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Our Own Romance Novel
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Our Solo Lady Romance Novel
Cruise to Seduction
By Alys Bohn and Lea Lane
Chapter Fifteen :
Shock Waves...Chapter Sixteen :
Thunder at Dawn....
Whatever had he done? Jake asked himself this as he hunted through the rudimentary kitchen for coffee. Without it he'd be asleep in a couple of minutes--though that might be just as well. Sleep or not, he had better pull back from unfamiliar territory. Confiding in Alex had been so natural, like snorkeling with her, walking a jungle path with her, like her, in fact. He had never gone for natural-style women, preferring the knowledgeable sophisticates who demanded only easy things he could afford to give. Entree to desirable parties, for example, and--at a certain stage in a relationship--jewelry. Not the tough things that made men vulnerable, as he had been once. They wanted valuable time he needed for work, and walks in the rain and--long before he was ready or willing, they wanted declarations of love and commitment.
These weren't what he had wanted years earlier--and they weren't now. What ever had made him send Alexandra a pot of violets, and a clock, and bring a face mask? True, her appeal was new to him and different--very different. But with a little more experience--which he could easily provide--anyone this sexy should be persuaded to prefer a bracelet. But it had better be soon, or he'd be doing more half-cocked things like flying to an island just to spend one crazy day with a dangerously natural temptress.
Alex sat sipping water and deciding to trust Jake, Â just for today. She just hoped that was not a mistake when he returned--without coffee--to the veranda and scooped her up and into one of the big cotton rope hammocks. Surprised, she lay there, not wanting to move a muscle. He was wearing his shirt and shorts, she her now-dry swimsuit and chunky coverup. But every inch of her absorbed his closeness as the moments passed. It seemed--like coming home.
Whether the low sound that he made was of contentment or frustration she couldn't tell. There were no separations for two in a hammock. It felt as if their entire beings, more than just physical bodies, were in total touch.
Still, he was strangely quiet. "Jake," she said, wonderingly. No response. She raised her head to look at him. Still nothing. He was fast asleep.
How easy it would have been to lie there, melting into him, never moving. But unless she was too boring for words, he must be exhausted. She, too, had been sleeping badly, thanks not to a corporate crisis but to her own emotionally-exhausting roller coaster. She'd probably fall asleep herself, which would not be good. Could she slip out without waking him?
Trying brought its own complications. Sliding and wriggling to untangle her legs created reactions she hadn't counted on. "Mmmm," he murmured, pulling her closer--into new territory that, she quickly realized, she could seriously enjoy.
"Alexandra," he whispered as he came still further to life. Then, as more consciousness returned, he uttered a heartfelt "Oh, God."
God answered with the equally-clear ring of a nearby cell phone. Jake was in no state to retrieve it. She managed to extricate herself, located it on a low table in the main room and brought it to him. He completed the brief exchange with a few terse words, then sat up groggily.
"I knew I'd barely slept for a couple of days, and would have to nap at some point. So I arranged for you to have one of the island's beach massages while I do, and the massage therapist is at the gate. Can you go? The combination's Pearl Harbor--no special reason."
If he was going to be this appealing, she could swim to Pearl Harbor. By the time she was out the veranda's screen door and down the steps, he was again asleep.
At the gate she punched in 12-07-41 and, when that didn't work, 07-12-41. Students of history--not just in America but around the world, she supposed--knew of "the date which would live in infamy."
From her visit to the spa on the ship, she recognized the cheerful British massage therapist, who wheeled her light-weight table in and set it up under a palm tree on the beach.
"We're so private here you needn't wear a stitch," she said briskly. "I cover you with towels, you know. But if you prefer something, your bikini bottom will be better than that one-piece suit."
Alex tiptoed back through the cottage into the bathroom and made the switch, showering off the saltwater for the massage awaiting her. Grabbing towels and water bottles from the fridge, she returned to the beach via the outdoor shower's convenient exit door.
