Thursday, May 9, 2024

Seducing the Innkeeper is featured on Opening Scene Thursday #MFRWAuthor #BWLAuthor #romance #spicy #Vermont #Son not known about



Chapter One


Christa Sommers counted the receipts for the restaurant and the bar of Green Mountain Inn. She rubbed her forehead and stared at the totals. As she matched the copies of the bills with the cash and credit card slips she clenched her teeth. Someone had slipped with a heavy hand into the cash and she knew the identity of the culprit or culprits. A hundred dollars short. Last week the shortage had been nearly four hundred.

She reached for the stack of just paid bills. For the fourth month she had to use money from the room rentals to cover the bar and restaurant expenses. Her stomach roiled. The time had come to inform the thieves and ignore the guilt trip they would attempt to use again. This time she wouldn’t cave. She might even call the police. But they were family and she had very few relatives.

“Mom, when are we leaving?”

Christa smiled at her son. “Give me ten minutes.” She tousled Davy’s blonde hair and felt a pang of regret. He looked so much like the father he didn’t know.

Do not walk that road. She had no time for regrets. She wrote the last check and sealed the envelope. After putting the money and credit card slips in a deposit bag she reached for her jacket.

Before she and Davy reached the office door her half-sisters barged into the room. She looked at her son.  He didn’t need to hear another quarrel with the pair. “Davy, wait for me outside.”

He glared at the two young women. “Okay.”

Christa cleared her throat. “Just what is your problem today?” She waited for one of them to speak.

“You have to look at this brochure.” Peggy waved a paper. “This is absolutely what Stel and I need to survive boredom. The guests who stay here are old.”

“We need to have some fun,” Stella added. “Meet young and very eligible guys.”

“No cruise.” Christa noted the prices. “This is out of the question.” Though the guests who come to view the fall foliage were older they were little problem. “I’m no longer paying for your fun and games.”

“Why not?” Stella fisted her hands on her hips. “You owe us. Remember where you were when Mom and Dad died. We were left alone and ended in that place for six weeks.”

Christa swallowed. She wouldn’t bite this time “I said so. You need to find jobs.”

“We have them here,” Peggy said.

Stella sneered. “Right. Steering old people to tables and running the cash drawer. Getting paid pennies. All we need is a few thou.”

Christa shook her head. “Not possible. We need to discuss the money that’s missing from the restaurant and bar registers. There are discrepancies.”

Peggy stepped closer. “If people didn’t use credit cards we could have all we want.”

Stella nodded. “She’s right. We just need a vacation. A singles’ cruise is perfect. We might find the right men.”

Christa remembered the bills from the vacation the pair had taken in June to celebrate Peggy’s college graduation. And the problems presented by the two men who had followed them to the inn hoping to share the bounty. At twenty-two and twenty-three her half sisters were selfish and self-centered. When would they stop blaming her for an accident that hadn’t been her fault? She had been out of touch when they’d needed her. The single time had happened years ago. The time had come for them to be responsible for their own lives.

Peggy planted her hands on the desk. “Why do we always have to fight for our share of the inn’s profits?”

Christa drew a deep breath. “You have no share.”

“So you say.” Stella glared. “On Monday we’re calling a lawyer.”

“Go ahead. Do that instead of taking the path you need to find jobs.” There she’d said what she’d avoided since Peggy had graduated in June.

“What are you talking about?” Stella’s voice rose to a strident pitch. “We own more of this dump than you. Mom said no matter what happened to Dad we were set for life.”

“She lied.” Christa knew her father had told his second wife lies about the ownership of the inn. Until his death he’d been her guardian with no more than a life tenancy. After his death she’d learned her mother had left the inn to her. “You also need to know the inn is for sale.”

“You can’t do that,” Peggy said.

“We won’t sign,” Stella added.

“Your signatures aren’t needed. Now hear this.” Before she could tell them her next part of the offer the pair stomped away.

Christa slumped in a chair. Their anger and the thefts weren’t her fault except she had allowed the pilfering to continue all summer. She had meant to tell them the moment Peggy had graduated from college. As usual she had tabled the confrontation. No longer. They had to learn their free-loading days had ended.

“Mom, when are we going?”

“Now.” She grabbed the stack of envelopes and the deposit bag and followed her son to the Jeep. A grin turned her lips upward. She had finally grown a spine. The trick was finding a way to keep the bones firmly in place.

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