As cottages went, it was quite the place. Zoe didn’t consider herself to be a country person, a cottage person, someone who much liked the outdoors. But then again, this wasn’t exactly the place for roughing it. The “cottage”, was a six bedroom chalet-style wooden palace overlooking the long, wide, beautiful Western River. The seventy foot wraparound deck on the first level had several tables and chairs, and gave a terrific view of the river and the rolling, green covered hills on either side. The upper deck, narrow but also wraparound, was even more beautiful.

Down a winding path to the river shore one came upon another deck with picnic tables, then the dock jutting a good hundred feet out into the river. There was a sandy beach on one side of the dock, and a large boathouse on the other. The boathouse itself was high enough to hold large boats, and had a fully finished deck with wooden rail and benches on top.

In short, it was a hell of a big place for a family of three.

And as soon as Zoe saw it, saw the satellite dish and antennae, and the quadruple garage out front, she knew it wasn’t going to be a place for her father to finally take some time off. No, it was going to be a place for entertaining guests – lots of them too.

“How can you guys afford this place?” she asked, shaking her head.

“That’s the beauty of it, sunshine!” her dad said, ruffling her hair as he passed. “We can write off most of it as a business expense.”

Zoe made a face as she combed her hair back into place with her fingers. That pretty much blew away whatever remaining doubts she had about the purpose of the “cottage”. She had hoped it might be a place where they could relax and maybe be a family. Her father and mother were both big time operators, she in the real estate industry, he in Law, and neither had ever had an awful lot of time for her. It didn’t look like things were likely to change.

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