About a month ago, I asked people to pick out the cover for book two in the series. Here it is along with an excerpt.
Two months ago, Daniel’s idea of a reunion special sounded like a good idea. The local winery put reunion stickers on their bottles of table red after she provided the stickers and bought three cases. Each room got a gift basket of wine, chocolate, bath salts, and a candle for a romantic getaway. The baskets rested on the foyer table. Originally, she thought leaving them in the rooms would work, but she wanted to make sure the guests each received their baskets personally. Somehow, that would make it seem more like a gift than something that normally came with the room.
Her first reunion guest was Lorena Fitzgerald, according to the list. The door opened almost on cue, jangling the delicate bell she’d attached to it for exactly that purpose. A woman with a dark asymmetrical bob and a cashmere sweater set entered, pausing on the threshold. A quick scan of the woman’s conservative closed toed pumps, pencil skirt, classic pearl strand, and wrinkle free face didn’t strike any memory chords. People changed with the help of hair dye, weight gain or loss, and Botox. The woman summoned up a pleasant smile as she approached Donna.
Good, a nice customer. It was about time. All she seemed to have lately was the loud talkers whom the other guests complained about. Then there were ‘the late night door slammers,’ which was the unfortunate result of a not so harmonious second honeymoon. Not to be overlooked was the late night snacker. Personally, he was the worst in her opinion. Surprise hit her when she opened her fridge, expecting to see all the items she’d prepared the night before for breakfast and only finding a fraction of them. The man had the nerve to ask if they were going to have more of the missing delicious cinnamon date buns. Her lips tilted up as she stifled a sign of relief as the guest approached with one single designer weekender. Classy. Why couldn’t all her guests be similar?
“Hello. Welcome to The Painted Lady Inn. Thanks for choosing the Lady for your weekend getaway.” She held the smile in place, questioning her choice of a name for her bed and breakfast. Daniel remarked it sounded like something out of a horror movie, as if it would come to life.
The woman didn’t answer, but took two more steps closer, then placed her bag on the floor. “I’m glad to be here before the sun sets.”
“You made it.” Her cheeks were starting to ache from the continually smiling. This small talk was the hardest part of the job. Well, that and acting like a genial innkeeper. Why couldn’t she’d just be normal Donna Tollhouse?
“Yes, yes, I did.” The woman glanced around the foyer that had several open doors to the front parlor, library, and dining room. Her lips pursed as her eyes flicked upward.
No dust anywhere and the floors gleamed where they weren’t covered by a floral runner. Nothing to find exception with as far as she could tell. “May I have your name, please?”
The woman gave a nervous laugh out of character for the persona Donna had assigned her.
“Lorena, Lorena Fitzgerald.”
Convenient, since she was the first name on the list. Her hand gripped the heavy reunion basket and held it out to Lorena. “Compliments of the inn for your stay.” The woman’s French tipped manicured hand wrapped around the basket handle beside Donna’s. “Enjoy the reunion.”
Lorena’s eyes widened. “There’s a reunion? What type?”
Donna had relinquished the basket unaware that her guest didn’t merit a basket. Too late to take it back too, especially since the woman was now poking through it making pleasurable noises. With her luck, the couple out antiquing would hear about it and expect one too. Well, she did have a couple cases of Reunion Red.
“Ah yes, the local high school is having a reunion. Thirty-one years.”
Lorena fanned her free hand in front of her as if overcome by the thought of a reunion. “Thirty years. Goodness, I’ve only been out of school barely twenty years.”
Taking a page from Detective Taber’s book, she ran a hand over her face, hoping to hide her smirk. Okay, the woman looked good, but not that good. A woman in her thirties would wear something a little more playful, edgy, or even more casual. The shoes and sweater set declared her mid-forty. Once she recovered her innkeeper face, she dropped her hand.