Unfinished Business

When Irina, the managing editor of Eye on You, decided that it would be a great idea to dedicate a big chunk of the summer Issue to eligible bachelors, everyone jumped on the bandwagon.  The magazine was female skewed so they knew that their readers and subscribers would get a kick out of these, especially as they received many letters asking if they could feature stories on men who were looking for love.

After wading through scores of submissions from all over the world, they narrowed the entries down to twenty-five.  Sheree got the enviable job of interviewing the lucky ones that would be featured in Eye on You. Irina’s daughter, Carly, the magazine’s Photographer was to accompany her.

The interviews were to be done over a period of five days on the beautiful island of Jamaica.  In such an inviting and scenic backdrop, the men would be completely relaxed and open up to her.  She had no reason to believe that anything would go wrong.  The weather was pleasant—sunny every day and blue, cloudless skies.  She hadn’t been to the island since she moved to the United States with her parents when she was six years old.  She was looking forward to going although it was a working vacation.

Carly and she were to arrive a day before the bachelors whose expenses were paid by the magazine.  They were to scout the place to see where the interviews could be conducted without any interruptions or distractions and the locations where their photo shoots would be taken.  As they boarded the plane, they began to feel both Nervous and excited.  It wasn’t every day that they were going to interact with twenty-five gorgeous single men.

The men would have leisure time when they were not being interviewed or photographed but they were not allowed to fraternize with any of the female guests staying at the hotel.  It went without saying that Sheree and Carly could not get involved with any of them.  On the last evening there, they would have a celebratory dinner before parting ways. They were to each receive a complimentary copy of the summer issue of the magazine and other gifts, courtesy of Made for Men.

The hotel where they were staying was amazing and the staff was really quite friendly and helpful.  Sheree found quiet spots on the beach and around the hotel where she would do the Interviews and Carly was excited about the locales for her photo shoots.  After they finished getting ready for what would be a busy tomorrow, they spent a couple of hours on the beach before heading back to the hotel for dinner.

After dinner, they both decided that they would turn in early.  The next morning, Sheree got up bright and early and headed down to the café to have breakfast.  Carly joined her a few minutes later.  Over coffee, fruit, scrambled eggs and toast, they went over the day’s itinerary. There were going to be five interviews and five photo shoots–two in the morning and three in the afternoon.  While she interviewed the first Bachelor, Carly got busy taking photos of the other bachelor before his interview. The morning went very well and quickly.

Over lunch Sheree and Carly compared notes.  They both agreed that the two guys from Sweden and Brazil were really, really nice.  “I’m looking forward to meeting the guy from Australia,” Carly said.  “He’s absolutely gorgeous.  I can’t believe that he’s single.”

Sheree’s heart leapt at the mention of the one guy she couldn’t stop thinking about. “I’m looking forward to meeting him too.”

After Lunch, it was time to meet the bachelors from France, Argentina and Australia. The French guy was charming, the Argentinean was a little flirtatious and then it was the Australian’s turn.  Her heart thudded when she walked into the lobby where he was waiting for her.  He was tall and athletic and a sharp dresser in a white linen suit with a Royal blue silk shirt underneath.

The first thought that came to her mind when she saw him was that his picture didn’t do him justice.  She remembered how she had stared at it, unable to look away from those incredible eyes and face.  He was the one she had looked forward to meeting and interviewing but now that they were face to face, it was going to be a problem.  It was going to be hard to act professional with him when she found him so extremely attractive.

Taking a deep breath, she smiled and held out her hand.  “Hi, I’m Sheree Wilson.  I will be interviewing you, Mr. Jones.”

“Please call me Ryder.”  He shook her hand, his eyes meeting hers in a steady gaze.  “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Sheree.”

The feel of his warm palm against hers sent all sorts of shivers up her spine.  And it took a moment before she could say, “We’ll be doing the interview in the gazebo”

He smiled, releasing her hand.  “Sounds good.”

She could feel him watching her as they made their way to the gazebo and it made her nervous and excited at the same time.  He waited until she was seated before he sat down.  When she crossed her legs, she noticed that his eyes dropped to them momentarily before returning to her face.  Clearing her throat, she began the interview.  “Why you’re still single?”

“I think it’s because I have a tendency to put my career before relationships.  I spend so much time and energy building up the marketing company that I haven’t had time to look.  My sister and some of my friends think I’m picky and they have tried to set me up on dates but I just couldn’t seem to find the time so they gave up until my sister saw your magazine’s search for eligible bachelors and she managed to convince me to send in a bio and photo and was thrilled when I got the call saying that I was one of the twenty-five chosen.  She took me out to celebrate.”

“What about you?  Were you thrilled that you were chosen out of more than one hundred entries?”

He shrugged.  “I guess I was.  It helped to put things in perspective.  Although I like being single, it would be nice to get back into the dating game and meet different types of women.”

“What are you looking for in a woman?”

“Well, I like a woman with character, someone who is genuine and real, who’s not afraid to be herself around me and doesn’t take herself or life too seriously.  She must be affectionate, intelligent, confident, ambitious and humble.  As you can see it’s not about looks for me.  For me true beauty is what’s on the inside.  What matters to me is who a woman is not how she looks.”

She tried not to show how impressed she was with his answer.  The other men she interviewed placed more emphasis on the woman’s looks.  “What is your dream date?”

“I would say, having dinner on the beach, watching the sun set over the ocean and then going for a walk, barefoot in the sand, holding hands.  And at the water’s edge, I take her in my arms and kiss her”

Was it getting a little hot in the gazebo?  She asked him more questions and then she got to the trivial ones.  “Which do you prefer?  Sports or Arts?”

“Both.  I love working out at the gym and playing soccer.  I enjoy going to museums and the opera—when I have time.”

“Boxers or briefs?”

“Boxers.”

“Are you kid or pet person?”

“Both.  I love kids.  I enjoy spoiling my nieces and nephew.  Rover, the family dog and I were thick as thieves.  I was devastated when he died.”

“One last question.  What is the one thing that you think women should know about men but don’t?”

“We like to snuggle too.”

“And that wraps up our interview.  Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.  It was a pleasure getting to know more about you.” She switched off the recorder, sorry that the interview had come to an end.  “I must admit that I enjoyed that very much.  And now, it’s time for you to go and see Carly for your photo shoot.”

“Do I have to go right now or could I take a five minute break?”

She glanced at her watch.  “I guess five minutes wouldn’t hurt.”

“How long have you been working at Eye on You?”

“About two and a half years.”

“Are you married?  Single?”

“I was married but my husband died in 2014.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.  If you don’t mind me asking, how did he die?”

“He was a surgeon in Sierra Leone where he was infected with the Ebola Virus.  When I got the call that he was being flown from Freetown in a specially equipped air ambulance for treatment at the Nebraska Medical Center, I made arrangements to take go there.  By the time he arrived in the United States his kidneys weren’t functioning and he was unresponsive.  The doctors worked really hard to save him but it was too late.  The disease was already in its advanced stages.  By the time I got there, he was dead so I never got a chance to say goodbye or tell him that I loved him.  A couple of weeks after the funeral, I sold our house in Maryland and moved to New York.”

“I’m so sorry for your loss.  Do you have any children?”

She shook her head.  “No.  He couldn’t because of an injury.  We talked about adopting, though.  He would have been a terrific father.”

“He died just four years ago which is still fairly recent.  I guess you still haven’t gotten over losing him.”

“I still miss him but my job keeps me busy and I have Friends who are always inviting me out somewhere.  I don’t think I would have fared well if I had remained in Maryland.  I couldn’t stay in the house because it seemed so empty without him.  I think moving to New York was the wisest thing to do.  It made the grief a little more bearable and each year it gets better.  He will always have a special place in my heart.”

“I wish we could stay here a while longer but I think my five minutes are up,” he said regretfully.

She glanced at her watch.  “You’re right.  I’d better take you to Carly now before she begins to wonder where you are.”

After putting her notes and recorder away in her bag, she stood up.  He got up too and for several minutes they stood there, just staring at each other before she walked past him.  He fell into step beside her.

“What are you going to do now?” he asked.

“I am going to interview the Italian guy and after him, the guy from Indonesia.”

“And afterwards?”

“I’ll probably relax by the pool or go up to my room and take a nap.”

He wanted to ask her to meet him for mock-tails after dinner but decided that it would be premature.  They had just met and she was still carrying a torch for her dead husband.  “I guess I won’t see you until tonight at dinner,” he said.

“I guess so,” she said.  She was looking forward to seeing him again.   They were in the lobby now and her next interview was waiting for her.  Turning to Ryder, she held out her hand.  “Thanks for an enjoyable interview.”

He clasped her hand, his eyes riveted to her face.  “It was my pleasure, Sheree,” he said quietly.

She swallowed hard, her heart racing.  “Enjoy the rest of the afternoon,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper.

“Thanks.  You too.”  He released her hand and after a lingering gaze, he turned and walked away.

She stood there until he disappeared from view before she went over to the Italian guy.  After introducing herself, she took him to the meeting room where they were to have their interview.  As they walked down the corridor, she couldn’t help thinking about Ryder and how much she was looking forward to seeing him again.

That night at dinner, she couldn’t help glancing surreptitiously over at the table where Ryder was and each time, she found him already looking at her.  There was an attraction there but nothing could come of it.  He was one of the bachelors which meant that under no circumstances could she become involved with him.

