Working! Jayme hadn’t realized she had admitted that. Now she was truly flustered, yet, she longed to tell him the truth, but knew she couldn’t, so instead settled for in between. “I’m sort of a photographer. I take pictures when I’m on vacation and occasionally sell one or two.” She hoped he didn’t see her fingers crossed! “Where would you recommend for dinner?” she tried changing the subject.
“Some place quiet, remote, with atmosphere and good food. Let me think for a moment,” he smiled devilishly. “I’ll be right back,” Mark left so quickly, Jayme didn’t have the opportunity to question. All she realized was that as soon as he left, the space felt empty and she wanted him back.
Moments later, Mark returned with two over-sized glasses of red swirling liquid. “Bahama Mamas,” he announced, placing a glass down in front of Jayme.
“Thanks, but it’s only,” she glanced at the watch on her thin wrist, “gosh! It’s after 6pm! I don’t drink before dinner,” she admitted, pushing the glass an inch away.
“I wouldn’t want you to drink right now, anyway. These are virgin … no liquor. You need to take these,” and he handed her a vial of pills.
“What is it?” she asked warily.
“Antibiotics. Ethromycin, actually. We don’t want your wound infecting, do we?”
She shook her head, sending her soft auburn curls swaying. Mark looked down to stifle the groan. She looked at the bottle and shook two pills out into her hand, popped them into her mouth and took a swallow of red sweet liquid, and grinned at the handsome doctor. Why did he make her feel the way he did? She was too old to have a school girl crush! Good grief, he couldn’t be more than 35 and she was 43!
“So, Dr. Steele, have you…”
“Mark,” he interrupted her.
“Call me Mark, Jayme. Yesterday you insisted I call you Jayme, so I want you to call me Mark. Fair’s fair, okay?”
“Sure… Mark. So, Mark, have you decided where to have dinner?” No sooner had she spoken, than one of the waiters from the resort restaurant showed up carrying a large tray, loaded with food. Much to Jayme’s surprise and delight, the waiter proceeded to clear the outside table and set it with linens and china. Mark had taken Jayme’s equipment and set it in her room on a chair without so much as a comment.
With candles lit and wine poured, Mark gazed across the table at Jayme, and raised his crystal goblet in a toast. “To candlelit dinners on sandy beaches at sunset”, his eyes clouding with an unmistakable longing.
“How could I refuse?” Jayme responded, a question in her look as she raised her own wine glass and sipped.
“I hope you can’t,” Marks’s comment was definitely cloaked in double meaning. Silence fell between them.
Jayme cleared her throat. “So, what have you ordered? I’ve tried just about everything on the menu here.”
Mark smiled, “something that’s NOT on the menu. You have Holm Chicken and I have Anna’s Cucumber Fish. I have special influence with the cook,” he winked at her.
Jayme lifted the silver dome off her plate and set it aside, the delicate aroma’s wafting up to meet her. She closed her eyes briefly in pleasure at the scent, an action that turned Mark’s insides to soft mush and other parts of him into something much harder. Holm chicken was strips of chicken breast broasted in pineapple and orange juice, thickened into a gravy, served with fried bananas and fried pineapple rings on a bed of cooked grains. Jayme speared a bite sized piece of pineapple and chicken together and put them in her mouth with anticipation.
“This is ambrosia! Why isn’t it on the menu?” she exclaimed, her eyes lighting up with delight.
“Don’t know. Ask Anna. Here, try some of my fish.” without asking, Mark scooped up a fork full of fresh caught white fish, hot minced cucumbers, orange slices and dill, and held it out, an offering to Jayme. She met his eyes, smiled, and opened her mouth to let him feed her. As he performed this simple yet intimate gesture, an electric shock ran up his spine. Mark could feel his arousal for her grow and it surfaced in his eyes.
“That is incredible!” Jayme murmured, running her tongue over her sauce wet lips. “I think I will ask Anna why she hides these delectable dishes from the guests! Everyone would surely order these if they were available,” she said between mouthfuls. She had seen the unmistakable longing in Mark’s gray eyes. Unmistakable as they matched her own.
“Maybe that’s why it isn’t on the menu, “ Mark commented thoughtfully. “It wouldn’t be special anymore. Something that’s too easily attained is often not as appreciated as it should be.” Mark observed.
Jayme let the innuendo slide. If she responded to all his veiled comments and double-entandre, she’d never get to finish eating! As it was, her mind was kept busy trying to figure out if he was just being pleasant, or was he really flirting with her? She found she very much hoped he was flirting, but she had so little experience with this! Was she ready for a little diversion? For diversion was all it could be..
