12 - What Happens on A Cruise, Stays on The Cruise
Arms interlaced, she danced out onto the pool deck in front of Joshua. Winking a smile of approval he whirls her back around to him, grazing a hand over her hotpants-covered-bum once she had settled back alongside him. Pulling her sunnies over her eyes, she followed the white drapes that hang tied from the pools upper deck, giving it a Mykonian feel. The smell of hotly roasted meats garnishing the air. Lemara distinguishes a few bronzed faces amongst the crowd's all-white garb in the sunset's light. Here and there, knots of alcohol spritzed cruisers chit-chat with each other. Swaying at the bars, are the already juiced up revellers, awaiting another round of umbrella decked cocktails, their current glasses not yet empty. Their bodies hypnotised by the sweet Caribbean nectar flooding their ears, coating their souls. Or was it the rum, intravenously pushing into their veins? Joshua points to the upper deck, where he leads Lemara up the stairs, waving to everyone like they all knew each other. The crowd on the upper deck is sparse. Its twelve steps too many from the live band, bars, pool and buffet for any dedicated reveller to ascend. A dusty crackle pollutes the air, and Captain Cantieri's voice sweeps the public address system as they take a seat overlooking the deck below. All passengers have arrived safely onboard. He announced. And we are ready to depart. Once more signalling their departure from port, the ship's horn sounded. Lemara sat, cocooned into Joshua, her legs tucked under her. A waiter was quick in his attendance and seamlessly had Lemara lured into the Vodka themed drinks created at the upper deck's bar. Joshua isn't a lover of Vodka, he likens the taste to alkaline water and instead opts for a lowly beer. Lemara tells the waiter to surprise her and Joshua reminds her she hasn't eaten. The waiter requests their room number and lets Lemara know there's something for everyone at the buffet. They hand over the key card to the waiter, who utters. Ah! You're in the suites! But it was the way he said it, caused Lemara and Joshua to eye each other. He now offers to trek down the said twelve steps and back. Lemara declines, but he insists. So she lets him. Are there any allergies? It's your lucky day. We don't have any, though we do love seafood. She replied. He puts his pad away, pleased, and walks to the bar. Lemara looks at Joshua, and Joshua looks at her again. Baby, did we just bypass the queues at the red ropes with that key card? I think we just did Em. Turning back to watch the waiter as he walks over to a waiting bartender. While speaking with the bartender, he motions in their direction, then wanders down the steps. On another note, teasing her fingertips over the side of Joshua's clean-cut-low-fade. Do I get a key to our suite? He looks at her a little mystified. Did you lose the one I gave you? And now she is looking at him puzzled. She wants to tell him that he didn't give her a key, except Joshua's reply said differently. And if Joshua says, he's given her a key, then he did. Em, in the ride to the beach today, I put the card in your beach bag. I told you that. I can only take it you weren't listening? Feeling guilty, she pouts. Joshua recognises the facial expression and merely chooses to ignore it. He instead motions past her head to the sky. Full of pinks and oranges, it looked to have drunk its share of a tropical rum punch. It was homey on the upper deck. On the deck below, the scene was very different, unreserved. In the shallow pool, cruisers had taken to splashing each other to Arrow's 'Hot Hot Hot'. A few even undressing. Had the song played any longer, might there have been a few naked bodies? She wondered. The bar's waiter turned up with Joshua's beer and a coupe-glass filled with a scarlet-red cocktail. The likes her eyes had never before seen. Its topped with a silvery-white foam and sat in the middle are a few rose petals, rearranged to look like the flower itself. Joshua is impressed, and Lemara is fixated, so fixated she didn't look up. What's this? Eyes lit up as she takes the glass to her lips and sips. We call it 'The Queen's.' It's Vodka, pomegranate juice, goji liqueur... Ooo, this is nice. Passing it to Joshua for a sip and looking up at the waiter. Good evening Lemara! His eyes ever engaging. Oh, hey, Edwin. I thought I recognised the voice. How are you? How was your day? I'm great. What about you? His usual excitable self. By the way, this is my other half, Joshua. Quickly introducing Joshua. Edwin's eyes danced with hers to Joshua and back. Joshua outstretched his arms greeting Edwin, as Edwin took additional seconds out of an already shortened 'New York minute' to process 'other half'. If he thought anything, she'd never know. They all chatted for a bit, him telling them the reason for the tour bus' delay, them asking if its a regular occurrence, him telling them he's seen passengers distraught, running up the pier, chasing after a ship that had sailed away. One passenger even high-diving into the water seemingly prepared to chase the ship the entire journey to the next port. Even Joshua was laughing at that. That's not the sort of thing you get to see in an airport now, is it Captain Hart? Turning to Joshua as she spoke, and then back to Edwin, who was trying to connect the dots. Somehow Lemara felt she could disclose Joshua's occupation to Edwin without the barrage of questions, and so she did. Joshua is an airline Captain. Her right arm draped over his left shoulder, a broad smile coated on her face. Ahh, hey, that's cool! Have you met our ship's captain? He's a really cool guy. I think Lemara has already arranged for us to do that. Ladened with a seafood grilled platter, the waiter returned and Edwin excused himself. The sky is presently a majestic black. Excited chatter, shrieks and laughter bellowed up in between the music from the deck below. Dancing feet jostled for space on the already jammed deck. Like a firestarter, a trumpet sound struck the air. Gloria Estefan, Miami Sound Machine's 'Conga' percussion followed and the already pumped revellers roared into approval. Seamlessly synchronising themselves into one hell of a conga line around the pool, in the pool, between the tables and back on itself. Even the waiters were roped in. The food Lemara was shoving in her mouth became less of a must-have. Like a child who couldn't wait for their candy to be unwrapped, she shimmies in her seat but those no longer satisfied her dance rush. Like the lyrics, she couldn't anymore restrain herself. Come on shake ya body, baby do that conga. Bursting into song with Gloria. Sexily tossing her head back. Her food went down; her legs went into their upright positions and pointing at Joshua, she more or less commanded. Okay, hun, one of us has got to stay with this food. He smiles, brushing her outer thigh as she bounded off and down the stairs. Spotted by the twenty-one-year-old Jada and her mother from dinner, they created a Lemara-sized break in the conga line for her and around the pool they went. Thanks guys! she yelled back over her shoulder to them. No probs! They shouted over the music. As their section of the conga line came out from under the deck, she looks up to find Joshua and when she does, gives him an ecstatic wave. However, sitting in conversation with Joshua was the Denhams. Ohh Gawd, she thought as her memory glitches back to them asking for her at Harry's suite. They'd already left disbelieving Harry. She felt she'd have to come clean to Joshua. Hun, did I ever tell you that I too have a twin? And why stop there she thought? Did I tell you she's also onboard this ship? Her pontificating slapped into hell, when the guy in front of her, turned, hooked his hand towel around her neck, smacking her lips with a mojito-logged-kiss. You are one stunning woman! He leered before Lemara had time to react. She halts, clearly caught off guard by this man's brazenness. The front section of the conga line uncouples, and as Swiss trains do, keeps to the beat. Behind her, the almost stagnant carriages had to be British grinding to a minus ten miles per hour. Sending those about to climb out of the pool toppling like dominoes back into it. The scene was hilarious but had her attention not been averted by this unsuspected suppliant; she too would be cackling. Realising he's probably had one too many of the said mojitos, she was willing to let it slide until he tried to do so again. Only this time, she was prepared, and her right palm went up. Catching him smack in the kisser. And this time, it was him who was caught off guard. From nowhere, well somewhere, an arm grasped the towel off Lemara's neck, and the other moved her to the side. That's enough of that. He directed. That voice, touch, tincture of a fragrance surrounding her breathed relief, except the unpredictable situation in front of her suffocated it. It all happened so quickly; she didn't have the time to breathe or for anything else to register. Oh Gawd! Are you alright, darlin? Both Jada and her mom were in concert, encircling her, having witnessed it unfold in front of them. Thanks a ton for that. Gratitude filling Jada's mom's voice as she turned to Lemara's rescuer. It was then Lemara turned to register whose touch caressed hers, who's voice commanded order and who's scent teased her. Jaw clenched, their eyes met. Are you alright? His voice hotly demanded. Her heart skipped far too many beats for her to have still been standing. Yes, I am. You know you didn't have to do that! Eyes still on him. Heart rate now caught up and at a speed that could power Usain Bolt's top sprint. Not while I'm here... He had started to say. Ca-aptain Haart! A female's voice enthused from behind Lemara. Lemara's heart did beats, the kind that would no doubt propel Bolt on to his next olympic record. An all-white dressed congregation had gathered, hemming them in for what could potentially be Lemara's baptism. Yet in amongst that white, she clocked Mrs Chatterbox, the newlyweds from dinner, two of the college boys from the night club and the young woman from the lift who had called out to Joshua and following her eyes, Joshua himself, whose eyes were on Lemara. Hi-i! Her breathing strained. Are you, okay? Reaching for her hand. Joshua's eyes traced her hand to the arm that was now holding his woman's, unearthing their face. She felt her air rush her lungs, not the most incredible feeling ever. Joshua is staring at Lemara, and so is Harry as if waiting for a cue. Is this how four years come crashing down? Realising the crowd had seen her with Harry. In particular, Mrs Chatterbox had first seen her with Harry, then with Joshua who declared she was in fact his woman. Hail Mother of Mary, you know I don't call on you often. But today if my relationship leaves this dance any more tainted than I've already made it, you won't get to see me at confessions with Eleanor ever again. And as much as I hate it, I know you live it. She pray threatened. Thank you, Mr Langdon. She said to Harry before lowering her eyes to her arm. He looks from Lemara back to Joshua. Somehow making the connection, he gradually releases her hand to Joshua's waiting one. Sat sobering on the pool's edge, was the guy kissed by Lemara's hand. The crowd, once again sloshed on their alternative entertainment, only this time it was Psy's 'Gangnam Style' they whooped their tipsy moves to. Its Joshua. Joshua shouted over the music, shoulders straight, eyes direct, extending his arm to Harry. Harry. Was all he shouted back when their hands clasped. Succumbing to the painful electric charge in her chest, Lemara closed her eyes. An ever so slight flicker from Joshua before the dance of both men began. Thank you once again. His voice very matter-of-fact before escorting Lemara away. No one said anything, and there was no question then as to whom took that dance. The mood sombre as they returned to the upper deck. Neither spoke. Joshua stared ahead, Lemara kept her eyes lowered. You had that look on your face again. When he finally spoke, his expression was searching, his words narrowly bordering an accusation. What look is that? The one in the photo he took of you.
Part 11 - What Happens on a Cruise, Stays on The Cruise
Shit. Shiit. Shiiit. Her stomach regurgitated a bitter fluid to the back of her throat and left it there. Her body's temperature ran a dizzying hot and cold like someone on drugged up hot flushes. There was nothing for that now, Joshua's eagle-eyes had seen the white shirt. Her only saving grace was, he was more interested in getting her phone than the answer to his question. Weak from the knowledge Joshua had seen the shirt, she forced herself to go near it. It smelled of her and maybe even the scent of her and Harry. A quick thorough inspection exposed no monograms that tagged it back to Harry. Because not even Lemara could explain those initials on a white shirt this size. The label wasn't one that Joshua wore; neither was the collar size his. Had this happened in her room, she may have gotten away with blaming it on poor housekeeping. Do you know that shirt was there when I checked in and though I've raised it with housekeeping, they've yet to remove it? But it wasn't. This suite was first checked into by Joshua, knowing him, his sharp eyes would have done a once over and missed nothing. She couldn't dance around the situation that way. Lemara considered feigning ignorance, but then Harry's shirt would likely be taken to valet services never to be seen again. And she did not want that. Further, she didn't want an investigation carried out with the butler only to confirm the shirt came direct from room 7007 to theirs. Think. Think. Think. She told herself, despite that her brain came up with nothing. Before docking in Costa Maya that morning, that little bubble she discharged herself into, was okay, a bubble. Now it was showing itself for what it could be, 'the sin that did Jezebel in.' She'd come away on this cruise to decide on her four-year relationship with Joshua. Despite him not seeing himself married again, niggling at her, nothing about their relationship deserved this. Think. Think Lemara. She could hear herself saying, except it hurt to do so. Massaging her temple between her fingers to subdue the pain and lure an answer. Hiding the shirt was not smart, at least her brain recognised that, beyond that, nothing else. Joshua remained on the phone, and for now, he continued to be distracted. No hun, it's not your shirt. She heard herself saying. However, the questionnaire that was Joshua would follow up with a five-tier inquisition. She was not prepared for that. Lemara paced back and forth from the shirt, her mouth in a nervous twitch, seemingly hoping it would offer an answer. Her palms had become hot and clammy from the thinking they weren't doing. As a matter of fact, her entire body had become icky. Her chest hurt from the guilt settling in and she felt trapped. I'm going to tell him the truth. She heard herself say, biting down on her lower lip, almost drawing blood. Joshua... Her voice quavered. Last night... Her stomach churned. They'd broached the subject of infidelity before; all open and casual conversations. Identifying they had slightly different boundary lines when it came down to it. Except there was no blurring this line, she'd definitely crossed over. Joshua was still on the phone when Lemara went into the shower. She stood there, allowing the warm water to cascade off her like an uninterrupted waterfall. It was sometime later when she emerged, still without any different an outcome for the white shirt, other than the one she had previously gone in with. From the conversation Joshua was having, she detected he was on the phone to Eleanor. Shit! She had managed to ignore reading Eleanor's message until now, thinking she'd ask Joshua about it. There was no way Lemara was going to show her face in the lounge then. As if by some godsend, the conversation switched to Julia, and she got her revelation. She weighed up the situation, which one would be more damning. Julia's or hers? She towelled herself dry, wrapped herself in a bathrobe and marched back to her wardrobe. She pulled her silver-edged sequin white tunic, matching shorts and a pair of silver sandals. Piling her braids high on her head, she dressed quickly. Stripped the white shirt still on the hanger from the rail and walked into the lounge. Except she found she couldn't go through with the current plan. She couldn't take Harry's shirt to laundry services. Instead, she went back to her makeup bag, fished out the key card Harry had given her to his suite and marched into the lounge. Joshua looked up as she came out of the bedroom, his eyes trailed from the deep V in the tunic to the end of it, stopping where the shorts did just below her bum. Whatever situation Julia had managed to create was sufficient for Eleanor to call Joshua about it. And Joshua was the mediator, good son and a twin brother who did his best to mediate. Pointing to the shirt in her hand, Lemara mouthed she was taking the shirt away, sufficiently audible for Joshua to hear. He moved the phone from his ear, an inquisitive look on his face. It's not your shirt. Okay. Why don't we let the butler take it away? No, it's okay. I'll do it. She replied, breezing out the door before Joshua had a chance to counter. Lemara hurried down the corridor to the lifts, crossed over on the opposite side and turned back on herself down the aisle to Harry's, letting herself in. She leaned back onto the door. It was quiet in the suite, but it smelled of him. Harry? She waited for a moment and when only her echo came back, made her way to the bedroom and the bed that had brought her much pleasure that morning. Her chest ached from her heart's gurgling rhythm, because that same bed may well usurp a four-year relationship from underneath her. She laid the shirt on the bed, quickly picked up a pen and note pad from the bedside table and started her note. His whisper into her ear nearly left her at sea. I'm here. I'll hear the message in person. Hugging her around her waist from behind. So engrossed was Lemara getting the job over and done with, she hadn't heard Harry come in. His unexpected presence startled her, rendering her knees like jelly. Just as well he was holding her close. I scare you now? No, Harry, you don't. Turning around to face him. Lemaruh, I almost had to fish you out of the Atlantic. Mr Langdon, you do make me laugh. Softening her chuckles in his chest. I am glad to see you, although, I have to admit I wasn't expecting you back here so soon. Don't tell me he's let you out of his sight again. Harry, I'm not tied to him. That I know, but if it were me. I'd tie you to me in every way I could. Squeezing Lemara and resting his chin on her head. You'd soon enough want to tie yourself to a tree, Mr Langdon. Hmm, so tell me, what did you and your lover get up to today? Harry's chin was still resting on her head. She remained still. Was Harry asking her about her day or otherwise? She moved her head back to catch his eyes and they were warm and smiling. And not one's she was prepared to deal with. Being this close to him, in his arms, smelling him, really wasn't what she needed. Her emotions whirled between pangs of guilt and flashes of... She untangled herself, sat on the bed and sighed. It was that good, was it? Joshua had messaged me about today... She paused, recalling the reason she missed the messages. In any case, I'd not seen them. Long and short, we went ahead with what he'd planned. And you? I didn’t go with my lover, just me. The one I invited stood me up. (A fleck of amusement in his voice.) But, I too went ahead with my plans. Lemara was chuckling again when the doorbell rang, and Harry turned to get the door. Harry, if it is your butler, I cannot be here. He took her hand, leading her to the door. Looking through the peephole, he whispered. It's a couple—one in a wheelchair. Remembering the Denhams from earlier, she peered through the peephole herself and just as she was about to tell him don't open the door, he did. Oh hi! The high pitched voice of Mrs Denham boomed through the suite. Hi, can I help? Oh, we were looking for Joshua and Lemara, we just saw her come in. Behind the door, Lemara's fingers steepled over her nose and mouth at the sound of her name. Joshua and .... No, you have the wrong suite. I'm sure it was her we saw. Mrs Denham retorted. After some deliberation, they accepted they were possibly wrong, apologised for the trouble and left. Harry closes the door and turns to Lemara. Oh, Gawd Harry. Her voice thick with emotion. They saw me come in. Do you know them? We came back on board the ship earlier. She spun on her heels, one hand on her hips the other going up to shield the imaginary sunlight from her face. Okay, Harry, I need to go. Don't leave just yet; they may still be in the aisle. Lemara's palms revisited the tension on her face. Plus you've still not told me why you are here. She recounted the events of the day, everything from her move to a suite next door, to their butler, to his shirt she just brought back that Joshua had seen. And that the shirt was the reason she was in his room. So does he think you went to laundry services? Yes, he does. You can stay here with me then. A slow smile emanating his face. No, Harry, I can't. Lemara turns to walk away. However, Harry keeps holding her hands and kisses them as he walks her to the table he worked from earlier that morning. There's a folded complimentary slip on the table, and he hands it to her. It opens to a list of seven hotel chains, contact names, numbers and email addresses written down. What's this? Lemara asks sedated. A list of people you can call about that dream job you told me about this morning. Lemara raises her eyes from the unfolded slip of paper to Harry and back to it. Further engaging with the list and adding her own geotags to it. Harry, these are all in the US. Not entirely, Singapore is not in the US. Winking at her. She wants to smile, but the pressure of her situation subdued it. Lemara refolds the paper, places it in his palms and leaves. Retracing her steps to her suite. She gets to her door and realises she hasn't got a key for her own suite—the irony. She knocks and Joshua now dressed in a pair of white shorts, and a white linen shirt contrasted with the mahogany double monks and belt from Christmas 2017 opens the door. You know we could just as easily have given the shirt to the butler? Yes, but it is all sorted now. Walking in the door and past Joshua, who remained standing in the doorway. Hun, you've got that mood on. Leaning on the opened door as he said it. Baby, you know what? Can we get some food? I'm kinda hungry.
