The evening started out innocently enough.
“I’ll have another Lagavulin, Scott,” Raphael Vargas said, nodding at the bartender. He was sitting at the main bar at the Costa Turquesa resort, escaping the Caribbean heat.
The bartender nodded, picked up a bottle and poured a generous portion of golden liquid into Raphael’s stubby glass.
Raphael threw back the drink in a single gulp. Hot and smooth, the whisky warmed his throat. He was just about to ask for another when a woman sat down beside him.
She wore a long, billowy peach dress, and had long blonde hair styled in waves and adorned with a peach-colored flower.
A bridesmaid, Raphael was willing to bet.
“Hello,” the woman said, in a husky, Southern U.S. accent. “Aren’t you one of the owners?”
Raphael sent her a lopsided grin while raising an eyebrow. “Who’s asking?”
“My name’s Allison, pleased to meet you,” she said, holding out her hand.
Raphael took it, considered kissing it, but then decided that would be way too clichéd.
“Raphael,” he said, “Or Rafe, if you want less of a mouthful.”
“Oh, I don’t mind a mouthful,” she drawled, resting her chin on a hand and batting her eyelashes.
Raphael raised his eyebrows.
“What ya drinking?” he asked quickly. He’d been celibate for months; maybe it was time he broke his streak.
“Whatever you are, honey.”
“Two Lagavulin’s please, Scott.”
“In the wedding party, are you?” Raphael asked when they had their drinks, angling his head in the direction of Costa Turquesa’s ballroom. He hadn’t known they were hosting a wedding tonight, though the resort held them often. Great for business, his brother Dominic often said.
Good for meeting women, too, Raphael thought, but he’d never say that with Dominic around. Dom was a prude.
Raphael and the woman talked for a while. He watched as she tossed her hair while tossing back shot after shot of whisky. She told him she was from Mississippi, or was it Missouri. Something starting with M.
Then she eyed him coyly. “I’m feeling a little bit… hot,” she murmured.
Raphael raised an eyebrow and said, “Well… I think I know a place where we can cool off…”
Costa Turquesa was a beachfront resort, located on Carmona Island, a stone’s-throw from Venezuela in the Caribbean Sea. So the obvious place to cool down was at one of the resort’s white-sand beaches.
But Raphael hated to be obvious.
So, he took the woman’s hand, and led her through the resort’s lobby and out to the front garden.
They crossed the lawn and walked up to one of the resort’s fountains – the big one, with the sculpture of Aphrodite in the middle.
Allison whooped loudly and hopped into the fountain, soaking her long dress instantly. Then she unzipped it and peeled it off, letting it drop into the water, and revealing some pretty fancy lingerie – lacy and white.
Raphael slowly pulled off his t-shirt before joining the woman in the fountain. She eyed him suggestively, positioning herself so water cascaded over her breasts.
Implants, Raphael thought – he wasn’t always a fan of them, but this pair looked pretty darned good.
Then, to his surprise, she put her hands behind her back and unclipped the bra, letting it drop to the water.
Definitely implants, Raphael thought, not looking away.
And then, still watching him closely, she stepped out of her lacy white panties. Raphael found his gaze descending to her patch of pubic hair, which was trimmed into the shape of a heart. Raphael raised his eyebrows.
A bottled blonde, then.
Best be a gentleman, he thought, as his hands went to the waistband of his board shorts. And soon they too were swimming in the fountain.
“Aren’t you a tall drink of water,” the woman said, eyeing him shamelessly.
“You could probably use one of those right about now,” Raphael observed.
“You are so hot,” the woman said loudly, inching closer to him. “I think you might be the hottest man I’ve ever seen.”
Raphael could hear a distant calypso beat, likely originating from the reception this woman was avoiding. He stepped under the stream of water flowing from Aphrodite’s pitcher, and wet his dark brown hair, slicking it back while basking in the light from the grand hotel with its dramatic white pillars, and the moon above.
When he looked at the woman again, she was swaying arhythmically to the music. Then she paused.
“Kiss me!” she said.
