Chapter 12

After retrieving his clothes and fighting off Maddie's insistence that they stay for breakfast, Sam and Elsa left in Elsa's car. Michael and Fiona followed them to the mansion where they could change and pack. A quick trip to the loft allowed Michael and Fiona to pack for the trip, and afterwards the caravan went to the hotel. Elsa hadn't expected Sam to wear a suit and tie, nor did she anticipate that he would shave. Seeing this transformation, she couldn't wait to see what he'd done at the hotel.

Jimmy was working again. Sam pulled the Cadillac up to the entrance, and Jimmy ran around to open Elsa's door and offer her a hand. "Mrs. Axe! Welcome back. We weren't expecting you until tomorrow, but... we're glad to have you here."

"Thank you." She glanced at his name tag. "Jimmy." Elsa gave him a smile.

"Hey, Jimmy." Sam got out of the driver's side and tossed the keys to the valet. "Park it in our spot. We'll be leaving soon with the Westens and we'll be gone a couple of weeks. But don't think you can, you know..." He made a gesture as if he unbuttoned his shirt.

Laughing and shaking his head, Jimmy replied. "No sir, Mr. Axe. I wouldn't dream of it."

"Good. You're doing a great job, Jimmy. Keep it up."

"Thank you, Mr. Axe. Mrs. Axe." Jimmy nodded to her.

Sam handed him a bill. "Take Diana to a movie this time." He winked, took Elsa's elbow, and guided her to the door. The doorman smiled at the couple and greeted them warmly.

"It's nice to see you back at the Regency, Mrs. Axe. Except for the security issue last night, everything's been going great with Mr. Axe at the helm."

"Really. That's good to hear." She glanced at Sam with a thin smile on her face.

"Yes, ma'am. Oh, Mr. Axe, I almost forgot. I wanted to thank you for making that phone call. Because of you and your connections, I got some really good seats for the game on Sunday."

"No problem, Andy. Have a ball."

"I will, sir. It's like a dream come true for my son." He held the door open and let them through.

"What was that all about?"

"Andy's son Myles is very sick. It's not looking good for him, and well, I pulled a favor to get him tickets to a Dolphins game. It's like the kid's dying wish, you know." He shook his head. No, she didn't know, because she never bothered to get on a personal level with her staff. If he had any say in it, that was going to change. "Anyway while you were gone, I took it upon myself to get to know the people who work here. I didn't get around to everyone, but a good number of them I talked to, learned a little about each one, and found ways to... repay them for their outstanding service."

"That's what salaries and tips are for." Elsa stopped on the steps and turned to face him.

"But when you take the time to get to know your people, and do something nice for them because you appreciate them, they'll strive to do even better for you. Just wait, you'll see."

She smirked. "Is that part of your military training?"

"Not exactly. But I did learn it from one of my commanders. He was a great leader."

"Hmm." By her reaction, Sam could tell that he'd struck a nerve and now she would seriously consider everything he said.

The two entered the lobby and the front desk clerks looked up. The two women smiled at Elsa and welcomed her back, but when the ladies' eyes lit on Sam, they looked at each other, and one left her post to meet them before they went to the office.

"Mr. Axe, how are you?"

"I'm fine, Rachel. Thanks."

"Good." She grinned, then pulled something from behind her back. "It's not much, just a card that everybody signed yesterday." She licked her lips nervously and looked at her co-worker before continuing. "We heard you two were finally going on a honeymoon, so a bunch of us contributed for a gift card you can use for dining out before you leave. Or when you come back. Whatever." She stifled a giggle.

Sam opened the get well card and marveled at all the signatures inside. On a separate envelope inside, someone wrote in fine script "Congratulations!" Elsa peered around his shoulder and her eyebrows rose. She glanced up at the clerk. The woman flushed, excused herself, and hurried back to the front desk.

"Well, I'll have to make a note to thank them all. I'll put something together and have Rissa put it into their pay envelopes." Sam put his arm around her and said, "Let's get busy, and then get out of here."

"Mr. Axe, you're okay!" Marissa cried when she saw him pass her door. She got up from her seat and met the couple in the hall. Shock covered her face when she saw Elsa. "Mrs. Axe, you weren't supposed to be back for another day!"

"I was worried about Mr. Axe," Elsa replied as she looked up at Sam, wondering at the extra friendliness that Marissa displayed. It didn't seem to be directed solely at him, although he did get a little more of her sparkling smile.

"Did you tell her about what happened?" Marissa's attention drifted to Elsa. "It was like something out of a disaster movie!"

"Yeah, Rissa. Elsa knows. Can you contact all the managers and have them meet in our office in a half hour?"

