Sommer Storms Ch. 01byKeroin©
I'd finally found a new description for the evening's tropical sunset, one not involving the adjectives sultry or fiery, when a small but determined fist smashed into my dinner plate.
The fist belonged to a woman I'd glanced at a few times, as she sat at the bar and as I wrote and scratched out sentences on the back of a cocktail napkin.
"Liar!" she grabbed the crab I hadn't even touched yet off my plate, hoisted it in the air and shook it as if she might bring it back to life.
Her eyes were the most interesting shade of blue.
Damn, more adjectives.
"Miss, please." A waiter scurried over to my table, urging my accuser to calm down by raising his index finger to his lips and making a shh face.
Those blue eyes ignited like a blowtorch. "Don't you dare tell me to be quiet." She shook the crab at the waiter. A leg came loose, flew through the air and bounced off his flowered shirt. "Get that lying bastard of a manager out here!"
I could clearly see the lying bastard of a manager hurrying in her direction but I wasn't about to stop the show to let her know that.
"You people think because you're rich that gives you the right to eat endangered species?" Now she waved the crab at the patrons who were frozen in cartoonish poses of shock. "Do you have any idea how few Coconut Crabs are left on this island? Do you?"
If the diners of the Pacific Pearl Resort did have any idea, they weren't stupid enough to say so.
"Miss, I'm going to have to ask you to leave," the manager said, in that annoyingly calm tone they teach you at manager school.
Blue Eyes grit her teeth and thrust the crab at his face. As the lying bastard of a manager started to speak, she whipped out a compact digital camera, from god knows where, and snapped a shot. "Busted, asshole."
I chuckled. I should have known better.
"You think that's funny?" she spun around and lashed me with a stare. Cute.
Maybe I should have said something but she was like a wild animal that had been caged for too long and I couldn't bring myself to dull her obviously deserved outrage.
"Laugh at this," she said, using my ex-entrée as bat to knock over my fruity cocktail onto my dress shirt.
"Now look…Sir, I'm so…Get her out of here!" the manager was still blinking from the flash that had caught him off guard as he waved over a slow moving security guard.
They were no match for Miss Blue Eyes, she was already on her way out, crab in hand, yelling obscenities as she went. I watched her legs. Gazelles would kill for legs like hers.
If I'd been in New York or Paris, I would have run after her but that's the beauty of a tiny patch of rock like Aitutaki, there's nowhere for gazelles to hide.
I took a sip of water and dialed the phone next to my bed.
"Jules, it's Gordon."
Her second hello stepped on my words and I quickly explained the long distance, satellite delay. There was a pause and I was about to ask if she understood when I finally heard her.
"What's her name?"
"Gordon, when you have been without a woman for a year and I don't hear from you in eight months and then suddenly you call me, your only kinky friend, at one in the morning, from the other end of the earth, I know you're calling about a woman-slash-potential-victim. I'm busy, so spill."
"I don't know her name."
"Oh, Jesus in a leisure suit, you're kidding? Tell me you're kidding?"
Why do I always call her? Reality check, idiot.
"Jules, she's…I don't even…there's just something…her eyes…and she…"
"Calm down Cyrano DeBergerac. I get it. You finally met someone who gave you the warm fuzzies, or the cold creepies, in your case, and you've got a Gord-on. Good. I'm happy. Just please tell me you're not…hold on." She started talking to someone on her end. "It's Gordon. Yes, he's calling about a woman. No, I will not untie you so you can talk to him."
I chuckled, "Who are you playing with tonight?"
"Sasha, and she's going to get a royal thrashing if she doesn't calm down. Look, Gordo, please just don't do anything stupid. You know these plans of yours always end in some horrific mess and I'm the one who always has to sweep up all the itty bitty pieces of your heart."
"I won't do anything stupid, I promise." I glanced at my open laptop with more than a twinge of guilt.
There was another long pause, followed by a sigh. "I'm going to ignore the fact that you're lying to me for a moment and ask how the book is coming along."
"Where are you?"
"The Cook Islands, Aitutaki. Why?"
"Because I want to know where my next Rescue Gordon mission will be. Darling, you never say your book is going 'fantastic', which tells me you're brain over balls for this mystery lady. Why can't you just be like other sadists? Join a club? Visit a dungeon now and then?"
