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20 Years Later

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Jake McKenzie walked out of his beachfront shack and towards his hammock, beer in hand, ready to relax and do absolutely nothing on his day off. It had been 20 years since the asinine and unexplainable events of La Huerta. Time had slowly helped him cope with his emotional scars, though deep down, he knew it was more the whiskey and beer that helped numb everything so he could live.

“Live?” He scoffed. “Fuck that, more like barely survive,” he said to himself while taking a swig of the bottle of beer.

And survive he had. It’s what he was good at. In those years on the run prior to that fateful charter to La Huerta, he somehow was able to lay low in Costa Rica, procuring odd jobs without putting himself on the map. This was how he met his pseudo-boss, Manuel, who needed someone to help man a boat after his original worker could not make it that day for one reason or another. Jake had been on the docks, waiting for any opportunity, when he heard Manuel cursing up a storm about losing a couple grand because of that puta madre. That day on the docks started a fruitful partnership that allowed him to obtain Delilah and he was always thankful for the friendship, not to mention Manuel’s lack of questioning over his past.

“‘La Huerta, was it really 20 years ago?’” he thought, eyes looking out over the sparkling ocean.

Ironically, time for Jake meant almost nothing to him these days. Days blended into weeks, weeks into months… hell, he didn’t even know what date it was. He just knew when to come in and earn his pay check.

Apparently the time spent on that damn island didn’t mean much to the outside world either. While he and the rest of the group were busy bouncing around the space-time continuum, fighting sea monsters, and altogether not trying to get killed, one week had passed by the time he returned to Costa Rica. One whole fucking week.

Jake chugged the rest of his beer as he reflected, dropping the empty bottle into the sand. It was going to be one of those days.

“Good thing I brought out the fresh bottle of Jack,” he mused, allowing himself to drown in the memories.

He closed his eyes and the first thing that entered his mind was Her. His Princess. The way she sauntered into his life, commanding his attention and respect. The way her smile lit up the whole room. The way her eyes lit up whenever she looked at him. It felt like a lifetime ago. In reality, it was.

His eyes squinted open, frowning as he blindly felt for the bottle underneath the hammock. Unscrewing the cap, he took a big gulp of the amber liquid, relishing the masochistic burn down his throat, not unlike the memories that burned into his mind.

Jake had loved her. Who was he kidding? He still did. They were soulmates. He never believed in such foolishness until she walked into his cockpit. He initially wrote it off as a passing fancy. Who wouldn’t have wanted her? She was a smoking hot, barely legal college co-ed with a mouth on her.

He smirked, “’What a mouth, indeed.’”

As much as he loved the carnal nature of their relationship, it went far beyond the intense physical attraction. He didn’t know how or when it happened, but she had broken down his walls and firmly planted herself in his heart. He loved her so much that he knew he had no business being with someone so amazing. There was nothing he could offer her. A life on the run? Always hiding and looking behind their backs? That was no life. It would have been a prison for her and he couldn’t be the one responsible if something happened.

So Jake did what he did best. He ran. After the group escaped the island, they found themselves, much to his luck, in Cuba. He told her he was still wanted and couldn’t go back, especially now that Lundgren was MIA. He wanted her to finish her degree; to make a life for herself. She told him he was her life.

He remembered grabbing her after she said that, kissing her passionately and pouring every emotion he had into it. They made love – multiple times – that night while waiting for the US authorities to gain clearance in order to pick them up.

It was the cowardly way out, he knew, leaving in the middle of the night. If he had stayed, there was no way he would have been able to say no to her. He had somehow been able to contact his boss and thanks to a few favors called in, he was on his way back to Costa Rica before she would even wake up.

That was the last time he saw her or anyone from the group, aside from that one time 15 years ago when Estela (how the hell did she find him anyway) searched him out, only to call him weak and a bastard for leaving Her in that manner. He had nothing to say except that she was right. Estela never bothered him after that.

