“I can’t believe I let you talk me into this,” I murmured to my best friend, Pen, out of the corner of my mouth so the other girls wouldn’t hear me.
“Why not? You totally deserve it after going through one of the worst divorces of this century.” Pen said the last loudly, making all eyes turn toward me.
I rolled my eyes at her embellishment. “It was hardly the worst. Maybe coming from our little hometown of Oasis, but not by LA’s standards. Mine was but a blip on the radar compared to some of the celebrity disaster divorces that hit the magazines and blogs.”
“If you go by the water cooler talk at Brock’s office, you’re nothing but a gold-digging bitch. Do you remember all those nights you called me crying?” I could only nod as I thought back to all the talk that made its way back to me and the way I broke down into tears on the phone while Pen picked me up. “You deserve this after everything that man put you through.”
I wouldn’t deny my ex had put me through the wringer, but I wasn’t used to such splendor. My eyes grew wide the closer we got to the dock, and I saw the boat. Okay, it wasn’t exactly categorized as a boat, but a yacht. It was mammoth and nicer than anything I’d experienced in my thirty-seven years on this Earth.
“Let me pamper you,” Zelda smiled across from me. “It’s the least I can do for a friend.”
We weren’t friends. We were barely acquaintances, but I wasn’t going to fight her on it. Zelda was a friend of a friend who’d heard about my divorce from her friend Reagan, who was friends with Pen. Pen convinced me to let this woman take us on an all-expenses-paid trip to Spain, and I needed to show her how grateful I was to be whisked away from the stares and whispers of the people in our small town. Away from my ex and his pregnant fiancée.
Reaching forward, I placed my hand on hers and smiled. “Thank you, Zelda.”
“Of course, darling. Now, what do you say we get on that boat so you can start making your ex jealous.” How was I going to do that, I wondered? Zelda must have seen the confusion on my face since she answered my unspoken question. “Oh, we’re going to get our bikinis on, take pictures, and post them on Instagram. Show your ex what he gave up.”
Posting pictures of myself in a bikini for the world to see wasn’t something I was comfortable with, but if I could stick it to Brock, it might be worth it.
The limo stopped in front of a row of people standing in front of the yacht that looked like it was bigger than my house.
“OMG, Z, this is going to be an epic trip,” Reagan squealed loud enough to make my ears ring.
I went to roll my eyes for Pen to see and commiserate with, but as I looked around, everyone had happy smiles on their faces as they took in our new home for the next five days. Even though it was over the top, I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s fun with my foul mood. Brock could ruin my day even from thousands of miles away.
Ever since I found out my husband, now ex-husband, had not only cheated on me but had gotten the trollop who worked at his office pregnant, I’d been in a perpetual bad mood, which was something I wanted to change on this trip.
Brock and his floozy were no longer in my life. Thank God, I hadn’t had any children with him; then I’d have had to fight with him for the next eighteen years. Nope, instead, I got a huge payout since we didn’t have a prenup, and we had exactly twelve cents collectively to our names when we got married. Normally I wasn’t a vindictive person, but I’d worked two jobs so we could get by while Brock went to medical school. My payout was just the interest I charged for all of those years of hard work. If it wasn’t for me, Brock never would have been able to pay for medical school.
Now was my time to have fun and live free. And maybe decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
Stretching my legs out of the limo and dipping my head out into the sunshine, I was immediately hit with salty air and took a deep breath in. Instantly I relaxed. Pen was right to force me on this trip. Spain was the perfect place to start over.
The girls were already in a line meeting the crew, and Zelda was eating up the way they fawned over her. Now I knew why she liked to go on these trips as often as she did. This was the life.
With each new crew member I met, I wondered how they kept getting better and better looking. Just when I thought one of the girls was the prettiest little thing I’d ever seen, up popped the next one to show off her dazzling smile and beach waves that hung down her back, who was even more beautiful than the last.
