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L.K. Campbell

Author of Contemporary & Historical Fiction

Mrs. Carlyle's Second Honeymoon

Celeste’s head jerked up. An iconic theme song blared from the T.V. She reached for the cup of now cold coffee. Oh, no, I drifted off and missed the end of that episode. Well, it isn’t as if I haven’t seen it a dozen times. Actually, the last thing she remembered was one of those drug commercials that show happy people riding bikes in the park and always end with the admonition that the drug could cause death under certain circumstances. A knock at the cottage door brought her to her feet.

“Mrs. Adams, are you in there?”

The voice on the other side of the door belonged to Maddie, her desk clerk. Fearing that something catastrophic had happened, she rushed to the door and flung it open.

“Is something wrong?”

Maddie held out Celeste’s smartphone. “I was trying to get in touch with you and found where you’d left your phone in the office.”

Heat flushed Celeste’s cheeks. Too many senior moments lately. I hope Maddie doesn’t think I’m losing my mind. Celeste had been glad that Maddie stayed on full-time through the summer after her college classes had ended. Maddie’s parents lived in the nearby town of Banner Elk so she didn’t have too far to commute.

“I’m so sorry. Hosting our first wedding has me on edge.”

“I understand but don’t worry, Mrs. Adams. I’ve heard no complaints from anyone in the wedding party.” She paused and pushed her red-framed glasses up onto the bridge of her nose. The color suited her dark brown hair and eyes. “I wouldn’t have bothered you, but one of the guests reported that the cappuccino machine in the internet café isn’t working. I shut it off and turned it on again, and it still won’t start.”

“Oh, it’s probably the water reservoir. You have to push it into place a certain way to activate a sensor. Otherwise, it won’t work. I’ll take care of it.”

While strolling along the path to the hotel with Maddie, she saw a second catering van parked behind the kitchen. Renee and her crew must be setting the tables in the party room by now. She glanced across the lawn to where the wedding planner had deposited place markers to show the seating arrangement and where the wedding party would stand.

“Emma and Wes will take their vows with Grandfather Mountain looming in the background,” she said. “Oh, I shouldn’t use the word looming. That sounds foreboding. Grandfather Mountain standing majestic in the background sounds better.”

Maddie chuckled. “Mrs. Adams, you’re a hoot.”

“For someone old enough to be your grandmother.”

“You are not,” Maddie said. “My grandmother is seventy-five.”

Celeste refrained from extrapolating the math for her young employee. If I had been twenty when my first child was born, and she had been twenty when her first child was born… But Maddie was right in a sense. The years had flown by at the speed of sound, and Celeste didn’t feel old enough to be the grandmother of a college student.

In the kitchen, she saw Renee and her helpers scurrying around preparing the rehearsal dinner. That kitchen probably hadn’t seen so much activity since The Harvest Moon Hotel Restaurant had been in operation. Renee smiled at her as she walked through to the café. Howard had converted half of the old restaurant dining room into an internet café with self-service coffee machines. The other half was now a party room that they rented for occasions such as the catered rehearsal dinner.

Two of the Carlyle couples sat at tables they’d pushed together. They’d changed into dressy clothing for the rehearsal that would take place an hour later. One thing Celeste prided herself on was her memory for names and faces. Tom and Roger sat on one side facing their wives Missy and Jessica. Another hotel guest who wasn’t associated with the wedding sat in the opposite corner of the room holding a tablet in one hand and coffee in the other.

Celeste checked the cappuccino machine. Sure enough, the sensor on the water reservoir hadn’t engaged. She had it working in a moment.

“The cappuccino machine is ready now,” she said in a loud enough voice for everyone to hear her.

No one acknowledged her. The guest in the corner still had his head down. She reached under the counter and pulled some disinfectant wipes from the dispenser to clean coffee spills off the counter.

“I hope the meal tonight isn’t too heavy,” she heard Missy say. “I worked hard to lose ten pounds so I can fit into the dress I’m wearing tomorrow.”

“We have a new supplement at the health store,” Jessica said. “It’s supposed to take off five pounds the first week you start using it.”

Celeste glanced at the two women. In her sleeveless, silk dress, Missy seemed to lack the muscle definition of a healthy body. Celeste had seen her groundskeeper pick up twigs that were larger than Missy’s upper arms. Why does she need to take supplements to lose weight? I hope she doesn’t have an eating disorder.

“I wonder how long it will take Emma to buy an insurance policy on your dad,” Jessica said. “Didn’t she collect half a million from her first husband’s death?”

“Jessica, don’t bring that up,” Roger said.

“I’m just saying,” she said.

“I prepared a pre-nup, but Dad refused to ask her to sign it,” Tom said.

“She latched on to your dad not even six months after her husband’s accident,” Missy said.

“And after she collected the insurance money, she quit her job with that PR firm. Now, she just sits around writing romance novels and posting selfies all over social media,” Jessica said.

“Well, we can thank Kylie for introducing her to Papa Wes,” Missy said.

Roger’s palm came down against the table causing the guest in the corner to take notice of them.

“That’s enough,” he said. “There’s nothing we can do about it. Dad is a grown man and presumably, we are, too.”

While Celeste didn’t desire to remarry, she hoped that if she should change her mind, her children would be kinder and more generous than this lot. She pulled a fresh trashcan liner from under the cabinet and removed the old one from the wastebasket. So Emma’s first husband was killed in some kind of accident. At once, she felt a kinship to the younger woman. I do hope this wedding goes smoothly without incident.

She entered the kitchen, and Renee approached her.

“Were you able to fix the cappuccino machine?” she asked. “I told them that I’m not an employee here and didn’t want to mess up anything.”

“Oh, yes, it’s just temperamental. My late husband bought it secondhand from a coffee shop downtown that was going out of business. They swore it was like new, but I think it was like new several years ago.”

Renee grinned. “I’ve bought a few things like that, too. Thank you again for saving my neck today.”

“I was glad to do it. If anyone needs me, I made sure to put my phone in my pocket this time.”

She went outside to throw the trash in the dumpster and walked around the side of the building when she saw Emma and Wes standing on the spot where they would be married the next day. They faced the mountain with their arms linked. Emma’s head rested on his shoulder. Celeste’s eyes filled with tears. I remember the time we stood there, Howard. That view was what sealed the deal for us on buying this hotel. I hope I can make you proud. In her mind, his voice answered, you always did.