They met in Paradise Island. She had taken a spontaneous trip to the island. It was to get away for a while. She had just broken up with Lemarr, the treacherous cur. He two-timed her with her best friend.
She saw them one morning outside of his building, holding hands and kissing. Not wanting to make a scene, she stood there in the cold, her heart breaking. The tears spilled down her cheeks and she brushed them away with a gloved hand. She watched as they walked away, oblivious to the pain their treachery caused. They never even noticed her standing there.
When Lemarr had to nerve to drop by her flat the following day, she coldly told him that their relationship was over and slammed the door in his face. After she had a good cry, she picked up the phone and booked a flight to Paradise Island. It was by pure luck that she was able to book a room at a luxury hotel, notable for its elegance and relaxing atmosphere. She had read about it on line and the glowing reviews and looked forward to spending seven fabulous days there.
It felt good to get away from the lingering cold and Lemarr. Soon after she arrived at the hotel, she donned a swimsuit, a pair of sunglasses and went down to the beach. The sun felt great and she breathed in the tangy salt air. It had been years since she was anywhere tropical. And if it hadn’t been for Lemarr and Wanda, she wouldn’t be here. Wanda. She still couldn’t believe that her best friend had stabbed her in the back like that–the same friend whom she was so proud of when she saw the mayor bestow a plague of appreciation for her outstanding work as a volunteer. She hoped she never saw the miserable wretch ever again.
It wasn’t until she was walking along the beach when she noticed him standing there at the water’s edge, gazing out at the sea. She tried not to notice. The last thing she wanted was to get involved with another man. It was way too soon and she would be doing it to get back at Lemarr. Yet, she couldn’t help but stare at him. He was absolutely gorgeous.
As if he sensed that he was being watched, he turned his head and their eyes met. She saw his gaze travel over her and then return to her face. The raw feelings that his appraisal stirred inside her both shocked and disturbed her. How could she be experiencing these sensations so soon after her break up with Lemarr? Didn’t she love Lemarr and was heartbroken over his betrayal? Then why was she getting hot and bothered over a guy she had never seen before in her life?
What should she do? Walk past him as if he weren’t there? That was unlikely. Should she smile and say hello and continue walking? Or should she turn around and walk in the opposite direction. As she agonized over what to do, he started to walk toward her. Her heart began to pound wildly against her ribs. Oh, dear, what am I going to do now?
He walked right up to her and extending his hand, he introduced himself. “Hi, I’m Sean.”
She hesitated for a moment and then she put her hand in his, feeling a jolt of electricity at the contact. His fingers clasped hers in a firm hand shake. “Dinny.”
This close, he was even more handsome. His thick dark hair glistened wetly and rivulets of water ran down his broad chest and flat stomach. He must have just come out of the water. She saw the towel in his hand and swallowed hard when she imagined him drying his skin with it. She was thankful that she was wearing sunglasses. He couldn’t see the look in her eyes.
“Did you just arrive, Dinny?” he asked.
She nodded. “Yes.” He was still holding her hand.
“I thought so. I would have noticed you if you were here before. Where did you fly in from?”
“I’m from Seattle. Are you here alone?”
“Me too. Is this your first time to Paradise Island?”
“Yes.” She knew she kept giving him one word answers but she couldn’t think straight with him holding her hand.
As if he had read her mind, he released her hand, much to her relief. “How long are you here for?”
“A week. What about you?” It was the first time she had asked him a question. Did that mean she was warming up to him? No, she was just being polite.
“Eight days. I got here yesterday. It looks like we will be leaving on the same day. I know this may seem a bit forward but I was wondering if we could spend time together or at least sit at the same table for dinner.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Why not? What harm could there be in us getting to know each other better? Are you married?” He couldn’t see if she was wearing a ring because she was carrying a beach towel.
She shook her head at once. “No, I’m not married. Are you?”
“I wouldn’t be here by myself or talking to you if I were.”
“Sorry,” she mumbled.
“Are you in a relationship?”
“I was but now it’s over. I’d rather not talk about it.”
“All right. I’ll respect your privacy. Are you going to go for a swim? The water is great.”
“I want to walk first and then go into the water afterwards.”
“All right, I’ll leave you to your walk. If you change your mind about spending time together, let me know. I’ll be over there.” He pointed to an area on the beach, further up where there was a beach chair under an umbrella. A beach towel was rolled up in the chair with a book next to it.
