The ad said “No Sailing Experience Necessary,” so Ben Beck had the perfect qualifications to join the crew sailing to Tahiti. What could go wrong? Better not answer that until you meet the rest of the crew….
We can’t all take a trip to Tahiti….
But thanks to the very enticing 5,500 word excerpt offered by novelist Mitch Davies through our Free Kindle Nation Shorts program, there’s not a thing in the world to keep us from setting our Kindles’ sails in that direction.
by Mitch Davies
Can they sail the southern seas without any mishaps? When Ben finds out what’s really going on, can he save the dream?
Here’s the set-up:
Who hasn’t dreamt of sailing in the South Pacific as the owner of a sleek, gleaming yacht? Ben Beck finds that dream job as a crew member sailing on just such a ship.
With a history of working ‘too good to be true’ opportunities, he still can’t believe his luck. Sailing excursions in Tahiti for a year then sell the yacht and get a nice chunk of the proceeds.
The ad said, “No Sailing Experience Necessary” and he had the qualifications.
His fellow group members include Carl, the millionaire boss, Duane, a hard-to-please captain, Purrette, a serious beauty and Rudy, a potential danger.
After a confusing start of mis-information, Ben isn’t sure of exactly what he’s gotten himself into. How many partners does he have? Where exactly are they going?
And then there’s Tahiti.
Can they sail the southern seas without any mishaps? When Ben finds out what’s really going on, can he save the dream?
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After a day of filthy work at the marina, Ben Beck stopped at the fish-and-chip shop he’d become addicted to. With a six-pack in one grimy hand and an order of halibut and fries with an extra piece of fish in the other, he was all set for his favorite dinner. He’d frequented the shop almost every night since he discovered it on his way to the run-down motel located within walking distance of his new job. The greasy, fish smell that filled his room made him smile, and told him he was as close to a home as he could get right now.
He turned on the black-and-white television set and popped open a can of beer. On the end of the bed he spread the pile of brochures for a local amusement park-he’d taken them from the stand in the motel lobby-pulled the contents of his meal from the bag, and placed the grey cardboard cartons on the brochures. The first bite of fish burned his mouth, forcing him to juggle the meat lightly on his tongue while huffing, mouth wide open, to remove the heat. His urgent attempt to cool his burning tongue created a loud panting noise that prevented him from hearing the doorknob turn. The sudden change in air temperature caused him to turn toward the open door.
A tall, dark-haired man stood blocking the opening.
Ben forgot about the tongue-burning fish in his mouth and stared at the odd but familiar-looking man. When he realized who stared back at him, he spat the fish out onto the brown, grunge-stained carpet. “Oh shit. Carl?”
“Duane?” Ben said.
Duane pointed a gun at Ben as Carl slowly reached for the edge of the door and closed it. Both men wore dark, baggy clothing.
“How did you guys find me here?” Ben asked.
“We never lost you, Ben. We just couldn’t approach you until the FBI agents decided to leave.”
“Don’t worry, they’re gone now.” Carl smiled his big white smile, looking more like the happy, confident man Ben remembered. “You took something from me, Ben.”
“I didn’t mean to knock him overboard. I didn’t even know I’d hit him,” Ben said.
“Not Rudy… Fuck him. He can soak in the cold watery hell you sunk him in. That prick was blackmailing me anyway.” The smile still glowed. “Where’s Miss Malloy?”
“That I truly don’t know. I left her outside the airport in Tahiti.”
Carl said, “Duane told me you spent her last night onboard in her cabin. He also told me the two of you got a little greedy. You stole all my money, then you took the little bit Duane and Rudy had stashed as well. Not very nice, Ben. The two of you have really pissed me off.”
“I gave her Rudy’s, Duane’s, and my money. I don’t know anything about your money.”
Carl stepped back and leaned against the door. He tilted his head forward and stared at the floor, working the muscles in his lips. When he finally looked up again he said, “I need them both back, Ben. You got one chance. Tell me now; help me out. You know I’m going to find her anyway, so if you help me, you keep on living.”
