“It wasn’t meant as one.”
Because he had it coming, she pushed the second shot of mezcal his way. “I don’t understand why you’re still single, Victor. You talk so sweetly to the ladies.”
He slurped up the drink, hardly batted an eye. “I sh-shouldn’t be single tonight.”
“She was too young for you,” Shannon said in all seriousness.
“Did you tell her that?” Every time he blinked, it took longer for him to open his eyes.
“No.” Shannon pushed his shoulder up to keep him from falling off the bar stool. If she was less bitchy, she’d be feeding him water and maybe some coffee. Instead, she pointed to Victor’s empty glass for the bartender. He came over with the bottle and refilled it.
“Thanks.” He looked at the drink, then looked around the bar. “Everyone told me she was too young. Obviously they were right.” He waved a hand in the air. “She just slipped out the back!” He found himself funny and started laughing.
“Yeah, yeah . . . we already sang that song.”
“I had a plan.”
“Oh? What plan was that?”
“Get a wife. I mean, I’m not bad-looking. You don’t think I’m bad-looking, right?”
“Looks don’t guarantee anything.”
He lifted his glass. “I guess that’s true.”
Victor silently stared into his drink. The humor drifted away. “I have to make a new plan.”
“A backup is always a good idea.”
He sucked back his drink and closed his eyes. “I didn’t see this coming.”
For a minute, Shannon almost felt sorry for him. “I don’t think you were looking.”
He pushed the empty glass away and folded his arms on the bar, rested his head in them.
“It’s okay, Victor. I’m sure there’s someone else out there foolish enough to say I do to you.” She hoped her slur would have him poking barbs back.
Instead, he was quiet.
She shook his arm.
Then she heard his snore.
She watched him, passed out on the bar, for several seconds. Would have considered leaving him there but knew the guilt would eat at her if she did.
There was no way she could get him to his room without help.
Patting down his back pockets, she found his cell phone. Using his passed out hand, she pressed his thumb to the reader until it opened. It didn’t take long to locate Justin’s phone number. He answered immediately.
“Where the hell are you, jackass?”
“He’s passed out on the bar,” she said with a chuckle.
“What? Who is this?”
“Someone you owe fifty bucks. I can’t believe you let this drunk walk on the beach alone.”
“Yup, it’s me. Babysitting your baby brother at your hotel restaurant bar. But my shift is about done and I’m not going to lug this guy to his room.”
She heard Justin muffle the phone and shout out to others in the background. “We’ll be right there.”
She put the phone aside but considered taking a few pictures of Victor facedown on the bar. If Avery were there, Shannon was pretty sure the night wouldn’t end without a few embarrassing photos to look at in the future.
Justin showed up with Victor’s two friends. They shook their heads as they marched toward her.
“We’ve been looking for him for the past half hour.”
“I would think a bar would be the first place you’d check.”
Justin ran a hand through his hair. “He was pretty sloshed. I didn’t see him looking for more booze.”
She waved at the empty glasses. “You guessed wrong.” With a long stretch, she stood and patted Justin’s back. “Good luck with that one in the morning. Ending the night with mezcal leaves a nasty taste the next day.”
Justin stared down at his brother. “Thanks for keeping an eye on him.”
“I’m a team player.” She looked to the other guys. “If my friends were here, they’d be taking pictures. Just a suggestion.”
That’s all she needed to say, and the phones came out.
On her short walk to her room on the opposite side of the hotel, Shannon lifted her chin. It felt good, a little vindictive, even, to know Victor would wake up with a nasty hangover. She might even send over a Bloody Mary as a peace offering.
Nawh . . . let him figure out his own cures.
Because in all the things Victor had said that night, what he failed to proclaim was any love for his former fiancée.
Corrie was right in running off, and even if Victor didn’t realize it yet, he was lucky she did.
If anything Shannon had said to the former would-be bride made Corrie flee, then Victor should be thanking her for all the money he didn’t have to part with after the divorce.
She doubted that would ever happen, the thanking thing. In fact, she was fairly certain the man’s lips would curse her as soon as he realized she’d happily fed more fuel to his already drunk body.
Those were curses she could live with.
Something crawled in Victor’s mouth and died.
The ceiling fan spun in slow circles over his head, moving air gently around the room.
In careful measures, he scanned the room and his body from head to toe. With each beat of his heart, a solid knock hit his temples . . . hard! The pasty film on the roof of his mouth contributed to the aforementioned death inside. His dress shirt was bunched up around his shoulders, with several buttons missing from the fabric. He was still in his dress pants. The bottoms were damp, and he didn’t have any socks or shoes. Rolling over on the bed, he saw his wallet and cell phone on the nightstand, but no evidence of his shoes on the floor. A vague memory of throwing them in the ocean sometime the previous night surfaced. It was one of those “screw the world, I’ll be a beach bum” moments.
He forced his body into a sitting position and smacked his lips together in an attempt to find some moisture.
Beside his bed was a bottle of water and a small package of headache medicine, along with a note. Call me when you’re awake. Justin.
He tore open the packet and washed the sour pills down. He hit the bathroom and then stood over the sink, watching the water run down the drain.
Left him at the last possible minute without one word.
Victor shrugged his shirt off, tossed it in the corner of the bathroom, and walked back to the bed. Sitting on the edge, he looked at his phone.
It was still early. Eight o’clock was entirely too early to wake up after the binge he’d managed the night before.
A text from his mother had come through at six. His parents were on their way to the airport, said Justin was staying an extra day to make sure he was okay, and that if he needed them, to call before they boarded the plane and they’d come back.
He fired off a quick note telling them he was okay and that he’d call them later that week.
Other than his mom, his phone was painfully silent.
No word from Corrie. He’d be damned if he would text or call her first.
No messages from his extended family who had shown up to witness his humiliation. Nothing.
Arwin and Kurt where probably still sleeping, and Justin was probably piling in breakfast.
Victor plugged his phone in to charge and headed to the shower.
Twenty minutes later, he found his brother in the hotel restaurant, sitting in front of an empty plate and a cup of coffee.
When Justin saw him, he put his phone down. “I didn’t expect to see you until noon.”
Victor pulled out a chair. “I won’t be running any marathons this morning, that’s for sure.”
Justin laughed. “I’m glad to see you up.”
“I’m a little surprised I’m vertical. I don’t remember going to bed.”
“That’s too bad. The strippers we hired were top-shelf.”
Victor narrowed his eyes. “Yeah, right.”
They both laughed.
The waiter brought him a menu and he ordered coffee. His head still had a band playing inside, but his stomach didn’t seem any worse for the night. “Thanks for keeping me from following my shoes into the ocean.”
“I’m not sure what thought bubble prompted that rebellion. It isn’t like Corrie left because of your footwear.”
He didn’t know where that came from either.
“You made us crazy, taking off like you did last night,” Justin said, taking a drink from his coffee.
“I took off?”
“Yeah. One minute you said you were going to take a leak, the next thing we know, you were gone.”
The image of the moon hitting the water the night before surfaced in his head. He remembered being pissed the view was perfect. A perfect view on an imperfect night. Then he remembered sitting at the bar with her.
“Please tell me that photographer wasn’t part of last night.”
Justin sat in silence.
“Sorry, Vic. But you’re lucky she stumbled upon you. Or you on her, however that may have been.”
“We were drinking at the bar.” And singing.
“That you were.”
Victor shook his head. “She told Corrie to leave. I know it.” Her conviction on the plane, the words she told him when she didn’t know who he was. The strength and confidence in her couldn’t understand how a woman would want a man like him.