Soon she was basking in one of the most sensuous hours she had ever spent. She was lying practically at eye level with the blue water, lulled by a silence broken only by the wavelets washing ashore and the sound of breeze-brushed palm fronds overhead. Meanwhile, skilled hands unknotted her muscles and oils soothed her skin.
"This is the same experience we offer passengers at the cabanas near the watersports pavilion," she was told. "They can sign up for a massage out on the beach like this, with a private cabana optional for showering and changing. The beach isn't so secluded or silent, though."
Alex's one regret, she reflected when the 50 minute-treatment was over, was having fallen asleep for at least half of it. When she at last let the massage-therapist out through the "Pearl Harbor" gate, she thought she had never been so relaxed. The water looked enticing, and Jake would be still making up for his 48 hours without sleep. Feeling amazingly free, she ran happily through the lapping tide line to the nearly-flat calm beyond.
The feel of the silky sea on her bare breasts was new and wonderful. She knew it wasn't safe to head out into deep water alone, and so swam back and forth along the shore with a mix of strokes. Exhilarated but tired at last, she flipped over, pulled up the towel for a sunscreen, closed her eyes and floated happily atop the buoyant saltwater.
After a time a cloud dimmed the sunlight. Good, she thought. I won't get sunburned. But then she felt waves. She must have drifted in to the shallows where they were gently breaking.Â
Opening her eyes, she screamed outright. It was Jake who was splashing her, his shadow that had fallen on her. And standing shamelessly close, the rat was unabashedly watching her with a smirk on his revolting face. And had been--for how long?
Never mind that at many beaches in Europe everyone went topless. This was America--well, The Bahamas--and she had counted on being all alone.
"You skunk," she shrieked. She was floating in water barelyÂ knee-deep, so getting up was awkward. But she did it, then began splashing him furiously, hoping the cool water would freeze the skin right off those treacherous bones.
But he merely stood there, laughing now as he surveyed her. What he thought was so funny she certainly couldn't see.
Then suddenly, she could see. Simultaneously she discovered she could blush flame-red. Like a stone, she dipped into the shallows. She had been so angry at him for watching her that she had forgotten the reason he was doing it! And he was laughing harder as she splashed him than he had when she was floating. Life near Jake Endicott was too convoluted for mere mortals like her.
"I could claw your eyes out!"
"Please come closer and try."
"You promised to be good. I hate you."
"I'm trying to change your mind."
"You're no gentleman."
"Of course not. I don't prefer blondes."
"That's not what I heard."
Silence. It had simply slipped out. Instantly he switched from gloating to sober. "So that's what it is," he said, dipping down into the shoulder-height water where she had sought cover and confronting her face to face. "That was your first question?"
She answered not with words but with eyes, dark and conflicted. His relationship with Caren van Danvers was no concern of hers. For her he was just an on-again, off-again shipboard romance at best and a deceitful, treacherous womanizer at worst. And she was nothing whatever--mere daytime entertainment--to him. So why did she care so intensely?
Only a whisper emerged. "Yes."
"Caren van Danvers is an old acquaintance. And yes, our relationship--hasn't always been platonic. I've been single, she has been married four times. Now that I've worked my way up in the business world, I'm sure I'm among her candidates for a fifth round.
"We do both live in Chicago. And we're obviously on the same cruise. She knows one of the cruise line's financial backers, and is on board often. But we aren't traveling together. And she's not my girlfriend. Since that day in Cozumel, I haven't been.... It's not Caren I came back to see.
"And the talent show?" she said, so softly that he bent his head to hear the question.
"I regret that, Alexandra. Caren was at the captain's table along with the Pitts and other pivotal executives in our negotiations. And she can behave outrageously--it's part of her... charm. You were so far in the back--the whole room was in the way. Believe me, I'll make it up to you."
"I have to think," she started to say. But thinking was hardly what he had in mind. As if feeling suddenly free from tight restraints, he swooped in and lifted her upward in the buoyant water. She cried out when his face was level with her topless loveliness, so close that she demanded--and got--his full attention.
