It seemed like a nice way to spend the early summer – staying up on the coast, living in what had been up until recently my folks’ little bolt-hole and holiday home. They were selling up and I had been tasked with getting the property on the market and seeing the deal through. It would be a nice break between Graduation and beginning to hunt for a real job for the first time in my life. We had barely used the place in recent years once my sister and I had grown up, and for most of the summer months it was leased out as a holiday let.
Reluctantly, and after a lot of soul-searching, my folks had taken the decision to sell. My sister was married with a kid on the way and I would be moving out fairly soon. The proceeds from the property and our family home would mean a nice little upgrade for them and set them up for life.
The one slight drawback was that my girlfriend Abbie would not be joining me. At first, she seemed dead keen, but I soon saw signs of her wavering. We’d had a few rocky patches in the previous few months and I hoped it may get us back to where we had been before.
She saw it differently and decided that being in the same house as me 24/7 was not going to work. We said we’d see how we felt when I returned, but I was pretty sure that the stuttering waveform that had been our relationship for the last six months was now flatlining instead of becoming a nice, steady sine-wave.
In the end, I loaded up the car and drove the two-hundred or so miles north alone, wondering what the next few weeks had in store for me. The demographic of the bustling, upwardly-mobile coastal port was largely retirement-age people – including a smattering of household names from sports, politics and stage and screen. I couldn’t imagine there would be many girls my own age to help me while away the lonely nights.
I was largely right on that score.
But it turned out there were plenty of women of a certain age to keep me occupied.
There still are.
It has been one hell of a summer, and now it looks like continuing into the fall and beyond.
I need to get ready now for the evening. It is Fallon Kavanaugh tonight. She is fifty-five years old but she wears me out more than any of them.
My name is Scott Brooks. I am twenty-two years old and have lived in America for almost half that time, having been born and raised in southern England. Over the last few months, I have heard the words, “How can I persuade you?” over and over, and each time it has resulted in something quite extraordinary.
I came to Smuggler’s Cove expecting to be bored and lonely.
I was at first.
Then someone asked me how she could persuade me to do something for her.
Let’s just say she persuaded me.
One – Scott
The drive north wasn’t so bad. Once out of the city, the coastal road was pretty spectacular and on more than one occasion, I spotted seals and dolphins out in the water and there were plenty of seabirds to keep me occupied.
Smuggler’s Cove had become a bolt-hole for the rich and famous in recent years and my folks were lucky enough to invest in the place just before the boom on property began in earnest. When I saw the expected market price, my eyes nearly popped out. It was worth almost twice as much as our city home and that was also going to fetch a pretty penny.
As I said, my folks would be set up for life and for my Mom at least, early retirement beckoned.
The condo was on the long, winding river that flowed into the town. The main central hub was built around the pretty harbour area with restaurants, bars and the Dockyard – one of the best brew-pubs anywhere, inhabiting what was, back in the day, a working dockyard.
Day trippers came for the amazing seafood and to hopefully catch a glimpse of one of the many celebrities that lived in the area. There were regular sightings of A-listers in the local hostelries and out on the boats on the river or near the coast.
My long drive over, I parked in the carport and began the job of transferring my belongings upstairs. What had once been my room was now too small for me, so I decided on using the master bedroom in the hope that maybe it would see some action that didn’t involve my right hand and websites of a certain kind.
Once that was done, I began the more important job of getting my cases of beer and acoustic guitar into the den. I had decided against the electric guitar – I had no idea who our neighbours were these days, but my Mom said that old Jack and Nancy Polger had long-since moved on. They were deaf as posts, bless them, so my squalls of heavy metal and shredding largely went unheard. Not wanting to end things on a bad note – almost literally the way I play – I took pity on the more recent incumbents and left it at my twelve-string. There was no music shop within miles and I had no spare strings, so I was going to have to be quiet and careful.
The car unloaded, there was only one thing on my mind. I walked the casino siteleri half-mile or so along the river in the fading light, listening to the clink of the rigging of the boats and the calls of the gulls and other birds as they swarmed around overhead. The Dockyard was as fine as ever and I followed a lovely, hoppy IPA with what they said was an authentic Kentish Ale. Having never been to Kent or been old enough to drink in my early years in England, I had no idea of its authenticity, but it accompanied my rack of ribs very nicely – so much so that I decided on another.
