BY: ALLYS REID
A lonely widow and her mother are nearly broke—and desperate. Calista Blake and her mother, Maisie, living in a run-down hotel on the Oregon coast, make a last-ditch effort to save their property. They advertise for a handyman, someone to fix up the place before the tourist season begins, in the hope that they can avoid selling the home they love. The person who shows up seems too good to be true. Brandon Cooper is handsome, capable, resourceful, and he doesn’t seem to need any money. Why is he really there? Is he more than they bargained for, when they advertised for “A Man for the Summer”?
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In A man for the Summer by Allys Reid, Calista Blake and her mother are struggling to keep their home, a rustic hotel on the Oregon coast, from being sold. Run down and in dilapidated condition, the place needs a lot of work. In a desperate move to keep from having to sell, they place an ad for a summer handyman, but what they get is Brandon Cooper. He is definitely handy but much too mysterious and attractive. Calista is a lonely widow, afraid of being hurt again. She has lost both her husband and her father and she fears that, if she falls in love with Brandon, she will lose him too. After all, he is only there for the summer…isn’t he?
A sweet, charming love story that will warm your heart and refresh you spirit, this is one you won’t want to miss.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: A Man for the Summer by Allys Reid is the story of a lonely young woman and her mother who live in a run-down hotel on the Oregon Coast. Calista Blake is a young widow who has lived in her family’s hotel for her entire life. It was her father’s, and then her husband’s, pride and joy, and when they were alive, the business flourished. But now, Calista and her mother are all alone. Not only are they struggling to keep the hotel afloat, they are also fighting the dirty tricks of an unethical realtor who wants to force them into selling. In a last-ditch effort to save their home, they hire Brandon Cooper to fix up the hotel and help them attract business. But Brandon is a bit more than they bargained for. He repairs, repaints, and polishes the hotel’s run-down cottages, as well as fixing the rutted driveway. But he also steals Calista’s heart, and that is just what she doesn’t need.
Sweet, charming, and filled with marvelous characters, A Man for the Summer will delight and intrigue you all the way through. A great read.
It could turn out to be a lovely morning, thought Calista, as she looked out at the sky from her kitchen window.
To the east, the clouds rolled over the Pacific Coast Range Mountains, tumbling like fluffy white balls of cotton, down the treed hills, toward the town of Ocean Dunes.
To the south, she could see that the rain had already started, moving in from the Suislaw National Forest. In a few minutes, it would drench the yard and the long dirt road from the highway to the handful of guest cottages that fanned out in an arc around the main guest house.
Calista Blake elbowed the screen door open, shimmied sideways onto the wide porch, and struggled with her tray of muffins and coffee, keeping them level as she hurried to the door of one of the five cottages.
She knocked on the door and waited politely. The door opened and a man, middle aged and impatient looking, glared out at her. He looked her up and down, ogling her, then shook his head.
“Hi. I brought your breakfast, Mister Jameson.” Calista said. “Where would you like it?”
He shrugged. “Oh, yeah, right. Look, miss, we’re not very hungry. Matter of fact, we have to head straight back to San Diego, right, hon?”
He looked over his shoulder at a woman, also around his age, who was combing her hair and frowning at the dresser mirror.
“Right. San Diego,” she repeated.
“I want to get going, Ted.”
The man turned back to Calista. “Anyway, sorry about this, but we really have to leave—very important business.”
The woman put the comb into her purse and snapped the latch closed, firmly. She marched past Calista, out the door to a parked car.
The man watched her go then reached into his pocket. “It’s fifty dollars for the room, right?” He pulled out money and placed it on Calista’s tray. “Sorry again for the short notice. Bye.”
He picked up a suitcase and stopped at the door, waiting for Calista to move out of his way.
Calista shrugged sadly. “It’s too bad you have to leave. I do hope you come back soon.”
He looked her up and down, deciding what to say. “Yeah, sure,” he said, simply.
