Home > Boy Trouble (All American Boy)

Boy Trouble (All American Boy)
Author: Kaylee Ryan


Chapter 1





I turn onto the main artery winding through downtown and suck in a deep breath. Merlot, California, nestled in the picturesque landscape of the Sonoma Mountains. I can practically smell the red wine and shenanigans of my youth. Not that I was a bad kid, but I definitely knew how to keep my parents up late at night with worry.

The warm sun beats down on my face as I stop my BMW convertible at a stoplight. The fountain in the middle of the town square is running, a wineglass-shaped display boasting our town’s number one industry: wine. I recall pouring bubble bath in that very fountain once with my oldest friend, Cameron Smith, when we were in grade school. We also may know a little more than we claimed about the signs plastered throughout the square, promising a good time and the mayor’s phone number.

But we vowed to never talk about that.

A horn honks behind me, and when I glance up, the light is green. I pull out, going with the flow, and taking in the area. It’s been three years since I was here, and even then, only for a short two-day visit.

Shoppers move from shop to boutique, enjoying the gorgeous day, and spending their vacation money. Merlot is more of a tourist destination, a money trap for those who like wine and spending all their hard-earned money on it.

That’s where we come in. Morrison Hotels started right here in Merlot. When vineyards were popping up, and an industry was growing, my grandpa saw it as an opportunity. He purchased land and built a gorgeous hotel. From there, he grew his legacy to fourteen hotels in heavy tourist destinations throughout the United States.

That’s why I’m home.

It’s time for Grandpa to step down and hand the company over to me.

As I make my way through the streets, a sense of familiarity washes over me. The moment I spot the large building off to my right, I instantly smile. The valet awning is immaculate, burgundy in color with a large white M in the middle.

I bypass the turnoff and head around to the back area reserved for staff. One thing Grandpa insisted on was giving the employees their own areas to congregate and come and go. They use a private, covered entrance and have tons of amenities in their own private lounge. Free coffee and snacks and even electronics to use when they’re on break. I remember asking Grandpa when I was younger why he offers so much to people who were supposed to be working and not snacking. His reply stuck with me. He said, “If you take care of your employees, then your employees will take care of you.”

I’ve never forgotten that.

Back in Chicago, I made sure to personally stock things like bread and lunchmeat in the employee refrigerator after finding out one of my housekeepers, who was a single mom of four, wasn’t eating herself so she had more for her kids. I moved a stool up front for one of the overnight clerks when her ankles started to swell during pregnancy.

Taking care of the employees was my job, and in return, they did the job I paid them to do. Well, most of the time. There’re still a few bad eggs in the carton who take advantage of your generosity, but for the most part, my team was courteous and hard workers. It was hard to leave the Chicago location, but this is where I belong.

Back in Merlot.

I park toward the back of the lot and put up my top. There’d be no way I’d leave it down in Chicago, though it would probably be fine in Merlot. Still, I’m not going to take a chance. This baby was my first big expense when I moved to the Windy City, and I treat her like the queen she is.

With an eager smile on my lips, I use my new keycard and access the back entrance. The room is empty, so I move down the hall toward the offices. The first familiar face I see is Jane Haskins, my grandpa’s long-time administrative assistant.

“Oh, Eli, I’ve been waiting for you to arrive.” She beams, jumping up from her chair and pulling me into a big hug.

“Look at you, Jane. More beautiful as the days go by. What are you now, twenty-six?”

Jane playfully hits my arm. “Oh, stop, you big flirt.” Jane fluffs up her hair. “Though, I did tell Roland I could probably trade him for two thirty-year olds,” she adds, a teasing gleam in her light brown eyes.

“I believe it,” I proclaim, relaxing in the chair across from her desk. “How is Rol doing?”

The happiness in her eyes dims just slightly as she gives me a sad smile. “He has his good days and his bad days,” she replies. After seeing a decrease in muscle control, Roland was diagnosed with ALS two years ago, right before his own sixtieth birthday. From the research I’ve done, it will eventually affect his ability to speak, eat, move, and even breathe.

“Well, if you guys need anything, don’t hesitate to ask, okay?”

Jane nods tearfully.

“Is that my grandson?” I hear the familiar, boisterous voice behind me.

“Best-looking grandson,” I reiterate as I stand up and face my grandpa.

Grandpa scoffs. “Only grandson,” he reminds me before a huge smile breaks out across his face. “Get over here,” he adds, holding his arms out.

Grandpa looks exactly the same as he has for the last decade. Sure, his salt-and-pepper hair has gone all gray now, but he still looks as young and fit as ever. You’d never know this seventy-four-year-old man still likes to run marathons twice a year.

After I’m squeezed with a strong hug, and he’s checked me over from head to toe, he waves me into his office. Grandpa’s wearing one of his business suits, this one in a deep blue color with a blood-red tie. When I was younger, I swore he was born in a suit. For years, I barely saw him in anything but one. However, now I know he always strives to present in a professional manner. His hair is freshly cut, and his nails trimmed.

When I was fourteen and following him around this very hotel like a lost puppy, he told me to always dress to impress. You never know when a networking or business opportunity will present itself. The last thing you want to be is at the grocery store and wearing grass-stained tennis shoes and a holey T-shirt. That’s why I’m in a pair of dark khakis and a white polo. After traveling halfway across the country the last two days, I’m still dressed as if I might run into a potential business acquaintance.

“I won’t keep you long,” he says. “I know you have to get settled.”

“I do, but the moving van won’t be here until tomorrow with the rest of my belongings. My trunk’s packed, though.”

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