Read Last Call for Love Online

Authors: Maggie Marr

Tags: #FIC027020 FICTION / Romance / Contemporary; FIC044000 FICTION / Contemporary Women

Last Call for Love (7 page)

BOOK: Last Call for Love
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*

 

The shuttle driver grasped Charla’s bag and rolled it onto the curb. She didn’t want to tip him—she needed every single dollar she had—but as a woman who’d grown accustomed to making her money on tips, she knew it was the right thing to do. She peeled off two bucks and handed it to the shuttle driver.

“No, no, no.” He shook his head and held up his hands. “We both work at Mesquale. I’m not taking your money.”

“Right, I work
ed
at Mesquale, and we both know what pays the bills.” Charla smiled and pressed the two ones toward her driver. He finally nodded and grudgingly took the money.

“Thank you. Safe travels. See you in six months.”

Charla nodded. Why tell him that she would not be coming back to Mesquale, as most staff did, after six months off? She heaved her duffel bag up over her shoulder. Nope, not what was happening. What was happening was that she was on her way to an unknown fate. Wind whipped at her hair. Dark angry clouds rolled toward the island. Not the usual for Mesquale, which got mostly blue-sky days.

Her flight would be delayed, which meant she would sit in the airport with little cash, growing hungrier and hungrier while they waited for the weather to clear. She took a deep breath and grasped the handle of her rolling bag. Alabama … Alaska … at least she had plenty of time to get in line, get her ticket and get through security … Arizona … maybe she would go to Phoenix … or Sedona. Sedona was warm and beautiful and had tons of resorts. Maybe she could find a gig in Arizona.

She pulled her phone from her pocket. One great thing about leaving Mesquale was that she could use her cell phone again. Of course the downside was that she couldn’t pay her cell bill after this month.

Four thousand three hundred and seventy-two emails. Wow. So popular. And thirty-nine missed calls. Anyone who was important to her had her landline number at Mesquale. She scrolled. Nope. Nothing important. No one she cared to talk to. Bertram. Bertram. Bertram. Bertram. Bertram’s mother. Nope, not one person. She and Bertram had clearly ended their relationship before she left San Diego. Perhaps he’d figured out what a douchebag he was and that she wasn’t the lying hussy homewrecker that Bertram’s father claimed her to be.

She rolled her bag into the airport just as big fat raindrops began to fall from the sky. A flash of lightning split the angry clouds. She checked the departure. Yep. Delayed.  Plenty of time. She’d rushed around her room like a crazy person for no reason. She got into the line to check her bag and get her ticket. With the nasty weather rolling toward Mesquale she could sit and ponder what exactly she’d do when she arrived in Los Angeles.

 

Chapter 7

 

Antoine sat at his desk while Ryan paced the room and conveyed what he’d been told by Charla about Josh and Orso and Orso’s inappropriate overtures to her.

“I want him fired.” Ryan’s temper flared. He didn’t live under a rock. Women were propositioned all the time in the workplace. He realized thanks to Prim, who had been his second-in-command at Metro, that to be a strong, attractive woman meant to fend off a multitude of unprovoked, unwarranted, and unwanted advances. However he would not own a resort that ignored this horrible behavior. 

“And I want Miss Duvall reinstated.”

“Done.” Antoine lifted the receiver on his desk. “She may not wish to return.”

“I’m aware.” Ryan scrubbed his hand across his jaw. Perhaps Charla declining the invitation to return to Mesquale would be in his best interest. Hadn’t he been just as bad as Orso last night? Maybe worse? He’d not only been a man in a position of power, but he’d lied to Charla. Lied by omission.

Telling Antoine about last night served no purpose. He wouldn’t have Antoine judging Charla’s decision to sleep with him. Ryan had put Mesquale squarely at risk with his actions. If she decided to go to Los Angeles instead of returning to Mesquale, they would put her up in Ryan’s corporate apartment in L.A. A living space and a severance package so that she could get on her feet. They could ask her to sign away any claims she had against Mesquale with regards to Orso. He looked out the window at the ocean. While the business part of his brain knew this would be best for the resort, he hoped she’d return to Mesquale.

“Ryan?” Antoine still sat with the receiver in his hand. “How shall I handle questions about who brought this matter to my attention?”

“With regards to Orso? Security, and you can use me.  Or you could tell him that one of the guests who witnessed the events yesterday at The Banana Boat decided to come forward.”

