Home > Mistletoe and Mr. Right (Moose Springs, Alaska #2)(10)

Mistletoe and Mr. Right (Moose Springs, Alaska #2)(10)
Author: Sarah Morgenthaler

“I went to the town hall. Jonah said the Santa Moose is back.”

“No shit. I’ll tell Quinn. She loves crap like that.”

And Diego loved Quinn, the curly-haired young woman he worked with up at the resort. Not that he’d ever told her. Rick supposed opposites could attract. Quinn was bright and sunny and happy, and Diego was…well…Diego.

But still…he’d waited dinner on Rick. And that was progress.

They’d been doing this for three years now. Cereal. Roger. Sitting on the couch to watch TV and eat in silence. Pissed-off cat on one side, pissed-off twenty-year-old on the other, Rick picked up his cereal bowl and took a bite.

Unbelievably grateful for them both.

Chapter 3

Every morning, Lana tried to put her own makeup on. Every morning, she failed.

This morning was like all the rest, but still, she was determined to try. As she stood in front of her bathroom mirror, makeup laid out on her vanity in front of her, Lana didn’t want someone else to take care of this for her. She wanted to pick up the eyeliner and put it on herself. She wanted to feel normal. She wanted to feel competent.

Except…when Lana lifted her hands, they would always shake.

Her hands had been this way for as long as Lana could remember. The best her doctors had come up with was that it was a low-grade stress reaction, starting in her childhood and settling into permanency by the time she had grown. Stressful situations made it worse. Yoga, meditation, and a lot of time in therapy made it better. The result was Lana could control the shaking…to a point. But it was her tell. And when one stepped into boardrooms for a living, it was never good to have a tell.

The hardest part to stomach was the fact that no one ever blinked an eye at her requests to have her makeup done at whatever hotel was home for the week or month. As if she were shallow—or spoiled—enough to insist on having even the smallest lines of liquid liner painted on her lids for her.

But the opposite was worse. When one was a Montgomery, eyes were always watching. And shaky hands didn’t let her achieve the required facade of having herself completely together at all times.

Maintaining the family reputation went hand in hand with maintaining the company’s reputation. Whether it was commercial, industrial, or residential real estate, the Montgomery Group had their hands in it. Hundreds of transactions, thousands of properties. From tiny studio apartments to skyscrapers. Lana had facilitated those acquisitions ever since taking her place at the head table of the family business. Working for her family might have given her premature stress lines, but it had also given her an important position at the top of a powerful company, with all the challenges and personal gratification that came in meeting those challenges. Her job had made her stronger, tougher, and more business savvy. She had seen the world one boardroom at a time, experiencing things most people only dreamed of.

But never once had the Montgomery Group given Lana the one thing she’d always wanted: a home.

Abandoning her makeup, Lana made herself a cup of tea. She liked to start her mornings this way, standing in front of the window, her robe wrapped around her, and her shaky fingers cradling a warm drink. She gazed out at the thick blanket of snow covering the mountainside, evergreens thrusting vertically into the sky, strong and straight trunked even in the harshest of Alaska’s weather.

No matter what was thrown at them, those trees stayed tall and true, refusing to bend and break.

On every city street, on every beach, in every desert estate…no matter where Lana went, she always thought of these trees. Taking her strength from the lifeblood of the place where she one day wanted to stay forever.

A knock on the door of her suite pulled Lana’s attention.

“Ms. Montgomery?” Quinn, her favorite employee at the resort, stuck her curly blond head in through a small opening in the door. “You asked to be woken at seven.”

“You can call me Lana,” she gently reminded the young woman—not that any of her overtures for real friendship had stuck with the employees at the resort. “And thank you, Quinn. A wake-up call would have been sufficient though. No need to come all the way up here.”

The last time she had seen Quinn’s name badge, it had read “Hospitality Specialist.” Now, her title had a “Head” in front of the other two words.

“Did you get a promotion?”

A rosy blush filled Quinn’s cheeks. “Hannah promoted me when she took over as general manager.”

“Good.” Lana nodded. “It won’t be long until you get more. You’re very skilled at your job.”

The young woman beamed at the compliment, but it wasn’t unduly given. Hannah had been smart to advance the best inside her company. Jackson Shaw—the playboy son of the resort owners—wouldn’t know a good employee if he tripped over them. Working with Hannah was far easier than dealing with Jackson, and not only because Hannah took her job seriously. Jax would rather hide in town with Graham and Ash than answer her calls or actually show up for any of their scheduled meetings.

