The Blue Water Resort’s Convair jet taxied to a stop on the private runway near The Blue Water Moon Palace Resort. Warm, moist air flooded into the cabin with the scent of tropical springtime as Sheridan opened the door. He hopped out, dropping the steps and bowed to Willow, Gracie and Tiana, “Welcome to paradise, my ladies.”
They giggled, stepping out into the heat of midday and quickly getting into the waiting car. They crowded together to look out the window. Perfectly clear topaz skies above aquamarine waters and snowy white beaches made this the most beautiful place they had ever visited. Instead of pulling up to the main resort, Benton drove the car further south to a private villa and parked. Camille followed shaking her head, as Sheridan led them into the house. She was shocked at the elegant marble floors and understated but beautiful interior. She stopped in center of a lavish lapis mosaic under a domed blue skylight, she knew that pattern. She wore it over her heart. It was almost too much for her emotions.
Camille turned to Benton who followed her in, “He can’t be serious about us staying here. Can’t we just stay at the regular resort?”
Benton looked down at the floor then at her, his eyes were sad. It was the most emotions she had ever seen in them. “Did I ever tell you how Kyle and I met? He was surveying for a resort in Isla Portillos, Costa Rica. It was just a year or so after his brother died. There was some land that had already been cleared by loggers, it was near the border with Nicaragua. I was hired as a security consultant. I didn’t like the area, too close to a place where the Liberte Revolution had camps hidden in a giant wildlife reserve on the other side of the border. They called themselves freedom fighters, but really they were everything from kidnappers and human traffickers to drug cartels and anarchist. The site was ideal for a fly in or sail in resort, very high end and isolated from the usual tourist spots, but the problem was Kyle would have needed a small army to protect its guests. I warned him but he didn’t really believe me, until a week later. The rebels across the border, they got word that a millionaire developer was there and they came to try to ransom him. We barely got out alive. Everyone had been shot at least once, it was a miracle none of us were killed. He paid for us all to stay here until we recovered.”
“Why are you telling me this?” Camille asked cautiously.
Benton continued as if she hadn’t spoken. “One night I found him sitting on that bench right there, watching the moonlight moving across this mosaic. He told me he built this place for the love of his life, then he told me about his brothers, about what happened, about you. When he called me to go to Florida, I almost said no. I retired from fieldwork three years ago. Then he told me what was going on, about you, his daughter, his brother’s daughter, and about that poor girl. I couldn’t say no.”
He paused, “I’m a miserable old man, divorced; never see my daughters or their kids. I own one of the most successful private security firms in the country and I work because I have nothing else. I don’t want that for Kyle. He’s like a son to me. So, no. No, you can’t stay at the main resort because this is your house, he built it for you and I won’t let you leave until it’s safe.” Benton walked past, pausing to say, “He’ll be here in a few days. Please give him another chance.” Then he left her, stunned and trying to remember how to breathe.
Moments or maybe an hour later, Camille began to wander through the villa. Everywhere there were subtle things that caught her attention, too many to be coincidence. There was a comfortable den in deep greens and browns with framed butterflies on one wall opposite a giant flatscreen that showed images of the butterflies wintering in the forest. The kitchen was filled with rich colors and hanging spices like the open-air market they had visited and had lunch at. Things only he would know about those three days, as if this house was a shrine to what they lost.
Finally she found the guest rooms. A giant curved aquarium wall filled with coral and colorful fish in between giant bedrooms. The girls were lying on three beds staring up at the fish. It looked like the room had been arranged just for the teens.
“Mom, this place is amazing,” Willow breathed out.
“Mmm hhmmm,” Gracie agreed.
“I think I’m in love with this house,” Tiana said in awe.
“Have you found your room yet, mom?” Willow asked.
“Found my room?” Camille murmured, unable to take her eyes off the wall.
“Mom’s next door, unless she wants the underwater room, dad left a note,” Gracie muttered, her face was almost against the plexi, watching a pair of angelfish.