“And Miss Duvall?”

“She shouldn’t know that I came to you. Perhaps she can think it was security, or footage, or a guest told the truth.” Ryan nodded. “I like the idea of a guest being the person who came to you and told you about Josh, which then informed the decision about Orso. Yes, I like that very much.” He looked at Antoine. “You know we have a substantial employee trust problem.”

Antoine nodded. “I’ve been fighting that since you hired me. The previous owners did not believe in transparency or firing middle management. Nor did they see their workers as anything more than replaceable cogs.”

“That’s not how you build a solid company.”

“No,” Antoine admitted, but his voice grew softer. “However, it is how a number of high-end resorts are run.”

“I understand the short-term cost-effective parameters regarding workers. I believe happy and loyal workers build a more solid company. I want Mesquale to have a reputation in resort staff communities for being the place to work, not just because of the elite clientele, but because the best staff wants to work here. We have great staff, but unfortunately some of them are afraid for their safety and their jobs.”

Antoine dialed. “It would seem the new owner is changing all that.”

Ryan nodded. “So it would seem.”

Twenty minutes later Orso sat in the chair opposite Antoine’s desk and Ryan sat beside him. He was a round man. Sweat dripped from his hairline down his cheek.

“It would seem, Mr. Orso, that you’ve put Mesquale in a tenuous position,” Antoine said.

Orso twisted and turned in his chair. He pressed his hands together in his lap. “Mr. Antigua, Mesquale is my life. I’ve been here for over ten years. If there is any way I can make my work or the guest experience better, you know I will. I’m completely dedicated to Mesquale.”

Orso was smooth, saying all the things that upper management wanted to hear from middle management.  Ryan might have believed him, if he hadn’t witnessed what actually took place at The Banana Boat Bar. Plus what he’d heard from Charla and Liam about how Mr. Orso conducted himself with regards to female staff and his supervisory position.

“There was an incident, yesterday at The Banana Boat.” Antoine settled back into his chair. “I didn’t see it in your management notes for the day, nor did I receive a report from security.”

“Ah yes.” Orso smiled and nodded as though there was nothing amiss. “There was an incident. You must have heard about the little problem from our newest employee.” He provided Ryan with a condescending smile. “So very conscientious of you, Ryan, to bring this matter to Mr. Antigua’s attention.” The hint of a threat was apparent in not only Mr. Orso’s voice but also his gaze. “What Ryan may not know is that the responsible party has been terminated. A long history of instability. She’s on the first flight from Mesquale. I received a guest complaint regarding Miss Duvall’s behavior.”

“Really?” Antoine said. “I too received a guest complaint, but the complaint was not about Miss Duvall, but about Mr. Hughes. That’s the reason I asked Ryan to meet with me. The guest commended Ryan on how he conducted himself. How he tried to calm Mr. Hughes and protect our server.”

“Ah, well, I see.” Orso turned in his chair. “The guest must have gotten it wrong.” He tilted his head toward Ryan. “I think it’s excellent that a new employee with so little experience at Mesquale would take it upon himself to try to calm Mr. Hughes. As you know, Mr. Hughes is a regular guest of Mesquale. A very powerful  man. Commendable, Ryan, truly. However, I did hear from Mr. Hughes, and he made it clear that it was he who was attacked by our employee in a most vicious manner. She slapped him, when he’d done nothing to warrant her attack.”

Ryan’s blood boiled. The desire to jump from his chair and throttle Orso thrummed through him. To cross-examine Orso’s lies. To pick apart every word Orso said until he crumbled beneath the weight of Ryan’s questioning.

How long since Ryan had been in such a subservient role where truth was not part of the person in power’s vocabulary? This was awful. How did people survive in this position? When supervisors lied about them and questioned their ethics and their veracity?

“What an interesting report on events,” Antoine said. “Because our other guest said something very different. They stated that Mr. Hughes drank a full bottle of Patrón, ordered a second bottle, and then physically accosted our server by grabbing her buttocks. When she turned toward him, he reached his hand down the front of her uniform and grasped her breast.”

Orso licked his meaty lips. His fingertips pressed to the corners of his mouth. He nodded as through following Antoine’s story.

