"Lux, I need you to work all three shows tonight, and for the rest of the week. A-listers have just flown in and we need our best performers on point," Mr. Grey said abruptly. The man, manager of the most prestigious resort in Honolulu, looked entirely out of place – the splash of color on his Hawaiian shirt did not contrast well with his square-framed Gucci glasses and Ivy League degree in management. Nevertheless, he was in charge.
"Yes, sir," the already over-worked hula dancer nodded, glad she was considered a top performer. She loved dancing. She loved Hawaii. She loved the free luxury room and complimentary room service. She was content with her life, and a big fat paycheck would be the cherry on top of the cake.
She fastened her coconut top over her strapless bra and checked it in the mirror. After fixing her makeup she applied glittery lotion to her tan skin. The annoying green tassels of her skirt stuck to her legs and she fidgeted around as she stepped out onto the soft grass and into the breezy evening air.
The bartenders and waiters were hurriedly walking around trying to prepare for the night's events.
"It's chilly tonight, huh?" Kaiya, a fellow hula dancer and friend of Lux's, asked behind the bar.
Lux merely shivered in response and returned a smile. "What are you mixing back there?"
Kaiya grinned, tucking her auburn waves behind her ear and placing the lid on the blender before stirring the mysterious contents. "Well I figure if we're going to be working 'til midnight we should have some sugar in our system."
A cup of the pink mixture was extended across the bar and Lux took it hesitantly. "What's in it?"
"That information cannot be disclosed at the present time," Kaiya said with an air of seriousness mimicking Mr. Grey's, "but I can assure you, all ingredients are legal."
Lux shrugged, grabbing a straw and sipping the drink. She pulled back a moment to observe it once more. "Strawberries?" she asked with a grin.
"I know you're obsessed with them," her friend laughed.
"As much as I love the smell of citrus body lotion and your coconut bras, you two need to bounce." Destin lifted Lux's drink off of the counter and wiped away the ring it had left in its place before swinging the towel over his shoulder. His deep blue eyes were a swirl of navy in color as his gaze briefly met Lux's. She took her drink from his hand and slid off the bar stool.
"Kaiya and I have to do our hair anyway," Lux laughed. "Keep the rest of that smoothie stuff in the fridge for us, Des. We're gonna need it after the first show."
He shook his head but let the smallest inkling of confirmation grace his lips as the corners of his mouth turned upward.
"You're the best, Des," Kaiya grinned, hopping up and over the counter and almost spilling her own drink n the process.
His jaws clenched as he wiped the now lotion-streaked counter once more and the girls laughed while heading back indoors.
"You just love annoying the guy," Lux observed, giggling as Kaiya began undoing the incredibly complex French braid she herself had weaved out of Lux's golden mane.
"Who doesn't?" Kaiya laughed, nodding in approval as the waves slipped through her dark fingers and landed on Lux's slender back silently. She took some foam into her hands and scrunched Lux's hair up to preserve perfection. "The man was not meant to follow orders. Watching him squirm at the thought of Grey catching the counter at a less-than-spotless time is classic."
"You're horrible," Lux chuckled, playing with the orange flower in her hands before handing it up to Kaiya. Her fingers skillfully slipped the flower through the hair above Lux's ear and stepped back to see if it would hold on its own.
"But I'm damn skilled," Kaiya responded.
"That you are," she agreed. "Thanks, girl."
"Anytime, sunshine. Now, my turn!"
The fiery-haired girl took a seat before the mirror and let Lux braid her fringe along her hairline before placing a blue flower above her ear as well.
Kaiya shook her skirt a bit and adjusted her curls to better frame her face. "We're hot. I swear, Lana and Tallulah don't deserve front-and-center stage."
"What can you do? They're locals, and people come to Hawaii to see the natives dance, not some girls from small towns in the states."
"But you dance better than any one of us! Hawaiian or not, that should count, I don't care."
Lux smiled and swayed her hips a bit. "I love the dance," she said dreamily. "As long as I'm up there it's no problem."
"Foolishness," Kaiya smirked, shaking her head. "It takes a special kind of girl to have your optimism."
The familiar drum rhythm began to play and the girls knew it was their cue to group together and prepare for the first show.
The boys were practicing their fire tricks, even though years of performing had ensured they could flip flames in their sleep. Tallulah and Lana were late, as per usual. Kaiya scowled and Lux merely swayed to the music.
