Reid Weller strolled down a long slate-gray hallway at Village Resort, passing a zombie, a witch, and the ski resort chef who, in a bubble dress, attempted to pull off a Lady Gaga impersonation. Too bad large opaque orbs did nothing for Chef Harold’s pasty skin tone and bright red lobster-claw boots.
Halloween. To some, the day meant letting loose. To children, it meant free candy. To Reid, it meant a new chapter of his career. He’d made plans to sell his ideas to his boss, his mentor, Donald Richmond, on his holiday promotion.
“Good morning, Mr. Weller.” Josephina, an older African American woman who ran the housekeeping staff, nodded her head toward Reid as she walked by him. One of her protruding pink rabbit ears flopped toward him.
Josephina must have caught Reid glancing at the adornment.
“Snow bunny,” she supplied before he could ask.
Reid chuckled. He’d known the woman for years, and trusted her with his life, bunny ears and all. “Have a good one, Josie.”
“You do the same, Monkey.”
Reid turned and swiped his hand across his neck as he shook his head. As much as he wanted to be upset with his friend, he couldn’t stop smiling when she used a nickname she’d made up for him when he was twelve and liked hanging from trees.
Josie, who started out as the Richmond family’s housekeeper, never let him forget the good parts of his past. Reid would always remember how when things got too tumultuous at his own home, Josie and the Richmond family offered him a bit a shelter at the Richmond house while she did her work. He just had to stay out of her way. He had no problem doing that.
Years later, Reid left all childish things behind. He had opted not to dress up or even wear a mask or other silly item to celebrate the day. As the general manager of Village Resort, he had to show the staff that he meant business. In his standard work attire, he blended in well with the rest of the decor.
Reid stepped into the conference room thirty minutes earlier than the meeting time with Donald Richmond and Graham Iler, Richmond Enterprises’ marketing director. The burgundy carpet and gray color on the walls from the hallway matched the inside of the conference room.
He placed his paperwork on the long, black table and fired up the sixty-inch TV monitor mounted on the wall. With the same remote, he adjusted the blinds over the ceiling-to-floor windows that lined the wall.
Since their similar meeting last year, Reid had been preparing to talk about his ideas. His stomach jumped in anticipation. He knew Donald Richmond would love his plans. Graham proved to be a harder sell.
If Reid didn’t know any better, he would have suspected that the marketing director had his sights on Reid’s job. That was okay. Graham could have his job as soon as Reid got Graham’s job, at least part of it.
“Ah, and here I thought I would be the first one here.”
Reid looked up and watched Graham strut in the room. Like the Richmond family, Graham maintained a pulled-together demeanor the few times he’d seen him. Today the built African American man wore a charcoal suit with a purple tie around his thick neck. He wore his hair shaved down to just a shadow.
He almost looked out of place in the business world at his imposing size. Graham made it clear to anyone around him that his head remained rooted in business and he had his sights set on the top prize. His black eyes, though, would scare a shark out of the water.
Although they only shared cursory conversations about the weather and Richmond Enterprises, Reid knew Graham worked hard to promote the resort. For that, Graham had Reid’s respect.
“It’s kind of hard for me not to be here early. I’m already here.” Reid placed his presentation materials at each seating space.
Reid never thought he would have ever moved away from Virginia. Living in Colorado had never factored into his lifelong plans. Running the Village Resort, he opted to take advantage of the Richmond’s generous offer to live in one of the private chalets.
Even if he didn’t work at Village, he would want to live there. Their innovative architecture, widespread grounds, and beautiful landscaping drew visitors worldwide. A person could disappear into paradise.
The current autumn season provided a wonderful scene with rust-colored leaves of various shades. The air seemed fresh and clean. Nothing beat the wintertime there at the resort. The snow-covered hills and mountains reminded him a staged postcard sent from a fabulous vacation.
Reid had an incredible staff. Josephina kept the place cleaner than an operating room. No matter where he went in the hotel, it always smelled of flowers and pine trees. Thanks to Chef Harold’s penchant for making decadent and familiar desserts, Reid caught the aroma of sweet potato pies and apple pies almost every day. For him, he had Christmas at all times. He never had to leave.
“I guess that’s a good thing about working for corporate.” After a hard handshake, Graham placed his laptop bag on the table. “Although I don’t mind visiting the Richmond properties around the world, and Village Resort here in Starview is hot, it’s nice to have home be in Virginia Beach.”
“Don’t you ever miss Virginia?” Graham smoothed his hand down his tie and stared at him as though sizing up his competition instead of talking about the state deemed for lovers.
