Love’s Last Resort – Chapter One

Chapter 1

Amanda’s long red hair drifted softly about her shoulders as Trevor swept her into his powerful arms.  Picking her up easily, he cradled her in his embrace as she laid her head against his broad chest.  She could hear Trevor’s heart beat faster as he placed gentle kisses on her forehead.  With sure footsteps, he climbed the sweeping staircase and only paused at the top to gaze into her glistening emerald-green eyes.

“They’ll never be able to keep us apart again my love,” he whispered in her ear.  Smiling up at him Amanda caressed his cheek with her long, cool fingers, and then leaned forward to kiss his lips.

“We shall be as one shortly and never again will we be two,” her soft words confirmed.  “Make us one now and forever.”

Carrying his precious bundle Trevor burst through the bedroom door and gently placed her delicate body on the canopied bed.  Leaning over her, his kisses seemed to burn on her lips.  She fumbled at the buttons of his shirt, as the passion overtook her senses she quit trying to unbutton each button and wildly ripped the shirt open.  Amanda ran her fingers over his finely sculpted chest.  Trevor slowly kissed down her neck and bit the end of the ribbon which had been used to tie the bodice of her dress.  Pulling back his head he untied the bow and Amanda smiled up at him.

“You don’t plan on using your teeth to unlace the whole thing do you?” she said with a light laugh.

“Impatient my little vixen?” he replied.  “From the way you have strung me along all these weeks I would have expected you to try and drag this out as long as possible.”

“Not any more Trevor,” she said breathlessly, “I can’t wait any longer.  I want you now.  And I want you to have me.”

Trevor spoke not a word, with skilled hands he quickly unlaced the bodice of Amanda’s dress and tenderly spread her dress open.  Her breasts heaved with their exposure and she subconsciously arched her back as he leaned down to cover her in kisses.  His hot lips heated her nipples which rapidly swelled beneath his touch.  Her hands continued to explore his upper torso and then slowly moved ever lower, softly gracing his toned abdomen.

The shrill electronic ring of the telephone jarred Kari back to reality.  She took a deep breath and put the novel down on her desk.  As much as she wanted to find out what would happen to Amanda and Trevor next she knew her job must come first.  She lifted the handset of the phone and placed it to her ear.

“This is Kari Whitman, how may I help you?” she said cheerfully.  The call was from the hotel’s bar with some information she had requested.  “Thanks Ted.  I’ll be over to pick those receipts up in a few minutes.  See you in a moment.”  She gently replaced the handset on the phone base and paused for a moment.  She suddenly became acutely aware that her heart was racing and her breathing was more rapid than usual.  Looking down at the novel on her desk she realized what had happened.  “How do you do it Lucinda Culpeper?” she said referring to the author of the novel.  “How do you seem to know me so well that you know what moves me?  Perhaps I will get a chance to ask you that very question.”

The Brandenburg Shoals Resort was an elaborate beach-front hotel which had been built at the turn of the century and had stood the test of time.  The hotel had survived countless storms, numerous wars and a whole parade of famous visitors.  Kari Whitman had fallen instantly in love with the stately old resort.  She eagerly accepted the position of receptionist three years before and had quickly shown her ability matched her love of the old place.  Within a year she had advanced to assistant night manager, in another six months she became manager of the resort’s finest dining room.  She knew this was a temporary move while the management looked for a permanent manager for the dining room.  When a manager was found she expected to return to her position as assistant night manager.  Kari was taken by surprise when she was instead made assistant manager for the entire resort.  At twenty-eight she was the youngest assistant manager in the history of the resort.  The promotion brought her more responsibility with a corresponding raise in salary.  In addition she was offered the use of a small bungalow near the hotel.  This altered her commute from a fifteen minute car ride to a five minute walk.

Kari quickly straightened up her desk and placed a bookmark in the latest Lucinda Culpeper romance novel.  Slipping it into the top drawer of her desk she stood and surveyed her small office once again.  With everything in its place she straightened her skirt and lightly picked a piece of lint off her sweater.  Once she was satisfied with her appearance she left her office and checked with the front desk to see how things were going.  Kari prided herself on making a guest’s stay at Brandenburg Shoals a picture perfect experience.  She wanted everyone to love the old place as much as she did.  This attitude was infectious among the staff and it was clear to those who took the time to notice that the staff truly loved their work.

“We have some early arrivals for Romance week,” Sandy Beckett told Kari.  The vivacious raven haired beauty had been personally recruited by Kari and the two had become dear friends.

“Be sure not to rush the advertising agency conventioneers as they check out.  If we are lucky we will stay just ahead of those checking in,” Kari said confidently.  She knew her staff and was sure that the rooms would be ready for each guest as they checked in.  “Is the Presidential suite vacated yet?”

