18 - What Happens on a Cruise, Stays on the Cruise.
Although her back had now turned, she knew eyes followed when David lilted.
De cat dat got all dat cream.
They'd both heard David's comment, immediately tainted by Natalie's. Lemara kept her head down, eyes low; Joshua said nothing. But just whom was Natalie wondering about? The cat or the cream?
Docked on the pier's opposite side was a sister ship, their wing bridges beckoning to each other. But like the space between headlights, the pier firmly wedged between the two kept them apart—their shadows casting respite from the unrelenting beat of the Mexican heat. Everywhere the dock seemed to invite conversation. Iron clanging with iron outside one ship, birds still squawking somewhere overhead, passengers in spiked conversation, yet nothing from the two until.
Josh, what was that about?
What was what? Looking over at her.
They'd made it halfway down the pier and in silence so that Lemara's question was now a surprise to him.
What was that wanting to keep your promise? Flashing him a grin which said, you know exactly what I'm talking about.
Em, I have no idea what you are talking about. His face blank.
No? What promise have we not kept.
His eyebrow slightly arched again.
Are you serious? Removing his aviators.
Seeing she was serious, he continued.
Em, that was just conversation, that's all. Nothing untoward.
She said nothing, only stared back at him.
Baby, are you kidding me? When have we ever been known to air our linen in public? Never. Answering his own question.
Her eyes flickered, staring back at the blank canvas that was Joshua's face, assessing him and the statement he'd just made.
Like the traffic island they had become in the middle of the pier, cruise passengers channelled their flow of traffic around them. Emotionally backed onto the edge of the pier, she turned back towards the ship.
And she kept walking.
Still, she kept walking.
Joshua now stood in front of her. She sidestepped him and kept walking.
Em, what are you doing?
Joshua, I'm going back on the ship. You. Can go horseriding.
Lemara, the horseriding is for you. I just happen to be benefitting from it.
I can go horseriding anywhere. I'm going back on the ship.
He catches her arm as she walks off, whirling her into him. Arms around her, he squeezes her tight.
Something had her in a huff. Possibly her guilt. Possibly what Joshua said brought on by her guilt. Possibly this woman who can't seem to keep her hands off her man, brought on by her guilt.
Baby, what's the matter?
Face nuzzled in his chest; she breathed in the mix of his fragrance blended with his warm body. Her huff subsided, but she offered no answers.
Listen, I am going to put some of this down to what I know you're dealing with and have not been able to come to terms with, but you have got to stop pushing me away. I'm not the bad guy here. I want to help you.
Releasing his hold, he holds her at arm's length. Eyes on hers, he continues.
Because I'm not going anywhere. Ok.
She glosses from his right eye to his left but says nothing. The knot in her stomach preventing her from doing so.
Anyway, we need to get out of this blazing sun, plus the horses will miss a treat if you don't turn up. And besides, I've been looking forward to seeing you on top a horse.
That last statement he coated with a smile, making her blood stir, and she mirrored him, then glanced away from his hook.
Mini conjugal spat over; they walked to the cruise terminal and out to taxi drivers waiting outside their vehicles—one flashing her a smile.
Remind me not to let you out of my sight wearing these breeches. Opening the car door for them to get in. Those taxi drivers couldn't keep their eyes off you.
I can always ride bareback, if you prefer. Glancing over at him.
Em. Suppressing his amusement.
It seems they'd barely sat in the taxi before having to get out again.
And when they did, a gangly limbed Mexican walked out to greet them.
Senor y Senora Hart.
Joshua confirmed, taking Lemara's hand in his left, his right reaching out to shake that of the gangly limbed man. Jose was his name, his steps quicker than the English he swapped out between his Spanish words.
There were times it niggled Lemara that people assumed they were married. She felt at times it saved Joshua doing the deed - people assuming they were. But today wasn't one such time. Maybe because it was said in Spanish.
Em, how is your Spanish?
As good as yours. Eyes glinting sideways at Joshua.
Between the two of them and Jose's hand articulations, they made sense of his lively chatter and the short but sweet briefing that followed.
Outside in the shade, a row of spanish-brown horses. Their two horses, distinguishable from the others, only by the handler holding their ropes.
Very unlike Joshua, he was first on. Up and over his big brown horse with the suave and control of a gaucho. His horse stepping back from hers as he settled himself.
Come on, Em, your turn.
Lemara looked back at him.
Hang on, weren't you supposed to help me up.
Baby, if there's one thing I know, it is that you've got a good handle on this. Winking at her.
Face masked with a smile, a slow sexy one; she slanted her eyes at him.
Besides baby, I've got a better view from up here.
Eyes offering him promises, she inhaled the breath she needed. Her body delivered on the promise when her left leg went up and over, mounting and straddling the horse in one fell swoop. She looked back at him a second time and the phone he held capturing her performance in the show.
I would like you to do that again.
Baby, you are kidding me, right?
She laughed and turned away from him.
Lean forward and look back at me.
She did. Sweeping her braids forward over her left shoulder, she arches her back, leans forward and looks back at him. Teasing him as he clicked away. The clicking paused, his eyes lifted from the camera screen to hers.
Stepping his horse up alongside hers, her saddle became his anchor. His lips reached for hers. His tongue slipped between her lips, knocking her air back. If she'd forgotten where she was, her horse nodding its head, shifting the reins in her hands was the message she needed.
Josh, you're getting far too much excitement from this.
Clearly, I need to remind you that everything about you is cause for excitement. Brushing her bum as he balanced himself back on his horse.
