Disclaimer: All the characters of in this story are of my own creation. Any
physical resemblance the people in this story may have to real people is
coincidental and no infringement on anyone’s rights is intended.
Subtext Disclaimer: This story contains references to physical relationships between consenting adults, who may happen to be of the same sex. If this offends you, or you are under 18 years of age, or you reside in an area where this type of material is illegal, read no more. There is plenty of general fanfic out there for you. Go find it.
Paradise Series #1.
Storyline: Hustle, bustle and headaches abound on a fictional Caribbean island as a recently, nearly completed resort is brought to life and we follow the lives of the people who are trying to make it happen. In the middle of it all is a closer look at two strangers, two women, who are thrown together by outside forces and struggle to contend with the problems they will have to share if the Paradise Beachside Resort is to open on time, and their own emotions as strange happenings make them question themselves, and each other.
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Enjoy, I hope.
WELCOME TO PARADISE
Written by FlyBigD
Green eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses resting on the bridge of a freckled nose, stared at an expanse of clear blue sky while fingers patted a bent knee to the beat of soft music that mingled with the rhythm of endless rolling blue/green waves sliding up snow white sand and the sound of frustrated sighs. Too busy, too bored, too restless and too tired to enjoy the view, Holly waited impatiently for the plane to arrive as a gentle tropical breeze played with her long blonde pony tail and fluttered the edges of her khaki shorts, and the embroidered crossed palm trees on a white linen background over her heart. The Caribbean sun shining on the same emblem painted on the hood of the Land Rover, she sat under the canvas top in the driver’s seat with the aroma of the thick jungle behind her blending with the heavy smell of the calm salt water of the cove. A long concrete dock stretched out from the beach into the surf. She looked from it, back to the empty sky, then at the watch on her wrist. “They’re late.” She told herself and a small crab hiding in the truck’s shadow. Elbow resting on top of the half door, she ran a hand over her hair before laying her cheek in her palm to continue her impatient waiting and had the rest of her frayed nerves when a small sea plane came out of nowhere from her left to whiz by close in front of her. The bageezes scared out of her pounding heart, Holly cursed in the next halted breath as she watched the plane bank into a climb. “Son of a bitch!”
Holly got out of the truck to watch the plane make a couple of passes before it touched down lightly to deliver the last of the heavy hitters to the island. A woman she only knew by a superficial description and a considerable reputation, Theodora Cooper was not her first choice as bar manager, but after Big Daddy had made his not so subtle suggestion concerning the position and after Holly had consulted the two people on the island that had worked with Teddy before, she’d accepted the apparently tall, brunette and blue eyed best in the business, third cousin to the emperor sight unseen. Supposedly a bartender by choice who had turned down Big Daddy twice when he offered to make her a resort manager, which is what Holly was and if turning down the emperor wasn’t enough to impress, the rest of Teddy’s reputation went something like this.
Given a job in Big Daddy Patterson’s resort empire as a family favor, the teenage Teddy had learned every job there was to do in a resort the hard way over the years, earning the respect of everyone she worked for by refusing to rest on her connection to the Patterson name to get ahead. Hard working, reliable, cool, easy going, if a little mysterious on the personal side of her reputation, Teddy had worked through her twenties gaining knowledge and experience in every facet of the business with everyone expecting the apple of Big Daddy’s eye to become his heir apparent. That was until Teddy became a bartender. There she found her calling, so to speak and she had stepped off the imperial ladder to stay behind bar for the last five years, leaving thirty behind by a couple trips around the sun. Mastering that skill in the first six months, she had spent the rest of the time building her reputation to the point where every manager wanted her at their resort with Teddy having the ability to pick and choose where she wanted to go. And more importantly, where she didn’t want to go which, according to the rumor mill, was the recently completed Paradise Beachiside Resort on the other side of the island.
Holly’s dream and personal design, the Paradise was her baby in everything but name. A project she’d spent the last ten years of her life working on, the blueprints had been finished seven years prior with the only hold up to its construction being her choice to wait until she’d climbed up the imperial ladder on her own hard working laurels enough to earn the respected reputation that would get her into Big Daddy’s office. Once inside there, to the irritation of everyone that thought she should have kissed their ass before stepping over them, she showed Big Daddy her dream and watched him fall in love at first sight. Touted as the crown jewel in the empire before the first shovel of dirt was turned over, Holly had lived, breathed, slept and sweated to get the Paradise up and under budget ahead of schedule. The location had been her choice. The acquisition of land had been her nightmare and the never ending construction, and logistic problems had given her migraines, but it had all been worth it for her dream to come true. Like a shimmering beacon rising above the jungle canopy she’d worked so hard to leave as untouched as possible, the Paradise was everything she had hoped it would be off the blue prints and now that it was done, the headaches continued. Other than having to sit in the heat and humidity for two hours waiting for a bar manager you’ve never seen who didn’t want to be there in the first place to arrive with only two months to go before guests would be lining up at the long polished mahogany bar she was supposed to work behind, there were all the other remaining positions needed to be filled. Resume’s had to be read. Interviews had to be conducted. Uniforms had to be issued. Work schedules had to be worked out. Meetings had to be held. Problems had to be addressed and resolved by brow beating suppliers over the telephone to deliver food, furniture, linens, mattresses, glasses, pens, pencils, paper, office equipment and the list went on and on with all the time Holly had gained by getting the resort finished early running out with a million and one things left to do. Things she thought should not include having to wait for one Theodora Cooper, but she had no one other than herself to blame for her predicament. Holly had set a standard by meeting all the heavy hitters personally when they arrived and if she had admitted it to herself, her curiosity at finally getting to see the legendary Teddy had definitely overridden her good judgment on the issue of time management. Of course, it would have been easier if Teddy had flown into the main air strip much closer to the resort, however because the woman was uprooting herself from the oldest of Big Daddy’s resorts that didn’t have the capability to accommodate the small jets flying on and off the island in a nearly constant stream for the last six months, there was nothing for Holly to do but cope as she headed across the sand towards the dock, when the plane was down, to meet her new bar manager face to face and see if Teddy was all her reputation was cracked up to be.
