Damon: I’ll bet you’ll get up to some trouble in Cabo.

I smirked at the text that flashed up on our chat-log from the computer screen. He was always teasing me.

Ashleigh: No trouble. At least not the good kind of trouble. I’m going with my boyfriend don’t forget.

There was a pause, and while I anticipated his next words, I took a sip of the vodka soda I was prone to drinking while I spent my online hours chatting with my favorite virtual stranger, DamonX. I leaned back in my computer chair and surveyed the mess of clothing on my bed. I still hadn’t packed, and my flight was leaving in the morning.

Damon: It’s not a real vacation without the good kind of trouble. Besides, I thought you were breaking up with him.

I frowned. I had shared a lot with this faceless stranger. Damon and I had connected online several months earlier on a social networking site over a shared love of writing and dirty martinis. He preferred to maintain a sense of mystery about himself, whereas I had bubbled over, sharing all kinds of personal details about myself. I’d even sent him the link to my Facebook page, but he hadn’t added me yet. It was something that had irked me somewhat at the time, but I assumed he had his reasons for wanting to maintain his anonymity. Besides, this was technically supposed to be escape, not reality.

Ashleigh: This is my last attempt at working things out. It’s been five years. It’s like an investment at this point. I just want to make sure there’s nothing there left to salvage.

Damon: Haha… sounds incredibly romantic when you put it that way. I still think you should have left him at home and used the trip to figure out if you’d miss him if he weren’t there. Instead you’ll probably find that you don’t miss him, even while he IS there.

Ashleigh: Thanks for the vote of confidence.

Damon: I think I know you by now, that’s all. And I think you’ll have a few dirty confessions for me by the time you get back.

Ashleigh: Not going to happen.

Damon: Wanna bet?

I laughed out loud, taking another sip of my drink while I considered my response. He had to know I wouldn’t be able to resist such a lure. I began to reluctantly type back.

Ashleigh: OK, what’s the bet?

Damon: If you do hook up with someone other than your boyfriend, then you have to book yourself on a flight and come here and visit me. And I get to do anything I want to you.

I paused for a moment, a half-smile frozen on my face.

Ashleigh: And what if I win? What do I get?

Damon: You’ll get to hear me say that I’m wrong.

Ashleigh: Ah, well we all know that you’re never wrong.

Damon: See there might be a first time for everything. Think of the satisfaction.

Ashleigh: I’m thinking.

I paused for a moment to take another long sip of my vodka soda.

Damon: Good. Cause I know I’m already thinking of my own satisfaction after I pick you up from the airport.

Ashleigh: Hah! You’re so sure of winning! Fine, I’m going to call your bluff on this one. But if I win, I want more than that. You have to send me a real picture of yourself. No more of this dark, grainy avatar that I’ve been staring at for the past three months.

Damon: Deal. But you’d better log-on from the hotel. I want updates so I know how much lube I need to buy this month.

Ashleigh: I can’t believe you!

Damon: It’s ok, you will when I win… 🙂

I logged off, shaking my head, although I was secretly amused by our conversation. Damon had a way of getting under my skin, even from day one. We had logged endless hours of bantering and flirting, and this kind of teasing bet was certainly not out of character. Although, in reality there had never been any question in my mind that I’d win. My relationship may not have been on entirely solid ground, but I did still love my boyfriend Scott. And I certainly wasn’t going to cheat on him while we were on a couple’s vacation together! In fact I had been hoping that Cabo would be just the kind of distraction from life that we needed to reconnect again. Work had been dragging our relationship down for quite some time. His long hours at the law firm, combined with my messy and erratic schedule with dance rehearsals had left us with very little combined time together. Quite often, I was at home, entertaining myself online with Damon while watching the clock. Sometimes I would already be asleep by the time Scott got home at night. Maybe it wasn’t the healthiest place we had ever been in, but whose relationship was perfect?

Scott and I arrived in Cabo San Lucas on the kind of day that the Baja peninsula was famous for, sunny with endless blue skies. The dry desert heat warmed my skin immediately, and the first few days of our vacation was spent relaxing by the pool at the Melia Me Resort. It felt so luxurious to be laying on one of those white cabana loungers, listening to the DJ spinning trance tunes nearby while I sipped margaritas. I busied myself reading magazines and people watching behind my oversized sunglasses, trying to ignore the fact that Scott had been typing away on his laptop for the better part of the afternoon.

