Read an Excerpt
Playa del Carmen, Mexico 2007
"YOU WERE RIGHT." Dominick Gordon looked over the blue waters of the Caribbean that spread around them, the wind of the dive boat's passage stirring his dark hair.
Stocky blonde Eric Novak blinked. "Excuse me?, He shifted on the bench seat to stare at his best friend.
"You were right about coming down here. This is perfect." The boat jounced a bit as it skimmed over the waves, motor roaring as they headed to the next reef. The tiny strip of land on the horizon was the Yucatan; ahead of them, larger, lay Cozumel. Paradise, Dom thought.
And for the first time in five years, he felt as if he could almost breathe. A week of swimming, diving, sleepingafter all he'd been through, it felt like an unimaginable extravagance. Almost as much as chartering the private dive boat instead of going with a package, but what was the point of success if he never allowed himself to enjoy any of it?
he'd somehow lost track of that. "So this stuff about me being right, you want to repeat that for the record?, Eric asked.
Dom adjusted his sunglasses and leaned back. "You lawyers, always worried about the record."
"Forget about the legal stuff, it's the Guinness Book I'm talking about. "First time ever, tycoon-in-training Dom Gordon admits he was wrong." "
"I didn't go that far. If I was smart, I'd still be at home working on the initial public offering." At home, where the mantle of responsibility for Gordon's Auto Centers weighed like an anchor on his shoulders.
"Jeez, will you get the IPO out of your head for five minutes? I keep telling you, all we can do right now is wait. It's the perfect time for a vacation. If you were back athome, you'd just be gnawing off your fingers for something to do. Here," Eric continued expansively, " because of my brilliance and foresight, you can take your mind off it by communing with the fishes."
"Brilliance and foresight?"
Eric inclined his head modestly. "Mother nature has been good to me."
"That's not what you said when that dolphin surprised you."
"Fickleness, thy name is woman. As you'd remember if you'd had a social life in recent memory." The dive boat slowed, approaching a lighter area of water.
"Not this again." Time off, Dom could use. Complicating his life with another woman just when he'd gotten untangled from the last one? No way.
The boat stopped and Dom zipped into the top of his wetsuit and strapped on his breathing tank.
Eric reached for his fins. "What I'm saying is, you're getting awfully damned boring these days. Have been for a while. Don't know why I hang out with you, now that I think about it."
"Because you can't find anyone else to take your money?"
"That was a marked deck you were playing with yesterday," Eric said darkly. "No way you flopped a royal flush."
"Face it, I'm one lucky guy."
"Lucky, my ass. I want to take another look at those cards."
"It was your deck." Dom pulled up his hood. "And you went through it at least three times that I saw."
"I still don't believe it."
Dom shook his head. "I can't hear you at all, buddy. See you with the fishes."
"you'd better start playing poker straight, or you'll be sleeping with the fishes," Eric grumbled.
"you'd better start playing smarter poker, or you'll be broke," Dom countered. Moving to the side of the boat, he let himself roll back into the water.
"OKAY, MUCHACHAS, WEâ€™VE got alcohol," Delaney announced as she and Sabrina walked up to the palm-thatched palapa, each of them carrying a handful of cups pressed together. The other five members of the Sex & Supper Club were flopped out on towels or chaises, somnolent in the sun.
Kelly stirred. "Did someone say alcohol?, she inquired wistfully, and with a bit of effort levered herself upright.
Delaney set her quartet of plastic cups on the little wooden ledge that encircled the center pole of the palapa, one of a collection scattered down the beach like giant drink umbrellas.
Appropriate, now that she thought of it. "Okay, one virgin margarita for our little newlywed mama-to-be." She handed it to Kelly, who was still hardly showing in a hot pink tankini. "And here's one unvirgin margarita for our oldlywed." Delaney passed a second cup to Cilla, who sat up, chunky gold earrings swinging.
"I'll have you know I'm younger than you," she informed Delaney.
"Marriage ages you artificially."
"Not at all. Regular orgasms have documented health benefits."
"Do I look like I'm missing regular orgasms?, Delaney asked. Cilla considered. "Hard to say. It might just be that your new cut looks so good we don't notice."
Delaney had had her shoulder-length hair cropped the week before into a pixie, driven by one of her characteristic bouts of impatience. Life was too short to spend twenty minutes blow-drying and styling, she figured. The first time she'd showered and found her hands closing on air at the back of her head had been a shock, but Delaney wasn't much for regrets.
Life was too short for them, too. "I love it. It takes five minutes to dry. I'm in the bathroom and out."
"It makes you look like Tinkerbell, all eyes and cheekbones."
"Tinkerbell, huh?, Delaney laughed. "Yeah. Drink a few more of those margaritas and you'll see my wings." She picked up another cup. "Are you sure you really wanted a beer, Paige? I never once saw you drink it before you took up with that guitar player. If I didn't know better, I'd say he's been a bad influence on you."
