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23 - What Happens on a Cruise, Stays on The Cruise

23 - What Happens on a Cruise, Stays on The Cruise

Lightning, thunder, wind, rain, raging sea, she'll do battle with those. Because Lemara would not be dethroned on Natalie's say so, or the Denhams or Mrs Chatterbox or anyone else for that matter. What else does Joshua know? Too many a red flag and the only white one, another man's white shirt in her room. That, wasn't someone else's say so. That happened. And if he does, why is he choosing to say nothing? This was very much unlike Josh. But then infidelity wasn't a subject matter between them. And when indeed it was subject matter, they'd playfully puff at it like cotton balls. But if not and for whatever reason he's meticulously chosen to leave it there, something somewhere would come up, long after this cruise knocking them right back here like a wrecking ball. No line of defence. None last night and none forthcoming. Five minutes into her first cruise and five minutes into what could only be described as a sexual escapade with another guy. Even if, he'd photographed and framed her in his memory from year's ago. Still, she was never the carefree type of woman but yet she'd given in so willingly to Harry. And nothing about Joshua or their relationship should have sent her reckless into the arms of another like that. Drawing storm clouds over their sail. But neither is a line of defence. What did stack up was her not checking for his text messages or even sending him one, her seemingly distant demeanour when he arrived and the white shirt in her room. Those were evidence enough. The pinch mushroomed, the massage no longer able to contain it. Captain Cantieri, at least, had been getting his ship under control. The ship's rolls less nauseous. On her left, a leg drifted off the sofa. Lemara turned, removed both his loafers, setting his feet back together. He turned, facing her. Josh! A little of her wanted him to answer. A little of her, glad he was out for sure. This abyss she kept finding herself in every night painted a picture. One she half contemplated, but now that the landscape began to evolve in front of her, Lemara knew she didn't want it. No answer, she bent over him, loosening the belt of his trousers. The belt strap, the buckle, the top button of his shorts, then stopped herself. Eyes moving from his crotch to his darkened face. She stopped, simply hovered over him before turning to the kitchen. In the kitchen, the countertops remained neglected of a coffee machine. Cupboard doors closed just as quickly as they'd been randomly opened. But whoever was in charge of this magic cup game was good because Lemara's search uncovered no coffee machine. Her brain slowly reminded her, there had never been any coffee or a coffee machine in the suite since they moved in. She fisted her lips. An oversight for sure, slamming a drawer door shut, it's soft shut mechanism making a mockery of her frustration, closing ever so gently. Instead, she lightened the minibar of two miniature bottles of whisky and a bottle of still water. The latter she placed next to Joshua, and on her way to the bedroom, going back past the kitchen put one of the whisky bottles back. A sip and the bottle was empty. Tired, her body refused to stay upright, crashing back onto the bed. Things had become twisted on this cruise. Though Joshua was clear on not going back down the aisle, he'd never deprived her of anything. She'd never not had his time, attention, interest. On his longest of long-haul flights, they've never not spoken as soon as he landed. They've certainly never not checked for each other's messages. So what on earth caused her to drop her guard, sending her into Harry's bed. And just what else does Joshua know. She dreaded Joshua's waking later in the morning. Like the bottle, her brain was empty, clutching at anything, anything at all to help her make sense of her actions. And if Joshua is indeed aware and raised it, what could she say. There certainly wasn't sufficient brown crystals about to sugar coat any response she'd come up with. The winds of her storm had their fingers curled around her neck choking her. Lemara spluttered. Awake, but when had she fallen asleep? Awake, her breathing settled, settled with the rhythm of the ship, her face basked in the sunshine streaming in the glass-paned walls and a smile budded. Em. Sitting upright, she trapped one end of her robe's tie, rendering it undone, noticed the squall in the distance. Was that coming or going? A memory rehashed sweaty whisky and Joshua's drunken words before he fell asleep. The budding smile just as swiftly withered. Her stomach teasing to wretch. Uneasiness kept her motionless, listening for any other noise around the suite. The sound of the shower came into focus. He was up. Then it stopped. Silence. The squall in the distance much closer than she realised. Mmm. Her lips contorting, restricting words from ever leaving them. Lastnight... Eyes went up to meet his, striding closer to the bed. She couldn't identify anything to his tone, a little tiredness perhaps. But then again, this is Captain Joshua Hart. Where did you go last night?

To 1930's Shanghai with Lunch at Park Chinois

To 1930's Shanghai with Lunch at Park Chinois

In between ogling at the Jaguars and the Bentleys and Rolls Royces in one wide shop window to the other, you'll readily walk to the end of Berkeley Street without realising it. Unless, of course, shopping for wheels is the purpose of the day because then you'll truly miss the measured, less imposing facade of Park Chinois. But even with its conduit sized front, there's one thing restaurants on this street have in common, and that's their ubiquitous men dressed in black. Like a secret corridor inside, the restaurant maintains its long passageway. If we kept walking, where would we come out? I wonder. The no windows, low lights, adding to its intrigue. Fully draped and claret-red walls do much else to quench the expectation of black stockinged thigh-high kicking ladies making their way down the centre aisle. I am intrigued and ready for a scandalously good afternoon. Coats in the cloakroom, we snagged a corner seat on a slightly elevated section of the room, drapes at our backs, we sat positioned to survey it all. Except, this is Salon de Chine. Any scandalous happenings are one floor down in Club Chinois. Instead, heels firmly buried themselves under the table; bums cosied on velvet sofas while liquid pleasures made their way over to the table with side helpings of live jazz. Reading my stories, you'll know Pina Coladas get a mention. You may even have walked away thinking I like the stuff. Truth be known, Pina Coladas have never made my list. But with a sip of Mr PWT's not-so-poco-grande-glass of tropical goodness, I felt a slight shift in the carpet. I was ready to exchange my no-longer-so-zingy Shanghai Soleil (the only mocktail not from the off-menu) for this fresh, unputdownable blend of coconut cream and pineapple juice. A melody taps at my ears, its quicks, steady, highs, lows; dictating the atmosphere, dictating heydays in a New Orléans watering hole. While, on the other hand, a ledger-sized menu promises a jaunt across China. Crispy aromatic duck heads up the list, bang-bang chicken halfway down it, maintain the status quo. But a moment lingering over this menu, you'll see just how globetrotting it is. Char sui'd Iberico pork fills bao buns, summer truffle accompany crispy bean curd Cheung Fun, and Scottish beef short ribs get into bed with black bean sauce. Xiè Xie, I say! Choosing becomes a bit of, Ok, I'll have this, you have that! And why don't we have this with it? Even our tuxedoed waiter gets to choose. Laughing! Not long, the kitchen sends out a bamboo basket of four Ibérico Char Sui baos and another of Japanese pumpkin and morel mushroom dumplings. I'm not expecting the sugariness or pillowiness of the baos, and pass those over for its more spiced filling. The dumplings, however, are gold-leafed topped happy yellow balls bursting with eyes wide opening flavour. A dip in the sweet chilli oil delivers a peppery keep-doing-it-kick to the back of the mouth. I reckon the chef got his numbers wrong on these; it really should have been the other way around. I've, however, since forgiven the chef when out comes an island sized portion of stir-fried rice. And the Bentley of the meal - a skillet parading Japanese Gumma Wagyu rump betrothed to black bean sauce. Our waiter eagerly positions the skillet (one I'd like to take home) for the money shot! If you've heard it said Wagyu is meltingly good in the mouth. Believe it. It eats as though I've personally had a hand in bottle feeding the cow—singing it a sweet song or possibly a cheeky massage or two in the afternoons. It was that good to eat. There's no mad rush to marry the wagyu and the bean sauce, but I am melting on the wagyu. The band, now on a break, we focus on the venue's yesteryear glam said to be inspired for 1930's Shanghai heydays. I am mildly entranced. There's an eclectic mix of diners about, including a Disney crowned princess and family. And, by mid-afternoon, sassy smocked ladies wearing quilted gold chained crossbody bags are catching up for a face to face about the chinwag already had over the phone in the middle of the week. The lighting, though low, is ambient, giving colours their pops against vivid white table cloths. Chef's kiss for foodie grammers! The maître d redirects our attention to the dessert menu. I decline, but my decision is questioned, and I sacrifice my 'fruit only dessert rule' for a garden of bite-sized morsels of chocolate, macarons, cakes and creams. If only to look at, my eyes are rewarded, drawn to a satiating red creation on the platter. Lips around the dessert spoon deliver everything eyes communicated to the brain. Tangy raspberry freshness burst into a cottony sweet cream, mingle with a crunchy shell and rose petals: this, the Rose Royce of the platter. For a jazzy lunch in the middle of a Saturday afternoon in Shanghai, take a flight of fancy in Park Chinois, Mayfair. ----------------------------------- Back out in the pandemonium that is Picadilly and the four-minute walk, it took to get us there, the antidote of Salon de Chine begins to wear. Oh! And before I forget, make for the ladies restroom before you leave. And as per Mr PWT, the gents are even more intriguing! Website: https://parkchinois.com Location: N°17 Berkeley Street, Mayfair, London, W1J 8EA

