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not beta'd

prompt - rise

Even with my sunglasses on, the blazing midday sun glows bloody through closed eyelids. It's hot here, maybe hotter than any place I've ever been. I like it. It cleanses.

It's peaceful here: nearly soundless but for the ebb and flow of water over sand, the quiet shush of palm trees, the occasional, distant whine of passing jets miles above. I wish I could stay forever, just like this. I wish I needed nothing.

But I do need things, and people need me.

Even as I think it, a soft chime sounds, my phone informing me that my time is up. If I'm not back where I'm expected in ten minutes or so, I'll be sought out and that's just not necessary. Taking a deep breath, I rise, slipping my feet into sandals and my arm through the straps of my bag.

Maybe, if I'm lucky, I can come back to this beach we leave.

I know, though, that I won't.

Back at the villa, things are as I left them. He sits outside, a little king of his own making, surrounded by sycophants. They drink and smoke and talk shit and play poker, all the while making deals and perfecting plans. Local hired girls, dressed minimally, sway in and out of the scene, making sure these fools want for nothing: cigars, booze, pills, physical release. It took one day of relaxing by the pool for me to realize it wasn't very relaxing at all, which is why the beach became my chosen place of solace.

Not that it matters. After tomorrow, we'll be back in the States, and this place will be another memory.

A leggy redhead with tan, freckled skin and the nicest breasts I've ever seen struts by with a drink and a plate of food. I watch her walk straight to him, stopping only when she's nearly on top of him. She places the tray carefully in an empty spot on the table, leaning down so that he can whisper in her ear. Her lips curve and she straightens, nodding.

I'm still staring when he looks up and sees me. We share a look: him, neutral, me, neutral.

I don't care what he does. In the end, it's me that warms his bed, decorates his arm, spends his money. I loved him once, but that was before. Way before, when the people we were, were...people we were. I scarcely remember that me or that him. I'd leave, but it's not that simple.

I know because I tried to leave once.

He promised he'd kill me if I ever tried again.

Inside the kitchen, the housekeeper of our rented villa is dressing down several of the girls. She's older than she looks, still beautiful, and I suspect that before age caught up to her, she was doing what the rest of these girls do now.

"Who's responsible for this?" she asks, gesturing toward a broken plate. It's not that big a deal, and I hate for people to get in trouble for such minor infractions, but they run a tight ship here. Sometimes I wonder if these girls are any freer than me. They work, they get paid well. They're expected to...go above and beyond.

And under, if you catch my drift.

But beneath it all there's this undercurrent of desperation, and I've seen it in every place we've been: Mexico, the Bahamas, Miami, LA, the Dominican Republic...and now the Cayman Islands. Race and culture might differ vastly, but money and vices are universal bottom lines. Alec and his guys always, always hire girls like this to tend to their needs.

I don't stick around to see which of the maid-whores admits to breaking the plate. Grabbing a banana from a bowl, I make my way upstairs and into the bedroom, exhausted. I do nothing but lounge and keep my dick of a boyfriend company, but I'm never not tired.

A shower, a change of clothes. A bump, left on the dresser while I was in the bathroom; a "gift" from Alec. It's one of his non-violent ways of keeping me beneath his thumb, and it keeps me both coherent and cooperative. I tie my hair back, lean down, snort my sanity without fanfare, and open the window, feeling flushed.

In the distance, the sun descends. The sky is every color.

I gaze down at the scene around the pool, at the redhead now sitting on Alec's lap, the soft glow of lights that came on with the fall of dusk. Suddenly I can't wait to get out of here. At least back home I feel like I can leave when I want, even if it's just an illusion.

A knock at the door jerks me from my thoughts. Turning, I clear my throat and run a hand over my shirt, smoothing the wrinkles. "Come in."

It's Masen. I barely look at him before crossing to the bed, haphazardly shoving things into my purse. It's nothing; I'm going nowhere. An act to keep busy, to shed myself of the nervous energy humming through my body courtesy of the coke and this man's gaze.

"What?" I snap, when I can no longer deal with the silence.

"Look at you." He almost sneers, eyes fixed on my face.

"What?" I repeat.

Shaking his head, he comes around to the other side of the bed and gently brushes his thumb beneath my nose. "Why do you do this shit?" he whispers, frowning, I assume, at the white residue on his fingers.

"Stop it." I shove away, irritated. Masen's concern is false, a pretend byproduct of his job. Alec hired him one year ago to be my keeper, although that isn't what either of them would call it. Bodyguard. Driver. Whatever.

His face hardens. "Alec sent me up to check on you."

"Why? He seems just fine down there."

"You've been up here for hours."

Have I? I glance at the window again, then at the clock beside the bed. Six o'clock. Guess I lost track of time. Shrugging, I step away, resisting the urge to wipe my nose.

"Let's go down," Masen says, touching my arm.

I pull away, not liking the way it feels when he touches me. I'm attracted to him, and sometimes I think he's attracted to me, but these men are all the same. They speak only the languages of violence and commodity, leaving little room for things like love and affection.

His beauty is irrelevant. The finest faces can hide the most rotten souls.

this story could not be more different than the last one. have faith? trust.