Chapter Two: Call Me Mary

"Well, I'll tell you this much, David. There are going to be some big changes made around here." Mary McCloud snapped shut her cell phone just as the muscle-bound masseur walked into the room. Instantly her angry frown was replaced by the sweet smile she always wore around the little people, menial types such as servants and employees.

"You're late," the long-legged blonde chirped, turning over on her tummy so the man could get down to business. "Trying to make a bad impression on your new boss?" The way her green eyes twinkled as she peeped up at the man from beneath her long, golden lashes was meant to show him that she was a good sport. That she had a sense of humor.

That she wasn't an ogre like her cousin Elizabeth.

"Sorry," the big man grunted, lifting his mile-wide shoulders in a casual shrug. "I was checking in with my parole officer."

"Your parole officer?" Mary felt a flutter of fear, which she instantly fought and conquered. This man was her first test. "I didn't think Elizabeth O'Hara was the type to give people in trouble a second chance. Did my cousin hire you herself?"

"Yeah, she did." The muscle-man began preparing the tools of his trade, carefully arranging heated oils and soothing lotions on the tray beside the low, cushioned massage table. "But only after she knew you were taking over Red Lake Spa. I guess she figured you'd be too dumb to get rid of me!"

"Elizabeth always underestimates me," Mary said thoughtfully, watching the big man's enormous hands prepare the perfumed oils with surprising grace. "You won't make that mistake, will you? What's your name, anyway?"

"Marco Maselli," the man replied, vigorously rubbing his massive paws together to warm them before carefully opening a slender bottle of rose-scented oil.

"Ah, yes." Mary got the picture. Maselli was the name of a famous crime family in Red Lake. They practically ran the whole town before the cops crushed them. Elizabeth's grandfather, Redmond O'Hara, had done most of the crushing. Now, with the city cleaned up, Mary got why Marco had come to Elizabeth begging for a job. She sighed as the big man's warm hands began gently rubbing her shoulders.

"Look, Miss McCloud, if you want to fire me, no hard feelings. I know you've got a lot of changes you want to make."

"Yes, a lot of changes." Mary closed her eyes, thinking back to the early morning tour her cousin had arranged for her. Elizabeth O'Hara had put her mark on every inch of Red Lake Spa – everything was shining and bright, the décor all stone and glass and metal, as antiseptic as a hospital ward. "So cold," Mary murmured, speaking her thoughts out loud.

"Cold, Miss McCloud?" Marco stopped the soothing strokes of the massage. "If you're cold, I can go turn up the heat."

"No!" The half-naked woman on the massage table didn't even bother opening her eyes. "Keep going, please. And call me Mary."

"Right, boss." Marco smiled to himself as he went back to work. Elizabeth was right. So far "Mary" was turning out to be a real pushover. He was going to destroy her. But he wasn't going to underestimate her. He had too much to lose.