She looked at him, tempted beyond belief but she needed to think about it. “I’ll think about it,” she said and he smiled. She excused herself and walked away. She could feel his eyes on her and she turned once to look back. Yes, he was watching her. She turned away and continued along the beach as far as she could go before she stopped somewhere, removed her wrap skirt and put it down on the dry sand with her beach towel and flip-flops. She walked towards the water, anxious to feel it on her skin.
She spent about half hour in the water, soaking in the tranquility which surrounded her. It was at that moment that she felt God’s presence and a peace came over her. The anger, hurt and bitterness that had eaten her up seem to ebb away with the gentle waves. And Sean’s face swam into focus. Was it by pure chance that they met or was it by Providence? She wasn’t sure.
She knew was that it would be foolish to find herself in another relationship so soon after her breakup with Lemarr but Sean was so intriguing. It was very obvious that he found her attractive. And to be quite honest, she was attracted to him too. Was there really any harm in them spending time together? It would be nice to have someone to talk to and was better than eating alone.
By the time she came out of the water, she had made up her mind to take Sean up on his offer. She was a free woman now and didn’t have to answer to anyone, least of all–Lemarr. She dried her skin and hair before putting on the wrap skirt. Taking up her flip-flops, she made her way back to where Sean said that he would be.
He looked even more disturbing reclining on the lounging chair. He smiled when she approached him and closed the book he was reading. “Have a seat,” he invited, indicating the chair beside him. “Had a good swim?”
“Yes, I did.” She realized that he had set up another chair because she remembered seeing only one. “You seem very sure that I would come,” she remarked, sitting down.
“I was hopeful. We can sit here for a while and then have lunch.”
“Is this your first time in Paradise Island?”
He nodded. “Yes. I’ve been to the Bahamas before, though. I went to Nassau about five years ago.”
“Were you alone that time too?”
“No. I was with my then girlfriend.”
“What happened to her?”
“We broke up. There was too much interference from her friends in the relationship. I got tired of it and walked away.”
“I have seen a lot of my friends’ relationships end because they listened to their single girlfriends. Some of them tried to get into my relationship but I refused to let anyone who had never been in a long term relationship give me advice.”
“So, what was the cause of your breakup?”
She turned to look at the ocean. “He cheated on me with my best friend.”
Sean reached out and covered her hand with his. “I’m so sorry to hear that. I can’t imagine how you must have felt.”
His hand on her arm was comforting and thrilling at the same time. “I was very angry and very hurt,” she admitted. “I saw them together when I went by his place. They didn’t see me. I stood there watching them until they walked away. The next day when he came by my place, I told him that it was over and slammed the door in his face. Then, I picked up the phone and made travel arrangements. And here I am on Paradise Island.”
“Well, I wish we could have met under better circumstances. I know this is easier said than done, but what do you say we forget about the past and just enjoy the present. We came here to relax and have fun. Let’s not think about broken relationships or the people who have hurt us. They have moved on with their lives and we should do the same.”
She glanced at him. “I’m willing to try,” she said. “Sometimes, these things happen for a reason. Maybe Lemarr and I weren’t meant to be.”
“Maybe.” He agreed and then he changed the subject. “Tomorrow morning, I am going on the Atlantis , would you like to come?”
She looked at him in alarm. “Is that where they go scuba and shark diving?”
He chuckled. “We don’t have to do either of those things,” he said. “We can go snorkeling or snuba diving.”
“What’s snuba diving?”
“Snuba diving is like scuba diving but without the tank. Instead, you get oxygen from a tube.”
“Which would you recommend? Snorkeling of snuba diving?”
“I recommend snuba diving because it gives you more freedom to explore and enjoy your surroundings than snorkeling. It’s easy and it’s for people who have never snorkeled.”
“All right, I’ll come. I’m sure you would have preferred to go scuba diving, though.”
“I prefer to do whatever makes you comfortable, Dinny. Besides, I’ve never been snuba diving before so it will be a new experience for me too.” He glanced at his watch. “Let’s go and have something to eat. We can come back here again afterwards.” He got up and helped her up. Their eyes met briefly and then he turned away. They walked back to the hotel, agreed to meet in the lobby after getting changed and freshening up. Ten minutes later, they were having lunch. They talked about different things and she began to feel very relaxed with him. And he watched her, thinking how lovely she looked when she smiled.
She learned a lot about him. He had two brothers–one older and one younger and a younger sister. He was the Founder and CEO of Zanoah, a non-profit organization which caters to the “cast off” of society like prostitutes, prisoners, young offenders and the disenfranchised. His church had a partnership with other non-profit organizations and he was a part of the delivery team which delivered pre-made meals once a week to individuals living with or at risk of HIV/AIDS and/or other chronic diseases. When he wasn’t busy working or doing community work, he liked to go cycling or hiking to keep fit. He liked to travel and did so once every year. After he told her everything he could about himself, it was her turn to talk about herself.