The woman in the car waved at him. “Come on, they’re holding the room for us,” she called.
He joined her, tossed the suitcase into the back seat and they drove north, away from San Diego.
Calista was still standing in the doorway of the cottage, holding the tray in her hands, as the car bounced down the rutted road. She sighed and walked slowly back to the main house.
She went through to the kitchen, placed the tray on the dining table, and removed the tea towel covering the muffins. A creaking sound behind her made her look back at an old woman, in a thick bathrobe and fuzzy slippers, who sat across from her at the dining table.
“Morning, Mother.” Calista said. “We just had a runaway. At least he paid for the night’s stay first.”
Calista’s mother picked out one of the muffins and broke off a piece. She took a bite and grunted. “Well, at least they left us the food,” she joked. “We’ve got breakfast.”
Calista looked out the window. Streaks of rain now struck the glass at an angle, moist diagonal marks, gently at first, then heavier, getting louder and louder, until it sounded like a long ocean wave, a sustained roar of water on the roof and the road.
The rain would probably last all day, Calista thought. She wouldn’t be able to mow the lawn or hang laundry out to dry, and she’d have to wait until it evaporated before she could even think of painting the fence by the road.
Calista’s mother poured herself a coffee from the carafe on the tray and sat back. “These aren’t half bad,” she muttered. “I like this flavor, Cali.”
“Yeah, I like them too.” Calista agreed. She poured coffee for herself, and the two women sat quietly for a moment. “You know, Mom, I really think we need to get someone in, a handyman to help get the place spruced up before the summer season.”
Her mother shook her head. “We can’t afford that, Cali. We’re barely hanging on as it is. Paying for help would sink us.”
Calista stared into her coffee cup. The hotel had been her father’s, and the land it was built on was his father’s before him. Back then, when central Oregon was just a blank space between San Francisco and Portland, the land had already been in her family for years.
Now, the hotel, which had never been very successful, might have to be sold. Calista would have to find a job in town, and get an apartment away from here, away from her beloved beach, away from the place where she’d lived all her life.
She shrugged. “I don’t know, Mom. I’ve said it before; I think we need to fix the place up. If we’re going to lose everything anyway, I figure we should risk it—go out with a bang, if nothing else.”
She looked out the kitchen window. The rain, heavy now, bounced off the ruddy clay of the driveway, forming puddles here and there, little pools of red mud that slowly flowed downhill toward the beach.
Her mother smiled. “All right then, Cali, let’s do it. If we’re going to go out, let’s go out in style.” She reached under the table to a shelf and pulled out a telephone book. She opened the book to the middle and flipped through pages, looking for a name. “Here we are, The Penny Pincher newspaper,” she announced.
“Going for the big spend, Mom?” Calista Joked. “The Lincoln City Gazette isn’t good enough?”
Her mother shook her head. “I don’t want to attract any vultures. If people think we’re really desperate, lord knows how many shady carpenters and plumbers and whatnot will knock on the door. Not to mention more of those real estate folks—if they smell blood they’ll never leave us alone.”
After breakfast, the rain fell just as hard, the air just as cold, and the red clay still oozed its way down the road, through the wild grass to the beach. Calista wrapped a trench coat around her, pulled the collar over her hair, ran to the old station wagon they kept out back, and took the highway into town.
She drove along the Coastal Highway, through the forest, following the road as it veered away from the water. Then breaking from the cover of the trees into a gray overcast, it turned west toward the water again.
A few minutes later, the occasional barn on the roadside gave way to houses then more and more houses, closer together. Then, all at once, the road widened, and side streets branched out, with a Dairy Queen and a gas station on opposite corners of one intersection. This was downtown Lincoln City.
