Read Last Call for Love Online

Authors: Maggie Marr

Tags: #FIC027020 FICTION / Romance / Contemporary; FIC044000 FICTION / Contemporary Women

Last Call for Love (13 page)

BOOK: Last Call for Love
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Then came Charla’s tears.

 

*

 

Ryan walked along the path to the staff dorms. Antoine walked toward him from the opposite direction. Trevor had asked if Ryan would trade the afternoon mid-shift for Trevor’s mid the next day. Ryan needed to see Charla. He wouldn’t wait until tonight to tell her the truth. He couldn’t wait any longer. 

“Mr. Antigua.” Ryan nodded. There was no one around, but still, discretion was key until Ryan told the staff his identity. Antoine stepped closer to Ryan.

“I was just coming to see you,” Antoine said very quietly. “They’ve found Mr. Orso. I received a call from Parpetai after my meeting this morning with Miss Duvall—”

“Wait, what?” Ryan interrupted Antoine. His heart beat double-time in his chest. No wonder Charla’d been so cold as they got off the elevator. “In the Versailles room?”

“Exactly. She recommended Liam Dunbar for the food and beverage director position.”

“Hire him.” Ryan scrubbed his hand across his jaw. “Was the meeting in the morning? Finished around ten?”

Antoine nodded. 

“I told Miss Duvall that I was meeting with you at that time.”

“That is a conundrum.”

“I had a meeting with Steven about Mr. Orso, and when I descended to the sixth floor, Charla got onto the elevator. She questioned me, and I lied.” Ryan shook his head and closed his eyes. “Not to lie in that moment would have forced me to tell her the truth.”

“I’m certain if you speak with Miss Duvall, she’ll have the utmost discretion. She’s managed to keep secrets before. I found out one just today that may provide us with necessary information to make an appropriate offer to Liam.”

Was Antoine completely unaware of Ryan’s relationship with Charla? How could he not see it? Wasn’t his love for Charla written on his face? The love seemed carved into his soul, and he thought it was as apparent to everyone around him as it was to him.

“Sir, I’m certain you need only speak to Miss Duvall.”

“Yes, I suppose you should know that I’ve been—”

“There is no need for explanation as to your private life. We all have one.”

“But my actions may have put Mesquale at risk. I mean, I don’t believe so because I think our feelings are very deep. Very real.”

“Whatever risk you believe you’ve created can’t be any larger than the risk I maintained within your hotel by allowing Mr. Orso to keep his job. Even though I’d heard some rumblings, he was able to snow me with his apparent dedication.” Antoine pressed his lips together. “We do have a security team, and while they don’t know who you are, aside from Steven now, I have requested on occasion that they provide me with a brief of you and your roommate Mr. Brice’s whereabouts. I apologize, sir, if this was overstepping, but you refused a security detail of any kind, and I would have been derelict in my duties had I allowed you to ride about Mesquale without anyone knowing where you were.”

“Spying on me?”

Antigua nodded. The chief operation officer must have a whole lot of faith in Ryan’s patience, because five years ago if an employee had said they were spying on him, he would have terminated them. But Ryan was finding Antigua was the most valuable of rarities. He was a loyal man with noble and good intentions.

“I should probably thank you for being so diligent about what was best for the resort.”

“To be honest, the new insurance refused to cover us unless you maintained a security detail when you were in residence. Generating security reports while you’re on site was enough to satisfy those requirements.”

His plans to find the systemic weaknesses of Mesquale had put not only him at risk but the resort, their insurance, and Charla. How had he failed to think this through?

“Will you go to the police station in Parpetei? See what you discover regarding Orso? You know if you need me, I’ll be there.”

“On my way now. Steven will accompany me. If you’re needed, you’ll be advised.” 

Ryan turned and walked faster toward the staff dorms. Charla. He had to tell her his true identity, and he needed to do so now.

 

Chapter 14

 

Ryan knocked harder on Charla’s door. “Charla, please, I need to speak to you. Open the door.”

The door flew open, and Poppy stood before him. Her lips were pursed and her eyebrow cocked. Anger simmered in her eyes. 

“Ah yes, Mr. Murphy, is it? Come to tell us more lies and spy on your employees?”

Ryan took a deep breath. He deserved her words. “I’ve been found out.”

