by Elizabeth Whitaker
When Ellie Birdsong, an ambitious young real estate developer, is sent from Atlantic City to Puerto Rico to “charm the panties off” landowner Carla Valdez, the last thing she expects is to be seduced by the lush island, Carla’s two troubled adopted young sons, and Carla herself.
But in her quest to buy Carla’s sprawling beachfront property on the Caribbean and turn it into a gambling resort, Ellie learns to love the land and its people. As she tours bustling marketplaces, rugged mountains, and historic sites she experiences the culture clash between rich and poor, and tradition and progress.
As Ellie’s love and respect for Carla grows, their relationship is threatened by a ruthless gangster who also wants Carla’s land, by jealousy and romantic rivalry, and by the disappearance of Carla’s younger son. Torn between her professional ambition and her feelings for Carla, Ellie may risk losing Carla’s trust and becoming her “beloved enemy.”
FROM THE AUTHOR
"When planning a new novel, I usually establish the characters then, because it is a mystery, I plan the twists and turns of the plot. The romantic and emotional elements tend to blossom as I go along. With Beloved Enemy, the process was entirely backwards. This book was born on the wings of a romantic memory, on the sights, smells and sensations of first love that came back to me almost like a dream."
Nutmeg - This is a book that has two equally strong headed leads who suffer no fools, hold no punches and love with a passion. They burn with desire for the other but blend like oil and water. There were issues of trust, plenty of guessing and the characters could get messy but somehow carry an alluring quality to them.
A little turbulence…
Ellie leaned against the jet window and gazed out at the lightning bolts. They fluttered like the butterflies romping in her stomach and flashed through a fabric of dirty gray clouds. With a little luck, when the pilot curved in over the harbor, leaving the ocean behind, San Juan would emerge as clear and sunny as advertised in those brochures she’d been studying for the past few months.
“If the storm scares you, ma’am, why not pull down the shade?” The deep, honey-smooth voice startled her.
An exceedingly tall guy hovered in the aisle, his elbow braced against the headrest of the empty seat beside her.
“Rocky ride.” He stated the obvious, almost losing his balance. “Mind if I sit down till I get my sea legs?”
Those butterflies in her stomach started flapping like caged crows. What made this unwelcome stranger think he could invade her private space and make himself at home? This never would have happened a few years ago, during COVID-19, when jerks like him were masked up and isolated two rows away. Her mama hadn’t raised her up rude, yet she was royally pissed when the man hefted up her personal briefcase, which occupied the vacant seat to discourage such ignorant behavior.
She lunged to repossess her property, but as they tussled, the unlatched case popped open, spilling its contents everywhere. “Shit!” This time even Mama’s ghost couldn’t control her rage.
“Aw jeez, I’m sorry, ma’am.”
His arrogant grin did not remotely suggest an apology as he toppled down and planted his rump beside her. At the same time, his large hands began gathering up her papers. In the process, he bumped parts of her anatomy that were strictly off-limits.
She pushed his hands away. Was it her imagination, or was he actually reading her proposal? She snatched it and stuffed it, along with her other papers, into the case. She twisted the lock, shoved everything under her seat.
“Smart move.” He smiled. “We are required to stow our belongings under our seats in this kind of turbulence.” The nutcase fastened a seatbelt across his lap, like he intended to stay.
“Beg your pardon, but these seats were guaranteed to be vacant when I booked this flight, and I have work to do before we land.”
“Hey, lady, the pilot just turned on the warning sign. We’re supposed to stay seated till further notice.”
“So how come you’re roaming the aisles?”
“Call of nature?” He winked.
She sighed. Dear Lord, why me? She had noticed this man boarding at the last minute. Who could miss him? He was at least six feet, four inches tall and wore an old-fashioned, crisply ironed white shirt, unbuttoned to expose a little chest hair and a gold chain. He was somewhat attractive, if one liked straight guys, but a wicked scar running down the right side of his face from just under his ear to below his jutting jaw, made him less handsome, more sinister. She figured he was in his late thirties, ten years older than she.
“So, do you live in Atlantic City?” he asked as his knees pummeled the backside of the forward seat, awakening the infant passenger cradled there, who immediately began to cry.
“Yes, I live in Atlantic City,” she informed him in her best dry ice voice, praying he’d go away. Something about him sent a sharp chill down her breastbone.
“I’m from Philly, but I was there on vacation,” he said. “I like to gamble, and I like to win.”
Was she supposed to ask how much he won? In his dreams. The intruder had a slight Spanish accent, though he claimed to live in Philly. Maybe he had family in San Juan.
Over the years, she’d worked hard to disguise her own accent. She’d been raised in a double-wide in the mountains of western North Carolina, but to get ahead in this life, she’d learned to keep the South outta her mouth. Yet no matter how many air miles she logged, how successful she became, she would never dig free of her Southern roots, nor did she want to.
“You are Eleanor Birdsong,” he stated. “Is Birdsong a Native American name?”
How the hell did this man know her? The chill in her breastbone plunged to her gut, and suddenly she was terrified.
“You work for DynaCo, based in Atlantic City, and your boss is Dyna Collins. You deal in international real estate,” he continued in a monotone.
“Have we met?” She inched away as far as possible, flattening her right side against the body of the airplane. She stole a peek at the stranger’s dark, hawk-like eyes
He laughed, but the humor never reached those eyes. “No, we’ve never met, Ellie. Folks call you Ellie, right? I read the info on the cover of your proposal, before you locked it away. I recently met your boss, though. She’s a mean poker player. I’ll bet Dyna Collins is a bitch on steroids to work for. Am I right?”
She turned away, her heart racing. The jet bucked violently as they began their descent, and the baby in the forward seat squalled. Who the hell was this guy? He certainly didn’t look like one of the mobster types who haunted the boardwalk in Atlantic City. Was he a real estate competitor, or just some horny loser looking for a date? Men hit on her more often than she cared to admit. They never tagged her as a lesbian, even though she firmly rejected their flirting.
“Who are you?” She was half afraid to look at him.
He reached across her and lowered the little plastic shade, blocking out the thunderstorm. In the process, his elbow bumped her breast.
“I’m your guardian angel.” He smirked.
She hated it when guys copped a free feel, so her fear became fury. She delivered a sharp jab to his ribs with her left elbow. This joker was no angel.
At that moment their stewardess appeared in the aisle and tapped her companion’s shoulder. “We’re preparing to land. Sir, will you please return to your seat?”
Now this stewardess was an angel. She stood firm until Ellie’s tormentor grunted and maneuvered his long limbs up and out of his seat.
“It’s been a pleasure chatting with you, Ms. Birdsong. Perhaps we’ll meet again someday.”
God, she hoped not. She held her breath until the creep left and did not exhale until he was out of sight, leaving her more nervous than before about the ordeal awaiting her on terra firma.