With her best ‘welcome to paradise, sorry you didn’t want to come’ smile, Holly watched the plane pivot as it glided up to a gentle stop beside the dock. The engine idling down, she walked out as the cabin door opened, sliding her sunglasses to the top of her head. A pair of jean covered legs Holly’s first glimpse, they seemed to keep on coming as the tall portion of her reputation came true and Teddy extricated herself from the plane to stand a solid six feet tall after she stopped stooping under the wing. Long dark hair blowing in the breeze, it framed a darkly tanned face that could have been on the cover of any glamor magazine and accentuated a pair of crystal blue eyes that defied description. Being only five-seven herself, Holly had to look up the closer she got to Teddy to extend her hand in greeting. “Hi, Holly Curtis. Welcome to paradise.”
Hinting at a smile, Teddy took the offered hand for a hearty shake. Warm, soft and slightly callused, she used the feel of Holly’s hand to augment a quick assessment of her new boss. Her reputation not the only one on up for grabs, Teddy put what she’d heard about the blonde up against what was in front of her.
A quick climber considered an outsider in the nepotistic Patterson empire, Holly was a stigma as well because she didn’t kowtow to the stereotypical rules of paying your dues. She didn’t brown nose or sleep her way to the top, which were the rumors Teddy had started hearing when the blonde began passing people by. People that had spent a lot of their lives in the trenches and who wouldn’t know what to do with a piece of ass if it sat on their face. But getting that kind of reputation was par for the course when you’re young, good looking, wear a skirt and are on the fast track because it’s a lot easier for those people to believe their own lies than the truth of the matter. The matter being that you actually had a brain in your pretty head and knew how to use it better than they did. That’s how Holly had gotten to her enviable position in just seven years with the company. She had used her brains, intuition and drive to get noticed by the other kinds of people in the empire. The ones that used results and performance as their measuring stick to judge someone’s worth, rather than listening to what was said at the water cooler. And one of those other people was Big Daddy himself. The kindest soul you would ever want to meet, he liked Holly for all the same reasons most people didn’t. She was new blood with fresh ideas and she knew her stuff. He’d hired her straight out of college, putting her degree in business management to work learning the ropes from the bottom of business side instead of the resort side and never been disappointed from the day she walked in to take the bull by the horns to the day she walked in his office with the blue prints for the Paradise. He had left her alone and she’d made it all on her own. That was quite a feat to preform and one that Teddy could appreciate. It was also one of the two reasons she’d agreed to leave the Piper for the Paradise. She was impressed with Holly’s record and reputation, though she had some doubt about how she’d handle the pressure of running a resort. The crown jewel being handed over for Holly to run with only minimal field experience was going to be a tough row to hoe, however it did say a lot for the faith Big Daddy had in her. Now, whether that faith was going to prove justified was yet to be seen, but it was so far so good for the telling of it and Teddy had heard all about it straight from the horse’s mouth on a regular basis. This was the other reason she had packed up all her worldly possessions and pulled up stakes. Though she loved the man dearly, Teddy was tired of having her life interrupted by phone calls from her cousin who felt the need to keep her updated on the Paradise and go on about only wanting the best for his prized resort, but to her own defense against being easily manipulated, it had taken a year and a half of his badgering to get her to give in.
So, here she was shaking hands with the next best thing to sliced bread in Big Daddy’s book and a usurping strumpet in just about everybody else’s, but since the last group didn’t count for much in Teddy’s book, she decided to play fair and shrug off the extremes to form her own opinion. “Teddy Cooper.” She introduced herself, then slowly let go of Holly’s hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Holly.”
“Same here, Teddy.” Holly replied and consciously left out the ‘gee, I’ve heard a lot about you’ she had been tempted to add. “Nice flight?” She asked as an ice breaker that sounded pretty lame when it came out.
Teddy shrugged. “You get what ya get as long as it gets ya there.”
Sun bleached blonde eyebrows knitted together as Holly tired to process the statement into something coherent. “What?”
“Sucked.” The tall brunette shook her head and tossed a thumb over her shoulder. “I think this jackass got his pilots license out of a Cracker Jacks box.”
“You’ll pay for that, Teddy!” The pilot called out from inside the cabin.
“Eat shit and take a few more lessons, will ya, Frank!” Teddy shouted over her shoulder, then turned her attention back to Holly.
“Oh!” She smiled in comprehension, then quickly frowned. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t apologize unless you’ve got a time machine in your pocket.” Teddy told her as she turned around to get her bags from the back of the roller coaster with wings. “Just gimme a minute to get my stuff and we’ll blow this popcicle stand.”
Okay, she thought as Teddy turned away. I know she’s got a southern accent and I know we don’t come from the same worlds, but nobody said anything about needing an interpreter. Her first impression a good one until Teddy had opened her mouth, Holly brushed the language differences aside with a professional stroke and took another shot at it. “Do you need any help with your bags?” She asked clearly and concisely, and because she was still in a hurry to get back to the resort.
A large leather back pack slung over one shoulder, Teddy pulled out a huge duffel bag, tossing it behind her onto the dock. “Nope.” She said without looking at the blonde as she went for the first bag’s twin, which was in the mood to put up a fight. “Come here, ya little bastard.” Growling and tugging, she had to put her foot on the plane for leverage before the canvas bag gave up the ghost and came flying out to land on the dock. “Gotcha.”
