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After Us (Before & After #2)
Author/Writer of Book/Novel:
1617731188 (ISBN13: 9781617731181)
Sometimes secrets kill. Maybe slowly, maybe painfully. Maybe all at once.
Melissa smiles. She flirts. She jokes. But she never shows her scars. Eight months after tragedy ripped her from her closest friend, Melissa is broken. Inside her grows a tumor, fed by grief, rage, and the painful memory of a single forbidden kiss.
Javier has scars of his own: a bullet wound, and the memory of a cousin shot in the heart. Life in the States was supposed to be a new beginning, but a boy obsessed by vengeance has no time for the American dream. To honor his familia, Javier joins the gang who set up his cousin’s murder. The entrance price is blood. Death is the only escape.
These two broken souls could make each other whole again – or be shattered forever. Our time will come. And we’ll be ready.
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The beach is a moving canvas of people.
Cabanas and waves and bathing suits and sand castles all blend together to create a serene picture of life on the coast. The sky is on fire with blues and yellows and oranges. Tiny puffs of clouds like wisps of cream. Sunscreen lotion saturates the air, smelling like SPF and sweat. I squint through the blaring sun and walk toward a crowd of girls lying on their bellies with the strings to their tops undone. Bare backs naked of tan lines.
“Frozen margarita, extra salt,” I say, giving the drink to a girl with blond hair a shade darker than mine.
I balance the tray on one palm. Hand off drinks with another. Like a machine dispensing snacks.
“Piña colada.” Next girl. “Sex on the beach.” Next. “Vodka and tonic.” Last. “Rum and Coke.”
I smile. Compliment one of the girls on her leg tattoo. Girls love compliments. Eat them up like sugar. Delicious sugar that serves to fatten my wallet.
I don’t know these girls. I don’t know most of the people splayed out on the beach like a deck of cards. Ordering alcohol like water, trying any reprieve to cool themselves down from rays that bake them to burnt crisps.
It’s too hot to be alive today. The air is breathing fire all over me. The sun is pressing so hard into my skin that it’s turning red. If I close my eyes, I can imagine my skin melting off like wax. I’m dripping sweat. Body glistening as though I’ve jumped in the water. I haven’t.
“Thanks,” the girl with the leg tattoo says.
One of the girls ties her top and flips over, insistent on showing me her hip tattoos. Two pink bows wrapping up the package of a perfect body.
I remember what it was like to have a perfect body.
“Love it,” I say. And I do.
I can never get a tattoo there.
I don’t wear bikinis anymore. My swimwear is a collection of one-pieces. Covering certain fragments of me that I’m not willing to show. Holding me together. Though admittedly still racy, especially the one I’ve got on today, which hugs me like a glove, fitting my every muscle and curve. It’s white with wavy ruffles like sea foam over the material around my breasts, plumping them up. A simple tie in the back to support the front. A runway of fabric lining my stomach. Nothing but tiny pieces coming together, exposing skin.
My tray is still stacked full of drinks for another group of people. They look like towers. Like a whole miniature city of skyscrapers and small circular buildings crammed together. Drowning in liquid.
I wait for cash.
A quick glance tells me that the five girls have tipped me something close to fifteen bucks. Not bad.
“Enjoy the heat,” I tell them by way of good-bye.
On to the next customer.
All around me, sun tints skin a soft brown, sometimes red. Corners of beach towels flutter in the slight breeze like stingray wings. It hurts to look at the ocean, glittery and reflecting light, a million liquid jewels on display.
I’ve already checked IDs for the five guys waiting for drinks. They’re tall and muscular—with the sort of deliciously ripped bodies that belong in a place like this—each ordering Corona bottlenecks. I hand out beers and accept their cash. Flirt a little. Makes for better tips.
“What are you guys doing out here today?” I ask. Grin.
“Nada, mami,” one says in a Latino accent, taking a seat on a lounge chair. The others follow suit. “Just enjoying this weather. Wanna enjoy it with me?”
He pats his lap. Like I’d actually sit on it.
“Can’t,” I say. Wink at him. “Have to work.”
The guy leans forward. Checks me out. I check him out right back. Shaved head, nice lips.
The others check me out, too. Except for the one that walks up behind me, joining the group. He sits with his body angled toward the water, dark sunglasses on, hair falling in his face.
“I’ll have one, too,” he says, still not looking my way.
What is so interesting that you can’t look a person in the eye?
I check the water. Nothing out of the ordinary.
“ID, please,” I say. Nothing personal—can’t serve underage. Even though I’m eighteen and understand. It isn’t worth losing a prime job at the busiest hotel on the beach. A job that pays really well, with customers that tip even better.
He hands it to me, still not looking up. I glance at it. I don’t need to see his full face to know that it’s not him. Looks more like the guy sitting next to him than the guy handing it to me.
“Gonna have to do better than that,” I say.
I need the money that this job provides. With three sisters away at college and Mom working double nursing shifts to support them, I need whatever I can get. Everything we have is already stretched thin. A bubble about to pop.