[“Winter Rental” is an original contemporary romance story copyrighted by Gratiana Lovelace, 2022; All rights reserved.];
[(1) the “Winter Rental” story cover (below left) image credits are at the end of each chapter(s) post]
[Author’s note: I cast my characters as I write my stories—to help myself and my readers visualize the main characters. So my main characters for “Winter Rental” are: Richard Armitage as Greg Halliday; Cameron Diaz as his younger sister Connie Halliday; Anne Hathaway as Diana Langley; Liam Hemsworth as Eddie Hughes; Rege-Jean Page as Mike Porter, and others as noted.
I will post new story chapters on both my SAL blog, as well as, on my Wattpad site. And initially, I posted Ch. 0 through Ch. 2 to get this story started, then after that I will post new chapters weekly.
“Winter Rental” is also a gentle romance (with chapters being rated as PG-13 or so, unless otherwise noted), with some heartfelt romantic moments—and some mature romantic discussions put to humorous effect. So if you cannot or will not attend a movie with my maturity ratings, then don’t read that chapter. And though I set my story in the lovely city and area of Galena, IL—which I have enjoyed visiting many times—for the purposes of my storytelling here, I use dramatic license of the facts, individuals, locations, etc. These are my disclaimers.]
“Winter Rental”, Prologue
Diana Langley has spent the last few months of the previous year tying up the loose ends from her father’s death last year—and she grieves mournfully for his loss. He had been sick for several years and she had cared for him in the home she grew up in for as long as she could–until he needed intensive nursing care that they could only receive financial assistance with if he was in a nursing home. So that is where he went for several months toward the end of his life- and where she held him in her arms when he passed away in early fall, four months ago.
An only child for all intents and purposes–since her brother Gary was of no help with their father during his illness, not even to provide a respite for her–Diana has been adrift a bit now that she has free time that she has to fill. Her work as a teacher is professionally fulfilling, but she does not have any caring personal relationships–romantic or otherwise–to help nurture her soul. You see, when you have a chronically and severely ill family member, your friends eventually fall away because you don’t have as much free time to spend with them as you used to—and they don’t know what to say or how to help, and it is very isolating.
Though Diana did decorate her home festively this Christmas, but she didn’t have anyone to share it with. And after the Christmas Holidays, there is always a let down. But the new year brings promise and hope for Diana—with old acquaintances being renewed–in a most unexpected and loving way. That is, if Diana can get past the arrogant man’s unreasonable proposition.
“Winter Rental”, Chapter 1: Snow Falls and the Ski Tourists Return
For as long as Diana Langley can remember, she has worked weekends at her family’s sporting goods store that her brother Gary now runs as part owner with her. Her brother Gary and she each received a half interest in the family’s Langley Sporting Goods Store in the lovely Galena, Illinois—with Diana being mostly a silent partner. But she helps out at the store at the registers, now and then on busy tourist weekends.
Diana Langley had spent the last few months of the previous year tying up the loose ends from her father’s death last year—and she grieves mournfully for his loss. He had been sick for several years and she had cared for him in the home she grew up in for as long as she could–until he needed intensive nursing care that they could only receive financial assistance with if he was in a nursing home. So that is where he went for several months toward the end of his life- and where she held him in her arms when he passed away in early fall, four months ago.
An only child for all intents and purposes–since her brother Gary was of no help with caring for their father during his illness, not even to provide a respite for her–Diana has been adrift a bit now that she has free time that she has to fill. Her work as a teacher is professionally fulfilling, but she does not have any caring personal relationships–romantic or otherwise–to help nurture her soul. You see, when you have a chronically and severely ill family member, your friends eventually fall away because you don’t have as much free time to spend with them as you used to—and they don’t know what to say or how to help, and it is very isolating.
And though Diana did decorate her home festively this Christmas, she didn’t have anyone to share it with. And after the Christmas Holidays, there is always a let down. But Diana hopes that the new year brings with it new possibilities for friendship, and perhaps more. At twenty eight years old, Diana is young and youthfully beautiful—with lovely auburn hair falling in curling waves over her shoulders, a clear complexion, expressive kind eyes, and full lips that beg to be kissed. She just needs to find the right man whom she wants to kiss, she thinks bemusedly. Were this another era, she would be labeled a spinster. However, in our modern era, women are not defined by their marital status. But for many people, they hope to find that one special someone to share life and love with as they grow old together. And for Diana, she hopes to find a love of a lifetime.
And though the Northern Illinois ski resort town of Galena that Diana and her family live in is mostly filled with tourists during the Winter ski season, there are also a few people who trickle in for short stays at other times of the year as well. The city of Galena, Illinois and its surrounding area is truly a lovely place to visit and to live. You approach from the south via a somewhat winding hill/mountain highway road from which you see a breathtaking vista of the valley below of homes and the city of Galena itself.
