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“This article is either gonna launch us into the next stratosphere, or cause us a whole lot of trouble. Truthfully, it will probably do both,” proclaimed Jak, tossing the new issue of After Dark on the meeting room desk before Chara, Anna, Vinny, and Sunny.

Their shiny, airbrushed faces stared back at them from the front cover, beneath the bold title:

Forget the Full Moon. There’s a New Kid in Town.

They’d all already read the article, of course. It was a glowing review of their new party island, as well as a sharp rebuke of the Full Moon Party.

“Koh Exotica is set to reignite Koh Phangan’s dying party scene, which is quickly descending into a drug-fuelled mafia war scene that focuses less on ensuring everyone has a good time, and more on who can scam or steal the most from innocent young tourists. Koh Exotica comes with its own (significant) financial backing and as such, won’t be competing with the Full Moon Party because A) it doesn’t have to, and B) it’s attracting a whole new bracket and class of partier.”

...and so the article went on for six full pages. They had known that it would be promoting Koh Exotica in a positive way, but what they hadn’t anticipated was that it would take such an aggressive swing at the Full Moon Party.

Sunny got up and walked to the fridge. The meeting room, which had been built into the back of the nightclub, was spacious and modern. They had furnished it with a long, glass meeting desk, and comfy executive chairs. It had a well-stocked fridge and floor-to-ceiling windows that took advantage of the incredible sea view. “Well, I, for one, am not worried. In fact, I’m thrilled!” He took out a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and started unwrapping the cork.

Jak opened his mouth to say something, but Sunny cut him off, putting his hand up in front of him.

“I know, I know Jak. I know they’re dangerous. I know this article will piss them off. You’ve made your concerns clear, and they’re justified too. But none of us got into this thinking that it would come without its challenges, and even without its dangers. We have conducted ourselves with nothing but integrity. None of us said a single bad word to this reporter about the Full Moon Party. They wrote what they wrote of their own volition. And I think, after all the hard work we’ve all put in over the last few months, that we should be celebrating, rather than deliberating on what the backlash could and may never be. Don’t you agree?”

Chara, Anna, and Vinny nodded their heads. Jak opened his mouth once again to say something, but must have decided the better, and shut it. He nodded too, with a smile creeping across his face.

“Yeah, I mean, they may not even see it. Phangan is pretty behind the times. They probably don’t even know this magazine exists,” Jak rationalized.

Sunny set five crystal champagne glasses on the table and turned to the wall as he pulled off the cork. It came off with a loud POP, followed by the satisfying fizz. “Exactly, thank you, Jak. Let’s think positive, shall we?” He started pouring the bubbly in the glasses. “This is great, great publicity. And if they don’t know about the magazine, you can bet that the rest of the world does. My secretary told me they have a distribution of a million copies monthly!”

“Sunny, did you miscount? There are five champagne glasses,” Anna pointed out gently.

“Nice catch, Anna. No, I didn’t. I’m joining you guys in a toast to all that we’ve achieved so far, and all that is to come,” he winked, handing them their glasses. “I’d like to propose a toast to my incredible team. My son, Vinny, Jak, Chara, Anna, you have all worked so very hard, and now we are starting to see the fruits of your labor. To Koh Exotica!”

They clinked their glasses together, cheersing to their venture.

“And I have a surprise for you all. There’s a speedboat waiting for you at Mae Haad. It’s going to take you to Samui, where my private jet is waiting for you at the airport. You can take it for the weekend, anywhere you like. All I ask is that you don’t get thrown in jail, and are back at work by Monday morning.”

*

Their speed boat tore around a corner, spraying salty water in all directions. Chara and Anna shrieked and giggled as the seawater splashed their faces and got caught in their eyelashes, as the boat flew across the tropical waves.

When I met you in the summer

To my heartbeat sound

We fell in love

As the leaves turned brown

Tunes blasted from the speaker system, well above the roar of the engine. They whizzed past limestone karsts towering out of the water, darting in and out of inlets and around small, densely forested islands along the gleaming crystal ocean. Blue and black, yellow and orange, and bright red schools of fish skimmed past them, just beneath the water’s surface.

Chara leaned into Jak, who was sitting and laughing alongside her. They’d rented a speed boat for the afternoon from the exclusive beach resort in Phuket they’d flown into, and were having the time of their lives.

Vinny had recommended Thailand’s only six-star resort for their exclusive weekend escape. “It’s where all the A-listers stay when they vacation in Thailand,” he’d explained, though he’d left out how he knew that. It was just a one-hour flight from Koh Samui.

“Seems like a waste of the private jet,” Anna had whined, with a cheeky smile as she’d sunk into the plush leather seats of Sunny’s flashy plane.

Vinny had promptly refilled her champagne glass. “Well, we can ask the pilot to circle above the resort for a few hours, if that will make Princess Anna happy?” he’d joked, caressing her cheek and taking a seat beside her.

Chara and Jak had been in the seats facing them. “This is fucking incredible! I had no idea Sunny has his own jet!?” Chara had cried, as she buckled up for take off. Two flight attendants sat smiling at them from the front of the plane.

“My dad keeps his cards close to his chest,” Vinny had laughed. “I only found out about this beauty a few years ago, and I’m his son!”

That had been yesterday. They’d checked into the resort using Sunny’s black American Express card, and had been treated like the A-list celebrity guests who frequented it ever since. Smiling resort staff followed them everywhere they went to cater to their every beck and call.

When, this morning, they’d decided to rent a speedboat, one had been ready and waiting for them at the shoreline within 20 minutes. It was a huge two-storey catamaran with tinted cabin windows, a shiny interior, and a roomy seating deck.

Best of all, it had a fridge stocked full of champagne. The sparkling liquid had been their staple drink since Sunny had poured them their first tipple at the meeting the day before. It was spilling out of their glasses as the boat bumped and jumped over waves, but it was in such plentiful supply that they didn’t care.

Chara took a sip from her glass and gazed out at the majestic islands and miles upon miles of sparkling tropical ocean. She shook her head in disbelief. Never before had she felt so free and so very happy.

Jak leaned into her, squeezing her tighter. “Chara, I’m in love with you,” he whispered softly into her ear, with golden eyes sparkling down at her.

Her entire body smiled back at him. She was head over heels in love with him too.

She lifted her arms up high above her head and tilted her head back, grinning ear to ear as she totally and completely surrendered to the moment--the salty air, the refreshing breeze, the invigorating music, the intoxicating refreshments, and being surrounded by people she had come to love like family--wishing she could freeze time, and stay there forever.

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