After Hurricane Nina–Nolan’s Resolution
November 30, 2016, Hurricane Nina Hits Bali, Indonesia.
This is crazy, man.” Lenny Johnson leaned out over the railing, his jacket full of wind like it was a goddamn parachute, the gust so strong his jowls were flapping.
“We should go in!” Olivia yelled above the storm as her rainbow-colored hair whipped around her face, her words swallowed by the sound of the crashing waves.
Nolan and his friends had been watching the mass of weather coming in for the last couple of hours and by now the sky was battleship grey and the sea churned like a fucking churn-y thing—okay, the metaphors might need some work before he added this to his travel blog!
“Whoa!” He jumped back three feet as a huge wall of water crashed over the sea wall, sending a flood around his feet. “Fuck! Did you see that? We must be forty feet above the ocean. Jesus Christ.” His feet squelched and as the water oozed between his toes, he grimaced. There was no way his boots would ever dry before they hiked back to Denpasar. All being well, they had a plane to catch the day after tomorrow. Heading off on the last leg of their year-long backpacking extravaganza, they were bound for Australia, where they’d spend Christmas before flying back home to San Francisco.
Lenny grabbed Olivia and pulled her in front of him, his hand steadying her waist, securing her petite five-three frame. He took her hand and kissed the wedding band on her finger, a gesture that made Nolan roll his eyes. The day Lenny met Olivia was the day he turned into a sap—but who could blame the guy. The girl was beautiful inside and out and, no matter how hard Nolan tried not to like this tiny Latino—after all, she did steal his best friend—he couldn’t conjure up any malice against her.
“Put your arms out, Livi; we’re Leo and Kate,” Lenny’s voice was low and seductive. He turned and winked at Nolan. “I’m his fucking doppelgänger, don’t you think?”
“Sure, if DiCaprio blacked up, you could be twins.”
Lenny gave Nolan a shit-eating grin. “Take the picture, Nol.”
As the couple braced themselves against the wind, Nolan pulled out his phone and tried to frame the shot. “Shit.” He stumbled as another strong gust hit him. “You know this will be crap, right?” The wind buffeted him some more and his arms jerked right and left in the gale. Just as he was about to snap the shot, spray showered them all and the lens was immediately covered in water droplets. Nolan snapped the shot anyway, capturing Lenny as he turned Olivia’s face to him so he could kiss her.
Nolan chuckled as the couple became oblivious to the hurricane bearing down on them and launched into a full-on make-out session. Seriously, it had been like traveling with his own personal porn movie going on! His two friends married six months before they left San Francisco and Nolan was pretty sure they had made it their mission to fuck each other’s brains out at every tourist attraction along the way.
Perhaps it should bother him, but Nolan perversely liked it— but then again, maybe it was because he was a kinky bastard, or perhaps just a horny one. In contrast, his own love life wasn’t so hot. Nolan’s girlfriend dumped him before they got out of Europe. Well, it was bound to have happened as his relationships rarely lasted more than a few weeks, and he had no idea why he decided it was a good idea to invite Rachel along on a trip that would last a whole year. They’d been seeing each other three months—a world record in Nolan’s book—and he supposed the idea of having someone warming his bed every night seemed all the more attractive considering Lenny and Livi were practically joined at the hip.
But of course, it was a disaster. When he flew on to Italy with Lenny and Olivia, Rachel remained with Nicco, a blond-haired, blue-eyed guy she met in the Netherlands. Nolan couldn’t say he was that sad about how that turned out. Rachel had proven to be far too precious for a backpacking trip around the world. She hadn’t stopped whining since she saw the first hostel in London. In fact, Nolan was surprised she made it as long as the two weeks it took them to get to Amsterdam.
So, for almost nine months, Len, Olivia, and he had been a threesome. And he probably should have phrased that better because that seriously was never gonna happen! Livi was devoted to Len and he to her and, as much as Nolan loved them both, he wasn’t interested in fucking either of them. Well, perhaps that wasn’t quite true. Olivia was an angel and there may have been a moment of weakness or two when he wished he’d seen her first. But Len was his best friend since kindergarten and, despite Nolan’s reputation for having zero morals, he would never do anything that would come between them.
Another gust took them by surprise and Olivia almost toppled over the rail. Both Lenny and Nolan made a grab for her, yanking her back onto terra firma.
“Shit, Livi’s right, we should go inside. Let’s sit out the rest of Hurricane Nina at the bar.” Nolan half-yelled and half-laughed at the lunacy of being out in this ridiculous weather.
The palm trees were almost bent double and they could barely see a thing as they put their heads down and walked back toward the hotel. Nolan glanced up at the four-star luxury building. This place was gonna cost them a small fucking fortune, but it seemed more structurally sound than the backpacker huts they were staying in down on the beach. Besides, after nine months of roughing it in hostels, he could do with an upgrade for a couple of nights. Nolan was so over bunks and bedbug-infested mattresses. Tonight, they’d share a double queen with sparkling white sheets and a pristine bathroom. For the first time in months, he was looking forward to having a hot shower—that was if the freaking water and power stayed on!
Lenny bumped shoulders with Nolan. “You reckon there’s any chance of you staying out all night tonight?” He winked, a grin appearing on his face.
“Seriously? I gave you guys a couple of hours this afternoon.”
“Come on, a few hours? Don’t be a cock blocker.”
Nolan rolled his eyes. “What am I supposed to do while you two are fucking?”
“Are you losing your game, Nol? Since Rachel left you’ve hardly been with anyone else. Oh, my God, were you really into her? Did she break your heart?”
“What? No.” Nolan could honestly say he hadn’t thought about the woman once. “I’m taking a break.”
Nolan grinned back at his friend. “Yeah, well I thought I’d set my sights a little higher, you know.” Nolan turned and walked backwards, studying Lenny holding onto Olivia’s hand. He flashed his friend’s wife a cheesy grin. “I’m waiting for someone like Olivia to come along.”
Lenny punched him on the shoulder. “Too bad you’ve got no hope.” He tugged his wife into his side and hugged her. “You’re gonna’ get blue balls holding out for that. They only made one perfect woman, and she’s all mine.”
Nolan shook his head and laughed it off, but he couldn’t help but think Lenny was right. He always knew Olivia was special, but these last nine months or so traveling with them both, he’d seen just how unique she was. ‘Yeah, I’m thinking something like Olivia was what I need to find.’
Nolan turned back into the gale, hoping the sentimental words of the John Mayer song would get blown out of his head.
“What’s that?” Len yelled and Nolan followed the direction his friend pointed across the hotel’s garden.
It was hard to make out the fuzzy shapes because the visibility was so shitty, but as Nolan squinted, he saw two kids being battered by the wind as they tried to negotiate their way along the cliff wall. They were a couple of urchins Nolan had seen earlier hanging around the hotel perimeter. They turned out with dozens of others around the dumpsters after hotel mealtimes. It broke his heart to see them scrabble for the scraps of congealing all-you-can-eat hotel buffet the tourists left.
The boys were headed across the hotel gardens toward the waste ground next to the kitchens where a number of the street kids camped out in makeshift shelters. Nolan’s eyes drifted to the jumbled campground where there were already large chunks of it blowing away.
From nowhere, an enormous swell appeared beyond the sea wall. It reared up, the top cresting, the filthy frothing foam resembling the rabid mouth of a giant sea monster. It looked like those enormous waves surfers cream themselves over in Hawaii—except this motherfucker was a writhing mass of silt and debris and it was racing toward the kids as they struggled to stay on their feet in the wind.
“Watch out!” Lenny yelled, but his voice didn’t carry and the kids continued to stagger forward.
Len was gone before Nolan could stop him, his deep voice only just cutting through the high-pitched howling wind. “Get inside, I’ll grab the kids.”
There was no use telling him not to be fucking stupid because by the time Nolan realized what his friend was doing, Lenny was out of hearing range.
Olivia shrieked, “No, Len, come back!” But Nolan grabbed her bicep and forced her down the winding path and in through the hotel door. Once inside, it was a fight to close the thing behind them and by the time Nolan and a security guard secure it shut, Livi had fought her way to the floor to ceiling windows. She pressed her nose against the glass and peered through the gloom for her husband.
