Pack your bags because we’re headed to the Caribbean with this sneak peek of Where the Rhythm Takes You by Sarah Dass, a romantic, mesmerizing novel of first love and second chances.
Seventeen-year-old Reyna has spent most of her life at the Plumeria, her family’s gorgeous seaside resort in Tobago. But what once seemed like paradise is starting to feel more like purgatory. It’s been two years since Reyna’s mother passed away, two years since Aiden—her childhood best friend, first kiss, first love, first everything—left the island to pursue his music dreams.
Reyna’s friends are all planning their futures and heading abroad. Even her dad seems to want to move on, leaving her to try to keep the Plumeria running.
And that’s when Aiden comes roaring back into her life—as a VIP guest at the resort.
Aiden is now one-third of DJ Bacchanal—the latest, hottest music group on the scene. While Reyna has stayed exactly where he left her, Aiden has returned to Tobago with his Grammy-nominated band and two gorgeous LA socialites. And he may (or may not be) dating one of them…
Start reading the first two chapters of Where the Rhythm Takes You now!
When I was younger, the holidays promised freedom. No school. No early mornings. Nothing but heat, the beach, sunburned lips, sweat-soaked clothes, and sea-scented hair. There were lazy morning lie-ins with nowhere to go, nothing to be done, the hours of the day allowed to unravel without aim or urgency.
When I was younger, it also meant music. And where there was music, there was Him.
The first night I see she cross the room
The type of gyal that know jus’ what to do
Meh eyes stick, cyah look away
The way she move make me want to stay
I tried to ignore the song, and the prickle of annoyance it inspired, as I skirted around the edge of the hotel’s pool. My shoes skidded a little, even as I avoided the worst of the puddle and the Caution: Wet Floor sign. I glanced around the deck. A few loud twentysomethings clustered around the bar, but my father wasn’t there.
Where was he?
My phone vibrated in my pocket. I didn’t have to look to know it was my best friend, Olivia. I didn’t answer. She’d already messaged seven times that morning. I didn’t know what else to do to make her understand I was busy.
And the girls say
Let me make your day
Make my day
Make every day a holiday
“Hey, Jerald.” I approached the barman. He had an empty glass in hand, a checkered rag tossed over his shoulder. In his late forties, he had a broad build and full cheeks that gave him a boyish appearance. “Have you seen my father?”
He spun toward me. “Not since this morning.”
The days alive, nights are wild
I know you’ ll never forget
If you think this is real bacchanal
You ain’t seen nothing yet
“Can we skip this one?” I pointed toward the speaker.
“You en like the song, Boss Lady?”
I rolled my eyes at my unofficial title. Boss Lady. The staff at the Plumeria Hotel seemed to find it hilarious. I’d been hearing it for as long as I could remember, probably dating back to my days in diapers. The irony was that they never called Mummy—the real Boss Lady—that. Now that she was gone, the name only reminded me how little I measured up.
Jerald laughed. “I thought this was what all the young people listening to.”
“Not me.” I reached over the bar and snatched a maraschino cherry out of the open container in front of him.
“Ay!” He yanked the rag off his shoulder and swatted at me.
I’d already retreated out of reach, laughing as I popped the fruit between my teeth.
No rhyme, no reason
No hesitation, no fear
Jus’ leggo, jus’ listen
Let de rhythm take you there
Once again, I wondered if I could get away with banning DJ Bacchanal songs from the property. The only thing that stopped me from trying was that I knew I’d have to explain why, and as far as I was concerned, that can of worms could stay shut.
I tossed the cherry stem into a bin behind the bar and returned to my most pressing problem—my father.
The steps from the deck led onto the main lawn. Out here, the scent of earlier rain still clung to the air. I trudged across the freshly mown grass, the earth soft and damp beneath my feet.
Finally, I spotted Daddy fishing at the lookout point—a low-lying seaside cliff suspended about ten feet above the water. Overhead, the midmorning sky held clear. The Caribbean water below burned a rich sapphire blue. The tide had rolled back just enough to reveal the full arc of the bay on our right, the horizon stretched out on our left.
