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Strings and Stars - Chapter One (Part 1)

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Isabella walked out of the kitchen to the sound of the reception bell repeatedly ringing.
"Coming." She called, brushing off her hands as she rushed to the front.
The man standing by the desk had a large duffel thrown over his shoulder and a baseball cap low over his eyes.
Wary, as she always was with such guests, she stood behind the desk.
"Hello! Welcome to Butterfly Inn. How may I help you?"
"Do you have any free rooms?" He replied, voice rough.

"Let me check. Are you looking for anything specific? The rooms facing the back are in view of the cliffs. It's a breathtaking sight."
"Any room you've got."
"How long will you be staying with us, sir?"
He hesitated, "Indefinite at the moment."

As she typed into her computer, she glanced up trying to catch a glimpse of his face. But for his stubble and straight nose, she couldn't make out a thing. He pulled out his phone and began typing on it.
"There is one suite available that does not seem to be booked for any time soon. On the top floor. Will it be suitable?"
"Yeah, should be fine."
"Your credit card, sir. The transaction will be carried out at the end of your stay but if I could just have the details."

"Sure." He handed the card over and waited, impatiently, his fingers tapping over the desk.
Turning over the platinum card in her hand, she glanced down at the name.
It couldn't be.
Placing it on the desk, she pulled up the google app on her desktop and quickly typed in the name.

Lucas D. Elliot.

Sure enough the pictures that turn up are the ones she'd thought of at a first glance at the name.
Trying to contain her excitement, she typed in his information along with the suite number and handed over the card.
Obviously, he did not want anyone to know he was here.
Discretion was key in her business.
"Hope you have a pleasant stay. If there is anything you need, just ring down here. Would you like help with your bag, sir? Do you have any more luggage?"
"No, this is it. Thanks."
"Here is your key, sir. I'll show you up to your room."
He held his hand out. "I'll find my way, thanks."
"Alright. It's on the third floor, to your right."

She watched him disappear upstairs and then waited to hear the door open and shut on the third floor. Getting Greg to attend the reception desk, she hurried back to the kitchen.
"You are never going to guess who just walk- Oh my goodness." She stared at the three-tier raspberry cake in front of her, which just minutes ago, had come out of the refrigerator. The peach buttercream icing covering the entire cake had set and flowers were cascading down the side, circling the cake.

"What do you think?" Aiden walked in from the pantry, holding a bag of icing in his hands.
"What do I think?" She stared at the cake before turning to him, "What do I think? How can I, a mere untalented human compared to you, think anything of this masterpiece?"
"So..it looks good?" He asked, uncertain.

"Amazing! I love the flowers. Just look at them! They're gorgeous. How did you make them to be two-shaded?" There were coral flowers with tinges of yellow, blue flowers, with purple.
He shrugged, pleased. "Let me show you." He secured the end of the piping bag with a pin and glanced up, "Weren't you saying something when you walked in?"
"Oh yes! We just had a walk in. You'll never guess who!"
"George Clooney? Selena Gomez?" He grinned before turning to the cake.
"Don't be ridiculous! What would they be doing here anyway? But you're on the right track."
"Alexis Bledel?"

She narrowed her eyes, "Have you been watching Gilmore Girls again?"
"Caught the spin-off yet?"
Rolling her eyes, she settled down on a chair and watched as he continued to pipe out flowers. "You are going off topic. Come on."
"Give me a hint."
"It's a writer."
He looked up and studied her for a long moment before nodding, a small smile on his lips.
"What? Why are you smiling like that?"
"Is it the one that writes all those romance novels that are sitting and catching dust in your room?"

"Nope."
"Didn't think so." He replies, his Australian accent in those three words. "So who is he murdering this time?"
She squealed, clapping. "I have no clue! But he came in all mysterious. Baseball cap pulled down low. He seemed a little grouchy though."
"Must come with the genre."
"Stop! It's so cool! Imagine the publicity this will bring us if word gets out."
"And if he is holed up in there and just leaves? No one will know he was here."
She shrugged, "Well, then that's fine too. At least we will know. Privacy is one of the things we offer here. If he doesn't really want anyone to know he is here, then that's how it's going to be."

"Does he know, you know?"
"Don't think so. I never let on, although he did hand me his credit card." Leaning forward, she swiped off some icing from the tip of the piping bag. "Where's the staff?"
He shakes his head, standing back. "Don't even get me started. They were not doing their jobs. Isn't the kitchen so much calmer with no one here?"
"And who is going to help you with prep? Making dinner?"
"I've got you, love."
"Not a chance. Aiden, I have told you a million times! You cannot kick them out."
"But Isabella.."
"Do not Isabella me in that cute accent. I've got to get them all back in.." She checked her watch and sighed. "Thirty minutes before tea!"
Sighing, he ran a hand through his hair, leaving icing coloring it. "I'm sorry. I won't do it again."

"You say that every time."
"Okay, okay. I get it." He holds his hands up, exasperated.
"I can imagine how hard it must be for such an artistic person to work with others who are..not as talented." She conceded, keeping a straight face.
"You have no idea."
"Don't worry. I'll get them back. But you owe me."
"Always. Name your price."
She winked at him, slipping off the stool. "You know what I like."
"A woman after my own heart." He patted his chest, smiling.
Shaking her head, she walked through the kitchen and out the back door.
It was like clockwork. Each time a big order came in which Aidan was excited about, the staff got kicked out for irritating him.

