"So, is your husband treating you to this getaway?"
Staring out of the taxi's window at the rapidly receding outskirts of Lincoln, it took Alyssa a moment to realise the driver was speaking to her.
"Only you're my second fare out to Thornton Hall this afternoon. The first was another single lady, just like you, and she was telling me her husband's paying for her to have a week in the spa out of his annual bonus. Deluxe suite, all the trimmings. Nice work if you can get it, eh? So I just wondered..."
"No, this is my treat to me." Alyssa's tone wasn't curt enough to be rude, but she hoped she'd given the driver enough of a hint that she didn't want to discuss the subject further.
Not that she'd planned to visit the spa on her own. Originally, the intention had been to take a break with Kay, her oldest and best friend.
"We deserve this," Kay had said, as she'd flipped through the Thornton Hall brochure, with its pictures of serene women in white towelling robes lounging around the pool, or having hot stones applied to their back in one of the many treatment rooms. "I mean, you worked so hard for that promotion. It totally should've been yours. And what happens?"
"Don't remind me."
After assuring Alyssa he'd recommend her for the position as head of public relations, her boss sat back and watched while the role went to her assistant, Ryan. Brash, over-confident Ryan, who only seemed to have been with the company five minutes, but knew all the right things to say-and all the right backsides to kiss. Whereas she'd kept her head down and relied on the quality of her work to speak for her, always playing strictly by the rules. And where had that got her?
"What you need is some me time, Alyssa, away from the office politics, all that bitching and backstabbing." Kay had pushed the brochure under Alyssa's nose, pointing out the spa's newly-opened candlelit pool. "How nice does that look?"
It took no effort to imagine herself relaxing in that pool, basking in the idyllic atmosphere created by those flickering candle flames. No cares, no worries, her only pressing decision being whether to spend time in the steam room or the hot tub before dinner. Kay was right. It was what she needed. A few days of being pampered and indulged, and the opportunity to lick her wounds out of sight of the office gossips. Already, she was sure, the fact she'd been overlooked for promotion was being discussed round the water cooler. Why not go somewhere she couldn't be affected by any of the pitying glances, or have to put on a smiling face for the benefit of people she really couldn't stand?
"So should I book us in?" Without waiting for an answer, Kay had already been reaching for her phone.
Alyssa had grinned at her friend's eagerness. "Go ahead. If nothing else, it'll give me an excuse to buy the swimsuit I saw in that Sunday supplement. You know, the black one with the cut-outs?"
"Oh, yes. Very sexy." Kay had giggled. "Perfect for luring some hot guy into a no-strings hook-up in the hot tub. Or maybe we'll get lucky, find a masseur who likes to leave his clients with a happy ending..."