Damn, was being gorgeous a requirement for working on a yacht? I was sure it didn’t hurt.
I stopped dead in my tracks when the hand of the stereotypical tall, dark, and handsome times a million was in front of me. When his large, calloused hand engulfed mine, I nearly swooned and turned into a puddle of drool right at his feet.
Pen pushed me on to the next person. Probably so she could have his hands on her. Maybe I should call dibs on Mr. Sexy. It was probably frowned upon to sleep with the guests, but damn would I be happy to break a few rules with him.
It was probably my hormones talking or my vagina since it had been way too long since any male had been close to seeing my lady bits. Shit, I knew I should have gotten that Brazilian when I had the chance, but I never thought I’d be around a guy I’d drop my bottoms for while I was on the boat.
I moved forward and shook the Captain’s hand, and stood off to the side as I waited for my best friend to finish up. Once she was through, Pen skipped over to me with hearts in her eyes and a grin that screamed man-eater. “That boy is so fucking hot,” she whisper-yelled.
Boy was the key term. He had to be at least ten years younger than the two of us. His clean-shaven face didn’t help his boyish charm. Fuck, was I a cougar now? Normally I didn’t have these thoughts, but I was married before, and now I was free to think whatever and ogle whoever I wanted.
“I wouldn’t mind getting to know him a little better down below if you know what I mean.” I waggled my eyebrows, causing Pen to throw her head back and laugh.
“Girl, you should go for it. You totally deserve it. Maybe sneak a pic and post it on social media so Brock can see what he’s missing.” Pen laughed through her words, thinking she was hilarious.
There was no way in hell I was posting myself in bed with anyone, even if it would make Brock jealous. I’d make him see what he’d let go by living my best life.
“If you’ll take off your shoes and follow me, I’ll show you around the boat, and you can pick your rooms,” the crazy gorgeous blonde stewardess, Ophelia, said with a fake smile plastered on her face.
“No shoes?” Reagan squeaked.
“To protect the boat, there are no shoes allowed.” Ophelia looked down at Reagan’s high-heeled feet.
Reagan’s nose scrunched up in disgust. “But I don’t want to see anyone’s nasty feet.”
“I’m sorry, but that’s the rule of the boat.” Ophelia gave a tight smile.
“What if someone has ape feet?” Reagan asked as she kicked off her heels.
“I’m not sure what ape feet are, but I can promise you the crew takes good care of their feet.”
“You should have requested they all have pedicures before we boarded,” Reagan whined to Zelda.
We all looked at each other with wide eyes. I wanted to believe she was kidding, but I knew she wasn’t.
Kicking off my flip-flops, I started to pick them up when Pen whispered in my ear, “Don’t look now, but I swear that hot crew guy is staring at your ass.” Of course, I looked because that’s what you do when someone tells you not to look.
His dark chocolate eyes were indeed settled straight on my ass. I wanted to shake it at him to see if I could get more of a reaction out of him but fought the urge. It was nice to feel desired, and it made my lips tip up as we followed the girls onto the boat.
I tried not to gawk as we toured the yacht, but damn, it was hard not to. It was beautiful and elegant, with every surface white and glass with gold as the accent color. We all eyed Zelda’s bedroom after seeing the size of the others. She had a large bathroom with a tub you could relax in.
Zelda spun on her heels. “Alright, girls. Let’s get our suits on and then reconvene on the bathing deck in twenty minutes.”
“I’ll have the crew bring your suitcases as quickly as possible. When would you like to have lunch?” Ophelia looked to Z.
“In an hour. You can serve us while we lay out,” Zelda said as she sat on her bed.
“We can do that. Do you want something simple then?” Ophelia’s tone said the answer to that should be a resounding yes.
“Something to keep us cool,” Zelda replied.
“Okay,” Ophelia drawled out. “I’ll tell the chef you’d like something to keep you cool while you sunbathe.”
Pen and I linked arms as we headed to our room.
