Copyright © 2010, Kinzie Monroe
Published by Whiskey Creek Press LLC
Excerpt for RESERVATIONS FOR TWO by Kinzie Monroe
“Kinzie Monroe is a brilliant author. She combines the perfect amount of drama and romance to please the most discriminating reader. The characters fit well with each other. This book has a strong Christian message. Carson and Maggie share their faith and reveal how they depend on God for their strength to see them through the storms. Munroe also demonstrates the family dynamic and family bond. This book held my attention from beginning to end. It left me wanting to read more of Maggie and Carson’s adventures. Perhaps the author will take the hint and make this into a series.”
~ Reviewed for ReadersFavorite.com
Maggie stared out the window at the passing scenery. She thought back to the last time she had traveled more than a hundred miles on a bus. It was in Brazil, she recalled quickly, smiling at those memories. What she wouldn’t give to be able to travel like that again, to experience new worlds, new cultures, new people.
She looked around at her fellow travelers. Except for the eighty-some-year-old couple parked next to the bathroom, most were near her age or younger. She wondered where their final destinations were. Were they traveling all the way to the west coast or would they be getting off along the way, like her? She reflected back to the beginning of her journey. Her youngest daughter Lannie had almost gone through the roof when Maggie had shared her plans of traveling alone to New Mexico. Insisting that a sixty-two year old widow had no business boarding a bus to a place she hadn’t been in years. But Lannie had no idea of the significance of this journey. That by traveling to Mason Springs, where she and her late husband had spent their honeymoon, was a sort of closure for Maggie. After three years of moping around an empty house, it was her last resort. The time had come to move on with her life.
Hours later, Maggie stared up at the three story, frontier-style Victorian bed & breakfast nestled on a hill overlooking the historic village of Mason Springs. Thirty-nine years ago it’d been the only hotel in Mason Springs. Her eyes lowered to the wrap-a-round porch where she and Joe had watched their first sunrise together. She could almost hear the sound of his voice as she remembered the plans they’d made that day. Though life hadn’t gone exactly as they’d hoped for, she didn’t regret a single moment of it.
The screen door suddenly opened and a man, similar in age, appeared. “You must be Maggie. I’m Elliot, we spoke on the phone. I was just on my way to pick you up.”
She sat her bags down and shook the hand he offered. “The bus got in early. I thought I’d save you the trouble.”
“ Well thanks, but it wouldn’t have been any trouble. That’s what I’m here for. At least that’s what my wife tells me.”
Maggie smiled. She’d taken an instant liking to the owner when she’d made her reservation three months ago. “It’s exactly as I remembered it.”
He followed her gaze back to the inn. “The outside hasn’t changed much, except for a few coats of paint, but we’ve renovated the whole interior, including the guestrooms. Instead of fourteen, there are only seven.”
“ How long have you owned it?”
“ It’s always been in my family. My father was probably running it when you stayed here last. You said you came here with your husband?”
“ On our honeymoon.”
“ I just imagine I was away at college then.” He picked up her bags. “Come on in. I’ll take your bags to your room while you’re checking in.”
Maggie followed him inside. She paused in the lobby as he disappeared up the stairs. The creaking of the wood prompted a memory of Joe and her sneaking downstairs for a midnight walk.
“ Is that a reservation for two?”
Maggie looked toward the counter. A teenaged girl with curly brown hair smiled at her. “No. I’m traveling solo now.”
“ I’m sorry.”
Maggie smiled. “No reason to be sorry. Life goes on. It should be under O’Brien.” While the young woman was confirming her reservation, Maggie looked around the lobby. It seemed doubled in size, and the walls were now covered in a beautiful floral pattern with wood trim. She was pleased with the renovation and was looking forward to her stay. “Do you have a hot tub here?”
She heard a woman’s laughter. “Don’t I wish!”
Maggie turned and met the smile of whom she assumed was the co-owner. “Never hurts to ask.”
The chubby, gray-haired woman offered Maggie her hand. “I’m Joann, Elliot’s wife. Sorry we don’t have a hot tub. I’ve been telling him for years that we need to get one.”
“ That’s all right. I’ve never really been in one, but thought I’d like to give it a try.”
“ You and me both. There is a local spa.” Joann chose a brochure from the rack beside the counter and handed it to Maggie. “It’s kind of pricy, but I imagine well worth it.”
Maggie shoved the brochure into the back pocket of her jeans. “You’ve done a wonderful job of remodeling the place.”
“ Thanks. Would you like a tour?”
“ Sure.” Maggie signed the register and got her key, then followed Joann.
The décor was mostly the same throughout the inn, until they came to the dining room. A huge rock fire place now took up most of the west wall, and centered in front of it were two cream colored sofas and matching chairs. The rest of the room was filled with a large oak table and more than a dozen chairs.
“ This is my favorite room in the house. There’s nothing more romantic than sitting in front of a cozy fireplace on a cool night.”
