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Authors: Marilyn Campbell

ZenithRising

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Zenith Rising

Marilyn Campbell

 

Maggie Harrison’s temp assignment
sounds glamorous. As assistant to bestselling author Noah Nash, she’ll be
staying in his penthouse suite at the legendary Davenport Hotel. However,
Maggie is more interested in whether Noah will remember her from high school.

Tales of ghosts and paranormal
activity enticed Noah to set his next book in the Davenport, but his reason for
hiring Maggie is entirely personal. He hopes the old spark can be fanned into a
new flame. What happens between them is more like a raging wildfire.

Their passionate reunion takes an
even wilder turn when they’re suddenly transported to the Roaring Twenties,
when the new hotel sparkled like champagne in a speakeasy…and several murders
went unsolved. For Maggie and Noah to return home, they must prevent one of
those deaths—but first they need to figure out which one.

Ellora’s
Cave Publishing

www.ellorascave.com

 

 

 

Zenith Rising

 

ISBN 9781419934667

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Zenith Rising Copyright © 2011 Marilyn Campbell

 

Edited by Grace Bradley

Cover art by Syneca

 

Electronic book publication June 2011

 

The terms Romantica® and Quickies® are registered trademarks of
Ellora’s Cave Publishing.

 

With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not
be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written
permission from the publisher, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.® 1056 Home Avenue,
Akron OH 44310-3502.

 

Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this
copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded or
distributed via the Internet or any other means, electronic or print, without
the publisher’s permission. Criminal copyright infringement, including
infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is
punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000. 
(http://www.fbi.gov/ipr/). Please purchase only authorized electronic or print
editions and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of
copyrighted material. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

 

This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons,
living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The
characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.

Zenith Rising
Marilyn Campbell

Trademarks Acknowledgement

 

The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark
owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:

 

Chicago Tribune
: The Tribune Company

General Electric: General Electric Company

IBM: International Business Machines Corporation

Jimmy Choo: J. Choo Limited

Lucite: Lucite International, Inc.

Manolo Blahnik: Blahnik, Manolo

Miami Dolphins: Miami Dolphins, Ltd.

Model T: Ford Motor Company

Murray’s Superior Hairdressing Pomade: Murray’s Worldwide,
Inc.

Post-It: 3M Company

Star Trek
: Paramount Pictures Corporation

The Godfather
: Paramount Pictures Corporation

The
New York Times
: The New York Times Company

The Stanley Hotel: New Stanley Associates LLLP

Tommy Bahama: Tommy Bahama Group, Inc.

Vitaphone: Vitaphone GmbH

Warner Bros: Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.

 

Chapter One

 

Maggie Harrison handed her car key to the overly solicitous
valet in an orange, Hawaiian-style shirt. An instant later an exceptionally
striking young man in a red-and-green-floral shirt took charge of her suitcase
and opened the huge bamboo-covered entry doors for her. His skin was the shade
of warm caramel and his name tag identified him as Reynard, from Jamaica. She
felt like one of the hotel’s wealthy guests instead of someone reporting for a
temp assignment. Was this typical or was it because of the very special job she
had been chosen for?

Of course she had
heard
of the Davenport Hotel and
Beach Resort. It was an historical landmark, famous and infamous depending on
one’s perspective. She had just never driven across the bridge from the
southeast Florida mainland to Crystal Island. The exclusive barrier island was
the gem of the Davenport holdings, but the hotel itself was nearly hidden from
view by lush jungle vegetation. Even at the highest point on the bridge over
the intracoastal waterway, she had only been able to clearly see the upper
floors of the three towers and the largest of the glass dome roofs. It was more
than enough, however, to see how the exterior glittered as though crystal
shards were embedded in the white stucco. As soon as she had been offered the assignment,
she bought a book about the hotel but had not yet had time to read it.

As Reynard led her through the lobby to the registration
desk she realized the enormous glass dome she had seen from the bridge was the
one now above her. Between the sunlight streaming down and the continuation of
the tropical theme, it felt as though she were still outside…except for the
air-conditioning. The front desk clerks were decked out in
blue-and-yellow-flowered shirts and shifts but had the same welcoming expressions
as the valet and bellhop.

“Maggie Harrison,” she told the smiling female clerk. “I was
told—”

“Oh yes, Ms. Harrison. We’ve been expecting you. The Diamond
Suite has been prepared for you and Mr. Nash according to his specifications.”
She asked to see Maggie’s identification then handed an access card to Reynard.

As Maggie followed her suitcase away from the counter, she
ordered the butterflies in her stomach to calm down. She’d had a lot of
different jobs since signing on with the “It’s Only Temporary” staffing agency.
The owner, Cory Servwell, had always been very good about filling her in on
important details. Maggie knew this assignment was for an undetermined number
of weeks and, because she might need to be available at odd hours, she had to
stay at the hotel. However, at no time had Cory mentioned she and
Mr.
Nash would be sharing a suite.