Daddy wore a button-down shirt printed with a riot of parrots, their multicolored wings raised in midflight. Unfortunately, this was far from the most embarrassing outfit he owned. In fact, I’d long suspected he’d amassed the most horrible wardrobe on earth on purpose. It was the only explanation I accepted.
Daddy held a wiggling fish. Its silvery scales glimmered in the sunlight. The species was beautiful but inedible. He threw it back into the ocean. I jumped straight to the point.
“Daddy, please explain to me why there’s a booking for the villa? For three weeks? Under your name?”
Daddy smiled. His dark-brown fingers carefully baited the hook before casting it out. He held the fishing line between his thumb and forefinger, giving it just enough length before pinching it tightly. The ancient, rusted metal reel hung around his arm. No matter how many new, expensive fishing rods people gave him over the years, he seemed determined to use the steel relic. He said it was something about the feel and pull of the line.
“Calm y’self, Reyna,” he said. “Is a favor for Jake.”
“Jake?” Why did my brother-in-law want to rent the most expensive accommodation at the hotel? He and my half sister, Pam, had a whole house of their own.
“He asked me to do it for his sisters,” Daddy said. “Don’t worry, they the ones paying. They jus’ thought is better the booking not under their name.”
I opened my mouth, then shut it. The wind, which seemed refreshing seconds earlier, now felt strong enough to blow me over.
My father startled, whipping around to look at me. “What?”
“Are you saying the booking is for Jake’s sisters? As in Eliza and Hailee Musgrove? Those sisters?”
“He has other sisters?” he asked slowly, though we both knew Jake did not.
“This is a big deal! How could you not tell me?”
Hailee Musgrove was a supermodel, and Eliza (from what I could tell) an influencer on Instagram and YouTube. Neither profession inspired any more than indifference from me, but for
millions of people, they were undoubtedly a Big Deal. I was supposed to meet them for the first time at Pam and Jake’s wedding a year ago, but in typical Pam and Jake fashion, the couple canceled
everything at the last second and eloped without warning.
“I didn’t realize you were a fan,” Daddy said.
I snorted. “Not particularly.” But I didn’t need to be a fan to know this would be great for the hotel.
“Be nice nah,” Daddy warned.
I folded my arms and sniffed. “I am always nice.”
Daddy didn’t say anything, but he looked doubtful. “Is just going to be Jake’s sisters and a few of their friends staying at the villa. No reason to make a fuss.”
I checked the time on my phone. There was much to do. So much fuss to make. “You should’ve told me before.” Like the very second Jake asked for the booking.
“You’re doing too much as it is.” Daddy waved a hand. “I’m sure William took care of it—it is his job.”
I gritted my teeth.
William. The new reservations manager.
I highly doubted that whatever William did to prepare was enough. For one thing, he definitely hadn’t followed Mummy’s checklists for preparing the villa, or her protocols for hosting
high-profile guests. I knew that because I hadn’t had a chance to show him yet.
“Actually, Pumpkin.” Daddy started to pull up the fishing line. “Is a good t’ing you remind me. Their plane must be here by now. We should get ready to greet them.”
My stomach dropped. “They’re here already? The booking is for tonight.”
Daddy eyed me warily, probably noticing the rising alarm in my voice, on my face. “They . . . called yesterday to ask for an early check-in.”
“Is just a few hours early. Is not like someone else staying in the villa.”
I spun around and sprinted toward the main building. “That is not the problem!”
I made it to the lobby in record time. Speeding past the front desk, I ignored William—the traitor—when he called out to me, and barged into Daddy’s office. During her last days at the hotel, Mummy made tons of helpful notes. She’d thought Daddy and I would need them when we took over. As far as I knew, Daddy hadn’t given them more than a quick read, whereas I’d studied them like a bible. Most I could recite by heart, but it was so rare for someone to stay at the villa, much less a celebrity, I couldn’t remember the ones I needed today very well.
My phone buzzed. I checked it quickly and saw it was Olivia again.
