I want to send the biggest thank you to the women who give me their time to encourage and improve my words. Having Nic, VampyreGirl86 and Hadley guide me is everything, because I can be brave, knowing they'll stop me if I go too far. This tale is filled with a hundred details from my real life. Having said that, I was never involved in anything "shady". Some things I merely witnessed, and others are fiction. The story is written entirely from Bella's POV.
***A few of you have already asked. Yes, the beginning of this story is an expanded version of a one shot I posted ages ago.
Disclaimer: The author does not own any publicly recognizable characters herein. No copyright infringement is intended.
"They're on time. You ready?" Emily calls when the bus pulls up outside. I even out my lipstick and check my shirt's tucked in. "Off you go, and don't forget to smile."
"Will do," I reply, as I stride out to the bus with my clipboard and passenger list, asking the outgoing guests to board. "Hello, Jared. Have we got everything?"
Our driver rolls his eyes but manages a smile. "Hi, Bella." I pull the door shut and jump into the seat behind him, letting out a big breath of air as we take off for the airstrip.
The twenty-seat aircraft will do a wide sweep of the island and land from the south. The passengers will love it, just as we did when we arrived, gasping at the sight of the tropical vegetation below, anticipating a vacation in heat and humidity.
They'll see an aerial view of our hundred rooms; some set just back from the palm-fringed beach, and others hidden and secluded in well-tended gardens. They could be headed for a double room in the two-story blocks, a big expensive suite, or one of a handful of thatched bungalows.
No matter what their budget is, it's our job to make them believe they have landed in paradise. As of today, I am going to be the first person they see when I greet them at our tiny airport.
Rosalie and I are on the first leg of our big adventure. As soon as we graduated, we took off to take jobs here for six months. The pay isn't great, but we were told you can save every penny, and we need about ten grand each for our long-planned trip to Europe.
We wanted to get as far away from home as we could, and this is where we ended up - about as far south as you can be from the state of Washington. Rosalie is waiting tables, and I've scored this job in the office.
When the bus comes out of the trees, the baggage truck joins us from the back road, laden with outgoing suitcases, the buzz of the approaching aircraft louder now.
We make small talk with the guests waiting to leave, asking them how they enjoyed themselves, and then don our earmuffs when we see Tyler put his on. As the plane touches down, Tyler gives us the thumbs up for Jared to join him, and they move the truck forward when the plane taxies in.
I have icy drinks ready to pour as the first person comes down the stairs, and I remember to smile. I also remember to look up and wave at the poor souls ready to board the plane to go home. The two sets of people couldn't be more different in their body language or dress.
They've all drained their glasses by the time the plane takes off, and I'm packed up quickly, herding the last of our excited group onto the bus. Now it's up to me to drive them safely to reception while the boys deliver the bags to their rooms - not a bad way to start a vacation, really.
As I drive in slowly, I point out the water activities center, the tennis courts, and the golf course flowing up the hill. There's a flurry of activity around one of the suites that isn't ready yet, but the incoming guests don't notice.
I hear squeals when we pull in and they see the open walls of the restaurant and bar adjacent to the main pool. The beach is right in front of us now and, at this time of the day, it's hard to resist.
They all have a smile on their face as they step off the bus and see the color of the ocean.
Emily has their welcome packs ready to hand over with their keys, and I enjoy her being my assistant for once. She's been cranky ever since I started, counting off the days until she leaves. "It gets to you after a while. You'll see," she's said on more than one occasion, adding a dramatic sigh. Now I'm looking forward to her departure as much as she is.
There are usually two of us manning the reception counter, and we work our asses off during checkouts and arrivals, the hours each side of the arrival of the plane at 12:30 and the launch at 3:00. The rest of the day, we keep a smile on our faces, mainly giving directions and taking bookings.
Until now, I've been starting at 7:00 am. Now that I'm taking over Emily's shift, 11:00 am until 8:00 pm with a break for lunch and dinner, my training period is officially over, and I'm getting an upgrade.