All through dinner, she tried to focus on what Carly was saying but she was aware of Ryder at the next table and found herself wishing that she could be alone with him.  Is it wrong for me to feel like this?  Am I betraying Alan and our life together by having feelings for another man—a man I just met today?

“A penny for your thoughts.”  Carly’s voice intruded upon her thoughts, startling her.  “You look like you were miles away.”

“I was just thinking about something.  It’s not important.”

“All right.  I won’t pry.  Do you feel up to going to the beach and watch some limbo dancing?”

Sheree shook her head.  “No, I think I will have an early night.”

“I’ll see you in the morning, then.  Have a good night.”

After dinner, she went up to her room and after spending several minutes on the patio, gazing out at the ocean, she went to bed.  It took a long time for her to fall asleep because all she could think about was Ryder.  She kept reliving the moment when they had stared at each other in the gazebo.  The look on his face…she closed her eyes, trembling at the memory.

She didn’t want to admit it but when she met Alan, she wasn’t attracted to him at first.  It wasn’t until she got to know him that she began to have feelings for him.  With Ryder it was different.  From the time she saw his photo, she was attracted to him and it got very intense when she met him face to face.  He stirred emotions in her that she had never experienced before and that terrified her.  She didn’t want to lose her head over a man she hardly knew or would never see again after this was over.  The best thing for me to do, she decided, is to stay clear of Ryder.  Easier said than done because the next morning, when she was got up early and went down to the beach, she bumped into him…

He was coming out of the ocean, dripping wet when she saw him and immediately, her heart began to pound and her mouth felt dry.  Unable to help herself, her gaze swept over his magnificent body clad in red swimming trunks.  His hair was glistening wetly in the light and rivulets of water were running down his broad chest and flat stomach.  “Good morning,” he called, startling her and her eyes flew up to his face.  “What a pleasant surprise.”

She tried to act nonchalant which required a lot of effort.  “Good morning.  Do-do you usually go for a swim this early?”

He was standing in front of her now and she saw the way his eyes traveled over her.  “Yes.  I like to come to the beach before it gets crowded.  It’s nice and quiet at this time.  How come you’re out here at this hour?”

She shrugged.  “I-I just wanted to take a walk before breakfast.”  She tried to keep her eyes fixed on his face.

He walked over to where his clothes lay in the sand and picked up his towel.  As he dried his skin, he walked back to where she was.  “I’ve never been to Jamaica before but I can see why a lot of my friends come.  It’s a beautiful island.”

“Yes, it is.  I was born here in Montego Bay before I moved to US with my parents when I was six years old.  This is the first time since I left that I have come back here.”

“How come you haven’t been back before now?”

“I have been so busy but I guess I wanted to see other places first.  Alan and I had planned to go on a cruise the following year after he returned from Sierra Leone.”

“I’m sorry that your husband’s untimely death left so many of your plans unfulfilled.”

“Me too.”

“Do you mind if I accompany you on your walk?”

She shook her head.  “No, I don’t mind at all.”  Surely, there was no harm in them going for a walk together.

He finished drying his skin and tossed the towel on the sand next to his clothes before they walked along the water’s edge.  “How did you meet your husband?”

“We met at a mutual friend’s wedding.  We sat at the same table at the reception and when we were the only two people left there because everyone had gone dancing, we struck up a conversation.  He was a nice man and when he asked me for my number I didn’t hesitate to give it to him.  We started going out and then a year and a half later, we got married.”

“Were you happy?”

“Yes.  We were happy.  He was a good man and husband.”

“Do you think you will find happiness with someone else?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“Before you settled down, did you date a lot?”

She shook her head.  “No, I dated only five men.  They were all nice but I couldn’t see myself being married to any of them.  Over the years, I’ve met all sorts of men.  Some of them were great but I wasn’t attracted to them and others were only interested in one thing.  So, after my relationship with the fifth guy ended, I stopped looking and then I met Alan.”

“My sister has given up trying to find someone.  She told me that she broke up with the last guy because she couldn’t deal with his narcissism.   She felt like she was competing with his ego.”

Sheree laughed.  “Yes, I’ve met guys like that.  Tell her not to despair.  Somewhere out there is the man for her.”

They walked and talked some more and then it was time for her to head back to the hotel, have breakfast and get ready for the first interview of the morning.  When they were standing where his clothes were, he turned to her and asked, “Can we do this again tomorrow morning?”

She knitted her brow.  “Ryder, I don’t think—”

“Please,” he insisted.  “We will just walk and talk like we did today.  I enjoy your company, Sheree.”

“I enjoy yours too,” she admitted.  “All right.  I’ll meet you here tomorrow morning.  Have a good day.”

He smiled.  “Thank you.  You have yourself a good day too.”  He reached for his shirt and pulled it on.

After a lingering glance, she turned and walked away, feeling his eyes on her.  She couldn’t resist turning around to wave at him.  She was looking forward to being alone with him tomorrow morning.

They met the next morning and every morning after that.  Each time, he would be coming out of the ocean after a swim, dry himself off and then they would set off down the familiar stretch of beach where they usually went for their walks.  They talked about all sorts of things and she laughed at some of his stories about his family, friends and dates gone wrong.  She enjoyed being with him and looked forward to their morning meetings.

On the last morning before they were to leave the island, they went for their usual walk.  This time the mood was heavy.  After today, she was never going to see him again.  The reality of this thought filled her with despair and her feet dragged in the sand.  When he stopped and they stood there at the water’s edge, the water lapping at their feet, he turned to her, his expression tense.  “I’m going to miss this,” he said tightly.  “I’m going to miss our walks on the beach and our conversations.”

She swallowed hard, thankful that she was wearing sunglasses so that he couldn’t see her shiny eyes.  “I’m going to miss them too.”

“Sheree, you must know by now that I’m extremely attracted to you.”

She nodded.  It was no use pretending that she didn’t.  She could tell by the way he looked at and acted around her.  She was sure that her feelings for him were obvious to him too.  “Yes, I—I do.”

“And I know that you are attracted to me too.  I can tell from the way you look at me and I can feel it.  Oh, Sheree,” he moaned and reaching for her, he pulled her against him, his eyes darkening on her face.

Panicking, she struggled against him, her eyes wide as they met his.  “Ryder, please let go of me.”

His grip tightened as he tried to hold her still.  “Stop fighting something that is stronger than both of us.”

“Ryder, we can’t get involved with each other,” she protested weakly, her heart pounding heavily in her chest but the hands that were supposed to be pushing him away were gripping his shirt.  She watched, mesmerized as his face got closer to hers and her eyes fell shut when she felt his lips on hers, teasing them and tormenting her.

Desire surged through her like a wild fire and she was kissing him back like a mad woman.  They stood there exchanging hot, searing kisses for a long time before he broke it off to bury his face in her neck, breathing heavily.  She clung to him, trembling like a leaf and gasping for air.

After a few moments passed, he raised his head to gaze down at her.  “When this is all over, I want us to finish what we started,” he muttered thickly.

“But you’ll be in Sydney and I’ll be in New York.”

“As soon as I sort out my business back home, I’m taking the first available flight to New York.”

“You would fly all that way just-just to see me?”

“Yes!  I would fly to the end of the world if I had to.  Now that I’ve met you, I can’t let distance keep me from you.  I will come to you.”

“And I will be waiting.”

He bent his head and kissed her again before they continued walking along the beach, his arm around her shoulders and hers around his waist.  They parted ways on the beach and she was in her room when he left for the airport.  On the flight back to New York, she told Carly everything and she was thrilled.  “I suspected that there was something between you two,” she said.  “Don’t worry about Mom.  I will sort it out with her.  It won’t be the end of the world if we end up with twenty-four bachelors instead of twenty-five.”

Sheree squeezed her hand.  “Thanks, Carly.”

Carly smiled.  “I’m a romantic at heart.”

As soon as Sheree got home, she sent an email to Ryder letting him know that she had arrived safely and waited eagerly to receive a reply which came the following day.  Over the next several weeks, she busied herself putting together the feature in the magazine.  Initially, Irina wasn’t thrilled that they were minus a bachelor, especially, the hottest one, in her opinion but, she didn’t want to stand in the way of Sheree’s happiness.  Sheree learned that once Ryder had been notified that he wouldn’t be featured in the magazine, he reimbursed them for the travel and hotel expenses.

Ryder and she exchanged emails every day and occasionally spoke on the telephone.  It had been several weeks since they last saw each other and she kept wondering when he would eventually come to New York.  Weeks turned into months and still no sign of him although they kept in touch via email.

It was Christmas Eve and she was about to fix herself some lunch when the doorbell rang.  She dried her hands in the towel hanging on the oven handle and went to see who it was.  Her heart somersaulted when she peered out of the keyhole, bursting with excitement and joy, she unlocked the door and tugged it open.  Her eyes slipped eagerly over his tall frame in the black winter coat with the fur trimmed collar and hood.  “Hello,” she greeted him.

He smiled that smile which made her knees go weak, pulled her into his arms and kissed her.  “Sorry it took so long for me to come,” he said after a while.

“You’re here just in time to celebrate Christmas,” she said.  “Come in and warm yourself.”  She opened the door wider so that he could go in.  She took his coat and hung it up while he removed his shoes.

“Where’s your luggage?” she asked.

“I dropped it off at the corporate apartment where I will be staying before coming over here to see you.”

