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I grabbed my single piece of luggage from the trunk of the car and set it on the mosaic bricks at my feet. Shutting the trunk, I waved the driver off. Wheeling my luggage behind me, I stepped through the huge glass doors when they slid open before me.
Graham really knew how to pick ’em. The freaking hotel was huge. Craning my neck up at the interior, I could see walkways for at least twenty floors up. Everything looked pristine of course. Decorative flowers and art were all around. I spotted the front desk and made my way toward it to check in. I hadn’t texted Graham since I’d gotten in the Uber. Maybe I’d beaten him here.
This was exactly like Graham. Excess. If I remembered him correctly, he knew how to blow money when it was time to go out. It seemed he wasn’t much different now. I shook my head. I kinda liked that about him. He was always willing to be a bit more outgoing and pull me right along with him.
“Hurry the hell up!” A voice blared. “I paid good money for this place!”
My head snapped to the right. For a second my face flushed warm with embarrassment. Graham. He was lounging in one of the hotel’s many ornate chairs off to the side. He’d yelled the words obnoxiously loud. I knew that was on purpose. I shook my head at the absurdity and headed toward him.
“I paid good money for this place, too, asshole!” I called back to him.
Graham laughed, ignoring the heads that had turned to look at us. Anyone else would have been embarrassed. Not Graham. He stood and sauntered over toward me. I held out my hand and we clasped our arms together. And of course, he clutched mine far too tightly on purpose.
“Long time no see, there Mack!” Graham said genuinely.
“You’re still a ridiculous jerk I see,” I said smiling.
“Is there any other way?”
I shook my head. “For you? No.”
Graham stepped back with his hands on his hips, looking me over.
“Wow, man,” he said blowing out a breath. “Ten freaking years? I’d say you haven’t changed but clearly that isn’t true.”
I scoffed. He actually wasn’t lying.
“Yeah, no doubt,” I nodded. “Life does shit to people.”
I patted my stomach to punctuate my sentence. Graham grinned and gave me a shrug.
“You ain’t that bad, dude,” Graham said. “You actually look healthy. I’ve seen some of the other guys since we got out. A few of them have let themselves go, man. Martelle looks like a walrus now, if you can believe that.”
I raised an eyebrow. “As in, Sergeant Martelle? ‘Let’s run six miles every day’ Martelle?”
“Walrus,” Graham said. “A wife and four kids. Somehow he never got rid of her weight after the pregnancies.”
I barked a laugh hard enough that I snorted.
“Glad to hear I’m not so bad,” I joked.
I took a few seconds to give Graham a look over. Gone was the pale and frail guy I’d known long ago. He was thick in his shoulders and arms, and his jaw was hardened. The guy was actually in better shape than I could have imagined. It did nothing to save his dorky grinning face, but I couldn’t hide how impressed I was.
“Damn, Graham,” I said, exaggerating my voice. “Looks like being a cop isn’t all doughnuts and dad jokes, is it?”
“I actually stuck with the gym,” he told me. “I really like it. Became a trainer there for about six months. Best thing I ever decided to do.”
“You look great, man,” I said. “I mean, you look fucking weird being all big and stuff, but I guess you gotta hide your face somehow.”
“Well played, MacKenzie,” Graham said. “Solid effort.”
“Thank you,” I said with a bow.
Graham threw up his hands. “Well are we gonna stand down here making out all day, or should we maybe get in the elevator?”
“Lead the way,” I said. “What floor?”
Graham made a funny face as he gathered his luggage. “Um, top floor, royal suite. What else?”
I shook my head. “We’re going to be broke when we leave.”
“That’s the idea.”
I squinted in the afternoon sun looking out over endless miles of ocean. The cresting waves looked so tiny from way up here. I watched people walking along the beach below, feeling a sense of vertigo staring down from such a height. I knew the plans for the night. I made a mental note to lock the sliding doors to the balcony when we returned to the room later. One drunken mistake would be all it took to bring a swift end to our weekend.
“I think I’m gonna hop in the shower,” I heard Graham call out to me from in the room. “The AC must have been broke in the cab earlier. On the way here I was sweating like a well paid whore.”
I turned and leaned on the sliding door, grinning at the absurdity of Graham’s vocabulary.
“No rush,” I said. “I may do the same myself.”