Lincoln City did not look like the typical small town most people think of, when you say “small town.” There was no town square, no quaint city hall opposite a school, no founder’s statue. It was a scattering of houses and businesses up and down the highway, getting denser for a while then thinning out at the south end of town, away from Calista’s hotel. Calista decided she’d drop off her ad after she caught up with the local gossip, so she passed the Dairy Queen and turned right at a parking lot by a high sign that read Whale View Diner.
She walked into the diner and sat at one of the counter stools.
A waitress, wearing a thick sweater and slacks, waved at her from the far side of the diner and walked over. “Hey, Cali, how’re you doin’?” She smiled.
“Okay, Jan. Fine, I guess.” Calista shrugged. “Waiting for the tourist season to start.”
“Figure you’ll have a good year?” the waitress asked, a little too curiously. Her husband sold real estate part time, besides working in the local John Deere dealership. He was eager to buy her hotel, she knew.
“Yeah, I think it’s going to be a great summer. We’ve already got a bunch of pre-books,” Calista lied.
The waitress slid a glass of water and a coffee in front of Calista. Calista nodded, accepting them, then took a sip of water.
“How’s work going?” the waitress continued. “You’re still doing the books for some of the farmers out your way, right?”
Calista nodded. The few dollars she made as a bookkeeper helped keep the hotel going, but it was nowhere near enough to have them survive if the guests stayed away.
“How’s Maisie doing?” the waitress asked.
“Mom’s doing well, thanks. How are you doing? Business picking up for the summer yet?”
The waitress shrugged. “This place ticks along. I got regular hours. Glen’s doing his bit, too. His main job’s fine, he says. People gotta buy tractors. Still, he’s hoping the real estate end takes off. He figures that’s a way better way to make a living. Anyhow, take your time. Let me know what you want, hon.”
The waitress poured a fresh coffee for the only other patron, a small man in a windbreaker, chatted with him for a minute, then came back to Calista.
“So, what can I get ya?”
Calista didn’t bother looking at the menu, chalked on the wall behind the waitress. She knew it by heart. “Just a tuna salad on white, Jan. thanks.”
The waitress wandered off to the kitchen, and Calista opened out her purse, looking for a piece of paper, the ad she would place after she ate.
The diner’s front door opened, ringing the small bell over the entry, and Calista casually glanced over to see who had come in. As the door opened, a low roaring sound, rain falling on the front mat, rumbled through the diner.
The waitress, also hearing the bell, came back from the kitchen to greet the new patron. She stopped and grinned.
The new patron was a man, somewhere in his thirties or possibly his early forties, wearing jeans and a leather bomber jacket over a navy-blue tee shirt.
He was tall, slim, with a mop of wavy blond hair, and a slight stubble of beard, carrying a motorcycle helmet under one arm.
“Hello,” he said, simply. “Can I sit anywhere?”
The waitress smiled broadly at him and patted the counter. “Sure, hon. Why don’t ya sit right here? You want coffee?”
He smiled back and nodded. “Yes, thanks.”
The waitress poured him a cup of coffee and leaned in close as she slid it toward him. “Here you go, hon,” she said.
He sat two stools away from Calista and placed his helmet between them. He smiled and nodded politely at her.
“Ma’am. Good morning,” he said.
Calista nodded back. “Hello. It’s kind of a wet day to ride a motorcycle.”
“Yeah, it sure is. That’s why I decided to stop here—it was raining. I figured it might let up, so I waited for a while.”
Calista turned slightly on her stool, facing the man. “Where are you going?” she asked.
He smiled—a warm, inviting smile. “Nowhere special, just heading north for now.”
Calista grinned. “If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?”
He laughed out loud. “You sound like a bumper sticker. Actually, I’m taking the summer off—clearing out some mental cobwebs.”
“Taking the summer off? Are you a teacher, or what?”
He shrugged. “No, just taking time from my regular job. I had the opportunity to get away, so I’m taking the summer off.”
She swiveled to face him head on and rested her elbow on the counter. “Should I be looking for your picture on the wall of the post office, or what?”
He laughed out loud again. “No, I’m not wanted. At least, not in that way.”