She had a younger sister who lived in Atlanta with her husband. Her parents moved to Fort Lauderdale after they retired. She was a Computer and Information Systems Manager. At church, she was involved in Women’s Ministry and participated in the Downtown Feeding Ministry. In her spare time, she liked to read, go for walks, shop, hang out with friends or take in a performance at Lincoln Center. Most of the time, though, she stayed at home.
After lunch, they went back to the beach where they spent the rest of the afternoon, relaxing, talking, walking along the water’s edge and then going for a swim. It was after six when they left the beach and headed back to the hotel. Before they parted ways, they arranged to have dinner at seven. He was going to stop by her room this time instead of meeting in the lobby. Compared to his, her life sounded boring.
Once she got to her room, she spread the dress she was going to wear out on the bed. It was a sleeveless black dress with a scooped neckline, a keyhole cut-out back and a flare skirt ending above the knees. A pair of strappy black sandals would complete the outfit. After taking a long, hot shower, she got dressed and when she was finished, she examined herself in the mirror in the bathroom. Satisfied, she switched off the light just as she heard a knock on the door.
Heart pounding, she went and answered it. Sean stood there, looking extremely handsome in the black suit and white dress shirt with no tie. His eyes traveled slowly over her and when they returned to her face, she saw admiration and something else shimmering in their depths. Swallowing hard, she stepped outside and closed the door behind her. “You look amazing,” she heard him say as she turned to lock the door.
When she turned to face him, he was looking at her, a serious expression on his face. “Thank you,” she said quietly. “So do you.” She walked beside him on shaky legs, wondering if he could hear how fast her heart was beating. She wondered what Lemarr would do if he were to see her now. It was the first time in hours that she thought about him and that was a good thing.
They had dinner at Café Martinique which didn’t quite look like the old one made famous by its appearance in the James Bond movie, Thunderball. Over Sesame Crusted Salmon and Spiced Rack of Lamb, they talked about their excursion to Stuart’s Cove in the morning. She was both nervous and excited at the prospect. After dinner, they went the Joker’s Wild Comedy Club before they called it a night.
The next morning, Dinny went to Poseidon’s Table where an elaborate breakfast buffet awaited her. She stood there, not knowing where to start. Everything looked so appetizing. Sean joined her, looking refreshing in a white tee shirt and jeans. She was dressed in a yellow tee shirt and a denim Capri pants. After some time passed, she finally settled for fresh fruit, toast, veggie omelet and tea. He had fruit, blueberry pancakes and a coffee.
When they were finished they hurried back to their rooms to get what they needed for their trip and twenty minutes later they were on their way. There were a lot of people on the boat, couples, families, seniors and singles but it wasn’t overcrowded. The captain and his assistant were very nice and tended to everyone. After they were shown basic skills, they were in the water.
Dinny stayed close to Sean, holding his hand as they explored the reefs, her eyes widening when she spotted a lion fish among the coral reef. She liked the yellow and black striped fish. They spent a while in the water and then they went back on the boat. It was a wonderful experience and they made plans to go on a snorkel trip and while Sean swam with the sharks, she would remain on the boat and watch.
When they got back to the hotel, they had lunch before heading to the beach to relax for the rest of the afternoon until it was time for dinner. During the week, they visited Dolphin Cay where they interacted with sea lions and swam with the dolphins. It was the first time Dinny had ever worn a wet-suit. They went snorkeling among the ruins of Atlantis where they spotted rays and colorful tropical fish. She got nervous when she saw sharks and held on tightly to Sean’s hand. They went down the Challenger Water slide of the Mayan Temple and Sean won.
One day, they went the spa and each got a massage. Dinny got a facial as well. And while he went to the fitness center to get a workout, she went shopping. They went on a tour of galleries to get a taste of Bahamian art and culture. Afterwards they had lunch at Hillside House.
It was their last night at the resort and they were having dinner at Sip Sip, a beach front restaurant. The mood at the table was very solemn. She toyed with her salad, her expression downcast. She was going to miss him terribly.
He raised his head to look at her. “I wish I could take you back to Seattle with me,” he said quietly.
“I wish we could stay here for another week.”
“I know that we said that we will keep in touch by phone and email but that isn’t the same as seeing each other like we are now.” His eyes darkened. He was going to miss being with her. The time they spent together was the happiest he had ever experienced in his life. He couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing her. “May I visit you in the summer?”