He had booked us at a trendy hotel, and at first, I’d thought it was more out of a desire to kick things up and have the kind of fun we used to have back when we’d first met. I was beginning to realize that the brochure boasting “wireless by the pool” might have been his real incentive. As it turned out, there was very little difference between Scott at home versus Scott on vacation. He’d been furiously typing emails and doing conference calls on his cell phone since the moment we’d arrived. I was hoping that he’d relax enough to start enjoying our time there, but several days later it was obvious that we were on two different schedules. I began to wonder why we’d even bothered.

As it turned out, I was beginning to feel like I was on vacation by myself. I had already perfected my tan, read two beach novels, and had drank enough to fill several vacation’s worth of umbrella drinks. That day, Scott had balked at my suggestion to use a stronger SPF, and had ended up with a superficial sunburn, making him extra cranky though dinner. I convinced him to have drinks at the Nikki Beach Club bar at our resort so that we could watch the famous Saturday night fire-show, and he had reluctantly agreed. Unfortunately he spent the entire time complaining about the noise and had camped himself out on one of the lounge sofas, completely disinterested in venturing onto the dance floor.

“You’re not being very much fun,” I’d quipped. I frowned and looked out at the other vacation goers, laughing and drinking and enjoying the party. “You know how much I love this music.”

“I thought we were past this whole scene, Ashleigh,” he sighed. “You know I’m trying to make partner at the firm. I told you this was going to be a challenging year. I thought you were on board. I’m doing this for us… for our future. You know… to get you that diamond ring you’ve been eyeing.”

I rolled my eyes. It was typical of Scott to lord the whole concept of an engagement over me to get out of doing something that he didn’t want to do. Any immediate relationship demands I had were to be shelved for the greater good of getting one step closer to a marriage I wasn’t even sure I wanted anymore. Not when it meant a lifetime of this.

“I’m going to get a drink,” I said finally. “Do you want me to bring you one back?”

He leaned back against the lounger and half closed his eyes. “Nope.”

Incensed by his attitude, I sauntered towards the long bar, noticing that I was getting appreciative stares from all the people I passed, except from the one that I had come with. Two days in the sun had left my skin golden and sun-kissed, making my long blonde hair seem brighter as it bounced around my bare shoulders. I was wearing a short white strapless beach dress that hugged my tight little curves in all the right places, and I had barely registered more than a passing compliment from Scott all evening.

I slammed my purse down against the bar in frustration and immediately caught the attention of the bartender.

“Another margarita por favor, and please make it a double”.

As I rummaged in my purse for a $20 bill, I sensed someone lean in behind me. I felt warm breath against the skin of my neck and a voice near my ear. “You’re doing that all wrong, you know.”

I turned to look to my side and caught a flash of a mischievous smile and startling green eyes as the man beside me took a seat at the barstool beside me. For a moment, I was caught off guard.

“Excuse me?”

He turned from me and signaled the bartender. “Two shots of Petrone,” he ordered brazenly, and then turned to me to me and winked. “Double margaritas will have you water logged before you’ll ever catch the buzz you’re after.”

“And what makes you think I’m looking to catch a buzz,” I asked, still unnerved by the way he was looking at me.

“Well, you’re in a beautiful vacation spot, and your eyes are like razor blades. No offense, but you look pretty pissed off. A double margarita is an admirable attempt at escape, but I think I can put a smile on your face a little faster.”

I couldn’t help but laugh at his audacity, but something about him had me disarmed almost immediately. I studied his features. He had the kind of eyes that I just couldn’t seem to turn away from. They were lively and playful and I sensed a quick intelligence about him that had me intrigued. His smile was confident, if just a little bit devious, and he had dark brown hair and a golden tan that let me know he’d already been in Cabo for at least a few days. My eyes quickly flicked downward and I noticed his lean muscular frame, the definition of his physique still obvious beneath his white shirt and dark jeans.

“So am I right?” he asked when I hadn’t said anything yet.

“About?”…. My voice trailed off, and I realized he had me noticeably distracted already.

He had an easy laugh in response, and I realized with a flush that my attraction to him was probably already apparent. I cleared my throat and looked away, embarrassed.

