Christa Sommers counted the receipts for the restaurant and the bar of Green Mountain Inn. She rubbed her forehead and stared at the totals. As she matched the bills to the cash and credit card slips she clenched her teeth. Someone had dipped into the cash and she knew the identity of the culprits. One hundred dollars short. Last week the shortage had been three hundred.
She reached for the stack of just paid vendor bills. For the fourth month she had to use money from the room rentals to cover the bar and restaurant expenses. Her stomach roiled. The time had come to confront the thieves and face the guilt trip they would attempt to use again. This time she wouldn't cave. She might even call the police, but they were family.
"Mom, when are we leaving?"
Christa smiled at her son. "Give me ten minutes." She tousled Davy's blond hair and felt a pang of regret. He looked so much like the father he didn't know.
Do not walk that road, she warned herself. She had no time for regrets. She wrote the last check and sealed the envelope. After putting the money and credit card slip in a deposit bag she reached for her jacket.
Before she and Davy reached the office door her half sisters barged into the room. She looked at her son. He didn't need to hear another quarrel with the pair. "Wait for me outside."
He glared at the two young women. "Okay."
Christa cleared her throat. "What now?" She waited for one of them to speak.
"Look at this brochure." Peggy waved a paper. "Just what Stel and I need to survive boredom. The guests here are so old."
"We need some fun," Stella added.
"No cruise." Christa looked at the price. "This is out of the question." Though the guests who came to view the fall foliage were older they were little problem. "I'm not paying for your fun and games any longer."
"Why not?" Stella asked. "You owe us. Remember where you were when Mom and Dad died. We were left alone and ended up in that place for six weeks."
Christa swallowed. She wouldn't bite this time. "I said no. You need to find jobs."
"We have them here," Peggy said.
Stella sneered. "Right. Showing old people to tables and running the cash register. Getting paid pennies. All we need is a few thou."
Christa shook her head. "Not possible. We need to discuss the money that's missing from the restaurant and bar registers."
Peggy rested a hand on one hip. "If people didn't use credit cards we could have everything we need."
Stella nodded. "She's right. We just need to get away. A single's cruise is the perfect escape."
Christa remembered the bills from the vacation the pair had taken in June to celebrate Peggy's college graduation. And the problem presented by the two men who had followed them to the inn in hopes of sharing the bounty. At twenty-one and twenty-three her half-sisters were selfish and self-centered. When would they stop blaming her for the accident that hadn't been her fault that she'd been out of touch when they'd needed her? That time was ten years in the past and the time had come for them to take some responsibility for their own lives.
Peggy planted her hands on the desk. "Why do we always have to fight for our share of the inn's profits?"
Christa drew a deep breath. "You have no share."
"So you say." Stella glared. "On Monday we'll call a lawyer."
"Go ahead. Instead of taking that course you need to find jobs." There, she'd said what she'd avoided since Peggy graduated in June.
"What are you talking about?" Stella's voice rose to a strident pitch. "We own more of this dump than you do. Mom said no matter what happened we were set for life."
"She lied." Christa knew the tale her father had told about the inn. Until his death he'd been her guardian with no more than life tenancy. After his death she'd learned her mother had left the inn to her. "You also need to know the inn is for sale."
"You can't do that," Peggy said.
"We won't sign," Stella added.
"You don't need to." Before Christa could tell them about the inn's ownership the pair stormed from the room.
Christa slumped on a chair. Their anger and their thefts weren't her fault, except she had continued to allow them to continue all summer. She had intended to tell them once Peggy had graduated from college. As usual she had put off the confrontation. No longer.
"Mom, when are we going?"
"Now." She picked up the stack of envelopes and the deposit bag. She followed her son to the Jeep. She had finally grown a spine. The trick was finding a way to keep it stiff.