Purchased by the infamous pirate Calico Jack Rackham in 1719, the Peregrine Inn, on the weather-beaten North Carolina coast, is a haven for the wanderer. Owned and operated by Bonny Bee Rackham, “a peerless woman,” the inn is run by her capable staff. Please come in. It’s raining and there’s a place for you by the fire.
Nestled in her feather bed, Bonny Bee watched the shadows of raindrops dance on the walls and ceiling. Too excited to sleep, she reviewed the tasks yet to be done before the annual anniversary celebration day after tomorrow. Three years had passed since Calico Jack presented her the keys to the Peregrine Inn.
“There,” he said, scowling. “I’ve bought you a house. Now stop complaining about how often and how long I’m away.”
Bonny Bee, a faint smile on her lips, whispered the song she sang every year at the anniversary festivities.
“O, Calico Jack, that man of mine, he went in search of treasure.”
The next morning Bonny Bee rose with the sun. She entered the parlor and, as she had expected, found a stranger asleep on the sofa. Bonny Bee sat in the nearest chair. Adelaide appeared in the kitchen doorway.
“I thought I heard you,” Adelaide said. “Ready for your morning tea?”
“Yes, thank you,” Bonny Bee said. “When did she arrive?”
“Wallace said she came in a few minutes after midnight.”
The beautiful stranger opened her eyes.
“Did you sleep well?” Bonny Bee asked her.
“Yes, thank you.” She sat up. “The best sleep I’ve had in a long time. It’s amazing what a long journey and clear conscience can do for you.”
Adelaide returned with the tea tray. “Breakfast in twenty minutes,” she said.
Bonny Bee poured the tea. “May I ask your name?”
“Elizabeth … Johnson.”
Bonny Bee shook her head. “Your real name.”
Bonny Bee pointed to the wooden sign displayed on the mantel. “Would you read that for me, Elizabeth?”
Elizabeth rubbed her eyes and peered at the sign: “Open arms, open hearts.”
“Our motto,” Bonny Bee said. “There’s no need for pretense here. You’re safe now.”
Elizabeth nodded at Ruggles snoozing in the corner. “It appears another guest arrived after I did. I was so tired I didn’t hear him come in.”
“He didn’t come through the door,” Bonny Bee said. “He came down the stairs. He’s been with us since last November.”
Elizabeth brushed her silky brown hair from her face. “Does he often sleep there?”
“Ruggles is tormented by nightmares,” Bonny Bee said. “When they disturb his rest, he comes down to doze by the fire. He’s more at peace now than when he first arrived.”
“What happened to him?” Elizabeth asked.
“He was a butler traveling with a crooked trader, whose business deals went sour. When a constable arrived at our door, the master fled, leaving Ruggles behind.”
“Does he work to earn his keep?” Elizabeth asked, thinking she might do the same.
“He gardens and cleans a little,” Bonny Bee said, “but Fitz won’t let him buttle.”
“Yes, we think that’s what butlers do. None of us has had one, so we’re not sure.”
“You’ll forgive me,” Elizabeth said. “I don’t believe there’s any such word.”
Bonny Bee returned her cup and saucer to the tray. “We’re trying to help Ruggles forge a new identity. Helping him not to take himself so seriously is the first step.”
“So you refuse to let him ‘buttle’?”
“Precisely,” Bonny Bee said. “Whenever Fitz uses that word, Ruggles says, ‘We are not amused,’ and tries his best not to grin, but we all end up laughing.”
If you’d care to read the rest of the story, participate in the anniversary festivities and join in the talent show later, you can download the entire story free on this website.