“Didn’t like the flan custard, huh?” Jacob snuck up behind Maryam and startled her where she sat at a table in the corner of the welcoming reception poking at the dessert with a turned-up nose and a frown. “Why don’t you come with me for a stroll on the beach…”
He didn’t wait for Maryam to answer just lifted her free hand and pulled her gently from the chair. The open courtyard where the resort held the reception was decked out with sparkling lights and hanging lanterns. Once they’d stepped out of the lighted courtyard, they virtually disappeared from view.
“Jacob, what are you doing?” Maryam glanced over to where her parents were on the dancefloor, completely distracted. She stumbled a bit in a pair of sandals so different from her usual boat shoes. Her sundress was simple and understated, feminine and soft. She’d allowed her curls to cascade down her back rather than tying them up in a professional braid or ponytail. Practicality was important while working on a yacht, but here at the resort she was able to relax.
“This is the first time your parents haven’t been glued to your side all evening.” Jacob tucked her hand in the crook of his arm and led her down the cobblestone path to the beach.
“Were you spying on me?” Her voice held a subtle suspicion but mostly wonderment and excitement.
“Observing from afar.” Jacob pointed to the sky. “Did you see that full moon?”
“Yesterday was the full moon,” Maryam said. “Tonight, it’s waning.”
“Sorry I missed it.” Jacob gulped and hoped Maryam understood there was more meaning in his apology than just missing the full moon. “I’m sorry for everything.”
“I’m trying to forgive you. I really am. I just don’t know if I can.”
“I was a jerk,” Jacob said.
“Yes, you were.”
“How can I make it up to you?” Jacob turned her to face him and took her hands in his.
“I care about you, Jacob, but this is as far as we can go.” Maryam wasn’t talking about the distance on the beach. She didn’t want their relationship to continue. “We lead very different lives. You’re the son of a billionaire. I’m a housekeeper on a yacht that is scheduled to leave Puerto Aventuras in less than a week.”
“Don’t get back on the boat,” Jacob pleaded. “Let’s travel together like we said we would. Let’s explore and experience a life beyond what either of us lived in the nineteen years we’ve been on this earth, or in your case on the ocean. Let’s spend time together and see if we can find a common place between being a billionaire and being a housekeeper.”
“It would never work.” Maryam lowered her gaze. “We’re too different.”
“Opposites attract,” he reasoned. “We complement each other.”
“You have your life to lead and I have mine.” Maryam glanced off toward the ocean, where gentle waves lapped at the white, sandy beaches.
“That was a life chosen by your parents. What do you want?”
A tear escaped down her cheek and she whispered, “You know what I want.”
“A big house in a forest, with lots of windows where we can raise babies together.”
She didn’t answer with words but lifted her gaze to meet his and every dream she’d ever had was reflected in her eyes.
“Stay here with me and let’s explore and find that forest.”
“Jacob… I can’t.”
“Because… I have my life—”
“Your parents’ life,” Jacob interrupted. “Come with me and live your own life. Marry me. Spend forever with me.”
She sighed and looked away, considering. “I don’t know. Can I think about it for a few days?”
“Of course. I don’t want to put any pressure on you.” Jacob ran his hands up and down her arms. “Then again, if you haven’t made a decision by the time your father pulls anchor and leaves the marina, I may have to swim after you and you know darn well I can’t swim. So, please don’t make me wait that long.”
Maryam giggled and Jacob’s stomach fluttered.
He lifted his hands to cradle her face then leaned closer cautiously, not wanting to scare her away.
She met his kiss with a relaxed passion that hinted at more but was content with just this.
Jacob wanted Maryam to know she could trust him, not just with her body but with her heart. They had fallen in love while crossing an ocean together but now was the time to face the next phase in their lives. Now was the time to grow up, become adults, and figure out together what the future could hold.