Stolen Skye (Book One, The Skye Trilogy)

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~ Stolen Skye ~

 

Nina Loard

 

 

 

Copyright 2013 Nina Loard

 

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express writ
ten permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

 

 

Cover Art by Indie Designz

 

 

 

This is a work of fiction.
References to real people, events, establishments, organizations or locales are intended only to provide a sense of authenticity, and are used to advance the fictional narrative. All other characters, and all incidents and dialogue, are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real.

 

 

 

For Kirk and Jackson who sat beside me and
loved me the whole way through.

 

 

 

 

C
hapter 1. Bad Monday

 

 

I was stopped by curious guests in the elegant hotel lobby
, asking if I had heard any news about the robbery. Wide-eyed, the older southern couple who were staying with us for three nights relayed some of the details for me when it was obvious I was unaware. Work started early enough; I wasn’t one to pay attention to the world around me until my second cup of coffee.

“Apparently, they were expert thieves who stole the paintings right off the walls while the family entertained.
Do you know the Deiderichs, dear?”

“No, Mrs. Decorte, I’m afraid I don’t.
Did they catch them?” I hadn’t even gotten the chance to put away my briefcase yet. I glanced at my watch. 7:49 AM — gossip must start early in Georgia.

“No, they came and went without a sound.
We had no idea Newport would be so exciting.”

“Indeed.
Well, if I hear any more, I’ll be sure to let you know. I hope you both have a wonderful day. Please call if you need anything.” I spotted Jasper, my Front Desk Supervisor, motioning me over to Reception with way too much zeal for a Monday morning. The Decortes returned to the comfortable, antique wingbacks by the fire, sipping tea and waiting on more people to ambush with their story.

“Did you hear?
Such drama for Rhode Island. Imagine, art thieves in our midst.” Jasper handed me the daily arrivals list while I shook out of my coat.


Good morning, Sunshine. Yes, I heard. It’s all very exciting. I suppose they have no leads?” I half-listened while reviewing the guest arrivals list as he shared the same details as the Decortes. No leads and twenty million estimated value. I had to admit, it was pretty exciting for our little island. I focused on the numbers. The hotel was only at 43% average occupancy for the week. December was always a slow month, but the economy was killing us. 

“Oh, and Bunderson wants to see you in his office.”
Jasper rolled his eyes before stepping to the counter to assist a flight crew with their check-out.

“Fabulous.
I guess my coffee will just have to wait.” I reluctantly got back in my coat to walk across the parking lot to the administrative office of the Newport Harborview Resort.

***

“Evelyn, you’re not being terminated for cause, we’re treating this as a workforce reduction,” Bunderson explained while staring over my left shoulder. In five minutes, I’d gone from being curious over the meeting request to shell-shocked and a little nauseated. I knew the hotel had suffered some slow months. There had been good people cast aside earlier in the year, none earning the courtesy of a departure announcement. I hadn’t anticipated my name being added to the list.

Mr. Bunderson, Vice President of Administration, sat across from me in his office, thanking me for my three years of service.
Since he was new to the hotel and often appeared self-conscious in meetings, I’d felt sorry for him and defended him on more than one occasion in the break room. Staring at his puffy face, I regretted it. Beads of perspiration formed on the edge of his receding hair line — he was uncomfortable, which pleased me a bit.

“I don’t understand…
why me exactly?” I asked, perplexed by what he was telling me…
you’re not really fired, but get out just the same
.

“There’
s some redundancy in management,” he stated evenly, while examining a file I assumed held my spotless employment record as the Front of House Manager. I couldn’t guess what else it contained, unless there was a cheat sheet of phrases that Legal had put together directing
if she says this respond with this
statement
. A fact that seemed increasingly more likely and pathetic as our meeting progressed. How long had my colleagues been planning for my departure?

