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You've either hooked up with a nympho or been deported. Which is it? And if it's the nympho, I want her number.
5:39 P.M 7/24/05
Summer before senior year
For a model-thin girl, Vanity St. John could kick like a horse.
Dante Medina knew the look on his face was pure stupid as he went over the side of the boat, whipping through the wind with all the weight of a candy wrapper, still feeling the force of Vanity's rage attack in the concavity between his nipples. He hit the water with barely a splash.
By the time Dante surfaced to scream out those words, Vanity and the speeding Cobalt were at least a hundred yards gone.
His throat was instantly raw from the vocal cord strain, not to mention the violent intake of saltwater. Getting swallowed up by the wake upon entry had given him a cruel taste of the Atlantic.
He tried to assemble his thoughts, but the shock of the situation had barely registered. Struggling to tread water, he fought to keep his head above the surging tide. Jesus Christ, why had he refused to wear a life jacket? Oh, yeah. To be cool. Like that mattered now.
Dante's gaze remained locked onto the Cobalt as the boat continued to move farther and farther away. He kept expecting it to cut a wide turn and circle back. But now the watercraft was cruising beyond his sight line. A minute went by. And then another. Both made up the longest one hundred and twenty seconds of Dante Medina's life.
He experienced a steadily rising panic, his breath coming in gasping heaves as he eyeballed the distance to shore. The trip back to land was considerable. Vanity had hauled back the throttles and taken them at least two miles out, if not more. Everything in that direction was a blur. It looked like the skyscrapers of Miami Beach had fallen down.
Dante bobbed in the sea, waiting for the sick joke to end. It had to be over any time now. His eyes would get a visual on the returning boat. Or maybe his ears would hear the rumble of the delicate fuel-injection engines. But the fearful moments just stretched on...and no sight or sound ever materialized. Shit! How could she just leave him out here in the middle of the freaking ocean?
He started to swim, cutting through the water with a determined stroke, wondering how life could possibly get any worse.
An emotionally bruising fight with his mother.
Passed out drunk on the beach and robbed of his wallet, cellphone, and dream watch.
Fired from his swim coaching job.
Thrown out on his ass by Simon St. John, the one man he'd been counting on to help him in the music business.
And then left for dead by Vanity, the first girl he'd felt a real connection to in a long time.
The sum of it all made Dante wish he could just sink to the bottom of the ocean. What was the point of living now?
But then the adrenaline of anger hit. He could actually feel it pumping through his veins as he huffed and puffed against the heavy current -- swimming hard, but getting nowhere.
All of a sudden, the shoreline seemed more appealing than the sea floor. Why? Because Dante was pissed off and wanted to show everyone that even though he may be down for the count, he was definitely not out of the fight.
Mentally, he checked off the haters.
First on his list was Rob Kelley, the do-nothing husband of Naomi Kelley, Hollywood's new Reese Witherspoon. Deep down, Dante had known that accepting the Chris "Iceman" Aire-designed watch would come back to haunt him. But he just couldn't resist the bling, especially after he tried on the piece, and it seemed to melt onto his wrist as if God intended it to be there.
That closet case was just pimping you out, dumb-ass, Dante cursed himself. How could he not have forecasted the outcome?
"This pool isn't getting a lot of use," Rob had said. "You should come by at night sometime. The volcano looks incredible then. You'd love it."
And then when Dante didn't show up, Rob had demonstrated his true inner bitch and called Sasha at SafeSplash to accuse him of stealing the watch. Fast-forward just seconds after Sasha hung up with Rob. Dante's no-bullshit boss had no doubt called every one of his clients to explain why he wouldn't be coming back.
That's why Simon St. John had him pegged as a thug, a thief, and a bad influence on his daughter. If the man only knew. On any day of the week, Vanity had more vices than Dante. Whatever. Simon St. John wasn't the last music executive on earth. Dante would make it without him.
And as for Vanity, Dante would make it without that psycho bitch, too. He doesn't call it love after one hookup, and she's ready to kill him? Jesus. Get some therapy, girl. It's not that deep.
Dante struggled to keep going, even as he felt like his body was dragging him down. Impulsively, he stopped to float on his back, working hard to peel off his jeans, then his shirt, which left him in nothing but white Calvin Klein boxer briefs. He could move now, though. His stroke was smoother, his kick faster. And he might be worn-out, exhausted, and sick from saltwater intake by the time he reached shore, but goddamn if he wasn't going to make it there.
