The ride of her life with a super sexy co-driver…
It’s been forty years since Noreen Kincaid spent that carefree summer in the Florida Keys, but she’s never forgotten one steamy second.
After too many bad relationships, she’s sworn off men, but when she inherits her uncle’s classic red Corvette, memories of sultry nights driving with the top down beside the town’s sexiest bad boy, Cutter Sorenson, return unbidden. On a whim, she decides to drive the vintage convertible from Florida to her home in San Francisco.
Cutter Sorenson never forgot Noreen Kincaid or that summer they shared riding in her uncle’s smokin’ hot convertible. Does she think she’s going to drive off with the Corvette he’s put his blood, sweat, and tears into maintaining for the last forty years? The car he thought would be his when his good friend Mortimer passed on? Not if he can help it. There’s only one thing to do—drive to California as her mechanic, and try like hell to convince her to sell him the car.
But when old passions spark and their nights grow steamier than anything they shared during that Corvette summer, Cutter has to admit she’s the girl he never got over. It’s not just the car he wants, but the woman she’s become. But how can he convince a woman who’s been burned too many times that he’s the man she’s been waiting for?
Snap on your seatbelt and take off for the drive of a lifetime in this second chance holiday romance.
All books in the Once Again series are stand-alone stories. No cliffhangers!
What Readers Are Saying:
Top Down to California
©2023 Jennifer Skully
“The old man had five hundred thousand dollars?” Valerie’s voice rang with incredulity, a hint of scorn thrown in. She’d never had much use for Uncle Mortimer.
The morning sun streamed through the bay window of Noreen Kincaid’s kitchen. Late March could still be chilly in the San Francisco Bay Area, but the sun warmed her enough to push up the sleeves of her sweater.
Laying the estate lawyer’s letter on the table, she smoothed the creases beneath her palms. They all looked at her expectantly, her daughters, Grace and April, her sister, Valerie, and her best friend, Tammy Barlow.
Noreen had been flabbergasted when she received the letter from Uncle Mortimer’s attorney. Five hundred thousand dollars? And he’d left it all to her? How did her uncle even have that much money?
Uncle Mortimer had been what their mother called the black sheep of the family. Though he’d gone to university like all the Kincaids, he hadn’t done much with his life, at least according to their mother’s standards, squandering his education by moving to Key West and chartering fishing boats. He was like Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen, taking tourists out on the water and living in a shack on the shore. And, his family thought, barely able to support himself.
Noreen had never seen him that way. She’d liked him. He was carefree, doing what he wanted with his life, and he never seemed to need much. Not like their mother, with the big house, the jewels, the fancy cars. In her teens, Noreen had gone out to Key West four summers in a row. She’d gotten to know her uncle, learned to accept him and love him just the way he was.
“His lawyer writes that Uncle Mortimer owned several fishing boats,” Noreen synopsized the letter. “He never used all the money he earned.” That sounded like Uncle Mortimer, just living his life, frugally and simply. “It says here that the trustee’s instructions were to liquidate everything, giving all his captains the right of first refusal to buy the boats.” She pulled the letter close. Even at fifty-seven, she didn’t need reading glasses yet, and she could see the fine print easily. “Since we’re his only living relatives, we get the money.”
Valerie snorted. “You mean you get the money. Mom’s going to be so pissed.”
Noreen searched for disgust and anger in her sister’s voice, but she didn’t hear it. Valerie was divorced with two sons, both of whom still lived in the Bay Area. Working as a customer service manager for a manufacturing company, she wasn’t struggling, but she could use the money far more than Noreen. Yet nothing in Valerie’s voice begrudged Noreen the windfall.
Their mother, however, could be a different story.
Valerie, sixty now and three years older than Noreen, had chosen not to visit their uncle on Key West when they were teenagers. Leaving her boyfriend, whom she’d dated all during high school, was out of the question, and then university became her priority. Flying out to Key West to stay with an uncle she barely knew never interested her.
Yet Noreen had still made her decision. “I look at it as family money, not just mine. We’re splitting it.” She looked at her beautiful daughters. “And you too. You can do whatever you want with the money. Even buy a house.”
“But Mom.” Grace didn’t add anything to that, the shock clear on her pretty face. With long blond hair she usually wore up in a bun, she took after Noreen far more than April, her younger daughter, did.
