She had that look on her face when she told me my parents knew about Marston.
“What is it?” I ask, already out of my chair.
“There’s someone here to see you.” She looks back and forth between me and Savvy. “Mrs. Wright’s family decided to bring in a . . . consultant.”
My shoulders sag. It’s a touch insulting, considering all I’ve done for this spa in the past five years, but I can deal with this. Unless she wants to fire me, in which case—no. I won’t get ahead of myself. “Okay. Show her in.”
“He asked if you would meet him outside. I think he’s afraid you’re going to be pissed when you find out he’s here.”
Consultant. Him. “It’s not— He wouldn’t . . .”
“Oh, yeah.” She nods. “He definitely did. Mrs. Wright hired Marston Rowe to figure out what to do with this place.”
Marston Rowe is a legend among those of us who own and operate resorts. He swoops in and either saves them or tears them to the ground so the owner can sell off the parts.
My stomach knots. Marston may hold my fate in his hands.
“Is this bad?” Stella asks.
I wipe my hands on my pants and take a deep breath. “Not necessarily. He’s really good at this stuff, and maybe he’ll have some ideas. The Orchid isn’t failing. It’s thriving. Let’s keep that in mind.” That’s right. Think positive.
“And he’d never do anything to hurt you?” Stella says, but it’s a question more than a declaration. The question is fair. After the way he looked at me last night, after finding out that I had Roman’s baby, I don’t know.
We were madly in love once. Our relationship may have been a secret, but it was no less intense, no less real than anyone else’s love. At the time, it was the only thing in my life that didn’t feel like some sort of bad dream.
But that was more than a decade ago, and now, I’m not the girl he loves. Now, I’m nothing more than his future ex-wife.
“Do you think he took this job just to be closer to you?” Savvy asks.
I frown, considering her question. No matter how much Mrs. Wright’s family claims to care about the future of The Orchid after its sale, I can’t imagine they’d hire Marston if he charged them his normal fees, which I know a little about, thanks to the Forbes article. A place like Orchid Valley doesn’t get the same volume of customers that vacation hotspots like Las Vegas, Sedona, or Lake Tahoe do. “I guess that’s possible.” Likely, even, but the question is why. He knows I don’t want this marriage, and now he knows about Cami and Roman. Why on earth would he take a job in a town he hates just to be closer to the girl who broke his heart all those years ago?
Regardless of his reasons, this is going to affect me too. How am I going to repair things with Julian if I’m seeing Marston every day? I don’t know how I can, yet if I had to choose, I wouldn’t want Marston to leave. Not yet. He might be complicating the shit out of my life, but the idea of never seeing him again hurts too much.
“Looks like he didn’t run away at your big secret after all,” Savvy says.
I sink back into my chair.
“You okay?” Stella asks, stepping into the room.
I grab my coffee with a shaking hand and take three long gulps, practically scalding my mouth, but I barely notice. I need something to give me backbone for this conversation, and I’m hoping the caffeine and sugar are up for the job.
“Do you want me to ask him to come back later? I can tell him you’re busy or that I forgot about a phone conference or . . .?”
I shake my head. “No. I need to do this. It’s fine.” Think positive. Think positive. “We’re lucky to get Marston. He’ll see things we didn’t notice before and make this place even better. Some stranger might totally screw us over, but at least we know him.” Please let me be right, Marston. Please.
“Better the devil you know?” Savvy asks wryly.
I shrug and smile at my friend. Then I focus on putting one foot in front of the other and walk out of the office. I pass the bathroom and force myself to keep walking. Do I want to fuss with my hair and lipstick before facing Marston? Yes. But I’d only be disgusted with myself if I gave in to the urge.
Marston’s on the back patio of The Orchid. Our restaurant, The Patio, is named after this open-air dining area, though we have indoor dining as well. It’s really one of the prettiest places to eat in all of Orchid Valley, especially at this time of year, when the heat isn’t chasing everyone indoors to the air conditioning. The patio overlooks the lake, and meticulously manicured gardens line either side of it. If I stand on the far side and squint, I can just barely make out the little beach where I once stripped down to my underwear to swim in the cold water with seventeen-year-old Marston.