Excerpt – Christmas at Mountain Mist

Christmas at Mountain Mist (A Lilac Romance Book 5)

Copyright © 2018 Pamela Ferguson
Published by Forget Me Not Romances, a division of Winged Publications

Chapter One

Two questions plagued Camille Zignetti as she stepped outside the glistening high-rise and onto the bustling K Street sidewalk. How could she have been so stupid, and how could she have been so stupid? She’d been named one of Washington, DC’s top up-and-coming new lawyers. She’d been certain that taking a job with a famous actor-turned-environmental-activist like Roy Dippel would be the best way to make a difference.

She ducked her head against the swirling snowflakes, wishing suddenly that she were wearing her cozy old ski jacket instead of the chic cashmere coat she’d purchased to impress her boss. Earlier, on her way into the meeting, she’d stopped to capture a holiday selfie, showing off her expensive outfit as she’d posed in front of the lush green garlands and twinkling white lights decorating the most prestigious law firm in town.

Now, all she wanted to do was crawl into a hole and hide. At the meeting, she’d learned her boss faced multiple charges of misappropriation of funds. She’d told the investigators there had to be some mistake. After listening to her protests, they’d informed her they were scrutinizing her activities, too. Looking for evidence of improper behavior.

Her pulse echoed in her ears. The one bright spot in all this was that her former boyfriend, Brady Thomasson, wasn’t here to witness her mistake. Thank God, he was off in some jungle on a medical mission. The only person who’d warned her to stay away from the famous activist, Brady had broken up with her when she’d accepted Roy Dippel’s job offer.

Why hadn’t she listened to Brady’s warning?

Her phone buzzed. A text from her mother. Call Gramps.

Had Mom’s misery monitor detected her silent despair? It didn’t matter that Adeline Zignetti was thousands of miles away in Arizona. She always sensed when one of her four children was in trouble.

Unfortunately, a heart-to-heart with Gramps was not going to rescue Camille from a brewing scandal. Will call him on Christmas, she texted.

Call Gramps NOW!

What was the emergency? Camille ducked into a dimly-lit coffee shop and slipped into a corner booth. Solitary customers hunched silently over their laptops, while scents of cinnamon and coffee wafted through the air. She scrolled through her phone contacts. There he was. Leo Zignetti. She tapped her grandfather’s number. After three rings she heard a click.

“Mountain Mist Retirement Community,” a pleasant female voice said. Jingle Bells played in the background.

“I’m trying to reach Leo Zignetti,” Camille said. “I thought I dialed his private number.”

“You did,” the woman replied, her voice pleasant. “His calls are being forwarded to the administration office.”

Alarm bells sounded in her head. “Is he okay?”

“May I ask who is calling?”

“His granddaughter, Camille Zignetti.”

“One moment please.”

Camille tapped her red-polished fingernails on the tabletop. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d called Gramps. Had he answered the phone himself?

Her phone buzzed. Another text from Mom. Did you get through?

They put me on hold.

“Date of birth?” the woman asked.

“Why do you need that?”

“Patient privacy rules. We need to verify your identity. Can you please tell me your date of birth?”

Camille told her.

“Your grandfather is in stable condition, receiving Step Two care.”

“Step Two?” Camille asked. Her phone buzzed and vibrated, once, twice, three times.

“Step Two is for moderate medical care,” the woman explained, her voice interrupted by the phone’s intermittent buzzing. “The normal care your grandfather receives on a daily basis is Step One. If his condition were to worsen, he’d receive Step Three care.”

Worsen? Camille’s phone vibrated so much it nearly leapt out of her hand. “Can I call you back? Something’s wrong with my phone.” Text messages filled her screen.

How’s Gramps?

What’s happening?

Is he okay?

Her mother’s name flashed as the phone rang. “Mom! What in the world is going on? I must have a hundred texts.”

“Mountain Mist won’t let anybody talk to Gramps,” Adeline Zignetti said, her voice tight with frustration.

“Why not?”

“We don’t know. Your dad tried to call. He was told he couldn’t talk to his own father. You can imagine how that went over. Then Uncle George called. Then Aunt Jen and Aunt Sarah. They were all told the same thing. No information could be shared about Gramps. We asked the grandkids to call and see if any of them could get through.”

“All fifteen cousins?” Camille ran her finger across the phone screen. She couldn’t believe it. Messages from every cousin.

“None of them could get any information,” her mother said. “Just you.”

Why would Gramps pick her as his family point of contact? She hadn’t talked to him in forever. “This sounds like a computer glitch.”

“Your father tried to tell them that. If he weren’t recuperating from knee replacement, he’d be on a plane right now.”

“Gramps is in stable condition. He’s getting moderate medical care. I’ll find out what’s going on.” She hung up. This did not make sense. Her finger hovered over the Mountain Mist phone number.

What better place to hide than a small-town retirement community? She placed her phone on the table, sat back, and crossed her arms. Investigators were searching her social media accounts for evidence of an improper relationship with her former boss. Could the press be far behind? She could just see the headline. Roy Dippel and female associate fund personal travel with donor contributions. Once reporters sank their teeth into that storyline—even if it wasn’t true—they’d be chasing her down for a statement. If she left now, she’d be out of town before the scandal hit.

*

Read Christmas at Mountain Mist to find out what happens next.