Sadness began to break through my confusion with the realization that my everyday work life was over.
I didn’t notice much else after my vision blurred. My bowed head and silent tears seemed to shift the conversation into high gear. Bunderson raced me through severance, unemployment benefits and ‘I promise not to sue anyone’ documents. He added that I was to call Hotel Security to arrange an escort to my office to collect my things after regular business hours.
Total lock out.

With the paperwork signed, he rose hastily from his chair and wished me well.
I heard myself thank him as I shook his hand. I hated that I could never resist being cordial, even in my own firing. I surrendered my name tag, placing it on the table, humiliated by my own trembling hand. Bunderson tore his gaze from my sweater adjustment and added, “I know you’re a fighter. You’ll be alright.”

Fighter.
A word used more than once to describe me, always sounding like someone else. I’d made some poor choices and managed to live through the consequences, that was all. Everyone has a survival instinct. I knew mine would kick in any second, but the weight of what was happening began to press down upon me. I felt the future sleepless nights mounting as I tearfully walked out the back door of the administration office and drove home.

Newport, Rhode Island is a small haven for hearty, robust, somewhat nosy people.
I lived near the waterfront, where serpentine streets wind through the storybook fishing village, past two story colonials with sun-bleached shutters. I’d visited as a child for vacations and moved there when I realized it was my original happy place. After meeting with Bunderson, I wanted to keep driving into the ocean. My job had become everything, which I was sure wasn’t what healthy people said, but it had defined me. I didn’t know how I was going to reinvent myself in the same setting.

My home was a small, weathered cottage with a walk-up front porch that practically rose out of the curbside on Thames Street.
There was more than enough room for me and Brutus, my huge, black cat that seemed confused by my mid-morning return.

“Hey Brute, bet you’re surprised to see me.”
I heard a hint of panic in my voice and decided to lie down. Brutus followed, probably sensing I shouldn’t be alone. I climbed the stairs, kicking off my favorite black heels. They would now be my ‘I lost my job’ heels, and I doubted I’d wear them again with much enjoyment.

Sprawled across the bed, I took my emotional temperature.
I was drained from the tears and trying to maintain what little composure I had back at the hotel. Surprise mixed with the feeling of betrayal seemed to make up my mood. Maybe this was all just an excuse to oust me and find someone better? Mild self-loathing was my “go to” when bad things happened. I couldn’t escape the feeling that I’d lost my job because I wasn’t good enough. A fighter or a survivor, however you wanted to look at it, I’d put those who loved me through a lot in my short life. Drawing the short end of the stick felt almost deserved.

Brutus stretched on the bed, regarding me with some annoyance since I was disturbing his routine.
Tongue bathing in the sunshine was his late morning activity. It always surprised me when I saw him squeeze through the cat door. It was like watching a cotton ball get pushed through the eye of a needle. I rubbed his head and considered the bright side. I was covered financially. There would be severance, health insurance, and I had some money in the bank, plus the trust fund from my late father.

I lost him when I was in
eighth grade. The cancer spread aggressively and I spent every afternoon by his side. When he died, I was devastated. He’d been my only real friend. I know that’s a strange way to describe a parent, but he’d encouraged my quirks even when my mother tried to correct them, laughed with me and been my confidant for all of my childhood. Not that my mother was difficult, just socially over-scheduled and a touch limited when it came to emotional depth.

My father’s death was hard on her.
He’d been her compass, and she wasn’t one to navigate life alone. She got remarried to Steve Reynolds, a successful real estate attorney, during my freshman year at Boston University. He was good for her, but I kept a distance between us. As unfair as I knew it was, I couldn’t help it — he made me miss my father more. Neither of them would be pleased to hear I’d lost my job… or maybe they would be — moving back to Boston was always on the parenting agenda during my visits home. 

The phone rang and
interrupted my melancholy. “Evy, what the hell — how could Bundy do this? Are you okay?” Jasper sounded genuinely pissed.

“I’m glad they told you, I was afraid they’d drag it out.
What did they say was the cause of death?” I tried to sound flippant to keep his mood light.