2017 was a good year for me. Joshua and I had been together for just over two years and still felt like the honeymoon period. For two people who were not in any way looking for a relationship when we met, I'd have to say it's going really well. He was pragmatic, did nothing by halves and flown me off my very grounded feet. In every sense of the word. I also felt very sure of him. He must also have felt sure of me as he asked me to move in with him at the start of the year. Although he did make it clear he couldn't see himself getting married again. I reminded him, I was a rubbish cooked and hated cleaning. His response was simple. 'If I wanted a housekeeper, I'd get one.' Another reason for 2017 being a great year was, I'd just landed a dream job with a private jet company and was genuinely looking forward to the start of that. Joshua's twin sister, Julia and I were getting on remarkably well. She said I was the twin sister; she didn't have. Not so much of a high was the relationship between Joshua's mother, Eleanor and myself, there always seemed to be this unsavoury edge in her dealings with me. Nevertheless, Joshua and I topped off 2017 buying a rental flat near Heathrow, refurbished it and had taken on our first tenants. Two pilots, who were starting with a low-cost airline out of the airport. ----------------------- 'Hun, what's going on in there?' Knocking on the door. 'Rearranging a few things.' 'Would you like some help? And why is the door locked?' Trying the door handle. 'Almost done.' 'Okay but you've been in and out of this room all morning.' Had we not opened all our Christmas presents in the wee hours, I would have guessed it was a surprise gift, but we had. I turn to Julia, who's sitting very comfortably on our living room couch in the porcelain-white, comfy cashmere lounge set to the luxe grey one I'm wearing. There's a matching longline cardigan that goes with it. Mine was currently hung over the back of the chair. Her mani-pedi is a cherry-red, while I got mine decked in a Thulian pink. A Christmas treat to ourselves, except she's gone one step further and topped hers off with a Santa Claus hat. A sated grin on her face. 'You slept in this room this morning; I know you know whats going on?' 'Your guess is as good as mine hun.' Joshua and Julia have their differences; but the bond between those two, never to be underestimated. As closely knit as the two parts of a kinky twist. She innocently taps the space on the couch next to her, for me to come and sit. I do so because truth be known I'm tired from only two hours sleep. And no, it's not what your thinking. We stayed up, all three of us after our friends left, watching Netflix, playing games, opening presents, chatting and laughing. Only crowning our pillows after realising the BBC Breakfast team was gracing the tv screen in the kitchen. I pick up a flute and the bottle Julia is drinking from, out of the ice bucket. I study the 'Non-Alcoholic' label, and I recall she hadn't drunk much, if anything all night. I turn to her, with one slightly raised eyebrow, the no-alcohol caption aimed in her direction. 'Hun, are you pregnant?' She pauses for a bit, undoubtedly caught off guard by the question. 'Oh Gawd No. Do you want to send Eleanor to hell and an early grave?' 'We both sputter into a laugh.' 'Can you imagine her face when I tell her that? You know how orthodox she is about that stuff.' I pour myself a glass of her choice of non-alcoholic sparkle, and we cheer Eleanor just as Joshua opens the door of the spare room. I want to leap to my feet and catch him as he opens the door, but Julia must have sensed it, as she quickly shouts to Joshua. Just then Joshua swaggered out the room. The sleeves of his white shirt rolled three-quarters of the way up and tucked neatly into one of his most worn jeans. The pair of mahogany double-monks and matching belt (one of my Christmas gifts to him last night) now on the catwalk. We had just slept next to each other, yet it was as if I was seeing him for the first time. My lips take on a mind of their own, pucker and suck in, at the hot stuff standing before me. He looked damn fine. Not only was he dressed, but wheeling our matching pair of Samsonite carryons. His overnight bag perched on one, a deep blue blazer draped on the other. My eyes are now like dessert saucers as he tells me to get my shoe on. It must have been the bubbles or the quick cadence my pulse had taken on; I no longer had control over the air that went in or out my lungs. I lurch forward spluttering, doing my best to keep the juice in the glass and save the carpet from a cold bath. 'Oh gosh Josh, you've killed her!' Julia chuckles to Joshua as she gives me a solid thump on my upper back. But if Julia's thump was to save me from asphyxiation, I was now closer to dying from the pain of it. I soon crawled back into the world of the living sufficiently conscious to ask. 'Where are we going?' 'Your Shoe.' Was all he said. I glance up at the clock on the wall and it's coming up to nine in the morning. Baby, it's Christmas Day, where are we going? 'Em, at this pace, Captain Tan may have to come and get us, instead of us going to meet him. Get a pair of heels on please.' 'Seriously? And can I wear this?' Pulling the drawstrings of my joggers. 'Em, even if I draped you in crocus bag, you'd still shine a light on all around you.' He had a flourish when it came to words, something else I admired about him. Somehow I was glued to the couch, leaving Julia to get up, leave the room and later return with a pair of dark grey heels belonging to me. My eyes skip from the heels Julia is pointing in my direction, to her and then to Joshua. No one said anything, not even the heels. Defeated, I put them on and pick up my matching cardigan. Joshua had surprised me with last-minute trips before, but I'd always done the packing. Finding out we were travelling a few minutes before leaving and bags already packed, was the eighth wonder in my world. Julia was also shoving her feet into a pair of trainers. It was clear the joke, surprise, holy grail whatever it was, was on me, so I said nothing more. We file out the door shortly after like the uneven containers of a cargo train—a carryon, Joshua, the other carryon, me, and Julia, who locked the door. Joshua didn't have his flight bag, which meant he wasn't flying the plane back either. He placed the cases in the car's trunk while Julia plopped herself in the back seat, and I sat in the front. Joshua jumped in behind the wheel and keyed the ignition into a song and choreography. The engine beats the same time as the horns of Mayer Hawthorne's 'Time for Love' bleats through the speakers and Julia and I add back up vocals to his 'Loving you in the day' Still takes my breath away.' Joshua looks over at me knowingly and I give him a slow, sexy smile. Quietly gushing to know he has been playing the song, as its currently my jam on repeat. As in, I put in on and play it nonstop for hours and hours. You get the picture. We are racing over to Heathrow; I know this because its a route I've done many times bringing Joshua's car back. His authority behind the vehicle's wheel as poetic as his command of his plane's yoke, as confident as his handle on my body. But then after two years together, there weren't many things that he didn't have a command on. In truth, I didn't know of any. Just his presence alone was commanding. We come up behind a less fast-moving car in the outer lane, Joshua flashes the driver ahead, and they move over to the middle lane in their own time. 'Josh, does Eleanor know she'll not be seeing you today?' 'Yes, she does!' 'What did she say?' 'What could she say?' His response was quick. 'She wasn't upset her favourite son and child was off with a woman other than herself on Christmas Day?' Joshua scoffed at the word 'favourite.' I look over at him, his eyes on the road as he geared down for a bit of traffic up ahead because now, I too am a little surprised. We catch up with the slow-moving traffic, Joshua looks over at me and then to Julia. Turns back to the motorway and visibly inhales, tucking the front of his shirt to sit straight like an iron board cover over his torso. Its a running joke that where Eleanor is concerned, Joshua often chooses his mother. 'Despite what you two think, Julia, our mother, doesn't always get her way, it only appears that way. Its called negotiating.' 'So, Josh, what did you give up?' Julia jokes. Julia and I laugh. Honestly, those two, chalk and cheese one moment and then macaroni and cheese the next. And there are no prizes for guessing which one remained the constant. The traffic clears, and we are again racing to the airport, ignoring his twin sisters jest. He opens his left palm and sweeps it over for me to place mine in. It is one of his ways of quietly reassuring me. I put my right hand in his and he squeezes it. I look over at him, holding him with my eyes before looking back to the road. Being Christmas Day, the motorway is less of an unofficial parking lot and more of, well, a motorway, so that Joshua was now gearing down for the turnoff for Heathrow. Except he does not drive to his airlines' terminal but heads to another. I'm no longer interested in where we are going only that I'm going with him, and that wherever it is, it is warm. Plus there wasn't a coat between the two of us. He pulls up in front of Terminal 2. Jumps out, swiftly comes around to my side of the car and opens the doors for Julia and myself. Hands the keys to Julia and is getting the luggage cases out. Julia hugs me, wishes me a 'Merry Christmas' and a safe flight and does the same to Joshua. And for some reason, only known to myself, I start bawling my eyes out. Julia catches the river streaming down my face and blurts out. 'Em, whats with the emotions are YOU pregnant?' Joshua was lifting the second case out, it slips in his hands. He stops what he is doing, his focus now on me. I see he has a look of concern on his face, so I shake my head. 'I hate goodbyes!' I blubber. 'Aww Em, I'm going to miss you too!' 'Thank you' was all I could muster as I tried to smile through the tears. 'Well let's face it, I couldn't leave the packing of your wardrobe to him now, could I? Orange top, green shorts, ooph...' I could see Julia visualising it, a look of mock displeasure across her face as she quickly shakes the thought out of her head, but she had me smiling again. As Julia got in behind the wheel, Joshua knocked on the front passenger window. She rolled the glass down. 'Julia', he said, 'you are not a Formula One driver, and neither is this an F1 car, DO NOT DRIVE IT THAT WAY. 'Okay!' Giving Joshua the two-fingered Polish salute before accelerating. I chuckled knowing full well; she only did it to wind him up. (Joshua was sensitive when it came to his wheels and this one was brand new.) Except for the wonderfully decorated fir tree in the open square; the Christmas decorations hanging inside; a handful of passengers standing outside having a cigarette and wishing each other Merry Christmas, you'd be forgiven for forgetting it was Christmas Day. Or that you were at Heathrow. He locked the luggage cases by their handles so that they rode back to back and in unison. His left hand in the small of my back steering me towards the airline's first-class check-in desk. He takes my handbag out of his overnight luggage bag and passes it to me. It is the last purse I used, and I am hoping, everything I need is in it. I am still looking through my purse when I hear the Passenger Service Agent declare we have an hour to take-off. Whisked off to the lounge, but we only have time for a coffee and I take a sip of Joshua's bubbly before boarding on the upper deck. Courteously we are ushered to our seats, except it wasn't just seats that greeted us and I wasn't ready for what I saw. The attendant says this and that, Joshua is paying attention as he usually does, but my ears have taken on a noise-cancelling all of their own. My arms are crossed on my midriff, while Joshua is casually stroking his left hand down my spine. It feels good, sensual, but had my eyes not averted my concentration; his handy work would have taken its full effect. She leaves, and Joshua ushers me in, and I plop onto the chair. The one that swivels in-front of the tv; next to the side table away from the concealed bed and partition that goes down to make it a double bed. For a room on a plane, I could swing an amur tiger. 'Okay, hun!' I said, giving him the side-eye, still in shock after another once over of the suite. He picks up the glasses of champagne, and we toast us. 'Someone owed me a favour.' 'A favour.' I repeated after him. 'Did you save their life?' 'Something like that.' 'Is there anyone else that owes you a similar favour?' He smiles, takes my glass, puts it down alongside his, takes both my hands and pulls me back onto my heels. I pucker up to him, my arms go up around his neck, he secures me around my back with his authoritative arms, and we kiss, long and lingering. 'Merry Christmas!' He says when we finally let each other up. A little later, we are airborne and eating breakfast, or was it lunch? Well, whatever it was, we had just eaten deserved a blue ribbon. But now having eaten, the lack of sleep was knocking on my body's door. I suppose Joshua felt the same, as he picked up the two sets of airlines' PJs and led us down the aisle to the changing room. I argue we could have changed where we were, but he quarantines my words with his lips. It was some fifteen minutes later when we emerged from there. I try having a quick look around to see who would have noticed we were there for some time. There only appeared to be another two individuals on our deck. Joshua detected what I was up to, and in his mellowed out calm voice looked over at me. 'You're still not allowed to scream!' I smile broadly in surprise, and because I can't smile and walk at the same time, stopped walking. He, however, had not, and as he was holding my hand, I almost stumble forward in the slightly-big-for-me bed slippers I was now wearing. He glanced over at me as I immediately caught back up with him, that knowing look on his face. We got back to find the remnants of our meals taken away; lights dimmed to a night setting and the bed, made. Whoever designed this must be a member of that particular club or innate understanding of what the club members desired. Joshua closed the door behind him, lifted me onto his hips, and I lock my legs either side of him. Quickly putting my right palm up to prevent my head from connecting with the plane's ceiling. We kissed. Each one becoming more desperate not like two people who'd just spent ten minutes out of fifteen in a changing room doing so. But I liked it. I liked it so much I was gusting for air. I responded with mouthsful of hotly tongued kisses, and he spun me up against the door, causing it to shudder. 'Joshua!' I gasped. 'Hmmm!' He groaned. His mouth had come down between my two mounds and his palms hot and firm moulded them. I feel the full effects of his landing gear come up to play against my aching parts, and I let out a little whimper. We were both still fully clothed, but I felt naked. It must have been the altitude or maybe the air sparked, coupled with the excitement of knowing other passengers were just a few feet away, and I felt reckless. He licks possessively on the gun powdered tip he's holding between his right forefinger and thumb. Rippling his tongue across my chest and over to the other, he bites down and sure enough, I spark, sending me up to thirty-two thousand feet. He could hear the bang coming as my whimper went to a whisper to... 'Not yet' He rasped. But he'd already set me off in the changing room. He quickly found my mouth, slipped his tongue inside it, but it was too late. I bit down on his tongue, saving the other passengers from a figurative bang and keeping the sensual one all to us. I sink my fingers into his flesh, burying my head in his chest, quivering. I catch up with my heart rate and can speak. 'Oh my Gawd, Joshua, the things you do to me.' 'Em, only the things you deserve.' I smile up at him, happy but disbelieving at how lucky; I'd become over the last two years. 'And another thing.' Walking me still on his hips over to the bed. 'Yes!' Beaming at him. 'That was your introduction to the Mile High Club.' I stare up at him as he abandons me on the bed, knees either side of his thighs as he pulls my pyjama bottoms off and starts ripping his pyjama shirt off. 'What makes you think, I'm not already a member?' His arms and shirt stop mid-air. I feel his aura grapple for composure. He finishes removing his shirt and looks down at me. 'Em, are you a member of the Mile High Club?' 'Joshua, is this where I ask you if you are prepared for the answer to the question you've just raised?' 'No, this is where you hopefully tell me you are not.' 'Why?' 'Because I was hoping this was something we both experience together for the first time.' 'Are you saying you are NOT a member of the Mile High Club?' I asked, intrigued. 'No, Lemara, I am not.' 'Josh-u-a. Everest. Hart. you've surprised me.' 'So come on, are you?' His torso tense. I pull my legs up to roll onto the bed and escape the question. I get onto all fours to scramble away. But he's quick and catches my ankles as I do so and I fall flat on my face in giggles. 'Joshua!' I shrieked, as loudly as was sensible, remembering there were passengers just outside. 'Josh! I kick out, but he is much stronger than I am, and I get nowhere. Instead, he crosses my ankles, bends my feet back to my bum, holding them there and lays down facing me on the bed. 'Who was your lover?' I sense a tinge of envy. It brought out a side of Joshua; I'd never before witnessed. I wanted to see how far I could push those self-restrained buttons of his. In my failure to answer he pulls my intimates off my bottom and halfway down my thighs, trapping my ankles in the footholes of them. I was laughing so much my stomach hurt. 'Joshua. Let me up please.' 'Not until you answer.' He looks at the time. 'And there's some ten hours remaining before we land in Singapore. So we have all day' 'Joshua, are you prepared for the answer?' A mocked-up serious look on my face. He paused, knowing that he uses the said line when I ask him an overly deep question. The right side of my underwear rips and he relaxes his hold and sets me free. I move over to the other side of the bed, discarding my torn underwear along the way. I get under the duvet and prop my head onto the pillow, releasing the scrunchy of its duties, of keeping my now dishevelled hair imprisoned in a bun. He props himself up against the headrest, puts on the tv and is quiet. I sense his emotions may be slightly bruised. Yet he sweeps his right hand over my forehead and tenderly brushes my hair out. Massaging my scalp with his fingertips as he does so. I feel myself falling off from the calming sensation. 'No.' I finally respond in a low voice before I fall off to sleep. 'What's a No?' Looking over at me. 'No, I am not a member of the Mile High Club.' His finger hair brushing pauses ever so briefly and then resumes. I must have fallen asleep, but I don't know for how long. I roused sometime later to feel the cool bareness of Joshua's body sans pyjamas against mine. The scent of that fragrance he'd made all his own, intensified in the darkness of the suite. My arousal sparked. His tongue stroke the inside of my mouth. Like his thrust levers, he raises my knees, stirring them forward on either side of his body, settling himself. I gasp as I become the holster of his full gunmetal pressing up against me. I go all warm, moist as his yoke eased forward into the aching he'd created earlier, and his distinguishable honeyed voice gusted through. 'Welcome to the Mile High Club Em!'
