"Good morning, Miss Stone. You're looking lovelier than ever this fine morning."
Josh rarely called me by my last name—at least, not anymore—not since I started insisting that he call me Blue. Josh was awesome. He always made me smile. I saw him every time I stayed at this hotel, which was every time I traveled to Boston, which was a few times a year. He had been working there for years.
He was smiling broadly as he greeted me.
It seemed really professional and sincere. Not that he wasn't always like that, but he seemed even more attentive today. He was definitely more chipper than usual—especially for eight o'clock in the morning. Granted, I was completely exhausted—so maybe it was just that everyone seemed extra chipper to me.
I couldn't wait to get to my room and let my head hit the pillow. I would have no trouble falling asleep as soon as I crawled into bed.
I hadn't been home (to my house in California) in a couple of weeks. I was visiting Kate, a friend of mine from college who now lived in England. She had been asking me to come visit for about two years. I had actually been to England a time or two since she started asking, but I was in London for quick trips, and I was busy doing other things. I had to just avoid calling her.
Finally, I broke down and bought a ticket specifically for a stay with Kate. Honestly, I was glad I had. I enjoyed a long, relaxing visit to the beautiful English countryside, and it was great to catch up with a friend.
I was used to taking long trips, and this one had been a lot of fun. That wasn't the reason I was so exhausted. It was the events of the last day that had worn me out. I had been awake and in an airport or on an airplane for about twenty-four hours.
I flew from Norwich to London as planned, but my flight from London to Boston was delayed on account of severe weather. It wasn't just delayed a little, either. What I thought would be an hour-long layover ended up being more like ten. I had to fly over the Atlantic during the middle of the night instead of during the afternoon. This was pretty much a nightmare for me. I hated flying, and I was too anxious to get any rest at all. It seemed like everyone else on the plane slept, but I just couldn't.
It bothered me that I hated to fly. It was something I wished I could change about myself. I had been traveling on airplanes since I was a child, and I still got stressed every time. I never slept a wink. I just couldn’t do it. Some people were known to fall asleep when they got really anxious, but I was the opposite. I had even tried medicine to make me drowsy over the years, but that didn't work either. I loved to travel, and I tried my best to deal with my fears, but flying had always been a struggle for me.
So, my trip from England back to the States was pretty-much a nightmare. I was thankful I was stopping on the east coast for a few days so that I could recover a little before flying back to California. I knew how fortunate I was that I had the ability to take vacations and see the world, but it had been a really long day and night, and I was delirious and a little agitated when I rolled into Boston early that Saturday morning.
It was shady under the hotel awning, but the back of the car had been nice and dark, and the morning light stung my weary eyes, even from behind my dark sunglasses.
"Good morning, Josh," I returned, barely squinting through one eye while the other eye was completely closed. I knew I wasn't looking 'lovelier than ever', but I smiled at him, anyway—a smile that probably reflected my exhaustion.
Josh's hair was neatly styled and his uniform was ironed and tucked in. He was really polished looking. It seemed like he was even more put-together than normal. But, then again, maybe everyone seemed that way to me at the moment.
Josh began taking my luggage from the trunk and stacking it on a luggage cart. I had been traveling for weeks, so I had quite a lot with me—two small suitcases, a duffel bag, and my purse, which was a backpack.
The driver smiled at me as Josh retrieved the luggage from the trunk. He had driven for me and my dad the last couple of times we were in Boston, but I couldn't remember his name at the moment. I thought it might be Harry, but Henry also seemed right. I wasn't positive enough to say it.
I knew he'd be back to pick me up again at some point during my trip, and I knew my dad had also arranged for his payment and tip so I just smiled and waved at him after he closed the trunk.
"Thank you," I said.
"You're welcome," he said with a little bow. "I hope you rest well."
I gave him a tired smile. "Me too."
Josh had already organized my bags on the luggage cart, and by the time I turned to him, he was just standing there, smiling. I let my shoulders slump dramatically, and he chuckled as he reached out and patted me on the back.
"Come on, Miss Blue, let's get you upstairs," he said as we started to walk into the lobby. "Your dad and the others checked in yesterday."
I nodded. "I was supposed to get here last night, too."
"I know," Josh said. "I asked about you when I saw your dad. He told me you were dealing with some delays overseas."
There was no stopping at the hotel front desk. Josh knew exactly where I needed to go. My dad had stayed in this hotel enough that everyone knew what room we were staying in. Josh was taking me directly to the eleventh and uppermost floor.