I spent the rest of the evening strumming quietly on the balcony overlooking the river, making inroads into my beer stash. I had hoped I may be able to serenade some babe from the Dockyard before a long night of passion, but I had been right in my assessment of the place. It was full of older groups of people and I was probably the youngest in there by a distance. If I was going to get lucky, I needed to find where the younger generation hung out – if indeed there was one.
My evening ended as I expected and I tried to imagine the brassy waitress from the Dockyard doing to me what the blonde-haired girl was doing onscreen to some lucky guy.
The next day was Sunday. I went for a coffee and sourdough toast on the harbor, then did a long walk along the coast to reacquaint myself with the area. I tried a couple of bars back in town but the clientele was little different to the Dockyard, where I inevitably ended up in the late afternoon. I had hoped to try my charms on the waitress but she was absent and I seemed to be attracting more attention from the waiter than I really wanted, so beat a retreat back to the condo.
As I passed the next door property, I got my first glimpse of the new neighbours. Or at least one of them. It was early evening and she was reading on a sun-lounger, taking in the last few rays of the day, a long, cool-looking drink on a table next to her. I nodded over the picket fence and commented on the lovely evening.
She looked up from her book. “Yes, a fine one indeed. Making the most of it before the working week ravages my sanity once more!”
I smiled and went to move on. “Enjoy your evening.”
I stopped in my tracks as she went on. “Are you renting the property next door?”
“Erm, no – not exactly. My folks own it but we’ve hardly used it for a few years. I’ve come up in the summer holidays to hopefully get it on the market.”
The woman rose from her lounger and strode purposefully towards the fence. Long, ash-blonde hair flowed out behind her as she walked, her eyes hidden behind an expensive-looking pair of Ray-Bans. “Well if we’re to be neighbours, for however short a time, best be neighbourly.” She held out an elegant, well-manicured hand. “Taylor.”
I had never taken to American sports and luckily had gone to a college that had a rugby team. I played at inside-centre and was a bit of a unit, so I took care not to crush her dainty fingers in my meaty paw. “Hi, I’m Scott.” I nodded towards the condo. “Be a shame to lose it, but they rarely get the time to come up these days. I had some happy summers here.”
She gave me a winning smile. “I love it here. I only moved in a year ago, but I was born and bred in these parts. I guess from your accent you are a Brit, am I right?”
I nodded. “Yes – moved here aged eleven when my Dad came out to work here.”
“Well, let’s hope your last summer here is a happy one too. We tend to be a little insular up here, but seeing as you’re almost one of our own, I’m sure we’ll make an effort.”
It was her turn to nod towards the condo. “Truth be told it will be nice to get some kind of normality. We’re a little isolated out along the river here and with never knowing who is going to be using the property, and it being vacant a lot of the year, it can be a little unsettling at times. Had to raise one or two complaints about noise at the end of last season.”
I apologised to her and resolved to keep my guitar playing to indoors.
“Well, nice meeting you Scott and good luck in your quest to sell.”
I thanked her and was about to walk off once more when she stopped me a second time. “Have you done any research into the real estate guys in town?”
I shook my head. “No, I was just about to go and have a look now.”
That smile was back in place. “Let me save you the trouble. There are two Corporates on the main square off of the harbour – can’t miss ’em. But friends of mine say they’ve had good results from Whiteley and Mason on Ocean Road. Independent, local and a friendly, personal service so they tell me.”
I nodded my approval. “Thanks for the heads up. I’ll be starting the ball rolling tomorrow so I’ll give them all a look.”
She put her sunglasses on top of her head, revealing striking pale blue eyes. “Well, good luck, young man and do say ‘Hi’ if you’re passing. I’m often out front with a good book and a nice refreshing drink!”
In güvenilir casino need of a refreshing drink myself, I went inside, grabbed a beer and settled onto the balcony – without my guitar. From the angle of the buildings, I could just see down onto her front yard and now had time to take in what had slowly been seeping into my mind as we talked across the fence.
