Dinner smelled great and I was hungry but not so much for gourmet cuisine as for fuel for my tired body. I walked around the top tier of the dining room and found my table, number 42. It was a table for two with a great view of most of the dining room. It was a view I really wouldn't need. My client had balked on his Caribbean cruise, electing a business meeting in Belgium rather than relaxation on the beach. However, my services as his personal bodyguard were both specific and already paid for in full. I had the luxury of a cruise with a very nice suite with no duties and no responsibilities. I had no idea if the maitre de would assign someone to my table or not and it didn't much matter. I needed time to relax and that's all I wanted.
I had never been on this ship before. It was the newest of the line and had all the bells and whistles you would expect. The dining room was expansive and open with most tables on the main dining floor set for eight places. Only a dozen tables were set for two and those were all reserved in advance. Mine had been reserved for me alone so that I could keep an eye on my primary but he wasn't coming and I let the ship's steward know when I boarded that he could assign it freely. Cruise ship employees work for next to nothing and their jobs are demanding. I always try to do what I can to make it easier for them. Besides, who knew who might join me?
I surveyed the room as guests entered. They were split evenly between seasoned cruisers and first timers. The newbies were overwhelmed and the old heads tried hard not to look like first-timers. Most were dressed very casually. They knew there would be two formal dinners later in the week and weren't about to waste their more formal attire on the open dining evening of the first night. There were a lot of couples in their 40s and 50s but there were 60 to 70 single women, cruising together, all members of the Romance Writers of America. They were an entertaining lot, eager to renew old friendships and I knew most of them would renew old friendship with the Bordeaux being served with tonight's steak.
I spotted my tablemate long before she spotted me. She was one of those ageless grande dames who always carry themselves with grace and a sort of aloofness. She wore a dark dress that was probably popular in the 50s but didn't look terribly out of place tonight. The romance writers had her mild attention as she was ushered toward me. She looked as though she were trying to place familiar faces and having some success. I stood as a waiter held her chair for her.
She appraised me carefully, as though I might be for sale. Apparently I passed muster and she introduced herself.
"I'm Mrs. Haverhill," she said and extended her hand over the table.
"Danny. Danny January. The pleasure is all mine," I replied with my most gracious smile.
"Perhaps, Mr. January. We'll know for sure by the end of dinner though, won't we?" she asked and I liked her already. She had a twinkle in her eye like Mrs. Clause might have, as though she knew what I wanted for Christmas.
We both ordered the steak and agreed to share a bottle of Côtes du Rhône, not quite as heavy as the Bordeaux. We exchanged pleasantries about the newness of the ship and speculated about how they would staff a new vessel. While she engaged me in polite conversation, her attention was on the women writers below.
"Do you know who they are?" I asked.
"Do you mean individually or as a group?" she said without taking her eyes off the women below.
"I'm guessing you already know they are romance writers. Do you know some of them personally?" I asked.
"Oh yes. I know all of them but not the way you might think. I know them by their work."
Our salads came and we began to eat.
"How do you spend your time, Mr. January? When you're not cruising the high seas with old biddies?" she asked, smiling. "You're traveling alone or just gracing me with your presence tonight?"
"I provide personal security for people who may be at risk."
"You're a bodyguard. Does that pay well, if you don't mind me asking?"
"It depends. If you're good at what you do and have established a good reputation you can command a fair salary. I'm good at it and am paid well for my services," I answered as professionally as possible.
"You haven't answered my question, Mr. January. What would you charge me for your services?" she asked.
"Do you think you're at risk?" I asked, actually surprised by her question. I wasn't looking for work.
"Heavens no. I'm naturally nosy. Satisfying that curiosity without embarrassment is a privilege that comes with age."
I indulged her curiosity, "Mrs. Haverhill, I typically charge $2,500 per day plus expenses. Trips to dangerous locales might require and additional fee. Tonight, you can dine safely. No charge," I said smiling.