Coya's Warrior Brunch

Coya's Warrior Brunch

I've always wanted to visit Peru. A jaunce around the lively streets of Lima, a sunny beach on my hotel step, though the trek up Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu mountain, not so much. So imagine exiting Bank tube station, middle of the day Saturday to shades of grey and a trickle of rain. The fights out the station's exits, Monday to Friday only. Throgmorton Street poses no more excitement until the youthful cackles on one side of the street, merging with the squeals of others on the other side, ricochets off my eardrums. We join this all-female lineup bordering the building. This, being the queue into Coya. A quick check on the watch says we're fifteen minutes ahead of sit down. Still, these fifteen minutes highlights that I've shortchanged myself on the dress code. Forgoing jewel colours for Queen Victoria's favourite, overlooking four-inch heels for a sensible pair of autumnal boots. Well, don't do that. Instead, make like the supermodel you are and look your best. Have you been to Peru? Mr Partially Well Travelled questioned. Nope. Have you? His answer mirrored mine. So if I've not been to Peru and you've not been to Peru, how are we to gauge if Coya brought Peru to the Square Mile? I quizzed. We can't, but I bet it's just like downtown Lima! Jesting. We both laughed. Coya flaunts its Peruvian cuisine. Their 'Warrior Brunch', an immersion into 'the smells, tastes, sounds and sights of Peru.' Twelve thirty checks in, an orderly trail makes its way through Coya's jungle-clad interior entrance past ladies in warrior plumage. Bums are appointed seats, Veuve Clicquot bottles lose their tops, its liquid flowing freely, and a live DJ filled our heads with house music. Just like downtown Lima. A parade of tacos (de calabacin), tostada (de salmon) and croquetas (de lubina) vogues it onto the table. Guacamole filled mortars partner with rustic wooden bowls of tortillas onto the table. Of course, we are anywhere on the Inca Trail now. But it's the 'anticucho de setas', skewers of fleshy, indulgent forest mushrooms that had me asking. Have you tried these? We'd gouged on six dishes thus far, and our waitress stood telling of another five to come. I listen, but a pop of a guacamole filled shrimp cracker in my mouth sends me off to Asia. Thailand, if I am honest, so I am no longer listening. Platters of food redecorate the table. I spend the same amount of time popping food into my mouth as I do, moving and removing plates. It's like a game of chess or maybe an assault course where only my hands and mouth are in battle. Our waitress lays a dish of seabass ceviche, another of yellowfin tuna ceviche and a third, ceviche de zanaoria. Were you ever to forget whose warrior you are, three ceviche dishes should tap that memory into place. After all, it's the national dish of Peru. My mouth tingles from the subtle spice and tang of the sea bass ceviche; I balance the tingle with that of the zanaoria. Conversations peak, the music pumps, champagne bottles empty and waistlines expand. Cravings of guacamole and the trio of corn dish, do nothing to starve my glutton after eleven plates. I feel heavier than I did at nine months. Is this where I tell you we've not yet had the mains? Time for a truce in this warrior brunch. Time to take a walk, get air. We are glad for it, as giving birth never felt closer. Still, nothing stopped us from indulging in the three instead of the two main courses laid out before us. A chink in the armour saw us receive a main course of steak. An addition to the corn fed chicken and seabass ordered. It's happened before, not in Coya mind. A trade secret we won't be sharing. The latter, the seabass, is the standout dish, beautifully laced with chilli and lime. It is worth targeting with the bow and arrow of your eyes and arms. We've now cleared twelve and a half dishes. I feel like I am carrying the chief warrior's twins, but the energy is high in the camp; we stay perked. Like an evening ritual, waiters prance through the restaurant, sparklers in one hand, outsized platters of desserts in the other. These platters, not as overwhelming as their Instagram counterparts. Wild whoops go up. The music has changed. It's heady. The warrior women we passed earlier, cut a rug around the tables in Coya. Or dare I say the jungles of the amazon, rounding up the troops. It's not the thin air going up Huayna Picchu mountain that's left us giddy, rather the Clicquot it feels we've had intravenously. Coupled with the contagious mood in the camp, not much convincing is required at high noon, the middle of October, in the city of London to form an ecstatic conga line. The high makes you believe you have 'Moves like Jagger' when everyone knows Mick Jagger himself is the only person to do so. Yet I'm glad to be up and about melting off some of the overindulgences. Though my body soon tells me it's time to sit down. And it's not from the half bottle of Veuve Clicquot I didn't drink. This Brunch IT scene is a long affair (12:30 to 4 pm), longer still, if staying after, the after-party but hedonistic. A saxophonist enters, cuts a suave figure in head to toe black, but it's the hot date on his arm, a Swarovski dripping saxophone, that calls attention to the warriors. He is full of it. I blame not but envy some when he plays as he does. He's the antidote to a hell of a brunch. So when are we going to Peru? Avoiding the gaze of the sugar-induced selection on the dessert platter. We don't need to. Why not? I pressed. My fork instead arrowing through melons and grapes. Wasn't this just like downtown Lima? We laughed out loud. I say bring your best group of friends or friend. Coya's Warrior Brunch promises a rambunctious afternoon out. Website: https://www.coyarestaurant.com Location: Unit 1C, 31-33 Throgmorton Street, London EC2N 2AT

