Enjoy chapter one from Sleep In Heavenly Peace Inn Two:
Mary Michaels felt an itch between her shoulder blades and not one that meant she needed a backscratcher. Something was coming, something that would change lives. But if there was anything that the Sleep In Heavenly Peace Inn excelled in, it was in changing lives.
She’d long ago decided to stop questioning the magic of the inn, knowing that Angela, the manager, would continue to mysteriously know things, the owner would continue to remain benevolent and secretive, and she, her husband Joe, and son Bradley would continue to live and work there with a great deal of happiness.
Pausing from her chore of dusting and glancing out the window, she took a moment to appreciate the beautiful countryside of Vermont, covered with a blanket of snow, the bright blue sky a deep contrast. The weather had been perfect for business this year and reports were that it would continue. Unlike the terrible blizzard they’d had two years ago. Much had changed in that time, and she couldn’t be happier. Mary had everything she could ever want. She sighed.
A quick survey of the cozy parlor showed her all was in order, with plump couches and chairs, tables with puzzles at the ready, shelves full of interesting books, and a large hearth already cracking with a comforting fire, ready for the arrival of their guests, as was she. Just as soon as she finished dusting the small table next to the window.
“Mom? Where do you want me to put my shoe?”
It was an unusual question, even from her seven-year old son, who knew better than to be yelling in the inn. “Bradley, you know you aren’t suppose to yell inside,” she yelled.
Mary was glad Angela was out in the barn and Joe was on his way back from the airport to miss her hypocrisy.
The young boy appeared in the doorway clothed in his heavy coat, woolen hat, his cheeks pink from the cold weather. Holding a sneaker dripping in mud.
She gasped. “Bradley! You’re making a mess all over the foyer!” She dropped her duster and ran to take the shoe from him, her eyes following the trail that disappeared down the hall to the kitchen door.
“It wasn’t my fault. The mud puddle just came out of nowhere.”
“Why didn’t you have on your boots?” She handed the shoe back to him and took off her apron to use as a mop. As she cleaned, Bradley followed, carrying the offending shoe and unbeknownst to her, making another muddy trail.
“I forgot. I was in the kitchen getting a drink of water and when I looked out the window I saw the best dog in the world! He was big and hairy and he was smiling at me. Then he turned around and started running away. I couldn’t let him get away before I met him.” He paused and as if thinking to impress his mother with his manners, said, “That would be rude.”
Mary snorted. “So you didn’t take the time to put your boots on, got it.”
“Yeah, he ran to the mud by the hot pool.”
“Yeah, tub. So, where do you want me to put this shoe?”
“How about outside so we can hose it down. By the way, what happened to the—”
She opened the door to the kitchen and froze at the sight. A furry monster was currently making himself comfortable on her clean, polished floor, his body squirming and shaking, flinging mud everywhere. Mary heard a scream and a second later realized it was her.
The dog looked up, gave Bradley a doggy smile and then bolted over, his big body knocking the boy down on his bottom. After a loud bark, the dog pushed through the door and down the hall.
“Noooo!” Mary gathered her wits and tore off after the dog. He’d made it to the front parlor before she found him, making himself at home on one of the couches. She calmed her voice and said, “All right, dog. It’s time you came with me. Okay? I have a treat for you in the kitchen. Don’t you want a delicious treat?”
The dog cocked his head with an expression that seemed to show his amusement. She could almost hear him thinking, “You think I’m that stupid?” Mary walked carefully toward the couch, getting ready to grab the dog. There was no collar, nothing she could grab. Which meant she was going to have to wrap her arms around the dog and drag him out.
After another couple of steps, she quickly jumped onto the couch, just as the dog moved away, barking at the new game. Bradley joined into the fray, trying to corral the happy dog. Neither could grab hold and the dog slipped back into the foyer, lying on his back on the wood floor, emitting a contented moan as he wiggled back and forth. When Mary and Bradley caught up with him, the game began again. She was so engrossed in chasing the dog, she didn’t notice the front door opening.
She made a desperate last lunge and captured the dog against her body. “Aha, now I’ve got you.” Sensing they weren’t alone, she glanced at the door.
Their guests had arrived.
Two of the four guests appeared bewildered. The other two, a handsome couple, arm-in-arm, grinned. Mary let out a frustrated breath.
Before she could say anything, the back door opened and Angela came in, her eyes coming to rest on the dog. Mary watched in awe as the dog settled in her grasp, his tongue hanging from his mouth, panting, staring at the inn’s manager.
“Well, what do we have here?”
“I am so sorry, Angela. I’m afraid we had an unexpected guest drop in. We’ll get the dog outside and the inn back in order immediately.” Her face heated as she faced her guests and said, “Ah, welcome, everyone.”
She stood just as her husband Joe, the inn’s handyman, came in carrying luggage. When he grinned at the sight of the dog, Bradley, her, and a mud-splattered foyer, she wanted to slug him. His eyes went to the panting dog. “I don’t believe I’ve met our new decorator.” The one couple chuckled. Mary hoped they all didn’t just turn around and head out the door.
She pushed back her dark hair, now sporting a speck or two of mud and walked forward. “I’m so sorry for the mess, folks.” She glared at the dog, who seemed to smile at her. “Please come in and Angela will get you settled.”
“Joe, perhaps you can take the dog outside,” Angela said, not moving an inch. Joe immediately walked to the dog, picking him up and heading out the back door. Angela clapped her hands together, as if the last few minutes had not been chaos or the inn was not a mess of mud and dog slobber. “We are so glad to have you folks for the Christmas holidays. Please come over to the desk and I’ll give you your keys.
“I am so sorry,” Mary whispered as she walked past the woman to begin the cleanup.
In the kitchen, she found a remorseful Bradley waiting for her. “I put the shoe outside. Like you told me to.”
