“Tropical Temptation” is the first in a series featuring beach wear boutique owner Kristen Maroney. Kristen lives and works in Placencia, a coastal town in the tiny Caribbean country of Costa del Oro. She lives the good life in Paradise: owns her own business, dates a hot casino manager, buys resort wear from the best collections, lunches with friends and watches TV with her Labrador retriever. But for all her love of the status quo, she can’t keep her nose out of other peoples’ business, and when her friend Amelia’s husband starts acting strangely, she jumps right in, only to quickly find herself in over her head without a life preserver. In no time at all her financial and emotional well-being hang in the balance.
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Please, enjoy an except:
When I think back on it, the chain of events seems inevitable. But that’s only because it’s over, and I can see how each thing precipitated the next. At the time, life seemed to unfold in its usual unhurried way, with no particular place to go. Events occurred in random succession, except that every day had a morning, a noon, and a night. I sat in my shop and waited for customers, or left my assistant Belinda in charge and ran errands. I had dinner and stayed over with my boyfriend Conrad every couple of nights, and I socialized with friends over a drink or lunch. At first, all I noticed was that my friend Amelia’s husband was acting strange. Little did I know.
My name is Kristen Maroney, and I own a beach and resort wear boutique in Placencia, a Caribbean town in northern Costa del Oro. We use Caribbean dollars, which are worth about 40 cents US, and we speak English, although Spanish is the official language. I’m happily divorced and living alone in a rented house in the hills above town, except for Buster, my Labrador retriever. I’m friends with my neighbor Liz who sits on her veranda and writes all day long. When I’m not with my boyfriend Conrad, Buster and I eat dinner on my deck, which has a decent view of the ocean. Or we go see Liz for BYO dinners. For his part, Buster’s in it for the handouts, but I don’t mind. It’s his nature.
I don’t have children and don’t anticipate any, though I sometimes wonder if I’m missing something. I like being around my friend Amelia’s kids but I’m probably too old to do it full time. Conrad is divorced and saddled with hefty alimony and child support payments, so there’s no pressure from that direction. My parents live far away in Las Vegas, and besides they gave up on me doing normal things like having babies a long time ago. They look to my sister for that.
I’m overweight with shoulder length curly black hair and brown eyes. Conrad says I’m voluptuous, so I don’t worry about the weight, but I do color my hair every six weeks while I catch up on gossip at Nina’s Beauty Salon. What few clothes I need I order from designer overstock, a well-kept industry secret, and one of the few things I value from my fashion stylist days.
When I was married I lived in San Francisco and neither the city nor the marriage was much fun. I worked endless hours dressing women at Bacca da Silva and rarely got to enjoy the city. I dressed models for shows and customers for profit, and didn’t like any of them that I can remember. In the fashion industry, drugs and booze constitute the basic food groups, and a sizable chunk of my salary went in that direction. I had trouble tolerating my clients’ vanities and insecurities unless I was high.
My ex-husband Mark is a hottie, and he knows it. He sells real estate and models men’s clothing when he can get gigs. At first, he was attentive and romantic, but soon after we married, he began making excuses for evening absences, and it wasn’t long before I came home unexpectedly one afternoon and found him in the shower with another guy. I packed a suitcase and left.
A couple of months later I moved to Costa del Oro and opened my shop in Placencia. I don’t do drugs anymore and I rarely drink, apart from a glass of wine or a bottle of beer over dinner. I’m no health nut, but I don’t relish sabotaging my body on purpose either. My shop is narcissistically named Kristen del Mar, and I carry the same resort wear you’ll find in Myrtle Beach or Miami.
One day when I came back from lunch, I found Jordan, the dive shop owner, lounging in my chair, shooting the breeze with Belinda. He wore his usual Santa Margarita swim shorts with boat shoes, and a black t-shirt that was thin with use and faded from the sun. His eyes were hooded and bloodshot. Jordan and his wife Claire like to fire up blunts at night, and because he smokes so much, he looks stoned even when he’s not. Thankfully he doesn’t do weed when he’s diving.
“What’s up, Jordie?” I asked.
“Just messed with a bunch of dolphin peepers,” he grinned. “They were cruising out by Howler Caye, everyone on board stripped down and eager to commune with nature. I pulled Reef Man alongside and threw over some pamphlets, then circled them blasting my horn. Not a dolphin in sight. I kept up the noise until they took off. No swimming with the fishies today.” He giggled at the memory.
“Someone’s going to send you to swim with the fishies if you’re not careful,” I warned, not for the first time. “The dolphin people have your number and they’re not happy.”
“There’s a truce,” he laughed. “I don’t pressure the press to write about how swimming with marine mammals causes them stress, and they don’t retaliate when I buzz them out on the salt. Nobody wants to escalate.”
“So what’s the good of buzzing them?’ I asked.
“I get to educate people, spread the word about how the interference disturbs reproductive cycles. Basically people don’t know. They think it’s beautiful to swim with the dolphins, tra, la la.”
“Well the noise you make is probably more stressful than the swimmers. Wouldn’t it be better to set up a website and get the chamber of commerce and the B ‘n B’s to link to it?”