The Perfect Hope(10)

By: Nora Roberts

“He left.” Ryder gave his helper a head jerk to send him back inside, then dragged off his safety goggles.

Now he looked a little like a reverse raccoon, Hope thought, and couldn’t quite hold back the smile. “It’s dirty work.”

“And a lot of it,” Ryder replied. “What kind of problem?”

“They won’t stay on. They—”

“Have you changed the bulbs?”

She just stared at him. “Gee, why didn’t I think of that?”

“Okay. Somebody will come check it out. Is that it?”

“For the moment.”

He gave her a nod, boosted himself back through the opening, and disappeared.

“Thanks so much,” Hope muttered to empty air, and walked back to the inn.

It usually lifted her mood, just walking inside. The way it looked, the way it smelled—especially now as Carolee’s chocolate chip cookies sweetened the air. But she strode straight into the kitchen, irked everywhere.

“What is that man’s problem?”

Carolee, face flushed from baking, slid a batch of cookies in the wall oven. “Which man, honey?”

“Ryder Montgomery. Is rudeness his religion?”

“He can be a little abrupt, especially when he’s working. Which is, I guess, almost always. What did he do?”

“Nothing. He was just himself. You know how we’ve had those sconces keep burning out, or not coming on? I went over to tell him—or one of them, and drew him. He actually asked if I’d changed the bulbs. Do I look like a moron?”

With a smile, Carolee held out a cookie. “No, but they did actually have a tenant once that reported a problem, and Ry went all the way over to find out the problem with the light was a burned-out bulb. The woman, and I guess she was a moron, was stunned to realize she had to change the lightbulb.”

“Hmm.” Hope bit into the cookie. “Still.”

“So what’s going on over there?”

“Banging and crashing and a lot of crazed laughing.”

“Demo. It’s fun.”

“I suppose. I didn’t realize they were taking the whole place down to the bones. No great loss, but I didn’t realize.” And she fretted a little how the noise factor would affect her guests.

“You should see the plans. I got a peek at them. It’s going to be wonderful.”

“I don’t doubt it. They do good work.”

“Justine’s already started looking at light fixtures and sinks.”

The cookie, and Carolee, shifted Hope’s mood. “She’s in heaven.”

“She’s going all modern and sleek and shiny. Lots of chrome, she said. It’s one look, you know, rather than a lot of them like here, but it’s still a lot to figure out. It’ll be fun to watch it all come together.”

“It will.” Yes, it would, she realized. She hadn’t been in on the renovations here from the start. Now she’d see another building done from beginning to end. “I’m going to get some work done before check-in.”

“I’m going to run to the market when the cookies are done. Anything you want to add to the list?”

“I think we covered it. Thanks, Carolee.”

“I love my job.”

So did she, Hope thought as she settled into her office. One difficult Montgomery couldn’t spoil it.

She checked her email, smiled at the thank-you note from a previous guest, wrote a memo to fulfill an upcoming guest’s request for a bottle of champagne to surprise his parents on their visit.

She checked reservations—a full house for the weekend—reviewed her own personal calendar.

When the florist arrived, she took the fresh arrangements upstairs to Titania and Oberon. Though she’d already done so, she did a last check of the room to make certain everything was perfect for the new guests.

Following habit and routine, she went into The Library, checked the lights—her daily list included checking all lights and lamps for burned-out bulbs, thank you, Ryder Montgomery. Using her phone, she emailed herself when she found one, added a directive to bring up more coffee disks for The Library’s machine.

She continued downstairs to run the same check on The Lounge, The Lobby, The Dining Room. Then she turned into the kitchen, and had to bite back a yelp when she spotted Ryder in the kitchen helping himself to the cookies.