The sun causes my forehead to bead with sweat, and one of the girl’s complains about needing a fan moved out here just to cool them down. Ryke orders an extra pitcher of water to shut them up.
As the waiter leaves, Ryke nudges my arm and asks in a low voice, “How was Lo?”
“Mean,” I reply. “But good mean, I think. Does that make sense?”
“Yeah. With Lo, it does.”
I wish he was here in Mexico with us. Maybe next year or during spring break we can enjoy a trip together. If he’s at a place where he can be surrounded by alcohol, that is. Him, sober. Me, not as compulsive about sex. It sounds quite nice even if it’s a little hard to picture.
“Hey, has anyone seen Daisy?” Cleo asks.
I look up from my menu and glance frantically around the table, noticing her empty chair.
“I thought she went to the bathroom,” Harper says.
“I just came back from the bathroom. She wasn’t there. I checked the stalls,” Cleo tells us.
My head whips to Ryke, my eyes bugging. And he immediately says, “Calm down. She’s probably around here somewhere.” He rises from the table. “I’ll go ask the hostess if she’s seen her.” He slips his wayfarers off and enters the café with stiff shoulders. I see his muscles flexing a little from his red tank. At least if he finds her with a guy, he may be able to intimidate him with pure brawn.
I dial Daisy’s number, trying to push away nagging thoughts about how we’re in a foreign country. And even though we’re staying in the touristy parts, anything can happen. Daisy takes French in prep school. Not Spanish. If someone kidnaps her, she won’t be able to understand what’s going on.
My anxiety peaks at the fifth ring. Pick up!
The line clicks. “Hi, it’s Daisy. Not Duck and not Duke. Definitely not Buchanan. I’m a Calloway. If you haven’t misdialed then leave your name after the beep, and I’ll call back when I return from the moon. Don’t wait around. It may take a while.” BEEEP.
I cut the line off rather than leave her a scathing message. She’s probably just talking to someone at the bar or something…oh God.
“She’s not texting me back,” Katy grumbles. A couple of the other girls say they can’t reach her either.
“That’s not like her,” Harper says, her brows cinching in worry. “She’s a fast texter.”
“Do you think she got Natalie Holloway’ed?” Katy whisper-yells.
“You did not just use her name as a verb,” Cleo chastises.
Ryke returns and throws a wad of bills on the table. His pissed and worried expression unsettles my stomach, a combination that I do not like right now. “Girls.” He motions for all of them to rise. “Leave your drinks. We have to call a cab.”
I shoot up from the table and walk briskly beside Ryke as we go to the street to hail multiple cabs. “What happened?” I ask. “Where is she?” Cars swerve in and out of the long, touristy strip, and yellow taxi vans pull to the side to collect us. The air is thick with humidity, and the palm trees jut up from the grassy center median, leaning crookedly. Even amid a supposed tropical paradise, something has to go wrong.
He rubs the back of his neck. “The hostess said she saw her leave with a man—”
That’s all I hear. I turn to bolt down the sidewalk, about to run and scream her name at the top of my lungs.
Ryke grabs my arm and tugs me back. “Before you go call the f**king Coast Guard,” he says roughly, “I think I might know where she is.”
“How?” I ask, fear poking me in the lungs.
He motions for the first group of girls to climb into the nearest van. “Get in,” he tells them. “Tessa, you too.” The Katy Perry girl pouts, obviously hoping to ride in the same taxi as him. But from what Ryke told me, she is the one he wants to stay far, far away from.
“Ryke!” I shout. I need answers. Daisy is my baby sister. The girl who trailed Rose and me like a little shadow. We pretended to believe in Santa Claus for five extra years just for her. I can’t lose her to Mexican drug lords or kidnappers or rapists or f**king anything. Not on my watch. I’d do more than call the Coast Guard. I’d get the Marines, the Army, the Air Force, para-f**king-troopers. I’d have twenty choppers flying around the country for her. Maybe that’s excessive and they have better things to do. But I don’t care.
“Get in first,” he tells me, motioning to the last taxi. I climb in after he gives the address to the first and second drivers. Harper sits to my left. And then Cleo jumps in and squishes to my right. How the hell did I get sandwiched between them?
Ryke takes the passenger seat by the driver. “Follow those cabs,” he tells him. “Quickly.” And the van speeds off.
Cleo leans forward, her elbow digging into my thigh. “Is she okay?” she asks Ryke, sticking her head in between the seats.
I’m wondering the same thing, Ryke. I need some info here.
“The hostess said the guy she walked out with is a local travel agent. She gave me a list of spots he takes tourists to.”
“So she hasn’t been kidnaped?” Harper says.
“Not until he realizes who she is,” Cleo adds.
I shoot them both a glare. “Not helping.” My stomach sinks and knots. I stare up at Ryke in the front seat. “How do you know which spot he took her to?”
“I have a feeling—”
“A feeling?” I snap. “Ryke, she’s missing, and you barely know her—”
“I know her enough,” he says. “She’s f**king impetuous and daring, a little too bold and way too f**king fearless.”
