Jenny gritted her teeth and squeezed her pen, almost snapping it. She wasn't sure how much longer she would be able to listen to the evil little tightwad go on and on, constantly questioning her business decisions. She'd been running this hotel for five years now. The Arcadia was like her baby, and now suddenly every dime she spent—hell, every damn penny—was being scrutinized. Well, no more! This time he had gone too far!
"Jenny! Jenny, are you listening to me?"
She cringed at his high-pitched, anything but masculine voice as he screamed at her once again. Tell him, she silently encouraged herself. Tell him what an asshole he is. Tell him he can take this job and shove it clear up his ass until it reaches the empty hollow where his brain is supposed to be.
"Did you hang up on me?" His shocked tone irritated her all the more.
Calming her nerves, she placed her hands flat on the desk and took a deep breath. "No, Mr Callaway, I did not hang up on you."
"Well, speak up next time, then. You got something wrong with your hearing?"
Calm down, she willed herself. "No, sir."
Well, then what? she wanted to scream back at him, but as usual she didn't. Instead she bit her tongue, just like she'd been doing for the past three months ever since the Callaway Corporation had taken over the management of her small resort hotel.
"Yes, of course, Mr Callaway. I'll see what I can do to cut the payroll back a bit more."
"I don't want to hear that you'll see what you can do! Get it done!"
Emphasizing his point, he slammed the phone down. The loud bang echoed through the phone, reverberating into her ear.
A moment passed and she waited for the stinging in her eyes to go away. Then she slowly set the phone down, placing it back on its cradle. Her heart was racing and she knew why. There was no way she would allow herself to be one of those people dependent on medication, though. A minute or two of calm breathing would make it pass and she would be just fine.
Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in… BEEP…
The loud noise permeated the silent room, startling her. Her heartbeat skyrocketed and the room was now filled with the high-pitched squeal of Marianne, the front desk reservation agent, who seemed to be in an eternal state of happiness.
"Jenny, we have a gentleman here who is inquiring about the maintenance job."
Great. The maintenance job. The one that she desperately needed to fill and had placed an advertisement for. There was no way she could do that now, though. That position for the hotel would be left empty, just like everything else since Callaway and its micromanaging sharks took over.
Shaking her head, she wondered how they even expected her to run this hotel without a full staff. She had already cut back in every department. The front desk staff, the restaurant, the lounge, anywhere and everywhere they were down to the bare bones in employees. Just that morning she had to let go two housekeepers. Now, with his most recent tongue-lashing, there was no way she could afford hiring a maintenance worker.
She hit the intercom button. "Thank you, Marianne. Could you please just tell the man that the position has already been filled?"
"Oh, it has? I didn't know…"
Jenny quickly cut her off, "No, Marianne, it hasn't. Just please, tell him that, okay?"
"Um… sure, Jenny. I'll tell him."
She heard the hesitation in Marianne's voice and knew there was going to be a round of Twenty Questions at some point later that day. The two of them had worked together for far too many years for Marianne not to pick up on the stress in her voice. She didn't want to get into it with her though. How could she explain that this hotel barely had enough money to pay for the guest essentials, let alone payroll, with the joke of an operating budget those vultures approved for her?
Marianne was a sweet woman and someone she would even consider her friend, but she was first and foremost an employee of the hotel. Jenny wasn't willing to cause a panic in the ranks by alluding to the financial restraints they were under.
Stretching her legs beneath the desk, she wished she could go for a run. She missed being able to lose herself in the cool evening breeze as the mist came off the ocean. She missed being able to put her feet up and eat a pint of ice cream. She missed living.
"Stop feeling sorry for yourself, Jenny. You have a job to do," she chided herself in the quiet room.
In the far corner of her office, next to her potted palm tree, sat the bucket of tools she had been avoiding all morning. Glaring at them, she pushed out her chair and got up from her desk. She took off her blazer and neatly hung it on a hanger then placed it in her small office closet. She kicked off her heels and grabbed her tennis shoes. Sitting down on the small sofa that flanked her desk, she laced them up, double-knotting the bows. Two deep breaths later and she walked over to the bucket holding her wrench, hammer, screwdrivers and plumber's snake and strode out of her office.
She approached room one-one-five—the room Mrs Grierson had made a complaint about earlier that morning—and used her master key to unlock the door. Luckily, she was able to sneak in without anyone seeing her. No witnesses meant no explanations. The last thing she needed was to have to explain to a staff member why she had a bucket of tools in hand.
"Oh God." Her whole body cringed when she walked into the bathroom.
She closed her eyes and turned away for a moment, silently hoping and praying that when she looked back it would have all been a dream. No such luck, though. The leak Mrs Grierson had reported was actually a lake—a very large lake, in fact, which was flooding the entire bathroom in one of their nicest suites.
"Well, here goes nothing."
Jenny walked through the water. Her shoes were soaked inside and out after just two steps, making an awful squishing noise. Hesitation wasn't an option as she knelt in inches of water on the tile floor. She studied the pipe that had water pouring from it for a moment before she reached for her wrench. Something her grandfather had told her when she was little stuck in her mind. Righty tighty, lefty loosey.
"Hmm." She smiled.