Change Your Visuals with Poster Store

Change Your Visuals with Poster Store

I like what the prints on the wall are saying! Already, I knew I was off to a good start. Because, for approximately nine months, those walls stood bare, void. Void of anything other than the brush strokes of the urban nights and white paints, I'd coated them with. A bit of wall art, the idea of some posters, dabbled around in my head, but none took hold. Only that I'd like a splash of gold here and some there. So Instead, pristine walls favoured wall decorations until the Poster Store. There's such a thing as being spoilt for choice. And having spent the better part of a sunny afternoon dropping seven love-themed prints in my basket, this became apparent. It didn't help it was a Tuesday afternoon, and Poster Store had just released their new collection. It's something they do every Tuesday. And with prints available at the equivalent of the average latte, that is easily done. Another peruse of their Maps & Cities unique themed posters says I wouldn't have sufficient wall space for the gallery wall, tailoring in my head. So I popped out of this category. A New York poster and a black matte frame to match, following me to my basket. The Wanderlust in me wanted just that, and so I took to Sailing into The Sunset. Even more eye-catching in a 50 x 70cm print. I love how the wind catches the sails, seemingly sailing off into the sunset with you. The notion of escaping off to somewhere capricious, that feeling of a warm ocean breeze on my skin. Placed decidedly behind my desk, it's already drawn its conversation on zoom calls. The Sunset Girl Poster, a little dreamy, a little wistful, suggestive even, isn't it? Of the amorous end of days spent in the golden afternoon sun. This print being such a statement piece, I felt it would have been unjustified to team it with anything other than something simplistic, chic, something just as seductive. And in the Love & Romantic category, I found precisely the prints Bed Now and You Me to effortlessly complement this poster. Though, this was not all down to me because having chosen the Bed Now, the site conveniently suggested the other. So, again, doing easy work of this. But because I couldn't help myself, I dropped Let's Get Naked in to complete the visuals. The latter, I hung wonky for effect. Hence, 'I like everything the prints on the wall are saying'. Here, shiny gold picture frames contained those monochrome tones and brought it all together with a beautiful finish. There shouldn't be any questions as to which space those prints occupy, and they work well. Bringing that little allure and adding a little of my personality to the room. These Scandinavian design, posters and frames will have you inspired. Designing your own gallery wall like the professional interior designer you didn't hire. From a print suitably sized to sit on your desk space to your most generous wall spaces, there are seven print sizes and eight frame options to choose from. My only regret being, I didn't select them all in sizes 50cm x 70cm and above. Furthermore, all their posters are printed on sustainably produced high-quality paper. So how will you change up your visuals? Here's your Code: BEVERLY35 to get you on the way with 35% on all posters (except Selection Posters and frames). Not combinable with other discount campaigns. Valid until the 21st of July. Did any of these hold your attention? Or has another print(s) from their other collections called out to the interior designer in you? This is a sponsored post, but all views are my own, and I earn no commissions from purchases.

22 - What Happens on A Cruise, Stays on The Cruise

22 - What Happens on A Cruise, Stays on The Cruise

Had Lewis Hamilton won or lost that race? Joshua's level of drunk indecipherable. Em. Baby... this is Natalie. Natalie. She... Is—the queen of my skies. Garbling to Natalie but pointing to Lemara. Made Lemara's chest puff. But after watching him do the forehead to forehead kissing he does with her, to Natalie, a pin pricked. The sight of that stung, puffed the air out of Lemara. I know. You said. Natalie replied, wielding a smile. Whatever had her wielding that smile? Lemara mused, her arms crossing her front. Her legs apart, keeping the door ajar, eyes raised under hooded lids, looking from him to her. He removed himself from Natalie's shoulder, hurled himself onto Lemara, the both of them stumbling back inside the door. Josh, what exactly have you been drinking? Whiskey, beer, vodka. That answer didn't come from Joshua. There was a shift in Lemara's brain and the angle of her head from the miseducation of Ms Fitzwater. Was she to school Natalie on that last bit of info about her man? Joshua doesn't drink vodka; she wanted to spurt. But an education on her man, Natalie did not need. Neither did Ms Fitzwater require an invite into their suite because there she was helping her sit Josh down on the sofa. The same one he slept in last night, the same one Lemara just found comfort in. Both women standing like lamps on both ends of a console table, looking down at him. Stay. He was saying to Natalie. Hun, I'm sure Natalie would love to, but your lights will be out shortly. Plus, I'm sure Natalie would mu-uch prefer the comfort of her room. Walking to the door as she said this. The open door putting the punctuation to the end of that sentence. Then, like the fading light he was, his torso crashed onto the sofa. The suite's door double-clicked shut again, this time locking Joshua in with her. The ship could do what the hell it pleased now. She stood over him, his face and right hand outstretched to her. Baby. Hmm. Her eyes on his hand holding onto hers. We doing another cruise. Are we? With Natalie. His eyes closed when his mouth opened, spilling those two words. She likes you. Josh! Nope, nope. Natalie's staying. Slurring. She paused. Ran her eyes from the low fade at his neck, down his spine, over his ass and to his loafers, remembering alcohol fully downloaded his freak. The floor swayed under Lemara's feet, and she sat down next to him. Joshua pulling her closer. I love cruising. I'm glad to hear it. More than flying. More than... Lemara laughed. Alcohol had opened that reserve of his, leaving him running his mouth, still; the sentence caught her on the crest. Because the day flying took the backseat to anything for Captain Joshua Hart... Maybe indeed he did drink vodka. Sparks from clashing cymbals relit the entire suite. Eyes lifted from his hand holding hers, to his face. Hun, just how much did you have to drink? Getting up from next to him. Natalie wants... Natalie saw you holding hands with Harry. Her back was turned; she never saw that second wave coming. That disjointed sentence, knocking her off her feet, sucking her under, sucking the air out of her. He turned onto his tummy, faced the back of the sofa, but his hand still held onto hers. Holding her between the devil and the deep blue sea. She waited, waited for a follow on, of that statement, something to determine whether she went direct to the devil. Or whether she went to the devil via the raging sea. The silence taunted. The weight of his words, like a ball and chain, held her down, suffocating. Only the sofa she sat back on next to him kept her from hitting the marble bottom. Her chest pained, removed itself, along with everything else in its wake, flushing a huge lump up through her throat. Another flash of lightning, she surfaced, a beached fish. J-osh. She sputtered. The only response, the waves bashing outside. Just what else had Natalie seen, reported. She drooped herself over him; his lights, out. Her lights, porcelain white and serving platter wide. Slouched over herself, one hand massaged out the pinch creeping into her forehead. This beach had a few red flags. Just what else about her and Harry would flow out of Joshua's mouth? How long has he been aware of this? How was Joshua this drunk? And come to think of it, Natalie that sober? She sat with the quiet in the storm. The ship's intemperance teasing a watery sour paste to the back of her mouth. The sweaty whiskey cologne he wore causing a second-hand burn at the bottom of her belly. Joshua back in the suite with her, although drunk was her Eden. But that sentence, he'd just dangled around her neck, set her adrift in another storm, this one all of her own doing. One that loomed but never saw it coming. At least not like this. The night will never be long enough to digest that sentence. E22 in loving memory of my grandad.