Taking his hand, she led him into the living-room and invited him to sit on the sofa.  “I was just about to have lunch.  Are you hungry?”

He nodded. “A little.  Do you know what time it is now in Sydney?”

She shook her head.  “No.”

“It’s two in the morning.  We’re 14 hours ahead.  It’s one of the things I had to factor in my decision to move here.”

She gaped at him.  “Move here?”

“Yes.  I’m going to be living in New York now that I am the new Director of our office here.”

“When did you decide to move to New York?”

“On the morning we said goodbye on the beach.  I knew then that I couldn’t go back to my life in Sydney when the woman I wanted to be with was in New York.  So, I made all the necessary arrangements and here I am to finish what we started in Montego Bay.”

Her response was to put her arms around his neck and kiss him.  Two years later, their unfinished business ended in marriage and their honeymoon was in Montego Bay where it all began.

Sources:  The Guardian; Just Mommies; Prokerala; The Washington Post; The 416 Magazine; Elite Daily; Thought CatalogHalf Moon;

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Paradise

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?”

“New York.”

“I’m from Seattle.  Are you here alone?”

“Yes.”

“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?

 

Sources:  Atlantis Bahamas; Your Tango; Girls Love Style; Simply Dresses; Cafe Martinique; Trip Advisor; Blue Letter Bible; Grace Seattle; Seattle Church; Reader’s Digest; Pinterest

Love Stands No Doubts

Alisha stood at the window, looking out, her mind on what happened or almost happened between Fabian and her this afternoon in his office.  It was like any regular day or so she thought until she walked into his office.

She went over to his desk to leave some papers for him to check over before signing them when he glanced up from the laptop screen to stare at her.  The expression on his face was grim and she frowned, puzzled.  “I brought the documents for you to review in case there any changes you want to make before you sign them,” she explained.  It was hard to think straight with him staring at her like that.  She was transfixed by the most captivating feature in his handsome face–his eyes.  They were an usual shade of green.  They were almost transparent.  It was hard to describe them but they were stunning.

“When were you going to tell me?” he demanded, startling her.

“Tell you what?” So, she was the reason why he was in a foul mood.  She watched as he pushed back his chair and sprang to his feet, leaning over the desk with his palms flat against the hard surface.

“That you had lunch with Bob Ford last week.”

“But how did—?”

“Did I find out?  It doesn’t matter.  The fact is I found out…from someone else.  Why didn’t you tell me?”

She shifted from one foot to the other, feeling much like a child who was in trouble being scolded by a parent.  “Well, Bob called me and asked me to have lunch with him and–”

“Why did he want to have lunch with you?”

She fumbled for words, still not understanding why he seemed to have a problem with her having lunch with Bob.  “He wanted to catch up.  We haven’t seen each other since I left the company to come and work here.”

“Is that all he wanted to do?  Catch up?”

“What are you implying?” she asked.  She was beginning to resent his interrogation.  Whom she had lunch with shouldn’t concern him.  He was her boss not her boyfriend, although she wouldn’t object to him being the latter.  She wondered what he would say if he knew how she felt about him.  At lunch, she had confided in Bob who advised her not to act until she was absolutely sure that Fabien felt the same way.  And to be quite honest she wasn’t sure.  She had seen the way he looked at her sometimes but she always chalked it up to wishful thinking.  And now, she wasn’t sure why he was acting this way over her and Bob.

“You and he were once in a relationship.”

“I know but–”

“What would you do if he wanted to resume your relationship?” he moved around the desk so that he was standing close to her.  His eyes were dark as they stared down into her upturned face.  “Would you take him back?”

She swallowed hard, her heart racing now.  Suddenly the atmosphere in the office had changed.  It was palpable with raw sexual tension.  Was that her breathing or his that she was hearing?  Her eyes were trapped in a steady, penetrating stare with his.  She shook her head and her voice was barely above a whisper when she answered, “No, I–I wouldn’t.”

“Why not?” he asked.

“Because–because I don’t want to be with him.”  It had gotten so difficult to breath.  Her heart was pounding wildly against her ribs and her legs felt weak.  Her eyes dropped to his mouth and her lips parted with intense longing.

He made a move toward her, his eyes darkening with desire when the phone rang.  The shrill peal jarred their ears and senses, ruining the moment.  Dragging his fingers through his hair, he turned and walked back around the back of the desk to answer the phone.  She turned and walk unsteadily out of the room.  Instead of going straight back to her desk, she went to the bathroom where she tried to compose herself.

If the phone hadn’t rung when it did…she closed her eyes, trembling as she remembered the look on his face.  He wanted her.  The realization thrilled her.  The desire that raged inside her was on his face.  And it explained why he was so bent out of shape about her lunch with Bob.  For some reason he thought that Bob wanted to get back together with her and that she would take him back.

While it was true that soon after they broke up that Bob wanted to reconcile, she had refused.  She cared for him but she didn’t love him.  All she wanted from him was friendship, nothing more.   Besides, she was in love with Fabian.  She fell in love with him the very moment when she first met him.  When she confided this to Bob at lunch today, he seemed a bit wistful but her happiness, even if it were with someone, was all that mattered to him.  When they parted, he wished her all the best and hoped that things worked out between Fabian and her.

Ten minutes later, she went back to her desk and had just sat down behind the computer when Fabian came out his office, closed the door behind him and went over to her.  She noticed that he had his briefcase with him which told her that he was leaving.  “I have a meeting at the head office and won’t be back to the office.  Call me on my cell if there is an emergency.”  He was all business again.

She nodded.  “See you tomorrow.”

“See you in the morning,” he replied before he turned and walked briskly away.

She watched him go until he disappeared around the corridor before turning her attention to the computer screen.  For the remainder of the afternoon, she buried herself in her work, trying not to think about what almost happened between.  She would have plenty of time to do so later when she was alone in her flat.

And here she was, hours later, at home, looking out of the window, reliving the moment in Fabian’s office and wishing that they hadn’t been interrupted.  In the distance, she heard Big Ben strike the hour of eight.  It was still very bright.  The sun wouldn’t set until around nine.  Was he at home now? she wondered.  Suddenly, the idea of stopping by his place occurred to her and her heart began to thud with nervous excitement.  Moving away from the window, she rushed into the bathroom, stripped and took a quick, hot shower, got dressed in a yellow top and denim skirt.  Since she would be walking in sand to get to his house which overlooked the beach, she donned a pair of canvas shoes, grabbed her handbag and left.

As she drove, she wondered if he would be pleased to see her.  She hoped so.  She hoped that what almost happened between them today was the beginning of what could be an exciting relationship.  Twenty minutes later, she was walking up the beach, gazing at the sea as it shimmered in the sunlight and the waves rolled onto the sand.  Unable to resist, she removed her shoes and smiled as her toes sank into the soft, wet sand.

Fabian was on the deck, looking out when he spotted her.  He stood there watching her for several minutes, his heart racing.  All afternoon and evening he couldn’t stop thinking about her and how close he had come to kissing her.  If the confounded phone hadn’t rung, he would have taken her in his arms and shown her just how much he wanted her.  His body reacted now to the thought and pulling on the hoodie, he ran down the steps leading to the beach, anxious to reach her.

Alisha saw him coming and her heart began to beat faster and her footsteps quickened.  Soon they were facing each other at the water’s edge, standing inches apart, their eyes locked in a gaze.  “I had to come,” she told him.

“Why?” he asked, running his fingers through his hair when what he really wanted to do was take her in his arms.

“We have some unfinished business,” she told him huskily, dropping her shoes in the sand.

Groaning, he reached for her and pulled her roughly against him, making her gasp.  Her arms went round his neck as his mouth sought hers, ravishing it and she responded feverishly.   As they stood there, the water swirling about their feet, the sun began to set, casting a red and orange glow on them while a flock of birds flew against the backdrop.  Oblivious to the beauty of their surroundings, they continued to exchange passionate kisses.

When she broke off their kiss to bury her face in his bare chest, he hugged her tightly against him, breathing harshly, his eyes still closed.  “I love you, Alisha,” he muttered thickly.  “I’m sorry that I drilled you about Bob but I was so jealous.”

She raised her head to look up at him.  “There’s no reason for you to be jealous of him or anyone else,” she assured him.  “I love you.”

“I didn’t know how you felt about me until today in my office.  I saw what I was feeling inside written all over your face and that encouraged me.”

“Yes, for the first time since we have been working together, today was the first time I didn’t have any doubts about your feelings for me.”

“I once read a quote which says, Love stands no doubts.  Whatever doubts we had about each other, they were swept away today.”

“Then it was a good thing that I had lunch with Bob, after all,” she concluded.  “If I didn’t how much more time would have passed before you and I admitted how we feel about each other?”

“I would like to think that I would have worked up the courage to tell you without Bob’s help.”

She smiled and then cried out when he suddenly scooped her up in his arms.  He started toward the steps leading to his beach house.  “My shoes,” she protested, trying to struggle free so that she could go and get them.  But his grip tightened and she gave up after a while, putting both arms around his neck.

“They’ll be there in the morning,” he promised her.  “Besides, you won’t be needing them where we’re going.”

 

 

Sunrise on the Beach

A creature of habit, he went for a walk on the beach very early in the morning before the sun rose.  It was quiet and peaceful at that time and he could clear his thoughts.  This morning was different, though.  His mind was in turmoil.  He couldn’t stop thinking about her and what almost happened between them last night.  He wanted her but he couldn’t have her because she was his brother’s girlfriend.

