Lady Luck's A Loser
Long before the first episode of The Bachelor aired or was even filmed, LADY LUCK'S A LOSER
was written. And, it doesn't tell the crazy story of young men and women with rippling muscles and firm bodies doing all sorts of things they shouldn't in front of the world. This mature inspirational romance is a fun read, the story of a wealthy widower who's ready for another woman in his life.
Marge Winters, a good looking grandmother, answers an ad to manage the Apple Orchard Bed and Breakfast. She couldn’t know her heart would be broken and her life changed forever when W. G. Preston offers her the job of living at his B & B with seven other women, as diverse and he is complex, that he’s hired.
“No, of course I don’t expect you to sleep with me. Just be yourself, if you’re a cook, cook, if you’re a cleaner, clean, if you’re a prima donna sit on your donna and order the other women around.” She decides to take the position.
The widower tells all the ladies up front--after they've signed a non-disclosure agreement--that he’s looking to choose a wife. What he didn’t tell them was that he planned to send one lady home each month – based solely on luck – until only Mrs. Right remained. The games are fun with rules the players don’t know until each is over. Every one of the ladies hope to win the grand prize, a proposal from the handsome B & B owner.
What others are saying, a few 5-Star reviews:
I really enjoyed this book. Couldn't put it down. I loved that the characters are more mature and not entirely perfect. I am looking forward to book 2 in this series. If you are a more mature reader, as I am, and would like to read about more mature characters I recommend this book. Younger readers would it enjoy it too! I received a copy of this book from the author for my honest review. I have read several of Caryl's books and have loved them all. Happy reading. --JoAnn Stweart, reader, Defuniak Springs, Florida
I had so much fun reading this book. The main characters are a little older, which I loved because they are more my age. All the characters were uniquely themselves, which made for a bit of friction between them and kept the book moving along. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it, especially for those who are in the fiftyish age range. --Susan Johnson, reader, Odessa, Texas
I really like this book! I love plots that are different, not the same old regular love story. I enjoyed that the characters were not the "normal" that they were older and not your skinny beautiful people. I loved that the story kept my attention the entire way. Would love to get to read another installment with these character as I love series of books. --Teresa Denise Summers, reader, Irving, Texas
Lady Luck's is a Loser is such a fun and quick read. The storyline is unique and clean. The characters are interesting and believable. I love the setting too. If you are looking for a good, clean, quick, and romantic story, then this book is for you.
A definite page turner. --Amy Campbell, reader, Salem, Virginia
Journal entry - January 31st
Another day wasted. This could be the worst idea I’ve ever had. On the other hand, I talked to more women just this afternoon than in the last five years. Got to admit I enjoyed them, especially how they smell. Been a long time.
Marge could still forget it all—not go—but she wanted to. No. She needed to go, needed to change her life. The grandfather clock struck the half-hour. The moment of decision arrived, and she couldn’t put it off any longer. Marge marked her place in her paperback and retrieved the classifieds from beneath her chair. Armed with the coffee-stained paper, she faced her daughter. The words stuck to the roof of her dry mouth, held in place by her paralyzed tongue.
“Can I borrow the car this morning?”
“Where’re you going?”
“To Canton. I’ve got a job interview.”
Stephanie dropped the shirt she’d been sewing a button on. “You've got what?”
“You heard me. I called about a job, and I have an interview set up later this morning.” Marge held out the paper to her daughter with the ad circled in red ink.
“B and B manager? What, Mother? Bridge and Bunko?”
“Oh, you, a bed and breakfast, of course. Can I borrow your car? Or should I call a cab?”
She tossed the newspaper on the coffee table then walked from the den to the kitchen where she thumbed through the phone book.
“Wait a minute, Mom. A taxi all the way to Canton will cost a fortune.” The younger woman followed her then closed the Yellow Pages. “Would you explain why you want to get a job? I thought you were happy here?”
“Honey, it's been over five years since Daddy died.” She looked out the window. The mention of Walter unsettled something inside. She pushed his memory back. “I need to get on with my life.”
“But you have a life here, don't you?”
“Well, sure - as housekeeper, cook, and babysitter.” She looked away and wished she could take back the part about the little ones. She loved her grandsugars, but Stephanie and Wayne left them with her more and more and thanked her less and less.
“That isn’t fair.” Her daughter turned and hurried toward the sink, busying herself. At what Marge wasn’t sure. She’d already done the dishes herself. Stephanie faced her. “I do as much as you around the house, and I can't believe you’d say anything about watching the kids. I thought you enjoyed it.”