Rafe hesitated. The woman appeared to be more than willing, but she was also extremely drunk.
“Maybe we should wait ‘til tomorrow?” he said.
The woman pouted. “Come on! You’re supposed to be the easy one!”
Raphael frowned, taken aback. He assumed she was comparing him to his brother, and he could admit that he felt a bit hurt.
Though, her statement was quite accurate.
“Well, I am the single one,” Raphael agreed.
The woman lurched forward, apparently aiming to throw her arms around him, but she lost her balance and splashed into the water. Raphael helped her up, but when she was standing she grabbed him again, pressing her body against his, and kissed him eagerly.
Well, maybe one kiss wouldn’t hurt…
Raphael was just thinking that maybe she wasn’t all that drunk when headlights flashed across their naked bodies, and a green SUV pulled up beside the fountain.
Dominic stepped out of it, his face grim.
“Okay, party’s over,” he said, “Time for bed.”
Despite his expression, Dominic sounded calm, like a father who hadn’t quite reached the end of his patience with an errant child. Maybe he’d been practicing – he did have a baby on the way.
But, it was an act, Raphael suspected, to avoid upsetting the guest. Because he sensed that his brother was angry. Very, very angry.
The woman – Alice? Amy? – giggled. He’d already forgotten her name. “Okay,” she said, staring into Dominic’s handsome, scowling face.
Dominic had towels in his SUV – of course he did. His brother was a boy scout, always prepared. Dom helped the woman step out of the fountain, and wrapped a towel around her like she was a roll of toilet paper that had come unravelled. Raphael jumped to the ground unassisted, and Dom threw a towel at him.
“Where are your keys?” Dominic asked icily.
Raphael shrugged, looking down at the grass. “Somewhere…”
Then the three of them spent several minutes searching the perfectly manicured lawn, with Amy/Alice giggling on all fours, clutching her towel, and not helping much. Eventually, Dominic found the keys, which he pocketed.
“I’ll take you back to the hotel, Ms Pritchard. I think your party is looking for you,” Dom said, cool as a cucumber.
Then they all climbed into the SUV, and trundled the short distance back to the resort’s main building. Once inside, Dominic veered left to deliver Ms Pritchard to her room, his hand on her upper arm.
“Meet me in my office,” he told his brother curtly.
“What the hell were you thinking?!” Dominic screamed a few minutes later. He was pacing, and literally pulling at his dark hair. “This is a business, not a… a brothel,” he sputtered.
A brothel? Raphael wondered, confused. Was he the prostitute in this scenario?
“Brothels are businesses,” Raphael couldn’t stop himself from saying. It was the booze talking, he knew. He’d be smarter to keep his mouth shut.
Dominic glared at him, a savage glint in his amber-brown eyes.
“Tomorrow! You’re on the first ferry out of here!”
Raphael frowned down at his brother, who was an inch or two shorter than him. “You know, I was just doing my job,” he felt moved to defend himself.
“Your job?” Dominic drawled, coming to a halt, his eyebrows sky high.
“Sure. Showing the guests a good time. Entertaining bridesmaids is kind of my specialty,” he said, trying to keep the note of pride out of his voice. Dom certainly wouldn’t consider that a skill worth bragging about.
Dominic stared daggers at his brother. “Raphael. She was the bride!” he yelled.
“Oh,” said Raphael, running a hand through his damp hair. “Well… How was I supposed to know that?”
Dominic threw his hands up in the air. “You’re supposed to have some dignity!” he shouted. Raphael was glad it was so late and few staff would be around to hear. “You’re supposed to be an adult! Maybe this sort of thing was funny when you were twenty, but you’re thirty-seven years old, Raphael. Thirty-seven!”
Raphael stared at his brother, not sure how to respond. He’d seen Dominic angry lots of times, almost always about something Raphael had said or done, but he wasn’t sure he’d ever seen his brother this angry before.
“You are banished!” Dominic screamed, practically spitting with rage. “I want you to leave tomorrow, and don’t come back until you’ve… grown up! Do you hear me? I don’t want to see you again until you can prove to me you’re a… goddamn adult!”