“ I agree,” Maggie said.
“ Well, please feel free to make use of any of the rooms. In the family room I showed you are all kinds of movies on DVD’s, and feel free to use the computer in there as well. Elliot, or my granddaughter, Stacy, can give you a hand if you’re electronic illiterate like I am. We also have puzzles and board games available for your use.”
Maggie suddenly felt very old. “To be honest I probably won’t be spending a lot of time here. I spend as much time as I can outdoors, and I was hoping to get in some hiking.”
“ Well, you’ve come to the right place then,” Elliot said, announcing his arrival into the room. “I sensed on the phone that you were an adventurer.”
Maggie smiled. “Not so much as I used to be.”
Elliot slipped his arm around his wife. “Well, we hope you’ll enjoy your stay here in whatever ways you choose.”
“ Thank you. I’m sure I will.” She took her room key out of her pocket. “Right now I think I’ll go freshen up.”
“ Don’t forget, dinner is at six,” Joann reminded.
* * * *
Maggie smiled as she entered her room. It was just what she’d hoped for. An antique four-poster iron bed faced the north windows, offering a full view of the neighboring mountains. A floral padded chase lounge sat next to a beautiful white fireplace. And since it was electronic she didn’t have to worry about burning down the inn. There was also a matching antique dresser and armoire for her clothes. Shifting her gaze to a closed door, she prayed it was her own private bath. She slowly opened the door and smiled when she saw the claw-footed bathtub.
Thank you, Lord!
Maggie heard the familiar ring of her cell phone and went in search for it. She found it at the very bottom of her suitcase. Finally answering it, she said, “Hello.”
“ I thought you were going to call me when you got there?”
Maggie sighed at the sound of her daughter’s voice. “I haven’t had the chance.”
“ I’ve been worried sick, Mom.”
Maggie shook her head. Sometimes she felt as if she was the child in the relationship instead of the other way around. “Well, you can stop worrying, Lannie. The bus wasn’t high jacked in route or taken over by aliens. I’m safe and I feel fine.”
“ I still don’t think this is a good idea.”
“ I know you don’t, honey. Give the kids a kiss from me and I’ll see you in nine days.”
“ I love you sweetheart,” Maggie said before she hung up. She then turned the phone off and placed it on top of the dresser.
On her way back to the bed she paused to take in the view from her windows. Mason Peak rose majestically above the valley where tall pines whispered in the breeze. Perhaps one of the best kept secrets in the Southwest, the Lincoln County area was rich in history. Nestled high in the mountains of Southern New Mexico, it was at one time the home to Billy the Kid, the Lincoln County War, the Mescalero Apache tribe, Kit Carson, “Black Joe” Pershing, and the Buffalo Soldiers.
It wasn’t its history or the quaint shops and art galleries that brought Maggie back to Mason Springs, but the majestic mountains and wilderness trails in the area. She and Joe had spent the biggest part of their honeymoon exploring the forested canyons and small streams within the neighboring forest, and by the end of her vacation she hoped to travel most, if not all, of those trails again.
* * * *
Maggie dressed casually for dinner that night and entered the dining room to the delicious aroma of grilled steaks.
“ We’re glad you could join us, Maggie,” Joann said, as she sat next to her husband.
Maggie scanned the half dozen unfamiliar faces seated at the table and wished she had been more punctual. “Sorry I’m late. I was on the last few chapters of my book and couldn’t put it down until I knew who the killer was.”
“ You could do like me and skip to the final pages,” one of the male guests said.
“ But that would spoil the surprise,” Maggie said. She sat down in the only vacant chair at the table.
Joann quickly disappeared into the kitchen, returning shortly with a plate of food. “Maggie, why don’t you introduce yourself and tell everyone where you’re from,” she said, placing the plate in front of Maggie.
“ I’m Maggie O’Brien, and I’m from Seville, Nebraska.”
The man who’d spoken to her upon her arrival offered his hand across the table. “I’m Mark Williams and this is my wife Beth and our two children, Christopher and Carrie.”
Maggie shook Mark’s hand and nodded to the rest of his family. “Where are you guys from?”
“ Topeka, Kansas,” Beth answered.
“ Then we have Bill and Debra,” Elliot said, introducing the other couple. “They’re from Norman, Oklahoma, and are spending their five year anniversary with us.”
Maggie smiled at the couple seated further down the table from her. “Congratulations. My late husband and I spent our honeymoon here.”
“ Thank you,” Bill said. “How long were you and your husband married?”
“ Thirty-nine years.”
“ What was your secret?” Beth asked with a smile.
“ A lot of understanding on my part and a whole lot of patience on his.”
As everyone went back to the meals, Maggie lowered her head in a brief prayer. “Everything looks delicious,” she commented afterwards, as she picked up her fork.
“ Joann is a marvelous cook,” Mark said, looking toward their host.
“ Elliot told us you like to hike, Maggie,” Christopher said, joining in the dinner conversation.