“Oh, sweetheart, you know I do. I love my babies with all my heart, but I need some time to myself. Everybody does.” Marge shook her head. “If you or Wayne order pizza delivered, you count that your night for cooking, and you know good and well our ideas of clean have never even been close.”
“I can't believe we're having this conversation. What's got into you, Mother?” Stephanie flipped the dishtowel. “It's ridiculous. You don’t know the first thing about running a bed and breakfast. What makes you think they’d hire you? Besides, your place is here with your family, not off with strangers.”
“Number one, I’ve already interviewed with a personnel counselor. They’re not looking for experience, and there’s an accounting firm that keeps the books. They want to train the manager their way. Number two, the owner wants the B&B run like a home, not a hotel. And number three, why would you think I belonged here? I’m a grown woman. I’ve raised my children.”
Her daughter dried her hands then refilled her coffee cup. “Your room? Are you forgetting the room we added on especially for you?”
Marge shook her head. “No, I certainly am not. Neither have I forgotten that it was my money that paid the bills. It isn’t like I'll be taking it with me. My room will be here when I come to visit. And I will.”
“Oh, Mother, please. I'm sorry you're so used and abused.”
“Now don't you ‘Oh, Mother’ me.” Marge glared, but her daughter looked away.
Stephanie pouted into the den and retrieved the paper, studying the circled ad. “Why this one? If you’ve got to have a job, why not find something here? Something closer to home where you can still live with us?”
“It's been twenty years since I’ve worked. What do you think I'd be qualified for besides passing out Grandy’s sugar and cream or saying good-bye to Sam’s shoppers? The whole idea of a bed and breakfast intrigues me. Tell the truth. Don’t you think it sounds fun? And aside from the accounting, I believe I could run one just fine.”
“Well, I don't like it.”
Marge smiled at the expression on her daughter's face. “Like I said, it's time for me to get on with my life. Can I borrow the car or not?”
Stephanie finally relented and gave over the keys. It amused Marge how their rolls had reversed, but she didn’t like it. If this job didn’t pan out, she’d find something else—no matter what anyone thought.
With one hand on the map and the other on the steering wheel, she drove the borrowed Maxima through the East Texas countryside. At the intersection, she slowed to read the sign then swung the car west on FM 1388.
Checking her scribbled instructions and the odometer, she drove straight to The Apple Orchard Bed and Breakfast without a hitch. On either side of the drive, native rocks formed curved half walls with untended flower beds at their base. Instead of daffodils or pansies common to Texas Februarys, brown ghosts of seasons past filled the beds with a few mounds of wild green clover. The entrance could certainly stand some sprucing up, and she loved to garden.
She drove past two red cedar cabins. After the second, the trail—one certainly couldn't call it a road—curved around a stand of live oaks. Berry bushes bordered one side of the winding drive, though of what variety she had no idea. Her speedometer barely registered as she inched along drinking in the sights. A quiver of excitement ran up her spine, and she smiled in spite of the butterflies tap dancing on the rock lodged in the pit of her stomach.
The neighbor to the east ran a modest herd of cattle and maintained beautifully manicured pastures, fenced and cross fenced. She appreciated the contentment grazing cows added to the tranquil scene. Dense woods grew to the west. She wondered where the apple trees were and what grew up the rows of wire trellises she passed.
Pulling to a stop on the wide circle at the end of the drive, she killed the motor and tried to still the butterflies in her stomach with alternating deep breaths and dry swallows. The expanse of the rustic tin roof indicated a huge house. Oh, how wonderful it must sound under that roof during a spring shower. She closed her eyes and imagined the pitter-patter of raindrops dancing on the metal.
A Mexican man with dark, sheepish eyes met her as she climbed the rock steps toward the porch. “Buenos dias, Señora.” He flashed a quick smile then looked immediately back to the ground, motioning her to follow. “Por favor.”
Round the corner to the right, the porch widened, and she realized she originally approached the house from its side. Twin swings bordered the antique double entry doors, and she couldn't resist. Sitting in the closest, she gave a little push-off with her toe and looked toward the brown man who waited by the opened door.
“My grandmother had one like this.”
He held up a finger. “Un momento, Señora.” He disappeared into the house, but soon returned carrying an application on a clipboard with a pen.
“My name is Marge.” She patted her chest with her fingers and repeated, “Marge.”
The man smiled and nodded shyly. “Mi nombre es Jorje.” He pulled an envelope from his shirt pocket then handed it to her. “For your travel.”
“Thank you, Jorje. Gracias.”
“Por nada.” He ducked back into the house.
