Savannah grinned. “I’ll bet I know which room,” she said. “Aunt Mae always referred to it as her honeymoon suite because it’s the largest room here. Want to take a peek? The decorating isn’t finished, but I painted it yesterday.”
“Oh, I’d love to,” Donna said, following her upstairs.
At the door of the freshly painted green room with its white antique iron bed, she turned to Savannah with a gleam in her eyes. “It’s going to be beautiful.” She moved to the window that faced the mountains. “And the view is fabulous. I wonder if I could convince my husband to sneak off here for a weekend sometime.”
Savannah heard the wistfulness in her voice and considered it thoughtfully. “You know, it might not be a bad idea to offer an introductory weekend getaway special for locals. People get so used to living in a place like this, they forget that the tourists who come here see it entirely differently.”
“And it seems silly to spend money to stay just a few miles from home,” Donna said enthusiastically. “But if it were a special promotion, I’ll bet you’d be jammed with reservations. There’s no better way to build word of mouth. People would start sending all their out-of-town guests here. It could fill in the slack once ski season dies down.”
“I’m going to do it,” Savannah said, delighted by the whole idea. “And for giving me the idea, your stay will be free.”
“Absolutely not,” Donna protested. “That’s no way to start a business.”
“Sure it is. You’ll tell everyone you know how fabulous it is, so when I offer the promotion, it will be sold out in minutes.”
As they walked back downstairs, Donna regarded Savannah with open curiosity. “So, what’s the story with you and Trace Franklin? I’m sorry if I’m being nosy, but everybody in town remembers his coming to visit Mae. A handsome, single man who owns his own company is bound to stir up comment. Have you known him long?”
Savannah felt a now-familiar flush creep into her cheeks. “Only a few days,” she admitted.
“My, my,” Donna teased, “you work fast! I know a lot of women who tried to get to know him on his prior visits, and he never gave any of them a second glance. Last night he couldn’t take his eyes off you, and, if anything, he’s watching you even more intently tonight.”
“If you say you’re just friends, I’ll lose all respect for you,” Donna teased. “Any woman who doesn’t grab a man like that ought to have her head examined.”
“Talking about me, by any chance?” Trace inquired, stepping up beside Savannah and slipping an arm around her waist.
Savannah felt her face heat another ten degrees. “We were talking about—” she frantically searched her brain for a suitably attractive, sexy bachelor “Kevin Costner.”
Trace regarded her with amusement. “Oh? Is he in town?”
“No, but we do like to dream,” she said, as Donna coughed to cover her laughter.
Trace leaned down to whisper in her ear. “Liar,” he said softly.
“I think I’ll go chat with my husband and tell him about your offer,” Donna said. She grinned at Trace. “Nice to see you again. Merry Christmas.”
“You, too,” he said.
When Donna had gone in search of her husband, Savannah lifted her gaze to meet Trace’s. “I think the party’s a success. Thank you for talking me into it.”
“It’s been fun,” he said, as if that surprised him just a little. “Mae’s introduced me around before, but this is the first chance I’ve had to really talk to some of the locals. They’re good people, and they really are delighted that you’re reopening the inn. Not only has this place been a boon to the economy, its history and charm provide something that the chain hotels can’t. I didn’t realize that in its heyday, Holiday Retreat employed several full-time people on staff and that the dining room was open to the public for dinner. Is that part of your plan, as well?”
“Eventually,” Savannah said. “I’m going to have to take things slowly, so that I don’t get overextended financially. Once all the rooms are ready for paying guests, then I can start thinking about whether to offer more than breakfast. I can cope with making eggs or French toast—I’m not so sure I could handle gourmet dinners. And I know I can’t afford any help yet.”
“Your spaghetti was pretty good,” he said.
She frowned at him. “Somehow I doubt that’s up to the standard the guests would expect. Remind me and I’ll show you some of the old menus. Mae stopped doing the dinners about ten years ago, when it got to be too much for her, but she saved all the records. Since she left the file right where she knew I’d find it first thing, I’m sure she was hoping that I’d open the dining room again in the evenings.”
The rest of the party passed in a blur. Soon guests were putting on coats, thanking Savannah for having them over and leaving for the Christmas Eve services planned by the local churches. When the last guest had departed, Hannah found Savannah and Trace standing on the front porch.
“Mom, this was the best. I must have met everybody in my class at school. I can’t wait to start after New Year’s. And there’s going to be an ice-skating party in a couple of days and I’m invited. Isn’t that totally awesome?”
“Totally,” Savannah agreed.
Trace grinned. “Then you’re back to being happy about living in Vermont?”
“Absolutely,” Hannah said. “Can we go to church now?”
Trace glanced at Savannah. “What about it? Are you too tired?”