Shortly after, the group was out on stage beneath the swaying palm trees and the tapping of the drums intensified. The crowd was larger than ever before, and they eagerly watched as flaming sticks were twirled and thrown into the air; as the girls shook their bodies rhythmically and then gently swayed their hips, matching the music perfectly in movement.
Lux felt the warmth of the fire on her arms and softly curled her hands, angling her wrists as she danced behind Tallulah's powerful figure. Kaiya found herself smiling as well, despite her disapproval of Lana's undeserving star role.
The sound of the first applause of the night was deafening, and Lux felt her knees shake as her toes finally felt grass again. With Kaiya she walked to the bar to pass the time before the next performance.
"Great show, ladies," Ryan winked as he carried a few seafood plates out. His crystal blue eyes sought Kaiya's hazel ones with fervor.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, like you could even see us," Kaiya laughed almost shyly. Never before was a word such as 'shy' associated with the dark-haired, incredibly outgoing dancer.
"Oh, believe me, I saw you," he called, effortlessly dodging tourist traffic carrying two trays of food.
Kaiya suppressed a grin as she leaned against the bar counter on her swivel chair. Lux hopped up next to her, nudging her and chuckling.
"Someone's smitten," the blonde commented. Her friend scoffed but said nothing.
"He wants you," Lux sang as she skipped around to behind the bar and poured herself some lemonade. "Ryan wants you!"
"Shuddup," Kaiya hissed with bug eyes, grinning and ducking her head.
"You know you just wanna kiss him," Lux teased, sipping her citrus drink and feeling the light tapping of the drums in the distance run through her veins. Her hips rocked as gently as the delicate white waves that lapped the shore beyond the line of palm trees by the stage.
A man cleared his voice behind her and she angled her neck to look over her shoulder.
"Des," she responded.
"What are you doing?"
"Teasing Kaiya," she honestly answered.
Something is Destin's expression softened. "About Ryan?"
She grinned. "Yes!"
Kaiya banged her head on the counter.
"See, he totally wants you!" Lux exclaimed.
Des bent down to reach a bottle on the shelf before Lux's feet. She stepped back and caught sight of his flexing forearms in the light as he grasped the bottle and returned back to his towering height.
She continued singing to Kaiya as if she hadn't salivated over the bartender's gorgeous, strong arms.
"You can't be here, Lux," he said in a low voice before walking down to the other end of the bar.
She found herself watching him leave.
"You noticed his tight ass too, huh?" Kaiya smirked.
Lux blushed as her jaw dropped and she resumed her place beside her loud-mouthed friend on the stools.
"It's 'cause he surfs, and runs, and plays football, and is all-around yummy," Kaiya explained.
"And you know this all how?"
"We've both been here longer than you have, m'dear," Kaiya shrugged. "You tend to get to know people."
Lux had only been at the resort for a month.
"I see," Lux nodded. She suddenly recalled the conversation. "And just so we're clear, I was not staring at his ass."
Kaiya snorted. "Pshyeah, h'okay darlin'."
"I wasn't!" Lux insisted.
"So you just spaced out, and he was coincidently in the way?" she grinned, humoring her blushing friend.
"He just… I don't know," Lux laughed shakily, struggling for words. "Des is just one of those people that captivates me. He's fascinating."
"Mmmm-hm, I can tell."
"No, I mean like… he is so interesting. He can keep a straight face, but he has the greatest smile, and he's incredibly kind-hearted, and he has this, I don't know, this aura. Like I could watch him and listen to him talk for hours."
"I know what that's like," Kaiya nodded. "That's called love, Lux."
"Kai, you're not lis–"
"No, sweetie, I've been listening this entire time. I've also been observing. If you claim I have the hots for Ryan than you sure as hell have the steaming scorching hots for Des because we feel the exact same way. Don't try to psycho-analyze the situation, he isn't one of your college classes. He's a man. A fine man. And you want him. I understand."
Lux shook her head and shut her mouth. A rebuttal would be useless against Kaiya.
After the second performance, the girls went to fix themselves up and joined other staff by the bar once more. Tallulah and Lana were already there, paws all over the waiters.
Kaiya found her chest aching slightly at the sight of Ryan giving Tallulah the time of day, listening to her annoying voice and laughing at her stupid jokes.
"I never took him for one interested in snotty locals," Kaiya whispered under her breath.
"Well, clearly, if he's looking over at you every four seconds he must not be too interested in them," Lux whispered back.
At that moment Kaiya looked at Ryan and found herself locked in his gaze.
"Call him over," Lux urged her paralyzed friend before sliding off the stool and walking to the kitchen for a snack.