At the far edges of the vast lobby were a number of archways
leading to different areas of the resort. Her escort pointed out the ones that
would take her to the hotel’s five-star restaurant, the spa, the shops and the
beach but she knew when the time came she would have to rely on the discreet
directional signs provided. The archway they went through was much narrower
than the others and led down a hallway to an elevator made to look like a tree
house. Once inside, her escort slipped the access card into a slot labeled “P”,
which appeared to be the fourth and final floor in this section. A few seconds
later the rear doors of the elevator opened into a small garden leading to
another bamboo door which also required the access card.

“Welcome to the Diamond Suite,” Reynard announced as he
motioned her forward.

Maggie hadn’t heard it before but now she picked up his
slight, yet clearly Jamaican accent. She also thought she saw an actual twinkle
of gold in his eyes as she walked past him but it was probably just a glint
from the sunlight streaming into the suite from the glass roof.

“It is the Davenport’s finest,” Reynard advised with obvious
pride. “The founder, Robert Davenport, lived here with his family during the
Roaring Twenties. If you are interested in the history, there is a something
about it in the hotel’s information notebook in your bedroom.”

Maggie’s gaze darted from one part of the great room to
another, taking in the corner workstation, the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves
which held a large number of books broken up by a variety of knickknacks, the
comfortable sitting area with its Tommy Bahama-style sectional sofa and large,
flat-screen television, a dining table with eight chairs and a fully-equipped
kitchenette. The tropical décor had not been abandoned but it was considerably
subdued through the abundant use of whites and beiges.

The bellhop pointed at the closed double doors to the left.
“Mr. Nash will be in the master but I am sure you will find your accommodations
quite comfortable.” He opened the single door on the right and again motioned
her to go before him.

Her concerns about their “sharing” a suite were immediately
alleviated. The bedroom and bath were larger than her entire apartment and
there was a lock on the door if she felt the need for it. “This is lovely.
Thank you.”

Reynard placed her suitcase on the chest at the foot of the
bed. “There is one more thing I need to show you.” He led her back to the
living room, walked over to a framed oil painting of white cockatoos and orange
bird-of-paradise blooms and opened it like a door. “This is the control panel
for the lights, air-conditioning and window shades.” He showed what each button
and switch operated, saving the best for last.

“The glass dome ceilings in the living area and master
bedroom each operate separately.” With no small amount of dramatic flair, he
demonstrated how the glass could go from letting in full sunlight to total
blackout. “And since we just entered hurricane season, you can be assured that
the glass is shatterproof and the special construction of the domes allows them
to withstand winds up to several hundred miles per hour.” He adjusted the
lighting to moderate shading. “I am sure you can imagine how beautiful this
could be on a clear, starry night.”

Maggie caught another little twinkle in Reynard’s eyes but
her brain leaped right over romantic to how much such a system had to have
cost.

After assuring the man his assistance was not needed for
anything further, Maggie tried to hand him a tip but he wouldn’t take it.

“Thank you,” he said maintaining a sincere smile, “but all
of your expenses including gratuities are to be put on Mr. Nash’s bill.
Whatever you require while you are a guest here, you need simply sign for it.”

“Seriously? Whatever I need?”

“That is what the guest notes say.” He winked then handed
her the access card. “The spa and shops are included as well, so do be sure you
visit them when you have a chance.”

As Reynard was walking out the door she asked, “Do those
notes mention when Mr. Nash is arriving?”

He glanced at his watch. “In about an hour. Remember, just
call the concierge desk if you need
anything
.”

An hour gave her more than enough time to unpack and explore
the suite’s amenities. She couldn’t quite get over being given carte blanche in
a hotel like this. It was easy to imagine what another sort of person might do
with such an opportunity. Her temporary employer was either an insanely
generous or trusting man…or he was expecting more from her than she was aware
of. Perhaps it was the vague “additional requests” Cory mentioned might come
from hotel management.

As she got settled in her room, she reviewed everything Cory
had told her about the assignment. Bestselling horror author, Noah Nash, was
the client. He was staying at the Davenport while working on his new novel.
Because his regular assistant was having a baby, he had asked the hotel to find
him a temp who could do all the usual administrative duties but also act as a
personal concierge to do whatever he required and be flexible about the hours.
Only now did Maggie consider what a personal concierge might be asked to do.

Cory had let her know there were a number of women and one
man who were equally qualified for the job and several of those would have
taken the job for free just because they were fans of Nash’s books. She had
never read a single one, being a diehard romance fan herself, but that turned
out to be one of the reasons she was chosen. What set her apart from the
others, however, was another matter entirely.