Last night he watched them together when they were all in the drawing-room following a sumptuous dinner, jealousy eating him up.  When he saw Laurence put his arm around her waist, he wanted to go over there and pull them apart.  Instead, he rose abruptly to his feet and stalked out of the dining-room.  He went into the library where he planned to spend the rest of the evening.

He was sitting in the armchair, deep in thought when the door opened and Laila walked in.  He stiffened at once and a muscle began to pulsate along his jaw-line.  Involuntarily, his gaze swept over her slender frame in the short coral reef shade strapless mesh dress with the sweetheart neckline.  It reached just above her knees revealing a pair of long, shapely legs in impossibly high strappy sandals.  Her neck was long and graceful and her shoulders smooth.  Her skin was flawless.  Her hair cut short like a boy’s suited her.  She was an extremely beautiful woman and she took his breath away.  He tried to ignore the feelings she was stirring inside him and exuded a calm demeanor he was far from feeling.

“I hope I’m not disturbing you,” she said, going over to stand beside him.  “I saw when you left the room.  Are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” he replied in a tight voice.  You disturb me more than you know.  “Laurence is probably wondering where you went off to.”  He wanted to insist that she leave him because he was afraid of what he might do if she stayed.

She shrugged.  “Laurence can do without me for a little while,” she said.  “I’d like to stay here and keep you company.”

He caught a whiff of her perfume which tantalized his senses with its blended scents of hyacinth and primrose. She was standing too close for comfort and he couldn’t hide the desire that was raging inside him. For one betraying moment, his gaze lowered to her mouth which he longed to ravish, especially when he saw it part invitingly.  He stood up.  Their bodies were inches apart and their heads were moving closer together.  In a few seconds, their lips would touch and he would taste the sweetness within…

Then sound of footsteps in the hall reached their ears and they broke apart.  He sank heavily back down in the chair, his face flushed and his heart racing while she moved closer to the bookcase.  Laurence went into the room, his eyes shifting first to her and then to his brother, his expression quizzical.  “So, this is where you two dashed off to,” he said.  “Father and Mother are about to cut the cake.  I’m sure you wouldn’t want to miss that.”  He took Laila’s arm.  “Aidan, are you coming?”

“Yes.” He stood up, his eyes avoiding her as he walked past them and out of the room, his back rod straight.  He would have preferred to stay in the library but it was his parents’ sixtieth wedding anniversary and it would look rather amiss if he were absent when they cut the cake.  He stood by the window, his hands shoved deep in the pockets of his jacket, watching as his parents beamed at each other as they got ready to cut the three tier cake.  Just then Laurence and Laila entered the room.  Unable to resist, his eyes lingered on her.  She seemed to be looking around the room.  Was she looking for him?  There wasn’t any doubt in his mind that Laila was attracted to him and if Laurence hadn’t walked in when he had…

The thunderous applause jolted him and he dragged his eyes away from Laila to see his parents kiss before they cut the cake.  He went over and congratulated them.  He stayed and mingled with the guests until they left and then, he escaped to his room.  He lay there for a long time, staring up at the ceiling and trying to put what almost happened between Laila and him out of his mind.  It was almost one in the morning when he finally dozed off.

He woke up at his usual time which was just before sunrise and made his way down to the beach.  It promised to be a beautiful morning but it did nothing to lift his spirits.  He removed his loafers and left them in the sand while he walked to the water’s edge.  He stood gazing at the calm ocean, wishing that was how he felt inside.  Of all the women in England, why did he have to fall in love with her?

Sighing heavily, he dragged his fingers through his hair.  Right now he felt guilty because of Laurence but bitter disappointment because of what could have happened if only they hadn’t been interrupted.

Just then the sun appeared as a bright yellow ball above the ocean, illuminating its calm waters.  It was one of the most magnificent sunrises he had ever seen and he found himself wishing that Laila was there to enjoy it with him.  Frustrated with himself, he quickly removed his clothes and ran stark naked into the water to cool off.  It felt great against his skin and he floated on his back for several minutes, closing his eyes.

Laila sat there watching him.  She had followed him after she saw him leave the house.  She knew that he was heading for the beach.  It felt a bit cool at first when she came out into the early morning air and was glad that she was wearing a light jacket.  She made sure he didn’t see her and kept close to the rocks, watching him as he walked along the sandy shore.  He was bare feet.  His shoes were in his hands.  He was dressed in a long sleeve tee shirt and a pair of jeans.  He stopped and turned toward the ocean, standing there for a few minutes.  Then, she gasped when she saw him strip and walk naked into the ocean.  Her heart began to pound as she watched him wade out into the water before he disappeared under its surface.

Suddenly, she was feeling hot and she pulled off her jacket.  She wanted to get from where she was perched on the sandy slope and join him but there was the possibility of the water being a bit too cool for her liking.  She decided to stay put and just watch him.

Last night she hadn’t been able to sleep.  All she could think about was how much she wanted him to kiss her and he would have if Laurence hadn’t interrupted them.  Laurence knew that she was in love with Aiden and he teased her about it.  Last night, much to her chagrin, he put his arm around her waist and pulled her closer to whisper in her ear, “I know that my little brother is besotted with you but he wouldn’t do anything about it because he thinks that you and I are in a relationship.”

She turned to stare at him.  “Why does he think that?” she asked.

“I may have alluded to it.”

“Why would you do that?”

“To get a rise out of him.”

“Is that why you’ve been flirting with me all night?”

“He’s leaving.  I thought he would have come over here and punch me or something.”

She turned to see Aidan hurrying out of the room.  Grimacing, she removed Larry’s arm from around her.  “Well, you’ve succeeded in getting a rise out of me too.”

Laurence looked contrite.  “I’m sorry.  I was just trying to help things along.  You’ll find him in the library.  It’s where he always goes when he’s upset.”

“Thank you.”  She excused herself and quickly walked away.  Her heart thudded with each step as she headed for the library.  She found him sitting in the armchair  by the windows overlooking the courtyard.  He didn’t look pleased to see her but she didn’t mind.  Her desire to be with him trumped his desire to be alone.  She trembled now as she remembered when he stood in front of her and they were about to kiss.  How she longed to feel his lips on hers.  Darn Larry for spoiling the moment.

Aidan was coming ashore and she rose to her feet, her eyes riveted as she saw him walk over to where his clothes lay on, spread his shirt out and sit on it with his knees drawn, gazing out at the sea.  She sat there for the longest time watching him and debating whether or not to go down to him.

A gentle breeze was blowing and it was becoming warm.  He felt invigorated after the swim and now he sat there allowing the air to dry his hair and skin.  He glanced at his watch.  It was eight o’clock.  The others were probably awake by now.  He would head back in ten minutes.  Right now, he just wanted to enjoy his solitude…Something, he didn’t quite know what, alerted him that he wasn’t alone anymore and he swung round, his face going beet red when he saw Laila coming down the slope toward him.

Muttering under his breath, he scrambled to his feet, snatched up his jeans and dragged them on, his fingers trembling as he fumbled with the zipper.  He fastened the button and was about to pick up his shirt when she reached him.  He felt self-conscious standing there half-naked in front of her and he felt his body react when he saw her eyes travel over his torso.

His expression was tense as he looked at her and his heart was pounding wildly against his ribs.  “What are you doing here?” he demanded tightly as he scooped up his shirt and pulled it on.

“I saw you leave and followed you.”

“Laila, you can’t stay here.”

“Why not?” she asked.  “Is it because of what nearly happened between us last night?”

“Yes!” he hissed.  He was trying really hard to control his emotions but she was making it impossible.  “You need to go back to the house right now.”

“I don’t want to go back to the house, Aidan.  I want to stay here.”

“All right.  Then, I’ll leave.”  He was about to walk past her when she caught his arm.

“Leaving me here wouldn’t change anything,” she told him huskily.  “It wouldn’t change what we feel for each other.  Last night I couldn’t sleep.  All I could think about was how much I wanted you to kiss me…”  She was standing very close to him now and her gaze had dropped to his lips, her own parting eagerly.

Groaning, he turned away from her as every fiber of his body screamed for him to take her in his arms and unleash the hunger that was consuming him.  “No, as much as I want you, I can’t do this to my brother.”

“Aidan, I’m not Larry’s girlfriend.

Aidan turned back to stare at her.  “What are you talking about?” he asked.

“Larry and I are not romantically involved.  We’re just really good friends.”

“If that’s true, why is he always fawning all over you?  Last night, he couldn’t seem to keep his eyes and hands off you.”  Jealousy flashed in his eyes at the memory.

“That was for your benefit,” she informed him.

His eyes widened.  “My benefit?” he exclaimed.

“Yes.  He was trying to get a rise out of you.”  She moved closer.  “He seems to think that you’re in love with me.  Is he right?”

His eyes darkened on her face and reaching out, he pulled her against him.  “Yes,” he moaned before he lowered his head and kissed her.  His lips plundered hers hungrily, feverishly and she pressed against him, her fingers gripping his hair as she responded passionately to his kisses.  They stood there for a long time, kissing while the sunlight bathed them.  Then, he broke off the kiss to bury his face in her neck.  “I love you,” he whispered.