Halfway in, the no-man's land of the vast ocean showed signs of intelligent life above water. A half-million-dollar custom Cigarette zoomed into view. It was the sweetest vision Dante had ever seen.
Upon sight of Dante, the young captain killed the 450 Mercruisers. "Yo! Dude! Need a little help?" the shirtless Hispanic man shouted, waving his hands, a diamond-encrusted, gold crucifix leaping on its chain and banging against his chest.
Two bikini-clad hotties flanked him on each side, both blonde, both surgically enhanced, or at the very least gloriously blessed. The girls didn't seem to know whether to laugh or to exhibit concern. So they covered both fronts, juxtaposing giggles with little gasps of somebody-help-him shock.
"What's up, man? You training for a triathlon or something?" the guy yelled, punctuating the question with a friendly laugh.
"Not intentionally," Dante hollered back. "Permission to come aboard!"
The young man tossed out a rescue tube attached to a rope.
Dante swam for the red lifeline, practically collapsing on top of it as the guy worked fast to pull him in.
"Were you actually swimming to shore?" the young man asked incredulously.
Dante shook his head up and down, his breathing still labored. "That was the plan."
His rescuer let down a small diving platform at the end of the boat, and the girls stepped forward to help him pull Dante out of the water.
When Dante connected with the solid surface, his body went limp. For a long moment, he just lay there on his back, relishing the fact that he didn't have to swim anymore.
"Nice trunks, dude," the guy cracked.
The girls giggled in response, even as they stole appreciative glances.
Dante looked down to see his sopping wet underwear, which left nothing to the imagination. But he didn't even have the energy to modestly cover himself with his hands. So he just let the exhibitionism ride, grateful for the dry dock and concerned with nothing else at the moment.
"I'm Juan," the guy said.
"Dante." He flashed a quick peace sign. "I'll shake later, man. My arms feel like jelly."
"This is Leesa," Juan announced, gesturing to the girl on his left. "And that's Tahnee."
The girls grinned.
"Had I known the Coast Guard looked like this, I would've tried drowning a long time ago," Dante said.
"So what's your deal, man?" Juan asked.
Greedily, Dante took in more air. "I pissed off a girl and she kicked me out of her boat."
His explanation was met with dead silence.
"I'm serious," Dante insisted.
And then Juan, Leesa, and Tahnee erupted into a chorus of raucous laughter.
"You don't have the breakup conversation alone in shark-infested waters, man," Juan told him. "Talks like that are for outdoor cafés." He laughed again.
Dante rose up on his elbows and smiled at the scenery. The luxurious watercraft...the comely passengers...the scene was like a dream. "Guess I should pay attention. You sure know how to live."
"That I do, my friend," Juan said. "That I do." He appeared to be just a few years older than Dante, not a day past twenty-one.
Right away the questions were piling up for Dante. Who was this guy? And what did he do? Obviously, something that had him drowning in megabucks.
Juan lifted up the beige leather cushion on a sleek banquette, revealing storage underneath. He grabbed a pair of swim trunks and tossed the offering Dante's way.
Dante caught it midair. The suit was black and short on fabric, not quite a Speedo but not much more, with a white D&G beach logo racing down both sides. At first Dante hesitated. He preferred board shorts that stopped just above the knee. But right now anything was better than underwear. He sighed, murmured his thanks, and glanced around, wondering where to change.
Juan spun around to give Dante some privacy.
Leesa followed his lead.
But Tahnee kept a bold gaze glued onto Dante while he traded drenched underwear for skimpier swim trunks.
Initially, Dante experienced a pang of self-consciousness. The hip-hugging, ass-clinging, junk-enhancing suit was definitely a new look for him. But when he saw how much Tahnee seemed to approve, it took about a microsecond to get over the embarrassment.
Juan played with the stereo controls, and soon the irresistible groove of "La Tortura" by Shakira and Alejandro Sanz exploded from the bass-pounding sound system. "Pick a girl! Grab a beer! Let's party, man!" Juan shouted, instantly pairing off with Leesa.
Tahnee grinned, then went about the business of opening a Corona Light and stuffing a lime wedge inside the mouth of the bottle. She offered the drink to Dante.
He reached for it.
Teasingly, she pulled it away. "A kiss first."
