A/N: Hey all! Another new story by me coming out here, and this one will have a set weekly update schedule. I will update on Thursdays, and this is a promise I can keep because the story is already completely written.
I need to tell you all, though, that this story isn't 100 % mine. I have transformed it into a story from an interactive story app called Choices (an app I am completely obsessed with atm) and the creators are Pixelberry Studios.
So here's my disclaimer: I don't own the characters or the full plot of this story. All recognizable content belongs to their respective owner. No copyright infringement intended. Names and places have been changed for the purpose of Fanfiction.
Title: The Mystery of El Jardín
Beta: Belynda Smith
Summary: Ten lucky college kids receive the chance to vacation for one week at a luxury resort on a private island in the Caribbean when they win a random draw contest held at their school. However, it becomes apparent quickly that this vacation will stay with them all forever.
The Mystery of El Jardín
All I could see was green. Green bushes, green vines, green trees. My feet pounded against the ground as I ran for all I was worth from… something. I didn't dare to look over my shoulder and find out what was chasing me.
Suddenly, I was pulled to the side by my arm and down under a bush. A man I had never seen before crouched next to me with one finger pressed against his lips.
"Stay down. It's coming this way," he said, and despite not knowing him, I listened, because he made me feel safe, somehow.
Everything went dark, and then I was running again toward a big stone building. Another man I didn't recognize stood by the entrance with his hand outstretched toward me.
"Bella! Give me your hand!"
I reached for him, but darkness overcame me once again.
Then, a bodiless, male voice spoke in my ear. It was unfamiliar, but the words caused my blood to run cold.
"You don't understand, do you? Of course not. But you will … in time."
The plane shuddered and jolted me awake. I blinked away the strange dream as I adjusted to the bright sunlight outside.
"Wow..." I mumbled to myself, confused by the illogical dream I'd just had.
"Morning, sleepyhead," Benjamin, my best friend in the whole world, said, and gave me a goofy smirk from the seat next to me.
I stretched and yawned as I recalled why I was on a plane and where I was heading.
"I'm not still dreaming, right?"
"Doesn't feel real, does it? But we're finally on our way!" Benjamin replied excitedly.
He wasn't the only bubbly person on the plane. The chatter of the ten contest winners from our school filled the small space.
"One magical week in paradise, here we come!" A girl with flaming red hair sighed contentedly from her seat in the front row.
"All expenses paid, what whaaaaaat!" Peter Chen, one of the school's star football players exclaimed.
"Good thing, too. I'm so deep in student debt I couldn't even afford instant ramen right now," Emmett McCarty agreed with him. Emmett was the most compassionate person I'd ever had the pleasure of meeting, although he was bit stupid sometimes because of his constant need to get high.
I was just as excited as the rest of them, but I just couldn't shake my dream away. It had felt so real despite not making any sense.
"Hey … you okay, Bella? Bad dream?" Benjamin asked with a worried glance.
"Just a really weird one," I assured him. "I dreamt about … about him!" My eyes widened as the second guy from my dream came walking down the aisle toward us.
"You had a dream about Garrett Gayle?" Benjamin's worried expression morphed into one of amusement. "Well, what are you waiting for? Go talk to him!"
Benjamin pushed me out into the aisle, right as Garrett was about to pass by. I literally fell right into his arms.
"Whoa, hello there!" Garrett said with a surprised, but kind, smile.
Benjamin leaned out in the aisle from his seat. "My friend Bella here wants to say something."
Garrett continued to smile as he waited for what I apparently had to say, and the pressure caused me to just blurt it out.
"I dreamt about you!"
His smile widened. "Is that so? A good one I hope."
I blushed. " Actually, it was kind of terrifying," I confessed without thinking how it would sound to him. "Oh, not because of you! It's just..." I scrambled as I tried to save the part of my dignity that I had left.
Garrett shook his head, his million dollar, perfect-white-teeth smile still in place. "Don't worry. I'll take it as a compliment anyway," he said and slipped by me to continue down the plane.
