Authors: Kimberly Fox
“Try it,” he says, handing me a tortilla.
The fish bob their bright yellow and electric blue heads out of the water, reaching for the bread in my hand. I toss a piece in and they swarm on it, slapping each other with their fins, trying to be the lucky one to get a taste. They’re so beautiful and colorful.
“It’s crazy how nature can come up with such bright colors,” I say as Chase hands me another tortilla. “It makes us look so boring…peach and brown.”
Chase looks at me like I’m crazy. “You’re not boring to look at. At all.”
“No,” I say, feeling my cheeks heat up at the compliment. “But I mean imagine if we were bright pink or electric blue. Well, I guess that would be like Avatar.”
“Ava-what?” he asks, looking at me funny.
This guy has a lot to learn. And I’d be happy to teach him.
Megan, Tanya, Julia and Ethan walk into the ocean and I’m secretly upset to have my alone time with Chase cut short. We swim back to meet them where they’re hanging out in the shallow warm water.
Ethan and Chase nod at each other but keep a fair distance between them.
. It looks like they’re not too comfortable around each other.
What’s going on there?
“Looks like Price is Right is over,” Tanya says, looking back onto the beach. Matt is wandering around like a lost child.
“Shit,” Julia curses when she sees him. “He won’t leave me alone!”
“What did you expect?” I ask, rubbing it in a little. “You’re the only one that he knows.”
She ducks down into the water up to her chin. “He’s driving me nuts. I caught him drinking the shower water this morning.”
We all have a laugh at poor Matt’s expense. “It’s only your second day,” Ethan says.
“I guess the honeymoon is over,” Megan says. She shoots an evil smile at Julia and then stands up and waves. “MATT!” she calls out, waving her hand over her head. “MATT! Over here!”
Julia splashes her. “Stop it!”
But it’s too late. Matt sees us and starts walking over.
“He didn’t see me,” Julia says, hiding behind Ethan’s large frame. “I can’t take him anymore. Tell him I got swept away in the tide, no wait…I got eaten by a shark. No, a whale. What’s more believable?” She’s biting her bottom lip, looking panicked. I know that she’s my best friend but I’m loving this. I can’t help it.
“He’s almost here,” Tanya warns.
“Shit!” Julia curses. She dives under the water and swims away like her life depends on it. I watch in shock as she speeds away.
I didn’t know that she could swim that fast. Or hold her breath for that long.
“Hi Matt,” I say as he approaches.
“Hi,” he says in a flat voice. This guy has as much personality as a coconut. “I’m looking for Julia.”
“She got eaten by a whale,” Chase says and we all try to stifle our laughs.
“She went to the bathroom,” I lie. “Can we help you with something?”
He scratches his large head as he stares at me blankly. “Should I eat a corn dog or a hot dog for lunch? I can’t decide.”
Megan is about to spit out a comment but Tanya flashes her a warning look that shuts her up.
“It’s all-inclusive,” Chase says. “Why don’t you have one of each?”
Matt’s face lights up like a dull light bulb. “Thanks, Ethan,” he says nodding. He walks away without saying bye.
“I’m Chase, but whatever,” Chase says with a shrug.
Tanya floats on her back and Ethan takes her feet in his hands and pulls her gently through the water. My stomach flutters at having to tell them the news that will ruin their wedding week. And no, I’m not being dramatic. Stephanie will definitely ruin a week. That’s her specialty.
I take a deep breath and close my eyes. “Tanya, I have something to tell you guys.”
Her face drops. “What?”
It’s harder to spit out than I thought it would be.
“Our cousin is here,” Chase says to Ethan.
Ethan’s eyes widen in panic. “Please tell me you mean Lucas.”
“Try again,” Chase says, shaking his head.
Tanya flies to her feet. “NO!”
Ethan looks like he saw a ghost. “You can’t be serious.”
Tanya looks at me with desperation in her eyes. “Cynthia? Is it true?” Her eyes are begging me to tell her that he’s kidding, pleading with me to tell her that it’s a lie.
I take a deep breath that’s interrupted with a high pitch squeal. “Hi, guys!” Stephanie calls out from the beach, waving her hand over her head dramatically.
She runs the rest of the way with her big tits flopping around in her tight yellow bikini. She runs past a man sleeping on his towel and kicks sand in his face. He lifts his head in confusion and spits out a mouthful of sand.
