Jak's face was worn and looked heavy with the weight of the world.
A deep shade of purple colored the delicate skin beneath his golden eyes, which had lost some of their sparkle. His normally perfect skin was dull and lifeless, and a faint hint of a breakout had formed along his jawline.
"Baby, you've hardly said a word all meal," Chara attempted gently, putting the last slice of steak into her mouth. She placed her hand on his lap and gave him a concerned look.
They were having dinner at a romantic beachfront restaurant in Thong Sala. It had been Chara's suggestion to get off of Koh Exotica for a date, just the two of them. She'd noticed Jak's stress building up over the past month, and knew he needed a break.
They were one of only a handful of couples dining tonight at the quiet restaurant. Chara could make out the outline of the almost full moon in the cloudy sky. The tide was out, and waves lapped gently at the shore in the distance.
Jak put down his fork and closed his eyes for a moment, shaking his head. "I know, I'm sorry babe. I'm a terrible dinner date. I've just got so much on my mind."
Chara picked up her wine glass and took a sip. Wine in Thailand tended not to be great, due to the extremely high import tax that was placed on it, driving up prices on even the cheapest, barely drinkable labels. But Chara was getting used to the vinegary taste. This one was both sweet and sour at the same time. She winced slightly as she swallowed and set it back on the table.
"Talk to me, Jak. What's been playing on your mind? Sometimes it helps to talk it out."
Chara couldn't imagine what could be wrong. The opening party had been a huge success. Even more people than they had expected had turned up--they'd even had to turn some away because they didn't have room for them at the resort. The party had lasted all weekend long, and many of the guests were having so much fun that they extended their stay.
Other than the altercation with the Thai men and the man with the Handlebar mustache, Chara hadn't heard a single complaint or bad word about Koh Exotica since they'd opened.
Their marketing was practically taking care of itself since the publishing of the article in After Dark. It had spurred many spin-off articles other print publications, as well as on popular blogs. The momentum from it had carried over to their social media, which had attracted thousands upon thousands of followers across all their platforms. It certainly helped that many of their VIP guests were also social media celebrities, and were posting frequently about their exclusive experiences on the party island.
As a result of both word of mouth and the publicity, the resort had been fully booked since the opening party. They'd even had to start a waiting list.
Jak took a deep breath and let out a heavy sigh. "It's Pong," he breathed.
"What? What's going on? Have you seen him since he came to the opening party?"
"No. But I've heard things."
"What kind of things?"
"Well, I didn't want to worry you. But I've heard rumors that Pong and his cronies are now partnering up with the Russian mafia. The Russians control the drug trade on the islands, and they're ready to up their game. Word on the street is that they're going to infiltrate the Full Moon Party in a big way, and they've managed to get some crooked cops on their side, so there's no stopping them. They're also apparently in talks with some huge international DJs, and they're building a massive stage down on Haad Rin beach. They're transforming the Full Moon to make it bigger than ever before," he explained.
"To compete with us," Chara nodded, understanding where he was headed.
Jak raised his eyebrows. "Precisely. I think it's about time I go talk to Pong."
"Where are you!?" Chara demanded into the phone. It was 11 pm and she hadn't heard from Jak since he'd left earlier that night to go and talk to Pong. She had been beside herself with worry and had been pacing back and forth in Jak's living room for hours.
"At the hospital. It's nothing major, don't worry. Just a broken nose and rib," Jak grunted, clearly in pain but obviously trying to hide it.
"Which hospital? I'm coming."
"No, you're not. Please stay right there, Chara. I mean it."
"Jak, what's going on? Who did this to you? Pong?"
"Yeah, we got into a fight. Don't worry, he's just as bad as me. But I have a bad feeling he's going to retaliate in some way. I dunno. We just need to be careful."
"When do you think you'll be back?"
"The doctor said I could leave soon. I shouldn't be longer than an hour. Just promise me you'll stay put until I get back?"
"OK, I promise."