“What underwater room?” Camille pulled herself away from the mesmerizing sight. It was like scuba diving without the heavy equipment.
“The one down the stairs at the end of the hall. It’s like something out of 20,000 Leagues under the Sea.” Willow sat up and looked around, “Can we go swimming?”
“Uh, yes... wait, no.” Camille answered, contradictted herself. “T and Gracie can, but Willow, you can’t get your stitches wet.”
“Awwww Mommmm,” Willow whined.
“Sucks to be you!” Gracie taunted, dumping her bag on her bed, “I’m gonna try that platform.” She pulled a swimsuit out of the pile of jumbled clothes.
“Me too.” Tiana was already stripped and pulling on a swimsuit.
“What platform?” Camille asked.
“If you follow the path through the garden, there’s an infinity pool built into the ocean. It has a 7M platform and a 3M springboard,” Willow explained. “Please Mom, I’ll be really careful not to pull my stitches.”
“Willow, it isn’t about pulling the stitches, well it is. But it is more about not getting an infection. And you are still recovering from a concussion, no diving or anything else that might rattle your brain.” Camille patiently explained.
“No worry about that, Mom,” Gracie smirked at her sister. “There’s nothing up there to rattle.”
“I don’t need a pool to kill you!” Willow snapped.
“Whatev, brain dead!”
Gracie ran, screaming out the door, as Willow indignantly shouted at her to shut up and gave chase. Tiana just laughed, then said, “I’ll ask Senora Herlinda for some towels. I can’t wait for my baby to grow up and dive with me.”
Camille shook her head, advising, “Don’t rush it, sweetie. It goes by way too fast as it is.”
“Camille, thanks... Thanks for everything. For being so nice and holding me when I have nightmares, and... and for showing me what a mom should be,” Tiana looked embarrassed and emotional. It was the first time she had called her coach by her first name.
Camille hugged her. “Oh Tiana, I just want you to heal, to be happy again. I had my sister to get me through it, this is my way of paying it forward. You deserve so much more than you had, you’re going to be a great mom. You didn’t need me to show you how.”
Tiana sniffed, and wiped a tear away, “I just don’t want to be like her. I don’t want my baby to feel like she or he is never good enough. I want them to feel loved.”
“Honey, you’re loved and you are loving, you’re baby will never feel otherwise.” Camille was shocked every time Tiana said that, but she knew it would take a long time for Tiana to believe it. Tiana just nodded and pulled away slowly, going outside after her friends.
Camille went next door, there was a large round bed set into the curve of the aquarium wall. On the silky blue pillow was a card.
You can have this room or the one at the bottom of the hall. I’ll take the other.
If you need anything, ask Herlinda. Enjoy my favorite place in the world.
Camille walked to the end of the hall and down a spiral staircase. She followed the long dim passageway to a stained glass door, shades of blue, turquoise, topaz and aquamarine swirling around a golden circle. The door reminded her of looking up through water at the sun. There was light behind the door that moved. Opening the door, the bedroom took her breath away. Going into the room, she could only stare at the clear curved ceiling and walls. The bed wrapped neatly in deep blue silk complemented the water beyond the plexiglass. She realized this room wasn’t under an aquarium, it was under the ocean itself. Turning slowly, a framed picture caught her eye.
It was taken the night of the rehearsal dinner. She was looking up at him, smiling, obviously in love. He wore the same expression looking down at her. She didn’t remember this picture, she’s never seen it. Then she realized she’d never seen any of the pictures from that night. A friend of Kent’s had photographed it. This picture told of a perfect moment, just before a kiss. A moment she had forgotten about until now. The moment captured was when he first said he was falling in love with her. Kent had laughed and Mina had teased, saying, ‘it was about time’. They had all shared that moment. Their last happy moment together, the four of them, and she had forgotten it until now.