Graham walked from the kitchenette of the suite into the bedroom that adjoined the balcony. He was pulling his shirt over his head. I glanced away out of reflex, studying the suite once more. The damn room had two separate bedrooms. I’d sent money to Graham to help book the room. I knew for a fact I hadn’t almanbahis sent enough to cover half this bill. Once again, Graham had went as lavish as he could. At least he didn’t seem bothered to throw the cash at it.
My eyes drifted back to Graham. He was removing his blue jeans now. I couldn’t believe I was looking at the same guy. He wasn’t chiseled out of stone or anything, but ten years ago he had maybe weighed a buck seventy five, soaking wet. Now he had mountainous shoulders. His arms were thick and well defined. I could still tell he liked junk food with a glance at his midsection, but even his stomach wasn’t necessarily a flabby mess. The guy was built now. I saw more than a couple new tattoos, particularly on his big biceps and his left side.
Realizing I was staring at Graham, I turned away and took another sip of my beer. I started to yell back into the room at Graham, but completely forgot what I was going to say when he stepped out onto the balcony beside me wearing nothing but his tight briefs.
I smiled and shook my head yet again.
“So what,” I said, “now that you’re a meathead you walk around naked?”
Graham put up his hands, a fresh beer in one of them.
“I don’t work on it to hide it do I?” He said.
I chuckled. Almost everything he said was a joke in one way or another, even when he was serious.
“So, what’s the plan,” I asked. “Bar hop the strip like the old days?”
“You know it,” he said leaning on the railing. “Good thing about this place is that it’s walking distance of all the old spots. I almost picked this other place further up the coast off to itself. Elysian? Elysium? I don’t remember. It’s supposed to be amazing, but I’ve heard some weird shit happens there.”
I looked at him. “I’m not walking anywhere.”
“No, hell no,” Graham agreed. “It’s just convenient to be close.”
“No fights,” I said. “If I get hit nowadays it’s lights out for me.”
“I’m gonna be more focused on tail, Mack,” he replied. “You’d be amazed what kinda game I’ve developed.”
“Bullshit,” I laughed. “I’m willing to bet right now that you wind up embarrassing every girl you talk to and end up here blacked out like you always did.”
Graham laughed, which told me all I needed to know. He was thick now, but he still looked like the same gamer dork under it all. He’d always hated the light dusting of freckles on his face and arms. Though he had short blonde hair, we had always teased the guy about being a ginger. I noticed he must have ditched his glasses for contacts. I eyed his pale arms and his shoulders again. His neck was so much thicker now… maybe the guy didn’t need luck anymore.
“I guess I look so different now, huh?” Graham said suddenly.
I balked for a second. He’d caught me staring at him.
“Just checking out the new ink,” I lied.
“Just say it, man,” Graham said with a serious face. “I’m making you uncomfortable and you’re going to get all jealous later when I’ve got a hottie in the other bed throwing her all this meat.”
I rolled my eyes. “That’s definitely it.”
I faced the ocean, hiding my eyes from Graham’s. I remembered the way he used to make gay jokes just like that. It had been a riot during training or in the field, if not mildly offensive. I’d always played along.
I didn’t dare think of what Graham might say if he knew I’d been with several guys since we’d last seen each other. I’d never once mentioned it to him. I didn’t see a reason to. Besides, I had every intention of trying to hook up with a rowdy girl just like Graham later. We didn’t need to catch up on every single detail from our past after all.
“Well, keep preflighting,” Graham said, turning his beer up. He wiped his mouth and turned toward the hotel room.
“Will do,” I replied. “I still can’t believe half your luggage was beer.”
Graham laughed. “Gotta stay prepared man. What are we going to drink when we get back tonight?”
“Assuming we are even awake or alive by that point, there’s actually a bar downstairs.”
I nodded and pointed down toward the beach. “Tiki bar. I don’t think it’s the hotel’s either. Looks like a separate place.”
Graham offered me a shrug.
“Well, there you go,” he said. “Now we definitely won’t run out.”
I watched Graham sort through his luggage, finding his toothbrush and other items. I considered him one of my best friends, and yet still I found my eyes poring over his body. I tried to do so from the corner of my eyes. That slight dusting of freckles now followed the curves of his bulky arms, showing me their shape. His cheeky face was now framed by that solid jaw, fixed on a trunk of a neck. I really couldn’t help it. He was nearly a different guy, and so was I. In more ways than one.
“Be out in a bit,” Graham called as he turned toward the oversized bathroom. “You better look presentable when I get finished.”