About eighteen years ago, when she was in tenth grade, a
painfully shy boy named Noah Nash transferred to her school for one year. He
might have come and gone without her ever meeting him except for their ending
up as biology lab partners. She had learned he was an army brat who had already
attended four schools before enrolling at hers. Not only was he perpetually the
new kid, with his small, lean frame, curly black hair and dark-blue eyes, he was
pretty enough to be a girl and that made him an easy target for bullies. He had
only been at her high school a week when some dumb jock called him a fag within
Maggie’s hearing.

She had thought Noah seemed too effeminate and gentle to be
straight but she detested the jock mentality and thought of a way to flick the
guy’s nose. Though Maggie was attractive, had noticeable boobs and a lot of
friends, she wasn’t interested in a steady relationship with any of the boys
she knew. The problem was, as long as she didn’t choose anyone, she was always
being approached and even pressured into doing something she wasn’t ready for.
Because she had been at the right place at the right time, Noah had
accidentally become the answer to her teenage dilemma.

Shortly after Maggie had gone to work for “It’s Only
Temporary”, she saw Cory reading one of Nash’s novels and mentioned she had
attended high school one year with him. When this assignment came up, Cory
suggested Maggie do it because he might be more at ease with someone he knew,
even if it was only for a short time many years ago. Maggie had warned Cory
that she doubted he’d remember her. After all, they barely knew each other and
she only remembered him because he became famous. That explanation was far from
the truth but it kept her from sounding like a foolish girl.

When she finished unpacking, she set a copy of his new book
on her nightstand. She had picked it up along with the one about the Davenport
Hotel. Her thought had been to familiarize herself with his writing style but
she had yet to read beyond the back-cover blurb. She gave in to the temptation
of taking one more look at the photo on the book jacket. If he was half as sexy
as the picture, she imagined every woman in the hotel would be stalking him
around the clock or even slipping him their room access cards. Perhaps one of
her duties was to be his shield…or his beard.

As the time for Nash’s arrival neared she checked her
reflection in the bathroom mirror. She kept her blonde-on-blonde highlighted
hair short enough to wash, blow-dry and go. Unfortunately with such fair
coloring, a hint of lipstick and eye makeup was a necessity. Not knowing what
she’d be doing the first day, she had chosen a pair of black dress slacks and a
loose, pink jersey top which fit the guidelines of business casual. She wanted
to look at ease but strictly professional.

She wondered if he would remember her at all. It was so very
long ago.

One moment she was critiquing her appearance then the image
in the mirror clouded over and she was suddenly staring at a scene from high
school. Even stranger, it was more than looking at a memory, it felt as though
she were there reliving the moment…

˜ ˜ ˜ ˜ ˜

Maggie waited for the name-calling bully and his pal to
leave and walked over to where Noah was sitting on a concrete wall with his
head bent over a book.

“Hi.” He didn’t reply or raise his head so she dropped her
books and hopped onto the wall next to him. “That guy’s an ass.” He let out a
sound that was part snort and part sniff. “Wanna get back at him?” He raised
his head and narrowed his eyes at her. She noticed they looked a little watery
as though he was on the verge of tears. “I need a favor.” She finally had his
whole attention.

“From me?”

“Yes. I think you’d be the perfect person. You don’t like
biology much, do you?”

He snorted again. “Really don’t like any of the sciences, or
math for that matter. I get by but the thought of having to dissect a frog—” He
made a gagging face.

“I could help you with it. Make sure you passed at least.”

“Shoot. How big of a favor do you need? Just because I lived
overseas for a while doesn’t mean I have any drug connections or fake ID or
anything.”

“Wow, you think I’m a stoner or a party girl?” She was
rethinking her plan to save him from the bullies after all.

“What? No, no. That’s not what I meant. It’s…it’s just that
you’re, you know, one of the cool girls at this school, which usually means—
I’m making it worse. Just like I always do. Sorry.”

She patted his knee. “No need to be sorry. I get it. But
here’s the thing. I need you to pretend to be my boyfriend. Go to a few dances
and parties with me. Plus, it would really help if you’d sit with me and my
friends at lunch. You know, that kind of thing.”

His frown deepened. “Now I’m really confused. You’re popular
and really pretty. You could have any guy you wanted.”

“But I don’t want
any
guy. Not at the moment anyway.
I want to have fun without…the other stuff. I was hoping you’d understand but
if I’m asking too much…”

His whole expression lightened. “Let me get his straight. I
hang with you and your friends. You tell everyone I’m your boyfriend. And you
help me get through biology. Is there something you haven’t told me?”

She shrugged. “Well, you’ll probably have to hold my hand or
put your arm around me when we’re in public. Would that be okay?”

Noah threw his head back with a loud laugh. “I think you
just might be the craziest girl I’ve ever met but you’ve got a deal!” He
squinted at her for a moment as though trying to visualize how this was going
to work. “I’ll need a good girlfriend’s nickname for you. What do you like?”

BOOK: ZenithRising
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