"Oh man, got that whole thing on video. You've gotta see your face..." Benjamin trailed off and I looked over at him. He was frowning down at his phone. "Huh, weird. Is it really 5:15? We should've landed an hour ago … and it didn't feel like you'd been snoring that long."
I shot him an unamused smile. "Hilarious. I'll go ask the pilot if something's up..."
As I made my way forward, I passed by the other students talking loudly over each other.
"Excuse me, will you please cease your babbling? The tour guide is trying to speak," a blond guy with an English accent said irritatedly.
The tour guide, a small girl with short black hair, smiled at him appreciatively. "Thank you, Alistair! As your tour guide for the week, I just want to say that we should all try to … you know, be friends. It is an island, after all, so you're kind of stuck with each other. My name is Alice, by the way, and I will be with you every day for all the fun adventures we'll have together!"
"Is it too late to jump out of the plane?" I recognized Rosalie Hale's fed up tone. She was sitting alone, with her arms crossed, and an annoyed expression on her face. I could remember how I used to envy her looks when we were freshmen at Hartfelt University, but during sophomore year, she changed her appearance completely. Colored her blonde hair black and red, as well as cutting it very short, and pierced both her nose and eyebrow. She avoided everyone, except the other computer geniuses on campus that she hung out with, like the plague.
I entered the cockpit and saw the pilot had his combat boots kicked up on the dashboard. It wasn't the image I had expected, but I wasn't a pilot myself, so who was I to lecture? "Excuse me. It's Edward, right? Weren't we supposed to have landed by now...?" I trailed off when I saw that his eyes were closed. "Wait, are you asleep?!"
"Hmm?" He opened his eyes and looked back at me. Instantly, I recognized his face from the same bizarre dream. He was the guy I'd felt so safe with. "Listen, Princess, don'tcha know it's rude to wake someone who's taking a nap?"
I wasn't feeling very safe anymore, and his nickname confused me. "'Princess'?" I asked, wondering where he got that from.
He shrugged. "What can I say? I give nicknames to people who annoy me."
I narrowed my eyes, but smiled, amused by his straightforwardness. "In that case, I'm calling you..." I tried to come up with a good name, and as I channeled my inner Benjamin, who was a crazy movie fan, I got it. "...'Top Gun.'" I had to admit I was quite proud it.
His mouth fell open in surprise. "'Top Gun'? Hang on, you can't be giving nicknames. That's my thing!"
I shrugged. "I dunno. I like it. Might keep doing it."
He smirked. "You ain't clever enough to keep 'em coming. Takes work to be as good as I am." He stretched and straightened up in his seat. "Anyway, relax. We ain't landing 'til … the hell?" He frowned as he looked at the dashboard. "That time ain't right … and that ain't right either!" He whacked the instrument panel a few times.
"You sure you know what you're doing?" I asked carefully.
He rolled his eyes, but his smile was still very much in place. "If you knew half the things I've survived, you'd bet on me to get you through anyth—"
Out of nowhere, turbulence began hammering the plane, and I was thrown hard into the wall of the cockpit. My shoulder hit the hard surface at a painful angle, and I screamed out in both pain and shock.
"Aw, just great! This storm front's coming in quick," Edward exclaimed. He leaned in and grabbed the yoke in a steady grip. "Get your ass in a seat, hear? And tell everybody to buckle up!"
I didn't understand what was going on, and stupidly enough, my mouth thought it was a good time to protest. "But—"
Edward glared at me over his shoulder. "Now, Princess!"
Dark clouds closed in around the plane and hard gusts rocked it from side to side. Everyone started shouting.
"Oh, I'm really regretting that airport Chipotle!" Emmett bellowed loudest of all.
"Don't puke, bro! If you puke, I'm gonna puke!" Peter said and leaned as far away from Emmett as he could.
"Where the hell did this storm come from?! It was a clear day!" A golden blonde girl I didn't know complained.
