“Maryam!” Jacob hurried in the open door of Maryam’s hotel suite expecting to find her packing and getting ready to head over to the boat. Instead he found a housekeeper for the resort stripping the sheets and cleaning the room for incoming guests. “Where’s Maryam?”
“I’m sorry, Sir,” the housekeeper replied. “The captain and his family have already checked out of the hotel.”
Jacob would have panicked at that news except he knew exactly where they’d gone; back to the yacht to prepare for tomorrow’s departure. He mumbled to the housekeeper a quick recognition of thanks as he brought his cell phone to his ear, requesting his concierge to bring him a car.
The limo seemed to creep down the streets between the resort and the marina and Jacob’s knee bounced as he chewed his thumbnail, excitement and nerves fighting in his stomach, threatening his brunch to wind up on the side of the road.
Finally, they pulled up to the marina and Jacob pushed open the limo door without even thanking the driver or shutting the door behind him. He raced across the passarelle joining the dock to the yacht and hurried through the main deck to the door that led downstairs to the crew’s quarters. He wound down the staircases and through several hallways until he found Maryam right where he expected her to be, lying in her bunk curled up with a tissue and red eyes.
“Oh, my darling, were you going to leave without saying goodbye?” Jacob sat on the floor beside her bunk and lowered his face until he was even with hers.
“Goodbyes are too hard,” Maryam whispered.
“I know this will be difficult, but we’ll have to say goodbye… to your parents.”
That brought a tiny smile. “Very funny.”
“I’m being completely serious.” Jacob sat up all the way and lifted Maryam into a seated position. He took both of her hands in his and gazed up into her eyes. “I sort of inherited just over a billion dollars today.”
“What?” She leaned forward, concern creasing her brow. “Were your parents in an accident? Why didn’t you tell me? I’m so sorry.”
“No, no, they’re fine and very much alive.”
Maryam relaxed but confusion clouded her face.
“They decided to give each of us our inheritance early and suggested we all go our separate ways to live our own lives.”
“Are you saying what I think you’re saying?” she asked.
“No more Liam.” They said at the same time, each with a grin.
“See, now that makes me want to consider your offer.”
“Dang, if I’d known all it would take was getting rid of my brother, I would have ditched the family days ago,” he said. “I would have been a pauper, but you would have loved me anyway.”
“At least we’d have more in common,” she mumbled. “Aren’t you supposed to speak to my father before asking me to run away with you?”
“He doesn’t like me very much.” Jacob cringed. “Do I have to ask his permission?”
“That is the tradition.”
“But you are a strong, independent woman with a mind of your own. You should be able to make your own decisions about where you want to live and how you want to live your life. Have you told them your dreams of living on land and starting a family? Preferably with me…” He offered her a cheesy grin.
“No… I’ve never voiced my opinion on the subject.”
“Have they ever asked you what you wanted?”
“No.” Her shoulders slumped. “What if they tell me I can’t leave?”
“You’re an adult. They can’t tell you what to do.”
“But I won’t have a job or anywhere to live. This boat is my home.”
“Darling, haven’t you been listening? I want you to be my wife, not just my travel companion. You will be married to a billionaire. You will never have to work outside the home for the rest of your life, unless you want to. In which case, I will one hundred percent encourage you and support your decision.”
“But that’s living off your money. I should have to earn my own money.”
“Technically you’re already living off my money. Your paychecks come from Cohen Enterprises, do they not?”
“But that’s working to earn my money.”
“How about if I build you a big house and you can clean all the rooms inside every single day if you want?” He couldn’t stifle a grin. “Maybe I can do the cooking and you can do the cleaning.”
“You know how to cook?” She raised one eyebrow.
“I have absolutely no idea how to cook,” Jacob admitted. “But I’d be willing to learn if you’re willing to marry me.”
“I have a feeling your ability to learn to cook goes as far as your phone to hire a personal chef.”
“Okay, then, you cook, and I’ll clean?”
“You know how to clean?”
“Can’t we just hire someone to do all of that and you and I can stay in bed all day and make love?”
“I’m liking this prospect a little more all the time.” She put her finger to her chin in feigned consideration. “Let me get this straight… you’d be willing to leave Puerto Aventuras, and your family, find me the forest of my dreams, build me a big house, hire me a personal chef and a housekeeper, and make love to me every day. And all I have to do is marry you?”
“That’s it. Just one little thing.” Jacob’s heart was racing.
“Could I have a sportscar too?” she teased. “I’ve always wanted a sportscar.”
“Babe, you can have a hundred sportscars if that’s what you want. Just, please marry me.”
“You haven’t exactly asked me yet.” She blinked her eyelashes with feigned innocence.
“You haven’t gotten down on your knee and asked me to marry you.”
“I haven’t?” Jacob shifted from where he was seated on the floor and knelt beside her bed. He took her hands in his and cleared his throat then spoke confidently. “Maryam Jasmine Arnold, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”
“I’ll think about it,” she teased.
Jacob fell to the floor as if she’d stabbed him in the heart. He groaned in mock torture. “You’re trying to kill me woman.”
“Put the poor man out of his misery.” Maryam’s friend, Ivy hung her head off the top bunk. “If you don’t want to marry him, I will. And I don’t even need a sports car.”
“You’ve been up there this whole time?” Jacob laid on his back on the floor grinning up at the two women on bunk beds laughing down at him.
“That was the most beautiful proposal I’ve ever heard,” Ivy swooned, completely unapologetic.
“Did you know she was up there?” Jacob asked Maryam and her giggle gave her away. He scrambled off the floor and pushed her over so that he was lying beside her on her bunk. “This totally deserves a tickle torture.”
Maryam squealed as Jacob tickled her and nuzzled her neck and finally captured her mouth with his, kissing her soundly for several long, glorious moments.
He finally pulled away and propped himself on one elbow, gazing down into her beautiful speckled aquamarine eyes. His whisper was barely audible and meant for her ears only. “Will you marry me, darling?”
“Yes,” she whispered back, then pulled him back down for another long kiss.
“I thought I told you to keep your hands off my daughter!” A loud voice boomed from above him where he laid on Maryam’s bed. Jacob didn’t even need to look up to know he was in trouble.