21 - What Happens on A Cruise, Stays on The Cruise

21 - What Happens on A Cruise, Stays on The Cruise

She looked at him. Eyes narrowed, lips pursed, head swaying from side to side with the motion of a clock's pendulum. Gathering time. Don't you remember me? His eyes piercing hers. Why does everyone keep asking me that? Frustration about her tone. Singapore? They stared back at each other. Her eyes still narrowed at him, but her head, motionless. No memory of Harry oscillated anywhere between her then and time in Singapore. I remember you. The ship surged. Okay, Mr Langdon, you are going to have to do better than that. Now wondering if we've roughed and tumbled before? A devilish smile on. She paused, caught off her guard by that ocean of doubt. Flashes of white, grey. Grey on white. No, I'm not. Swiftly catching herself. Sure we haven't previously tossed in each others' drunk and tempestuous storm? Of that, I am very sure. She shot back but with a snigger at the end. I would have remembered—her answer resounding. I'm glad to hear it. And Julia? Air quickly leaving her lungs but just as quickly reentering. Harry raised her chin, their eyes reading each other. It was now his turn to pause. A pause a little too long. The two of you were at The Long Bar having drinks. The four o'clock Singaporean downpour had just started. You got up, just as I turned up, sat down. The hem of the blue and white dress you wore floated to your ankles. Your hair, back in a neat bun, showcased your face. But the gold-framed sunglasses you wore hid those eyes from me. Her chest heaved, she swallowed. Cymbals crashed, more flashes of white, a resounding drum roll, the ship shuddered. He paused, exhaled. We said hi, you left, said you had to call your boyfriend. Backed up by Julia's memory, his story checked out. She had been in Singapore robed in that said dress, and religiously, squalls of rain came through about four every afternoon, and they did worship at that Long Bar on a few occasions. Wait, is that it? Unfolding an arm from across her front to drop Harry's from her chin. Am I supposed to remember you from that? A male guest passed by, he nodded, the woman he's chaperoning an ugly shade of pale. The ship's intoxication in no way aiding his side to side gait or the woman's shade of pale. They nodded back. The guest out of earshot, she said. Doesn't he look a bit like that famous Italian tenor, the flamboyant one? The corners of his mouth curled up. You mean he looks like he's had him. Try as she might, her suppressed giggles burst out. Come on, let's get some coffee. I've missed this already. Missed what? Missed me making you laugh, missed your company, miss our chats, your smile, your laugh. When I saw you in those breeches this morning... He paused. His eyes spoke the words that didn't leave his lips, did the work his hands shoved in his pockets couldn't. And when I saw you on your own at the bar this evening, you have no idea... She clicked her teeth. Hmm, I don't really think that's a good idea. Checking the time on her phone. I left Josh in the Sports Bar. I'll see if he's still there. Lemaruh, the man's a pilot in a bar, he'll be fine. Doesn't give me a reason not to check for him. You mean you're turning me down? What? Did you really expect me to say yes? I was hoping you would. But tell you what, I'll come with you. Something a little mysterious about his response, but neither did she say no to his company. By the way, have you heard the joke about the pilot, a marine and a police officer who walked into a bar? If it's the one with the punchline (mocking a jab at Harry), yes. Half giggling through her response. I suppose you've heard them all. I've heard a few—a smile enveloping her face. So I take it Joshua is the guy you left the bar to call back in Singapore. Hands again stuffed in his pocket as they wandered along, then out to stop her from rolling with the ship's motions. Yes, it was. Suppose I was more of a dutiful girlfriend back then. And now? His eyes prying. I don't want to talk about it. At least not with you. And why not? Isn't that what people do on holiday. Tell absolute strangers their life story? So we're absolute strangers now? Lemara popped back at him. They'd arrived at the Sports Bar. A little busier than when she left Joshua earlier, but Joshua was no longer one of the patrons. The bartender remembered her, offered they'd left for the ball court a little while ago. They? She asked, puzzled. Yes, himself and Ms Fitzwater. She shook her head. The name had no registration for anyone dead or alive. Natalie. He contributed. Her eyes flicked. Thank you, she said about to turn out of the bar. I wouldn't be too concerned. The ball court would be closed in this weather. And if not closed, I doubt he'd be able to stand much more shoot a ball—his tone playing on his words. She smiled at the bartender's reassurance the ball court would be closed. The bar's door closed behind them, and outside, her tongue drove into the right side of her cheek, replacing the smile. Her fingers steepled, massaging the discomfort in her temple. He isn't in the bar we just came from; he is not in this one. I've asked the captain to shut the other bars, so I'd say he's fine. Lemara was happy to let Harry's play slide, Natalie with her man, not quite so much. For a brief moment, they stood outside the bar in silence. Their legs apart, keeping them balanced. Harry's hands stuffed back in his pocket, Lemara's back across her front. But I can see you would like to check the ball court. She breathed a sigh of relief when he said that. So four years, huh! Here's another joke. You've definitely not heard this one. Ohh! Tell you what, we take your man, and we tie him to one of his jet engines as it's flying down the runway... Her lips broke into a grin. I don't even know why I am laughing at this. Hands across her stomach, chuckling out her words. If he doesn't marry you then, I'll do it. I'll put a ring on it. That last bit not a joke. He'd looked across at her and then back to the door they were about to open. His statement both a compliment and, in some way, a pop at Joshua; she refused his eyes. The wind slammed the door shut, the one they tried to open, locking that pain in. Driving rain and wind forced themselves through the brief opening. Lemaruh, there's no one in their right minds out there. Jesting. She smiled, and between the two of them, won the battle with the wind. Opening the door. Harry's statement delivered on their words. There was no Joshua. Only an unforgiving storm, a sea of doubt, angry water. Drenched, they stood inside the ship. Her white t-shirt glued onto her form, water raining down her bare legs. Harry went quiet. The same quiet he had when they left the pool deck drenched, he in his white shirt and dark blue trousers, her in that blue dress. He stayed quiet, closed out the gap between them. Her chest swelled. His eyes communicating a repeat of the wet thru blue dress. That blue and white striped dress you wore (an inflexion in his voice) had a matching sash belt wrapped around your waist like an obi belt. His left hand now the obi belt. Buttons all the way down the front. The top four unbuttoned to here. The back of his right hand catching a fire, grazing to a stop just between her breasts. Her chest tight rose with the surge of the storm. His lips came down, glueing the only other part of his form not already stuck to her. Harry. She peeled herself away. This glue, a different type of vulnerable and doesn't stick. I think. I think I'll go back to the suite and wait for Josh. Passing her tongue between tightly pursed lips. Behind her, the suite's door double-clicked shut. Shutting out the quiet of the corridor, locking her in with the battle she had raging. The glass walls that earlier flooded the suite with sunshine now taunted. Angry ghosts. Josh! A scan of the suite said only silence would respond. The sea surged, a discomfort resurfaced. Her stomach in a lurch, she made it to the sink, leaned forward, but only infuriation came. Where the hell was Joshua on a ship so ill-tempered? When finally Lemara retreated from the bathroom. Another clash of cymbals, this one glowing up her white bathrobe. Another sweep of the suite, it was her pain that heaved. The sofa he slept in last night seemed the most comforting, it smelled of him. Closer to the door. Ten, eleven, midnight, the clock, her phone, the door, one. Annoyance about her thoughts. The wind and the sea remained embroiled in a relentless lover's quarrel, their ship doing its best to wrangle out of it. More flashes of white, grey shed light on a situation that showed no signs of easing. The wind swept in from the right; in obedience, the ship bowed just enough for her to see the waves but didn't bend. Angered, the wind raged in from the left, sitting the ship upright. Upright the waves rose like a mountain, taking the ship with it, leaving it there. Oh Gawd! Her chest tightened, left her body. Just where was Joshua? The ocean of doubt crashed in. Her pain turned to annoyance, to disgruntlement, to anger. She drowned in her pain. The lock on the door rustled. Lemara bolted, leaving Usain behind. A whiskey stench permeated the open doorway as if a Speyside's distilleries had relocated to outside suite 9087. All bets were off that she'd be dead before the ship's doctor arrived with oxygen from the medical centre. Shhh! He was saying. To Natalie. Lemara's chest caved.