Before she finished the two page questionnaire, she sensed being watched, but resisted the urge to look.
She glanced over. A large man blocked the doorway. His face, partially covered by the wide brim of his leather hat, appeared weathered, but handsomely rugged. She guessed him to be around her age, late forties, maybe early fifties. It flat wasn’t fair that men aged so much better than women. He seemed hard, but a smile might soften him up some.
“Yes?” She shouldn’t dislike him just because he didn’t show his age. “Good morning. I'm not quite finished here. Are you Mr. Preston?”
He nodded once and stepped aside. “Please come on in.”
She rose, gathered her purse and sweater, then cleared her throat. Something about him eroded her confidence. Her voice quivered as she repeated, “My grandmother had a porch swing I loved.” She touched her throat and swallowed. “But that was a long time ago.” Why suddenly so nervous?
The entry's twenty-foot ceilings amplified the long and narrow dimensions of the unusual room. On the left, the wall showcased a large false window with green shutters. Ceiling-to-floor bookshelves on either side bulged with old books, and a piano beneath the faux window finished the quaint setting.
Nestled between that area and the next, a long hall with several closed doors turned off to the left. As she passed through the second area—an antique sitting arrangement—the aroma of coffee drifted from the kitchen on her right.
“This floor here came out of a skating rink in Monroe, Louisiana where my wife used to skate when she was a little girl.” Mr. Preston chuckled. “Made a mistake trying to salvage a piece from the corner section. Took forever to get it sanded down and installed.”
“Oh, how unique! That’s so interesting! I'm sure your wife appreciates all your trouble.”
“She did. She passed a few years ago.” Preston pointed to a door on the right at the end of the room, allowing her to walk ahead. “My office is through there.”
“Certainly, sorry about your wife.” She wanted to turn and enjoy a closer inspection of the curious hall, but instead, breezed past him toward the back.
Hundreds of glass panes in old windows mounted side by side created the end wall, allowing a spacious view across a screened porch to the back yard. A calico cat leapt high into the air with her paws spread playing with a gray tabby. Paned French doors led to the porch, and she wanted to investigate, but turned right following his directions and stepped into a warm, masculine room. Embers glowed in the fireplace.
Preston motioned to a wing-backed chair and remained standing while Marge seated herself, then went around behind a large desk and leaned on his worn leather chair.
“How about a cup of coffee?”
“Why, thank you. I'd love some even if I usually don’t drink it this late in the day. It smelled so good when we came through.”
She smiled as he left then returned to the questions on the application. Her cheeks grew warm when some of the information seemed more personal than business related, but she’d never applied for such a position.
Did she have any tattoos? Well, she never!
And why would he need to know the names of her children and grandchildren, and their ages? A bit of disgust at her ignorance of what was permissible chided her, but she chose to excuse much of it because of the unusual situation. After all, she would be living here. Hmm. Would the widower, too? That might be a problem. Then maybe he would live in one of those cabins she passed on the two lane trail coming in. Surely he wouldn’t expect -
Preston returned, and she accepted the steaming cup and she handed him the clipboard. While he sat down and examined the application, she sipped her coffee and studied him. Fifty, at least. Hmm, he moved his lips as he read, but not a lot.
Preston looked up. “You’re a widow with no dependent children?”
“Yes, that’s right, but there’s something I’d like you to know, Mr. Preston, before we proceed any further. I left a question blank there. I don’t see that it’s any of your business whether or not I have a tattoo.”
He leaned back, but his eyes never left hers. She stared back until he laughed.
“You’re absolutely right. You don’t have to answer that question. I shouldn’t have had it on there. Please forgive me.”
He scooted his chair forward, focused on her answers a minute, then looked up. “So how long's it been since your husband’s death?”
“Five years since my Walter passed.”
“Interesting.” He turned his eyes back to the form and continued reading.
She wanted to know why her husband being dead five years was interesting, but thought it best to let him ask the questions for the time being. Her focus returned to the room. Old weathered pine covered the walls. Brick showed through some of the knot holes on the one shared with the kitchen. And it had a window in it. How odd, a window on an inside wall. Hmm.
Before she completed her inspection, he cleared his throat. “How does four thousand a month plus room and board sound?”
“Four thousand? Per month? Well, it sounds great, but - ” She paused. “Well, I guess you can see there I've never managed a bed and breakfast. You do understand that?”
“Exactly the way I wanted. Nothing to it, really. Just treat the guests like family and treat me like a guest.”
So he would be there.
He stood, and walked around facing her. “Want the job?”
She gazed out the far windows to the woods and took a deep breath. “Yes. I'd love to have it. When do you want me to start?”
