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1 Hannah I know, I know. I thought I’d be a lot further along in life, too. Working as a hotel receptionist isn’t exactly where my high school counselor saw me in five years’ time, but hey. When life gives you lemons, get those lemons the hell away from me because I’m allergic. I wasn’t really. I just liked to use lemons as a metaphor for my life. I just wanted to experience something zesty, something bright and exciting and new. But things never turned out that way. Not for poor little me. By the time I turned twenty-three, I thought for sure I was going to be on the career track towards becoming something awesome. I wasn’t sure what, exactly. But my never-ending optimism gave me incredibly high hopes. When I was a little girl, I thought I could be a world-champion surfer. I didn’t know how to surf, but I told myself constantly that I was never too old to learn. Or maybe I could have been a renowned fashion designer burning up the runways in Paris, Milan, and New York. Sometimes I would even dream about becoming the first woman to ever live on Mars and meet aliens and perfect interstellar travel. I sometimes wondered if my younger self would be disappointed in how things worked out. Most of the time, I could drown out the feelings of bitter disappointment. But tonight was harder than usual. Probably because it was the graveyard shift. The graveyard shift was always the worst. I usually did very well in convincing my immediate supervisor to schedule me during the day. At least that way I could still enjoy the nightlife and scrounge together a half-decent get-together with friends. But poor Cathy called in sick at the last minute, and I was the only one available to cover for her. I supposed I should count my blessings. I was getting paid one time and a half because of the odd hours, and my wallet was never going to complain about a little extra spending money. Besides, I got to see some pretty interesting characters in the middle of the night. I liked dealing with travel-weary couples who looked like they were seconds away from having a full-on fight in the lobby. That man who came in from the hotel’s bar with a lovely young blonde at his hip? Yeah, she was as professional as they came. I never judged, just handed her the keys as she gave me a suggestive wink. Whatever paid the bills, right? I checked my wristwatch for what must have been the twentieth time since starting my shift. When I was behind the reception counter, I wasn’t supposed to be on my phone. My manager insisted that there was always something for me to do, things to keep me busy. There were forms that needed filing, credit cards that needed charging, wakeup calls to schedule for the morning. But I’ll be the first to admit it – I didn’t really care that much about my job. The uniforms were really cute, but that was really the only upside. Normally, I would be on my phone, busy texting my best friend Lara. But ever since she got engaged to her über-famous author boyfriend Chuck Hill, she’d unfortunately been too occupied to text back right away. I couldn’t blame her. I never thought Lara would be the type to attract such a wealthy, handsome future husband. Lara was living in the lap of luxury, preparing for her upcoming wedding in style. I was actually super happy for her. If she could find her happily ever after, maybe I could, too. Wishful thinking didn’t cost me a dime, after all. A well-dressed man entered through the hotel lobby’s grand automatic doors. The heels of his obviously expensive leather shoes clicked against the polished tile as he sauntered up to my counter. He had on a pair of reflective sunglasses despite the time of night. I had to stifle a laugh. I mean, seriously. Who did this guy think he was? A British earl? The man tapped his fingers on the counter. “I believe I have a reservation,” he said, words heavily accented. His voice reminded me of a violin, warm, if the tiniest bit strained. I swiveled in my little office chair to face the computer. With my hands hovering above the keyboard, I asked, “May I please grab your name?” “It should be under William Laurier.” “Um, yeah,” I muttered. “It looks like you’ve booked the executive suite. Can I just grab a piece of ID for our records?” William Laurier removed his glasses and raised his eyebrows at me, a cocky smile upon his lips. “Seriously? Isn’t my face enough?” For a moment, I was stunned into silence. He was the most gorgeous man I’d ever seen. His short brown hair was effortlessly brushed to the side, no doubt styled to look messy. His darling grey eyes were startling in their intensity, wiser and kinder than I ever thought possible. He had a pointed nose and a sharp jaw, as well as high cheekbones and perfectly full lips. His grin was downright maddening because it was too damn perfect. A part of me felt underdressed and outclassed just by looking at him.
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