“Mom! This isn’t how it looks!” Maryam scrambled to sit up, untangling herself from Jacob. He felt the absence of her legs intwined with his and considered pulling her back down for another long kiss.
“Mrs. Arnold, this is exactly how it looks, and I plan to marry your daughter immediately so you might want to hire a new assistant.” Jacob sat up and swung his legs over the side of Maryam’s bed, then pointed to the bunk above him. “I believe Ivy is available. You’ll find her up there.”
“Hi, Mrs. Arnold.” Ivy gave her a light wave.
“Get off my daughter’s bed!” The woman was formidable, but Jacob was done beating around the bush. He stood and faced his future mother-in-law.
“That’s fine, I have a king-sized bed in my suite over at the resort. Maryam will be more than comfortable—”
The shock of Valerie Arnold’s slap across his face came as a surprise, but was well deserved.
“Mother! What are you thinking!” Maryam spoke to her mother but pushed in between them and lifted her hand to Jacob’s cheek. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, darling. You would have done the same thing to a man who spoke to our daughter that way because she didn’t let me finish my sentence”—Jacob looked over Maryam’s shoulder directly at her mother— “What I was about to add was the phrase after we’re married.”
“My only daughter will not marry one of you Cohen boys! You’re all trouble. You think just because you’re rich you can do anything you want.”
“If I could do anything I want I would wave a magic wand and force my oldest brother to stop being a complete jerk so that you would see the rest of us as the decent men that we are.”
“Hmpf.” Mrs. Arnold folded her arms across her chest and scowled.
“Please, I want our families to live harmoniously. Your daughter and I have chosen to marry; therefore, I will soon be your son-in-law. Let’s find a way to get along.”
“And you plan to live with her in a resort like your nomad parents?”
“No, I plan to explore the world together and build her dream house in a beautiful forest near a port where her nomad parents can dock their yacht and come visit.”
“Who would want to live in a forest? She’s not a squirrel.”
“I’m the one who wants to live in a forest, Mother.” Maryam turned to her mother, raising her chin with confidence. Jacob rested his hands on her shoulders in support and solidarity. “I may not be a squirrel, but I want to put down roots and live on land and not on the sea. I’ve loved growing up on boats and ships, but I’m ready to live my own life now. You saw the way Jacob and I connected immediately when we met, and we’ve grown to care about one another these past few weeks. We’ve fallen in love and we want to get married. Please support my decision. Please.”
“I’ll think about it.” Mrs. Arnold’s voice faltered, and she turned on her heel to remove herself from the small berth, immediately helping calm Jacob’s claustrophobia. “Good luck convincing your father.”
“Thank you,” Jacob called after her. “We’re going to need it.”
Maryam giggled as Jacob turned back around to face her.
“That woman is almost as stubborn as her daughter.” He smoothed the hair away from Maryam’s face and leaned down to place a quick kiss on her lips. “Should I speak to your father alone? Or would you like to come with me?”
“Which would you prefer?”
“I think I’d like to speak to him man to man. He may have some choice words to say to me about how he’d like me to treat his daughter and he deserves to have his opinions heard.”
“I’d love to be a fly on the wall for that conversation.” Maryam patted him on the chest then reached onto her toes to speak close to his ear. “I’m marrying you no matter what he says.”
“Me too,” he whispered back, then captured her mouth for one more lingering kiss, aware they still had a captive audience on the top bunk.