“While we little worker bees may not have Internet or cell phones, we’re still allowed some reading material.” Poppy held up a magazine, and on the cover was a picture of a smiling Ryan looking effortless and carefree beneath a headline that read “Where in the World is Ryan Murphy?”

A slick, oily feeling oozed through his gut. 

“Damn tabloid.” His gaze met Poppy’s. “She’s seen it, then, the cover?”

Poppy nodded. “Just after her massage. I always thought there was something off about you. I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Now I know. You’re not one of us.” Poppy flipped through the pages of the magazine. “Yachts and planes and homes about the globe. Had a bit of fun, did you, slumming with the plain-type people? The working class?”

“It’s not like that,” Ryan said. “Not like that at all.”

“I’m not the one you need to explain such a big lie to. Not me. I believe your working-class plaything is the one who needs an explanation. That is, if you even think she’s worthy of such a thing.”

“Stop it, Poppy. Just stop. This is me. I’ve been me all along. Please, I grew up just like anyone else in this dorm. Got lucky on some good business tips, and here I am. We’re really not much different, you and I, and—”

Poppy leaned forward. “Stop right there. You and me, we might come from the same background, but that’s where our similarities end. I don’t pretend to be someone I’m not. I don’t run around lying to people I love. Telling them one thing while doing another.”

There were so many things that came to mind. “Really, Poppy, you don’t? You’ve let Trevor know then? How you really feel about him?”

Anger flamed through Poppy’s eyes. “My private life isn’t your concern, Mr. Murphy. I believe that as my
employer
, you need not concern yourself with who I date.” Poppy started to close the door, but Ryan stuck his hand out and held it open.

“Poppy. Please. I’m sorry. You’re right. I deserve every bit of your anger. But please, my feelings for Charla are real. Please tell me where she is.”

Poppy paused.

“Please, Poppy, I do love her, honestly I do.”

“The beach,” Poppy said softly. “Staff side. She’s not happy. Angry. Betrayed. A bit devastated. Understandably so. She’s been jerked around by men and thought you were different. Now she doesn’t think she can believe you. Her knight in shining armor.”

Ryan’s heart hurt with Poppy’s words, but he’d known if he didn’t tell Charla first, that the entire lie would explode in his face. Yet he hadn’t told her. He’d put off telling Charla the truth over and over and over again. Why? Why didn’t he want her to know who he really was? He’d shown her his heart but kept his identity away from the woman he loved. “Thanks, Poppy. Thank you.”

Poppy nodded. “Trevor’s hurt too. He’s gone to cry into his words. You’ll need to apologize to him next. You’ve cut quite a swath. We haven’t told anyone, but I know all the administration and most of the women in housekeeping subscribe to this magazine too.”

Ryan shook his head. He’d need to have a staff meeting this very day. Tell all of Mesquale what he’d done and why. Please let them understand why he’d hidden his identity from them. He’d worked just as hard as any of them. Maybe they’d remember what a good worker he’d been. Maybe they’d take the best of what he’d done and forgive him the rest.

“Thanks, Poppy.” Ryan turned and walked toward the door at the end of the hall.

“Make this right, Ryan Murphy,” Poppy called down the hall. “You broke her heart. Now find a way to put all those broken pieces back together again.”

 

*

 

Charla sat on the sand, the sky a deceptively tranquil blue above her. Her blonde hair danced around her head.

“May I sit?” He stood beside her. She had her knees tucked up under her chin and her forearms wrapped around her shins. She was curled into a tiny ball, and she protected her heart with her body.

“It’s your beach,” Charla said. “I suppose you can sit anywhere you please.”

Ouch. Her words stabbed his heart. The sharp tone in her voice. He sat on the sand beside her, careful not to touch her.

An ache crept through him. Had he lost the ability to touch her forever? He closed his eyes. Please, no. “I’m sorry.” What other words could he say?

Her chin rested on the tops of her knees. She stared out into the blue of the ocean. “I know you must be, but I’m not sure sorry is enough.”

Her words were a pure and honest expression of her pain. She still wouldn’t meet his gaze.

“I understand you’re hurt and you deserve to be angry with me. But will you let me explain or at least try to explain? Because I don’t even know for sure … I don’t even know all of it and why.”

