Cocktail Cove by Jennifer Saints
When life shakes you up and pours you over the rocks…
Socialite Nikita Derringer is hiding from the mob because of a deal her ex made with the devil, that she accidentally did her ex in with her designer heels, is… beside the point.
Guilt ridden developer Ben Harding walked away from his lucrative big city job and is searching for redemption in the quiet solitude of his grandfather’s sacred fishing cove. But fate has something else in mind for them at cocktail cove. Throw in sex therapy for the masses, a bear of a dog, the deep end of passion and you’ve got a potent mix guaranteed to ignite your senses and fill your heart with love and laughter.
C H A P T E R O N E
FOR HER THIRTY-NINTH birthday present, Nikita’s husband, Tom,
came out of the closet swinging both ways on the sexual pendulum.
That was three months ago, just after her nose had detected both a
strange woman’s perfume and an unfamiliar men’s cologne
clinging to his clothes.
Her nose never led her wrong and she’d nailed him for his
perfidy right in the middle of their 400 square foot custom made
his and hers closet. He confessed, dumped the blame at her feet,
and took off as free as a bird. She had sat stunned between her
Gucci and Louboutins.
Like most women clinging to the slippery side of their thirties,
she’d been so busy dodging fat and wrinkle bullets that Tom’s
betrayal smacked her right between the eyes.
She was still in therapy. She might be perfectly coifed and
dressed to the nines in Versace on the outside, but inside, on this
doomed day in July when summer blooms lost their virginity to
Atlanta’s fickle weather, she floundered for a sweaty palmed grip
on the conference table’s polished edge. The law firm of Cross,
Gibbons, & Biddle was nothing but a glorified shark tank. Like
most attorneys’ offices the illusion of comfort surrounded her,
gleaming mahogany, plush carpeting, expensive art—all the little
extras to put you at ease before feeding time.
Thankfully, her divorce attorney, Sandra Price wore
powerhouse red and looked as calm as James Bond under fire
because Tom’s smug you’re-about-to-be-chum smile had Nik
clenching her teeth.
“There won’t be any papers signed today,” said Bob Cross,
Tom’s attorney. His sharp teeth flashed making her feel like a
surfer on Styrofoam watching Jaws attack.
Nik had never liked Bob Cross and now she knew why. He’d
been best man at her wedding and he was as human as a Great
White. Cross continued speaking, “My client is petitioning the
court for a two week delay in finalizing the divorce settlement.”
“For what reason?” Sandra asked, laying her pen down with a
snap. “Your client has delayed twice already.”
“My client has changed his mind concerning the dispersion of
Blood drained with dizzying speed from Nik’s head. Tom,
golden-boy extraordinaire, broadened his smile and Nik bit her lip.
Somehow her therapist’s advice to forgive and forget wasn’t
holding up against Tom’s tactics.
“Your client violated his marriage vows. He isn’t in a position
“My client was forced from his home to seek out comfort due
to the emotional and physical alienation he experienced from his
“That’s a lie,” Nik said, half popping from her seat. How could
Tom even begin to say something like that? If anything she’d been
a golf widow. The man spent more time on the fairway than he
spent in their bedroom and that included foreplay as well.
“Relax, let me handle this,” Sandra said under her breath,
patting Nik’s arm. Nik sat and forced her mouth shut as twinges of
pain nipped at her. Tom’s smile grew.
When would she ever learn? She’d let the sharks see that she
“Your theatrics are tiring, Mr. Cross. We both know the truth
and so will the court. What about the settlement does your client
“He’ll be left with no viable residence. The house is being sold
and your client is receiving the condominium. My client is asking
the court for the deed to the Lake House, since it has little
emotional value to your client and has been a place of refuge for
my client over the years of their unsatisfactory marriage.”
Icy shock slammed into Nik. She opened her mouth to say
something, refute, deny, or scream, but could only choke on the
emotion clogging her throat.
Sandra remained the epitome of cool disdain. “Impossible.
My client purchased that property in conjunction with her brother
prior to the marriage. Your client has no legitimate claim on her
share of that asset.”
“We’ll let the court decide that. Now, in the matter of
dissolving their investment properties, my client was the creative
force behind these projects. Therefore a fifty-fifty split does not
reflect his share of the work involved. My client has a multitude of
witnesses and receipts to prove that your client has squandered
money on an extravagant lifestyle…”
It was her money that had been the capital for those
investments. And what right did he have to criticize how she
lived? Nik couldn’t take anymore. She jumped up and rushed to
the bathroom barely making it to the privacy of a stall.
Her heart raced at a dizzying speed, and she gasped for air,
fighting off the anxiety that hit her like a truck. From the time she
was little, with only boarding schools and a string of nannies as
substitutes for world-traveling parents, Nik had always had a
problem with nightmares and anxiety. But instead of diminishing
as she grew older, it had worsened during her five-year marriage
and now skyrocketed with her divorce.
Knees weak, she sat on the commode lid, staring at her favorite,
custom designed shoes that matched the swirling black and gold
pattern of her suit. How had her life ended up in the toilet?