The woman was a looker alright. Maybe in her early-forties, tall and elegant with that lovely, soft flowing hair and – once I got to see them – those mesmerising eyes. She was stretched out on her lounger, a long gauzy white shirt worn over an all-in-one, red bikini. I was sure that when we spoke downstairs the shirt had been fastened. Now it was open and gave a tantalising glimpse of cleavage as she lay reading; hopefully unaware of beady little eyes appraising her.
All too soon, she finished her drink and with a deep sigh went back inside, her little respite from her working life almost over for another week. I wondered if there was anyone waiting for her beyond her French window but could not recall seeing a ring on her finger as she removed her glasses when we spoke.
Oh well, at least I had a pleasant enough neighbour for the duration.
I just wouldn’t know for a few days exactly how pleasant she would be.
Two – Scott
The next morning, I took Taylor’s advice. Once I had used what was rapidly becoming my favourite café on the harbour, I headed into the square and soon found the two businesses she had mentioned.
Straight away, I knew what she meant about ‘the Corporates’. Brett Fullinger was a loud, gushing preppy type in a bow tie and huge glasses that reminded me of the headlights of an on-coming hearse. I hoped that he wouldn’t be the one to conduct the initial viewing of the property, but my fears were confirmed when he said he could make three o’clock that afternoon. Oh well, at least it would get it out of the way quickly.
I left with his reassurances that the property was good as sold. I almost gave him the finger as he stood in the doorway and saw me off with a cheery wave. Instead, I muttered the words, “Yes, but not by you, bucko,” under my breath as I waved back less than enthusiastically.
The second place was little better and I was seen by a severe-looking older lady who I felt would be better suited to driving the hearse that Brett’s glasses reminded me of. She could fit me in at one o’clock. That only left the one out on Ocean Road, a small row of clapperboard buildings leading off the square to the north.
It was much smaller than the others and had a homely charm to it with a boardwalk outside and a tasteful, old-fashioned sign swinging in the breeze over the door proclaiming the names of the two partners. It seemed more in keeping with the charm of the town than the brash exteriors of the other two. My arrival into the light, airy room was heralded by the tinkle of a bell and a young girl looked up at me from her desk, smiling broadly.
“Hi, welcome to Whiteley and Mason. I’m Greta. How may I help you today?”
She was just about the first person I had seen close to my own age so far, and very pretty. Unfortunately, any brief excitement I may have felt was short-lived as this time, I was definitely aware of an engagement ring on her left hand.
I introduced myself and gave her a brief outline of my mission. At the third telling, it was beginning to wear thin and I was glad this was my last port of call. When I finished my resumé, she tapped at her keyboard for a moment, her lips pursed, the pencil in her other hand tapping on her cheek.
“Ok, we’ve got a little bit of a problem at the moment. Unfortunately, Sally – the ‘Mason’ part of the equation – is away on maternity leave and her replacement isn’t due to start until next week. Ms. Whiteley is out all day viewing properties further up the coast, so I’m afraid it is going to be at least tomorrow afternoon before she can see you. I’ll get her to call you as soon as she is available.”
She looked up at me with big, sad eyes, clearly used to this spiel and clearly knowing the effect her fluttering eye-lashes would have on any red-blooded male. “Is that ok, Mr. Brooks?”
It wasn’t, as I wanted this tied up as quickly as possible, but then again there was no real urgency. “Yes, fine thanks, Greta. I’ll wait to hear from you.”
I walked out into the late morning sun, unable to console myself with a drink at the Dockyard. I needed to be back to make sure the place looked its best before Madame Undertaker and Preppy Brett gave it the once over. I just wished that Ms. Whiteley was on the afternoon agenda and fervently hoped she was a better bet than the other two options, as I really couldn’t face going through the sale process with either of them.
Back at the condo, I made sure the main bedroom was tidy and free of any evidence of my solo nocturnal activities. The regular cleaners had been in before my arrival, so to my untrained canlı casino eye – more used to shared student accommodation – everything seemed ship-shape. Only the pool looked a little forlorn as it had been drained at the end of the previous season and there was no point in refilling it and wasting money on maintenance when it would not be used. I half-heartedly brushed some leaves and detritus off the cover and hoped the mere fact we had a pool would be an attraction in itself.
