I stepped off the plane. A wave of humid air hit me, the smell of salt and flowers blowing through my hair and ruffling my clothes. I took a deep breath, memorizing the smell. It was the smell of the start of a great vacation. I stepped carefully down the stair ramp, feeling like a movie star as I exited the small plane and followed a red carpet off the runway and to the small terminal. I couldn‘t wipe the grin off my face to save my life.
The airport terminal was open to the Caribbean air. It seemed strange to me at first, until I realized that the weather was always nice enough here that they wouldn’t need to have double-paned windows. It was a foreign concept to someone like me who had always lived in a place that required heating and cooling throughout the year. My windows in Iowa were only open in the late spring and early fall due to the weather outside which was either too hot or too cold. I loved the idea of having windows open year round, the weather always nice.
My bags were already circling the small baggage carousel, the benefit of being the only plane at a small airport. The bag clicked behind me on the tile floor as I looked around for my ride to the hotel. I found a well-dressed man with large aviator glasses holding up a sign with my name on it: Emma LaRue. I must have looked like someone ready for vacation because he started smiling at me as soon as he saw me. Must have been the grin plastered on my face and the big eyes trying to take it all in.
“Ms. LaRue?” he asked, a lilting accent twisting my name into something exotic. “I’m Felipe. If you need anything during your stay here, please just let me know.” I smiled and nodded excitedly as he took my bags and ushered me towards a waiting fancy town car. I felt spoiled as he opened the door and I slid into the soft leather seat. The air was running and the car felt cold after the tropical warmth of the airport.
Felipe entered the driver’s seat and easily maneuvered the car out onto the main road. I pressed my nose against the tinted glass like a little kid, watching this beautiful world zoom past. Palm trees and plants that only grew in greenhouses lined the road, green things growing wild against the bright blue sky.
“Is this your first time to the island?” Felipe asked, smiling in the mirror at my amazement.
“Yes — I’ve almost never left Iowa,” I said, never taking my eyes from the window.
“Iowa? What is in Iowa?” Felipe asked, his accent making my home state sound like a foreign country.
“Just pigs and corn,” I said with a laugh.
“Pigs and corn. We have only fish and coconuts here. Hopefully you will find it to your liking,” he said as he turned the car smoothly. I could see the ocean in the distance now, the sunlight making it gleam along the horizon.
“I like fish and coconuts,” I said and he laughed.
“Is that why you are vacationing here?”
“Well, I actually won this trip. There was a contest on the radio. I never win anything, but I somehow won this,” I said staring at the gleaming horizon. I had never seen the ocean, and even from this distance, I could only stare in wonder. It was so big and beautiful, even from far away. I could barely believe I would see it up close.
I was sure I was going to wake up at any moment. My favorite radio station had run a contest for an all-expenses-paid vacation to the exclusive tropical paradise resort on Ocean Key. I had called in on a whim, and fast-forward two months, here I was. It still felt surreal.
“You must be very lucky if you won a trip to Ocean Blue Resort,” Felipe said as he drove past an ornate sign bearing the name. A waterfall cascaded next to bright blue tile letters proclaiming the name from the road. It looked expensive and fancy.
“It might be the universe trying to even out my usual bad luck,” I said. Felipe laughed, as if I had made a joke. I smiled, but it wasn’t a joke to me. Things never seemed to go my way. I had this horrible suspicion that this was merely an elaborate joke at my expense. I was going to arrive at the resort and my room would be occupied, or I’ll find that I was actually responsible for the bill and would end up paying for everything. That would be the kind of luck I usually had. Not this good kind of luck.
Felipe pulled the car up to the entrance of the resort. I stepped out and felt my jaw drop. The main entrance was huge and open to the air. High above marble floors beautiful gossamer fabric hung in giant loops fluttering gently in the soft ocean breeze. Big, comfy chairs adorned the lobby and a babbling creek ran along the side complete with several small wooden foot bridges. A beautiful bar in the corner served drinks in colorful glasses. I could see only top shelf liquor.
I gulped. This was by far the nicest place I had ever been in. It really was a tropical paradise. There was no way I would have been able to afford a place like this on my vet tech salary. I wondered how much the radio station paid for all this, or rather what connections they had that allowed them offer a free vacation in a place like this. I shook my head at the thought of all that money and power.