He ignored her question and handed her a folded piece of paper. “Now that I've hired you, here's your first bonus.”
“Bonus?” She examined the check, the equivalent of a month’s salary. “But I haven't earned a bonus, Mr. Preston. And this seems far too generous.”
He picked a legal sized document off his desk and extended it toward her. “Sign this, and you have.”
“Well, I guess I have heard of a signing bonus.” She read, then unsure, re-read the text.
“If I'm correct, I'm agreeing not to divulge anything of what you're about to tell me. Is that all it says, or am I missing something?”
“Nope, that's it.”
She signed then slipped the check into her purse. She’d do some shopping on her way home and pick up a few gifts for the children.
“My ad’s a bit deceiving, Mrs. Winters. I don't intend to open the bed and breakfast anytime soon. Actually, what I'm after is a wife.”
A tingling sensation burned her cheeks as blood rushed upwards. She always hated the way she blushed so easily and knew from the heat, her face must be crimson. “I'm afraid I don't understand.” She fidgeted and scooted to the edge of her seat. “Why do you want to hire me?”
“My wife died five years ago last month. Since then, I haven't left the property.” He walked over to the window and stared out. “I don't want to go lookin' for a wife, so I hit on this idea.” He shrugged and turned back toward her. “Seemed like a good one. Anyway, you're my fifty-first applicant.” He rubbed his upper lip partially covering his mouth. “So far, I’ve employed seven of those women, and hopefully you'll agree to be the eighth.”
“I'm sorry, but I still don't understand. You've already employed seven women? Employed them to do what, Mr. Preston? If you're not opening, then what exactly is the position you're hiring for?” She found herself fascinated by this eccentric man and his wonderful old house.
“You could say I’m hiring you to be yourself. If you're a cleaner, clean. If you like to cook, cook. Or if you're a prima donna, then sit on your donna and order the other women around.” He grinned.
She cocked her head and mustered a weak smile. “May I ask why you chose me?”
He stared at her for a second then shrugged. “I like the way you smell.” He moved to the chair next to her, sat, and clasped his hands, elbows resting on his knees. “You've been a widow as long as I've been a widower. Thought that was an interesting coincidence. You don't have young children. There’s a few other reasons. Will you stay?”
His easy manner, rugged looks, and deep, resonant voice appealed to her, but she had come looking for a job, not a romantic encounter, and certainly not a husband.
“Mr. Preston...” She mentally rehearsed the right words then looked him square in the eye. “You don’t expect any of these women… Uh… To, well, sleep with you, do you?”
“Heavens, no. I certainly do not.” He smiled. “I don't buy sex, Mrs. Winters. Could be, I’ll figure this is a ridiculous way to try and find a wife, but living with eight woman should at least give me an idea of what I'm getting myself into. What do you say?”
“I don’t know.” She stood then turned away. “Oh Lord, what should I do?” she whispered to herself. “You haven’t been out of your house in five years?”
“Oh, yes. I get out of the house. Manage a business from here, an apple orchard. I haven’t been off my property. Hadn’t had any reason.” He held his hands out palms up.
“Got delivery trucks and UPS. Everything I need right here. Even got a doctor who makes house calls.” He brought his hands together and in one graceful swoop lowered them to his lap and leaned forward. “I’m offering a six-month guarantee.”
How could she not like this man? He seemed genuine and down to earth. If all he wanted was to pay for her time while he got to know her, she’d be a fool not to take it. She’d have seven other women as chaperones. It wouldn’t be like she was living here alone with him. If nothing else, she could use the time to find another job.
“Am I’m obligating myself for the entire six months then?”
“Oh, no, it’s not like you’re going to be an indentured servant or anything. You can leave whenever you want.”
“So you’re not looking for a manager for your Bed and Breakfast at all?”
He shook his head.
“Are you ever going to open it?”
“Maybe, someday. Nancy, my wife, she wanted one real bad. Thought it would be a great way to meet interesting folks from all over the country. Then again I don’t eat breakfast, so it may have to be a bed and bath. Who knows?”
She hesitated a moment longer then extended her right hand. “When would you like me to start?”
Preston jumped to his feet and clasped it with a firm grip. “Everyone’s to be here at seven sharp. First day of March.”
“First of March it is.” She turned to leave.
“Oh, one last thing.” Preston handed her a slip of paper. “You'll need to call this number to make an appointment for a physical sometime before the first.”
“No problem, I’ll be happy to.” With plenty to think about, she started out, but halfway down the hall, stopped, then decided to wait until she came back to ask about the apple trees.