Chapter 1 – Meghan
“Remind me never to take a shuttle bus again.” Meghan felt clammy and tired from sitting in the stuffy vehicle for over two hours. The hotel wasn’t even that far from the airport, but it had stopped off at fifteen other hotels before they finally arrived at their destination: Paradise Hotel. Waiting for their luggage to be unloaded, she glanced at the entrance of the tall, rather unappealing building and frowned. “What’s with all the rainbows?”
“What?” Her friend Kim was panting as she joined Meghan with their suitcases.
“The rainbows.” Meghan pointed to the rainbow flags in the pineapple palms by the door and over the entrance.
“I don’t know.” Kim sighed. “And I don’t care. I just want to shower, get changed and have a drink by the pool before I meet Andres.” She looked over her shoulder as the shuttle drove off. “Seems like we’re the only ones who got off here.”
“Hmm…” Meghan grabbed her case and followed her friend into the reception area. From previous experience with packaged holidays, she’d expected chaos at check-in, but there was no one. “Hello?” she yelled, only to be answered by the echo of her own voice. “Hello, is anyone there?”
“Hi, can I help you?” A man came out from the office behind the reception desk and stared at their suitcases. “I’m afraid we’re not open. We’re preparing for an event, so if you have tickets, you can come back tomorrow.”
“No, that can’t be right,” Kim said in an irritated tone. “We’ve booked an all-inclusive holiday with you. I have the confirmation right here.”
“Maybe you got the date wrong?” The man took the confirmation Kim had printed and furrowed his brow as he looked it over. “Did you not get a follow-up email from us, offering you an upgrade in one of our other hotels?”
“No, we never got anything,” Kim said, sounding like she was close to panicking. She was here to see her Spanish boyfriend, Andres, whom she’d met on holiday last year, and she’d asked Meghan to tag along so she wouldn’t be alone during the day, when Andres was working. She’d been unbearable for weeks, talking non-stop about him and speculating whether he would introduce her to his family. Because Kim was only here with one goal in mind: she wanted a ring.
“Okay, my apologies.” The man backed away. “Please give me a moment. I need to start the system so I can check the facts. Take a seat. I’ll be right back.”
Meghan dragged her case along to the reception seating area and slumped in a chair. “I didn’t get anything,” she mumbled as she scrolled through her emails. “I’m sure of it.”
“Me neither. If anyone’s been double and triple checking the facts, it’s me.” Kim groaned and covered her face with her hands. “Oh God, this is a disaster. He’s not lying. It looks closed, and even if they offer us an alternative, we won’t be as near to Andres’ bar as we are now. I only booked this place because it was walking distance.”
“Don’t worry. They’ll come up with a solution. They have to.” Meghan couldn’t have cared less where they were staying as long as there was a pool and the drinks were included. Being thirty-four and single, it was hard enough to find people who wanted to go on holiday with her. Most of her friends were married with kids, and the few single friends she had were too wild for her to spend more than a night with. When Kim had suggested going to Spain together, she’d immediately said yes because it seemed like the perfect solution. During the day, they would sunbathe, gossip and have cocktails by the poolside, and at night, Kim would see her boyfriend, which would give Meghan space to go out, explore and maybe meet new people. After all, what was the point of being single if she didn’t chase opportunities?
“Now I’m going to be late, and I’ll look like shit,” Kim said. “And my ankles are still swollen from the flight. I need to put my feet up ASAP. I was hoping I could do that by the pool.”
“I’m sure Andres will understand if you’re a little late.” Meghan turned to her friend, who was about to lose her temper. “He loves you, and he’ll be happy to see you. He won’t care if your ankles are swollen.”
