Suite Surrender – First Two Chapters
Emma walked into the Daily Grind with cheeks crimson from the chill of London’s air. The coffee shop’s warmth greeted her like a comforting embrace, filling her senses with the delectable aroma of freshly brewed coffee. As she approached the counter, Emma chastised herself for the previous night’s wine indulgence, aware of the crucial meeting scheduled that day.
Why couldn’t I stop at two glasses? Will I ever learn? Despite her brain feeling sluggish, Emma knew exactly how to get the energy she needed. Her gaze scanned the menu board until she settled on an espresso.
‘Morning, what can I get you?’ the barista asked cheerfully, a refreshing change from the surly server she had encountered the day before who had made her feel like an inconvenience for daring to order a drink.
‘I’ll have a triple espresso, please,’ Emma said with a hint of desperation in her voice.
‘Coming right up.’
‘Thanks.’ Moments later, Emma picked up the steaming cup from the counter. ‘You have no idea how much I need this.’
The barista grinned. ‘I hear you. Mondays can be tough.’
‘Tell me about it.’ Emma savoured a sip of the strong, bitter dark liquid as she surveyed the bustling coffee shop in search of an unoccupied table. To her dismay, every seat was taken with customers either glued to their phones or tapping away on their laptops. It was a sign of the times, and Emma felt a sense of sadness wash over her at the lack of human connection in today’s society.
She caught sight of a woman sitting alone at a table near the back, flipping through the pages of a thick, worn book. The woman appeared to be lost in whatever she was reading, and inexplicably, Emma felt drawn to her. Without allowing herself to overthink the reason behind it, she approached the woman’s table.
‘Excuse me, is this seat taken?’ Emma said, gesturing to the chair opposite her.
The woman looked up from her book and smiled warmly. ‘Nope, it’s all yours.’
Emma slipped out of her jacket and settled into the seat. As she sipped her coffee, she found herself stealing glances at the woman opposite, noticing the subtle freckles across her nose and the gentle curve of her lips pressing together as she read. There was something uniquely endearing about the way she exuded a childlike wonder and innocence that Emma found captivating.
After a few moments of comfortable silence, Emma cleared her throat, feeling a sudden urge to strike up a conversation. ‘I couldn’t help but notice you’re reading Pride and Prejudice,’ she said, gesturing towards the book in the woman’s hands. ‘It’s one of my all-time favourites.’
The woman lifted her eyes from the pages, and Emma felt her heart skip a beat. Up close, she was even more stunning than Emma had imagined, with deep brown eyes that glistened in the warm light overhead.
‘It’s one of my favourites too,’ the woman replied, a smile playing at the corners of her lips.
‘Have you read it before?’ Emma asked, hoping to keep the conversation going.
‘Yeah, but I think it’s time for a modern cover, this one’s so dated,’ she said, closing the novel briefly and running her fingers across the tatty book jacket.
‘I totally agree,’ Emma said, ‘I think they need to give Elizabeth Bennet a bit more of a feminist edge too.’
The woman nodded in agreement, her eyes sparkling with amusement. ‘Definitely. I mean, she’s already a strong, independent woman, but a modern update could really take it to the next level.’
‘We should send our recommendations to the publisher,’ Emma said, tongue-in-cheek.
The woman leaned in, chin on hand, and studied Emma’s face. ‘You know what, that’s not a half-bad idea. They’re making another adaptation next year, and you’d make a perfect Elizabeth Bennet. You’ve got her look.’
Emma raised an eyebrow, surprised. ‘Me? Really? No one’s ever said that to me before. But I don’t think I’d be a serious contender. I couldn’t act my way out of a wet paper bag.’
The woman shrugged. ‘That’s a shame. But auditions aren’t until next year, so you have time to take acting lessons.’
Emma laughed. ‘I’ll keep that in mind. Who knows, maybe I’ll be the next Keira Knightley.’
The woman suddenly reached across the table and, with a gentle touch, plucked a ladybird from a stray strand of Emma’s hair and carefully rested it on the back of her hand.
