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Authors: Maggie Marr

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

Last Call for Love (8 page)

BOOK: Last Call for Love
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“You hired me to be your eyes and ears, to carry out your instructions while you conduct your investigation of how Mesquale operates at a grassroots level. I missed the drunken maintenance supervisor, I missed that the maids were underpaid and about to walk off the job, and now I missed that our food-and-beverage manager has been sexually harassing and propositioning our female staff.”

“You’ve missed nothing. These are the very reasons I wanted to go undercover for a few months, see if we can’t clean up some of the systemic problems.”

Ryan stared out across the gorgeous ocean and looked down the luxurious white-sand beaches where the sun danced along the shore.

“I’ve been told now, by more than one source, that the previous owners were willing to fire ten staff members to make one guest happy. That’s not how I’ll run Mesquale. How we’ll run Mesquale.”

A smile broke across Antoine’s face. He didn’t often smile.

“I want the best and the most satisfied employees in the world. Employees who know we expect their very best, but that in return we will provide them with the best and most fair work experience possible.”

“Mr. Murphy, those are my kind of goals. I look forward to going on this journey with you.”

“Excellent. Now, let’s call Miss Duvall.”

 

Chapter 8

 

Charla splurged on a bag of day-old popcorn and a bottle of water. Not because she really wanted either, but because they were the cheapest two items she could find at the Mesquale Airport. The popcorn might keep her full on her flight to Los Angeles. That was, if she ever managed to get on a flight to Los Angeles.

Delayed again. A storm brewed over Mesquale. Thick thunderheads, grey with bruised undersides, hovered over the island. All arrivals and departures had stopped. If she weren’t persona non grata at the resort, she’d take the shuttle back and bunk in her old room until the morning flight tomorrow. Thanks to Orso, her returning to Mesquale wasn’t an option. If Orso found her on Mesquale, he might have her arrested for trespassing.

She scrolled through her phone for the fiftieth time. There were no calls from Poppy and no calls from Ryan. She’d hoped Ryan would call and explain his abrupt departure from her bed this morning.

A tiny ache curled around her heart. Being left alone in her room without so much as a good-bye didn’t sit well with her after their night together. Had Ryan been completely scamming her for an easy lay? Was his promise of a friend for her to stay with in Los Angeles a giant bag of hot air? She closed her eyes. She’d forego the place to crash for the good-bye. No one liked feeling used and discarded. 

She’d texted the two friends who still lived in San Diego. Maybe they’d let her couch surf if she could find a way down the coast from Los Angeles.

She was so screwed. She shoved a piece of stale popcorn into her mouth. She looked around the airport. Most travelers were surrendering to the weather, rebooking for tomorrow and leaving the airport, but she was stuck.

Where had she been when she stopped last? Georgia? Ah, Georgia, she adored Savannah, but the humidity? That was tough. She couldn’t live in Georgia. Hawaii. She could do Hawaii, but right now she was mainland bound. Idaho, Illinois, Indiana—

“I don’t know who the hell you know, but it must be someone pretty damn powerful.”

A slimy feeling curdled in her belly. Charla looked up from her phone.

“Mr. Orso?”

The scent of cooked onions and something sour wafted into her nose. Why was Mr. Orso here, and why did he have a carry-on and a rolling bag? Was her luck so bad that she was stuck on the plane with the man who had propositioned her and then fired her?

He leaned forward, his meaty lips not far from her face. “You little bitch. Who did you call? Antigua? The new owner? Who do you know?

“Whomever you blew to get me fired, well they managed to do it for you. Was it that bartender? The new one?” He squinted and peered at her. “Ryan? Did you fuck him and manage to get him to speak up for you?”

Charla’s face heated. She glanced around. Mr. Orso’s voice grew louder with his anger. People at their gate watched them and cupped their hands over their mouths.

“You did blow that bartender. No wonder he was in Antigua’s office. So you’ll play Miss Naive with me and then fuck that little peon? What a dumb bitch.”

Shrinking into nothingness was what Charla wanted. To disappear in her seat. To be anywhere but at the Mesquale airport getting berated by Mr. Orso.

So why was she still here? Charla stood, and Orso jumped. He might be Mr. Badass Bully when she was sitting down, but when she stood, he cowered. She stepped toward him, and he backed up.