“Yes,” Sandy replied, “Monica is cleaning it as we speak.”

“Good.  I want it perfect for Ms. Culpeper when she arrives,” Kari added.

“Speaking of Lucinda Culpeper, what do you think of her latest book?” Sandy said with a twinkle in her eye.  “Isn’t that Trevor her best hero yet?”

“I’ll say.  We need to find out if she modeled him on someone and then get his telephone number,” Kari whispered and then added loud enough for the other receptionist, Matt Appleby, to hear, “And if I catch you bothering another guest with a million questions I’ll have your job young lady.”

“You wouldn’t like her job,” Matt quipped as he realized that Kari had raised her voice for his sake, “She’s got a real ogre for a boss.”

Making sure there were no guests in site Kari balled up a piece of paper and threw it at Matt.

“You can pick up your severance pay in the office.  And to think I was going to recommend you for a raise.”

“Did someone say raise?” Matt responded.

“Too bad that ogre of a boss is also a skin-flint,” Kari added.  “I’ll be back in a few minutes.  Oh, and Matt, do try not to lose the resort while I am gone.”  She quickly turned and her soft blonde hair flipped around and rested on her shoulders and she walked down the main corridor of the resort.  The large bay windows gave her a perfect view of the blue-green ocean as she slowed her pace slightly on her way to the hotel’s bar.  She cheerfully greeted several guests she passed in the corridor.  Whenever possible she tried to get the guest’s names and then address them accordingly when she encountered them again.  With the activity of the convention that had just completed she had learned few names.  The few guests she did meet on the way to the bar were people she had previously met and remembered.

“How was your match Mr. Henderson?” she asked noticing the paunchy middle-aged man was carrying his racket and sweating profusely.

“Never better Kari, never better,” he said with a smile and she thought she noticed an extra spring in his step as he headed towards an elevator.

Ted Noble greeted Kari with a smile.  “I think you will be pleased with the numbers this week Kari,” Ted said as Kari came up to the small table where he was shuffling papers.  He handed a small stack of papers to Kari who briefly scanned the figures on the pages.

“Great Ted,” she said enthusiastically.  “You are doing a great job with this place.  I know it wasn’t easy to take over the bar when Barry passed away.  But I can see you are going to do really well here.”

“Well I’m no Barry, but I’ll keep doing my best.”

“I know you will, and we all really appreciate your hard work.  In fact a little bird told me that the upper management has taken notice of your efforts and you will be seeing a more tangible form of thanks starting with this pay period,” Kari said with a smile.  Ted beamed upon hearing of the raise and went right back to work.  Scanning the bar to see how it looked she smiled with satisfaction at the improvements Ted was making.  Barry had done well as the bar manager and Ted put in a lot of work carrying on in his predecessors footsteps.  Though it was Kari’s skill at bringing out the best in her team that had enabled Ted the freedom he needed to take the warmth and atmosphere Barry had brought to the bar and take it to new heights.

Kari walked slowly back down the corridor enjoying the ocean view as she went.  She was just reaching the main hall when she ran into a man coming around the corner.

“Excuse me,” she said politely.

“Well hello little darling,” the man said taking her arm.  “You are a pretty thing now aren’t you?”

“Thank you sir,” Kari said resisting the urge to pull her arm away from his tight grip.  “I really must get back to work.”

“Ah now baby, you really can’t mean that.  Why would you want to go to work when you and I can get to know each other,” as he spoke he backed her into the wall and brought his face close to hers.  She could tell by the aromas exuding from the man that he had probably been drinking for some time.

“You’re hurting my arm,” she said in a strained tone as the pain raced up her arm.  “Could you please let go of me sir?”

“Hi honey,” she heard a deep voice say.  “Are we still on for dinner tonight?”

Kari looked up and saw a distinguished looking man before her.  “I uh, uh.”

“Is this man bothering you?  I believe my fiancé would like you to let go of her,” the young man said.  “I would suggest you do that.”

“You think you can make me let go hot shot?  I don’t think you even know this girl.  If she is your fiancée prove it,” the man said pushing Kari towards the newcomer.  The young man gently steadied her and held her in his arms.  He caught Kari’s eye and she immediately knew she was safe if she went along with whatever her handsome rescuer had in store.  He softly stroked her cheek with his fingers and tenderly drew her lips to his.  She closed her eyes as the warmth of his kiss spread through her.

“Well anyone can say they are her fiancé and kiss her.  What if I were her fiancé?” the rude man said grabbing Kari and spinning her around to face him.  Kari’s handsome rescuer deftly grabbed the man’s wrist and with seemingly little effort applied pressure to the joint driving the man to his knees in pain.

“I don’t think any of us want to make a scene here.  If you want to press the issue any further I’d be willing to take this outside,” he said applying more pressure to the man’s wrist to emphasize his words.  “Somehow I don’t think you want to do that do you?”