By the size of the bags that were piling up, Holly was thankful the answer had been no, though she did feel compelled to make the effort of trying to help. Pointing to the backpack when Teddy turned around, she smiled. “Can I at least take that?”
Teddy considered the offer for a moment, then handed the backpack over for Holly to carry along with her briefcase, and the case her lap top was in. “Thanks.” She smiled and closed the door.
Making some minor handling adjustments, Holly got the three items under control. “Is that it?”
“That’s it.” Nodding, Teddy side stepped her new boss to close the cabin door she had left open, but not before she got in another dig. “Thanks for the ride, Frank. I’ll call ya the next time I need to make a martini for Rolando.”
“Ingrate asshole!” Frank shouted as she closed the door on him and smiled through the windshield when she waved.
“Ready?” Holly asked after the conflicting salutations were concluded.
“Ready.” Teddy confirmed by picking up both duffel bags.
Holly didn’t need anymore incentive to get moving and before Frank had time to rev the plane’s engine, she was back on the beach heading for the truck.
In less of a hurry than Holly was evidentally in, Teddy watched the blonde scurry up the dune with some amusement, while she took her time getting to the truck. Her long legs making mince meat out of the powdery sand trying to mire her progress, the effort it took to get through it wasn’t much, but it was a sign the formalities were over and it was now time to get down to the business that had brought her to the island. The Paradise was waiting for a bar manager and the, resolved to her fate, Teddy was ready to fill the bill in her usual professional way, though she had no intention of hurrying to the hangman. Yep, she thought as she watched Holly move around the truck, something is definitely going to have to be done about this hurrying thing.
The roar of the plane drowned out every other noise. Holly stowed the back pack and the two cases in two cargo nets attached to the back of the front seats then went to the rear of the Land Rover to drum her fingers on the tail gate. Her impatient mode back in gear, the attempt Holly was making to to hide her impatience was failing miserably, although she did successfully restrain herself when it came time to load the duffel bags into the truck. Then she suffered in silence in the driver’s seat while Teddy stood on the other side of the vehicle watching the plane until it took flight and disappeared the way it had come. Then, when Teddy finally got in the truck, after adjusting the seat all the way back before she sat down, Holly started the engine to get them on their way back to the resort. The assumption made without argument from the passenger seat, she pulled away from the beach happy to be moving in the right direction at last and ready to work out some kinks she heard from reliable sources that Teddy was going to have a problem with. “I tried to find you accommodations outside the dorm, but everything was taken.” She started out with the biggest biggie. “I mean, I know you’ve got enough time in to expect better and I wish I could have found you something more suitable, but the dorm is the only place that had a room available.”
Teddy, calm and cool as ever, shrugged at the news. “Don’t worry about it. I’ve already got someplace to stay.”
This wasn’t the response Holly had expected to hear, however on second consideration, it wasn’t surprising. She should have known Teddy wasn’t going to arrive hat in hand expecting other people to see to her needs. That just wasn’t Teddy, if her reputation held true. “Okay.” She nodded then thought about the next point of possible contention before she brought it up. “What about getting the bartender we’re going to need before the opening date? I didn’t want to hire anyone until you got here.”
“I’ve got a list of who I want in my brief case.” Closing her eyes, Teddy folded her hands in her lap. “They’re all good, they’re all available and the paperwork is ready for your signature.”
Holly wanted to ask about the people on the list, but she didn’t because that was the thing about Teddy’s reputation. It was just so damned good you almost felt like an idiot for wanting to question her judgment, even if it was your job to do it. “Great.” Next?
“Have you ordered any of my supplies yet?” Teddy asked without appearing to be worried about the answer.
“I made some preliminary orders based on standard uses at other resorts for this season, but I’m sure you’ll need to address any discrepancies or specialty items.” She said, grateful to have a positive answer because she was beginning to feel intimidated by Teddy’s obvious carefree attitude. As if she had missed the memo telling everyone to relax, Holly was feeling like she’d been running around like a chicken with her head cut off for nothing. Teddy was going to be a great help and her confidence and experience were probably going to save Holly from some sleepless nights, but she was not coming here to save the Paradise from Holly’s incapable hands, dammit.
Working herself into a state, she asked the next question more harshly than she intended. “Anything else I might have missed?” Which came out sounding like an accusation.
“You start doubting yourself and the natives will have you strung up by your heals by sundown.” Smiling, Teddy opened her eyes to glance at Holly.
Holly was unamused by the statement. “I am not doubting myself.” She said with confidence and irritation at having her mind read.
Blue eyes rolled as Teddy sat up in the seat. “Pull over.”
“Why?” Well on her way to being mad, she slowed down, but didn’t stop.
“Because I think we need to get a few things straight before we get to the resort, that’s why.” The brunette explained and sighed.
Agreeing on that point, Holly pulled onto the shoulder of the road to park the truck. Shifting in her seat to stare at Teddy as soon as she was able, she was ready to lay down the law when a hand going up stopped her. “Fine. Lets hear it.”
“Look, Holly.” Teddy sighed and turned her body to put her back against the door. “I know you didn’t want me as your bar manager any more than I wanted to leave the Piper, and I know you’re under a lot of pressure here, but let me make something clear. I am not trying to tell you how to do your job and if I didn’t think you could do your job, I never would have agreed to come here because I am not a glutton for punishment. I’ve had to deal with resort managers that didn’t know a coconut from a toilet before and it is not fun, so there is no way I’d be here if I had any serious doubts about you.”
