Christmas in the Boss's Castle

By: Scarlet Wilson

Every single bit of Christmas spirit she’d ever had had just disintegrated all around her.

Perfect Christmas. No job. No family. A mother on the other side of the world who couldn’t care less. And probably pneumonia.


* * *

The realisation hit him like a boxer’s right hook.

What had he just done?

There was a roaring in his ears. He didn’t behave like this. He would never behave like this. What on earth had possessed him?

All thoughts of eating, pulling the blinds and collapsing into bed vanished in an instant.

He rushed out into the hall. Where had she gone? Her chambermaid cart was abandoned in the hall. His eyes went to the panel above the elevator. But no, it wasn’t moving. It was still on this floor.

Something cut into the palm of his hand. He looked down. The plastic identity card. Of course. He’d taken it from her. She couldn’t use the elevator.

He strode back into his room and picked up the phone. He hadn’t recognised the new receptionist. Officially—he hadn’t even checked in.

The phone answered after one ring. ‘What can I do for you, Mr Armstrong?’

‘Frank? Who are the Maids in Chelsea?’

There was a second of silence. The question obviously caught the concierge unaware.

He could almost picture the way Frank sucked the air through his teeth when he was thinking—he could certainly hear it.

‘Staff from the Maids in Chelsea company have been working here for the last four months, Mr Armstrong. There were some...issues with some of our chambermaids and Mr Speirs decided to take a recommendation from a fellow hotel.’ Frank paused and then continued, ‘We’ve had no problems. The girls are excellent. Mrs Archer, in particular, really loves Grace and asks for her whenever she’s on duty.’

He cut right to the chase. ‘What were the issues, Frank?’

The sucking sound echoed in his ear. He would have expected Rob Speirs to tell him of any major changes in the way his prestigious hotel was run. But Speirs was currently in hospital after an emergency appendectomy. That was part of the reason that he was here at short notice.

‘There were some minor thefts. The turnover of staff was quite high. It was difficult to know where the problem lay.’

‘And Rob—where did he get the recommendation?’

‘From Ailsa Hillier. The Maids in Chelsea came highly recommended and we’ve had no problems at all.’ There was another hesitation. ‘Mr Armstrong, just to let you know, I have something for you.’

‘What is it?’

‘It’s from Mrs Archer. She left something with me to pass on.’

Now he was curious. ‘What is it, Frank?’

‘It’s a Christmas present.’

Frank was silent for a few seconds. Just as well really. Every hair on Finlay’s body stood on end. Of course, he’d received Christmas presents over the last few years. His parents and sister always sent something. But Mrs Archer? This was a first.

Frank cleared his throat again. ‘Mr Armstrong, is there anything I can help you with?’

This time it was Finlay that paused. He liked Frank. He’d always liked Frank. The guy knew everything that happened in his hotel—including the fact that his manager had used a company recommended by their rivals at the Corminster—interesting.

‘Keep a hold of the present, I’ll get it from you later, Frank.’ It wouldn’t be good to seem ungracious. Then he asked what he really wanted to know. ‘Have you seen Grace Ellis in the last five minutes?’

‘Grace? What’s wrong with Grace?’

Finlay really didn’t want to get into this. He could already hear the protectiveness in Frank’s voice. He should have guessed it would be there. ‘Nothing’s wrong, but have you seen her?’

‘No, sir. Not in the last hour at least.’

Finlay put down the phone. She could easily have run out but he had the strangest feeling that she hadn’t.

He walked back outside, leaving the penthouse door open behind him and heading towards the stairs. When he pushed the door open he felt a rush of cold air around him.

The roof. She’d gone to the roof.

He ran up the stairs, two at a time, pausing when he reached the top.

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