“I’m showering, too, asshole,” I called after him.
I watched him walk away. It was something I’d never done.
I almanbahis yeni giriş blinked my eyes and turned back toward the ocean. I sipped my beer and sighed. Knowing Graham, it was going to be a crazy night. I wondered if I could still hang the way I used to years ago. I was older, but not an old man. We were in our thirties. Surely I could still toss ’em back and get a little too sauced up, right?
Another oddly colored drink was set in front of me. I rolled my eyes. I hadn’t ordered another one. It had to be Graham. I leaned over the railing of the second level of the bar… or whatever it was… and scanned the dance floor. Things were just beginning to get crowded in the tiny place.
Graham wasn’t hard to spot. I laughed when I saw his attempts at dancing. In all the years I’d known him, I’d never seen him even attempt the act. But there he was, gyrating his hips while wearing the strangest and most serious looking expression I’d ever seen. I couldn’t tell if he was being outwardly ridiculous again, or if that truly was apart of his arsenal of flailing dance maneuvers.
Two younger girls were dancing with one another, and Graham was trying his best to work his way in. From my perch, I saw it all and I couldn’t stop chuckling at the scene. The girls were trying to hide their laughter and continue dancing. Graham was either oblivious or purposely being embarrassing. It was part of his gimmick to get people to laugh, but this was getting sad. I thought about saving him.
I knew we wouldn’t be at this place all night. A DJ worked on a soundboard on the tiny stage. It all looked like a cross between a bar and a club, and pulled off neither of those atmospheres very well. We’d ducked into this place at Graham’s split second behest, after he spotted several prime scantily clad targets entering the bar ahead of us. Still, it looked pretty cool though. I kept the little round table on the upper deck for ourselves, not quite as willing to embarrass myself down on the dance floor like Graham.
I turned to face a young woman in a bikini top and shorts. I fought to force my eyes to meet hers.
“Uh, hi!” I offered back.
She leaned close and swept her blonde hair away from her ear, as if to better hear over the raucous of people and the blaring music.
“Are you here by yourself?” The girl asked.
I shook my head.
“Nah, I’m with a friend,” I told her.
“Yeah.” I turned and pointed toward the dance floor. “See the guy that looks like he’s having a seizure down there?”
The girl laughed and turned her blue eyes back to mine.
“I’m sorry to hear that!” She said with a big smile. “My friends and I were looking for a place to sit, we were hoping to talk you out of the table?”
I leaned back in my chair and sipped my drink. I tried to hide my sly grin.
“I’d be willing to share the space,” I said. “For a small fee.”
“Oh really?” The girl smiled, playing along. “What do we owe you?”
“You have to tell me your names and what your favorite drinks are,” I said. “I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.”
The girl grinned, cast a brief glance over her shoulder, then gently lowered herself into the chair across from me. There was something hidden behind her eyes that was peeking through.
“Well I’m Caitlyn,” the girl said. “My friends don’t talk to strangers either, so maybe we get to know each other.”
My eyes darted behind her, and I was able to spot another pair of ladies that were watching us and smiling. I silently wondered just what I’d done to deserve such luck. I decided not to dwell on it, else I promptly fuck it up.
“Alright, what brings you girls here?” I asked leaning away from the rail beside me and over the table. “Just out for a night on the town?”
“It’s my little sister’s birthday,” Caitlyn told me. “We’re trying to show her a good time.”
Though she sounded happy for her sister, Caitlyn slid a finger through the strap of her bikini top, “adjusting” the garment. I noticed how her eyes watched mine closely. I only let my eyes fall to her chest for a second, to let her see that I noticed.
“Well, is she having a good time?” I asked. “Or do you think she should be shown how to let loose?”
Caitlyn was smiling. She opened her mouth to continue the exchange when someone loudly cheered behind her. Both of us looked toward the stairway leading to the second floor, though I didn’t need my eyes to tell who was making all the noise.
“I know, I know!” Graham was yelling to the bystanders on the upper deck. “It’s not everyday you see moves like that. Someone has to show you how it’s done.”
Caitlyn was already turning a raised eyebrow toward me, though she still wore her smile.
Graham descended on our table, plopping both palms on the table top between Caitlyn and I. He looked at both of us.
“How dare you,” Graham said to me.
I shook my head, taking a casual sip of my drink. I’d been down this road before.
“I’m almanbahis giriş sorry?” Caitlyn interjected as politely as she could.