“You must be Ms. LaRue. I am Anna,” said a female voice with a soft British accent. A woman in a linen sleeveless dress stepped forward, a smile highlighting her tropical features. I smiled nervously and nodded. “We’ve been expecting you. If you would follow me to check-in please.” She smiled again and gestured towards a glass-enclosed office in the corner of the lobby. I picked up the handle to my suitcase, but she waved a hand to stop me. “The bellhop will take it to your room for you. You are on vacation, Ms. LaRue,” she said as she smiled, her white teeth beautiful against her dark skin. A man in a navy-blue uniform hurried over and reached for my suitcase. I let him take it and he gave a curt nod and placed it on a luggage trolley. “If you will please follow me?”
Anna opened the door to her office and cold air-conditioned air flowed out. I stepped inside and sat gingerly down on a leather chair.
“I just need your signature here to indicate that you are checking in. Music Radio Inc. has already covered all charges,” Anna said handing me a pen and an important looking document. “I will need your signature on the next page as well. It is simply a liability waiver and that you agree not to damage the property.”
I scanned the document quickly, looking over the legal words and evaluating. Anna waited patiently as I read every word, her eyes only confused for a moment. Most people must not read this, I thought, but I wanted to know exactly what I was signing. The control freak in me had to make sure I was in control of what I agreed to. It was the standard legal agreement I was expecting, so I signed it with a flourish.
“Excellent. You will be staying in Cabana Four. Here is your identification bracelet. This simply notifies staff that you are staying at the resort and will allow you to access all the dining facilities, beverage stations, and the spa,” Anna said as she handed me a bright pink rubber bracelet. She helped me fasten it as she continued. “You have complete access to all the amenities of the resort. If you need anything, please ask any of our staff. I have included a packet with all the information you will need for your stay.”
I peeked in the envelope. There was a certificate for a beach massage, some rental vouchers for water sports equipment, and menus for the different restaurants on the resort. I tried to keep my fingers from shaking; this was really happening. I was having a vacation that people only dream about. That stupid happy smile crept back onto my face.
“Well, everything is done here. Are you ready to go to your cabana?” Anna asked as she filed the paperwork. She laughed gently at my animated nod. “Follow me, please.”
Anna led me out of the lobby to a pristine white golf cart. Felipe winked at me from the driver’s seat as I climbed in next to him. Anna wished me a happy stay and I hung on tight as Felipe started down the beautifully gardened path.
“Enjoying yourself so far?” he asked, smiling at my obvious excitement.
“I can’t believe it’s real. This place is beautiful,” I said. My eyes darted around the resort as he drove me towards the beach. Everywhere I looked were big beautiful trees and tropical flowers. It was exactly what I thought a tropical paradise should look like. The movies, for once, were right.
“There are three pools on the property. The one closest to the main restaurant is where all the activities occur. We have water aerobics, pool volleyball, and other games throughout the day for anyone interested. The beach is open at all times, as are the pools,” Felipe explained as we drove by a giant pool with a swim-up bar. He continued on about the five restaurants, the evening entertainment shows, the eight bars, and the myriad of other opportunities the resort offered, but I had stopped listening. I could see the ocean.
It was so big. And blue. And probably the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life.
I was born and raised in a small town just outside of Des Moines, Iowa. I hadn’t had any opportunities to go far from home. The most exotic place I had ever been was Chicago with my high school honors society. The biggest body of water I had seen up until this point was the Mississippi and Lake Michigan, but this was so much better.
Felipe pulled up next to a small tropical cabin and stepped out to grab my bag. I sat in the golf cart mesmerized by the water. It was a shade of blue that made me want to dive in and never leave. The sound of the waves lapping the shore was better than any recording could ever be, and the smell of water, salt, and sun threatened to overwhelm me with joy.
“Miss? Would you like to see your room?” Felipe asked, touching my shoulder. I blushed and stood.
“Sorry. I’ve never seen the ocean before,” I said. He laughed and gestured to the thatched building, guiding me toward the door.
“I forget that people have never seen it before,” he said. He turned towards the blue horizon and peered out at the water, a smile on his face. “It is beautiful. I suppose I would feel the same if I ever saw snow,” he said as he stepped up on the porch and opened the door.
“You’ve never seen snow? How strange,” I said as I entered the room. I immediately forgot what I was going to say. If the lobby was beautiful, the room was opulent. The main room had a leather couch and giant TV, but the windows opened out onto the ocean. I took slow steps into the bedroom. A king-sized four-poster bed dominated the room. A gentle breeze blew through the big open bay windows, ruffling the bedspread. I could hear the ocean as though I were sitting on the beach. I glanced towards the bathroom and could see a giant tub and shower that looked like it could hold four.