His heat seemed to scald her icy skin. With an intensity growing fiercer with every passing minute, he boldly explored his exquisite new conquests. As he did, she felt her body reacting so intensely that it, not she herself, seemed in control.
Though suffused in pleasure, she involuntarily shivered, catching his notice in a new way. But when he pushed her audaciously away, she cried out in protest. Was it his boldness or the separation that she was protesting?
"You're cold again," he murmured, carrying her protectively onto the beach, depositing her on a thirsty beach towel and wrapping her in it. "You need a hot shower."
Her head had seriously disconnected from her body by now, leaving her not really caring what he did but only that he keep doing it. So when he led her up the path to the back deck entrance, she matched him step for step. The afternoon sun was filtering down through the screen-shaded roof as they reached the sheltered shower deck that she had left unlocked earlier. Impatiently he thrust the dry towels inside the bathroom door and adjusted the half dozen taps.
Still chilled, Alex immersed herself in the warm sprays, ranging from fine to firm and hitting them from every angle. But as she warmed up, Jake reached for scoops of herb-scented bath gel and used his versatile hands to apply it with devastating effect.
True to his earlier word, he had removed neither his own brief, narrow trunks nor her conservative bikini bottom. He had said she could relax, and she believed him. She even tried to be cool, to pretend this was just an ordinary Australian or French topless beach experience. But there was no "relax" about it. Where she had been mildly chilled from the long swim, he was now setting not only each bare inch of her sensitized body aflame. He was also igniting a core so deep within she could only moan for more. His deepening touch began to trigger her at-first shy explorations of his own body--which in turn stepped up the intensity of his no-longer-so-gentle attentions to hers. One of his sensitive hands was working incredible magic above her waist, while the other was electrifying new territory far below. Â She could only murmur as he eased her bikini bottom over the curve of her hip to drop to the deck below.
As if regarding the scene from some distant perch above, she saw her will to protest growing weaker, and weaker still. He had been charting unexplored territory since the first day he had kissed her. Today he was venturing into what, even yesterday, she would have called too far.
She had now stopped wanting more. Instead, she wanted everything. Tentatively, she had already found the waistband of his brief trunks and had reached two timid fingers a bare inch inside. Now while his hands were busy, very busy, hers forgot to be timid and dived in for the goal. It was not hard to find by sound as well as by touch, for he groaned as if in torture.
In the background, a phone was ringing almost steadily. It had been doing so sporadically since their arrival from the beach and probably even before. But he had ignored it. The thought that he was giving her priority over his work did not displease her. Not a bit.
But suddenly, through their total immersion in each other, both of them were startled by the sound of a car horn sounding loudly just outside. She jumped. He scowled murderously.
"Get dressed," he ordered brusquely, grabbing a towel with the world's quickest turnabout. Alex could neither speak nor move. "Now," he snapped. In shock, she managed to retrieve her suit and vanish Â into the bathroom to dress. Jake was heading out the deck door and down the steps in his bare feet and wet trunks.
"What's up?" she heard him speaking so casually to the horn honker that she gasped. "I was swimming out of range. But I'm back, and I'm all yours."
Chapter 16: THUNDER AT DAWN
Farewell nights on cruises, she had been told, were sad, exhausting and fun. Certainly this one was all of those--and it wasn't over yet. Alex surveyed herself in her cabin mirror. Jane's saucy red dress was a plus. Her unfashionable glasses were a minus that she intended to change as soon as she was home. Considering the conspicuous absence of the leading man, the evening thus far was not going too badly.
Looking back to the island, she recalled quickly switching to her dry suit and coverup while Jake was outside talking. She had been back in the main room gathering her gear when he had returned to the bath complex to dress quickly.
"We have unfinished business," he said, brushing her cheek absentmindedly before they left the house. A driver in a waiting Jeep took them along a barely-there road to a dock, where they switched to a small boat that sped directly out to the ship.
