A Lakeside Thanksgiving
A Lakeside Thanksgiving
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Barbara Terry is enjoying working with her sisters at The Lakeside Inn more than she thought she would. But with almost no winter reservations, they need to do something to increase their revenue to meet their loan payments.
Putting her marketing and social media skills to good use, she creates a plan that will give them the business they need—as long as she can continue to juggle running the inn with her job in San Diego and planning her sister’s wedding.
Theo Olson is an award-winning journalist whose reputation has been destroyed. Running a community radio station is giving him something positive to focus on while he comes to terms with what happened in New York City. But when the future of the station is in jeopardy, he turns to Barbara for help.
When the mystery surrounding his arrival in Sapphire Bay is revealed, he has to make the most important decision of his life. Will he stay in Sapphire Bay or risk losing Barbara’s love forever?
Chapter One Look Inside
Chapter One Look Inside
“Sorry I’m late,” Barbara said as she hurried into the kitchen at The Lakeside Inn. “I had to make a last-minute phone call to one of my clients.”
Her sisters, Katie, Penny, and Diana looked at her from the table and smiled.
“That’s okay,” Katie said. “We haven’t started yet.”
Each Monday night, they met to discuss what was happening at the inn over the following week. After inheriting their grandparents’ two-story home, they’d remodeled the rooms and started a boutique Bed and Breakfast business. The catch to the inheritance was that Barbara and her sisters had to live in Sapphire Bay for twelve months. Otherwise, the beautiful home overlooking Flathead Lake would be given to the church.
Barbara sat at the table and opened her laptop. “How’s everyone feeling after the weekend?”
Diana grinned. “I feel amazing.”
Penny laughed. “That’s because Ethan asked you to marry him.”
“Talk about romantic,” Katie, their youngest sister, said. “Asking you to be his wife under a tree decorated in fairy lights was one thing. Renting a steamboat to celebrate your engagement was incredible.”
“What can I say? He’s the most wonderful man I know.”
Barbara sighed. “I still can’t believe you and Penny are engaged.”
Penny, their eldest sister, handed Barbara a cup of coffee. “Don’t worry. There’s someone special waiting for you, too.”
“No thanks. I’m happy the way I am. Besides, my one and only goal is to make the inn a success.”
Katie lifted her cup toward Barbara. “I’ll second that. There’s too much happening in our lives to even think about dating someone.”
“And talking about our lives.” Barbara gave her sisters a spreadsheet. “We need to do some serious planning. I analyzed the next six months of room reservations. We’re okay for now, but we’ll need to do some marketing to increase our bookings.”
Diana studied the sheet of paper. “There’s a sharp decline in reservations around November. We should let people know what they can do in Sapphire Bay during the winter months.”
“Things that don’t involve skiing or snowboarding,” Katie added. “Not everyone wants to spend the day on the mountains.”
Barbara nodded. “That’s true. This is another printout of all the events happening around Sapphire Bay for the next few months. Can someone make sure I haven’t missed anything?”
“I will,” Diana said. “You’re all juggling your other jobs with running the inn. It’s the least I can do.”
Penny looked at her sister. “If you need a hand, I can help.”
“Thanks, but I should be okay. What about the letter written by Abraham Lincoln? When the Smithsonian tells everyone about it in their press release, we could be swamped with bookings.”
Barbara still couldn’t believe they’d found a letter written by a former president of the United States. And it wasn’t just any old letter. It was addressed to Abraham Lincoln’s son, telling him about the next speech he was giving. The Gettysburg Address had become one of the world’s most well-known speeches, and Barbara and her family had the last draft ever written.
“We can’t rely on the press release from the Smithsonian to make a difference,” Katie said. “They might not be ready to share the news for a long time.”
Diana nodded. “I agree, but we can’t afford to spend a lot on advertising. Even with combining our money, we still have a large bank loan to repay.”
Barbara understood her sisters’ hesitation. “I’ll make sure any options I come up with don’t cost a fortune.”