Who was she? What was she? At what point did everything
lose its meaning?
Had it ever had any meaning?
She’d gone through the rigors of top boarding schools in
Switzerland. She’d climbed academia’s ladder at Yale then used
her degree in art to open a successful gallery in an historic mansion
in Atlanta. She’d led Atlanta’s cream of the crop society in fashion
And then she’d met Tom. He’d been part of the party crowd,
having clubbed his way into her social circles by being a golf pro
who dabbled in real estate and harbored dreams of being a fairway
designing genius. Somewhere along the way, when all the others
in the group started getting married to each other, she and Tom had
paired off and married. Now she wasn’t even sure why they had.
All the good things she thought she’d seen in Tom, patience
and the ability to give something a hundred percent of his
attention—something her parents had been incapable of—applied
mainly to his professional life. After their courtship and
honeymoon, Tom’s focus went back to his first love—golf. Their
alienation grew worse and worse the more successful his real estate
In hindsight, she’d compounded the mistake of marrying Tom
by selling her art gallery when the social demands of schmoozing
his investors conflicted with her business. She’d also thought by
helping him out, they’d regain the closeness she’d once felt
between them. Now that she’d taken a step back, she could see
that for several years she had been busy doing nothing but jumping
to Tom’s agenda.
Had their relationship all been a figment of her imagination?
Had he only used her for her money and once he didn’t need that
anymore…God in heaven. Was she that stupid?
No, but you could have been so desperate for love that you
With the distant ringing of a cell phone, she had an epiphany.
The toilet had more purpose in life than she did.
A voice from above spoke. No, it wasn’t God. It was Tom.
He answered his cell phone with a nauseatingly familiar,
“Baskil here.” Nik peeked from the stall and found she was alone
in the bathroom, but Tom’s voice was broadcasting its way to her.
It had to be coming from the air vent above the toilet.
“Nikita is toast,” he said. “My lawyer’s going to eat her alive.”
Spurred by that statement, Nik climbed onto the toilet, planting
both her heels on the lid, and stuck her ear closer to the grate. She
didn’t register the cracking sound she heard until the lid spit in half
and her foot plunged into the toilet bowl. She saved herself from
falling by grabbing the top of the stall’s walls, where she wobbled
until she managed to climb onto the back of the toilet. Too far to
back down now, she wrenched her way closer, and planted her ear
against the grate.
“No, your company doesn’t have to worry about a thing.”
There was a long pause.
“Listen, now that that old geezer Harding is dead, his widow
will roll our way shortly. I have an appointment with her in two
days. The lake property is in the bag. And get this. I’m getting
twenty adjoining acres in the divorce settlement. The Golden Club
will be up and swinging before long. Tell him not to worry, the
money’s now legit. I’ve got it—”
Tom’s voice faded. Nik went up on her tiptoes, hoping to hear
more as she pushed closer to the grate. Suddenly the grate popped
from its frame in a shower of dust, conked her on the head and
knocked her chignon askew. Could the day get any worse?
The bathroom door opened. Cool, calm, Sandra Price walked
in and her jaw dropped. Nik, holding the grate, blew dust from her
lips, and stuffed a strand of hair behind her ear. “Would you
believe I’m contemplating ending it all by taking a high dive into
Sandra’s lips twitched. “Once you become a lawyer, you’ll
pretty much believe everything and believe in nothing. Why are
Nik nodded at the grate. “I just heard Tom on his cell phone
via the air duct. You won’t believe what he said.”
“Why don’t you come down from your suicidal perch and tell
me about it?”
“Gladly.” Nik climbed off the toilet and squished out of the
stall. Tom was partly right. Her favorite shoes were toast. If
Sandra noticed the trailing puddle of water or the damage Nik had
wreaked to the toilet, she didn’t comment. Nik set the grate on the
vanity and washed her hands. “That air vent must be a direct line
to the men’s room. I heard Tom on his cell. He’s completely
confident he’s getting everything he’s asking for in the divorce
settlement. And the reason he wants the Lake House is because it
adjoins acreage that he’s trying to make a deal to develop. I heard
him on the phone telling someone the divorce settlement was in the
bag. There’s no way that can happen, can it?”
“If the judge was anybody but Kruger, I’d say their chances
were zilch. But Kruger is an avid golf fan and Tom’s golf resort
developments are well known.”
“I think I’m going to be sick.”
“Don’t waste the energy. We’ve got a war to wage. We just
have to figure out where Tom’s most vulnerable spot is and
capitalize on it.”
Nik straightened her shoulders, searching for gumption. “Right.
We’ll look for the jugular.” She slumped. “No good. He doesn’t
have blood in his veins.”
Sandra laughed. “Maybe not. But there’s a weakness
somewhere and we’ll find it. We’ve got a week.” She glanced at
her watch. “Unfortunately, my next appointment is in twenty
minutes. Are you okay?”
