I have everything you could think of: a swanky apartment, fast cars and fast women, but for a long time, I have always felt something missing. My dad’s motto in life is why settle when you have the world at your feet, a ruthless entrepreneur and womaniser someone who I always swore I would never turn into but with the lifestyle I live, it would appear the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree much to my mother’s disapproval, of course, she knows about the other women but she loves the lifestyle and that is worth putting up with an adulterer.
I welcome you to the world of Crawford Hotels; I have never wanted for anything and money is no object, my family run a very successful chain of hotels and currently I am on my way to sort out one that is not performing as well as an expected nice surprise for the staff on a Monday morning to have the big bad city boy land unexpectedly.
I know what people think of me, rude, arrogant and born with a silver spoon in my mouth. The truth, I never used to be, but one summer changed everything. As I make the drive, I take in the scenery. It is as beautiful as I remember I haven’t been here in eight years, since I was seventeen. The mountains stand tall and the trees are amazing shades of reds, oranges and yellows from Autumn. The air is crisp and clean, the polar opposite of the city. I turn into the gravel entrance of Lakeshore Hotel. It looks the same and for a split second, a memory floods my senses, a smell, a soft voice, piercing eyes. I quickly push the image to the back where I have kept that under lock and key for a very long time. A valet meets me and takes my keys, not fully aware of who I am.
I make my way to the reception where Claudia the manager notices me right away; she has worked for the company for years and is an amazing asset. My mother thinks the world of her, my dad not so much, probably because she refuses to bend to his will and deals solely with my mother, which pisses him off.
“Mr Crawford, we weren’t expecting you, everything ok?” I give her a stern look.
“Claudia, you and I both know if I am here, it’s not good can we have a word?”
Claudia leads the way to her office and I take a seat.
“Can I get you a coffee, Mr Crawford?” I nod at her.
“That would be good. It was quite a long drive and you know it’s Nate.” Claudia smiles at me.
Claudia and I got down to business, and I knew I always enjoyed dealing with her. She is a straight shooter and tells me that with the staff; the turnover is too high, resulting in a constant short-staff issue. This hotel has always been a great place, with snow in the winter for winter sports enthusiasts and summer sun for all the sun worshippers and beach lovers. I hear the door knock and the voice of Christmas past walks in.
“Claudia, I know I am late, I am so sorry, I will make it up...” I watch as Claudia gives her a warm smile.
“Cassie, that’s alright, I understand.”
“The appointment overran, I am so sorry. They asked me to bring this coffee to the office,” Cassie stammers.
Claudia waves her off.
“That’s alright just let Judith finish her shift and I will talk to you later.” Cassie places the coffee on the desk in front of me and briefly takes me in.
I know, she knows who I am, but right now she is acting like I don’t exist and that’s perfectly fine with me because after eight years I have come face to face with the girl who stole and broke my heart. I can’t bring myself to look at her, but Claudia forces my hand, crushing my plans of avoidance down around me.
“Miss Simpson, I believe you should remember Mr Crawford.”
I stand up and put my hand out to hers, as she puts her hand in mine her cheeks flush pink and the warmth of her hands spread over my body, holding Cassies’ hand turns me seventeen again. I take her in and everything is the same except her eyes aren’t bright and vibrant, instead; they are dull and lost.
I knew she went to school and studied law, so I am shocked to find her back in her hometown. She couldn’t wait to get out of here, travel the world and spread her wings. Cassie was destined for more than the little town of Lakeshore. I spent two years secretly crushing on this girl hard while I was up here with my Mother and Sister. She never noticed me, not once, who I was keeping her away. It wasn’t until that last time I was here that Cassie started working for us and I fell in love with her. The biggest mistake of my life.
“Welcome back to Lakeshore.”
I try to get a read on her, but I come up empty.
“It’s been a long time.” She abruptly removes her hand, realising we are holding on for longer than we should.
Cassie pulls away, making her way to the door.
“I will just head out to reception and relieve Judith, thank you for understanding Claudia.”
The door closes and I snap my attention to Claudia and it comes out harsher than intended.
“Do you always allow the staff to arrive late without consequence?”
Claudia straightens in her seat, showing I don’t intimate her.
“I can assure you, Miss Simpson, is a hard worker, and this is out of character poor girl just has had a difficult time, that’s all.”
I want to remain angry with Cassie, but my heart aches for her. The look on her face told me she was not doing so well and I wanted to reach out to her. I quickly snapped myself out of that notion that was seventeen-year-old Nate talking, not twenty-five-year-old Nathaniel’s way of thinking and Cassie was going to find out quickly that I was not the same person anymore and she very much had a part to play in that.
I reminded myself why I was here, to begin with.
“I don’t need to know about her difficult time Claudia we run a business, not a charity. The reason I am here is that my father is not overly happy with the way things are being run.” Claudia scoffs.
“With all due respect Nathaniel, I don’t answer to you or your father. Any issues with this hotel go through your mother. So I suggest you call her and find out what is going on, Your father has never had an interest in this hotel the last time he was here, well that just so happens to be the same time you were, eight years ago.”
I sat stunned; I knew she was a sharpshooter but yeah; it put me in my place and it was the first time in years someone ever had the balls to talk to me that way.
“Well, I think I will go get settled, Claudia, thanks for the chat.” Claudia watches me like a hawk “uh-huh.” I walk out of her office and make my way to the reception.
I instantly regret my decision about ever coming back here.