Authors: Sahara Kelly
SK Private Label Publications
Cover Art Copyright 2013
Sahara Kelly for P and N Graphics, LLC
To my family, still encouraging me after so many writing years, my thanks. To the wonderful folks who've stayed with me through a difficult time of geographical transition, my warmest hugs and also thanks. To my best friend, for his patience, wisdom, humor and good advice, my eternal gratitude. Over the years he's become my rock, my anchor and my inspiration. Yes, he really would be there with a shovel if I needed help burying the body, digging first, asking questions later…as would I, were the roles reversed. Such is the nature of our friendship. Thanks, Partner.
The "Florida Palms" hotel is entirely fictitious and created from my own imagination, based on some of the lovelier hotels I've had the privilege of visiting. Should there be an actual hotel with this name, which escaped my research process, my apologies. (There is a motel by that name, but since this story is set in a deluxe hotel, I'm figuring that shouldn't be a problem?) No copyright infringement, or actual description thereof, intended in any way. There are so many wonderful hotels in Florida, that finding just one to use as a setting was pretty much impossible. The Sunshine State has hospitality down to a fine art and if you've not had chance to visit, you should try to do so. Just not in the height of summer…
"Good evening. May I help you?"
"Jennifer Hodges. I'm checking in…you should have my reservation?"
The clerk in the wild floral shirt clicked the keys of her computer efficiently, and then nodded. "Yes indeed, Ms. Hodges. One guest, king bed, for four nights?"
Jen passed her credit card across the broad expanse of polished wood, sighing with relief. "That's correct." She pulled out her driver's license and passed that over as well.
While the woman entered all the necessary information, Jen glanced around the lobby of the Florida Palms hotel. With its sea of white marble, granite and oriental carpets, the place looked like a tasteful cross between a Venetian palace and a high-end version of the Arabian Nights .
Not bad. Not bad at all
. Luscious masses of flowers filled giant urns in discreet niches, gleaming brass fixtures reflected the setting sun, while an air of quietly elegant luxury sat comfortably over the entire hotel and its patrons.
"Here you go, Ms. Hodges. Fifth floor. The elevator is to your right and you'll find the pool clearly marked. There's a buffet breakfast on Saturday and our restaurant is open until midnight. Enjoy your stay." The clerk returned Jen's credit card and license, along with an envelope containing two key cards.
"Thanks. I'm sure I will." She tugged at the strap of her small carryon case and a couple of hundred dollars worth of leather followed her across the foyer like an obedient puppy.
The air-conditioning was a welcome caress to her hot and sticky skin. Once again she asked herself why on
she'd picked Florida for her "mini-vacation". After the conference in Orlando finished, she could've hopped a flight to Alaska, or Toronto. Anyplace where the air didn't feel like a wet sponge and her lungs didn't struggle for every breath.
But no. From the comfort of her home office, she had decided to stay on in the Sunshine State, putting the airfare money into luxury accommodations for herself. It was going to be a
, and possibly
, since this hotel boasted one of the finest in the area for the pleasure of its guests.
Pleasure, mused Jen as she keyed in her card and opened her hotel room door, was what this little trip was all about.
Ooooh. Good start
Her feet sank into lush dark green carpeting, and when she flicked on the light she was dazzled by crisp white linens on the king sized bed. A lovely dark wood bureau-slash-entertainment unit flanked one wall, while floor-to-ceiling sheers and drapes admitted the dying light of the sunset.
She crossed to the window, drawing back the curtains and revealing a sliding door. A tiny veranda with two chairs and a small coffee table sat outside, inviting lazy morning coffee times, or cocktails at dusk. Solid whitewashed walls enclosed the space, making it private yet airy.
. The lights on the ground below were flickering to life, illuminating a massive hotel pool, created to resemble a miniature Niagara Falls. Slides for the children were carefully sculpted into the stone and the whole edifice was covered with greenery and flowers—hibiscus probably. It could have figured in a number of postcards for exotic tropical resorts. The blue waters shone, silent and barely rippling as the filters worked diligently beneath the surface.
It was delightful, quiet and just what Jen wanted. August in Florida wasn't exactly the height of the tourist season, unless you were an Eskimo or something, so she didn't anticipate being overrun with conventioneers. Far enough away from the high traffic spots of the state, she was charmed with the peace and tranquility.
This trip wasn't about people. It was about
She glanced west towards where the sun had set and saw—pretty much nothing. Florida, she realized, is mostly an agricultural state, interrupted by lumps of theme parks. A low-lying swamp whose residents congregate in concrete and steel huddles to sport mouse ears. The horizon was, truly, the horizon. No hills or other annoying geographical features got in the way.
It was almost a surprise to find the elegance of the Florida Palms set in such stark scenery. But then again, for her—it was perfect.
With a sigh of pleasure, she kicked off her heels, stripped down to her panties, and in an unusual state of near-nudity, set about unpacking and making herself at home.
It was full dark when she opened the mini-bar, selected her beverage of choice—a nice scotch to celebrate this momentous occasion—and wrapped herself in her silky robe.
The onset of night had cooled the air enough to allow her to sit on the veranda so she took her drink and her cell phone outside with her.
Time to call home. Time to call—David.
Hi. You've reached 555-9193. Please leave a message and I'll get back to you.
Jen sighed and closed the call for the third time. She'd left a message the first time around, over two hours ago, then wondered where the hell he was.