Harrods Champagne Bar, Milton Keynes

Harrods Champagne Bar, Milton Keynes

There's a new champagne bar in Milton Keynes! Okay, I hear you say. It's not the first champagne bar to have graced Milton Keynes' grid system, ah no. But possibly, one of the better calibre to have done so. Except, when the words Champagne Bar are preceded by these (H.A.R.R.O.D.S) seven letters, it gets attention. I like things worked in. By that, I mean I prefer getting on an aircraft or cruise ship months after its maiden voyage. That way, I know the captains have familiarised themselves with the nuts, bolts, sounds and reaction of their craft. The crew has fine-tuned service to utmost perfection. So imagine the first day of this bar opening; I was sat in a cosy corner with as many people as the government's guidelines would allow. Excited conversations overlapped the gentle strains of music leaving the speakers. And as the dishes kept coming, cutlery tap-danced on plates, champagne glasses hi-fived each other, competing for the charged excitement in the air. Were we simply glad to be out? Or was there another contributing factor? The answer to this question, undecided. But whatever gets decided, it was contributed to all the more by the undeniable customer service provided by the staff on the evening. Their first day in operation, not apparent. The food exiting the kitchen, #Instagramworthy. And being Instagram worthy, photogenic plate after plate off the Small Plates Menu swaggered out the kitchen. As a matter of fact, the only thing that didn't come out of the kitchen was the chef themself. I suspect, rushed off his/her feet, making their first-day count. But as the dishes kept coming, from the 'Freshly baked olive oil and green-olive breadsticks...' to the 'Parma ham with cornichons' - the plates kept up the food show. The staff, their genuine enthusiasm. The menu poses no pretence, though desserts turning up on circular mirrored plates arched a few eyebrows over smiling eyes. The flavours they packed, uncompromised. And there's nothing anaemic about the portions either. What was my favourite? There were three standout dishes. One surprisingly came from the dessert section because, days on, continues to tantalise my memory. A dessert aptly called 'Beauty Cheesecake. A dessert that literally sat me back home under the passion fruit vine climbing a corner of the yard and then the mango tree. Another favourite was the macarons - bite-sized morsels of macaron goodness. They do know how to make macarons. Closely followed by my third favourite - Belgian Waffles with Chantilly Cream (not shown though I do recall pictures taken). Don't let the champagne in the title deter you. First off the drinks menu were Harrods 1849 Premium lagers. These went down smoothly —a unanimous vote from all eighty per cent of the table who tried it. And at 500ml instead of the usual 330ml, it could catch you off guard. One Strawberry & Basil Spritz swiftly followed another; such was its refreshing quality. But it's a champagne bar after all, and so it may have been rude not to. It was at this point the Harrods Rose Brut made an entrance - dry, crisp, clean and wonderfully pink. You may notice from the lack of photos that this is where yours truly relinquished all photographic duties. The champagne bar in Milton Keynes may be something different to its London counterpart but no less inviting. Decidedly unassuming, this is the place you want to start the next round of celebrations. A first date here, sure to have long-lasting memories even if the relationship itself doesn't. And now that we can start meeting up and celebrating again, this is the venue you'll want to head to—the location you want to be geotagged at the top of your Instagram posts. But since when have we ever needed a reason to go have a glass of champagne? Harrods Champagne Bar, located inside H Beauty Milton Keynes Centre: MK