What Happens on A Cruise, Stays on The Cruise - Part 10
Welcome to your suite LHR! Joshua's seductive Captain's voice on. Spinning Lemara around, sealing the door shut as he caged her to it. His bedroom eyes on, as he tilted her face to meet his and sealed his lips down on hers. Her beach bag fell to the floor as her arms went up around his neck. His hands went up under her kimono around her hips and inside the straps of her bikini bottoms. Her chest pained under the two quick breaths she took in one. One for the fire Joshua was fanning the other for the tension he was causing. You're going to rip that. She muttered through their heated embrace. Em, I've wanted to do that all day. He boasted. His hands greedily splayed around her hips, fingers clenched on those lower cheeks that had been tempting him all day. The tension gave way on her left hip. The air on her behind suddenly cooler after her bikini bottom fell to the floor. Yet her front was significantly warmer from the heat of Joshua's impaling parts penetrating through his shorts and directly onto her. Lemara untangled their tongues and pulled back. I'll get you another—Joshua mouth before reconnecting his tongue with hers. But will it be a Julia Hart Collectable - was her immediate thought? The sound of a sharp knock on the door reverberated through her back. Her breath stopped short, and Joshua held still. He held onto her with his right arm, his left forefinger going up vertically against her pursed lips—playfulness in his eyes, neither saying anything. Housekeeping? A male voice choired. Joshua glanced through the peephole and quietly teased. Your butler and entourage is here with your wardrobe. Lemara's breath held at the word butler, but then the door lock rustled. Joshua stifled a loud enough yes for the staff outside the door to hear while he maintained their positions just inside it. His lips brushing the nape of her neck, causing her to tickle. His body in support of her falling over in amusement. The rustle on the door stopped. Joshua stepped back and stooped to her knees. Lift your leg. His voice lowered, rubbing on the outside of Lemara's right thigh and looking up at her. Joshua? Her eyes in mild astonishment. He skillfully tapped the back of her right knee, causing her leg to bend. He slid the bikini bottom off her leg and held it up on his fingers like some trophy, smiling a slow sexy smile. She clasped a hand over her mouth and smiled sheepishly. Em, what did you think I was doing? As he got up, teased a smack on her hip. He shoved the bikini bottom in his pocket and moved to open the door, as his eyes rode over her sheer kimono. Oo, stand behind me. Joshua instructed as he opened the door. What? Why? Lemara quizzed back. Joshua opened the door for the butler, his assistant and two bell boy trolleys. Stand behind me. Joshua looked back at her and repeated. The butler greeted Joshua and introduced himself to Lemara. A breath of relief when it was a Gerard that filed through the door and not James. They showed themselves to the bedroom, and wardrobes and Joshua closed the door. You are naked. Glancing down to where her bikini bottoms once served as window blinds. Lemara looked down at herself, stunned to see the sheerness of the material sans bikini bottoms did not require any flights of fancy. Nothing I'm willing to share with your butler and his help. His tone pointed, his face unquestioning. Joshua's phone rang out, swiftly followed by Lemara's, and subsequently by an incoming message on both their phones. Julia. Your sister! They both recited in unison. Lemara grabbed hold of her beach bag and the phone. Joshua preferred she ignored it, but knowing Julia, she'd only continue to call. Joshua, she will simply keep calling. Switch it off. Joshua was stern. Lemara found her phone and answered the call on the third call back. Joshua buried his face on the far side of Lemara's. Hey hun, how are you? Hey, why did you take so long to answer what were you guys up to? A beep came through, and Julia was now requesting for her to switch the call over to Whatsapp video. You mean you guys are wearing clothes? Joshua looked up to see the slightly longer-haired version of himself, buzzing away on the screen. Her pixie haircut pronouncing her facial features and freshly coiffed, as if she just stepped out of the hair salon. He shook his head and strode off to the bedroom. Where's he gone? I need to speak to him. Whatever my sister has to say, I don't want to know. I heard that. You were meant to. I need to borrow your car. Joshua heard the comment and broke his stride. That's a NO—his tone firm. Josh-u-a! She yelled down the phone. Causing Lemara to squint and place the phone at arm's length to reduce the volume that punched through to her eardrums. In doing so, the camera was now capturing their suite, and Julia gushed. Wow, you guys, is that your suite? You have enough space for one more person. Oh, my Gawd Em, can I join you guys? You'll have to ask your brother. Lemara joked. Ugh, you know what he's going to say. Lemara turned the camera around on herself and smiled at Julia. Em, was that a baby grand I just saw? Lemara shook her head, lips pursed, face lit up. So have you guys shagged on it yet? Julia jested. Lemara burst out laughing. She liked Julia for that; she'd go from A direct to Z, the other twenty-four letters in between irrelevant. She was nothing like Joshua, who articulated his words. Transparent while Joshua was, unreadable. You'd never guess they were cut from the same cloth, much more twins. She went through relationships like cups of coffee. As soon as the temperature dropped, it was time for a new one. Yet, most of her exes remained in contact, which gave her a Wikipedia of admirers of the who's who. Not surprising then that Joshua was his mother's favourite, while Julia couldn't do any wrong in her father's eyes. Except their father had passed away in their late teens and Julia became the unsettled version of her twin brother. They were both intelligent, but Julia was arguably the smarter of the two with two degrees under her belt. Not least because she achieved one whilst undertaking a Masters. However, none of those was in practice. You would never guess her smarts just by looking, but it would be clear within a minute of talking to her. She trained four years to be a doctor but after one year of being on a hospital ward - gave it up. It interfered with her social life she had said. And Julia had a social life. Joshua, on the other, dedicated to a cause and followed things through, fought tooth and nail for what he wanted. Julia crashed out at the first sign of a chipped nail. Her mother Eleanor, always disliked that about her. But Lemara loved her great sense of style, they had the same sense of humour and she was so unbuttoned. Nothing like her twin. But Julia was also a lucky woman because she just happened to be to meet all the right people at the all the right times. Her triggers with her mother regularly left her spurting words that Joshua would be quick to remind her she cannot take back. In some way that had brought Julia and Lemara close as they both sensed they fell on the wrong side of Eleanor. Julia for giving up on her career in medicine and Lemara for well, not having a sufficiently important career, as Joshua's ex-wife did. But Lemara soon found herself the pendulum that swung nicely between her man and his twin sister. Hun, where is your car. Julia asked whispering. Is Josh there? No, he went to the bedroom. Had an accident. It really wasn't my fault this time. Shit hun what happened? I was driving down the motorway, when this lunatic moved into the fast lane at the pace of a Mekong Delta chug. Can you believe it? I honked and when he didn't clear the way I ended up slamming my brakes. But it was raining so the car spun out of control. Ooh, I take it you're okay? I am, thankfully. When did it happen? About five o'clock this morning. Where on earth were you going at that time of the morning? Lemara was now whispering. I fell out with Bradley, so I left. What happened there, or should I not ask? He farted in bed. Lemara heard her laugh hit the back of the suite and come back to her as she walked over to sit in the lounge. I mean, can you believe it? How do you do that next to a goddess like me? So it goes without saying, we exchanged a few words and I left. Did you not give him the spiel hun? And where's your other car? Took it to the body shop yesterday. Still whispering. Hey, he's coming back. Their whisper lifted. Joshua strolled out of the bedroom behind the butler and his assistant, who was leaving and came to a standstill behind Lemara. Whatever you and my sister are planning, it's a no. Em, can you do me a favour please hun, can you shag his brains out and ask him then? He's caught on to that tactic hun. Looking down the screen at his sister. He was curt with his response. There are only two winners in that plan of yours, and you're looking at them. Sorry... Lemara quickly mouthed to her. He took the phone off Lemara, looked his sister in the eye. Go sort your mess out and leave Lemara out of it. And whatever you do, DO. NOT. DRIVE. MY. CAR. On that note, Joshua ended the video call. She is impossible. What has she done to her car now? He was now walking back to the bedroom. Had a little accident. She's had another accident and wants to drive my car. This is her third accident in as many years, one of which involved mine. If I flew planes like she drove cars, l'd be out of a job. Turning back to Lemara. And you'd be out of a man. Lemara remained seated in quiet contemplation. His chest heaved slightly out of despair under his t-shirt, as he walked away to the bedroom, undressing himself shirt first. He sometimes despaired at his sister's laxness. Shortly after that, Lemara heard the shower go. She remained quiet; this wasn't one of those situations she wanted to tinker between. She knew how Joshua felt about his vehicles. Even though his newest ride was one he got a real deal on, as a result of one of Julia's admirers. She now gave her attention to the layout of their suite. As you walked into Harry's, the baby grand and dinner table were off to the left, with the bedroom on the right, it was the other way around in their suite. Good afternoon ladies and gents, this is Captain Cantieri speaking. We will be departing Costa Maya slightly later than planned. One of our organised tours is running a little late returning to the ship. I expect we would be leaving port around seven. For those of you onboard, our 'White Night Event' will get on the way as planned. His Italian accent sounded much tighter over the intercom than when they spoke last night in person. Through the undrawn curtain glass walls, Lemara looked out at the port of Costa Maya and wondered if Harry was back onboard. Em, did you pack enough pairs of shoes? Lemara was on her way to the verandah when Joshua's voice full of amusement, penetrated her thoughts. She smiled broadly and changed her direction to the bedroom. Joshua stood over her footwear, both hands holding a towel draping down his front and looked over at her as she walked into their walk-in closet. Five pairs of sandals; a pair of trainers; four pairs of heels and a pair of espadrilles. She rattled off as she passed him and slapped his wet untowelled bum on her way to the shower. Oh and the loafers that I flew in. As Lemara was setting the temperature on the left shower of their double shower room, a white shirt hanging on her side of the closet smacked her attention. It was Harry's shirt, the one she had been wearing earlier that morning, the one she walked back to her room in. Thinking she couldn't simply go and move it, she had to get Joshua away from where he was before it caught his attention. But he was now shouting something to her that was inaudible against the rainshower she just switched on. What did you say? She peeped out from the bathroom. Five pairs of heels. He was saying. I brought four. Lemara came out of the bathroom, lined up next to Joshua as in some military exercise, her face a little perplexed. I count four. Lemara retorted. Five. Turning around to a blue shoebox on his side of the wardrobe. Ohhh my Gawwddd! Her eyes like serving platters as she recognised the box. How did you know? Flinging her arms around his neck and mopping the remainder of his body with hers that he had not yet dried. The white shirt belonging to Harry, forgotten. Its an early birthday present. Julia said you loved them and were going to treat yourself for your birthday. So I thought I'd surprise you. I love you! She said through an armada of kisses. Unleashing Joshua to prize her box open. She opened the box to discover the pair of Malone Souliers' in wine and gold she had oozed over for a week. A smile permanently setting across her face. Literally, now head over those heels—and their effortless silhouette of seductive curves elevated by the double gold straps across the top. Like a Reverend removing a newborn from the clasp if its gloating parents, Lemara removed the heels from the box, one by one. And like a blessing of baptism, graced her feet with them, becoming slightly exalted as she did so. Actually, I think I love your sister more. She joked. Is that so? Let's see if she can take you up to thirty-two thousand feet. She just did. Laughing into the shoe box, she was now holding and kicking up her right leg behind her into a sexy pose. Do you like it? She asked in a frolicsome tone. I'm happy if you are. I'm more than happy. She gushed. These are like an orgasm in a box. Joshua raised his eyelids ever so briefly in a flash of excitement. Make sure to wear them to bed tonight! Captain Cantieri and his lusty Italian pierced through the ship's loudspeaker once more. Good afternoon from the bridge, we are updating you on our delayed departure! It seems we will be delayed by a further hour here in Costa Maya. We are doing what we can to get our guests back on board. Until then, please continue to enjoy your cruise, and we will keep you informed accordingly. Does that mean we will be late getting into Cozumel? Or will we skip the port all together since we already have to depart there earlier than planned? Lemara was now gracefully removing the heels. Good question but isn't Cozumel near here? If the ship is not delayed for an extended period, it may be a case of us having to sail a little faster. Captain Hart went into work mode. Having dealt with his share of delayed flight departures for any number of reasons. Everything from lack of deicing fluid, to no cutlery loaded for first-class, to a flight attendant, suddenly developing a fear of flying. By the way, Lemara voiced as she walked back to the shower. Yes Guess who got invited to the bridge? Me. Lemara beamed from the door to the shower. Did you now? Slightly raising his eyebrow. Yep Have you been? Not yet, suppose we can go later... Joshua raised his finger (the same one he raised over her lips earlier) leaned his head slightly to the side. I think your phone is going hun! Can you get it for me, please? As he headed off to pick up her phone, he pointed into her wardrobe and asked. Is that one of my shirts?
