Chapter One
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Some might say the surrounding fire turned the old place from famous to notorious in the space of a week. As if it were even possible for an inanimate object like the Precipice to be more well-known than it already was. The fire put its claim to fame to the test though. We Never Close. Open 24/7 Since 1907. It had, in fact, survived eleven forest fires in its illustrious history, three of which came within feet of consuming it. And when the smoke cleared, and the ashes settled, it had remained with nary even any carbon blackening of its white-washed porch.
On the internet there were claims that guests had sat on the porch, sipping scotch, watching the flames roll in; so confident were they that the Precipice Hotel would endure. Margaret Ayinger had a waking vision of the penguin suit wearing oil billionaires aboard the Titanic taking brandy in the sitting room as the ship floundered. To their credit though, they had been right. The men and women of the Precipice Hotel. Not the billionaires of the Titanic.
She tried to imagine what it must have looked like. Flames creeping through the forest, stopping just inches from the lawn. The thought made Margaret Ayinger giddy as she drove up the steep grade, squinting through gray haze and small blackened bits of char. The Precipice Hotel had a fireplace in the lobby that had been burning continuously since 1911, fed on a limitless supply of seasoned pine. 1911, she thought, in wonder. Age of the wood and cloth airplane and the Spanish Flu. Up ahead the road narrowed to two lanes. Shortly beyond, the guard rail disappeared.
Thank goodness it isn’t winter, Margaret thought, considering what the ice would do to her traction control. Then again, if it were winter she would have just found some other equally glorious and luxurious place to hang her hat and rest after this, her third divorce. The place was sheik, a little bit hipster, and way outside her comfort zone. Which was exactly what she needed. That, a bubble bath, and a hot fudge sundae. Heavy on the fudge. Her ex-husband, Randal, had been quite a pushy man when it came to her weight. He liked his wives thin enough to display in public, like an antique pair of cuff links, a silk tie, or any of the countless fine things he surrounded himself with.
He had treated her like a thoroughbred the last year of their marriage. Training regiments, special diets, and the ever humiliating annual weigh-in. Just the thought of it made her want to pull over and hurl. Or maybe that was the pine resin haze clouding in through the A/C set on full blast. She didn’t like to think about that time in her life. She preferred, instead, to think about what lie ahead of her. That’s what this little vacation was really about. Self-discovery. Finding out again what made Margaret tick. Who she was with Randal Ayinger no longer in the picture.
With a sizable portion of his fortune bloating her bank account -- severance pay for the years of Hell he’d put her through -- she would enjoy herself, damn it! And to Hell with all the people who looked down on her for it. The reserva-tion she’d booked was open ended and had cost more than the gross national product of a few small countries. If she felt like it, she might stay a week, a month, or even six months. Long enough to see the seasons change. But cer-tainly not longer than it took for the snow to return. Margaret hated the cold. And she was fairly confident she’d be able to work up the courage to do what was necessary before then.

Next: Chapter Two

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