Chapter Thirteen: Games
When I woke, Damon was staring at me contentedly with his elbow resting on the leather chair. He smiled at me as I roused. “Good morning, sunshine,” he taunted. “You drooled.”
I wiped at my mouth in mortification and tried to sit upright. To my surprise, a cotton blanket had been wrapped around me. “Did you put this on me?” I asked, noticing that the plane did feel cooler than when we first stepped in.
“You had goose bumps on your arms so I found it for you,” he explained. “I’ve been waiting for you to wake up. We landed about ten minutes ago.”
“Why didn’t you wake me?” I demanded, looking through my window for confirmation.
“Actually, it’s the cutest thing. Did you know you talk in your sleep? You and I were having a fabulous conversation,” he grinned.
“What did I say?” Dread washed over me as his smile widened even further. His grin was devilish.
“Well, let’s just say the usually calm and collected Clover has no filter when she is having an imaginative dream...”
I flushed red again. I had no memory of any dreams. “Shouldn’t we get going?” I asked, clearing my throat. I looked down at my silver wristwatch, which stated that it was now 10.30 a.m. The flight had taken us three hours.
“After you,” he said, gesturing toward the door. I rose from my seat, and, after collecting my handbag, made my way to the door. Damon followed behind me. I squinted into the sunshine as I descended the stairs onto the cement. I paused mid-step. We were in a small clearing with trees, but I could make out a larger landing area for planes nearby.
“Where are we? Are we near an airport?” I asked, looking at a large building that was surrounded by planes.
“Yes, we are now officially at the Bahamas,” Damon said. His chest brushed across my shoulders as he gently pushed past me. He took a few steps then turned and held his hand out to help me down the last few steps.
“We are at the Bahamas?” I repeated. I looked at my clothes and wished I’d worn shorts. The weather was much hotter here. It was easily sixty degrees. I patted my passport where it bulged in the side of my bag. He had said I could leave at any time.
“Yes. Clover, there is someone I would like you to meet,” he said. His tone was casual but I could see he was anxious to know how I was taking all his surprises. There was a hint of apology in his tone. After all, this was very far from a normal weekend activity already.
I followed him, uncertain of what was happening. I didn’t think I had ever been pushed so far out of my comfort zone. Ahead of us a long black limo drove toward us before parking near us. A beautiful, long-legged woman hopped out. She had long brown curly hair, dark-brown eyes, and an olive tan. Here long orange maxi dress showed off her slender build to perfection. The look was completed by a stylish straw hat to keep away the hot sun. The gold jewelry she wore told me she wasn’t a local.
“Damon, it’s nice to see you arrived finally,” she commented whilst walking toward us. She looked like she was in her mid-thirties, and as she drew closer, I could appreciate the strong scent of her expensive perfume. “And you must be Clover. I am so happy to meet you. My name is Michelle, and I’m Damon’s long-suffering sister. Come, come.”
She walked us the short distance back to the limo to a man who waited patiently inside. He stepped out as we approached. He was fair-skinned, blonde-haired, and had blue eyes. He was equally as well-groomed, and I judged him to be in his forties. “This is my husband, Phillip,” Michelle said with a bright smile.
After shaking both their hands and assuring them that we had had a pleasant flight, we all climbed into the limo. I looked at Michelle and then at Damon. There were certainly similarities in features. Damon sat beside me, looking at me as if he were trying to guess my thoughts.
“It is lovely to meet you, but to be honest I have no idea why you have asked me here,” I admitted.
“Damon!” she erupted. “You didn’t tell her before you dragged her here?”
“What can I say, I like a dramatic introduction,” he quipped.
I thought of when we first met. Was that the sort of dramatic introduction he was used to as an escort?
The limo started and we began to drive, to where, I didn’t know. It all seemed so surreal. I didn’t know what I was stepping into. My world was so quickly changing and I felt like for once I had no control over anything. I smoothed down my shirt nervously, wishing I had worn something else.
“Agh, Damon, you are going to give someone a heart attack someday,” she said lightheartedly to him before leaning over to slap his knee in a playful manner.
“Right, let me formally introduce myself then. I am Michelle Brogardt and I am the CEO of Be True magazine. Damon mentioned to me about an ambitious young lady whom he escorted to one of the Candice magazine campaigns,” she continued whilst pouring a scotch into a small glass of ice. “He mentioned he came across some of your work and that is was excellent. I hear you want to be a travel columnist?”
My heart had stopped when she stated she was the CEO of a rival magazine. And not just any magazine. Damon was a part of the Brogardt family. His sister was the CEO of Be True magazine. It was too much to absorb at once.
“Ah, yes,” I said, still a little stunned. I was unable to comprehend where the conversation was leading. I collected the glass of scotch Michelle offered me. She briefly looked between Damon and me, as if sensing the tension. I didn’t want to seem ungrateful, but this really was something I should have been briefed on.
“Coincidentally, I am looking for a traveling columnist. I read some of your journalist work, and I was impressed. In fact, I’m grateful Damon has met you at such a time, because your voice would be amazing in our magazine. I thought, well, why not give you a trial now, since we would be meeting soon anyway, I’m sure. So consider this the trial run,” she laughed lightly. “We have a very influential sponsor who has invested much time and advertising into our magazine. This is his resort. Autumn experiences a little dip in tourism for the Bahamas. Trade around here doesn’t really pick up again until winter. We want to encourage potential guests to take a break between the summer and winter months. There is a lot to offer here: warm weather, beach life, culture. The sponsor owns half of the island, so he offered his hospitality in the hope that we might write a glowing review. We have a center fold spread in mind for him. And besides, I couldn’t help but want to meet you; it’s not every day Damon takes such an interest in a woman.”
“You’re drunk,” Damon accused with a nervous laugh.
The siblings exchanged an interesting glance before Michelle began laughing to herself. She rested her hand on her husband’s knee. “Maybe, but I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed myself on vacation. Nor can I remember when you last went on one.”
A phone in her orange straw bag started buzzing and she excused herself from the conversation before answering it. I noticed that her nails were perfectly manicured. I overheard parts of her conversation; instantly she adopted a somber, business-like tone. Her words flowed articulately as she issued some command or another. She was a business woman through and through.
I sent Damon a fierce look, unimpressed that he had landed me in this situation. I could not just come on vacation with my work’s rival magazine. I didn’t even have time to decide if this was a job I wanted, but all of a sudden I was expected to hand in my resume. I crossed my legs sharply, looking away from Damon as I tried to control my mounting agitation.
“Clover, is everything OK?” Damon frowned.
“I’m fine,” I replied in a clipped tone. I smiled tightly at him before staring back out the window pointedly.