The river running through the city of Galena had once been a major thoroughfare of commerce and transportation over 150 years ago in the mid 1800’s. But through over use and the town and the State failing to remove the silt that had sedimented on the bottom of the river over time, the river has become a shadow of its former self—narrower and shallow. So no ships or boats of any large commercial size can traverse it anymore. But the river and its bridges are still picturesque.
And downtown Galena boasts thriving businesses with old world charm as the city has preserved its older buildings that now house antique stores, restaurants, bed and breakfasts, etc. And one particularly famous former resident was President Grant–the General Grant of the Civil War—with a lovely home that the town had granted him, and which now has a charming restaurant in it. The whole area of Galena is charming and lovely. And when you include the ski mountain and resort area, it has been a magnet for nature lovers and outdoor sports enthusiasts for the last seventy five years.
Brother and sister Greg and Connie Halliday are two regulars who have visited the Galena area both Winter and Summer since their childhood thirty years ago. And their family used to have a vacation home here. But when Greg and Connie were in college and then after–while establishing their careers they were not able to visit that often. So their aging parents sold their vacation home to the ski resort about five years ago. So, now when Greg and Connie return to Galena, they tend to rent out homes in the resort area for their stays.
Galena’s local Pineridge Mountain Ski Resort and Hotel also manages several homes and ski chalets in varying sizes on its large Galena valley resort property. And sometimes the locals also rent out their homes to part time vacationers—that the resort coordinates for a hefty chunk of the rental fee. Diana has never rented out her family’s home–now her home deeded to her by her father’s will last year. To Diana the idea of having strangers in her home, among her possessions and her memories seems off putting to her.
But yet this early in January Friday, Diana receives a call from her friend Mike Porter who manages the Pineridge Mountain Ski Resort and Hotel pleading for some help in that regard—renting out her personal home–and he invites her to lunch at the resort to discuss it, though she does not know it yet. Walking into the resort’s airy upscale dining room–with floor to ceiling windows displaying nature’s snow covered beauty, Diana spies her friend and he waves her over to his table.
Mike: Standing up politely and giving her a peck on her cheek as an old school chum of Diana’s and longtime family friend, Mike asks her. “So, how is everything? Now that the holidays are over?”
Mike knows well from his own father passing two years ago, how hard it is to work through the grief of losing a parent, as well as, the adjustment of having to reorder your life without them. And since Mike was originally from Canada–where most of his family still lives–he was sadly not able to reach home in time, when his father took a turn for the worse and died unexpectedly. But Mike’s wife Michelle and their two kids–their 5 year old son Griffin (from his wife’s maiden name) and their 3 year old princess in the making Stefani–are the joys of his life. And they, like he, are his father’s—and their grandfather’s–legacy in the world.
Diana: “Anticlimactic.” She responds honestly to his question, while she maintains her serene countenance. Because being alone during the holidays is tough, but she doesn’t like to broadcast that to others. “School doesn’t open for another three weeks—until February. And my lesson plans are all ready to go. So I’m still enjoying my vacation downtime—and contemplating some home improvements. And you, Mike?”
Mike: “Same old, same old. There’s a new crop of resort guests every weekend now that the holidays are over–with a few staying a full week now that the snow has finally come.”
Diana: “But surely they can’t ski yet. We’ve only had about 6 inches of snow in the last few days.”
Mike: “Downhill is out for now, but several guests are taking advantage of the cross country skiing trails.”
Diana: She nods politely. “Thanks for the heads up about that. I’ll let Gary know to order some more cross country equipment for the store.”
Mike: “Actually, that’s not why I asked you here. We’ve got a weeklong rental coming in. You remember the Hallidays, don’t you?” He looks at her a bit nervously, since he has yet to reveal his request.
Diana: “Sure. They must be coming here for going on more than thirty years now.” And she smiles unconsciously at her memories of the Hallidays.
Of course, Diana remembers the older brother Greg Halliday very well—he was tall, dark, handsome, athletic, and charming, from what she could tell at a distance mostly. And Greg used to tease Diana about her being a townie when he would visit as a teen and she was in grade school–he’s about 12 years or so older than she is. Then in Diana’s high school years, she had a little crush on Greg back then because he always seemed to have fun doing outdoor sports, when she was stuck inside her family’s sporting goods store merely selling people the equipment to do their outdoor sports.
You see, Diana has some residual mobility issues related to a bad ski fall she took as a young teen when she broke her lower right leg in several places. After her physical therapy got her as close to her pre-injury abilities that it could, Diana regrouped and decided that her slight infirmity when walking made her unique among the tall Viking like tourists and townies sports enthusiasts. And Diana developed a slightly jaunty walk to smooth over her mobility issues. But she still has endurance limitations for standing long and walking long distances.