“What?” At the sound of a threat Ben began to think about how he was going to get out of the room.
“Normally Rudy would do this sort of thing, but thanks to you he’s not available. And, with the kind of heat you’ve placed on me, none of my other contacts are taking my calls. You’ve forced me to do this myself. Where is she, Ben?” Carl’s voice stayed calm.
“Carl, I don’t…” In mid-sentence Ben swiped backhand at the food that lay in front of him, sending it in the direction of Duane, who was holding the gun. The large fish chunks flew off level with the bed and landed on the floor, but the fries got airborne and shot toward Duane. He stood his ground, letting two or three of them hit him in the chest, but otherwise didn’t react to the attempted distraction.
Ben rolled across the bed away from them and landed on the floor. He listened to see which direction they had moved.
“Get up, you idiot,” Carl said.
Ben looked around for something else to throw but found nothing. Slowly he stood, to see Carl and Duane standing in the same place. He moved nearer the table bolted to the wall next to the bed. His hand shot out and grabbed the phone and he threw it at Duane. The phone’s cord stopped it halfway to the target; the receiver continued on its trajectory, missed its mark and landed with a thud. It scraped along the floor as the outstretched cord drew in its coils.
Carl and Duane stood staring at Ben. “This is ridiculous. Are you done?” Carl said.
“No.” Ben turned his back and sat down on the bed. As soon as his haunches touched the mattress, he grabbed the square, brown glass ashtray, turned and sent it spinning at Duane’s head. Duane saw it coming and turned to his left, but too late. A corner of the ashtray struck the cartilage near the back of his right ear, cutting through it. His own momentum, the impact of the ashtray, and the immediate burning sensation caused him to hit the wall and drop to his knees. Ben followed the ashtray over the bed. As Duane reached up to protect his ear with his empty hand, Ben hit him in the jaw, crashing his head hard into the wall. Duane fell unconscious to the floor. Ben reached for the gun as Carl landed on his back and together they landed on top of Duane. Ignoring Carl’s grasping hands, Ben concentrated on getting a firm grip on the pistol. When he felt his hand close tight around its grip, he tensed his shoulders and neck, then labored to stand under the tall man’s weight. Carl’s fingers dug into Ben’s shoulder; his other arm stretched across Ben’s face, twisting his head back and to the side. Ben pushed back hard toward the wall, slamming Carl into the thermostat box. He heard Carl’s breath jet from his lungs with a deep grunt. He took a quick step away from the wall, braced his leg, and slammed back again. When he heard Carl gasping to refill his lungs, he jabbed back with his elbow and struck him in the soft flesh just below his ribs. Carl slid off his back, landing on his side when he hit the floor. He rolled to look up wild-eyed at Ben, his mouth open but unable to draw in air.
Carl slapped the floor and pulled his knees into his abdomen while making short sucking noises. Ben offered no help.
“You have to believe me, Carl, I don’t know where she is and I don’t know anything about your money. There’s nothing I can help you with.” He opened the door, ran down the metal stairs to the parking lot and turned toward the street.
When he arrived at the sidewalk he stopped and looked both ways. The marina and other places he was familiar with were to the left, so he turned right and ran as fast as he could. When his lungs started to burn, he hid in a dark corner at the side of a building.
He realized he had been running with the gun still in his hand. He tucked it into his pants and bent over to catch his breath, but the gun poked at his stomach. He pulled it out and decided to get rid of it, knowing he would never use it. He fumbled to get the clip out, then went to the back of the building and threw the gun in a trash bin. He removed the bullets from the clip, then threw them and the clip over the fence into an open lot.
He had nowhere to go, so he climbed the fence and rested against the wall. Tall grass and a stack of torn mattresses shielded him from the street. He felt he should keep moving, but he stayed there until morning.