“What do you think, Ms. LaRue from Iowa?” Felipe asked as he set my suitcase down in the bedroom. I couldn’t find the words to answer, and I turned to face him, my mouth hanging open. He laughed and patted my shoulder.
“Enjoy yourself. You say these things never happen to you? Then this is an adventure. Let yourself take risks and have the time of your life. You only live once,” Felipe said, seriously, but his dark eyes sparkled with amusement as I contemplated his words.
“This is going to be the best adventure,” I said slowly, looking out onto the blue ocean. I would never get the chance to go someplace like this again. Not on my salary. I decided right then that I was going to be fearless while I was here. This was going to be the best vacation in the history of vacations. There was nothing I wasn’t going to do.
I spent the rest of the day exploring the resort. Between the pools, the restaurants, the spa, and the gym, I was never going to want to leave. The excitement finally got to me and I crashed into the incredibly comfortable bed immediately after dinner and fell into a deep sleep.
The next day, I was up almost before the sun was, excited and anxious to play in the blue water just outside my cabana house. I threw on my swimsuit and a sundress and skipped out to the main restaurant for breakfast. I sat out on the patio, drinking in the cloudless blue sky, the aquamarine water, and the soft calls of strange birds. I tried mashed plantains, mistaking them for mashed potatoes at first. They were delicious, with a taste similar to potatoes, but with a smoother texture. They didn't taste anything like bananas and I found myself going back for a second serving.
After breakfast, I walked around to the pool, thinking I would sit by the edge and have easy access to the bar and the water, but as soon as I sat down, I changed my mind. I couldn't hear the ocean anymore, and I realized I could sit by a pool at home. I really just wanted to stay on the beach all day.
"Can I get a drink to go?" I asked the bartender by the pool. "A piña colada please." It was still early, but if I was going to be on the beach, I wasn't sure if I was going to be willing to get up to get one later.
"Of course," the bartender said. I loved the accents everyone had here. He looked over and somehow read my mind. "Are you going to the beach?"
I nodded. He must have seen me sit down only to stand up again. He reached under the bar while the blender whirled my drink and pulled out a small clicker device.
"Here, use this on the beach. When you want a drink, just press the button and someone will bring you your last order."
"I press this and someone will bring me a piña colada? On the beach? I am never leaving this place!" I grinned as I took the small device. He laughed and handed me my drink, complete with a little umbrella. I thanked him and headed back to the beach, snagging a towel from the pool towel cart. Today was going to be amazing.
I stretched out on my towel, and then sat up, digging my feet into the sand at the edge of my towel. The sand burned a little, but the heat felt so good on my skin. I couldn’t believe how much I was enjoying being on the beach. The ocean sparkled in the tropical sun, the sand glowed with sunlight. Gulls called in the distance, but the constant breathing of the ocean was all I wanted to hear. I never wanted to stop hearing it. I was almost alone on the beach. A single figure walked along the waterline to my right, and the couple staying in the cabana next to mine played in the water to my left. Other than that, the beach was empty as most of the resort guests preferred the pool with the swim up bar. I didn’t quite understand why they all preferred being on display in a crowded pool when the ocean was right here, but I was happy to have the beach to myself. I smoothed the front of my swimsuit self-consciously. It was expensive, but the 1940s style cut flattered my curves. “You just h
I ran a brush through my long dark hair and grimaced in the mirror at the sand creature looking back. I looked like I had spent the day on the beach, but I didn’t have time to clean up. Besides, I told myself, he’s been looking at you all day. He doesn’t care that you look like a beach-bum. I grabbed a sundress hanging in my closet and a pair of flip-flop sandals before heading back out. Jack was waiting patiently by the porch step, staring out at the ocean and the setting sun. Jack turned at the sound of the door and smiled his brilliant smile as I walked towards him. My knees felt weak; a girl could get hurt by that smile. “You look great,” he said honestly. I bit my lip and blushed again. “Thanks,” I said as he offered his elbow to me. I wrapped my arm around his, feeling like a princess in a story book. I liked the way he felt, his arm strong and solid under mine as we walked out of the sand and into the resort. Twilight was slowly taking over the resort, the sun’s rays quickl
The porch creaked slightly as I stepped up and unlocked the door. I could feel him move in behind me, resting his weight on an arm against the door frame. I turned slowly, captured against the door and his body. His masculine scent made my knees feel weak, and my throat felt dry as he leaned over me, his eyes searching mine. His expression was intense, almost threatening; I looked up into those hazel eyes, the moonlight making them shine with something I wanted. Desire. He wanted me. The thought alone made me shiver with anticipation, as he brought his hand to my neck and pulled my lips towards his. His mouth was hot against mine, his tongue probing gently at my lips, asking to taste me. I opened my mouth and he shifted his weight to kiss me fully. He explored me in a slow and thorough manner before pulling back. His eyes gleamed with an aching hunger that held me captive. I wanted him more than anything. He pushed me back until I bumped against the door. His mouth skimmed my jaw, d