“Stay away from me.” Charla grabbed her popcorn and her bags and walked toward the Mesquale police officer who stood close to the wall. She didn’t need the cop; she simply wanted to be near him. He smiled and tipped his head toward her. Charla’s phone rang. She slipped it from her back pocket. The ID read … Mesquale?

“Hello?”

“Miss Duvall? I have Mr. Antigua for you. Please hold.”

Before she could utter a word, Charla was waiting for Mr. Antigua. She glanced toward Orso, who sat near the gate. He unwrapped a giant sandwich and pressed it to his mouth. Was that where the foul odor had come from when Orso was beside her? The couple sitting beside Orso flashed him a horrible look, stood up, and moved away from him and his odorous lunch.

“Miss Duvall?” Antigua’s voice was smooth and soft. There was a reason the new owner of Mesquale had hired Antigua to run the most exclusive resort in the world.

“Yes, sir.” Wait, why was she calling him sir? She no longer worked at Mesquale. Because she was a rule follower, that was why. Even when unjustly fired, she still called her ex-boss’s boss sir. 

“I want to apologize on behalf of Mesquale. It seems … well, it would seem that one of our supervisory staff has acted rather poorly toward you.”

Wait … what? Antigua was apologizing? For Orso? Her gaze flicked back to the beastly man who still sat shoving his sandwich into his open maw of a mouth.

“I’m horrified to think of what kind of emotional turmoil he’s caused you in the last twenty-four hours, and for that I am deeply sorry.”

With Antigua’s apology also came a giant lump in her throat. Whether she wanted to scream or cry over the unfairness of the last day she wasn’t sure. Duped, used, and unprotected were the words that flashed in her mind. Between Mr. Hughes’s unwanted advances and assault and then Orso’s attempted extortion of sexual favors, plus Ryan leaving her this morning without a good-bye, every muscle in her body was wound taut.

She turned toward the wall. Crying in the Mesquale Airport wasn’t her style. She pressed her fingertips into the corners of her eyes.

“We’ve relieved Mr. Orso of his duties. He won’t be returning to Mesquale in any capacity. We’ve also seen Mr. Hughes to his private plane. He’s no longer welcome at Mesquale.”

A gasp flew from her mouth. Orso? Hughes?
Both
gone? She glanced over her shoulder toward Orso.

“I’d also like to offer you your job back. If you want to return to Mesquale.”

She sniffled. Return? Did she want to return? There were only three months left on her contract, but those three months would give her the time she needed to decide where she was going, where she would stay, how she would live once her Mesquale contract expired, and where she might want to work next.

“And should you decline your job, you may still return to Mesquale to put your affairs in order. You could even stay here, as our guest, and then make your decision. Either way, we’d like for you to come back to the resort today.”

A deep breath filled her lungs. The squeezing sensation in her chest that she hadn’t even realized was present relaxed. She had a job if she wanted and a place to stay until she decided.

“Who will take Mr. Orso’s place?”

“Excuse me?”

“Who will take Mr. Orso’s place? If I’m to decide whether I can work at Mesquale, I’d like to know who I’ll be working for.”

“A valid point and an excellent question. We began the search the moment we relieved Mr. Orso of his duties. There are people we like for the position, but we’ve yet to interview. Perhaps you could come back and share your opinions on this matter.”

She did have opinions about who should run the food and beverage division of Mesquale. There was one employee who was a perfect fit. He’d been offered the job and declined several times, but maybe with this new owner and this new operating manager, as well as this new attitude toward employees and supervisors, perhaps if offered the job again, this time he’d say yes.

“I could do that.” She wanted to do that. She wanted to make certain no other woman in food and beverage ever again had to feel the way she’d felt for the last day. As though she were a liar and a piece of meat that a guest thought they had the luxury of ordering up on a plate as they did their meals.

“Excellent,” Mr. Antigua said. She heard a smile in his voice. “I’ll send a car for you.”

“I can catch the shuttle—”

“No, Miss Duvall, please. I’ve alerted the new owner to this situation, and he insists that we send a car for you.”

The new owner?
The staff had been abuzz with speculation about the new owner for months. A nameless, faceless person who’d yet to set foot onto Mesquale.

“Thank you,” Charla said.

“My pleasure. The car will meet you at arrivals. We’ll speak soon. I’ll have Mary contact you about us meeting tomorrow.” Antigua was gone.

Charla slipped her phone into her back pocket. What had just happened?  She was through the looking glass. From unemployed and homeless to having a car sent for her and a meeting with the new executive director of operations at Mesquale? How had this happened? Hughes had been sent packing, and Orso had been fired.

