We stand under the canopy next to the seaplane and wait for the W Mal- dives staff to take us to our villas. I look over at Erik and Orie and step close to them, needing their protection. Clayton stands a few feet away, stares at me for a second more then turns toward his friends, who’ve been watching the entire scenario closely. The women, I note, don’t look too happy with me or with him.
Three women from the resort walk over with wet towels and drinks. I take both gladly. I wipe my face with the towel and then take a long sip of the drink. I notice that Erik and Orie are suspiciously quiet. I raise a brow.
“You know what,” Erik whispers.
“I think you might get laid on this trip,” Orie says a bit too loudly.
I almost spit out my drink.
“Orie!” My face turns red as I quickly look around to see if anyone heard him. And by anyone, I mean him.
“What? It’s about time, girl,” he says innocently. “You’re the last of your kind. Who else do you know who’s a virgin at twenty- three? It’s a sacrilege.”
“He’s right, you know,” Erik chimes in with a smile. “It’s kind of like the worst thing I’ve ever heard.”
I can’t even manage a response.
“There’s gotta be cobwebs in there by now,” he continues as he sips his drink. “It can’t be too pretty.”
Orie holds out his drink and clinks with Erik. “Here’s to our girl finally arriving at the party.”
I choke on my drink this time and Erik hits me on the back. Are they serious? I look over to where Clayton is standing with his friends and notice that his arms are crossed and his head is tilted slightly to the side. Almost like he’s listening. There’s a small smile on his face, maybe from something his friends said or from the TMI that my friends have blurted out to the world. Who knows? But in any case, I feel like Renee Zellweger in the movie Bridget Jones’s Diary, when she walks into the party wearing a bunny costume when it wasn’t a dress-up party and everyone else was wear- ing normal clothes. Except in my case, girl in bunny outfit means VIRGIN. Oh my God, I think I really am going to die.
“Would you guys please lower your voices?” I manage to mutter.
Erik raises his brows and shrugs his shoulders.
“You can’t fault a guy for being honest.”
Before I can give them both a proper lecture on the merits of absti- nence, a nice-looking gentleman dressed in white linen pants and shirt walks over to us.
“Miss Sophie Walker?” he asks with a smile.
“I’m Iain Summers, the general manager. It is a pleasure to have you here with us at the W Spa & Resort.”
“Thank you so much. These are my friends, Erik Johnson and Orie Pratt.”
“Lovely to meet you all.” Iain motions toward a young Indian man.
“This is Bikram. He will be your butler for the duration of your stay.”
A butler? This resort really is no joke. Bikram smiles at us cordially. I like him instantly.
“Nice to meet you, Bikram,” we all say.
“Miss Walker, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Pratt, welcome to our island. If you’re ready, I would like to show you to your bungalow now.” Bikram speaks with a thick accent. He has a general sense of calm about him that you don’t see too often. Who wouldn’t, I think to myself as I look around at the general splendor. Working in heaven every day would be anyone’s dream.
We grab our carry-on luggage and follow Bikram to the golf cart that he’s using to take us to our bungalow. We pass Clayton and his friends, who are now talking to Iain. He is laughing, but looks over at me and nods. I blush and look away. He’s too good looking for words. I’m thankful the golf cart is waiting to take me away from drooling over his perfection. Bikram gets in the driver’s seat, Erik and Orie take the middle seats, and I am unfortunately left at the back of the cart facing behind, which happens to be toward Clayton and his friends. I pretend to study my manicure so I won’t stare. Again.
“Isn’t this unbelievable?” Erik says in excitement as the cart drives off.
“It’s heaven,” I agree. I turn around to face them and smile as Orie and Erik lean into each other, holding hands. They are so in love. I’m so happy for them. This is the perfect setting for romance and it makes me long for what they have. A companion. A lover. A mate. I wonder if it will ever happen.
Bikram takes a left off the dock and heads away from the overwater villas, which have a panoramic view of the Indian Ocean. We’ve booked a beach bungalow because it’s a bit cheaper.
I’m happy with it but I do kind of wish that we were staying in an overwater one. Perched on top of the ocean every day like that would surely be the experience of a lifetime. My gaze settles on a giant villa that sits at the end of the long wooden path that leads along a row of villas that rest on the sea. Bikram motions toward them.
“Those are the Seascape Villas and at the end is the Ocean Haven.”
“It is enormous!” I’m sure he can hear the awe in my voice. What kind of people get to stay there?
“Yes, it is unbelievable, too. The villa is fifty-two hundred square feet, with a living room and two bedrooms. It is really fantastic. Very luxurious. It is the jewel of the Maldives.”
“How much does it go for?” Orie asks curiously. I’m glad he does because I’m dying to know.
“It is about fifteen thousand American dollars a night right now, in high season.”
“Wow,” I say.
“So it’s like the Hope Diamond of villas?” Orie says to Bikram, who laughs at his comparison.
“Yes, I guess you could call it that, Mr. Pratt.” Bikram says.
“Is it booked?” Orie is never afraid to ask anything. Nothing fazes or embarrasses him. Another one of the amazing qualities I love about him.
“Yes, sir, a guest has just booked the villa for fifteen nights. I believe he’s checking in today. He is a returning guest. He stayed with us last year for fifteen days as well.”
“That’s . . . ” Orie whistles softly.
“A lot of fucking money,” Erik finishes. My thoughts exactly.
Bikram smiles. “Yes, Mr. Pratt. It is a lot of money.”
