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Hard Dive (Paradise Lost Book 2) by Megyn Ward, Shanen Black (1)

Kylie

My high hopes for the evening take a spiraling dive as Trevor From Boston knocks back another margarita. If I didn’t remember the blast furnace of puke raking my throat and the cluster bomb headache from last week’s tequila overindulgence, I’d pour more down my own throat just to shut Trevor out of my mind.

Diana, all exotic latte-colored skin, bats deep, mysterious eyes at Don Something III. I barely register his first name and that he is the third in line from some shipping mogul. He interests me even less than Trevor From Boston.

Trevor leans on the coffee table and pushes himself to stand. He slaps Don on the shoulder. “I gotta water the palms and you need to get us another round.”

Don bends close to Diana, a hand on her smooth thigh. He seems at least as drunk as Trevor, and he blinks as if replaying the syllables to see if they make sense.

Trevor takes a wad of Don’s t-shirt and yanks, dragging Don to his feet. His words slur “Le’s keep the party alive.”

They wander off across the lobby of the resort. A high ceiling cavern lined with lazy spinning fans covers the colorful tile of the expansive space open to the tropical night breeze. A reception desk tucked against the far wall and a collection of potted palms and colorful hibiscus shelter the entrance to the five-star restaurant we’ve just exited. Now we sprawl on rattan furniture next to a trickling fountain filled with koi. Trevor From Boston and Don the Third want another cocktail before deciding on our next party spot.

“Maybe they’ll get lost,” I say, checking the time on my phone before tucking it back into my purse. It’s a recent splurge. Not one I can afford or really even need but I bought it and signed up for a plan as a sort of affirmation. My life is going to change.

Soon and for the better.

I feel bad for complaining. I hadn’t wanted to join Diana on the fiasco. She’d begged me. She’d met Don the Third on Seven Mile Beach, where she often spends her days off trolling for rich guys in the Caymans on vacation.

She’d charmed him, which isn’t hard with her high, firm tits and rock-hard ass. She knows how to use her assets. Maybe too much, since she spent them a lot but hadn’t any returns on investment, yet. Her failures don’t stop her from playing the market with Don.

But since he’d brought his college roommate with him, Don wanted to keep him occupied so he’d asked Diana to bring a friend along. In a moment of weakness—and hunger, since we had no groceries in the house and wouldn’t get paid for two more days—I agreed. I now regret letting my growling stomach make my dating decisions.

Be nice for Diana’s sake.

Diana watches them with a smile, then spins back to me with a frown. “Don’t ruin this for me, Kylie.”

I sip my watered-down rum punch. “What do you see in that loser?”

She picks up her sangria. “A cool few million and a life where I don’t have to schlep drinks to tourists and assholes with more money than me.”

She has a point. Still…. “There has to be a better way to make your fortune.”

She pulls lip gloss from her bag, slides it across her lush lips, and drops it back in her bag. “Says the genius with an accounting degree who is also working at a bar on the beach.”

Ouch. What’s keeping you from moving forward? Don’t even think it has something to do with Zach.

I don’t plan on being broke forever. “It’s temporary. I’m heading back to the states to make my fortune soon.”

She smooths her hair, though it already showcases her flawless face. “I hate to tell you that a bookkeeper is never going to afford the kind of dinner we just ate and the cover charges for the clubs we’re going to later.”

“Not a bookkeeper. An investment goddess. I need to get my CPA certificate and I’m on my way. Just watch me.”

Watch me leave the island and sever any connection I might have with Zach.

There is no connection.

He hasn’t called.

He doesn’t want you.

She sits back and eyes me critically. “Honey. It’s taken Don’s family three generations to pile up his money. No way you can do it in a few years of nose to a computer under artificial lights for seventy hours a week.”

A pang of sadness grabs hold at the thought of locking myself in an office and only diving during vacations. I won’t even have vacations until I establish myself. I’m not afraid of hard work and eventually, I’ll get to where I’ll be able to afford weeks at the best dive locations.

But in the meantime, I have to dedicate myself to making bank. I have something to prove to Mom, to Jonas-fucking-Knightly, but mostly to myself.

And Zach. Prove I don’t need him for my happiness.

My plan needs a jumpstart from Jonas Knightly and that wouldn’t have made Mom happy.

But Mom is gone and I’m alone. Why throw away what is rightfully mine?

Diana rummages in her bag and pulls out the lip gloss and hands it to me. “This is much easier.”

I don’t take the gloss. “But…Don?”

Trevor’s loud voice echoes on the tile of the resort lobby. “I wanna go swimming.”

Don dogs him, baggie shorts and flipflops, shaved head and goatee. “That’s what got us kicked out of the Rio last year. Man, let’s just go drink.”

Diana cringes before brightening and pasting on a smile. “He’s fun. Likes to have a good time, is really sweet when he’s not drunk.”

I wonder how often that is. Trevor stumbles across the lobby, still arguing his case about how swimming will sober him up. As bleary as his eyes are, I could make a quick getaway. The lobby opens to the pool and beyond that, the lapping ocean of Seven Mile Beach. An hour’s walk in the sand, watching the ocean foam glow in the moonlight, will get me to The Green Frog, where I can probably pick up a few hours of waitressing before closing. Earn fifty bucks in tips if it’s crowded.

My feet itch to take off. The boys get closer. My window of opportunity starts to inch closed. I bend over and slip the strap of my sandals off my heels in preparation for my getaway. Then glance up at Diana.

Her eyes plead with me.

“Come on, Di. This guy’s a loser. You’re better than this.”

Her big dark eyes fill. “You are. But this, this is the best I’ll ever get.”

And then the window slams shut. Trevor falls beside me on the couch and plops his head in my lap. I yelp, but a ruckus in front of the resort creates noise and confusion and no one hears me. I feel like a giant cockroach landed in my lap and I want to brush it off, leap up and run.

I look over at Diana, knowing she’d understand. Don stands behind her, his doughy hands resting on her shoulders. He bends over and whispers something to her. She catches my eye and her mouth forms one word. “Please.”

For fuck’s sake. I’m stuck.

A clatter and burst of voices by the front of the resort draws our attention. All, that is, except Trevor From Boston, who is snoring in my lap.

When I spot the bearded man in scruffy jeans and t-shirt, walking backward with a camera the size of a small goat propped on his shoulder, I start to shake Trevor’s head. “Hey. Asshole. Wake up.”

Diana’s future happiness or not, I have to get out of here. Now.

More noise and confusion at the entrance as an advance team of a young woman with a bowl of black hair and round glasses, wearing shorts and wrinkled golf shirt walks in with an iPad cradled in the crook of her arm. She’s with a hulking shiny-skulled man whose previous job has obviously been a bouncer. He quietly escorts, and in one case shoves anyone in the large lobby back to the sides.

Trevor doesn’t wake up, in fact, he lets out a deep snore. Diana strains to see around Don. I try to wriggle out from under Trevor’s head that now feels like it weighs eighty tons. All I succeed in doing is hiking my dress nearly up to my crotch.

I’ve got to escape.

I hear her first. Of course, the whole world hears her first, last, always. That petulant wailing voice like aluminum foil on a filling. “You called ahead, right? Because if they don’t have those scallops I like, then we’re not staying.”

Diana twists toward me. “Oh my god. It’s her!”

Christ. I’m pinned on the couch and she trounces into the lobby. She wears gold stilettos and the shortest, tightest black dress that looks like someone wound electrician’s tape around her thin frame. Her long, blonde hair—that can only be described as flowing tresses—sways as she makes her way into the lobby. She is my worst nightmare.

Followed by my most perfect dream.

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