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Tropical Heat

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Tropical Heat: Chapter 1


I slam into the stream with the front tire of my mountain bike and twist quickly, barely avoiding a violent crash with a giant moss-covered tree.

I hoot in excitement as I turn my bike to follow the fern-covered spring, kicking up a tsunami of water and mud as I pedal through the shallow water. That tree was one of many monolithic sentinels that reach up into the leafy canopy above. They rise up from the Mexican jungle like ancient gods who’ve been on this earth far longer than I have. And they’re more than happy to show me how small and insignificant I am.

It’s humbling.

Heck, I could wipe out brutally on this barely-visible stream and be eaten by exotic bugs before anyone at the Selva Resort knew I was missing, much less sent out a search party. That’s what I love about the jungle, it grabs you by the heart and kicks hard. Especially if you’re willing to walk the line.

Live life like there’s no tomorrow.

Be present. Be alive.

“Did you almost wipe out, man?” A radio crackle echoes in my helmet followed by the voice of my friend Dominick, who’s on the other end of the line. I’ve been on the phone with him for the last ten minutes talking projections and business. He may be one of my oldest friends, but he’s also one hell of a lawyer, and right now I need one.

So yes, I’ve been simultaneously extreme sporting and having a business meeting. It’s called living your best life.

Of course, there’s the tiny safety net of knowing I won’t actually be eaten by exotic bugs while I’m satellite linked to my friend who’s halfway across the world on business in Beijing. But I am in the middle of nowhere, trailblazing my way back to the resort.

Live hard. Ride hard.

Build the life you dream of and have no regrets.

Maybe I should invest in extreme sports equipment instead of internet software, then I might seem like a little less of an oxymoron. I could see the headlines now: Hot Shot Entrepreneur Sells His Company to Invest in Cliff Riding.

Ha! Like I’d ever sell my company. I already gave up the “safe” choice of nine to five to live this life. And I’m always going to live by my rules.

“It was nothing,” I say in response to Dom’s question about wiping out. I peddle hard to maneuver over the rocky terrain. The resort definitely spared no expense, investing in high-end equipment for us crazy guests who like to mountain bike through the jungle like our lives depended on it. It turns out, I’m their ideal client. “I just avoided meeting my maker in the form of a five-hundred-year-old Kapok tree.”

“A Kapok tree? What are you taking rainforest horticulture classes now?” Dom chides in his signature deadpan.

“Close enough,” I toss back. “Kapok trees are known as widow makers down here. At least that’s what the extreme sports community in Mexico calls them. They’re giant, with roots that grow out of the bottom like flat ribbons, or big octopus tentacles, swerving in every direction. You smash into one of them and you’re praying to the Virgin Guadalupe that you’re not about to get decapitated.”

“A widow maker, huh?” Dom huffs. “You know you’d have to have a wife for that to be any kind of deterrent.”

I laugh, turning to the right and pushing hard to cut my way out of the stream and back onto the narrow pathway I’d been on before going off-road.

“Are you rubbing that in my face?” I ask, thinking of his fiancée, Ilsa. I met her once when the two of them were on a business trip in Hong Kong awhile back.

And once was enough.

That was back before Dom and Ilsa got together and when … well, I almost had a shot.

“Are you pussy-whipped by your soon-to-be wife?” I tease, knowing my tone is all for show.

Ilsa is … I smile to myself and try not to make an inappropriate noise about my friend’s fiancée. I know they’re disgustingly in love, but Ilsa, well—that’s a woman—she’s the type of unforgettable goddess that an a-hole like me would hang up my wild-man boots for.

Could have.

Almost happened.

Not that I was going to make her any promises. And she was totally in love with my friend so … It’s water under the bridge.

“Not that I’d blame you,” I say cockily. “I’m sure Ilsa’s pussy is worth it.”

“You mention my fiancée’s body parts again and I’ll murder you,” Dom says dryly, not taking my bait.

“Murder me? You’re in Beijing.”

“You want to test if I have friends in the Mexican mafia or not?” he throws back. “You’re in the middle of the jungle. People just disappear in places like that.”

I laugh, zooming through a lush grove of hibiscus flowers, their blooming orange petals streaking past me as I gather speed.

“Got it,” I say. “Don’t make pussy jokes about Ilsa. Oh, and if it’s any consolation, that widow maker probably would’ve only broken about six of my bones. So don’t worry, even if I do smash into a Kapok tree, I’ll probably survive.”

“One of these days you’re going to fall into a volcano. You know that, right?” Dom warns, his voice crackling from the satellite connection. “The earth is going to open up and swallow you whole.”

