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A Day Tea Die For Elle Dalton

 

After a string of murders at the Ivory Rose Hotel in Shadow Creek, Diana Blaise’s Aunt Jolene made the heartbreaking decision to sell the property.
Determined to keep the business in the family, Diana is now the new owner.
It's been another year and she's ready to repair the hotel's reputation, along with giving it a brand new look.
To celebrate the makeover, she throws one of the largest tea parties in town. Along with some of the locals, Aunt Jolene and Diana’s overbearing mother are guests at the event.
Her mother promises that the night of festivities will end in another disaster. Even though Diana is terrified, she chooses to stay positive.
When Ervin Gaines decides to take their relationship to the next level, she decides that luck is on her side.
She's wrong.
During the event, she and Clover, the cat, stumble upon the dead body of the new celebrity chef.
When yet another staff member dies, Diana suspects that someone is sabotaging her happiness.
She must find out who that person is before the hotel's reputation is destroyed completely, and she loses everything she worked so hard for… or even her life.

 

A Day Tea Die For Elle Dalton Book Chapter One

 

I smoothed out my long hair before adjusting my blazer, bought especially for the big day.

I wasn’t much of a suit girl, but I wanted to look professional.

Today, I was a business owner. It was my first day taking on all the responsibility of running the Ivory Rose Hotel.

It wasn’t a decision I came to lightly. I had started out as an event planner, which wasn’t a walk in the park.

I certainly didn’t plan to move back home from New York and become the owner of the hotel within the year. The idea of taking over the entire hotel was daunting, to say the least.

But after a series of murders led to a significant slowing in business at the Ivory Rose in Shadow Creek, Aunt Jolene lost her passion for running the hotel chain.

The hotel in Shadow Creek was, prior to the crimes, her biggest moneymaker. After months with zero big events being scheduled, she decided to sell the entire chain of hotels one after the other. When she told me it was time for her to retire, I felt personally guilty and I couldn’t stand the thought of the hotel being sold to some stranger.

I’d saved up quite a bit of money while modeling in New York. Determined to keep the Ivory Rose Hotel in the family, I volunteered to purchase it. I also promised my aunt that I was going to bring the hotel to its former glory.

It wasn’t the fault of the hotel that a few evil people had found their way in. The Ivory Rose had always meant so much to me.

The murders had impacted the reputation of the hotel, but I knew I could win back the trust of the Shadow Creek community. After all, some good had come out of the murders. With the first set of murders, I’d been able to identify the killers of a girl who had been lost in Shadow Creek for many years.

The last couple of months, I’d done a fair amount of redecorating and remodeling and worked with my aunt on different ideas that I thought could bring more attention to the Ivory Rose. Today was the day I’d finally reveal them to the public.

I was holding a large tea party for leaders of the community and other local business owners. They’d all invited people and, to my relief, I expected a large crowd to show up. I’d been nervous that with everything that had happened, people would be resistant to attend our reopening event, but so far, it looked good.

A scratching at my hotel door caught my attention and I sighed as I went to let Clover in.

“Are you also excited about today?” I asked the fluffy orange cat as he darted into the room.

To my surprise, Aunt Jolene was the one to answer me just as I was about to close the door again. “Yes, actually, we’re quite excited.”

She appeared in the doorway with my mother in tow. I shouldn’t have been surprised. Clover and my aunt were attached at the hip.

“Sweetheart, I’m just so proud of you.” Aunt Jolene pulled me in for a hug and pressed her lips on my cheek.

“Thank you, Aunty Jolene.” I tightened my arms around her.

I glanced at my mother from over my aunt’s shoulder. She was already clenching her jaw. I already knew I would not be getting the same affection from her.

“Are you all right, Mother?” I asked, pulling away from Aunt Jolene. I shouldn’t have asked. I should have known it would just open up the conversation for her to complain.

“No, not quite. You have me sitting here in this cursed building and I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

She was so dramatic. She didn’t believe the hotel was cursed. It was just her way of punishing me.

She hated that I moved from New York to Shadow Creek to work with my aunt. My entire adult life, my mom managed my modeling career. I was quite successful in New York, which led to her being able to open a small modeling boutique agency. When I left the agency, she lost a lot of her credentials as a successful agent. Essentially, she had ridden on the coattails of my success. I was her meal ticket.

