When hotelier Samuel Ashford arrives to change things, Southern Charm chef Dakota Mitchell fights against it and nothing will be the same.
Learning about the sale of his beloved home – The Southern Charm, chef and co-owner Dakota Mitchell is having a hard time with the potential changes. He wants nothing else to alter.
Chosen by his family's company Ashford Hotels to re-create the Charm into the latest chain of boutique hotels, Samuel Ashford enters the Deep South. Inside the overgrown, run down appearance, he learns the Charm is run by people who care and love the building, the delicious food, and their guests.
Can these two put aside differences and arguments to save the Charm? Even if it means they find a little love along the way.
General Release Date: 18th April 2014
“I can’t believe you went ahead and sold the Charm without alerting me of your final decision. I thought we were considering our options, not going ahead with a contract,” Dakota Mitchell said. He couldn’t keep the irritation out of his voice. The familiar work he was engaged in helped him from losing complete control over his anger. Running his sharp chef’s knife through a pile of onions, bell peppers, celery, and several cloves of garlic with skill and ease was one way of not using the blade on something or someone else. Lifting the knife, he waved it at his best friend and now apparently former partner in their business, Edward Schaffer. “What were you thinking? One more year I told you. One more season and we would have been fine and back in the black. The entire region is recovering from the damn oil spill, but everyone is starting to come back to the Gulf.”
“Lisa and I don’t have any more money to put into the Charm. Either we sold or the bank was going to foreclose on the mortgage,” Edward said, shoving a hand in his pocket. “Things were at the point of no return. We’re too deep in the red and I saw no other way to save the Charm. I had no other choice. We couldn’t wait for another season, not with the pre-season bookings.”
“Shit, Ed. I would have given you what I could—”
“No, it’ll be too much on my financials and personal fortitude to lift the Charm out of the mortgage debts and keep her running. I have nothing left to invest and I’m close to losing my home. I know as well as you do what you have in the bank. You don’t have that kind of capital. The one thing holding the Charm is your restaurant and I don’t want you to lose it to foreclosure.”
“You didn’t give me the chance to help. I could have signed a new loan or some kind of modification.” Dakota couldn’t stop the disappointment coloring his voice.
“It’s too late to argue now. I did what was best for my family, for my health, and for the Charm. It was a difficult decision, but one I had to make. I’m sorry but papers are signed passing my share over to the buyers.”
“I didn’t sign over my share nor do I plan on signing over anything. This restaurant is still my piece.” Dakota tugged over a bowl of washed, fresh Gulf shrimp to finish preparing it for his trademark gumbo. Needing a few moments to deal with the bombshell dropped on him he turned back and checked the colour of the roux, giving it a few good stirs. In another large pot, he checked the simmering stock and his timer. He picked up the strainer and skimmed off the fat and scum from the top.
What was going to happen without Edward being the other half of the hotel? Where did the decision leave Dakota and the staff? Who had bought the restaurant? Listing the questions in his head he turned to face his friend. Edward had suffered a mild stroke last year and it had aged him.
“I told them you were keeping your share of ownership. No one is going to ask you to sign over anything. I made sure it was in the contract. They’re sending one of their fellas from management to look things over.”
Dakota snorted his disbelief, he couldn’t help himself. “You mean they’re coming here to change things,” he said harshly, “It’s what they’re going to do, you know. No matter what they promise, they’ll take all the beauty and magic out of the Charm and make her ordinary, boring and another bland place no one will remember.”
“Dakota, I’m sorry. It wasn’t easy to find a buyer. Please. I wish there could be another way.”
“I understand. I’ll deal with things.” Dakota took his flash of temper out on the large grey shrimps sitting on his bamboo covered work surface. He snapped a head, fins and legs off one crustacean. A quick slice with a small knife and he peeled off the thin shell. Another slice and he yanked out the black vein and guts from the back. He tossed all the scraps into a container to make stock from the tasty shells and guts.
Dakota saw Edward shudder out of the corner of his eye.
“Must you do that in front of me?” Edward muttered with another shiver. A grimace curled his lips and emphasised the lines in his face.
When Dakota looked closely at Edward, someone he thought of like a father, he noticed he appeared tired, exhausted, but there was a spark of something in his eyes. Relief? Jeez, all Dakota was being here was selfish. Edward had attempted to talk about selling up on so many occasions and all Dakota had done was push his words to one side with his normal ‘we’ll be fine’. Guilt climbed inside him and with it came his usual sense of humor to dispel the emotion.
Glancing from the small crustacean to his friend, Dakota lifted and wiggled it in Edward’s face. “What? Don’t want to eat the little shrimp?” He deliberately deepened and thickened his Southern accent to annoy Edward further with the teasing.
When Edward smiled, it reached his eyes this time. The teasing was familiar and somehow dangling the shrimp in Edward’s face was enough to break the unsettled anger. He batted Dakota’s hand away. “Knock it off, Dakota,” he said with a shudder. “It has eyes.”
Dakota chuckled knowing the shrimp always got a rise out of his friend. He shook his head and focused back on the matter in hand. “Who bought it anyway?” Was that a reasonable question to ask or will it just bring up the anger again? When Edward paused, Dakota immediately knew he wouldn’t like the answer.
A quiet one, Nicole Dennis is the penname of an asexual author of different genres of fiction – both LGBT+ and hetero. Lots of characters, worlds, and stories build up in her head until she must get them down on the screen – anything from romance to fantasy to paranormal.
During the day, she works in a quiet office in Central Florida, where she makes her home, and enjoys the down time to slip into her imagination. She is owned by a new feline companion – a house panther, affectionately known as Brat Cat.
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