She was always trying to get me into the lifestyle but we both knew I was a bad fit. "I don't know, Jules, it's just not my world. Things happen naturally for me or not at all."
"I love you Gordon. You're the most fucked up normal guy I know."
"I love you, too, J. Give Sasha a few extra strokes from me."
"Baby, anything for you. Be careful. That's an order." She blew a kiss into the phone and hung up.
Was I about to launch into another trademark, Gordon Roberts disaster? I returned the handset to its cradle, laid back on the bed, closed my eyes and replayed the evening for the thirtieth time.
No. No way. This time everything would go exactly as planned.
Even kicking the flat tire of a scooter, her legs were a pleasure to watch.
"Is that helping?" I asked, pulling my scooter up beside her.
"I'm really not in the mood," she answered and, from the dullness of the eyes that had been so defiant just last evening, I knew she meant it.
"Hop on, I'll give you a ride to wherever you need to go."
After a quick appraisal, she must have decided I was harmless enough and climbed onto the seat behind me. As I suspected, out of my fancy, crab-murdering clothes, Miss Blue Eyes didn't recognize me.
"Thanks. Sorry. Bad day."
"Here? In paradise?" I asked, as I pulled out onto the road. I heard her snort and felt her hands tense on my waist. "Where to?"
Generally, I don't obey the 40 km/h speed limit, and the police on Aitutaki are usually too busy napping or fishing to care, but now that I had my prey in my grasp -- or grasping me, rather - I was taking it nice and slow.
"I'm Gord, by the way," I called out over the noise of the engine and the wind.
"Nice to meet you, Mr.By-the-Way."
"With an o."
She shifted and I felt the inside of her thighs against the outside of my hips. I slowed down another five kilometers.
At the Internet café, she offered to give me gas money, as she slid off the back seat. I declined, biting down on the urge to suggest other methods of reimbursement. No need to rush.
"Thanks for restoring a bit of my faith in humanity," she said, brushing one of the many wayward strands of hair from her face.
"If I'd known I was going to do that, I would never have stopped."
She laughed and I was glad because I was about to kick a few tires of my own.
"So, what are you going to do with the photo?" I asked, studying the mechanics of her face for the clues I needed.
"What photo?" There were still remnants of laughter in her voice. Not for long.
"The one of the crab and the manager of Pacific Pearl."
Eyes narrowed. Mouth opened slightly. Head cocked five degrees to one side. Recognition was on its way. Eyes widened. Yep, there it was.
"That was you? I can't believe you have the--"
Time to test a theory.
"Enough." I said it without anger but loudly and with authority.
Perfect. Better than perfect. The moment before she shut her mouth on the angry rant she'd been about to unleash, I saw her eyes drop away from mine. Only a fraction, but a fraction was all I needed to confirm my suspicion.
"Listen, I'm a travel writer, well known enough that managers at fancy resorts try to get in my good graces by offering me free dinners and drinks. I didn't order that crab; in fact, I was so busy trying to come up with an original description for my eighty-seventh tropical sunset that I didn't even realize my complementary best meal in all of the Cook Islands had been served. Until, of course, you kidnapped it and threw my beverage at me."
The flame of her face flickered and then dimmed. Momentum was on my side.
"Of course I know Coconut Crabs are endangered. Had you given me enough time to realize what it was, I would have complained to the manager myself. Instead, you embarrassed me in front of a room full of strangers, stained one of the few expensive pieces of clothing I brought with me on this trip, and dissolved the napkin I'd written my hard-won sunset description on."
Maybe I over dramatized a bit.
"I…"she scrutinized me for a moment with her invisible bullshit detector, then took a big bite out of her pride and swallowed. "I'm sorry."
"You never told me what you plan on doing with the photo?"
"I plan on putting it on the Aitutaki Environmental Protection Foundation website." She sighed, "So we can expose that resort to all of our ten daily visitors. Woo hoo."
"Eco warrior, are you?"
"No," her tanned cheeks flushed pink, "no, I think I've got too much time on my hands is all. I've been doing a reef survey for the foundation but my dive partner ate a Jack Trevally and got ciguatera poisoning -- idiot - and since I can't dive alone--"
"You've taken to liberating dead shellfish?"