"It happens, okay? This is totally normal!" Edward shouted over the sound of the plane's engine. The plane was small enough for everyone to hear him through the open cockpit door.
"Yeah. Sure. That looks normal," Rosalie retorted and pointed out the window.
Outside, balls of orange electricity coalesced out of the dark sky and exploded in a crackle of sparks.
"It looks like ball lightning … but I've never seen anything quite like this," A girl with thick-framed glasses and ponytailed strawberry blonde hair gasped.
"This is all wrong! I can't die here, surrounded by these morons," Alistair moaned with his hands over his face.
Garrett tried to calm everyone from his seat. "Everyone, just breathe! We're gonna get through this!"
"Oh god, oh god..." The girl with red hair clutched the armrests in pure panic. Her knuckles turned white with her grip.
A blistering crack of thunder deafened me as the lightning hit the plane. Sparks flew in the cockpit.
"Engine just lost power! Bringing her down manually! Everybody, hang on!" Edward ordered with his hands firmly on the yoke.
The shouting grew louder as everyone started to panic … all except one. A girl with her brown hair a tight ponytail and a long scar across her right eye sat alone in the back row of the plane, silent and unfazed.
Alice shouted to me. "Bella! Safety first! Please find a seat!"
I looked for an empty space around me and tumbled into the seat beside the red-haired girl as the plane lurched violently. Her face was drawn tight, her eyes clenched shut, refusing to look.
"Just breathe! It'll pass," I tried, but she wasn't listening.
"This can't happen … not yet … it's too soon."
She gripped the armrests even harder. Her chest rose and fell shallowly as if she was having trouble breathing. I tried to distract her because a panic attack would not help anyone at that moment.
"Hey … why couldn't the melons get married?"
She looked at me as if I'd suddenly lost my head. "Wha … what? I … have no idea!"
"Because they cantaloupe!"
The girl just looked at me blankly for a moment, and then she cracked a shaky smile. "Because they … can't elope? That is the dumbest joke I've ever heard!" She tried to fight back her giggle, but couldn't hold it in. She broke out in the most infectious laughter I'd ever heard.
"Are you positively mad?" Alistair cried out from across the aisle. "This isn't the time for jokes!"
"No. It's the perfect time for jokes," the girl defended me. She offered her hand and I took it. She smiled sweetly, and it somehow made all the shouting and alarms fade into the background. "I'm Victoria."
"Just a little further! I think we're almost out!" Edward said through clenched teeth, still holding tightly onto the yoke and pressing buttons on the dash at a fast, experienced pace.
Just as the lightning reached fever pitch, the plane burst out of the storm clouds into clear sky. It steadied up, the engine powered up again, and everyone exhaled collectively in relief.
"Wooooooohooooo!" Emmett exclaimed and shot his arms in the air in some sort of victory pose. "We're alive!"
"Bella, look! There it is!" Victoria said and leaned closer to the window.
"Get a good look now, 'cause we're coming in fast!" Edward said over his shoulder. "Welcome to El Jardín!"
The plane sank toward the gorgeous, sparkling island. At its center, a volcano rose above the rainforest, breathing a white column of smoke.
"El Jardín Tower, this is tail number XC-DMK, requesting emergency priority landing," Edward said into his radio, but he was met with only silence. "Carlos! Pick up, you lazy bastard. It's Edward!" He still got nothing, and the frustration was obvious in his voice and words. "Ignoring me won't make me forget the hundred bucks you owe me. Like it or not, we're coming in!"
The plane landed on a dirt airstrip at the edge of the island and came to a shuddering halt inside the hangar. I stepped down the stairs into the warm tropical sunshine and had to squint my eyes against the bright light.
"Rough landing, Top Gun. Hope you don't work for tips," I said over my shoulder at Edward who was right behind me.
"You kidding?" he replied with a smile. "I'm a damn hero for even getting you on the ground!" He turned away from me and called out, "Carlos, I need a tune-up!...Carlos!"