I would stay with my dad in one of the bedrooms of the largest penthouse suite. He and I didn't always stay in the same room when I traveled with him, but this specific suite was exceptionally large, and it would have been silly to let those extra bedrooms go to waste. Plus, it had been a few months since I had seen my dad, and I was looking forward to catching up with him.
(Perhaps I should go ahead and add, at this point, that my dad is Alec Stone.)
Yes, the Alec Stone, the front man of The Kicks and beloved rock and roll icon. He came up after greats like Mick Jagger, Jon Bon Jovi, and Steven Tyler, and was probably more famous than all of them put together. Dad had been making music for twenty-plus years, and he was still somehow relevant. His band still made records and played sold-out shows. He made appearances on talk shows and award shows, and he had even acted in some movies. (They were bit parts, but still.) He was friends with athletes, actors, musicians, politicians—basically the whole world. If someone wasn't friends with my father, they wanted to be.
My dad was a rock star, plain and simple. Literally, if you searched the phrase rock star on the internet, my dad's picture would be one of the first images to pop up.
People always asked me how it was being Alec Stone's daughter, but the truth was, I didn't have anything to compare it to. I had grown up with my dad being in the spotlight. I didn't know anything else.
My parents divorced when I was three-years-old, and my mom moved to Ventura to be closer to her parents. She took me and my older sisters with her. Dad stayed in Los Angeles. Ventura wasn't all that far, and we still saw him on a regular basis, but we flew under the radar and had a relatively normal childhood considering the fact that we were Alec Stone's daughters. I was the youngest by four years, and I had always been Dad's sidekick—traveling with him more often than my sisters did. I was now in my mid-twenties, and I still made a habit of going with him when I could.
"Is your dad playing a show?" Josh asked drawing me from my thoughts. "I forgot to ask him when I saw him yesterday. I haven't seen any billboards or anything. He did say you were only staying a few days."
I shook my head. "He's not doing a show—unless you count singing the anthem."
"The anthem? At the football game?"
I nodded. It was something Dad had done before, so Josh didn't seem that surprised.
"When's that?" Josh asked.
"Are you tired from your trip?" he asked.
"I'm sooo exhausted," I said. "I can't sleep on planes. I'm gonna climb into that bed as soon as I get upstairs. I'm gonna fall asleep and not wake up for like ten hours—maybe twelve."
We were standing near the side of the elevator when I said that. The door had opened as we were speaking, but I didn't pay attention to the people who were getting off. I just stood close to Josh and kept my head down, staring at the tile floors and waiting for them to clear the way. A pair of leather oxfords came into my line of vision.
"I'm sorry, but I couldn't help but hear you," a voice said.
It was a guy's voice—no doubt the same guy who belonged to the shoes. He was talking to me, but I hesitated to acknowledge him. I was devastated with exhaustion, and I was almost certain that he recognized me and just wanted to make conversation because he was a fan of my father's.
"I know Josh is taking great care of you, but I couldn’t help but hear you say you were going to try to sleep when you got to your room."
I glanced at him, and he gave me an easy smile.
"I'd be happy to get you a white noise machine," he said. "We don't have them in all of the rooms, but it always helps me rest if I have a little fan or something in the background."
I stared at him, barely even taking in the words he was saying. I was relatively sure he was offering me some kind of sleeping device, but I could not concentrate on the words that were coming out of his mouth. I didn't know if it was the exhaustion or the fact that he looked like he did.
He was not what I expected at all. He was an all-American slice of heaven—a leading man, someone you'd see on the cover of a romance novel. He had a square jaw and chin with features that were either chiseled or rounded in all the right places. He had light eyes and dark hair that was carefully combed away from his face with just enough hair product. He was clean shaven, but I could see faint patches of dark facial hair on his jaw. He was perfect and polished. The care and time he had taken on his own appearance made him seem reminiscent of times past—a day in age when men took time to get dressed and shined their shoes. He was so comforting to look at that I felt like I knew him—or at the very least like we had met before.
He grinned and held out his hand, gesturing that I could go ahead and get on the elevator. I reluctantly shifted my gaze away from him long enough to glance over and notice that Josh had already stepped into the elevator with my luggage.
"I know you're anxious to be on your way up," he said, still talking to me and not being nervous or awkward at all. "I didn't mean to stop you. I just wanted to offer that noise machine to you. I think since I can't sleep without one that everyone else needs one, too."
Josh chuckled at whatever the guy had said, and the guy's smile got even bigger, causing my heart to skip a beat. It might have stopped beating all together.
"I'm sorry, what were you asking me about?"