Her smile rose like the sun. Back in civilization, in an office or a shop, she'd be ordinary -- mousy brown hair, pale skin, features too plain to be noticed in a crowd -- but here, in the land of perpetual summer, she was a bronzed and golden goddess. Without a trace of make up, in cheap flip-flops, and wearing shorts and a tank top both fraying at the edges, this girl could steal the attention from any super model out there. Only a monster could hurt a beauty such as her.
Unfortunately, I am a monster.
"Sommer, assuming you'd like to get the news of this crime out to a wider audience, and that you feel bad enough about ruining my dinner, my shirt and my sentence in one fell swoop, I have an idea…"
Slicing a starfruit was a sinful pleasure, made even more so by the knowledge of what I was about to do with it.
"Do you like starfruit?" I asked Sommer, as she padded around my rental house. I wasn't sure if she was worried about being alone with me or about getting the furniture dirty by sitting on it. Maybe it was a bit of both.
"Love it," she answered, stopping to run her fingertips over a large cowrie shell on the coffee table. "Before I came here, I'd only ever seen it as a garnish. I didn't even know they were edible. Now I munch on them like apples."
"Ditto." I spread the slices out on a small plate, carried them out to the sitting area and motioned for my guest to sit on the couch. "But as tasty as they are in their natural state, there's just something so aesthetically pleasing about them when they're sliced up and spread out that I sometimes can't resist."
Setting the plate on the table, I picked up one five-pointed slice and pretended to admire it.
"So," Sommer's eyes moved from the plate to me to the slice of fruit, "are you going to let me in on the big secret, or what? This idea of yours, what is it?"
Slowly, slowly, I reminded myself.
"Punishment first," I said, matter-of-factly, nodding my head to the white shirt draped over one of the kitchen stools, red stain visible, as planned.
"Sorry, I know, and I told you I'd give you a chance to make amends. Here's the deal. I'm going to go into my bedroom--"
"Whoa, wait a minute!"
"Sit. It's not like that." I gave her my best, as if look, which did the trick. "As I was saying, I'm going to go into my bedroom and finish editing the article I wrote last night. I'm almost done, it won't take long. Then I will bring my laptop out here and let you read my scathing report about the crab butcher of the Pacific Pearl. You may even make suggestions, an honour I rarely grant to anyone other than my editor."
"And my punishment?"
I could listen to her ask that question all day. The word sounded so uncomfortable on her lips.
"Simple. You are going to stick out your tongue and I am going to put this slice of star fruit on it. You don't close your mouth, you don't take the fruit off your tongue, and you don't take so much as one tiny bite out of it until I say so."
"That's it. Scouts honour."
She shrugged, "Kind of weird."
I shrugged back. "I'm kind of a weird guy."
"Well, it sounds easy enough."
Her naiveté melted me. As always, the good guy in me wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake her, screaming, Run! Get out of here; he's a madman. Who knows, maybe she would, all on her own.
"Good. Tongue please."
With the yellow star pinched between my fingers, I leaned across the coffee table. It was important I not look eager or stare too long at that lovely, wet tongue she offered up, or else I knew she'd see right through me. With the manner of a doctor placing a wooden stick on a patient's tongue, I dropped the slice of fruit on it's new home and gave her a now-that-wasn't-so-bad-was-it kind of smile.
"No cheating," I said, half joking, half hoping, as I stood and left the room.
For the first five minutes, alone in my bedroom, I read a magazine. I'd already finished writing and editing the piece about the crab last night, high on cheap possibility and drunk on re-awakened desires.
How long would I make her wait? In my pre-sleep fantasy, I'd kept her out there until her tongue was so dry she'd started crying just to dampen it with tears. In reality, I'd probably wait another few minutes. Long enough to test her but not long enough to fire up those eyes and give her reason to leave.
I didn't count on the knock at the sliding door.
"Good afternoon, Mr Roberts!" the elderly German couple said, in unison. I wished I could recall their names.
"Good afternoon," I answered, smiling, ignoring the girl on my couch.
"We hope we do not disturb you," the wife began.
"But yesterday you were saying to us it is OK for coming for book signing, yah?" the husband finished, brandishing a copy of my latest work -- an account of my trek through Europe.