“Serious doubts.” The dangling stipulation catching in her craw, Holly folded her arms across her chest. “So you do have doubts about me then. Like what?”
“Your inexperience in the field.” She answered simply. “Starting up a resort isn’t easy, as you found out and I think you’re trying to do too much on your own because you’re too damned possessive.”
“Possessive?” She asked as a deep scowl marred her features. “The Paradise is my resort, Teddy. Why shouldn’t I be possessive? I designed the damned thing.”
“And who do you think is going to run the damned thing? Why the hell do you think I’m here? Why do you think the rest of us came here, Holly? To sit around with our thumb up our asses while you drive yourself nuts?” Edging out of calm, Teddy threw her hands in the air. “You’ve got the best of the best at your fingertips and you won’t let them do jobs they came here to do. Yes, the Paradise is your design and you have every right to want it to be perfect, but you can’t do it all and the only way you’re gonna make it is if you start delegating to people who are honestly better at their jobs than you are.”
“For example?” Holly growled through gritted teeth.
“Claire, for example.” She said, raising her eyebrows. “What organization is responsible for overseeing the compliance of tariff regulations in international waters?”
Daggers flew from Holly’s eyes as she glared at Teddy and she considered kicking the woman out of the truck instead of having to admit that she didn’t know the answer, but after a couple of deep breaths, she did. “I don’t know.”
Slipping into her natural persona, Teddy shrugged and held up her hands. “Neither do I and that’s my point. You and I don’t have to know because handling those problems isn’t our job. It’s Claire’s job to know those things, Holly. That’s why she’s here.”
Slumping into the seat, Holly covered her eyes with her hand. “Okay, okay.” She sighed. “I get your point. I’m not Wonder Woman.”
“And who would want to be?” Asking in a gentler tone. “Life is too damned short to go hell bent to the grave, Holly.”
Another sigh and Holly lowered her hand to look at her new bar manager with a strange expression. “Do you have to memorize these little sayings to become a bartender or do they just come to you out of the blue?”
Teddy laughed out loud, then softened down into a chuckle. “It’s a gift.”
“Well, give it back. It’s annoying as hell.” Irritated but on the upswing, she rolled her eyes when Teddy laughed again. “Great. Do you have anymore words of wisdom you want to share before we get back on the road?”
“Uhhh, yea.” She nodded with a smile. “There is nothing wrong with not knowing as long as you’re willing to learn.”
Holly stared at her. “You got that out of a fortune cookie, didn’t you?”
“Nope.” Teddy chuckled as she righted herself in the seat. “Max told me that the day I started working for him.”
“Max? Who’s Max?” She asked, shaking her head.
“Maxwell Joseph Patterson the fourth. The guy whose been signing your pay checks for the past seven years.” Speaking casually, she got comfortable again.
Eyes bugging out of her head, Holly nearly fell out of the Land Rover. “You call Big Daddy Max? Nobody calls him by his first name. I don’t even think his wife calls him by his first name.”
“He’s not God, Holly.” Teddy informed her stunned boss. “What else did you think I’d call him?”
“Big Daddy.” She sputtered, trying to recuperate.
“My father is the only person I call Daddy.” Using a serious tone, Teddy tapped her chest over her heart with one finger. “That’s a spot in here Max will never fill and he knows it.”
Staring into Teddy’s blue eyes, maybe it was the way the sun caught them at that moment or maybe it was the way Teddy’s voice had become soft and deep, or maybe it was nothing at all, but right then Holly felt something. A small, imperceptible tremor passed through her and she got the strange sensation that as she looked into those eyes, she could see “forever.”
Simple and barely spoken, the word pulled at Teddy somewhere deep down inside and for the same eternally brief instant it was as if she understood. “Always.”
How long the moment lasted, neither one knew and the world stood still until a truck drove by, sending up a could of swirling dusty air to break the spell. The aftermath was lost as swatting hands cleared the air and coughs covered the embarrassment of having shared something they couldn’t explain. Yet, though the moment was gone, a speck remained inside both women as nervous smiles were traded and an uneasy silence lingered between them until they reached the Paradise. Then eternity was forgotten when the present reared its ugly problematic head.
The first one to break the silence was Teddy, who nodded in appreciation as they drove under the covered main entrance of the resort. “You did good. I think the green was a better choice than the pink.” She said in reference to the six green marble pillars that were part of the Greek revival facade.
Holly smiled as she stopped the truck in front of the entrance doors. “How much did Big Daddy tell you about the Paradise?” Asking with a smirk, she opened the driver’s door, but didn’t get out.
“More than I ever wanted to know.” Teddy replied in a straight dead-pan voice.
Chuckling, the resort manager got out of the Land Rover. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Yea, you do that.” Still with the unhappy tone, she got out of the truck to follow the blonde through the glass doors. Her head on a swivel, Teddy began looking around the huge lobby from floor to ceiling and she fell a little behind Holly as they went further inside.
Holly was certain her managers were bloodhounds in another life, because as soon as she came out of the entrance hallway, they sniffed her out and started barking out their problems. “Okay. Okay. Just hold it. One at a time.” She told them, but they kept on until something behind her caught their attention and then the lobby got very quiet. Turning around, she watched Teddy walk up behind her with the carefree attitude missing and in its place a palpable presence that explained the quiet. Wondering at the change, Holly shook her head. “Uh, for those of you that don’t know her, this is Teddy Cooper. She’s our bar manager.”
The persona on purpose, Teddy stood behind Holly and gave each manager a quick stare down until she got to one woman who glared back at her. “Jennifer.”
“Teddy.” Jennifer said with an obvious dislike in her voice.
