I swam upwards towards the sunlight, trailing bubbles in my wake. My head broke the surface, and immediately I felt the heat of the mid-morning tropical sun. The glare from the waves was blinding, making it hard to see anything. I paddled water, slowly turning to get my bearings before setting out for the distant shore. Using long strokes, I swam steadily, quickly closing the distance to the beach. Eight years in the military had given me a solid background in swimming and scuba, and all these years later, I worked hard to maintain my skills.
Hitting the beach, I jogged through fifty feet of soft sand to the beachside house I’d rented. The residence was surrounded by a sea wall made of pale gray stone, which protected the in-ground pool and the large paved patio. Stone steps led from the beach to the patio, and another set led into the elevated home. All reasonable measures had been taken to protect the property from the weather and sea.
As beautiful as the home was, it was about midway up the price scale of the dozens of other homes lining this portion of the beach in Aruba. I picked it because the area was known to be quiet, and solitude is what I needed to help kick-start my third novel. My first two novels, both military thrillers, had done unexpectedly well in the over-thirty demographic, and the payoff was many times greater than I ever could have imagined. Now my publisher had paid me a generous advance for book three, and I was stuck for ideas.
I took a quick shower and changed into my customary island attire: shorts, T-shirt, and sandals. I ran the ingredients for a protein smoothie through the blender, grabbed my laptop, and hit the patio with my insulated mug of iced health drink. Settling into my favorite lounge chair, I once again pondered the framework for book three. My first two books had taken place in foreign lands, but this time I wanted to keep things domestic. I was sketching some ideas for a domestic terror event at the Superbowl when my cell phone buzzed.
I looked at the number and saw it was my sister, Kate. Unlike me, she lived in the real world as a single mom to her daughter Emma. I tried to be generous with my financial support to her, but she was an independent woman who bristled at what she considered charity. She allowed me to fund Emma’s future college expenses and pay for a few minor items, but refused my offer to pay off all her debts. I loved her dearly, but she could be a pain in the ass sometimes.
“Hey, Kate,” I said cheerfully into the phone. “You must have felt me thinking about you.”
“Hi, brother,” she replied. “That’s probably why I’ve had a headache today.”
“Ha, ha, very funny. But I was thinking about you. I have this beautiful place all to myself and was thinking that you and Em might want to visit?”
“Funny you should ask. I guess the brother-sister ESP thingy must be working,” she said, laughing. “I can’t take time now, too much going on at work. But Emma’s school break just started, and she’s already climbing the walls. Now that she’s sixteen, she feels that I’m smothering her life.”
“Yea, I remember that age. You think you know it all. I’m happy to have her visit, but she’ll be mostly on her own during the day when I’m working. Will that be okay?”
Kate laughed again, “If you have a beach and a pool, that will consume most of her time. She’s determined to get the perfect tan this year. She already bought some bikinis that probably aren’t even legal where we live.”
We discussed the details and arranged for me to pick Emma up at the airport in two days. I’d last seen her when I flew up for her sweet-sixteen party in January. It was a quick trip and I didn’t get a lot of time to interact with her as she had a dozen girlfriends staying over for the after-party sleepover. Say what you will about my sister, but she loves Emma and always goes all out for her when it comes to celebrations.