What Happens on a Cruise, Stays on the Cruise - Part 9
Caressing her back and buttocks, Joshua plants a kiss long and hard on Lemara's lips. She snaps a photo of them together on the beach, kissing him back. He kisses her back. She kisses him back, and that continued for a Caribbean minute. Any longer and a room may have needed to be built around them. Lacing his fingers through hers as he walked off to kit himself out for his surf and for Lemara to make herself comfortable on the sand. Moments later, Joshua was on the water, and as he appeared to be enjoying himself, Lemara waved at him. It was more a rhetorical wave. She now made her way to the shaded privacy of their cabana and into the womb of one of the hammocks. Her bare legs splaying either side of it, her lipstick red painted toes pinned to the ground controlling the sway of the hammock. A short while later, Lemara looked up from her phone just in time to see Joshua and his board skim across the water. His neon green kite amplified against the sky like a giant leaf whose swirls refuse to come to rest out on the water, and Joshua clearly enjoying the ride. There were another two kitesurfers on the water, but other than they, the water remained uninvaded by humans. She smiled and turned her attention back to her phone, where she had posted the photo just taken of herself and Joshua on her private Instagram account. She captioned it. Where the sun does shine. Her good friend, Maisie, was the first to respond. We are so jealous you guys; it is pissing it down with rain here in London. Maisie commented. While it was Joshua who had introduced Lemara to Maisie, it was Maisie who had introduced Joshua to his now ex-wife. Maisie and Joshua started at the airline around the same time. Joshua was one of the pilots on Maisie's first flight as a flight attendant. She recalled how thorough and patient Joshua had been though he was himself being put through the ropes at the airline. Because as Joshua says 'Happy crew, Happy passengers, Dream flight!' They had been friends ever since. Maisie herself is married to a pilot. But if Joshua was the youngest Captain at the airline, Maisie was the living black book of who was dating whom at the airline. Twenty-five thousand employees but she near enough knew who was dating whom, who had dated whom and who didn't know their dating was unexclusive with whom. Rain? What is that? Xxx Lemara joked to Maisie's comment. Lemara joked on another three comments before she clicked off the app, turning her attention to the myriad of WhatsApp messages and emails that remained unanswered. She first looked at an email from her boss' boss, grateful at least that it wasn't marked urgent. Better yet, it was good news. Once again the company had been shortlisted in two categories for the upcoming travel awards: The World's Leading Private Jet App and The World's Leading Private Jet Website. He followed on to write he would like press materials created regarding the news that would be communicated to the media and the company's clients. The rest of the email, inessential to Lemara's past, future or present, but he did finish by writing. Let me know when you're available. Hope you are enjoying your cruise. So does this mean he wanted this done now or on her return? Lemara closed the phone screen, crossed her wrists above her head and looked out to where Joshua was now gliding across the water. Remembering they only made it to the nominations last year in the same categories and the upcoming award ceremony only a few months away - she marked it as urgent although the big boss had not. The newest starter in her department but the big boss highlighted he preferred her materials on situations such as these. Lemara, you have a way with words. He had said. That or it was his psychologically reversed way of sending the work her way because 'these situations' were more prevalent than you'd believe. But in the two years, she had worked at the company she had moved from Content Creator to Content and Digital Specialist. A title and a role she was sure was created especially for her given the myriad cross-section of skills she regularly had to employ—everything from website editing to communications, PR, branding, marketing. 'You have an artistic eye' - is another thing he liked to tell her. But there was no chance of her or anyone else ever heading up that team unless the boss's brother in law left, as he currently held the position. But Lemara loved being the Digital and Content Specialist, not least because that role allowed her to work remotely. Especially when being able to work remotely meant, that when Joshua requested a last-minute long weekend on her for Lisbon or New York or Dubai, she could pick up her Samsonite or her Steamline Luggage or her Tumi and roll with it. Lemara stared in the direction of Joshua, but her eyes only engaged with the blue sky that formed his backdrop. And out of that blue came Harry and she was hit with a quick, heady spasm. Oo Unconsciously, her body had recited their earlier activities and tremored out of the intense aftershock of that earthquake. Unconsciously her senses recalled their bodies scent from this morning and Lemara sat up in the hammock, inhaled deeply. Harry Langdon was now becoming like a sea, powerfully breaking down a cliff wall that stood for four years. She would need her own defence mechanisms because he was now attacking walls around her mind and soul even in his absence. She rested the phone on her lap, pressed her fingers up against her lips, but couldn't help but wonder how his day was going. The photo Joshua brought into question earlier now became the focus of her attention. She left the suspension of the hammock, picked up her camera and helped herself to a drink, nibbles. It was at the restaurant in Key West the photograph was taken. The shot most likely taken under the premise he was inspecting the camera; clearly, he wasn't merely checking the camera. Looking closer at the image, she'd have to admit even to herself that it looked intimate. Harry Langdon. A disarming smile across her face. Lemara quickly caught her breath and turned her attention back to her emails. She responded to another three and decided the remainder could wait. Switching over to her WhatsApp, she noticed Joshua had left her a plethora of messages, voice recordings and missed calls-the total, thirty-six. Two messages from Joshua's mom. Should she look at those now or wait and find out if Joshua knows what they are about? Lemara decided on the latter thinking that whatever it was, it would be better hearing it from him. In the PWG chat group (Pilots' Wives and Girlfriends) there were another one hundred and forty-seven messages. She debated what should be looked at first and decided the messages from her man should really take priority. She began reading through the texts. Em, I know you said you wanted some time to yourself but I'm going to join you in Costa Maya. Switching my next flight for one to Cancun. Call me back when you get this message. I'm missing you as always. Lemara's chest buckled. Flight lands at..., let's go to Hayhu beach..., It's idyllic, and I see they have kitesurfing... The messages on PWGG were once again lighting up, causing Lemara to switch over to see what was happening. She saw Joshua's name, and of course, her eyes widened wondering what additional feather was being put in his cap that she wasn't aware of. Her fingers scrolled down to where his name was first mentioned and began to read. Jaz: Vicky, have you ever flown with Captain Hart? Vicky: Yes. I like flying with him. Jaz: Do you know him well? Vicky: Yes, why? Jaz: I think he likes me. Vicky: What makes you say that? Jaz: Well, we just get on really well and yesterday after we landed... Vicky: Jaz, Captain Hart gets on well with everyone. Vicky interjected. Maisie: You guys realise you are in the group chat right and that in this group chat is Captain Hart's other half? S I L E N C E Half an hour later. Jaz: Wait, how is she on here? Maisie: I think the more important question is, how are you? (This is where Lemara initially joined the conversation.) Jaz: I'm a flight attendant Maisie: Honey, that may well be the case, but this group chat is for pilot's wives and girlfriends. Last I knew you were neither. The chat went silent again, but Lemara's brain reverted to 'but yesterday after we landed.' Yesterday after we landed, what? Yesterday after we landed... we all went to the bar for a drink, and Joshua paid for her first drink (and the rest of the crew). Yesterday after we landed... She discovered she left her favourite lipstick on the aircraft, and Captain Hart held the crew bus while she went back to retrieve it. Yesterday after we landed... She hadn't realised how nervous she was and soiled her pants, and Captain Hart paid for a new pair. Because that is the sort of thing, Joshua does. But what exactly was Jaz going to say? And who was this Jaz, Joshua had never mentioned her? Joshua would often give Lemara a lighthearted debrief after his flights to include the crew onboard. Lemara pursed her lips at the unfinished sentence. She was disturbed that such an inconsequential statement now plagued her. Joshua was now lugging his kitesurfing equipment out of the water, shortly assisted by a staff member from the kitesurfing club. The fingers of her left hand were once again pressed up against her lips. Her eyes were unarmed but locked on Joshua and all five feet ten inches of him. Shoulders toned, biceps lean as he strode over to their deck and into the shower. I think I'm going to need a massage tonight Em! Forgotten how gruelling kitesurfing is. Taking the drink, Lemara had brought him and quenching himself with it. Well, you are in luck, there's a spa onboard the ship. Oh! I was hoping to get one of yours. Peering at her over the towel, sensing a slight frigidity unmatched by their surroundings. Oh yeah! Okay, hang on. Is this because I stayed out on the water longer than I said? Amusement in his voice. She looked up at him but said nothing. Instead, she moved to walk away. But Joshua was quick and trapped her in between himself and the towel undoing the messy braid bun she had done up to get as much sunlight as possible on her body. He dipped his head to kiss her on the lips, she quickly switched her head away to the right, and Joshua's lips followed. She ducked her face to her left, and he followed, and that continued until it fused into them laughing at each other. And in his very warm caramel come to bed voice. Sorry about earlier. Brushing back Lemara's braids off her shoulder. That softened the moment, and Joshua sensed it and went in again for a kiss. Lemara allowed it but then picked up another fresh towel and covered his face, making a screen between them. Joshua accepted defeat and allowed Lemara to walk away. A glint in his eye. By the way, we are having your things moved. She looked back at him, and with the flick of her eyes, sharply declared that she had not agreed to move back in with him. And why is that? He asked. Because... What I was actually referring to Lemara, is moving your belongings in your room to our suite. Joshua interjected. There is no reason for us to be on the same ship and be in separate rooms is there? But let's discuss the other matter over the next few days. No. Dismissing him tersely and continuing to walk away. No, there's no reason to be in separate rooms? No, you're not moving into the suite? No, we are not discussing you moving back in with me? Which is it? She felt vast knots of emotion clogging and wrecking turmoil within her. An onslaught of guilt beginning to raise its ugly head, trapping her between pain and torture. She said nothing. Le-mara. Lemara halted in her tracks but kept her back to Joshua. She could hear Joshua's steps approaching and raised her eyes skywards to lose the moisture that had collected. Honey, I just know you are not upset because I went kitesurfing and left you here. So what is it? Wrapping Lemara from behind, pressing his left cheek against her right. Nothing. Lemara shrugged. Joshua held her for a while longer as if to allow her to continue. Still, Lemara said nothing more; he walked around to face her. Eyes firmly on hers, his gaze narrowed as he studied her. Lemara, would you prefer that I wasn't here? On that question, Lemara's breath became trapped in her lungs, and her eyes flicked. Although she had indeed chosen to take this holiday on her own, her emotions were surely unchecked to lead Joshua to raise such a question because the answer was, no. This, all because she had gone off and danced a dance that's now given her a guilty rhythm. Then worked herself up over a half posted story on WhatsApp. Hypocritical, to say the least. No. Lemara finally replied, her gaze held his firm. So will you tell me what's going on? Because something is off, this is not you. They both remained in silence, staring at each other. Joshua leaned back on a table, poker faced, as usual, but his eyes were warm. Lemara, with her arms crossed and lips pursed. He outstretched his palms for her to place hers in but nothing. It was an act of affection, Joshua would employ to let her know that whatever it was would be okay. Stop her from filling up before she exploded in all the wrong ways. But Lemara had already entered them into a stalemate that neither of them knew they were in. Let's get back to the ship before it gets any later. He said, finally giving in. Lemara had worked herself into such a stupor; she couldn't bring herself to speak. She simply gathered their belongings and made their way to the taxi. The taxi pulled up at the cruise port, and they got out just in time to hop on a pier trolley about to depart for the ship. Unlike the outbound journey, the trolley was operating at maximum capacity with cruise passengers attempting to get back onto their respective cruises before departure. And their chatter, like a game of volleyball, everyone vying for the ball to bat back events of their day. What they did, what they saw, where they went. The trolley stopped in front of their ship, and passengers for their cruise hopped off. Boarding the ship, just in front of Lemara and Joshua was a middle-aged couple who had begun to make their way up the slant. The wheelchair being pushed became stuck, just as they got onto the ramp pausing the boarding process. Mrs looked back at Joshua and Lemara and joked. I think the wheelchair wants to stay in Costa Maya. This was a pleasant way of apologising for the hold-up Lemara guessed. Joshua acknowledged and was now assisting Mrs with the wheelchair so that Joshua was now standing alongside her. Oh, you have such strong arms. Mrs gushed. I remember when my David had arms like yours. She continued. Martha, I'm still here. I know dear. Martha responded. Looking back at Lemara, she continued. Oh, you two make such a beautiful couple. Lemara moulded a generous smile across her face at Martha while Joshua was quick to thank her for her compliments. By the way, this is my husband David, and I'm Martha, and we are the Denhams. Joshua followed that up by introducing Lemara and himself. They had cleared the ship's security and were now waiting at the lift when Martha announced they were celebrating their 25th anniversary. Are you on your honeymoon? Martha asked. The smile on Lemara's face was now one she had previously baked. One she found she had been using quite recently to any such conversations relating to marriage that involved herself and Joshua. No just a holiday. Lemara has just completed her masters, and we decided to take a break and celebrate. Congratulations dear! Both Martha and David chimed in. Thank you, thank you. Lemara replied. A congregation had gathered by the time the first lift arrived the area was clogged and the chatter immense. The four boarded with Lemara positioning herself in the right-hand corner of the lift while Joshua stood mid-right with Mrs Denham. The elevator continued to fill up until it was bulging at the seams. One of the last to squeeze their way in was Mrs Chatterbox from dinner and one of her daughters, who had managed to squeeze past the wheelchair and were now standing near Joshua. While Lemara's spirits swayed, the rest of the passengers appeared to be in a chipper mood. Mr Denham pressed the button for deck nine, and Joshua confirmed they too wanted deck nine. Everyone else was now declaring their floor numbers to be punched in. Under the weight of its passengers, the lift began its crawl to the next deck. And what do you do Joshua? Asked Mrs Denham. I transport people from one place to another. Ordinarily, Lemara would grin like a Cheshire Cat at that humble response of Joshua's because she knew he did it to save her the flotilla of questions that generally accompanied the alternative answer. But not today, today she hung her head, heavy with pangs of conscience. But out of nowhere, Mrs Chatterbox gave herself an invitation to the conversation and piped in. You mean like a bus driver? Her tone, divisive. Yes, like a bus driver. Lemara leaned back into the corner of the lift, crossed her ankles, clutched her beach bag and had half prepared herself for the next question 'How can you afford a cruise?' The lift had stopped at the next deck at this point. A handful of guests got out, and another three who had walked up from the previous deck now boarded as Joshua politely responded. More poolside gossip for Mrs Chatterbox, Lemara thought. At the opposite corner of the lift, Lemara spotted the eyes of two ladies (who appeared to be around her age). One of whose eyes lit up when she first saw Joshua prompting her to nudge her friend and their mouths both fell open when he spoke. Neither of them able to peel their eyes off him. That swung the pendulum of Lemara's mood, causing her to smile. Lemara was, however, unprepared for what followed next. Mrs Chatterbox's daughter now invited herself to the conversation with the following. But at the reception this morning, the receptionist referred to you as Captain. I am that too. Joshua replied ever so calmly. So you are you a cruise ship Captain? With Mrs Chatterbox pronouncing the words 'cruise ship captain' as if they'd suddenly developed a scathing disease. By this time Lemara was inwardly somersaulting with laughter, she felt she was getting her own back after her vagrant remark to her last night. The lift had come to another stop on the next deck. Another four passengers went off, and one passenger came on. Space freed up, and the lift was encouraged by this, judging by the ease it moved off to the next floor. Joshua was now telling Mrs Chatterbox that he was in fact, an airline pilot. Once again you would not have thought it possible but her eyebrows aligned with her hairline. And the passengers in the lift were now gushing. A lady at the front of the lift, diagonally opposite Lemara was now flirtatiously smiling and asking Joshua if he was single. To which he replied. No, I am here with my other half. Pointing and winking at Lemara. And now everyone had turned to look at Lemara, her position of incognisance now outed. Lemara has heard Joshua referred to her as such many times over but today it felt warmly special. As Mrs Chatterbox recognised Lemara, the lift stopped at deck eight, and her daughter hauled her unwillingly off the lift. But the plethora of questions the other answer previously served to avoid was now rendered pointless. That sentence, I'm a pilot, flipped the switch, and all other conversations stopped, Lemara and man were now the subjects of discussion. Aren't you a bit young to be a Captain and older lady shot in Joshua's direction? Not if you've done the flying hours amongst other things. Joshua commented. Does that mean you get free flights? A random passenger yelled out at Lemara. Only when the Captain agrees to it. Lemara smiled. I bet that happens often. He replied. You are so lucky. Gasped one of the twenty-something-year-olds. By this time the lift had thankfully arrived at deck nine. Joshua still assisting Mrs Denham with the wheelchair exited with Mrs Denham and Lemara following swiftly behind. As the doors slid shut behind her, an intoxication of musk and french vanilla jarred Lemara's thinking. As Lemara scanned the area, it came to her; it became apparent why. She was down these corridors earlier in the day. She shut it out just in time to hear Mr Denham mention he was in fact a US Airforce Veteran. The conversation with the Denhams was now wrapping up, and they said their goodbyes. Joshua splayed his right palm across the small of Lemara's back as he turned, their steps becoming synchronised as he steered her to their suite.
