When I’m not day-dreaming about what I’m going to make for the Super Bowl gathering I’m going to tomorrow–leaning towards meatballs with a grape jelly/srirachi sauce glaze and a jalapeño and artichoke cheese dip–I am working on several projects. Up toward the end of February will be MOTIVE, finally, my next mystery that is set in the same world as TRUST. After that I think I am going to focus on this new contemporary romance series, that is set in Boston and the first book revolves around the Ryan family business–a boutique hotel called The Madison, located in the Back Bay. Here’s a bit about what inspired the series and an excerpt of the opening chapters.
Although the hotel is a family business, out of seven children, Emily is the only one who works there full-time and is as passionate as her father is about the Madison. It’s expected that one day Emily will completely take over the business….but business tycoon Will Chapman is also interested in the Madison.
This story was inspired by a wonderful stay I recently had at The Lenox Hotel, in Boston. I was in town for a conference and the hotel was so cozy and luxurious…I even had a working wood fireplace in my room and the front desk sent someone up to “build” my fire. The pic to the left is of the room I stayed in….Below are the opening pages of this WIP. I hope you enjoy, and welcome any comments below. 🙂
“Martha, where’s the Madison folder?” The frustration in Will’s Chapman’s voice was evident. As CEO of the Chapman group, Will’s office was plush. Gleaming dark bookcases lined the walls, and rich velvet drapes framed floor to ceiling windows that overlooked Central park. Thick cream colored carpet, the kind your shoes sink into, gave the floors a warm glow and in the middle of the room, behind a giant, dark pine desk piled high with books and papers, sat Will, nearly rubbing his eyebrows off.
“It’s right in front of you, under your newspaper. If you don’t mind my saying so, you’re grouchier than normal lately.” Will Chapman’s executive assistant looked at him thoughtfully as she set a steaming mug of coffee in front of his computer. “When was the last time you took a vacation? Any time off at all?”
Will took a sip of the rich dark coffee and considered the question. Martha, his EA had been with him for nearly fifteen years and was one of the few people he knew who didn’t hesitate to speak her mind around him. He allowed it, in fact, appreciated it as even though Martha was just a few years older than him, she was almost always right, and had a tendency to mother him a bit, it was just her way.
“It has been a while.” He admitted. He couldn’t recall the last true vacation he had taken. Was it when he went to Aruba? No, that was almost ten years ago. Surely he had taken a trip since then.
“Aruba was the last trip I booked for you. Do I need to do the math and remind you how long ago that was?” Martha was laughing at him now and Will sighed and then looked at his date book, there was really nothing pressing for the next two weeks. Nothing that couldn’t be put off. Martha went back to her desk and turned her attention to her work, while Will sat there for the next ten minutes, fuming and going back and forth over what he’d already decided to do. He got up from his desk, and strolled into Martha’s office. She glanced up with a look of surprise as he approached her desk. Will understood. He rarely needed to enter Martha’s area, she always came to him.
“Have you booked me into the Madison hotel yet?” He was heading to Boston later that day to scout out the hotel his company was considering buying out.
“Of course, you’re confirmed for two nights, arriving this evening.”
“Do you think you could extend that to two weeks?” His expression was a bit sheepish as he added, “I’m sorry I snapped at you, and you’re right, some time off would do me good.”
“Plus, it will give you additional time to check out the hotel.” Martha’s eyes twinkled and Will knew she was thrilled for him to take the time and wanted to ease any doubts he might have by reminding him that he could still consider the time off work-related. She knew him well.
Will met his fiancee, Alanna, for lunch that day at a trendy restaurant near the train station. Will sat alone at the best table the restaurant had, the one usually taken by a celebrity or politician, which is where Alanna came in. As a junior senator, she was a rising star in the Republican party and she enjoyed the limelight. Will had to admit she had a special quality that people seemed drawn to. Many said it was like the unusual charisma that former president, Bill Clinton possessed. Will watched as she worked the room, making the rounds from table to table. Everyone seemed to know her and as she shook each hand and chatted easily, he could see how people were mesmerized by her. When she had your attention, she made people feel as if they were the only people in the world, that they mattered and were being heard. It was a powerful quality and Will knew it would take her far. He also knew the other side of her.
“Sorry, didn’t think there’d be so many people here that would recognize me.” Alanna settled into her seat, a pleased look on her face as she unfolded her napkin and arranged it in her lap. “So, how are you? I feel like I hardly ever see you these days,” she said easily as she opened her menu and then flashed a blinding smile at the waiter as he approached their table. The waiter stammered as he stared at Alanna and then took their drinks order. Will almost felt bad for the poor kid, and couldn’t blame him. Alanna was beautiful, especially when she poured on the charm, which was always. She was tall, about 5’ 8” and had blunt cut, shiny blonde hair that just skimmed her shoulders, perfectly pale, creamy white skin and clear blue eyes. Like everyone who met her, Will had fallen hard, at first.
