He watched as the guy looked up again into the big blue expanse overhead and banged the back of his head lightly against the wall with a heavy sigh.
Something about the American's resigned, melancholy demeanor spoke to Lucien. He looked beat. Lucien had been that man, and he found himself swinging the door wider.
"You look like you could use a drink."
The guy half laughed, though his eyes were anything but amused as he nodded slowly and peeled his back off the wall.
"Too right, man. This is turning into one hell of a long day."
Lucien headed back into the club, aware of the guy pulling the door shut and following him in. He turned as the stranger’s step slowed beside the jacuzzi.
"Not your usual club," he commented, as he scanned curiously over the opulent spa area they were passing through.
Lucien lifted a shoulder. "Ibiza has enough of those already."
He led the way down into the main area of the club. Behind the bar he reached for two tumblers and a bottle of vodka from a box on the floor, watching the American as he leaned against the bar and surveyed the almost completed club.
"So this place is yours?"
Lucien nodded as he headed around to stand alongside the guy, placing the glasses on the gleaming bar.
"All mine." He was as proud of this place as he was of all of the other clubs in the Gateway group. They sat in silence for a second as he poured generous measures of vodka into both glasses.
"Lucien Knight." He held a glass out.
The American nodded as he accepted the drink, and paused for a beat before he replied.
"Dylan Day." His eyes wandered over the aubergine velvet booths around the dance floor, the secluded spots, the sumptuous chandeliers. "This is some place. It holds what… about seven hundred at capacity?"
Lucien glanced up, surprised at Dylan's accuracy. "For a usual club, around that. This place is less because of the adult entertainment configuration. It tops out at maybe three fifty."
Dylan's eyes opened a fraction wider. "And it's still profitable?"
"Gateway Ibiza is club number ten, so yeah. I'm pretty confident about my business model."
"Number ten, huh?" Dylan laughed lightly. "That's impressive in this business."
"You know it?"
"Not the adult entertainment side of it, no, but I've been around clubs my whole life."
"That's how you know Artie?"
Dylan nodded. "I haven't seen him for a few years, but we used to be pretty close. He taught me how to run clubs."
Lucien regarded the other man as he looked around the club with assessing eyes, wondering if Artie's shady business conduct was one of the things he'd taught Dylan Day. He looked slightly less jaded with a drink in his hand, and from what he'd said so far the guy knew his way around a club. Gut instinct had Lucien asking more questions.
"I'm guessing you didn't come to Ibiza on holiday?"
Dylan took a long, slow slug of his vodka and set the empty glass on the bar.
"You guess right."
For the second time, Lucien sensed deep melancholy, learning more from Dylan's body language than his meagre words.
"When do you open for business? It's looking pretty shipshape."
Lucien noted the American's subject change without comment. "Four weeks."
Dylan looked directly at Lucien. "You hiring?"
"Hired, pretty much." Lucien didn't add that the only position that he was having trouble filling was that of general manager. He'd rather be on site himself for a few weeks than employ the wrong person. He splashed a second measure of vodka into Dylan's glass.
"Figures." Dylan raised his glass in a small salute, a philosophical twist to his lips.
"Is that why you were looking for Artie?"
"He knows I'm good. I don't have a resume, or references, Lucien, but this business is in my blood. I know it inside out."
Lucien didn't doubt it for a second. The way Dylan had sized the place up within moments of being inside the building had impressed him, as had the experienced eye he'd been casting over the bar the entire time they'd been sitting there.
No references, no resume. They were the kind of phrases that rang alarm bells for most people. But Lucien wasn't most people.
"I'm still looking for a manager for this place."
Interest flared in Dylan's eyes. "You won't find anyone better than me."
Formal interviews had never been Lucien's style. He operated on gut instinct, and it had yet to lead him astray.
"So show me. Three months’ trial while I'm still on the island. You do it well, the job’s yours. If you fuck up, I fuck up, and if I fuck up, you'll fucking know about it."
"I won't fuck up."
"Then we understand each other."
Lucien held out his hand, and Dylan shook it with a small smile that widened slowly into a laugh. It had been the shortest, coolest job interview in the world.
"I won't fuck up, man. You have my word."
Dusk had fallen over the bay by the time Dylan arrived back at the boat, and the beach was mostly deserted aside from a couple of dog walkers and a few sun worshippers who'd stayed on to watch the sunset. It seemed as good an idea as any. Dylan stepped into the kitchen to flick on the switch he'd noticed earlier with “deck lights” written on a sticker beside it.
Then, "fuck," he muttered, scrubbing his hand over the three day stubble he'd left to its own devices since he'd quit the States. Even from inside the kitchen he could see that the rails around the boat had just lit up like a Christmas tree, and not one of those tasteful minimalist ones with designer white lights, either.
Stepping cautiously onto the deck, he squinted as he took in the extent of the illuminations. Multi-coloured fairy lights twined all around the chromed rails of both decks, bright winks of pink, lime, turquoise and lemon against the darkening skies.
He should have known better than to expect understated. Nothing about this boat was understated.
Dylan didn't glance back towards the beach, for fear that the sun watchers had changed focus to watch his one man light show instead. He headed up onto the roof deck and opened out one of the low-slung, brightly striped deckchairs stacked up there.
He was just in time to catch the sun before it slipped down below the horizon, a golden peach blaze that cast ethereal shades of pink across the sea.
Watching nature's light show, he could feel his heartbeat slowing to the tranquil pace of the island around him.
He had a new name.
He had a new home.
He had a new job.
Maybe, just maybe, with the right wind behind him, this was going to work out.
"Lucien?" Sophie’s voice was eager and hopeful as she dropped her handbag on the stone table just inside the front door of the villa.
She called out his name even though she half expected that he wouldn't be there. He wasn't expecting her until tomorrow, but she’d rearranged earlier flights to surprise him.
“Lucien?” She called again, disappointment blooming in her chest at the answering silence.
“Wow.” Kara followed Sophie a few seconds later, the heels of her beloved cowboy boots clicking against the polished marble floor of the entrance hall. “You didn’t tell me we were renting from the royals!” she laughed, wide eyed as she lifted her shades to survey the villa. “This place is frickin’ amazing!”
Sophie nodded. Kara was right, it was fit for a king. “Lucien found it.” She couldn’t keep the tint of pride out of her voice. Life with Lucien seemed to gild everything slightly brighter, due mostly to the fact that he put a whole lot of energy into making her happy. They’d stayed here for the first time a few months ago, back when Lucien had initially purchased this latest club. She’d been just as stunned as Kara by it, so Lucien had leased the villa for the summer, and the idea of living in it for the next few months was nothing short of blissful.