But I hated modeling. I never much liked being the center of attention. I didn’t enjoy being followed by paparazzi, being unable to live a private life. And that only worsened when it was discovered that my boyfriend at the time was cheating on me. The tabloids were all over that. I had to experience the heartbreak publicly.

Thankfully, the pain caused me to reclaim my life. I had reached my breaking point. I realized I didn’t have to live in New York and continue to model. So, I moved back to my hometown of Shadow Creek and said goodbye to a life of glamour. Besides the unexpected murders that occurred at the hotel, I was happy with being back in town.

My mother couldn’t accept that and at every given opportunity, she tried to convince me to go back to New York. I knew she was secretly happy about the crimes that had occurred at the Ivory Rose. She thought it would force me to stop working at the hotel. She didn’t even hide her delight when she heard Aunt Jolene was selling all of the Ivory Rose Hotels. Then, of course, she was infuriated when I bought the one in Shadow Creek.

I didn’t care, not today. I would not let her snuff out my excitement. I felt like everything was finally falling into place for me.

Aunt Jolene shook her head. “The hotel is perfectly safe, Laura, you know that.”

“I most certainly don’t. It’s not normal to have so many murders happening in the same place. I don’t think my daughter is safe here.”

I rolled my eyes. “Well, I feel perfectly safe. Don’t you, Aunt Jolene?”

“Absolutely. And I love the new look and feel of the hotel.” She lowered her gaze to where Clover was rolling onto his back. “This new carpet gives the hotel a classic but elegant look.”

My mother coughed. “White seems like a bold choice. Blood would stain it quite easily.”

My heart leapt to my throat. “Excuse me?”

“I’m just saying, if there are any more murders, I’m not sure a white carpet is the best choice.”

Aunt Jolene shot her a look of disapproval. “Laura, there’s not going to be another murder, how could you say that to your daughter on her special day?”

“Because she doesn’t support me, of course,” I said with a loud sigh and reached for my purse, ready to go downstairs. I was done spending any more time with my mother.

“I’m supportive,” my mother retorted. “I’m here, aren’t I?”

Bile filled my stomach as I glared at her. “I don’t remember asking you to be here, Mom.”

Her expression darkened. “What? You don’t want me to be at the hotel today?”

I was tempted to nod. The last thing I wanted was to celebrate with her. Her presence made my stomach knot with anxiety. My mother had only ever been supportive of me when I was making her money as a model. The only reason she came was to watch me fail.

It didn’t matter. I wasn’t going to fail. And I would work hard to ignore her scathing remarks.

When I didn’t respond to my mother’s question, my aunt rested a hand on my shoulder. “If you want to be here to support Diana on this day, try to find something positive to say.”

My mom blew out a breath. “I’m sure if you can avoid any tragedy, the carpet will hold up.”

“Thanks, Mom.” I shook my head in disbelief.

She was partly right. White carpets were a risk for stains. I knew that when I had them added to every room. But I wanted to change the image of the hotel and white gave the place that fresh look. Or maybe I was going for an innocent look. Either way, white just felt like a clean slate. And the carpets were expensive and luxurious because I wanted to appeal to the nearby town elites and other rich tourists.

We weren’t going to be overflowing with business anytime soon. It would take a few years for the locals to forgive the crimes that were commited. While the hotel gained trust with the community, wealthy people looking for a luxury vacation would be our target customers.

Aunt Jolene loved the idea and was fully supportive of the decisions, but secretly, I was nervous. The hotel looked great and the new service staff had been extensively trained. I just wasn’t sure if our future clientele would be thrilled with it.

My face must have shown my anxiety because my aunt put her hand on my shoulder.

“Today is going to go wonderfully, dear. I’m so proud of you, and I’m so happy that the hotel is in your hands.”

My lips curled into a smile. “Thank you, Aunt Jolene. That means a lot.”

“I need a drink,” my mother interrupted. “Can we go down to the bar?”

My aunt glanced at her, then back at me. “I suppose we’ll see you in an hour for the tea party.”

