Authors: Beth Fred
The Fate Of A Marlowe Girl
By Beth Fred
Edited by Kelly Hashway
Cover Art by Eden Crane
Copyright 2012 by Beth Fred
For my husband who has supported my art from the first horrible draft of my first manuscript two and a half years ago.
I sat at the desk in my hotel room, focusing on the numbers on my screen. I'd already calculated what the balance of my client's account should have been, and that wasn’t what my spreadsheet showed. The discrepancy could have been as simple as a mathematical error. That, I could fix here and now. But it could mean that the account was really off, and to know that, I'd have to have receipts and ledgers, which I didn't. But a mathematical error was entirely possible. The party in the living room of the suite I shared with my sister was so loud I couldn't think.
Some rap song I didn't know continued to blare in the background. “Twenty-twenty-seven plus thirteen hundred,” I mumbled, in an attempt to think over the bad music. Then someone knocked at the door.
I wasn't answering that.
At least, not until the pounding started. The door bowled in the middle like someone pushed their weight against it from the other side. Having no desire to pay for a broken door, I gave in and opened it. Three girls stood on the other side.
The redhead said, “OMG! Let us in. You have the only working bathroom in the suite.”
Great, they broke a bathroom already.
I was about to shut the door when she placed one hand on the side of the open door and the other on the door-frame. She pushed my door open, with me standing behind it.
“Fine,” I said, “use the bathroom. Then get out of my room.”
The redhead darted into my bathroom while two other girls stood outside of it. They left my door open, and now other people came in.
“Hey, this room is not part of the party,” I shouted. Loud conversations, jiving bodies, and drinking continued. Not one person even acted like they heard me.
I grabbed the laptop from the desk and hugged it to me. I couldn't afford to lose any information. It was tax season. The only reason I was even here was because my little sister just had to be married in two weeks. A decision she came to exactly two weeks ago, and as her maid of honor, it was my duty to plan her bachelorette party. Something simple back home wouldn't do. She begged me for a party in Cancun. When I told her as politely as possible I didn't really want to pay for it, and honestly didn't have the time, she told on me. The next thing I knew, my mom left a dozen voice-mails telling me this was my only little sister and since I was able to do it for her, I should. I felt horrible. I already felt obligated to make sure Kammy had a nice party, and the guilt was too much.
But this party was out of control. It was time to find my sister and kill her. Laptop still hugged to me, I attempted to shuffle past the group that had gathered in my room. But they were laughing and drinking, and a blonde fell backwards. I jumped back quickly enough to keep from being pummeled to the floor, laptop in hand. The two girls beside her caught her before she hit the floor.
“God, would you watch it?” I snapped at her.
She turned to me and scrunched up her nose. “What are you doing with a laptop anyhow? What are you, some kinda computer nerd?”
“Well, someone has to pay for my little sister and a dozen of her friends, most of which I don't like, to go to Cancun.”
“I don't care if you like me. Loser.” She held her hand in the shape of an “L” on her forehead.
“Right. I'm the loser.”
I clasped the laptop to my chest with one hand and took the backpack purse from my back with the other. I dropped the computer in it, fastened it, and strapped it in front of me. I thought my laptop might be safer tucked inside something, and the room I was about to venture into was even crazier than this one. Plastic cups and beer bottles littered the coffee table and floor. The stench of alcohol and body odor polluted the air.
There weren't supposed to be strippers, and the alcohol was supposed to be kept to a minimum, but the first stripper had shown up more than an hour ago, which is when I decided it was totally acceptable to
work on my accounts while my sister and her friends chose to make me uncomfortable in the suite I was paying for. Since then, I'd been locked safely behind my door, and things outside had gotten worse. Much worse. Now there were more strippers than I cared to count.
“Kammy!” I called. No answer. I took two steps toward her room when a drunk girl, dancing with a stripper, smacked into me. I knew I would hit the floor, so I hugged the purse tighter to my chest. I landed on my back being trampled on in more than one place. “Oww!” I screamed out. My hand throbbed under someone's four inch stiletto heel. The shoe moved, and I cussed under my breath for a moment like it would help the pain. I glanced at my hand to survey the damage, but a voice coming from in front of me asked, “Need help?”
I looked up to find a naked cop with one handcuff on his wrist standing over me. “Gross,” I moaned, sliding backwards. I got to my feet and ran to Kammy's room. I was little and fast. The next person who stumbled into me would go down before I did.
I kicked the door open to Kammy's room. There stood my tall, blonde, beautiful sister in a cluster of strippers. Two rubbed up against her while one held the margarita she sipped from. A crowd of girls surrounded them, a couple taking pictures. I guess skanky is in when you're blonde and beautiful.
“Kammy!” I scolded.
She giggled and kicked one leg out behind her. “Hey, Tiffy.” She knew I hated that. My name was Tiffany after all.