I should have scribbled a quick something inside the cover and bid them auf wiedersehen, but the madman chose that moment to flex his muscles.
"Absolutely, I'd be delighted. Come on in, anything for fans." I opened the door and ushered the couple, whom I'd already decided to name Heinz and Ursula, into the living room.
I watched them enter, watched them notice Sommer with her extended tongue, watched her watch them noticing her, and felt a warm stirring in my southern hemisphere. Discomfort all around. Joy.
"Ach, you are busy?" Heinz asked, his eyes darting between Sommer and me.
"No, no, just doing some research for my next book."
This made the Germans pay even more attention to my prey. Her pride kept her fixed in place but I could see Sommer's soul squirming. She nodded, as best she could, and waved.
I made a big deal of showing Heinz and Ursula around the house, pointing to carvings and making up elaborate stories concerning their origins. They asked to see the scar from the knife attack I suffered in Spain; I obliged. We shared inside jokes about the abysmal State television stations in their home country. I almost offered them something to drink but figured I'd pushed my luck enough.
As I signed their immaculately kept copy of Euro Trashed and said my farewells, I snuck a glance at Sommer. I had to hand it to her, she had grit. Most girls would have left ten minutes ago. No, most girls would never have agreed to my request in the first place.
As she spit the star into my hand, and took a slow sip of the water I offered her, she never moved her eyes from mine. What was it I saw in that look? Relief? Yes, but not because the task was over, more so because she'd been given a task at all.
"I'm sorry," I said. It wasn't a lie; I was. The madman, sated, had subsided. "I lost track of time." That was a lie. She raised a hand to her jaw. "Is it sore?" I asked, placing my fingertips on the opposite side of her face.
She didn't answer, only held my gaze with those eyes a man could drown in. I rubbed slow circles on her smooth skin. A brave man would have kissed her right then.
"Well, I should get that article for you," I said, clearing my throat and standing. What was wrong with me?
The worst moments for me, as a writer, are watching someone read my work. I'd whipped up a piece the evening before, with a vague plan and the intention of using it as bait, but now, as Sommer's eyes scanned the text, I worried that maybe I should have put more effort into it. Was she frowning? Did she hate it? Would she think I was a hack? Damn. Why did I come up with this stupid idea anyway?
Finished, she looked up at me, frowning. "What the hell is this?"
Oh god, she hated it.
"It's a rough draft," I answered, with feigned nonchalance.
"I thought you said you were a travel writer? Why aren't you writing about stuff like this, stuff that really matters?" she nodded to the open laptop on the living room table.
"You like it?"
"Are you kidding? It's brilliant! Will you really be able to publish this?"
I hadn't thought that far ahead. "Of course."
Good question. "I have a good friend who's the chief editor at Far and Away magazine, I know he'd love an article like this."
"Seriously?" her eyes drilled into mine.
"Scouts Honour." I made a mental note to email Josh at F&A and remind him of the photos I had of him in Cancun, (with the blondes), that his wife had never seen.
"Wow," she stared back down at the screen. "This is huge. Finally someone might see the damage being done on this island. I don't know how to thank you."
Come on tough guy, you've come this far. "You could be my slave for a few days."
"Your what?" she laughed but it was the kind of laugh that threatened to pull out a shiv and belly stick you.
"Never mind, you'll probably think it's stupid."
"I just sat here for twenty minutes with a piece of fruit on my tongue, I think it's safe to say I'm tolerant of stupid."
"Slave is a bit of an exaggeration. Look, I'm going to Motu Moana tomorrow, for a few days; I've been given a free stay at the cottage there. I could really use an assistant. Mostly it would be everyday stuff -- cooking a few meals, cleaning up, things I hate doing while I'm working -- but also…" I took a deep breath for dramatic effect, "…you inspire me."
Out came the bullshit detector again, she ran a triple scan on me.
"Well," she said, with a smirk, "as intriguing as your offer sounds, I'm here on the Foundation's dime, there's lots of work I can do while I wait for Barry to get well and, besides, helping to save the reef is just a teensy bit more important than being your housemaid and muse. But thanks."
Losing her. I knew it seemed too easy. Time to call in the back up.
"Completely understandable. I should have mentioned that I also wanted to get some more information from you. You know, get your take on the environmental issues here and some possible solutions."