For me, this slice of heaven will include the spa, zip-lining, snorkeling, and every manner of adventure I can find—including adventures of the alcoholic variety. If Ethan’s idea of a perfect vacation is brooding, complaining, and sighing exasperatedly, he can surely do that anywhere he wants, but I don’t have to endure it.
I quickly check my email and see a new one from Hamilton. The offer is . . . well, suffice it to say I don’t need to look through anything else to know I’ll take it. They could tell me my desk was perched on the lip of a volcano, and I would accept in a heartbeat for this kind of money.
Pulling out my iPad, I digitally sign everything and send it off.
Practically vibrating, I thumb through the list of hotel activities and decide that the first order of business is a celebratory facial and body scrub down at the spa. Solo. I don’t think Ethan is much of a pampering type, but the worst thing would be to have him lift a cooling cucumber slice off my eyelid and glare down at me while I’m lounging in a robe.
“Ethan,” I call, “what are you up to this afternoon?”
In the answering silence, I sense his panic that I might be requesting his company.
“I’m not asking because I want to hang,” I add quickly.
He hesitates again, and when he finally answers, his voice comes out tinny, like he’s actually climbed into the closet. “Thank God.”
Well. “I’m probably going to head down to the spa.”
“Do whatever you want. Just don’t use all the massage credits,” he tacks on.
I scowl, even though he can’t see me. “How many times do you think I’m going to get rubbed down in a single afternoon?”
“I’d rather not contemplate.”
I flip the bird in his general direction, consult the directory to confirm that the spa has showers I can use, grab my key card, and leave Ethan to his surly unpacking.
• • •
GUILT EDGES IN A TINY bit when I am being pampered and indulged for nearly three hours using Ami’s name. My face is exfoliated, massaged, and moisturized. My body is covered in clay, scrubbed until I’m red and tingly all over, and then covered with warm eucalyptus towels.
I make a silent promise to put aside money from each paycheck for a while so that I can send my sister to a lavish spa back home when she no longer feels “like a freshly reanimated corpse.” It may not be Maui, but any little bit I can pay her back for this, I’m committed to do. All I have to do this entire week is tip the staff; it seems so preposterous. This type of blissful, transcendent spa experience isn’t for me. I’m the one who gets a fungal infection from a pedicure in the Cities and a bikini wax burn at a spa in Duluth.
Limp as a jellyfish all over and drunk on endorphins, I look up at my therapist. “That was . . . amazing. If I ever win the lottery, I’m going to move here and pay you to do that every day.”
She probably hears that daily, but she laughs like I am exceedingly clever. “I’m glad you enjoyed yourself.”
Enjoyed myself is an understatement. Not only was it dreamy, but it was a full three hours away from Ethan.
I’m led back to the lounge, where I’m told to take as much time as I want. Diving into the plush couch, I pull my phone from the pocket of my robe. I’m unsurprised to see messages from my mom (Tell your dad to bring us some toilet paper and Gatorade), my sister (Tell mom to go hooooome), Diego (Is this punishment for making fun of Natalia’s terrible bleach job? I’d say I’m sorry but I’ve seen mops with fewer split ends), and Jules (Do you care if I stay at your place while you’re gone? This thing is like the plague and I might have to burn down my apartment).
Too tired and blissed out to deal with any of it now, I pick up a well-loved copy of Us Weekly. But not even celebrity gossip or the latest Bachelor drama can keep me awake, and I feel my eyelids closing under the weight of happy exhaustion.
“Hmm?” I hum, groggy.
“Ms. Torres, is that you?” Eyes bolting open, I nearly overturn the cucumber water I’ve got precariously perched on my chest. When I sit, I look up and nearly all I see is an enormous white mustache.
And oh. I know this mustache; I first met this mustache at a highly important interview. I remember at the time thinking, Wow, a Sam Elliott doppelgänger is the CEO here at Hamilton Biosciences! Who knew?
My eyes move up. Yes, the Sam Elliott doppelgänger—Charles Hamilton, my new boss’s boss—is right in front of me at the Spa Grande in Maui.
Wait . . . what?
“Mr. Hamilton! Hi!”
“I thought that was you.” He looks tanner than when I saw him a few weeks ago, his white hair a touch longer, and he definitely wasn’t wearing a fluffy white robe and slippers.
He crosses the room, arms outstretched for a hug.