“What is it you do?” Calista asked.
He thought for a moment. “My job is in in construction.”
Calista sat up. “Construction? Like, carpentry, woodwork, things like that?”
“Yeah, I suppose you could say so.”
“Are you looking for work? We’re looking for a handyman,” she asked, hopefully.
He shook his head. “No, I’m not, and I don’t think you could afford me. Besides, as I said, I’m taking the summer off.”
The small man in the windbreaker said goodbye to the waitress, left a dollar on the counter, and walked out, making the doorbell ring again.
The waitress disappeared into the back of the diner, and Calista leaned forward, speaking softly. “It’s just that, you see, I’m about to put an ad in the paper: we need a handyman, someone to help us out at our hotel. I’d rather it wasn’t someone from around here, you know.”
“Why is that?” he asked.
“People can get very nosy, and after they come into your home, they gossip. That’s why.”
He looked at her for a long minute. “Can I see your ad?”
She took a folded-up piece of paper from her purse and carefully passed it to him, like showing him a secret message.
He unfolded the paper and read it aloud. “‘Wanted—a man for the summer. Rate of pay negotiable.’” He read out the phone number and grinned. “Sounds like you’re advertising for a boyfriend.”
She scowled and took the paper back from him. “They charge by the word. I was trying to be brief.”
He smirked. “Define ‘negotiable.’”
She frowned and folded the paper back up. “So, are you interested in the job, after all, or just curious?”
He took a sip of his coffee and shook his head. “Sorry, I plan to be in Portland this afternoon then hopefully stop in Seattle by nightfall. As I said, I’m taking the summer off.”
Calista looked out the window. The rain had eased and was now just a light mist, covering the road with damp fog. “What are you doing in Seattle?” she asked.
He took another sip of coffee. “Actually, a buddy of mine lives in Anchorage. I figure after I hit Seattle, I’ll ride up the Alaska Highway to see him.”
Calista shrugged. “Well, I figured I’d ask, anyway.” She stuck out her hand. “I’m Calista, Calista Blake.”
He took her hand. His hand was warm, slightly rough. He placed his other hand over hers. “Brandon Cooper. Calista, that’s a lovely name. Your family’s Greek?”
“My father taught history at Tillamook High. He had a thing for the classics—my name was an occupational hazard, I guess.”
The man nodded. “Good thing he didn’t teach shop. You could have been called ‘Bandsaw.’”
Calista laughed and covered her mouth. “I’ve never heard that one. Good one.” She took a sip of water.
The waitress brought out Calista’s sandwich and leaned in close to Brandon. “So, hon, what would you like?” she asked, purring.
“Just a slice of apple pie, thanks,” he said.
The waitress was still leaning close. “You want to have some ice cream with that, hon?”
He shook his head, and the waitress walked slowly away.
Calista watched her go. “I think she likes you.”
“I guessed. Is she like that with many people?”
“Only with men who don’t live here.”
The man sipped his coffee again. “Calista—she was the mother of Arcas, the lover of Zeus?”
Calista raised her eyebrows. “That’s very impressive. Most people think it’s just a name.”
“It means ‘most beautiful’ in Greek. I see it’s appropriate, too.”
Calista blushed. “My, you’re a smooth one, aren’t you?”
The waitress brought out a slice of apple pie, far bigger than it should have been, and placed it ceremoniously in front of the man. “Here you go, hon. Take your time. More coffee?”
He looked up at the waitress and smiled warmly. “Thanks so much. You’re very sweet.”
She straightened up, fanned her face, then went back to the kitchen.
Calista chuckled. “She’ll be talking about you for weeks, you know. She’ll embellish the story with all these things you supposedly told her.”
They ate, talked about Lincoln City, the weather, and nothing in particular, and glanced over at each other when the other wasn’t watching, then the man picked up his motorcycle helmet and stood up.