“Maybe we should throw her overboard, and we can share her room,” Pen whispered conspiratorially in my ear.
“Then who’s going to pay?” I shot back, and hip-checked her.
“Good point. I don’t even want to know how much she’s paying. At least we’re sharing a room, and it’s a decent size. I can’t imagine sharing a room with Reagan or Scarlett.”
Me either. Reagan was too high maintenance for me, and Scarlett was too quiet. Maybe she’d break out of her shell the longer we were here and once she got to know us.
I looked around our room. There wasn’t much space with our two beds and our luggage that had already been delivered scattered all over the floor as Pen started going through hers, but I didn’t plan to spend much time in here. I wanted to enjoy the sun and the salty breeze as much as possible.
“Yeah, Reagan was already looking a little green, and there was no way in hell I was sharing a room with her if she’s going to be sick the whole time.”
“Maybe it’s because she saw someone’s ape feet,” I giggled. Opening up my suitcase, I started to look for one of the swimsuits I’d packed, but couldn’t find them. “Pen,” I called as I started to unpack everything to find my swimsuits.
“Yes?” She drew out the word in a giddy tone, letting me know she was up to something.
“What did you do?” Turning around to face her, I put my hands on my hips and tried to look stern. It was impossible when I saw the red dental floss she was holding up. “That’s what you’re wearing?”
“No.” She shook her head before she started to crack up. I could barely understand the words as they came out of her mouth because she was laughing so hard. “It’s what you’re wearing.”
“I had to have heard you wrong because there’s no way in hell I’m wearing that.” I turned back to my suitcase, desperate to find the suits I’d packed. “Now tell me what you’ve done to my suits.”
Pen rolled her lips to try and hide her smile. Her whiskey-colored eyes sparkled with mischief. “How mad would you be if I told you I hid them in the back of your closet so you wouldn’t find them?”
“Are you saying all of my swimwear is in the States?”
“I bought you new ones.” She pulled out a brown paper bag that had been hidden in her suitcase.
“Let me see,” I snatched it out of her hands and started to pull out one suit after another. They ranged in colors from the red that still hung from her fingertips to black and teal. “Pen,” I cried. “I can’t wear any of these.”
“You know why.” My voice came out high-pitched and squeaky.
“You have a banging bod and need to get all the shit that Brock spewed to you over the years out of your head.”
“I know, but it’s not easy.”
Brock had been the jealous type who never wanted me to dress sexy or show my body. After a while, it became easier for me to dress the way he wanted me to than to fight with him on it. Now I was used to wearing clothes that covered my body.
“Why do you care? You’re never going to see these people again. Show everyone what your momma gave you.” She shimmied her boobs, making me laugh.
She was right, but if I wore any of the suits, I’d be showing more skin than anyone had seen in years, and I wasn’t sure I was prepared for that.
“Let’s start you off with this one.” Pen picked out another bag from her suitcase and pulled out something black. “Now, this is a one-piece with strategic pieces cut out of it.”
It looked like strips of fabric that were somehow all connected. Still, it was more than the others. I didn’t have a better option until we were someplace I could buy another that was more to my comfort level.
“When we go to shore, I’m buying one that I approve of,” I said as I took the slightly less offending swimsuit from her.
“I expect nothing less,” she laughed. “Now go get suited up, and I’ll meet you upstairs.”
I lifted a brow at her order. “And what are you going to do?”
Penelope let out a sigh as she sat on her bed. “I’ve got to check in at work. There’s this new band they want to sign and—” She clapped her hands, ending her train of thought. “It doesn’t matter. It’s just something I need to take care of before I can enjoy the next few days.”
Giving her some privacy, I stepped into our tiny bathroom and let Pen do what she needed to do. Pen loved her job and had recently been promoted. I knew it was hard for her to leave right now, but she’d made it work, wanting me to be able to celebrate my divorce with this luxurious trip.
