Release day is almost here! Today I wanted to share the first few opening scenes with you. If you haven't had a chance to meet Jeremy and Melody, take a look at the Meet the Character's post. Also, be sure to check the Grimwood Legacy page for buy links.
The Reading of the Will
So far, nothing from Father’s will had come as a surprise to Jeremy Grimwood. Aside from his older sister, Suzette, who was the princess of the family and doted on by her daddy, he was the second closest to Marcus Grimwood. But only because he agreed to work in his father’s investment bank.
The closeness they had was more spatial than emotional. He saw his father every day, up until he became too sick to leave his bedroom. Once in a while, Jeremy was even called into Marcus Grimwood’s plush office, but only for briefings or special meetings.
Then his father took ill and Uncle Thomas, otherwise known as Thomas Hanson, took over managing the bank. Uncle Thomas had married into the Grimwood family. He was also from a wealthy family, and father’s best friend in high school. It only stood to reason he’d sway one of the Grimwood sisters into marrying him.
Jeremy glanced out the sixteenth story window at the hazy city below. His apartment was five blocks down the main street and two blocks to the right. He couldn’t see the tower from here. Too many other skyscrapers blocked his view.
Suzette lived in the Upper East Side close to Central Park. Jeremy preferred to be in walking distance from the bank and had taken a long-term suite at Colton’s hotel in Midtown.
Jeremy wasn’t big on parties or social events. Not like his brother Duncan or Suzette. Matter-of-fact, as far as his family went, he was pretty much the invisible child.
“What do you mean, Mr. Peterson,” Duncan sat forward, his hands tightened into fists. “I never heard about a trust…”
Ah, the trust. Jeremy had overheard Father talking about it to his senior partner, Uncle Thomas. He kept his face neutral, not wanting Duncan to know that he’d heard about this condition of the will and not warned anyone.
Jeremy didn’t know enough about the change to warn anyone about anything.
The two oldest were what he called the golden boys with their fair hair and handsome features. Mother’s pride and joy, before she’d passed away nearly ten years ago. The last two, he and Suzette, had taken after their mother and though Dad doted on his only daughter, he tolerated Jeremy at best.
Yes, meet the conditions or accept the consolation prize. A few million. Jeremy bit his bottom lip. He knew meeting Father’s conditions shouldn’t be any problem for him. Uncle Thomas had let slip that Jeremy was being given the bank, though the old fellow didn’t seem happy about it.
Oh well, between Thomas’ own family inheritance and his wife’s share, he would never be hurting in this life, nor his children for the next couple of generations.
While Duncan and Colton bickered over the trust’s terms, Jeremy tuned out of the conversation until he caught his sister studying him. Clearing his throat, Jeremy straightened in his chair and considered going to refill his water. Except that might draw unwanted attention on himself. Better to stay still and wait for their fury to wane.
Duncan was getting the jewelry stores. Since he enjoyed creating pieces, it seemed logical to give him the stores. And Colt, who loved living on his massive yacht seemed perfect to handle the family’s island. Jeremy wasn’t too sure what Suzette would get in the deal, but knowing how much Daddy doted on her, he was sure it would be something to her liking.
So far, Mr. Peterson hadn’t had a chance to read their conditions. He stood, looking rather uncomfortable, which was odd. Clearing his throat, the lawyer read a paragraph from the paper he held in his hand. Jeremy blinked, wondering if he’d heard correctly.
Suzette had spilled her water. Colton looked so angry his tanned face had turned red. Duncan seemed just as startled over the news as Jeremy was feeling. Surely, he’d heard wrong.
“What do you mean,” Suzette gasped, trying to clean up her mess. “Another Grimwood? You mean a cousin, or—”
“No!” Colton growled. “Do not tell me that Father wants to include him in this… this mess?”
Everything that happened from then on was lost to Jeremy. They had another brother? A half-brother. And Father never once mentioned…yet, how did Colt seem to know?
What about the others? Did…? No, from their shocked expressions, it seemed that they didn’t know either.
Before he realized what was happening, Duncan hopped from where he sat and bid all of them a curt good-bye. Suzette sat on the leather couch, weeping. Colton continued to stare out the window, muttering that this was a cruel joke.
Jeremy stood and went to sit by his sister, draping his arm over her shoulder. “What am I going to do with…why would Daddy do this to us? And not tell me, or us, that we have a…a... brother? How could he?”
Colton slammed his glass on the side table. “Because, that’s the true man behind the mask, Princess.”