20 - What Happens on a Cruise, Stays on The Cruise

20 - What Happens on a Cruise, Stays on The Cruise

Josh. Caving. Don't speak. His lips burned into the side of her neck. She gasped. Her body, becoming increasingly limp. Hold me. He caved. His fire burned between her hips; a half cry escaped her lips. The air she needed to breathe wrestled in her lungs with a desperate need to suppress the screams building inside. Robbed of breath, she spluttered. Except for the water lapping around them, everything else appeared at peace. But how wrong appearances were. Hearts thumped, bodies throbbed, where they lingered in the edge-of-the-earth sensations Joshua liked to take her. Water surged with a sea besieged. Besieged by a wolf pack of jet skiers off the coast of Cozumel. Lemara coughed from the rude awakening of jet ski fuelled swells. Joshua adopted the sidestroke with Lemara clinging to his side; they looked up, looked around. His eyes implying his displeasure at the three joy riders. They, on the other hand, elicited their squeals of pleasure, circling a third time before taking off. You okay? His concern replicated across his face. She shook her head, still unable to speak. Their foreheads met, kissed. Noses touched, lips smiled, kissed. That was Joshua accepting her answer. Em, you do pump my blood. Cementing his statement with a greedy kiss to her lips. Arms still around his neck, she laughed, throwing her head backwards, and when finally she raised her head, said. Hopefully, that's not all I do—a twinkle in her eye. You have no idea. Mirroring her twinkle back. Back on the ship ahead of the boarding rush and the earlier departure time, they caught a lift to themselves. Lemara entered, Joshua followed and then a thud. She looked back, the lift doors undecided as to whether to keep closing or open again. But what was certain was the figure jumping through the opening. Nothing uncommon about Joshua holding the lift doors open for someone. It just so happened Natalie was the lucky recipient this time. Hi. She said as she leapt into the lift. Her see-through cover-up falling to rest on her body, revealing she covered everything but what needed covering. Lemara replied, then stayed silent. Joshua saw too. Responded too, then promptly motioned to the lift panels for her deck. Nine, she said. Lemara's eyes reexamined the numbers on the panel as if somehow they'd newly inserted another deck nine. He came to stand on her right at the back of the lifts, wrapping her waist as the elevator went up for the ride. Natalie, she said, do you ever get that suspicious feeling you're being followed? Looking up at the numbers as they climbed and then over to Natalie standing on their left. Joshua tapped her waist. She felt his inner smile. No. Why? Are you being followed? Lemara laughed. Joshua piped up. What my girlfriend is saying (tapping her waist again) is that we keep bumping into each other. Ahh, come on, you guys, I like seeing you. Besides, it's a small ship. Is that so? Raising her eyes under their hooded lids. A smile glorying across her face. The lift now on deck nine, Joshua ushered Lemara out, Natalie following. Ahh, she said again, this time digging her purse out of her beach bag. I'll give you a card for our ranch. Joshua stood waiting for the card. Lemara walked on, looking back at the two as she rounded the bend to their corridor. Natalie not only handed Joshua the card but lecherously brushed herself on him. Lemara's neck straightened, arms folded across her front. Joshua dropped his hand, the one holding the card and Natalie walked off in the opposite direction, towards the stairs and up. Hang on, didn't this woman want deck nine? Lemara questioning the back of her. Coming down the stairs closest to Lemara was Jada and another two guests. Hey Lemara, it's my birthday today. We're going to the Sports bar for drinks at four. Do you want to come? Happy birthday, hun! Sure, why not? See you at four? See you at four. Jada reiterated and kept on walking down the stairs. Not that Jada had stopped at any point in the conversation. Joshua now stood by Lemara's side. That should be fun, looking down the stairs after the three. Hmmm. She was looking up to meet his eyes. Joshua Hart, she continued, I've been going out with you for four years and never have I met a woman that brazen. But if she keeps up, crapaud gone smoke her pipe. Joshua laughed. She's in trouble, is she? But it means you've still got it—patting him on the ass. Em, I'm going out with you; there's no chance of losing it. I'll make sure of that. Sticking his hand down her back pocket. Washed of Cozumel beach's salt and sand, they sat bathrobed. Lemara on the floor, her head between his legs, Joshua on the bed, blow-drying her braids. Her phone went off; the blow-drying stopped—Julia was video calling. Hey hun! Holding out the phone and tilting her head back into Joshua's lap, giving Julia a good view of both of them. Oh Gawd! Josh, have you spoken to Eleanor for the day? Only her neck and chin visible. No Julia, I haven't spoken to our mother. Well, she called me, clearly after she couldn't find you. She dreamt that one of us is having a child as in either you, Em or me. The details were sketchy, but this is Eleanor's dream. Lemara spluttered upright. Joshua straightened his bathrobe. He does that straightening thing whenever he feels Eleanor is a wedge between him and his twin. Julia, are you pregnant? Oh, Gawd, no. Then, no one's pregnant. His words, sure. Wait, hang on, you didn't ask Em if she is pregnant. Julia, no one's pregnant. Not yet. She laughed at the two of them. Anyway, Em, I remember where I met Harry. It's Singapore. Oh! Readjusting herself between Joshua's legs. He's the guy we met in the hotel bar. He was at some wine festival. Anyway, that's not important. What's important is that I'm in Dubai, (turning the phone out for them to see her beach view) but I'll be back by the time you guys get back to London. Rattling out the words as if she needed to be out the door to catch another flight. That quick, eh! Lemara looked on with renewed interest knowing Julia's trips to Dubai usually had something to do with Rashid. Rashid is the closest Julia came to getting married. Her aversion to religion, any religion saw to their disjunction. Yet, they had remained friends. Rashid wants me to showcase my beachwear range at an upcoming fashion show. Its exclusive. Ultimately they'll be stocked in his sister's boutiques. Ohh, hun, that's great! Congrats! Joshua chimed in. By the way, while you're over there, can you check on the apartment before the new tenants move in. Josh, we pay agents for that. And Julia, I'm asking you to check that they're doing what we pay them to do. Julia looked down at her phone screen and back up to them. Anyway, Rashid's calling me. I'm gonna go, waving at them before she hung up. By the way, this grandchild of Eleanor's is mixed-raced. And she was gone. They both sat quiet, unmoving. Joshua because he never much cared for his mother's dreams. It may be the only thing about his mother he didn't much care for. Except one of those said dreams had seen himself and Julia do well in 2017, though that same dream was the straw that broke a camel's back. That camel being what was left of the relationship between Julia and her mother. Lemara's quietness, however, stemmed from something else - the mixed-raced baby. If the child is mixed-raced, it wasn't hers and Joshua's. But neither had Eleanor's dream excluded her. She swallowed on that thought. Both dressed in shorts and white t-shirts (her shorts shorter than his) hands entwined; they strolled to the Sports Bar. There was no Jada. She'd already left, supposedly for a pool bar, as pointed out by the bartender. A replay of an F1 race on the television screen auditioned for Joshua's attention, and he stayed to watch. A kiss to his lips and she was off, preferring to seek out Jada and celebrate her birthday. Propped up on a stool overlooking the pool, Lemara found a tipsy Jada and friends. Ordering two of 'the queens', that red elixir Edwin had introduced her to the night before, she handed one to Jada. Try this; you're gonna love it. Hmm. This is good, Lemara. Strong too. Happy 21st birthday to you. Clinking their glasses. Three barstools away, another guest was calling for a dark and stormy. A drink to match the impending weather, he continued to say. There was no Edwin this evening; as a matter of fact, she'd not seen him all day. What hilarious stories might he have to tell about stormy seas? She wondered. She took the first sip of the cocktail, quenching her thirst. While beside her, Jada was staring into her empty cocktail glass. But like the elixir it was, the cocktail glass was full again and emptied again. It was the bartender who was impressed this time. Would you like another? He asked. Make it two. Jada replied. Ahh, hun, we need to pace ourselves. This cocktail is strong stuff. In the time-honoured tradition of leaving port, the ship's horns blasted. And either the ship had not left port in good time, or the storm had changed its course sensing how it swaggered from side to side on departure. That or it had the drinks the guests at the bar ordered. Now and again, the wind gusted across the exposed top deck, the ship doing its drunken swagger in response. All but two young boys remained brave in the pool, sloshing about with the water. They, too, now being asked to vacate it for their safety. As the ship carried on with its increasingly drunken conduct, passengers gradually disappeared from the open deck. Cozumel had since been swallowed into the distance, and so had Jada's third cocktail. Jada, you are gonna be drunk before anything. Ignoring Lemara, and instead reached for her unfinished cocktail. The ship had a better idea. It rolled, sliding Lemara's glass into Harry's hands, who treated himself to the entire contents, saving her the trouble. Lemara looked up, visibly surprised to see him there. That. Was not yours to have. Jada drawled. Jada, you're going to get yourself drunk. Me? Nooo. I've never had a drink in my life. Wagging an index finger at Lemara. Ooph, you are drunk. Poking fun at her. The ship had done its biggest sway yet, rolling Jada's head and upper body into Lemara's chest at a time when something inside her rolled too. It was not a good sound. Come on; we need to get you back to your room. Trying to sit her upright. I like your boyfriend. Punching Lemara with each word. I like him too. Come on. Except, the boyfriend Jada referred to was not the one Lemara thought because she reached over and tugged Harry's collar. I like you. Jada continued to say to him. Lemara took an extended breath, looked over at Harry, then looked around. Oh Gawd Harry! Jada buried her head back in Lemara's chest. Jada, what is your room number? Room number, I don't have one. Lemara chuckled. You're gonna have to take her to your suite. Harry contributed. But her mother appeared along with a member of staff and took Jada to her room. She's going to remember her 21st. Or not. His voice crisp. They walked on in silence for a bit. Hey. Hmm. Looking up at him. Have you given any thought to those hotels I showed you the other day? When they found themselves at deck nine's lifts. No, I haven't. You should. I know the managers at the properties well; I could put in a word for you. You would, would you? You bet I would. And do what about Joshua? A slight edge to her tone, causing Harry to tilt his head. Your man is a pilot, better yet captain; he can fly to see you anytime. Better yet, get a job in any of these places. She laughed, shaking her head at the same time but said nothing. But her brain made the connection between the Singapore hotel on his list, the same hotel she and Julia had stayed at. Mr Langdon. This sounds serious. Does she look familiar? Scrolling to a picture of Julia in her phone's gallery and turning it to him. Head tilted at a precarious angle as if the picture wasn't already upright; a smile grew across his eyes. Then stopped. Yes, she does look familiar. Is this a trick question? No, it isn't. Why does she look familiar? Lemaruh, this is not a trick question? His repeat of the question more rhetorical. No, it's not! She looks like... His words shot down mid-sentence by the ship's crackling PA system and Captain Cantieri's voice blasting through, then silence. Well, for starters, she looks like your boyfriend. Tilting his head again at the photo. They are twins but is that it? He raised his eyes from the photo to her. You don't remember me, do you?

