Abby Lee and Susie Baker have their hands full of trouble as their relaxing stay at the Gardens changes to mystery and intrigue. A strange man visits the resort with demands to see the owner, and their attendant, Linda, has secrets about the employees she’s not willing to reveal. The trouble boils over when one of the guests grabs a late-night bite to eat and nearly bites their heads off. The two ladies search for answers, but Abby finds herself distracted by the sensual temptations of the manager, Scott. Will she be able to help Susie satiate their curiosity, or will she let herself fall into the strong arms of her handsome lover?
Night hung over my quiet little cabin. I lay in my bed and watched through the window in front of me as the clouds drifted across the moonlit sky. The cabin was empty but for me. I didn’t question where Susie had gone. I only knew I was relieved she wasn’t there. My body was tense. I grasped the covers beneath me. My breaths came out in short, quick gasps. I waited eagerly for something. I couldn’t understand how I knew something was coming, but I did.
A shadow appeared beneath the door. The knob turned and the door opened. In the entrance stood a tall shadow. I recognized the shadow. It was my lover come to seduce me. My pulse quickened as he walked to the bed. He stood by my side and his yellow eyes gazed down on me with barely-restrained lust. My body felt on fire as he leaned down. His warm breath wafted over my neck. I shuddered as he planted soft kisses on my flesh. His hands swept over my trembling body. I shuddered and sighed.
This delicious torment ignited a lustful fire within me. His hand slipped beneath my shirt and he cupped my breast in his hand. I groaned and pushed myself into his touch. This was where I wanted, and what I wanted. Nothing could ruin this moment.
Except waking up. That ruined that wondrous dream as slumber was replaced with consciousness. My eyes fluttered open and I groaned, this time from disappointment.
I awoke to birds chirping and the sun shining brightly on my face. Another day had dawned, and with it came the disappointment that I had dreamed that sensual encounter. Fortunately I had real memories to compensate for the dream, and those memories gave me a pick-me-up. I felt more ready for the day than I’d felt in a long time. I sat up in my bed and stretched. In the other bed lay Susie, fast asleep and with a slight snore to her slumber. Between us was the clock, and the time showed eight. That was a late hour for me, but I couldn’t scold myself. I felt too exhilarated from last night’s tryst to be bothered about anything.
A rap on our door alerted me to a visitor. “Susie? Abby? Breakfast time,” Linda called through the door.
“We’ll be right out,” I called back.
I flung aside the sheets and almost hopped out of bed, but paused. There was such a spring to my step that my eyes flickered to Susie’s bed and a devilish grin slipped onto my lips. I stood atop my bed, faced Susie, and bent my knees. My butt wiggled as I tried not to giggle.
“Banzai!” I cried out just before I launched myself at the other bed.
I landed with a hard thump atop my unsuspecting friend. Susie yelped and shot up, but our heads collided and we both fell back. Our legs and arms tangled in the sheets and created a mess of flailing bodies. I freed myself the hard way: I fell off the bed onto my back and dragged half the covers with me.
In a moment Susie peeked over the edge of the bed and glared at me. “What’s the big idea?” she growled.
I couldn’t help but giggle a little bit. She looked like a ruffled hen with her hair and clothes askew from our tussle. “I couldn’t help it,” I told her.
Susie raised an eyebrow and leaned her face closer to me. “Are you drunk?” she asked me.
I gathered control of my giggling and shook my head. “No, but I’m starting to believe this places’ advertising.”
“I’m starting to believe you’re nutty,” she quipped.
I sat up and scooted backwards so my back leaned against my bed. “I’m fine, really. I just couldn’t help it. You looked so peaceful, and Linda called us for breakfast, so I thought of a new way to wake you up.”
Susie swung her legs over the side of the bed and frowned. “I’m the one who’s supposed to think of all the devious plans, remember?”
I shrugged. “Some of your insanity must have finally rubbed off on me.”
My friend glanced at the clock and cringed. “And what a time to do it. Couldn’t you have given me a few more minutes, or maybe two hours?”
“Breakfast waits for no one,” I scolded her.
“I could have raided the kitchen. Someone told me how to do it last time I was here,” Susie informed me.