Excerpt From Better Than Ever, Again
In the still dark of the early morning, Ben fussed in the galley, wishing he had more time before he had to meet the clients at the marina. Duane sat in the pilothouse drawing lines on his chart under the light of a small marine lamp. Rudy sat on the deck a few steps away from Duane, leaning against a stanchion while looking out over the dock. He rose up into a squat position when he spotted a ghost moving along the dock, but stayed low behind the hump of the pilothouse so the ghost couldn’t see him. Duane noticed his movement and looked over curiously; when he saw Rudy’s serious stare directed toward the dock, he turned to see what held his attention.
Neither spoke. Rudy had no idea that Duane had joined him in monitoring the barely visible grayish patch that floated silently along the dock. It had wisps and streaks that moved in different directions. Its top seemed still; its middle shifted and rolled seductively. It did not get brighter, but it did get larger, as it came closer to their gangway. It stopped, but remained suspended in the air; then the top half of the phantom disappeared while the bottom began to roll again.
A thought penetrated Duane’s curiosity. He reached forward and turned on the mast light. At the edge of the cone of light cast out around the ship, they saw a woman. She had been walking away from the ship, but when she saw the light she turned back. She wore a dark-colored wind jacket that she left open over a deep red pareo with a white floral pattern. As she walked back to the ship the men recognized the shift and roll of her hips.
“It’s a woman,” Duane said.
“It sure as hell is,” Rudy replied as he stood and walked forward.
Duane left his seat to go forward as well. When he reached the gangway the woman arrived at the dock end and smiled at them before asking, “Is this Ben Beck’s boat?”
Both men heard the question, but stood still, unable to answer in the beam she smiled at them.
“Hello. Is this Ben Beck’s boat?” she asked again.
“Yes,” Rudy said. “Ben is here.”
“Good. I wasn’t sure in the dark. I brought his baguette.”
Maeva started up the gangway as Duane and Rudy bumped into each other on their way down to help her with the bags of bread. They took the bags and turned back. When they got back on deck, they turned to let her go first but found that she hadn’t followed them. They saw her walking away from the ship toward the marina and felt dejected. They watched her disappear into the darkness outside the cone of light. When they could no longer see her, they looked down at the bags they held then turned to take them to Ben in the galley.
Below, they placed the bags on the counter as Ben arranged the refrigerator. He turned and saw the bags.
“Good. Where is she?”
“She left,” Rudy answered.
“She’ll be back; she’s going out with us today.”
“I thought you said the clients were Americans,” Duane commented.
“She’s not the client, she’s going to be the hostess today. I asked her to come.”
“All right,” Rudy said, “She is one spanking, good-looking piece of Tahitian ass.”
“If I hear those kind of words come out of your mouth again, I’ll break your teeth,” Ben said calmly while staring at Rudy. He looked at Duane and said, “Either of you.”
Both men stood frozen by the words and cautioned by the cold tone of Ben’s delivery.
“Take it easy, man. You just had to say to lay off. You don’t need to go threatening anybody’s teeth,” Duane said.
“So Ben got himself a girl. That’s why you’ve been so willing to go ashore to hunt down clients, only it looks like you’ve been hunting down skirts. And it sounds like you got serious about one. Big mistake,” Rudy said, shaking his head.
“Shut up, Rudy,” Ben said in a low rumble of a voice.
“Big mistake.” Rudy began to cluck his tongue. Before he’d made the sound twice, Ben had grabbed him by the front of his shirt near the collar and had twisted the material in his hand so that it cut into Rudy’s neck. He pulled Rudy across the counter so that his heels were off the ground. Rudy tried to balance himself with his arms. Their faces were an inch apart, and Ben held him there so Rudy could only look directly into his eyes.
Duane grabbed Ben’s wrists and pulled down on them so that he had to lower Rudy, whose face began to turn dark red. Ben let go, giving Rudy a flick of his wrist, sending him backward against the galley wall where he remained, rubbing his neck, trying to catch his breath, glaring at Ben.
“What the fuck’s got into you? You don’t go pullin’ off that bullshit with your crew. You do that shit again and you’re outta here, you hear me?” Duane yelled at Ben.
Ben let him finish, then took his eyes away from Rudy, looked at Duane, and said, “You interfere with what I’m doing again and you’ll get the same. Do you hear me?”