WUI - Writing Under The Influence

WUI - Writing Under The Influence

Of that, I'm guilty. Influence of what, though? I'll tell you shortly. 'Take a read of this - great writing; great rhythm' Is what Mr Hollis Porter's comment read under Episode 18 of What Happens on A Cruise... Mr Porter's eyes (followed by his fingers) are the kind you want glazing over your writing. His reviews, more akin to those out of the Guardian newspaper! His content, reminding me I've got some way to go. So he gets a full paragraph mention, why? Well, it was his comment that drove the realisation of the musical influences in my writing, home. I re-read the chapter; I got the rhythm. Then I smiled. He was indeed referring to my writing? Then I smiled some more; definitely a Guardian or Times newspaper review. I had paid him to write a review but I must have paid him lots. I don't recall. But what I do recall was that I was highly intoxicated on a beat. Intoxicated, words became sentences became paragraphs became the story. And, judging by the DM's coming in, Chapter 18 pleased a few souls. It certainly pleased mine. The rhythm locked in from the get-go. Fed intravenously through my veins, coated my soul, and when the bass dropped, so did the words. And there it was, Episode 18 What Happens on a Cruise, Stays on The Cruise, in all its rhythmic glory—the song: 'The Future' (feat. Anthony & Cleopatra) Purple Disco Machine. Have a listen. Music not only influences my writing but can also become a part of the story. Episode 13 What Happens on a Cruise, Stays on The Cruise, showcases this beautifully. 'It teases with believable banter, great musical references, some sizzle and the feeling of being away on the cruise yourself.' (Another review from an avid fan whose eyes you also want glazing your story.) This episode has the feel of an entire night out. The feeling of being at a good wedding party where Next's: Too Close formed the backing track. Have a listen. I'm a little like Lemara in the cruise series when it comes to music. One song becomes my jam on repeat. As in, I put it on repeat for hours and hours. You get the picture. She is someone I can relate to in that way. The daughter doesn't know how I do it. Listen to the same song all day, all week, rest of the month. Come to think of it, neither do I. But when a piece of music hits, hypnotises, sets the tone, a stage, a vibe - I write. When the music influences, dictates a style, takes me on a journey - words dance across the paper. As in All The Highs which was another such writing, written while heavily intoxicated under the disco-funk of Mayer Hawthorne's 'Time For Love'. This short story happens to be one of my all-time favourite pieces of writing, the song again forming a part of the reading. Go have a listen. A Christmas Day present to my readers last year. Packed full of banter, great chemistry and 'The best sex/aviation-based extended metaphor I've ever had the pleasure of meeting'. It wasn't me who said that. I would not have said it that way myself, but you can guess whom. But don't take our word for it. Click on the links above if you've not yet read it. And here they are, playing their part of my listening, some writing and your reading pleasure. From the current work in progress, What Happens on A Cruise, Stays on The Cruise, what I listened to as I wrote. Chapter 2 - Rupert Homes: Escape but you may recognise it as the Pina Colada song Chapter 3 - James Hype: No Drama Chapter 6 - The one where Lemara gets herself entangled with Harry. Have a listen. Loco Escrito: Adios Thirteen of his songs make my playlist, it's safe to say I love his music! Chapters 7 - The one where her boyfriend Joshua unexpectedly turns up. Have a listen. Tame Impala: Borderline (though I much, much prefer the Single Version) An artist I discovered via the daughter but won't be forgetting anytime soon. Chapter 8 - The one after Joshua turns up. Have a listen. John Splitoff: Sing to You Chapter 12 - The one where they partied Gagnam Style on White Night Have a listen. Psy: Gagnam Style Chapter 14 - After the party comes the storm. The tension builds, the story sizzles and the violins come out to play. Have a listen. Ray Chen Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E Chapter 15 - The one where Harry's white shirt double-crosses Lemara and Joshua's words almost felt like they were indeed cutting her open. Have a listen. Cloak Dagger: Cut Me Open I discovered him on Instagram Chapter 16 - Winston Surfshirt: Smile for Me Chapter 17 - Winston Surfshirt: Make a Move Another off the daughter's playlist and I tell you what, he can put me to bed any night! Other music, playing their parts Junior Kelly: If Love So Nice Kaytranada - Freefall Vitaa & Slimane: Avant Toi Gentleman - Intoxication Pete Hellers - Big love FKJ & Masego: Tadow And true to my writing, I inked WUI, under the merry mix of John Legend feat. Buju Banton, Can't Be My Lover. A beach and your best Caribbean Rum Punch optional! These are the songs/music influencing when I wrote and in turn, made my playlist. What's on your playlist? Are you guilty of WUIs?

19 - What Happens on A Cruise, Stays on The Cruise

19 - What Happens on A Cruise, Stays on The Cruise

What was it about the smile she wore on her face or the beat tapping out of her lipstick-red painted toes that made him think it was okay to raise that question. Or was that it? Raise it when she'd least expect it. Because his eyes conveyed words, she wants his lips to keep entombed. The question raised, raised emotions; she's hoping she'll never have to speak. Very much invited, the unmistakable sweet-tropical scent of coconut, baked-on-skin, dropped itself amid this non-verbal conversation. She felt saved by a scented bell, knowing she no longer needed to verbalise her answer. But certainly, whoever had just saved her deserved her attention. Only, the belle she'd looked up to find wore a black bikini, topped off with a messy, platinum-blonde up knot. The last person she'd been expecting to see. Hiii, how was your horseriding? Her eyes darting from Lemara to Joshua. Not quite approving of the view her sunglasses brought her, Lemara lifted them off her eyes. That or her Dark and Stormy cocktail had a double shot of West Indian elixir. But since neither of those was to blame, she lowered the sunglasses back in place. It was Natalie. It was good. His good ending with a pitch nearer G causing Lemara to look back at him. Lemara certainly enjoyed herself. Reaching over and brushing the top of her right thigh. Yes, we had a great time. Gave Josh a chance to hone in on his riding prowess. Goading as she reached over for her cocktail, taking a sip in a silent cheer to herself. Awesome. Then, if you're ever in Kentucky, come out and stay at my families horse ranch. Grinning like a Cheshire cat at Joshua. That horse did a funky shizzle. That, was not how the conversation was supposed to go. That, was certainly not what Lemara had in mind. That cannon well and truly backfired. You'd love that, Em. Looking over at Lemara. Uhmm. Lips pursed, meeting his eyes. What breed of horses do you have? Turning back to Natalie. His interest spiked in spades. Oh, mostly American Saddlebreds. Beautiful horses. Hey, do you ever fly to Kentucky? Not a route we fly, no. His eyes perusing a virtual map for confirmation of that answer. That's a shame. Ahh, such a shame indeed, Lemara mused. What about Nashville? Natalie continued. God, this woman was relentless. That's a route we do fly. You'd never guessed it, but Natalie offered herself a seat at the end of Joshua's lounger, brushing sand off his feet. Lemara's breath almost caught, Joshua looked at his feet. You've got sand on your feet. No shit Sherlock. That's actually better. She continued. It's quicker to get from Nashville to the ranch. So yes, anytime, let me know. Yes, sure, why not. That should be fun. Unintentionally mirroring Joshua, Lemara laid back, watching the two in full banter. Plus, we have a lakeside cabin a half days ride away. It's pretty basic, no electricity, gas, internet, just nature. We can... Whose the 'we' she's really referring to? ...stay over, watch the stars light up the sky, go fishing... Sounds good, but Em loves her creature comforts. Looking over at Lemara and taking her right hand in his left. Nice to know she's suddenly remembered. Well, I'm going to let you guys enjoy your tacos. Gonna try and catch a few more rays before we have to head back to the ship. By the way, what's the name of your ranch? I'll tell you later. Waving as she walked away. Enjoy. That enjoy could not have been anymore forced out of Lemara. Natalie had finally walked away, but Joshua's eyes followed, and Lemara's followed his. Nice of her to invite us to her ranch. When finally he looked back to Lemara, he'd significantly misjudged the situation. No, Josh, she invited you to the ranch. And I can almost bet on the pair of heels you just bought me; the riding she wants to do is not on her four-legged American Saddlebreds. He laughed out loud. You're betting your heels? Ahah! That's pretty serious. What riding does she want to do? On the West Indian thoroughbred lying next to me. Hmmm. They both laughed. I need a swim. Inhaling deeply. You do, do you? Eyes slanted at him. Yes. Joining me? No. But I'll walk you to the water; it's a bit treacherous out there. Snakes in the sand and all that! Flicking her eyes in the direction Natalie went. He laughed, stood up, pulling her up with him. Hugging, inhaling her, as he often does. She felt his heat. Now where were we. Kissing her left shoulder. Still on a beach in Cozumel. Nibbling on his ear. Hmm. His tone hot, low. A forefinger traced a line from the tip of her nose to her lower lip. She nipped it. He smoldered. Right hand in his right, his left hand on her rear, they strolled across the hot sand, chatting, laughing. Joshua suddenly picking her up, throwing her over his right shoulder, the end of her long braids whipping at the back of his knees. Josh! Stop. Put me down. Full of giggles. Ah ah! You're coming in with me. Josh, my braids are going to get wet, put me down. Squealing upside down at his back. Em, you say that as if your nearest bottle of shampoo and conditioner is back at Heathrow. Ignoring her protests, he kept his stride and into the water; the ends of her braids becoming synchronised swimmers. Josh. No. Put. Me. Down. Kicking up her feet. You, do not, say no to your captain. Captain, my ass! Giggling uncontrollably. He stopped, but for what reason, captain, ass or a big fish? That remark got her on her two feet. Exactly where she wanted to be. Free of his hold, she made a dart for the shore, but Joshua quickly caught her by the waist. She never really had any chance in highwater of escaping him, but it was worth the try. Now I'm definitely not letting you go. He was in hysterics; she was in hysterics. Bent over his hold across her waist. His right arm single-handedly carrying her further out to sea with him. Josh, my braids Baby, we'll wash them later. They'll take forever to dry. Shoulder deep in the water, he stopped brought her around to face him. Wrap your legs and arms around me. Captain Hart was in control. No. She mocked in disagreement. If you don't, I'll drop you. You'd never. Shrieking with confidence from her vulnerable position. She felt him loosen his hold. Ahhh... Josh, I swear. You swear what? Further loosening his grip. You swear to wrap those legs of yours around me? He brought her face up to his. Those eyes gazing back at her weren't eyes of Joshua ready to drop her. Rather they compelled her. Compelled her to wrap her arms around his neck, lock her legs around his hips. I can do better than that! She sparked. A wicked smile graced his lips when he dipped her back and she clung to him with all fours. I like it when you do what your told. Lowering his mouth decidedly over hers. Like her arms, their tongues locked, danced. The sea cooled but his hell stirred. She smiled, then gasped, he'd shifted her bikini, cupping her hips, pinning her to the nothing between him and his hell-raiser. A small moan left her lips. Hell stoked the fire she held between open thighs. Blood rushed her veins, ran hot. His tongue salty, deep and breathless when finally, they came up for air.