She smiled.  “I love you too,” she murmured.  Then, they were kissing again.  She tugged at his shirt and he released her to pull it over his head.  His jeans followed.  Her fingers moved eagerly over his bare skin and she felt him ease her gently down on to the sand which felt soft and cushiony against her back.  They made love right there on the beach and in the following Spring they got married.  Laurence was the best man.

The first thing, Aiden and Laila did the following morning after they returned from their honeymoon in Bermuda was to go to the beach to watch the sunrise.  They stood there at the water’s edge, the water swirling about their ankles, arms around each other watching the sun as it rose slowly in the sky.  He turned to her and murmured huskily, “This is why I bought a house on the beach.  I want to stand here and watch the sunrise with you every morning for the rest of our lives.”

She smiled at him, her heart in her eyes.  “What a beautiful thing to say,” she said.  “It reminds me of a quote I once read.  It went something like this, ‘Someday, you will find the one who will watch every sunrise with you until the sunset of your life.’

“Yes, we found each other.”  He reached down and kissed her.

Source:  Pure Love Quotes

The Beach

She ran all the way to the beach and didn’t stop until she saw the silhouette of his house but instead of running up the stairs, she collapsed on the sand, the tears almost blinding her.  Why had she come here?  She should be as far from here as possible.  She had promised herself that she would never see or talk to him again–not after what happened this evening at the award ceremony.

She, along with the other volunteers and the staff were there to cheer on Mitchell Ryan, the founder and director as he accepted the award for outstanding community service on behalf on his non-profit organization.  He deserved it because it was he who played a dominant role in creating and implementing several after-school and summer programs geared toward keeping the youth off the streets.

Through his unwavering efforts and the support of staff and volunteers, many lives were transformed.  Youth who were taking or selling drugs, came clean and began talking to others about the effects of drug use.  There counseling services and programs for those who were victims of bullying and those who bullied.  “We’re here to help the victim and the bully,” Mitchell always said.  Many of the youth who were helped by his organization later became volunteers.

Vanessa met Mitchell ten years ago when she was a senior in high-school.  She was going through a tough time at home.  Her parents were always fighting.  To escape she went to the beach where she spent hours just sitting or standing in the sand, depending on the weather and watch the gentle swell of the ocean as it ebbed and flowed, wishing that she could go with it.  Before she left, she walked along the water’s edge, trying to imagine what it would be like to live on the beach with nothing but the sounds of the waves and the tangy salt air to fill her days.  It was better than living in the city with the constant sounds of traffic, sirens and chatter and of course, her parents bickering.  How she longed to escape it all.

One afternoon she walked farther than she normally did and came upon a lone beach house.  It stood tall above the grassy slope which led to the beach.  It was adequate for one or two occupants with a wide deck and a long flight of wooden steps leading down to the sand.  She wondered who lived there and thought how lucky they were to wake up every morning to a sunrise over the ocean.  As she stood there admiring the property, she heard a voice remark behind her, “It’s a beautiful place, isn’t it?”

Startled, she swung round and found herself facing a very attractive man who looked to be in his early to mid-thirties.  He smiled at her.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.  It has been a while since someone has come along this part of the beach.”

“Do you live there?” she asked.

He nodded.  “Yes, I do.”

“It must be nice having this part of the beach to yourself.”

“Yes, it is.”

She glanced at her watch.  “I’d better be heading back home,” she said.

“Where’s home and how did you get here?”

“I live in the city and I drove here.  I come to this beach a lot.  This is the first time I have walked to this part of it.”

“You know, when I was younger and I had a lot on my mind, I used to come to the beach and just sit and stare at the ocean.  Is that why you come here?”

“Are you a psychiatrist?” she asked.

“No,” he chuckled.  “I run a community organization which helps youth.  My name is Mitchell Ryan, by the way.”  He held out his hand.

“Vanessa Rivers,” she told him as she shook his hand.  He seemed like a really nice man.  “I really should be getting back home before my parents begin to wonder where I am–if they even notice that I’m gone.”

“I’m not going to press you but if you need to talk, you can get in touch with me.  Here’s my card.”  He handed her a business card.  “It was nice meeting you, Vanessa. And any time you want to drop by just to say hello, don’t hesitate.  It’s quiet out here but sometimes, a bit too quiet.  I’m always grateful for some company.”

Vanessa smiled.  “It was nice meeting you too.  ‘Bye, Mitchell.”

“‘Bye, Vanessa.” He stood there with his back to the house, watching her.

She waved at him before she retraced her steps until she reached familiar ground and her car.  As she drove home, she thought of how it would be nice to see him again even if she didn’t want to talk to him about her problems.  Perhaps, she could find out more about his organization and see if she could volunteer.  It would be better than being around her bickering parents.  When she got home, the place was quiet.  Her father was in the basement watching TV while she and her mother were in the kitchen.  “Mama, why do you and Dad fight so much.  Don’t you love each other anymore?” she asked as she was having her dinner.

Her mother sighed.  “Baby, we still love each other but it’s just that we seem to get on each other’s nerves.”

“I hate it when the two of you fight.  That’s why I go to the beach so often.  Are you and Dad going to get a divorce?”

“No, Baby.  We’re not going to get a divorce.  Sure, we bicker a lot but we have been married for a long time and only death will separate us.  So, that’s where you were this evening–at the beach?”

“Yes and I met Mitchell–”

Her mother stared at her.  “Who’s Mitchell?”

“A really nice man who lives in the only house on the beach.”

“How old is this Mitchell character?  Does he know that you’re still in high school?”

“He’s in his thirties and I didn’t tell him that I was in high-school but he knows that I live with my parents.  He gave me his card–”

“What for?”

“He runs a community organization and thought that I might be interested in learning more about it.  I think I will drive over there tomorrow after school and see if I would like to volunteer during March break and the summer.”

“Well, I don’t suppose there’s any harm in visiting the place but make sure you don’t spend too much time alone with this Mitchell character.  Remember you’re a very pretty girl and men get ideas.”

Vanessa shrugged and dropped the subject.  In her mind, she thought, I wouldn’t mind if Mitchell noticed me.  He’s very attractive and although, I don’t know anything about him except that he runs an organization and lives on the beach, I like him.  Who am I kidding?  He’s in his thirties.  There’s no way, he would be interested in a high-school girl although I graduate next month.  He probably has a girlfriend anyway.

The next day after school, she dropped by the historic building and was taken to Mitchell’s office.  He was pleased to see her and invited her to have a seat.  “So, how are things with you?” he asked after they exchanged pleasantries.

She told him about her parents and her concerns about their marriage.  “My family has a history of broken marriages.  I’ve seen my cousins going through a tough time because their parents got divorced.  I’m afraid that the same thing will happen with my parents although my mother assured me that she and my Dad will not split up.”

“Well, based on what your mother said, I don’t think you have anything to worry about.  I’ve known couples who are always bickering but they have managed to stay the course.  There will always be conflicts in relationships but it depends on the couple if they will let those conflicts affect their marriage to the point where they want to split up.  I read somewhere that arguments can lead to a greater understanding between the two people.  I have heard people say that learning how to argue strengthened their marriages.  The good thing is that your parents don’t run from fights like some couples who are afraid to address issues because they don’t want any conflicts which can later lead to bigger problems in the relationship.”

“My parents are not afraid to discuss sensitive issues.  They don’t sweep things under the rug.  And I guess that’s a good thing.  Get things out in the open and deal with them.  I guess my fear is that their constant arguing would lead to a split up because I had seen it happen to other family members.  They were always fighting even when they had company.  My parents don’t fight in front of other people, thank goodness.  I’m the only one who hears them.  I love them very much and hope that they will always be together.”

He smiled.  “I hope so too.”

“It felt good talking to you about it,” she told him.  He was wearing a nice shade of blue tee shirt with the top two buttons undone and tan trousers.  His dark brown hair was tousled but it was becoming for him.  She started when she realized that he had noticed her staring at him.  She couldn’t tell what he was thinking, though.  His expression was inscrutable.  Perhaps he was used to the opposite sex staring at him.  “I-I was thinking that it would be nice to volunteer here during March break and the summer but I’ve decided that I could do it before.”

“We always need volunteers,” he told her.  “Do you have a particular area of interest?”

“I’m interested in fundraising.”

“You can join our fundraising and event planning committee.”

“I’d like that.”

“When are you available?”

“During the week after school for four hours.”

“That’s great.  I will have Melanie our Volunteer Coordinator set you up.  How soon could you start?”

She wanted to say now.  “Monday.”  She hoped the weekend would go by quickly so that she could see him again.

“Monday’s fine.  I’ll take you to meet Melanie now and she will take care of you.”  He rose from behind the desk and she preceded him to the door.  Melanie wasn’t at her desk when they got there.  “She’s probably with one of the volunteers.  You can sit over there and wait for her.  On Monday when you arrive and after you see her, come and see me in my office.  I want to give you a personal tour of the place and introduce you to the staff.  Thanks for volunteering with us, Vanessa.  I look forward to seeing more of you and you being a part of the team.”

She smiled.  “I look forward to being here on a regular basis,” she said.  It means that I will get to see you every week.

They shook hands and then he left.  She went and sat down in the chair by the window and waited for Melanie who breezed into the office ten minutes later.  She was a very pleasant young woman who made Vanessa feel very welcome.  She had her fill out a volunteer form and they chatted for a while before Vanessa left there, confident that she was going to like working there.