The "office bitches," a small group of us, are deemed important enough to occupy the better staff accommodations, sharing a bathroom between two bedrooms, and Emily's room is all mine when she leaves in the morning.
The "house mouses", gardeners, restaurant, and bar staff have to start out in what is lovingly known as "Slink," two rows of shoddy trailer homes joined together by a massive timber deck strewn with an assortment of odd discarded items acting as furniture.
The whole structure is covered so it doesn't leak, but it's a breeding ground for mold. The smell of wet dog soaks into everything, and no matter how many times you wash your stuff, it refuses to leave you, probably because the clothes lines are strung up over the deck between the rooms. "Stink" is a much more appropriate name.
Most people will do anything to move out of there. It inevitably involves sex, jumping into somebody's bed in a better room. I guess the quick coupling helps people settle down to life away from the rest of the world because we aren't far off the coast, but we are very isolated.
Emily and her husband invite a small group of people to the main restaurant for a going away dinner, but I can't go, of course, since I'm working. When I return for my last night in Slink, I see them finalizing their packing, but I don't go up there and lie about much I enjoyed working with her.
The next morning, I'm moving my meager possessions out before I start my shift, wanting to settle in before I come back this evening. My room is in the front row, and the thing I have been avoiding is now going to be literally right in front of my face - the "Caravan" - parked between Slink and the better accommodations up the hill.
Its two permanent occupants, the head barman, Emmett, and the staff barman, Edward, dominate the hierarchy in this place and are intimidating as hell. Edward, especially, makes me feel very uneasy.
Rosalie is sleeping with Emmett, and he's already invited her to move into the Caravan on a more permanent basis than just overnight, most nights.
She is both very brave and very reckless. The Caravan is the coolest place on the island, as well as the scariest.
Slink's communal female bathroom with its lack of privacy was the first place I noticed Edward watching me, sitting as brazen as can be on a car bench seat, smoking a joint, right outside the entry. He stood as a towel clad girl walked out, and they left together. I was still gazing at him when he turned and winked at me after handing her the smoke.
The word is that Edward can get you anything you want. He regularly leaves the island, returning with illicit drugs, available for sale to both staff and guests. He also takes orders for life's necessities, so he provides an essential service. A good bottle of shampoo is like gold around here.
No one asks where he goes, but he always catches an early boat and doesn't return until late.
He does most of his business here late on Friday nights when management allows us to join the guests in the main bar, as long as we are dressed appropriately and represent the resort professionally.
There are rumors about female employees making extra money keeping male guests company on "Island Night," as the staff refer to it, and that Edward supplies them with whatever they want to enhance the experience.
Until now, my shift has never coincided with the two residents of the Caravan since I've started early, and they are always up late, partying. The outer door is usually open when they're home, latched to the side of the Caravan, a thin screened door the only thing keeping out the bloodsucking mosquitoes and horse flies.
I rarely see Emmett, but this later start time means I will probably see them if they surface prior to commencing work for the lunch shift.
Hearing the sound of grunting, I know the damn ducks are trailing me. There are a half dozen of these huge white Muscovy ducks that waddle around intimidating everyone when they aren't having sex. They are territorial and known to nip at newcomers.
One of the ducks latches on to a corner of my pillow hanging down, and it's strong, holding me back until I yell at it and yank the pillow from its beak. It immediately mounts one of the other ducks, and I snort, picking up the pace so I can get away from them.
Approaching my room, I spot Edward, stretching in the Caravan's doorway. He's draped what looks like a sarong around his hips, hanging so dangerously low I can't drag my eyes away, expecting it to fall off him any second. He waves to me with one hand while his other one reaches down the front to scratch himself.
"Which room are you in?" he calls to me. Too shocked to respond, I point to the number six on the door and then look back at him. Rubbing a hand over his abs, he calls out, "Six? Must be my lucky day. Grab Tanya, and come over for a drink later."
Tanya is the British girl who occupies the other half of our two-bedroom-one-bathroom arrangement. She has been waiting tables for four months already, friendly with Rosalie from the time we arrived. She knows how to play the game, having moved out of Slink quickly by hooking up with one of the gardeners who was leaving. I'm looking forward to hearing her tips on long-term survival here since most people barely last three months before moving on.