She glanced across the table at the young boy seated directly across from her. She guessed him to be no more than ten, the same age as one of her own grandsons. “Yes I do, Christopher. Do you like to hike?”
He shook his head enthusiastically. “I’ve been trying to talk Mom and Dad into taking me.”
She exchanged smiles with Mark, before glancing back to the boy. “Well, if you can’t talk them into it you let me know. I’d be more than happy for you to tag along with me.”
“ You have to promise to keep up though,” she answered, prompting a round of laughter from everyone at the table.
“ Did you and your husband do a lot of hiking?” Beth asked.
“ Whenever we got the chance. He was a pastor, so his weekends were usually taken, and I worked during the week. We always spent our vacations somewhere where we could enjoy the outdoors though.”
“ Do you still work?” Mark asked.
She smiled at the personable young man. Both he and his wife looked to be in their early thirties. “Not anymore. I used to work as a secretary in the sheriff’s office in Seville. I retired a few months ago after twenty-three years. What about you, what do you do for a living?”
“ Beth and I own a small computer business. We design web pages, and set up databases and software programs for businesses and individuals.”
“ That’s what my son-in-law does. He’s a software engineer for a firm in Texas. It’s so nice to have someone in the family I can call whenever my computer goes haywire. He keeps telling me I need a new one, but I tell him as long as he’s around to fix it why bother.”
“ Did you get to carry a gun when you worked at the sheriff’s office?” Christopher asked.
Maggie laughed. “No, they never would let me. I think they figured I was dangerous enough as it was.”
He then asked, “Did you ever get to guard any prisoners?”
“ They wouldn’t let me do that either. About the only exciting thing they ever let me do was take fingerprints when they were shorthanded on deputies.”
“ That’s even better. I bet you miss working there.”
“ Yes, I do,” she answered softly. She wasn’t ready to retire. But what was a sixty-two-year-old woman to do in the American workforce when the economy was at its worst in years?
“ We’re going to play a board game after dinner if you’d like to join us, Maggie.”
She smiled at Mark’s offer. “I think I’d like that,” she said, thankful for the diversion.
* * * *
“ Who wants more popcorn?”
“ I do,” Maggie and the children answered in unison.
Mark chuckled as he stood up to give Joann a hand. Mark had barely set the bowl on the table when Christopher pushed his big sister aside and reached for the popcorn.
Maggie slapped his hand playfully and said, “Watch your manners, young man,” and heard Mark and Beth chuckle as he looked at Maggie with large brown eyes. “If anyone’s going first I am, because I’m winning.”
“ We’re team mates,” Christopher reminded.
“ And you’re both cheating,” Mark said as he scooped a bowl out and gave it to his wife.
Maggie opened her mouth, pretending to be shocked. “Did you hear that, Christopher? Your father just accused us of cheating.”
Christopher folded his arms in front of him and looked up at his dad. “We are not!”
Maggie laughed at the seriousness of his expression and accepted the bowl of popcorn Mark handed her. The last three hours had been filled with more laughter than she’d heard in months. “I haven’t had this much fun since my children visited me at Easter,” she admitted.
Mark smiled at her as he handed Christopher his refill. “We’re glad you joined in. We usually have a hard time keeping the kids entertained much longer than an hour.”
“ It’s the inner child in me. I refuse to grow up.”
Carrie took her popcorn. “I hope I’m like that when I’m old. Sorry, Maggie, I didn’t mean that you’re old…old.”
Maggie chuckled. “I know what you meant, honey. I have lived for over half a century, but it isn’t your age that makes you old, it’s how you feel on the inside. And I still have a lot of wild oats to be sown.”
“ What’s a wild oat?” Christopher asked.
“ Doing things I’ve always wanted to do and seeing places I’ve always want to see before the Good Lord decides I’ve had enough fun on this old earth and calls me home to an even better life.”
“ That’s a beautiful outlook, Maggie,” Beth said. “It isn’t often we meet someone who’s so willing to share their faith in God.”
Maggie smiled at her across the table. “I imagine that comes from being a pastor’s wife for so many years and serving in the mission field where not everyone has the freedom or opportunity to know the Lord.”
“ You were a missionary?” Joann asked.
“ Uh huh. That’s how I met my Joe. He was the most charismatic person I’d ever met. He was one of those people you meet and you feel like you’ve known them all your life.”
“ Like you.”
“ Why thank you, Mark.”
“ I bet you miss him, huh?”
Maggie smiled at Beth. “That’s okay.” She looked over at Carrie and smiled. “I do miss him, very much. But I take comfort in knowing he is in a place where he’s wanted to be all his life.”
“ Walking in the garden with Jesus,” Carrie answered.
Maggie fought the threatening tears. She couldn’t think of a more perfect picture than that of her late husband talking face to face with the person he’d committed his life to. Then with a heavy sigh she reached over and took Christopher’s hand. “What are we sitting here yakking for? We have a game to win.”