"That's very comforting. So, is this a vacation or do you have a client dining on board? Or am I allowed to ask? It's probably some oil sheik," she said with an air of mystery and looked down at the main floor for an Arab in flowing robes.
"I'm sorry to disappoint you, Mrs. Haverhill but I'm traveling alone."
"Oh, that's too bad. A sheik would have been fun. I've never met a sheik. Come to think of it, I've never met a bodyguard either. Is it OK to call you a bodyguard? I'm sure there's more to it than that."
"Why don't you call me Danny? My friends do."
She smiled. It was genuine and I got the impression that she was enjoying being far outside her normal routine.
"Danny, what's the danger in a place like this? What's your, oh...", she hesitated, searching for the right words. "What's your assessment of the risk here? Give me your professional assessment."
I smiled. She was enjoying this and I wasn't about to disappoint her. I responded without looking up, "The dining room is designed to seat about 400 people but there are only around 275 right now. The staff probably numbers 40 on the floor and probably the same number working the kitchen on this floor, behind you. There are nine exits, only two of which are being used by the public. There is a door directly behind you that leads outdoors and the lifeboats are on this deck. There are three men in this crowd who appear to have some sort of law enforcement training. All three are on the main dining room floor and are dining with what appears to be their wives. Only one of them appears to be carrying a concealed weapon. He's 5'10" or 5'11" and he's spotted the other two law enforcement types. He has a seat on the isle, facing the door and the kitchen. There are several military members on vacation, two on this deck and four or five below. There are 25 to 30 kids under the age of 16. They aren't a threat but they would be very unpredictable in a stressful situation. The crew has a staff with only four relatively poorly trained security personnel. They are all Italian and that's normal. I speak Italian which would come in handy should anything develop. They are probably all on duty now but will go to a rotation after the cast-off party. If there is anyone in danger tonight, it is probably the 50ish gentleman behind me. He's loud, slightly drunk, flashing cash and will know everyone in the casino 20 minutes after we get under way and gambling begins. I could go on but I think you get the idea."
I had plenty more but I figured that was enough to convince her she was safe for the evening, at least as long as she was with me. I resumed eating my salad. Her eyes had followed the course of my description and she checked out everything, nodding as she followed my assessment.
"What about you, Danny? What qualifies you so highly?"
"Ah, why the high price?"
"Yes. You must be good to command such a fee."
She was getting into areas I typically don't discuss unless it is with a client but I answered rather freely.
"I have a dual degree in Criminal Justice and Personal Security. That opens the door. I've worked in several federal law enforcement agencies and know how they work. Couple of black belts, driving school, that sort of thing. I've been doing this for four years. But you know why I make good money? I treat my clients with respect. They want that," I answered and she seemed to appreciate that last bit, too.
"So, if this boat has such little threat, why did your client need protection?" she asked, very much caught up in the intrigue of it all.
"Mrs. Haverhill. That's privileged information between my client and me. Your turn. Tell me about the romantic writers."
"They write romance novels. Some of them are good and they've been around a while. Some aren't so good and they won't be around for long. Many are new. Six of the new authors show particular promise. One is under contract to Harlequin and is untouchable for three novels. The other five that I'm interested in are shopping publishers for completed manuscripts. I buy manuscripts. I'm a publisher, Mr. January."
"Ah, so this is a shopping trip." I leaned back in my seat, smiling and appraising the writers anew. Her assessment of them was as succinct as my risk assessment. This was fun. I looked down, trying to figure out which might be the five available promising authors.
"One of your promising young authors is at the fifth table from the door, wearing the blue dress with white floral pattern. She is about 30, with wavy red hair and a light tan. She's the only one at the table eating fish. Is that right?" I asked, enjoying this thoroughly.
"Yes. That's Anita Long. Never published but is shopping an interesting sci-fi romance. Very well done. How did you pick her out?"
