Love Finds You in North Pole, AlaskaBy: Loree Lough
Donning a beige suede blazer, Sam grabbed her purse and headed for the lobby, whistling “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” as she marched up to the counter. She was greeted by a freckle-faced young man who matched her smile, tooth for tooth. “Do you have a reservation, miss?”
“No, but I do have an appointment with Mr. Edmunds.” She glanced at her watch. “Ten o’clock.” And she was right on time.
As the boy left to announce her arrival, Sam gave the lobby a quick once-over. From where she stood, she could see the sandwich board inviting hotel guests, tourists, and North Pole residents into the Silver Bells Restaurant. No doubt Mr. Edmunds would give her a tour of the kitchen, to ensure that tomorrow, she’d be familiar with—
“Miss Sinclair, I presume?”
Sam spun around and met the bespectacled eyes of a tall, gray-haired gentleman. “And you must be Mr. Edmunds,” she said, extending a hand.
After giving it a hearty shake, he invited her to sit in one of the wingback chairs near the huge stone fireplace. “Can I get you something to drink while we talk? Coffee? Tea? Hot chocolate?”
“No, I’m fine, thanks.” Sam would much rather just get down to business, so that when she called her family later, there’d be plenty of good news to report.
“I don’t quite know how to tell you this,” Edmunds said as she took a seat. “There seems to have been a terrible misunderstanding.” He rubbed his chin then adjusted his eyeglasses. And on the heels of a heavy sigh, he said, “I’m afraid the chef’s position has been filled.”
Sam’s heart pounded. Surely he was mistaken. Or maybe she’d misunderstood. Or he’d misunderstood. Sam opened her purse and withdrew the letter he’d sent weeks ago to accompany their employment contract. Why, he’d even gone to the trouble of writing out directions to help her get from the Alaska border to North Pole!
He nodded sheepishly at the document in her trembling hands. “I…I’m terribly sorry, Miss Sinclair, but it seems my authority as manager here has been, shall we say, usurped.” A stern frown sketched a furrow between his eyebrows. “Dan Brooks, the hotel’s owner, gave the job to his nephew.”
“B–but…but I’ve come all the way from Maryland for this job!” She tapped the letter. “We…we have an agreement!”
Edmunds leaned forward, as if that alone could make up for what he was about to say. “No one feels worse about that than I do.”
“I can think of one person who’s sorrier,” she muttered. Then brightening, Sam sat up straighter. “Surely if we remind Mr. Brooks that you wrote this letter as his representative…”
Again, Edmunds’ pained expression silenced her. So Sam shook the letter. “I can’t believe a successful businessman such as Mr. Brooks would think his nepotism outranks a written commitment. I’m all for people helping family members, but…”
The expression on Edmunds’ face silenced her and told Sam what words needn’t: “Dan Brooks is a powerful and stubborn man. Once he’s made up his mind…” A one-shouldered shrug punctuated his statement.
Ordinarily, Sam was calm and even-tempered. Everybody said so. But these were hardly ordinary circumstances. “I considered this a binding contract, Mr. Edmunds. I took you at your written word, sold my townhouse—and everything in it—gave up my car, spent weeks on the road making my way here in time for this meeting.” Suddenly, she was on her feet, pacing the plush carpeting between her chair and his. “This is highly unprofessional and…and dishonest!” she steamed. “And if you don’t mind my saying so, it’s downright mean, to boot!”
“You’ll get no argument from me, Miss Sinclair. Jobs here are hard to come by. Still, I hope you’ll understand when I say my hands are tied.”
For a reason she couldn’t explain, the adage “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” popped into Sam’s head, followed quickly by “Never burn your bridges.” Maybe God was trying to tell her that, somewhere down the road, Mr. Edmunds—or even Mr. Brooks—could help her secure other employment in North Pole. And she would do her level best to get a job here and make things work out. Because the idea of calling her parents and brothers, telling them she’d fallen flat on her face, on the very day she arrived…
Sam shivered involuntarily at the thought and squared her shoulders. “Mr. Edmunds, do you see that RV in the parking lot?”
He followed her gaze then nodded.
“That’ll have to be my home until I can find another job.” Flies and honey, she reminded herself, and sweetened her tone. “So, is it all right if I run an extension cord to an exterior outlet, just until I get on my feet?”
On his own feet now, he grabbed her hands. “So, you intend to stay in North Pole?”
Lifting her chin, Sam crossed her arms over her chest. “Yes, sir. I most certainly do.”
He drove a hand through his hair. “Well then, of course it’s all right! Anything I can do to make you more comfortable, just say the word.”