Nik smiled and did what she always did when someone
asked…she lied. “Yeah. Rock bottom feels pretty solid even if it’s
full of jagged edges, grates, and toilet water.”
“I’ll call you tomorrow.” Sandra left. Nik took one look in the
mirror and couldn’t get out of the law office fast enough. A minute
longer and she would have had to call 911, either for herself or for
Tom after she got done with him.
Odd looks followed her across the lobby and the parking lot,
but she kept her gaze forward and her head high. It wasn’t until
she ducked into her car that she saw the toilet paper flapping from
her left heel. It trailed three feet out the door.
“Damn.” She gasped for air as her heart thundered in another
panic. Dr. North’s advice rambled through her mind. Forgive and
forget. Move on.
How? The mere thought had her gasping harder. In her mind’s
eye, she saw Tom wielding a golden golf club, swinging right at
her head. Fore! She heard him yell as her head rolled across the
fairway. She blinked at the disembodied image of herself.
She had to do something. Just because she mistakenly
followed Tom down a false Primrose Lane didn’t mean she had to
lie down in the middle of Divorce Alley and let him run over her.
Nik grabbed her cell phone.
“S. E. Butler Investigations. The moon’s right to catch your
Nik frowned. “Ezzy? Does Liz know you’re answering her
Nik had met Esmeralda and Scarlet Elizabeth Butler four years
ago when Nik had spearheaded a charity art auction to benefit a
women’s shelter the sisters sponsored. The fundraiser had been
such a success that the three of them had made it an annual fall
event and were hard at work on the next one coming up in
September. Over the years, Nik had been adopted into Liz and
Ezzy’s quirky ranks. They’d become her tried and true friends that
she didn’t know what she would do without. Liz’s newest venture
was to open up her own private detective agency.
“I’m negotiating the position of receptionist with her. She’s
with a client right now, but I can already tell he’s a no go. His
karma reeks. Let me tell you what the cards said this morning—”
“Tell me tonight, Ezzy. Seven. My place. Tell Liz it’s a do or
die. I’ve a big emergency and I’m bringing out the G’s.” When it
involved the Tarot, Ezzy could be long-winded. Both her
predictions and Nik’s current crisis required G’s—Godiva
chocolates—to get through.
Under a barrage of nagging by BFF’s, I’ve been told my bio was boring, not at all a reflection of just who I am beneath the surface, which is a compliment…I think. So, I promised to rev it up a bit. Thus the reason why I’m sitting here staring at the computer screen with nothing but crickets in my brain. I’m totally into making up wild and interesting stories with a lot of heart thrown into the mix, but telling people about myself isn’t so easy.
What can I tell you about me?
I don’t play video games or watch horror because I can’t take the heat, but give me a kickass thriller every minute of every day and I am there. Be prepared for a Hoover Dam meltdown if you’re with me and the movie is sad. So, to avoid disaster, I love romantic comedies.
Never coffee. Always tea. Never beer. Always champagne. There’s more, but hey, gotta save some secrets until after the first date, right?
I grew up in Miami. Went to nursing school in Georgia, where I now reside. I raised and home schooled three great kids. I wrote for nine years before I sold a book, which made me a firm believer that a person should NEVER NEVER NEVER GIVE UP ON THEIR DREAMS.
I remember my father’s remark after a particularly scandalous story about one of my ancestors, a story that involves a conspiracy, treason, betrayal, murder, and execution, a story that after a drink or two in the bar, I might be enticed to share. Anyway, what my father said was, “You can’t keep a good man down.” And I kind of see that in myself. Not that I am necessarily good, because the definitions of moral words are often relative, but I do persevere, and I am resilient. Nothing in life has ever worked out the way I planned for it to. In many areas of my life, I have yet to reach the level I thought I would, of where I envisioned I would be, but I haven’t given up. I won’t give up. I continue to work hard and do everything I can to help who I can and to make my dreams come true.
Besides great kids, family, and friends, that perseverance has so far garnered me a USA Today Bestselling tag and twelve plus books on the shelf in a number of genres (contemporary romantic suspense, historical suspense, paranormal suspense, and contemporary romance). I’ve won a number of writing awards, two National Choice Awards, three Maggie Awards, a RT Book Club Reviewer’s Choice Award, the Daphne du Maurier Award, the Marlene Award, and the Golden Heart Award to name most of them. I work with several amazing women in a charity to raise money for a shelter that helps abused and homeless women and children. I’ve revived my nursing career after a long hiatus, have renewed my license, and will find the right job for me.
I know there are many more great things ahead.
I write romance because I believe that when you boil all of life down to its essence, if you take a human being to the very core of his existence, then you will find that what matters more than anything else is to be loved and to give love.
Life is all about choices and to pull from one of Erich Fromm’s quote, I choose to create and to love rather than destroy and to hate.
I hope you enjoy my stories.
Go forth, dream, believe, create, inspire, and love,
Jenni (J.L. Saint, Jennifer St. Giles, Jennifer Saints)
PS. Writers don’t develop split personalities. They develop pseudonyms.
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