Yours Completely: A Cinderella Love Story

By: Krista Lakes

Chapter One

Ella curled her fingers into a ball, holding them tight in front of her in a way that she hoped looked demure and repentant. Her fingernails dug into her palms. She tried her best to remain calm as the woman in front of her continued the nasty tirade.

“The guests are reporting that the rooms are unsatisfactory.” Delores's hand came down hard on the big oak desk, shaking the smiling pictures of Delores and her biological daughter with various celebrities. Her green eyes blazed at Ella as if the failings of the entire inn and resort were all Ella's fault. “They say that the air conditioning isn't working correctly and no one is doing anything about it.”

“I'll have maintenance look into the air conditioning,” Ella replied slowly, once she was sure she was supposed to reply at all. She kept her tone calm and respectful. Delores was her stepmother and her boss, after all. “We need new ones. These should have been replaced last year.”

“New ones?” Delores squawked, holding a hand to her throat. Two ruby rings sparkled on her bony fingers. “We can't afford new air conditioning units. The ones we have are fine. You just need to have maintenance actually do their jobs.”

Ella dug her fingernails a little deeper into her palms. It would help if there wasn't a new maintenance man every other week. Delores refused to pay anyone their worth, so good help was hard to keep. It had been ages since Ella had a decent handyman around to help fix thinks. Luckily, Ella had put an order for a few new air conditioners, using money she managed to siphon from other parts of the inn. It wasn't enough for the entire inn, but with the cool early summer nights coming up, she was hoping it would be enough. She didn't dare bring up that purchase right now, though. Her stepmother would just rip her another one and find something else to blame on her.

“Of course, Mother. I'll make sure the rest of the housekeeping staff understands as well.” Ella tipped her head politely, hoping that this could be the end of the verbal beating for the day. She still had a lot to do to get ready for the guests arriving this evening.

“Stepmother,” Delores corrected, hissing slightly. Her narrow mouth pinched tighter. “Don't you forget that. I wouldn't have spawned anything so lazy and ungrateful as you.”

Ella kept silent, her head tucked as she stared at the ornate oak desk and bit back the million retorts she had stored for moments like this. She never said them, though. Getting her stepmother angry wouldn't help anything. It would only make things worse.

“That's another thing,” Delores said, pulling out the big leather chair and sitting down at the big desk. She crossed her thin legs and glared at Ella. “If everything isn't perfect this weekend, I'm docking your pay.”

Ella's head jerked up, eyes flashing. She was paid a pittance as it was, and she needed every penny. “What?”

“I'm glad I have your attention.” Delores's green eyes sparkled with an evil gleam. She delighted in torturing Ella and they both knew it. Years of hatred flowed in Delores's gaze. “Everything must be perfect. Mistakes like hot rooms can't be made this weekend. The Connors expect billionaire-level service and we are going to give it to them. If you can't handle that, then I see no reason to pay you. Honestly, I should have fired you a long time ago, but you are family.”

The word family came off Delores's tongue with a venom that made it clear that the word and the meaning were two very different things. Shoving down the hurt boiling in her stomach, Ella nodded meekly. At least the threat was the usual one. Her stepmother had threatened to throw her out every week since her father died.

“Of course, Stepmother.”

Delores watched Ella for a moment through cold, narrowed eyes. Ella stood straight under her glare and dug her fingernails into her palms just a little bit harder, though much more and she'd draw blood. If only her father knew how hard she was trying to keep her promise to him. She would run the inn someday, despite Delores's best attempts to make her quit. She knew she should be used to her stepmother's temper by now, but Delores was in a darker mood than usual.

“You understand just how important this weekend is, don't you, Ella?” Delores's voice was low and dangerous. The last time Ella had heard her voice like this, she had forgotten to rearrange the trash schedule. After that, she wasn't paid for a week.

“Of course I do. We haven't been seeing the usual amount of guests this season and we need some good press to attract more. This wedding between Madelyn Connor and Jason Buchanan must be perfect. Madelyn's billionaire brother has paid for perfect. We're counting on the good press of a beautiful, idyllic wedding.” Ella countered her stepmother's stare, purposefully leaving out the rest of her thoughts. The decrease in guests had more to do with the insane prices Delores insisted on charging rather than negative press. “The inn needs to be known as a place where billionaires marry.”

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