Charla hefted her duffel bag up over her shoulder and grasped the handle of her rolling carry-on bag.  Did Ryan have something to do with this call from Antigua? Orso had mentioned that Ryan was in Mr. Antigua’s office when Orso was sacked. Did Ryan go to Antigua this morning and tell Antigua about Hughes? 

She pressed her fingers to her mouth. Had Ryan put himself on the line for her? If Orso had found out and not been fired, he’d have made Ryan’s life a living hell and eventually found a way to terminate Ryan too.

Charla pulled her carry-on toward the exit. If Ryan had gone to Antigua, he’d done more to save her than anyone else.

A flush flamed her face. She didn’t even know Ryan’s last name. She walked out of Mesquale Airport and into the humidity that enveloped the island. Wind whipped the palm trees.

“Miss Duvall?”

She turned.

A driver wearing a Mesquale uniform stood beside a black town car. Charla knew about luxury and privilege and those who were able to live such a life. Bertram’s father had a driver who was often instructed to drive whatever woman was trapped in the back of his car around the block over and over and over again. A rolling bedroom on wheels where Gerome could have his way with women.

Charla shuddered. That night when she’d been grabbed in the back of the town car, she’d used a swift knee to the groin and then a stiletto to his foot. She’d caused enough damage that the letch had needed stitches and she’d needed to leave San Diego.

“Let me take your bags.”

Once she was settled into the rich black leather backseat, she realized how utterly tired she was. She rested her head against the cushion. The ride to Mesquale was short, but cocooned in the lap of luxury, she intended to enjoy every mile.

 

Chapter 9

 

“What did you tell Antigua?”

The voice tore Ryan’s gaze away from the shot of whiskey he was pouring into a rocks glass. Charla’s eyebrows were pressed together, and her hair was loose and curly around her face. She was beautiful. She wore a tank top, and her breasts were high and firm and her nipples pressed against the fabric. His sex grew hard with her presence.

“I told him the truth,” Ryan said.

She tilted her head to the side. A tiny bit of surprise flickered in her eyes, as though the truth wasn’t nearly enough. “And he believed you?’

“Why wouldn’t he?” Wind blew through the bar, and her hair gentled on the breeze.

She pressed her body away from the bar, as though the very simplicity of his answer was too much to fathom. Ryan wished the chain of events that led to Orso’s termination had been as simple as an employee telling a supervisor the truth. Unfortunately it had been the
new owner
of Mesquale pretending to be a bartender telling the new operating officer of Mesquale the truth. Now that sick, predatory Orso had been fired, Ryan would do his damnedest to put the right systems, the right managers, and the right mindset in place at Mesquale so that employees could and would go to their supervisors and be appreciated for telling the truth.

Ryan leaned forward and placed the drinks on the service bar. The Banana Boat was nearly empty. The skies above Mesquale were still overcast, and big raindrops had fallen off and on through the morning and now into the afternoon. The guests at The Banana Boat sat inside in booths that lined the wall.

Ryan lowered his voice. “I’m sorry I left this morning without saying good-bye.” 

Charla dipped her head and her cheeks grew pink. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. His departure from her bed without a good-bye or a kiss or any reassurance had been one of the worst parts of his morning. He’d not known how else to save her and maintain his anonymity.

“He offered me my job back because you left. I can’t be too angry with you.” She glanced up at him through her thick eyelashes. 

The knot in his chest loosened, but the desire in his belly tightened. Unimaginable. A desire that had been unfathomable three weeks before had now taken hold of Ryan and pulled him toward Charla.

“I saw Orso at the airport when I was there,” Charla said. “He’d just arrived when Antigua called me.”

Anger built and created a desire to protect Charla. “He didn’t bother you, did he?”

“He said some pretty nasty things. That I must have powerful friends to get him fired. Little did he know. All it took to get rid of Orso was a bartender and some honesty.” She crossed her arms over her chest, a satisfied smile on her face. “I don’t know anyone powerful anymore. At least not well enough to flex their muscles for me. Nor do I know the new owner of Mesquale. Orso is a sick bastard. He thought I’d done something unseemly with the new owner to get him sacked.” She leaned forward, her hands pressed against the mahogany bar. She tilted her head, and her hair framed her face. “Really it was just the newest bartender I was unseemly with.”

BOOK: Last Call for Love
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