At thirty-four, Grace was a purchasing specialist for a leading department store chain with a major online presence. She loved her job, was well-adjusted, and one quarter of the money could be a down payment on an attractive condominium somewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area. And April, twenty-six, with dark, curly hair like her father, was fresh out of veterinary school and doing an internship. The money would go a long way for them both.
The only one she’d left out was her best friend, Tammy. Despite being the mother of three, Tammy had few wrinkles and almost no gray in her brunette hair. Maybe that came from being happily married. A successful marketing executive, she didn’t need the money the way Valerie and the girls did, especially after the inheritance she’d received from her mother.
When Noreen looked at her, Tammy smiled, understanding the way best friends did without having to say a word.
“That’s generous of you,” Valerie said, her voice warm, as if she meant it. They could have been twins with their blond hair and their mother’s face. They both dyed away the gray, but Noreen had cut hers to just above her shoulders, revealing some of the curl, while Valerie still wore hers straight to the middle of her back.
“But that money was for you, Mom,” April said.
Grace echoed her. “We didn’t even know Uncle Mortimer.”
“That was my fault. I should have sent you out there to spend time with him. And even gone with you. We all could’ve gotten to know him better.” She shrugged, the tug of guilt around her heart. “I guess life just gets in the way.”
It was more accurate to say her mistakes had gotten in the way. Noreen wasn’t proud to admit she’d been married four times. And each time she picked the wrong man. After the first divorce, she’d reverted to her maiden name, and she’d always kept it after that. Maybe that should have been a sign to her. But her first marriage produced Grace, and her second gave her April. And while the marriages had been mistakes, her sweet daughters made the turmoil worth it. But then there’d been marriages three and four.
She’d flown out to visit Uncle Mortimer only once after she’d graduated from university, and that was years ago. Obviously he hadn’t held that against her. She’d phoned him though, and later they kept up with each other through video chats. But how long had it been since she’d talked to him? At least three or four months. He was eighty-eight, for God’s sake. She should have checked on him far more often.
Guilt wormed its way through her stomach. She hadn’t even known he’d died until the letter arrived, calling the lawyer immediately to learn that Mortimer had a heart attack two months ago, dying almost instantly. He’d wanted no fanfare, and his ashes were scattered at sea per his request. She hadn’t even been there for a final goodbye.
Maybe Uncle Mortimer wanted it that way.
Valerie looked at her. “You really, really don’t need to do this. I mean, you’re the one that spent time with him and called him. You knew him a lot better than I did.”
Noreen touched her hand. “I want to do this.”
She didn’t say that her sister needed it more than she did, which made it sound as if Valerie had made mistakes with her life. But she’d divorced only once. And part of the reason Noreen had more money was the divorce settlements she’d received, some of which she’d put in trusts for the girls’ educations. She’d done well on her own too. As a freelance editor, instead of taking a flat fee from clients who could ill afford to pay her at the time, she’d received payment as a percentage of future royalties. And she’d made the right choice because several of those authors had gone on to become bestsellers.
Her choice in men, though, had never been her strong suit. One would have thought she’d learned her lesson after two divorces, but no, her choices had sucked every time. And now she’d sworn off men. Well, actually, she’d sworn off relationships and marriage, but she still planned on enjoying a casual liaison every once in a while. When she found the right partner.
But Valerie had made good choices. Her marriage simply hadn’t worked out. Maybe it was just luck that Noreen got where she was. And now she could afford to share her windfall with her sister, and of course, her daughters.
She held up her hands, warding off their protests. “I won’t hear any more about it. I’ll contact the lawyer and make the arrangements. Uncle Mortimer had four beneficiaries, not just one.”
Then, picking up the letter, she held it to her chest. And her smile felt as if it stretched across her face. “The only thing I’m not splitting is his 1959 Corvette.”
Tammy gasped, throwing her arms wide. “He left you the car?” She was the only one at the table who knew just what that car meant.
Noreen nodded, making herself dizzy with excitement. “He left the car to me, specifically. He said I’d always loved that Corvette and he wanted me to have it.”
“Oh yeah.” Tammy winked at her. “I know you love that Corvette.”
Noreen wouldn’t say it out loud, not with her daughters right here, even if they were adults, but she’d lost her virginity in the Corvette. And she wanted that car. She wanted the memories that came with it. She called it her Corvette summer, the summer she’d turned seventeen, the last summer she spent on Key West with Uncle Mortimer. There’d been a very special boy, and the things he taught her in her uncle’s Corvette had been the best of her life.