As Edward marched off, the rest of the group pulled their luggage from the plane's cargo bay.
Victoria turned to me. "This island's supposed to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. The beaches, the waterfalls..."
"It's also home to a plethora of rare flora and fauna!" The strawberry blonde with glasses filled in.
Peter rolled his eyes. "Only ten spots on the trip and they had to give one to this dork..."
I reached for my suitcase handle just as Garrett did the same.
"Oh, sorry," he said and retracted his hand, his cheeks turning momentarily red.
"If you wanna carry my bag, go right ahead," I teased, but a female voice shot me down.
"Oh my god. Could you be any more desperate?" The pretty, golden blonde girl with heavy makeup draped her arms around Garrett. "People like you always hover around the spotlight like moths."
I frowned in confusion. "Spotlight? What?"
The girl scoffed. "Yeah, right. As if you don't know who Garrett is."
"Seriously?" Peter said behind me, startling me as I didn't know he was that close. "Our superstar quarterback? … the Heisman frontrunner?"
"Guys, it's cool. Chill out—" Garrett tried, but neither of them listened.
"Look, Garrett doesn't need any fame hounds hanging around, got it?" The girl said, and her attitude annoyed me to such a point, I couldn't hold my remark in.
"Exactly. So what are you doing here?"
Her jaw dropped. "Excuse me?!"
"You heard me," I said calmly. "You're just stalling to think up a comeback. Don't worry, I'll wait."
The girl scrambled for words. "You—"
Garrett stepped in. "Kate, can you chill? And I don't mean Netflix and chill. I mean actual chill, please..."
As Kate started arguing with Garrett instead, I backed away. My foot made contact with something small, but the sound caught my attention because it didn't sound like a stone. I looked down and saw a metal object with a red, feathered end.
"Is that … a tranquilizer dart?" Benjamin asked as he came up beside me. "The vial's nearly empty. It must've hit its target."
I nodded and crouched down to examine the dart more closely. "Yeah, and this is a pretty big dose. Whatever animal they took down must've been huge."
"You mean if they took it down," Benjamin said with a smirk, and I rolled my eyes at him, but when I looked up, I saw that someone was watching us from nearby, listening to our conversation.
"Hey, Benjamin … who is that?" I asked without taking my eyes of the girl.
He shrugged. "Dunno. Got eyes for the mysterious hottie, huh?"
I shook my head. "There's something … off about her."
"What gives you that idea?"
I thought about it for a moment. "It's just that she's too quiet."
Benjamin looked shocked. "Quiet? So what? I'm quiet. Well, when I'm not around you."
"I guess you're right," I said and tried to shake the feeling away. I turned my eyes back to Benjamin. "I don't know why I'm suspicious."
"Well, there's one thing."
Benjamin looked around at the group. "We were told that ten students from our college won this trip, right? Obviously, we're not counting the pilot or the guide but … count us off and she makes eleven."
I looked in the girl's direction once more and this time she stared directly back at me. Our eyes locked, and I tried to look away, but for some reason, I couldn't, as if she was pulling me in with her gaze.
"Hey, Alice! Where the hell are your people?" Edward stormed back, and at last the silent girl looked away. The strange hold over me dissipated. I shook it off. "There's nobody here!"
The entire group looked around. We were still the only people at the airstrip.
"They should be here in a shuttle to take us up to the main resort, but..." Alice looked unsure for a second, but then her smile was back in place. "I'm sure it's just a slight delay! No need to fret. They'll be here any minute."
Edward shook his head. "The hell with that. I'm going up to that control tower to get some answers."
"What do you think is going on there?" I asked, feeling curious as well.
He shrugged. "No idea … Call it a gut feeling, but whatever it is, it ain't good." He turned his eyes to me. "So, Princess, you coming or not?" I didn't know what to say, stunned that he asked me to come along. I thought he didn't like me.
