Chapter Fifteen: Love at First Sight
I slipped into my casual white silky dress. I loved this dress; it caressed my curves gently as it flowed down the angles of my body. It was one of the only dresses I couldn’t throw out when I moved from Ithaca to New York. It fit the same as it always did, and now I questioned when the last time was that I actually had the chance to wear it.
I lightly dusted my nose with foundation and reapplied my soft brown lip gloss. I pressed my lips together approvingly in front of the mirror. The gloss gave my lips a nice, shimmery glow. I scrunched up my hair to give it that little more body, smiling at my adolescent aim of impressing a boy I liked.
He was waiting downstairs for me, leaning against the post, with one of his legs raised against it. He hadn’t yet noticed me as I descended the stairs, as he was looking out toward the large open windows of the kitchen. The thick carpet cushioned my steps and I took the chance to admire his strong, handsome side profile. His hair was messy and his strong jawline clenched as he thought of something. When he turned, the first thing he did was run his eyes up my lightly-tanned, shimmering legs. His lips parted as his eyes traveled up my body to rest on my eyes.
“Damon, I have to go,” Michelle said, walking out from the lounge room. She followed his transfixed gaze and smirked knowingly when she saw me. “I like that dress, Clover. It suits you. I am sorry I have to go so quickly after you arrived, but please enjoy today and I look forward to having a few drinks with you tonight. Please make the most of the facilities. It’s on us.”
“If she lives by your philosophy, I will be broke by the end of the day,” he goaded.
“Don’t be stupid; I gave you the company card, and I would love to see the day when your personal account drops,” she challenged. You could tell they were siblings. They still had that immaturity that made you think that at any moment they might start biting and pulling one another’s hair, but you could also tell they respected one another as well. Michelle’s phone began ringing; she said her goodbye and answered it, her tone instantly changing from light-hearted and playful to sharp and authoritative.
“Shall we?” Damon asked, gesturing toward the door.
“Where are we going first?” I asked, walking through the door and enjoying the fresh smell of sea water. How long had it been since I had been at the beach?
“I have heard great things about the gardens, which aren’t too far from here, and then there is a nice restaurant by the pier I have heard wonderful things about. We can do scuba diving and things like—”
“No to the scuba diving,” I said quickly. He raised his eyebrow at me. “Sorry, I freak out under water; it’s just one of those things I don’t think I could ever do. Give me a plane to jump out of any day, but no to the scuba diving.”
“Clover, you realize we are on an island where most activities are based in the water,” he lightly chuckled.
“I didn’t know we were coming here!” I protested laughingly. “But the gardens and restaurant sound wonderful.”
And wonderful they were. There were so many colors; so many exotic smells and sounds. Small tables and chairs in the gardens created a tea-party sort of atmosphere. There were many tourists here already. Some were honeymooners, others were families. Local gardeners who maintained the plants smiled welcomingly at the guests. There was a large rotunda in the middle with beautiful golden trimming, and from here you could see the restaurant that Damon was talking about. Overhead exotic birds swooped and called to one another, adding to the surrealism.
A maze was made from plants and I made sure to record the names as we walked leisurely around. I watched as little blue birds flew around and then ventured past the flowers to rest on the palm trees for a few seconds. Damon told me a little bit about the islands as we walked. He had visited before, and he talked of sweet-smelling pine forests, tropical sands, and the amazing coral rocks. Apparently one of the islands was home to the third longest reef system in the world. We even watched as lizards stole a crab claw from unsuspecting tourists as they sat on a picnic blanket. It was quite funny to watch and we all erupted in laughter as we watched the culprits make their escape. A park guide explained that they were known as the “curly-tailed lizards,” and they were notoriously crafty.
Damon had brought a camera along with him to take photos to accompany my article. Often he would call out my name and catch me by surprise. He would then snap my picture when I had my mouth wide open, demanding “what?” He would laugh every time and I couldn’t help laughing along with him as I tried to wrestle the camera from him. It was nice just to bathe in the sun for an hour or so and enjoy each other’s company. It was also good to know that I couldn’t stereotype him as an escort, or even an eccentric rich man, or a handsome bachelor, but just as a person who admired the flowers as much as I did.
Eventually our walk came to an end. We decided to go to the restaurant for some lunch. The restaurant was beautiful. It was built upon a wooden pier over the green ocean. Wooden tables and chairs were placed near one another, which created an electric atmosphere as holiday makers laughed and drank together, side by side in an exotic paradise. All the doors were left open so you could look over the glimmering ocean. There was an impressive wine rack along the wall beside a large fish tank. The tank contained a small shark which was swimming around in it. It sent shivers brushing up my back as I thought about being stuck in there with it. Overhead, bronze fans swept around in a semi-circle, creating a cool breeze for the diners.
“Just a table for two?” a beautiful waitress asked us. The shimmery gold of her eye shadow contrasted beautifully with the dark glow of her skin.
“Yes please,” Damon replied, gesturing for me to go first as she escorted us to our table. It was a lovely spot, right near the open windows, which opened out over the ocean. She placed the menus down so we could look through them. Quickly I spotted what I wanted. Seafood, of course.
“Would you like an entrée?” Damon asked me whilst looking over his menu. He looked surprise when I lowered my menu to indicate I had made my choice.
“No I am happy with my main, and a glass of red wine,” I said politely.
“You have selected what you want already?” he asked. “Not many women choose so quickly.”
“What are you saying; you’ve brought many women to this place? And here I thought I was special,” I teased.
“You seem to forget, angel puff, that I have escorted many women. And they all seem to take hours to decide upon the same old salad,” he taunted with a cocky smile.
At the mention of a job, a heavy feeling gripped my stomach. I wondered again what kind of escort work he really did. He didn’t need the money, it seemed, so did he just get a kick out of it? If so, there was every chance he would regularly extend his “services.” But now wasn’t the place or the time to ask him. “Well, I’m not a salad kind of girl,” I said in defiance, feeling provoked by being compared to other women.
“No... No, you’re definitely not,” he agreed with a light smile that quickly burned away my slight discomfort. When I looked at him, my heart swarmed, and a warmth filled me. I wanted him to control me. He was exciting and made my heart race. For now, that was enough to try and accept.