Christmas in the Boss's Castle

By: Scarlet Wilson

CHAPTER ONE

GRACE BRUSHED THE snow from her shoulders as she ducked in the back door of the exclusive Armstrong hotel in Chelsea, London. It was just after six in the morning, the streets were still dark and she could see her footprints in the snow outside.

Frank, the senior concierge, came in behind her. A wide grin lit up his face as he saw her looking at the snow outside. ‘Finally,’ he muttered as he shook the snow from his coat and started to sing the words to It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas. The words of the song floated from his lips. He gave her a nudge. ‘You’re too young to remember this one.’

She raised her eyebrows. ‘Frank, you should know, I know every version of every Christmas song that’s ever existed.’

They walked into the changing room. ‘What version do you want to go for? Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra, or Michael Buble?’ She started singing alongside him as she wound her long brown hair up into a loose bun and tied on her white chambermaid’s apron over her black shirt and skirt.

Christmas was her absolute favourite time of year. It brought back great memories of the Christmases she’d spent with her grandmother in the little flat they’d shared in one of the poorer parts of London. But what they didn’t have in wealth, they’d certainly made up for in love. This would be her first Christmas without her gran and she was determined not to be sad and gloomy—her gran would never have wanted that for her.

Frank slid his arms into his dark green and gold jacket and started fastening the buttons. ‘I swear this thing shrinks every night when I put it into my locker.’

Grace laughed and closed her locker, walking over to Frank and pulling his jacket a little closer across his wide girth, helping him with the buttons. He kept singing the whole time. She finished with a sigh. ‘I wish those words were true.’

Frank frowned as he glanced at his reflection in the nearby mirror and straightened his jacket. They started walking down the lower corridor of the hotel together. She shrugged. ‘I wish it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.’ She held out her hands. ‘Because it certainly isn’t in here.’ She gave a shake of her head. ‘I don’t get it. All the other big hotels in London have huge Christmas trees in their reception area and garlands and holly wreaths everywhere.’

The Armstrong hotel was part of a luxurious chain across the world. Locations in London, Paris, Tokyo, Rome and New York were regularly used by statesmen, politicians, rock stars and Hollywood celebrities. They were the epitome of glamour, renowned for their exclusivity, personal touches and attention to detail. It was a far cry from the small flat that Grace lived in and over the past few months she’d secretly loved seeing how the other half lived their lives. She knew one pop star that never laundered their underwear and instead just threw them away. A politician who had a secret interest in romance novels and a statesman that only ate red-coloured candy.

They reached the stairway up to the main reception. Frank held the door open for her and pressed his lips together. But now Grace had started, she couldn’t stop. ‘I mean, I know this place is exclusive, but the minimalist Christmas decorations?’ She gave another shake of her head. ‘They just look—well...cold.’

Frank sighed as he headed over towards his granite-topped desk. He spoke quietly as he glanced around the reception area. Everything was sleek and shades of black or grey. ‘I know.’ His eyes took in the small black and glass sign on the main reception desk.

The Armstrong wishes you

a Merry Christmas.

It was the only concession to Christmas on show. He checked the ledger on the desk in front of him and handed Grace an envelope. ‘The Armstrong used to have beautiful Christmas decorations and lights. All exclusive. All extortionate. But they added colour to the place. Vibrancy.’

Grace started to automatically open the envelope with her day’s assignments. She glanced upwards. ‘So, what happened?’

Frank paused for a second before finally answering. Her gaze narrowed. Although she’d only been working here a few months, Frank had been here for ever. He was thoroughly professional, good at his job and for the guests who returned time after time—a most welcome sight. ‘They had a rebranding,’ he said finally.

Grace frowned. She wanted to ask more, but, like most good concierges, Frank had always been the soul of discretion. It was unlikely she’d get any more out of him.

She waved her assignment at him. ‘I wish they’d let me do the rebranding around here. I could sprinkle some Christmas fairy dust.’ She held out her hands and spun around. ‘Some silver lights up here, some red ones over there. A tree near the glass doors. How about some garlands at the reception desk? And a huge pile of beautifully wrapped presents in the little alcove, just as you go through to the bar.’ She stopped spinning, closed her eyes and held her hands to her chest. For a few seconds she could actually see in her head what this place could look like. The welcome. The warmth. The festivities.

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