He kept tabs on the group periodically through years: Sean went on to have a hall of fame NFL career, all the while with Michelle by his side. She wasn’t just a trophy wife, either, as she completed medical school and residency from Stanford. Craig and Zahra went on to be reality stars (total wtf), winning globe-trotting, adventure seeking shows with Craig’s “Chyeah!” becoming a pop culture phenomenon. Raj became a heralded celebrity chef, with his own show and slew of restaurants.

Aleister proved that he wasn’t the dick that betrayed them on the island. He was a silent donor to many philanthropic causes, dismantling Rourke Enterprises in the process. There was no need to worry financially anyway, as Grace was even more successful than her mother. Last he heard of Diego, he was able to use some “discarded” technology from Aleister and Grace that allowed him to be with Varyyn. (Hell if he even began to try and understand how that worked.) Quinn became a successful author, writing fantastical tales about a group of kids stranded on an island, including a girl who became possessed through the island’s power.

Jake waited to see what his Princess was going to do to shake up the world. She graduated… and nothing. It wasn’t until a couple months after Estela found him that something finally popped up.

“Delacroix Heir Surprise Wedding.”

His mind went numb at the memory of finding out she married some Richie Rich, stick up his ass, wannabe actor, trust fund baby who lived off of daddy’s money. At the time, he couldn’t stop himself from reading the blurb on whatever stupid blog site. The post detailed the elopement as best as it could, but more importantly, had a picture of the happy couple. He stared at the photograph. She was as gorgeous as ever, wearing some expensive Italian designer’s strapless number.

Her face told a different story. She held a smile, sure, but he saw it never reached her eyes. Or did it? Maybe his eyes were just interpreting the picture into what he wanted to believe. It didn’t matter anyway. He lost any right or claim to her the night he left. He stopped keeping tabs on everyone after that.

“’It was for the best. That guy’s been able to give her the life she deserved to have,’” he thought to himself, taking another drink. He closed his eyes, drifting off to an uneasy slumber, nowhere near as drunk as he would have liked to have been.

Jake is awakened some time later (one hour, two hours? Who the fuck knows?) by the sound of someone yelling.

“¡Oye, Lobo!”

The half-asleep man rubs his eyes as he sits up groggily.

“¡LOBO! ¿Dónde estás?”

“Manny, calmate. I’m over here. What’s up?”

“’What’s up…?’ Ayyy…” Manuel starts rapidly muttering in Spanish under his breath, with Jake barely making out a few words, including puta and mierda. The Costa Rican man takes a deep breath, glaring at the best pilot he’s ever had on staff.

“Where’s your mobile. I’ve been calling you for the last hour. Ricky esta enfermo. Necesitas que trabajar hoy.”

“Manny. It’s my day off. Come on, man.”

“Lo siento, Lobo. Big money today. I’ll give you cincuenta por ciento. She’s paying $10,000 for basic scenic shit.”

Jake’s eyebrows shot up and his eyes widened after doing the quick math. $5,000 would go a long way. He rubbed a hand over his face.

“Yeah, okay, I’ll do it. What time?”

“Una hora,” Manuel smiled as he continued, “la chica es muy linda tambien, go clean yourself up, cabrón. Cuando fue la ultima vez que tuviste la concha?”

Jake flicked him off as he went into his place, hearing his boss’ laugh reverberating through the open air.

“’I guess there’s a reason why I didn’t get stinkin’ drunk today,’” Jake contemplated. “Few grand for a couple hours work ain’t bad at all.

He walked towards the helipad, spotting a solitary figure close to the helicopter… and what a nice figure it was. She had these long and smooth legs, a nice ass, trim waist, with hair that cascaded down her back. She looked deep in thought and didn’t hear him approach.

“Excuse me, miss?” He turned on the charm as he addressed her. “Hi, I’ll be your pilot today. I’m – “

She whipped around, but the world had gone into slow motion for him.

“Jake???”

“Princess???”