** This one was a fun one to write. In fact, it surprised me with some of the bits. For this week’s challenge we have maid service, an ugly dog, and a big change. Enjoy!**
The Fairlaine Hotel had been built in the 1860’s. Its castle-like stone façade had maintained its original beauty and the grounds were painstakingly maintained by an exceedingly excellent staff of groundskeepers. The interior had been updated on numerous occasions, and the current incarnation had all the amenities of a 5 star hotel while still looking like it belonged to another time. I managed the whole operations, a coup for someone my age, and I loved every stressful overworked second of it. I was never completely off duty, though the night manager did take some of the burden from my shoulders. I very rarely left the property though, because I needed to be on hand to take care of any situation
One of the best things about living in a hotel was the maid service. I never had to worry about towels, or making the bed. I never had to vacuum or dust. My suite of rooms was always neat and tidy. The guest rooms were always catered to first, but once that had been taken care of, the staff suites were also cleaned. Usually my rooms were done by the time I managed to make it up there at about eight P.M. So I was surprised when I walked down the hall and saw the maid cart outside my door, which was propped open.
It all made sense when I walked in. Leo had only been on staff at the Fairlaine for three weeks, and this was his first shift on his own. It made sense that it would take him a bit longer to complete his tasks until he really got into the swing of things. I stood there and watched him work for a moment. Leo was efficient, though slow, and I had no doubt that he’d eventually handle himself well. I was pleased with his progress, and with the young man himself.
Until I heard a bark.
Shocked, my gaze shot to the corner where a dog was sitting patiently on a pile of towels. Not just a dog though. It had to be the ugliest dog I had ever seen. It was some sort of mix, but it had gotten the worst off all the traits. Its ears were long and hairless, its snout somewhere between smooshed in and long and pointy, and its fur was mottled brown, red, white, and gray without any discernable pattern. It looked like someone had taken a bunch of leftover parts, tossed them into a blender, and this dog was the result. I would have felt sorry for it, except I shouldn’t have seen it in the first place.
I was going to hate to fire Leo—he had promise—but pets were not allowed in the hotel. Animals of any kind were banned, unless they were a registered service animal. This dog, happily panting in the corner, was most certainly not.
I cleared my throat. Leo startled and jumped, then whirled around, eyes wide. He colored prettily, even as he started to stammer out an apology.
“Mr. Carpenter, sir! I’m sorry. I can explain.”
Oh this I had to hear. I motioned for him to go on. Leo took a deep breath. “I was a little slow today because I had to keep running and checking—” he cut himself off with a shake of his head, and then let his head drop low. “I swear I finished all the guest rooms in a timely manner.”
“Leo,” I said as gently as I could, and waited for him to look up at me. “First of all, I told you already, you don’t have to call me Mr. Carpenter. No one does. Okay?”
He nodded and kept his wide eyes fixed on me. I smiled to soften the next words.
“But dogs aren’t allowed in the hotel. Ever. No exceptions.” I gave him a stern glare, but as I saw the true sadness creep into his eyes, my “boss” persona faded. I held open my arms and he came running into them. I squeezed him tightly and kissed the side of his head. “Sorry, love. You knew that when you moved in here with me. Where in the hell did you get that mutt anyway?”
“Found him,” Leo mumbled into the skin of my neck. “He was dirty and hungry and obviously it had been awhile since he was loved. But he’s friendly and so sweet.”
I gave Leo an extra squeeze. “I’m sorry, but we can’t keep him.”
Leo nodded and pulled away. He looked up at me with his big blue eyes, and I was ready to promise him the world. He knew it too, but I had to give him credit for toning it down. This wasn’t something I could change. Or could I?
“You know,” I said thoughtfully, my gaze straying to the happy, ugly dog in the corner. “I bet a lot of our guests would like to bring their pet along. I bet we’d get twice as many bookings if we were pet friendly.”
“What are you thinking?” Leo asked. I saw hope light his eyes.
“That there’s that shed by the pond that’s sitting empty. And it would make a great place for a pet spa and daycare. That allowing guests to bring their animals would mean higher revenue in the long run.”
Leo nodded. “Yeah, but…” He paused and glanced at the dog. “Can you really make that happen?”
“It’d be a big change,” I said absently, my mind working. “It would take some convincing to get the owners to agree. I’d have to go to them with a solid plan. And there would have to be someone who would dedicate themselves to being Animal Guest Liaison.”
Leo caught on fast. I always knew he was smart. “I’d be an awesome Animal Guest Liaison.”
“You would,” I agreed. I pulled him in tight again, and kissed him soundly, only to be interrupted by the dog barking. I pulled back with a scowl. “In the meantime, you have to find somewhere else for the dog to stay.”
“Krissy would take him, as long as I didn’t make her keep him indefinitely.”
“Your sister is a gem.” I nodded, then stepped away. “Finish your work, take the dog to Krissy’s, and then we’ve got research to do.”
Leo nodded, and moved to do as I directed. But then he stopped and turned, gracing me with his biggest, most heartfelt smile. “I love you. And I love that you would do this for me.”
“It’s not just for you,” I protested. We both knew it was a lie. I laughed. “I love you too, babe. Get to work.”