Emma’s stomach fluttered at the woman’s touch. And when Emma lifted her gaze to meet her eyes, she detected a flicker of something indescribable. Was it possible there was more than just a shared love of literature between them?
Emma felt a rush of emotions as she tried to process her thoughts. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but there was an undeniable attraction to the stranger in front of her. It was unlike anything she had experienced before, and it left her both curious and a little unnerved.
As the ladybird took flight, Emma murmured softly, ‘Ladybirds are a symbol of true love.’
‘Perhaps today is your lucky day.’ The woman’s smile grew wide. ‘By the way, what’s your name?’
Emma frowned, the question momentarily taking her by surprise. Name! Name, what’s my name?
‘Emma,’ she blurted out, feeling a rush of embarrassment at her delayed response.
‘Nice to meet you, Emma.’ The woman extended her hand. ‘I’m Mia.’
Emma was surprised at the rush of excitement that flooded her as their hands clasped together. She was acutely aware of the softness of Mia’s skin and the gentle pressure of her fingers.
For a moment, all Emma could focus on was the sensation of holding Mia’s hand and the way it made her feel. All of the anxiety she had been carrying around since waking that morning dissipated in an instant, replaced by a sense of calmness.
As their hands slowly parted, Emma could not help but feel a twinge of sadness. She wanted nothing more than to hold onto Mia’s hand for just that little bit longer and bask in the comfort it brought her. She was already dreading the moment when they would have to say their goodbyes.
‘So now we’re officially acquainted, what do you do for a living, Emma?’ Mia asked.
‘I work in management,’ Emma said, not wanting to divulge too many personal details. It was not that she was being evasive; it was just that the less she thought about her job and what it entailed, the better.
Mia raised an eyebrow. ‘Management, huh? That’s quite vague. Do you manage a team, a company, or something else entirely?’
‘I manage a team,’ she said. ‘It’s not the most glamorous job, but it pays the bills.’
Mia’s eyes lit up. ‘Oh, I see. But you’re a boss lady. I like that.’
Emma could not help but smile at the way Mia said ‘boss lady.’ ‘So what about you?’
‘Me?’ Now it was Mia’s turn to look uncomfortable. ‘Oh, um… you know, I drift from one job to the other. I’m still trying to find myself, well that’s what I keep telling myself.’
‘There’s nothing wrong with that,’ Emma reassured her.
Mia laughed. ‘Try telling my mother that. She’s convinced I’m going to end up homeless, living in my car, or worse, moving back home and living in the basement.’
‘I’m sure it won’t come to either of those scenarios,’ Emma said. ‘You never know, you might stumble upon your true calling when you least expect it.’
‘How I see it is, if it happens it happens and if it doesn’t it doesn’t, I’m easy.’
She could not help but feel a pang of envy towards Mia’s carefree attitude to life. In comparison, Emma was constantly consumed by her work and the pressure to maintain her position as a dynamic go-getter.
‘Maybe you could give me some tips on how to be a boss lady like you,’ Mia teased.
‘I’d be happy too,’ Emma said, nervously tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.
‘Oh crap! I didn’t realise the time. I’ve got an appointment,’ Mia said hastily rising from her seat and accidentally hitting the table. She quickly looked at Emma with a regretful expression. ‘I’m gutted I don’t have more time. I could have spent all day chatting with you.’
‘I know what you mean,’ Emma said, her tone reflecting a hint of melancholy.
Mia wrapped her scarf around her neck and shoved her book into her bag before fishing out a pen and scrap of paper. Quickly scribbling her number on it, she handed it to Emma.
‘If you ever want to have an in-depth chat about books, or anything else, give me a call.’
Emma took the paper, their fingers touching fleetingly. ‘I will.’
Mia backed away. ‘Great. I look forward to hearing from you.’
Mia turned and hurried out of the door. For a moment, Emma sat frozen, staring at the empty space where Mia had been just seconds before. She was almost too embarrassed by her reaction. Here she was, a woman at the top of her game, reduced to feeling like a starstruck teenager.