When she told her parents that she was going to volunteer at the organization, her father thought it was a great idea and her mother wasn’t so enthusiastic.  “Make sure it doesn’t interfere with your school work,” she admonished.

As soon as school ended on Monday, she was heading over to the organization.  After checking in with Melanie, she was taken to Mitchell’s office.  Her heart began to beat fast when she saw him and when he smiled at her.  After they spent a few minutes in his office chatting, he took her on a tour as promised and introduced her to the staff.  Then, he left her with Berta, the chairperson of the fundraising committee.

Berta was a Jamaican woman was in her late fifties.  She was a very affable woman and Vanessa liked her immediately.  Berta took her under her wing.  She was a widow with two grown children, married and with their own families.  Vanessa loved being on the fundraising committee and brainstorming with the other volunteers.  Her first week went very well.

At the end of some evenings before she went home, Mitchell and she would walk over to the café and have cappuccinos.  They talked about the day and other things.  She enjoyed his company and knew that he enjoyed hers too.  One evening when they were standing in the parking lot, he said to her, “If you were ten years older, I would go out with you.”

Her heart began to pound.  “I’m going to be nineteen next month,” she told him.

“That’s too young,” he said.  “I’m thirty-four.”

“What about ten years from now when I’m twenty-eight?” she asked hopefully.  “Will you reconsider then?”

He pondered that for a moment.  “I might,” he said quietly.  “Goodnight, Vanessa.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Goodnight, Mitchell.”  She walked to her car, her heart fluttering with excitement.  There was still hope for her.

Ten years later, she reminded him of their conversation that evening in the parking lot and he admitted that he had thought of nothing else.  They began to see each other discreetly.  No one at the organization knew about it and he was determined to keep it that way.  They went for dinner, to the theatre, the movies and spent a lot of time at his beach house.

They arrived separately to the award ceremony and were careful not to spend any time alone together.  For all appearances, their relationship was the same as it always was, platonic.  She was enjoying the evening until she spotted Mitchell talking to a woman she had never seen before.

“Who’s that with Mitchell?” She asked Caroline, a fellow volunteer. Whoever she was, she was very beautiful.  Tall and striking in the cream pants suit and thick chestnut hair falling about her shoulders.  They seemed to know each other very well and she felt a sharp pang of jealousy.

“Oh, that’s Linda, Mitchell’s wife.  They are separated but from the way things look now, I wouldn’t be surprised if they get back together.”

Vanessa looked at her, shocked and devastated.  “Mitchell’s married?”

“Yes.  I thought you knew.”  Caroline stared at her.  “Are you all right?” she asked, looking concerned.

“I–I have to get out of here–” the words were strangled as a large lump rose in her throat as she fought to keep back the tears.  She ran out of the room and out of the building.  When she got to her car, she fumbled in her bag for the keys, almost dropping them.  She climbed into the car, slammed the door, started the engine and sped off.  Her fingers gripped the steering wheel as waves of pain washed over her.  Mitchell was married.  Why didn’t he tell her?  Since he didn’t wear a ring, she assumed that he wasn’t married.  What about those times when they were together why didn’t he say anything?  If she had known that he was married she wouldn’t have gotten involved with him no matter how much she loved him.  And she loved him so much it hurt.  Anger, hurt warred inside her and she wanted to scream. 

She didn’t know where she was going.  She couldn’t go home and let her parents see her like this.  They would have a fit.  She didn’t want to go to her friend, Nicole.  The beach.  She would go to the beach.  It was the only place where she wanted to be right now…Ten minutes later, she was running like a wild animal down the beach which, thankfully, was deserted, until she reached his house.  She collapsed in a heap on the sand and buried her wet face in her hands.

The sound of her name and a pair of hands lifting her up broke into her reverie.  It was Mitchell.  She struggled vigorously, trying to push him away as he picked her up in his arms and carried her up to the house.  Once they were inside he put her down and immediately she began to pummel him, the tears falling afresh.  He caught her hands by the wrists, his grip firm but gentle and restrained her. “What’s wrong, Vanessa?” he asked.  “Why are you so upset and why did you leave the award ceremony?  I looked for you but you weren’t there.”

She struggled to control her emotions, her chest heaving at the effort.  “Why didn’t you tell me that you’re married?”

He stared at her.  “Married?”

“Yes, I saw the two of you together this evening at the award ceremony and I asked Caroline who she was and she told me that it was your wife.  She said that you were separated.”

“Oh, Vanessa.  I’m so sorry.  I don’t know why Caroline told you that I’m separated when she should know that I’m divorced.  Linda and I got divorced shortly before I met you.  Our problem was lack of intimacy.  We didn’t feel connected to each other anymore.  She was there this evening because she was also going to receive an award for her commitment to volunteering.  When you saw us together we were just congratulating each other and catching up.”

“Caroline said that you might back together with her.”

“She is mistaken.  I will have a talk with her on Monday when I see her.  I have no desire to get back together with Caroline.  Why would I go back to her when I love you, Vanessa?  How could you think that I would have a relationship with you when I was still married to her?  You should know the kind of man I am by now.”

She started to cry.  “I’m sorry,” she sobbed.  “When I saw you with your ex and how friendly you were with her, I got jealous.  And when Caroline told me that she was your wife…”

He cupped her face and used his thumbs to wipe the tears away, his eyes darkening on her face.  “So, that’s why you ran out on me this evening.  I was going to invite you and the other volunteers on to the platform with me.  Don’t cry, my darling.  There’s no need for tears.  I love you and I want to be with you.”  He kissed her tenderly, almost like a caress.

She responded, putting her arms around his neck.  “I love you too,” she whispered.  “And I’m sorry I ran away instead of facing you.  I would have saved myself a lot of heartache.”

“Don’t beat yourself up about it.”

“Based on how I reacted and my hasty exit, Caroline probably put two and two together and figured out that I’m in love with you.”

“It doesn’t matter anymore.  I don’t want us to continue to hide our relationship, especially since I am going to marry you.”

She gaped at him.  “Marry me!” she exclaimed.

“Yes.”  He reached into the back pocket of his jeans and produced a red velvet box.  He flipped it open and took out the sparkling diamond ring.  He raised his eyes to look her straight into her moist ones.  “Will you marry me, Vanessa?”

“Yes!” She kissed him enthusiastically on the mouth before she watched enthralled as he slid the ring on her finger.  It was the most exquisite thing she had ever seen.  She couldn’t wait to show it to her mother—and Caroline.

He pulled her into his arms, his eyes met hers before he bent his head and kissed her.  As she responded, she remembered a quote that she once heard.  Heaven seems a little closer at the beach.

 

Sources:  Eva’s; Marriage.com; Daily Mail; Huffington Post; Next Avenue

The Breakup

She stood there watching Philip and his date.  They were at his sister’s Julia’s engagement party.  Julia and she were friends since high school and it was during the summer holidays at a beach resort where she first met Philip.  The attraction was immediate and they wasted no time getting to know each other.  After dinner, they would go for strolls along the beach or to a nightclub.  One night they enjoyed the percussive guitar playing of a Cuban artist.  Afterwards, they went back to his bungalow and made love.  No one suspected that anything was going on between them.  She slipped out after dinner and he followed some time later.

They began a torrid romance which lasted for little over a year.  She should have known what was coming, especially since Philip was adamant that they kept their relationship a secret.  They always met at his flat because she roomed with Julia.  He would take her home but never see her to the door.

She closed her eyes as she recalled that evening when he broke her heart.  They were sitting in his car outside of the apartment building where she lived.  They had just come from his flat.  As she turned toward him, he said, “I don’t think we should see each other anymore.”

She swallowed hard, her heart thudding.  Dread filled her.  “Why?” she asked in a trembling voice.  She loved him so much.  The thought of not being with him anymore was unbearable.

“I’m so much older than you,” he said.  “You’re twenty-one and I’m thirty-nine.  I’m going to forty in December.”

“Our age difference doesn’t matter to me,” she cried.

He turned to look at her then.  “But, it does to me,” he said quietly.  “You should be with someone closer to your age–”

“I don’t want to be with someone closer to my age,” she cried.  Tears sprang to her eyes.  “I want to be with you, Philip.”

He closed his eyes.  “Please don’t make this harder than it already is.”

She stared at him for a long time and grabbing her handbag, she turned and pushed open the door.  “Goodbye, Philip,” she said before jumping out of the car and slamming the door.  Blinded by tears, she ran towards the entrance to the building and ran all the way to the lift.  Thankfully, no one was in the lift but still she tried to hold it in.  After fumbling with the key in the lock, she let herself in and headed straight for her room.  Fortunately, Julia wasn’t there.  She closed the door, flung her bag on the floor and threw herself on the bed, her body racked with the sobs she had held back.

That was three months ago.  Now, here she was watching the man she still loved with someone else.  She turned away, blinking back the tears that threatened to fall.  He didn’t waste any time, she thought.  Here she was pining over him and he was with a tall, statuesque redhead.  How could he?  He knew that she was going to be there tonight.  How could he flaunt his new love interest in her face like that?  How she wished she could hate him but try as she did, she couldn’t stop loving him.

She wanted to get out of there but what would Julia think?  As she stood there, wondering what to do, David, Julia’s other brother joined her.  David was a nice guy and wanted to go out with her but she wasn’t interested in him.  “What’s the matter, Daniela?” he asked, looking a bit concerned.

