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I'm an orphan.
Katya Morgan felt the telephone receiver start to slip out of her hand and clenched it tighter. Her fingernails dug into her palm, but she didn't relax her grip as she sat staring out at the sparkling waters of the Caribbean.
Her stepmother's calm voice on the other end of the line sounded soothing, belying her words as she said, "I know this is a shock to you, Katya. Your father did his best to hide the seriousness of his cancer, even from me. I didn't know how sick he was until it was too late."
Katya reached for the pack of Nat Sherman Black & Golds lying on the poolside table next to her. Tapping one slim cigarette out of the pack, she brought the sweet-smelling tobacco to her lips and searched blindly for her lighter, then leaned back in her chaise lounge on the patio of the villa she'd rented for the summer on the island of Saint Martin. Holding the flame to her cigarette, she pulled in a breath of expensive nicotine.
Daddy couldn't be ... gone. She knew he'd been unwell, but he was going to get better. He'd said so himself.
Pushing her favorite gold-rimmed, purple-tinted Armani sunglasses farther up the bridge of her nose, Katya blinked back tears. "How did he ..." She paused, swallowing a deep breath of island air, and started again. "Was it bad at the end?"
"No. The morphine helped a lot with the pain. He simply slipped peacefully away in his sleep," Jillian answered in that same soothing tone, the one-Katya always thought of as her stepmother's kindergarten-teacher voice.
Katya closed her eyes, trying not to imagine her tough, judgmental, larger-than-life father lying small and withered in his massive mahogany bed. The Caribbean sun beat down on her mercilessly, her island paradise now turned into an unrelenting inferno.
Opening her eyes again, Katya tapped the dead ash off the end of her cigarette with a shapely red fingernail and gazed out at the stunningly glorious day. White sailboats studded water so blue, it nearly screamed to be painted. Lush green islands were dotted about, their brightly colored flowers invisible until you ventured closer, then exploding in bright pinks, golden yellows, and luminescent corals. It was all too perfect, and she couldn't bear to continue looking at it, but couldn't close her eyes again, either, and risk seeing that haunting vision of her father.
As usual, she seemed unable to make the right choice.
Eyes open, eyes closed. What did it matter? Her father was dead, and, at thirty-one, she was an orphan. Without her father, she had no one.
Katya drew in a ragged breath and sat up straighter in her chair. Who was she kidding? Even with her father, she'd had no one.
"I know you and your father didn't always see eye to eye, but he really did love you," Jillian said, as if reading her stepdaughter's thoughts. "It was just so difficult for him. You look so much like your mother, and he loved her so. He took her death very hard."
Katya remained silent as her stepmother continued on in her same even tone, "The funeral is scheduled for Saturday morning, and the will is to be read later that day."
"I'll be there," Katya mumbled before dropping the receiver onto the table beside her. Her hand shook as she reached out and picked up the fruity cocktail the butler had brought earlier. The ice had melted, causing cool beads of sweat to drip onto her tightly tanned stomach as she rifted the glass to her tips and drained the entire drink in one long swallow.
A wave of grief tinged with anger around the edges washed over her. Why hadn't Daddy told her that he was so ill? Why had their last conversation been identical to every other one for the past fifteen years? If he'd told her he was so sick, she could have ...
Katya drew in a deep breath and put the now-empty glass back on the patio table.
She could have what? Altered the way she looked so he wouldn't feel as if he were looking back in time every time he saw her? Changed her wild and wicked ways? Become the serious-minded, studious daughter he wanted her to be?
Katya gritted her teeth and pushed a lock of silky dark hair behind her ear. No. She wouldn't have done any of those things, even if she had known how sick her father was.
"I shouldn't have had to change to make him love me," she muttered under her breath, taking a final drag on her cigarette before crushing it out viciously in the Baccarat crystal ashtray.
"Katya, honey, you want to ring for a Bloody Mary?"
Startled, Katya looked up to see the perfectly muscled, perfectly tanned, perfectly nude body of her latest flavor-of-the-season as he pulled himself out of the swimming pool. She had completely forgotten about Antoine, whose real friends, she suspected, called him Tony.