They’d been together almost 7 years now, and engaged for the past two. Will had been happy to drift along, keeping things the way they were. He’d popped the question when it seemed like he should. They were both busy people and Alanna didn’t make too many demands on his time, except for the occasional social event that she needed him to attend with her. Lately it seemed as though there were more of those events though and they were both being regularly asked when the date of the wedding was.
“The usual for you today, miss?” The waiter asked as he set down Alanna’s glass of iced tea and Will’s cola.
“Yes please, you’re so good to remember, Daniel.” Alanna flashed one of her killer smiles at him and the poor guy flushed as he turned his attention to Will.
“And you sir? Turkey on Toast?”
Will was about to say what he always said, “sure why not?” But, instead what came out was, “I think I’ll mix it up a bit today, how’s the roast beef look, is it rare?”
“It looks excellent sir, and very rare.”
“Great, I’ll take that on a bulkie roll.”
“Roast beef? And no toast? You are are living dangerously.” Alanna teased him as she handed Daniel their menus.
“It just hit me how predictable we are. Every time we come here you get a Greek salad with grilled chicken and I get a turkey sandwich.”
“Predictability isn’t a bad thing.” Alanna said sensibly. “Plus, I know the Greek salad with chicken is delicious.”
“The turkey sandwich is great,” Will admitted. “But maybe there are other things on the menu that are just as good, better even. I just felt like shaking it up a little.”
Alanna set her fork down and frowned at him for a moment.
“You never shake things up, that’s one of the things I like about you. Is everything ok? You wanted to meet for lunch kind of last minute, for you. You’re not a last-minute kind of guy.”
“You make me sound so boring.” Will said, still feeling somewhat out of sorts as he took a sip of his soda.
Alanna reached over and touched his hand, as if reassuring a child, “I like boring.” She flashed her famous smile at him but it didn’t have the same effect as it had on the waiter. Will realized how badly he needed to get away, from everything.
“I’m heading out of town after lunch.”
“Boston, right? But, you’ll be back in time for the Smith’s party on Sunday?”
Damn, he’d forgotten all about the latest fundraiser Alanna had added to their schedule. He took a glance at his calendar, the one on his phone that he’d checked earlier before he asked Martha to extend his trip. The party wasn’t there, he’d never added it and that wasn’t like him. Now that Alanna mentioned it, he vaguely remembered her telling him about it. He supposed he could come back for the party. He considered that idea for a moment, but the idea of going to Boston and then turning around to come back for a party, an additional four hours down and back, and he could almost feel his blood pressure rising.
Will took care of himself, ate well, exercised almost daily, yet at his last yearly physical his doctor had asked him a battery of questions about his life-style, did he drink excessively? How was his diet? Finally, the only thing left was his stress-level. Was he stressed? Will didn’t think so, he loved his work, but he did work long hours, and was responsible for the welfare of hundreds of people. The decisions he made affected people’s lives. Just thinking about it now made his head hurt. The doctor determined that he was internalizing his stress and that he needed an outlet. His suggestion six weeks ago had been for Will to cut back his hours, take more time off, and to get a pet.
A pet! He’d never owned a cat or a dog growing up, because of his mother’s severe allergies to everything and it hadn’t crossed his mind since. He ignored all of his doctor’s suggestions, as his blood pressure wasn’t that high. The doctor had said he was borderline, pre-high pressure and just needed to pay attention to these things before they became a problem. Will’s solution had been to just go back to work and forget about it. But now, when just the idea of cutting his vacation short to come home for a party he didn’t want to attend made him feel completely stressed out, he realized he needed to stick to the plan, and try to relax.
“I can’t make the party. I’m sorry.” He said firmly as the waiter returned with their meals and set them down.
“What? This party is important to me.” Alanna pouted as she picked up her fork and stabbed a piece of chicken.
“They’re all important to you.” Will said with a smile, trying to use a bit of charm to appease her. It didn’t seem to be working as Amanda was staring at her salad instead of Will.
“I’m going to be in Boston for the next two weeks.”
“Two weeks!” Alanna looked up in surprise. “I thought you were only going for two days.”
Will hesitated a moment before explaining. If he told her he was taking a vacation, she’d be furious on two accounts, that she hadn’t been consulted or invited and that he wasn’t willing to swing back since he was going to have time off.
“I’m staying longer to fully investigate that hotel we’re looking to buy, and have some meetings scheduled.”
“That old, little boutique hotel you told me about?” Alanna wrinkled her nose at the idea. “Why would anyone stay there when there’s a Four Seasons around the corner? I don’t know why you’re bothering.”
“I told you before, this could be a very good investment for us. Not everyone wants to stay at the Four Seasons.”
“Well they should. The slippers alone are amazing.” She smiled at the thought of the plush slippers she loved so much. They were a staple at every Four Seasons hotel and Alanna never stayed anywhere else if she could help it. She had a pile of the slippers in her apartment. Will had to admit, that the Four Seasons did know how to run a top hotel. But, the Madison seemed to be doing something right too.