If she hadn't been along, she wondered, would he simply have boarded the plane he came in and flown to wherever he needed to be? No, they could have gone their separate ways right there. Probably Â it had flown away while he was on the island and couldn't be called back. It was clear that he was no longer really with her. He was again the aloof, alert corporate warrior, fighting rivals and giving cryptic instructions to his unseen troops thousands of miles away.Â
But what a lot she had to think about--an overwhelming question that kept her very quiet indeed. She had, in fact, Â been asking it not for just hours but for days, unwilling to even acknowledge it: Did the L-word apply here?
In love with Jake Endicott? This cosmopolitan man of the world, confident to--no, way past--the point of conceit? This hard-driving, astonishingly competent man who barked out orders as if he were directing the Pentagon.
The fact that he had, or at any rate spent, pots of money didn't especially impress her. as it did so many people. The men she admired--her teacher father, her brothers, Jane's fiancÃ©, hard-working plumber Mike--had jobs that helped ordinary people and gave reasonable but not outlandish rewards.
And how could she love a hunk--a type she had never admired--though his fit body and subtle good looks were disguised by great clothes and conspicuous intelligence? This long-time bachelor with a reputed comet-like trail of women left in his wake. This much-too-experienced, too-demanding lover who clearly knew every millimeter of a woman's body and what to do to it?
She had to admit, now that she thought about it, that despite his vast experience and devastating appeal he had not pushed her intolerably far beyond her limits. He had, in a backhanded but very-real way, respected them. His interests ran wide and deep, his ethics seemed strong, and he might well be considerate of those who worked for him. He was enigmatic, outrageous and hard to know--but she rather liked that. Touches of sweetness embellished his little-boy impudence, and conversation with him about nearly anything was exciting.
In fact, everything about him excited her. But what did that mean? It had begun to look as if she might--some time--find out. Now that wasn't clear. One thing was crystal, though: Whatever she felt, it went only one way.
In fact, he was barely there. He had turned to her for a moment as they stepped up onto the ship. "I had hoped to spend the evening together, but the crisis is back full strength and the plane's not here. There's bound to be a break, though, and I'll find you."
Alex spent the evening pretending there was no Jake, but enjoying it because somewhere on board, there was. Dinner was nostalgic. Stanley hadn't exactly turned his life around, but had made visible progress. He was even wearing jeans--stiff and new, but perhaps they would weather. Sue and Nell were already arguing over their next cruise. Should it be this summer, or would they wait till winter again? Would it be to Alaska or Canada's Atlantic coast?
Phyllis and Mike held hands under the table while Phyllis probed for every detail Alex would give her on Jake. What was he really like? He hadn't seemed so snooty when their paths had crossed briefly on the island. Was Alex ever going to see him again? If only she would concentrate on someone who didn't already have a girlfriend. Did they live together? Didn't Caren mind Jake's spending time on the island with Alex?
"I guess she's seeing him now, though," continued Phyllis, despite Mike's best efforts to discourage her. "No sign of either of them at the captain's table tonight. Of course, after ruining your dress last night, maybe she wasn't invited. Have they got any of the stains out?"
Finally they rose to pack or party--in Alex' case, both. Breaking up their small shipboard family was hard to do. All hugged, exchanged addresses and promised to use them--at least at Christmas. Alex wished Stanley good luck in the casino and happy cruising to Sue and Nell.
"Thank you for letting us share your honeymoon," she told Phyllis and Mike. "Be sure to stay in touch."
Back her cabin, Alex found a vase filled with deep red roses. No card was with them--or needed. Who but Jake was mad enough to send flowers when they'd be left behind in only a few hours?Â
"Alex, this is a man to be very, very careful of--and with," said Jane, who had called to check her sister's arrival plans. Reacting to Alex's very stripped-down account of her day, she gasped. "He is so on again-off again, and apparently dangerously attractive," she warned. "And you are just beginning to know your self-worth. I'm worried."