"She's trying too hard. She's interested in everyone. No one else at that table is paying much attention. She's also probably the only one who isn't drinking. She's trying to stay alert. Let me see if I can pick out another one." I scanned the group and picked out two more but missed on another two. Two to go and I was out of good guesses. I asked and she pointed out the remaining authors, describing their works as she went. She definitely knew who she was dealing with.
Soup came and salad plates were cleared. We ate in silence for a few moments, watching new people file in for dinner. Dinner would be over soon and we would cast off at 9 PM, according to the schedule. They were always on schedule.
"Mr. January, I would like to retain your services," she said between bites.
"I didn't think you felt threatened, Mrs. Haverhill? Have I said something to cause you concern?" I asked, knowing that I had not.
"I'd like you to protect one of our promising young authors. She's at great risk and I want you to protect her."
"Mrs. Haverhill, that's very generous of you. Can I ask what she's at risk from?"
"Why, she's at risk of signing a contract with a money hungry publisher that has no concern for her personal welfare," she said with an air that suggested this was obvious.
"Not like you," I answered, smiling. She had described herself, of course but I could see where she was going with this.
"What exactly do you want me to do?"
"I want you to spend tomorrow with Jennifer Zeal, the cute little blond at the third table. I want to know if she has more than one good story in her. I've read her manuscript and it's quite good but I don't want to contract with her if she's only good for one book."
"Mrs. Haverhill, you don't need me. You need a spy," I answered but without any hint of accusation. I rather liked the idea but I didn't want to be too easy.
"Spy is such a dirty word. I'd like to employ you to help me determine my risk assessment in contracting with her," she said, choosing her words carefully. We both knew the situation and were dancing around with our words.
"Do you have any idea what's on her schedule for tomorrow?"
"None at all. That would be up to you to determine. I do know that she's in room 425, if that helps at all. She the cut little blonde two seats to the left of Anita Long."
I took a look at Jennifer Zeal. She was cute. Guarding her would be pleasant enough.
"Well, we get in to Saint Thomas as 7 AM but tonight's party will run until well after midnight. Room 425 is close and Miss Zeal is busy. I'll be back in a minute," I said, pushing my soup plate away.
"Zeal is her pen name. Her real name is Lindberg," she told me as I left the table.
I took the stairs up one floor then down the hallway to 425. Bags were stacked by doors up and down the hallway but none by 425. I used my pickset quickly and let myself in. The bag on one bed was open and the other hadn't been touched yet. The open bag was for Karin Lindberg. She had brochures for everything but the top brochure; the one dog-eared and highlighted was for diving. She had apparently signed up for a snorkel trip aboard "Island Girl". I pulled out my phone and took a quick picture of her passport and the brochure and returned everything to its place. I repeated the process for her roommate who just happened to be Anita Long — not a pen name.
I stepped out on the balcony and dialed my office. The machine answered as I knew it would and I left a message then paged Janice, my secretary for her to check messages. I checked for people hanging over the rail to look out at San Juan. All quiet on this side of the boat. The real view was on the other side. I didn't see anyone so I swung down to the next deck and let myself in through the fire door. I didn't want to be seen leaving Jennifer Zeal's room and this seemed like the easiest way. I got an odd look or two from the kitchen staff but they must have figured I was lost and pointed me toward the dining room. I slid back into my seat across from Mrs. Haverhill, the whole episode taking less than 10 minutes.
"Well?" she asked.
"We're going diving together tomorrow," I answered as my steak was served.
"I will promise only that she will be safe tomorrow."
I looked back down at Karin Lindberg, AKA Jennifer Zeal. She was 25, according to her passport, taller than I had thought at 5'8" and her hair had grown out from what it had been in her passport. She had a cute little nose, high Nordic cheeks and a good body. She also seemed to be having a good time.
"She will undoubtedly look very nice in a bathing suit, Mr. January. Guarding her will be quite a hardship, I'm sure," she said smiling and I got the distinct impression she had intentionally accented the "hard" in "hardship" as a double entendre.
"I will give her my best effort," I replied, warming up to the idea. "I'll try to find out what she's working on now and who she might have talked to about a contract, perhaps who her agent is and how satisfied she is with them. Is that about it?"
"That would be wonderful. If you come back with all that tomorrow night, I might find more work for you," she said, smiling like granny pimp and enjoying it thoroughly.
We finished dinner, chatting about other things, mostly the cruise. She would be visiting antique dealers at almost every stop. Dominica would be the exception when she took a tour of the rain forest. I gave her my business card and I left her to watch authors.
After changing clothes and walking the ship to get to know the layout better, I found a place near the bar to watch the cast-off party. People filtered up to the aft deck as we left the port of San Juan. The casino opened and was available to take your money an announcement said. The band started with some easy calypso but frequently picked up the pace with salsa. Miss Zeal appeared with three friends and their rum punches. She had changed clothes too and I liked what I saw. She had on a yellow sundress over her bikini and it showed off long legs very nicely. She had the most wonderful calves, like a dancer and when the dancing began, she joined in with enthusiasm. She was fun to watch. I stayed up until after midnight and then headed back to my room. As I walked back, I received a text message from my secretary, "done" and then a phone number for the tour boat. I set my alarm for 7 AM and hit the sack with the balcony door open letting in a warm ocean breeze.
The Millie II was moored right next to Island Girl and I greeted the skipper and went aboard. Captain Ponz was a mulatto who reminded me of Quarrel, James Bond's boat Captain in Dr. No and it took some doing to keep from mentioning the similarity. I'm sure he'd heard it before. He seemed to be a pretty good guy, easy to get along with and he spoke English, French and Creole, which might be handy once my client boarded. I asked him to speak only French once she was on board, so we could communicate without Karin being able to follow. I explained the situation and took his advice on an isolated destination island with a good dive reef. He showed me the equipment and I found it to be more than adequate. At 10 till 9, Karin Lindberg showed up.
I watched her walk the entire length of the dock. She wore a yellow sun dress and carried an oversized canvas bag to match her oversized sunglasses and oversized floppy hat. She looked every bit the tourist and Ponz and I exchanged grins when I pointed her out.
"You never get tired of tourists or pretty women, mon" he said without taking his eyes off her. "She got nice legs, boss. She sure got nice legs." He was right. Wow.
She carried the prize coupon she had "won", entitling her to this free dive day with lessons on SCUBA or snorkeling if she preferred. I'm a NAUI and PADI certified dive instructor among other things but haven't given a lesson in years. I had a feeling we would be snorkeling rather than SCUBA diving today but we had all the gear for both. Captain Ponz's boat was a 27' aluminum hull catamaran designed just for diving. It had an air compressor, small galley and latrine and a ladder that would drop down into the sea to make getting back on board easier. There were four bunks below deck.
"Hello," she called out. "I'm Nancy. I won the dive trip," she announced cautiously as she decided whether to come on board or not.
I extended my hand to help her on board. She took it and smiled widely, deciding she was in the right place. I checked her coupon, the one I had directed my secretary to fax to the ship the night before. It looked better than I thought it would.
"No friends with you?" I asked. "The coupon said it was for you and a friend."
"I don't think any of them are out of bed yet. We stayed up pretty late, but I'm ready to go."
Of course she was. Captain Ponz and I released the lines and he backed us out, turned toward the mouth of the harbor and we got under way.
"Nancy, I'm Danny and I'll be your guide and instructor today. This is Captain Ponz." When he heard his name he turned, smiled and tipped his fingers to his hat. "Our goal is to give you a day you'll remember forever," I explained, as though I did this every day. Captain Ponz grinned at me, enjoying my developing routine.
I gave her a quick tour of the boat and told her about the island we would be going to. I asked a few questions and decided she would be more comfortable snorkeling, at least at first. The center of the boat was covered, allowing plenty of sun without getting direct sunlight. Karin settled in for the 40 minute trip and took off her cover-up and put her running shoes in her bag. She rummaged around in it for a minute or two and then came up with some coconut scented sunscreen. I watched as she applied it from head to foot. She knew how good she looked and gave us a very nice, slow show. Then she asked me to apply some to her back which I graciously did. She lay on her stomach with her shoulders toward me. I started with the back of her neck and shoulders.
"You have nice hands, Danny. They're kind of rough but, well ... you have nice hands."
I worked the lotion into her back slowly. I started at her shoulders and worked it in, not only applying lotion but giving her shoulder muscles a massage deeper than necessary to apply sunscreen. She moaned with pleasure so I continued. I worked down to the strap of her bathing suit, working lotion above the strap and below and then worked it in under the strap. I worked from the center to the outside and gave her a bit of a tease as my hands neared her breasts on either side but I didn't do anything that would be considered unprofessional. I worked down to her butt and massaged the lotion into the bottom of her back, right to the line of her bikini. She reached back and pushed it down an inch so I could apply it below the line.
"I don't want to get one of those terrible red burn lines right at the top. They make you miserable," she explained.
She had a nice butt. No. She had a great butt. I took my time with the sunscreen and she sort of wiggled her but to let me know where she needed more. It was wonderful torture.
"You work out, Nancy? You have well toned muscles," I asked as I worked.
"I teach aerobics and Pilates at the YMCA four times a week, plus a little karate and some yoga. I have to pay the bills until I sell a book and I write and need the exercise or I get real tight," she told me in rhythm with my massage. "You're pretty good with your hands. I think I might be drooling. I'll give you just 90 minutes to quit that," she said, enjoying the massage thoroughly.
She knew I had been enjoying myself and when I finished she turned back to me and gave me a good once over. I'm 6' even, 185 lbs and about 12% body fat. I'm solid and I look it. Most of my past lady friends have remarked about my shoulders or my butt. I stay in shape because my job requires it but I don't mind the side benefits. I have very dark blue eyes and most people think they are black. I have a Charleton Heston jaw that doesn't look too hard, even though it is. I have blonde hair that I keep short. She liked what she saw and let me know with her smile.
"Want me to do you?" she asked. I was going to turn her down but she had lotion in her hand already.
"Sure, why not?" and I turned my back to her and let her return the favor. She seemed to enjoy the process as much as I did. She worked my shoulders over pretty well and I let her know how good it felt. She talked about her friends and this trip as she worked. She continued down my back and took her time on my lower back.
When she finished she whacked my butt solidly and said, "Done!" Then she realized what she had done and apologized. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to do that. I have three brothers and I..." She was at a loss.
"You don't need to apologize. It's just us. Ponz is busy steering and I didn't mind at all. This is your day. Relax a little," I said smiling. I ached to repay the slap, though.
She didn't notice that I didn't bother to put any sunscreen on my front when she was finished. The only place I ever burn is my nose and I would put zinc oxide on it when the sun was higher in the sky.
We exchanged pleasantries on the way out and I discovered it was her first cruise, that she was with the romance writers, surprise, surprise, and that she was single. She told me about the book she had completed, filling in details that Mrs. Haverhill had already given me. At least I knew how to ask the right questions. I also learned who her agent was, that she wasn't entirely happy with him, that she loves to cook, she lived in Syracuse, and that she had several offers for her book but the money wasn't right. Plus, she had another story almost finished and one outlined and she thought both were better than her first but she was nervous about leaving her black lab with a friend. It sounded like she had a fertile imagination and her words painted a believable picture. I've never read a book in the romance genre but thought I might after hearing her talk.
We were slowing into our diving area on the lee side of a small island and she went below to use the latrine. I had just about finished my work for the day. I knew what Mrs. Haverhill wanted me to and we hadn't even been in the water yet. The rest would be fun.
With her below deck I used the opportunity to go up front and called Mrs. Haverhill. Ponz listened as I relayed the details of our conversation. He had a wry smile as I did so, enjoying his day more and more. Mrs. Haverhill seemed genuinely enthusiastic about Jennifer Zeal. I asked if she wanted to make an offer as I thought the timing couldn't be better. She agreed. She gave me the basics of a contract for her current book and four to follow. There was a bonus based on sales and the promise to get her titles on the shelves at Barnes and Nobel and Books a Million. It sounded like a generous offer to me. I repeated it back to her and she made a minor correction. I tried to terminate my "bodyguard" contract but she wouldn't hear of it. I insisted and she agreed but doubled the price as an "agent" fee. I liked Mrs. Haverhill more and more. I flipped my phone closed and smiled at Ponz.
"Maybe you clever, boss. Maybe you too clever," he said and I agreed.
Karin came back on deck and I began to hand her fins and mask so that she could find the right fit. As she worked, I pondered how to do this and decided on honesty.
We neared the island and I decided we needed to get this straight before we went in the water. She was still adjusting her mask and I reached up to help her. She smiled when it was straight and looked silly with her lips pooched out around the snorkel and I told her so. She laughed and took it off.
"How much are you hoping to sell your first book for?" I asked and she told me. It was actually far less than Mrs. Haverhill's offer.
"Put the fins down and listen for a minute," I told her and she looked at me as if I'd scolded her. "I need to tell you something that will seem like it's out of the blue but it's not, OK?" She nodded solemnly and I continued, "What if I told you that I could guarantee you a contract for 60% more than what you're hoping for, plus a similar contract for the next three books you're working on?" I asked, straight-faced. I expected her to react poorly because I had misled her about who I was. But she laughed.
"Right. You're going to buy my books for that price on the money you make as a dive guide?" she said still laughing.
"No. But as an agent of Haverhill Press, I'm authorized to make that offer."
"I don't get it," she said, confused as ever. "You're a diving guide."
"Ponz," I hollered. "Tell Karin how long I've been working as a dive guide."
"Jes today, missy," he said, seeming to be sorry the ruse was over.
"So, you've been tricking me the whole time," she said angrily, her laughing gone now. "And Ponz, too. You speak English."
"Not that good, Missy. Mr. Danny here, he tellin' you straight. I think he tellin' you soon as he could. Straight talk, Missy," he said and I thought he knows how to get a big tip.
"Missy, seem to me, Mr. Danny doing you a good thing. You got a book to sell an he got money to buy an it mo money than you wanted. Don't seem like no trick to me. But that's jes me, thinkin. You gotta decide if you being tricked." She thought about that for a few minutes.
"Is it real? Because if it's not, I'll be really mad."
"It's real. Mrs. Haverhill asked me to find out if you had more stories on the way or just the one. Your stuff sounded good to this untrained ear. When you went to the head, I called her and she gave me the offer. It's real. I think you can trust her." I paused while she thought about this revelation. "I certainly wasn't supposed to call her now but I wanted to come clean with you before we went snorkeling. No more games. Promise," I said, smiling, hoping she would find that answer acceptable.
"Man. If you can't trust your diving guide, who can you trust?" she asked and I knew she felt pretty much alone way out here in the Caribbean with two men who just tricked her. It didn't take her long to process the facts though. "That's way more than I even hoped. I gave you a high number and you gave me a higher one. And she wants more books?" she asked.
"She wants more. Is it a deal?" I asked. She nodded like crazy and I stuck out my hand to shake on it. Instead she practically threw herself at me, wrapping her arms around me. She was laughing and crying at the same time.
"Vous êtes très intelligent, monsieur Danny," Ponz said smiling at me.
"What did he say?"
"He said I was a pretty lucky guy. I think he's jealous," I whispered and she smiled back. She was still hugging me. It was nice. I wanted to get her in the water before she thought about it too hard and got mad at me. She laughed and danced and punched the air with tiny little celebratory punches.
"Come on. You ready to swim some? It's a wonderful beach with a nice reef," I said. "Let's celebrate with what you came for."
"You are very sneaky, Monsieur Danny," she said and for a moment, I thought she might be fluent in French, which would mean she knew all along. No, couldn't be, I thought. But maybe.
We had snorkel straps on the backs of our heads with the lens above our foreheads, fins in hand and we were ready. We headed to the back and I let the steps down so we could walk down into the water. I stepped in first, pulled my fins on and pushed back away from the boat, snorkel still up off my face. She stepped onto the ladder and put her fins on before getting into the water.
"I don't think my stories are steamy enough," she said. "A lot of the other writers have some pretty sexy scenes in their books. I think mine are too tame. Maybe I need to work on that," she said as she tried to step down without tripping on her fins.
"I don't know how to answer that," I said, knowing that I could really blow it with the wrong line.
She adjusted her face mask and was ready to drop into the water. I backed away to give her room. She was just about to make the final step in when I suggested, "Perhaps some research would help." And with that, I put my face in the water and led her toward the reef.
We swam lazily toward shore as I pointed out the differences in the reef structure. Where we anchored, the reef was about 60' down but it continued almost to the beach and was still a very busy place at 10'. I ducked under and swam to the bottom, deeper than it seemed, picking up a starfish and a conch and brought them to the top for her to examine. The starfish crawled across her hand but the conch retreated deep into his shell. She enjoyed that. I ducked back under and returned them to their places on the bottom and spotted a large leatherback turtle on the way up. It was a foot and a half across and I guided it gently toward the surface and brought it along side her. He didn't seem the least perturbed by the disturbance and allowed us to play with him. His legs and neck were fully extended and he kicked to get back under way. I released him and he headed away to do turtle things.
Karin was enjoying everything about the day. I continued to bring samples as we slowly worked our way toward the shore. She tried to swim to the bottom a couple of times but at 40' we were still too deep. She was fun to watch. Snorkeling with a beautiful woman has a sort of voyeuristic sense to it. The mask conceals your eyes and inhibitions are very low. Her fins forced her calves to work and really accented their muscularity. Her hair floated around her face in a wonderful, surreal manner. I showed her how to do a proper surface dive. She nodded that she understood and then gave it a try. Her head and shoulders lifted up a bit and then ducked under the water. For just a second, before her legs went up in the air, her wonderful butt was on glorious display, and then she was under.
I quickly joined her as we neared the bottom, now at only 20'. I pointed out sea life that she could safely explore and she did. There was a sunken wreck that we poked at and watched fish swim around. We toyed with a colorful little clownfish that tried to eat us. We had been in the water for almost two hours when she curled up in a way that can only mean one thing. Leg cramp. I swam close and she pointed to her right calf. I told her to relax and let her leg hang down, then ducked under. It was her right calf and I held her leg from behind with my right and began to massage it firmly with my left. I could tell it hurt her but massage or walking it out are the only ways to get rid of a cramp and walking wasn't going to happen. When I came up for air she said it was better but still ached. We were now much closer to the beach than we were to the boat.
"You're not used to the fins. Let's swim to shore and let you take them off a while. You'll be right as rain in no time," I said and she nodded agreement.
I ducked under and took both of her fins off. She had red polish on that made her toes look like M&Ms. I popped up in front of her, fins in my left hand. I gave her my right hand and swam on my back, towing her to shore. I gently kicked our way toward shore. We both put our masks up on our heads.
"Let your legs just drag behind. Don't work," I said and she agreed with some relief.
When we got near shore, gentle waves propelled us in. I felt my butt drag on the bottom and the next little wave pushed her forward hard and she ended up on top of me. She lay on me for a minute, exhausted from the effort and not really realizing that she was between my legs and on me, face to face. I waited. Then it dawned on her that we were in a particularly intimate embrace.
"Oh my. I'm sorry," she said realizing the position we were in. She started to lift herself off of me but paused, hovering above me. She didn't do anything more to move off of me.
"Please don't apologize. I rather like it," I answered with a very friendly smile. If she lay on me like that much longer she would know exactly how much I liked it.
"You have snorkel lines," she said, as she pulled hers off and tossed it up on the beach.