"I could go with you—" Kate offered flirtatiously.
"Wasn't talking to you, Maybelline," Edward said and began walking away.
"Um, okay! I guess, the rest of you, please follow me?" Alice's tone was a bit shaky as she tried to remain in control of the situation. "We'll take the short walk up the hill to the resort. Sounds fun, right? Yay! Um, Victoria? Where are you going?"
Victoria skipped past Alice, unbuttoning her blouse. "Some of us want to explore the beach a little first! We'll meet you guys at the hotel! Oh, this button is stuck. Bella, could you help me?"
Victoria drew close to me, and I helped her undo the last button. She slipped out of her white top."Ahh, that's better! You're coming to the beach with us, right?"
I looked at Victoria first, then at Alice and the group going to the hotel, and lastly at Edward. "Actually, I think I'll go with Edward. I want to know what's going on here, too."
I left the two groups and jogged to catch up with Edward.
"So it's cool if I join you?"
He smirked. "You ask permission for everything? Come on, Princess."
Together, we scaled the rickety, rusted stairs of the tall control tower. The rainforest stretched out before us, vibrant and lush.
"This place is gorgeous. Do you fly out here a lot, Top Gun?" I asked.
He nodded. "Here and every other privately owned resort island in the Caribbean. The favored vacation spots of the young and the privileged," he replied with a hint of bitterness.
"You don't sound like you like it much."
Edward waved it off. "Hey, it pays the bar tab."
We were quiet for a minute, but I couldn't contain my curiosity. Edward was an attractive man with his red-brown hair, green eyes, and muscular frame. His don't-care attitude was a bit annoying, but I wanted to know if it meant something that I dreamt about him before I actually met him. I wasn't sure about telling him about the dream like I had with Garrett, though. I was positive Edward was the kind of person who would laugh it off and tease me mercilessly if he found out.
"So, Edward, what did you do before this?" I asked, thinking it was a safe question.
Edward, however, frowned with an annoyed expression. "Hey, what is this, anyway? Twenty Questions?"
I held up my hands in surrender. "Sorry," I said. I wasn't about to feel insulted or ashamed. If he wanted to give me attitude, I wasn't going to push. I was quiet, but after a moment Edward continued on his own.
"Fighter pilot. Navy. I was good at it, too. Best in my class. Until I got discharged." His tone was different. Empty, but also sad.
"Punched my commanding officer in the jaw," he replied as if it was nothing.
I didn't know what to say, and it took a while for me to find any words. "...I'm sure he deserved it."
He nodded. "Yeah. He did. I've been ferrying rich folks around the Caribbean and sleeping in a beach hammock in Costa Rica ever since."
I frowned. "That sounds lonely."
Edward turned his green eyes onto me. "Uh, yeah. That's the appeal."
I hurried to explain what I had actually meant. "I mean, I get wanting to get away for awhile, but don't you want more? Someone to come home to, someone to listen to you, someone to hold you all through the night..."
He smirked at me again, his go-to expression as I had already come to realize. "You offering, Princess?"
"What? No, I … I just meant … in theory..." I stammered out, but Edward was only teasing me again.
"In theory, I wanted to be the best pilot the Navy had ever seen. In practice … Well, you can't beat a cold beer and a Caribbean sunset."
I knew there was more to Edward than he wanted to reveal, and my curiosity was piqued, but it wasn't my place to pry unless he actually wanted to tell me. Therefore, I kept my hundred questions to myself.
We continued to climb the tower's stairs when a step cracked in two beneath me. I started to fall through and I tried to grab for the first thing I could get a hold on but came up empty.
"Edward!" I screamed, and he reacted instantly, grabbed me, and pulled me into his arms.
The rusted fragments of the metal step twirled as they plunged fifty feet to the ground.
"I think you just saved my life," I breathed out, feeling dizzy as the adrenaline had spiked the blood going to my brain.
