As the car turned slowly off the tarmacced road and entered the hotel's grounds, I nervously turned to my girlfriend.
"Cierra, are you sure this is a good idea?" She smiled reassuringly and rested her hand on mine.
"It'll be fine, my parents are just like anyone's. Aside from the owning a five star hotel part of course." At this my mother turned around from the front passenger seat and smiled at Cierra.
"It was so nice of your father to fly us all the way out here and let us stay for the the weekend, thank you so much." Cierra blushed a little, her tanned skin flushing slightly.
"It's no bother at all senorita Collins. It's a traditional Spanish custom that when a man's daughter enters a serious relationship, the two sets of parents must meet. I'm not even sure it's a traditional custom; it might just be something my father does. Either way, it hasn't even dented his bank account. In fact I think the amount he spent on you all was mere pocket change to him." The car bounced over a pothole and my mother glared at my father.
"Do you seriously need to drive like a maniac?"
"It wasn't my fault, I told you this bloody car is a bloody death trap. The gears change less than Noddy, the seatbelts are as loose as your tongue, and the brakes are virtually non-existent. And that's another thing...." This started my mother off and the pair bickered until we finally reached the hotel. The building itself stood taller than any building I'd ever seen in my lifetime. The grounds were literally breathtaking. In the centre there was a lake that would be more accurately described as a miniature ocean. Floating on the surface I could see a cluster of lilies, arranged so that they spelt out the initials "E.H.B.M". As I turned around I discovered what the initials stood for. The sign above the hotel door read "El Hotel Bella Muerte". I'd studied Spanish as one of my A-Levels so it didn't take me long to translate, and when I did I stiffened.
"The Hotel of Beautiful Death...." I whispered to myself. I heard a chuckle from behind me. I span around sharply and was met by a tall, dark-skinned gentleman in a plain black suit. His face made it impossible to put an accurate guess at his age; he could've been anywhere from 30 to 60. He had a pencil-thin moustache a shade of black that matched his suit perfectly. His mouth twisted into a warm smile.
"A lot of people get confused with that. 'Muerte' is actually taken from a defunct version of the Spanish language. In the more commonplace modern translation it means 'death', but in the language I was brought up with it means 'nature'. I'm sure you'll agree, it's a pretty fitting description. But enough small talk, there'll be plenty of time for that over dinner. For now, let me get somebody to take your things to your rooms. My name is Carlos Pedro Piarro, manager and owner of the Hotel of Beautiful Nature. As Ashley's family, you are now part of my own family, and as such anything in this hotel is yours for the duration of your stay." He motioned for us to follow him and turned to walk into the hotel. Cierra squeezed my hand reassuringly and we all followed him inside.