The Office Party by Whitney G.

“I had an emergency deal to finish, and I’ve apologized to you a million times.”

“You’ve apologized twice.”

“That doesn’t mean I’m anything like Garrett West.” I pick up my bag and follow her down the jet bridge. “I’m fully capable of tuning out work and taking a break.”

As if I’m trying to prove my point, I turn off my phone and place it into my back pocket. Then I set the alarm on my watch for when I’ll need to turn it on again.

Following the signs, I lead the way to the customs area. We wait half an hour for the agents to check our passports, and then we grab our suitcases from baggage claim and head to the transportation zone.

A man in a short-sleeved, flowery shirt is holding up a “Welcome to paradise, Savannah & Georgia Grey!” sign.

“Good morning and welcome to Punta Cana, ladies!” He smiles. “I’m Emilio, and I’m looking forward to escorting you to The Excellence Resort. Is there anything you need to—” He pauses as a round of thunder roars from afar. Flashes of lightning follow.

“I’m getting back on the goddamn plane,” Georgia says. “I refuse to die today.”

“Don’t worry about that, Miss.” Emilio holds out his hand for her luggage. “We’ll return to blue skies in a matter of minutes. It’s only a late afternoon thunderstorm.”

She hesitates for a few seconds before giving him the bag.

Smiling, he opens the back door of the black SUV and carefully arranges our things.

Before pulling onto the road, he pours two champagne glasses and hands Georgia a chocolate strawberry plate.

As we ride, I shut my eyes and mentally rewind through my preparation—making sure I’ve dotted all of my i’s, crossed all of my t’s.

Gave a fake doctor’s note. Check.

Made sure my team was two months ahead on their project. Check.

Told the neighbor to hang ‘Get Well Soon, Savannah’ balloons outside my brownstone tomorrow morning. Check.

“Oh, not at all, Miss!” Emilio’s deep laughter pulls me out of my thoughts. “Our resort is built to withstand the strongest of hurricanes, and the worst of this storm won’t hit anywhere near us.”

I look over at Georgia, who doesn’t look the slightest bit soothed. She’s clutching her bag against her chest and rocking back and forth as if we’re seconds away from approaching the end of the world.

“I double-checked everything,” I whisper. “We’re going to be fine. Trust me.”

She ignores me and continues to pepper the driver with questions about the weather.

It doesn’t take long for the sky to redress in blue as Emilio promised, and by the time the grey clouds have drifted away, we’re approaching the end of a street.

The massive wooden gate to The Excellence Resort swings open, and my jaw drops to the floor. The lush greenery ahead is a far cry from my concrete jungle in Manhattan.

I turn on my phone to take pictures, but before I can snap one, a text message crosses my screen.

Bastard Boss (Don’t Answer): I heard that you’ve contracted a “flesh eating disease” and won’t be able to join us in Hawaii … Is this true?

I know that I shouldn’t answer--that I should ignore him until I return to Manhattan, but I can’t help it.

Me: Yes. The worst pain I’ve ever felt.

Bastard Boss (Don’t Answer): I’m sorry to hear that, Miss Grey. That sounds quite unfortunate, and I hope you get well soon.

Me: Thank you so much for your concern, Mr. West. I truly hope the “party” in Hawaii goes well without me. (So that you know, I was looking forward to attending. It seemed like a fantastic resort!)

He sends me three more messages, but I don’t open them. Instead, I mute my inbox and snap as many photos of the passing scenery as I can.

“Okay, you may be forgiven for bringing me here after all,” Georgia says. “This place is absolutely gorgeous.”

When the driver pulls up in front of the resort, the concierge greets us with flowers.

“We’ve upgraded your room, Miss Grey,” he says to me. “Our manager was hoping to greet you in person, but he sends his regards. Please follow my lead as the bellman handles your bags.”

We follow him through a maze of tall palm trees and stone-white buildings. Sparkling blue pools and gardens greet us every two minutes until we approach a standalone villa.

“This is the best suite in the entire resort,” he says, unlocking the door and revealing a world of opulence.