So skiing, skating, and even hiking are out for Diana. Though she does like to sled down small hills, now and then. And as long as she takes her time walking–and not try to hurry, let alone run–Diana has a nearly fluid walking movement now, such that most people don’t notice that she has a slight limp, unless she is tired and her walking becomes painful and labored. And Diana could do a credible slow dance—were she to have any partners to dance with her. So the irony of Diana being part owner of her family’s sporting goods store—and her not being able to participate in their area’s main outdoor recreation activities of skiing, skating, hiking, etc.—is not lost on her.
Mike: “Yes, well they decided to come up this week at the last minute with friends–or dates, I don’t know which. And I don’t have a ski chalet available to accommodate their group of four–the brother and sister and their two friends.” Mike lets his need hang in the air a bit.
Diana: “That’s too bad, Mike.” She says commiserating with him—her not getting what he’s driving at.
Mike: “Here’s the thing, Diana. They’re willing to pay top dollar–nearly $5,000 for the week, seven days and nights. I would split the rental fee with you. And you won’t even have to clean the place yourself to get ready. And we’ll provide the sheets, towels, the works!”
Diana: Suddenly, it dawns on Diana what Mike is intimating. “Oh! You want to rent them my cottage?”
Mike: “Diana, you’ve got three good sized bedrooms and your cottage is off the main roads. So it’s secluded and private.”
Diana: She laughs. “Ha ha ha! I know, that’s why I like it. Mike, I’ve never rented my home out before. I know other people do it. But with dad being sick and all …., and then dying last year …” Her voice trails off in sadness for her loss.
Mike: “I’m sorry. I know it’s a lot to ask. But I’m desperate.” He reveals pleadingly.
Diana: “But what would I do while they’re in my home? I have nowhere else to stay.”
Mike: “I thought of that, Diana. I’m sweetening the pot by giving you free room and board at the Ski Resort Hotel for the week.” He sits back pleased with himself for his gracious offer.
Diana: “I don’t know.” She purses her lips—not sure if she should capitulate to her friend’s offer/request, or to just say no, which is her right. Yet, she hates for Mike to be in a bind—and it would a family she knows renting it, the Hallidays. So, that might not be so bad.
Mike: “Diana, you’re my only hope.” He begs.
Diana: “Do I look like Obi Wan Kenobe from Star Wars, Leia?” They both laugh. Then Mike pouts cutely at her. So she gives in. “Hhhhh! Alright.” Diana is trying to be open to new experiences—and renting out her home is definitely a new experience for her.
Mike: “That’s great, Diana! You’re a life saver!”
Diana: “At least I’ll get a free house cleaning out of it. When do they arrive?”
Mike: “In six hours.” He looks at her sheepishly.
Diana: “Six hours?!? You’ve got to be kidding me! I know you’re sending cleaners over, but I would still want to pack away some personal items for safe keeping. I haven’t even taken down the Christmas decorations yet.”” She looks at him askance.
Mike: “I’ve thought of that, too.” He says brightly. “I’m going to send my assistant Melanie home with you this afternoon to help you do whatever organizing you want while the housekeepers do their thing. And just leave the decorations up. The Hallidays want it festive–kind of a friends late Christmas gathering. Please?” Mike pouts, again—and he literally puts his hands together beggingly.
Diana: “Alright.” She winces at the upheaval to her life for the week—but she can use the $2,500 injection of cash that this winter rental will bring her for her home improvements, especially in upgrading her kitchen appliances.
Mike: “Great! Now let’s eat quickly and then get your cottage ready for the Halliday’s.”
Diana and Mike go on to have a scrumptious but quick soup and half sandwich lunch before Diana is bundled up and sent home with Melanie and two cleaners for the kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms, and the great room.
It has definitely been a six hour whirlwind Friday January 7th afternoon for Diana getting some of her valuable personal belongings stashed with her grumbling older brother, Gary. True to form, Gary even hinted that he wouldn’t mind having some of the $2,500 Diana will earn from the rental, but she feigned ignorance. Good for her! And Diana packed up her clothes and laptop to move to the hotel for the week so the Hallidays can rent her home. Even with resort’s personal assistant Melanie helping her out, it was a struggle getting it all done in the short six hour timeframe. One last prep step was getting two extra sets of house keys cut–one for the guests and one for the hotel’s housekeeping department.
And as it happens, Diana checks into the hotel at the same time that the Hallidays and their friends who are checking in to rent her cottage as well. So, Diana stands off to the side of the Ski resort’s main hotel lobby with her cart of suitcases and laptop, observing the group of four 30 to 40 something urban professionals. Both of the Hallidays—the tall, dark, and handsomely beard stubbled older 40 year old brother Greg and his ten years younger willowy tall blond bobbed sister Connie–seem taller than Diana remembers them. But it has been about five years since she last saw them she thinks. And the other couple with them, seem to be a couple. So, Greg and Connie don’t have partners or spouses with them. A pleasant tingle goes through Diana as she thinks about Greg not vacationing here in Galena with anyone. But of course, he might have a girlfriend back home.
