Dawn felt the big boat move, and tensed, remembering again where she was. She sat up straight, and looked out the window, watching the jetty recede, and the people still milling about on it get smaller. The boat rocked faintly, and she swallowed. It was not as bad she had originally thought, but what on earth would she do if this thing capsized? She couldn't swim, and she knew no one on the boat. She opened her pocketbook and searched for the little notepad and pen. Extracting them, she began a perfunctory listing of the things and people she observed on the boat. She had developed this habit when she was a very young girl, when she had had to find a way to relieve anxiety.
She became so absorbed that she failed to notice that someone had joined her on the banquette until his newspaper brushed her leg. She looked up blankly, and then her mouth dropped open.
"Brad?" Her startled eyes flew to his. "What are you doing here?"
"Same thing you're doing," he replied brightly. "Going to Nantucket."
He stared at her for a second, and then lowered his head. Dawn was too startled to realize his intent until she felt his mouth brush hers.
"Good morning, Didi!" He smiled at her. "I've only been wanting to do that, and more, for a year!"
He watched her face in amusement as she tried to assimilate what he had said and what he had done. He bent his head again, but this time she moved away, and his lips landed on her cheek.
"Hey, no fair!" he complained, chuckling good-naturedly.
"Stop it, Brad!" she whispered, so low, he could barely hear her. "What do you think you're doing?" She glanced around her as she spoke, but no one seemed to even be aware of their existence.
"I won't stop," he said, "but I can wait till we get to the island. After all, I've already waited a whole year. A couple more hours can't hurt."
He smiled at her and went back to his newspaper, while she watched his face surreptitiously. When she thought he was unaware of her scrutiny, she took in the full lips, the high cheekbones, the sandy blond hair, the sinewed arms and strong legs, the dimple in his cheek...he knew she was looking at him! He was smiling. Dawn felt her cheeks flame, and she dragged her eyes away to look out the window. Suddenly, she remembered his words from a few minutes ago. What did he think?
"Just exactly what do you think is going to happen this week, Brad?" she asked sharply, turning back to him. "Why do you think I'm here?"
Brad's eyes slowly took in the woman sitting next to him. She was his height -- five ten, milk-in-coffee-colored skin shimmering next to his pale skin. She was soft and round, and the scent of her, under the sensual perfume she wore, lit him up like a Fourth of July firecracker. He felt the sparks in the tips of his fingers, and the heat seared him and stirred his loins. He did not understand why, and after about the first four months, he didn't care why, but Dawn made him burn, and glow, and want, and need. She also made him laugh and cry. She often left him speechless.
"I think," he said at last, "that I will get what I've wanted for a whole year!" He stopped speaking and just watched her, an amused expression on his face.
"And what have you wanted for a whole year, Brad?" she wondered, meeting his gaze squarely. The fire that she saw flaring out at her had her trembling slightly and gripping the notebook and pen she held in her hands.
"You!" was his succinct and heated response. He deliberately turned back to his paper, and left Dawn to fret and worry the rest of the trip over. In fact, she was so preoccupied worrying about Brad's answer that she had no energy left to be nervous about being on the boat. She did manage to get her breathing under control by the time she was being ushered off the ferry.
"Right this way, beautiful!" Brad said, his hand at the small of her back. She let his gentle touch lead her to his car, a Toyota Camry, waiting in the parking lot. As he ushered her around to the passenger side, she scolded herself.
"You're forty-five years old, girl! He's young enough to practically be your son. You just feel flattered by his attention, that's all. Nothing else is going on! And nothing will happen but what YOU want to happen!"
The pep talk helped her stiffen her spine and buckle herself into her seatbelt, but when he stretched over her, ostensibly to check that her door was properly closed, because the door light remained on, her heart jumped right back into her throat, and she could feel the rapid pulsing of it in her veins.
He talked about nothing and everything between the boat dock and the small Bed and Breakfast she had chosen to stay in. It was tucked away from the main road, down a side street, far enough from the center of town that she could work up a good sweat getting there and back, should she ever wish to do so. She had finally settled on Nantucket because it was somewhere she had never been, it was an island, so it would help her recapture some of the feeling she missed so much in her own island home, and she knew Brad, and wanted to see, if she were brutally honest with herself, how he would behave with her on his own turf.
