Author: Priscilla West


“Your secret’s safe with me.” His finger to his lips completed the mockery.


“What are you doing the rest of the day?” I asked, wanting nothing more than to change the subject before my irritation with him made me speak out of line.


“Oh not much. Try the local cuisine, check out babes at the beach while I catch up on some emails.”


“Which beach?”


“Clifton.”


I smiled at him. Riley and I were definitely not going to that one.


Chapter Two


When I got back to my hotel room Riley was curled up on the bed watching television. Richard had gone to his own room to do who knows what.


“So how did it go?” Riley paused after I shot her a miserable look. “I’m so sorry, Kris. You don’t have to talk about it.”


I kicked off my heels and let my hair down, anxious to get out of professional mode. “Richard seems to think we did well. Sometimes I feel like he’s in his own world though. Vincent was definitely not going for our pitch. You could totally read it in his body language.”


Riley’s expression was sympathetic. Remote in her hand, she switched off the TV. “I’m sure you did your best. Maybe luck just wasn’t on your side today.”


“That’s the thing. I couldn’t even do my best. I messed up multiple times.” My mind replayed the awkward moments from the meeting and I shuddered. I didn’t have anyone to blame but myself, but in my current mood I was eager for a scapegoat. “If Vincent wasn’t so damn gorgeous, things might’ve been different.”


“Oh, do tell.” Her voice increased a pitch.


I told her all about my blunders, and when I was done she smiled. “Well at least you looked professional.”


“Thanks for the sympathy.” I gave her a wry grin.


“You know I’m always here for support. That’s why we’re going to have a blast today. You’re going to forget all about that meeting and Mr. Abs Sorenson. Tonight we’ll hit the bars and have guys buy us drinks. I know you haven’t been dating much, all that sexual frustration must be eating you alive.”


It was true. I’d only gone on a handful of unsuccessful dates since I’d met Riley. I told myself it was because I focusing on my career instead, but there were also personal reasons I didn’t want to think about dating—reasons I never told Riley. Still, she was right about the sexual frustration. If my battery-operated boyfriend could talk, he’d probably say I was smothering him.


“I’m not really interested in the male species right now. Between Richard’s chauvinism and Vincent shooting us down today, I think I’m a little burned out on testosterone.”


“Fair enough. It’ll just be us girls then. Get in that sexy bathing suit you brought.” Riley untied her robe to reveal her bikini, its thin straps and enhanced bust leaving little to the imagination. “I’m all ready to go.”


Having vented to Riley, I felt better about the situation this morning. I slipped into my bathing suit and left the hotel with her.


When we arrived at the aptly-named Bikini Beach just before noon, the shore was packed. There was a nice mix of tourists and locals, with lots of people both in and out of the clear blue waters. We laid our towels down on the heated sand and relaxed in cheap folding chairs we got from a nearby beach store. Once we were settled, Riley went to get us some drinks. I stared out at the waves and thought about how picturesque the scene looked. This kind of experience was rare when you lived in Manhattan and I took the opportunity to soak it in. As the afternoon wore on, the stress of the morning seemed to melt away like the ice cubes in our mojitos.


I spotted a few surfers in the distance zig-zagging along the water. I’d never been surfing before and didn’t have much of a desire to change that. I understood the appeal, but I was afraid of the danger—I just didn’t think the risks outweighed the benefits. A few thrilling moments versus the possibility of getting my arm bitten off by a shark or getting stung by a jellyfish . . . yeah, I’d be happy with just tanning—with sunscreen of course.


Vincent, on the other hand, loved risky activities. His whole business was based on extreme sports. I didn’t really get it but it clearly made him very successful.


A few toned men with olive skin passed by and Riley directed my attention to them. I had to admit they were attractive from a purely physical perspective but that just didn’t do it for me.


“Maybe your standards are too high,” Riley said.


“Just because they have abs and a penis doesn’t mean I want to sleep with them.”


She laughed. “Keith had more than that. You never told me why you turned down my offer to set you up with him.”


“He just wasn’t my type.”


“What is your type, Kris? I’ve hardly seen you date since I’ve known you, and don’t say it’s because you’ve been too busy with work.” She nudged me with her elbow.


“I’m not sure I have one.” I was only vaguely aware of rubbing my own pinky finger.