She wanted to stay mad, wanted to scold and punish and lecture. But his big eyes, so like the father he had lost years ago, melted all anger away. With a slight grin, she said, “It was a cool dog.” Walking to the mudroom, she pulled out all the cleaning supplies she’d need to set things to right.
Bradley followed. “Wasn’t he? Can I keep him? Can I keep Fred?”
“Oh, hold on a minute. I think first—wait, Fred?”
“Yep. That’s what I’m going to name him. Fred after Mr. Fred, the crossing guard at school.”
Her interest peaked, she turned to him. “Ah, that’s so nice. Very thoughtful that you’d name a pet after someone you admire.”
“Huh? Nah, it’s because Mr. Fred looks like a dog.” Mary shook her head. “He has those droopy eyes and that big mustache and his hair—”
“Yes, I get it. But like I was saying, first we have to find out if the dog belongs to someone and return him. Even if he doesn’t, we’ve already got one dog, one horse, three sheep, one cow, two chickens, and a duck out in the barn. I think that’s plenty of animals, don’t you?”
“But old rover is lonely for another dog. This one could be a playmate for him, don’t you think?”
Her hands filled with rags and cleaners, she walked back to the kitchen. “Son, you know that the inn doesn’t belong to us. We have to follow the owner’s rules. He only takes in abused and homeless animals. Someone may be looking for this dog.”
“But if they aren’t?”
She sighed. “I’ll see what Angela says.” Bradley whooped and ran to the mudroom. “Hold on, just a minute.” Her words had him sliding to a halt. “You helped make this mess by bringing that dog in so you’re going to help clean it up.” She threw a rag to him and said, “Let’s get started.”
Angela smiled warmly and then sat behind her desk, ready to receive the guests.
A tall statuesque couple approached. Angela already liked them for their amusement over the dog. “I’m Darren Matthews and this is my wife Tricia. I believe we have a suite?” he said with a slight southern drawl.
The couple was striking, each tall, with brown hair, although his was a lighter shade while hers was a deep mahogany. The man smiled easily as he looked around whereas the wife wrapped her arm around his, waiting for their key.
“Of course, Mr. Matthews. You and your wife have the ‘It’s a Wonderful Life Suite.’ Here’s your key. It’s the last door on the right on the second floor. Joe will be right up with your luggage.”
“Thank you.” The couple started for the stairs and the wife turned to ask, “When is dinner?”
“Dinner is served each night at six-thirty.”
The woman, Tricia, gave her husband a knowing smile. “Perfect. Come on, darlin.’” Darren gave a nod and followed his wife upstairs.
Angela watched them go, wondering when she’d seen a happier couple. Well, that was about to change. She’d have to be vigilant, compassionate, see that they both got the understanding they needed.
“Excuse, but we are waiting.”
She turned back to the beautiful and irritated woman with the foreign accent standing before her. Her hair, which was styled in an elegant chignon at the back of her neck, was dark as midnight, her eyes wide and golden. Her face was beautiful, the makeup applied perfectly. Unfortunately, she was not smiling.
“I’m sorry. You are—”
“Natasha Safina. My manager made the reservations. I am performing in Stowe, Vermont.”
“Yes, dear, I know.”
The man behind her quickly inserted himself. “And I am Franklin Murray, pianist extraordinaire. Perhaps you have heard of me.” The man’s intonation was precise, very proper British.
“Well, of course I’ve heard of you and Miss Safina. That’s why we booked you two.”
The twosome glanced at each other and then at Angela. “You mean we are performing . . . here? At little inn?” Natasha began muttering in Russian, explaining why she didn’t think it was a good idea and her plans for her manager once she got a hold of him. Angela wondered if she should tell the woman that she spoke fluent Russian.
“I’m sorry, but I am a little confused. You mean our manager booked us to perform here?” Franklin looked around. “At the Sleep In Heavenly Peace Inn? I don’t understand.”
“We decided to spice things up this year and have live entertainment. Now, we’ll expect you nightly in the parlor—Mr. Murray, we have a small spinet there and Miss Safina . . . well, you have your own violin. Then from ten to eleven, in our small lounge. There we have a keyboard. We have a lovely music room down the hall with another piano. It’s very quiet there. You two are welcome to practice there anytime you wish.” She handed a key to each of them. “Miss Safina, you have ‘The Grinch that Stole Christmas’ room and Mr. Murray, the ‘White Christmas’ room. Second floor. Joe will have your bags up soon.
The woman became incensed. “I do not have suite? I must have suite to meditate. To practice. I cannot be my best if I have to live in little room.”
“We only have one suite and it’s been booked for months. But I’m sure you’ll enjoy our Grinch room. It is quite charming.”
“And what is Grinch?” Franklin was chuckling under his breath.
“It’s a famous book from Dr. Seuss about a . . . well, there’s a copy in your room. When you get the chance perhaps you’d like to read it. It really is a wonderful story.”
“I do not want to read medical book by this doctor.” Again, she began muttering in Russian about the ridiculousness of the situation and the ancestry of her despised manager. She turned away pulling out her phone, clearly to get said manager on the line.
Franklin watched her, shaking his head, then turned to Angela. “I’m sure the rooms will be satisfactory, Ms. . . .”
“Just call me Angela, Mr. Murray.” Ignoring Natasha’s rants, she added, “We are all very much looking forward to hearing you two perform. I’ll see you at dinner tonight.”
“Yes, thank you.” Franklin walked to the stairs, also ignoring Natasha, who followed him, her rantings echoing through the inn.
She breathed deeply and looked heavenward, praying for strength. Glancing down at the reservation book, she smiled. They weren’t finished receiving guests yet.
It was shaping up to be an interesting Christmas.
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