“Don’t push our luck with being expelled. Scott-Mr. Young might not forgive us if we make any more mistakes,” I warned her.
Susie grinned and raised an eyebrow. “‘Scott?’” she repeated.
“I said Mr. Young,” I insisted.
“I’m sure I heard you call him Scott,” she persisted. She leaned toward me and her eyes narrowed. “Tell me again how you got us out of being thrown out of here.”
Under her scrutinizing gaze I turned away and shrugged. “I met him at the lake and we-well, we talked things over. He said he wouldn’t throw us out because I apologized for my behavior.”
“And you taking a night walk? He was fine with that, too?” she continued.
I spun around to face her and crossed my arms over my chest. “He said we could stay. Let’s just leave it at that, okay?”
Susie shook her head. “No way. You practically chewed his head off and everything’s all nice and forgiven? How big of an apology was this?”
I folded my arms across my chest and glared at her. “If I can’t be suspicious, then you can’t be suspicious,” I demanded.
“Well, maybe my suspicion will decide the fate of the world,” she countered.
I snorted and tossed a pillow at her. My aim was true and the soft weapon hit her in the face. “I don’t even think it will decide the fate of a sea slug, so let’s get some breakfast.”
Susie wrinkled her nose. “You just had to mention sea slugs before food, didn’t you?”
“Lost your appetite?” I teased.
She flung aside her tangled sheets and hopped out of bed. “No, but I could have and it would’ve been an innocent bystander.”
We dressed and stepped outside. The crisp mountain morning invigorated us and Linda awaited us with a bright smile. “You’re both looking very well,” she complimented.
“And feeling very well,” Susie chimed in. She rubbed her hands together and grinned. “I feel like I could eat everything at the buffet.”
Linda laughed. “I’ll be sure to tell the cooks to make double of everything so the others get some.”
Speaking of others, I looked around us. The hour was early enough only a few people were out, and they, too, had a lively step to their walk. “I’m guessing we can start seeing the effects of this place on everyone else,” I mused.
Linda guided us towards the lodge and nodded. “That’s right. The effects are very quick for many people, and some of the others are a little slower.”
“What about the ones who don’t show anything?” I asked her.
Her smile faltered. “I’m afraid they will often leave the session early on account of ill health. Sickness is a sign that the food isn’t agreeing with them.”
“Well, that won’t happen to us,” Susie commented as she wrapped an arm over my shoulders. She patted her stomach. “We’ve got some hard constitutions.”
I slipped from her grasp and rolled my eyes. “And you have an even harder head,” I commented.
She sheepishly grinned and shrugged. “What can I say? I was dropped a lot as a kid.”
“That explains a lot,” I teased.
We reached the lodge and stepped inside. The smells of breakfast wafted across our noses and Linda walked up the stairs with Susie close behind. I paused when I noticed a tall man in front of us who walk over to the front desk. He wasn’t familiar to me. I guessed his age at about thirty-five, and his skin was ruddy with the last hints of youth. His hair was as black as night and he had a muscular build. He wore a simple polo shirt with matching pants, and walked with an air of confidence. I would have called him handsome were his eyes not so dark. Their dark depths held a certain bit of sly cruelty in them.
Frank was at the desk, and he turned at the man’s arrival. The smile on the young man’s face slipped off and his eyes widened with fear. He coughed and tried to gather himself, but failed miserably. “H-how can I help you?” he asked the gentleman.
“I wish to speak with Young,” the man requested. His voice was quiet and calm, but there was a tension in the words which told the listener that ‘no’ was never an answer.
“Y-yes, sir,” Frank readily agreed. He pulled out a phone receiver from beneath the desk and rang up a number. “Sir, there’s a gentleman here to see you. The-um, the neighbor, sir.” The color slowly drained from Frank’s face, but he nodded. “Yes. Yes, sir. I’ll tell him.” Frank hung up the phone and turned to the mysterious man. “Mr. Nelson will be down in a moment.”
The man’s dark eyes narrowed and he leaned over the desk towards Frank. “I requested Young,” the dark man reminded him.
Frank cringed as though he’d been slapped. “I-I know, sir, but Mr. Young isn’t available so Mr. Nelson will meet with you.”