Buy you lunch? I miss your face
As much as I appreciated her attempt to bribe, flatter, and induce guilt in so few words, I really couldn’t. Sorry. Busy
Her reply was quick. U always busy
I set the phone on the desk and logged on to the computer. I’d just pulled up the documents I needed when William marched in.
“Didn’t you hear me calling you?” He stopped on the other side of the desk, a clipboard tucked under his arm. He set a hand on his hip, his bright-yellow shirt popping against his dark-blue Plumeria blazer. “What happened to you? You look terrible.”
I glared at him over the top of the computer. I didn’t need to check to know the wind at the lookout point had caused my curls to break free of my hair tie. Instead of charmingly wind-swept, I probably looked as frantic as I felt.
“Did you finish preparing the villa?” I asked.
“Do you know what happened to the contractors I hired this morning?” he countered without missing a beat.
I straightened up. “You mean the contractors you hired behind my back?”
“Answer the question.”
“You answer mine first.”
I folded my arms, and so did he.
Twenty-four-year-old William had joined the Plumeria staff about four months ago. He came into his job hot, pitching a hundred ideas for improvements and upgrades. Months later he still hadn’t given up on his plans. He didn’t seem to understand that things around here were done a certain way, and had been since Mummy ran the place. It was getting to the point where he’d surpassed being an Annoyance and edged into Pain-in-the-Butt territory.
“Of course I got the villa ready.” He rolled his eyes, breaking first. “I had it cleaned and aired out since Tuesday.”
“What about the light bulbs? You always forget—”
“Had them checked and replaced where necessary. Now tell me what you did.”
I shrugged. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Don’t try that. Your father signed off on those contractors. The job was already paid for.”
I took in that news with a pinch of irritation. Daddy and I were going to have a chat later.
“Now the workmen have all disappeared,” William said. “And the company’s not taking my calls. I know you did something.”
I tried not to smile. It wasn’t easy. “I simply explained to them that we no longer needed their services.”
And that there was no one named William Ellison working for us.
A little extreme, I know. But he’d been trying to tear down the gazebo—my gazebo. The small hexagonal structure where my parents had been married. The one where I’d held three birthday parties, won two Easter egg hunts, and had my first kiss. The place I used to hide when I needed a break from the guests, the staff, Daddy—everyone.
Okay, so maybe the structure of the gazebo wasn’t technically “stable” or whatever. It was still mine. William had no right to look in its direction, much less break it down.
“The gazebo is a lost cause,” William said. “The foundation is weak. The ground can’t support it. There’s no point in sinking money into something that’s literally sinking. One way or another, that thing’s coming down.”
“If that’s what you want to think, fine.” I waved my hand in a circular wrap it up motion. We didn’t have time for this. “We’ve had this argument already. You never win. Stop pouting.”
William’s jaw ticked. “I do not pout.”
“Sure you don’t.” I checked the time on my computer. “For now, let’s run through this checklist for preparing the villa. I need to make sure you didn’t miss anything.”
“There’s no time for that.” He frowned, then crossed the room to the window that overlooked the main entrance. “They’ll be here any moment.”
“Just sit down, please. We’ll make use of whatever time we’ve got. It may be a lot, if they got stuck in customs.”
“Actually, you’ve got two minutes.” He pulled two slats of the blinds apart. “Or less. They’re pulling into the driveway now.”
I ran for the door, then circled back to the computer. I’d send a copy of the list to my phone, then check the villa on my own.
“Can you stall them?” I asked William. “Take them on a tour of the grounds, show them the path to the beach—”
“What the hell?”
I startled, surprised by his tone.
William pulled the blinds farther apart. His nose pressed against the glass as if ready to push right through. “Is this some kind of joke?”
“What?” I asked, confused.
“Is that Hailee Musgrove? What would Hailee Musgrove be doing here?”
Oh. That. I rolled my eyes. “The same reason everyone comes here, I’d imagine.” I uploaded the files to the cloud.
“This is crazy,” he said.