Melanie: Breaking Diana’s reverie, Melanie observes appreciatively. “That Greg Halliday is very handsome.”
Diana: “Yes, he is.” Diana sighs, and lets her lips curl up a bit in a small smile.
Diana thinks that Greg must be almost 40 years old by now—to Diana’s soon to be 29 year old self. And he looks even more muscular and handsome to her now as a mature man. Well, he does ski—which is a great workout for keeping him incredibly fit and athletic looking.
Melanie: “I’m just going to drop your house keys at the front desk and then pick up your suite key.”
Diana: “A suite? I thought you guys had a space problem?” She asks incredulously—and a little suspiciously, regarding her having to turn her life upside down for the next week. But she will get $2,500 for her trouble, she guesses. But Diana has never been about the money or living large as some do.
Melanie: “We do.” She back peddles. “But since you are being inconvenienced, Mike wanted to make sure you were comfortable. And it’s a small suite. So don’t get your hopes up.” She shrugs her shoulders.
Melanie walks over to the resort manager Mike talking to the Hallidays and guests foursome at the front desk and hands him one set of Diana’s house keys for their week’s stay.
Mike: “Ah, here we are. Thank you, Melanie.” He also smiles and nods his thanks in Diana’s direction. Diana gives a slight nod back to him.
Greg: “Oh? Was someone else renting the cottage before us?” He looks over at Diana, not recognizing her adult self–even though he’s been to her family’s sporting goods store dozens of times over the years when she waited on him during school breaks.
Mike: Trying to avert an awkward moment, he says “No, it’s a private home that hasn’t been rented before.” He notices Greg and Connie looking over at Diana and tries to misdirect them. “Uh. That’s Diana Langley. You remember her family’s sporting goods store?” Greg and Connie nod. “Well, she’s staying with us while she’s … having work done at her place.” He states cryptically.
Connie: “Oh right.” She snaps her fingers. “She’s just a few years behind me in school. I used to get tennis balls at their store when we were here Summers. Greg, let’s go over and say hi to Diana. Sylvia and Ron, you’ll excuse us, won’t you?” Connie asks considerately.
Sylvia and Ron: “Of course.” The two lovebirds stand arm in arm with each other. They don’t ski and look forward to a quiet vacation week with lots of couples time–while their friends Greg and Connie go skiing.
Mike thinks, so much for averting awkwardness—because if the Hallidays realize that they’re displacing Diana from her home, albeit for a nice rental fee, that might make them feel a bit weird about it. So, Mike walks over to Diana with the Hallidays, to try to get her in on his ruse.
Diana sees the Hallidays wave and walk over to her and she is a little uncertain what to say to them since they haven’t seen each other in years. Happily, the cheerful and friendly Connie takes care of that as she gives Diana a warm hug. The hug surprises Diana a bit, but she goes with the flow.
Connie: “Hi Diana! We haven’t seen you for years! You look great! You remember, us don’t you? We’re the Hallidays. I’m Connie and this is my older brother, Greg.” Connie is about 30 years old to her brother’s 40 years old.
Greg: “My sister always stresses the older part.” He rolls his eyes and smiles–like the bemused elder brother that he is. “It’s good to see you again, Ms. Langley.” He smiles courteously, nods his head a bit, and then gently but firmly shakes Diana’s hand.
Greg is very polite–but distant compared to the friendly hug his sister gave her, thinks Diana.
Diana: “Just call me Diana. Connie and Greg, it’s good to see you again. What brings you to Galena?”
Mike: Interjecting, he says “They’ve come for the snow, Diana. They’re renting Lakeside Cottage, you know the one.” He raises his eyebrows, hoping that Diana will catch on.
Of course to Diana, this is the first time her family home has been given a name–Lakeside Cottage. Diana thinks that she might have to keep that moniker for the place after the Hallidays leave.
Diana: “Yes, of course I do.” Diana looks perturbed at Mike, then smiles at Connie and Greg.
Connie: “Yes, Mike was saying that you’re having some work done on your house, so you’re stuck in the hotel for a while.”
Diana: Now catching on that Mike doesn’t want to reveal to the Hallidays that they are staying in Diana’s home, she says “Yes, something like that.”
Greg: “We’re here with a couple of old college friends to enjoy the scenery and do a little cross country skiing. Does your store have some cross country skiing equipment we can rent, Diana?”
Diana: “Certainly, Greg. I’m sure my brother Gary can get you set up. But it’s too late today, the store closed at 5:30pm. So you can visit the store tomorrow—after it opens at 8am Saturday.”