Susie sidled up to me. “Looks like trouble,” she whispered.
Trouble was averted when Nelson appeared from behind the Employees Only door at the rear of the building. He had a strained smile on his face as he strode over to the gentleman. “Good morning. If you would follow me we can discuss what you wish in private,” I heard Nelson whisper to the man.
“Hey, Dan!” Susie shouted as she waved her hand above her head.
I jabbed her in the ribs hard enough to make her gasp, but it was too late. Nelson paled and the tall stranger turned toward us. He raised an eyebrow as Susie recovered from my abuse and looped an arm through mine. She dragged me towards Nelson and the stranger. Linda, who had hurried up the stairs with an unusual quick step, paused halfway and turned to us. She bit her lip and reluctantly turned around, but Nelson held up his hand and she stopped.
“You look really great for all the wine you drank last night at the dinner, Dan,” Susie complimented Nelson.
The stranger’s eyes flickered between Susie and Nelson, and a smirk slid onto his lips. “You are on a first-name basis with your ‘guests?’” he asked Nelson.
Nelson grew a little pale, but cleared his throat and smiled. “We encourage friendship here among the guests and employees,” he returned.
“Then care to introduce me so I can make friends?” the stranger suggested.
Nelson pursed his lips, but gestured to us. “These are some of our guests for this session. Susan Baker, Abigail Lee, this is Mr. Andrew Blackwood. He’s a. . .a neighbor to our business.”
Blackwood bowed his head to us. “A pleasure to meet such interesting ladies,” he complimented us.
Susie whipped out her hand to him and smiled. “Pleasure to meet you, too, sir.”
He smiled and shook her hand, then turned his attention to me. His eyes swept over my body and I had the impulse to shudder under his gaze. “How are you both enjoying the ‘session?’” he wondered.
I had a feeling the question was directed at me, but Susie stuck her head in his line of sight. “Great! I can’t wait to go swimming and hiking, and maybe taking one of those golf carts out for a spin-”
“Those are only for the more infirm of our guests,” Nelson reminded her.
Susie sighed and shrugged. “Can’t blame a girl for trying.”
Blackwood chuckled, and the sound sent a shiver down my spine. There was something dark about him that made me want to slip away from his presence. “As eager as I am to hear more about you both, I must be going. Mr. Nelson and I have much business to discuss.”
“I will see you both later,” Nelson promised. Our friend eagerly turned and led Blackwood into the depths of the building.
Susie sidled up to me and lowered her voice. “You get a creepy vibe off that guy?”
The way the guy looked at me still made me shudder, so I changed the subject. “You mean your boyfriend?” I teased.
She stuck her tongue out at me. “No, the other guy, that Blackwood guy. The way he looked at us was kind of weird.” She raised her shaking hand and rubbed the knuckles. “He’s got a really strong grip, too. I thought he was going to break something.”
“Well, you’re okay now, so why don’t we go get some breakfast?” I suggested
Susie ignored me. Rather, she looked where the men had gone and rubbed her chin with one hand. “Nelson said he was a neighbor, right? You think we can swipe a golf cart and find out where that Blackwood guy lives?”
“We almost got kicked out last night, and you want to steal a golf cart?” I scolded her.
“Yep,” she quipped.
An idea hit me and a sly smile slipped onto my lips. “If you really want some excitement why don’t you try to drown yourself in the lake and have that Nelson guy give you mouth-to-mouth?” I suggested.
Susie was unperturbed. She actually smiled and slung an arm over my shoulder. “That’s the way! That’s what I’ve been talking about!”
I blinked at her. “What have you been talking about?”
“About having a fun time here and cracking jokes and stuff! That means you’re feeling younger!” She flung herself on me with her arms draped over both my shoulders and buried her face into my chest. “You’re the old Abby I used to know!” she sobbed.
I rolled my eyes and peeled her off me. “You’re making an idiot of yourself. Worse than usual,” I scolded her.
She grinned and shrugged. “I still think you joking around is a good sign,” she insisted.
I turned her towards the stairs and pushed her ahead of me. “Good or not, let’s go eat breakfast.”