“All these claims, whether true or unfounded, require a report to me and to security, plus entry into your managerial notes for the day. Then, as you are aware, an investigation. While the employee may be put on leave until the investigation is complete, she shouldn’t be fired until after I’ve reviewed security’s report.”

“Mr. Antigua, I assumed since Mr. Hughes is such a valued guest and such a powerful man, that you would want me to adhere to his request that Miss Duvall be fired. It’s been the longstanding policy at Mesquale that the guest is always right.”

Antoine leaned forward in his chair. “Yes, the guests’ needs must be met and it is our mission to ensure that their experience is of the highest quality. However, there are policies and procedures in place that must be followed to ensure that our employees are treated fairly and to minimize all liabilities for Mesquale. Let me just say, it’s the viewpoint of the
new
owner that our employees are to be treated in the highest regard and by so doing we will attract and maintain the very best employees in the hospitality industry.”

“Or a bunch of entitled spoiled brats.” Mr. Orso grimaced and crossed his arms over his chest. “Does the new owner have any idea how to run a hotel? Has he ever been to one, aside from staying as a guest in a penthouse suite?”

Ryan locked his jaw and ground his teeth. Orso was somewhat correct in his assessment. Prior to pretending to be a maintenance and a laundry room worker, and now hospitality, Ryan had never worked in a hotel.

The corner of Mr. Antigua’s lip ticked upward. “I can assure you that our new owner is hands-on and has recently worked in the hotel industry.”

“Who is our new owner? When will this be announced?”

Antigua’s eyes flicked to Ryan. “The new owner of Mesquale should be joining us very soon.” His lips thinned, and his eyes hardened. “However, you won’t be here to meet him. I must ask you to leave. Now. On the first flight out of Mesquale.”

“What?” Orso’s eyes widened, and he leaned forward, his round body appearing as though it might topple from the chair. “You can’t be serious. After more than a decade of service you’re bouncing me because I failed to file some paperwork?”

“This is a more grievous offense than failing to file paperwork. You’ve opened Mesquale to some serious liability issues. There is a claim of a possible sexual assault by a guest against one of our employees, and you fired her before that matter could be investigated by our security staff and the local police. Truly, Mr. Orso, instead of firing Miss Duvall, you should have called me and also the police on her behalf.”

Orso shook his head and cocked an eyebrow. “You have no idea what these women servers are after, do you, Antoine? How they’re willing to spread their legs for what they want, and then when they don’t get the clothes or the jewels or the cash, how they make false claims against powerful men.”

Ryan’s hands fisted on the arm of the chair. What a damned bulbous beast and liar.

Antoine pushed back from his desk. “I believe I’ve heard quite enough. The first flight off the island has been delayed until eleven due to weather. That should give you adequate time to gather your things.”

“Adequate time? I have a decade worth of things in my bungalow. How does an hour give me enough time?” Orso spit out. His mean eyes sharpened on Ryan.

Ryan turned and met his gaze. He poured every bit of anger into his look at Orso, who visibly recoiled.

“Anything you can’t take on the plane,” Antoine said, “our staff will pack and ship to your forwarding address. Please leave that address with Mary on your way out.” 

“I’m fired? Unbelievable. You’ve just fired me?”

“Yes.” Antoine signed a sheet of paper. “This is yours.”  He held out Orso’s termination notice.

Orso went from looking sucker-punched with a slack jaw and widened eyes, to his lips pressing together and his brow creasing. He slowly stood. His nostrils flared. “You’ve made a mistake, Antoine. A big mistake.”

“Your ticket will be waiting at the airport.” Antoine stood, indicating that this was not only the end of Orso’s career at Mesquale, but the end of their meeting. 

Orso walked from Antoine’s office and closed the door. Ryan jumped from the chair, his belly lit by a furious heat. He paced the wall of windows like a caged cat. How he’d wanted to beat the hell out of Orso.

“Mary, make certain that security escorts Mr. Orso to the airport,” Antoine said.

Ryan whipped his head around and looked at Antoine. “How is such a man employed by Mesquale? And for a
decade
?”

Antoine’s normally sun-kissed skin was pallid and his lips in a tight line. “I can’t believe this malfeasance has gone on this long.” Antoine’s gaze met Ryan’s. “I feel as though I’ve failed you and that I’ve failed the resort.”

“I don’t think failed is the right word. You’ve been here for nine months, as have I. We’re finding these things out together.” 

BOOK: Last Call for Love
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ads

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