Release Date: August 14, 2019
The place is packed tonight. La Puerta de Alcalá is one of the few fancy night clubs in Veracruz. I’ve been here a few times already, getting tanked and chasing the next best chica to warm my bed. Tonight, I’ll save myself the last part and stick to drinking instead. I’m not in the mood for another Mexican diva.
Propping my elbows on the counter, I watch the people go crazy to the beat. The strobes kick in when the song reaches its high, and I wince, turning to face the bar again and briefly closing my eyes to get rid of the haunting images.
The electric lights flickering was the first clue that something was wrong. The two vibrations that shook the earth was the first sign that shit was about to hit the fan. And the fireball shooting up the sky was the last thing I saw before something hit me on the head.
It was like the blowout on Deepwater Horizon back in 2010 when a bubble of methane gas escaped from the well and skyrocketed up the drill column. The result—eleven dead crewmen and an offshore oil spill of about eight thousand barrels per day until they managed to close the cap four months later.
The blowout on Sunray Shell two months ago was ‘not as disastrous’ as the news likes to phrase it, but for me, it was my worst nightmare.
Because I was there. Right in the middle of it.
I know it’s not my fault the oil rig blew up like fireworks, but I can’t stop thinking… Could I have prevented it?
About two years ago, I snagged a job at Transocean Ltd. and started working on Sunray Shell, an offshore platform off the coast of Newfoundland. A beautiful island with friendly folks, an amazing culture, and world-class food.
I loved the job. Loved flying with the helicopter to the rigs, getting my hands dirty, and spending time with the crew. I was offshore for six weeks followed by six weeks of leave with enough free time to explore the world.
I worked my ass off to become a motor hand—the guy responsible for the motor parts and drilling equipment. My salary was insane. My life was fulfilling. Finally, I’d achieved something. It was the first time I wanted to keep a job. Period. Maybe work my way up to become a driller or whatever.
But this dream blew up. Literally.
That Monday morning, the ventilation system failed because one of the roustabouts did a lousy cleaning job. Dangerous fumes rose up, and one spark from a power tool was enough to create a blast the likes of which I’ve never seen. I swear, I thought this was the end of the world. Now, the remains of the rig rest on the seafloor of the Atlantic Ocean.
Lucky me, I got away with a concussion. One of the roughnecks found me buried underneath a pipe, snatched me, and jumped overboard with me. A helicopter airlifted us to a hospital. A few hours later, the news reported that three men didn’t make it, one of them my best friend, Wes. I fled the hospital the same day and was off to Quebec by nightfall.
Since then, I’ve never been in one place for more than a month. Making acquaintances, not friendships. Renting stuff, not buying. Visiting places, not settling down. It’s easier for me without attachments and commitments.
Because whenever I manage to fuse the seams, they crack apart. Just like it happened with Lana six years ago…
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!” someone shrieks from behind me in a clear, American accent, and I nearly spill my margarita when a slap on the shoulder hustles me forward. Whirling around, I meet wide, blue eyes on a tan face. “How the hell did you know we were here?” Before I can utter a word, the blonde answers her question with a smirk. “Ah, you texted Matthew, didn’t you?”
Uh… what now? Who the fuck is Matthew? And who the fuck is this girl?
I give her a quick once-over, wondering if we’ve ever met. She doesn’t seem familiar. Maybe a quickie from a few years ago? Unlikely. I’m quite picky when it comes to my hook-ups, and blondes are not my first choice. I prefer brunettes. The darker, the better.
But I have to admit, the girl is nice eye-candy. One of those beach bunnies with long, white-blonde hair curling over her shoulders in messy waves, sun-kissed skin, and a splatter of freckles on her nose. Her dress is more like a gown with nothing to show off except for her bare arms and ankles. Too elegant for a night club. Too innocent for a quick fuck.
“Hello?” She clicks a finger in front of my face when I take too long to answer.
Hooking one finger into my belt loop, I send her a lopsided grin. “Sure, I texted Matthew,” I say at last, taking the bait. No idea if she’s mistaking me for someone else, or if this is one these I-just-pretend-to-know-you numbers to initiate an easy conversation, but I’m game. Everything for a little distraction.
“You wanted to surprise Ruby!” she squeals, clapping her hands in excitement. I send her a wink and take a long sip from my margarita. Who is Ruby now? “Oh my God, this will knock her off her feet! Okay, listen…” She motions for me to come closer, and I tilt my head to hear her better. “You stay here, and I’ll get Ruby, all right?”
“O-kay…” I mutter in confusion, not sure what else to say, but the surfer chick is already bouncing off and elbowing her way through the crowd. Huh. If this was one of her pick-up lines, she missed the point, I dare say.
With a shrug, I turn to face the bar again, gesturing for the bartender to hand over another margarita. Whoever this girl was, she was either crazy or high on some serious shit. Whatever. Chances are I’ll never see her again.
Letting my hand vanish into my pocket, I fish out my phone and open Wherever It Takes Me—a little app I’ve programmed myself. It shows the world as a globe with a smiley face and tiny arms and legs attached. As soon as you hit the Off You Go! button, the smiley-globe starts to spin, and a pin marks a random location on the earth. Wherever it strikes, this is the place I’m going to visit next.
To make things easier, I’ve disabled the entire subarctic climate zone. Had enough of that when I flew to Norilsk, Russia, in January. Covered in snow for two-hundred-fifty days and plagued with snowstorms the rest of the year. Truly, a blessed country. Not.
“iPhone, iPhone in my hand, where’s the next place I will land…” I mumble to myself. Clicking the button, I watch the globe spinning until the smiley winks and waves both hands. “West Palm Beach, Florida,” I say out loud, testing it on my tongue. Sounds more like a holiday than an adventure, but maybe that’s exactly what I need.
“Just a few more steps, Ruby.”
I spin around at hearing the now-familiar voice, shocked when I see the pretty blonde approaching again, but this time, she’s brought a friend—a friend with hair like a liquid curtain of chocolate and a timid smile on her face.
“Skyla, what the hell are you up to? I can’t see where I’m going!” she complains, blindly teetering forward while her companion covers her eyes with her hands.
Ruby and Skyla… I let the names tumble inside my head, but nothing clicks. What are the odds that those two chicks are into a threesome? Maybe that was the surprise the blonde meant. And one I wouldn’t negate, that’s for sure.
They both wear the same dress with similar hairstyles, so my first guess is that they are bridesmaids who just came from a wedding. While both look pretty in their gowns, it fits the brunette way better, her busty forefront stretching the fabric.
By the time Skyla pulls Ruby to a halt a few feet in front of me, I’m nearly as excited as them, impatiently waiting for the blonde to drop her hands and reveal the brunette’s eyes.
And when she does, my first thought is that a mermaid materialized in front of me. The silver eyeshadow on her lids enhances her moss-green irises, and her dark, full brows make a perfect arc on her porcelain face. Her milky skin is flawless, and even with the makeup on her face, I know there’s not one blemish. A set of lush pink, heart-shaped lips curl into a smile when she blinks up at me.
A smile that is my undoing.
Because that smile is neither sultry nor mischievous. It’s not the I-know-you-can’t-resist-me, please-take-me smile that I’ve seen a thousand times before. Far from it.
It’s a genuine, heart-wrenching smile that lights up her face as if she’s waited an eternity to see me. A smile no girl ever reserved for me. Not even Lana. The only one she sent those smiles to was Jesse, and—
Shit, what are the odds that this girl thinks I’m my twin brother?