Amber pulled air into her lungs and gritted her teeth to keep from yelling back at the
people pushing toward the desk, It’s not our fault two people are down with the flu and one
person missing. She smiled at the man across the desk as she took his keycard.
“I’m sorry we didn’t do as you asked.” He grimaced. “We just thought it would be easier
to check in and out separately.”
“Mr. Kane, usually we would be better organized, but we’re short handed this morning.
Please have your people move to two lines. Darlene and I will check you out and have your
statements ready. Other staff will be here soon.”
Mr. Kane turned to the couple behind him. “You heard the lady. Pass the word, and we’ll
be out of here faster.”
The hundred and ten people grumbled and cursed but moved into two scraggly lines.
Darlene and Amber began accepting returned keys, printing out statements, and settling
accounts. Where in the world is Marlene?
When the phone rang, she raised one finger toward the woman in front of her. “Excuse
me, but we don’t have anyone to answer the phone right now.” She forced a smile into her voice.
“The Mansion Conference Center, would you hold, please?”
The voice in her ear answered, “Wait, Amber, we have a Homeland Security problem and
need your help. Kile Logan needs accommodations for his group this week.”
“Dad? I can’t talk now. We’re short handed, and we’re full.”
“I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important. I know you’ll do your best.”
“I’ve got to go. Call me later on my cell.” Amber placed the handset on its base more
gently than she wanted. She gave another smile, although strained, as she faced the woman.
“Thank you for waiting.”
A man shouldered his way in front of the guest. “I have an appointment with a Amber
Russell. My name is Titus Fallin.”
Amber shut her eyes a second before opening them to stare at the burly man. “Sir, this
lady was here first, and your appointment isn’t for another twenty minutes.”
“Are you Miz Russell?” The scowl on Fallin’s face deepened. “I don’t do business with
“Mr. Fallin, I’ll be with you in a few minutes.” Amber leaned to one side so she could see
the waiting woman. “Mrs. Greene, your statement is printing. Since you had no extra charges.,
just leave your key on the counter, and your printout will be ready in a second. Thank you for
staying with us.”
“Look, girly, I don’t like getting a brush off.”
“Mr. Fallin, please wait over in the lobby area. Thank you.” Amber snatched the
statement from the printer and reached around him to hand it to Mrs. Greene. A hand on her
shoulder caused her to jerk and spin around. “Oh, Neil. Thank you for coming down. I hated to
call, but,” she waved a hand, “as you can see, things are rather hectic.”
“No word from Marlene?” The slender, soft-spoken black man took Amber’s place as he
smiled at the next person in line, only to see Fallin still standing there. “Excuse me, sir, but you
were asked to move over to the sitting area. Ms Russell will join you in a moment."
“Damn darkie,” Fallin muttered before stomping away from the desk.
Neil’s smile never wavered as he greeted the man who stared after Fallin, who pushed
people out of his way. “May I help you, sir?”
“Yes, I need to check out.” The man handed his key card to the assistant manager.
Neil typed the information into the computer while he told Amber, “Go see if you can
tame the beast. Carl and Tony are on their way. They’ll work double shifts until our sick folks
are back and Marlene shows up.”
“Thanks, Neil. I’ll go see what Mr. Fallin’s problem is.” A frown marred her usually
smooth brow. “His group isn’t due until this afternoon.” She strode away, shaking her head.
Before Amber could reach the sitting arrangement where Titus Fallin paced, he spun
toward her. “It’s about time. Now where is your boss? I told that gal on the phone I wanted to
talk to him.”
“Mr. Fallin, I am one of the owners of The Mansion. Please follow me to my office.” She
pursed her lips for a few seconds as she walked away, not looking back. She moved down a hall
on the right side of the long counter that made the front desk of her conference center. At the
second door, she entered and walked behind her desk before she faced Fallin.
“Now, what is the problem, Mr. Fallin? Your group isn’t scheduled to arrive until later.”
“I jest want to be sure you understand we don’t want no interference in our meetings.”
“Each conference room assigned to you will be set up before you’re scheduled to be
there, and no one will enter until the room is empty. I read the contract Ms. Cruthers made with
you.” Amber opened a folder titled “Minute Men” on her desk and removed the contract. “A few
things we need to be sure you and your people understand: Housekeeping cleans rooms between
the hours of ten in the morning and four in the afternoon. If the occupants won’t allow staff in
the rooms during that time, rooms will not be cleaned that day. Also, we have a clause that states
rudeness, racial or gender slurs, or violence toward any of our staff can result in a group being
required to leave.”