When I fumble the key into the lock, I turn back to see if Edward is still watching me. My eyes immediately return to his groin, and I know I turn crimson when he catches me, chuckling and moving out of sight.
Dragging my stuff quickly inside, I shut the door because this is the last kind of interaction I should be having with him. He's obviously out for whatever he can get sexually because I have seen him with various women over the last two weeks and heard lots more talk about him.
All I want is to do my job, lay low, and save my money. Getting to London, Paris, and Rome is my focus.
I am wary of my reaction to Edward, dangerously irresistible, with vibrant inquisitive green eyes and a mop of uncontrolled tawny hair. His body is what I'm sure every girl has in her head when she has dirty thoughts, and I've been having them since the episode when he was outside the bathroom watching me.
This new close proximity will probably do all kinds of things to my libido, watching women pass through that screen door into the lair of the Caravan, and fantasizing about what they do in there.
Huffing out a breath, I tell myself for the twentieth time that guys like Edward can't exist in my world, and I vow never to tell another soul how much he affects me.
Checking out my new surroundings, I realize how bare the room looks without anything personal. The ceiling fan works, and the bathroom is reasonable, but I'll have to find a way to delicately broach the subject of the dreaded mold that clings around the tiles. I have no problem taking that job permanently as long as the black stuff disappears.
Tanya is at work, and I check the door on her side of the bathroom, thinking it won't hurt to have a snoop into what she had done with her room, but it's locked.
It's already time to get ready for work anyway, so I apply the appropriate amount of makeup, put on my uniform, and walk down the hill to the office. I give the Caravan a sideways glance as the smell of dope wafts out, and Van Morrison accompanies the sound of quiet female laughter.
Back at lunch a couple of hours later, Edward is in place, looking crisp and fresh in his bartender's uniform, already serving alcohol to his regulars who always park on the only three stools. As I pass them, the pungent smell of rum from their drinks and the pores of their skin almost kills my hunger.
From what Rosalie has told me about the state of the Caravan, the staff bar shows its inhabitant has two sides. Edward keeps his workspace immaculate, constantly polishing glasses, applying fresh bar runner towels, and lining up bottles behind him perfectly.
He always seems friendly, but I never order anything, partaking only of the free stuff in the staff lounge: juice, milk, tea with fresh lemon, and sometimes coffee. It won't hurt my waistline to stay off the booze and soda for a while.
Lunch is always incredible, all the cold buffet items the guests receive. Cold cuts, salads and tropical fruits are fresh and abundant, but because everything is free, we aren't supposed to linger. I usually just eat, go back to my room to check my eyeliner hasn't melted, and then head straight back to work. Most of the barmen and the restaurant staff, on the other hand, have the afternoon free. A group of them usually spend a few hours working on their tans at the beach.
Since I have the next day off, Rosalie has asked me to join them. It will be the first time I have ever spent any time with her crowd, and frankly, my lily-white body is making me nervous about showing it in public.
After my obligatory hour back at reception after dinner, I make up my bed and scrub the bathroom without speaking to Tanya about it first. When my hair is crying out for a treatment, and I need to shave, there is no way I can get into that shower as it is.
Standing back and admiring the gleaming white surfaces, I feel very organized and proud.
Just after nine, I hear the first sounds of the nighttime workers returning, chitchatting about their plans for the rest of their evening. The sound of televisions begins to fill the previous quiet.
Living up here is so different. Slink had a constant stream of people moving between rooms, calling out to each other, but here it's more sedate, at least while the Caravan is in darkness.
I'm trying to read, but a craving for something cold and sugary is eating at me tonight - an icy Coke with bubbles that go up your nose. Hmm. I slip my feet into my flip-flops, then look down at what I'm wearing. I don't want to have to get fully dressed for something that will only take me a minute, so I pull on my robe, wrap it over, and tie a tight bow. Checking myself in the bathroom mirror, I'm nice and demure, showing nothing at all.
