The Dominant Blonde Excerpt
Before you trust a man, Lydia’s grandmother used to say, you have to know three things: how he spends his money, how he holds his drink, and how he loses his temper.
Despite this advice, Lydia had gone on dating one extravagant drunken disaster after another. But now, one year after her grandmother’s demise, Lydia knew she had found a man of whom her nana would have approved.
A beer or two only added to his genial good mood.
He was generous to a fault.
In four months, she had never once seen him get mad.
And, as an added bonus, Abe Bohemius was the first man who had ever suggested that she go on vacation with him and not broken up with her two days before the date on the nonrefundable tickets.
This time, Lydia thought, I just might’ve gotten it right.
Resting her luggage at her feet, Lydia paused to savor the sea-salt, flower-musked breeze. Back in New York City, the gray-faced hordes were tunneling through the subways on their way home from work. Here, sky met sea in an expansive wash of vivid blue.
Lydia turned as the sun shifted and a shadow fell across her face. Looking up, she saw that she was standing in the shade of a great, dark bird, hunkered in apparent misery atop a flagless pole. With a rusty squawk, the bird launched itself into the air, giving two flaps of its enormous wings before swooping low over the sprawling wood dining hall and veering off toward the treeline. A few tourists, eating watery fish stew out on the verandah, put down their spoons and pointed.
“Hey,” Abe called over his shoulder. “How you doing back there?”
Lydia pressed her hands into the small of her back and took a deep breath of heavily vegetated humidity. “Just a little rest break.”
Abe turned, shading his eyes with his hand as he inspected their surroundings. There were damp patches under his blue silk shirt. “So what do you think, Lyd? This paradise or what?”
“Or what.” Lydia smiled. Abe smiled back in perfect misunderstanding.
The brochures for Neptune’s Rest had promised a resort of sugar-white beaches and jewel-like waters of incredible brightness and clarity, as well as gardens as fragrant and lush as bridal bouquets, and aggressively tame parrots who would eat the mango right out of your hand. The photographs and text had also implied, but not stated, that you and your lover would be having some wild monkey sex in a hammock.
What the brochure’s idyllic pictures and lyrical descriptions had concealed was the odd, ramshackle aspect of the place, and the vague air of neglect and sadness that afflicted everything from the palm trees, which listed at acute angles to the ground, to the male-pattern baldness of the thatch-roofed huts.
“You okay? Still need to take a breather?” Abe smiled at her, all dark eyes and white teeth.
“No, no, I’m okay. It isn’t far, is it?”
“Nah. We’re in cabin D-10. This here’s the B line of cabins, so we’re probably just over there somewheres. You ready?”
Following Abe’s sweaty back, Lydia allowed the resort some leeway. After all, she and Abe did not exactly resemble the sleekly oiled models who had draped provocatively over each other in the brochure’s various settings. Abe was handsome, but in a swarthy, furry, barrel-chested fashion. She, despite being a blonde and a size ten for the first time in her life, had a face that showed every line from thirty-one years of concerted worrying.
Abe stopped to inspect a small sign, half-hidden behind a tiki torch. “Damn. This says G line. We must’ve gone too far.”
“Let’s ask someone.”
“Lydia, I got a map. You don’t need to–”
“Excuse me.” Lydia spotted an islander, dressed in the resort’s navy blue uniform, walking swiftly along another path. “Excuse me,” she called. “Hello?” The man kept walking.
“Yo! Hey!” Abe whistled loudly.
The young man, who had a round, almost babyish face and sleepy eyes, ambled over. “I didn’t realize you were calling me.”
“We can’t figure out where’s our cabin.” Abe showed him their keys.“That way, sir. By that palm tree over there.”
“Great. Thanks.” Abe stuffed a dollar bill into the man’s front pocket. The young man looked down at it.
“Thanks, but tips are not–”
“What’s your name, kid?”
“Thomas, you look in on us in half an hour or so, I got some diving questions for you.”
Thomas looked uncomfortable. “I’m afraid I’m not really the most expert–”
“Don’t worry, I’m an old hand. Fact is, I don’t really want a site crowded with other tourists. You can show me some of the spots where the locals dive, right? When you’re done with whatever it is you’re doing. Here, take this, we can negotiate a sum when you drop by, okay?” Abe patted another, larger bill into the young man’s pocket. Lydia, looking away from Thomas’s shuttered expression, saw that the strange bird was still circling far overhead.
“That isn’t a parrot, is it? What kind of bird is that?”
“That bird? I don’t know the name in English, ma’am.”
Lydia peered at the sky. “It almost looks like a vulture.”
“Ah, yes. ‘Vulture.’ I believe that is the word. Excuse me?” Thomas smiled, then loped swiftly away. Lydia, suddenly recalling that the island of Epiphany didn’t have any native languages other than English, snorted with laughter.
Abe hefted his suitcase up. “Something funny?”
“Just happy, I guess.”