She nodded at once. “Yes. I’d like that very much.”
“And you could visit me at Christmas.”
“Yes, I could do that.”
“Dinny, my IT Manager is retiring at the end of the month. The position is yours if you would consider moving to Seattle.”
She stared at him. “Move to Seattle?”
“If I didn’t have Zanoah, I would move to New York in a heartbeat.”
“I was born and grew up in New York. I’ve never thought of leaving.”
“Please think about it. I will give you until the end of the month. If you show up at my flat before then, I’ll know that you have decided to leave your life in New York behind to start a new one with me.”
“And if I don’t show up?”
“Then, the position will be filled and I’ll know that we’ll have a long distance relationship until we eventually end up in the same city.”
She smiled. “I’ll think about it.”
He smiled too. “Now, how about we try to enjoy our last dinner together here in paradise?”
They tucked into their food with relish. Afterwards, they went to Aura Nightclub but sat in a VIP parlour where they talked over non-alcoholic drinks late into the night. It was close to midnight when he walked her to her suite. She opened the door and then turned to face him. Their eyes met and held for a long moment. “Good night, Dinny,” he said quietly, his expression tense. He wanted to kiss her so badly.
She swallowed hard. “Good night, Sean.” She wanted him to kiss her so badly.
Neither of them moved. They just continued standing there, gazing at each other for a long, heart palpitating moment and then she was in his arms and he was kissing her. She put her arms around his neck and kissed him back. They exchanged passionate kisses as the longing they had been kept in check rose to the surface. This continued for several minutes until he broke off the kiss and buried his face in her neck.
“I want you so much,” he moaned thickly. “But, not now like this. I’m willing to wait until the time is right.” He raised his head, his eyes dark with desire as they met hers. Reluctantly, he released her and stepped back. “Good night, Dinny. I’ll meet you for breakfast at the usual time.”
She nodded, her voice barely above a whisper when she bid him, “Goodnight.” She was trembling so badly that she had to hold onto the door frame. She watched him walk away and then she went into the suite, closing the door behind her. For a moment she leaned against it, trying to catch her breath before she walked rather unsteadily into the bathroom where she got ready for bed.
As soon as Sean got to his suite, he stripped and took a cold shower. When he was done, he pulled on a pair of silk pajamas and knelt beside the bed. “Lord, You know how I feel about Dinny,” he murmured. “I never thought it was possible to fall in love with someone I’ve known for only nine days but it has happened. I didn’t come to Paradise Island looking for love but it found me that day on the beach when I saw this incredibly beautiful woman walking towards me. Lord, it’s hard for me to part from her.
“A few minutes ago, I was really, really tempted to show her how I feel about her but You helped me to exercise self-control. It wasn’t easy, though. I want Dinny in my life. Is it selfish for me to want her to move to Seattle? If I didn’t believe that it is Your will for me to continue the work I’m doing through Zanoah, I would move to New York, no problem. Lord, if Dinny moves to Seattle before the end of the month to be with me, then I will know that we have Your blessing.” He got up off his knees and climbed into bed.
The next morning they had breakfast and then she waited with him in the lobby for the shuttle to take him to the airport. When it came, she followed him outside and they hugged tightly before he climbed into it. She waved until it disappeared out of sight and then returned to the hotel, dejected.
Soon she was on her way back to New York. Life seemed very dull after being on Paradise Island and she missed Sean like crazy. Talking to him on the phone and emailing him was not enough. She wanted to see him.
Sean was standing at the window, looking out, thinking about Dinny when the doorbell rang. He went to answer it. His heart skipped a beat when he looked through the keyhole. His face braking into a broad smile, he opened the door, his eyes eagerly running over her. He pulled her inside and closed the door. “Hello,” he murmured before bending his head to kiss her.
She wound her arms around his neck and kissed him back. After a while, she drew back to look up at him. “So, when do I start my new job?” she asked.
“On Monday,” he said.
“You were very sure that I would come.”
“I was hopeful,” he said with a smile.
“If you are up to it, I was hoping that you would take me sightseeing.”
“Sure,” he said. “Where’s your luggage?”
“At the hotel. Staying here with you wouldn’t be a good idea. Things could get tricky.”
“You’re right,” he agreed. “The first thing you and I are going to do is buy a ring. Then, we will get married as soon as possible and you can move in here with me.”
“Sounds good,” Dinny murmured as he lowered his head towards her. When she felt his lips on hers, she thought that paradise wasn’t just about places but about moments like this one. She was with the man who loved her and whom she loved. What could be better than that?