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Secrets, Lies & Lullabies

By: Heidi Betts

One

Alexander Bajoran swiped his key card and pushed open the heavy oak door to his suite. He’d been halfway down the winding mile-long drive leading away from the luxurious yet rustic resort—aptly named Mountain View Lodge—when he realized he’d forgotten a stack of much-needed paperwork. Now he was late for his meeting, and it was going to be nearly impossible to make it into downtown Portland on time.

He let the door swing closed behind him as he marched toward the large cherrywood desk on the far side of the sitting area. Six steps in, he stopped short at the sound of someone else moving around in the suite. Turning toward the bedroom, he paused in the doorway, taking note of the woman stripping his bed and shaking her rear end to a song only she could hear.

She was wearing a maid’s uniform, but sadly not one of the sexy French variety. Just a simple gray dress that did nothing to compliment her figure or coloring.

Her blond hair was pulled up and twisted at the back of her head, held in place by a large plastic clip, but he could still see bits of color peeking out here or there. A thin streak of black, then auburn, then blue running down one side and blending into the rest.

Yes, blue. The woman had blue hair. At least a few bits of it.

She was humming beneath her breath, the occasional odd lyric tripping off her tongue as she whipped back the top sheet, then a corner of the fitted one. The quilted coverlet was already in a heap on the floor.

As she danced around, oblivious to his presence, he noticed the glitter of earrings lining the entire length of one ear. Studs, hoops, dangles; there must have been seven or eight in her right ear alone. The left had only four that he could see—three near the lobe and one higher up near her temple.

Despite all the silver and gold and jeweled settings, he knew they had to be fake. No way could a chambermaid afford the real thing. Which was a shame, because she’d look good in diamonds. And he should know—diamonds were his business.

Soiled sheets balled up in her arms, she turned suddenly, jumping back and giving a high-pitched shriek when she saw him standing there.

He held his hands up in the universal I-mean-you-no-harm gesture. “I didn’t mean to startle you,” he offered by way of apology.

Reaching up, she yanked the buds from her ears and tucked them into the pocket of the white apron that must have held her MP3 player. He could hear the heavy beat of her music as she fumbled to turn down the volume.

Now that he could look at her straight on, he noticed she wasn’t wearing makeup…or not much, at any rate. Strange, considering her hair and jewelry choices. She even had a small gold hoop with a tiny fleck of cubic zirconia hanging from the outer edge of her right eyebrow.

Eyes still wide from the scare he’d given her, she licked her lips. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know anybody would be here. I didn’t see the sign on the knob.”

He shook his head. “There wasn’t one. I expected to be gone for the day, but forgot something I need for a meeting.”

He didn’t know why he was telling her this. He didn’t normally spend a lot of time explaining himself to anyone. But the longer he stood here talking, the longer he got to look at her. And he did enjoy looking at her.

That, too, was unusual for him. The women he dated tended to be socialites from wealthy families. Polished and sophisticated, the type who spent their days at the garden club doing nothing more strenuous than planning their next thousand-dollar-a-plate fundraiser for the charity du jour.

Never before had he found himself even remotely attracted to someone with multicolored hair and excessive piercings. But the young woman standing in front of him was fascinating in an exotic-animal, priceless-piece-of-artwork way.

She seemed to be slightly disconcerted by his presence, as well, staring at him as if she expected him to bite.

“Is there anything you need, as long as I’m here?” she asked, nervously licking her lips over and over again. “Extra towels or glasses, that sort of thing?”

He shook his head. “I’m fine, thank you.”

Then, because he couldn’t think of anything else to say or any other reason to stand there, staring at the help as though she was on display, he moved away, heading back across the sitting room and grabbing up the file he’d forgotten. It was her turn to stand in the bedroom doorway while he slapped the manila folder against his free hand a couple of times.

“Well,” he murmured, for no particular reason, “I’ll leave you to it, then.”

She inclined her head in acknowledgment, still watching him warily.

Walking to the suite’s main door, he pulled it open and set one foot across the threshold into the hall. But before walking off, he couldn’t resist turning back and taking one last glance at the intriguing young woman who had already returned to her job of changing his sheets.

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