Mike: “Yes, we need to get you situated in Lakeside Cottage for the night.”
Connie: “Say, I have a brilliant idea! I’m too tired to cook my requested famous spaghetti tonight, Greg. So why don’t we eat at the hotel instead?” Greg nods. “And Diana you can be our guest since you’re homeless for the moment.” Connie smiles triumphantly about her suggestion.
Greg: “Yes Diana, we would love to have you join us.” Again, he says his invitation to her politely, but not overly warmly, thinks Diana.
Diana: “Oh? Now with your two friends there, won’t that make me the fifth wheel?” She asks impishly.
Connie: “Oh nobody cares about that anymore. Besides, maybe you can give us your opinion on the dating scene here. Greg and I are both coming off of break ups last Fall …” Connie smiles impishly.
Greg: “Connie, please!” He looks at her wide eyed. His studied taciturn demeanor shatters, by his annoyed response to his sister’s revelation about his love life—which he wants to keep private and personal.
Connie: “What? Well, we are. No use denying it, Greg. And we have to get back into circulation.” She looks at her brother pointedly. “So, Diana, shall we meet up in about an hour back here in the lobby, around 7:00pm?
Diana: “Alright. I’ll see you later.” Diana smiles and nods at the Hallidays.
Mike: “That’s great everyone. We’ll get you settled in the cottage and then see you back here for dinner.”
Mike goes off to tend to finishing the Hallidays check-in and Diana also checks into her resort suite.
To be continued with Chapter 2
“Winter Rental”, Ch. 2: Dinner at the Resort ends unexpectedly
After Diana settles into her hotel suite—that has its own kitchen and dining area opposite an upscale cozy seating area around a stone fireplace with a large screen tv above it, and her bedroom and bathroom in a separate room– Diana avails herself of the spa bathroom. Its whirlpool tub jets are particularly nice for her sore back and other muscles after frantically packing and moving her stuff out of her home. But she feels that she could almost swim laps in the tub it’s so big.
Then Diana dresses in a new butterscotch colored slightly off the shoulder sweater dress with her shoulder length brunette hair flowing about her shoulders in soft curls, and she lightly applies her makeup—despite it being nighttime that might call for a bit of jazzing up her look.
Diana doesn’t try to be something she isn’t, and she is just herself. Then she adds a single strand of pearls and pearl post earrings. As a school teacher, she always dresses in an understated way–just part of her preference for modesty. But, she does accentuate her dress a bit with a wide brown leather belt cinching her waist in at Melanie’s suggestion when they passed the ski resort hotel’s dress shop this afternoon. Diana feels that she looks appropriately dressy casual and heads down to meet the Hallidays and their friends for dinner. And as it turns out, it is just Greg and Connie waiting for Diana in the lobby.
Diana: Waving at Connie as she walks up to her in the lobby, Diana asks. “So, where are your friends?
Greg: “They were tired from the long drive and decided to stay in this evening. You look lovely.” He smiles cordially as he compliments her.
Diana: “Thanks. You both do, too.” They are dressed nicely, with Greg wearing a large creamy sweater that showcases his broad shoulders and arm muscles, yet in an understated way. But Connie is wearing a low cut skin tight black cocktail dress that leaves nothing to the imagination.
Connie: Looking at her brother askance for his version of the story, she says “Ron and Sylvia? Oh, they’re back at the cottage having couples alone time. If you know what I mean, Diana. Ha!” She laughs.
Diana: “Ah!” Diana nods her head knowingly. It hadn’t occurred to her that people renting out her home might be having sex in it. Mostly, because she doesn’t have sex in her home. And she wonders which bedroom Ron and Sylvia are in. Then she wryly shakes her head to try to dislodge the potential images that thought creates.
Greg: Rolling his eyes, he says curtly at his sister’s antics. “Connie! Ladies, shall we head to the restaurant?”
They all walk toward the ski resort’s large upscale restaurant’s interior entrance.
Connie: “I’m starved! And I don’t just mean for food. Diana, are there any sexy prospects in the room?” She says scoping out the men.
Greg: “Connie, if Mom or Dad were here, they would tell you to tone it down a notch.” He chides her like the big brother he is.
Connie: “Well they’re not here and I’m in the mood for some male companionship tonight.” Then she winks, for good measure.
Diana: “Hhh!” Diana gasps at Connie’s forthrightness about her wish for a romantic evening.
Greg: “Don’t mind her, Diana. She’s just kidding around with her sex kitten on the prowl routine.” He frowns at his sister.
Connie: “Meow!” Then all three of them laugh at Connie puncturing her brother’s tenseness.
Diana: “Don’t worry about it, Connie—and Greg. Brothers and sisters are a volatile combination sometimes.”