No stranger to diversionary tactics, Lana was now no stranger to the pool hall Jax kept hiding out in.

She liked it there too.

“I heard you’re trying to catch the Santa Moose,” Quinn said, her large eyes widening. “Do you really think you can? It causes so much trouble.”

“I’m certainly going to try,” Lana promised. “I spent half the night researching how they usually go about relocating a moose. We’ll probably have to think outside the box on this one. At the risk of sounding judgmental, it does seem to be quirkier than most.”

Quinn looked suitably impressed.

“Come sit with me a moment,” Lana invited the younger woman. “Tell me all about this new promotion of yours.”

Quinn never needed to be asked twice to talk, which was something Lana loved about her. Lana had positioned a chair at her favorite spot to look out the window. Patting the arm of the chair for Quinn to sit, Lana leaned against the windowsill, shoulders pressed to the cold glass.

“Would you like a cup of tea or some coffee?”

“You? Getting something for me?” Quinn looked horrified at the idea of Lana serving her.

“I promise I won’t keel over dead at having to lift a finger.” She abandoned her window and the trees for the kitchenette.

“Coffee, please. Black.”

“You take it strong.” Lana raised an eyebrow.

Quinn radiated a sort of bright energy that was both positive and addicting to be around. She was also the most likely person in Moose Springs to have a house decorated roof to floor in unicorn plushies and puppy dogs with bow ties. The idea of Quinn taking anything strong warred with Lana’s previously held assumptions about her. Quinn seemed more the sprinkles and whipped cream type.

“Diego always says if I stopped drinking so much caffeine, my hair wouldn’t stick out in every direction.” Quinn snickered. “I think if he drank a little more, he wouldn’t be such a grump.”

The single-serve coffeemaker never took long, although longer than one with pods might have. Quinn wasn’t the only one who drank a lot of caffeine to keep going, and Lana preferred to avoid creating a small mountain of plastic pods in a landfill simply because she worked too many hours. Returning with Quinn’s coffee, Lana settled into the couch, tucking her legs beneath her. It wasn’t the Montgomery way of sitting, but she couldn’t have cared less about propriety at the moment. Her toes were cold.

“How’s everyone handling the ski season?” she asked. Having never spent an actual Christmas at Moose Springs, she hadn’t known how busy the resort would actually be. She’d always returned for the best skiing in late January. Rick wasn’t wrong—the resort was filling with more visitors every day.

Quinn slurped her coffee as if it weren’t piping hot. The young woman must have a tongue devoid of nerve endings. “Christmas weekend is so busy. But I like it. I love staying busy, plus there’s all the different parties everyone is throwing, although nothing like your gala this summer. That was the absolute best party I’ve ever seen here, and everyone was wearing such gorgeous gowns, and oh my gosh, can you imagine if it had been holiday themed?”

Quinn sucked in a breath, merrily plunging into a fifteen-minute description of how much she loved holiday parties and how much she wished she could attend the ones in town, but she was always so busy, not that she minded. She’d started taking classes in hotel management online, so one day she might be able to be a manager too, not that Hannah needed any help, but there was an assistant manager position open.

Another breath and a slurp of coffee. “Oh, and then I was telling Grass—”

“From the front desk?”

“He’s been promoted too. He’s a temporary night manager until they can hire someone with enough experience. So many people have applied, but for some reason, Mr. Shaw hasn’t hired anyone yet. It’s driving Hannah up the wall.”

Lana frowned to herself. No, he wouldn’t want to hire a night manager because Jax didn’t want to admit the hotel was stretched too thin financially. Instead, he’d stretch his current manager too thin to make up the difference.

“—how Hannah’s trying hard to promote as many of us as possible,” Quinn continued on, blissfully unaware of Lana’s train of thought. “At least the ones who live in town. I think Grass is going to stay permanently now, when he used to be seasonal. I told Diego that Grass got the promotion, and you should have seen how annoyed he was.”

Quinn made a face, imitating Diego’s surliness. “He looked like he was sucking on a lemon, but you can’t blame Hannah. Diego is so nice, but he hates being here, and he doesn’t try to hide it. Why would she promote someone who can’t stand the guests?”

Realizing what she said, Quinn’s large, expressive eyes went wide. “Oh, I mean…I didn’t mean…”

Patting Quinn’s hand, Lana laughed softly. “Trust me, I’m well aware of the inherent biases of the locals. Graham loves to remind me every chance he gets.”

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