The sun was just as brutal as the plains of Texas, but palm trees swayed in a refreshing breeze off the ocean and blue waves danced in the distance. A fishing boat bobbed on the horizon and fluffy clouds skimmed through the azure sky.
Miles took a sip of the Tequila Sunrise Rachel had forced him to order instead of his usual shot of whiskey. He grimaced at first, but as it went down he got used to the sweetness. The edge of the tequila heated his throat and curled in his stomach pleasantly. “Not bad,” he said. Considering he had a hangover from the night before, their first on the island, some hair of the dog didn’t hurt one bit. He could feel his head loosening already.
He eyed Rachel’s lean, taut body stretched out on the beach next to him. Somehow she and Charlie had fashioned bikinis from god knew what and Rachel’s pale skin was taking on a nice color. Miles traced the line of her torso from her breasts over the gentle mound of her stomach to the knobs of her hips, then took in her thighs muscled from years of rugged living, to the delicate curve of her calves. She was gorgeous. She’d always been pretty but the long difficult years of the blackout had etched a sadness into her features that somehow transformed her prettiness into beauty. He loved seeing her face relaxed instead of tense and worried as it so often was.
She shaded her eyes and sat up to take a sip from her own drink. “I could get used to this,” she said.
“I’ll say,” Bass agreed, stretching his legs, his arm thrown over his head to protect his eyes from the glare of the sun.
Charlie, on the other side of Bass, just sighed deeply and grinned, settling into the sand.
Everyone was half-naked and lethargic from the heat. Last night they’d partied like it was spring break, giddy with the sense of freedom that came from being in Puerto Rico, free of the war on the continent. Now they were suffering the consequences. They’d get down to business eventually with the outfit that had brought them down here with the promise of joining the fight against the United States. The Puerto Ricans had a connection in Mexico that provided them with weapons and other supplies, and they seemed to have a good crew of folks. But for the first couple of days the Mathesons and Bass planned to relax like they were on an actual vacation, a concept that pretty much everyone had forgotten since the blackout.
Miles snorted, amused at a bunch of cold-blooded killers carelessly sunbathing. It was like a family vacation in the old days. If it were a completely dysfunctional, fucked up family, that is. But everyone deserved some time off, right? “I sure hope your old buddy Henderson comes through, Bass.”
“Don’t worry, he will. He’s a stand up guy, always was.” Bass took a sip of his own drink. “He saved my life once, did I tell you that?”
Miles twisted his mouth. It was through Henderson that they’d made the Puerto Rican connection. “You may have mentioned it.” About a hundred times.
When the Puerto Ricans offered to send a boat to pick them up in Galveston and ferry them to the island, Miles had been suspicious at first but Bass had convinced him it was a good idea, that it was the only way they’d get the supplies they needed to launch a full on attack against the United States in Texas. They’d pussyfooted around enough and they were all getting antsy to make some real ground.
“Damn, it’s hot,” Bass said. He inched up his hips and started shimmying off his cut-offs.
“Bass. What are you doing?” Miles asked flatly.
“So you said. Does that mean you have to get naked?”
Rachel chuckled, her eyes still closed. “As if that ever bothered you before, Miles.”
Miles glared at her even though she couldn’t see. Bass nonchalantly threw his shorts to the side and stretched back out on the sand, body completely bared. Miles stared for a moment at the pale strip of revealed flesh, eyes skittering away from Bass’ cock, then said, “You’ll get sand in places it really shouldn’t be.”
“Meh, I’ve dealt with worse.” Bass squinted at Miles and scratched at his balls. “Maybe you can help me clean it off later.”
“Now, now, you two,” Charlie murmured. “Not in front of the children.”