"Now you owe me one. Come on." I stood up on shaky legs and followed him as he continued to climb, strangely unaffected by what had happened. I figured, having been in the Navy, having to save someone from falling to their death was nothing new to him.
Finally, we reached the top of the tower. Edward pushed the door open.
"Carlos, you dumb—" He didn't get the whole sentence out and stopped in his tracks.
"There's no one here," I said when it was obvious the tower was empty.
"Thanks, Eagle Eyes. I couldn't tell," Edward replied sarcastically.
I ignored his comment and wandered by the desk and dragged my finger across it. It came up dusty.
"Are you sure they still use this airstrip?"
"Of course I'm sure. I was just here a few days ago, and I'm damn sure..." He trailed off.
I turned to find him staring past me through the window, enraptured by what he saw. In the distance, the island itself pulsed with red and blue light, colors fluttered over the trees, tinting the atmosphere in a rippling aurora.
"Wha..." On instinct, I reached down blindly and found Edward's hand. His fingers laced with mine. "Edward … what is this?"
"I … I don't know."
My gaze met his, our faces close. The beautiful colors played across his eyes. I wanted him to kiss me, even though that was not how I usually did things with men I'd just met, but his eyes glittered so beautifully, and I leaned forward without consciously deciding to do so.
"Edward, I..." Time seemed to slow down until I blinked. Suddenly, the colors were gone, and I turned back to look through the window. "Hey, it stopped." The moment disappeared, and I wondered where the feelings that bubbled up inside me had come from.
Edward exhaled and shook himself out of it. He looked down and saw our fingers still entwined. He coughed awkwardly and retracted his hand, which instantly went up to his neck.
"Uh. Sorry. Look, it must've been something … weird with the glass here. Who knows. Forget it, just … come on."
He ducked out of the control tower, but I hesitated a moment and looked back to see whether the aurora would return. But everything appeared as it should.
I followed Edward down the stairs. I heard distant laughter and looked to see Victoria and a couple others playing on the beach.
"Hey, Bella! Come look at this view!" Victoria called when she saw me.
"I'm heading up to the hotel to catch up with Alice. Carlos must be up there. Which way are you heading?" Edward asked and turned in the opposite direction.
I waved to Victoria and started walking with Edward. "I'm going with you. I don't feel like playing around in the water, right now."
Edward and I gradually wound our way up the paved road. I was beginning to feel fatigue when we came around the bend and saw it.
"So this is it, huh? Been to this island fifty times, and never been off the airstrip."
"The Ethereal Hotel! It's impressive."
It was true. The hotel was very impressive. Completely white, with twenty stories and the name in bold golden letters by the entrance.
"Well, come on then. You paid me to bring you here, so that's what I'm doing."
We headed toward the lobby and passed under a long, ornamented overhang of white marble.
"So you've never actually stayed here?" I asked. "Are you just taking off again after this, or are you gonna stick around a while?" I was hoping for the latter. I really wanted to get to know him further. There was something about him that made me feel comfortable. I could completely be myself, sarcasm and everything.
"Just need Carlos to get my plane refueled, and I'm off. Got a bottle of Anejo calling my name back in Costa Rica. Try not to miss me too much, Princess." He winked, and I didn't even try to hold in my smile.
The automatic doors slid open welcomingly, and I entered the crisp air conditioning of the lobby, and I froze.
"What the—" Edward froze next to me.
The rest of the group stood in front of us, bewildered. Beyond them, the entire lobby was completely devoid of life.
"I … I don't understand," Alice stuttered.
The silence was deafening. The front desk stood deserted. Suitcases and luggage carts lay unattended. On a table, a half-finished wine glass gathered dust.
"Hey, Bella," Garrett turned to me. "Uh … do you happen to know … where the hell everyone is?"
A/N: Where is everyone? What was that storm? And those lights seen from the tower? What was up with Bella's dream, and why is Edward so defensive about his past? Tell me all of your thoughts, and Edward will come up with a nickname for you! ;-)