Reid thought about his family and how he grew up. Without delving into his past, he shook his head. “I like Colorado. Fresh air, great people, and I’m doing what I love. How can I beat that?”
He didn’t feel the need to share his goals with Graham. Graham may be a great businessman, but he didn’t trust him. Reid knew the man wouldn’t like the idea of him taking over the marketing for the resort. He just hoped Donald Richmond would like the idea.
Graham shrugged his shoulders. “I’m sure if you ever changed your mind, Mr. Richmond would find a spot for you back in Virginia. I understand that he’s opening a nice resort in Williamsburg. That’ll get you at least a little closer if you wanted.”
Reid glanced at him and could have sworn he saw him snickering, as though Graham didn’t take Reid’s worth to the company seriously. With his brains and goal-oriented mentality, it surprised Reid that Graham hadn’t gotten married and had his two-point-five kids by now. Graham mirrored him and his Type-A attitude.
Graham definitely looked like he had an inspiration board filled with pictures of Barack Obama and Tyler Perry to show where he could go in his life and career. Reid imagined that behind his back, Graham laughed at the idea of a tall, lanky white dude running a vacation resort and probably thought he didn’t aspire to be much more.
Before he could go down that rabbit hole with him, Mr. Richmond walked through the meeting room door.
Although Reid had never been in the military, with Donald, he felt compelled to stand at attention. He stood straighter with his shoulders back. He wanted to salute but stopped and shook Donald’s hand instead.
“Reid.” Donald pulled Reid into a comforting hug.
Donald Richmond smelled of expensive cologne, a light, musky scent with a slight citrusy note underneath. He also carried a clean linen smell like he’d removed his clothes from the dryer prior to slipping into them. The man epitomized home.
Even though Reid now stood at the same towering height as his mentor, his friend, his father figure, he would always see Donald as the neighbor who allowed a shy kid shelter for when the screaming from his parents at his house got to be too much.
“I’ve missed you, son.” Donald patted Reid on his back. “And so has Mrs. Richmond. She’s asked me to beg you to come to Virginia to visit some time.”
The idea of being close to his own parents, even though he wouldn’t have to see them, compressed his stomach into a ball until he thought he would vomit his breakfast over his friend.
However, to be able to have a normal, family Christmas warmed his insides. Since leaving home at the age of eighteen, Reid hadn’t had a traditional holiday. The Richmonds always seemed to make the season festive, even to outsiders.
Reid smiled and nodded. “I miss seeing you guys too.”
He couldn’t deny the fact that he’d been tumbling over the idea of spending a real Christmas holiday with a family, his surrogate family, the Richmonds.
Since he started his employment at Village, he’d spent every holiday working, making sure the guests walked away with fulfilling memories. Too bad that his act of generosity came at the expense of Reid not having his own pleasant holidays.
“Hi, Mr. Richmond.” Graham asserted himself in between the men by jutting his hand to him.
“Didn’t mean to be rude, Mr. Iler.” Donald shook her hand. “Although I talk to Reid almost daily, I don’t see him as often as I would like.”
Reid smiled knowing that Donald saw him as more than just an employee.
“Would you like to get started talking about our holiday plans?” Reid waited until his mentor and Graham took their seats before he occupied his.
“I’m very interested in hearing what you two have planned.” Donald slipped on his reading glasses and picked up Reid’s information first.
Reid beamed. “I’ve been thinking about this since last year. We need to bring in families and keep them as repeat customers.” He directed Donald and Graham to review the papers he’d placed before them as he attempted to hook up his laptop to the TV monitor. “When I was a kid, my best holiday memories were of going over to your house and playing with my friends.
Then Mrs. Richmond would take us all over to that ice skating rink and let us skate for hours.” If he could bottle that type of happiness and sell it, Reid would have been a millionaire. “I want to push the idea of making Village Resort their holiday tradition.” He watched Donald’s graying eyebrows shoot upward as he reviewed the information. “We offer competitive rates to families who stay for an extended period of time. If they book another stay, we give them a deep discount. The theme would be ‘Village Resort. Start your holiday memories with us.’ What do you think?”
Donald nodded. As he opened his mouth to respond, Graham, with his booming voice, cut in.
“Families aren’t going anywhere. With the economy the way it is right now, families are staying home and watching their money. Because of the recession, stay-cations are the thing.” He shook her head. “No, the group we need to target is single people. They are the ones working and more apt to travel and spend money.”
Reid felt the heat bubbling under his shirt collar as he listened to Graham’s spiel. Making a classy place like Village Resort into some hedonistic singles joint didn’t appeal to him.
He hoped Donald felt the same way. From the way Donald’s eyes lit up even more than before, Reid felt he’d lost him.