Megan charges forward to meet her as she steps into the water. “You have a lot of nerve showing up here!” she yells.
Aaron walks up behind Stephanie. He looks over at Tanya and waves. “Hi, Tanya.”
“Shut up!” Megan snaps, sticking her finger in his face. “Don’t talk to her. Idiot.”
“It’s okay, Megan,” Tanya says, grabbing her shoulders and pulling her back. She looks like a little pit bull all amped up like that. “Why don’t you go help Matt find the ketchup for his hot dog.”
Megan glares at her sister-in-law with a clenched jaw. She takes a deep breath and then storms out of the water and up the beach.
“What are you doing here Steph?” Ethan asks. “I remember specifically not inviting you.”
“I’m not here for your wedding,” she answers with a smile. “I’m here for
wedding. And of course you’re all invited. It’s going to be beautiful! Perfect actually.”
Tanya’s body is rigid. Ethan looks like he’s going to be sick.
“When exactly is this beautiful wedding?” Tanya asks.
“In three days,” Stephanie says, clapping. “I can’t wait!”
Aaron doesn’t look as enthusiastic with his
kill me now
Well, at least she didn’t book it on the same day.
She’s getting married a day before Tanya.
Tanya’s jaw is tight and her hands are shaking in the water, causing little waves of anger to ripple away from her. “Congratulations,” she says with a tight voice. “I hope you two are very happy together.”
Tanya lowers her head and walks away.
“This isn’t over,” Ethan says as he follows her out.
Stephanie turns and glares at their backs as they walk onto the shore.
I step towards her with my hands clenched into fists. “You try anything to ruin my friend’s wedding week and you’ll be walking down the aisle with two black eyes. You got that?”
“That’s rude,” she answers, looking me up and down.
“That’s a promise,” I say with my eyes locked on hers. I bump into
this time as I follow Tanya and Ethan onto the beach.
Chase catches up to me as I step onto the hot sand. “Wow, Cynthia,” he says, looking impressed. “I didn’t realize you had such a dark side.”
I glance over my shoulder at her and my heart starts pumping faster. “With that bitch, I’m Darth Vader.
“Please tell me you got that reference,” I say, turning back to him.
“Star Trek?” he asks, scratching his head. “Kidding.”
One of the resort animators is walking around the beach with a whistle in his mouth and the yellow volleyball in his hand. He’s trying to get a game going but none of the sleepy tourists seem interested.
Ethan holds out his hand and the animator tosses him the ball. “Anyone up for a game?” he asks us. “I need to blow off some steam.”
Tanya jumps up. “I’ll be on your team, honey.”
It’s subtle but I catch it. Ethan winces before turning to his excited fiancee. “Great.”
Chase steps forward. “Cynthia and I will take you on.”
“We will?” I ask.
“Yup,” he says. “Couple against couple.”
“Who are you calling a couple?” I ask, hiding a smile.
He just ignores me and jogs to the volleyball court in the sand. Ethan is trying to give Tanya a crash course in volleyball as they set up on the other side of the net.
I glance back at the ocean and see Julia a half mile down the beach still doing the front crawl as if Jaws himself is chasing her.
Chase walks up to the net and interrupts Ethan and Tanya’s volleyball class. “You guys are shirts. We’re skins.” He turns back to me with a grin. “Cynthia take your top off.”
I kick some sand at him. “I think the huge net separating us will let us know what team we’re on but thanks.”
Chase shrugs. “I tried.” He walks over, looking sexy with the water and sunlight making his body shine. How will I be able to keep my eye on the ball with him in view?
Ethan tosses him the ball. “You guys start.”
“Are you any good?” Chase asks, spinning the ball on his finger, trying to impress me.
“Not really,” I lie. I was a starter on my high school volleyball team for five years straight but he doesn’t have to know that yet.
“We have to beat my brother,” he whispers in a serious voice.
He glances back at Ethan. Poor uncoordinated Tanya has no idea what she’s in for. “It’s just,” he mutters, trailing off. “We’re a little competitive.”
Ethan is already getting frustrated at Tanya and the game hasn’t even started yet. He has an intensity in his eyes that he’s trying to soften for his fiancee but it doesn’t seem to be working.
“I’ll serve first,” I say, stepping back behind the rope.
“Are you sure?” Chase asks, holding the ball back. “Can I give you some pointers first?”
