CH 7: Ocean Drive Secrets

The first-class cabin of the New Orleans to Miami flight was a cocoon of quiet luxury, a stark contrast to the chaos Dorian had left behind. As the plane reached cruising altitude, he signaled the flight attendant.

"Jack Daniels, neat," he said, his voice low and tired.

The amber liquid arrived moments later, and Dorian savored the familiar burn. It was a small comfort in a world that had been turned upside down. He glanced at his reflection in the window, noting the fresh cut above his eyebrow—a souvenir from their narrow escape from the penthouse.

As the coast of Florida came into view, Dorian's mind raced. The USB drive felt heavy in his pocket, a weight of secrets and danger. He took another sip of whiskey, trying to piece together a plan.

The plane touched down in Miami, and Dorian stepped into the sweltering heat of a South Florida afternoon. He hailed a taxi, giving the address of a boutique hotel on Collins Avenue—a competitor's property where he was less likely to be recognized.

At the hotel, a young man with an eager smile greeted him at the reception. "Welcome to The Palms, sir. Checking in?"

Dorian nodded, offering a credit card and false name he kept for emergencies. As the clerk processed his information, Dorian's eyes scanned the lobby, old instincts on high alert.

"Here you are, Mr. Johnson," the clerk said, handing over a key card. "Oh, and there's a Marcus on staff if you need anything during your stay. He's been with us for years and knows everything about Miami."

Dorian's ears perked up at the name. "Thanks," he said, filing away the information for later.

In his room, Dorian's phone buzzed with a text from Vivian: "On the beach. South of 5th. Meeting still on for tonight?"

He typed back a terse reply: "My yacht. Marina. 8 PM. Driver will pick you up."

Dorian moved to the window, looking out over the glittering expanse of South Beach. Somewhere down there, Vivian was blending in with the crowds, her two-piece likely turning heads as she played her role. Despite everything, the image brought a conflicted tightness to his chest.

He shook off the feeling. There was work to do. Dorian picked up the hotel phone.

"Front desk? This is Mr. Johnson. I was wondering if Marcus is available. I could use some... local insight."

As he waited for a response, Dorian's gaze drifted back to the window, to the azure waters of the Atlantic. Somewhere beneath those waves, he knew, lay the answers he sought. And quite possibly, more danger than he'd ever faced before.

The Miami night beckoned, promising revelations and threats in equal measure. As the sun began to set, painting the sky in hues of orange and pink, Dorian steeled himself for what was to come.

The humid Miami air clung to Dorian's skin as he stood on the deck of his luxury yacht, the "Crescent Moon," docked at the exclusive Miami Beach Marina. The vibrant energy of Ocean Drive seemed subdued from this vantage point, an unusual tension hanging in the atmosphere. A gust of wind whipped down the street, carrying with it the scent of rain and sea.

"Looks like we're in for some weather," Dorian muttered to himself, glancing at the dark clouds gathering on the horizon.

He checked his watch. Vivian should be arriving soon. As if on cue, he spotted her making her way down the dock, her sundress a swirl of tropical colors that seemed to capture the essence of Miami itself.

"This is quite the change of venue," Vivian remarked as she stepped aboard, her eyes taking in the sleek lines of the yacht.

Dorian helped her onto the deck. "I thought we could use some privacy."

He led her to the al fresco dining area on the upper deck, where a table was set for two. The aroma of grilled lobster tail wafted from the galley.

"Wine?" Dorian offered, uncorking a bottle of expensive Chablis.

Vivian nodded, settling into her chair. "You certainly know how to set a scene, Dorian."

As they dined on succulent grilled lobster tail and al dente pasta tossed with fresh herbs and olive oil, paired with the crisp white wine, Dorian found himself studying Vivian more closely than ever before. In the soft lighting of the yacht, with the Miami skyline as a backdrop, she was breathtakingly beautiful. But there was something in her eyes - a sharpness, a calculation - that he couldn't quite place.

The Chablis, a 2015 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos, was perfectly chilled, its notes of citrus and flint complementing the richness of the lobster. Dorian savored each sip, knowing that soon enough, this moment of luxury would give way to the harsh realities that awaited them.

As he reached for the wine bottle to refill their glasses, Dorian discreetly placed a thick envelope on the table between them. It was a familiar gesture, one that served as a reminder of the transactional nature of their relationship. Despite the intimate setting and the gravity of their conversation, Dorian was ever aware of Vivian's time and what it cost. The envelope sat there, unacknowledged but impossible to ignore, a tangible symbol of the complex dynamic between them.

As the meal concluded, Vivian leaned in close, her lips nearly touching Dorian's ear. To anyone watching from the shore, they might have looked like any other couple enjoying a romantic evening. But her words belied the intimate pose.

"We've got a problem," she murmured. "Your father's been spotted in Little Havana. And he's not alone."

Dorian's hand tightened around his glass, the ice cubes clinking softly. Below them, the yacht rocked gently with the increasing waves, but for Dorian, the movement suddenly felt more pronounced.

His father, here in Miami. The ghosts of the past were no longer content to haunt from a distance. They had followed him to the shores of South Beach, ready to drag him into depths he wasn't sure he could navigate.

"Where exactly?" Dorian asked, his voice low and controlled.

"A cafe on Calle Ocho," Vivian replied. "He was seen meeting with someone. We don't know who yet, but it looked... intense."

As Vivian's words sank in, a crack of thunder shook the yacht. The storm was getting closer, mirroring the turmoil in Dorian's mind.

"We need to move," Dorian said, standing abruptly. "This storm's going to hit hard, and I don't want to be stuck on the water when it does."

Vivian nodded, her professional demeanor slipping back into place. They made their way off the yacht, the wind now whipping Vivian's hair into a frenzy.

Dorian's driver was waiting in the parking lot, the Mercedes a sleek black shadow against the stormy sky. As they slid into the backseat, rain began to pelt the windows.

"Back to the hotel," Dorian instructed the driver. He turned to Vivian. "We need to figure out our next move. If my father's in Little Havana, there's a reason. And I intend to find out what it is."

As the car pulled away from the marina, heading back towards Ocean Drive, Dorian couldn't shake the feeling that this was just the beginning. Whatever storm was brewing, both in the Miami sky and in the shadowy world his father inhabited, Dorian knew he was about to be caught right in the middle of it.

The game was on, and the yacht's momentary luxury suddenly felt like the calm before a storm. The taste of the exquisite Chablis still lingered on his tongue, a final reminder of the world he was leaving behind as he plunged into the unknown.

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