“You watch yourself, Ben. He was just trying to be funny. You don’t have to get like that. Rudy, you got things to do on deck.”
Rudy left them in the galley. Ben reorganized the counter and began to set up a tray of bread and cheese while Duane puttered around doing things he didn’t have to do. He opened cupboards to inspect glasses, moved the toaster an inch further into the corner, and lifted the salt and pepper shakers to see that they were full. After a few minutes he went to his cabin and sat. When he heard Ben’s footsteps going up on deck he quickly got up and walked out after him. As he came up the stairs, he saw Ben moving forward; then he glimpsed Rudy’s movement behind him. He turned, causing Rudy to stop. Duane had blocked the progress of his attempt to sneak up on Ben. Rudy held a stanchion loosely in his hand, down low by his leg. Duane slowly shook his head, and saw the violent tension reluctantly ebb from Rudy’s face. He said nothing, but walked over to Rudy and took the stanchion.
Duane turned and looked forward to see if Ben had seen what had gone on, but saw Ben running down the gangway toward the ghost girl who carried another large bag.
They returned to the boat and Ben carried the bag to the aft deck. After he came back to the pilothouse he introduced Maeva to Duane. Ben described the itinerary that Maeva had suggested for the trip to Moorea. Duane liked her plan, and asked her to come and look over the charts so he could see where she intended for them to go.
When they were finished, they went below to get the trays of food and make coffee so the clients’ breakfast would be ready when they arrived. With that done, Ben and Maeva walked back to the marina to meet their guests. They had waited only a few minutes when a shuttle bus from the resort pulled up at the curb. They greeted the tourists, three of them: Greg, Sandra, and their teenage son Doug. Maeva placed a flower lei over each of their heads and led them down the dock to the Aurawind.
Duane and Rudy stood waiting at the top of the gangway as they came aboard. Duane introduced himself as captain of the ship, and introduced his first mate Rudy. He then led them to the breakfast table and indicated that he would be glad to provide them with a tour of the Aurawind once they had dined and were well away from the harbor. Ben poured their first glasses of champagne and orange juice, then left them with Maeva as he helped shove off. The breeze blew down from the mountain and out to sea, so they left their mooring under sail. The brochure had promised a sunrise breakfast looking back at the departing Papeete Harbor. The champagne-enhanced view of the island, the gentle slapping of water against the hull, and the flutter of canvas delivered on the promise.
They sailed south along the coast of the island, then turned north and west to cross the shipping channel toward Moorea. Maeva directed Duane to a point outside the atoll near an opening that would take them to a small, uninhabited island inside the reef. Outside the reef they set anchor. Ben and Maeva disembarked with the visitors in the skiff, taking them through the opening and landing on a small section of beach on one side of a sand spit. Then, each grabbing some of the gear, they marched a short distance through a stand of coconut palms to a long stretch of beach that faced across the water to Moorea and another small island. The stretch of water that lay between the two small islands displayed clusters of floral-shaped blooms of coral smattered about in the shallows.
Ben left Maeva and the tourists to go back and retrieve the baskets that held their lunch.
The three guests stood in awe at the sight of the big green tooth-shaped mountain across the aqua lagoon. They dropped their gear and walked into the water and silently took in the sight, until something in the water caught Doug’s eye. He yelled out and ran along, kicking up a splash and pointing at a school of blue- and yellow-striped fish that first darted away from him, then regrouped and disappeared behind a cluster of coral. He looked back at his parents, who had followed as he chased the fish. Before they reached him, he spotted a lizard streaking along the beach back near the line of trees, and came running out of the water to get a look at the creature, but it made a quick getaway into the brush.
He ran back toward Maeva and asked if they could snorkel.
