SOUTH TAMPA — Shane Olson was all business when he met Lindsey Hicks. While his heart said go, his career ambition said slow. They kept their relationship so quiet, he says, it was almost two years before their co-workers at Grand Geneva Resort and Spa knew they were a couple. "She was Miss Hicks, and I was Mr. Olson,'' the South Tampa businessman recalled recently. Formal greetings kept up appearances, she said. A secret handshake meant: "I wish I could kiss you right now."
Shane, now 28, was running a food and beverage division at the four-star resort in Lake Geneva, Wis., about an hour north of Chicago.
His responsibilities: the 275-seat Grand Cafe, a Starbucks and room service. He had run a California Pizza Kitchen and a couple of other restaurants in Chicago.
Sales manager Lindsey, 24, pitched resort time shares and booked large conventions.
Among the amenities to tout were five restaurants, three bars, two 18-hole golf courses, a water park spa, tennis, skiing, horseback riding and sleigh rides. The East Bay High grad had moved to Wisconsin in 2003 after visiting her brother in northern Illinois.
"I called my parents and said I wasn't coming home,'' she said. "I loved the snow and skiing. And I wanted to do something different."
Shane perfectly remembers the day in February 2004 when one of his room service attendants asked if he had seen the "hot new girl in sales."
"He literally dragged me out there to see her,'' he said. "She was wearing a black suit with leopard collar and she was beautiful."
Lindsey can re-create the moment, too, "because I had just sworn off men." A brief relationship had ended, and she was telling a friend she was going to focus on her career "when I looked up and saw Shane."
So much for that vow, she thought.
"Her desk was right between my Starbucks and the restaurant I managed,'' Shane said. "I found all kinds of reasons to walk past her."
On one of his scouting forays, Lindsey mentioned her second job, as a bartender at a neighborhood place called Thumbs Up. She invited him to come by for a drink.
"Then he showed up with another girl who worked at the resort," she said. "They sat at the bar, right in front of 'Miss Hicks.' '' Lindsey's heart sank.
Eventually, the other woman had to go. Shane stayed for another Jack Daniels on the rocks. Lindsey grabbed a business card and wrote her cell phone number on the back.
But he never called.
"I didn't want to make it awkward at work,'' he said.
He returned to the bar a second time and had a good time.
Still no call — professionalism took precedence.
Finally, her Starbucks barista friend spelled it out for Shane: Lindsey likes you, really likes you.
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After that, everything changed and nothing changed, so as not to jeopardize their jobs. Dating among the staff "was frowned upon,'' Shane said, "so we kept it on the down low."
After hours was another story. Shane cooked dinner, Lindsey put on a Disney movie and they planned their future.
"Exactly two people knew about us,'' Lindsey said, although others may have speculated.
In June 2006, they moved to Brandon. Shane found work immediately managing food service for a health care company. Lindsey worked in an Apollo Beach hair salon and studied cosmetology.
A year ago, the couple became partners at Etruscan Tile & Bath on W Kennedy Boulevard.
Before they left Lake Geneva, Shane attended to one more bit of business: the proposal.
"I took her to dinner at the Geneva Inn, where we went on our first real date," Shane said, setting up the romantic scene.
"But he got so nervous he almost fainted,'' said Lindsey, picking up the story. "He was shaking and sweating."
They married at sunset last Nov. 16, barefoot on the beach, at the Resort and Club at Little Harbor in Ruskin with a sand castle wedding cake.
Mr. and Mrs. Olson are still co-workers; only now their love and affection is no secret.
Amy Scherzer can be reached at scherzer@sptimes,com or (813) 226-3332.