“That would be great.” Diana sat back in her chair as she read the next item on the agenda. “Are we ready to talk about Thanksgiving? Do we take bookings over that weekend or keep the inn to ourselves?”
“This might make a difference to everyone’s answer.” Penny gave each of them an envelope.
Katie ripped open the flap and pulled out her card. “You’re getting married at Thanksgiving? That’s fantastic.”
Barbara’s eyes widened. “That’s only nine weeks away. Are you crazy?”
“Hopefully not.” Penny grinned. “Wyatt and I didn’t want a long engagement. Thanksgiving weekend seems like the perfect time to begin our new life together.”
“People have to book their weddings two years in advance to get the date they want.” Barbara found the spreadsheet they’d started for planning Penny’s wedding. Unfortunately, there were only two ticks beside the long list of things they needed to do. “Look at this,” she said as she turned the laptop around. “The only things you’ve done is look for a wedding dress and ask Pastor John if he’ll be the celebrant.” She looked around the table. No one seemed to register the enormity of only having nine weeks to prepare for a wedding. “You didn’t even buy the wedding dress you liked.”
Penny shrugged. “I didn’t buy it because it was too small. Don’t worry. Everything will be all right.”
Barbara sighed. “The last time you said that we ended up starting a Bed and Breakfast.”
“It’s not as bad as you think.” Diana peered at the spreadsheet. “We’re not as organized as you are, but we can follow a list. All we have to do is start at the top and work our way down. Between the four of us, we’ll have the wedding planned in next to no time.”
Barbara hoped so, but managing the inn took a lot of time. With their other work commitments, there weren’t many hours left in each day to plan a wedding.
“Don’t look so worried,” Katie said to Barbara. “It will be okay.”
For Penny’s sake, she hoped so. They had a lot of things to do and not much time to do it.
“There’s something else I want to ask you,” Penny said. “Would you all be my bridesmaids?”
Katie jumped out of her chair and hugged Penny. “I’d love to be your bridesmaid.”
Diana grinned. “As long as I don’t have to wear a frilly pink dress, you can count me in.”
Everyone looked at Barbara.
“I’d love to be a bridesmaid, too.” She sighed when Katie’s eyebrows rose. “Just because I haven’t worn a dress in years, it doesn’t mean I can’t make an exception for Penny’s wedding.”
Penny grinned and wrapped her arms around her sisters. “I love you guys. I can’t wait to walk down the aisle with you.”
Barbara enjoyed the warmth of their embrace. If it wasn’t for their grandma, they’d still be living on opposite sides of the country. Remembering moments like this was important, especially when it wouldn’t last forever.
* * *
Theo pushed his laptop away—as if not seeing how bad his finances were would somehow make them less disastrous.
He’d moved to Sapphire Bay intending to start his life again. But telling himself he needed a fresh start was a lot easier than doing it. Especially when he was relying on his savings to pay his bills.
“You look like you could do with a coffee.” His friend, Ethan, stood beside him in The Welcome Center’s dining room. “I’m on my way to the kitchen. Would you like a coffee?”
Theo held up his water bottle. “No, thanks. I’m in training mode for the half-marathon.”
Ethan smiled. “So am I, but I can’t do without caffeine. I’ll be back soon.”
While he waited for Ethan, Theo looked through the large windows overlooking the tiny home village. When he’d arrived in Sapphire Bay ten months ago, only a few houses in the village had been built. With a lot of hard work, Pastor John’s dream of creating twenty-five tiny homes for people who didn’t have anywhere to live was complete. With the wrap-around services the church provided, everyone was benefiting from Pastor John’s vision.
Ethan walked into the room. “The students in the hospitality class made fresh lemonade. I brought you a glass.”
Closing the lid of his laptop, he slid it into its case. “Thanks.”
His friend lifted his cup of coffee to his nose and breathed in deeply. “I don’t know what’s better. The anticipation of drinking this heavenly brew or actually sipping it.”