Trembling, Camille put the picture back, and retreated from the room, closing the door softly. Her breath kept catching in her throat as she fought the urge to cry, to scream out her grief and loss. Tears she refused to let fall for so long, burned like acid in her eyes. She ran back up the stairs to the other bedroom, tore off her clothes and yanked on her swimsuit. She went in search of the pool and the diving platform. She needed to dive to get some level of control back before her emotions got the better of her. She needed desperately to feel the fall.
Dinner was amazing, grilled fish and shrimp tacos. Kyle’s cook and housekeeper, Senora Herlinda was an older, short lady with silver streaked hair and a laugh that could make anyone happy. Merle, her husband, was the groundskeeper, He told them all funny stories of Kent and Kyle as boys. He had worked for the Hightower family since the year after Kyle was born.
Merle first told them a story of when Kyle had been three and he kept jumping in the koi fish pond. He was obsessed with fish. After a trip to the aquarium, he had filled the double-paned windows of his bedroom with water. They never figured out how he did it. At four, he moved all the koi from the pond in the garden into the bathtub in their parents suite to have a bath with them since he was forbidden from getting in the pond. Merle laughingly recounted how after the family moved to Manhattan, Kyle had used his school milk allowance to buy goldfish, which he kept secretly in his closet until the family took a vacation and had come home to the entire penthouse smelling like dead fish.
Kent had been the same way about plants and reptiles. Once, the two boys brought a garden snake into one of their mother’s society tea parties, which caused pandemonium. Their very elderly Grandmother Hightower had calmly set her tea cup down and told the boys to take the poor thing back to the park, they were scaring it. The older two boys’ love of the outdoors had driven their socialite mother crazy. As Merle shared stories about them, Camille and the girls all laughed until tears ran down their faces.
Camille didn’t know if it was the company or the deceptively strong Sangria punch that had her feeling so relaxed by the time they all retired. As she lay looking up at the aquarium wall, she felt at peace. Falling asleep, she dreamed about the weekend she and Kyle first met.
Kyle surveyed the mess the snow storm had made of his construction site. His crew had mostly cleared the snow into huge piles but it was going to be a mess when the warmer days hit next week. The weather people were predicting the spring thaw to begin. He had flown back with the Blue Wings, and had Benton and Sheridan take Camille, Gracie, Willow, and Tiana to his house in Cancun. He desperately hoped Camille liked it but worried that it may be too soon to spring his home on her. He didn’t see that he had a choice, it was the best place to hide them.
After seeing her in the Olympics, Kyle had built the villa. Not even realizing what it was until it was almost finished. He had built his idea of her dream house, of his dream of her. His memory of their time together had become a place outside his mind. As he spent more time there, he had fallen into a depression, longing for her but too ashamed and embarrassed to face her. So he travelled and worked, every moment of every day but at night...
Nights had been the worst because he just lay in bed and thought about her, about his brothers, about that night in Vegas, and about how he deserved how Sophia treated him. Twice after Kris’ death, when he had been particularly down on himself, he had drunkenly hooked up with Sophia for a weekend but it was never good. She started criticizing everything about his life the moment the sex was over, and he always regretted it when he was sober. Ten years ago he had filed his first restraining order against her, but her father’s position and influence gave her diplomatic immunity in most places. Having her arrested usually just gave him the 12 hour headstart, he needed to get away from her. It had become a chess game, Sophia finding a man or woman and Kyle waiting for the news of her next breakup. He built resorts in some of the most remote and exotic places in the world, just so she wouldn’t visit him until they were complete. As a result, the Blue Water Resorts were wildly popular among the super rich and famous. He had become wealthier than his father and grandfather together.
