Authors: Emily Harper
Copyright © 2013 Emily Harper
All rights reserved.
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ISBN-13: 978-0992095314 (pbk)
To my partner in crime, Jennifer Sully.
It’s hard for me to remember a time that we weren’t best friends, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Thank you to my family and friends, your support means more to me than words can express. To my editor, Emily Ferko, you know I would be hopeless without you. And finally, to David, Ava and Noah, it’s all for you.
Table of Contents
“You know Kate, this whole thing would be a lot easier if you would stop fidgeting.”
“I’m not fidgeting, I just want to make sure you’re doing it right,” I say.
“It will be perfect, don’t worry.”
That’s the problem– I always worry. I worry about Mr. Shaw in suite 204 who keeps sneaking a dog into his room. I worry about the guest in room 210 that says she might have seen a ghost last night; that, or Mrs. Phelps was wandering the hall in her dressing gown. I worry that the caterers are going to run out of food or drop it all on the floor and we won’t have anything to serve. I worry that the housekeeper, Luisa, actually knows more English than she lets on, and has just been toying with me for years. I worry. It’s who I am.
“I just want everything to go smoothly this weekend. If Samantha Manning writes a bad review…” I tell myself not to hyperventilate; I don’t have time for a panic attack. “She didn’t look impressed when she checked in yesterday.”
“She won’t write a bad review because everything is perfect. You made sure it is.”
Of course everything is perfect. I don’t do anything that
perfect. It’s not that I am
… I just like everything to be at its best, and it just so happens that I am the only one that can make sure that it is. But I am
“The Inn looks fantastic; we are fully booked for the whole weekend, and the dinner was amazing last night. Everything will be fine,” Tracy assures me.
“Right, you’re right,” I say. “This is the last thing on my list.”
I live my life by lists. I make a list every night of all the things I need to do the next day and put it on a clipboard. And I know it has become a running joke around here, but I love my clipboard. Every year at Christmas I go out and treat myself to a new one. When I rip off the cellophane and smell the mixture of plywood and metal, I literally have to control myself. Last year I bought a new pen on the same day– it was too much.
“Okay, just hold your thigh back like this,” Tracy says, taking my hand and showing me what to do.
“Like this?” I ask to make sure.
She nods her head and turns to pick something up off the table.
“On a scale of one to ten, this is what– like a four?” I ask.
“It depends. If you get someone who is good at it, it shouldn’t hurt too much.”
“You’re good at it, right?” This is the real reason why I’m here. It’s not that I don’t trust Tracy. She said she was good, and I believe her.
But, I trust myself more.
“The best,” she says. “But, if you keep moving, it’s not going to be even.”
“Sorry, “ I say, and readjust my hand exactly as she showed me.
“Okay, it’s just like ripping off a Band Aid,” she says, and I try not to look panicked at the word ‘ripping’. “Just relax and stay very still.”
“Right,” I nod.
“On three. One, two,” the sound of my phone causes a knee jerking reaction as I attempt to sit up.
“Sorry, sorry!” I say when Tracy pushes back my leg to look at what damage my movement caused. “I just need to get that, could you–”
“Kate, time is of the essence when you are doing this. It will take five minutes. I’m sure it can wait five minutes.”
“Maybe,” I look at my phone doubtfully. “But, that’s the front desk.”
“Give me five minutes,” Tracy says, and her stern look makes me give in.
“Okay, you’re right. Sorry, keep going.”
Tracy takes a deep breath and moves my thigh back.
“Okay, on three. One, two–”
The shrill ring from my pager rolls around the room, making both of us jump, and Tracy’s hand pulls back– the ripping sound fills the room.
“Oh my God!” I scream while Tracy tries to apply pressure to my scarlet colored skin.
“I told you it was going to hurt if you moved,” she argues.
“Why would women ever do that to themselves?” I groan, trying to lift my head to look at the injured area.
“It gets better; the first pull is always the most painful.”
“Really?” I ask skeptically.
“Absolutely, it's basic psychology. Freud, I think,” Tracy says while adding more wax to the stick. “Now you will be expecting the worst and it won't be so bad.”
“Are you sure? I think Freud was the one who came up with
“Maybe it was another one, but the point is it’s scientific,” she says.
“Alright fine, we’ll keep going. Right after I call the front desk–”
“No. We are finishing this now or we’re never going to get it done.” Tracy shakes her head while blowing on the hot wax. “It’s not like it’s a life or death problem; someone probably doesn’t know where the extra napkins are. Why don't you try and think of something else to get your mind off of it? It might help you relax a little.”
Tracy obviously doesn’t know me very well. I’m humanly incapable of relaxing. And how is anyone supposed to relax while their skin is being forcefully removed from their body?
I really don’t have time for this today. I really don’t. But with Samantha’s review hanging over my head, it’s something that needs to be done. I know she goes to the spa all the time, and of course it’s only logical that she would try ours while she’s here.