Emma’s phone buzzed, pulling her out of her thoughts. She groaned as she read the message:
‘Where the hell are you? She’s on the warpath.’
What’s new? Emma’s good mood evaporated as she quickly typed back.
Tell her I’m on my way.
As she gathered her belongings, Emma glanced down at the scrap of paper Mia had given her, and a smile slowly spread across her face. She knew she would contact Mia and make arrangements to meet up again. Emma was determined to ensure that this wasn’t a one-off encounter. As she walked out of the café, she felt a surge of energy and excitement within her. She was now eager to face the day’s challenges, knowing that there was something new and exciting to look forward to.
This sudden change in perspective transformed what had once been a dreary day into one filled with endless possibilities.
As Mia approached The Mayfair Heritage Hotel, she was immediately captivated by its stunning beauty. The luxurious five-star hotel boasted ornate golden doors that glinted in the sunlight, while tall glass windows stretched from the ground to the roof. But it was the interior that truly took her breath away. As she stepped inside, she was greeted by plush carpets that cradled her feet with each step, while crystal chandeliers illuminated the grandeur of the space. The walls were adorned with intricate art that depicted scenes from ancient history, adding a touch of opulence and sophistication to the already impressive hotel.
Mia approached the petite receptionist, who was focused on tapping away on her keyboard. ‘Hi,’ she said. ‘I’m here for an interview with Mr Larking.’
The receptionist gestured towards the lifts. ‘Interviews are being held on the basement floor. Once you come out of the lift, it’s signposted to the room.’
‘Thanks…’ Mia glanced down at the name tag affixed to her lapel. ‘Denise.’
As she turned to leave, Denise called out, ‘Good luck!’ Mia turned briefly and gave a grateful wave in response. As she stepped into the lift and pressed the button for the basement, she attempted to refocus her mind on the upcoming interview. It was crucial she got the job, and to do this, she had to impress the interviewer. Yet, every time she tried to concentrate, her thoughts were interrupted by memories of Emma. Mia couldn’t believe the serendipitous encounter she had with her. It felt almost surreal. Mia had struggled to keep her composure during their conversation; her nerves had made her feel slightly queasy.
When the lift doors pinged open, Mia stepped out and followed the signs along the corridor until she reached the interview room. A tall man in a grey suit, who appeared to be in his sixties, greeted her from behind a desk with a stern nod and gestured for her to sit. Nervously, Mia straightened her blouse and tried to focus on being present. But again, her mind wandered back to Emma. I wonder if she’ll call.
The man interrupted her thoughts with a sharp cough. ‘I’m Mr Larking, Head of Housekeeping.’ His voice was harsh and disinterested. ‘Ms. Thomas, I presume?’
Mia met his gaze and tried to sound confident. ‘Yes, that’s me.’
‘You’re late. Not a good start.’ He grunted and leaned back in his chair.
Mia swallowed hard. ‘I’m sorry. I got held up in traffic.’
With a dismissive wave of his hand, he said curtly. ‘Let’s get on with it then. Why do you think you’re suitable for this position?’
Mia launched into her rehearsed response, attempting to project confidence and professionalism. Nevertheless, her mind was still preoccupied with thoughts of Emma, and she found herself stumbling over a few of her answers.
Mr Larking’s expression remained impassive as he scribbled notes on a pad. ‘Hmm. I see. And how do you handle difficult customers?’
Mia clasped her hands together in front of her and began to describe a scenario from her previous job. However, just as she was getting into the specifics, her phone rang in her pocket, interrupting her flow. Cursing her forgetfulness, she retrieved her phone and glanced at the caller ID – her mother. Hastily, she silenced it. Mr Larking gave her a disapproving look, and Mia offered a sheepish grin.
‘Apologies for that,’ Mia said. ‘Now, where was I? Dealing with difficult customers… as I was saying—’
Her phone began to vibrate. Oh, bloody hell. She retrieved her phone once more and switched it off, but the disturbance had thrown her off balance. After that incident, the rest of the interview was a downward spiral. Mia realized that her mistake of leaving her phone on had sealed her fate, and there was no way to salvage the situation. She had blown it big time. It appeared that Mr. Larking had already reached a decision. He rose from his seat, and Mia promptly stood too.