“He says he loves me,” Kim corrected her. “I’m here to find out if he really does, or if he’s just some lothario who still sleeps with tourists on a regular basis. But if he does love me… If he really does love me, then I want to look my best for him, so he’ll realise we should be together forever and—”
“Ever and ever,” Meghan interrupted her. She’d heard this so many times before, and although she was happy for Kim, it was getting old, especially after a ten-hour journey during which Kim had talked about Andres non-stop. “There he is,” she said, relieved to see the man come out of his office. He was clearly not on official duty, as he was wearing jeans and a T-shirt, but at least he seemed helpful.
“Apologies for the wait, ladies. There was a glitch in our system. We sent an email to everyone who had booked for this week, but for some reason, yours wasn’t sent, and it’s still pending.”
“Great.” Kim tilted her head as she looked him over. “So, how are you planning on solving this? I have somewhere to be in two hours, and I’d really like to get ready.”
“Of course. My name is Robert, by the way, and I normally work behind reception—when the hotel is open,” he added with an apologetic smile. “I’ve just called my manager. The good news is I’ll be able to give you an upgrade and check you in, and we’ll give you a refund for tonight. The bad news is that we can’t provide food for tonight, but there will be a member of staff behind the pool bar to serve you.” He hesitated. “Unless you’d rather go to one of our sister hotels? I can find out which ones have availability.”
“No, that works for me,” Kim said, getting up. “A room is all I need. Are you okay with that, Megs?”
“Fine with me.” Meghan was surprised at how quickly the problem had been solved, and she, too, was dying to get changed.
“Oh, one more thing.” Robert slipped back behind the reception desk and picked up a flyer. “As I said, there will be an event here this weekend. It’s a Pride event. Women only,” he added, holding it up for them to see. “I just need to check you don’t have a problem with that.”
“No problem at all.” Meghan smiled. “As long as the bar is open.”
Chapter 2 – Florence
“You want me to work the bar tonight?” Florence stared from the pool bar to Robert and frowned.
“Only until midnight—if you don’t mind,” he said. “I’ll stay on reception. I can sleep in the back.” He sighed. “We screwed up with their reservation, so it’s the least we can do, but I understand if you can’t at such short notice. I can ask someone else.”
“No, it’s fine. I could actually do with the overtime, and with only two guests it’s easy money.” Florence picked up a rainbow garland that had fallen off one of the palm trees and reattached it.
The preparations for the women’s Pride festival were finally done, and most of her colleagues, including Stella, her manager, had left. A few were still hanging around, smoking a cigarette before heading into town for a drink.
“Hey, guys. Just go without me,” she yelled at them. “There was a fuck-up with a reservation, and a couple of people just arrived, so I’m staying here tonight.” Her announcement was met with some protests, but the boys would be secretly relieved she wasn’t coming. They loved hitting on the ladies, and even though she did too, people always assumed she was dating one of them.
She waved them off and turned back to Robert. “So, how does this work? Do I turn the music on? The lights?”
Robert shrugged. “Honestly, this is a first. I have no idea, but I don’t want to bug Stella again. I just called her, and she was already in bed. I’d say do what you would normally do, apart from the announcements over the speakers.”
“Yeah, that would be weird.” Florence chuckled as she imagined her voice blasting through the silence, aimed at only herself if these guests didn’t come down to the poolside tonight. “Well, I’ll get the bar ready. Do you want a beer?”
“No, I’m good,” Robert said. “I’m technically on duty, so I’d better not.” He gave her a pat on her shoulder before he headed back into the building. “And no drinking for you either. Thanks, Flo. This should be an easy one.”
“Sure. Easy-peasy,” Florence muttered to herself as she turned on the pool lights and the string lights that adorned the tiki bars and the plants around the pool. Paradise Hotel wasn’t the best or the prettiest hotel in Benidorm, but with the rainbow decorations and the lights, it looked pretty charming tonight. She connected her phone to the speakers and put on her own playlist instead of the standard corporate one. If she was going to be here all night, she might as well enjoy herself, but first, she needed something to wake herself up. The hotel’s new coffee machines that had replaced the old, noisy ones were a blessing.
