I propped my head on my hand, my elbow bent and resting on the pillow as I watched him sleep. He was stunning to look at; the sheets tangled, woven around his bare legs. The longer I admired him, the more I realized how lucky I was.
It was such a wonderful trip so far, I almost wished we could skip the trip to the bank. Even though that became a major reason for our journey, a small part of me worried about what I would discover in Caroline’s safety-deposit box, and I did not want to spoil the fun we’d had. Kamlesh’s son found so much murky information about Caroline on the dark web. She committed crimes of selfishness, greed, and revenge. I’d broken the code she left. I found secret bank accounts and ledgers showing all of the illegal transactions. I passed those documents to Demeter in order to get retribution for those who’d been wronged. People would receive their investments back, and a little extra, even though it would never truly make up for what she did. Thoughts of her son still haunted me. I know she had him killed and made it look as if he ended his own life. That was something I could not get over.
I tried to shake off those thoughts and the negative vibe associated with them, so I shifted my focus back to Apollo.
The rise and fall of his chest hypnotized me, but I tried to mentally will him awake. When that didn’t work I trailed my finger down his naked side, curling around to the front of his hip, causing goosebumps to appear on his flawless skin. He shifted in his sleep, his strong arm brushed against me. I took that as an opportunity to snuggle against him. Finally, his beautiful light-brown eyes opened. He gave me a slow smile that made me melt.
“Hey, you,” I half-whispered.
“Good morning,” he replied.
I gave him a long kiss and felt my heart skip a beat. He raked his fingers through my hair, pulling me closer. I straddled him, placing small kisses down his neck and along his collarbone. He rose up, slipping his hands under my t-shirt to lift it over my head and toss it onto the floor. His hands roamed down my chest, circled my waist, and then slid down my thighs. Each time his fingers grazed my skin, it felt electric. My eyes locked on his, and I pushed him back on the bed. The feeling of his body beneath mine caused any and all earlier thoughts to leave my head; my mind wiped clear by passion. I hope this feeling never fades.
. . .
Before the day completely got away from us, we dressed and headed out. The sun’s velvet rays warmed our skin, while at the same time, the soft breeze cooled us. We drove to Georgetown and stopped at an ‘antique shop.’ For immortals, the idea of antiques is simply quaint. There were several interesting trinkets and treasures hidden throughout this particular shop. I thought of Clio and picked up a couple of interesting artifacts recovered from a shipwreck for her and the museum. An odd smoking pipe, carved in the shape of a lion, caught my attention. Thinking of Hades, I added it to my small pile of purchases. I spotted another pipe carved into the head of a collared dog with a dead bird in its mouth, an antique spike blade, and a small wooden locket with silver filigree design. I asked for the purchases to be shipped back to my apartment to avoid customs issues. As the woman behind the counter wrapped my items, I saw her fumbling with the paper. She was blushing and more focused on Apollo than her job. For the first time, I realized how difficult it would be to get used to millions of women wanting him. Pushing those thoughts aside, I smiled, knowing that no one wanted him as much as I did.
We left the shop, hand in hand, and made our way to a little art gallery. Hundreds of pictures singing with color and life hung across the walls and brought a smile to my face. It always gave me a rush to stand in the middle of a room filled with art. I remembered the little girl in the coffee shop who had no art supplies and wondered what her life would be like if she was exposed to art on a regular basis.
Several local artists showcased work based on the beautiful island landscape, and I made a mental note to pick out something to take home with us as a memory of our time here together.
Next, we toured a sculpture garden. Apollo acquiesced and posed for several photos with the concrete animals: the octopus getting him in its grip, a giant scorpion snipping at his leg. We took a fun selfie in front of the miniature Stonehenge and then headed toward a cafe near the bank.
Apollo had been talking about the art on the walls around us while I picked at my sandwich.
A feeling of dread started to build in the pit of my stomach. I tried to ignore it, but the embers flickered anyway. After what I’d discovered about Caroline, through Charon, as well as the info learned through the background search, I simply wanted to forget all about her and the darkness she inflicted.
“Hello… where are you?” Apollo asked, grabbing my fingers and giving them a wiggle.
I looked at him and smiled, trying to act as if I wasn’t a million mental miles away.
“You know how I know you weren’t paying attention?”
“I’m sorry. How?” I smiled and laced my fingers between his.
“You didn’t groan and roll your eyes about my cheesy joke.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Tell me again,” I said.
“How many tickles does it take to make an octopus laugh?” he asked. Before I could answer, he blurted, “Ten. Ten tickles. Get it?”
As I groaned and rolled my eyes, he took a small bow. Dear Gods, I love this man.
He placed a kiss on my forehead and we gathered up our things to head toward the bank. I took a deep breath before we entered.
“You know it will all be okay, right?” Apollo asked as he held the door for me. “The worst part is over. She can’t do anything else now.”
He had a point.
A bank representative greeted us and I provided him with the information I had for Caroline’s box. I toyed with the pink leather keychain in my pocket as he showed us the way to the vault. Apollo squeezed my hand.
As if he read my mind, Apollo whispered, “I’ll stay outside and let you do this, but if you need me, let me know.”
I did not want him to be tainted by the negative swath left by Caroline. He took a seat in a chair just outside the room, leaned back, and whistled a tune. The bank rep produced his key, I produced mine, and we unlocked the box together. He left the room, the door closing quietly behind him.
