“Jerk,” I grumbled under my breath. “I was just trying to be sympathetic. Whatever.”
I didn’t slow my steps for him to follow, just strode over to the back veranda overlooking the gardens and opened the sliding glass door. As I expected, he was right behind me.
I heard voices from the front hall. Guests had arrived while I had been out back arguing with the groundskeeper. Ugh.
Thankfully Krystal and Kat were well-versed in getting houseguests checked in and shown to their rooms. They’d been working here with me for the past year, side by side, cleaning the guest rooms each afternoon to earn spending money so we could go down to the pier. There were always cute guys at the pier during the summer months. But not as cute as Brandon.
I stepped down the hallway, clipping up my hair and changing my gait, already transforming myself into the hostess as if I were all grown up and owned the bed and breakfast. “Good afternoon, you must be the Whitney’s.”
“Yes, I’m John, and this is my wife, Angela.” I couldn’t help chuckling at the way he added a slight emphasis on the word “wife” as if that was still quite new.
“I’m Samantha. It’s nice to meet you.” I reached forward to shake their hands and took just an extra second to greet Angela, placing my hand on top of hers and leaning forward conspiratorially as I’d seen my mom do dozens of times. “And congratulations on your recent nuptials. You sure snagged a handsome gentleman.”
Angela giggled and leaned over to rest her head on her new husband’s shoulder, wrapping her arms around his. Newlyweds. Sickening. I almost shuddered but managed to keep a smile on my face.
“Come, I’ll show you upstairs to the honeymoon suite.” I turned and briefly looked at Brandon. “Would you be so kind as to bring their luggage up since we were heading that way anyhow.”
Brandon glared at me and replied through a forced smile. “I’d be happy to.”
Ooh, I’d done it now. He was not thrilled to be treated like a bellboy. I needed to let up on the goading, but he was just too easy to tease.
I started up the grand staircase and took the opportunity to point out various features of the house as we ascended. The open foyer allowed a clear view of several of the main floor rooms.
“To the front of the home, we have the sitting room, perfect for greeting other guests, and to the left, you’ll see the library. There are plenty of books, so help yourself if you need to take a break from your day. There is a tea service in the breakfast nook, and to the back of the home, we have the kitchen and formal dining room, which is where we gather for brunch. All of these areas are common space and available for your use.”
We reached the landing, and I paused to allow the guests to complete their ascent. The awe on their faces was enough to make my job rewarding. Brandon reached the landing last and clunked the heavy suitcases to the floor. I couldn’t help staring at the way his muscles bulged against his black t-shirt.
“Which way are we going?”
“Oh, right. I mean, we’re heading to the left.” I shook off the unsettling butterflies in my stomach and continued my prepared tour. “Please don’t explore the second floor in too much detail. Even if the doors are opened, it is preferred that you not enter the other guest rooms. Of course, each room has its own bathroom, and we’ve provided lots of amenities. If anything is not to your liking, please let us know, and we’ll do our best to make it right.”
“Everything’s lovely, thank you,” Angela said. She smiled as we took the last few steps into the honeymoon suite. “Do I smell candles?”
“Of course.” I nodded regally, again mimicking how my mom would proceed. “We tried to prepare your guest room in a way that would help you to relax and unwind. We hope you enjoy your stay here.”
“Oh, I’m sure we will.” John’s tone had changed, and I took that as my cue.
“One more thing. The third floor is reserved for our family. The phone on the bedside table will ring for us.” I reached for the door handle and made a grand show of sweeping the door closed as I cheerfully called over my shoulder, “Let us know if you need anything.”
I didn’t wait for them to answer, just clicked the door into place and turned to Brandon.
She’d barely clicked the door into place before she turned to me with a satisfied smirk.
“You’re something else; you know that?” I marveled at the way she charmed that young couple, even though she was several years their junior.
“I’m just doing what my mom trained me to do.” Sammy breezed past me with a flirty grin. “Come on. I’ll show you the third floor.”
“I thought only family was allowed on the third floor.” I hurried to keep up with her.
She turned back toward me when she’d reached the second step.
“You are family now.”
She didn’t further explain but started once again up the stairs, shaking her hair from the elegant clip and letting it fall down her back.
I wasn’t going to argue and found myself following her, pretending I didn’t notice how nice her hair smelled.
The third floor was nothing like the lower levels. It was modern and homey. Sammy’s skinny look-a-like friends were lounging on a spacious sectional eating popcorn and flipping through channels on a wide screen television that took up half the wall. I wanted to steal the remote control and find a baseball game. Maybe there were benefits to being family.
“Honeymooners,” the three girls spoke in unison. “Yuck.”
“That room’s going to be fun to clean tomorrow.” The twin with the pink headband wrinkled her nose.
“They’re here for three days,” Sammy emphasized as she stepped into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator.
“Ugh,” both twins groaned.
I stood by the door with my hands in the pockets of my jeans. I wondered if they’d forgotten about me. They were definitely making me chuckle from their banter. Did they realize they were talking about this in front of a guy?
“You want a Coke, Brandon?” Sammy poked her head back out of the fridge. Both twins looked up as if just noticing I was there.
I hesitantly stepped all the way into the living room and settled onto a plush recliner, still not sure why Sammy had said I was part of the family when I’d arrived less than an hour before.
“I’m Krystal,” the pink headband twin said, sitting forward to shake my hand. She left her hand in mine a little longer than I was comfortable with. “My sister’s Kat.” She gestured to her mirror image.
The only distinction I could see was the blue headband Kat wore. I hoped they never traded colors, or I’d be unable to tell them apart. Krystal pink, Kat blue, Krystal pink, Kat blue. If I could remember my colors, I might make it through the summer.
“What college do you go to?” Kat asked, reaching for another handful of popcorn.
“I’m starting at Ferris State in the fall.” I answered Kat but kept my eyes on Sammy as she handed me my Coke. I twisted off the cap and took a long swig, letting the fizzy cold beverage wash away her intense gaze.
“Scouts from FSU are already talking to the twins,” Sammy said.
“Cross and track,” Kat answered with a “duh” laced into her tone.
“But we haven’t decided anything yet.” Krystal shook her head. “I’m still holding out for State.”
I snorted but felt bad afterward and tried to backpedal. “Are you guys fast enough for Division One?”
“Yeah,” they said as one voice. The way they seemed like one person instead of two kind of creeped me out.
“Their only competition is each other,” Sammy explained. She smiled over at her friends, admiration barely masking a hint of jealousy.
“What about you? Are you fast?”
“Sammy’s only competition is us,” Kat said.
“If one of us has a bad day—” Krystal started.
“Which you never do,” Sammy interrupted. She and Krystal had a brief stare down while Kat finished her sister’s sentence.
“She’s always right at our heels.”
“That’s cool,” I said. “We should run together sometime.”
“That would be great,” the twins said together. Okay, that was now officially creepy.
“Uh… do you guys live here too?”
“No, why?” Krystal asked, slipping the pink head band off. I almost choked on my Coke but refrained from calling out, Please, don’t take that thing off! Thankfully, she shook out her ponytail and fastened the pink accessory back into place. I may have held my breath for a few seconds.
“It’s just that I usually run first thing in the morning, so I figured Sammy might be available.” I leaned over and fake-punched her in the arm like she had done to me earlier. “As long as you don’t mind being stuck with a ‘college guy’ like me.”
Sammy scoffed and rolled her eyes.
I liked dishing it right back at her. I confidently reached over for the remote control, kicked my feet up on the recliner, and flipped the channel to ESPN. “I always wanted a little sister.”
Running To You
Read the next chapter in my work-in-progress!