Jacob didn’t need a life jacket. He needed a helicopter.
The Lady Bountiful was no longer docked in the marina.
His moment of panic was soon dispelled when he remembered as the owner of the yacht, his father had GPS tracking on the vessel.
One of the perks of being the son of a billionaire was the ability to pick up his cell phone and have his daddy order a private helicopter with the snap of his fingers. Within an hour, Jacob and his brother Nicholas were in the air on their proverbial white horse on their way to rescue his bride.
After forty-five minutes of flight time, the yacht showed as a speck on the horizon and eventually came to a full stop as the helicopter hovered over the landing pad. The touchdown was smooth, and the blades came to a complete stop before the pilot gave the okay to open the doors. Jacob and Nicholas hopped down and were greeted by a family of guests they’d never met plus familiar crew members.
Maryam pushed passed all of them and jumped into Jacob’s arms, wrapping her legs around his waist, and clinging to him with excitement. “I knew you’d come for me!”
“Leave it to a billionaire to find a way to steal my daughter even after we’ve left port,” Captain Arnold grumbled. “Didn’t you get my clear message that I’m not giving you permission to marry her?”
“Didn’t you get my clear message that I don’t care what you want?” Jacob raised his eyebrows. “I’m marrying your daughter whether you like it or not. Soon. Within the next few days.”
“Days?” Maryam leaned back in confusion. “How about hours?”
“You don’t want to plan a real wedding?” Jacob pulled back and smoothed her windblown hair as she clung to him like a monkey. “With a white dress, and cake, and dancing?”
She leaned closer to his ear so only he could hear her whisper. “I don’t like cake, the dress will be lying beside our bed within a few minutes after we say our vows, and we can dance horizontally in our king-sized bed.”
“Yeah, I like your idea better.” His husky voice was close to her ear and he nuzzled her neck. “Are you packed?”
Maryam slid down and lowered her feet to the deck. Jacob missed the weight of her body in his arms but patiently waited for her to step over to her father for one last plea. “Daddy, will you please officiate? It would mean the world to me.”
“I won’t be returning to Puerto Aventuras for several weeks.” He crossed his arms and scowled. “You won’t want to wait that long.”
“So, do it now.” Her logic made sense to Jacob even as her words made his heart rate increase. If they got married right now, within an hour they could be… a tiny smile played at the corner of his mouth.
“Don’t get too excited yet, little brother,” Nicholas mumbled. “He hasn’t agreed to anything.”
“Thank you for reading my mind,” Jacob grumbled but couldn’t hide a smirk.
“Just keeping it real.” Nicholas patted him on the shoulder.
They waited as Maryam unleashed her aquamarine eyes up at her father with a soft pout. “Please, Daddy.” Captain Arnold couldn’t possibly resist her puppy dog expression.
“Fine,” he relented. “Go get your mother. She won’t want to miss your… wedding.” The captain glared at Jacob.
“I’m right here.” Valerie Arnold wove through the crowd of guests and crew members, several of whom were gushing over Maryam or shaking Jacob’s hand or patting him on the shoulder. Valerie lifted her chin in his direction. “What about your parents? Won’t they want to attend your wedding?”
“We had a nice dinner with them last night. They’ll be fine. They’re thrilled to have Maryam join our family.”
“As you steal her from ours.” Valerie’s lip curled in a scowl.
“As I explained to your husband yesterday, we intend to find a place to settle down near a port town where you can visit any time you want.”
“But we won’t see her every day like we usually do.” She was either getting choked up or a good actress.
“Would you rather have me move onto the yacht and we can spend our honeymoon here with you?”
“Never mind, take your helicopter off my boat and spend your honeymoon somewhere far away from here.” Valerie flicked her wrist, dismissing them.
“Technically, this is my boat, not yours. But with regards to every other word in your statement, I will take your advice.” Jacob turned to Maryam and held out his hand. “You ready?”
“Go gather your things while I draw up the paperwork,” Captain Arnold told his daughter. Then he turned to Jacob. “You come with me.”
“Yes, sir.” Jacob found it odd that his confident swagger while talking to the captain yesterday had blown away in the wind now that he’d given Jacob permission to marry his daughter.
When Captain Arnold closed the door to his inner office he turned and towered over Jacob. “You have more power in your little finger than I’ll have in my lifetime. But don’t think that means I won’t hunt you down if you ever hurt my little girl.”
“Captain Arnold, I love your daughter, and I will treasure her like a princess.”
“I’ve seen the way royal families treat princesses and that analogy is not helping your case.”
“How about this”—Jacob lifted his chin— “I will treat your daughter the way I would want someone treating my daughter, should I ever be so blessed.”
“Hmpf.” Captain Arnold sat at his desk and pulled up his computer terminal. “Sit down. I need to ask you some questions.” He proceeded to fill in details about when and where Jacob was born, his citizenship status, his identification numbers, most recent address, and current occupation.
Jacob provided answers to his questions but didn’t otherwise engage in conversation, just sat there reminding himself that this would be over soon and worth the few minutes spent in interrogations.
Finally, the captain printed some documents and shifted in his chair to look Jacob in the eye. They sat that way for a moment and Jacob tried not to flinch or squirm. As if satisfied with the amount of torture he’d put Jacob through, his gruff voice was less a threat and more a plea. “Take care of my little girl.”
“I promise.” Nothing more needed to be said.
They returned to the main deck and found that Maryam had already loaded her things onto the helicopter and stood beside her friend Ivy and Jacob’s brother Nicholas.
With a few words legally joining them as husband and wife, and a couple of signatures, they were official.
Without waiting for his father-in-law’s permission, Jacob pulled Maryam forward and dipped her into a passionate kiss. The guests and crew members cheered and applauded.
Even Maryam’s parents were smiling when Jacob finished kissing their daughter. Okay, briefly paused kissing their daughter. The remaining kisses would wait until later.
They took a few moments to give hugs and handshakes to Maryam’s friends and family and then Jacob helped her up into the helicopter and took his place at her side. His brother Nicholas politely focused his attention out the window at the blue sky and ocean as Jacob and Maryam kissed all the way back to Puerto Aventuras.