After being attacked in Costa Rica, he’d gone home to the one place in his empire Sophia didn’t know about. He couldn’t work or travel until his leg healed from the two bullet wounds he’d gotten. Alone in his shrine to the love he lost, his depression got worse. He missed his brothers, especially Kent. He missed Camille the way a drowning man missed air. Benton had found him staring the mosaic on night, drunk on whiskey and Kyle had told him everything. The retired secret service agent had taken the whiskey out of Kyle’s hand and gotten rid of every drop of alcohol in the villa. The next morning, a prim woman in librarian glasses arrived and Kyle agreed to one year of therapy. It helped; it helped him more than he had ever imagined it would.
Mack, Rand and Jon were waiting in his office, he had a look that meant bad news. Mack hated the cold and wanted to spend well earned week of vacation in Hawaii with his girlfriend, her daughter, and her daughter’s fathers, as in gay married couple. That whole situation had Kyle shaking his head and grateful his love life wasn’t nearly as complicated. But his head project manager knew he’d have to wait until Kyle was back and right now Kyle needed to protect his family.
“What? What is the problem now?” Kyle asked annoyed. He wanted nothing more than to get on his jet and fly to Cancun to see if Camille liked his house... her house.
“No problem with the build, boss. But you should know, Sophia leaked to the media that she was seen coming out of your suite in Florida,” Rand held out a tablet showing the Greek tabloid. It read Supermodel and Reclusive Developer Reunited in USA.
Kyle started laughing, really laughing. The article was accompanied by a hazy image of Sophia in a towel and him by the door exiting the room. It was very obviously taken from the balcony through a Go-Pro.
They stared at him like he was crazy, so he explained, “Well, I guess she had to use one as I was leaving that didn’t have my face in it because I was beyond pissed. Right after this picture, I slammed the door and she smashed a plate on the wall. Camille caught her in my room and shrugged it off. It pissed Sophia off to no end that Camille either didn’t see her as a threat or just plain didn’t give a crap about her. She got into the penthouse where I was staying with the Blue Wings, so I had Benton send out a report banning her from all Blue Water properties.”
“But her father will get the two Greek resorts closed, they are both booked full,” Mack responded.
“Let him, after next week. I won’t own them anymore. I’ll warn Viktor. Rand, have PR call this paper, I want Pam to talk to the chief editor. I think it is time the world knew the truth about the legal aspects my and Sophia Varda’s relationship.” Kyle said coldly, thinking about what he would say. “I am going to my villa to spend a few days with my family. I’ll see you both next week when the snow melts and the floodgates open.”
“Your family?” Rand was slack jawed for a moment then laughed, “Dude! You got some giant boulder-sized cojones! Sending the woman you love to the house you built for her... alone. Either she is going to fall in your arms when you get there or slap you with a restraining order as a stalker.”
Jon just shook his head like he thought Kyle was crazy.
Mack grinned, offering, “I’ll drive you to the airport, if I get to go watch.”
“Mack, you will drive me to the airport but you aren’t going to come. You two need to get as much done as you can before this place turns into a mudpit,” Kyle smirked at Mack’s disappointed expression, “But I promise to leave you a little something in my will if she drowns me.”
“Dibs on Tanzania!” Rand blurted out.
“I get Cape,” Jon blurted out.
Mack laughed, “Fine. I want Alofi Island.”
“Hey, Alofi is my retirement community,” Kyle announced. “And Tanzania is my favorite diving spot.”
“But you’ll be dead, and someone has to show the hot dive coach a good time,” Rand teased.
“Rand, never tease a man with access to concrete and heavy equipment about stealing the love of his life.” Kyle tried to put on a murderous expression, but Rand, Jon, and Mack just laughed at him. Jon and Rand wished Kyle luck before Mack drove him back to the airport.
“The thing you wanted is in the glove box, they sent it from your safe deposit box in New York,” Mack told him. “Don’t you think it is a little too soon? I mean you just met her again.”
Kyle reached in and pulled out a small gray velvet box. Just holding it made his heart pound in his chest. “Maybe, but I have to try. I lost almost 15 years, Mack. Spending the night at the hospital after Willow’s fall made me realize I don’t want to waste another minute.”