the chance to ogle both Eric Clapton and Sam Smith within months of each other. She’d still proudly added them to her celebrity sightings list, Madison knew.
“We’re so ready to be flexible,” Kevin said, tugging at the lapel of his sport coat, his red hair glowing in the spotlight aimed at the seascape oil painting behind him but instead shining on his hair because of his 6’4” height. “I did a walk-through of all of the suites. They’re ready. Champagne on ice. Strawberries dipped in chocolate. Everything chilled and waiting. We’ll make them love us.”
Madison doubted that but smiled anyway. She loved her team. They were family to her, the reason she’d stayed on even though she should have moved on when the company had offered a promotion to a property in Sun Valley. Instead of manager of group sales, she would be a vice president of guest services. She’d told them she couldn’t leave Southern California - that it was home. But the truth was, it was the people here who worked at the resort that she couldn’t leave. And her mom, of course.
Her earpiece crackled to life and Madison cupped her hand over her ear. “Five minutes to arrival,” said the van driver who’d picked the group up at the private airport in Irvine.
“Got it,” Madison said, into the small mouthpiece. “Any insights?”
“Dickheads,” the van driver said as Madison’s heart fell. She’d suspected it would be a long weekend, but the confirmation saddened her. It wasn’t as if she had anything else to do, she reminded herself, pushing Dolby and his strong broad shoulders out of her mind. She knew he’d never be able to forget what he’d watched, no matter how many assurances she made, no matter how long ago it had happened. It was the same with her last attempt at a relationship, and the one before that. They would tell her it was fine, that they could handle it. But that was always a lie.
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About the Author
Kaira Rouda is a bestselling, multiple award-winning author of contemporary women's fiction and sexy modern romance novels that sparkle with humor and heart. Her women's fiction titles include HERE, HOME, HOPE, ALL THE DIFFERENCE and IN THE MIRROR. Her bestselling short story is titled, A MOTHER'S DAY. Kaira's work has won the Indie Excellence Award, USA Book Awards, the Reader's Choice Awards and honorable mention in the Writer's Digest International Book Awards. Her books have been widely reviewed and featured in leading magazines.
Her sexy contemporary romance series set on INDIGO ISLAND includes: WEEKEND WITH THE TYCOON, Book 1; HER FORBIDDEN LOVE, Book 2; THE TROUBLE WITH CHRISTMAS, Book 3; and THE BILLIONAIRE'S BID, Book 4. Each of these novellas can be read as a stand alone, or enjoyed as a series. Her new series is set in LAGUNA BEACH and includes: LAGUNA NIGHTS, Book 1; LAGUNA HEIGHTS, Book 2; and LAGUNA LIGHTS, Book 3 coming winter 2015. She also helped launch Melissa Foster's The Remington's Kindle World with her bestselling novella, SPOTLIGHT ON LOVE, and is part of Carly Phillips Dare to Love Kindle World with THE CELEBRITY DARE.
Her nonfiction titles, REAL YOU INCORPORATED: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs, and REAL YOU FOR AUTHORS: 8 Essentials for Women Writers (available for free download on her website) continue to inspire.
She lives in Southern California with her husband and four almost-grown kids, and is at work on her next novel.