More of an intimate escape than a guided nature trail, dense mangroves framed the path, batting back the sun's rays. Except for a little breeze, their single filed procession (Jose, Lemara, Joshua) through the mangroves was quiet. No one dared break the tranquillity. Now and then, the wind parted the leaves as in a striptease revealing something exciting.
Ohh my gaw... Ooh!
Joshua stepped up his horse alongside hers, leans in and whispers.
Em, Jose doesn't need English to recognise those sounds your making.
Yes, but look how beautiful this is.
Ahah. Now you know exactly why I didn't want you to miss it.
The mangroves had given up the tease, and there in front of them, sandy miles of chalk-white beach lapped by the cerulean blue Caribbean Sea. Jose and his horse trotted out on the beach, and they followed.
There was no mediocrity in the sun's game. It was hot. Her horse tossed its head, and she sensed him (with a name like Jose, yes, her horse was also called Jose) becoming a little restless under her.
Further out on the beach, the said Caribbean Sea became their backdrop, their phones, recording photographic evidence of their first-time horse riding. Of Joshua keeping his promise. Jose had joined in; his photo-taking, even slower than his Spanish/English word swapping skills.
One more. Signalling to Jose as he leaned over to her.
His gaze seared her. Leaning over, she met him halfway, sealed it with a beautiful kiss. Heart rates synchronised, she pursed her lips, foreheads held unto each other. It was a moment.
Chi. Chi. Jose waved, cancelling that moment.
Joshua got off his horse, helped Lemara down, and relieved Jose of his photo-taking duties.
Two glasses of ginger beer infused rum in one hand, the hand of a now bikini-clad Lemara in the other. The area near the bar was a hive of activity, but further along the beach, were deserted palapa shielded daybeds.
I've ordered us some food. Settling himself onto the lounger.
Great, because I'm starving.
Although what I really need is a long swim away from you and that behind of yours overwhelming that bikini you're wearing.
Sat on the edge of his lounger facing her, he trapped her thighs between his. His hands grasped her outer hips pulling her further into him, her knees pushing up against his hell-raiser. His hell had raised its head. Eyes locked on its target, his lips moved in, took hers approved of them. Air left her body in a gasp when his fingers inched inside her bikini bottom.
Uhmm, Josh. Pulling her lips away from his, their foreheads staying together.
Conversation and the sound of the sea washing the beach, registered.
Baby. Opening his eyes to look at her.
We're on a beach full of people.
Uhmm. A sly grin mounted his face.
Her nose inhaled the smell of freshly cooked tortillas topped with the grilled beef and fish the announcement brought with it.
He removed his hands, lifted her chin, giving her a quick kiss. His legs fell away releasing some of her inner ache, he had built up.
Attention dispersed by the food that had arrived, they turned to their waiter. He rested the platter down on the table and quickly dismissed himself.
Did you see his name?
Was it Jose?
No, Jose Luis. Tickled at this little discovery.
Em, you had time to see his name? Raising a fish filled taco to her mouth before chumping on the remainder.
A long drink of her dark and stormy cocktail and all was well with the world. Except for the discomfort she now felt on her inner thighs. A finger traced an area from her inner leg out to her knee.
Attention stolen by his phone screen, he went quiet, swung back on his lounger. His fingers swiping left, his eyes showing increasing interest.
We've some great pics here, Em. Turning his phone out to her and swiping for her to see.
Love that last one with the kiss.
What should I caption it?
Racing Harts. Harts, H.A.R.T.S
That's a good one. Turning away to busy himself on his social.
He paused, eased his head up off his left arm and looked over at her.
Em, what are you doing?
I think I might have a bit of chafing. Still looking at her inner thighs.
He shoved his aviators back off his head and swung around to her.
Let me have a look. Nudging her knee for a better view.
He touched on an ever so slightly swollen area of her inner thigh. Do you know what's good for that?
No, but let me guess. Playfully slapping his hands away to swing onto her daybed. Lubricant.
How did you know?
Because that's your remedy from everything. From sunburn to fingernails that break. Laughing as she took her earbuds out the bag, handing him one.
Hey. If it works. Don't knock it.
Dismissing him with her mocked expression, her playlist took centre stage.
The base tapped a beat through her core and out through her fingers and feet. The track tripping her down memory lane to a birthday party last summer where she and Julia caused a stir on the dancefloor at their Australian friend's thirtieth. The song, The Future by Motez. It was the first time she'd heard it, but the tune punched, and the dancefloor jumped. Some guy had invited himself between her and Julia. For a while, his little rendezvous was fun until his hands got a little restless on her bottom. Turning, Joshua stood supporting a wall with another guy no one else realised needed supporting, into police officer of the night. He'd walked over, his hand laying claim to Lemara's rear.
Listen, I don't want any trouble. Leaning into the guy's ear.
No, I'm not your mate, and neither is the woman whose rear you are grabbing. She's mine. He said with savage pride.
Elated, she stepped away with him; Julia took on the uninvited guest as only Julia can. Herself and Joshua causing their own funk for the rest of the song. She smiled on that memory, her arms now gently punching the Mexican air on time with the beat and the lyrics leaving her lips.
'Time won't wait, time won't wait for me
Cause you were mine but presently
The future's not what it used to be'
'We hold hands as if nothing has changed'
Em, do you want to talk about it? He was still facing her.
Her arms stopped mid-air. That question and the look on his face did not go down very well. It wrangled an unpleasant concoction of emotions in her stomach. Nothing to do with the rum and fish she was having.
Talk about? Her smile wiped Garnier clean off her face.