Connie: “Oh? Is your brother Gary frisky?” More eye rolling by Greg.
Diana: “Ha ha ha! I don’t think his wife Maureen would say that.”
Connie: “Oh. Taken. Darn it. Gary wasn’t half bad looking as I recall. And maybe I could have gotten a free rental out of him.”
Greg: “Connie! I am so sorry Diana. Connie’s not usually like this. And she hasn’t even had her wine yet tonight.” Greg shoots daggers at his sister.
The Maitre D seats them at their table. And they chat some more after placing their orders–admiring the view of the snow covered and still snowing mountain side. And Connie will not be deterred by her brother Greg’s admonitions to her.
Connie: “So Diana, are there any cute townies here tonight whom you would recommend as a good date?” She says looking around the room.
Diana: “I wouldn’t know.” She shakes her head ruefully. “But let me know if you like the look of someone and I’ll let you know who they are and if they’re taken. What about you, Greg? Are you on the prowl, too?” She asks a bit petulantly since she isn’t a dating service.
Greg: “Uh. No. I’m taking a break from relationships for a while.”
Connie: “Yes, he got burned by his ex.”
Greg: “Now Connie, some things are private.”
Connie: “Not with friends. We’ve known Diana since we were kids. You don’t mind, do you Diana?”
Diana: “No, of course not.” Diana’s eye brows rise and her eyes widen as she tries to smile politely. She did not expect–nor does she wish–to have the private love lives of the Halliday siblings revealed to her. “But whether each of you—or only one of you—discloses personal matters, you can be assured of my discretion.” Diana states primly.
Connie: “Well, my guy wouldn’t commit, and in the end I’m grateful. We had been going out three years, but not progressing as a couple.”
Diana: “That’s a long time to be dating someone. No regrets?”
Connie: “Nope. He’s a nice guy and we’re still friends, we’re just not lovers anymore.” She smiles impishly.
Diana: “Uh huh.” What else can Diana say. It always strikes Diana as odd when people discuss their sex lives so blithely. Perhaps it’s because she doesn’t have–and hasn’t had–a sex life. So Diana is a little more private about such personal matters.
Connie: “Well, what about you, Diana? Any boyfriends?” She asks interestedly for her brother’s sake.
Greg: “Connie, that’s a rather personal question to ask of Diana.” He rolls his eyes at his sister, again.
Diana: “I don’t mind, Greg. Truthfully, Connie, with my late father’s illness for several years and then him passing last year, and my teaching schedule, and the store, I haven’t had time to date anyone.”
Greg: “Our condolences on your loss, Diana. That must have been rough.” He says sincerely and she nods her thanks to him for his compassion.
Connie: “You haven’t ever had a boyfriend? Not even in college?” Connie incredulously asks the around twenty seven year old Diana. Actually, Diana is twenty eight years old.
Greg: “Now that’s enough Connie! Let Diana enjoy her dinner without feeling interrogated by you.”
Connie: Pouting, Connie defends herself from her sometimes overbearing brother.. “I’m just making conversation, Greg.” Then she turns to him and childishly sticks out her tongue at him.
But Connie finally takes the hint and does tone down her sexy siren persona for the remainder of dinner. Diana is appreciative. And Greg seems? Well, Greg is hard to read from Diana’s point of view. And Diana thinks that Greg’s even more reserved than she is.
Then while Diana, Greg and Connie are having their cheesecake desserts and sipping their coffees–with no one having noticed that the weather outside was getting more Wintery–their server gives them some disturbing news.
Server: “Folks, may I top off your coffee for you?” He asks politely. It’s always best to lead with giving people something before you take something else away from them. Diana and Greg and Connie nod and then add more sugar to their warmed up coffees. The server stands there for a second–similar to what the other six servers in the room are doing.
Greg: Sensing the Server’s unease, Greg asks with a raised eyebrow as he now glances out the window again. “Is something wrong?”
Server: “I’m afraid so, folks. The snow has been falling quite heavily and has closed down some roads.”
Connie: “Oh no!”
Diana: “That’s too, bad.” Of course, Diana doesn’t have to go anywhere since she is staying at the hotel for the week while the Hallidays are at her place.
Greg: Greg can tell that he is going to have to pry the bad news out of the server. “Just tell us. Are we stuck at the hotel for the night?”
Server: “Yes!” The server sighs in relief. “The hotel hopes that guests with friends staying in the hotel can double up tonight since we don’t have any spare rooms. Though we do have extra blankets if people have to sleep in the lobby and lounge areas.” He says brightly, as if the prospect of sitting up in a club chair to sleep was at all appealing. The server nods and leaves.
Connie: “Oh Greg, Ron and Sylvia will be so worried. We have to call them.”
Greg: “You do that, Connie, and I’ll talk to Mike about a room.”
