With her boyfriend, Noah, gone for the weekend leading up to Valentine's Day, Julie is left alone to handle the big romantic getaway package for the guests. The Tiara Islands Christmas celebration may have devolved into chaos, but Julie is determined to make this holiday perfect. She should have known her plans were doomed when she found Noah's gift eating the decorations in the lobby....
When Julie woke that morning, there was a noticeable lack of male limbs stealing the covers. She sighed and rolled over, taking a moment to sprawl over Noah’s side of the bed.
Their first Valentines weekend as a couple, and he wasn’t going to be around.
Julie was a practical woman. She didn’t need flowers or candy or jewels to know Noah loved her. For the most part, she felt the day was over commercialized anyway.
But there was a small part of her, a part kept well hidden, that turned into a teenage girl every February fourteenth, and wanted to be showered with romance.
It was rotten luck that his mother’s birthday fell on that weekend, but obviously not something she could hold against the woman. After all, she’d welcomed Julie into the family with open arms, it was impossible to dislike her. Asking Noah to miss his mother’s fiftieth birthday would have been selfish.
It still kinda made her sad.
But she had work to keep her busy, and Valentine’s day itself wasn’t actually on the weekend. It wasn’t like she and Noah would have had time for a romantic dinner or anything, not with the inn packed and a special Valentine’s weekend full of events to co-ordinate. There were chocolates to place in rooms, flowers to deliver, special desserts to prepare, and the dining room still needed the last finishing touches on the decorations.
There was no time to laze in bed, feeling sorry for herself.
She showered quickly, made a note to get Dean, the inn’s maintenance man, to look at the hot water tank, and dressed in casual clothes. Her mind was already making lists. There had been a snow storm the night before, and
she’d have to make sure the paths were shoveled and sanded. She should probably make sure there were extra Fire-logs available at the front desk. The guests would want a nice fire to cuddle in front of.
She glanced at her own empty fireplace, and shrugged. So she wouldn’t be snuggled up to Noah with a cheerful blaze crackling in the old stone hearth. There was nothing to say she couldn’t start a fire and enjoy a glass of wine, once all the guests had been served dinner, and the inn was quiet for the night.
Hard to believe, it was almost a year since she’d taken over The Tiara Islands Inn. It hadn’t been easy, she mused, as she applied a light touch of make up and pulled her red curls into some semblance of control. Sometimes it seemed like life here was nothing but a series of setbacks and minor disasters.
Her cell began to trill indicating a text message. She scooped it off the bedside table and pressed the home button. Noah’s message appeared in a little speech bubble. “Did you get my surprise yet?”
Julie slid her finger across the bottom of the screen and typed back a reply. “No, where is it?”
After a short pause, the phone trilled again. “In the lobby. Happy Valentine’s Day.”
A rush of warmth spread through her stomach. Julie slid her feet into her boots, grabbed her coat and was out the door before she’d even gotten one arm into a sleeve.
The cold that greeted her outside was like a slap to the face and made her stagger back a step. A harsh wind blew over the frozen lake whipping the soft snow into little funnels. She bit her lip, considered going back in for her hat and mittens, but decided not to bother. She only had a few hundred meters to go to get to the main inn.
The innkeeper’s house had been built close, and since emergencies happened frequently, it had been handy to not have far to run to deal with problems. On the other hand, it was also far too easy for the staff to reach her for less than important things, when she was enjoying some quiet time with Noah.
Because the Inn’s property was made up of a series of islands, and her home was on a small one close to the largest one, she had to cross one slippery bridge on her way in to work. The snow crunched under her feet, it’s surface crisp from the low temperature. Julie tugged the collar of her jacket up closer to her ears, and did her best to protect her cheeks and nose from freezing.
The previous night’s snowfall had been heavy and wet, the sort of snow that sticks to bare tree branches, giving the forest the feel of having hundreds of ghostly white arms. The wind was now shaking the snow free from the trees in clumps and balls. Mother natures version of a snowball fight.
Taking the last tree lined path at a run, Julie slid to a halt at the lobby doors and yanked them open only to stumble to a halt in horror.
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