“I mean, I’m not looked to get drunk, if that’s what you mean,” I stammered. “It’s just been… a long day.”

“A long day in paradise? Aren’t those supposed to be the best kind of days?”

I turned back to him and smiled, trying to relax. I don’t know why this stranger had me so nervous. It had been a long time since I’d had that kind of physical reaction to someone I didn’t even know. I assumed it must have been in part due to my frustration with Scott. Maybe it was a little friendly attention that I was craving more than anything else that had me unable to resist smiling back at him. Flirting with this stranger had been was the most fun I’d had on the entire trip up until that point.

The shot glasses of Petrone were placed on the bar in front of us, crossed with a bright green slice of lime and a saltshaker and I looked at them with some measure of trepidation.

“Oh I don’t think I should…” I said, shaking my head with distaste. “It’s one thing in a margarita but…”

“Come on,” he goaded. “It’s Cabo. It’s the law. When someone buys you a tequila shot, you’re obliged to drink it.”

“The law?”

He shrugged. “Yeah, I’m sure I read it in a guidebook somewhere.”

I laughed, and finally conceded defeat. “Ok then… we don’t want to break the rules.”

He cocked an eyebrow and grinned. “Are you sure about that?”

I shook my head and laughed nervously. “Is that the country motto or something?”

“Well, when in Cabo… why not? These getaways are all about suspending the rules of life aren’t they? It’s like a week of fantasy with no ties to the real world. There’s nothing wrong with taking a vacation from the rulebook every once in a while.”

I smirked, and picked up my shot of Petrone.

“Want to make things interesting?” He asked with a mischievous grin.

I shrugged, while unconsciously turning my body so that it was facing him directly. I realized I had taken a step towards him, all the while silently berating myself for indulging this flirtatious stranger when my long-term boyfriend was only a few yards away.

“What would make it interesting?”

He boldly reached across the space between us, and gently drew his fingers across my collarbone, brushing my hair back over my shoulder, exposing the line of my neck. He smiled, and ran his fingers down the sloping curve and I shivered with his touch, my mouth slightly agape at how daring he was in touching me when we’d just barely met.

“How about body shots. A lick of salt… off this spot right here.” His fingers were resting in the small space where the curve of my neck met my shoulder, and I felt my pulse quickly race in response. He had unwittingly hit one of my most sensitive erogenous zones, and the idea of this stranger putting his lips and tongue on me had me suddenly wet with arousal.

For a moment, our eyes locked and I felt a deep blush stain my cheeks before I forced myself to look away.

“I… can’t,” I said, struggling to speak.

“You can’t…. or you won’t?”

I sighed deeply. “I can’t.” I looked across the dark poolside bar, my eyes scanning for the lounge sofa that I’d left Scott on. I could see him still sitting there. His head was titled downwards and I realized he had nodded off to sleep. My heart sunk just seeing him and I quickly felt a rush of guilt. “I’m here with my boyfriend.” I explained, gesturing in his direction.

My flirtatious stranger followed the direction of my gaze towards Scott with curiosity.

“Boyfriend. Hmm… You mean that guy passed out on the couch? That’s your boyfriend? What’s he doing over there, making his hot little girlfriend order her own drinks?”

I frowned, realizing how pathetic it made me sound. “Well, he’s tired… he had too much sun today… and anyway… he didn’t want anything to drink so…”

“Well,” he said cutting me off. “I don’t think he’s in any danger of waking up…” He raised an eyebrow as though testing me.

Heat flamed through my face. “I really can’t.”

“OK, you can’t. But what about me? What if I take full responsibility for breaking the rules on my own?”

His gaze held mine for several moments, and my heart started to hammer unexpectedly, partially in shock that I hadn’t shut him down immediately. What was I thinking? Was I already in danger of losing that bet?

Before I could say another word, he leaned in, and my eyes widened, unable to find the willpower to move while he brought his lips to the curve of my neck. I felt his warm tongue move slowly over my skin, while I held my breath, my panties soaking in response to his mouth. Gently he pressed my head to the side and I instinctively arched my neck as he loosely shook salt over the wetness, before moving in again to suck the salt from my skin. I inwardly stepped towards him; the combination of his mouth on me, the scent of him, and the warm breeze had me instantly craving more. I felt in a daze watching him pull away and down the shot of tequila quickly before biting into the slice of lime. He set it down and smiled at me.