She had always harbored the sneaking suspicion that he was setting a trap for her, but here, on this island far away from the high school where they were both teachers, she could not see how anything he did could harm her. And she wanted to prove to herself that she was not REALLY attracted to him, but in the unlikely event she was proved wrong, no one would know but her...and Brad.
She let him help her out when they got to the big old house with the expansive lawns. It was a big, old, butter yellow house, which was one reason she had chosen it. The sunny colors of the rooms had also been an added attraction, as had the fact that they served a full breakfast every day at nine o'clock. She watched Brad take her suitcase up the wide front steps to the beautiful glass and wood door. It was ajar, and he strode in confidently, stopping at the wide reception desk in the front hall. He rang the little bell sharply, and immediately a tiny old woman with creamy hair stepped from the cubicle in the rear to the desk. Her face lit up in a sunny smile when she saw them, and she whisked the open register around, saying brightly,
"Hello there. You must be Ms. Jamison. Welcome, my dear. Please sign here!"
She indicated the space where Dawn was to sign her name, and then handed her the key to her room.
"Up those stairs to your right, second door on the right. You have your own bathroom."
Dawn thanked the pretty little old lady with a smile and followed Brad up the wide staircase to the second floor and into the room she had been given for the week. It was an utterly charming and very feminine room, all in buttercup yellow and dusty rose. Brad put the suitcase on the chair and turned to her.
"Dinner later?" he asked. "My mom wants to catch up with you on all the latest news from New York."
"Brad," she began to protest, but he stopped her with a hand on hers.
"If you don't want to come to dinner at my house, we can go somewhere else. But I'm not letting you out of dinner with me."
He put his arms around her, and she tried to hold herself stiffly as he lowered his head, but the kiss he planted on her this time was neither gentle nor tentative. It was a full-blown kiss of passion and need, and Dawn felt her resistance fading away as he folded her tighter in his arms. He lifted his head and stared at her
"Didi, why are you still resisting me? School's out, and you've known since last Christmas how I feel about you. Why can't you just relax?"
"Brad, this isn't right!" she protested. "I'm almost old enough to be your mother, and I'm not the kind of woman you should be pursuing."
"What do you know about the kind of woman I should be pursuing? And so what if you're older than me? You're the one I've been panting after since last June! What are you afraid of?"
Dawn could not answer him, because, truth be told, she didn't know the answer. She let him pull her in again and search her mouth with his tongue as though she had treasure hidden there. She was shaking when he let her go, and she noticed a fine trembling in his hands as well.
"What time do you want me to pick you up?" he asked, releasing her slowly, but keeping hold of her hands.
Dawn looked at her watch. It was two in the afternoon. She needed a nap and a long, hot bath.
"Fine," he answered, and then pulled her to him again for another kiss. She sighed into his mouth, and it seemed to set him on fire. She could feel the hardness of his desire in the valley between her thighs, and almost without volition, she moved her legs apart and pressed herself against it. He groaned.
"Naughty, naughty!" he teased, but pressed back, grinding himself against her sensually.
"This isn't right!" she whispered again, as she felt herself climbing to a new plane of desire and need. She tried to pull away from him, but he wouldn't let her go this time.
"Let me stay, Didi!" Please!" His voice shook, and Dawn looked up to see his light blue-grey eyes darkened with passion. "Let me make love to you, babe!"
He caressed her hips as he spoke, and peppered her face, neck, and shoulders with hot, wet little kisses. Dawn struggled to rein in her own need. This was NOT how she had envisioned her first hours on the island to be.
"Brad, please, love, not yet, okay!" She heard her words with astonishment. The promise in them was one she was sure he had heard also, for she saw him reining in his passion, and felt him drag his hands away from her arms.
"Dinner tonight," she continued, "then, if you have time, show me a bit of the island, then maybe tomorrow we can have dinner with your mom."
"And when will you let me...?" He stopped, but she understood his question, and her face burned.
"What makes you think we'll even get there?" she asked, stalling, still feeling the burning ache.
