“Thank you, son,” my dad says and comes around my desk to give me a quick hug.“Are you sure you won’t join us in Morocco over the holidays?”
He glances around my office, which is uncharacteristically quiet.About ninety-nine percent of the personnel have gone for the holidays and aren’t planning on coming back until after the new year.Usually it’s a mad house here, and although I’ve got a wait list of people clamoring to get on my books, I told everyone I was clearing my schedule.
“No, I told you I’m planning on skiing over the break.I need the fresh air.”The glass window behind me faces the crowded city below, and I think about just how true that is.
At one time, I used to love it here, but the more time passes, the more I’m always looking for an excuse to be away from the office and away from the traffic.The city once made me fall in love with work, but recently it doesn’t have quite the same shine.Is this what getting older feels like?
“Please tell me you’re not going alone.”Kate frowns and looks up at my dad.“Maybe we should go with Gabriel so he doesn’t have to spend it by himself.”
“I’m fine,” I tell her and give her a quick peck on the cheek.“Don’t worry about me.I’m going to meet a friend.”
“A friend?”This has her perking up.“A lady friend?”
“Kate,” my dad warns, and she shrugs.
“Just be careful and have a good time.”Kate grins.
“I’ll do my best,” I say and then walk them to the elevators.
I finish the last few things I have pending and send an email to my admin about how to contact me and where I’ll be staying.
“Troping,” I say to myself as I look at the address of the inn.“What kind of stupid name for a town is that?”Looking at the town's website, I see a picture of the mayor holding up a countdown sign for Christmas.“What a dick.”
Grabbing my travel bag, I head outside and meet my driver at the curb.Thankfully, I’ve got my private jet on standby so I don’t have to put up with the holiday traffic, but it still takes forever.
Once I’m on the plane, I toss my phone on the table beside me and put my bag on the empty seat.
“Can I get you a drink, sir?”Adam, my personal flight attendant, asks.
“Something strong,” I say, and when he comes back, he sets down a whiskey with a tray of snacks.“Cheers,” I offer in thanks.
“We’re looking at about four hours total.Would you like to sleep?”
“Not this time.”Reaching in my bag, I take out my tablet and swipe the screen to turn it on.“I’ve got a book to read.”
“Enjoy, Mr.Snow,” Adam says before beginning the preflight checklist.
After I download the newest romance Noel recommended to me, I send her a quick text.
Me:Will this one be as good as your own writing?
Me:I doubt that.
It was almost easy finding her once I made the right calls.Then with a little more effort, I made contact anonymously.I pretended to have a few things in common, and before I knew it, we were texting every day.I haven’t found the right way out of this situation I’ve put myself in, but one thing is for sure—I’ve got to meet her.After scheduling my flight and making the arrangements, I considered canceling about a hundred times.Or just deleting my number altogether and disappearing.But curiosity has been nagging at the back of my mind, and I know I have to see this through.I have to meet Noel and see for myself if she’s truly who she says she is.
Did I pretend to be someone else so that I could find out more information on Kate’s long-lost daughter?Yes.Have I gotten caught up in all of this and started reading romances even when Noel doesn’t recommend them to me?Also yes.
But the real question I’m afraid to ask is have I somehow fallen in love?
The day goes quickly with the schools being out for winter break.On top of that, the town is full of people coming to Troping to spend their day, and I stay fairly busy.The tourists usually pop in to take a glance around at the historic buildings and decorations.Everything in Troping is decorated inside and out.That includes the library, which I’ve done myself.I put little Christmas trees next to certain sections and decorated them accordingly to match the theme of the books.
I’ve learned to keep a printed list of holiday romance book recommendations for those who ask when some of the books catch their eye.Since they’re only visiting, they can’t check them out, but I’ll scribble down whatever the title of the book is for them on the pre-made list unless it’s already on there.