"Logically you're right, Jane. Today, he's on againâ€”or was--and making me happy in ways I've never been before. He's attracted to me, too, and when he is...."
"You can't resist him."
"No," Alex admitted, coloring invisibly. "At least--well, I'm not going to bed with him, but--pretty far. It's not just his body I'm attracted to. He's so--, so--"
"Stop! The man has it all--power, intelligence, charm and sex appeal. The worst kind you could meet. You're a new challenge for him. The leading lady--or practically live-in mistress--he's got. Do you really want to be the ingenue?"
"Jane, he said she isn't all that anymore. He sounds so--well, real with me. What if he's feeling what I am? I... can I be falling in love with this guy?
"Alex, you have all the symptoms. And it's much too soon. Remember how miserable you were when we talked last time? Today's fine, but tomorrow he'll be gone."
"Well, so will I--and I'm out of minutes. 'Bye."
Packing her bag, attaching its color-coded tag and putting it out in the hall took at least an hour. The crew would carry it out to the vast Miami terminal when they docked in the morning. Leaving her winter travel clothes, new alarm clock, laptop and camera on the cabin's armchair and wearing the Cayman sundress, she headed up for a last visit to the cantilevered disco-lounge 14 decks above the accumulating luggage.
The scene was cool, the music was hot and nearly everyone she knew was there. Many of the officers had managed time off, and even Stanley danced with her on the laser-patterned floor under the pulsating lights.
When the music changed pace Jean-Claude appeared and danced a slow number with her. He held her close, and his nearness wasÂ pleasant and friendly. "I'm going to call you when I come to New York, Alex," he said. "We have work to discuss--and perhaps an evening or two will not be work."
"I can't tell, Jean-Claude, but yes, do call. Maybe your interview will be in print by then."
When her favorite red-haired engineering officer appeared for a turn, she smiled. "You must have been working," she told him. "I haven't seen you all evening--all day."
They had navigated the dance floor in ever-widening circles, and now he slowed at the start of the ramp. "I've been cheating in order to dance with you," he confessed. "I'm still at work, and was asked to find you and tell you there's a phone call in the office behind this wall. Just ask for operator 12. And come back on board soon, Alex."
Hoping fervently that the call didn't spell trouble at home, Alex picked up the receiver. "Operator 12?"
"You've been forever," said a familiar voice, unfamiliarly impatient. "Damn. Hold a minute. Yes, Tony, I can be thereÂ tomorrow...."
Jake was Jake, carrying on two conversations at once, expecting her to leave the dance floor, then hurry up and wait. Unfortunately she would.
Now she heard, "Tony, please hold." Click. "Alexandra, come up. I want--I need to see you." Click.
Alex recalled Jane's words of caution and considered marching haughtily back to the disco. But then she remembered that the sun seemed to come out when she was with him--and that tomorrow, without that sun, would arrive in a few hours. She turned toward the stairs.
Crossing the pool deck disheveled her hair even more than the vigorous dancing had. Stopping to tame it and freshen her light makeup, she entered the suite corridor. A glimpse of green satin, blonde French twist and blood-red fingertips resting on a tuxedo-clad arm vanished even as she saw it. She didn't think Caren van Danvers had seen her approaching Jake's door--but what if she had? Jake had all but told her his relationship with Caren was finished.
Alex barely had to touch the bell before he opened the door. He stood there, giving no ground. Entering, she had no space to stand in except his space, which was just fine with both of them. More then fine.
He whispered her name as he shut the door. It was the last thing either of them said for a very long time. Though the phone was pressing its own claim for attention, their kiss began, continued and lingered as if they were dying of thirst.
Indeed, she thought as he drew away to pick up a receiver at last, thirst did describe it for her. She had wandered in a desert where love was concerned. Jake, now speaking calmly to some distant power center while holding his free arm around her shoulder, had appeared like an oasis. Was he also a mirage?