As she made herself a cappuccino, she heard one of the balcony doors above her open and looked up to see two women staring down at her. Unable to resist, she turned on the microphone. “Hey, there! The bar is open, ladies. Special one-on-one service, tonight only.” She smiled when she heard them laugh.
“Thank you!” one of them yelled back at her. “I’ll be down in a bit!”
Florence leaned on the bar and scrolled through her dating app, grimacing at most of the men and women who had ‘liked’ her. With the local dating scene being limited, she usually looked out for tourists, but there wasn’t much choice this week. She was excited for tomorrow, though: working at a women’s only weekend was right up her street. Personal relationships with guests were off-limits, but a little flirting was innocent and just what she needed.
Florence jumped and almost dropped her phone in the sink. “Oh, hey! Welcome to Paradise.”
“Welcome to Paradise? Is that what they make you say?” The woman laughed. “It looks pretty cute out here, but I can assure you, our room is far from paradise, even though your boss gave us an upgrade.”
“Robert?” Florence chuckled. “He’s not my boss. He just happened to be here when you guys showed up, so they put him in charge.” She winked. “I don’t think it’s gone to his head yet, but let’s see what the night brings. And as far as the rooms are concerned, I agree with you. They’re not great.”
“It’s fine. I’ll be outside most of the time anyway.” The woman took a seat at the bar. “Are you here just for me?”
“For you and your girlfriend,” Florence said. “My name is Florence.”
“Nice to meet you, I’m Meghan. It’s just me tonight, and Kim is not my girlfriend.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have assumed. I just thought you were here for the Pride event and—”
“No, no, no,” Megan interrupted, waving a hand. “My friend is here to see her boyfriend, who’s a local, and I’m tagging along. Neither of us is gay, nor are we here for the event.” She leaned closer and lowered her voice, even though there was no one else around. “Are we going to be the only straight women here over the weekend?”
“I’m afraid so.” Florence shot her an amused smile. There was something adorably innocent about this woman. “But it’ll be fun. There’s live music and a DJ, and everyone will dress up.”
“I don’t have anything to wear,” Meghan said.
“No problem. Just grab one of those garlands. They’re everywhere.” Florence pointed to the cocktail menu. “By the way, what can I get you?”
Meghan shook her head. “I can go somewhere else. I’m sure you’d like to go home.”
“Now that we officially have occupancy, even if it’s just one room, someone has to be here, so you might as well stay.” Florence shrugged. “The drinks are free, and I can be good company. I’d love to have someone to talk to while I sit out my shift, and besides the drinks on that menu, I can make you anything you like.”
Meghan ran a hand through her long, dark hair and smiled. “Okay. But only if you have a drink with me.”
“I’m not supposed to drink on duty.” Florence glanced at the building. Robert always took naps on his nightshifts, and with hardly any guests in the hotel, he was sure to be fast asleep by now.
“There’s no one here.” Meghan pointed to the empty poolside. “It’s just you and me. If there was ever a time to have a cheeky drink at work, it’s now.”
“You’re right,” Florence said after a moment’s hesitation. “As long as you don’t tell anyone.”
“My lips are sealed.” Meghan’s smile widened, and she tapped the bar. “So, what are we having?”
Chapter 3 – Meghan
“It’s good,” Meghan said as she sipped her margarita. She studied the attractive bartender, who was a little younger than her.
“Thanks.” Florence was petite, but she seemed to have a big personality. Her wild, dark, curly hair was loosely pinned up, framing her heart-shaped face. She had a deep tan from working in the sun and big, hazel eyes that sparkled in the dim light of the bar. Wearing nothing but a slinky, grey vest top, a pair of tiny jersey shorts and flip-flops, she looked like she’d jumped straight out of bed onto the job, and as the hotel was closed, Meghan suspected that might have been the case.
“It could be a lot better. Our tequila is not of the best quality, but it does the job.” Florence smiled widely and clinked her glass against Meghan’s. “So, you’re third-wheeling? Is that what’s happening this week?”