"Of course, Mr. Axe! I'll get right on that!" She disappeared into her office, sat and picked up the phone.

"Well, that was easy. Let's go to the office so you can see what I accomplished while you were gone, and we'll meet with our people to make sure everything is set for our absence."

Elsa shook her head slowly, her breath escaping from her lips. "I can't believe it, Sam. These people don't act like this around me."

"I'm telling you, honey, you have to treat them the way you'd want to be treated. It makes all the difference in the world."

"I thought I was doing that." She looked up at him with chagrin and a new respect for her husband in her eyes. A sly smile crossed her face as she said, "I think maybe I need to take a two week course at the Sam Axe School of Management."

He laughed. "That sounds like a good idea. And there'll be no grades, just rewards."

"Like what?" Her eyebrow went up.

"That's a surprise." He closed the door of what had become their office. "Just so you know, I keep an open door policy around here. But if the door is closed, the team knows to stay away. Except Rissa. She knocks now and stays out until I give her the all clear."

Elsa ran a hand up his arm as she spoke, letting it rest on his shoulder. "I'm really looking forward to seeing what else you've got up your sleeve."

"Nothing right now, except two arms that want to hold you." He wrapped them around her and she pulled him closer with hers. He lowered his lips to hers, lavished her with his love, and pulled away only when someone knocked on the door.

"Marissa."

She could barely speak with her breathing short and rapid, and her body tingling with desire. But the sound brought her back down to earth. Reluctantly. "Our managers are probably here."

Breaking away from her with his own hesitancy, Sam called, "Just a minute."

Elsa stepped out of his grasp and said, "If you don't mind, I'll let you handle this. I'll just watch and get an idea of what you've been doing."

"Thanks, Elsa, that means a lot to me." He turned toward the door. "You can come in."

The managers entered the office and took chairs or stood where there was room. Each one greeted the couple, their eyes on Elsa, analyzing how she reacted to Sam's changes.

"Okay, first I want to say thank you to everyone. It appears that while both Mrs. Axe and I were out of the office you kept things together and working properly. We won't have a penthouse to rent for a few weeks, but those are the breaks."

The maintenance manager raised his hand. "Mr. Axe, I'm working on getting a contractor in here to start the cleanup and demo of the upper floor. By the time you return it should be gutted and ready for renovation."

"Thank you..."

"Vince, ma'am." He gave her a smile.

She returned the smile, although hers was laced with chagrin for not knowing his name. "Vince, could you please get some bids for the renovation? We want to maintain the original design, which should make it easier." Elsa looked up at Sam, realizing that she gave the floor to him and butted in. Sam smiled and nodded to her, letting her know he would have said the same thing.

"Now I'd like some feedback from all of you. What do you think of the new system?" Sam asked and his eyes roved around the room. Just from their faces he could see the staff loved it. "Nobody has any problems with it?"

A hand in back went up. "Mr. Axe, I think I speak for everyone when I say that having the authority to actually lead and take care of issues ourselves has been a big improvement." Other voices agreed.

Sam nodded and glanced at Elsa. She looked chastised, so he changed the subject. "Great! Well, I'm sure you all know that Elsa and I are leaving for two weeks to finally take our honeymoon."

A shout rose from the group, along with some clapping.

He laughed and with a hand raised, he managed to quiet them down. "Anyway, we'll leave a number with Marissa where we can be reached but only in an emergency. We want you all to prove yourselves, that you can take care of this place and still make this a great experience for our clients. Understood?"

"Understood!"
"Alright then, everyone's dismissed. See you in two weeks."

After the office cleared of everyone but Sam and Elsa, and a few other administrative details were completed, the couple met Michael and Fiona in the lobby where the two held an impromptu meeting in one corner with Mitch. Jimmy retrieved Michael's car, and the four headed for the airport to board the private jet to take them to paradise.

When Elsa and Sam first married, she'd sorely underestimated him. She loved what he did to her in bed, and out, with his loving ways. If anyone had asked her if she thought he could run a hotel, she would have given them a resounding no. In the end, he turned out to be better than her in some ways. She thought she knew everything about running a business, but Sam showed her she still had much to learn. There was plenty of time for that when they returned.

Until then, Sam and Elsa would enjoy themselves as guests rather than hotel owners. Not even the dark cloud of Daniel Sedgewick could dampen the excitement. With Michael and Fiona along, he wouldn't dare do anything, and she was also grateful for an opportunity to get to know Sam's best friends a little better. She'd spent so much time worrying about her empire, and like Sam said, she didn't take enough time to be concerned about the people who made it happen. That was changing, starting today.