Jeremy shot his oldest brother a warning glare. “Don’t take it out on her. I’m sorry you’re upset with inheriting the island. I thought it was perfect for you. And Suze, just think about what you can do with those stores…” he was about to say like Dunc, but he’d left in a huff.
Colt shoved his hands into his baggy trousers. He’d always preferred casual dress to business suits. “You knew? Well of course you did. Both of you were Father’s pets. He’d not cast you aside like the rest of us, including the big mistake, right?”
“Colt, stop,” Jeremy begged. This wasn’t helping anything. Why did his older brothers both have to be so…so…self-centered? “This isn’t helping anything. Did you know? About Rafe?”
But Colton didn’t answer. He turned to Mr. Peterson and thanked him for his time, then stormed out, slamming the door behind him.
Suzette dabbed her eyes on a silk kerchief, then shoved it into her over-sized designer bag. “It’ll be fine, Jere-bear. I’m…I’m shocked, there’s no doubt. And I’ll find a way to…do something with those stores. You’re the lucky one, being given something you already knew how to run. The bank, of all things. And you’re smart with stocks and all that stuff I have no clue of. I’m a designer, not a businesswoman.”
“Suze, that’s not true,” Jeremy tried to sooth. “You’re a smart businesswoman. I’ll help. Where I can.”
He hated when his family fought like this. Maybe it was better that they all stayed far apart. Except that he hated that, too. At least his sister was near. Though she was often too busy with her clothing shows and parties to bother much with him.
“Oh, you sweetie-pie.” She patted his cheek. “Why haven’t you snagged yourself a wife yet? You’re the sweetest out of this group. And the kindest.”
Maybe because sweet and kind didn’t bode well in the investment world. She had no clue of the masks he wore on a daily basis. Nor did she know the deals he’d had to make, destroying struggling business, like pirates descending on a cargo ship. If she wasn’t careful, someone would come along and try to take what Father had left her, too.
Jeremy squeezed her jeweled hand. “Call me, Suze, if you need help. I’ll do my best—”
She was already standing and collecting her bag. “I’ll manage. Mr. Peterson, please let me know how your search for my brother goes? The moment you find him, I want to know, even if the others don’t.”
Her brother? Like she didn’t have enough already?
She was out the door before he could make a remark. Jeremy realized it wouldn’t make a difference anyway.
“Jeremy, I’m glad you stayed behind. Mind if I have a word?” Mr. Peterson returned to his seat and leaned back, pinching the bridge of his nose as if he were suffering from a headache.
“Sure. What’s on your mind, sir?” He took the chair that Colton has previously occupied.
Mr. Peterson began to gather the papers and return them to their folder. “Despite what your siblings might think, I don’t wish for you to be under the illusion that you’ve been given the easiest task, son. I like you. You’re a man of integrity. You take after your mother. She was a fine, kind-hearted woman. I see a lot of her in you.”
Jeremy ducked his head. He’d heard this before but it still bothered him. He’d always tried to be like his dad. Stern, formidable, and intelligent. Except, he didn’t have the callous personality of his father. And Marcus Grimwood knew it.
“Thank you, sir.”
“There’ s a provision in the trust, I think you should be aware of.” Mr. Peterson pulled out the paper that had Jeremy’s information on it. “If you fail, your uncle will be awarded the bank. Now, I know you have the means to not fail. Your father often bragged about how savvy you were with finances and making money. He liked to call you Prince Midas as a joke.”
This was news. Jeremy looked up at the lawyer, another long-standing friend of Father’s.
“But you need to keep in mind that someone will hope you do fail. He stands to gain a lot if you do, understand what I’m trying to tell you?”
Jeremy nodded, then stood. “Yes, thank you, Mr. Peterson. I appreciate you sharing that with me.” He extended his hand and shook with the lawyer before bidding him goodbye.
As he headed down the elevator, Jeremy wondered, for a brief moment, if it would be so horrible to settle for the consolation prize. Being good at earning money hadn’t given him what he wanted. Not his father’s respect, nor his brothers’ and sister’s respect.
He was well off but had nobody to share it with. And all his life he’d been warned about choosing a mate. Make sure they match your social status and wealth or they’ll try to sap you dry.
Was that true?
Jeremy Grimwood hoped not, but he wasn’t too sure.
Two years later…
Melody Carson watched the Grimwood family’s celebration with a heavy heart. All of them were gathered in the private party room: Colton, the oldest, then Duncan, who she once had a huge crush on. Suzette with her raven black hair tied into a bun at the nape of her neck, and finally Jeremy, the youngest, yet most level-headed of the clan. He favored his sister more than the others.