None of the animosity was lost on anyone in the group, especially Holly and she waved her hand to break up the stare down. “Okay, Jennifer. You win the golden prize. What problem do you have?”
Grey-blue eyes narrowed to slits before the opened all the way to glance at Holly. “Here.” She said in a more congenial tone and handed her boss a clipboard. “I’ve called everyone on that list and all I’m getting is the run around when I try to pin them down for shipment dates.”
Holly read the names on the list. “You couldn’t get a solid date from any of them?”
“No.” Folding her arms across her chest, she frowned. “I think they’re either trying to stall so they can charge us express charges or they want their palms greased.”
Teddy looked over Holly’s shoulder at the list. Recognizing them all, she rolled her eyes and bent down to whisper in Holly’s ear. “Not that I’m trying to tell you how to do your job, but I can fix this with a phone call.”
Turning her head, Holly looked at her for a long moment, then she nodded. “Do it.”
A smile stretching her lips, the brunette pulled her cell phone out of its case on her belt and stood up as she turned to take a few steps away from the group. Dialing with her thumb, she put the phone to her ear. “Hey, this is Teddy. Let me talk to Chuck.”
Chuck? Looking at the list again, Holly flipped through several pages, but didn’t find a Chuck or a Charles anywhere. Curious and confused, she glanced over at Teddy to watch like the rest of the group.
“Chuck. Teddy. Where the hell are my shipments? What? Yes, you do. I’m not at the Piper anymore. I’m at the Paradise. Yes, the Paradise. Look again. Don’t give me that bullshit. I don’t care what you were told and I don’t care if you have to make a raft out of bananas to get the stuff here, but it better be off the dock by the end of the day and I mean everything, Chuck. That’s right, everything. I don’t care and you can tell your friends they better have their props running when you get there. That’s not my problem. You screwed up, you’re gonna fix it and you’re gonna eat it. Yea, well tell it to the guys who told you to sit on it and tell them if they want to fuck with my shit in the future, they better be in the witness protection program. That’s right. Fine. You see that name at the top of the billing? Yea, Jennifer Montgomery. Call her when the first shipment is in the air. What?” Hearing a familiar name, she turned to look directly at Jennifer. “Yea, well you can tell Mr. Osborne to kiss his balls goodbye when I pass it along to Jenn.” Slapping the phone closed, it went back in its case with a satisfied sigh. “The first shipment should be in the air in a couple of hours.” She told the operations manager as she returned to the group.
The key to her recent problems named, Jennifer retrieved her clipboard from Holly. “There won’t be anymore shipping problems.” She said curtly, then turned her eyes on Teddy and she spoke with more sincerity than hostility. “Thanks.”
“Not a problem.” Teddy replied with a smile. “I just hope Jeff has all the kids he wants.”
A brief smile gracing Jennifer’s lips and a wicked one at that, she turned without another word to verbally remove a pair of testicles from the comfort of her office.
If Holly had not been impressed before, she was then and still a little confused. “Who is Chuck and Jeff?”
“Chuck Davis is the foreman on the shipping docks at Miami International.” Claire explained as she smiled at Teddy. “Chuck, Teddy and Jennifer went to high school together.”
“So why didn’t Jennifer call him, like Teddy did?” Looking between Teddy and Claire, Holly put her hands on her hips.
“She probably did.” Teddy spoke up, then got interrupted by Claire.
“But Chuck isn’t scared of Jennifer, like he is of Teddy.” Chuckling, the support manager shook her head. “She’s a bigger bitch.”
Holly rubbed her forehead with one hand while she shook it. “And Jeff?” She asked, sounding depressed by the information.
“Jeff Osborne is someone who likes to think he’s important enough to throw his weight around.” Folding her arms across her chest, Teddy glanced in the direction Jennifer had departed. “Jennifer brought him up on sexual harassment charges two years ago and I think she’s just about ready to send him from the frying pan into the fire.”
Head dropping, hand still rubbing, Holly closed her eyes. “I’ve built a tropical Peyton Place.”
“Don’t worry, Holly.” Claire told her with a sympathetic pat on the shoulder. “Not everybody’s life is as tangled as that. Most of us lead excruciatingly boring lives.”
“Speak for yourself.” Teddy chuckled.
A few more shakes of her head and Holly lifted it to see if anyone else’s problems were plot outlines for a soap opera. “Next?” She asked the rest of the managers and thankfully saw them check their clipboards with the general consensus being that none of them had problems that could rival Jennifer’s. ”Thank you.” Speaking softly as the group broke up, her heart fell when one stayed behind.
No problems on his horizon, Rolando walked up to Teddy with a smile. “Ahhhhh, the beautiful Theodora Cooper has spun her magic once again. You have such a way with words.” Rolling his hand in front of his face, he bowed.
“Get up, you old smoothie. You’re gonna get stuck.” Teddy chuckled at his display. A fifty-something smooth, suave James Bond wanna be with the worst Latin laden British accent on the planet, Rolando was also a good friend Teddy had worked with at two different resorts.
Rolando straightened and smoothed out the wrinkles he had put in his starched white button down shirt, which set off his well cultivated deep dark tan. “I am truly glad you have finally arrived, Theodora. I was beginning to think that Big Daddy was going to be unsuccessful in charming you away from the Piper.”
“Charming?” She gawked. “If that’s supposed to be his version of charming, I want to know where he got his eight kids.”
Clicking his tongue disapprovingly, Rolando shook a finger at her. “Enough of that from you, young lady. Now, come.” He said and came around to put his hand on Teddy’s lower back. “You have to tell me all that you’ve been up to since we last spoke.”
Being ushered away against her will, Teddy glanced over her shoulder at Holly. “I’ll bring those transfer papers by your office later.”