“If only I’m so lucky,” I toss back, seeing the resort’s tallest structures break through the lush canopy ahead.

The Selva Resort is one of the most exotic establishments I’ve ever stayed in. It’s a feat of modern art, engineering, and five-star luxury, all wrapped up in the sheer hutzpah of creating a resort that’s a giant tree house.

Yup, the Selva Resort is the adult version of your nine-year-old self in heaven—except with alcohol, private rooms, and restaurants that sit on the crest of the jungle’s canopy so you can feel like you’re on the top of the world. It’s the kind of thing you imagine, but don’t think exists in real life, which is why it’s hidden in the middle of the jungle for those hiding from the world to find.

“But to get back to your projections,” Dom says, returning our conversation to business as I steer myself toward the resort. “You either need to make your assets liquid or find a new investor.”

“Seriously?” I grumble. “You know the whole point of creating the Ellium software was to keep it my own. No investors. No outside board members or a-holes who want to tell me to stop traipsing through the jungle like a mad man.”

“Well, sometimes you have to make a tough decision, Isaac,” Dom says, suddenly getting all brotherly.

I can tell he’s about to launch into another canned lecture on how I should’ve stayed a lawyer instead of sinking my savings into a software startup. A gamble that did put me on Forbes’ list of entrepreneurs to watch.

“You can do whatever it is you’re doing in the jungle,” Dom says, “or you can make a real move to turn Ellium into a viable product.”

“You think this is all one grand vacation to me, don’t you?” I counter, pulling up to the front of the resort and hopping off my bike. “I do actually work while I’m flying all over the world and living the life you only dream about.”

“Nope,” Dom counters. “It’s the other way around.”

He means Ilsa.

And in that regard, he’s right.

Ilsa really is the kind of woman you give up traipsing over the globe to be with. Though it’d be torture for me to actually attend the meetings and mergers and corporate deals Dom has to suffer through every day of his life.

“I have some friends I can call when I’m done with this deal in Beijing,” Dom offers. “I’ll see if we can find someone to invest who’s … at least a little adventurous.”

“Make the calls,” I say. “But I’m doubtful. I’m going to need some convincing.”

“Look at your bank account.”

“Touché!” I shake my head. “Give your fiancée a kiss for me.”

“Punch yourself in the balls for me.”

I smile. That’s classic Dom.

“I’ll talk to you later,” I say, ending the call before pulling off my helmet and walking into the front lobby of the resort with my bicycle.

The tree house structure is actually built on top of several hundred-year-old trees spliced together by man-made architecture. The whole place is made out of concrete, bamboo, and wood, like a wicker paradise that was designed by modern architects who actually have a sense of good fashion. Every space and platform looks like a work of art, and it uses the natural movement of the tree to show it off: a swooping tree branch over here, a forest hallway, an open wall that opens up to the canopy and shows off the view. It truly is everything my nine-year-old self would sell his left kidney for. There are thatched roofs and skylights and hammock nets that open up in the floor like trap doors you can lounge in. There are branches reaching through rooms and portholes that look out at the ocean.

It’s spectacular.

As I walk through the curved opening of the resort’s front entrance—the apex of the door arching to a point above my head—I can’t help but stifle a smile at how much the front doors look distinctly like … well, female anatomy.

I know, that sounds crass, but there’s an organic “opening” or “leaf formation” theme throughout the entire establishment. It’s part of the aesthetic and, truly, it’s beautiful. It just reminds me of other things that I’d rather be enjoying.

After Dom’s suggestion that I get an investor, all I really want is a distraction. Preferably the kind I can undress in one of these netted hammocks and see what primal jungle noises I can inspire her to make.

High-end resorts always attract high-end women. Women who’ve been dreaming their whole lives about a thrill-seeking bad boy who can show them what they’ve been missing.

And I’m happy to oblige.

“Sir Isaac, good afternoon!” The pinched voice of Arturo rings out as the head concierge walks quickly over to me. Arturo wears a beige suit and his eyes are wide saucers, taking in the sight of the dirt I’ve wheeled into his lobby. “Equipment returns are at the beach-side entrance, Sir. I’d be delighted to have an employee take this for you.” Arturo snaps his fingers and a bellman zips up to our side.

I look at the bike. It’s dripping with mud.

“Oh man! I’m an asshole,” I curse, genuinely embarrassed. “Arturo, I’m sorry. I’ll take this around to the—”

“No no, sir, please,” Arturo interrupts, quickly putting up his hands to stop me from moving. He doesn’t want me marring another inch of the floor’s white polish. “We’d be happy to take it off your hands. At Selva we’re happy to do everything for you.”

I hate that mantra.