"Want me to show you how I know again?" he asked threateningly, the light of battle in his eyes. He pushed his erection against her front again, and held her in place while he ground himself against her. "Want more, babe?" he hissed between his teeth. He kept grinding against her, pushing himself and her to the ragged edge of control. They were both moaning when he let her go.
"Didi, babe, sorry!" His voice was harsh, as he struggled for control. "I'll go now. See you at six."
He did not move immediately, though, and Dawn could almost feel the physical battle he fought against his senses, as he struggled to back away from her. She swayed toward him, strangely unwilling to lose the bond that held them together. He passed a trembling finger over her kiss-swollen lips, smiled faintly, and left her where she stood.
That had been Sunday.
Monday they had done a tour of the island, before he went to work. It was a small island, and he told her how in fact it had once been part of the mainland. He had assured her, back in June, that if the ferry sank or capsized, she would still be able to find a high point above water to cling to till help came, because the bay was not that deep. Looking at the beautiful ocean, listening to the waves, and the whirling, diving, screaming gulls, she felt a kind of peace she hadn't felt in years.
She'd been wearing a spaghetti-strapped yellow sundress, and her wide-brimmed hat had shielded her face from the hot summer sun. He'd stopped in the shade of some spreading trees, and they had picnicked on the fruit and cheese he had brought with him. He remembered she liked weird combinations of food, and the strawberries, grapes and cheese they had dined on had been just what she needed. When she went to wipe away the juice of a strawberry that had squirted and splashed her lips and cheeks, Brad had sidled close, and grabbed her hand with the napkin in it.
"Let me," he offered, and she turned her face up obediently, expecting to feel the paper on her cheeks.
Instead his warm, wet tongue licked the juices from her face, and when she pulled away, he merely pulled her face back with a hand behind her head, and thoroughly kissed her strawberry-wet mouth. The fingers that held her other hand moved to push one thin yellow strap off her shoulder, and he followed with his mouth, kissing her down the side of her neck, across the width of the shoulder, down the arm, and back up, in a slow, lazy seduction of her senses that had her giddy by the time he returned to feast on her mouth again.
Dinner at his home had been a pleasant enough affair, although she could sense his mother wondering what was going on between them. She had made sure that nothing in her words or actions gave away the searing desire she felt every time Brad touched her or smiled at her. The conversation had been lively, with lots of laughter all around, and when he took her back to her lodgings, he had been in a particularly good mood.
"My mom likes you, you know," he said as he stopped outside her door. "She wants to know when you're going to come again. I know you're leaving on Sunday, so I thought Saturday we could all spend the day at the beach. Would that be okay with you?" He watched her open her door, and then when she turned to face him, he held her face between his hands.
"Sure, Brad, that would be fine, as long as you remember I can't swim!" She smiled at him, and he kissed her, as though he couldn't help himself.
"As long as you're in a sexy bathing suit, you can decorate the beach! And I'll be only too happy to watch you do it!" He nipped her bottom lip between his teeth, then soothed the ache with a wet kiss that sucked it into his mouth, before invading her own.
"I'd better go," he breathed at last. "Gotta be up early tomorrow. I'll pass by in the afternoon. Maybe we can give that bathing suit an airing before Saturday." One more sweet kiss on the lips, and he was gone.
Tuesday he had come to get her for an afternoon swim at a private beach owned by one of his family's close friends. No one else was there at that time of day, and Brad had spent most of the time swimming and coaxing Dawn into the ocean. He managed to get her to wade in and play with him a little, but inevitably the play had become so much more. They had ended up on the sand, right by the water's edge, Dawn on her back, Brad next to her, stealing kisses from her lips, her neck, the valley between her breasts.
"Brad, what are you doing?" she asked, when he pushed the straps of her one piece suit off her shoulders and proceeded to kiss them, before letting his mouth wander down to the tops of her luscious breasts, which he let himself fondle for the first time. She inhaled deeply, and when his mouth sucked on an erect nipple through the wet suit, Dawn almost came right there.
"I'm letting you get used to me," he said, "to what I do when I want someone as much as I want you." He let his hands slide back up the column of her neck and cradle her head, before planting another deep kiss on her eager mouth. Later, they had eaten at a favorite diner of his, before she had finally tumbled, exhausted and well kissed, into her bed.