David…I'm at the hotel. Room 522. It's lovely, very Floridian, and I'm going to get myself pampered to death here
." She'd laughed. But it had been a bittersweet laugh. If David had done a bit more pampering she might not even be here.
If David had…had what? Noticed her more? Paid more attention to her needs, her wants? Not lost himself in his high-powered job, putting in endless hours and immersing himself in the thrill of the financial world?
She shrugged and tossed her phone onto the table. He was who he was. After three years together, she knew that. She accepted it.
of the time. And she loved him.
of the time.
The stars were blinking at her and she blinked back. The air was like a soft kiss as she stretched out her legs, crossing them at the ankles and resting them on the table. No worries here—she could be as informal as she pleased.
And she could think of what she pleased, too.
She could ask herself why this gnawing bug of dissatisfaction had driven her away from David, away from everything familiar, sending her on this small self-indulgent vacation.
She wasn't sure she wanted the answers.
Hell. I'm tired. And sticky
The shower was a sybaritic delight, all chrome and fancy bottles of something fragrant, coupled with thick white fluffy towels. It was so typically hotel-ish, since Jen happened to think that no one in their right minds would
buy white towels for their homes.
She grinned as she slipped out of her robe and shoved her hair into a plastic cap.
Pulling aside the pristine shower curtain to reach in and turn on the faucet…she jumped.
"Would you say that again, Ma'am?" The tall man pinched the bridge of his nose, leaning on the wood counter as he held the house phone more closely to his ear.
in my shower." The voice was whispering.
"Okay. There's something in your shower. Can you describe it?"
"It's…big, and hairy…and oh my God I want it
. I'm sorry to be a bother, but could you send somebody to room 522? They'd better be licensed to carry, too. An AK 47 would probably work. Or a flame thrower."
"Uh. Ma'am. If this is an attempt to get your husband out of your room, I should tell you that this hotel frowns upon that sort of thing."
There was silence for a moment, then a surprising gurgle of delighted laughter made his ears heat up.
"Nooo. It's a bug, for heaven's sake. A huge, hairy
. With a
of legs. Probably more than it should have. I'd say it was a spider and call National Geographic, but I swear I've never seen one this big. It could be an alien life form. And if you don't get someone up here soon, it'll probably decide to dominate the planet. Starting with this hotel."
He couldn't help laughing at the absurdity of her comment. "I'll be right there."
He hung up on her muttered "Oh thank God."
Room 522. He quickly checked the registry database. Ms. Jennifer Hodges. One adult in a single king. Hmm. No guests scheduled to arrive. Apparently Ms. Hodges liked to sprawl.
And didn't like bugs.
He beckoned over a sleepy bellboy. "Cover the phones for a few minutes, Enrique. I have to go exterminate a threat to humanity on the fifth floor."
"Another pesky guest, Boss?" The bellboy grinned.
"Pesky bug this time." Cris shrugged and headed for the elevators. He was used to all kinds of odd requests at odd times. It was his hotel, pretty much, and he cherished it as he would a child. Holding the title of "Concierge", the company had long since gotten used to letting the burden of actually running the place rest on his shoulders. When the old manager had retired, he'd taken over. His salary reflected that fact, his small penthouse suite was exactly to his liking, and he couldn't imagine ever doing anything else.
Of course, Angelita had hated it from the beginning. Which was probably why they were contentedly divorced and she had remarried a Miami real estate developer. Cris should have foreseen disaster up front, but hell. He'd been in lust, she'd been one hell of a lay—it had seemed the natural thing to do.
He wondered why thoughts of his ex-wife should resurface while he was on his way to kill a bug.
Perhaps it had been that laugh. Ms. Hodges had one hellaciously sexy laugh. It had made him stir in places he tried hard to keep under control.
There were times when it wasn't easy, like when a group of Vegas showgirls had chosen the Palms for a convention. The barely-there bathing suits and the very-obviously-there assets had upped the drool factor on every male within a twelve-square mile radius. His included.
He'd thought about enjoying a discreet liaison with one of them. But the operative word was "discreet". His position exposed him to any number of come-ons from any number of women, which he declined with graceful humor. It just wasn't worth it. He was too busy running the hotel to go fucking any good-looking babe who fluttered her eyelashes his way.
The elevator doors slid smoothly open on the fifth floor, and Cris turned towards 522. Time to get serious, put on his Indiana Jones hat, kill something, and hopefully soothe the poor woman who'd been scared out of her skin by a bit of Floridian wildlife.
Putting on his most efficient "I'm-here-to-help-you" smile, he tapped quietly on the door.
Jen heard the knock with a sigh of relief. She hadn't been exactly standing on a chair like the quintessential scared-shitless female, but it had been close.
"Ms. Hodges? Concierge."
She peeked through the spyhole to see a crisp white shirt. Good. The authorities were here. Or the hit squad. At this point she didn't care. She just wanted that damned critter in her shower
She opened the door. And gulped.
"Hello. I'm Cristobal Martinez de la Rosa. The concierge. You have a problem with bugs, you said?"
Jen stared. She couldn't help it. He was the most gorgeous thing she'd seen since Antonio Banderas. And
took a beating next to this guy. Tall, with tanned skin peeking from the unbuttoned white shirt, Mr. De la Rosa was a woman's dream made flesh. Dark eyes were smiling at her, gleaming teeth sparkled from between sensual lips, and his hair was tousled a little, rumpled and silky, just begging for the touch of a woman's hands.