"A noise machine," he said, still grinning. "White noise. I love it. Or anything else you need to make you comfortable in your room." He stretched out his hands and performed a slight bow. "Anything at all. My name is Taylor, and I'm at your service."
"I'd like that noise machine, if you please, and some cookies. Chocolate chip. Something with chocolate. Anything but oatmeal raisin. Actually, oatmeal's fine if that's all you have. I can just pick around the raisins. Just any cookie. Multiple cookies, please."
He grinned. "Multiple cookies. Got it. How about milk?" he asked.
I nodded. "Please."
"Whole or skim?"
He smiled and gave me a nod. "Good choice. I'll have that sent up right away."
"Aren't you going to ask me why I'm having cookies for breakfast?"
He smiled at me, shaking his head. "I figure, if you say you're going to your room to sleep for twelve hours, it might be more of a midnight snack."
"That's definitely what it is," I said.
Numbly, I turned and made my way onto the elevator. Taylor leaned out, holding the door so I could get on even though Josh had his thumb on the 'open' button.
This guy, this Taylor, was impeccably dressed, and I caught a whiff of him as he reached across me to hold the door. He smelled as wonderful as he looked. His personal hygiene was irreproachable.
"Thank you," I said.
"It's my pleasure," he returned with a professional nod. "We're really happy to have you staying here with us. Just let us know if we can do anything to make you comfortable."
"I will, thanks."
"What room?" he asked as the door was closing.
"Eleven-o-one." Josh's reply came in a hurry, but he got it out before the door closed.
I knew because I heard Taylor respond with, "Thank you, Josh," before it fully closed.
I glanced at Josh with wide eyes, and Josh let out a little laugh, shaking his head a little. "That guy must looove my dad," I said.
"Why do you say that?" he asked.
"Because. That whole bit about bringing me cookies and a white noise machine. He said he's gonna send someone up with it, but we all know he'll be the one bringing it. And he tried to act like he didn't know what room I was in."
"You mean Mr. Patterson?" Josh asked. "You think he wants to meet your dad?"
"Yeah," I said, knowing there was no other reason for him to be so overly helpful.
"I think he already met your dad," Josh said. "I'm sure of it. Plus, he didn't even know who you were when he offered you all that. He had to ask me for your room number, remember?"
"Yeah, but he was just covering, don't you think… trying to make it seem…" I trailed off when I noticed Josh shaking his head.
"I really don't think he was," he said, grinning absentmindedly and looking slightly confused even as he said it. "That's just how he is. It's crazy, I know. I've seen him act like that with every single person who comes in here. He's super nice and attentive—even to us."
"Is he the new owner or something?"
Josh shook his head. "No, but he acts like he is. That's the whole point of his philosophy, I think."
I was completely lost. "What's that even mean?" I asked.
Josh shrugged. "He's some hotel guru. He's here to help us evaluate the place. He wrote a book. He gave us all a copy. He's some expert on making hotels awesome. I don't really know all that much yet. I just met him yesterday, or I could tell you more."
"So, he's just here temporarily?" I asked.
Josh nodded. "He's here for a few days. Seeing how we operate and evaluating everything. It's like Kitchen Nightmares, only for hotels. That's what Garret said."
"Are there cameras?" I asked, looking around the elevator.
He shook his head. "Not TV cameras or anything like that. The owners just hired him to come in for a few days and tell them what he thought of the place—what they could do to improve it. I don't think it's something he does all the time. I heard him say he's consulting for two hotels while he's on the east coast—this one, and one in New York. He came in yesterday morning, and he's been all over the place, back in the kitchen, laundry, the restaurant. I even saw him down in the alley where everybody smokes… looking around… asking questions."
"Sounds kind of unnerving."
Josh shook his head. "Not really, actually. You met him, he's nice. He's cool. It seems like he's trying to help everybody. He was asking me what my goals in life were, if I liked being here, what I'd change about my job, what things would make me more comfortable at work. Everybody likes him. I don't know what he's doing, but it's like you can already feel the difference around here."
"I don't know. It's hard to explain. It's like he connects everybody. He introduced me to people I'd seen here for a year and still didn't know their name."
The elevator dinged, stopping on the eleventh floor, and we stood there while the doors opened. I glanced at Josh as we started down the hall.
"So, you're saying all that cookie and white noise stuff… that wasn't just because I’m Blue Stone?"
"I really don't think he knew who you were. I mean, he probably does now that I told him you were staying in the main penthouse, but that wasn't what all the attention was about. He's just always like that."