Its time for you to meet Josanne Mark and her custom jewellery, that's if you haven't already met her. When I was introduced to this creative and her beguiling pieces, I was incredulous having discovered she is from the island of Trinidad. I mention Trinidad, and already I know your mind has partied off to some rhythmic soca tune. You are holding onto a sunset coloured rum-infused drink, causing your eyebrows to raise with an expression no words can recreate, and your memory replays videos to those beach dives off the island that stays with you. Trinidad is indeed all of those and has undoubtedly contributed to the inspiring backdrop for this Trinidadian jewellery designer - Josanne Mark. As Josanne says and I quote. 'Anything and everything can be of inspiration to me; all objects and textures, manmade or existing in nature.' Her Jewellery Love Story If you have thus far, managed to disengage from the above and have tapped over to her website, I can almost hear you. Your Oohs! and Your Ohs! Because her designs have inspired a wave of arousal, placing your breathing on pause. Her 'ooh pieces' have showcased themselves on numerous occasions between the pages of everything from Caribbean Belle to Vogue. So now, I feel as though I am punching above my weight being allowed to collaborate on this post. There's no waiting at the railway crossing for a heritage or generations of jewellers to be uncovered. And that's just it; you could race through the history of her Atelier as quickly as a Formula One car because she is pretty young. The sparks of her creativity and unabashed designs have been beautifully colliding into masterpieces since 2005. But it was 2015 when she cemented her international presence, launching her website josannemark.com. Young, vibrant and creative, just like her pieces, will immediately see you add them to the jewellery section of your wedding journal or at best commit to writing your Christmas list as early May. But gone are the days you waited on special occasions to bejewel yourself because Josanne creates her pieces to be worn every day, yesterday—the only accessories needed in or out of this pandemic. How She Pays Homage The very landscape laid out around her island home guides her creations. She embraces this beautifully in statement pieces such as the Aged Bronze Driftwood Cuff, (from the Toco Collection) reminiscent of the glossy moss that makes its home in the washed-up wood drifting along the coast. It is sure to be the only arm candy you will need on your next Zoom wine and cheese party. Your only deliberation being whether to purchase the aged bronze or bright sterling silver cuff. The scape for inspiration is limitless living on an island in the Caribbean. Driftwood on the beach is just a starter; she has also claimed inspiration from the seafloor. Here is her amplification of those graceful sea fans that sway in the shallows into a pair of dazzling silver earrings dipped in gold. These Angular Sea Fan Ear Pendants are designed to bring a smack of glam to your ears. It is noble yet striking! Behind God Back Collection I must tell you; I smiled when I read that. A very West Indian term that when translated, refers to a remote location. And being remote, it remains on the path less travelled, full of undiscovered creations, awe, intrigue. Or as Josanne refers to it 'untamed beauty.' There are other translations also, but we prefer these. I am piqued too, to learn that our islands shared such a term. These minimalist yet eye-catching gems are beautiful everyday wear, wearing with anything. The styling of this pair of 'Forest Huggie Hoop Earrings' from her Behind God Back collection is easily done. Style on their own to showcase their sophisticated look or stack alongside a pair of studs or drop earrings for a bit of edge. Pin your hair back and flirt with your earlobes in that zoom meeting. Your colleagues will be showering you with compliments by the time the session ends. Hug your earlobes with one of two finishes: the shimmering sterling silver finish or the 18k gold vermeil. Oh and that's pronounced ver may, meaning it had a healthy coating in a bath of gold. Forever With You Collection Unless you had Josanne masterfully design and bring to life, a pair of cufflinks for keepsake. Or the ring you desire to encircle the finger of your bride to be (because Josanne also does that), the Forever With You Collection is one of her more humble but may well be one of the more meaningful and personal of her creations you'll wear. Added to a sterling silver necklace or bracelet is a metal disc, personalised to the wearer. Have the disc stamped with their birthstone, engraved with their initials, etched with their fingerprint. Because what is there more personal than a fingerprint? A gift that sure stirs the emotions of the receiver as much as the eyes of the admirers. Ready to Purchase Josanne's current collection is meticulously handcrafted and made to order in her workshop in Trinidad and Tobago-where else? Her creations forged from ethically sourced materials - recycled silver, freshwater pearls, aged bronze metals. There's a pint-sized delay before you can be married to your chosen piece. A small price you'd willingly agree to and pay for jewellery that is being custom made. Although Josanne tells me she will shortly be adding 'a ready to wear collection' to her site. I call that instant gratification. For The Love of Her Alluring Jewellery Here is hoping you are enamoured with one of her unique pieces, maybe even two and have now gone off to her website for an early Christmas treat to yourself, a friend, a family member. Oh, what the heck another for yourself. Share the love! Shop here Disclaimer: I do not earn any commissions from the sale of any items from the links affiliated to this post.
What Happens on a Cruise, Stays on the Cruise - Part 8
Back on the ship, Lemara ventured over to the excursion desk on deck four. She should at least carry out the task she had left her room to do, cancel her excursion - the official one that is. Lemara could hear the disgruntled tones of a passenger next door at guest services. Verbalising his disapproval at the early departure of the ship from the port of Cozumel the next day. He didn't think an approaching storm was a sufficient reason to do so. But just as nonsensical, he now wanted to be compensated with complimentary excursions at the remaining ports the ship would call at. Lemara raised an eyebrow and smiled to herself as she thanked the staff member and left. Walking back to her room, Harry's last words to her were replaying themselves in her head, seemingly jamming her sonar. She quickly shook her head to block out his words. But it was clear that Harry could now take her focus into places that she would prefer him not to. As she approached her room door, she patted the sides of her dress for her key card and discovered both pockets were occupied. Her own key card was in her right pocket. She shoved her hands in her left pocket, and her fingers collided with objects that should not have been there. She pulled them out to discover Harry had placed the key card he had made for her and his cufflinks back in that pocket. Lemara threw her head back and smiled coyly at Harry's undaunting show of bravado. She thought to run back to the pier quickly, but Harry was most likely long gone. She thought to go swiftly to his suite, let herself in and leave the card and the cufflinks. She'd at least know if the card works. But Joshua had been waiting long enough. She opened her room door to find Joshua laid half-asleep on her bed. He hears her enter the room and opens his eyes; he gently pats the bed for her to lay next to him and closes them again. Lemara smiled in acknowledgement but instead went to the bathroom and stands in front of the mirror. Uncertain of where she could keep the cufflinks, she even considers flushing them down the toilet, until something catches her eyes. Entwined and engraved on both of them was his monogrammed initials - HL. Or LH, depending on which letter she read first, She thought. And now Lemara wondered if they were little mementoes. She squeezed the tip of her nose to slow her breathing, create an alternative focus, damn her thoughts because Harry Langdon was now in full occupation of them. She closed her eyes, slowly massaged her forehead and exhaled deeply, then placed the cufflinks and key card in the concealed compartment of her makeup bag. Joshua's grey t-shirt rested neatly on the back of the desk chair. His upper body laid bare and splayed across the bed for a magazine's two-page spread and arms positioned above his head as if to dunk a ball. She walks over to the bed where Joshua lay in just his Wooyoungmi shorts. A pair of shorts that could they fit her, he would never see their light of day again. As she lay down next to him, he whispers. All sorted? Mm-hmm. She whispers back. On one of the television's radio stations, John Splitoff's 'Sing to You' was soulfully soothing through the speakers. He kissed her on her forehead, she settled it onto his right shoulder, his right arm snuggled her closer, her left arm caressed his torso and they fell asleep. ------------------------------------------------------- Midday had just gone when Lemara woke again, the word 'storm' rolling across the bottom of the tv screen caught her attention. For a tumultuous second, she wondered if her mind was once again playing games with her. Was it a forecast of her days to come? But as she stirred, realised the storm in question was the one the passenger at guest services had mentioned. Her stirring roused Joshua from his sleep who then rolled her onto his chest; inhaled her scent and squeezed her. Hungry? He asked dozily. Mmm. She replied softly. Settling herself further, indicating she wasn't quite ready to move. Partly due to the fact she was quite comfortable where she was but also because Lemara hadn't entirely prepared herself for any encounters with specific individuals on the ship. Or indeed any drama they may bring, should they see her on the arms of another guy. All be it the right one. Maybe it would have been better for her if she had indeed turned into a pillar of salt. She knew she couldn't stay locked away in the room, and there's no way Joshua would be on board with that either. She would have to erase the last few days from her memory and pretend they never happened. And with that, she kissed Joshua on the chest, rolled off him and onto her feet. Walking past the desk, she notices a silver card laying next to his wallet. Looking identical to the one Harry had given her earlier, she asks. Joshua, where's your luggage? In our suite. In our suite. Repeating and looking back at Joshua inquisitively. 9087. Ohh! Lemara gushed, getting somewhat excited. I think it will be to your liking Ms Heisen. (Theatrically smug with himself.) A jacuzzi, personal butler and a baby grand just for you. But slowly her cogs began to turn, and a change of facial expression loomed, realising this she kept on walking to the wardrobe. Shit! No! Was she now in a suite next to Harry? Was James also their butler? She felt herself hit the back wall of hell and bounce back. She needed to speak to Harry although unsure at that point what Harry could do. But then she remembered Harry had pointed out odd numbers were on this side of the ship while even numbers were on his side of the vessel. So no, their suite was at least not next to his. But someone at least needed to prepare James for suite 9087 or at least ensure he was not the butler for suite 9087. Sorry, did you say 9087? She asked knowingly from the wardrobe. Yes, and now you have no excuse not to perfect your single hand melody of 'Lean on Me!' He jibed. On any other day, she'd have given it back to Joshua. Call him on out on something he was yet to perfect (not that there were many), but today no wisecracks came to mind. Instead, her laugh was choked into a mild throat clearance. Confident that she must have had all the surprises that could befall any one person in a day, Lemara put a stop to her fake rootling in the wardrobe. She picked up the royal blue and gold bikini directly in front of her. They were her favourite. For one they made her bust appear one cup size bigger and its design, timeless. And, had worn them on all the continents she possibly could, including this one whether you placed Mexico in north or south America and so she changed into them. Shall we get some lunch? Lemara asked trailing the rail for the matching kimono. Joshua was now standing behind her fully dressed. He acknowledged her question with a kiss on the back of her head and a caress across her ass as he moved to stand beside her. To complete her ensemble, Lemara added a pair of nude sandals, raffia beach bag and a Panama hat. They finally stepped off the ship, and Lemara noticed for the first time how calm the water was. She also saw the very long walkway that shot across it like an arrow and plunged into the dense foliage that was Costa Maya. The emerald green of Costa Maya being the only distraction between the merging of a spotless blue sky and the lapis blue of the Caribbean sea. The air - raw, hot and salty. She pulled her hat down at the front uninviting the harsh sunlight from her face. A trolley had pulled up alongside the disembarkation area, and they hopped on it for the quick ride to the cruise port. Once they had cleared the port of Costa Maya, they jumped into a designated taxi. Honey, where are we going? Hayhu Beach. Holding the vehicle's door open for her to get in. Then closing it and walking around to the opposite side. Oh! Was Lemara's only response at the unexpected answer, watching him walk around to the passenger door on the opposite side. Driving down the sandy lane towards the beach, Pale Impala's Borderline tripped through the car's speakers. Lemara stuck her left hand out the car window, (her right hand in Joshua's and on his lap) allowing the breeze to glide over her arms like the wings of a plane. She felt a sense of relief. Happy for those cobwebs of the ship (cobwebs she had created) to be lifted and blown away (if only for a few hours) and allowing the fresh air of the Mexican Caribbean sea to roll in. On the ride to the beach, Joshua told her he swapped his flight for the one he flew to Cancun yesterday and then made a four-hour journey this morning to catch the ship when it docked. That they were also overnighting off the cruise in Miami and from there, he'll be flying the plane back to London. None of which came as a surprise to Lemara. Lemara only knew of one thing that gave Joshua more satisfaction than being in the cockpit of an aircraft. And there were possibly times when the two may well have merged. Joshua once equated the body of a plane to that of a female's - elegant, graceful lines and flying to that of lovemaking. He said both commanded respect, dedication, care and attention. In his view, that applied as much for take-off as it did for the landing. When Captain Hart is at the helm of his aircraft, thirty-five thousand feet is your base. His bar is the stratosphere. And you certainly never forget a 'Joshua Hart's' landing. It was undoubtedly this dedication to flying that had seen him achieve the title of youngest captain at his airline. But as Joshua replayed his journey, Lemara experienced a slight twist in her chest. She realised that while she had inexplicably and readily journeyed to bed with Harry, her guy had taken on quite an arduous trip to get to her. Okay, the last few days never happened. Lemara told herself. As long as Harry Langdon stayed out of sight and out of mind, she'll be fine. But even the mere thought of his name had begun to have noticeable effects on her. The taxi had now pulled to a stop in front of Hayhu Beach. Graciously they were greeted as they stepped out of the cab, welcomed like extended family, then led to their private cabana. The crowd was barely fifty or so in total and mostly made up of couples and honeymooners. Conversations were relaxed over the music that played low. Except for the sighting of one family off the ship, this place was blissfully removed from the crowds that spewed from the cruise, leaving Lemara to wonder how Joshua knew about it. But just like on the cruise, the staff here were very attentive, and she soon realised she need not lift any of those well-manicured fingers of hers. From their elevated position on the top deck of their cabana through the swaying leaves off the tops of short palms, Lemara watched the white sugar sands go out to sit beneath the turquoise coloured veil of the sea. Making the colour of the water appear silver where the veil touched the sand, and an ombre of blues the further out the veil went. Except for the sea containers and the dental white sun loungers, the aesthetics painted a more French Polynesian hideaway than a Western Caribbean hideout. This is nice! Turning to Joshua (who was talking to their waiter who was now walking away) delighted with their getaway. Glad I came? Pushing her hat up off her face to kiss her on the lips. Then hugging and swaying her as he did in her room. Mmmm! Was Lemara's lighthearted response returning affectionate kisses to those lips that had garnered her attention all those years ago. That's it? Mmm? Playfully Nuzzling her nose with his as his hands anchored her to him then kissing her hard on the lips as he questioned her. Lemara giggled, she tried to pull away from his hold, but that was just another of those things she was yet to master with Joshua. She moved her head away from him, arching her back in the process, but that gave Joshua full access to her neck, which he was now kissing on playfully. Of course, that only caused her giggles to dissolve into laughter. Lemara took her hat off and placed it on Joshua's face to block his play. Yes, Mr Hart, I'm delighted you came! Beaming while adjusting her hat on his head. Confident that Joshua was satisfied that she was satisfied, they leaned into each other smiling. Even the sun felt that much more tender here at Hayhu Beach that Lemara offered up her face to the sun for a kiss as Joshua brushed her braids off her neck. Well, either the waiter had been discreetly waiting for them to finish or he timed it rather nicely, but he suddenly appeared as if he was transplanted there. His arms were laden with sunset coloured drinks and nibbles burdened trays. So what have you managed to get up to on the cruise over the last couple of days? Joshua asked as they sat in the shade removing their top and kimono. Not much. The first night, I missed dinner. On the second night, I was insulted at dinner... Insulted? Joshua interjected (but it was more of a statement) as he looked over at Lemara with concern. Anything you want to tell me about? Not really, that's now gone with the wind. Joshua looks back at Lemara but this time holds her gaze, checking it wasn't one of those moments that she dismisses something as being okay when it wasn't. Didn't get a chance to go on the Old Town Trolley in Key West yesterday but it was ok. She continued, trying to play the day down. She reaches for the camera in her beach bag and passes it to Joshua. You were really having a blast then, weren't you? Joshua mocked, taking the camera. No time whatsoever to read or listen to my messages. More or less. She scoffed. Partied until the crazy hours of the morning? No. Lemara looked over at him, smiling knowing what he meant. That only happens when my bodyguard is around. That's very unlike the Lemara, I know. (Scrolling through the photos.) The Lemara, I know, would have swept the dancefloor all night, have all the men in the club staring at her and giving me palpitations at the same time. Are you okay? Joshua teased, looking up from the photos. As I said that only happens when my bodyguard is present. And where is that bodyguard of yours? He is here now! Blowing a kiss at him. Feeling carefree, Lemara now sat back in her chair, all smiles at Joshua. Joshua turned his attention back to the photos and was scrolling through them intently. Ohh! Who took this photo of you? Joshua asked questioningly. Remembering Harry had her camera on a few occasions, her carefreeness dissipated, she felt her chest constrict and a few heartbeats skipped. Had Harry taken any compromising photos of her? Harry would not have done that. She looked at Joshua, but his face revealed nothing, not that you looked at Joshua's face for answers. If Joshua's face were a photo developing studio, you'd question if it was in business as it rarely developed any pictures. As he kept staring at the photo, Lemara tentatively leaned over to look at the image on the camera and saw its one that Harry had indeed taken but had not realised he'd done so. Relieved there was nothing on towards she allowed her heartbeats to catch up. Harry. She finally allowed herself to say. Harry. Who's Harry? Uh, another guest on the ship. (Her chest was tight). He captured you very well. Almost as if there's no camera between you and him and he was in your soul. Makes me wonder what you were thinking about at the time. Hmm, I don't even remember the picture being taken. Joshua looked over at her, held her gaze, smiled but said nothing. But she could never honestly read what Joshua was thinking, whether he was smiling or resting in his poker face. Over the years, Lemara realised that whilst this made for the excellent characteristics of a good pilot, it had its benefits and downsides in their relationship. In that she never truly knew if or when Joshua was upset, annoyed, second-guessing her or indeed having palpitations. God forbid he should. But Joshua was still smiling, and now Lemara was smiling back at him. Whaaat? She questioned grinning. Nothing. Joshua replied, amused. Their party of two was now joined by another, with Joshua being asked if he was ready to go kitesurfing. Lemara looked over at Joshua wide-eyed. Although she really should not have been surprised as Joshua is unable to stand still for any period. Either way, she continued with her question. Kitesurfing? Yes. Joshua replied as he got up off the sun lounger. Coming? Arm in arm, they walked out to where the kite surfing equipment awaited Joshua to get himself once again airborne. He squeezed her ass, kissed her on the lips and said. And go read your messages.