Everyone walks around here scantily clad in pajamas and bikinis, so I don't know what I am worried about, really. It's just that I have to go to the staff bar to get the Coke, and he is there. Locking my door, I put my long chain with its keys around my neck, jingling the coins in my hand as I cross the service road and walk down the short path to the bar.
The smell of fresh toast is always strong in here. The jukebox is playing, and a couple is cuddling as they scan the selection. Edward is polishing wine glasses, sliding them upside down into a rack over the bar, and when he sees me approach, his eyes widen.
"Can I have a Coke please?"
He cups his ear before leaning forward so far that his cheek touches mine. I jump back slightly and repeat, "Coke… in a big glass, no ice?"
Still leaning forward, he looks right into my eyes and smirks. "I knew you'd come to me eventually. I didn't think you'd come ready for bed."
I swallow and lift my chin. "I'm not staying."
"Oh, come on, stay for a while. It's quiet tonight. I'll get you something to sit on." He's already bringing the stool from the other side of the bar for me. "Have a seat."
He stands back, raising his eyebrows, and waits. When I sit down, he smiles, returns to his side, and fills a huge glass with Coke from a gun, placing it in front of me and squeezing the trigger a few extra times to fill it right to the top.
There is no way I can pick it up without spilling it everywhere. Pulling my hair back, I lean forward and suck at the rim of the glass. When I glance up, he is studying me, his eyes wandering from my lips to my eyes.
With a sudden glint in his eye, he says, "You said you wanted it big."
I gulp at the innuendo, take my chain off, and place it down on the bar. He picks it up, fiddling with the keys like he is going to take them. Then he stands back near the register and watches me struggling, smirking before giving me a straw.
Once I take a deep pull on the icy Coke, I close my eyes, savoring the sweetness and bite as it races down my throat, the cold radiating out over my chest.
"Why don't you ever come to the bar?" he asks, with eyes already assessing me. He lowers the chain on the bar and picks up another wine glass. "Are you scared of me?"
I take another sip before I deflect that one. "I don't want to spend any money."
One of his eyebrows pops up. "How much do you need?"
"About ten grand, and I don't know how I'm going to last. Everyone here has little luxuries like televisions and stereos. I didn't really think about that."
He ponders my answer for a moment, slowly sliding the glass into the rack. "What are you saving for?"
"Europe. I'm going with Rosalie to England, France and Italy."
"Ee-so-la-bella," he sounds my name out, his tongue wrapping around the syllables as he leans back against the counter. I didn't even know he knew my name.
"What did you call me?"
He pushes off, taking a step forward, and places his forearms on the bar, his face too close again. "Italy is amazing. I have family who live on Lake Maggiore in the north, near Milano. Isola Bella was one of the regular ferry stops, and I always wanted to get off and see it. We never did."
I picture it and quietly daydream, replaying the way he pronounced all the names the Italian way. "I want to go to places like that when I leave here."
He nods, looking nostalgic, and continues polishing the glass slowly. "Me too… the last time we went I was twelve."
A small group is waiting to order, and one of them clears his throat. Edward sighs and leaves me to attend to them, so I stand to go back, feeling awkward on my own.
"You're coming over for a drink later, right?" he calls as he hands over their beers.
"I don't know, maybe." Grabbing my chain, I leave the coins on the bar and walk out. I don't look back, needing to think about whether it's a good idea.
Sitting on my bed, I'm unsure why he's both threatening and welcoming. There's an intimacy he assumes with you when he doesn't know you, and it's thrilling and off-putting at the same time.
Tanya comes home, and I hear water running. There's a knock on my bathroom door, and when I open it, she stands there looking amazed.
"I guess you've gathered I'm not great at cleaning, and neither was that moody cow who just vacated. I hope you're not going to get all uppity about chores."
I just laugh. It looks like Emily was a pain to live with as well. "It's okay. I really don't mind. I can't stand the mold."
