Abel Lawson groaned under his breath as another group of alphas walked pass them without even glancing at his shiny chest slathered in suntan lotion.
“Ernie, am I ugly? Should I put a shirt on? What about a bag to go over my head?”
Abel’s brother gave him a dry look then went back to his knitting. “You’re an idiot.”
Ernie sat in the shade of the umbrella, pale white skin glaring in comparison to all the sleek, tan bodies around them. His Hawaiian print shorts were a garish combination of purple, green, and white. Dado would be so disappointed.
Abel smoothed a hand over his own barely tan chest. “No men are paying us any attention.”
“Do you need male attention to find value in yourself?”
“Don’t get all psychological and shit on me, Ernie. We’re on vacation in the Caribbean. For once, I’m ready to take a risk and do something crazy.”
Hobson Hills was a small town and Abel had lived there his whole life. He was ready for something or someone new. He was ready for a change. At least for the duration of his vacation.
Abel shrugged. “Exciting and new. Something I’ve never done.”
“You could go parasailing.”
Abel gave his brother a flat look. “Wow. That’s wild, Ernie.”
Ernie rolled his eyes. “Go get another beer or something. Leave me alone.”
Abel sniffed, then stood up, dusting the sand off his butt. Somehow, even when sitting on a towel or chair, sand got everywhere. The sun slowly sinking over the ocean made the sand worth it, but barely.
They hadn’t been here long, but Abel missed Maine. He missed the trees, rain, and mud. He missed his rabbit, Poppy, and his huge, stupid family. Okay, okay. He was homesick. There. He admitted it. This vacation was his chance for adventure and so far it wasn’t going well.
The resort was expansive and offered almost every kind of luxury, but it was the first big vacation Abel had ever taken. He really had looked forward to it, but now, he just wanted to go home and snuggle with his rabbit.
He looked around and spotted another tiki bar on the beach. There were several dotted up and down the resort’s private beaches, and so far, each one had a limited list of craft beers.
Each beer had either been mediocre or tasted like shit, and Abel had been forced to buy Pina Coladas to wash the nastiness out of his mouth. Pina Coladas!
“Donkey balls. I’ll just get a Budweiser this time.”
Ernie snorted. “Thank god. If I have to hear you go on and on about some stupid beer, I may have to actually go swim in the ocean to drown out your voice.”
Abel grinned. “I’m discerning.”
“You’re a snot.”
Abel tilted his head and pursed his lips. “Possibly. At least when it comes to beer.”
He nudged Ernie with his foot. “Are you going to go swimming at all while we’re here?”
“There are sharks, rays, jellyfish, sea snakes, salt water crocodiles, eels, and octopus in the ocean, so… no.”
Abel took a deep breath and let it out. “Have you been reading creature-feature thriller books and watching Animal Planet specials again?”
“We were planning on a beach vacation, so I did my research.”
Ernie raised his nose and waved a hand toward Abel. “I’m going to back to our room. I think I’ll get an early dinner, then do some more knitting. I’m going to have a nice local craft beer with my dinner.”
Abel’s eye twitched. “I hate you.”
He turned and headed toward the tiki bar. They were at a different spot today, so maybe this one would be better than the last.
The evening crowd had already started to gather and the two bartenders were struggling to keep up with the orders, and the lone server dashed back and forth between the little bamboo tables and the bar.
Abel pushed through and lucked out when he found an empty seat at the very end of the bar. He sat, then propped his chin on his fist. It would probably be a while.
A large, well-muscled man jogged toward the bar. His brown skin was smooth and on display thanks to the tight, blue tank top he wore. His dark hair was spiky and short, he had a well-trimmed beard, and tattoos covered his arms. Sunshine glinted off the piercings in his ears, brow, and lip.
One wayward whiff and Abel knew he was an alpha.
The man was handsome, but so were over half of the men gathered around the bar. Abel choked back a yawn when one of the bartenders finally noticed him.
“What can I get you, blondie?”
Abel gave the man a flat look. He hated being called that. “Bottle of Bud, please.”
The man leaned against the bar and smiled. “You know, we have a great selection of craft beers available. Tropical Paradise Resort has contracts with some locals and a few from the States. If you want, I could pick you out something better than that Bud.”
Abel tilted his head and batted his big, brown eyes. “Wow, could you?”
The newcomer dipped behind the bar and his dark eyes moved between Abel and the bartender. “You need help, Jay?”
“Huh? No, I got this Mateo.” Jay winked at Abel and pulled a cold glass out of the cooler. “I’ll fix you right up, blondie.”
Mateo watched his friend go, then turned his dark eyes on Abel. “Don’t give him too much shit, okay? He’s new.”
Abel blinked innocently. “What are you implying?”
Mateo grinned and Abel lost his mind. All he could hear was the thumping of his heart.
The man’s smile was full of mischief, but also a good dose of kindness. Oh, donkey balls, this was bad. Really bad.
“I recognize trouble when I see it,” Mateo said huskily.
Jay pushed him away and set a cold glass in front of Abel. “This one’s a wheat beer made with the perfect blend of malted barley.”
Abel picked the glass up and sniffed it. This was going to be gross.
He took a drink, then promptly turned his head and spit it out, spraying nasty beer all over the poor server walking past.
“That tasted like flat Coca-Cola poured through a stump.”
He gave the server a sympathetic look and handed the young man some cash. “I am so sorry.”
The server glared at them, then grabbed the money before stalking away.
Abel grabbed a napkin and started scraping the nasty taste off his tongue. “That was so gross.”
He looked up. “Where did Jay go?”
Mateo couldn’t stop laughing long enough to answer. He pointed toward the other end of the bar. Jay was working at flirting with another blond. Hmm. Must be his type.
“Maybe I’ll just have a Pina Colada.”
Mateo wheezed for a minute. “I’ll make you one, blondie.”
Abel licked the napkin again and glared at the most beautiful man in the world. “We aren’t defined by our hair colors.”
Mateo grinned again and leaned on the bar. “You like to play the dumb blonde, huh?”
Abel smiled serenely. “As the most majestic Dolly Parton would say, ‘I know I’m not dumb… and I also know I’m not blonde.’”