As Nolan hooked his arm over her shoulder, she looked up at him with tears in her eyes.
“Hey, don’t worry, he will be back any moment.” He had every confidence in his words.
Lenny was six-four and played football in college. He had to weigh at least two-fifty and was a living, breathing wall of muscle. He was a great guy to travel with, especially through Asia as he towered above everyone else. It was no coincidence they hadn’t been robbed or swindled. Most guys took one look at his menacing frame and backed away.
An hour later, Nolan’s confidence had crumbled. The hotel pulled down the shutters forty-five minutes ago, refusing to allow him back outside to look for his friend and they found themselves trapped inside while Lenny was out there. Even when Olivia screamed at them hysterically, they still wouldn’t let Nolan leave to find Lenny.
That was the longest fucking night of Nolan’s life. They huddled together in one of the queen beds, neither of them daring to speak or speculate, in case their worst fears came true.
Nineteen hours later, the hotel staff finally brought up the shutters and they were the first to fly out the door. The devastation that hit them was more than they could have imagined. They ran to the cliff wall and peered down onto Pandawa Beach. Where there was once pristine golden sand, a pile of debris—clothing, plastic buckets, wood, branches, and contorted pieces of corrugated iron—littered the renowned beauty spot as far as they could see.
“Oh, my God!” Livi pointed to the now bare patch of ground next to the hotel, which had once been the urchin’s mini shanty town—there was nothing left, the entire space flattened
A huge lump stuck in Nolan’s throat. He didn’t want to imagine what happened to its residents. Running to the steps near where they had last seen Lenny, they raced down them onto the beach and picked their way through the debris. Livi pushed her hand into Nolan’s, her fingernails digging into his flesh as they turned over sheets of torn plywood and peered under contorted debris. They searched for hours, each minute expecting to find Lenny’s body twisted beneath the trash.
It was ten days—ten fucking torturous days—before they gave up. Nolan and Olivia travelled up and down the island between the small coastal towns checking the beaches, moving from one temporary morgue to another. The airport refunded their tickets to Sydney and, after a frustrating two hours on the phone, Nolan eventually managed to organize flights back to San Francisco. He had no idea how they kept it together during the trip back but he did remember holding Olivia’s hand the whole way. Her platinum wedding band glinted in the low light of the airplane cabin, a constant reminder of what she’d lost. When they stepped off the plane in San Francisco, they witnessed a coffin being wheeled from the hold. They’d been told another American had lost his life to Hurricane Nina and it almost broke them because Nolan and Olivia didn’t even get to bring Lenny home to bury.
As they watched the small procession of people accompanying the coffin cross the runway, Nolan ran through the events that led them to this point. Could he have stopped this? If he’d insisted on going back into the hotel earlier, or if they’d stayed in Ubud like they’d planned instead of deciding to visit the hidden cliff beach at the last minute, would Lenny still be with them?
About The Authors Of This Series
Natalie Ann is a USA Today bestselling author who writes steamy contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and light paranormal.
Angela Stevens is an Amazon Best Selling Author who writes steamy contemporary romance, contemporary urban fantasy, paranormal, Native American themes, and children’s books.
Suzanne Jenkins is a USA Today bestselling author who writes women’s fiction, steamy contemporary romance, mystery, and suspense.
Alicia Street is a USA Today bestselling author and Daphne du Maurier award-winner. She writes both sweet and steamy contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and light paranormal.
Katie O’Sullivan is an award winning author who writes steamy contemporary romance and young adult paranormal.
Stephanie Morris is a USA Today bestselling author who writes steamy contemporary romance and paranormal.
Nicole Morgan is a USA Today bestselling author who writes steamy contemporary romance, paranormal, and romantic suspense.
Tamara Ferguson is a USA Today bestselling author and multi- award winning author including Reader’s Favorite Bronze, Silver, and Gold medals in Military Fiction who writes both sweet and steamy contemporary romance and romantic suspense.