“Why choose?” Theo said with a smile. “Did you go for a run this afternoon?”
“I had too many appointments at the clinic. What about you?”
Ethan frowned. “You never miss a training run.”
“I have a lot on my mind.”
“It wouldn’t have anything to do with your business grant being declined, would it?”
Theo’s eyebrows rose. That was the trouble with small towns—everyone knew what was happening in each other’s lives. “How did you know about the grant?”
“I had a meeting with Pastor John about the PTSD clinic. He showed me the list of businesses that were successful. The radio station wasn’t one of them.”
“I don’t know what I did wrong. The station ticks all the areas the county’s targeting, but I was still unsuccessful.”
“Isn’t there another funding round next month? You should reapply.”
“I don’t know if it’s worth it.”
Ethan tilted his head to the side. “That doesn’t sound like you.”
“I’ve worked hard to get the radio station up and running, but I can’t do it on my own.” He took a deep breath and reached for the lemonade. “Ignore me. I’m feeling sorry for myself.”
“Why don’t you hire someone who can find private funders or other grants?”
“I don’t have enough money to hire anyone, let alone a marketing guru.”
“You might not need a lot of money. If you find someone who’s local, their fees will be a lot cheaper than someone from out of town.”
Theo frowned. “We live on the edge of Flathead Lake in rural Montana. No one who lives here will be able to help.”
Leaning forward, Ethan smiled. “I might know someone who can. Diana’s sisters are looking at creative ways of marketing The Lakeside Inn. And guess who’s putting together a proposal for them?”
“I have no idea.”
“Barbara, Diana’s sister.”
Theo had met Barbara a few times. The pretty brunette with sparkling green eyes was one of the most organized people he knew. Each time he saw her, she had a clipboard or a notebook in her hands, quickly moving from one task to the next with an efficiency that was slightly scary.
“Does she know about funding proposals and grant applications?”
Ethan shrugged. “I suppose so. As well as helping around the inn, she works for a marketing company in San Diego. She must have helped a few organizations with their funding.”
“I’m surprised she moved to Sapphire Bay.”
“If it weren’t for the clause in her grandmother’s will, I don’t think she’d be here.”
Theo knew about the clause but, even with Barbara’s experience, he wasn’t sure she was the right person to help him. “I’ll talk to Pastor John first. There might be other ways I can fund the radio station.”
“If you wanted to talk to him now, he isn’t here.”
“Do you know where he’s gone?”
“He had to meet someone at Finley Point. He should be back soon.”
Theo checked his watch. “I have to buy some things from the general store. I’ll come back after I’m finished.”
“Good idea. Remember to talk to Diana’s sister. Barbara knows what she’s talking about.”
She probably did, but there was another complication that wouldn’t go away. Barbara’s mom, Mabel, was Sapphire Bay’s gossip queen and administrator of the community Facebook page. If she discovered why he’d come to Sapphire Bay, it wouldn’t only be the radio station that needed rescuing.
But, after many sleepless nights, he was willing to risk just about anything to keep the station operating. As long as he was careful, there was little risk of Mabel discovering what had happened in New York City.
With a few more options than he’d had an hour ago, he took a sip of lemonade and winced.
Ethan laughed. “With your training regime, I didn’t think you’d want extra sugar.”
“It’s okay,” Theo said as he took a smaller sip of the sour liquid. “I’ll get used to it.” Just like he’d have to get used to filling out more forms if he wanted to save the radio station.
Fans of Netflix’s Virgin River series and Steel Magnolias will love this small-town, feel-good romance!
As the mystery surrounding a priceless treasure intensifies, Barbara is intrigued by a man with a guarded past. When all his secrets are revealed, will she be ready to make the most important decision of her life?
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "These stories are amazing! Great love stories, secrets, and mysteries in the family to unravel. Five stars!"
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "A cozy small-town romance that touches the heart."
★★★★★ "Heartfelt, sweet, and utterly delightful. A must-read for everyone!"