As they put on their snorkel equipment, Maeva explained a little about what they should expect in the coral field and warned them to be careful near the clusters: The scrapes could be painful and cause skin irritations. In minutes they were in the water swimming against the slight current running between the two islands. The water varied in depth from three to twelve feet. In the shallow section they swam through a coral maze where the coral rose to the surface of the water on both sides of them. Bright red and yellow fish skittered out of their way around the corners of the maze. From time to time the corridors opened up to deep sandy-bottomed pools with large ball-shaped corals sitting on the bottom like a blue-gray pearl in an oyster. When Doug dove to take a closer look, a school of several hundred tiny blue fish swam to meet him and protect their home. Before he knew it, they surrounded him on all sides and he felt the touch of numerous noses against his skin. Up he went in panic; but when he broke the surface he laughed out loud and his parents, who had watched while floating on the surface, smiled when they heard his laugher. After repositioning his snorkel bit, he dove again and again, and each time the cloud of blue came to meet him. He maintained his position as long as he could while the school encompassed him on all sides. They popped him face to face on the glass of his mask so he couldn’t see beyond them. Wiping his hand in front of his face, he attempted to clear them so he could determine how many surrounded him. Though each swipe moved some of the fish away, they soon returned to cover his mask again. In an instant they zipped away from him toward another invader; before they engulfed the new threat, Doug saw his father diving toward the coral. His lungs pulled hard for air so he surfaced, blew out his pipe and watched his father and the fish. When his father resurfaced, they lifted their heads out of the water and laughed again at being surrounded by the brave little fish.
For the next two hours they explored their private coral reef. They spotted fish of many colors darting about their maze. Sea cucumbers lying on the bottom, anemones with their translucent tentacles swaying in the current, flat bottom-dwellers coasting below, and sponges clinging to the sides of the coral formations. They moved toward the main protective reef, and as they swam across a deep basin to its inner wall, they saw the shiny teeth of an eel. They turned quickly and headed back to the beach.
Hunger fatigued the swimmers. Their legs felt heavy as they walked out of the water and up the slight incline of the beach to the picnic Ben and Maeva had spread out for them. They talked nonstop with mouths full, their conversations full of descriptions of the strange things they had seen. Occasionally they asked Maeva about some creature that stood out as more unusual than the others, but most of the discussion took place among the three family members.
They heard a thump in the trees and the family stopped talking and chewing and looked silently toward the palms.
“What was that?” Doug asked.
“Coconut,” Maeva answered. They returned to their meal.
A second coconut fell a few minutes later and they stopped again, but only briefly-and when a third one dropped near the end of their lunch, Doug commented, “Can you imagine walking through the trees and one of those things falls on your head?”
Maeva told him that could never happen. Doug asked why not.
“Because the coconuts have three eyes, and they never fall if they see people or animals below them.”
“Coconuts don’t have eyes.”
“Sure they do. I’ll show you.”
Before they knew what had happened, Maeva jumped up and ran into the trees. They all, including Ben, watched where she had disappeared. Soon she walked out of the brush carrying a large coconut still wrapped in its thick brown husk. She grabbed the machete they had brought along; holding the coconut in her outstretched hand, she hacked away at the husk and very efficiently cleared the entire thick stringy mass from the fruit inside. She used her hand to rub away some of the straggling fibers and then turned the hard shell toward her audience to show them the three dark eyes on the smaller end of the coconut.
“Those aren’t real eyes,” Doug said.
“They must be,” she responded smiling, “because they know not to drop on people.”
She then held the coconut out in her hand again, and with the back of the knife dealt it a quick snapping blow at its equator. The shell cracked and water leaked out; she broke it open the rest of the way, managing to retain most of the liquid.
“Here, taste the water,” she said as she handed the coconut cup to Doug.
He accepted it with wide eyes and drank all the coconut water greedily.
“Can I have another one?” Doug asked.
“Sure, but you go get it.” Maeva replied.
Ben and Maeva packed up the picnic and Ben took the baskets back to the skiff. When he returned, he spotted Doug, who had forgotten about the coconuts, snorkeling out in the water where he skimmed the surface, watching the action below. Greg, his father, stood in thigh-deep water, keeping an eye on his son while Sandra, his wife, and Maeva sat in the water up to their shoulders and let the mild current wash the warm salty water over their bodies. Ben walked in and joined Greg, who turned and looked at Ben with a smile as he waded out.
