Winter's Kiss

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Chapter 2

Larissa brushed her hair back from her face, and puffed her cheeks out with a hot angry breath. She turned and walked through the door behind the desk into the kitchen. Olivia, her business partner was singing a Christmas tune as she stirred a large pot of stew then tasted it, added a pinch of salt then put the lid back on and continued to sing.

“Does Theo know you are messing with his stew?” Larissa said as she went to the coffee counter and poured herself a fresh cup.

“Oh it’s just a pinch of salt-”

“What's a pinch of salt?”

Theo came through the pantry door with his arms full of carrots and other assorted vegetables. “Liv, if you don’t get away from that stew, I will kill you in your sleep.”

He dropped the produce onto the counter, stalked over to her and took the ladle from her hand. She was giggling when he waved it at her. He was a couple of feet taller than her, broad shouldered with a shock of soot black hair on his head that was held in place with a colourful bandana.

“I’ve told you to quit messing with my food!”

“You let me stir and add salt when its for us.”

“That’s when the only possible people you could kill are you and me.”

Larissa watched the exchange with a smile on her face. They had been married for almost a decade, right out of high school and never looked back. He was the head chef at the Riverfront lodge, a five acre event space that was usually in huge demand with weddings or corporate bookings.

They catered to team building activities, spa options, conferences and large family gatherings and even had rooms enough for up to fifty people. Olivia took care of the event management, Theo was the chef and she looked after general operations. It had been eight years since they opened and they had an eighteen month waiting list for events.

This latest event, an intimate wedding that was supposed to be hosted tomorrow, was likely to be the first time they ever failed to complete a request. The flooding in 2016 hampered a corporate event, but Olivia turned it into a muddy obstacle course. The power outage in 2018 almost ruined the Crawford family reunion, but again, Olivia came through with candles and Chinese lanterns and turned it into a new activity.

“Is there any hot chocolate left?” Larissa asked as she saw Olivia reach for the ladle again and Theo swat her butt with his hand.

“Sure, Theo just made a new batch, with caramel.” She pointed at a pitcher on the counter and winked.

“Oh god, hit me up, make it a double.”

“So what’s the latest?” Olivia asked as she went over and grabbed a mug of cocoa herself too.

Larissa sat on the high stool by the centre island and dropped her head into her hands. “The groom’s wedding suit never arrived, half the guests can’t get through the storm, the catering will never deliver the food, and the most important component, the priest, is stuck in Bangor . But apart from that… everything is ok.”

“Oh honey,” Olivia soothed her and rubbed her arm then reached into the pantry and took out a few large marshmallows to add to her hot chocolate. “Here, Theo said if it keeps snowing he will add whiskey to the next batch.”

“Bourbon!” came Theo’s response as he focused on peeling the vegetables.

“What are you making sweetie?” Olivia said as she rested her elbow on the table and her chin in her palm.

“Soup for tomorrow in case we lose power.”

Larissa groaned and dropped her head onto her hands.

“You can’t be responsible for this storm.” Olivia rubbed Larissa’s back in soft circles as she spoke. “I know we can find a suit around here somewhere, Theo can cover the catering for the wedding, right, honey?”

“As long as they don’t mind vegetable soup and left over stew!”

“Oh Olivia that’s great but their family cannot make it and we don’t even have a priest.”

Olivia sighed. “We’re going to lose a bomb on this wedding.”

“I’ll offer to host them again,” Larissa said with a sigh. “Free of charge.”

“And we’ll do inhouse catering this time.”

They both looked at each other with sad smiles.

“I’ll go chat to the bride," Larissa said. "And see if I can salvage anything from today’s disaster.”

She took a long sip of her chocolate then stood and brushed down the front of her grey skirt before leaving the kitchen to look for the disgruntled bride. She was walking through the lobby smiling at guests and making her way towards the stairs when one of the wait staff, Joel, came bursting through the door.

“Ms Larissa!” he called. “Ms Larissa, there’s been a crash!”

“What?”

“Down at Culver’s cross, a truck is off the road.”

“Oh god, is anyone hurt?”

“I’m on my way down there now, I’m going to take the horses with Harry to get down there quickly. I need a first aid kit, just in case.”

Larissa rushed to a cupboard under the stairs and pulled out a small first aid kit. She handed it to Joel who ran off to the stables to get to the crash site. Larissa followed him to the door and looked out at the heavy blizzard.

They had already taken in a couple of strays and had a few spare rooms thanks to the wedding guests not being able to make it. She hoped whoever was in that truck was going to be well enough to survive being stranded with them for a few days.

She grabbed the phone by the door but there was still no signal.

“Dammit.” She hurried back to the staff room and found Tom eating a sandwich and watching tv. “Hey Tom! The snow chains are still on the truck right?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Great, where are the keys?”

“The keys? You’re not going out in that are you?” Tom stood up and took a few steps towards her.

“There’s been a crash down at Culver’s cross, Joel and Harry are riding horses down there now, but they wont be able to bring people back up here on horseback, they may be injured.”

“I’ll go, you wait here.” Tom hurried off leaving Larissa in his wake.

She hated being left behind. She needed to keep busy until the staff got back with news. She took a deep breath and got back to her original task.

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