I like to be thorough with the Inn: personally inspecting every room before a new guest arrives, observing the rush at dinner time, and with the new spa expansion I thought it was a good idea to try out the services to make sure there weren't any kinks to iron out. Though why I thought I needed to try
is beyond me…
No, I know why everything has to be perfect. Two words: Samantha Manning.
Because, if last night was any indication, she’s looking for a reason to ruin my life.
And I can honestly say, I have absolutely no idea why. We went to the same high school: she was the popular one, I was the dork. She got all the boys, and I got new clipboards. She moved to New York to become famous, and I stayed at home to keep an eye on my free-spirited mother. She became a famous hotel and restaurant critic, and I bought a small portion of an abandoned historical home and painstakingly restored it into a beautiful Inn that is now on the verge of bankruptcy. Well, at least it will be if this weekend doesn’t go well.
The Inn’s investors are going to want to see an immediate return on their investment, and in a town whose population would probably fit into one of those fancy condo buildings in Manhattan, instant results are hard to come by. Even so, Summerside is quickly becoming a quaint tourist attraction, especially in the warmer months. Located just outside of New York on the coast, it has good weather and great scenic views, without the high prices of the Hamptons and other vacation hot spots close to the city. But, the renovations of the old plantation-style mansion were more extensive than we had originally anticipated. We missed the summer crowd and as Autumn's breeze is fast encroaching, I had to rack my brains to come up with a solution.
So, I called Samantha. Well actually, I got my mother to talk to her mother, and she called Samantha.
I’m still unsure if it was the right move, which is probably what is making me so crazy right now. I’m never
sure of anything. Or maybe it’s the nasty looks that Samantha gave me last night, or the way she “accidently” spilled her drink all down the front of my dress.
It’s a toss up.
I have to win her over though; one positive review from Samantha Manning will make this the most popular Inn for miles around. But, if she hates it here…
Well, let’s say I hope my organs are in good shape because I might have to sell a few.
“That's good, I can see you're relaxing,” Tracy says while smearing the wax on my skin.
I nearly laugh out loud. I’m sure I am the picture of relaxation.
“I’ll relax when this weekend is over and we have our five star rating.” I would even take a four at this point.
No, that’s a lie. A four star rating would eat away at me for the rest of my life. I don’t do anything by almost.
“I feel like I haven’t seen Tim and the boys in days,” Tracy says, putting the stick inside the waste bin. “That must be why
so relaxed lately.”
“Oh please,” I say. “You and Tim are more in love now than when you guys were crowned prom king and queen.”
“It’s a different kind of love now,” Tracy reaches for the next strip of cotton. “Back then, you were in love with everything the person was going to be. After a while, you’re in love with the person in spite of what they’re not.”
“Everyone was different in high school. I would be worried if nothing had changed.”
“Things have changed alright,” she says, looking down at her body. “Well, for some of us. You have the same great genes as your mother. Those killer cheekbones and green eyes. It also helps that you haven’t had two kids.”
I look down at my body; it’s always been all legs. I have a great figure if I wanted to be a ballerina, which sounds great in theory, but I have no coordination and hardly any cleavage. Also, it’s hard to get people to take you seriously when a small wind could knock you over.
“Some things change for the better though. I was such a bitch to you in high school– which I’m now mortified about,” Tracy laughs, “and now I’m giving you your first bikini wax.”
“Then why do I get the impression that you still hate me?” I look at the strip of cotton in Tracy’s hand.
“You should be grateful; Tim says I have the hands of an angel.” She leans forwards, her attention focused on placing the cotton strip in the right spot, but stops and looks apprehensively at me. “You know, I could talk to her if you want. I haven’t seen Samantha in years, well except for last night, but she’s a real piece of work. I mean, she was nasty in high school, but she seems to have developed an extra set of horns as she got older. If I mentioned we needed a good review…”
“No, I want the Inn to get a five-star rating because that is what it deserves. No favoritism,” I say.
I don’t count the chocolates I placed on her pillow last night as biasing the results. Or the gift basket full of handmade soap. Those were more ‘welcome home’ presents than please-don’t-destroy-me bribes.
At least, that’s what the rational part of my brain told the ethical part.
“Samantha should be down for breakfast any minute,” I say. I can just imagine her walking down the oak staircase in deathly high heels, a tight mini dress, her long blond hair glistening. She’s one of those women who never age, and when I saw her for the first time again yesterday I felt so… plain.
My hair has been overdue for highlights for the last two weeks, but with the Inn opening and the review, the task didn’t make it onto my list.
My naturally curly hair is always secured in a bun on the back of my head anyways, so it doesn’t actually look that bad. But when you are standing beside a goddess, roots don’t help the situation.
I wear a black skirt suit to work from Monday to Thursday. Friday I wear a grey one (you know, get a bit crazy for the weekend). On Saturday and Sunday my mother insists that the staff be allowed to dress more casually, so she forces me into a pair of dress pants and a blouse.
Considering Mom wears kimonos everywhere she goes, someone has to be able to represent the Inn properly. My mother co-owns the Inn with me and the other investors, and helps me run the day to day operation. Though, most of the time I have to look after the Inn and fix whatever mess she’s made of her daily tasks all on my own.