She was pleased to sneak a peek at Kai's index finger beckoning the fair-haired God to her place at the counter. And even more pleased when he immediately responded in her favor.
"Watcha got for me, Pete?" Lux asked, looking over the chef's shoulder in hope of something yummy.
"Miss Lux, I already have your lunch in the refrigerator," he smiled.
"You're the best!" She eagerly walked to the fridge, nearly hopping as her feet seemed to mind the cold marble beneath them.
Strawberries. Eagerly she sprinkled the little red bites of happiness with sugar, grabbed a plastic fork, and found her way to an all too familiar spread of lawn chairs facing the ocean.
She suppressed a moan of approval as she chewed her first sugared strawberry when the sound of a velvety voice singing reached her ears. She struggled to choke a gasp as she recognized Destin sitting on a chair. Ever so quietly, she bit into another strawberry and eased into a seat.
However, all was easier said than done. She nearly dropped her plate of strawberries as she tried to push back into the chair and in an effort to save them, fell backwards. The cold plastic against her bare back made her curse.
Destin immediately shut his mouth and turned to face her.
She heard him murmur something along the lines of what she'd just yelled and sheepishly apologized.
"Please don't stop," she whispered, finishing the strawberry she'd bitten into before the lawn chair debacle.
He looked out over the water again.
"That's why I was creeping toward the chair. I didn't want you to stop, so please don't even though I kind of messed up my entrance," she giggled hopefully.
He ran a hand through his thick midnight hair before finally turning to look at her again. His eyes narrowed at her and she resisted the urge to shrink under his questioning look.
"Strawberry?" she offered, extending her plate.
He smirked, shaking his head. He kept looking at her.
"What?" she finally asked, nudging a strawberry with her fork and licking her sticky lips.
"Why do you seem twice as happier than usual?"
Lux bit her lip to keep from grinning. "Kai called Ryan over. Away from Tallulah."
"Ahh." He nodded with a slight smile as he lifted one knee and rested his elbow on it.
"Progress," Lux sang, taking a small bite of her last strawberry.
He smirked. "Why do you want me to sing when you do it so well?"
"Because when you sing, angels cry," she said matter-of-factly.
He found humor in her response. "Oh please, you flatter me," Destin laughed, leaning back against the chair.
A familiar tempo arose and Lux, as much as she felt herself glued to the lawn chair, forced herself up and towards the stage.
"See ya," she called, straining her ears to hear his quiet reply.
The next night was much like the previous one. Kaiya and Lux had changed the color of their flowers and switched hair styles for the night. The auburn-haired girl was grinning like a goof the entire night, especially after the first performance when Ryan nodded her way as he carried more plates out to the crowd.
"So when's the date?" Lux joked.
"Monday night," she easily responded.
It took Lux a few moments before she processed this data and studied Kaiya's face for any signs of sarcasm. When she found none, both girls screamed and jumped up and down. Their hula skirts rustled and their flowers came loose, but neither cared.
"Oh my God, you're serious! That's so great, Kai!" Lux grinned.
Kaiya bit her lip and readjusted her flower. "I wanna thank you, for pushing me into that. Or else the doof would have taken weeks to ask me out. You'd think that hot guys would have more confidence these days."
"Well gee, Kai, I don't know why he, or any guy for that matter, gorgeous or not, would be intimidated by someone like you," Lux shrugged sardonically.
Kaiya caught it immediately and shoved her friend lightly. "Seriously. Thanks."
"No prob." Lux's mind was racing, and she was thinking of someone she shouldn't have been allowing her mind to indulge. The thought of all those memories she'd left at home swept this person out to sea and brought back reality.
"It's time for the show," she murmured, heading for the stage.
Her first performance that evening definitely placed Lux in the right frame of mind: a happy one.
In fact, a couple of women caught Kaiya and Lux after the show and asked them for a few pointers, which Lux and Kaiya were more than happy to help them with. They all shared laughs as Lux demonstrated a quick hip shake and palm gesture that the ladies wished to surprise their husbands with.
"Now where do I get one of those fancy bras?" one asked after the lesson.
Lux dipped her head back in laughter as she realized the woman was serious. Kaiya informed the role-playing woman of the website in which the outfit was purchased and sent the crazy tourists on their way.
Lux's giggle stopped as she looked back at the bar and caught Destin's figure behind the counter. His head was hung but his broad shoulders were held straight; his hair bounced as he rinsed a few shot glasses and his head quirked up. Someone must have called him, because he finished up and threw the dish towel over his shoulder before walking around the center shelves of alcoholic bottles to the opposite side of the bar.
