by kelli rajala
My vacation was turning into a disaster, and it had only been an hour and sixteen minutes since I had stepped off the plane.
On the positive side, the sun was shining, and the air was warm with a light breeze. There were palm trees right outside my hotel window, a bar down by the pool, and the smell of salty sea water wafting through the open windows.
On the less positive side, one of my bags of luggage had disappeared, my dinner reservation at a local bistro had been royally mucked up, and my would-have-been-husband was nowhere to be found.
Will had left me. At the altar. For another woman. At least he had been kind enough to give me this once-in-a-lifetime trip, though.
“Thanks, Will,” I muttered to myself. “You’re so considerate.”
I decided to forgo settling in for a fruity drink by the pool. I left my room, headed for one of the wooden bar stools, and took a seat across from a fine-looking man with bronze skin and water-slicked brown hair. He wasn’t alone, but his eyes weren’t staying focused on the person talking to him. They kept landing on me instead.
I leaned back to shake my hair out of my face. Better view for the both of us. When I sat back up I noted he was still looking. Was he checking me out? Maybe Will had done me a real favor after all.
The bartender went to slide the mojito I’d ordered across the counter to me when a bikini-clad woman abruptly turned to order another Cosmopolitan. Her arm reaching out to hail attention collided with my mojito. It slid a lot farther than was intended and landed directly in my lap, soaking through the thin, yellow fabric of my skirt.
“Oh my God! I am so sorry!” She was so wasted her words slurred together.
The bartender slid me another, free of charge. I tried my best to dry off with napkins, sipping my drink in between, enjoying every rum-based sip mixed with mint and lime. I glanced around for the bronze-skinned man to see if he witnessed this mess, but he seemed to have disappeared. Seriously? I sighed and threw back the rest of the mojito.
Once the glass was empty, I decided it was time for me to head back to my room.
I trudged back to my room carrying my sandals in hand. There was a vending machine a little ways down where I grabbed a Coke and a fruity granola bar. It wasn’t a replacement for the dinner I would be missing, but who really cared at this point?
I snuggled up in white sheets and watched TV. The air conditioning was cranked, the curtains were pulled shut, and the only light came from two small lamps on either side of my bed. I was halfway through a Lifetime movie when a knock sounded at my door.
Groaning, I crawled out of bed. I was in pajamas with my hair haphazardly tied up in a messy bun. I had bare feet, no make-up on, and was one yawn away from conking out altogether. What did I have to deal with now?
I opened the door. Before me stood the tall, bronze-skinned man from the bar. Up close, he had eyes the color of moss covering a forest floor. He was wearing a white, unbuttoned short-sleeved shirt and khaki cargo pants. He was the poster boy for a thirty-something man on vacation. His eyebrows shot up in surprise, suggesting that he remembered me too.
I choked out a quick “What do you want?” that sounded phenomenally ruder than intended.
“This yours?” He held up a small pink suitcase with my name and room number on the tag.
I quickly pulled myself back together. “Yes, actually. Where did you find it?”
He handed it over with a smile. A smile that revealed pearly white teeth and cute, prominent dimples.
“It was sent to my room by mistake.”
“Ah … well … thank you for returning it. That’s one thing I can check off the list of things that have made this trip a dud so far.”
He looked at me curiously. “I’m sorry to hear that.” He glanced behind me. “Have you eaten yet?” he asked, probably noting the empty Coke can and torn wrapper mixed in with my bedding.
I perked up. He was a stranger, but man, oh, man, was he a cute one.
“Uh … no. Not really.”
He stepped closer, leaning into the door fame. He looked at the floor like he was suddenly nervous.
“Would you … maybe like to grab a bite to eat? I was just on my way down to Bordeaux’s. Reservation’s for 6:00.”
I almost choked on my own spit. Bordeaux’s was the bistro Will had booked for us. What were the odds? I slowly nodded.
“Yeah, sure. Okay.”
He held out his hand for me to shake.
“Great! I’m Liam, by the way.”
I took his hand, and we both held on a little longer than was necessary.
“Nice to meet you, Kate. I hope your vacation gets better from here on out.” He sounded so sincere.
“Oh, I’m sure it will,” I replied, my eyes locked with his. “Just a hunch.”