Essentially ignored by her senior night manager, Holly was still amused at the way he seemed completely unimpressed with the formidable Teddy. “What about the supplies?” She smiled as they went on. “I thought we were going to go over the shortages? And what do you want me to do with your bags?”
“Rolando, do you still have that itty bitty car with no trunk?” She asked him as he stopped beside her.
“I still have my Austin, yes.” He said, mildly insulted for his car’s sake.
“Shoot. Umm.” Playing with her bottom lip, Teddy shook her head. “Just leave the bags in the truck for now. I’ll get them out later and take a taxi home. And put the numbers for what you’ve ordered so far in my brief case. I’ll go over them tonight and have the adjustment orders for ya in the morning.”
“You don’t have to take a taxi.” Holly said as she walked over to where they had stopped. “I can give you a ride in the Rover. That way we can go over the numbers together.” Raising her hand, she placed it on Teddy’s arm. “I also want to go over some other things with you.”
Teddy looked down at the hand on her arm, then back into the eyes of its owner. “Sure. Just page me whenever you’re ready to leave and I’ll meet you out front.”
“Good. I’ll do that.” A warm smile coming over her face, she left her hand where it was for a few more moments until she stepped back. “I’ll try not to make it too late.”
“I’ll keep an ear out.” Sharing the same smile, Teddy let her eyes stay on Holly as she walked away. When the blonde disappeared down a hallway, she turned back to Rolando. “So, what do you know about her that the grapevine missed?”
The visual exchange had not gone unnoticed by the perceptive Rolando and he smiled knowingly at the question as he once again got Teddy moving with a gentle push to her back. “I told you everything when we talked last week, although I detect some changes in the air already? Perhaps you imparted some words of wisdom on Ms. Curtis?”
“We had a chat on the way over.” Teddy admitted dryly. “She knows what she’s doing, Rolando, but she thinks she’s still got to do everything herself because that’s the way she did it at headquarters and I told her she was being too possessive. She just needs to loosen up and relax a little. Do some constructive delegation.”
“Hmmmm, I agree.” Nodding slowly, he tilted his head to the left to smile at her. “And are you going to be counseling Ms. Curtis on the finer points of relaxation and delegation?”
“If she wants my help with spreading the wealth around, she’s got it. But she has to ask. I’m here to tend bar, not babysit my boss.” She said firmly and added a waving hand for emphasis.
“True, true.” Rolando nodded and noted that his friend had omitted an answer to the relaxation portion of the question, but rather than repeat the inquiry, he chose to let it go for the time being and walked Teddy out to the patio bar where she would soon be working.
Holly came out of the main entrance to find Teddy sitting in the driver’s seat of the Land Rover with her open briefcase in her lap. “Sorry about taking so long. Claire caught me as I was coming out of my office.” She apologized as she put her briefcase in the back of the truck.
Closing the leather case, Teddy looked up. “Don’t worry about it.” She smiled as she leaned forward to put the case behind the seat. “It felt good to sit out here for awhile. Nice breeze today.”
Not having really noticed, Holly turned her head until she felt a warm wind brush her face. Shutting her eyes, she smiled. “That is nice.”
“Won’t be for long, though, so you better hop in.” Leaning far to her right this time, she opened the passenger door. “We’ve got some rain on the way.”
Holly’s eyes opened as she brought her attention back to the brunette. “I didn’t hear anything about rain in the forecast. Are you sure it’s going to rain?”
Teddy slumped down, rolling her eyes. “Trust me, okay. We’re gonna get soaked if we don’t get a move on.”
“Why are you driving?” She asked and took a step forward to look inside the truck at the woman laying across both seats. “This is my truck.”
Lifting her head, Teddy stared up at Holly with frustration in her eyes. “Look. I don’t care whose truck this is and I don’t care who drives, okay? I just want to get home before it rains and I thought it would go a little quicker with me driving since I know where I’m going.”
Holly puckered her lips, moving them from side to side while she thought about it. “Okay.” She said after due consideration and pulled the keys out of her pocket. “Here.”
“Thank you.” Relieved and grateful, Teddy took the keys. A soft groan coming out as she sat up the rest of the way, she put the keys in the ignition and started the engine as Holly got in.
Closing the door, Holly scooted back in the seat to sit up straight as Teddy began pulling around the circular driveway, then she stretched her legs and discovered she had more space than expected for the exercise. Holding her legs out straight, up in the air, she glanced at the distance from the tip of her pointed toes to the front of the floorboard. Her blonde head shaking in disbelief, she made paddling motions with her feet in the empty space.
Seeing this going on out of the corner of her eye, Teddy chuckled. “Having fun over there?”
“How long are you legs, Teddy?” She asked with a glance to her left to look at the items in question and let her own legs relax.
“Long enough to keep me one step ahead of trouble.” She chuckled again.
Eyes moving upward, Holly twisted in the seat to sit facing Teddy. Resting her arm on the top part of the door, she put the crown of her head in her palm. “Why bartending?”
“Why minor in architecture and major in business management?” Teddy asked in return.
Getting tit for tat, Holly turned her head to watch the scenery go by through the windshield. “Because I didn’t want what I love to do to be ruined by having to do it for a living.”
“So, why bring it off the paper, then?” The question posed with a momentary gaze at the blonde. “Why not leave it alone or let somebody else have the headaches?”
“To see if I could.” Looking back at Teddy, she watched the wind play with her dark bangs. “Why bartending?”
One hand on the wheel, she shrugged. “I like it. You get to deal with people one on one. Real people.”
“People that don’t care anything about your family tree?” Holly asked and got a quick look from Teddy.