“No,” the man groaned.  “No, I don’t.”

“I think you owe my fiancé an apology don’t you?”

“Yes, yes I do,” he said grimacing.  “I’m very sorry miss.  It will never happen again.”

The young man released the older man’s wrist and graciously helped him to his feet.  “I think perhaps some coffee in your room would help you sober up a little.  We wouldn’t want anything embarrassing to happen to you, now would we?”

“No sir,” Kari’s attacker said mildly as he staggered off slowly nursing his wrist.  He paused for a moment and turned back to look at the couple.  The incident appeared to sober him a little and he straightened his posture and continued down the corridor with much less staggering.

“Are you all right?” Kari’s rescuer asked taking her hand to steady her.  “You seem a bit shaken.”

“I will be okay in a moment,” she said softly.  “Thank you for your help Mr.…”

“Devon Bartlett,” he said completing her sentence.  “And may I ask my beautiful fiancé what her name is?”

Kari blushed shyly and said, “Kari Whitman.  I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t shown up just then Mr. Bartlett.”

“Please Kari,” Devon said with a smile, “Call me Devon, after all we are engaged.  There is no reason for such formalities.”

Kari’s blush deepened at the thought of an immediate engagement and the presence of such a handsome man holding her hand.  “Okay, Devon.  I appreciate what you did for me.  I think he was probably harmless, but I am glad you helped me out.”

“It was my pleasure to come to your rescue my lady,” he said pretending to doff his nonexistent hat and bow deeply.

“I’m not sure I would call it a rescue though.”

“And why is that?” Devon questioned.

“I think he would have released me in a moment anyway.”

“He had a strong grip on you.”

“It wasn’t going to last,” Kari replied.

“As a brown belt in Karate I can tell you he had a good grip on you and it took more effort than you realize to break his grip,” Devon said as he puffed out his chest.

“Oh you have a brown belt in Karate?” Kari said feigning a sense of awe.

“Why yes.  I just recently received my brown belt.”

“How proud you must be,” Kari added with a touch of sarcasm.

“Well it is quite an accomplishment for anyone to achieve,” Devon said ignorant of Kari’s jab at him.

“I thought so too,” she said causing a look of shock to spread over Devon’s face.  “But it wasn’t until I was willing to put that pride aside that I was able to earn my black belt.  But thank you once again, Mr. Bartlett.”

Kari spun on her heels and tossed her flowing golden hair back as she headed down the corridor towards the main lobby.  She was tempted to look back to see the handsome man’s expression, but she knew if her words were going to have the desired affect she had to ignore him.  She didn’t have to worry, her words hit home and Devon could do nothing but stare as she walked away.  She had only made it a few yards when she heard Devon running up behind her.

“Don’t you know that you should never run up to a black belt from behind Mr. Bartlett?” Kari asked with a smile as Devon Bartlett came along side of her.

“Please wait Kari,” he pleaded taking her arm.  Kari glanced at his hand on her arm and then looked up into his eyes.

“You had better watch out Mr. Bartlett.  I have heard that there is a grip that can be applied to the wrist that will drop a full grown man to the floor in seconds.”

Devon smiled slightly as he paused and lightened his grip on her arm.  He looked down at his feet as he gathered his thoughts.  “I beg your forgiveness Kari,” he began softly.  “I must have really come off like an egotistical jerk.  In fact I probably seem no better than the man who was just harassing you.”

“Well at least he had the excuse of being drunk,” Kari confirmed smugly.

“You aren’t making this very easy on me,” Devon declared.

“Am I supposed to make something easy for you?”

“Well I, uh, what I mean to say is…”

“Perhaps it would be better if we started this all over again,” Kari volunteered in an effort to save Devon further embarrassment.  His face lit up and a broad smile spread across his lips.

“I would like that very much,” he said with a sense of relief.

“Good.  Allow me to introduce myself.  I am Kari Whitman and I am very pleased to make your acquaintance,” she said extending her hand.

“Hello Kari Whitman.  I am Devon Bartlett and I have been a complete fool until now,” he said taking her hand warmly and Kari smiled at his honest approach.  “And while I am being so open and honest about things I would like to say what incredible blue eyes you have.”

Kari felt a blush spread over her cheeks as she shifted her gaze away momentarily.  “Now I am the one at a loss for words,” she said in reply.

“Then I will make it easy on you and ask you a yes or no question.  Would you honor me by having dinner with me tonight?”

“Well I, um…”

“Yes is a very easy word to say.  It’s a mere three little letters wrapped up in one single syllable.  All you have to do is say yes,” Devon encouraged.  “After all it is the least you could do for your poor foolish fiancé.”

“Since you put it that way, my answer must be yes.”