What Happens on a Cruise, Stays on the Cruise - Part 7
She clasped her hands over her mouth. Her eyes communicated all the surprise her mouth failed to. Yes, I was missing you. However, YOU, appear to be having a blast without me. Lemara did her best to adjust her body language, but all she could muster was. Hi, you, I... Joshua! Well, hello to you too—the expression across his face now impassive. She got up hugged him, then sat back and stared. Unable to move, unable to speak, in fear, the wrong words might leave her mouth. Your door was open. Yes, that darn door must report it to housekeeping. Her mind was not tricking her at all. It was Joshua. That fragrance confirmed it even if Lemara's eyes were to be doubted. After all, it was over this fragrance they'd connected all those years ago. Four years ago, to be exact. Lemara remembered the very early morning he'd walked into the Dutyfree shop she worked at as a sales consultant, full of pep. His pilot's uniform was as sharp as the day they tailored it. Not like someone who'd spent all night in a sultry threesome, romancing the wide body of a Boeing 747 and its captain back to London. This was Heathrow Airport after all; pilots meandered through there like the Seine through Paris. But this pilot, however, had lips sensuously smacked together like those of LL Cool J's, and it was this that arrested her attention. She had walked over to where he was perusing the shelves. They sprayed a selected few scents, and then he asked her to choose. This one, she'd said. The Original Vetiver, it's clean, fresh and stirring on you! I trust your nose on this. Joshua had responded without verifying it himself. He'd liked her accent, and he had said as much to her. She had admired his accent too. Honeyed was the way she'd described it with a tinge of West Indian. They chatted a little while longer before he paid and left. But those lips she'd remember anywhere and had even mentioned it to her manager on duty that day. A week later, he returned and bought another bottle of the same fragrance; his sister had taken the one he first purchased. Some weeks later, Lemara was finishing her shift and was herself purchasing a bottle of perfume she had fallen in love with when that familiar voice offered to pay. It was Joshua with another bottle of the same fragrance. She had promptly and courteously declined but was now intrigued by this third purchase, but she said nothing. His response to Lemara following her decline was an invitation to lunch that she subsequently declined. At her next shift, a surprise gift greeted her. Mr Sexy Lips left you a little present. Her manager had grinned when she walked in. He had gifted her the body lotion and shower gel of the perfume she bought. Joshua had attached a card. His name and telephone number occupying the blank space. Joshua Hart is what it read. And that was one of the personas of Joshua Hart she came to know, one that was full of surprises. Even so, he had genuinely caught Lemara off guard this time. There was a dam of questions ready to burst out her mouth, but they were as confused as the differing tones of a foreign language. Which one should she use to articulate what she wanted to say correctly? She couldn't any further prolong, returning to his embrace, after all, the only thing he'd done was fly some five and a half thousand miles to be with her. Possibly flown the plane himself. Moving back towards him, the glint of two small objects catches her eyes, the items, seemingly questioning her actions. She walked into his embrace, hands around his waist and buried her face in his chest. And there it was, that familiar Creed fragrance he very often wore. Head resting on hers, wrapping her body and swaying her gently, they said nothing. Embracing each other and the moment, he enjoying her, her enjoying him. Joshua finally spoke, but only to ask. Don't you check your messages anymore? Feeling sufficiently brave to look him in the eye, she tilts her head up. Why? I sent you a few messages, letting you know I will be joining you in Costa Maya. Now she realised it wasn't one of his surprises after all. He had tried to communicate it to her. Lemara looked away, and she suddenly remembered she had ignored the green light of her WhatsApp messages. She'd been otherwise too occupied to check them. How had she managed to cast herself in this shipwreck? Because while she had unintentionally gotten herself caught up and floated off in the bubble that was Harry Langdon she'd somehow cast off Joshua as a piece of debris. She mouthed something, something along the lines of which rhymed with shuck. Had she checked those blasted messages, she could have prevented herself from this mental shipwreck, saved herself this anguish. In the four years she had been with Joshua, the thought of anyone else but Joshua had never ever sniffed at her mind, but here she was a few days into a cruise and had somehow tripped on the slippery slope of a drug called Harry Langdon. Sorry. Was all she could mouth burying her head back into his chest, her emotions running high and very uncertain as to what the apology was for. She heard a party of women cackling as they went past her door, the sound of their flipflops cheering as they rushed to wherever they were going. And then there was a knock on the door. Lemara immediately remembered she had left Harry at the gangway, and thinking it was him, she jumped her heart almost flatlining. You're uneasy! She removed herself from his embrace, supported by jellied legs, walked to the door and looked through the peephole. The dam broke, but it was relief that rushed out when Lemara saw it was a member of staff. She opened the door and smiled. In a distinct Filipino accent, the staff member asked. Ma'am, will you be joining the excursion today? Ahh no, not anymore, sorry. Okay, thank you, I will let the tour know. With that, she walked back to the elevators. Lemara securely shut the door but not before taking a glance down the hallway. The shiny objects, however, demanded an answer, and she suddenly remembered, they were cufflinks, cufflinks that belonged to Harry Langdon. She felt the bile rise punishingly up through her throat and into her mouth. She still had the business of Harry waiting for her at the gangway and now the matter of his cufflinks on her desk. She thought she had better resolve both quickly before either became cow pats on the fan. Worse yet, these were solid; the clean up would be messy, taking days, weeks, months, who knew if it would ever clean up. But neither did she wish to explain to Joshua about those cufflinks sat on the desk that wasn't his. Fearing she might turn into a pillar of salt for facing the wrong way, she turns to face Joshua but makes a beeline for the desk. Discreetly, she scooped them up (grateful they were all Harry had left behind) and crossed her arms after she did so. She needed to get to Harry before Harry got to her; her thoughts raced from her room to the gangway and back. But they weren't clear. Her brain kept glitching like it had a short circuit, not even a lame excuse would come to her. Her back was once again to Joshua, she did not see he had walked up to where she stood at the desk. He sat back on the desk and faced her. Honey, you seem a little on edge, what's going on? Nothing, she retorted with a smile as someone about to come on with a stroke. Lemara's eyes darted from him to the tv screen behind him. I've been here some ten minutes, and you've barely said five words. He outstretches his palms for her to place hers into. She rested the cufflinks into the pocket of her shirt dress, they made a soft clink but at least now her hands were free and part one of the Harry Langdon saga out of the way. She placed her hands in his and moved to stand in between his legs. Her smile was now more relaxed and as broad as the daylight. With that, Joshua smiled back, moving his arms to her waist and she to his neck. And like a seagull that had been swooping overhead for the last few minutes waiting for the right moment to dive, they kissed, long and lingering. With the current flowing through her circuit, as it should, she was able to think more clearly, and so she told him there was another excursion for that day she needed to cancel. That was at least the truth. He offered to accompany her, but she declined. Said she'd be back right away plus Joshua looked a bit tired. Lemara picked up her key card and walked out the door. She hurried down the corridor to the elevators but instead of taking them, she ran down three flights of stairs to deck four and the gangway. She couldn't see Harry, he wasn't where she had left him, and she panicked. What if he has taken the lifts and is on his way back to her room. She darted to the elevators on deck four and then back amidst the guests lingering in the area, but there was no Harry. Ma'am, are you looking for your husband? One of the ship's security officers asked. Recognising the security officer from earlier and realising she had aimed the question at her, relieved, Lemara said yes. He's outside, ma'am. No, he went upstairs, interjected another security officer. Lemara closed her eyes in despair. No, he came back, he is outside. Confirmed the first officer pointing to where Harry stood next to one of the bollards. Lemara rushed to look out the gangway to where Harry was standing next to a bollard. His back to the ship and his phone to his ear. Another cruise ship was docked perpendicular to theirs and passengers were intermingling here and there as they awaited the pier trolley. It was hot out; the heat enveloping her as she stepped out onto the gangway. She turned to walk down the gangway, but instead, the word 'husband' now had her walking a plank. She swiftly turned back to the security officer. Biting on her lower lip, Lemara said. Ahh, by the way, He. Is. Not. My. Husband. She did her best to communicate those words in the best tone. She then clamoured down the gangway two steps at a time, attracting Harry's attention as she did so. Lemara heard 'wine' and 'Slovenia' and stopped just behind him so as not to cause any distractions. Harry knew she was there and reached behind him to pull her close, but her slight rigidness caught his attention. He looked back and planted a kiss on her forehead through words of 'Chianti', 'Tuscany' and 'two minutes'. At the same time producing a key card to his suite, 9088 and placed it in her hands. Yours. He mouthed. Tense, she looked at the card in her hand and then back at the ship and now realised she had no idea if Joshua was there for the day, night, rest of the cruise. Where were his things? He had brought nothing to her room. Her room. She glanced back at the ship; her room was on this side of it. She looked up to where she guessed it was and satisfied herself the lifeboats would obstruct Joshua's line of sight. Harry's call ends. I've rented us a Moke in Grand Cayman... Lemara remained glued to the spot; her lips profusely pursed together. Harry noticing the tension, stopped talking. What's up? Her heart did paces the likes of someone trying to keep their head above water; she felt her stomach twist as she willed herself to speak, her words getting caught in her throat. Overwhelmed, she felt she would burst into tears, but her emotions were the wrong way round. What she was feeling for the man standing in front of her, is what she should have been feeling for the one she left in her room. She pressed her forehead into her palms, unable to stem the dam of tears that came out of nowhere. Hey! Hey! Hey! If you prefer not to be caught dead in a Moke, we'll get a Jeep Wrangler instead! Lemara could tell he was trying to make light of the situation and so she giggled through the waters. She tidied her face, took a deep breath and revealed. I'm not going with you today. Why? Are you ill? No. Joshua is here. Josh-u-a? Ohh,? He had tilted his head to the side ever so slightly as he questioned the name. He went quiet; his expression impassioned as the reality of what Lemara had just revealed fully sank through his core. He shoved one hand in his pocket, the other he quickly ran through his dark waves. Lemaruh... I appreciate the predicament we now find ourselves in. We? She snapped back. Yes, Lemaruh. 'We.' What does this have to do with you? She flashed. Sensing a little storm, not the kind of a few hours ago, he walked away, over to the other side of the pier, and paused, looked into the water and walked back over to her. Listen, I realise that we've only known each other for a few days, but when I first set eyes on you in that hotel in Fort Lauderdale, you were like a light in my window. And when I came onto the ship and saw you again, I knew it was fate. Harry, you and I... It was now her heart that was twisting; she was feeling a lot more for him than she cared to acknowledge. She stopped herself from finishing the sentence because it shouldn't even be a sentence. She took one of his hands, placed the key card and his cufflinks in it and turned to walk back up the ramp. As she turned to walk away, he held onto her arm and pulled her back into his embrace. They remained quiet, that was until Edwin passed with another two of his colleagues and said hi. Harry shrugged. Here was I thinking he was the antagonist. Lemara laughed at Harry's sense of humour. Why, because he makes my eyes sparkle? No Lemaruh, because you set his eyes on fire. And you? Wholly consumed by you Lemaruh, and just so you know, I would have done the same thing he's done. Glancing up at the ship as he said that. Feeling one weight lifted from her shoulders, Lemara thought it was time she went back to her room and the other half she left in it. This situation had at least gone better than she anticipated, but then that was Harry Langdon, always putting her at ease. And as she turned to walk back up the ramp onto the ship, he said. And yes we, because I have never slept with a woman that A) I didn't want to see more than once, or B) I didn't want to be with more than once. Harry, I can't be your lover. I can't anymore be with you. Well, Lemaruh that will be a challenge, because there's nothing about you that I don't want more of.