“I agree and I’d love to buy The Four Seasons, but it’s a bit out of our price range.” He said and was pleased to see a hint of a smile on Alanna’s face. Good, she wasn’t that furious, just annoyed that her plans had hit a bump in the road. She’d get over it and if he knew her, probably wouldn’t even miss him. It would be easier for her to work the room if he wasn’t there.
“I’m glad you wanted to meet for lunch today.” Alanna’s tone had shifted and Will knew a request was coming. “I was looking forward to seeing you of course, but I think it’s time that we set a date for the wedding. People have been asking and I suppose it’s time, though I don’t know when I will find the time to manage it all. I’ll have to hire someone I suppose. It will have to be a really grand affair, I’m thinking five, make that six hundred people.” Will felt his head start to throb, the stress was creeping back again at the thought of so many people. He knew it was useless to suggest they keep the affair small. Alanna didn’t do small.
“We’ll figure it out when I get back, two weeks from now.”
Emily Ryan had never been a clock watcher. She was passionate about her work and the hours usually flew by, but the phone call she’d received at noon had thrown her a bit. Her mother had called the front desk, had her paged and said everyone was coming to dinner that night. She said that she knew it was last minute, but even Paige was flying in from Manhattan after work. Colin, Dylan, Ricky, Liam and Kitty were all confirmed. Emily had told her mother that of course, she’d come straight over after her shift, as if there was ever a question. She knew too, that this meeting wasn’t as spontaneous as it seemed. Her mother had cleverly waited until the last minute to summon them, but she’d carefully chosen the one night that coincided with everyone’s schedules. An uneasy sense of dread had hung over Emily all afternoon. She didn’t know what the meeting was about, and make no bones about it, there was a reason they were meeting, it wasn’t just a family dinner. Her shift was over in thirty minutes though and her parents lived just a few blocks away from the hotel, on Marlborough street, so she’d know what was going on within the next hour. Ironically, the hotel had hit a quiet patch, and time seemed almost to stand still.
As acting manager of the hotel there was always plenty to do, and often a big part of the job was filling in when others didn’t show or had to leave early. Her best front desk associate, Penny West, quite obviously wasn’t feeling well. She’d looked wretchedly uncomfortable after she’d returned from her lunch break and said she must have eaten something that hadn’t agreed with her. Emily told her to hurry home and to feel better and not worry about it. She had a feeling the newlywed wasn’t sick from anything she’d eaten, and she was an incredibly hard worker, never one to complain.
The other front desk associate, Holly Evans, was a cheerful recent college graduate who was chatting easily with a guest as she checked him in. Emily turned her attention to the computer screen in front of her and checked the incoming reservations for the evening. They were about 70% occupied and thus far 85% had checked in. It should be a fairly quiet evening. She had just flipped to the next screen to look ahead to the following day, when she sensed someone standing in front of her. She glanced up and felt the strangest flutter of goosebumps. The man standing in front of her wasn’t especially handsome, but there was something about him that drew her attention. He was a little over six feet tall, with thick, dark brown hair and equally dark eyes, a square jaw and a strong, straight nose. He had a sense of power about him, and Emily guessed he was either a lawyer of some sort or maybe in financial services. Boston was like a mini-wall street and they had a number of regular guests who actually lived in New York City, but worked in Boston and spent several nights a week at the Madison. This man didn’t look familiar though.
“Welcome to the Madison, how may I assist you?” Emily said with a smile. The Madison hotel was known for it’s legendary service and genuine warmth. Emily always felt like she was welcoming guests into her home when they came here. She wanted them to feel relaxed, and ready to unwind and be taken care of.
“Will Chapman, I have a reservation.” He smiled at her and then added, “My secretary extended my stay for two weeks, she forced me to take a vacation.” His eyes lit up and Emily caught her breath when he smiled. He had dimples in both cheeks and soft laugh lines along his eyes and mouth. He actually was a very handsome man, she realized.
She pulled his information up in the system and confirmed, “Yes, we have you here for two weeks, and I have excellent news, we’ve upgraded you to an executive suite with a working fire place.”
He looked pleased and surprised at that. “No kidding? What did I do to deserve an upgrade?”
“We like to upgrade our guests whenever possible, especially since you’ll be staying with us for more than a few nights. We want to make sure your stay is special.” Emily gave the normal explanation she always gave when giving an upgrade, which the computer had automatically done hours ago, based on existing reservations.
“It’s a really great room.” She added with enthusiasm. “Would you like me to send someone up to build your fire?” He hesitated for a moment and she said, “Or you can call down anytime and they’ll be happy to assist.”
“Great, I’ll do that then. I may be heading out to dinner and will call them later on.”
Emily ran his credit card and then handed him back the card and his room key.
“Enjoy your stay. Please let us know if there’s anything you need.”
“I’ll do that. Have a good evening.” He took the key from her palm and Emily jumped a little when his hand brushed hers. His skin was warm but somehow electric and Emily wondered about her odd reaction as she watched him walk toward the elevators.
What do you think? Would you want to read more?