‘Thank you for your time, Ms. Thomas. You will be notified of my decision in due course.’
‘Oh, right, well, um, thanks. It was nice meeting you, Mr Larking.’ Not!
Mia departed the room and made her way to the hotel lobby, her mind racing as she relived the interview. She scrutinized every sentence uttered and those she hadn’t had the chance to express. The entire process had lasted no longer than ten minutes. I’ve possibly established a new record for the briefest interview in history.
As she strode past the reception desk, Denise smiled at her.
‘Good luck with the outcome,’ Denise said cheerfully.
‘Thanks,’ Mia replied, returning the smile.
As she stepped outside, she scanned her surroundings and spotted a nearby bar. Without any hesitation, she strode towards it, drawn in by the prospect of having a drink to help her unwind and figure out her next steps.
Ordering a gin and tonic, Mia sat by the window and watched as people hurried by, walking at a frantic pace, as if they were late for something important. They reminded her of ants in a frenzy, all moving with a sense of purpose, yet in different directions.
Her phone vibrated. Thinking it was her mother again, she fished it out of her pocket and tapped on the message. To her surprise, it wasn’t from her mother.
Hey, Mia, it’s Emma. When are you free to continue our chat?
With a smile on her face, Mia quickly replied.
I’m free now 😊
When the phone beeped again, Mia’s smile faded.
Want to meet me at The Mayfair Heritage Hotel?
A soft gasp escaped Mia’s lips. Did she really want to return so soon after her car-crash interview? Why had Emma chosen it when there were plenty of other bars in London where they could have met? Moreover, the prices for a drink would be exorbitant. I’d probably have to re-mortgage my flat just to pay for one round. She stared at the message for a few more seconds, unsure.
‘Oh, what the hell,’ she typed back, ‘sure,’ before she could change her mind.
Now that was out of the way, there was only one thing left to do. Taking a deep breath, Mia picked up her phone and dialled her mother’s number. The phone rang a few times before her mother answered, sounding worried.
‘How did the interview go?’
Mia hesitated before responding. She couldn’t tell her that she rang bang in the middle of it and messed it up, and she also couldn’t give her false hope. There was only one thing to do.
‘It didn’t go well, Mum. I don’t think they’re going to offer me the job.’
She could hear her mother’s soft sigh. When she spoke, her tone was defeated. ‘Oh no, Mia. What happened?’
Mia took a deep breath before recounting the interview and her mistakes, omitting to mention her mother’s phone call. As she spoke, her mother’s voice became increasingly sombre. When Mia finished, there was a moment of silence before her mother started sobbing.
‘What are we going to do now?’
Mia’s heart ached at her mother’s distress. She knew her mother had been struggling to make sense of her sister’s disappearance. Although Mia didn’t believe anything sinister had happened to her, she still wanted to reassure her that she would find her sister.
‘I’ll find a way, Mum. I’ll get my foot in the door at the hotel somehow.’
There was a pause on the other end of the line before Mia’s mother spoke again, her voice still shaky. ‘Okay, but be careful. It’s bad enough losing one daughter. I couldn’t cope with losing you too.’
‘Mum, Laura isn’t dead. You’ve got to stop thinking like that. You know what she’s like,’ Mia reassured her.
‘But she’s never gone this long without contacting me before. I just know something’s wrong,’ her mother replied, her voice trembling.
‘Look, I’ll call you tomorrow. I need to check into my Airbnb. I promise I’ll sort this out,’ Mia said, hoping to alleviate her mother’s worry.
Her mother’s sobs subsided, and Mia could hear the relief in her voice. ‘I know you will. You’re a good girl. You’ve never given me any trouble.’