She slid her chin to the right, and her gaze locked to his. Those beautiful blue eyes, the same color as the sky above him, held pain and questions.

“I came to Mesquale to escape. To get away from all the pain … from when Paloma … when she died. I sold Metro and bought Mesquale. For months after I purchased the resort I couldn’t even come here. I just … I went from place to place around the world Finally I arrived when Antoine got here.”

“What? You’ve been at Mesquale for …” She looked off into the distance. “… you’ve been here for nine months?”

Ryan nodded.

“But you only started in food and beverage a month ago. Where have you been?”

“First maintenance and then housekeeping.”

“I would have noticed you in housekeeping and then coming over to beverage. That doesn’t happen very often. Lots of people would take note of a transfer like that.”

“Right. So …” Ryan scraped his hand through his hair. This got worse and worse. How could he explain? “I didn’t look like the same person for either of those jobs.”

“You wore disguises? So you could spy on all of us?” Her voice hit a high and hard pitch, a sound he’d never heard come from Charla before now. She pulled her feet beneath her and started to stand. He grasped her arm.

“I understand you’re upset. I do. Charla, if you never speak to me again, please, please just let me explain. I have to explain. I need you to know why. If nobody else will listen, then fine, but you? I need to tell you.”

She stared into his eyes, deciding if he deserved this opportunity to tell his story. After what felt like forever she sat and crossed her legs. She pulled her arm gently from his grasp. “I’m listening.”

“I’d heard that the Chinese conglomerate didn’t take care of the Mesquale workers. I also heard that middle management was not doing their job. I owned Metro Media for a long while. I built it from the ground up. We were a big company that managed to feel like a small business. We did that by not having many middle managers. Every employee could walk into my office at any time and never fear retribution from management. I didn’t want to walk into Mesquale and just fire all of management. I knew there were some good managers here, but I also knew that if the employees had been treated badly by management, then they wouldn’t trust me.”

“So you lied to all of us?”

“I decided to be one of you. For as long as I could in the departments I thought had the most managerial problems. Maintenance? I saw the problem the manager was having, and we took care of him. We sent him to get treatment, and when he’s ready, he’ll come back to Mesquale.” 

Charla nodded.

“Housekeeping? All of the staff was working too hard and not being paid enough. Plus they were having to purchase some work supplies out of their own salary. After three days watching the housekeeping staff, I knew what had to be done. They’ve all gotten raises, and we’ve changed policies in that department to benefit the staff.”

“Then there was food and beverage.” Ryan grasped a handful of sand. “I’d heard the rumors about Orso, but no one would come forward. No one substantiated what we’ d heard. The only way to find the truth was to be in the department.”

“Good timing,” Charla said. “You got to witness Orso’s behavior firsthand.”

“And I had to watch a wonderful person who I already cared for get mauled and mistreated.”

His chest tightened, and anger burst through his belly even now. “I wanted to kill him. I couldn’t imagine. Those things never happened at Metro Media. We were lucky. Or maybe we were just hypervigilant.”

“Why didn’t you tell me then? Once you nailed Orso? Seems like a good time to come clean.”

“Because of you,” Ryan said.

“Me? You needed to keep lying to me?”

“I needed to find a way. I was …” He hit his fist into the sand. What? What was he trying to say? “I … I was scared. Okay? That you wouldn’t want me once you discovered who I was. Charla, you’re the first woman since Paloma, and then when we were together?” He shook his head and looked out toward the ocean. “I’ve never experienced such extreme feelings so fast. The instant connection. You’re like a live wire sparking against my skin. I knew how much you didn’t trust people and that you thought wealthy men had secret agendas, and look at me, I was just that. But my secret agenda was for a good purpose. I wasn’t trying to do anything foul or bad or wrong. I was trying to make Mesquale the best place for every worker on this island. And then I met you.” Ryan looked into her eyes. “I love you.”

The wind whipped off the ocean. The sky remained blue, but the waves crashed harder against the shore. What else could he possibly say? How could he convince her not to leave him?

“Life seemed easier while I was Ryan the bartender. There’s baggage that comes with being Ryan Murphy, the former media mogul and now resort owner. I don’t want secrets or subterfuge. I never meant to hurt you or anyone else. My intentions were good.”

BOOK: Last Call for Love
12.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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