“This place is something else,” Greg said.
“Yes, it is. This is the first time I’ve been here. Maeva suggested it.”
“This whole day has been something. We will always remember this vacation to your island. It cost us way too much, but Doug’s getting to that age where he’s not going to want to do much with his parents anymore. If this is going to be our last trip together, it’s going to be the most memorable.”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
“Even this day trip is a little extravagant for us. We’re not the kind of people that would even think of a private sail on a yacht like yours. Doug is having a gas.”
“That’s what we wanted. Now I think I’ll join him; like I said, I’ve never been here either.”
Ben got into his equipment and swam to meet Doug, and the two stayed in the water a long time. When they had almost exhausted themselves, they returned and joined the other three for a final beverage before they had to leave their private island.
Greg stood the whole time and watched them swim, and now lowered himself into the water beside his wife. He had almost settled his weight on the bottom when he felt something wiggle and thump against his butt cheeks. In his haste to stand up again, he didn’t see anything; but when he took a step backwards to get away from whatever it was, he felt the hair on his legs ripping as his legs parted. Sandra shot up out of the water and now stood ten feet away on the beach, looking back, slack-jawed. Forgetting about discovering what he’d sat on, Greg looked at his legs to find that from his middle shin to his ankles a stringy white substance had become glued to his skin and hair. It didn’t sting or burn, so he reached down to pull some of the substance off. As he pulled, he felt the hair ripping from his leg, but when he felt the substance it didn’t stick to his skin. He looked questioningly at Ben, who stood near him equally confused by the substance. Ben shrugged and they both turned toward Maeva, who still sat in the water. Greg held out his hands to show her the material and asked, “What is this?”
“I don’t know,” she said casually.
“Something squirmed under my butt, and then this stuff was hanging all over me.”
“Sounds like a scared fish hit you with his protection,” she said.
“What kind of fish do you think it was?” Ben asked.
“I don’t know, Ben Beck; based on what it hit him with, I’d say a Silly String fish.” She said this with a straight face.
Both men sported questioning looks on their faces.
“You’re not serious?” asked Greg.
“No, not at all.”
“You don’t know what kind of fish it was?” This time it was Ben.
“No clue. If it doesn’t hurt, then I wouldn’t worry about it. But I would be sure to tell everyone back home that it was poisonous and could have sunk inch-long fangs into your leg instead of shooting string, but you managed to avoid its jaw.”
“Is that true?” Greg asked.
“No, not one bit.”
They sat back down in the water with Maeva, and Greg slowly picked at the goo strung throughout his leg hairs. It took Sandra a good ten minutes to build up the nerve to join them. Doug hunted throughout the shallow water, trying to find the fish that had attacked his father.
Reluctantly they left the water and the island, and returned to the ship for the sail back to Papeete. Duane smiled and asked about their snorkeling as they climbed aboard, while Rudy drifted on the fringe of the group.
As soon as Duane had set their course for the sail across the strait, Ben set up the fishing poles and told Doug to watch for the elastics to snap. About halfway across, one of them did, scaring Doug out of a daydream. The whizzing noise of the fast running line froze him in place after he stood. Tongue-tied, he looked about for Ben, who came running up from the galley after hearing the run of the fishing line. Ben spotted Doug and stopped. He pointed to the line and said, “What have you got there?”
This brought Doug out of his state of confusion and he yelled, “Fish!”
Ben pulled the port side pole and moved around the stern, as the fish had gone under the ship to the starboard side. After putting some drag on the line, he called Doug over and handed him the pole, but stayed behind him with his own hands still bearing the majority of the strain. The line came closer to them as the fish dove for deeper water. Ben told Doug to hold steady; when the line stopped running out he told him to lift up on the pole. They did; and when they released, Ben showed Doug how to reel in the slack. They lifted again, and when they released Ben had Doug reel in the line. Repeating the lift and release, they brought the fish close to the surface where it attempted another short-lived run; but it settled down and they landed themselves a nice fifteen-pound tuna.