Duncan held his new fiancee, Elisa, wrapped in his arms. What a darling woman, and perfect for her old friend. She’d not seen Duncan smile so widely in years. This had to be the first time all of the Grimwood siblings had gathered under one roof in ages.
Jeremy had told her it was a special occasion. Duncan had proposed to Elisa and wanted both families there to celebrate with them. Elisa Lucken’s parents and siblings were also crowded around the long wooden table of her ski lodge.
Melody turned to the bartender, Barty, whose shy smile and quiet manners always made Melody grin. “Their drinks are on me. Just put the bill in my office after they leave. Don’t let Duncan argue with you about it.”
Barty jerked his head in a nod. He never had much to say, either.
Melody chuckled at his silent answer. Her blond curls brushed against her cheeks and she pushed the annoying tendrils behind her ears. Someday she’d draw Barty out of that introverted shell of his.
“Say, have you seen Susie?” Melody asked, looking around for the accommodations manager. “I wanted to make sure to send a basket of drinks and snacks to their cabins.”
Barty’s thick brows furrowed. “Think she’s in the office.” He reached for the old-fashioned rotary phone sitting behind the bar. “Should I call?”
The old phone needed to be replaced a long time ago. Most of her newest employees didn’t even know how to use it. Her father, Steven Carson, had never seen a reason to replace a perfectly well-functioning phone with one of those small contraptions that were easily misplaced. Mom had agreed, as she was often losing anything not tacked down by nail or string.
Four years ago, her parents had died in a car accident and left everything to her. Everything. Including the outdated phone, among other things. If only her parents had had more than one child. Maybe then Melody would have someone else to blame for the mess the resort was in. But no, she was the sole owner and manager. Melody had nobody to blame but herself.
She’d reluctantly asked Jeremy Grimwood a few questions about finding investors, and he’d graciously answered as well as he’d been able with what limited information she’d offered. He was here to celebrate, not fix her problems. She already felt like a complete jerk for even bringing the matter up in the first place.
Except she was bordering on desperation.
Melody headed over to the noisy table. The Grimwoods were clustered at one end and the Luckens at the other with Duncan and Elisa in the middle.
“I wanted to wish you all a good night and let you know how happy I am to have you all here. If any of you need anything, do not hesitate to call.”
“Yeah,” Colton smirked, an identical pre-teen girl on each side. “It’s like old times. I can’t wait to take my girls out on the slopes in the morning. Let them see where their old man learned how to ski.”
The girls giggled and made a joke about leaving him on the bunny slopes.
Suzette, who was sitting at the end of the table, patted Melody’s hand. “We are so pleased to be back here, Melody dear. You are looking stunning tonight, isn’t she Jere-bear?”
Jeremy nodded, his cheeks blushing in that delightful way he had. When he was a boy running around the resort with his brothers and sisters, they used to make bets over who could make Jeremy’s face turn red first.
Melody usually won.
“Isn’t it wonderful to see our Dunc so happy?” Suzette propped her chin on her hand. “They’re almost disgusting, but it’s good to see him alive again.”
Seeing Duncan’s change gave Melody hope that her own circumstances could change in the blink of an eye. Somehow, she’d find a way to save her resort from the wolves circling in for the kill. Try as she might to keep her situation quiet, the word had got out that the resort wasn’t making enough to cover expenses.
She’d tried hard to keep this news from her workers, who were like family to her, but she feared they knew as well.
So many of the large cooperation resorts had her beat with special-deal multi-resort package plans they offered customers.
Melody only had this one resort, that still had landlines and rotary phones, for goodness sakes. She must find a way to bring her resort up to date. Even that wouldn’t be enough, she feared.
She would come up with something.
She had to. Everything was at. stake.
And no matter what, she would not, could not, sell out to her aunt. All her employees had dubbed Aunt Evelina as the evil snow queen. Evelina Ash had been trying to get the Carsons to sell Sky High Ski Resort for years. Her parents didn’t want to see the homey retreat converted into an over-priced tourist attraction.
Ski-High was a place to come to get away from the bustle of life, which was why her most dedicated customers, like the Grimwoods, still enjoyed booking their vacations with her. They loved the rustic setting and family atmosphere. Melody knew almost every last customer by their first names. She made it her sole purpose to make sure new visitors were soon welcomed into her extended family.
Aunt Evelina had managed to marry a man who owned several ski resorts. After his passing, she was now the sole owner of Snow Inc., with resorts located in several states. Her company also sold snow gear such as skis, boards, clothing, and more. But, for some reason, Evelina still had her eyes on the Carson’s little mountain, and wouldn’t leave Melody alone about selling.