“Something like that.” Propping her elbow on the door, Teddy brushed back her bangs with her hand, then kept them back, leaving her head in bent to the side.
Holly continued to stare at Teddy’s profile for awhile as she thought about what she knew and what she wanted to know. Reputation aside, there wasn’t much else she did know about Teddy, other than the little bit she had pried out of a cryptic Rolando and a less than welcoming Jennifer. Both of whom she knew knew Teddy well enough for them to tell more than they were telling. And asking Big Daddy was out of the question, so that didn’t leave much for Holly to mull over. Teddy’s private life was private and she apparently liked it that way, though Holly was sure there was more to meet the eye than the assorted masks she wore. It was just too easy for Teddy to switch faces for it to be who she was underneath. Then again, did it really matter as long as she did her job? The only thing Teddy had to be was good at what she did, so why did it matter? What was it about Teddy that kept nagging at her? Why did she want to know what was underneath, when the woman was practically a stranger?
Questions unanswered, Holly looked away to ponder the real why as lush tropical flora went by. Another question inspired by the passing scenery, her brow knitted when she focused enough to recognize where they were. “Where are we going? Nobody lives on this side of the island.”
Lost in her own thoughts, Teddy broke out of them with a sigh. “I do.” She said just loud enough to be heard over the rushing wind.
Holly’s head snapped around toward Teddy. “Where?”
The turn off coming up on the right, she slowed down, then stopped the truck once she was on the dirt road. “Up there.” Pointing through the windshield at the mountain now directly in front of them, she dropped her hand to throw a lever under the dashboard, putting the Land Rover into four wheel drive.
Bending forward, Holly stared at the mountain. The only one on the island, it was covered in untouched vegetation and stretched into the sky for several thousand feet. It was also the main reason she had chosen this particular island for the resort, because she had wanted to build the Paradise at it’s base, but she’d never been able to get the approval or the name of who owned the land. Remembering this and some things Teddy had said earlier, she put her hand on the one shifting gears to stop it as she turned to glare at Teddy. “How long have you been here? And don’t give me one of your lines.”
Teddy let go of the gear shift. “Twelve years.”
Holly’s eyes went wide, then shut. Sitting back, she shook her head. “It all makes sense, now. No wonder I couldn’t find out who owned the land when I was asking the person who does.”
“Max doesn’t own that mountain, Holly. I do.” Teddy corrected, then continued. “I borrowed the money to buy it from him, but had him paid back five years ago. We’re on my land.”
“Then why all the runaround?” She asked, opening her eyes again. “I went crazy trying to find out who owned it for six months.” Her arms outstretched, she looked at Teddy. “Why didn’t somebody just tell me?”
“Because nobody knows I own it except me and Max, and I asked him not to tell anybody.” She explained calmly. “It wasn’t anything personal against you, Holly. I just didn’t want anybody to know. I have a hard enough time living down my family tree without people getting the wrong idea when they find out that I own a mountain.
Lowering her arms slowly, Holly’s shoulder slumped also. “Teddy, it can’t be that hard. I know your reputation. You’ve earned your way past being seen as Big Daddy’s cousin.”
“Yes, I have and you’ve earned your way past being considered an outsider, but that hasn’t changed much, has it?” Asking the question quietly, Teddy smiled sadly.
Holly looked down at her hands in her lap. “No. Not really.”
“And it never will, Holly.” Rolling her shoulders, she held up her hands in helplessness. “All because somebody will always think that you’re getting something they deserve, whether you’ve really earned it or not.”
Slipping into a funk brought on by the reality check and a not so subtle reminder that nothing she had accomplished meant much to anyone else, she raised and let out a heavy sigh. “So what’s the point?”
“Personal satisfaction in knowing they’re wrong and getting what you wanted in the first place.” Her smile changing into a truer, happier one, Teddy pointed at the mountain. “Maybe a patch of earth nobody can touch or,” moving her arm, she leaned toward Holly, pointing behind her to where the top of the Paradise could be seen in the distance, “making your dream come alive.”
Looking back over her shoulder at her dream like trouble on the horizon, Holly laughed softly. “Is it worth it though?”
“What price can you put on a glistening paradise rising above dew caressed unspoiled splendor draped in a star flecked indigo sky as an amber sun kisses a turquoise sea with flaming lips to awaken it with a gentle blossom scented breeze.” Whispering, she laid her arm on the back of Holly’s seat. “What price happiness, Holly. What price dreams.”
Teddy’s warm breath floating across the side of her neck as the mesmerizing words were spoken, Holly turned to gazed into deep blue eyes very close to her own. Searching the depths before her, the strange sensation came again, sending a flush of warmth, hotter than the air around them, over her skin. Caught breathless, spellbound by the intensity revealed, it drew her in as her voice sounded distant in her ears. “I . . . I want to see that sunrise.”
Poised so close, so dangerously close to drowning in a tumultuous gulf of smoky green, she inhaled the hesitant words from delicate lips like the faint aroma of magnolia filling her senses, clouding her mind, in a blanket of chaotic clarity that threatened to rout sanity from her being. Fingertips, lips and soul, held chained by a single strand of precarious reason, tingled to touch radiant softness as Mother Nature mourned the imprisonment, her tortured thunder merging with the first somber sounds of her tears falling from the sky. “You will.” Teddy whispered from her cell as she pulled back from the precipice to continue the journey to her paradise with a hopeful spark laying in unlocking the key to uncertain freedom.