Watching him through lowered lashes, Jayme had time to notice again the fine, chiseled lines of Mark’s tanned face. He had a strong jaw and high cheek bones, with a straight short nose that flared slightly when he talked. Dark brown hair waved long over his ears and down the back of his neck. Laugh lines crinkled around the corners of his smoky gray eyes, eyes she already knew deepened in color when he was very intense. His mouth was wide and easily curved into a smile. And his lips looked velvety soft. Jayme wondered how soft they really were, and how they would feel against hers. She again felt warm desire surge through her abdomen – and lower.
“Huh?” Jayme didn’t realize he’d been talking to her.
“Where have you been?” He asked with a tease. “You looked like you were a thousand miles away. Or is your arm hurting? Are you in pain?” he was suddenly concerned.
She smiled like the Cheshire Cat. “I was right here, believe me! And my arm is only a little uncomfortable, thanks to the great medical care I’ve been getting.” She smiled even more.
Mark stared at her for a long moment, wondering what she had been thinking about. He had a feeling it had been him, and that pleased him tremendously. “Well, now that I know you’re still here, I’ll say again: tell me about yourself.”
“What do you want to know?” the wine was making her very amiable, and he was such good company, she felt she’d tell him anything.
“Oh, about you, your family, your work, where you’re from, things like that. You know, your life story,” he grinned mischievously.
“I’m not a very interesting person, Mark. I’d rather talk about you and your work here in the Islands,” Jayme hoped to change the subject away from her, but Mark was not so easily derailed.
“Me later, you first. Where are you from? You have any brothers or sisters?” He urged her on, leaning forward on his elbows, the candle light dancing in his eyes.
Jayme leaned back, getting comfortable. She picked up her wine glass, swirled it, took a sip and said, “Okay, Doc, you want my life story? It’s yours,” For the next half hour, Jayme told Mark about Michigan and growing up with her one sister, the daughters of a big city cop. She filled him in on how she met Donald in high school, married him a year later, and had her only child, a son, a year after that. How Donald had gotten them into scuba diving to bring them closer together, and how instead it had taken him from her. She told him of her love of photography and how she blended it with her love of diving. Leaving out her real work was difficult. She found she didn’t want to deceive Mark in any way, but some things had to remain a secret. It felt strangely therapeutic to purge herself, and Jayme smiled, letting out a sigh. “Anything else, doctor?”
Mark was silent a moment. “Your son. Where is he? You must miss him a great deal.”
“He’s in Florida, with his Uncle Sam,” Jayme chuckled, thinking of her twenty-three year old in the Army. “And yes, I do miss him. But he’s growing up, and doesn’t need his mom like he use to.”
Mark was silent again. A son? He must be eight, maybe ten years old at the most. Jayme herself can’t be more that thirty, Mark reasoned. “Sons always need their mothers, Jayme.” He paused, considering his next request. “If it’s not too painful, would you tell me more about Donald, and the accident?” He had to know more. He hadn’t had time to get to Marsh Harbor to check the records to see if Donald had been the shark victim he had tended, and lost, making Jayme the woman he’d been dreaming of for five years. He had to know for sure… it was gnawing at his insides…
“I don’t think I want to do that just yet, Mark. Sorry,” Her deep voice was steady, measured. Jayme leaned forward on her elbows, mimicking Mark. “Anything else but that.”
“Anything?” Mark asked, a glimmer in his eyes. There would be other times for his question to be answered. Tomorrow he could run to Marsh Harbor and dig thru the files.
“Sure, why not?” The way he looked at her, Jayme would tell him anything. Almost.
“Tell me about your karate. What belt do you hold?” This was daring and Mark knew it, she seemed to be very guarded about her martial arts knowledge as she hadn’t mentioned it at all in her ‘life story’.
Jayme froze in her chair, the question acting like a bucket of ice water over her wine buzz. He had caught her off guard, but he would never know that. Jayme had a talent for covering her emotions. A talent that may be too well honed. It was her turn to be silent while she weighed his question in her mind, toying with the crust from the Key Lime Pie they had been served for desert.
“Why do you want to know, Mark?” her voice was unnaturally cold and flat.
“Because, Jayme,” Mark leaned across the table and covered her hands with his, “it’s a part of you, a very big part from what I can tell, and I want to know all about you.” His voice was gentle, his eyes a warm, dark gray, trusting, his hands radiating warmth and strength.
“Would it make a difference if I didn’t tell you?” Jayme was finding it hard to concentrate, Mark was starting to draw little circles on her palms with his thumbs, sending electric, erotic flames up her arms.
“None at all.”
Jayme thought a minute, looking, searching for deceit in his face. There wasn’t any. She leveled her gaze into his dark eyes, holding them, ready to assess the reaction that was bound to surface… it always did.