When they had woken up at just past noon, they'd talked about their plans to lounge for a while in the pool, maybe go to lunch at Le Tastevin on the French side of the island or perhaps L'Escargot on the Dutch, then head down to their private beach. Tonight there would be gambling in Philipsburg; they'd hit a party or two and maybe go dancing.
That had been before her stepmother had called to tell her that her father had died.
Katya considered her companion through her lashes. The problem with Antoine was that he was clingy, always dropping endearments into the conversation or making some excuse to touch her. And the last thing she wanted right now was someone trying to console her. What she really wanted was to be alone.
"Actually, Antoine, I've just developed some, ah, female troubles. I think it would be best if we canceled our plans for the day."
In her experience, even remotely hinting at problems with the female reproductive system had the immediate effect of clearing the area within a five-mile radius of heterosexual men. Antoine didn't even stop to pout, as he normally would if she changed their plans at the last minute. Instead, he gave her the predictable "Oh, God, please don't start talking to me about your period" look before scurrying off to the cabana to pull on his linen shorts and silk shirt before making a mad dash out to his rented convertible.
Katya threw her legs over the side of the chaise lounge. The smooth stones of the patio felt warm beneath her bare feet as she headed for the pool overlooking the Baie de l'Embouchure to the north and the island of Saint Bart's to the east. She dropped her sunglasses onto the stone patio before diving into the refreshing water.
Pushing her straight black hair out of her eyes as she surfaced, she paddled over to the edge of the pool that had been constructed to look as if it were an extension of the ocean beyond. She tried focusing her attention on a brilliant white sailboat with its red-and-white-striped spinnaker fluttering in the wind but was unable to stop the tears from welling up in her eyes. She swiped at them with her hand, drying their salty wetness before they could roll down her face.
Crying was not to be tolerated. Her father had taught her that lesson himself. She could still remember the sting of his words, the week after her mother had died. His voice, raised in anger, as he yanked the sterling silver picture frame out of her hands. "Crying won't bring your mother back, so you might as well stop that bawling right now. Do you hear me?" he'd yelled.
And of course she could hear him, he was standing right there in front of her, but she couldn't say anything, couldn't seem to do anything but sit in her mother's favorite chair and stare at her mother's laughing face in the picture and cry. Her father continued his tirade, telling her that crying wasn't going to bring her mother back. But, still, she couldn't stop the tears from coming.
The next day her father had the servants box up all of her mother's belongings and take them away. Then he told her he was sending her away, too. And even at ten, she was smart enough to know she was being punished for not being able to keep her grief to herself.
Closing her eyes against the pressure behind them, Katya laid her head down on the arms she'd crossed over the edge of the pool and made lazy circles in the water with her legs. She had only cried once since that day over twenty years ago, and she wasn't going to do so now.
After all, Daddy had been right. Crying hadn't brought her mother back, and it wasn't going to bring him back, either.
A flutter of bright purple and turquoise turned his attention from the heat. The slight June breeze had caught the scarf of the woman standing across from him and set it fluttering in the wind.
The daughter of the deceased. Alex knew her-by reputation, at least. She had been a guest at the Royal Palmetto, the hotel he ran as general manager, several times during the past few years. Rumor had it that she and her father were constantly clashing over her party-girl lifestyle, so Miss Morgan chose to frequent the local hotels whenever she was under obligation to return to Scottsdale for a familial visit. From all accounts, she was a typical spoiled heiress, but an attractive one, Alex noticed, as the breeze continued to tease her. The edges of her straight black hair lifted and fell against the colorful scarf she'd tied over a short sleeveless black dress. The hem of her dress ended north of the mid-thigh mark, and unlike the other women attending her father's funeral, Katya Morgan had left her legs bare.
All nine yards of them.
As the reverend droned on about hope and peace in the afterlife, the breeze picked up a strand of Katya Morgan's hair and pushed it over her shoulder. Alex watched as she tossed her head, turning her face into the wind with her eyes closed. Then she opened them, looking straight at Alex.
He was struck first by the unusual color of her eyes-neither gray nor green but something in between. Then he noticed that they lacked the tears he expected to see in them. Having grown up in a household with six women, Alex was used to feminine tears. But Katya Morgan's eyes were as dry as the Arizona desert.