Back up on deck, I searched for the girls but couldn’t find them anywhere. How long did it take to put on a swimsuit? Even with all my procrastinating, I was the first one out?
“Stella?” Pen yelled from behind me as Ophelia stepped up to me with a tray of flutes filled with Champagne. “Would you like another glass of Champagne, or would you like something different to drink?” Ophelia asked.
“Champagne’s fine for now. Thank you,” I responded as I took a flute before I turned around to find Pen walking toward me.
Ophelia offered her a drink as well, but my eyes were stuck on the hot guy who greeted us before we came aboard. He slowly started to pull his shirt over his head to reveal golden washboard abs, unlike anything I’d ever seen before.
My body started to overheat as more skin was revealed. Leaning back, I tried to catch my breath, but I must have miscalculated because one second, I was experiencing the joys of ogling the crew, and the next, I was falling.
My mouth had barely opened to scream when I hit the water. Warmth surrounded me as I tried to use my arms and legs to surface, but no matter how hard I struggled to the surface, the light kept getting further and further away, making me panic.
I couldn’t believe I was going to die when I’d been on the boat for less than an hour. It served me right for doing something so extravagant when I could have just gone to the spa for a day to celebrate my divorce.
Just when I started to run out of breath and things were starting to become dark, strong arms wrapped around me and started to move me back toward the light.
Coming to the surface, I coughed and spluttered as I was dragged toward a smaller boat where two of the crew were pulling us by a rope. I tried to turn in the arms of my savior but was held too tightly to move. Instead, I lay back and let them do their job. I was never going to live down falling over the edge of the boat. I was already embarrassed enough I didn’t want to see the girls when I got on board or face the crew, all because a guy took off his shirt. It wasn’t like he was taking off his pants and let me see the graciousness that hung between his legs.
Now that would be a dream, wouldn’t it?
Maybe I could hide in my room until we docked, and I wouldn’t have to face anyone. Yeah, I was delusional. Maybe I drank more ocean water than I thought.
One of the guys picked me up from under the arms and dragged me onto the boat. Wrapping a towel around my shoulders, he stepped out of the way as the person who saved me, and the reason why I fell in the water, pulled himself out of the water.
“Her lips are blue. Give her your damn shirt,” my savior barked out as he squatted down in front of me. “Are you okay?” When I only nodded as my teeth chattered, he grabbed another towel from the seat next to me and wrapped it around me. “We’ll be back on board in a few minutes, and we’ll get you warm, I promise.”
“Thank you…” Fuck, I still didn’t know his name.
“Remy, ma’am. I’m just doing my job.”
“Do you often have to save women who fall overboard?” I asked with my teeth still chattering. When did the wind pick up?
Remy shook his head and gave a signal that seemed to mean to hurry up. The wind picked up, and the water misted my face. Moving to sit beside me, he looked toward the boat as we quickly came upon it.
“I have to say you’re the first, and hopefully the last person I have to save from going overboard.” His jaw ticked as he looked straight ahead.
Was that a reprimand? It wasn’t like I meant to fall over. Maybe Mister Body of a God should keep his clothes on while on deck, so no accidents would happen.
In a matter of minutes, I was helped off the little dinghy and back aboard the yacht, where I was met by the waiting crew and my friends. Penelope immediately wrapped me in her arms. “I’m so glad you’re okay. One minute we were sipping our Champs, and the next, you were gone.”
I didn’t need my best friend to remind me of my folly. I would have done anything in that moment for none of them to know what happened to me and to be able to hide it from them. They’d likely keep an extra set of eyes on me for the rest of the trip since I was now a liability.
Leaning into Pen as we walked to my cabin, I asked. “How many people saw that catastrophe?”
“Do you want the truth or—”
It was bad, I knew it, but I still interrupted her. “The whole truth.”
“Everyone but one of the stewardesses.” Penelope’s face was a hopeful grimace as she looked at me.
Kill me now.
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