“Why are you telling me this? Are you picking on us ‘cause we’re members of a militia
“No, sir, you said no one was to enter a room while any of your group was there, and I
heard what you said about our assistant manager. We want to avoid problems whenever
possible.” Amber strode around the desk and followed Fallin as he stomped through the open
door and down the hall.
When they reached the lobby, the man glared at her before he swaggered to the doors,
yanked one open, and left the building. Oh, Marlene, what have you gotten us into, and where
are you? “What a way to start a Monday,” she muttered.
When her cell vibrated against her leg, Amber pulled the phone from her slacks pocket.
“Great,” she mumbled when she saw her father’s name on the display. She snapped the phone
open. “Hello, Dad.”
“Amber, I’m serious. You have to find facilities for Kile Logan and his people.”
“I’m serious, Dad. We’re full.” She brushed her dark hair back from her face.
“As I said, if the situation wasn’t so important, I wouldn’t ask. They’ll need maybe one
or two small conference rooms, maybe two that can open into one larger one, and maybe ten
guest rooms. There’ll be about 25 people, but they can share rooms.”
“Okay, Dad, what’s going on? Does this have something to do with the militia group due
to register in a bit?”
“I can’t give any more details, gave you more information that I should.” After a pause,
he suggested, “Any apartments empty?”
“We have three, but …”
“Any single rooms at all? Please work out something. This is Homeland Security
“Oh, great, just what I need, to be involved in some terrorist plot or something.” With a
shake of her head, which caused her shoulder-length hair to swing, Amber sighed. “Okay, Dad,
I’ll work something out, but I need a little time.”
“Sorry, sweetheart, but Kile will be there any minute.” Her father disconnected.
Amber sighed again as she jammed the phone in her pocket. Movement by the main
doors jolted Amber from her reverie. She felt herself pulled into his orbit, this man whose dark
blond hair barely brushed his shirt collar as he glanced around the lobby. Just as quickly, she
shrugged as she figured this gorgeous hunk was probably Kile Logan. Most likely thinks he’s
God’s gift to women, the thought flashed through her mind. In a whisper she added, “That’s not
nice. Just because he’s the cause of another problem.”
The man’s visual tour reached her, slowly frisked her from foot to head, sending shivers
of awareness along the path his eyes took. Stop it, Amber, he’s just a man – one you don’t know.
One corner of his lips turned up in a grin as he turned toward the desk, where the final
two people checked out after a weekend’s conference. With a sigh, which she thought she
needed to stop doing so often, Amber walked toward him. “Mr. Logan?” she asked a few steps
He turned pale eyes, a silver gray, toward her. “Yes?”
“I’m Amber Russell. I’m expecting you.” A smile began to form across her face, but his
frown stopped it.
“You’re A. Russell? I wasn’t told you were a woman.”
“Yes, sir, I’m A. Russell, but rather than discuss this here, let’s go to my office.” She
whirled on her heel and marched toward her office for the second confrontation of the morning.
Irritation built as Kile Logan chuckled behind her. What does he think is so funny? Grrr …
“Help, help! Somebody, please.” A woman, wearing a towel and swimming-suit over her
chubby body, stumbled into the lobby from the atrium, bare feet slapping against the tiles.
“There’s a body in the fish deal, fountain, whatever it’s called.”
Amber and Kile reached the woman at the same time. Before Kile could speak, Amber
asked, “The fish pool?” She laid a hand on the woman’s arm. “Come sit down and tell us about
She glanced toward the desk and motioned for Neil to join her. When he stopped beside
her, she whispered, “Go check the fish pool. If there’s a body, call my dad.”
Neil nodded and hurried off.
Turning to the woman, who now slumped in a stuffed chair, Amber realized that Kile
hadn’t tried to talk to the gray faced, panting woman, but strode to the table with glasses and a
pitcher of water, poured a glass, and hurried back.
Amber knelt beside the woman. “Mr. Logan has a glass of water. Please sip a bit before
you try to speak.”
With trembling hands holding the glass, the woman sipped. She swallowed before saying,
“I was … I was cutting across the atrium to the swimming pool. I always stop to watch the fish.”
She looked around before sitting the glass on a round table beside her chair and raised trembling
fingers to her mouth. She shivered. “I … I never saw a dead body … she was floating face down,
just floating, her blond hair spread out … Oh, dear God, I …” She covered her face and sobbed
as she tried to continue talking. “She just lay there … lay in the water…”
Does that cause you to want to read more? Why? What writing guidelines did I use? Did the excerpt give you any help in starting your own writing?