Ben watched the exhausted teenager flexing his hands, trying to loosen the muscles in his forearms. “Good work. Fresh fish for dinner.”
“I don’t eat fish,” Doug said.
“You’ll eat this one. It’s delicious. Besides, it’s a ritual of the South Pacific. No one else can eat the fish until its captor has tasted it.”
Maeva gave Ben a curious look.
Dinner took longer to prepare than they had planned, so Duane dropped anchor outside the harbor as the sun set. The pink to orange to purple clouds entertained the passengers and crew. And then the city took to light.
Doug tasted the grilled tuna, freeing the others to enjoy their meal. He enjoyed the flavor; enlightened to how good fish can taste, he ate like a teenage boy who had been deprived of calories for at least five hours.
Back at the marina, they packed up all of their belongings and walked out onto the dock. Ben informed Duane that he wouldn’t be back until sometime the next day, and left the Aurawind. They used Maeva’s van to deliver their customers back to their hotel, and then they drove to the compound where they found Rene illuminated by a strong burning fire.
“Dinez-vous votre, Papa?” Maeva asked her father.
“No, I am hungry. Not even bread or cheese in the house,” he said without looking up from the fire.
“I have some tuna. Ben Beck caught it today. Would you like a plate?”
“Ben Beck, would you like a beer?”
“Oui, merci,” Ben said.
“Vous aimez encore plus de thon aussi bien?”
“Whoa, I only spoke a little French to be polite.”
“Sorry, I just clicked over when you spoke,” she apologized. “Would you like some more tuna?”
“No thanks, just a beer.”
As the flames licked high into the air Ben noticed that the woodpile nearby had been depleted. He walked to the larger pile by the corral and loaded up. He returned, unloaded, and sat down with Rene. When Maeva returned she placed a plate in Rene’s lap. Ben looked at the cubes of red meat and watched, as Rene squeezed lemon juice onto the raw fish then picked up one of the cubes and popped it into his mouth.
He watched as Maeva stepped over to her father, reached down and took a cube of the tuna and put it in her mouth. She closed her eyes and chewed slowly, lovingly. Ben wondered how she could eat any more food, but then realized that she hadn’t eaten any of the grilled tuna back on the ship.
He found himself delighting in the way she seemed so lost in her own enjoyment of the fish, and felt happy when she reached down and took another cube, placed it in her mouth and drifted off to her delicious dream place. Her total enjoyment got the best of him; he stood and made his way to Rene’s side where he asked, “May I?”
“Of course,” Rene said, lifting the plate of gleaming cubes.
He took one and placed it in his mouth, remembering the poke he had eaten in Honolulu.
After Rene had finished his meal they sat silently by the flames. Their chairs were placed across the fire from each other; and as magically as a burning fire can draw the eye, this night the magic could not keep Ben and Maeva from staring at a different fire. They smiled, then looked away; but soon their eyes locked together again. They read each other’s expressions and teased with minute squints and slight lifts of eyebrow, then smiled and looked away again.
Rene spoke. “I feel like sitting by the fire for a great long time tonight.”
Ben noticed a flattening of Maeva’s smile, and realized he too must be frowning.
Rene spoke again, “You two don’t need to keep me company. Go to bed, you look like you’ve both been ready for a long time.”
Maeva looked down and away as heat flushed her face. Ben smiled and said, “We did get up early, I am kind of tired. Good night, Monsieur Argent.” He stood up and left the fire.
Maeva continued to sit and fidget in her chair, but her father only let her do so for a minute or so before saying, “Go on.”
She began to unwrap her pareo as she climbed the steps. She tossed it on the end of her bed and stood naked before the waiting Ben, who placed his hands on her hips and rested his cheek against her soft, smooth stomach. Her floral scent penetrated his mind. He kissed her skin, bent to kiss her navel, lifted to lick and kiss her dark brown nipples. He pulled her down onto the bed. She lay and watched him undress. He lay down beside her and began to touch her skin, moving his hand slowly over her body while she lay with her eyes closed and drifted off to her delicious dream.
… continued …
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