“I–I’m not feeling very well,” she said.  “Maybe a bit of fresh air will help.”

“You seem upset about something.  Is it Philip?”

She looked at him, startled.  How on earth did he guess that Philip was the source of her distress?  “Philip?” she repeated, feigning ignorance.

“Yes.  I saw when the two of you went to his bungalow in the Bahamas.  I had gone for a walk and was on my way back to mine when I saw you.”

She was speechless.  David had seen them.  David knew about them.  Yet, he hadn’t said anything until now.  “How come you didn’t say anything?”

“I wanted to confront you about it but decided that it would be wise to hold my tongue.  I was upset, though, for again I was the underdog because another girl I had a high regard for had fallen for my big brother.  I regret to say that I was hoping that things wouldn’t work out between you and him. ”

“Well, you got your wish,” she said in a choked voice.  “He dumped me.”

David looked contrite.  “Daniela, I’m sorry.”  He reached out and put his arm around her shoulder.

She felt the tears coming and was desperate to get out of there.  “Excuse me,” she said and quickly walked away.  The terrace was empty and she leaned against the rail, her fingers gripping it as she let the tears run unabatedly down her cheeks.  The pain in her chest was almost suffocating.  How on earth was she going to go back in there and face everyone when she was in such a state?

She heard footsteps behind her and after quickly wiping away the tears she turned, stiffening when she saw that it was Philip.  He stopped a few feet away from her, observing her closely.  “You’ve been crying,” he said.  He made a move to touch her face but she turned away.  “You don’t want me to touch you yet, you didn’t seem to mind David touching you.”

“David didn’t touch me.”

“I saw him put his arm around your shoulder.  Are you in a relationship with him?”

“I don’t see how that is any of your business,” she said.

“It is,” he muttered tightly.  “Are you and he seeing each other?”

She swung round then to face him, her chest rising and falling swiftly as all sorts of conflicting emotions surged through her.  She wanted to slap him and then kiss him.  “What does it matter to you?  You dumped me, remember?”

“If you and David are in a relationship, I want you to end it.”

You don’t get to tell me what to do,” she retorted.  “You lost that right when you ended our relationship.  Besides, David cares for me—”

His expression darkened and his fingers clenched into tight fists at his sides.  “What about you?” he asked tensely.  “Do you care for him too?”

His question upset her.  Did he really think that she had gotten over him as easily as he had her? “Why don’t you leave me alone, Philip?  Go back to your date.  She’s probably wondering where you are.”

He stared at her.  “My date?”

“Yes!  The beautiful redhead I saw you with.  You didn’t waste any time jumping into bed with someone else, did you?”

“That redhead happens to be my cousin,” was his terse reply.  “She flew in from Paris alone.  Her husband is away on business.  That’s why I brought her to the party.”

“She’s your cousin.”

“Yes.  I want you to stop seeing David.”

“I see.  So, that’s how it’s going to be.  You don’t want me but you don’t want anyone else to have me.”

He moved closer, his eyes darkening on her face.  “You think I don’t want you?” he asked.

“Yes,” the word came out as a sob.

Muttering under his breath, he reached out and pulled her roughly against him.  “Does this feel as if I don’t want you?” he demanded thickly.

Her breath caught in her throat and her eyes were wide as they met his stormy ones.  Then, he was kissing her and in spite of herself she responded.  Her arms went around his neck and she felt his hands pressed her even tightly against him.  They exchanged frenzied kisses as if to make up for the time they had been apart.  The hurt and anger she had felt just a few moments ago dissolved and in their place was the satisfaction of knowing that Philip still wanted her.

It was a long time before they broke off the kiss and stared at each other.  “I was fool to let you go,” he said huskily.  “I allowed our age difference to come between us.  Seeing you tonight made me realize how I had allowed fear to jeopardize my happiness.”

She crinkled her forehead.  “Fear?” she repeated.  “What were you afraid of?”

“I fell hard for you—a girl so much younger than me and I was afraid that after a while your feelings for me would change.  I feared that you would wind up falling in love with another guy—one closer to your age.  So, to save myself the trouble of waiting until that happened I decided to end the relationship when I did.  Believe me, it wasn’t easy but I felt I had no other choice.  I was so afraid of getting hurt that I didn’t consider that you were getting hurt in the process.  I thought that in time you would get over me.”

“That night when you broke up with me was the worst night in my life.  I felt as if my heart had been ripped out.  I wasn’t infatuated with you, Philip.  I loved you.  I still love you and will never stop loving you.  I have seen many guys on campus and off campus and some of them have asked me out but I turned all of them down.  David asked me out and I turned him down.  I couldn’t go out with any of them because of you.  I didn’t want to be with anyone else.  And tonight when I saw you with the woman I thought was your date, I was hurt and angry.  It seemed as if you had gotten over me very easily.”

“I haven’t been with anyone else,” he told her.  “I could have dated several women but I didn’t because I couldn’t stop thinking about you and longing for you.  Many times I was tempted to stop by your flat on the pretext of visiting Julia.  I often wondered how you were and if you were dating anyone.  Whenever I saw Julia, I wanted to inquire about you but was afraid that I would give my feelings away.  I knew that I was going to see you tonight and braced myself for the possibility that you would show up with someone.  And when I saw you with David, I assumed that you were involved.  When I saw him put his arm around you, I was out of my mind with jealousy.  I wanted to come over there and separate you but I saw you leave.  I followed you.   I had no idea what I was going to say to you because it has been months since we last saw each other but I just knew that I had to be alone with you.”

“I was angry with you just now when you asked me about David.  You seemed to think that I was so fickle that I would go from one brother to the next, sort of on a rebound.”

“I was speaking out of jealousy,” he said.  “I thought what I had feared had come true—that you had gotten over me with David.  When I saw that you had been crying, I thought it was because of him and when I tried to comfort you, you recoiled from me.”

“I was crying because of you.  David saw that I was upset and guessed that you were the reason.  He told me that he saw us going into your bungalow.  He knows about us.  I told him that you ended our relationship and then I left and came out here.  I didn’t want you to touch me because I knew that if you did, I wouldn’t be able to help myself.”

“I’m sorry I hurt you,” he muttered thickly.  “That night when you said goodbye and left my car, it took superhuman strength for me not to get out and run after you and tell that I had made a terrible mistake.  During the months we have been apart, I have been kicking myself for letting you walk out of my life.”

“So, where do we go from here?” she asked.

“I want us to get married,” he said.  “I don’t want to waste anymore time.”

Tears of joy came to her eyes.  “Are you sure?” she asked.

“Yes, I’ve never been surer of anything in my life.  I love you, Daniela.”

She smiled through the tears.  “I love you too, Philip,” she said huskily.

He lowered his head and kissed her.  Her arms around his neck tightened as she kissed him back.

 

 

The Cruise

He sat back in the chair, arms over the sides, his long legs crossed, watching her as she did her stretches on the deck.  He watched her, wanting her and kicking himself for it.  His attraction for her was like a fever, burning him up inside and a sickness that seemed to grow worse.  At nights it was torture.  He would lay awake, thinking about her and wishing that she was lying next to him instead of Moira.  When Moira and he made love, he imagined that it was Yasmin and felt like a heel afterwards.

Yasmin noticed Adam sitting there and that he was alone.  She wondered where Moira was.  The strawberry blonde was constantly by his side.  However, today, he was by himself and she could feel him watching her and it thrilled her.  He looked sullen as usual but she wasn’t going to let that bother her.  She finished her exercises and went over to him.  Smiling, she greeted him, “Good morning, Adam.”

She saw his gaze travel over her slim figure clad in a red tank top and black capri leggings.  He looked like a preppy dressed in a navy blue jacket with a handkerchief in the pocket, a pink sweater over a blue and white striped shirt and green shorts.  It seemed like too many colors to be wearing at once but he managed to pull it over.  A pair of expensive looking brown loafers completed the look.  His thick, silky dark hair was off his forehead as he had a habit of combing it back with his fingers.

“Good morning,” he replied, his expression guarded.

She sat down.  “Where’s Moira?”

“She was here on the deck with me earlier but began experience motion sickness so I took her back to the cabin.  I gave her some Gravol and she’s having a lie down.  Colette is with her now.”

Yasmin took a couple of sips of her water before she replied.  “I hope she feels better.  It’s a good thing that we are at sea all day today.  It would be a shame for her to miss any of the sightseeing.”  She leaned back in the chair.  “It’s a beautiful morning, isn’t it?”

“I suppose it is,” he conceded, somewhat reluctantly.  He was trying not to stare but he couldn’t help himself.  The face that haunted him, intruded upon his dreams and thoughts was right in front of him.  Part of him wished that she would go away and leave him alone and the other part wanted her to stay.

“What do you plan on doing now that Moira is indisposed?”

“I don’t know.  Perhaps, I will stay here for a while, then return to the cabin and stay there until it’s time for lunch.”

“Do you mind if I keep your company?” she asked.

He shook his head.  The part of him that wanted her to stay was stronger.  This was the first time that they were alone together and opportunity for him to learn more about her.  “Is this your first cruise?”

She nodded.  “Yes, it is.  I was so excited when Colette told me about it last year.  I’m looking forward to visiting Italy and France.”