Diana: “Greg, Connie. You can stay with me. I have two queen sized beds in my suite bedroom and the sitting area has a couch.” She offers helpfully. Hey, they’re already staying at her house. Why not have them stay in her hotel room, too?
Connie: “Oh Diana, are you sure? That would be great.” Greg says nothing. “Won’t it Greg?” She nudges him with her elbow.
Greg: “Connie, I don’t think we want to inconvenience Diana. Let me see if they have something.”
Diana: “Greg, the Server just told us that they didn’t have anything. People need to double up. So, just resign yourself to being part of Connie and my girls’ slumber party in my suite tonight.” Diana smiles minxishly at him as he blanches. Then feeling a little emboldened by her own wine consumption, Connie’s warmth, and Greg’s discomfiture, Diana asks. “Connie, is Greg always so hard to budge? Ha ha ha!”
Connie: “It’s the big brother in him. He’s older. So he always got his way. It’s why he broke up with his girlfriend.”
Greg: “Connie! That wasn’t it. And you’re the youngest and totally spoiled.” Greg adds petulantly—also due to his alcohol consumption at dinner.
Diana: Fearing that she’ll have to referee the sparring Halliday siblings all night long, she says “Connie and Greg, why don’t you metaphorically go to neutral corners. It’s been a long day for me and I’m tired.” She says looking at her watch seeing that it’s 10:00pm. Because, of course, she had to rush around getting herself moved out of her house for them to occupy it. And now they’re going to be occupying her hotel room. “Can we just go to sleep?” She pleads.
Greg: “Of course, Diana. We appreciate your gracious offer. Let’s finish our desserts and coffees then head to your suite to sleep for the night.”
After Mike gives all the guests doubling up with their friends, complimentary Pineridge Mountain Ski Resort and Hotel t-shirts from the gift shop to sleep in, Greg and Connie join Diana and take the elevator up to her fourth floor suite. Her suite isn’t large, but it has a spacious sitting room with a loveseat couch and a large man sized wing chair, a kitchenette and dining area, and a separate bedroom with double queen sized beds, and a spa bathroom. Now they just have to figure out who is sleeping where. But to Diana, it is obvious as she looks at the oversized, but still short love seat. Diana feels that she is metaphorically drawing the short straw since she isn’t really tall, like both Greg and Connie are.
Diana: “Okay, you two. I’m the only one who is going to fit on this loveseat. So you two can have the beds in the bedroom. Just let me get changed and ready for bed first.” She says wearily.
Greg: “Diana, we can’t displace you from your own bed.”
Diana: “Well Greg, you’re two for two in that regard today.” The words fly out of Diana’s mouth before she can stop herself–due to her fatigue and the wine. And she winces.
Connie: “Huh?” She asks obtusely.
Greg: “What do you mean?” His eyes narrow.
Diana: “It’s nothing, Greg. I’m just tired.” She shakes her head, trying to shake him off the trail of the truth. She starts to walk back to the bedroom. Too late.
Greg: “Diana, if we’re two for to , what other bed have we displaced you out of?” Then it dawns on him. “Oh crap!”
Diana: Diana winces with her back to them. Then she turns around and looks at Greg and Connie with a sanguine smile. “Don’t worry about it. I can use the extra money.”
Connie: Still not clued in to what Diana and her brother Greg seem to know about, Connie asks. “What extra money?”
Greg: Greg rolls his eyes at his sister. “Connie, Lakeside Cottage is Diana’s home.” Diana tilts her head in acknowledgement.
Connie: “But I thought you said you were having work done on your place?” Greg rolls his eyes at his sister.
Diana: “Sorry you, two. Mike thought that you might feel awkward if you knew that I had moved out of my home so you could rent it.” And she won’t let on that she only had a 6 hour window to vacate her home, or they would really feel bad about that.
Greg: “Well, of course we feel awkward.” He looks at her wincingly. “We’re very sorry, Diana.”
Diana: “Don’t be. Mike is splitting the rental cost with me. It will buy me some new kitchen appliances.” She smiles gamely.
Greg: “So you’re only getting half?” He asks incredulously.
Diana: “Yes.” She says somewhat embarrassed to now be talking about money around them.
Greg: “Well, you have a lovely home–and you should be getting at least 75 percent. I’ll speak to Mike in the morning.”
Diana: “Greg, please don’t do that. Mike gave me this nice suite here and free meals for the week. So it’s like a spa week for me, too.”
Connie: “That’s nice of you to think of it that way, Diana. Thank you.” She says contritely.
Greg: “And you’re at least going to get to sleep in a bed tonight. Diana, you and Connie take the two beds in the bedroom, and I’ll sleep out here.”
Diana: “But …” Diana stammers, gesturing to his tall height and the small loveseat couch.
