Professional organizer, London Quarles knows how to keep her world and the world of others in order. She makes a living at it. When she agrees to help her best friend, Edwina get an inherited property ready for sale, she comes face to face with the first man ever to turn her world upside down. She must find a way to face her fears so that she can fully embrace love.
When Gianni Rossellini left home ten years ago to find refuge in his family’s birthplace, Italy, he was the black sheep of his family. After an unexpected windfall, he decides to return to the States to restore his Aunt Giadora’s home, the place of his family memories, where he confronts the lie that sent him packing in the first place. In the process of restoring the estate, will London and Gianni also be able to restore their faith in family and love? Read how London and Gianni conquer their pasts while building toward their future.
It was eight in the morning and London Quarles was already frantic. She glanced around her office, simply yet tastefully decorated in exotic dark woods that complemented soft green walls and gave it a Zen-like feel. Her décor included a few pictures and a couple of tall plants. The base of one held a miniature waterfall. Despite her efforts to create a stress-free environment, nothing could cover the sound of the busy phones that connected her to potential customers. That morning, the phones were ringing off the hook.
When she’d started her professional organizer business two years ago, she’d had no idea how things would go. The economy hadn’t fully recovered and she wondered if there would be enough people willing to pay to have their lives organized. She found she often had to educate her customers and even certain employees about the fact that they were not a maid service. Their job was to implement organization systems within their homes and/or offices. It was a discussion that she found herself having daily. Especially since running her latest ad campaign, where part of her slogan was, “Let us organize your world!” It seemed simple enough, yet it meant something different to everyone.
She didn’t have anything against being a maid—they worked hard. She knew first-hand since she’d worked as one in a hotel while in college. It just was not what she did anymore. Her reputation had begun to grow rapidly, largely due to word of mouth from a few very satisfied customers. But it wasn’t until after she acquired a couple of large estate contracts that she realized that people were willing to pay an exorbitant amount of money to have her just clean up their mess. So much so, that she was beginning to reconsider offering cleaning as part of the package—but she still wasn’t quite there yet. She knew that if there wasn’t an organization system in place, the mess would return. It was only a matter of time. That was what she preached to her customers regularly. That was something else she knew first hand. She glanced in her floor length mirror mounted on the back of her office door to ensure everything was in place before she entered the lobby.
That day she wore a navy pinstripe pantsuit, a silk white halter and navy sling-back shoes. Not one for a lot of jewelry, she had kept it simple: gold hoops and a thin gold chain with a filigree pendant. Satisfied, she stepped through her door into the medium sized lobby decorated in shades of blue; it was where Edwina was the first person seen just after one left the small foyer separated by an arched entrance. Surrounding her desk was a settee and matching chairs. They used a room adjacent to the lobby for office meetings and presentations. On the other side of that area was a small room with a refrigerator and microwave.
She walked out of her office to the reception area and was surprised to see two women sitting there. She looked toward the front desk for her receptionist, who was nowhere to be found. London ran her fingers through her cloud of natural curls, as she glanced around the office for Edwina. London furrowed her brows as she continued to pan the room. It wasn’t like her receptionist to leave her desk without alerting London first, and odder still for her not to mention there were people in the waiting room. She turned once again to the two women and lifted the corners of her mouth into the semblance of a smile while she fingered her gold filigree pendant. “I apologize. I wasn’t aware you were waiting. I hope you haven’t been here long. Are you together?” she asked as she approached them with her hand extended.
Once the women nodded, she walked them back to her office and began her first consultation of the day. Less than an hour later, London understood their needs and agreed to come to their home the next day to do a walk through, and then they would move forward. She thanked them at the door and then walked toward the receptionist desk, relieved to see Edwina had returned.
Edwina was dressed in a crepe de chine dress in muted plum that complemented her café au lait complexion, the result of an Italian and African-American heritage.
She opened her mouth to vent to her friend, but became aware of her puffy red-rimmed eyes and her quick attempt to patch up her makeup. “Ed—Winnie,” she said softly, deferring to her old nickname. “Come into my office.”
“I’m okay, London. Well, I’ll be okay anyway.”
“I’m not asking,” London called over her shoulder as she headed to her office. She stood in the door and waited for Edwina.
After Edwina entered, London closed the office door and sat on the edge of her desk, watching her friend take a seat in one of the upholstered chairs in front of her. Edwina made an attempt to pull herself together. She already had decided to send her home for the day. Clearly, she was an emotional mess.
“What’s wrong, Edwina? Talk to me.”
After a couple more sniffles, she took a deep breath. Her voice trembled when she spoke.
“My aunt was a background singer overseas for decades before she met and married my uncle Elijah, who died of lung cancer a couple of years ago. Between his illness and her chronic health issues, their savings was eventually drained. Uncle Elijah thought that refinancing the house was their only option; combine that along with the dip in the economy and they were soon struggling. By the time my aunt died, the bank was already threatening to foreclose. None of the family knew any of this until they were ready to settle her estate. We are all sick with worry over the idea of being forced to sell what has meant so much to the family. The grief of knowing we will soon be getting rid of the house she loved so much hurts us beyond words.”
London plucked out a couple of facial tissues from a box on her desk and handed them to her friend to replace the tattered ones in her hand.
She felt tears sting her eyes as she watched Winnie. She ran her fingers through her hair again.
Edwina looked up at London behind a glaze of tears. “I have no idea where to start, London. I haven’t been in my aunt’s house in years. I have no idea if we should try to scramble to do an estate sale or should we attempt to stage the house? Countless HGTV shows are running overtime in my mind!”
If Winnie wasn’t so clearly distressed, she would have burst out laughing. They always told her she was overdosing on HGTV. She couldn’t imagine what overload her mind must be going through.
“Look, I’ll help you. Do you have the keys to the house? We can go over right now and start packing your aunt’s things to be either divided among family or donated. I will switch the phones over to the answering service and we can close the office. We’ll head right over and grab some lunch after. What do you think?”
The smile Edwina forced through her tears made any sacrifice she’d need to make worth it. She could handle anything but watching her friend fall apart in front of her. When Edwina didn’t reply, she took that as agreement and hopped off the desk. She switched over the phones and then grabbed her purse and keys. “No matter what, you can count on me to help you with this right down to the end.”