Eve Jensen was now past the point of no return and standing in front of the historic Owl’s Roost Inn. The wisdom of accepting ownership of The Roost, a business in which she had no experience, was pale in comparison to her decision to bring her cousin, Tess, along in the venture.
“What were you thinking?” Tess said, shaking her head, taking in the woods, the rustic building, the absence of civilization as she knew it.
“There wasn’t much to think about,” Eve said polishing off the last two Oreos from a gas station snack pack and wiping her hands on her shirt. “I was fired from my job due to a ‘corporate takeover’, my boyfriend thought it was time to ‘see other people’, and worst of all I’m ‘pushing’ thirty. It was fate that Fannie died, and I inherited her inn. Now here we are.”
Eve was 5 foot 8, with hazel eyes, chestnut colored hair. Tess was petite, blonde and recently divorced… for the third time.
“Where we are is hillbilly hell.” Tess pointed back toward the woods that ran along the far side of the parking lot. “I’m willing to put money down on Bigfoot living in there. Bigfoot!”
The Owl’s Roost Inn bordered the Nantahala National Forest, filled with maples, oaks, poplars and almost 88 miles of the Appalachian Trail. It was late September and the trees were still full of leaves and had yet to start changing color.
“That’s crazy talk,” Eve said. “Bigfoot lives in the Northwest. This is Western North Carolina. There’s no Bigfoot in the woods. Just bears. And snakes. And raccoons.”
Eve’s eyes focused back on the the Inn. She had done some research online before leaving Boston and knew that The Roost consisted of two main buildings and two detached cabins.
The cabins were located on the far side of the Inn. The Bluebell cabin had a guest room upstairs and another one downstairs. The Ginseng cabin was divided in half, so that both guest rooms would have a downstairs and an upstairs.
The large building on Eve’s left was the original Owl’s Roost Inn, dating back to the early 1800s. It had four guest rooms on the first floor, four rooms on the second and one in the attic. The second, newer building, on her right had been built to match the original. A breezeway, with a pitched roof reminiscent of a covered wooden bridge, connected the two.
The newer building housed reception, the kitchen and a large great room that doubled as dining. A two-bedroom, owner’s apartment was located upstairs and the only living quarters in the new addition.
A man in his early 30s, with dark, wavy hair and dark eyes exited the building. He made his way across the gravel parking lot toward Eve and Tess.
“Whoa,” Tess said under her breath. “Did you inherit him with The Roost, too?”
He wore Carhart cargo pants and a tight T-shirt that showed off toned muscles. A tool belt hung low on his hips and made him all business when he walked.
“Welcome to The Owl’s Roost,” the man said, extending his hand toward Eve. “You must be the new owner. I’m Elphin Leeks, handyman for The Roost.”
Elphin Leeks didn’t just have a complete socket wrench set and the knowledge of how to use them, he also had a secret. Five years ago, Elphin needed a place to hide. The Inn was fairly small and secluded, with almost 100 acres of forested land surrounding it, most of which abutted National Forest. He had known the previous owner, Fannie Nielsen, for most of his life and trusted her implicitly. She was an excellent judge of character, and never said no to anyone in need. It didn’t matter if the one in need had two legs, or four, or not-a-leg-to-stand-on. What was originally supposed to be a month or two of Elphin fixing broken fence posts and cleaning gutters had turned into years, and now Elphin’s secret was deeply embedded into The Roost.
Unfortunately, a few months ago, Fannie had moved on to a better place. With no children of her own, she left The Roost to her best friend’s granddaughter, Eve. Elphin hoped it wasn’t a mistake, or his days at The Owl’s Roost Inn were numbered.
Eve took Elphin’s outstretched hand. “Yep, I’m Eve. This is my cousin, Tess.”
Elphin looked back at The Inn. All the buildings had stone bases, wide wood plank siding, and cedar shingle roofs. “The Roost is pretty amazing,” he said. “You’re lucky to have inherited her. Come take a look at the view from the deck, then I’ll show you around the main building, and help bring your stuff up to the owner’s apartment.”
Eve, Tess and Elphin walked across the gravel lot, to The Inn. It was an easier walk for Eve than Tess. Eve was dressed sensibly in jeans, a hoody and running shoes. Tess had no sensibility whatsoever. She chose to wear a short, ruffled skirt, a pink knit sweater and shoes she hoped would make her appear taller. Due to Tess’s petite size, much of her wardrobe came from children’s departments.
Eve and Elphin passed through the breezeway, and onto a deck that spanned the length of both buildings. It was lined with wooden rocking chairs and small tables. The railings were made of intertwined branches. Below the deck, a sloping field had been cleared to give a spectacular 180-degree view of the mountains. An oversized stairway flowed from the deck down to a stone walkway leading to the two remote cabins.
“The Owl’s Roost sits at almost 4500 feet,” Elphin said. “That’s the Plott Balsams and Great Smoky Mountains National Park you’re looking at. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Clingman’s Dome.”
The view was magical. There were at least seven layers of tree covered mountains, framed by blue sky. If there were houses on any of the mountains, Eve couldn’t see them.
She turned to look for Tess who wasn’t nearly as taken with the scenery. She was on her knees, near the reception entrance, beating some unfortunate creepy crawly creature into the afterlife with her open-toed, platform, wedge.
“Is she okay?” Elphin asked.
“She’ll be fine. Tess was born and raised a city girl. The whole nature thing is a bit disconcerting to her.”
Elphin nodded his head like he understood. They walked back to Tess, and Eve helped her up.
“Don’t worry,” Elphin said. “It’s not nearly as rustic as it looks. All The Roost’s bathrooms are ensuite and modern. There’s even wi-fi.”
Tess slipped her shoe back on and looked up toward the heavens in relief. “Hallelujah!”