“Thanks, I enjoyed the conversation, and good luck finding someone. It was nice talking to you,” he said.
The waitress pulled his bill out of her apron and handed it to him.
“Can I get Miss Blake’s bill as well, please?” he asked casually.
Calista stood up and shook her head. “No, no, really. That’s not necessary,” she argued.
“Nonsense. It’s my pleasure.” He smiled. He looked at the two bills, pulled some cash out of his pocket, and placed it on the counter. “That’s good, thanks. Keep the change,” he said.
He stretched his hand out again. “Miss Blake, best of luck with your search. Goodbye.”
Calista took his hand, automatically, and the man left. The door closed. The waitress watched him go.
“Hey, Cali, ya think he likes women? I mean, a guy looks like that, he has to like women, right? I mean, if there’s a god in heaven then he has to—”
“I get it.” Calista interrupted. “Yeah, I think he likes women.”
The waitress rested her elbows on the counter and stared out as the man put on his helmet and started up his motorcycle. He leaned across to the sidecar and snugged down a canvas backpack wedged into the passenger seat. He threw a lean leg over the seat and rode off, headed north.
“OO-EE. Another reason to love Levi’s,” the waitress joked. Calista rolled her eyes and said nothing.
The rain stopped; the sun came out, weak at first through the thin clouds, then the street began to dry off. Calista left her coat in her car and climbed the steps to the newspaper office, on the second floor of a small commercial building.
There was a pet groomer and small engine repair shop on the ground floor, and a tiny loading bay out back where young men in old vans loaded up the free newspaper twice a week and delivered it all over Lincoln City and the surrounding area.
Calista walked to the single counter on the second floor and waited. A minute later, a man in black slacks and a rumpled white shirt greeted her.
“Hi. Yes?” he asked hurriedly.
“I’d like to place an ad,” Calista said. She carefully took the paper out of her purse and handed it to him.
He unfolded it and read it over. “That’s it? Okay, um, four dollars and twenty cents.”
She handed him a five-dollar bill and he rummaged through a drawer for change. He finally found three quarters and a nickel, then he slid them across the counter to her.
“It’ll be in Friday’s paper. Thanks. Bye,” he said simply and walked away.
Calista walked slowly back down the stairs to her car. It felt like she had just cast the last desperate lifeline to save her family business, the last chance to fix up the place before the summer season, just in time to entreat travelers to stay there, even though it was a little out of the way and far from the tourist spots farther up the coast.
She was already in town—should she go to the bank while she was here? She could take a few dollars out of her account, buy groceries, and pay some of the bills that had been collecting dust on her side table.
Then she would head back to the house and decide what to do first. Yes, that would be it. She’d do that.
By two in the afternoon, the red clay driveway was dry, but the heavy morning rain had made the ruts in the road even deeper, and her car bucked and bounced along as she drove back home.
Calista’s mother was on the front porch, wearing Capri pants and a sweater, sweeping dust off the porch and onto the grass.
“Hey, Cali. How’d it go in town?” her mother asked.
“I put the ad in, paid the phone bill, and dodged Jan’s questions. I still think her husband wants to buy this place if we’re willing to sell up. She seemed way too interested in how we were doing. Anyway, the ad will be in the paper Friday, so let’s see how it goes. We’ll have to weed out the losers and the scam artists, I suppose, but hopefully we get someone who’ll work out.”
Her mother chuckled. “You always were the practical one. All right, Cali, let’s see what the cat drags in.”
“Ah,” said Calista, “And a passing motorcyclist bought me lunch.”
“Really?” Her mother raised her eyebrow. “Was he cute?”
They had dinner together sitting huddled at the small table in the kitchen, then her mother went through to the back room to watch TV and sew, while Calista sat in a corner of the room with a favorite book and listened to music on the radio. By ten thirty, Maisie was asleep in her armchair. Calista woke her up and both women went upstairs to bed.
© 2019 by Allys Reid