No way would she ever sell the only link to her parents and grandparents that she had left.
Never in a million years.
* * * *
“If you keep staring with your mouth hanging open, a fly will set up camp on your tongue,” Duncan said, elbowing Jeremy in the ribs.
Jeremy scowled. “I’m not staring. And my mouth is not open.” Except it probably was. When had Melody Carson turned into such a beauty? Gone were her lanky arms and skinny legs. She was curvy in all the right places. Her curly blonde hair reminded him of honey dripping straight from the comb. He even liked how her lips were a pretty shade of red and seemed to pop from her heart-shaped face, especially when she smiled.
When they were growing up, she’d had a terrible crush on Dunc.
But now his older brother was taken. Even Colton, who was currently trying to coax his twin girls into leaving the family party, was out of reach. He’d said several times that he wasn't interested in relationships. He had his yacht and his girls and that was more than enough for the eldest Grimwood.
Suzette had smirked at Colton’s declaration and said they’d see. “Time will tell, Sweetums. You’re still a looker. I bet if you’d let your shoes touch land for more than a couple of days the women would come flocking.”
Colt had glanced nervously at his girls who were occupied with Elisa and her sister. The twins knew no strangers and were curious about everything and everyone they encountered. “That’s why I stay on my boat, Sis. I’m safe there.”
Colton turned toward Jeremy. “What about you, little brother? Any prospective interest that we should know about?”
Jeremy simply shook his head. He was much too busy with work to bother with the dating scene. Besides, as his sister knew, one had to be careful. Dunc was lucky. Elisa seemed good-hearted and not in the least bit greedy or interested in Duncan because of his money. She was even working in her own business as an event planner.
Duncan leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table, despite how often Mother had scolded him for doing that. “I think he’s still pining over our hostess. Some childhood crushes never die.”
“Oh please,” Jeremy defended. “Mel has never been interested in me. She had questions about seeking investors, that’s what we were talking about earlier, Mr. Nosy.”
Duncan’s brows furrowed. “Investors? Why?”
“I don’t feel comfortable sharing other people’s situations with all of you. If you wish to know what’s going on with Melody Carson, you’ll have to ask her yourself.” Jeremy stood and pushed in his chair. “I’m off to bed. I have a few emails that need my attention, then I’m turning in. It’s been a long day.” He patted Duncan’s shoulder. “I’m proud of you, old man. You picked well. Elisa is a real jewel.”
Duncan nodded as he gazed toward the end of the table where his intended sat with her family now. “She is. I didn’t pick really. I wasn’t looking for someone at the time, either. The Lord blindsided me with her. I honestly believe it was all His doing and I’ll not hesitate to say that I’m extremely blessed.”
Suzette looked away as if uncomfortable. Colton grinned and nodded. “I know how you feel, Dunc. I felt the same way with Ally. She was my heart.” A sad expression passed across his stern face at the mention of his deceased wife. “Don’t take anything for granted, Dunc. Enjoy every day that you’re given with your love. You never know…” He sank back into his chair, leaving the last thought unfinished.
Jeremy could imagine what Colton was thinking. He’d lost his wife a few years ago and hadn’t been the same since.
“Good night,” Jeremy said with a small wave toward Elisa’s family. “I’ll see you all in the morning.” As he started toward the exit, Duncan was at his side and leading him toward a quiet corner just outside of the room. “What’s up, Dunc?”
Duncan narrowed his eyes at him. Only family got away with shortening his name. Jeremy enjoyed the nickname a little too much.
“Listen, I’m seriously concerned about Melody. Is the resort in trouble?”
Jeremy shrugged. “I’m not sure, honestly. She asked for advice about investors. That’s all.” He planned to stick around another day or two and see if she’d open up more to him, but wouldn’t push her.
Duncan poked at Jeremy’s chest. “Why don’t you offer to invest—”
“Do I tell you how to manage your jewelry stores?” Jeremy was already shaking his head. “I don’t tell any of you how to manage your affairs, and I think we should keep it that way.”
Folding his arms over his chest, Duncan leveled his gaze on him. “When I wanted to sell the stores, I came to you and Suzette for advice. Did I not?”
“That’s right. You came to us. I’ve not asked for anyone’s advice. Besides, it’s not that simple. I still work for the firm, I don’t run it, yet. And I won’t until I’ve met Father’s conditions. And I’m afraid, as much as I’d like to help Mel if she’d let me, investing in a ski resort is not a sound financial decision. They are too risky and most of them are struggling to stay afloat with the changing weather conditions and all the global warming threats. I’d never get the firm to stand behind me.”