"Then welcome, Bella!" she answers with enthusiasm. "I'll find a way to pay you back. We'll trade." She looks around my room and says, "First thing you need is some art. Come in to my side."
Following her, I walk into a different world. There is a television, shelves stuffed with books, candles, paintbrushes, and tubes of every color. Finished canvases lean against a wall, and a huge bold statement hangs over the bed, a cluster of white flowers emerging from big deep green leaves. I gasp at the painting, in awe of her talent, as I flip through the others, finding many familiar scenes from the resort, rich with local vegetation.
"Take any one you want. You're going to clean the loo right?"
I nod quickly and continue browsing, feeling like I'm getting the better end of the deal.
There is one painting of two white seahorses, delicate and almost see-through with black spot markings on their heads and chests. They are slightly sparkly, and their tails entwine them together gently, giving me a feeling of monogamy, security and love. The bigger one's tail curls around a piece of coral to secure them.
The seahorses and the clump of stark coral branches are the only things in focus. The background is suggestive of a highly colorful environment, but its clarity isn't necessary. The beauty of the pair is the triumph in this work of art.
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, it's fine. I wanted to do something big with a seahorse for a while. I might be able to sell these, put some money in the bank."
"I don't know what to say." I'm still admiring it.
"I can paint another one," she offers sincerely.
"Well, thank you. Hey, Edward told me to bring you over for a drink later. Do you want to go?"
She narrows her eyes. "No, he knows I won't go over there. He's playing a game. I don't set foot in that bloody Caravan. I want nothing to do with what goes on in there."
"What does go on in there? Is Rosalie in danger?"
"No, not from Emmett. He's a good bloke. I've never understood their friendship really. Rose is safe because she's with Emmett and because she can keep her trap shut about the drugs and the sex. Edward's… just take my word for it. You can still be friendly, but do not get involved with him. Oh, and he doesn't fraternize with us staff at Island Night."
I frown at how much she said, but how little it reveals, and I look around this pretty room, deciding her simple advice is probably very wise. It makes me wonder if there is history between them.
"Um, do you mind if I use our beautiful clean bathroom now? I'm starting early tomorrow."
I apologize for lingering and thank her again when she hands me the canvas to take back. Propping it up on the bed against the wall, I can't help but enjoy the pleasure of seeing where it will soon live.
A short while later, there is a knock on my door, and a very excited Rosalie announces that she's made her decision to get out of Slink and move into the Caravan, inviting me to her welcome party tonight. I fake a yawn, telling her I'm tired. It feels like she has abandoned me. She knows we could have shared this room, but she's chosen him.
Hearing our shower start, I say I'm sorry, but I really have to go to bed, having no wish to party tonight. Disappointed, she gives up and leaves, and I watch until she pulls open the screen door and climbs up into the Caravan, turning to give me a small wave before I close my door.
I lean against the back of the door, and there's another knock that startles me. When I open it, Edward pokes his face in, too close to mine.
"You're not coming?"
I shake my head, taking a step back, and answer, "Too tired."
He slides in uninvited, closes the door behind him and looks around, nodding towards the sound of the shower. "Is that Tanya?" He turns the doorknob, finding it locked. "That's one of hers?" He points to the painting and studies it, a smile forming on his face. "She's brilliant."
Just his presence in my room makes me nervous. "Jesus, when you said you had no luxuries, you meant it." When I don't respond, he sits on the bed and looks at the painting, running his hand over the fresh sheets. "Do you want me to hang it for you?"
"I'll do it."
"Come over for a drink, Bella."
I shake my head again, and he shrugs before walking out, leaving the door open. People have arrived now, standing around on the grass with drinks.
I lay in my bed listening to the growing laughter and music, thinking I will ask Edward to get me some earplugs on his next supply run.
Rosalie, Emmett, and I trek to the end of the beach path and spot a small group of staff. Apparently, very few guests come to this remote side of the island so we have it to ourselves. As we get closer, I can't help giggling as their heads pop up like the meerkats from Animal Planet.