“Give me your best shot, Caroline,” I said to the box. Tick-tock, said the box.
Several minutes passed as I scoured the contents of the box. I slipped a couple of loose objects into my bag. I finally pressed the button, and the bank rep returned. I gave brief instruction as to what I needed from him; he nodded and left.
. . .
We stepped out of the bank into the afternoon. The humidity hit us like a wall. Apollo gave me a puzzled look as I ushered him down the block.
“What happened?” he asked as we stepped into the alley.
“Everything is fine,” I assured him, trying to slow the fluttering in my chest. “Just like you said. It is all going to be okay. No nasty surprises.”
“But…there were…surprises?” he asked.
“Yes. Big ones. I have to process this a bit, but I don’t want to talk about it right here.”
“Whatever you say, kardia.” He pulled me close and embraced me. “Take your time.”
Relief flooded me, and I felt safe in his arms.
I took his face in my hands and placed a kiss on his lips, soft at first, and then more insistent. Our kissing intensified, and I pressed against him, pushing him back against the brick wall. My hands roamed down his chest. When my fingers toyed with the waistband of his shorts, his hands swept mine up.
“I don’t think you want to be doing that at the moment,” he whispered.
“Oh, but I do,” I replied.
Every time I kissed him, it was like all of my common sense completely left me. I felt dizzy, but for once I knew what I wanted.
“I know,” he said, keeping my hands a safe distance from him, “but we don’t want to get in trouble for indecent exposure in a foreign country. Can you imagine making that call to Demeter?”
That thought momentarily killed the mood.
The rest of the afternoon dissolved in front of us…visits to small shops, a craft market, and drinks under the fading sun. Lightness filled my heart and vanquished the things lurking in dark corners.
We headed back to the villa to change for dinner. As much as it killed me to let Apollo shower alone, I stayed downstairs while he got ready. When I heard the water start, I made a quick call to Demeter and let her know my plan.
Once my call was out of the way, I felt more relaxed. I pulled my dress from the garment bag and smiled. Clio helped me pick it out before the trip, and we giggled like we did as kids when she imagined Apollo’s reaction. It was a champagne-colored mini dress with decorative strands of beautiful gold sequins sewn all over it. The front was low cut, nearly to the waist, but a strand of gold stars stretched from the bodice, running up between my breasts to the choker-style necklace. It moved with me and felt as good as it looked. I put on a little makeup, fixed my hair, and waited for Apollo to come down. I did not trust myself to go looking for him, or we would never make our dinner reservation.
I heard him humming as he started down the stairs. He wore a beautiful pink suit with a white shirt beneath the jacket. The jacket was buttoned just above the waist, and his shirt was open, framing his tanned chest. My breath caught. He’s gorgeous.
He took in my dress and his face lit up like Clio said it would. “Wow. You look amazing,” he said, giving me that heart-melting smile. Butterflies.
We kept the convertible top down as we drive back towards Seven Mile beach. Stars sparked the night. Our reservations were at Chef Eric Ripert’s restaurant, Blue. It received terrific reviews and we looked forward to trying it. Apollo ordered the swordfish, and I chose the beef tenderloin. The chef, one of Apollo’s many fans, sent a bottle of champagne to our table. Everything tasted delicious, but I only had an appetite for him.
The last bites of food remained on our plates, and we passed on the offer of dessert. Leaving the restaurant from the back, we crossed through near the pool, and I grabbed a blanket from a stack near a cabana. We took off our shoes and wandered barefoot through the still-warm sand, hand in hand down the empty beach. Once we found a semi-secluded spot, I spread the blanket and tossed my shoes aside. He shed his jacket and sat down cross-legged, pulling me down with him.
The waves swept the beach in lazy coils, the shushing sound lulling my mind.
“So Caroline left a letter,” I started.
“Yeah. I’ll show it to you when we get back to the villa, but I wanted to tell you now because it keeps nagging me.”
He pulled me toward him.
“She left money.”
“Yeah. You told me that before the trip,” he said.
“This is different money. Her money. Presumably not conned from other people.”
“Seriously? She really stashed it everywhere,” he stretched out on the blanket. “Well, what are you going to do?”
“I called Aunt Dem to have her look things over. To see if it’s legitimate. You know…make sure it’s clean.”
“That’s a good idea. And if it is?”
“Well, Caroline’s letter offered another apology for what she put people through. She also asked me to find something positive to do with the money in the vault. She wanted to make amends of sorts.”
“It’s a little late for that, isn’t it?” he asked.
I shrugged. “I guess if some additional good comes out of this whole experience, I’d be happy. I’m ready to be done with this. Maybe it will settle my nerves.”
He ran a finger down the stars at the front of my dress and smiled. “I can think of another way to settle your nerves.”
I shivered at his words and his touch. He placed a kiss on the side of my neck and my pulse raced. When he kissed a trail along the chain down my chest, I could no longer keep my breathing steady.
I cupped his face in my hands and pulled his mouth to meet mine. Our kisses became greedy, building in intensity while our hands discovered each other.
Every touch drove my desire. My hands dropped to his chest and opened his shirt. I nibbled at his earlobe and neck. I gently raked my nails down his back, before tugging at the button of his pants and working the zipper free.
He pulled me onto his lap, moving the fabric of my dress aside. At that moment, I could not want anything more.
I closed my eyes and the stars burned bright. Magic reflected in the night sky.
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