Jeremy started heading for the front doors. He didn’t want to discuss Melody’s problems. Not when he knew so little himself.
Duncan followed along. “She’s been a long-time family friend. Her parents were dear friends with our parents if you recall. I think we should discuss—”
Jeremy stopped and faced Duncan. “I’d advise you to take care in what you sink your money into, brother. Don’t let your heart rule your head. We have to show a profit and you, dear brother, are still deep in the red from what I can see.”
Duncan nodded. “That’s true, but if my projections are correct, I’ll be fine.”
“So long as you stay on course.” He patted his brother’s arm. “Don’t fret. I’ll see what I can do to help our friend. I’ll not leave her to drown, I promise.”
Duncan finally smiled. “Good. That’s what I wanted to hear. Out of all of us, I think you’re best suited to help if she wants it.”
“Right. If she wants it. That’s the big question.” He shook his brother’s hand, then went to retrieve his coat that was hanging in the foyer. Once bundled up, he hit the door at the same moment Melody was coming inside covered in snow.
“Bundle up, Jeremy. It’s really coming down. Which is wonderful. The slopes will be awesome tomorrow. Will you be skiing while you’re here?”
“Uhhh….” Jeremy stammered. He’d not skied in years. Matter-of-fact, he’d not done anything fun since he’d joined his father’s financial firm straight from college. “I don’t know. I was hoping to get a few—”
“Do not tell me you brought your work up here with you, Jeremy Cole Grimwood!”
He ducked his head guiltily which made Melody laugh. It was like the sound of tinkling bells in his ears. Why did she have to be so delightful? Even more so now than when they were children.
Her head tilted sideways as if he’d just told her that summer had come too early. “No, just no. Listen,” her hands went around his arm as she walked him outside. “First thing tomorrow morning, I’m coming to get you, Mister. And we are going to be the first to hit the slopes.”
Jeremy started to shake his head. “I don’t have—”
“I’ll get you outfitted, don’t you worry. Whatever you need. We’ll spend all morning on the slopes. You deserve to have some fun. I’m not going to be able to stand it if you’re here working during your stay. Please?”
He wanted to go more than anything. Except…he had brought work with him. At least nothing that was too pressing. Maybe if he stayed up a couple of hours tonight, he could get some of it done.
Melody turned him so he had to face her. They still stood under the portico. Beyond, white fluff fell from the night sky. The lanterns lining the walkways were circled in snowy, golden halos. A blanket of white, nearly three inches thick, lined the roadways.
“I’m not supposed to go out by myself and my helpers are all busy in the morning. So you’d be doing me a big favor by agreeing to go with me.” She leaned into him, which set his heart pounding so fast heat built up in his chest. “Please?”
Jeremy thought for a moment, then an idea came to him. “I will on one condition.”
“What?” Melody asked with caution.
“I’ll spend the morning skiing with you if you’ll sit down in the afternoon and explain to me why you need an investor. I want you to tell me what’s really going on. Maybe I can—”
“I didn’t bring it up hoping for handouts, Jeremy.” She took a step away. “I’m not…I can handle this. I only need to know what options I have. I…you’re a good friend. Your whole family is very dear to me. I’ll not… I don’t wish to look as if I’m taking advantage of—”
His admiration for her grew even more. Melody came from money, though not like his family had. Of course, money was easily spent, but not always so easily earned. That was one of Father’s favorite sayings.
“I get it. But maybe if I understand what’s going on, I can offer better suggestions. I’m only offering advice. Maybe I can connect you with the right people, if necessary. I’m not looking to try to bail you out. I know you’d never accept that from me.”
She studied him for a long moment, then finally gave a nod. “The best way to lose a friend is to do business with them. I don’t want to risk our friendship. But I do have some ideas that I’d like to get an opinion on. If you’re willing to hear them out, then, yes. Let’s plan to spend the day together.”
Jeremy tried to hold in his urge to gasp at the thought of spending a whole day with Melody Carson. Even if he’d denied his feelings to his family, they were still there, roaring like a belligerent monster, all the same. He was still crushing on his childhood friend and couldn’t help but wonder what it would take to get himself out of the friend zone with her.
Jackie Castle is an author, artist and dreamer. She lives in Texas with her husband, two grown children and her dog, Banjo. She looks for the extraordinary in the ordinary in everything she experiences.