Meghan laughed. “Yeah, something like that. I don’t mind, though. I can entertain myself, and Kim will be here during the day while Andres, her boyfriend, is working.”
“Well, you have me tonight.” Florence pulled a chair behind the bar, propped her feet on the edge of the sink and sat back. “And tomorrow, you’ll have two hundred women fighting over you, so you won’t be short of company then either.”
“I don’t mind making new friends, but as I said I’m not—”
“I know, you’re not into women. I was only joking. Do you have a boyfriend?”
“No, I’m single. What about you?”
“Me too. Single and ready to mingle. I’m excited for the festival.”
“Oh, you like women?” Meghan blushed and felt silly for it. She often ended up in gay clubs on Saturday nights, and she’d even kissed a girl on a drunken occasion when she was younger, so her reaction made no sense.
“I’ve dated men too, but I prefer women.” Florence locked her eyes with Meghan’s as she sipped her cocktail. “Physically, I mean.”
Meghan nodded, a little uncomfortable under her intense stare. “Are you allowed to personally engage with guests?”
“No. I’m not allowed to drink on the job either.” Florence suppressed a smirk as she held up her glass. “What can I say? I’m easily tempted.”
“Then you must get in trouble a lot,” Meghan joked. Florence had a permanently mischievous look on her face, and that amused her.
“Not really. I keep myself entertained, but I know my limits, so I tend to get away with a lot. Where are you from?”
“London. It’s good to get out of the city for a bit, and we haven’t had much of a summer. It’s rained non-stop for weeks.” Meghan looked at her arms, which, like the rest of her, were terribly pale compared to Florence. “What about you? Do you live in Benidorm?”
“For now. I’m a seasonal employee. I’m here in the summer. In the winter, I work for a hospitality employment agency in London. It’s restaurant bar work, mainly, but they occasionally put me on events and weddings too.”
“That sounds fun.”
“It can be. What do you do, Meghan?”
“I manage a casino. A small one in Southwest London.”
“Cool.” Florence looked her over and frowned. “I find it hard to imagine you as a casino boss. You look so innocent.”
Meghan threw her head back and laughed. “You’ve been watching too many movies. I’m not a gangster. I just manage the day-to-day and the staff.”
“But you wear a black suit?” Florence asked with a chuckle.
“At work, yes.”
“Do you smoke cigars and drink whisky in your office?”
Meghan laughed even harder now. “No, I don’t smoke, and like you, I’m not allowed to drink on the job.” She shrugged. “But unlike you, I play by the rules.”
“Hey, that’s not fair! You were the one who insisted I have a drink with you.” Florence’s eyes widened in amusement. “So, you never get up to anything naughty at work?”
“Never. I’m not involved with money laundering or blackmail, I’m afraid, and I don’t go around breaking people’s legs. Sorry to disappoint you.”
“Bummer.” Florence slapped her thigh with a comical grin. “What about office affairs? A bit of fun on your desk after hours?”
“Nope. I share an office with the head of payroll and the head of HR, and they’re both old enough to be my parents.” Meghan held up her hands in defeat. “I’m basically super boring.”
“We’ll see about that.” Florence pointed to her glass. “How about another margarita?”
Finishing her cocktail, Meghan already felt it going to her head. She hadn’t eaten anything yet, but she was enjoying having a drink with Florence and didn’t feel like venturing out in search of food. “I’d love another, but I need to eat. Do you know a good place that delivers?” She opened one of the international delivery apps on her phone and handed it to Florence. “Are you hungry? Please order whatever you like.”
“I do know of a place, but I don’t want you to buy me dinner. Let’s split it.”
“Please. It’s the least I can do when you’re keeping me company,” Meghan insisted. “And I’m a big casino boss, remember? You’re just going to have to do as I say.”
Florence arched a brow and chuckled. “Okay, big shot. How about tapas?”
Did you enjoy this sample? Paradise Pride, book 3 in The Resort Series, is available through the link below!