That sounds about right.
“Trust me, Lily.” He cranes his neck over his shoulder to look at me, and Cleo backs up a little, leaning against her seat again. “I promise that I’ll find her. I won’t let anything happen to that girl, okay?” Confidence and determination pulses in his eyes. I just hope he chose the correct place. I’d rather not chase her around Mexico to find that the tour guide had kidnapped her after all.
I nod once, and Cleo actually takes my hand and squeezes lightly. Compassion—something I’m not used to from people. Especially girls.
I give her a weak smile, and she returns it. The cabs roll to a stop, and Cleo slides open the door. We crawl out, flip-flops hitting cement. Girls pool from the other cabs in front of us, and we all gather together after the vans drive off. I have no idea where we are. At the bottom of a sloping hill, I spot a group of tourists staring at the side of a yellowish, brown cliff. I hear the roar of the ocean and the splash as water crashes into the rock. White capped waves flow into a ravine that separates the tourists’ lookout point from the cliff. And the crowd watches the rock and the water. I know what this is, but I don’t want to believe it.
Ryke practically runs down the hill towards the tourists, and the girls take their time following. I sprint to catch up to him.
“Did she go scuba diving?”
“No,” he says tersely, reaching the bottom. He scrutinizes the faces, trying to find Daisy’s among the people, and I follow their gaze towards the cliff.
My heart nearly explodes. Because a set of five bronze-skinned men stand on the side of a forty-foot cliff, some locals even higher at the top, probably eighty-feet. And one springs off, his body arched as he dives.
Into the ravine below.
Oh. My. God.
He makes a little splash, but all I see is rock and then rock and then the little sliver of water that he could have easily missed. Holy. Shit.
Where is my sister?! And then, I see her. She’s not standing with the tourists on the “safe” side where we are. No, she has somehow found her way on the cliff. Barefoot, she clings to the middle of the rock and scoots over as one of the divers directs her where to place her feet.
I cup my hands to my mouth. “DAISY!” I scream until my throat burns. She’s crazy. Certifiable.
Ryke freezes by my side and lets out a string of profanities.
“I have to go get her,” I say, my ribs constricting around my lungs. She can’t jump. She’s not a trained diver. We’re in Acapulco, Mexico where the men have probably dived from the ledge hundreds of times, timing the rate of the waves into the rock, knowing exactly which spot to hit. She knows nothing!
“No,” Ryke tells me. “I’m going to get her. You’ll have a panic attack halfway up the f**king cliff. Just stay here. Watch the girls. Take a f**king breath.” He looks like he needs one too. He doesn’t waste another second talking to me. He darts off in the direction where we came from, trying to find a way to the cliff side.
I just watch her little speck of blonde hair that’s tied in a braid at her shoulder. She nods as a local diver points to the water below and then motions to the rock. At least he’s teaching her, is all I think. If she jumps she could die or get a concussion. This is not in the itinerary.
“Oh my God,” Cleo exclaims, reaching my side. Her fingers curl around the metal safety railing. “Is that Daisy?”
The girls gasp as they huddle around. They all start whisking out their cellphones to record my sister’s impending death. Her toes stick off the rock ledge, not much to brace herself with.
She’s planning on jumping. She’s not just up there for an intimate tour of the cliff. This is her idea of fun.
“She’s nuts,” Harper says with the shake of her head.
Another local diver springs off the edge and soars in the air with mastered precision. He dives headfirst into the right spot of water, and the man teaching Daisy keeps talking, as though that was some kind of demonstration for her.
Daisy nods, not even a little scared. I can practically see her eyes lighting up in awe and excitement.
“Is she going to jump?” Harper asks. “There are rocks everywhere.”
Cleo anxiously clenches the railing. “This isn’t an ocean. This is like as small as a river. Shouldn’t she be jumping into that?” She points to the full blue ocean that hits the northern part of the cliff, but Daisy is on the side, the section where the ocean flows into this little crevice between our lookout point and the mountain she spiders.
“I’ve seen these types of dives before,” Katy (or rather Tessa) says, smacking on gum. She sidles up next to Cleo. “There’s a small radius where it’s like really, really deep and then beyond that it’s shallow and really, really rocky.”
“Shut up,” Cleo snaps at her. “Seriously, shut up.”
And then, I see Ryke ascending the cliff, grabbing cutouts in the rock and putting his feet in divots, hiking his body up and then over with endurance and strength. He doesn’t need a local to show him the way. He’s free climbing, I realize. Solo free climbing. Without a rope. I guess, in some way, he was able to do what he had planned before coming on this trip.
Still, I am terrified.
A local says something, and their heads swivel in Ryke’s direction. The man edges closer and holds out his hand to Ryke when he finds their path. He shakes it as though he’s a welcomed guest to their club atop a cliff. Actually, they’re not on top. That would be too high. But the side of the cliff is already too tall for comfort.