Oddly, Alex felt more sorry for her then than if she'd been working on her fourth hankie.
She kept her gaze locked on his, her eyes full of sadness and ... something else he couldn't define. Something like loneliness, only much deeper. Whatever it was, it made Alex shiver despite the heat.
Then he blinked, and the connection was broken. He looked back at her, but she was staring intently at the glossy black coffin and, when she looked back up, her eyes were devoid of any emotion.
It was as if he had simply imagined the moment. As if it had never happened.
"Nothing?" Katya spat the word out of her mouth as if it were a scoop of bargain-priced caviar being fed to her from a metal spoon. "What do you mean, nothing?"
She stalked toward the man who had been her father's friend longer than she had been alive. Even in her low-heeled sandals, she towered over her father's attorney. Unlike most men, Nathan Rosenberg failed to be intimidated by her. Instead, he pushed his small round glasses farther up the bridge of his nose and met her angry glare with his own dispassionate gaze.
"Your father's will is very clear on this point. You are to take nothing from the estate that you didn't purchase yourself. And since you've never held any sort of paying job, I believe that leaves you with nothing except the gifts your father gave you."
Katya took a step backward and sat down in the oversize chocolate-brown leather chair that had been her father's favorite. The fabric had absorbed the scent of the spicy cologne he'd worn for years. It wrapped its comforting arms around her and she resisted the urge to curl up into a ball and pretend that none of this was happening. But ignoring the situation wouldn't get her what she wanted, and neither would becoming angry at Nathan.
Surely there was some mistake, some twist that he was just about to tell her when she'd interrupted. Her father would never do something like this to her.
Katya took a deep breath. "Go on."
Leaning forward, she crossed her legs as she picked her pocketbook up off the floor. Fumbling with the clasp, she drew out her pack of cigarettes. Her hands shook as she flicked the lighter, and she hastily inhaled a lungful of nicotine to calm her unsteady nerves.
Nathan shrugged, looking out over the small group gathered in her father's den. Besides Katya and the handful of servants who had been in Charles Morgan's employ at the time of his death, her stepmother was the only other occupant. "I've already explained the arrangements Charles made for the staff. The remainder of the estate has been bequeathed to the Morgan Family Trust. The trust agreement is not a part of the public record, and I am not at liberty to discuss the details of the trust with anyone other than Jillian Morgan. That's all. I've made copies of the will for each of you in case you'd like your own attorneys to review it, and the original will be entered into probate today."
"No!" Katya wailed. "Daddy couldn't have left me without a cent to my name. He wouldn't do that to me."
Nathan Rosenberg slid a sideways glance at her stepmother before answering. "I'm sorry, Katya. As a family friend, I have to tell you that your father was very disappointed in your behavior these last few years. He told me many times that he tried to talk to you about it, but you wouldn't listen. I think he saw this as the only way to make you realize you can't continue down your self-destructive path. At least, not with his help."
"But I'll change. I promise. I'll do whatever Daddy wanted." Katya hated hearing the desperation in her own voice and tried to swallow it down past the lump in her throat. She put a hand on Nathan's arm and pleaded, "I'll do anything, sign anything you want. Please, just tell me what Daddy wants me to do to get my inheritance."
She saw the pity in Nathan's eyes as he pulled her hand off his arm. "I'm sorry, Katya. It's too late. There's nothing I can do. Good-bye." He nodded politely before gathering up the papers he'd spread out on her father's desk and putting them into his briefcase.
As the door closed behind him, Katya slid back into her father's chair. The leather was cold on her bare legs, so she tugged down the hem of her dress.
