I began to regret choosing my "rustic cottage" as I dragged my luggage down a path by the beach. I had figured it would be quieter having a cottage to myself, away from the bustle of hotel corridors, but I could see that this would not be the case. The beach was crawling with people, and a soccer game was going on right outside my front door. I managed not to grumble as I interrupted their game by walking right through it to get to my new home.
Given my incredible lack of luck today, I had expected my cottage to be made of plywood and have no electricity or running water, so I was happily surprised to find kitchen facilities, a large screen TV, and my own little hot tub in a room off to the side. I sighed when I remembered I had packed only business suits and paperwork.
I left my luggage in the doorway and flopped down on the bed, angry and exhausted.
"I may be stuck here all week, but you cannot make me enjoy it." I pouted, stubbornly. I made up my mind that I would not take pleasure in any part of this vacation, just to spite my manipulative, blackmailing employees.
To prove that I was still in control, I went to unzip my report-filled suitcase, determined to read them over and get some work done.
I immediately knew something was wrong when something flowery fell out of my bag onto the floor. "Oh no," I whispered. I opened the suitcase all the way. And then I opened my other suitcases to find the same thing. Instead of files, reports, business suits, and my laptop (without which I never traveled anywhere), were colourful, revealing swimsuits, flowery summer dresses, sparkling evening gowns, tanning lotion, massage coupons, trashy novels, herbal teas, a box of swiss chocolates, some DVDs, and a card that read, 'No, we did not lose your luggage and accidentally take someone else's, and yes, we CAN force you to enjoy yourself.' It was signed by all my employees, including Patrick.
Okay, so I was a bit touched that they had gone to all this trouble. But I was mostly furious that they were such evil, plotting villains, bent on making me miserable. As if agreeing with my angry thoughts, the soccer ball hit the side of my cottage with a thud. Then a baby started crying somewhere on the beach.
"I am going to fire them all. Especially Patrick. I'm going to kill him."
The phone on the bedside table was ringing. It was Patrick.
"Did I mention you're fired?" I sorely wished I was talking face-to-face with him so he could feel the full weight of my if-looks-could-kill stare.
"Yes, you did, Ms. Watson. I decided my last act as your employed chauffeur would be to call to make sure you had found a room and were comfortably situated."
"I would be ever so much more comfortable in Chicago, attending meetings and getting things done."
"Have a pleasant stay, Alex. I will come to pick you up on Saturday at 2:00 pm." Click.
Did my chauffeur just hang up on me? Suddenly the exhaustion and humiliation and overwhelming stress of changed plans caught up with me. I wanted to cry.
Instead, I stripped down, put on one of the ridiculous swimsuits and climbed into the hot tub, letting the hot water melt my stress and tension.
My headache was beginning to fade when I heard a knock at the door. I started grumbling again, found a towel, and opened the door, ready to verbally abuse the soccer-playing kids, but instead my jaw went slack and my towel dropped to the floor.
There he stood. Tall, tanned, and muscular beneath his crisp white cotton t-shirt and denim shorts. He looked me up and down, eyebrows lifting. "Alex. You look great."
I looked down at my flowery red bikini and pale, wet skin, suddenly feeling very, very exposed. I snatched up my towel. "What are you doing here?"
And then the alarms went off. A voice over a PA system told us to congregate at the front lobby.
David frowned. "Is this some kind of drill?"
"I don't know." I couldn't stop staring at him.
"I guess we should go see what's going on."
I remembered I was wearing a towel. "Yeah, just let me throw on a... sweater." I dug through the unfamiliar clothes in my suitcase and pulled something over my bikini - some kind of loose, flowery dress. David took my hand and we climbed the beach toward the lobby. There were police patrolling the beach and lobby. A detective was speaking to the crowd in the lobby. A couple people were kneeling around a teen who appeared to have fainted. Everyone was muttering in hushed, disbelieving tones. The detective struggled to maintain people's attention. "I repeat, no one is allowed to leave the premises until further notice."
David tapped an older man on the shoulder. "Excuse me, what's going on?"
"There's been a murder and everyone in the hotel is a suspect."
I raised my eyebrows and looked at David expectantly. "So, tell me again, why exactly are you here?"
David grinned sheepishly. "Looks like I may be stuck here for a while. Any room for your ex-fiance in that little cabin of yours?