Unlike Laura, whom Mia was convinced was born looking for drama. Despite being only two years younger, Laura had always been the bossy one, always in trouble. When Laura found work at The Mayfair Heritage Hotel, Mia had naively thought her sister would settle down and become responsible. But six months into the job, Laura had vanished without a trace. The police showed no interest in investigating, and the hotel staff were dismissive in their correspondence regarding Laura’s whereabouts. So once again, Mia had to put her life on hold to search for her sister.
She drained her drink and caught an Uber to the flat she had booked for two weeks. It was nothing to write home about, but it was cheap and cheerful and was only going to serve as a pit stop to sleep at while she looked for her sister.
By the time she had showered and had a snack, it was nearly one o’clock. After a quick spray of her favourite perfume, and she exited the property. When Mia arrived at The Mayfair Heritage Hotel’s bar, she was struck by its breath-taking beauty. Waterfalls cascaded down the walls, creating a soothing ambiance that was both luxurious and serene. The bar’s stylish minimalist interior was equally impressive, with sleek lines and elegant furnishings that exuded sophistication.
Mia couldn’t help but feel a sense of awe as she took in her surroundings. It was clear that no expense had been spared in creating this stunning venue.
As she took a seat at the bar, her phone pinged, and she checked the message:
Come up to the Penthouse Suite
Mia was taken aback. A Penthouse Suite? When Emma had mentioned that she worked in management, she had assumed it was for a small company, not a large corporation with the financial means to put up their employees in such opulent accommodation. Despite the unease that had taken root in her chest, Mia made her way to the lift and was soon on her way up to the top floor. As the lift doors slid open, Mia stepped out into a stunning foyer that took her breath away. The space was elegantly decorated with high-end furnishings, sparkling chandeliers, and beautiful artwork that adorned the walls. The air was perfumed with a delicate fragrance that made Mia feel as though she had stepped into a dream. For a moment, Mia stood there, taking in her surroundings, feeling overwhelmed by the sheer luxury of it all. It was hard to believe that she was in the same building that she had walked into just a few hours ago.
She made her way down the hallway, the sound of her heels clicking with each step. She couldn’t wait to see what the Penthouse Suite looked like inside. As she neared, the door opened, and Emma leaned over the threshold, a smile on her face.
‘Hey, Mia, come on in!’ Emma said, her voice ringing with excitement as she gestured for her to follow her.
Mia entered the suite, and her eyes widened. The sheer opulence of the space was like the rest of the hotel. Emma guided Mia towards a stylish bar tucked away in the corner of the room, where a bottle of champagne was chilling in an ice bucket. The bar was elegantly crafted from sleek black marble, and the stools were upholstered in soft, plush leather. Emma poured two glasses and handed one to Mia.
Mia took a sip, feeling the bubbles tickle her nose. ‘Mmm, this is good, isn’t it?’
Emma nodded in agreement.
‘I must say, it’s quite small in here,’ Mia said, trying to break the ice as she looked around the room.
Emma laughed. ‘I know. I’m thinking of asking them to swap it for something a little more subtle. Life, eh?’
‘Yeah,’ Mia said, wondering if Laura had cleaned the room in which she was now standing drinking champagne. ‘But I think I’d keep it, if only for the view.’
‘You’re right,’ Emma said, looking out the window.
Mia drank as she walked around, taking a closer look at the artwork, which she gathered must be worth a small fortune. ‘Your company must really think highly of you to put you up in a place like this.’
Emma shrugged, a playful smirk on her lips. ‘Well, they do say I’m their star employee.’
Mia raised an eyebrow. ‘Oh, really? I’m starting to think I should apply for a job there.’
Emma laughed again. ‘I’d recommend it, but I have a feeling you wouldn’t be satisfied with just any old room.’
Mia grinned, feeling a spark of excitement between them. ‘You know me too well.’
‘Shall we sit down?’ Emma said, gesturing towards the plush sofa.
Mia followed her over, feeling a thrill of anticipation in her chest. As she settled down next to Emma, she couldn’t deny the chemistry between them. The air around them felt charged with electricity. The question was, where would the night take them?
Copyright Jade Winters 2023