At the most southern peninsula on the eastern shore of Maryland, lay a sleepy seaside town by the name of Somerville. The town was small, with a few local businesses scattered throughout Main Street, and the closest neighbors an hour to the east. To the west was the Chesapeake Bay, to the north was a state forest and local farmlands, and to the south there was nothing but water. Despite the size of small Atlantic town, there was one thing that Somerville was never in shortage of: romance.
Ever the destination venue, Somerville had guests from every corner and crevice of the shore arrive for parties, weddings, and showers alike. From the local florist to the bed & breakfast, most of the locals took part and took pride in providing excellent festivities for all who chose to visit. The bakery itself was so well-known that they were now shipping out cakes across the country, and the local seafood was the star of every dish at every event.
It could be said that the town was such a desirable place to go because of the setting—the piers, marina, beaches—but the locals knew that was just the icing on the cake to their desire to please. Yes, the air was cleaner, the roads lined with neatly trimmed trees, but there was such a sense of comradery amongst the natives that kept all happy moments running smoothly. And at the hub of all things joy-related was one place: The Verance Inn.
A family staple in Somerville, The Verance hosted the most lavish of holiday parties, proposals, and bridal affairs. The large estate consisted of several hundred acres of land, complete with an extravagant garden and carriage house. It was truly a place for strangers and neighbors alike to gather and celebrate. Once a person crossed that threshold, they would carry a piece of The Verance with them for the rest of their days.
The Verance sat up on a hill on the east side of town—far enough inland that it wasn't impacted from rising waters of storm surges and had somehow escaped damages from hurricane winds during its reign at the most popular venue on the shore. It was a place where a couple could enjoy a night out for a meal together, or a place where one could merely stop by to receive some wisdom within the pages of the library. Either way, the draw of The Verance was unparalleled to any spot in town—with a feeling of serenity and calm when you walked through the door.
The Verance had a way of bringing out the light in people—the desire to help a stranger, or volunteer at the local schools—but it also had a way to bring out honesty that made one almost superstitious. For instance, in the midst of the last Christmas party Mrs. Henderson took it upon herself to climb up on the piano and declare that she was no longer seeing her husband, and instead was dating a man from Westport—regardless of the two of them arriving for the celebrations together with their adult children in tow. Their separation had yet to be publicly announced, despite having been, as Mrs. Henderson said, for several years now.
It could have been the champagne that was flowing that caused the outburst from Mrs. Henderson, but the owner and management chalked it up to yet another moment of justice sought by the estate itself. While the grounds were serene, but there was still an air of mystery to the home itself. The long-running suspicion was that The Verance brought out a person's true nature, and if you had any secrets worth hiding it would be the place to avoid. Visitors knew not of the reputation the inn had given itself, coming for the promise of a charming time partaking in some time on the water, or getting acquainted with the horses at The Verance's stables. They came with good intentions, seeking a good time, and almost all of the time they left having their goals accomplished.
Then there's the occasional occurrence ala Mrs. Henderson.
It could be said that a bad day happens now and then, as Mrs. Henderson seemed to have, but the positive experiences at The Verance highly outweighed the negative ones.
The inn resembled a mansion—with four stories and amenities from a full-service restaurant to a small store-front featuring everything from home-made jams to blown-glass ornaments and artwork. The inside kept bright Victorian décor and cathedral ceilings complete with chandeliers, while the exterior was full of sprawling gardens, stone paths, and a gazebo in the heart of the estate. Further past the gardens were the stables and riding trails that curved around exotic trees and man-made ponds full of fish.
The Verance was busy throughout the year, but the winter brought a much different clientele than the spring and summer did. The warmer seasons were full of vacations from work, spring weddings and honeymoons. Winter was engagement season. From Christmas through Valentines, couples emerged for evenings that ended with a celebration—fresh flowers lining the halls and tables, violinist on standby, and a chef that created a menu that would make any person say, "I do."
The Christmas season had passed, as did New Years, but now The Verance was gearing up for it's favorite, most extraordinary holiday: Valentine's Day.