“I started Tai Chi and Toga ten years ago for the exercise. I found it wasn’t enough. So I started Tae Kwan Do, mostly for the physical and mental discipline. That was six years ago.” She took a deep breath, mostly a sigh. “It was the only activity I held onto after Donald died. I didn’t even dive again for more than a year. My sister, Pam, started pushing me a few years ago to finish my training – take that final step as she put it,” Jayme paused to smile at the memory of Pam’s ranting. “So I did.” Another pause, guarded, “I hold a second degree black belt.” She watched Mark’s face carefully, waiting for any signs of withdrawal. There were none, so she pressed on. “A few years ago, our county had a serial killer on the loose. Our sleepy, quiet, bedroom community had a killer that liked teenaged girls. He got four of them before he was caught. After two sisters disappeared, I started a self-defense class in my basement gym for teen girls only. I still teach it, even though that monster is behind bars.”
“You impress me, lady. That’s quite an accomplishment for someone so young. It also explains Mr. Marstead’s wrist,” Mark smiled.
“Who?” Jayme was confused.
Bruce Marstead. The guy who tried to pick you up at dinner a few nights ago.” Jayme’s eyes widened. “I saw the whole thing, Jayme, you were incredible. I don’t think anyone else had any idea what was going on. Why you were so gentle with him still baffles me though, he’s a jerk.” He went on to explain, “Bruce came to see me yesterday morning for an elastic wrap and some sympathy,” Mark smiled again. “He got the bandage, but that’s all. I told him to keep his hands to himself and he wouldn’t have those kind of problems. I don’t think he appreciated my advice. I suppose it was a bit unprofessional.” Jayme suddenly laughed. It was music to Mark. Her laughter was deep and thick, resounding like a base cello. He joined her.
“Alright. Now it’s your turn, Dr. Mark Steele. Tell me all about you,” Jayme had lowered her voice, it had a sexy quality to it Mark couldn’t resist, and didn’t want to. Jayme shifted in her seat, noticing the setting sun as she did. “Oh! Look at that sunset! Such beautiful colors! I want to get this on tape for the Thomas’. It’ll be a perfect finale.” Jayme jumped up and went to retrieve her camera from where Mark had set it in her room. Knowing she had just finished watching and editing the dive experience, the tape was ready. “I won’t be but a few minutes. I’ll be right back,” and she was off in the direction of the shore before Mark could offer to go with her, which was precisely what she didn’t want. There would be time for only one take on this shot, the Thomas’ were leaving soon, and Jayme would have to do the voice over as she filmed. Mark couldn’t be around for that.
Jayme extended the single leg tripod to steady the camera. As the film quietly hummed, capturing the reds and gold shimmering in the water, the brilliant orange streaks through the clouds, with the gentle lavenders creeping slowly in as the night approached, Jayme began to softly talk into the microphone.
“To Marge and Jim Thomas, two very special people I’m privileged to call friends. I hope your experience scuba diving has been all you expected it to be. I was happy to be part of it. As this tape comes to an end, enjoy this sunset, the final one of your stay here in Holm Cay, because sunsets in Holm Cay are like none other in the world. Stay wet! Your friend, Jayme Haller, The Reef Roamer.” Jayme’s distinctive voice trailed slowly to a halt. As she turned the camera off, she knew the Thomas’ wouldn’t be able to view the tape and discover her secret until they were safely back in Alaska. Retracting the single leg of the minicab, Jayme strolled happily back through the sand and toward an approaching Mark. She felt wonderful! The tape was finished and it was just what she had in mind. Jayme only wished she could see the expression on Marge’s face when she realized she’d been diving with The Reef Roamer!
Mark didn’t like the empty feeling he had after Jayme so suddenly left the table for the beach, so he followed her. He could hear her soft deep voice as he silently approached from behind. He stopped in his tracks, a dozen feet from her when he heard “… in the world. Stay wet! Your friend, Jayme Haller, The Reef Roamer.” THE Reef Roamer?! So that’s her big secret! Mark had seen many of the Roamer tapes and knew the identity of The Roamer was closely guarded. He moved silently but quickly backward, hoping Jayme wouldn’t realize he was retreating instead of approaching when she turned around.
As Jayme began to turn, Mark changed stride and stepped forward. “There you are. Finished already?” He feigned innocence, smiling down at her radiant face.
“Yes, and it was perfect! And now I want to hear all about you, “ Jayme beamed back at him, as they made their way across the cooling sand. The tape was now finished and all Jayme had to do was get it to Marge before they left.
Dinner was cleared away as they finished their coffee, still talking about Mark’s work in the inner city, stateside.
