"What kind of a crap outfit leaves a customer standing at the door with enough luggage to choke a small army? Lazy bunch of no good..."Alex Brookfield let the rest of the sentence fade into nothingness while he bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing out loud.
Across the beautifully appointed lobby, he saw the owner and his good friend, Ethan Roberts, tense. The man spun away from the picture window and faced him, a scowl distorting his normally handsome face. An instant later, the frown faded, replaced by a gaping-mouth look of confusion.
Alex couldn't stop the laughter from erupting. The look on Ethan's face was hilarious. The wide-eyed stare, priceless.
"Well, fuck!" Ethan managed to get out after only a few more seconds of obvious confusion. "Alex, I should have known it was you."
Alex, dressed in his usual suit and tie, strode across the floor, leaving his large suitcase where it was, blocking the doorway. "Possibly, but I'm glad you didn't. I haven't had a good belly laugh like that in months."
With his hand extended, Ethan took a couple of steps forward and grasped Alex's hand, giving it an enthusiastic shake. "Welcome to Whiskers', Alex. It's been too long, my friend." The owner of the inn patted Alex on the shoulder then pulled him closer for a warm hug. "How are you?"
"I'm good. Thanks, Ethan." Alex accepted the hug. For an instant, it brought back memories of college days when he and Ethan had been more than friends. But that was a long time ago, and they'd parted on the best of terms. "Really, to leave a man's luggage sitting by the door. Anyone could walk in and swipe it, you know. And me being a lawyer and all, I'd have to sue." The last words came out with laughter that came bubbling up again.
"Bloody hell, man." Ethan grinned and pulled him towards the front desk. "My luck, you'd do it and claim you've got all the family treasures, the deeds to any property you own and the winning lottery ticket you purchased not ten minutes ago."
"You know it." Alex beamed. Tension he hadn't realised had been knotting his shoulders seeped out of him the further into the inn he went. "So, the place is doing well, I hope."
"Yeah, we're just getting into the busy season. Bookings have really picked up since the beginning of the month."
"Excellent, I'll adjust the numbers when I sue." He tried deadpanning it but managed to keep a straight face for only a few moments. It felt good to laugh.
Ethan chuckled along with him. "Nice. I'm so glad you're a friend, not just my lawyer."
"Kidding aside, the place looks great."
Ethan seemed to glow with pride. "We haven't made many changes. A new coat of paint, added some artwork that I felt suited the place better. Cade keeps the grounds up and does all the little fixes that need attending to."
"Cade? Would that be the same Cade Wyatt who's been here for years?" Alex remembered the man from a previous visit--a hunk if there ever was one, and if he wasn't mistaken, Ethan's special someone.
"Yeah, the one and only." He leaned closer and whispered, "My one and only."
"If I remember the man correctly, and I always remember good looking men correctly, you're a very lucky guy. He's a hunk." Alex pushed down another sudden flash of memory. His own special someone was gone, and he still missed him terribly.
"He's around here somewhere," Ethan said and reached across the desk for the register and a pen. He glanced down the list of names. "Tell me you booked ahead."
"Yes, a couple of weeks ago." Alex leant in and scanned down the page.
"Here it is." Ethan placed his finger on the line. "Logan probably took the call. I have him manning the desk when I'm 'occupied'," he said with a smile and wink. "How long do you plan to be with us, Alex?"