Arturo’s said it to me more than once during my stay, and it rubs me in all the wrong ways. I may be staying at a five-star resort, but I earned this. I’m not like half the guests at this resort with trust funds and corporate investments.

“Dammit Arturo, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to—” I shake my head. I’ve been at the resort for almost a month, and in general, I’ve managed to avoid being one of those self-centered jerks who think resort employees are the same as servants. In fact, Arturo and I have laughed together about the audacity of some people.

Yet here I am acting like one of them.

“I promised you, Arturo, that I wouldn’t turn into one of those uber-entitled guests,” I grumble, pissed off at myself. “And here I am making a royal mess.”

“It’s fine, sir,” Arturo gives me a tight-lipped frown, which means he’s being polite. In fact, it’s clear he expected this side of me to eventually come out.


I’m really not—that guy.

“I’ll make it up to you,” I say sheepishly, allowing the bellman to take the helmet and bike. He lifts the bike up off the floor and walks it back out the curving vagina doors.

“You don’t need to make anything up to me,” Arturo says politely. “All I wish is for you to have a pleasant stay.”

I nod, even though I know that answer is canned. Arturo retreats back to his place behind the reception desk, and I want to explain to him that I’m really not one of those holier-than-thou guests who thinks everything should be delivered to him on a silver platter. I’m not a trust-fund baby. I wasn’t delivered anything from my parents’ legacy. I worked hard my whole life to get where I am—law school, the firm, then quitting to build my own dream.

But who am I kidding? My lame ‘rags to riches’ narrative doesn’t mean I haven’t been staying in a five-star tree house in the middle of the jungle for almost four weeks. I’ve been eating caviar, and mountain biking my heart out, and working—yes—but working while I lounge in one of the hammock bars drinking tonic waters. Who does that kind of thing other than entrepreneurial assholes?

Arturo has been polite, because the truth is he thinks I’m just like everyone else. Which sucks, because the last person I want to be is a corporate chump. Yet, here I am hiding out in Mexico like I need to prove I’m not some fancy suit with a BMW.

It turns out I’m not convincing anyone.

I follow the natural flow of the floor and head toward my room. In true tree house fashion, there are several different creative pathways one could follow—rope ladders, steps, bridges over open areas—all of which are designed to swerve around the trunk of each tree and spiral you up toward the higher levels of the canopy. It’s a phenomenon of modern architecture that would make Frank Gehry weep (he’s that guy who made buildings that look like crumpled up pieces of aluminum like the Disney Concert Hall or the Bilbao Art Museum).

I weave toward my suite pod in the high branches, curving up the side of one of the great trees. It’s taken me days to figure out where my room is and not get turned around. This place truly is a maze, but perhaps that’s part of the appeal. In Selva you can get lost, discover something new, or find a new perspective.

That’s why I came here. To help see things differently and figure out the secret to turning my company around.

Only, my current perspective narrows—

My eyes focus on one of the hammock lounges to my right. The space is actually too large to be a hammock, instead, it’s more of a suspended net that stretches out over the jungle like a luxury installment on a pirate ship. It’s donned with half a dozen faux-fur pillows, a pink sunset, and one sexy-as-sin woman as its centerpiece.

Yes, the thrill-seeker in me can be predictable. I’m absolutely slowing down to enjoy the view—and by view, I do mean the long-legged vixen stretched out against the mesh-netting.

Inky black hair dangles off the woman’s shoulders as she lounges, the sunset painting her honey-gold skin in pink sunset. She wears a white bikini that barely covers her tan skin, in fact, she’s almost falling out of it.

Not that I’m complaining. Some women’s bikinis are clearly designed for lounging rather than swimming.

I smile to myself, wondering what it would be like to join her on that netting, suspended above the jungle below. We could flirt and spar, and then maybe I’d invite her back to my room where I have my own private hammock she can lie back in.

Dark sunglasses hide the woman’s gaze perfectly, so if she’s noticed me staring, she hasn’t let on. Only, she twists her body at that moment, stretching in the sun as she elongates her limbs.

Oh, she knows I’m looking.

I’d bet money on it.

She’s definitely used that move more than once to get attention. Women who lounge around mostly naked expect men to be watching.

And I am.

I most definitely am.

I smile, allowing my eyes to trace over her curved outlines as I walk past. She’d be a welcome distraction. One that would definitely help me work out my frustrations at Dom’s suggestion that I find an investor.

I make a deal with myself that if she’s still here when I come back down, I’ll introduce myself. But first, I need to shower.

It’s hard to be suave when you’re covered in mud.

Tropical Heat is available for 99 cent pre-order for five more days! Pre-order your copy now before it returns to it’s normal price on April 5th, 2022.