"I know you said to keep everyone away from you and I completely respect and understand that, but honey, you have to want that for yourself, too…" Kaiya's voice said softly.
Lux closed her eyes and sighed.
At this point, she didn't know what she wanted.
She rocked her third and final performance before she found herself rummaging through the fridge in search of strawberries. Dousing them in sugar, she found a fork and went out to the hill with the line of lawn chairs. That moment was bittersweet – while she was glad to be alone and with her favorite snack, she knew who she had been hoping to see there.
She found herself mumbling the words she remembered from the song Destin had been singing the night before. When she saw that someone was suddenly in the lawn chair next to hers she nearly dropped her fork.
"Don't stop," he whispered.
She couldn't help but smile at his use of words. She'd said the same ones; he'd remembered. Did that mean something?
"Did you close up the bar?" she asked, biting into her strawberry and watching him – not too eagerly, she hoped.
"Just about," he nodded. "Great shows tonight, by the way. As always."
She blushed in the night, turning to look at the ocean as she finished chewing.
They both nodded aimlessly for a while, listening to the waves and the swaying of palms on the restless trees.
Finally she turned over to him. "Why are you here?"
His eyes flashed to hers, and he readily countered with: "Why are you?"
"Because this is my favorite spot," she smiled, "and… well, I wanted to stop by."
He nodded, catching her pause. "Well, I'm here because this is your favorite spot. And I stopped by because I was thinking you'd stop by. Which you did."
She blinked slowly, staring at the three strawberries left on the plate. The sugar had dissolved in their watery goodness.
"Des," she sighed, finding words to make the silence go away. But she didn't have a clue as to what to tell him.
"Lux," he interrupted. "You… you're like sunlight."
She narrowed her eyes and chewed her sticky bottom lip as he said this. Her eyes questioned his statement but she could not form words for the life of her.
The dashing bartender continued. "You're so – so… bright, and you are always smiling. You freaking glow," her eyes widened at his abrupt and honest words, "Honestly, you do. Your smile and your laugh light up everyone and everything around you, whether other insanely jealous girls try to overshadow you or not."
He stood up, scratching the back of his head. "You're like the sun, Lux."
She gulped, unable to tear her eyes away from him.
He shook his head. "And what kills me is that I see you every damn day, and every freaking night, and I know I will never be able to touch you."
Her eyes welled up as he finished that sentence with a coarse voice.
She opened her mouth to say something, anything. But somehow a 'thank you' did not seem appropriate.
"Goodnight," he told her when she had once again closed her mouth.
She managed a small smile, but at the sight of it he turned and walked back toward the hotel.
"Goodnight," she returned, but her voice cracked.
"That man basically told you you're the center of his universe," Kaiya stated the next day after Lux had told her the story. "And you let him walk away?"
Lux shook her head, dropping it into her hands as Kaiya tried to fix the girl's hair. It was a mess. The girl herself was a mess.
"Are you set to perform tonight?" Kaiya asked.
Lux ignored the question. "I haven't smiled today."
Kaiya sighed enough for the both of them. "No shit."
Lux's head popped back up. "Oh great, now you're mad at me, too."
"Honey, no one is mad at you. Your choices are yours; I know Des respects them. I explained to him your situation when you first showed up and he asked about you. I told him what that dickhead did to you with that bitch after he put a ring on your finger and how you came here to take a break from the horrors of all that makes up a human male but…"
"But what?" Lux pressed, hoping for Kaiya to confirm what she was wanted so badly to let her own mind accept.
"…but Des in different," Kaiya finished. "He would never do that to anyone, especially you."
Lux stood, smoothing out her skirt and motioning for her friend to follow her. It was time for their show.
For the next couple of days things remained just as they were. Kaiya and Ryan shared their secret smitten smiles while Lux and Destin avoided one another. Lux's smile never quite reached her eyes, and the only time she was happy was when she was dancing. A five minute show three times a day would not be enough to keep her going much longer.
One night, after the final performance, Lux walked off the stage and prepared for a long shower and another long night buried under her many blankets and pillows.
"Excuse me, miss," someone called.
Lux twirled around and found a man, a rather handsome man, in a crisp white dress shirt and khaki shorts. He grinned, walking up to her.
"My name is Gregory Moore and I was just wondering how much you charge for private hula dances," he stated, dipping his head down a bit.