Holly held her breath as her blue world drifted away, then disappeared when Teddy turned her head, leaving in its wake a pounding heart and an utter state of confusion as her tumbling mind immediately tried to make sense of what had transpired. In less than a minute she’d run the gauntlet of emotions going from angry to sad to depressed to inspired to wonderment to something she wasn’t sure of. Although she was sure something had happened. She had seen it in Teddy’s eyes and she’d felt it, as she had earlier, when they were stopped on the side of the road. A familiarity had passed between them that was irrational on the surface, yet underneath, seemed natural. As if they had known each other all their lives, though they had only met that day and there was something else. Something deeper than the unexplainable sensation of acquaintance. There was a feeling of intimacy that took place when she looked in Teddy’s eyes. As though, when their eyes met, they were sharing a secret only they knew and it had another side to it as well. Along with the intimacy was an unmistakable sense of security that made her feel comfortable despite the uncertainty it created by knowing it wasn’t possible. Yet, it had been there, she was sure because it was still there, inside her mind and beyond, giving Holly the perception of being in the presence of someone she could trust with more than the superficial faith you placed in people you came across on a daily basis. And there was more, but as she finally looked away to watch the view expand as they climbed higher up the mountainside, she was trying hard not to think about what else she had seen in Teddy’s eyes until she could understand why it was still making her hands tremble.
The second moment shared was put aside as the first, though not completely forgotten as Teddy concentrated on getting the Land Rover up the narrow road that was really no more than a path she had carved out of the jungle. Nearly a straight shot up the mountain side until the incline became too steep, exposed roots littered the ground making the truck slowly roll from side to side as low hanging fronds and branches glided over the canvas top. The wipers on, she wound out first gear to speed up the trip and to use the high pitched noise as a distraction from the woman in the other seat, and after a reminder on the first of three banked climbing turns which almost sent Holly into her lap, she rolled to a stop in front of her home three-quarters of the way up the mountain side. Made it, she thought with a smile, then turned to make the announcement verbally when she noticed Holly didn’t seem to be as pleased as she was with their arrival.
Partially drenched from being sprayed by passing foliage that had slapped its way in the door, Holly wiped her face with both hands, sending the water back out the way it had come. Now free of such hazards, she also picked leaves and pieces of leaves off her used to be clean white shirt and from off her lap before she looked up at the house.
Teddy did the same and sighed. Resting a little further up the hill and not a lustrous sight at the moment, her dream come true with its spectacular view was unfinished and looked rather ramshakled in the fading light with rain and the darker jungle as dismal accents that made an invitation into it seem like a ludicrous idea, considering she knew Holly had a nice condo on the beach waiting for her. With a shake of her head, she killed the invitation idea before it was spoken and opened the door of the truck. “Just give me a sec to get my stuff unloaded.” She said as she stepped out into ankle deep mud. Another squishing noise following the first, she closed the door to slog around to the back of the Land Rover.
The rain falling in a light steady flow, Holly continued to stare at the house until the truck rocked, then she turned her head to see Teddy pulling a bag out of the back. Unmoving for a minute, she watched the woman carry the huge duffel bags to a the bottom of the stairs that led up to the house one by one. Paying particular attention to Teddy’s legs, the bottom of them, where her jeans were coated in mud, she then broke the gaze to look down at her own legs and the pair of new white tennis shoes attached to her feet. Wiggling her toes inside her shoes, she tried to decide if she wanted to ruin her shoes or get mud between her toes while Teddy collected the rest of her things from behind the seats. Still undecided, her head snapped up when a voice sounded close to her ear.
“That’s everything. Thanks for the ride and make sure you take it slow going back down.” Her backpack on her shoulder, Teddy held the strap with one hand as she pointed with the other to the small clearing in front of the truck. “If you make a tight turn, you should be able to clear those trees without having to back up too many times.”
Holly looked at the clearing through the windshield, then back at Teddy in confusion. “I thought we were going to go over the numbers for your orders.” She stated with a frown creasing her face.
“Uh.” Eyebrows disappearing under wet stringy bangs, Teddy blinked the rain out of her eyes as she stood by the passenger door. “That can wait till in the morning. You’re going to need to leave soon, if you’re gonna get out of here while it’s still light. That road is killer in the dark, if you don’t know where you’re going.”
Wanting to ask about the sunrise Teddy had described, Holly didn’t feel comfortable bringing it back up again, so she tried something more practical to keep from having to leave. “How are you going to get to work in the morning.” Asking in a softer voice, her frown faded as she stared at Teddy.
Teddy pointed behind her to the garage that was the base of her house. “My truck is in there.” Her voice taking on a quieter tone as well, she put on a half smile. “It can get through anything.”
Glancing in that direction, Holly’s hopes faded and though she wasn’t sure why the thought of leaving was making her sad, she nodded in defeat. “Oh,” she sighed, “no sunrise then.” The words out before she realized she’d spoken them, her eyes closed when they met her ears. Mentally cursing the tongue that had betrayed her, she hung her head.
Teddy hadn’t looked away during the exchange and she saw the reaction to words she didn’t expect to hear, though she wasn’t sure of how to interpret either. Chewing the inside of her bottom lip, her best judgment was being batted about as she tried to determine how to react herself. “Um.” She mumbled during the awkward lull. “If you really want to go over those numbers, we can. I’ve also got some other ideas you might be interested in, if you don’t mind having to spend the night on a lumpy couch.” She offered, trying to ease the lull without sounding patronizing.
Those blue eyes waiting for her when she raised her head and opened her own, Holly smiled in embarrassed gratitude for the gracefully phrased offer. “Does it come with mosquito netting?”
Back on the right track, Teddy shook her head and chuckled. “No, but I’ve got a big fly swatter.”
“Deal.” Sticking her hand over the door, she smiled as it was taken in a wet warm one and given a hearty shake.
To be continued -- Part 2
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