"Oh, I hope so." Paige sank back on her lounger in the shade. "Zach's introduced me to the finer things in life."
"Here, here," Thea put in, taking a sip of her own beer.
"Although I'm not sure you can call this beer. Or fine."
"you're prejudiced because you live with a Pacific Northwest brew snob," Delaney told her, handing a frothy white drink to Trish.
"Brady introduced me to the finer things in life, too," Thea said.
"Back to that regular orgasm thing, are we?, Delaney studied her friends around her, all of them married or in long term relationships now, absorbed in their lives, moving on or moving away. Not just Paige and Thea, but the rest of them: Sabrina married to her college sweetheart Stef Costas, Kelly married to Stef's partner Kev, Trish living with Sabrina's cousin Ty. Even Cilla, who'd played the field about as much as she herself, had tied the knot.
Only Delaney remained resolutely, stubbornly single. But it wasn't the same as it had once been. Life didn't feel the same, she realized with a little twinge, as if she was being pushed to the cliff to jump off into grown-up land, whether she wanted to or not.
To hell with that, she decided.
Golden sand stretched down to the pale aqua waves. The sky arched overhead, periwinkle blue. Paradise. She set her margarita in the sand by her sun couch and untied her bronze sarong to reveal a leopard-spotted bikini. She was young, she was unencumbered. Life was good. Water, sun and fun, that was what she needed to think about, not the shifting sands of her own life.
With a sigh of bliss, Delaney lay back and took a sip of her margarita. "Okay, I am now officially on vacation," she announced. "Effective immediately, I intend to party like mad, eat myself silly, and do absolutely nothing worthwhile."
"Except go to the opening of my boutique," Cilla reminded her.
"Except that." Delaney took another swallow of her drink.
"God, that's good." She closed her eyes and held up her cup in a toast. "Okay, here's to the perks of being over twenty-one."
"Being over twenty-one?, Paige repeated. "I thought you were the one who always said you didn't want to grow up."
"Who said anything about being grown-up? I said here's to being of legal drinking age."
"Being an adult does have some other benefits," Trish observed.
"Name one," Delaney demanded. "Good sex," Kelly said immediately. "High-school boys are clueless."
"Oh, I don't know. The best kisser of my entire life was my first boyfriend," Delaney countered.
"Your first boyfriend?"
"Jake," she added. "Jake the Snake."
Cilla, in the middle of a swallow, spluttered. "Don't tell me that was what he called his"
"No," Delaney said positively. "At least I don't think so. I don't know. We never got past the kiss and grope stage, but man, that boy could kiss. He was a surfer. Made me melt."
"Ah, young love," Trish said, fanning herself.
"I wouldn't go that far."
Sabrina raised her eyebrows. "Not your first love?"
"Come on. I mean, I was fourteen. Two years before that, I was ready to go all the way with Donnie Wahlberg. If I'd ever met him, of course, and if I could have figured out what going all the way actually meant."
"You were nothing if not adaptable." Paige tucked her tongue in her cheek.
Meanwhile, Trish rolled on her stomach to look at Delaney. "So who was your first love?"
Delaney laughed lightly. "I'll tell you when I meet him."
"You will, one of these days," Trish said positively. "I suppose. I can't say it keeps me up at night." She studied a couple of shirtless guys playing volleyball up the beach and licked her lips. "I've got other things to do that. So come on, I'm still waiting for the tide of benefits to being an adult."
"Independence," Trish said.
Delaney made a derisive noise. "Show of hands, how many people had to ask or check with their significant others before making plans to come here?, margarita ease the pain?, "I think he's part of the entertainment staff," Paige observed as they all tipped their sunglasses down to watch him.
"Heaven knows I need entertaining," Delaney said.
"YOUâ€™RE THINKING ABOUT it, aren't you?, Erik asked.
Dom looked over at him. "Who, me?, "Yeah, you. you're making that face." They sat in an open-sided beach bar near the ferry dock in Playa del Carmen. The thatch of the roof rustled in the light offshore breeze. At the back, a band was milling around on a low stage hung with blue, scarlet and orange batiked cloth. On the horizon, the lights of Cozumel twinkled in the darkness.
Dom picked up the glass of tequila that the bartender slid across to him. "You really need to talk to someone about this paranoia you've got."
Eric put a pinch of salt on the web between his forefinger and thumb. "Yeah, well, you obviously"
"Need to teach you how to drink quality tequila," Dom interrupted.
"What's wrong with the way I drink tequila?, Eric asked, lifting his shot glass.
Dom gave him a pitying look. "Tequila's like whiskey. The cheap stuff will strip the enamel from your teeth, which is where the salt and lime come in. AÃ±ejo tequila like this, though" He swirled a sip around in his mouth and swallowed. "Slides down like twenty-year-old bourbon."
Eric eyed him. "This wouldn't be your idea of a joke, right? Watch me take a drink and have steam come out my ears?"
Dom smiled. "You lawyers are too suspicious."