“They said the company is reviewing upper management and the decision had been made to eliminate your position.
In the interim we report to Nathan. How could this happen? Who’s going to keep me from stabbing the guests?” Jasper’s voice started a vertical climb.

“Listen, it’s ok
ay. Let’s go to the Pearl later. Right now, you should get your head in the game. I’m sure Bundy will be looking for defectors.”

“Okay, Black Pearl at 7
PM. Don’t worry, you’re rich and gorgeous… screw the bastards.”

I wrinkled my nose at his description.
“Complete overstatement, but thank you for trying to puff me up. You’re a good friend, but make it 7:30 PM. I have to go back to the hotel and get my things after the day shift is gone.” The idea of a security escort was embarrassing, like I was slinking back to the scene of a crime to clean up my mess.

“Of all the…
I’m going to email Bundy and tell him to go straight to hell. After all you’ve done for this place and all the times…”

I broke in before Jasper reached full tantrum.
“Thanks for the outrage, Jasper, but keep it professional there. You need to keep your job in case you have to support me as my gay husband.” After a few more curse words, he returned to his work day while I reluctantly called home.

“Good afternoon, Reynolds residence.”
Violet answered, of course. She had come to work for us, highly recommended, when I was a toddler. She was very diligent as someone who ran a household, and a master at keeping her private life extremely private. I learned that early on when I tested to see if she was someone I could talk to about bothersome teenage things. Her advice was always that I should discuss those matters with Mrs. Sylvia. She was good at evasion.

“Hi. Violet, is she there?”

“Yes, Evelyn.
I’ll let her know.” After a moment, I could hear my mother’s discussion with others as she approached the phone, her voice always an octave higher than anyone else.

“Evelyn, how are you?” She sounded out of breath.

“Hi, is this a bad time?” She could be doing anything from entertaining the Queen to building a pool cabana. The woman was unstoppable once she had a project.

“No, I was just outside with Felix.
He spaced the rhododendron way too close together so I was showing him which to replant in the spring.” I was sure Felix, the experienced professional gardener, greatly welcomed her guidance. Though it had been a twenty-year working relationship, he had nobody to blame but himself.

“Mom, I got laid off from the hotel this morning.” I paused for reaction, bracing for anything that
would unintentionally wound me to the core.

“Did you do something wrong?”
There it was, but just a flesh wound. I’d live.

“No, they told me it was due to cutbacks.
It wasn’t about my performance.” I spoke with confidence, trying to convince us both.

“Well, they didn’t deserve you in the first place.
It’s going around, I hear. You know Eunice’s daughter? She got let go. I didn’t even think they could do that to doctors.” She seemed to be taking the news in stride, or perhaps she was still keeping one eye on Felix through the bay window.

“Look, I’ll find something else.
I don’t want you to worry about me or anything.” I had caused enough of that.

“Oh, Evelyn, I just want you to find some happiness.
You know, one of the younger lawyers at the firm just got divorced and he is really quite handsome. Why don’t you plan on coming home for a few weeks?” She sounded hopeful, and I could hear the set-up wheels in her head grinding through the phone.

“Thanks, but I need to figure some stuff out before I m
eet any more of the eligible men you keep on speed-dial. Maybe I can come home for Christmas this year.”


What’s speed-dial? Oh, you here for a whole Christmas would be wonderful. That hotel took up way too many of your holidays. See, there’s a bright side after all. Well, don’t get down on yourself. You’re a smart girl who can do anything. This is just a setback. Mr. Right is just around the corner.”

“Thanks, Mom.
I’ll call you later with any news.” Leave it to her to find the silver lining. I wasn’t sure how my loss of a job kept going back to me finding a husband, though. I suppose my real success in her mind would be when I walked down the aisle. She was always hoping her college dropout daughter, formerly known as “troubled girl” in the neighborhood, might turn out to be more conventional. There were times I regretted the decision to leave school and travel across Europe, but mostly I wished I could recall what was probably the most exciting time of my life. 

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