“Must be nice,” Orie says with a smile, but I know he could care less. Money has never been a driving force for him. He’s more of a live-your- passion kind of guy.
We head down a white sandy path, off the beach and deeper into the lush, tropical island. I marvel at all the foliage and vibrant colors of this small paradise. The beach villas blend in well with the jungle vegetation. I’m struck again by the awesome picture, the live canvas of art that is right here every day for guests to see.
Bikram continues down the velvet sandy path and gives us a quick tour of the resort. Almost all the restaurants are centrally located in one pocket of the island next to the main u-shaped beach and are accessible on foot. All the restaurants and the gym are clustered close together. We’re surprised to hear that there’s a small underground dance club on the island that is open three nights a week. We’re told that we can ask for bikes, but honestly everything is so close that I can’t imagine why you’d need them.
The spa is located in a giant villa across from the overwater guest villas. It looks like the ultimate sanctuary. I can’t wait to have a massage.
Everything is so tastefully done and just reeks of relaxation. Bikram tells us that they have yoga and water classes for free every morning in the main guest pool, which is next to the restaurant where they serve breakfast. We all quickly decide to attend the following day.
“I can book any treatment for you at the spa at any time. There are many wonderful options. And we are very pleased to have Noom with us right now.”
“Who is she?” I ask.
“She is a crystal energy healer,” Bikram tells us. “She is very famous here on the island. Lots of Hollywood celebrities come to see her.”
“Really?” Erik asks. “Hollywood celebrities, huh?”
“Yes, sir. She can cure anything, from physical to mental ailments.”
Erik immediately turns to look at me.
“You’ve gotta see her.”
Gee, thanks. Do I look like I need that much help, I think.
“Yes, you do,” Erik says, obviously reading my mind.
“Would you like me to book a session with Noom for tomorrow, Miss Walker?”
“Yes, please,” I say. If I don’t do it, I know Erik will for me. Who knows? Maybe Noom will be able to help me.
“Around ten o’clock, after your breakfast?” Bikram asks me pleasantly.
“That sounds perfect.” Well, great. I haven’t been here for a day and I’m already in therapy. I guess I can’t complain, because I did come here to have an awakening of sorts.
Bikram makes a quick turn and heads down another path, away from the main resort buildings but still along the sea. He soon pulls up to a straw-thatched bungalow.
“We have you booked at the Beach Oasis.”
We jump off the cart and follow Bikram as he opens the door to our bungalow. I gasp in pleasure. It is spectacular. We have a cozy living area that leads into the master room with a king-sized bed that looks welcoming and plush with its crisp, white bedding. There’s a staircase in the living area that goes up to a deck with views across the sea, for daytime or an evening of star gazing. We also have a private sundeck with access to the white sand beach. And our own circular daybed that sits next to a plunge pool I can’t wait to jump into.
We walk back into the living room and Bikram opens another door.
“And this is your connecting oasis, with a twin bed for Miss Walker. You also have your own private bath.”
The room is pretty and I’m really happy but I can’t help but frown at the twin bed. Will I always sleep on a twin bed alone?
He’s no dummy. He knows how this looks. He knows what I’m think- ing. You are pathetic, my mind screams at me. What were you thinking? Coming to the Maldives, the most romantic place in the world, all alone?
“You don’t like it?” Bikram asks in concern. He can’t miss the frown on my face.
“Oh no, no, Bikram. It is unreal. This is all so wonderful. Thank you,” I quickly answer, hoping I haven’t offended him in the slightest. It’s not his fault I’m a spinster. Or a loser. Or a twenty- three year old virgin loser.
Bikram doesn’t look convinced, so I smile brightly at him and hope I’m a good actress. “I love this.”
He nods slowly then motions toward our luggage, which we notice is already in the room.
“Please enjoy your stay, and if you need anything, I am at your service. I will confirm your appointment with Noom for tomorrow, Miss Walker.”
“Thank you, Bikram.”
Before he leaves, he pauses at the door. “I almost forgot to tell you that tomorrow night is our end of days party on the beach. I would be more than happy to book you a table.”
“End of days?” I ask curiously.
“Yes, tomorrow is a holy day. According to the old island-dwellers, it is either the end of the world as we know it or a rebirth. It is a very spiritual time. We will celebrate life tomorrow night.”
Huh. If it’s the end, I’m dying a virgin. I know Erik and Orie will be more than happy to point this out.
“Please make a reservation. We will be there to celebrate with you all,” Orie tells him.
Bikram leaves us to our oasis. We are all quiet for a moment.
“Sophie, there’s hope for you yet. Maybe the Holy Ghost will pay you a visit tomorrow night.” Erik says to me with a mischievous grin.
“That’s just rude,” I tell him pointedly. “And blasphemous.”
“Oh shit. Did our girl just throw a five-dollar word at us?” Orie laughs.
I look for something tangible to throw at them both and then the real- ity of where we are settles in. This is really paradise. We are the luckiest people alive.
Mad Love Synopsis:
23-year-old aspiring artist Sophie Walker can think of no better place than the exotic paradise of the Maldives Islands to escape the wrath of her controlling parents, the monotony of her boring legal work and her passionless boyfriend. With her two best friends along for the ride and to help her find herself again, Sophie is not prepared for the enigmatic Clayton Sinclair. Clayton comes from another world of privilege that seems like a fantasy to Sophie. Can this man introduce her to the passion & seduction she never realized she was desperately searching for? Sophie quickly becomes ensnared in Clayton's seductive web until a shocking treachery makes her question her judgment and actions
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Colet Abedi Bio: