The sound of a splash awoke me with a start. I half opened my eyes, still suspended in the dream state I often found myself in when my sleep was disturbed prematurely. I was lying naked on the bed, a light sheen of sweat colouring my skin with a silvery glow from the moonlight slanting in through the open balcony. The light bed cover was pooled in a crumpled mess somewhere around my feet.
It was another hot and humid night and the scent of bougainvillea flowers swirled in the air, teasing my senses with their exotic aroma. For a moment I felt disorientated and strangely lost, the fog of sleep refusing to release its fuzzy grip on my tired brain.
Where was I?
I vaguely recognised that the window was on the wrong side of the room and the air was too warm. Then I remembered; I was not at home — I was in the villa.
My small travel clock told me it was midnight. By rights I should have been deeply asleep, so why had I woken up?
The soft sound of water splashing roused me again. It jarred my senses uneasily. I was alone in my villa and the pool was private, so why could I hear someone outside? It was with a sense of disquiet that I lifted myself from the bed and cautiously padded towards the balcony.
Half hidden behind the long sheer drapes, I glanced out carefully across the terrace towards the turquoise pool gleaming in the moonlight. For a moment I could see nothing; merely the pale outlines of the chairs and table strewn around the edge of the glistening water. I began to wonder if my overactive imagination was playing subtle games with me and I yawned heavily.
Tonight was not the night to be suffering from insomnia when I had arranged to join a coach tour tomorrow. This involved a depressingly early start and I had deliberately gone to bed sooner than I normally would have. Sightseeing local ruins seemed an essential part of the whole holiday experience and I was determined to play the tourist for at least some of the time. I needed to find my inspiration and this holiday was supposed to help.
I turned away and was about to head back to bed when another sound alerted me. As I gazed back out towards the patio, I was stunned to see a naked man poised at the far end of my pool, outlined in an ethereal glow. He dove into the water silently, barely making a ripple on the smooth glassy expanse as he swam beneath the surface. Eventually he emerged at the other end of the pool and climbed out, his skin dripping with moisture, his black hair slicked back sleekly.
The moon's glow caught his body in strokes of ghostly light, allowing me to admire the smoothly muscular definition of his chest, hairless and sharply delineated. I was mesmerised. My eyes swept lower and lingered on his cock hanging heavily between thick thighs. For a long moment he stood proudly like an Adonis, seemingly unaware of my illicit voyeurism.
Then he was gone.
The moon slid slyly behind a solitary cloud and when it reappeared my naked swimmer had vanished. I didn't know whether to be outraged that he had been swimming in my supposedly private pool — or aroused by his unabashed nakedness.
Right at that moment it was definitely the latter.
I arrived back at the villa the following evening exhausted, dusty, and extremely pissed off to realise I had no electricity. I had been dreaming of a cool shower all afternoon and now there was no chance. I felt like screaming, my disappointment was so acute.
Instead I decided to be proactive and walk down the hill to the home of Senor Velasquez, the owner of my villa. I presumed he would know why I had no power; or at least I hoped he would. Quickly I changed into a clean dress and squirted some scent on. My hair was already pinned up and although it was beginning to escape, I left it alone.
Once again I set foot outside wearily. It felt like I had been on my feet all bloody day, walking in and out of ancient ruined temples, listening to hair- raising tales of rape and pillaging. Playing the avid tourist was beginning to pall slightly — this was not the reason I had come to Malta.
Behind the villa the sky was streaked with vermillion ribbons of colour, as the sun dropped over the horizon and into the sea, like a red-hot coal. It was sublimely beautiful and for a moment I paused, entranced, to watch nature's display of fiery brilliance.
This was the reason I had come to Malta. I needed to be reminded that I was still a member of the human race. Simple pleasures like a brilliant sunset and glass of cool white wine were the things I craved after all the complications of the last year.
I allowed myself to smile as I slowly ambled down the stony track. It was a typically balmy night and I could hear the crickets chirruping from the thorny bushes lining the edge of the fields. Despite my irritation at the lack of electricity, I had no regrets about being here. It felt right and I needed to recharge my batteries.
I knocked on Senor Velasquez's battered looking front door. For ages nobody answered and I was just about to give up when I heard footsteps and the sound of a bolt being drawn back.
The door creaked open and a young man appeared wearing nothing but a pair of scruffy denim shorts. For a moment we stared at one another, both of us waiting for me to speak.
"Si?" he said eventually, his lips curled upwards in a sardonic smile.
I suddenly found my mouth was as dry as the dusty step beneath my feet. I felt flustered, standing here under the scrutiny of this beautiful young man. And he was beautiful. His blue-black hair hung just above his deeply tanned shoulders and his eyes were dark pools of sin I fervently wanted to dive into. It had been too long, I suddenly realised. Not that a man like this would possibly be interested in a woman like me.
Oh no. He would in all likelihood have dozens of girlfriends patiently waiting for a morsel of his time. No doubt they were queuing up down the street, as I stood here at his door speechless.
"I'm Meredith Black," I managed to spit out eventually. "I'm staying in Villa Rosa up the hill. For some reason I have no electricity?"
"Papa eez not 'ere. I'm Paulo, his son," the young man explained in surprisingly good English. No doubt he had plenty of practice sweet-talking the tourists, I thought with a slight twinge of jealousy.
"If you like I come and see what ze problem eez?" He smiled encouragingly and I realised that I really had no choice. It was Paulo or nobody. There was no damn way I was sitting in the dark all evening.
"Okay, if you could that would be helpful," I conceded slightly reluctantly.
"I just put some shoes on," he said, glancing down at his bare feet ruefully. That was a mistake. I automatically followed his gaze and found myself lingering on his naked torso, smooth and muscular. Unwillingly my eyes trailed further south and brushed over his faded denim shorts.
Very big mistake... all this sun must be going to my head.
I looked back up again to find him grinning at me knowingly. Damn him. Not only was he fluent in English, he was also a mind reader.
"Right, I'll head back up to the villa and see you there." It seemed prudent to make my escape before he hypnotised me any further. Without further ado, I shot off back up the track towards my temporary home, the setting sun casting a further red tinge to my already burning cheeks. I felt sure I could hear a faint laugh as I left Paulo behind, watching me from the doorway.
The rooms were steeped in long purple shadows when I unlocked the door once again. The peace was soothing after my hectic day of playing the polite tourist. My jaw still ached from all the insincere smiling I had been forced to do. I desperately wanted to pour myself a glass of cool wine, but I realised it would be stupid to open the fridge and risk warming it up any further.
Instead I opened the french windows and stepped out on to my patio to wait for Paulo to arrive with his tools. That thought made me crack a smile. The loud knock on my door soon wiped it off my face again. My nerves jangled unexpectedly as I hurried back inside to let him in. I felt like a teenager waiting for her first date. Ha! If only he knew...
"Hallo again Mrs Black," Paulo grinned engagingly, a small tool bag held in his hand.
"Please call me Meredith," I said, stepping aside to allow him to enter. I hated being called Mrs Black — it held too many memories.
Paulo headed straight for the cupboard under the stairs where the electrics were apparently situated and I left him to it. I felt flustered when he was near and I needed to cool off outside. Not there was much chance of that — it was still incredibly hot even though the sun had almost set. With the electricity off the air conditioning was not working and the villa was stifling.
The water in the pool was cool and inviting. For a blissful moment I contemplated thoughts of stripping off and diving in naked. I wondered how Paulo would react to such a show of hedonism. Would he be shocked, I mused idly as I sat down on the tiled edge and trailed my feet in the water.
Or would he join me?
I half closed my eyes and imagined swimming languorously across the pool, the water caressing my skin with sensual fingers. I heard a splash and felt a warm pair of hands grip my waist, pulling me underneath the surface. It was Paulo, his eyes black and enigmatic in the gloom of our silent underwater world.
His body melded to mine and the shocking heat of his skin seared my flesh. I ignited instantly, desire licking a wanton pathway up my thighs and sparking a conflagration deep inside my sex. We kissed, sharing the oxygen until my lungs began to burn and I was forced to break away and surge upwards, breaking the surface of the pool with a gasp.
Paulo followed me, his dark hair curling over his eyes. I barely had time to catch my breath before he grabbed me again, his tongue surging into my mouth. I was pushed to the side, the coolness of the tiles a delicious contrast to the heat of my skin. His hand found the curve of my breast and my nipples tingled in excitement.
"Meredith..." he whispered huskily into my ear, sending urgent shivers though my aching body.
I jumped in shock. Paulo was knelt beside me gazing at me curiously and I felt my cheeks flood with embarrassment as the last vestiges of my erotic fantasy slipped away on the warm night air.
"I 'ave fixed it now," he explained with a faint smile, but I was too flustered to reply immediately. His hot dark eyes burned into mine and I just knew he could see the desire written all over my pink cheeks. I felt utterly mortified and still very aroused from my lustful yearnings.
"Err... what was the problem?" I stuttered, hurriedly pulling myself up from the side of the pool.
"Ze trip switch 'ad blown," Paulo explained patiently, his eyes twinkling with amusement... and something else I couldn't quite identify. "Eet should be okay now."
"Well thanks Paulo." I felt rather relieved that I would be able to have the long awaited shower; my skin felt hot and clammy from the sun, the heat and if I was totally honest... arousal.
"No problemo, Meredith." His husky voice transformed my plain old name into a sonnet of breath-taking beauty. I was captivated by his charms, but in reality he was much too young for me to waste a second thinking about the 'what ifs'.
"Ave a nice evening," he said as he stared straight into my eyes for one blinding moment. Then he was gone and the heavy front door slammed shut in the sharp salty breeze that had suddenly whipped up from nowhere. I felt bereft in the shadow of his absence. My sun had disappeared behind a cloud and a chill shivered though my veins.
But it was nothing that a glass of Chardonnay and long tepid shower wouldn't cure. At least that was the general idea.
I awoke with my book still open on page 126 where I had fallen asleep. Once again I looked over at my alarm clock blearily; once again it told me it was just gone midnight. A faint splash alerted me to my nightly swimmer and with a sense of excitement I jumped up and peered out of my window.
He stood poised on the far end of the pool as he had every night for the past few days, moonlight glinting off his wet torso and dripping hair. He was magnificent; Michelangelo's David sculpted in warm flesh instead of cold marble. With a graceful arc he dived into the water smoothly, slicing through the pool like a dolphin.
I felt my body helplessly respond and with a feeling of trepidation I knew I had to confront the swimmer before he vanished silently into the night once again. I needed to know who he was and why he was swimming in my pool. Somehow the potential danger failed to enter my head.
There is no fool like an old fool said the old adage. Maybe that should have been translated into there is no fool like a middle-aged woman in lust...
I crept silently down the staircase and peered out of the french windows, my thin silk slip sticking to my heated skin. It was dark but for a few pale reflections glinting off the pool's surface and I could see very little. For a disappointing moment I thought the swimmer had vanished into the night again, but then he reappeared at the far end of the pool, his sleek head breaking the surface of the water like a seal.
The french windows were locked and I silently turned the key, praying it would not squeak noisily. Thankfully it unlocked the door without a sound and I opened it cautiously. It was only just beginning to dawn on me that this man could possibly be dangerous. Here was I, a lone woman — what could I possibly do if he attacked me? In reality there would be very little I could do. The nearest villa was Senor Velasquez's and I doubted he would hear me screaming.
But curiosity overcame natural reticence and the fact I was on holiday blew away any sense of danger I might have had if I had been at home. I slipped though the opening and stood in the shadow of the house as the moon reappeared from behind a cloud, casting a silver stream of light over the patio.
My swimmer was gliding down the pool, his body slicing through the water easily. It was only when he pulled himself up at the near end of the pool that I realised the identity of my swimmer.
It was Paulo.
My shock manifested itself in an audible gasp and he immediately sprang out of the pool and on to the side, water cascading off his naked body in iridescent sparkles.
"What the fuck are you doing in my pool?" I blurted in astonishment as he stood before me brazenly.
"Meredith..." His melodious voice soothed my anger like honey on a sore throat. Immediately my sense of outrage vanished as fast as it had arrived. I knew it was completely unacceptable that he was swimming in the pool I was paying for, but somehow I found it impossible to be cross any more.
The sight of his naked body mere centimetres away from mine was assailing my senses. I could feel the primal pull and I was struggling to string any coherent thoughts together. Lust was overtaking common sense with a speed that was frightening.
"Paulo..." I attempted to say as I desperately tried to avoid looking at the very thing my eyes were overwhelmingly drawn to. It had been too damned long.
"Don't be angry weez me," he whispered as he took a step closer to me. "I didn't mean to scare you."
"But you shouldn't be here!" I protested without any conviction. Maybe if he had been visually repulsive I might have been angrier about the blatant violation of my privacy. As it was I was just in lust.
"I always use the pool when ze villa eez empty," he explained innocently.
"But it's not empty now is it!"
He shrugged and smiled engagingly. How could I be angry when he looked so gorgeous?
"I'm sorry," he repeated, but I could see he was not sorry in the slightest. In truth nor was I. The sight of him stood before me, naked and dripping, was more than enough to dispel any latent feelings of anger.
"I think maybe you should leave now." I crossed my arms across my chest, inadvertently pushing my breasts together. Paulo noticed immediately and I saw his reaction to the sight of my cleavage. He could hardly hide an erection when he was naked...
God he was big.
I stared helplessly at his hard cock, my head reeling with unexpected lustful imaginings. I didn't know whether to be embarrassed or excited.
"I don't want to leave," he said with a faint grin. He took another step closer so that we were practically touching. I could feel the damp heat emanating from his hard body and a slow pulse quickened between my legs, warning me of the consequences of pursuing this dangerous attraction.
Paulo was half my age and I really should have known better. Unfortunately my body was rapidly racing past the point of caring about useless facts like that. It was firmly in favour of sexual gratification; right here and right now.
I heard my breathing quicken and my arms dropped to my sides uselessly. We stared at each other, lost in the heat of the moment beside my pool. The night was warm and humid. There was a faint scent of salt from the sea in the fragrant air and the stars twinkled down from an inky black sky.