“I use to work in a big city hospital and I was really getting burned out. This life style still lets me practice useful medicine without all the big city problems and politics. These are wonderful people, Jayme. I couldn’t have asked for a better arrangement to get my act back together. Now that it’s together again, I find it doesn’t fit the big city anymore. I’m very happy here. The switchboard or Naomi can always reach me. This beeper goes with me everywhere…. Kind of like your camera.” Mark leveled his gaze at her, what he hoped for he wasn’t sure.
“Then you have an interesting companion, Dr. Steele,” Jayme stood, feeling that a barrier had come between them with the mention of her ever present camera. Did he suspect something? She couldn’t risk someone else finding out who she really was. “Thank you for dinner. I’m going on a tour of Hope Town tomorrow and I must get some….”
“Oh, Jayme! There you are! I was so worried about you last night during the storm. How is your arm? Are you okay?” Marge interrupted anxiously with Jim close at her elbow.
Storm? What storm? I must have slept right thru that, Jayme sighed. “Well, the lure could have been deeper. I was lucky, actually. As it was, it still took forty stitches to close up.” Jayme deliberately omitted the over sedation episode.
“Marge wouldn’t even consider going to bed until she’d seen for herself that you were still in one piece, Jayme,” Jim hugged his wife. ”Now, wife of mine, will you get some sleep? We have a big day tomorrow, you know. We’re leaving around noon to go home,” the last comment directed at Jayme.
“Won’t you join us for a night cap?” Mark was on his feet pulling out a chair which Marge gladly accepted. Mark was silently pleased with himself. Jayme couldn’t possibly leave now, not with the Thomas’ here. He had to smooth things over with her.
“Why that’s very kind of you, Dr. Steele.”
“You know the doctor, Marge?” Jayme was surprised at the thought, why, she didn’t know.
“Well, of course, dear. With my condition, I find it’s just plain prudent to check in with the local medicine man right from the start. That way, if there is a problem, we’re not strangers. Right, Dr. Steele?”
“A very wise woman, you are, Mrs. Thomas,” Mark gave her his warmest, gentlest smile. Mark knew the woman was seriously ill, and would probably not make it through the year.
Jayme found her heart thumping hard and loud at the kind way Mark was treating Marge. She felt the walls she erected come tumbling down. When Mark reached across the table and patted Marge on the hand, Jayme couldn’t keep her eyes off his profile. She noted every movement and change of the laugh lines around his eyes and lips. Lips. They moved gently as he spoke with Marge about how she was feeling and how she felt during the dive. Jayme was mesmerized by the visual texture of his mouth, and again wondered how it would feel against hers.
“So you enjoyed your dive, Marge? Any anxiety or heart palpitations? Shortness of breath? Chest constrictions?” Mark prodded.
“Oh, for goodness sake, Dr. Steele! Stop being a doctor for one evening. I’m fine! I had a wonderful, wonderful experience, thanks to Jayme, and whatever discomfort you might worry about me having, well, I just wouldn’t tell you about it even if I did have any! Now, you two young people enjoy your evening the way young people should – together!” Marge stood, giving Jayme a knowing look, smiling warmly, and said in a whispered voice, “You’re much too young to be alone, Jayme. The doctor’s a nice man – give him a chance. I’m sure we’ll see you tomorrow before we leave.”
“Count on it, Marge,” Jayme stood to give the older woman a hug. “Oh, here, this is for you. The tape is all finished. Something to look at when you get back to Anchorage.” Jayme handed Marge the video tape in it’s protective cardboard sleeve.
“Oh, Jayme, how thoughtful of you! After your horrible experience with that dive, I wouldn’t have blamed you if you threw that tape away. I can hardly wait! Thanks again, Jayme!” The couple walked off hand in hand.
“Nice people,” Mark commented s he watched the two disappear into the resort lobby. “And she’s right, you know.”
“I’m a nice man,” He grinned broadly. “Wholesome and trustworthy. Let me take you touring tomorrow. I’ll show you a Hope Town you’d never see otherwise. And Man-O-War Cay, have you been there yet? No? The ship building yards are fascinating, techniques handed down from generation to generation, you’ll love it. What time do you want to leave?” Mark was so animated, Jayme had to laugh in spite of her apprehension.
“All right, all right. Man-O-War and Hope Town. A personalized tour? What time can you get away from the clinic?” Jayme consented, trying to remember what they were almost arguing about before the Thomas’ came by. Somehow, it didn’t seem important anymore.
“How about 10:00? I’d like to check on Lana and the twins before leaving the island.”
“Fine. Then it’s a date!”
A date? Actually it had a very nice ring to it, Jayme thought later that night as she pulled the crisp linens up to her chin and drifted off to sleep.