However real or imaginary he might be, sudden new knowledge surged within her. Whether or not she loved him was unclear, but she was well and truly in love with him. His taut, trim waist was appealingly close and she shyly slid her own arm around it. His voice broke for a split second. Then he regained his cool and wound down the phone conversation.
"I'll fly out of Miami at first light," he told the invisible colleague. Or was it an adversary? Like so much about him, she couldn't tell.
"I'll crash now, Tony, so call me only if red alert," he wound up.
Two arms, two hands, two lips were now free. And she got their undivided attention, in a holding pattern from which she never wanted to land. Then, as had happened before, she sensed a change. Tenderness began to shift toward passion and restraint surrendered to demand.
At first she responded with soft, spontaneous sounds of pleasure as his tongue probed untested depths and his hands around her waist moved--one higher, one lower. He knew his power to bring her breasts to tremors of earthquake intensity. Now he drew their entire bodies so close they seemed to be fusing. She sensed they were approaching a barrier beyond which there would be agonizing retreat--or none at all.
But even as her body whispered "go forward," it yielded to a deeper counsel and moved to pull back. He didn't mistake her signal, and called on the reserves of awesome strength that were among the many reasons why--she loved him. Falling in love at the last minute? It wasn't fair.
"No, I can't be," she told herself, as if she could order herself out of love.
"No, not now," he murmured, thinking she spoke to him and reluctantly changing the message of his kisses from "come-to-bed" to "goodnight."
"I won't say it tonight," he said as he relinquished her sensitive earlobe. "Or do any of it," he added wryly. "I'm 'coptering out of here before you're even up in the morning. And I'll be...in touch."
Two phones were ringing and flashing insistently, as it seemed they always did. Love him, love his phones.
"I'll leave you to it, then," she said as lightly as she could manage. Her voice wasn't quite steady as she added more softly, "Bye, Jake."
"Not goodbye, Alexandra. But now, I can't even leave here to take you to your cabin."
She knew the drill. A swift kiss. A gentle push out the door. And his reach for the phone as it closed behind her.
Dazed, and in fact slightly disoriented, she managed to get to the end of the corridor and leaned against the wall. She would never forget its single large oil painting of vibrant ripe fruit.
As she recovered, a flash of green in the adjoining corridor materialized into an all-too-familiar woman with green emeralds flashing and eyes to match.
"Why hello, dear," said Caren van Danvers sweetly. "On your way back from seeing my boyfriend? Isn't he amazing, going from what you might call the day shift to the night shift with hardly a pause between? I always tell him, 'Jay-ake, think what you're doing to some of those young things you lead on. It's cruel. They might believe you.' But he just laughs."
"It's you who can't be believed, Caren," snapped Alex, annoyed that the woman got under her skin, and stung--against her better judgment--into replying. "All that stuff you told me back on the submarine, about traveling together and living together. It was all--hogwash."
"Oh, I see he's up to his little lies again. Only he doesn't call them lies. 'It's what they want to hear, darling,' he tells me when we're--resting and catching up on how we each spent our day."
"Goodbye, Caren," said Alex. "Your credibility's sub-zero.Â I know you both live in Chicago. But it's a big city. You didn't even come cruising together."
"Oh, ho," taunted Caren. "He is a rat. I bet he left out the fact that we live not only in Chicago but in the same apartment towers. Or on the same floor. Or next door to each other. And--with connecting doors. We like being a little bit separate while very much together."
"That means--nothing, now," answered Alex, mad that an uncertain quaver had crept into her voice and new doubts into her heart. "It was all in the past."
"You have got it bad," said Caren, pityingly. "It happens so often. He does like to stray--like a little boy. Calls all of you his extra treats. He knows I don't mind. It's exciting to hear all about his latest. After all, when the day is done, he always comes back to me."