I nodded and as she exited, Clover dutifully followed her.

They shut the door behind him and I breathed a sigh of relief that I was no longer in my mom’s presence. Until there was another knock on the door.

“Did you forget something?” My heart already felt heavy when I went to open it to find Ervin standing there with a grin.

“I did indeed forget something,” he said as he pulled me close and kissed me.

His lips on mine always gave me butterflies. I thought we would have exited the honeymoon stage by now, but I was still crazy for the man.

Ervin had been vital in the renovations of the hotel. He inspired and encouraged me every step of the way. Without him, my aunt, and my best friend, Karen, I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish everything I had.

When our lips finally parted, he gazed down into my face. “How are you doing?”

“Well, you saw my mom leaving, didn’t you?”

He dipped his head to the side. “So, not well?”

“I hate myself for thinking this because she’s my mother, but I wish she hadn’t come. The last thing I need is the stress of dealing with her.”

“Don’t worry about it, sweetheart. Karen and I have already talked about it. We’re ready to run interference on her for you all night. During the entire tea party, you won’t need to worry about your mother, I promise.”

“That’s so sweet, thank you,” I pulled him in for a hug.

I loved that my boyfriend and my best friend got along so well. Prior to us officially dating, Karen had pushed me to make my move on Ervin. I didn’t for a long time because he seemed hesitant to ask me out. He had been worried about how it might make things awkward at work.

He had briefly dated Chloe, another woman who had worked at the hotel with us as my assistant. She hadn’t been able to let him go and had constantly flirted with him in an attempt to get him back, even to the point of trying to turn Ervin against me.

But we decided not to let Chloe stop us from following our hearts. For a while, we tried to date secretly, but we lived in a small town and word eventually got out. Chloe was infuriated and made no secret of it, stomping around the hotel and calling me a boyfriend stealer. Which was silly considering I’d known Ervin all my life and had been close to him in high school. She only went on a few dates with him. He wasn’t her boyfriend, and she didn’t know him nearly as well as I did.

When I bought the hotel, I decided I wasn’t going to put up with her attitude any longer. I planned to fire her, but she saw it coming and quit as soon as Jolene made the announcement about the shift in ownership.

Life at the hotel had been lighter and much more enjoyable since Chloe’s departure. I had my aunt, my boyfriend, and my best friend working with me. There was no drama to get in the way of my happiness.

However, my happiness only put more pressure on me to have a successful launch of the Ivory Rose. I didn’t want to lose the life I had. For the first time since I was a child, I was truly happy.

“What’s wrong?” Ervin asked.

“I’m just nervous,” I admitted to him, “I need things to go well today.”

“And they are! Babe, you’ve done an amazing job revitalizing the place. People are going to love it. Revel in your hard work. You deserve it.”

I kissed his cheek. “I’ll try.”

“Good.” He paused. “I actually need to ask a quick favor.”

“Right now?” I asked, a bit frantic. “Ervin, I’m so busy today.”

“It’s not a big deal. I think I just left my phone in your dresser drawer last night. Can you check?”

“Oh, is that all? Sure, go grab it,” I motioned to my nightstand.

“Can you?” he asked.

I raised a brow at him. “Okay, sure.”

He was being a bit weird. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it.

I went over to the drawer of my nightstand and opened it.

“No, I don’t see your phone. Are you sure you didn’t take it with—”

I stopped mid-sentence when I noticed a small, black velvet box. I picked it up, knowing it wasn’t mine. I opened it and a stunning diamond tucked into a band of white gold blinked at me.

I didn’t put it together at first. It wasn’t until I turned around and saw Ervin down on one knee that I gasped.

“What are you doing?” I asked, my throat tight with emotion.

“Diana, this is a monumental day, and the past few months working on the hotel with you have been the best of my life. I’ve gotten to see everything you’re capable of. You are a smart, beautiful, clever, funny, and creative woman. I’d be a fool if I didn’t ask you to spend the rest of your life with me. Diana Blaise, will you marry me?”

Tears welled up in the corner of my eyes. “Yes.” I swallowed the tears lingering inside my throat. “Yes, of course. I will marry you.”
 

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