Secrets on the Sand

By: Roxanne St. Claire

Chapter One

“Oh, how the mighty have fallen.”

Amanda froze at the sound of Tori Drake’s sneer, refusing to react even though the cold porcelain of the toilet rim pressed against her forearm as she brushed the bowl.

“Mandy Mitchell’s up to her elbows in someone else’s shit.”

Of all the other housekeepers to be assigned to the same floor, she had to get Tori. “As you know, I go by Amanda Lockhart now.”

“Ah, you’ll always be Mandy Mitchell to me, hon. Homecoming queen. Head cheerleader. Runner-up for Miss Teen Florida. Junior housekeeper.” She choked softly. “What’s wrong with this résumé, kids?”

Breathing slowly, holding it together, Amanda sat straight, the move pressing the hard tile into her knees with the same force that Tori’s insults hit her heart. But not as much force as she’d like her fist to hit the other housekeeper’s face.

“Do you need anything to finish your rooms?” Amanda asked, faking nice as much as she possibly could. She was too far behind this morning to get into it with Tori. Besides, if the universe decided it hated Amanda enough, she could very well be calling this woman “boss” soon. The thought made her almost want to hurl into the toilet instead of clean it.

“Oh, I don’t need a thing,” Tori said.

“You sure? Because my supply cart is right there, and I’ve got plenty of Pine-Sol and Clorox.” In case you want to drink a little.

“Nah, I’ve cleaned all my rooms, of course. That’s why they call me the fastest maid in Barefoot Bay. Possibly on all of the Gulf Coast. Maybe the entire state of Florida.”

“Why not the world?”

“Why not?” Tori snorted with self-satisfaction and stepped further into the bathroom, which was sizable, being in a high-end resort hotel, but no room was big enough for the two of them. Uninvited, Tori leaned lazily on the granite vanity, sliding a judgmental finger over the surface. “You didn’t use the Magic Eraser on this.”

“I’m not done yet.”

“Oh, you’re just about done, my friend.”

At the smug tone and the subtle warning, Amanda twisted from the toilet to look up at the other housekeeper, narrowing her eyes. “What does that mean?”

Tori crossed arms well-toned from hard work and deeply tanned from years of baby-oil-and-iodine-infused sunbathing. Her gray eyes danced with a secret, and derision pulled at her lips. “We are very close to a done deal.”

Amanda’s heart dropped. This was the worst possible news. “I’ll believe it when I see it,” she said.

Tori arched a penciled brow, forming lines on her forehead. More lines than Amanda had, considering they were the same age of thirty. The thought gave Amanda small consolation since beauty and lines now took a back seat to money and survival.

“Then you better believe it, sister.” Tori pushed her butt onto the counter. “My man Jared has nearly closed financing and has made an offer on office space right in downtown Mimosa Key, not ten minutes down the beach. J&T Housekeeping, LLC, is about to be a reality, and guess what that means?”

The end of the world. Well, not quite. But most likely the end of this job. Once Casa Blanca Resort & Spa outsourced housekeeping to one company, then Amanda would have to work for that company or leave the resort. If “J&T Housekeeping” got the business...unemployment loomed.

“It means congratulations are in order,” Amanda said, barely keeping the bitter out of her voice. But it was hard not to be bitter. Amanda had made the huge mistake of nursing the fantasy of opening that housekeeping firm herself when resort management announced the outsourcing plan. The taste of independence, of owning a business, of never having to clean a toilet again, had been sweet...for about two weeks.

She’d even met with the resort owner to talk about it. Then she’d done enough research to learn that the venture would require about five grand in starting capital. Which would be about $4,900 more than Amanda had to her name.

“You bet congrats are in order.” Tori crossed her ankles and swung her feet. “The first thing Jared’s going to do is put me in the office and out of other people’s toilets.”

Envy wormed its ugly way up Amanda’s chest, even though she knew that jealousy was exactly what Tori wanted.

“What will you do?” Tori asked, as if they didn’t both know that the first order of “office” business would be to fire Amanda. Or give her the worst shifts imaginable. “I mean, what are you trained to do? Not too many beauty contest options around these days. Maybe you could go coach the cheering staff down at Mimosa High. Still have your old uniform, Mandy the Magnificent?”

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