"You're a clever liar, Caren. But a liar all the same." Alex turned on her sandaled heel and headed for the stairs. "And vindictive. I can't say I hope we meet again any time soon. Or ever."
"Keep your illusions," called Caren after her. "But they won't keep you warm tonightâ€”or all the other nights while we're steaming up Chicago. I bet he didn't even bother to tell you the little fact that we plan to tie the knot when we get back. And oh, yes, in case you feel like getting up early--or by any chance can't sleep--you can watch us 'coptering out together in the morning. You can throw rice."
"That lying witch," Alex told herself again and again like a mantra as she climbed down the seven decks that separated their worlds. Fellow passengers were still putting out luggage in the corridor, but she noted the crew had taken hers away. Like a robot, she crammed the dress and sandals into her carry-on bag, laid out everything ready for morning, set the alarm and asked for a wake-up call besides. There were still five hours in which to lose herself in sleep.
Sleep? No way, of course. Who could possibly manage it with thoughts so churning? To have fallen for--maybe fallen in love with--the person Emeralds had just described! Yet Emeralds had lied consistently before. As she probably had just done again--except that much of what she said rang true. Jake was an experienced, overwhelmingly virile man, by no means used to denying himself sex. And sometimes he was indeed like a little boy--one of the many things she loved about him. Unless he teamed it with deceit light years beyond mischief.
But she had never imagined a man in whom tenderness could alternate so seamlessly with passion. And when she had doubted him before she had been proved wrong. Judging by experience as well as reputation, she could swear his integrity was at or near "10." If she was right, that put Caren's at zero.
It was still pitch black as they neared Miami, but this was a ship on which one could roam safely at any hour. Since she had her jeans for travel and the t-shirt she had slept in, she might as well work off some of her tension on the jogging track. Apart from a couple bolted into a kiss and a deck hand or two at work, at first she had the top deck to herself and the thoughts that would not be exorcised.
"The dawn comes up like thunder," British writer Rudyard Kipling had written of warm, faraway lands. The faint pre-dawn Florida light was also fast and short. As it began, a few joggers and early-risers who had appeared were collecting at a corner of--and in fact blocking--the track.
Now she actually heard Kipling's thunder. A drone grew to a roar as a helicopter appeared in the dawn sky and zeroed skillfully in toward the improvised helipad. As soon as it landed a group of six emerged from the ship's nearby foyer door, joining the deck crew who had secured the area.
Two of the men carried luggage--what looked like a dozen cases. Two more were officers seeing distinguished passengers off. One of the passengers was Jake. Even at this distance he was looking impressive in black--probably back to cashmere--and carrying two briefcases. The other passenger stood so close to him that not even a ray of light showed between them. Dressed in a shimmer of green and carrying furs, she clung to his briefcase-laden arm so conspicuously Alex could almost see her claws.
At the pilot's signal to board, Caren preceded Jake, resting her head on his arm for a brief moment as she relinquished it. Just before the deck crew all-but-hoisted her up through the door, she turned and waved to the nearby group and then to the distant onlookers on the jogging track where--beyond a shadow of a doubt--she knew Alex stood. It was a wave not of farewell but of triumph.
"Pearl Harbor," Alex mouthed to the remaining figure far across the deck, climbing nimbly into the chopper poised for takeoff. All their time together, when he had struggled to rein in his passion, she had thought he was honoring her standards and coming to care about her. Now she knew that he had actually been staying faithful to Caren--in his fashion.
Yesterday, he had revealed the 1941 Pearl Harbor date as the gate access code to the private island sanctuary. She had thought of it as the place where she first realized he had unlocked her heart. Now the memory would always be linked with December 7, "a date which will live in infamy."
Even if she had shouted instead of whispered the two words, they could not have been heard across the engine's roar or the gulf that separated the watched from the watchers. Still, that was the second at which he happened to look back and up at the crowd. Surrounded by the others and at that distance, she was sure he couldn't recognize her. All she wished at that moment, though, was that he could read her lips.
be continued ....