"So do you." Our eyes locked for a long time and she made a decision. She leaned down to kiss me lightly and then raised back up to see how I took it.
"I'm not allowed to fraternize with our customers," I said and she frowned a little. I put my hands on her shoulders and held her as the waves lapped against our ankles. She took the weight off her arms so she was in my control. If we were to kiss again it would be at my doing. She reached out and pulled my snorkel off and then tossed it near hers, her eyes never leaving mine.
I gently lowered her to me. I felt her breasts crush on my chest and her body inch up higher to meet me. She kept her eyes open, looking into mine as long as possible, then parted her lips to accept my kiss. I wrapped my arms around her back, owning her completely. We tasted each others lips. No biting, no tongue business. Just a very nice long kiss. I felt the stirring in my loins of desire and I'm sure she did too.
She lifted herself from me again and looked down into my eyes. Obviously, my growing desire had come to her attention. I pulled her back down for another kiss. This time, I nibbled her lips as my hands worked their way gently down her back. I held her wonderful ass in my hands and just squeezed. I pulled her to me and she returned the embrace. I knew I could have her right then, right there but made a very difficult decision. I pushed her back from me and held her at arms length.
"You are amazing," I said. "You have a remarkable body, a beautiful smile that is a perfect match for your outgoing personality. You have candy toes and a very nice income. I am smitten." I lowered her back to me and held her for a long time.
"I feel good in your arms. I feel safe," she said. "I don't mind that you tricked me. I might have minded if you hadn't made that great offer. That's for real, right?" she asked, still unbelieving.
I smiled and nodded and just held her. I ran my hands over her back, exploring. She moved her legs out to meet mine and rubbed her feet up and down my legs. She put her hands on my chest and lifted up a little to look at me.
"You like me. Don't you?" she asked. Here we were in a wonderful embrace for the better part of 30 minutes and she thought she would check the obvious.
"I more than like you," I answered and it was more than true. "I always thought romance writers were blue haired old ladies, living in a fantasy world.
"Some romance writers just want romance. This is pretty romantic," she said. She leaned down to kiss me again and I brushed the hair on the side of her face.
"I want you," she said quietly, a bit out of breath and maybe a bit surprised she had said it. Then, more confidently "and I certainly know you want me."
I kissed her neck gently and then pushed her up again.
"Perhaps tonight," I said and she frowned. "I don't want to have sex with you on the beach because I want to make love to you. I want to take my time and I want to enjoy you," I said and she smiled at that but I could tell she was every bit excited as I was.
She sort of rolled off and lay next to me, then ran her hand over my chest and down to my stomach. "We could do both," she suggested.
"No. Better this way. We have time. It's a long cruise. This is a crazy day for you. You won a prize that separated you from your friends. I needled some information out of you and then offered you a lot of money. You've had a wonderful time exploring, had a cramp and now have been necking on the beach like a teenager for the last hour. It's been a busy day. Your emotions are working overtime. You like me but you don't really know me. I don't want to take advantage of you. I don't want you to do something you'll regret later. Besides, you don't want sand in your bikini."
"I might not mind a little sand in my bikini," she said.
She looked disappointed but only a little as my gentlemanly promise curbed her appetite, at least a little. I ran my hands through her hair, slowly, straightening it out and pushing it behind her. I kissed her again and this time I reached my hand down over her stomach as she lay back. The sun was warming her nicely and she felt wonderful. She arched upward, caressing my hand with her body.
I lifted her up so she could get to her knees and I sat up too. I twisted around to at least partially conceal the tent pole in my shorts and she almost didn't notice as she prepared to stand. She put her left hand on the beach beside me, ready to lift herself up. Then she carefully and deliberately put her hand on my shorts and pushed herself to her feet.
"Are you sure," she asked.
I collapsed backwards in the sand.
"Because tonight had better be special..." she paused as she pondered what suite I had been talking about. She had thought I was an islander for sure and now she was going back to my suite. She was still trying to put the puzzle pieces together.
"It's a very nice suite, I assure you."