“Who called the strippers? I thought I arranged your party? And this is getting out of hand, don't you think? What are you doing with three strippers rubbed up against you? You're getting married in two weeks. Remember?” I did. Her wedding had interrupted my life enough. Leave it to my baby sister to get married on April 15, the absolute worst day of the year for any accountant.
She giggled again. “It's fun. Don't be a buzz kill.”
I sighed. “Kammy, one day you're going to have to grow up.” I fought my way back through the nightmare that only a club chick would find fun and found
door. I'd had it with this insanity. I was kicking those girls out of my room and locking the door. At least my space would be sane this weekend.
I smiled when I found my door closed.
Maybe they're gone.
Wrong. I opened my door to find some girl and one of the strippers rolling around in my bed.
“Oh, gross,” I moaned.
He jerked his head toward me. “Sorry.”
I had to get out of here, before I hurt someone. I made a run for the suite door, and I didn't stop running until I got to the elevator. I could feel the heat in my face and knew I was all red. Nothing like being in a Mexican resort, looking like a sun burned, scared freak. I pounded the first floor button on the elevator. It couldn't move quickly enough.
The elevator dinged, and the door opened to such a normal scene. Fully dressed people sat in the lounge and at the bar laughing and talking. Sanity. I let out a deep sigh of relief and headed for the bar.
The bar wasn't crowded, but it wasn't empty, and it was still quieter than my room.
I scanned the room. There were empty seats here and there, but I needed one next to a power outlet. I would be here for a while and didn't know how much juice my battery had left. I spotted one bar stool with an outlet under it.
Yes! I might be able to salvage this night.
As I approached my coveted bar stool, I got a lump in my throat. The guy sitting beside it was perfect—like male model perfect. Even sitting I could tell he was tall. He had caramel skin and curly black hair, and when he smiled at me, I noticed smoldering eyes and dimples to die for.
I felt the color rushing back to my face.
Get it together, Tiffany. You're here to work.
I gave a polite smile back—okay, it was probably more than that—and slid my laptop and its charger out of my purse.
?” he asked.
I knew like five words of Spanish. “
.” I ducked down to pull the power supply out and mumbled to myself, “My freaken sister is having an X-rated soiree in my room, because that's what a normal person does two weeks before they get married. Taxes are due in two weeks, and I have a hundred clients and a whole firm counting on me.” I plugged the charger into the outlet and came up with the computer end in my hand. He still looked at me. Wow. I had no idea he was paying attention. “Well, at least you don't speak English,” I mumbled. “
,” I said again louder.
The bartender looked at me. “
En qué puedo servirle
Yeah right. Like you can drink something strong.
I opened my laptop and got back to reconciling files.
?” the bartender said, putting the drink down beside me.
I took a big drink of the margarita. It tasted like acid, but I forced myself to swallow. It burned going down. So much for that idea.
It was quiet enough in the bar that I could think. Between thoughts of killing my sister, I managed to clear accounts or flag them for further review when I got to the office. But every time I looked up, it seemed like the guy beside me had his eyes fixed on me.
Yeah, right. Guys like that don't check out girls like me.
Most of the times I caught his glance, I blushed, so I tried to avoid seeing him. I glued my eyes to the computer screen. I heard him say something in Spanish to the waiter, and two minutes later, the waiter set another drink next to me.
I looked at the waiter confused.
,” he said nodding his head toward the guy beside me.
Oh. So I had some Romeo beside me who liked to booze up girls who didn’t know Spanish. I shot him a glare, and before I could return my eyes to my computer, he gave me half a grin.
“Most girls say thank you, but it's okay. I don't speak English anyhow.”
“Uhh—sorry. About the English thing, I mean. And thank you, but no thank you.”
He shrugged. “Hey, everyone has a bad day. Actually, I find it amusing when you try to speak Spanish. In fact, please don't.” He laughed. “You can relax. It's not alcohol. You don't seem to be having a good time with that margarita, and it looked like you could use some help ordering.”
Heat rushed under my cheeks, and I couldn't help but smile. “Okay.”
“So, you have a bad girl sister?”
“Oh, man.” I slapped my head into my hands. “You heard all that, too?” I sighed. “She's not that bad, just a little—well, way too wild.” Why was I telling him this? He was a complete stranger. “I should work.”
I looked back to my screen, but he asked, “What are you working on?”
“Maybe we should have a late night business dinner on me. Then you could claim the trip as a deduction.”
Now I faced him again. “Thank you for the drink,
, but I don't leave bars with guys I don't know.”
He laughed. “That's probably a good idea. My name is Lucas. My friends call me Luke. I know your sister is getting married, and she has strippers in your suite. You're more pissed off about it than most girls would be, so you probably don't approve of strippers or wild parties. I've done my share of partying, but I find both views kind of cute—not as cute as when you tried to take a swig of that margarita and almost gagged because you wouldn't spit it out. You're on vacation to the most beautiful city in the world, and you're doing taxes. I'm not sure I'm a complete stranger.”