Dante smiled, suddenly feeling his energy return. "You're a tough negotiator." He leaned in to claim her mouth, softly at first, then more aggressively. She tasted sweet, and the aroma of Coppertone emanated from her skin. Finally, he drew back. "Can I have my beer now?"
"Sure," Tahnee told him in a seductive whisper. "But just so you know, you'll have to earn every sip."
Dante took a generous swig, draining the Corona to the halfway mark. "There you go again with these impossible deal terms." And then his mouth found hers for round two, only more urgently this time.
Tahnee had an exquisite way of grinding against him, making Dante grow steadily harder where it mattered. Quite an achievement, considering the fact that he'd just swam until nearly passing out. Somewhere deep inside he felt a frisson of guilt. To be with Vanity...and now to be with Tahnee...did that make him a stud...or a jerk? Suddenly, the anger at being kicked out of the boat and left in the ocean to become shark bait revved up his passion.
When Dante finally came up for air, his curiosity got the best of him. "So what's this Juan guy's story?"
"That's Juan Barba," Tahnee said, as if the name alone explained everything.
Dante gazed at her blankly.
"He's, like, a Latin hip-hop/reggaetón star. You know that song, 'Sudores Nocturnos'?" She started to sing the hook and gyrate her hips back and forth.
Vaguely, Dante could place the melody. It'd been a minor hit in the States, which probably meant that in Latin America, the track was a monster.
"Are you a big Juan Barba fan?" Dante asked. "Is that why you're out here on his boat?"
Tahnee shrugged. "I'm sort of a video chick. Juan cast me as a dancer in his last clip. But mainly I just like to party...with him...and the occasional hot castaway." She glanced down, then up again, giving off a very sexy vibe.
"Video chick," Dante repeated thoughtfully. "Is that a career path or something?"
Tahnee rolled her eyes, grinning. "If I get my shit together, it could be." She sighed. "Okay, there's, like, three levels. The lowest is the video ho. She's a total skank, basically a groupie, and she'll do anybody on the set to get a lead part or to just hang around a really big artist. Then there's the video chick, like me." She laughed a little. "I like to party, but only with the artist, you know? I mean, I'm not going to give it up for his bodyguard or some stupid assistant director. And then there's the video model. That's what I really want to be. I've just got to get my business plan together. She's, like, total class, and if you want her in your video, then you have to call her manager and agent and everything. They can make five thousand dollars a day."
"Major bling," Dante said.
"I know. It sure beats the three hundred bucks I got for my last gig."
He glanced around the posh surroundings. "At least you travel like a rich girl."
Tahnee gave him a curious look. "You must have really pissed off that girl to have her kick you out of a boat and haul ass to shore. The worst I've ever done to a guy is leave him in a restaurant. Of course, I did pour a drink over his head first."
Dante laughed. "Does that mean I'm still in dangerous waters? I thought I was safe."
Tahnee inched closer. "Do I look safe?"
Dante's eyes drifted to the breasts that were practically spilling out of her bathing suit top. "No, you look like trouble."
"The kind of trouble to avoid or the kind to get into?"
"Definitely the kind to get into." Dante leaned down to start up more kissing. With the beer gripped in one hand, he used his free fingers to undo the hook on Tahnee's bikini, keeping his tongue in her mouth the whole time. Nothing felt better than sexual multitasking.
But the balancing act proved too much, and they went tumbling down onto the leather banquette, a hot collision of wet lips, toned limbs, and sweat-slicked torsos. They landed in a heap and couldn't stop laughing.
The main casualty was the Corona Light, which survived the fall without breaking but spilled onto the immaculate deck.
Dante craned his neck to see Juan, who was lost in what looked to be the phenomenal oral attentions of Leesa.
The Latin star waved off any concern. "No worries, bro." And then he gave Dante the thumbs-up sign.
Tahnee glanced over at them and laughed. "Can you believe that? She's such a slut."
Dante hesitated a moment, searching deep into Tahnee's blue eyes, wondering if he was misreading the situation with her. Had he already gone too far?
Tahnee seemed to pick up on his inner doubt. She reached out to stroke his cheek. "Relax, Aquaman. I can be one, too."
Dante smiled the smile of a winner. "Promise?"
"Promise," Tahnee assured him.
And then Tahnee proceeded to make his bad day better.
There was one good thing about having a run of terrible luck.
It could definitely turn around.
Copyright © 2006 by John Salem