What Happens on a Cruise, Stays on the Cruise - Part 6
The food arrived, you smelled it before you saw it. The table of four had long since retired, replaced by the honeymooners from dinner. They later reclined to the far end of the deck in a lesser lit area. Except for the two members of staff, Harry and Lemara were alone. Harry being his usual self, cut the ribs, placing them in the centre of the table to share. Lemara, on the other hand, munched on her burger only remembering to offer a bite just before the last two mouthsful. Having finished her burger, she helped herself to some of Harry's ribs. He sat back, admiring the way she ate. And before they had a chance to see the bottoms of their two glasses of Jack Daniels and coke, another two materialised. As the waiter placed their drinks down, Lemara thought to herself that if anyone had ever died on a cruise, it wasn't from thirst. They sat back into the double lounge chair; eyes to the midnight sky, conversation zigzagging from their most anticipated destination to excursions booked. For Harry, his most anticipated stop on the itinerary was the next one, Costa Maya and seeing the ruins. For Lemara it was Grand Cayman, it was on her bucket list of Caribbean Islands to visit, along with the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Grenadines. Which island are you from, Lemaruh? A lot of interest in his tone. Hazard a guess! As she turned her body towards his. What's my prize for getting the answer correct? Casting a glance her way and then back to the night sky. I'll accompany you on your private tour tomorrow Mr Langdon. Lemaruh, you've already been cancelled off that excursion of yours and coming with me. And he said it with such no-nonsense, that Lemara all but agreed in words. So come on, what's the prize for getting the answer correct? Get it right, and you'll soon find out. She teased. Harry turned onto his side, facing Lemara. His face covered her face, and then his lips covered her lips with a Jack Daniels' warmed kiss. Laying back onto the chair, she wrapped both her arms around his neck. Her lips parted, and they danced crosses and figure eights with their tongues. Then letting each other up for some salty Caribbean air only to resume their Argentine tongue-tangoing once more. Lemara felt a warm patch on her leg and then another. As she moved her lips away from Harry's, he muttered. It's going to pour down, gesturing upwards as he did so. A little punch-drunk, Lemara moved her head away from his, she then felt a drop of moisture on her face and another. And the rain came down. She grinned at him, now realising what was happening and what he meant. Do you know what I like to do when it rains? Her eyes perused his face for the answer, but he had it written in his seductive tone. His eyes trace her curves through a dress now stuck to her body, with rain. Harry catches her eyes once more, and they were sensual, tantric even, connecting like nothing before. He covered her body with his, resumed his kisses, this time like sweet marshmallows, kissing like they were the only two people in the middle of the Caribbean sea. Her body deliciously settled into his, breathing together while the rain slapped down on them until they were both sodden. It was the sound of footsteps getting closer as they ran, splashing in the rain that drew them out of their sensual coma. The rain seemed to stop, so did the footsteps, and the canopy of an open umbrella appeared over them carried by staff. They took a moment to adjust themselves, drops of rain dripping off Harry's face onto Lemara's he whispered in her ear. Eight minutes to your room and four minutes to mine. When Lemara booked this cruise a few days ago, it was so she could create some thinking space, decide what or where she was going with the one she left in London. There was nothing concerning there, gosh no. Still, for whatever the reason, she was questioning herself and her place in the relationship. And he had unwittingly agreed for her to have this time, though he'd, much prefer she had opted for a staycation, something closer to home. But if she were to be wholly honest, it was a little treat to herself too for having completed her Masters. So this amorous encounter was never in a million what this holiday was supposed to be but goodness, this man had made himself wholesomely irresistible. It was wrong but felt right. Like absentmindedly putting a dollop of butter into your cup of coffee one morning instead of your omelette pan, and discovering you love this new silky taste. Wondering how you had gone all those years drinking coffee as you had. Lemara agonised over the situation. Progressing this liaison any further would add salt to a wound that didn't need it, but the salt was already added the moment she allowed him into her thoughts. I'll deal with London when I return to London, Lemara told herself, tonight, she wanted to stay where she was.' Yours! She ultimately breathed. Harry gets up, walks around to where the waiter is standing holding the umbrella. With one arm outstretched to Lemara, he helps her up off the lounge chair, her dress clinging to her body like wet glue. Harry notices the waiter's eyes - transfixed on Lemara. He keeps hold of her hand, with the other; he takes the umbrella off the waiter, looks him in the eye and clipped. I'll take it from here. She looks at the waiter and then back at Harry, overly amused with the situation. With clenched jaws, he laces his fingers through hers, his stride as self-assured as himself, his eyes focused on the corridor ahead. She senses his thoughts and her body went warm in the wet dress. He said nothing as they walked to his room. Arriving there, he spins her, placing her back to the door and pauses without opening it. His eyes full of intent, locked on hers, their thoughts transparent. Her dress that had remained quarter way unbuttoned all night suddenly felt tight across her chest. Then he leaned in, placing his left hand on the doorpost, and letting the other trace down her spine as he pulled her close. Her body whirled from the sensation of his touch, controlled and gentle. His eyes moved slowly from her lips to her chest and back to her lips again. As her arms moved from around his waist and begin to caress their way up his neck, he grabs them and pins her to the door. They move in for a kiss, but he bypasses her lips and nibbles passionately on her ear. Through this, he mouthed. Once we go past this door, it's unlikely we'll want to turn back. As he does so, she bites down on her lip to stem the sensation he was creating. She pauses, trying to clear her mind from the steamy thoughts that had settled in. Was he testing or teasing her? She reaches around once more for his lips, he complies, allowing them to brush against each other. In doing so, he opens the door and walks in. With a rawness in his voice. He said. I'm ready to be handed those controls if you are. She knew exactly what he meant and she wavered briefly, but only long enough to reignite their storm. It was clear there was nothing to dampen the sparks he'd been igniting for the last two days. Instead, she wanted his sparks to collide with hers. As she breezed over the threshold, Harry's lips met hers. His tongue plunged and the door closed. His blazer and her dress fell to the floor. He hoisted her unto his hips. She wrapped her legs around him feeling his need as they spun into their tornado. __________________________________ She catches the sound of a shower running to the left of her. And as she opens her eyes, on her right, are opened glass-paned walls with billowing white drapes, masquerading over a teak decked balcony. On the outside, nothing but eternal blue skies. She blinks to adjust her view from the blazing sunshine. Two wine glasses accompanied by an almost empty wine bottle seem to glint at her. She looks at the vacant half of the king-sized bed and then to her naked body half cloaked under the duvet, and the storms of the night flooded back to her. She embosoms a pillow, closing her eyes as his scent trickles streams of after the storm. Gales of an unbridled night recurred uninvited through her mind. A ping and then another from a phone in another room brought her back to reality. Lemara looked to where the sound came from and caught sight of a baby grand. Next to that, a dinner table with six chairs. As her eyes trailed back to the bedroom, she realised her entire stateroom (bedroom, bathroom and wardrobe) would fit into his suite some five times, not including the balcony. The shower stopped, and the storm god that was Harry emerged from the bathroom, towel in hand tousling his wet hair. And that view, that view was so damn good from there... He was very toned, which suggested he routinely graced a gym with his presence somewhere. Except for the inking of a lion's head raising hell on the right half of his chest and onto his shoulder cap and a scar just below that, he was unscathed. Realising Lemara was awake, he dropped his arms along with the towel to his side and strolled over to the bed. He sat on her side of the bed, leaned over and nibbled on her lower lip. How is my tempestuous woman? Lemara raised an eyebrow and with prolonged stress on 'your' quizzed. Your tempestuous woman? Harry lifted his head ever so slightly, took a quick sweep around the suite and smirked devilishly. I don't see anyone else here. Do you? Then, I guess you bring out that tempestuous woman in me! Mirroring his tone, biting back on his upper lip and running her fingers through his damp hair. As she did so, he peeled back the duvet, his nakedness hovering over hers, he leaned in and went for a long syrupy kiss. She felt his storm gathering, and he reached for a cocoon in the drawer of the bedside table. Lightning struck. Her warmth collided with his fresh out of the shower coolness, fogging and clouding their senses. She drifted through an intense rumble of thunder, and the cloud exploded, raining down oceans in the name of Harry Langdon. As he lay there holding her through the calm that followed that storm, she found herself wanting to stay there, wanting to spend the rest of the cruise with him. ___________________________________ As Lemara exited the bedroom into the living area, there was a knock on the door of the suite, dressed only in an unbuttoned white shirt of Harry's she looked up to see a butler walking in breakfast on a trolley. She froze. Good morning, Mr Langdon! Seeing Lemara standing in the doorway of the bedroom, extended greetings to her too. Good morning, Ms Heisen! Turning back to Harry, he asked. Where would you like breakfast served sir? With much familiarity. On the balcony please James. James rolls the breakfast out to the table and chairs on the verandah. He gives the table and chairs a thorough wipe down, although from where Lemara was standing, she was sure she could already see James's reflection on the table. He served breakfast and disappeared. Harry, who sat across the room working on his laptop, never once looked up from what he was doing. Lemara looked over to where he sat and asked. Harry, how does your butler know my name? I told him you were here. Possibly even seen you. You told him I was here? Why? She flashed. On my way to the gym, I requested some coffee and fresh-pressed juice delivered, should you have woken up and the need arose. You left me here alone? And where is the coffee? Its a suite on a cruise ship Lemaruh, not the torpedo room of a submarine. Besides, going to the gym was my only antidote to the last few hours. And keep my hands off you. The coffee is in the kitchen, and I left a note on the bed. Ahh, he's also taken your dress from last night to be laundered. Lemara leaned on the doorway to the bedroom, arms now folded across her chest, causing the shirt to splay at her hips. She took a quick scan of the suite looking for the kitchen, when Harry finally looked up at her with an observing eye and then back again to his laptop, leaving her feeling naked. Without looking up a second time from what he was doing, declared. By the way, I like that shirt on you. Lemara felt herself blushing as she stood staring back at Mr Confidence himself, his eyes pinned to his laptop. She took another look at the crisp, white shirt of his that she wore and wondered if that was down to him. She remembered noticing how neatly his shirts had been ordered in the walk-in wardrobe. Shoes polished for reflection and surmised, he must have a military background because no one shines shoes that way anymore. She took a quick examination of the suite, glass walls ran the entire length of it so that no matter where you were, you had an eternal view out. Lemara recognised it to be one of the Penthouse suites she came across when she was making her own booking. It also matched his style of martini - clean, fresh. She stepped out into the living room, and there on her right was the kitchen. She turned back to Harry and asked. You've been to my room every day, how have I never been here? I suppose you didn't want to. She looked at him a little perplexed and seeing this he continued. On the very first day, I gave you my room number, (no one else has been that lucky) and that was before you even knew my last name. The second day, I rectified that and gave you my last name. And a whole lot more, Lemara mouthed to herself. But Harry's concentration was now back to his laptop, where his fingers of both hands were thudding away on his keyboard like a two-horse race at Ascot. And today? Today I'll get you a key, and you can move in. Mazed by the nonchalance of his statement, Lemara gave him a long hard stare and quipped. What makes you think I want to move in here with you? He was clearly taken aback by her response, causing him to look up from his laptop, but as he was about to respond, she interrupted him. What has you so glued to that laptop? He looked overly amused at her as he said. I'm working. She glared at him. And what is it that you do? Lemara was a tad puzzled at her mood that was going slightly salty. But was she upset with him for being on his laptop? Or had the magnitude of the lay of the land sunk in and she was now going salty with herself? Harry being the intuitive guy that he was, sensed it. I have a wine import business. Shutting the laptop and walking over to Lemara as he responded. But enough about me, I want to know ALL about you. Swooping her off her feet and carrying her out to the balcony where breakfast was laid out. Through bites of smoked salmon and eggs on brioche, she told him that she had just finished her Masters in Communication and Media Studies and that her ideal job would be that of a Travel Publicist. She talked about landing such a role with an international hotel chain or cruise line and who her perfect company would be to work for. His eyes fixed on her, coffee in his hand as he sat back, absorbing everything she excitedly vocalised of her raison d'être. She went on to tell him she was from an island in the Caribbean, and when he told her he knew of it, she stopped talking. Flabbergasted that he did. Lemara also shared she had one older sister; but that she had died 3 months ago in a car accident. Another of the reason she was questioning her current life. Was this it? Or was there more out there to be explored and lived? Not that there was anything the matter with her present life, some would call it rather cushty. But having said that she realised that she and Harry had something a little in common. Neither of them said anything, they simply sat solemnly looking out at the sea. A little while later, the matter of the visit to the bridge came up and given the time, agreed on stopping by sometime between returning to the ship and going to dinner. ___________________________________ Hand in hand (you'd think these two boarded the cruise as an actual couple) they walked up to the security point just before disembarking the ship. On checking her handbag, Lemara realised her purse was not in it. Pointing this out to Harry, she turned on her heels to dash back for it. You won't be needing it, but Okay! Spinning back around to him, Lemara questioned. Why won't I need it? Where we are going today 'mi morena hermosa', it's just the driver, the tour guide who is meeting us there, you, me and nature. He said with a twinkle in his eye. And what if we got separated? Smiling coyly at his term of endearment. Lemaruh, since I laid eyes on you, has there been anything to suggest that I'd like to be anywhere else? Lemara pressed her lips together, and although she knew the answer, she searched his face, it mirrored his words. Or are you planning on running off with a Costa Mayan playboy? She teased a smile at him and cracked on back to her room. He ran his fingers down her back as she walked off, drawing the attention of the ship's immigrations' officers. Twirling onto her bed face down like a woman who's had an unbelievably mesmeric few days. She lay still on the bed, letting it all sink in. As Lemara lay there, she thought her senses were tricking her thinking. She could smell a very familiar fragrance. She dismissed it, thinking it was her clothing or something of his she had brought from London. Just then someone cleared their throat, it had another trick of familiarity but being that she was thousands of miles away on the east coast of Mexico, it didn't register as it should. Never the less it became apparent that there was someone else in the room. Annoyed to discover that once again, she had walked into her room and left the door unlocked. But excited, all the same, to think that Harry not wanting to spend a minute away from her, had come back. She rolled onto her back and exclaimed. Missing me al... Lemara's voice trailed off. Her stomach cartwheeled, her chest burned, and the bottom of her belly boiled. Her body stiffened as she felt the life drain away from her.
What Happens on a Cruise, Stays on the Cruise - Part 5
Lemaruh, you are such a flirt! Harry beamed, as he took the last two stairs to where she stood. He wrapped her arms around her back at the same time, pulling her close to him as he asked. How does anyone let you out of their sight for a minute further have you cross the Atlantic for a week? Who says there's anyone? The beam remained across his face as he wagged his right forefinger at her. Ah! Ah! Young lady, what's your story? She tried twisting her way out of his hold and out of answering the question. The result was her shrieking with laughter just outside the night club as Harry guarded all her escape routes. The madness only broke when the ship's captain and one of the engineers encountered them as they walked by. On learning that Lemara was on her first cruise, he gave her a warm welcome and invited her and Harry to visit the bridge the next day. And as the conversation became decidedly technical between Harry, the engineer and the captain, Lemara jauntily excused herself and headed into the night club. The current song faded but the DJ already had the dance hooked on the new beat, and the whoops went wild. There were no barefoot dancing on tables here, not yet at least but this Hoedown Throwdown had potential. Never one for letting a good tune go to waste, Lemara was straight in on the dancefloor - no hesitation. Miley Cyrus' mezzo-soprano vocals had those decibels cranked and in turn, everyone zig-zagging, sticking and gliding across the floor - the atmosphere was more than infectious. Such was the mood that the DJ gave way to an encore - another Hoedown Throwdown Showdown. It was during this second showdown that Harry entered the club. Although she remembered he had pointed out that dancing was not his forte, Lemara excitedly motioned for him to join in. He waved back as if that is what she was doing and took a seat at a table blocked by four rather tipsy guys. Halfway through the encore, Lemara realised that while her dress may be well suited to the dinner table, it wasn't quite so for line dancing. But no dress was going to salt her dancing game. The encore finally ended, and she sauntered over to the table where Harry was seated comfortably in a lounge chair. As she walked passed him to sit in the adjacent chair, he held onto her wrist, swung her onto his lap and shouted over the music into her ear. I have ordered a Martini Mix, what would you like? With Gin or Vodka? Gin With a lemon or an orange twist? A lemon twist Mr... It's Langdon, Harry Langdon Mr Langdon, did I tell you that I like you already? Not quite but I think you have shown me. His eyes intent. A waiter appeared with a variety of nibbles for the table along with Harry's Martini. Lemara ordered a Beverly Hills iced tea, to which Harry raised an eye. Are you planning on crashing early or waking up late? Lemara picked up a handful of nibbles and was all smiles. Does it matter? She asked. Harry inhaled, but as he was about to answer, a reggaeton beat burst through speakers. Well, the club went wild once more, including the half wasted guys sat at the next table. This DJ was intent on keeping his crowd tonight. Lemara still sat sideways on Harry's lap, took a sip of his Martini and began to switch her hips to the beat. She could feel his package burgeoning, and he reached out to hold her hips still. An attempt to stem the development but instead she planted a kiss on his lips and kept switching. Lemaruh, if we keep doing this, I won't be able to get up. She laughed, but the music had marinated through to her bones and was much more than she could handle. She shimmied, threw her head back and when her eyes met his again, they were peppered with intent. She held onto Harry's hand as she got up to go to the dance floor, wanting to take him along with her but, he released her hand. She smiled, leant in and kissed him and off to the dance floor she went. And as she got onto the dance floor, she remained facing Harry, giving him a private dance. Hands poised on her hips, she swayed them from side to side. The rhythm continued to take hold, she raised her right hand, sexily splayed her braids across her face and twirled. Twirled directly into Justin's groove. Justin said nothing. He held her left hand, her right hand still on her forehead and spun her away from him and then back to him. Justin now held onto her waist. Her right hand, he laced around his neck, and he wrapped her left hand around her back, framing her body like a portrait. ............. The song ended. Justin pulled her close and whispered in her ear. You are a sensational dancer!' Lemara smiled and bowed out but not before acknowledging he wasn't so bad himself. All that grooving had left her dehydrated like the Atacama desert. And just like the Atacama elevated at some sixteen thousand feet above sea level, she too was on a high as she jaunted back to where Harry had remained seated all that time. But whatever altitude levels Lemara was hanging out at, fell sharply like an aircraft in severe air turbulence. Harry was not happy, and his face wrote it out. As Lemara passed the table of rowdy guys, one of them yanked on her wrist. She twisted her right arm free, and as she did, he went for her left arm. Harry leapt from his seat to dam the flow of events. So that Harry was now holding the guy's right arm, which was holding onto Lemara's left arm. But in Harry doing so, he knocked the guy's drink, and it now streamed down the front of Lemara's dress. And in no uncertain terms, shouted over the music. She is with me. Lemara's eyes went from Harry's to Mr 'Overly Tipsy' in time to see him sober himself up. Harry then prized Lemara's hand away and led her out of the club. As they cleared the noise of the nightclub into the quiet of the stairway, Harry halted and turned to Lemara. Are you okay? Dropping his tone on okay, making it more a statement than a question. The frustration visible on his face, but he said nothing else. He paced off some four or five steps and just as quickly paced back to Lemara, his shoes clicking on the marble floor as he did so. Harry closed his eyes, rested his forehead against hers, squeezed her with both his arms, and whispered. I don't know what it is about you Lemaruh, but you are driving me frightfully crazy. Her heartbeat raced, but she was undecided as to whether it stemmed from the fractious situation, which had just unfolded inside the club or watching him hold himself together or was it a combination of both. What if I said the feeling is mutual? Lemaruh! Lemaruh! Lemaruh! He repeated out of frustration. Harry Langdon He gave her another squeeze, inhaling her scent and then catching a waft of whatever the college boys' drink was that spilt onto her dress. ---------------------- They walked back to Lemara's room so she could change out of the damp dress and go for a late bite. She emerged from the bathroom in a blue dress, buttons down the back to see Harry remove his second cufflink and place on the desk. Sufficiently comfortable Mr Langdon? Should I not be? Walking over to where Lemara was standing doing up her buttons and elected himself as head button upper. And on finishing declared he had only done the buttons up three-quarters of the way. His reason for doing so was, he could swiftly remove the dress later. And as he said that, the ship shuddered and swayed ever so slightly. Even the ship quakes in anticipation of you, Harry! Lemara cheered. Because even she knows something good when she sees it! Harry retorted with a wink. They took that as a queue to go and get some food as they realised they were both quite hungry. It had just gone past one am when they arrived at The Grill at the back of the ship. Another two young couples still dressed in their dinner wear, sat chitchatting at a table over beer and just-baked pizza. One of the ladies waved, and Harry and Lemara waved back at which point the rest of the table waved too. They motioned for Harry and Lemara to join them, but they politely declined. They found a double lounge chair and laid back on it. The balminess of the night, the natural scent of the ocean and some soft steel pan music tingled through the air - it was a moment. Out there in the middle of the sea, the sky was asleep covered by a blanket of stars. Its beautiful, isn't it? Ahuh! Was all he said as he kissed her forehead. Lemara, could not see Harry's face, but she sensed he was deep in thought and was reticent. A waiter appeared, offered a blanket and took their order of a beef burger, rack of ribs and two Jack Daniels and coke. What are you doing tomorrow? Still looking up at the stars and only taking a moment to glance over to Lemara, he replied. Do you not mean, what are we doing tomorrow? I'm not so sure I want to let you out of my sight. Don't you worry that drug will soon wear off, Mr Langdon. Was Lemara's witty remark. He gave a half-suppressed laugh but once more became quiet. By the way, I am on one of those group excursions tomorrow visiting Chacchoben and Kohunlich Mayan ruins. Cancel it. What! Exclaimed Lemara, lifting her head to see his face. Cancel your group excursion and accompany me on a private one. His eyes remained on the night sky; his face was calm. Lemara supported her head on her left arm, and with her right hand, laced her fingers through Harry's left palm. And then Lemara remembered his ring finger from earlier. Tapping on his left finger, she enquired. What is your story, Mr Langdon? He finally tore his attention away from the night sky he had been outstaring ever since they sat down earlier and looked at Lemara. Inhaling deeply but quickly, becoming rather sombre after he did so. My wife... He looked away to where his left hand now clasped Lemara's and looked back to her face before continuing, taking another breath as he restarted the conversation. ... She passed away two years ago following complications at childbirth. The heat escaped Lemara's body, and it unexpectedly felt like they were sailing the Antarctic, not the balmy waters of the Caribbean Sea. We had been married for two and a half years. The wedding band, I took off two months before the cruise. There was a rawness to his voice as he continued to speak. Lemara held his gaze, but that's because she felt she could not now look away, neither did she know what the best thing to say was. If she were honest with herself, she would let out she was tearing up inwardly and felt his pain. She would let him know her stomach was churning the way it did one Christmas when she tried Finnish soured milk, because who wouldn't after hearing that. I am so sorry to hear that. Lemara finally said. Harry went back to peering at the night sky, and now Lemara understood why.