“Isn’t it?” Part of me wanted to hang around just to watch the stuffy reservations manager completely unravel, but I had no time for that. I headed for the door. “Can you distract them for me or what?”
“And . . . there’s Eliza Musgrove,” he said, ignoring or not hearing me. He sounded like he was in pain. “I can’t believe this. And Leonardo Vale too? DJ Bacchanal!”
I joined him at the window. At the entrance to the hotel, two black SUVs idled on the roundabout. Three of the porters were removing and stacking several pieces of designer luggage from the trunk. I recognized Hailee easily, her long, lithe frame towering over everyone. She wore ripped jeans and a T-shirt with a logo too faded to be read. As I watched, she tossed her inky-black shoulder- length hair and locked arms with someone, pulling him into view.
My hands shook as I pried the blinds farther apart. William was right. It was Leonardo Vale. The front man for DJ Bacchanal stood in front of my hotel, smiling at Hailee Musgrove. And they weren’t alone.
I also spotted Fish—obviously not his real name. The mystery of why he’d chosen to call himself that eluded even the most dedicated fans. At that moment, Fish was at the entrance to my hotel, precariously sitting on one of the larger suitcases, his silver-blue hair falling over his eyes. He was sleepily slumped over the raised handle until Eliza Musgrove poked him on the forehead, startling him upright.
Unlike the rest of the group, Eliza didn’t look like she’d spent hours on multiple planes, but like she’d jumped right off a magazine page. She seemed to be one of the few people who could pull
off a romper; her waist-length hair in a flawless high ponytail that would’ve made Ariana Grande take notice.
And then there was Him. The third and final member of DJ Bacchanal.
He wore fitted blue jeans and a short-sleeved white T-shirt—a deceptively simple outfit that probably cost more than everything in his old wardrobe put together. And yet, for all his polish, I’d recognize him anywhere.
It had been so long since I’d seen him in person.
Even from a distance, I could see he’d changed. Where he’d once been narrow and wiry, his shoulders and arms had broadened with muscle. His hair, which he used to keep buzzed short, had been left to grow into tight black curls. I’d always told him he’d look great if he let it grow, and I was right. Someone more convincing than me must’ve gotten to him.
“Okay!” William said in a high-pitched voice. “I—I guess I’ll go welcome them? Are you coming?”
I let out a laugh, like a bark. It was sharp and hard. It startled both of us. He’d completely forgotten my plan to check the villa, though to be honest, I didn’t care anymore. “No, I don’t think so. You go ahead.” I flicked my wrist in the direction of the window.
“I’m sure you can take care of it. It’s your job, after all.”
“It’s my . . . what the hell? Since when?”
“Yes, but you’ve never thought so.” William gaped at me. “Are you sick? You’re scaring me.”
I looked back at the window. “Stop stalling.”
“I’m not stalling. I’m concerned.”
Outside, Aiden hesitated next to the van, squinting up at the hotel’s name emblazoned across the arch of the entrance. Why was he here? After we’d last spoken, I’d more or less resigned myself to the fact that I’d never see him again. I thought he’d done the same.
As if he’d heard my thoughts, his attention swung to my window.
I jumped backward, letting the blinds snap back into place.
“You know I was only joking earlier,” William said. “You don’t look that terrible. If that’s why you don’t want to—”
“That’s not why,” I said, but I reflexively reached for my ponytail of messy curls.
Now that William had put the thought in my head, I realized Aiden absolutely could not see me like this. Not when we hadn’t seen each other in two years. Not when he looked every inch the celebrity he’d grown up to be.
The office started to feel incredibly small. The walls too close. I needed to get out of there.
“Go on.” I hoped William couldn’t hear the strain in my voice. “Unless you—you can’t handle it on your own.”
His spine stiffened. “Of course I can. I’m a professional.” He scowled and marched toward the office door. “I certainly do not need a seventeen-year-old to do my job for me.”
“Sure. You keep telling yourself that.”
I wasn’t surprised when he shut the door a little harder than necessary.
Ready to let the rhythm take you?
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