Rachel shot a glance at Miles that he couldn’t quite read. He cleared his throat and made sure his eyes stayed well away from Bass’ naked form. Then he noticed Rachel giving Bass a once over. He knew Rachel had softened a bit towards Bass lately, but he never thought he’d see that. It started giving him ideas about the three of them that he probably shouldn’t be having, because it would be a cold day in hell before they lead anywhere. Which was unfortunate because it could be interesting. Maybe when the time was right and they’d all had a few and everyone was mellow…
His thoughts were interrupted by a black horse charging out of the palm trees edging the beach. It cantered up to the group like it had an appointment and stopped, lifting its head and knickering softly.
“Wow!” Charlie said. “Where’d you come from?” They all leapt up, Bass covering his genitals with his hands.
“Bass.” Miles gestured to his crotch. “It’s a horse.”
Bass dropped his hands. “Oh, yeah.”
Charlie went over to the horse cautiously. “You’re a beauty. Where’s your owner?” She held out her hand for the horse to smell and gradually took hold of its bridle. “Wish I had an apple or a carrot to give you.”
“Maybe it likes Tequila Sunrises,” Miles suggested. “At least they’re orange.”
“Heh,” Bass chuckled. “Speaking of which, I could go for another one.”
“Yeah, me too,” Miles said. “But what about this horse?”
Charlie was petting its mane and admiring it when a young man emerged from the palms, making Bass scramble for his shorts. He was shirtless and had a well-sculpted physique, dark, wavy hair and nut-brown skin. “Hola,” he called to the group. Rachel replied in Spanish and asked if he spoke English.
“Oh yes, of course,” he said without an accent. He came over to the horse. “She is mine. Isn’t she gorgeous?” he said to Charlie, whose eyes had become a bit glazed over at his arrival. The young man and Charlie gazed at each other as if nobody else was there.
“So. Who are you?” Miles said. The man seemed unthreatening, but Miles had gone on alert at the appearance of a stranger and he wanted to clear the air of any threat.
“Oh. I’m Pablo.” He held out his hand to Miles, who shook it. “And you must be the Americans from Texas, yes?”
“Er...right,” Bass admitted. “How’d you know that?”
“I’m John Henderson’s son.” He smiled, revealing even, white teeth. Charlie seemed to go limp at the sight.
Bass’ face lit up. “You are! We’re old buddies. I think I know your mom too. I’m looking forward to seeing her again. Saw your dad yesterday.”
Miles relaxed, seeing that the guy wasn’t a threat. “Can you hook us up with some more Tequila Sunrises? These things are growing on me.”
Pablo laughed. “No problem. I’ll go tell them back at the bar and they’ll send someone out.” He looked into Charlie’s eyes. “But only if this lovely lady accompanies me. What’s your name?”
“I’m Charlie,” she said with a bright smile. It saddened Miles to realize how little he saw it. “And I’d be happy to. Your horse looks amazing, I’d love to ride her.” Her gaze traveled over Pablo’s body, leaving little doubt that she thought Pablo looked amazing too.
“Sounds good,” Miles said. It was good for Charlie to hang out with a cute guy her own age. He worried about her and the kind of life they led, although there wasn’t really anything he could do about it.
Pablo swung himself onto the horse and held out his hand for Charlie to join him. She hoisted herself up and settled in behind Pablo with her arms around his waist, closer than was really necessary, Miles thought. They rode off down the beach towards the bar.
The rest of them stood there watching. “Anybody for a swim?” Miles said. “You said you were hot, Bass.”
“Oh yeah, that sounds good,” Bass replied.
“Sure, why not?” Rachel said.
Bass shed his shorts again, laughing, and Miles followed suit.
“Last one in has to make sure Pablo and Charlie don’t elope!” Miles yelled as he ran into the water, the waves crashing against his legs. He felt a surge of happiness. At first he didn’t even recognize the feeling, so rarely did he have it. But the sun and the water and the cocktails worked their magic, as if he were on a real vacation, and he felt a real lightening of his spirit as he hit the turquoise water. He was with the people he loved, who’d miraculously survived hell on earth, and in some ways, he couldn’t be happier. It was really strange, but he’d encountered so many bizarre and unimaginable things since the blackout, he’d learned to take life as it came and enjoy what you had in the moment. Because the next, it could all come crashing down.