The concept was so simple, really. Why she had been so worried about having to try to fix a silly little plumbing problem, she wasn't sure. Righty tighty. Lefty loosey. No sweat!
Much more relaxed, she grabbed her wrench, adjusted the fitting to be snug around the pipe and turned to the right, pulling the wrench away from her and toward the… Oh no.
Water shot everywhere, all around her, covering her and everything within five feet. Recovering from the shock, she squinted her eyes, trying to keep the spraying water from obstructing her vision. With water pummeling her directly from the fitting she had inadvertently loosened, she could barely tell where she was placing the wrench. After fumbling through a few tries she finally had the tool snug back around the fitting.
She pulled the wrench in the opposite direction and… "Oh, shit!" She screamed the four-letter word loud enough for people to hear her on the top floor.
Somehow in her efforts to tighten the loose fitting she had instead managed to break it, causing a full rush of water to shoot out at her, much like she would expect to see in Yellowstone National Park when Old Faithful would erupt.
"No, no, no, no!" she continued to shout.
"Oh my gosh. Jenny, are you okay?"
Marianne's voice came from behind her but she didn't turn to look. Instead she sat staring at the eruption before her, drenched and completely frozen in disbelief.
Hands touched her shoulders, then moved down and wrapped themselves firmly around her upper arms. Suddenly, she found herself being moved out of the way. She was able to catch a glimpse of a tall man with brown hair. He was saying something, but she couldn't make out what it was over the rushing sound of water.
Then, as if he had magic hands, he reached below the antique pedestal sink and turned a knob. The water, which had been coming out at her as if it was on the attack just moments ago, slowed down to a light flow, then a drip, then finally nothing at all.
The water shut-off valve! How could she have been so stupid?
Her epiphany was interrupted by the tall, wet stranger asking, "Well, did you?"
"I'm sorry? Did I what?" she asked him, confused and still frazzled.
A smile cocked up on one side of his mouth. "I asked if you had considered shutting off the water valve before doing any plumbing repairs."
For the first time since he'd walked into the room she was finally getting a good look at him. This man, whoever he was, was tall and slender, but his wet T-shirt showed her what was hidden underneath the cotton fabric. His chest was defined by muscles and while he didn't have large, overly muscular arms like so many men she saw on the beach these days, they were definitely the arms of a working man. The smile he was giving her wasn't half bad, either. In fact, if she had the time for a boyfriend, she would say he was just handsome enough to be her type.
Time for a boyfriend?
That thought brought her back to reality. Bracing her hands down at her sides she pushed herself to a standing position. Holding out her hand toward his, she meant to shake it, but when his hand met hers she lost her balance, slipped and fell to the ground, taking him with her.
A loud crack echoed in her head when it met with the tile floor. It disoriented her for a second. That was until she felt the strong, hard body lying on top of her. Opening her eyes she realized their faces were just inches apart and she could feel his breath caressing her lips.
Heat warmed her wet body, despite lying there in inches of water. Her heart began to race again, but not like it had before in her office. She swallowed a lump of nervousness as it hit her throat. She attempted to speak, but no words came out.
"Well, sugar. You know, normally I like to spend a little time getting to know someone before I get horizontal with them, but since you're so forceful, I might just make an exception for you." He winked at her when he spoke the last word.
That wink, or maybe it was the words he used, caused that heat she was feeling to sink to her belly. A throbbing tingle shot down to her pussy and awoke all of her nerve endings. It caused moisture to pool in between her thighs which had nothing to do with the leaking pipe. Had anyone else said that to her she would have smacked him and laughed in his face, so why did this man give her the desire to wrap her legs around him and grind her hips into his?
"Who are you?" Jenny asked.
A giggle interrupted him from answering and they both looked over to see Marianne still standing there in the doorway.
"Um… perhaps this would be a good time to see what I can get together to help you clean this up. Yeah, that's what I'll do." With a smile she shut the door, leaving them alone.
They turned their heads back to face one another again and time seemed to stand still for a moment too long. Nervous, she was about to ask him again when he finally answered.
"Beck, and you must be my new boss," he said, with an even bigger smile covering his face.
"The maintenance job. I was the person at the front desk inquiring about it and I think that you should fire yourself from that position and hire me instead. No offense, but you lack certain plumbing skills."
His sexy grin was affecting her more than she cared to admit. That, and the fact that his tone was sounding more and more condescending, was confusing and irritating her.
"I see. Well, we are just fine, thank you. We do not need a maintenance worker for our hotel."
"You don't need a maintenance worker?" Laughter filled the room as he moved off her and lay down beside her, holding his stomach in apparent amusement.
Shocked by his arrogance, she got up from the floor and stood over him. A smirk and a cock of his brow made her realize she was standing close enough for him to see up her skirt.
"Mr Beck, we do not need a maintenance worker. Now, I appreciate the help, but unless you are a guest of this hotel I would like you to leave."
Annoyed with his behavior she walked out of the room, needing to get to her suite and clean herself up.
He shouted to her, "Not Mr Beck. Just Beck."
"Of all the arrogant, condescending, overbearing…" Her voice trailed off, muttering the words to no one but herself as she got in the elevator.