The sun shone directly into my eyes, waking me from a dead sleep. With a groan, I threw my arm over my face, rolling into my pillow. It smelled like Jack, masculine and intoxicating. I moved my arm and could feel the cool linen next to me; Jack was long gone from my bed. I kept my face buried in the pillow, my eyes shut tight. Maybe if I didn’t open them, I wouldn’t have to wake up and find him truly gone. My bladder, however, had a different idea. I lay still trying to convince myself to go back to sleep, but I finally couldn’t fight it any longer. I stood up and let the sheets fall from my naked body as I hurried to the bathroom, the tile cold on my bare feet. The face in the mirror watched me as I washed my hands and ran a brush through my hair, trying to coax the tangles into some sort of pony tail. I felt pleasantly sore all over, and the memory of the night before made me smile before I realized he had left without even waking me. “Of course he left. He saw me in the morning
The afternoon sun shone down on the two of us and we walked alongside the waves and giggled at stupid jokes. I felt more comfortable with him than I had with anyone in my life. He seemed to relax the longer we walked. I wished I could have more days like this, but both our vacations were going to have to end soon. I pushed the thought as far from my mind as I could. “What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?” Jack asked as I bent down to pick up a seashell. I studied the shell for a moment before casting it out into the ocean. “You are going to make fun of me,” I said, squinting out at the horizon before looking at him. He grinned mischievously. “I’m going to make more fun of you if you don’t tell me,” he said, his eyes sparkling. I glared at him before answering. “I went skinny dipping in Old Man Smith’s fishing pond. A bunch of us did it one night,” I said finally, a blush creeping into my cheeks. “That doesn’t sound that crazy,” he scoffed gently. “Well, it wasn’t... until
I could hear him snoring gently in the bedroom through the open window. His breathing was slow and even, the soft rumbles of his sleep soothing. I sat with my feet curled up under me on the wicker porch chair looking out at the rolling waves and listening to my husband sleep. I found myself smiling. I had this wonderful serene sense of calm and perfection. I could get used to this marriage thing. The world finally felt perfect. I knew it was all a lie, that in two days I would leave the ocean and this marriage would just be another page in my scrapbook, but today, I didn’t care. Today was perfect. Last night had been amazing. Yesterday had been amazing. I still couldn’t believe I was a married woman, if only for a little bit. Jack had taken me back to my cabana and showed me what a husband should do for his wife. Thinking about the pleasure his hands and tongue could create made my temperature rise. This sense of happiness held a danger though. I was falling for him — falling for h
“Have you seen my black swimsuit?” “You already packed it. It’s in the front pouch of your suitcase.” “Thanks,” I said with a flustered grin as I put the now dry pink suit in with the black one. Jack sat on the bed, watching me bounce around the bedroom picking things up and putting them in my suitcase. “When does your flight leave again?” Jack sighed and shifted his weight on the foot of the bed. “It technically leaves whenever I am ready, but, I have to be back in New York by the close of business, so I need to leave in about fifteen minutes.” “I wish you didn’t have to go until evening,” I said quietly as I put the last couple of items in my main suitcase. What I really meant was, I wish you didn’t have to leave me at all. “Me too, but planes can only fly so fast,” Jack answered. He shifted his weight again. “Anxious to be off?” I asked, nodding at his tapping toes. He couldn’t seem to sit still. He looked down at his feet and saw his toes tapping against his sandals. “It’s
I leaned back in my seat, wondering how my life could have changed so much and yet not changed at all. Everything felt different since I met Jack, but everything was still the same. I was going back to my normal, boring, life and in a few hours this vacation would be nothing but a memory. A stylish blonde woman sat next to me with headphones jammed in her ears. I sighed and didn’t bother trying to introduce myself again. She had plugged her ears the moment she sat down. Besides, what would I say? Hi! How was your vacation? I had a great time on the island. I married a billionaire! The idea made me giggle a little as she pulled out a magazine. On the cover was a black and white photo of Jack with the tag line: Billionaire Bachelors. Seeing him took my breath away and made my insides ache. I missed him and my plane wasn’t even back in the states yet. The woman flipped to the article, Jack’s eyes catching me from the page. I wished I could take the magazine and hold him close to me aga