Lux furrowed her brow before stepping back a bit. "I'm sorry sir, the hotel does not offer private hula dances."
"But I'm sure you wouldn't mind–"
"I do not offer them, either," Lux clarified quickly. "My apologies, have a wonderful night, Mr. Moore."
He reached for her hand but she felt his tight grasp release almost just as soon as it had closed around her small wrist. She turned around to find Destin standing there in a midnight blue button-down and black dress pants, with his arms folded and bulging, of course. His jaws clenched as the tourist sized him up.
"Have a good night," Des nodded, sending the guy stalking off.
"Thank you," Lux whispered, fidgeting as his eyes met hers for the first time in what felt like ages.
Her heart ached as she realized she'd missed him.
"Let me walk you to your room in case anyone else gets any ideas," he suggested.
She wordlessly let him escort her back to her place, thanking him as she leaned against her door.
"Goodnight," the bartender said, taking a step back before turning around and walking down the hall toward the elevators.
"Goodnight," she called, mentally kicking herself in the ass as she watched him walk away for the second time.
"I have no words for you, girl," Kaiya said the next evening while gently brushing her friend's hair back into a big elegant bun. She pinned a gorgeous red and yellow orchid to her head of golden hair.
They were back on the regular schedule, one performance a night.
"Kai, I know you haven't known Ryan for too long 'cause he's a newbie like me but…" Lux paused, looking into her friend's eyes, "Do you feel like you know him already?"
Kaiya grinned sheepishly. "Yes, I do. Like I've known him my whole life. Ask me anything about him, and I can tell you."
"Do you like the person that he is?"
"I love the person he is."
"Why?" Lux drilled.
"Because he makes me smile."
The girl stood abruptly, almost losing her balance as she realized her legs were shaky. Kaiya smiled knowingly.
"I'll do my own hair, girl. Just don't keep that man waiting any longer."
Lux held back nervous tears as she bit her lip and headed for the bar. Destin was nowhere to be found, and her brain turned to mush when she tried to think of where he could be. She was so ready to leap and he wasn't going to be there to catch her in this impulsive moment.
She breathed in and out; withholding tears as she stole a strawberry from the platters Pete was preparing and sprinkled some sugar onto it.
Maybe he's at the spot.
Her hands dropped to her sides and her breath caught as she saw the figure she'd most wanted to see.
He stopped singing as the rustling of her skirt reached his ears.
"I wish you hadn't stopped," she whispered, looking out to the setting sun.
He wordlessly got up and stood in front of her, looking at her for a moment. His eyes took her breath away once more.
"I have to go get the bar ready," he said, moving around her and preparing to walk away yet again.
She didn't let it happen.
"Des, you're like the ocean."
He stopped, with a questioning gaze studying her.
"You're dark, and icy at times, and you frighten the hell out of me. You're dangerous. When I'm around you, I get swept off and I lose all sense of my surroundings… you have this ability to make me feel like my feet can't touch the ground, even though that's what I thought I wanted most when I first came here to this big tourist attraction – where everyone has fun and blows money and I can dance…" she paused shakily, "But I'm not so sure the ground is where I want to be anymore. I don't think I could reach it if I tried, because I'm in too deep."
Lux hesitantly looked up at Destin, smiling nervously and trying not to let her knees buckle.
"You're like the sea, you're everywhere," she said, looking out at the Pacific for a moment, "and I can't escape you."
His eyes searched hers for anything more she might want to say. She had Destin so confused he didn't know which move to make.
"Des, you told me I'm like the sun, and you couldn't touch me," she said breathily. Slowly, her glowing hand reached out and took hold of his strong, warm one. He watched her bring his palm to her cheek.
"What kills me is that I didn't think you could either," she said, "…But you can."
He cupped her cheek and wrapped his free arm around her body to pull her close, pressing his lips against her sticky strawberry-flavored ones in a kiss that set the whole world ablaze. Her feet dangled above the cool blades of grass as she wrapped her arms around his neck and bit his lip. Their lips smiled as they locked. She danced into his body, and he held onto her, prepared never to let go.
From their spot, the deep blue ocean was where it'd always been, glittering as the setting sun dipped down into its embrace.
I got this idea from a line I heard Chris Daughtry sing about not being able to touch the sun, and I just sat down while the snow fell and typed it up. If it's crap, it's crap. I really don't know what to think of it. All I know is I wish I was a hula dancer with a gorgeous bartender love interest… and I'm jealous of the relationship that the sun and the sea have.
Happy reading! And Happy New Year! :)