Christmas in the Boss's Castle

By: Scarlet Wilson



Grace frowned. She wanted to ask more, but, like most good concierges, Frank had always been the soul of discretion. It was unlikely she’d get any more out of him.

She waved her assignment at him. ‘I wish they’d let me do the rebranding around here. I could sprinkle some Christmas fairy dust.’ She held out her hands and spun around. ‘Some silver lights up here, some red ones over there. A tree near the glass doors. How about some garlands at the reception desk? And a huge pile of beautifully wrapped presents in the little alcove, just as you go through to the bar.’ She stopped spinning, closed her eyes and held her hands to her chest. For a few seconds she could actually see in her head what this place could look like. The welcome. The warmth. The festivities.

Frank let out a wry laugh. ‘Keep dreaming, Grace.’

Her eyelids flickered back open. Grey. Sleek. Blackness everywhere. She leaned forward across Frank’s desk. ‘I could even make this place smell like Christmas. Cookies. Cinnamon sticks. Cranberries. Pine trees and Christmas spices. And not from some tacky candle.’

Frank arched an eyebrow and leaned over towards her. ‘There’s a lot to be said for candles. And I’m sure we’ve got a whole host of those things packed up in the basement somewhere.’ He shook his head. ‘But I doubt very much we’ll ever see them again.’ He gave her a careful nod. ‘You should take some home with you. Make good use of them.’

She gave a half-smile. He knew. He’d heard from some of the other girls that she was on her own. Grace didn’t like people feeling sorry for her. But Frank had only the best of intentions. She knew that. So, she couldn’t be offended by his good intentions. In fact, she was quite sure that some time, some place he might actually dress up as Santa.

Truth was, while The Armstrong hotel was opulent, its biggest asset was actually the staff. There were no ‘bad pennies’ as her gran used to call them.

Everything here was luxurious. From the bed sheets, to the furnishings, the Michelin-starred restaurant, even the heavy-duty stationery that her daily work assignment was printed on.

It was a world away from what she’d been brought up in. Working with the Maids in Chelsea agency had been a blessing in disguise. When her grandmother had died almost a year ago after a long battle with cancer, Grace had realised it was time to stop putting her own life on hold. Her gran had been the biggest part of her world. For a few years she’d only managed to take temporary part-time jobs that fitted in around being full-time carer for her gran. Working as a chambermaid might not be many women’s dream job, but the salary was good and her work colleagues had turned into the best bunch of friends a girl could have.

As it was one of London’s exclusive hotels, work at The Armstrong varied. There were a few guests that stayed here permanently. Some of the city’s big businesses always had rooms on hold for their overseas visitors. A few of the suites seemed to be permanently vacant. Then, there were the celebrity guests.

In the space of a few months Grace had seen enough scandal and impropriety to keep the tabloid presses in headlines for the next year. But confidentiality was part of the contract for Maids in Chelsea—and she would never have breathed a word anyway.

Today’s assignment was a little different. She headed over to the reception desk. ‘Anya, can I just check? I’ve to clean the Nottingdale Suite? The penthouse? No one has stayed there in the whole time I’ve worked here.’

Anya checked the computer system. ‘Yes, it’s going to be used later. We’re expecting the guest around five.’

‘Who normally stays there?’

Anya smiled. ‘I’m not sure. I did hear a rumour it was the reclusive tycoon who owns the whole chain.’

Grace tried not to let her mouth hang open. ‘Really? Is it a man or a woman? What’s their name?’

Anya held up her hands. ‘You tell me. You’ve worked here longer than I have.’

Grace shook her head. ‘I haven’t paid that much attention. And I’ve never been in the penthouse.’ She winked at Anya. ‘This could be fun.’

* * *

The morning flew past. And it was fun. She cleaned a few rooms. Made a few special request orders for guests. Unpacked seven giant cases for a guest who was staying for only two nights. Then spent nearly an hour with Mrs Alice Archer, her favourite long-term guest who was eighty-nine going on twenty-one. Mrs Archer needed special soft sheets for her bed due to a long-term skin condition that affected her back, legs and arms. Grace was happy to give her a hand applying cream to spots she couldn’t quite reach and helping her into whatever fabulous outfit she’d picked for the day. Alice’s walk-in wardrobe was every girl’s fantasy. It was full of original nineteen-forties clothes—all completely immaculate. Gorgeous full skirts, waist-cinching jackets, gingham dresses, a rainbow array of neckerchiefs, fitted sweaters and a few rarely worn satin evening gowns. There were a handbag and shoes to match every outfit.

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