Rounding the inn, she made her way towards the stables. She found her kitchen staff there, leaning against the back, having some lemonade.
"Okay, you guys. Give him another fifteen minutes and make your way back in. You know the drill, not all at once." She grinned. "Enjoying your extra break?" The chuckles that went around the group were good-natured. "Alright. He's just stressed about the wedding tomorrow. Speaking of which, meeting after dinner tonight to go over tomorrow's schedule. Oh," She grinned, turning back to the group, "It took me a good fifteen minutes to convince you to come back. Let's not let him off too easy."

She walked over to the ledger by the dining room entrance and ran her finger down the room names. Almost a full house, with just a double room empty, which a family of four who had checked out just a couple hours back had vacated. Of the seventeen occupied rooms, two had not shown up for dinner.
There was a couple who had brought back food from town.
The other guest was the writer.
Making a mental note, she then went around the room, on her way to the kitchen, stopping occasionally to speak to a guest. She stepped into the kitchen to see that the energy had died down. Everyone in the dining room had been served and the staff was busy with the clean up and prep for tomorrow's breakfast.

Asking them to keep enough for one meal on the side, she served herself some salad and settled down at a counter in the corner.
They scrubbed pots and pans, brought in dirty dishes from the dining room. Dough was being kneaded and left for rising till morning. Aiden was reviewing tomorrow's menu with his right hand and his prep team. Not only was there breakfast, lunch and dinner for the in-house guests tomorrow, but the wedding reception guests as well.

Many of the guests headed up to their rooms after their meal, but a couple lingered in the library over coffee and brandy or out on the patio, enjoying the cool breeze. After making sure her office was locked, the computer shut down and the front desk set up for the morning, she headed over to the dining room.
Aiden was still in the kitchen and two of her house-keeping staff were still not there, so she made herself comfortable.

"Alright, big day tomorrow!" She started, standing up as Mary, the last of the staff, joined them. "It should run through without any hiccups, fingers crossed. We need to have both the bride's and groom's suite set up by eight. Extra towels, fresh flowers, champagne glasses and lots of tissues in the bridal suite. We have three couples checking in from the wedding party for two nights. Jonah, remind me to give you the names." She nodded towards him. Jonah was her right hand. "No one else will be checking in. We do, however, have a guest book that is going to be by the front door. Every wedding guest has to sign once arriving. Carrie, I'm going to need you by the front door to monitor everybody's arrival and that the book gets signed. You just direct everyone towards the back. The florist is coming at seven. John, Mary, I want you to run point with her. Help her team with anything they require. The set up outside is extensive, however in here; it's the dining room, the hallway and the staircase to just the first floor landing. Give them a hand any way needed." She turned towards the kitchen staff. "Now, since there is no catering company as we are in charge of the reception lunch, I need five people out on the floor, serving drinks and h'orderves. The lunch is a buffet, so that is covered. The five of you will still have to stand by in case any of the guests need help. Okay, next the fo-" She glanced up as Aiden cleared his throat and followed his nod, looking over her shoulder. The writer was hovering in the doorway, watching them. Lucas. She needed to stop calling him the writer. Or Mr.Elliot. "Hi." Putting down her notes, she walked over to him. "Can I help you, sir?"

He glanced around behind her before meeting her gaze. "No, it's fine."
He started to turn away as she said. "Would you like to have dinner?"
She smiled as a look of relief passed over his face. "If it's not a problem."
"We've kept some aside. Would you like it here or back in your room?"
"Here."
"Have a seat, sir. We'll just have your food out. Anything in particular you'll like?" She asked as she led him into the dining room, towards a table that had been set.
"Oh no. Anything that's there."

Carrie and Dan hurried into the kitchen. In a couple of minutes, there was a drink by Lucas's side, a napkin draped over his lap and a bowl of soup, steam rising off the top and carrying its tantalizing scent across the room.
"Bon appetite, sir." Carrie filled his glass and then joined staff.
Isabella tapped her list, adding things before she looked up. "Alright. The food. The cake looks divine, last I saw."

"All the reception food is being prepared here, Aiden needs all hands on board. We've got our part-time staff coming in too. Lara and Mike will be here first thing in the morning. Breakfast for our guests and the wedding party will be brought in from town. The reception food is our main focus till the evening. Let's have this go as smoothly as possible. I'll see you all bright and early!"
As the group dispersed, Aiden walked over to her. "So." She raised an eyebrow as she handed over task lists to Jonah. "That's him."
"Hm. Just hand these over please, Jonah."
"Is he the writer?" Jonah leaned over her towards Aiden.
"Yeah. Our Isabella has a crush on him."

"Oh, please. I like his work. That's it. I had no idea what he looked like today and still don't. He's still got that baseball cap on if you haven't noticed."
"Wait. Wait. Is this the guy who has an entire bookshelf?"
"Yup." Aiden nodded, smirking. "Half the library is filled with his books."
"Isabella. This is amazing! We can get such good PR if word gets out!"

She narrowed her eyes, staring at the two men. "Word won't get out because he doesn't seem to want anyone to know he's here. As far as I know, nobody else here has any idea who he is. If I come to find that word does get out through an anonymous source, I don't care if you two have nothing to do with it. You'll be the first ones out."
Aiden grinned as she stalked out of the dining room. "Looks like we hit a nerve."
Jonah snickered, "Is it just me or is it hot when she tries to pull rank?"
Aiden slapped him on the back, laughing. "I'm with you, bro. But just so you know, I love my job and have no intention to lose it."
"Me neither. I just love winding her up!"
"You're telling me."

****************************************************************************

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Published: 2/27/2017
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