18 - What Happens on a Cruise, Stays on the Cruise.

18 - What Happens on a Cruise, Stays on the Cruise.

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

An Unintentional Souvenir Collection

An Unintentional Souvenir Collection

The key card slots in, and the hotel's room door clicks open. The expanse of an unfamiliar room parades itself before me. I haul my luggage to the side and splash myself unto the five-hundred count threads of the sushi-rice-white linens swathing the bedding under me. And no, I have not broken lockdown. I am at home drinking coffee but perusing memory lane in the direction of the logo on my coffee cup. *This post contains affiliate links. Clicking on them may mean I earn a commission. I don't know what, if any, souvenirs anyone else collects on their vacations. But can you honestly look your non-social media follower family and friends in the eye and say you've been on holiday without producing a trinket of a key ring or shot glass of your travels. Likewise, could you look your refrigerator door eye on after a vacation, knowing you'd omitted to return with a souvenir fridge magnet? I know I couldn't; given the surprising fifteen minutes I'd been travelling, I'd collected sufficient holiday keepsakes to warrant its own car booth sale soon. A haul of destination fridge magnets so ample they'd reface an American sized fridge freezer. There's the set of Matryoshka dolls that once played on the window sill but, with the room repainted, lay buried in the bottom of a darkened box. And let us not forget the one-of-its-kind harem pants I giddily parted with my bahts for on a harem packed street market in Thailand. Oh, and that one time, my feet burnt holes, pacing the tiles of a bazaar in Istanbul while I contemplated how to ship a mesmerizing Turkish mosaic chandelier back to London without burning holes in my pocket too. There's also my name, framed in Chinese characters; the Vietnamese solo bottle wine holder, a complete six-piece Thai dinner table set and a hoard of shot glasses. The Cambodian shot glass with its gold base is my favourite, by the way. Still, what is a vacation without the hustle at a souvenir stall, a rummage through local arts or crafts market? Away from all that, I was subconsciously building up a collection from the chic white-sandalwood scented boutiques of hotels I stayed at. A collection of hotel mugs. This porcelain mug from Raffles Singapore is where it all started, and the mug I'm currently drinking from. Love at first sight, they call it, and I wanted it, so I got it. Ever so often, while drinking coffee in this elegantly designed white, gold and black cup, I find myself walking by the matching white, gold, black, and red attired hotel's Sikh doorman and into one of their colonial suites. You'd be forgiven for savouring an oolong as you sit out on the suite's verandah because this is, after all, the womb that gave birth to the Singapore Sling. So savour one of those while waiting out a sultry Singapore thunderstorm. It's my favourite, my favourite because I'd taken this holiday on realising life as I knew it was about to change. If I were to sit sufficiently quiet, I'm almost sure I'll recall the white sandalwood scented boutique at Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi. A magazine's double-page sprawl of this and another hotel held its own on my memory and jostled for the top spot in my travels. But call it my lucky day when I walked in ahead of another guest, and these hands clasped the last of this locally made Vietnamese mug. It's become the favourite for a Saturday morning affogato. Its lacquered finish a polished reminder of the room's glossy hardwood floors and Vietnamese silk furnishings. Take a seat at the alfresco brasserie La Terrasse and, as if on a carousel, watch newlyweds arrive in front of the hotel, take their photos and start their married lives. It always appears that I am looking at the hotel's gilded facade or its elevators' outer side when looking at this cup. That'd be because the mugs were indeed patterned with the same art deco heritage design greeting you as you enter Claridges. Like his and her bathrobes, wardrobes and double sinks, this stylish mug is available as a set of two (one silver and one gold). For the sophisticated and glamorous couple in you. It was a stay at Badrutts Palace, a trip to St Moritz in keeping with the glamour and the glitz. As both hands embrace this mug warmed by the hot coffee it holds, it's as if hugging the memories. The pilot I crossed paths with about to start flying with the airline of his dreams in Hong Kong. The german gent on a weekend break who had us in stitches one morning at breakfast. Where breakfasts are honoured each morning in Le Relais with a mountainside helping of the Engadins gliding down to the silver-specked lake of St Moritz, this white mug with its gold logo is a little homage to those muted tone rooms and their gold accents. I close my eyes and make-believe I'm sitting on my room's balcony. Just as The Dorchester has been warming the hearts of its guests for some time now, so have I been warming my coffee and reliving memories with this mug for some time. This classic white mug with its silver-leaved illustrations is sentimental. Sentimental to the night before turning one of those big 'something 0'. Sentimental to that night, walking in off wintry streets, visiting London's top attractions to this iconic residence. Its inside walls licked with sophistication and charm, blissfully removed from the chaos that can be London. These mugs have now become the soundtrack to beautiful memories created on holidays (seemingly too long ago). Forget about complimentary wifi; the next hotel 'must have' is a branded mug. Here's to collecting more souvenirs and holiday memories. What travel treasures do you bring back from your holiday? Do you have a cherished travel memento? What travel keepsake evokes your best memories?