“Just give me the rock,” I snap. He tosses me the ball and I take a deep breath, toss it up and slam it at Tanya with a loud grunt.
Tanya screams as the ball flies towards her at an incredible speed. She runs off the court in terror and the ball hits the sand behind her.
Ethan’s shoulders are tight as he turns and swears under his breath. “It’s okay honey,” he says, turning back, trying to be cool. “You’ll get it next time.”
Chase is looking at me over his shoulder in awe.
“Five years of high school volleyball,” I say, blowing on my hands and then rubbing them together.
He walks over and high fives me with a sandy palm. He catches my fingers with his and lets the touch linger. “I’m in love,” he mutters as he walks back to his position.
Tanya walks back onto the court, grinning in embarrassment. Ethan is pacing in a short span with his lips pinched together.
That’s enough picking on Tanya. She’s already had a shitty morning.
Let’s see what her man is capable of.
I toss the ball up and grunt like Serena Williams as I let it rip at Ethan. His reflexes are fast but they didn’t call me Smasher in high school for nothing. He dives and just manages to get a hand on it as it’s about to hit the ground. It flies up and hits a guy suntanning on a beach chair. The poor guy spills his beer all over himself as he jumps up in shock.
Tanya gets more and more wide-eyed as the game goes on. She had no idea what she was walking into. She brought a popsicle stick to a sword fight.
Ethan is getting less and less able to hide his emotions as the score tips heavily in our favor. He splays his hands out wide and then relaxes them after an easy lob hits Tanya’s elbow and falls to the sand.
“Nice try honey,” he says as he grabs a clump of his hair and looks up at the sky.
I don’t want them to call off the wedding so I let them win a serve on the next exchange. I should have known better. Tanya serves it right into the net.
“Fucking shit!” Ethan curses, kicking the sand. It happens right as Tanya’s parents walk by. They stop in their socks and sandals and look at him in horror.
“No, wait,” he says, as they turn around and leave with their heads shaking. “I…” he drops his head in defeat.
“What was that about?” Chase asks, walking over and standing very close to me. His hard forearm grazes mine sending a warm shiver up my arm.
I explain how straight edge Tanya’s parents are and how Ethan is fucking everything up. “I feel really bad for him. He can’t seem to do anything right when it comes to them.”
“Save your pity until we cross that line,” he says, slapping my ass as he goes to get the ball in the sand. “On the court, we show no mercy.”
My ass cheek tingles where he touched it.
I want a husband and kids. I want a husband and kids.
Chase steps back behind the line. I watch as he throws the ball up and leaps up to serve. His body is ripped, every beautiful muscle flexing as he hits the ball. It rips across the net and Tanya ducks as it flies right at her.
I turn and he’s grinning. “Military volleyball team,” he says. This guy is full of surprises.
A familiar face catches my eye in the sea of beach chairs. Ophelia is videotaping the whole thing on her phone as she fans herself with a dog-eared erotic book. I make a note to ask her for a copy of the video. I want to watch Chase serve in slow motion HD later.
Chase walks to get the ball and collapses like a folding chair. “Fuck!” he screams, punching the sand.
“Are you okay?” I ask, hurrying over. He was just walking on it when he collapsed.
“I’m fine,” he snaps, pushing my hand away.
Ethan ducks under the net and comes over. “We’ll end the game here,” he says. The look on Tanya’s face is the definition of relief.
“No, we won’t,” Chase says, struggling to get up. His leg is trembling. “We’re finishing.”
Ethan puts his hands up. “You look hurt, Chase. We’ll just call it a draw.”
Chase isn’t having any of it despite the pain in his voice. “You’re down by twelve points,” he says. “We’re finishing it.”
He stands up, takes one step and then collapses back down to the sand. Ethan and I both rush over to him. Ethan grabs Chase’s arm and helps him walk to a beach chair.
Chase is breathing fast and hard. The tendons in his neck are standing out like tight ropes as he clutches his knee.
“Are you okay?” I ask, kneeling down in front of him.
“I’m a Navy SEAL,” he snaps, glaring at me as he takes in fast breaths. “Of course I’m okay.”
“Sorry,” I say, standing back up. “I just…”
“I’m going to my room,” he says, grimacing in pain as he stands up. He pushes Ethan’s outstretched hand away and holds his breath. He shifts his weight to his left foot and takes a step with a heavy limp.