My afternoon experience was not the highlight of my life and I trailed around in the wake of the older woman, trying to explain the finer points of the property, seemingly much to her annoyance. The look on her face appeared to say, “Yes, I know, stupid boy. I’ve done this since before you were a twinkle in your father’s eye.”
At least she agreed that the asking price was fair for the market. My Dad had done a lot of research in the area and seen what else was on offer and pitched the price accordingly. We had a little leeway built in so she was hopeful of a quick sale. When she offered a discount for exclusivity, I told her I had two more agencies to see in the next couple of days.
A sneer crossed her face. “Brett Fullinger and the Whiteley woman no doubt. I’m sure I’ll hear from you again on Wednesday, Mr. Brooks – when you call to say you have given us exclusive rights.”
She walked to her car unaware I had both middle fingers held up to her retreating back.
My hour with the aforementioned Mr. Fullinger was even worse and by the time he left, my ears rang as he told me in stentorian tones what his company could do for me. Again, exclusivity was mentioned. Once more, I prayed that this Ms. Whiteley would be my preferred option.
It was late the next morning when I heard from her. She sounded a little breathless down the phone. “Oh, good morning Mr. Brooks. Sorry for the delay getting back to you. I’m the Whiteley part of Whiteley and Mason. I believe my colleague told you of our little issues yesterday?”
She didn’t sound as ‘corporate’ as the other two, but I still didn’t hold out much hope. She apologised for the slightly chaotic situation and said she would be able to drop by after work that evening. Would six o’clock be convenient?
Again, it wasn’t really. Ok, I had nothing pressing, but I felt these things should be done during normal working hours and didn’t like being tacked onto the end of her day to suit her. Reluctantly, I agreed and as the hour approached, I did another tour of the property to make sure all was in order. At least it would be my last one.
Then my heart sank. How many viewings would it need before we sold? How many times would I need to check the place over? I felt I should just give the keys to whoever I went with, run back home with my tail between my legs and let them get on with it.
Then I answered the ring of the doorbell at just after six that evening and everything changed. Soon afterwards, my life was turned upside down and nothing was quite the same afterwards.
At first I was taken aback when I surveyed the scene. My neighbour, Taylor, stood in the porch, a playful smile on her lips. “Hello, Scott. Hope you had a nice day!” I was barely able to take in that she was in work attire – a black pencil skirt and a plain white blouse. Her hair was up and she wore thick, blue-rimmed glasses. If anything, she looked even more elegant and alluring than when I had seen her on the lounger.
Her smile turned to a puzzled look at my blank response. “Everything ok?”
“Oh, hi Taylor. Sorry, nice to see you but it’s just that I was expecting someone else. There’s someone coming to view the property about now.” I stared off over her shoulder, hoping to see a car pull into the drive. “She’s a bit late.”
For the second time in a few days she held her hand out to me, a huge grin on her face. “Taylor Stephanie Whiteley of Whiteley and Mason at your service. Apologies for being late, Mr. Brooks. If I may say so, it’s been a bastard of a couple of days with my partner being with child.”
She laughed at my open mouth. “Sorry for the subterfuge on Sunday. Couldn’t resist a little self-promotion. May I come in?”
Vaguely aware I still had hold of her outstretched hand, I let go and beckoned her inside. My initial shock now over, I laughed myself. “My sincere apologies, Ms. Whiteley. Please do come in. I think I’ll allow your self-promotion given the two appointments I had to endure earlier.”
She gave me a sardonic smile as we moved into the living room. “I take it you have met ‘Full-on Fullinger’ as Sally Mason and I call him. How was ‘Haughty Henrietta’?”
I just shook my head. “Please, don’t remind me!”
“I’m sure they have awful names for me and Sal too.” She put a hand on my shoulder and a little shiver went through me. “Glad you weren’t impressed, though. The older folk round here seem to like Brett for some reason. Think his pompous bluster is sincere.” She glanced at her watch and I thought she may be wanting to move things along.
She let out a long sigh. “Been on the road since seven this morning. Would you think me unprofessional if I asked if you had a nice cool glass of wine going spare before we start to look around?”