“I will make reservations at the Brandenburg Room.  According to the brochure it is the finest dining around here.  Shall we say sixish?”

“Six would be fine,” Kari agreed.

“What room are you in?  I will be by to pick you up at six then.”

“I don’t have a room in the main building,” Kari said honestly.  “I think it would be easier if I just met you there.”

“I have learned never to disagree with a black belt,” he said as his eyes twinkled.  “So I will see you at six then.”

“Yes.  Six o’clock at the Brandenburg Room.  I won’t forget,” Kari added before continuing down the corridor towards her office.  She had to force herself to keep from turning around to look at the handsome Devon Bartlett.  “Keep your cool Kari.  Have a little self-control” she reminded herself.

Devon had no such self-control as he watched the vivacious blonde glide down the hall and disappear around the corner.  He continued to stare for another minute in the hopes that Kari Whitman would reappear.  When reality set in Devon retrieved his luggage from behind a plant where he had hid them when he saw Kari in trouble.  His mind swam as he recalled the kiss he had been able to steal with Kari’s permission and he felt his pulse quicken as he caught the scent of her perfume once again as the elevator doors opened.

Stepping into the elevator he set his luggage down and turned to press the button for the desired floor when he noticed a couple moving towards the elevator.  He placed his hand up in the opening and stopped the doors from closing.  The couple was in their late thirties or early forties.  The man looked tired and rather serious.  A dusting of grey accented his temples but the rest of his curly black hair maintained its solid color.  He smiled grimly at Devon and muttered a low thank you.  He guided the wheelchair he was pushing into the large elevator and turned it around to face the doors.  Setting the brake on the chair he patted the woman’s shoulder and leaned forward to press an elevator button.  Devon surmised that whatever had put the woman in the wheelchair she hadn’t been there very long.  He could see that both the man and woman appeared a bit stiff in their use of the chair.  In addition Devon noticed that the chair had not been custom fitted for the woman’s needs which likely meant they were still getting used to her new mode of transportation. The woman had striking features, perfectly matched dark brown hair and eyes, heart shaped face and a soft cleft in her chin.  It was apparent that she had given up caring for her appearance yet Devon could tell that not very long ago she could turn every head when she entered a room.

“Let me guess,” Devon said in an effort to lighten the moods of the couple, “You must be headed to the honeymoon suite.”

“That time came and went some time ago,” the woman responded bitterly.

“We are actually here for the convention,” the man added, trying his best to sound cheerful in the presence of the stranger.

“Oh, you are in advertising?”

“Advertising?” the man responded in a confused manner.

“I understand the convention that ending today is for advertising agencies.” Devon clarified.

“We are here for Romance Week,” the woman said snidely.  “That’s one thing I can still do.  Flip pages and read.  Flip and read, flip and read.”

“Well I hope you have a wonderful time this week.  I hear that there is quite a variety of activities and seminars available.”

“Won’t that be something,” sliced the bitter tones of the woman again.  “Hey Lance, maybe we can find someone in an iron lung and get up a mixed couples tennis match.”

Devon looked over at Lance who appeared ready to voice an apology for his wife’s attitude.  Devon gave him a knowing nod and Lance mouthed the words “thank you.”

“Well I never was good at tennis,” Devon said warmly, “Now full contact chess, that was always my sport.”

The woman couldn’t help but laugh at such an absurd thought.  “Okay,” she conceded.  “Just be warned if you try to capture my queen I will bite you.”

Even Lance had to laugh at the turn in conversation.  The elevator came to a smooth stop and a familiar bell sounded signifying the door was opening.

“I guess this must be your floor,” Devon said and held the door open for the now smiling couple.  “Lance I hope you and your lovely wife…”

“Diane,” the couple said simultaneously causing them to chuckle again.

“Well Lance and Diane I do hope you enjoy yourselves this week.  My name is Devon Bartlett.  Perhaps we can get together for lunch sometime this week.”

“Perhaps so Devon,” Lance replied.  “That is if we can squeeze it in between cliff-diving and bungee jumping.”

Warm laughter filled the landing once more as Devon stepped back into the elevator and pressed the button for his floor.

“You are one wild couple,” he chided them as the doors of the elevator closed.  Leaning against the railing in the elevator he hummed softly to himself as he felt buoyed by his two morning adventures.  It felt very satisfying to have brightened the day of a couple that seemed so weighed down by the difficulties they were obviously facing.  And on a more personal note Devon was extremely excited to have the opportunity of seeing Kari again this very evening.  She brought up feelings inside of him long dormant.  He knew that her beauty was an obvious attractant to him, but he couldn’t help wondering why he felt so drawn to her, so stimulated, so taken by her after just the few minutes they conversed.  It was a mystery he was quite willing and eager to solve.

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