“It’s a pity that Le Havre isn’t one of the ports we will stop at when we reach France.  You would have been able to see Paris.  Do you know why it’s really called the ‘City of Lights’?”

She shook her head.  It was so pleasant being with him like this and actually having a conversation, the two things she hadn’t been able to do until now.

“It was referred as the City of Light, not the City of Lights because of its leading role during the Age of Enlightenment and it was one of the first European cities to light its boulevards and streets with gas lamps.”

“So you’ve been to Paris before.  What other places have you been to?”

He told her about the different countries he traveled to and she listened, enthralled.  The way he described the various places was so vivid and detailed that she could almost imagine herself being there.  She could have sat there and listened to him talk for ages but he turned the conversation over to her by asking questions about her.

Her life sounded so ordinary compared to his and when she learned that he was a barrister, she smiled as she pictured him wearing the white wig.  Intrigued, she asked him what it was like to be a barrister.  As she listened to him talk about the 12 month training, what it was like shadowing his supervisor and when he was able to practice, her job as an editor for a fashion magazine seemed dull.  They talked for a long while and then it was almost time for lunch.

He walked her back to her cabin and while he went to his to see if Moira was up for going to lunch, she went to change and freshen up.  Colette was there.  Together, they went to Adam’s cabin and found Moira and him waiting.  “You’re feeling better, I see,” Yasmin commented.

Moira smiled.  “Yes, the Gravol helped.  I’m hungry.”

Colette put her arm around her.  “Good.  You got your appetite back.”

Adam and Yasmin followed them.  As they walked beside each other down the corridor, he looked at her the same time she looked at him.  Their eyes were locked in a steady gaze for a several minutes and then she looked away.  He turned to look straight ahead of him, a muscle throbbing along his jawline and his eyes dark with the emotions that were raging inside him at the moment.

The four of them had lunch together and afterwards, Adam and Moira went back to the cabin while Yasmin and Colette went to the boutique.  “They have a suite,” Colette was telling her as they went on the deck where they planned to relax for the rest of the afternoon.  “I felt as if I were in a hotel.  They have a balcony too.”

Yasmin was thinking about Adam what had transpired between them in the corridor a while ago.  The look they had exchanged.  It was charged.  Is that why he went back to the suite with Moira instead of hanging out with Colette and her?  “How long have they been dating?” she asked.

“About three years.”

“Do you think they will get married?”

“I don’t know.  Look here’s a nice spot.” Colette went on to talk about other things and then she leaned back and covered her face with her hat.

Yasmin sat there, her mind muddled.  The last thing she wanted to do was fall for a guy who was already in a relationship.   She resolved then not to be alone with him for the rest of the cruise.  That night at dinner, she tried to act nonchalant around him and spent most of her time talking to the two brothers who shared their table. The next day when they stopped in Gibraltar, Colette and she accompanied the two brothers to the summit of the rock and the four of them stood there admiring the spectacular views.  She was aware of Adam standing close by and when she came down from the rock and walked past him, she could feel him watching her.

It was hard avoiding him but she felt that it was the sensible thing to do.  When they were on the sandy beach of Costa Blanca, he managed to get her alone.  The others were walking along the stretch of white sand, taking photos, dipping their feet in the water.  As she would have walked past him, he caught her by the arm, forcing her to stop and look up at him.  “Why are you avoiding me?” he demanded, his eyes smoldering as they met her gaze.

“Am I?” she asked.

“You know you are,” he hissed.  “And I want to know why.”

“Please, let’s join the others before they start to wonder—”

“By others do you mean Tom?  You have been spending a lot of time with him lately.”

She turned her head away.  If she continued looking at him, her resolve would crumble.  “Unlike you, Tom isn’t in a relationship.  Now, please let go of my arm.  They are looking at us.”  She tugged at her arm and he released it.  She hurried away, almost running, anxious to get away from him and the feelings he stirred in her.

He watched her go, his heart pounding wildly and his breathing harsh.  How he longed to go after her and tell her how seeing her with Tom pained him. Frustrated, he ran his fingers through his hair and closed his eyes as the struggled to compose himself before he joined the group.

That night at dinner and subsequent night after that he sat there, watching her with Tom and wondered how much more he could endure.  When they were in Rome, he was distracted by Tom taking photos of Yasmin in front of the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps.  He hardly noticed his surroundings with their rich history and stunning architecture.  Every place they visited was a blur for him.  He was actually thankful when it was the final night on the cruise.

The group decided to go to the nightclub that night after dinner.  He wasn’t in the mood for dancing and preferred to sit at a table and nurse his virgin daiquiri.  The four of them chatted, reminiscing about the different places they had visited.  Then, Tom and his brother came over to the table and asked Yasmin and Colette to dance.  Yasmin hesitated for a second and then she got up.  Adam watched her go.  Jealousy tore through him as he watched Tom put his hand on her waist and they moved to the music.  His fingers tightened around the glass.

“It’s late,” Moira said.  “I think we should turn in now.  We have a very early day tomorrow.” She stood up.

Adam finished his drink and stood up as well.  After casting one last look at the dance floor, he followed Moira out of the nightclub.  Back in their suite, not much was said and when Moira turned in, he went out on the balcony and stayed there for a while, staring at the ocean, wondering if Yasmin was still at the nightclub with Tom.  It was late when he finally turned in and even then, he didn’t fall asleep for a while.

At breakfast, Moira and he sat with Yasmin and Colette.  Colette did most of the talking while Yasmin toyed with her breakfast, her eyes downcast as she avoided looking at Adam.  When they said goodbye to each other, she managed to smile but inside she was hurting.  She didn’t feel right hugging Moira so she just squeezed her hand and then walked away.  She and Colette were going to spend the day in Southampton before taking the train back to London.

When they were in the car that would take them from Southampton to London, Moira said to him, “I know that you don’t love me, Adam.  You care for me but you don’t love me.  You never did.  I realize that now.  I want to be with a man who loves me the way I love him.”

Adam looked at her, his face pale.  “I’m sorry,” he said quietly.

“I’m sorry too,” she said and looked away.  A few moments of silence passed and then she turned to him.  “It’s Yasmin, isn’t it?  I saw the way you looked at her.”

“Yes,” he admitted.  It was no use denying it now.  He was hopelessly in love with her.

“It explains the recent cacophony between us.  You were acting differently toward me and I couldn’t explain why until last night on the ship.  I saw your reaction to Yasmin dancing with Tom.  You were jealous.  You couldn’t hide it.  It was there on your face.  What I would have given for you to look that way for me.”

Adam reached out and covered her hands as they lay clasped in her lap.  “I’m so very sorry, Moira” he said again.  “I never meant to hurt you.”

“I know,” she said.  “You have no reason to be jealous of Tom or any man.  It’s obvious that Yasmin is in love with you too.”

Adam stared at her.  “Thank you,” he said.

“For what?” she asked, not looking at him.

“For being so kind to me when I really don’t deserve it.”

“I still love you,” she said.  “And I want you to be happy even if it’s not with me.”  After that she said nothing else for the rest of the drive.  Her face was turned to the window so that he wouldn’t see the tears in her eyes.  When the car pulled up outside her building, he came out and they hugged.  “Goodbye, Adam.”

“Goodbye, Moira.”

Adam got back into the car and after he watched her disappear into the building he told the driver to take him to his flat.

Hours later, Yasmin was in her flat.  She had just finished taking a shower when the doorbell rang.  She hurried to the door and peered through the keyhole, her heart skipping a beat when she saw who it was.  She unlocked the door and opened it.  “What are you doing here?” she asked.

Adam’s eyes were restless on her face.  “I have something I need to say to you.”

“I think I said all I needed to say where we were on that beach.”

“May I come in?”

She stepped aside to let him in and then she closed the door.  Leaning against it, she asked, “What do you have to say to me?” She tried not to notice how handsome he looked in the white shirt and dark jeans.  His hair was slightly tousled.

“I love you, Yasmin,” he muttered thickly.  “I love you and I want to be with you.”

She swallowed, her heart racing now.  “What about Moira?” she asked.

“Moira and I are no longer together.  She figured out that I am in love with you.”

Yasmin tried to process what she was hearing.  “How did she take it?”

“She was heartbroken but bore no grudge toward me.  She is a fine woman and I hope that one day she would find a man worthy of her.”  He moved closer, his hands aching to touch her.  “She told me that I have no reason to be jealous of Tom or any man.”

“She’s right,” Yasmin told him.  “I love you, Adam.  Tom knew that too.”

He groaned, reaching for her and pulling her into his arms.  “You have no idea how seeing you with him has tormented me.   That day on the beach, I was almost out of my mind with jealousy because you were spending so much time with him and avoiding me.”

“I had to stay away from you because of your relationship with Moira.”

“There’s no reason for us to stay away from each other now,” he muttered before he lowered his head and kissed her.

As his mouth moved furiously and feverishly on hers, she moaned, closing her eyes and kissed him back.  She reached up and buried her fingers in his thick, silky hair, the nails digging into the scalp as they exchanged hungry kisses.

That morning, when she said goodbye to him, she thought that it was the last time she would ever see him.  Yet, here he was, in her flat and in her arms, as much in love with her as she was with him.  The bleak future which, moments ago, she had foreseen for herself had turned into a very bright one.

 

young couple on cruise ship

Sources:  Royal Caribbean; Wikipedia; Royal Caribbean; Chambers Student; Wikipedia; Wikipedia;