Wednesday he had had to work almost all day, so she had walked into town and made a few purchases, which she had asked to be delivered to the Bed and Breakfast. The town was a tourist town, and the shops tempted her with everything from paintings to model ships, from embroidered tea trays to beautifully hand-worked tablecloths, from ships' hardware to vintage glass. The two bags of purchases would have been too much for her to carry, with the body pillow she had bought, and since she intended to follow her plan and walk both ways, she had asked for the packages to be delivered.
He had called her that afternoon and invited her to a friend's home for a barbecue supper, and once again the fire between them had flared almost out of control. He had come up to her door on Wednesday night, and begged her to let him stay. His kisses had inflamed her till she almost forgot her own name, but she had held out against him, and he had left disappointed and, she could see, a little hurt by her continued rejection.
Today was Thursday, and the sexual tension between them had increased so much that Dawn had decided that she would avoid Brad this morning at all costs. So when he called, she didn't answer the phone, and asked Mrs. Potter, the sweet old lady at the front desk, to take any phone messages. She lay in bed, hugging the body pillow she had bought in town the day before and wishing she could explain the feelings she fought against every time she saw Brad. None of these feelings had been there during the school year. Or so she had thought, only now, she was swamped by them, and unable to cope with them.
The phone rang again, and she saw, by the red light, that it was the front desk. She picked it up.
"Ms. Jamison, you have two packages down here. Shall I send it up, or will you collect it on your way out?" The voice was not Mrs. Potter's, but belonged to her grand-daughter, Annie.
"Please send it up, Annie, thanks!" she answered. It must be the souvenirs she had purchased yesterday during her visit to the shopping area downtown. She got up reluctantly, and donned her dressing gown just as there was a rap on the door.
"Coming!" she said loudly and hurried to open the door. Brad stood before her, holding not only her packages from downtown, but also a large bouquet of fragrant flowers. His eyes took in her sleepwear -- a short black satin dressing gown over a skimpy matching shortie-pajama set. She could feel herself coloring up, and she moved hastily out of the doorway to let him in.
"Sleeping in this morning?" he wondered aloud, as he put her shopping down on the chair, and went to rest the flowers in water in the bathroom sink. She watched him come back to where she still stood rooted, as it were, to the spot.
"Yes, I'm feeling a little lazy," she said nervously.
"Or a little afraid, huh?" he said and came to stand in front of her. "Didi, I'm free all morning, so I'm at your service." He smiled, and continued, "And I do so WANT to service you, sweet thing!"
His voice was sultry and husky as he eyed her again.
"You have a one track mind, don't you, Brad?" she replied, trying to make a joke of his words, trying to dissipate the thick fog of feeling in his voice.
He didn't answer her, but reached out to touch the collar of the dressing gown. She flinched and tried to move away from him. He held the cloth between his strong fingers, and pulled her to his mouth.
"If you keep pushing me away, you're gonna miss out on the chance to know, once and for all, if we can have something real. I don't wanna miss that chance, Didi!"
"What if this is just about fucking, Brad? What if there's nothing else here? Would that be okay with you? Huh? Would it be all right if all we wanted was to fuck each other's brains out?"
Dawn heard her words with a kind of dismay and shock that made the color flood her cheeks. She wrenched herself away from his hands and stumbled to the door.
"You need to leave Brad, please! I can't do this!" She was whispering now, because the force of her feelings left her unable to utter a word in a regular tone.
Brad stayed where he was. "D'you really want that, Didi? Because if I leave now, I will only come back to take you to the ferry. And whatever has been building between us all week will die. And I won't try to resurrect it. Is that what you want, babe?"
Dawn felt the tears rolling down her cheeks, and she raised a distracted hand to wipe them away. She was so torn that she could almost feel herself being pulled apart, and the pain was excruciating. She knew what her heart wanted, but her head said no, and said it so loudly that she felt she could not ignore it. And now, she was here, at the moment of decision. She stared helplessly at Brad, her eyes begging him to help her figure out her dilemma. She watched him walk toward her at last, and look her in the eyes.