The Sea Star

The Sea Star by Jean Nash Read Free Book Online

Book: The Sea Star by Jean Nash Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jean Nash
that need answering.”
          His tone was businesslike, authoritative. Susanna looked up at him, bewildered. The shifting moonlight and shadow on his finely drawn features made his expression unreadable.
          “Also,” he went on, “now that your brother has disposed of his half of the hotel, I doubt he’ll continue to involve himself in its operation. It might be a good idea if I engage a manager to assist you, one of my people from New York , which will lift some of the responsibility from your shoulders.”
          A swift rage assailed her. So that was his ploy! He’d been playing a part all evening, giving her a gift to throw her off guard, allaying her suspicions with honey-toned compliments. But now his intentions were clear. He was going to infiltrate the hotel with one of his personally trained henchmen and then, in a stealthy coup, he would steal it from under her nose.
          “That won’t be necessary,” she said coldly. “I’m quite capable of running the Sea Star on my own.”
          “I’m sure of that,” he said. “But a good hotel man—or woman—never refuses the opportunity to improve his house.”
          “What do you mean?” she bristled. “The Sea Star—”
          “The Sea Star has some problems,” Jay told her. “As I suspected at the outset, there are safety issues. For example, when was the last time you had an electrical inspection?”
          Taken aback by the question, Susanna thought for a moment, then said, “I’m not sure. It was probably when my father was still alive.”
          “That makes it at least two years ago,” Jay pointed out. “Perhaps I was mistaken about the strictness of your city’s building codes. Your electrical system badly needs to be updated. I noticed, too, that there are no fire escapes on the building. These problems need to be corrected at once. Moreover, when I looked over your books this evening I made no comment, but some changes are definitely in order. I’m willing to wager that your brother’s gambling debts take a sorry toll on your profits. That’s something that may not have concerned you, Miss Sterling, but if the Sea Star is to survive, we’re going to have to put a stop to it.”
          “We?” she said hotly. “I thought you said you weren’t going to interfere with my running the hotel.”
          “That was before I realized I had entered into a losing proposition.”
          Susanna went rigid with rage. “ You entered into a losing proposition? It’s my brother and I who have lost something.”
          “I disagree,” Jay said evenly. “As matters stand now, there’s a good chance we can revive the Sea Star. But if I hadn’t acquired half of the hotel, if your brother continued to drain the profits, it would only be a matter of time before you lost it. And in that case, you’d lose it irretrievably.”
          Susanna could give him no answer. He had spoken the truth. And yet her rage was the greater for its impotence.
          “I’m going home.” Her tone was murderous.
          “Very well.” Jay offered his arm.
          She gave him a scathing look. “I’ll go alone, Mr. Grainger. I don’t need your assistance.”
          “Perhaps,” he said quietly, “you need it more than you know.”

 
    Four
          Her anger was so intense that she slept fitfully that night, but for the first time in weeks she didn’t dream of the tidal wave. She dreamed instead of her father and Jay, odd, disjointed dreams, a kaleidoscope of images that tumbled through her brain.
          She was alone at her father’s funeral, staring at the flower-banked coffin. The flowers were narcissi, fragile and pale, trembling, like Susanna, against the merciless March wind.
          The scene changed. She was in the Sea Star’s dining room and Jay was walking toward her with a crown in his hands. He placed the crown on her head. Its

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