Excerpt: The Crystal Crib
Sonja’s neck prickled as she approached the grand entrance to the hotel at Santa’s Magical Wonderland in Iceland and halted beneath a banner that read: live your dreams this christmas. Against a backdrop of snow-cloaked wooden lodges, shuttle carts shaped like white cats zipped along carrying smiling moms and dads with giggling kids. A cacophony of Christmas tunes blasted from the rides in the nearby theme park, lending the whole scene a manic out-of-this-world feel, as if a cartoon had come to life.
Her instincts were usually accurate, but Sonja couldn’t spot anyone watching her—apart from two scruffy, black birds perched on a wire above the road. She squinted at them, a sense of unease wriggling up her spine. Perhaps she just felt guilty for coming here without telling her aunt.
Rubbing her neck, she walked under the impressive ice-palace facade of the Magical Wonderland hotel and into the foyer. A familiar sense of isolation closed around her as she threaded her way between the happy family groups. Twin girls dashed past, holding a younger boy firmly by the hand, and she paused to watch them catch up with their mother and have a group cuddle. When she was younger she’d longed for a brother or sister, although she’d have been satisfied with just a mother or father.
With a sigh, she ignored the people and concentrated on assessing the place with a travel professional’s eye. Despite the crowds, the hotel had a welcoming ambience. A huge Christmas tree hung with shiny decorations reached to the top of the glass-domed atrium, while the ice-palace theme gave the place a sense of fantasy.
The resort staff wore green velvet outfits trimmed with white fur. A receptionist wearing the name badge frida looked up and smiled as Sonja approached the desk.
“May I help you, madam?”
“I have an appointment with Vidar.” Using the Managing Director’s first name made Sonja cringe, but she’d been told this was how people addressed each other in Iceland because they didn’t have normal surnames.
Frida’s gaze sharpened with interest before she checked her computer screen. “You are Sonja?”
At her nod, the woman extended a hand, indicating she should come around the end of the reception desk to a door marked private. On impulse, Sonja grabbed a red and white button with the slogan live your dreams this christmas as she passed a display of resort freebies and dropped it in her pocket. She’d collected buttons when she was a little girl and still kept up the habit. Perhaps it would bring her luck when she met Vidar. Frida punched in a security number and held open the door.
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