“We’ve been out of the house for two hours,” Graham went on, feigning disgust, “and you’re already trying to cheat on me with the hottest girl in the club?”
“Caitlyn, this is Graham,” I said flatly.
“Oh I’m just ‘Graham’ now, am I,” he said, keeping up the act. “Just Graham compared to this beauty, is that what you meant? Do I mean nothing to you?”
Caitlyn wore a smile still, but it was wooden. The confusion and shock was written all over her face. She glanced between Graham and I, clearly unsure of what to say.
“Listen, as long as you make him happy,” Graham told her. “That’s what’s important. I understand if it has to be this way.”
“Jesus, Graham,” I said shaking my head and smiling.
I had to hide my face for a moment to regain my composure.
“Um, yeah,” I heard Caitlyn say. “I’m gonna see what my friends want to drink real quick.”
The beautiful girl rose from the chair and began to make her way back to her friends through the clutter of drunks and tables. I could only watch her leave, eyeing her curves and the sway of her cut off shorts.
“Well,” I said, “that one’s not coming back.”
“Oh, c’mon,” Graham said, taking the seat across from me. “You don’t know that. Look she’s getting her friends.”
“And they’re all headed downstairs.” I folded my arms leaned toward Graham, striking an attentive pose. “How ever do you do it? You must teach me.”
Graham laughed. “Easy, fella. I’m pretty sure the one with black hair had to be snuck in earlier. That’s got courtroom written all over it.”
I watched the three girls at the bar downstairs. I actually saw point the Graham’s logic.
“Huh. Maybe so,” I said. “Caitlyn seemed plenty fine to me, though.”
Graham waved his hand and fetched his drink from beside the rail, taking several gulps before cringing.
“The night is still young, my man,” Graham said. “This is just the preshow. Can’t have you cutting out early with the first gold digger that talks to you. Who does that anyway? The loneliest guy here? Sitting alone at a lonely table? With his lonely wallet? I wonder how in the world they’ll ever get drinks.”
I shook my head, staring in awe at him.
“You know, sometimes I think you’re so incredibly ridiculous that you’re actually a genius,” I told him.
Graham nodded. “It’s not easy.”
There was a commotion downstairs. I turned to examine the scene, surprised to see every head in the place following a set of hands that were pointing upward.
In our direction.
“That’s him! He’s up there!”
Two of the girls were familiar. I remembered Graham flailing about like a fish out of water in front of those girls on the dance floor only moments ago. The two guys that were with the women did not look familiar. Instead they looked pissed.
“Um, friends of yours?” I asked turning to Graham.
Graham slurped the rest of his colorful drink before standing slowly from his chair. When he’d swallowed, he finally spoke.
“Yeah, I think it’s time we got the hell outta here,” he said.
For once, Graham was serious, and it scared me. I stood and followed him through the sea of people. I looked back to see the angry men parting their way through people as they climbed to the second floor.
“Graham, what did you do?”
When I turned back to find him, Graham was running. I followed suit, not wanting to find out the likely horrible answer to my question. The entire place watched us complete a full circuit around the second floor, stumble back down the stairs, and burst out of an exit door on the street level.
Graham and I had emerged in an alley. Before I could say anything, he was darting out toward the main boulevard. Onlookers from the floor above us peered out from the bar we’d just fled, cheering the scene on. My drunken feet carried me toward the end of the alley with Graham panting ahead of me.
“Go left!” Graham shouted back to me.
Behind I could hear the door to the bar burst open again. A chorus of whoops erupted from our spectators. We sped out onto the sidewalk. I banked left just as Graham had said, only to watch him peel off in the opposite direction.
“Jesus, that’s right, Graham!”
“Improvise!” Graham yelled back.
As I spun on my heels and reversed course, I saw the two angry guys speeding down the alley. Graham and I charged through a crowded sidewalk, barrelling through confused pedestrians and charging across a traffick jammed street.
We slowed when we were near the end of the block. I could hear the men shouting at us, though it was distant. I turned and saw they no longer gave chase.
I stopped next to Graham as he propped himself on his knees next to a bench on the sidewalk. The two of us panted, unable to form words for several moments.
“So… I guess… I guess I’ll get the rest of that story… sometime tonight?” I gasped.
Graham looked up at me and blew out a long blast of air. His eyes scanned back across the street. He threw his hands up.
“I guess they really are married,” he told me. “Probably shouldn’t have showed them the credit card move.”
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