“Now that was definitely the way they recommend doing it in Cabo.”

I didn’t know what to say, other than to just stand there, still in a heady daze of shock at what had happened. I suddenly had an uncontrollable desire to hand him my shot so that he could repeat the entire process.

“Are you sure you don’t want to bend those rules… just a little?” he asked teasingly. “I can make some suggestions to guide your tongue and find the perfect place for you to lick”.

My face flamed with embarrassment and I let out a low laugh, trying to shake myself out of the succession of dirty thoughts my mind immediately conjured. I looked in Scott’s direction, relieved to see him still sleeping and unaware of what had just happened.

“I… have to play by the rules here,” I said, clearing my throat, trying to get my mind back on track.

He flashed me a smile and winked. “I understand… especially when you have the game-keeper just a few yards away.”

He stood there and watched me expectantly while I nervously licked the inside of my wrist and shook salt onto it. My hands were almost trembling under the intensity of his gaze as I drank the shot of tequila and sucked hard on the slice of lime, unable to stop myself from making a face at the potency of the hard liquor.

“Ugh” I moaned while setting down the slice of lime. “I haven’t had tequila in years.”

He grinned. “Well vacations are good for all kinds of explorations that way. You end up doing things you never really thought you would.”

We both paused and a moment passed between us. I’m not sure what I was thinking, but by the look in his eyes, I knew exactly what was going through his mind.

“Uhm… I should… get back… to my boyfriend,” I said awkwardly stumbling over my words.

“Convincingly said!” he laughed. “OK, enjoy your evening. I’m sure I’ll be seeing you around…”

He paid for the drinks, and I picked up my purse off the bar. I realized I didn’t want the moment to end, perhaps a little too late, because he was already walking away when I called out to him. “Are you staying at the hotel here?”

He half-turned and nodded, not breaking his stride. “Is that the answer you were hoping to hear?”

“Honestly? I’m not sure anymore.” I called back with a nervous laugh.

He grinned. “Well, I’m sure you’ll find the answer to that question before the end of your trip. Have a nice evening.”

He didn’t look back as he walked away, but I watched him until he was out of sight, admiring the confident ease of his gait as he disappeared up the concrete staircase leading into the main hotel. The alcohol buzzing through my veins made me half consider following him, while simultaneously berating myself for even thinking such a thing. As I walked back to Scott, I realized that I hadn’t even asked his name.

The following morning I found myself distracted as Scott and I ate breakfast in silence at the outdoor restaurant by the pool. My eyes were searching for any glimpse of the mysterious stranger from the night before, and unfortunately coming up empty. After another morning of flipping through magazines on the beach, I told Scott I was going for a walk. He barely looked up from his Blackberry, and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Certainly my boyfriend was doing nothing to hold my attention and to compound the situation, I had been unable to stop replaying the scene from the night before in my mind. I was comfortable with wandering around the resort in my black string bikini, but tied a short sarong skirt low around my hips to make it a little more modest. I figured I could go into the business centre and log-on to my email, and send a quick update to Damon. I knew he would enjoy hearing my dirty thoughts and knowing he was still in the running on our bet, even if it was only in theory. After all, what was the real likelihood that I would run into my mystery man again?

And yet as I opened the heavy glass door leaving to the business centre, I felt a little jolt run through me to see the dark haired man from the evening before sitting at one of the computer stations. He instinctively looked up and our eyes met. For a moment, I couldn’t move and my mouth went dry. I felt naked and exposed in my little black string bikini and skirt as his eyes traveled up and down my body, over every golden curve, still moist with suntan lotion, my long blonde hair tousled in waves from my swim in the ocean earlier that day. Those green eyes seemed to quickly inspect every inch of me while I stood there uncertainly. Finally he met my eyes again and smiled.

“Hello again.”

“Hey… I was uh… just going to check some emails.” I said, trying to sound light and breezy to hide my nerves.

There were several other people using computer stations. I had been hoping to get a seat near him, but to my dismay, there were none available. I looked down the room to the only empty station left and gave him an awkward smile. “Well, I guess I’ll be down there.”