Edward is sitting at one end, running his hands through his wet hair, an empty towel laid out next to him. We drop our stuff down at the other end of the group, and I look out at the glistening ocean, seeing someone swimming alone.
Emmett introduces me to everyone, some of whom I've met before, but never like this. I avert my eyes nervously because there is not a tan line in sight - everyone is naked - and I have never been nude in public.
Emmett strips off, and Rosalie unties her sarong, showing she has nothing on underneath. She must see the look on my face because she says quietly, "It's okay, Bella. Wear the bikini if you want to. Nobody here cares."
Getting my ass burned on my first day in the sun sounds like stupidity so I decide to keep my swimsuit on. I feel eyes on me when I pull my sundress over my head, and I lay down on my stomach, taking out my book. The slight breeze makes this beautiful day perfect. It flicks at my hair, tickling my back.
Suddenly I hear Edward's voice. "Did you know Bella came to my bar for the first time last night?"
As I turn to him, they all look as if there is something seriously wrong with me. My shoulders rise as I try to defend myself. "I don't want to spend any money! I'm trying to save to go to Europe!"
Garrett pipes up. "Oh, so you're one of those."
My eyes land back on Edward, spreading the towel out next to him and looking at the water.
"One of those what, Garrett?"
He answers in a whiny voice, "'Can I borrow a piece of gum, a cigarette?' then expecting everyone else to pay?"
"Nooooo!" I sing back indignantly.
"Oh, leave her alone, guys!" Rosalie chastises.
I now see who Edward was looking at. She is pretty and curvy, walking up to him, naked and dripping wet from the ocean, wringing the water out of her hair. Rosalie introduces her as Bree, and she lays down on the towel next to him and sighs happily. He turns to face her, propped up on an elbow, and puts his thigh between her legs as they smile at each other, sharing a private moment. I can't take my eyes off his body.
I'm looking at his balls.
Bree raises her hand to play with his hair, and he slowly runs his hand down her arm, ending up on her breast, pressing his thumb into her nipple. Pulling him down for a kiss, I see their tongues connect. She grabs a chunk of his hair as he squeezes her breast.
I have to drag my eyes away, embarrassed by the pulse throbbing between my legs, only looking back when they start to chuckle. She leans over, picking up her sarong and throwing it to him, the same sarong I saw draped around his hips through the Caravan screen door. He plops it down in his lap, probably covering an erection, and he glances up at me and smiles.
Feeling like the biggest pervert, I know I should stop staring at them. She stands, holding her hand out to him, and I hear him say, "No man can resist the way you do that. You're perfect."
He clutches the sarong to him, standing and turning away before wrapping his towel around his hips. They pick up their stuff and wave goodbye. She is still naked as they walk off, and I watch him cover her shoulders with the sarong and lean down tenderly to speak to her.
As she nods her head, I want to be her. I want him to talk to me just like that, and then do to me whatever he is about to do to her. They literally disappear into the vegetation along the beach, and we don't see them again.
Even though Emmett is technically Edward's boss, it's obvious that Edward is the leader, and it feels more free after he leaves. Without Edward naked in front of me, I can relax and enjoy the sun, without trying not to ogle him, and get to know the others. We all float and laugh in an ocean without waves, and I start to feel comfortable with these people on this glorious afternoon.
The guys begin throwing a tennis ball and fighting for it, so Rosalie and I get out to dry off. She kneels next to me with her towel around her, and I hear her take a big breath before she speaks.
"Bella, I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but I saw you watching Edward and Bree. Please tell me you're not crushing on Edward because I know he's gorgeous, but he's not boyfriend material, honey."
I feel so embarrassed that it's obvious to her and probably everyone else who saw me watching him with a look of longing on my face.
"I know. Tanya told me to stay away from him."
She angles her head and looks curious. "I mean it, Bella."
"Don't worry… I need to ask him to buy me some earplugs anyway. I'll see if he can bring back a rabbit and big box of batteries."
She starts giggling and falls over, her laughter making me crack up too.
Two nights later, Edward knocks on my door not long after I come home.
"Join me for a drink, Bella. I'm buying."