Excerpted from Room Service by Beverly Brandt Copyright © 2003 by Beverly Brandt
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Posted May 15, 2013
Posted November 14, 2008
Katya Morgan was raised to believe that money equals love. Sent away to baording school upon the death of her mother at age 10, her father has always been absent in every way but one. He's always provided her with every material possession that money can buy. And when he dies and disinherits her, even having her stepmother Jillian take back everything that his money ever paid for, Katya is not only devasted, but broke. <BR/><BR/>When sexy Alex Sheridan, the general manager of the premier Royal Palmetto hotel in Arizona, offers her a job in the housekeeping department, Katya knows she's sunk to a new low. Once a guest, now a lowly housekeeper, Katys is truck with the realization of just how much money it takes to survive. <BR/><BR/>Throw in a saboteur trying to take over Alex's job at the hotel, the hotel owners dimwitted son Chris, a slew of Alex's family, and a drooling dog named "Daisy", and you've got a story you're not likely to forget. <BR/><BR/>I loved ROOM SERVICE. Whether it's due to the fact that Ms. Brandt obviosly did her research on the daily runnings of a hotel, or just the fact that the story is a wonderful one, this is one book you won't be able to put down.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 28, 2003
Katya Morgan is the quintessential poor little rich girl in Brandt¿s latest romantic comedy, ROOM SERVICE. She¿s a jetsetting playgirl who¿s never worked a day in her life ¿ that is until her father dies and she¿s left with nothing that she hasn¿t bought herself ¿ which is, well, nothing. <p> Alex Sheridan is the hardworking manager of the Royal Palmetto hotel, where Katya is staying. Of course, Katya can no longer pay her quite substantial bill. At the request of Jillian, Katya¿s `wicked¿ stepmother, Alex offers Katya a job ¿ as a maid. <p> Needless to say, comedy commences. <p> ROOM SERVICE is a hilarious ride that you will be unable to put down. Underneath Katya¿s cold and calloused exterior are numerous layers, and she slowly evolves from a cold hearted spoiled girl to a sympathetic young women whom all readers will be able to relate to. Of course, this will take the love of a good man. *g* If you are looking for a fun summer read be sure to put ROOM SERVICE at the top of your summer reading listWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 29, 2003
Posted May 2, 2003
Katya Morgan was raised to believe that money equals love. Sent away to boarding school upon the death of her mother at age 10, her father has always been absent in every way but one. He's always provided her with every material possession that money can buy. And when he dies and disinherits her, even having her stepmother Jillian take back everything that his money ever paid for, Katya is not only devastated, but broke. When sexy Alex Sheridan, the general manager of the premier Royal Palmetto hotel in Arizona, offers her a job in the housekeeping department, Katya knows she's sunk to a new low. Once a guest, now a lowly housekeeper, Katya is struck with the realization of just how much money it takes to survive. Throw in a saboteur trying to take over Alex's job at the hotel, the hotel owners dimwitted son Chris, a slew of Alex's family, and one drooling dog named 'Daisy', and you've got a story you're not likely to forget. I loved 'Room Service'. Whether it's due to the fact that Ms. Brandt obviously did her research on the dailing runnings of a hotel, or just the fact that the story is a wonderful one, 'Room Service' is one book you won't be able to put down.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2008
Party animal Katya Morgan is shocked to learn that her dad died, but is even more stunned when she learns he cut her out of his will. She concludes his second wife Jillian did her in and plans to take her stepmother to court, but has no money for a lawyer. Jillian calls hotel manager Alex Sheridan to ask him if he will hire Katya when she goes to stay at there. <P>Alex offers Katya a housekeeping job, which she is forced to accept though she pays for a room with her jewelry. When another housekeeper is hurt in an elevator accident, Katya takes in the woman¿s dog. When the canine becomes ill, Alex returns her jewelry so that she can pawn it to pay her vet bill. When Kayta decides to use the money to hire a lawyer, though he loves her, Alex ends their relationship because he believes she should spend the money on the dog. Katya cares deeply for the dog and Alex, but equates love with money because she has had no other experience since her mother died when she was ten, leaving no future with her beloved. <P>ROOM SERVICE is similar to ¿Maid to Order¿ except that the tough love comes from the lead female protagonist¿s deceased dad instead of a fairy godmother. Readers will enjoy this tale because of the cast especially Katya. The secondary characters provide a sense of deepness that gives the audience true measures of what motivates Katya or Alex. Beverly Brandt, author of RECORD TIME and TRUE NORTH, will receive accolades from an appreciative audience. <P>Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.