Dinner at the Beach House Hotel

By: Judith Keim

The Beach House Hotel Series – Book 3



Dedication


This book is dedicated in loving memory of Barbara Bova, without whose friendship, support, and encouragement, The Beach House Hotel series and my continuing pursuit of writing might not have happened. I’m so grateful to her!





CHAPTER ONE


Rhonda DelMonte Grayson and I stood at the top of the front steps of The Beach House Hotel, the seaside mansion in Sabal, Florida we’d turned into an upscale, boutique hotel. As the limo rolled through the gates of the property, I crossed my fingers behind my back.

With Rhonda due to give birth in the next two months, I needed all the help I could get while Rhonda and her husband Will welcomed their child into their family and the world. Bernhard Bruner was our last hope of finding a suitable general manager for the hotel out of the group of candidates we’d screened.

“I hope we like him,” said Rhonda. “The last two applicants we talked to were doozies. I’m tellin’ ya, Annie, I’m not going to take any bullshit from a guy thinkin’ he can boss us around.”

I smiled, used to the way Rhonda thought and spoke. My proper grandmother would shudder in her blue-blooded grave, but Rhonda wasn’t even aware of the language that hid a big, loving heart.

The limo continued toward us.

“I hope he likes us!” I said, giving my crossed fingers a squeeze.

Below a lock of bleached blond hair that fell on her forehead, Rhonda’s dark eyes sparkled. She elbowed me. “Here goes.”

Before the limo even pulled to a stop, Rhonda and I eagerly made our way down the steps to greet Mr. Bruner. An older man in his fifties, he’d come highly recommended to us as the perfect choice to oversee a property like ours. But would he be willing to work with us?

We’d interviewed several other men who weren’t exactly thrilled with the idea of having to work under the guidance of two women. But The Beach House Hotel was our baby, and we weren’t about to simply hand it over to someone else—no matter how much we wanted and needed some time to ourselves.

Paul, our driver, stopped the limo, got out, and hurried around behind the car to open the passenger door.

A shiny black shoe appeared, followed by creased gray slacks. Dressed in a navy blazer, starched white shirt, and conservative tie, the man who stood so straight before us had a sharp, blue-eyed gaze. Beneath his nose, a trimmed mustache brushed the top of his lips. His stern appearance reminded me of my old, middle-school principal.

As we exchanged greetings, a black and tan dachshund jumped out of the car and sat at her master’s feet, looking up at me with what I thought of as something of a smile. Charmed, I stooped to pat her head.

“And who is this?”

“Trudy,” Bernhard said. “She goes everywhere with me.”

Rhonda and I exchanged glances.

“Uh, we weren’t told about her,” said Rhonda.

Bernhard picked the dog up. She gave him a lick on the cheek and turned bright dark eyes to us, wagging her tail furiously.

“If it’s a problem for me to have her here, we can end this visit right now.” Bernhard’s words weren’t unkind, but there was no question as to his intentions.

I reached over to give Trudy another pat on the head and grinned when she licked my hand. I loved dogs, but Robert, my ex, had been allergic to them. And any kind of pet had been out of the question in my grandmother’s formal home, where I lived after my parents were killed in an automobile accident.

Rhonda glanced at me and shrugged. “It’s okay with me, Bernie.”

Bernhard stiffened. “My name is Bernhard.”

I placed a hand on his arm. “Among ourselves, our staff is quite informal. Rhonda likes to give people nicknames. It’s a sign she likes you.”

I held my breath as I waited for him to say something. If he and Rhonda couldn’t get along, it would never work.

“All right. A few of my friends call me Bernie, but, in business, I like to use my full name.” He set the dog down and stood staring at the façade of the hotel.

The two-story, pink-stucco building with its red-tile roof spread before us. I recalled the first time I’d seen it and how impressed I was with its design and features. By anyone’s definition, the seaside estate was gorgeous.

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