Oh. Okay, we’re going to do this. I stand, and he catches my expression of discomfort—because I don’t usually hug my bosses, especially not when naked under a robe—and then I see when he registers that his brain is on vacation and he doesn’t hug his employees, either, but we’re committed now and come together in an awkward side hug that ensures our robes don’t gape anywhere.
“If this isn’t a small world,” he says once he’s pulled away. “Recharging the batteries before starting your new adventure at Hamilton? That’s exactly what I like to see. Can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself first.”
“Exactly.” My nerves have dumped buckets of adrenaline into my veins; going from Zen to New Boss Alert is jarring. I pull the tie on my robe a little tighter. “And I want to thank you again for the opportunity. I am beyond excited to be joining the team.”
Mr. Hamilton waves me off. “The minute we spoke I knew you’d be a great fit. Your dedication to Butake was commendable. I always say that Hamilton is nothing without the good people working there. Honesty, integrity, loyalty—those are our hallmarks.”
I nod; I like Mr. Hamilton—he has an impeccable reputation in the biosciences field and is known for being an incredibly involved and hands-on CEO—but I can’t help but note that this line is an almost exact replica of the one he gave me as we shook hands at the end of the interview. Now that I’ve lied to about twenty people on the hotel’s staff, hearing it here feels more ominous than inspiring.
The sound of quickened footsteps can be heard on the other side of the door before a panicked Kelly bursts through. “Mrs. Thomas.”
My stomach drops.
“Oh, thank God you’re still here. You left your wedding ring in the treatment room.” She offers an outstretched hand and places the simple band in my palm.
I let out a deranged silent scream inside my cranium while I manage to give her a muted thanks.
“ ‘Mrs. Thomas?’ ” Hamilton prompts.
The therapist looks between us, obviously confused.
“You mean Torres,” he says.
“No . . .” She blinks down to a clipboard and then back to us. “This is Mrs. Thomas. Unless there’s been some mistake . . . ? ”
I realize there are two things I can do here:
1. I could admit that I had to take my sister’s honeymoon because she got sick and am pretending to be married to a guy named Ethan Thomas so we can snag this sweet honeymoon package, or
2. I could lie my face off and tell them that I just got married and—silly me—I’m not used to my new name yet.
In either case, I am a liar. Option one leaves me with my integrity. However, with option two I won’t disappoint my new boss (especially given that half my interview was focused on building a workforce with “a strong moral compass” and people who “put honesty and integrity above everything else”), and won’t end up sleeping on the beach, hungry and unemployed, with only a giant spa and hotel bill to use as shelter.
I know there’s an obvious right choice here, but I do not make it.
“Oh yeah. Just got married.”
Oh God. Why? Why does my mouth do this? That was honestly the worst choice. Because now, when we return home, I’m going to have to pretend to be married whenever I run into Mr. Hamilton—which could be daily—or fess up to getting fake divorced immediately after the fake wedding.
His smile is so big it lifts the mustache. The therapist is relieved the weird moment of tension is gone and excuses herself with a smile. Still beaming, Mr. Hamilton reaches out, shaking my hand. “Well, now, that is some wonderful news. Where was the wedding?”
At least here I can be truthful: “At the Hilton, downtown St. Paul.”
“My gosh,” he says, shaking his head, “just starting out. What a blessing.” He leans in and winks. “My Molly and I are here celebrating our thirtieth anniversary, can you believe it?”
I make my eyes round, like it’s just wild that this white-haired man has been married for so long, and fumble through some noises about that being amazing and exciting and you must just be . . . so happy.
And then he takes out a metaphorical anvil and knocks me into the floor: “Why don’t you two join us for dinner?”
Me and Ethan, sitting beside each other at a table, having to . . . touch, and smile, and pretend to love each other? I stifle a chortle.
“Oh, we couldn’t impose. You two probably never get away together.”
“Of course we do! The kids are out of the house—it’s just us two all the time. Come on. It’s our last night, and I’m sure she’s sick of me, to be honest!” He lets out a hearty laugh. “It wouldn’t be any imposition at all.”
If there’s a way out of this situation, I’m not coming up with it fast enough. I think I have to bite the bullet.
Smiling—and hoping I look far less terrified than I feel—I give in. I need this job, and am dying to land in Mr. Hamilton’s good graces. I’m going to have to ask Ethan for a huge favor. I’m going to owe him so big, it makes me want to hurl.