“Oh come on. Every girl has a type, some just aren’t willing to be honest about it.”


Now I was the curious one. “What’s your type then?”


“Let’s see . . . tall, strong, handsome, smart, dark, dangerous . . . oh and let’s not forget rich.”


“Sounds more like a fantasy than a real person.” Actually that sounded a lot like someone I met this morning. “Why don’t we just say I like the ‘nice and caring’ type.”


“Basically boring then, huh?”


“Boring to you, satisfying to me. Why would you want someone dark and dangerous? And if he’s so hot, wouldn’t you be concerned he’d cheat on you?”


“I’d just have to blow his mind.” Her mischievous wink made it clear what she meant. “But to each her own.”


We spent the rest of the afternoon bathing our skin in UV rays and trying out the local food. Fortunately, there were enough tourists streaming through Cape Town that the restaurants provided menus in English. I thought chicken would taste the same no matter where you were but whatever special sauce they used made it exceptionally delicious. We explored the area, stopping periodically to point out unique architecture or unusual occurrences. Although I’d told Riley I wasn’t interested in dating, I couldn’t help but indulge in idle thoughts about Vincent. Maybe I’d spent way too much time memorizing his files.


It was evening by the time we were hungry again. Despite wearing comfy sneakers, our feet were killing us from all the walking. Riley suggested we rest at a local bar to relieve our weary legs and grab some grub. We were off the beaten path by this point and the bar she picked looked sketchy.


“It’ll be fun. Don’t you want to get an authentic experience? We didn’t fly thousands of miles just to go to some bar we could go to back home.”


“Yeah, but we’re two American girls in a foreign country. There are horror movies based on this situation.”


“What’s the worst that can happen?” Her grin made me ill at ease.


“Don’t say that.”


“Look, I have some mace in my bag. If anybody tries to get frisky with us, I’m going to melt their eyeballs.” I pictured Riley as the female version of Rambo.


“All right, fine. If we get abducted, it’s your fault. I just don’t want you saying I’m a party pooper.”


She laughed. “I’ve never said that. You just like to be cautious, which I respect. Remember when you warned me about Danny? You were right, he did turn out to be a creep.”


Riley had dated Danny a few months prior. When she brought him over to our apartment he kept giving me shifty-eyed stares. I expressed my concerns to her and it turned out he had done time in prison for theft. He wasn’t even the worst of Riley’s extensive dating history. I honestly didn’t know how she found some of these guys.


Upon entering, we found the place was full of mostly locals. There were a few expats in the corner who sounded British and were probably out for some adventure. Somewhere there was a speaker putting out exotic tribal music. The hypnotic beats were catchy but it certainly was a far cry from American pop music—no Miley Cyrus here. When we found a seat at a table and ordered margaritas, I found myself easing into the atmosphere.


“Man, check this place out.” Riley sounded excited. She pointed at the decorations around us. “Animal bones hanging on the walls, a shrunken head behind the bar, and a beat-up sign that says ‘Ompad’. Isn’t it cool?” She whipped out her phone to snap some pictures.


The distinct sound of a shot glass slamming against wood alerted us to a commotion brewing near the bar. A group of onlookers surrounded two men with tumblers in hand and a bottle half-full of amber liquid between them. The one on the left was a juggernaut of a man; a gruff beard and mean stare completed the intimidation factor. The gathering of curious spectators obscured my view of the man on the right.


“What’s going on over there?” Riley asked.


I knew we shouldn’t have gotten closer. The feeling in my gut that whatever was going on over there was trouble told me we should leave, but intense curiosity pulled us near the action like moths to a flame.


We settled at a table nearby, giving us front row seats. It was when I saw who the figure poised on the right was that I realized why my alarm bells had gone off.


Vincent.


What was he doing here? He was wearing a white button-down and khakis that showcased his lean muscular build. By now the crowd around the bar had grown considerably, tantamount with the noise level. Most huddled around Vincent’s side. Some of the admirers included beautiful, curvaceous women that were all but rubbing their breasts against Vincent, and a pang of jealousy hit me from who knows where.


Riley shouted to me over the ruckus. “Is that who I think it is?”


“Yeah, it’s Vincent,” I said. “Looks like he’s in the middle of some kind of drinking game.”

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