We had only just returned from cruise number eight but no sooner had that cruise ended than cruise number nine was booked. And each time, I'd ask myself, 'Why?' Why do we keep sailing the seven sees in a metal box the height of a three-storey building filled with a city of people? Some of whom, I hasten to add, may well have passed on the streets of our hometown without a momentary glance! But the reason is always the same - it's that love/hate relationship. It's like a drug. Like the looping and linking of the paper strips in a Christmas paper chain kit. We finish one cruise and prepare for the fix from the next. An Introvert's Gehenna There's an unspoken word that applies to cruises that does not seem to apply to any other type of holiday. I'll give an example. Stayed in resorts for days, and the only persons spoken to are the bartender, concierge and maybe if I feel like it, travel companions! Lol! But on a cruise, it's a very different deal. By some form of a cruise spell, we automatically say hello to everyone and move in and out of conversations as quickly as a Singapore thunderstorm. At check-in you have already met: - Birgit and a most shockingly beautiful pair of Birkenstock on foot who proceeds to let us know their pre-booked transfer from the airport to the cruise terminal was a no-show! - In the waiting lounge, Dana from the Midwest (America) shares with us (or rather the entire lounge (such is her unbounded enthusiasm)) that it is her first cruise! And on detecting a slight hint of Britishness in my accent suddenly sounds like all Miami is Dana's captive audience. - Then there is Jai whose niece Meera (we discover) attends the same school as my daughter. Jai has been to a handful of the school's social gatherings, but we have never before seen him. Yet here we all were in conversation, exchanging room numbers, discussing shoe sizes, detailing tour excursions booked and how many leaves of lettuce we usually have in our salad and all before crossing the ship's threshold. Family Saloons You've spent all year running around and picking up after your kids and your partner. Honey why have we got a letter from the insurance company about the policy not been renewed? I thought you renewed it. Was the reply back. Why would you think I did when I specifically told you on Tuesday morning that you need to do it because I won't have the time. Is that what you said? Was the reply. And your left wondering who the bloody hell you speak to half the time? Kids we are going to be late for school lets go.' Mom, I can't find my school shoes. Standing at the top of the stairs and staring at the same spot you've been staring at for the last five minutes will not help you find them. No mom but I don't know where they are. Listen kids, the school shoe fairy has not been in town for three weeks now, please find your shoes and let us go. Mom can you help, please. Definitely after being everyone's personal assistant, secretary, doctor, therapist, teacher, chauffeur, detective and shoe finder, indeed you take a holiday to get away from all of that. Or not. Take a cruise, where you not only take on your family but everyone else and their extended five living generations. But unless you lucked out on the inlaw lottery, you could well return one family member short or nine months later add an additional member to the family. Gastronomy Cesspools Three months leading up to your cruise sees you joining a food convent. Religiously denying yourself of any morsel of gastronomical pleasure. The gym fast becomes the third party in the relationship and soon discovers body parts and contortions not even your partner of seven years was aware of. But everyone is happy because you can now fit into that bikini which is one size down. And those hot pants you bought in the Christmas sale which are mystifyingly two sizes down actually fits like Kylie Minogue's gold pair. All of which you become compelled to wear within the first three days of boarding the cruise. Because after day three eating everything from garlic butter grilled steaks at breakfast to Yuzu-cured pork belly at dinner and participating in wine-sipping escapades from nine until nine, it's inevitable you'll disembark the size you were - three months prior. It's Destination Speed Dating For some time, you've been making eyes at those white-on-white cliffs of Santorini. You've wanted to be all over those beaches licked by the turquoise waters of the Turks and Caicos Islands. And you are therefore, undoubtedly seduced by the cruise itinerary that includes one of your idyllic places. The cruise docks, you are finally there, the excitement is much too much. You have time for a skinny latte and a philander all while discovering what's turning out to be your new favourite place. You roll from a latte into lunch. And as the last of the destination's sun smiles on you, you want that lunch rolls into a romantic dinner. But that never happens. Why? Because your time has expired, the ship calls, and it is onto the next place. And with each dock in a new port is another little dalliance that never materialises into anything more serious. And your left feeling a little short-changed. The reason I'm sure speed dating went out of fashion. Social Media Deficiency After spending nearly as much of your moolah on your wardrobe as you did on the cruise holiday, you understandably want your Instagram runway. And after sweating blood and tears in the gym for three months, you undoubtedly need to flaunt your Tiktoked swagger. Except the Internet/Wifi even where complimentary appears to be the only thing on a cruise ship in scarcity. So much for your social media credentials because 'if you didn't post it right away, it didn't happen!' As someone who loves cruising, please note I wrote this with my tongue in my right cheek. It is not intended to turn you off cruising; instead, it is the opposite—all, of course, when it becomes safe, and we feel happy to do so.
Victoria Station tomorrow xxx. Was all his text message read. (Loren felt the nerves slightly churn in her stomach.) She hastily locked her phone and tossed it into her handbag as she sprinted across the station's forecourt. With seconds to go, she leapt through the last open door of the first carriage she came across. Just as the whistle blew. Having now made it onto the 21:23 from Euston, Loren was pleased she had taken the extra minute in the office to swap her heels for trainers. The train was rolling out of the station before she'd even start to make her way through first class and towards the less pretentious section. She'd have loved to just take a seat where she was but imagined she'd need to be on her manager's, manager's salary to be able to justify that. Still, she was pleased with herself as it meant she could be home in forty minutes instead of the one hour and fifteen minutes the next train afforded. Moreso she was delighted with the fact she had finally received a signature on the £55,000 contract for a conference she had been negotiating. That in itself was an early birthday present. And so she mentally tossed it into the bag of things she had to celebrate that week. Speaking of bags, her hands were full of them. And as Loren moved along the carriages, she lovingly held on to them. Trying her best to save them, notably the Tiffany's, from being smashed into the sides of the seats as the train hurtled towards her home station. After four years working at the hotel, both her colleagues and regular clients knew Loren did not work on her birthday. LL Cool J would have to be in residence for her to do so, and since that was not the case - she was out of the office tomorrow. In the meantime, her own LL wanted to meet her at Victoria Station tomorrow. Finally, she made her way into every day 'Joe Bloggs' carriages. Pleased to find there were available seats, she plopped herself onto the first two on the right-hand side of the carriage. It was definitely a perk of commuting at this time of the day or instead night. Relieved to be finally seated, she placed the bags in the window seat, threw her head back and closed her eyes to catch her breath. It was a series of incoming text whistle alerts that drew her attention. Unperturbed, she finally opened her eyes, to see the passenger sat diagonally across the aisle from her checking his phone. It turned out, it was him and not her who had received the messages. (These darn Samsung phones. I should change my message alert. ) She thought to herself. And then Loren remembered her earlier text message, she sighed profoundly trying her best to blot out the text and indeed the sender. As she had not yet dared to face him. She reached for the bottle of lemon-and-ginger-infused water, the head chef had prepared for her during the day and took a sip. Compared with when Loren first started at the hotel, the relationship between herself and Chef Handerson had simmered immensely. From that of a spitting fat pan to a simmering, flavoursome jus. So much so, he made her fruit-infused water on the days he was in. And just then Loren had a thought. What if he was slowly poisoning her? She dismissed her line of thought and laughed at the concoction. She peeked into the Tiffany gift bag, but that revealed nothing. She, however, recognised the handwriting on one of the envelopes and instantaneously knew it was from one of her longstanding clients. And most likely contained Selfridges gift vouchers. When the pull of the text message became too much, she gave in and picked up her phone. There was a text message from Ted, her colleague in the revenue department. Sorry, I didn't get a chance to give you your birthday hug before you left xxx. Unlike Chef Handerson, Ted had been very welcoming to Loren from her very first day at the hotel. An extremely humble and modest guy, he got on with everyone. He appeared to be the first in, in the mornings and last out at nights. That was until one early morning Loren spotted him and the live-in duty manager wrapped around each other like mallow twists just outside her room. And it was Ted who had supported her when she challenged Chef Handerson about the toxic and hostile way in which he always spoke to her. And as a result, the virtual pots, pans and knives no longer lanced between Chef Handerson and herself. Or could it be down to the fact she had on three separate occasions bumped into the General Manager and Chef Handerson coming out of one of the corner suites? And on each occasion, it was just after lunch. Touched by the kind sentiment of his text, she patted her chest and smiled back at her screen. She texted him back. Ahh hun, so sweet! and three warm hug emojis. There was another text message, this one from Aidan. Loren had been working at the hotel two full weeks before she met Aidan. He was away on a two week holiday when she started. But on his first day back, Loren felt his eyes, sparkly and blue as topaz tracking her as she walked into the office that morning. She stopped dead in her tracks next to where he stood at Ted's desk. Aidan walked out into the aisle where she stood, reached out his right arm and spoke. Hi, my name is Aidan, pleased to meet you. And then his Irish accent poured over her like the original Irish Cream itself. Loren outstretched her arm, her gaze unwavering. You have the most gorgeous eyes I have ever seen. Needless to say, Loren and Aidan got on very well after that. Her accounting queries got addressed right away, and any clarifications he needed regarding events, rooms conferences; she became his go-to girl. Although they sat an office apart, there were days they chatted on the phone for fifteen to half an hour at a time. It usually started off as a work query and gradually worked its way to harmless flirting. And on those perfect days, it would start with flirting and end with flirting. You always knew when Loren was speaking to Aidan, she laughed a heck of a lot. If you change your mind, the offer still stands for coffee tomorrow. Loren smiled wryly because Aidan was a factor in her present lover's tiff. Back in March, she had stayed late at work managing a client's residential conference. At the same time, Aidan, who is the financial controller, was also working late on the hotel's year-end accounts in his next-door office. They waved at each other as they always did. I take it you have a room booked tonight! He surmised. No, I'm catching the last train home. By the time you arrive home, it will be time to get back. Aidan chuckled. But why aren't going to your other half? We are sort of going through a break. A wry expression painted itself across Loren's face. Aidan took his glasses off. What was it this time, or should I not ask? Phoooo, the usual, he wants to get married, and I don't. But isn't that usually the other way round? The woman wants to get married, and the guy doesn't. It was this conversation that led to the opening of two bottles of red and the use of a hotel room all later charged as staff expenses. The morning after, Loren tried to continue as usual except she could not. For one, she had a headache from the red she had been drinking. That compounded with the unanswered twenty-one missed calls and text messages from her other half. He was at the hotel waiting to take her back to his after she had finished work. Loren mentioned none of this to Aidan, but there was no way to explain her disappearance to Reiss other than, to tell the truth. Everyone thought she had gone home and with the room charged under Aidan's name, Loren was just not in the hotel. She finally revisited the message that caused her to pick up her mobile in the first place. She re-read the text. There was no 'Hi' no 'Hello' no 'How are you?' No 'I miss you.' Okay maybe not the latter but at he at least wanted to meet up for her birthday. As the train pulled into her station, she yawned, feeling as tired as hell but relieved knowing she could sleep a little late the next morning. Minutes later, Loren was hurriedly turning the key in the door to her apartment. He mobile was ringing off the hook, and her bladder had lost all patience with her. Slamming the door shut, she dropped everything and got to the bathroom just in time. An egg sandwich and a bottle of J2 later she stood at the kitchen counter trying to figure out what the catch was with Victoria Station. But other than the fact that trains to Gatwick Airport from there - nothing stood out. He didn't say to bring a weekend bag, although she had ample clothing at his, to furnish a mini getaway. But neither had she booked any time off outside of her birthday. Enough pondering over that she thought as the Tiffany bag caught her eye once more. In the bag were two birthday cards, one signed by the conference and events team and the other by the accounts department with Aidan's signature taking up almost a quarter of the inside of the latter. What she hadn't realised was that there were two gift boxes inside the Tiffany bag. She untied the smaller gift box first, and it revealed a pair of silver earrings. In the second gift box was a matching silver bracelet. Looking at the items, she surmised it was Aidan who went out shopping - he also previously worked at Tiffany's. She messaged him back. Thank you x 2. Will let you know regarding coffee. In another gift bag was an elegant, print scarf - perfect for those cooler summer nights. In another, some chocolates, wine and spa vouchers. And in the envelope, just as she thought some Selfridges gift vouchers from Mr and Mrs Cohen. Mrs Cohen and her husband have been regulars to the hotel over the years. An American couple now in their early seventies, they'd visit London every October and occupy one of the corner suites overlooking the square for three weeks at a time. Mrs Cohen had actually met her husband in the said hotel nearly fifty years ago while attending a bar mitzvah. They'd stopped visiting the hotel entirely when it fell into disrepair. But now fully refurbished and under new management, the hotel had won them back as regular guests. Loren happened to be the lucky soul who picked up the phone four years ago when Mrs Cohen called to make their reservations. As someone who had seen the hotel transform over many years, Mrs Cohen had a lot of stories to tell. Some of which Loren have related to prospective clients on show rounds to sell the property. Because who doesn't love a good story? Loren supposed she should at least acknowledge receipt of the text message and so picked up her phone to respond. And as she did a video call came in. It was Reiss. She inhaled, composed herself and answered the call. Reiss laid in bed with the duvet across his bare chest, his right arm holding the phone, his left arm behind his head. Loren recognised the double corded, navy blue and white duvet and pillowcase set she had bought last Christmas on the bed. He looked a little tired but rousing none the less. She had shied away from that bed since March, and suddenly she wanted to be there. On better terms, she'd be assured of a full West Indian at breakfast, at the least she could have asked for an under duvet camera dive. But at this particular time, she felt it best to keep the conversation above the duvet. - Oh hi! I was just about to message you. He paused his expression, that of amused puzzlement. Calling to wish you a Happy Birthday! She was about to say It's not my birthday ye... When à quick glance at her phone said differently. It had just gone 00:01. Thank you! Her voice almost clipped and she was unsure why because if anyone should be upset, it should be him. What were you about to call to say? The air was slightly terse between them. And Loren knew the reason all too well. Further, she had not yet gotten around to explaining herself. But Loren had no explanation to give. Saying her eyes became entangled with another pair of eyes in the office was just not going to cut it. I was going to say see you tomorrow. By the way, what time should I meet you? Loren asked. Ten o'clock on platform two. Loren chuckled, her face now a genuine delight. Is it Harry Potter tomorrow and should I wear a T-shirt and jeans? You're not a T-shirt and jeans type of birthday girl! She smiled a sincere smile at the man that knew her all too well. And that's Kings Cross! Platform 9 3/4 What's Kings Cross? She asked. Harry Potter. He replied. They both went quiet. Loren with a puzzled look on her face while Reiss watched on while her cogs turned. And then it clicked. Judging by how slow she was then, she guessed it must have been a turtle egg sandwich she had been eating, and she laughed at herself.