Greg: “I’ll be fine.” He says emphatically nodding his head, gesturing to her as he interrupts her implication. End of discussion in his mind.
With Greg being the one to sleep in the couch tonight, he gets ready for bed first in the bathroom–putting on the hotel t-shirt to sleep in and wrapping a blanket around his briefs covered abdomen as he walks back out to the sitting room where the girls are. Toga party anyone? But they are all too sleepy to worry about it–or even to find it amusing.
Then Connie and Diana get ready for bed and chat a bit in their bedroom as they lie in bed before drifting off to sleep. Though in Diana’s bedroom at home, she sleeps in the twin bed on the right, Connie snagged the queen sized bed on the right tonight in Diana’s hotel suite. So Diana lays down on the bed on the left.
Connie: “Diana, we’re really sorry about bumping you out of your home this week.” Now she winces.
Diana: “Don’t be Connie. Say will Greg be alright sleeping with the chair pulled up to the couch? His legs are so long.” She worries considerately.
Connie: “Greg’s an outdoorsy camper guy from way back to his boy scout days. So he can always sleep on the floor if he has to.” She says blithely.
Diana: “Hmm.” Diana sighs sleepily with her eyes half closed. The ski resort hotel’s 600 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets are so soft, they are lulling her to sleep.
Connie: “So Diana, what do you think about Greg–for a guy, I mean?”
Diana: “He’s nice. You both are. Hhhhh!” She yawns tiredly. Diana is almost asleep.
Connie: “Would you date him?” She asks interestedly, because when her brother is in a relationship, he doesn’t feel the need to pick on her dating behavior.
Diana: “Hhhhhh.” Diana yawns. “Sure. Why not. He’s really handsome and gentlemanly.” And with that little admission born of no resistance due to fatigue and wine, Diana drifts off to sleep.
Connie: “Hmmm.” Connie sighs raising her eyebrows before falling asleep herself.
After two hours of a concerted effort on his part trying to sleep, the very tall–6 ft 2inchs tall–Greg has found it not so comfortable to try to fit his tall frame into the small space of the loveseat with his legs spreading over onto the club chair pulled up to the love seat. Try as he might, he just can’t make it work. And he has to pee again–all that coffee they drank at dinner with their desserts. So, he quietly goes into the bedroom–sans his blanket toga for his lower half wearing briefs–and he does his business in the bathroom. On his way out, he notices Connie has woken up.
Greg: Whispering. “Sorry Connie, I had to pee.” He whispers shrugging his shoulders.
Connie: “That’s okay. Have you been able to sleep at all?” She asks considerately of her brother.
Greg: “No.” He sighs. “I’m too tall for the couch and chair.
Connie gets out of bed.
Connie: “Greg, I’ve got to pee, too. Why don’t you sleep in my bed here. I’m shorter than you are and the loveseat and chair will fit me nicely.
Connie: “Oh go on.” She motions to the bed and then she does her business in the bathroom–while Greg gratefully lays down in her queen sized bed and he promptly falls asleep. Then Connie goes to sleep in the sitting area’s loveseat and club chair combo quite nicely.
About an hour later, Diana wakes up–also from coffee ingestion–and she pads into the bathroom in her babydolls pjs. She does this without putting on a robe because she thinks it’s only Connie sleeping in the far bed. Diana is wearing baby doll pajamas–with an empire waist bodice supporting her full bosoms and matching shorts like panties.
Then Diana sleepily returns to the bedroom and lies back down in her bed. But this time she lies down on the bed on the right, like she sleeps in at home. Then she promptly drifts off to sleep, lying down on her right side–facing out from the bed. And since this is a queen sized bed and Diana is so sleepy, she doesn’t realize that someone else is in the bed already–Greg. And Greg doesn’t stir since he is out like a light.
Who knows what tomorrow may bring. But it is sure to be interesting.
To be continued with Chapter 3
Nota Bene: The story cover for my original contemporary romance “Winter Rental” (Copyrighted by Gratiana Lovelace, 2022;all rights reserved) is a composite of three images:
a) a Wintery image of ski chalets previously shared by Sueli; Grati edit for color and size; with AR Berkley text;
b) Greg Halliday–2022—is represented by Richard Armitage-in cream-sweater-pensive-photographed byKaitlynMikayla_Jan04-2022viaNobleman-Mag;
c) Diana Langley—is represented by Anne-Hathaway-2021–butterscotch-sweater-flyaway-hair-no-makeup_Jan09-2022viaVariety—Grati-crop-szd; image found at https://variety.com/2021/tv/news/anne-hathaway-jared-leto-wework-series-apple-1234895727 ;
Gratiana Lovelace Wattpad site link for Ch. 0 Prologue through Ch. 2 of “Winter Rental” (Post#1438):