As Mark maneuvered his boat into the slip on Marsh Harbor later that evening, Jayme felt a wave of dizziness hit her hard as she focused on the vaguely familiar sign attached to the side of the dock. Mark noticed Jayme inhale sharply and turn her back to the docks. Her spine seemed to go rigid, her hands clasped her elbows, and her breath seemed ragged as she labored for control. Mark was confused and concerned. Their crossing had been pleasant, she showed no signs of anxiety. As he turned to toss the tie rope to waiting hands, he found the source of her discomfort. The sign, faded with sun and salt, said Medical Only.
As Jayme struggled to control the rise of deja vue swimming before her, she thought ‘this is exactly, exactly the same place we docked as I held Donald’s unconscious body for the last time!’
Mark stepped up behind her. Although he knew that she probably wanted to face this alone, he couldn’t let that happen. He slipped his arms gently around her waist, pressing his body against her back, feeling her warmth, his head lowered.
“Five years ago is a long time gone, Jayme. Let it go,” the last words came out as a quiet plea.
A heart beat passed. Two. Ten. Jayme slowly turned within the circle of Marks comforting arms. Her hands now resting on his biceps, she looked up at him, tears clinging to her dark lashes.
“You’re right. It is time. I knew that weeks ago,” she struggled to smile, barely lifting the corners of her mouth. “Some day remind me to tell you about a snowy Michigan night and a dream about… sharks.”
Lost in the longing he found in her deep green eyes, Mark slowly lowered his head. Unable to resist any longer, he lightly brushed her lips with his. Knowing if he lingered, once tasting her sweetness, he wouldn’t want to stop. He reluctantly lifted his head. He held her tenderly for a moment more, her head pressed against his chest, then pulled back. Now was not the time to explore his growing need for her. Mark took a steadying breath and climbed out of the boat. Once firmly on dry ground, he turned to help Jayme out, trying to calm his now shaking hands. He had never before felt such electricity in a simple kiss. But then, that kiss was not simple. It was a beginning, a promise of more to come. Suddenly, Mark realized this was going to be the longest Rotary meeting of his life!!
Dinner was served buffet style, a combination of Bahamian custom and practicality. Plates full of fried chicken, conch fritters and sweet bread kept appearing as quickly as they disappeared. Bowls of local fruit and an urn of chowder sent tantalizing aromas throughout the room.
Jayme settled into the seat Mark selected for her, staring at the huge mound of food before her. “I’m never going to be able to eat all of this. I’ll gain ten pounds!” she protested.
“I hope so, you’re too thin, You need to eat more to keep your strength up.” Mark smiled deeply and warmly at her, a smile that reached his smoky eyes and beyond. The double meaning only thinly veiled.
Jayme lowered her eyes from his intensity, feeling the heat rise from the blush that was overwhelming her. Her thoughts immediately returned to the kiss they shared. How brief it was, but how it had affected her! A deep unfulfilled desire suddenly blossomed low in her, and she felt another blush begin. This has got to stop, she thought, and immediately realized that the only way to stop would be to quench the need. Jayme felt her pulse rise at the thought of holding Mark, kissing him, making love to him. She chased the thought away.
“Is it too warm in here for you, Jayme? You look uncomfortable,” Mark expressed genuine concern.
“Maybe a little.” Changing subjects, she added, “Say, do you think anyone would mind if I took a few pictures during the meeting? I’d like to show the club back home what your meetings are like,” Jayme hoped working would keep her mind off Mark’s nearness and what it was doing to her.
“I’m sure it will be fine with the others. I’ll mention it when I introduce you.” His eyes lingered on her mouth, wanting to taste her again. And again.
Throughout the meal, various friends of Mark’s stopped by the table to say hello, or to pass along some new island gossip. When Jayme mentioned this, Mark tried to explain that is wasn’t really gossip, only women did that, this was their way of keeping informed on what was going on in their community. Jayme insisted that it was still gossip, no matter what he wanted to call it, and men were getting more efficient at it all the time. They shared an accusing look and then both started laughing. Mark was saved by the call to order bell, signaling the start of the formal meeting.
As the current President went from table to table introducing guests, Jayme noticed there weren’t many women in attendance. Suddenly Mark was standing.
“I’d like to introduce visiting Rotarian Jayme Haller, from Michigan. Jayme’s classification is photographer, and wants our permission to take a few pictures of our meeting. I told her it’d be alright. See if any of you can say no to her, I sure can’t.” There was no hidden meaning in Mark’s final statement. It was out in the open for all to see as he looked affectingly at Jayme.
“If she’s got the stone doctor melting, the rest of us don’t stand a chance! Take all the pictures you like, Ms. Haller, and welcome to Abaco!” The president of the club spoke out for the group.
Jayme stood. “Thank you. I’ll try not to be too much of a nuisance.” After she sat, she leaned in Mark’s direction and whispered, “what did he mean ‘the stone doctor’?”
“Private joke and not a very funny one. I’ll tell you after the meeting.” Mark scowled briefly before his attention was diverted back to the speaker. Curiosity nagged at Jayme for a while, then slipped away long before the group dispersed an hour later. True to her word, Jayme took only a few still shots, determined not to interrupt or interfere with the clubs proceedings.
As they sat at their table finishing their drinks, Jayme and Mark chatted easily, as though they were old friends. The relaxed atmosphere and congenial company stripped away Jayme’s barriers. The restaurant/bar had a few lingering club member besides themselves as the steel drum bank began playing. Island music had always fascinated Jayme, and now she swayed gently with the rhythm as Mark looked on in amusement.
“Think you can dance to this kind of music?” Mark was clearly issuing a challenge.
“I can dance to any kind of music, doctor. I was born with ballet slippers on; tap shoes were my only rattles; Ginger was my role model,” Jayme teased.
“Ginger? Not Fred?”
“No, not Fred! He had is easy, Ginger did everything he did, only backwards and in high heels! Now that’s dancing!” Jayme countered. Mark laughed as he stood, holding his hand out to Jayme. She slid her delicate hand into his strong one, a grin tugging at the corners of her sensuous mouth.
As they moved to the slow, melodic beat, Mark pulled Jayme close to him, pushing and pulling subtly with either his hand on her back, or the one he held, expertly leading her movements to match his. Her years of dance training allowed her to match each and every move, gliding as though they were of one mind, one body. Song after song, they moved with the tempo, feeling the exotic music, aware of only each other, delighting in each others responsiveness.
When the band picked up the beat, Jayme was almost relieved that her steps would put her a distance from Mark. She was feeling heady, almost drunk with sensations of arousal. His nearness was almost overpowering her. Yet as she moved away, a yearning to be closer came crashing down on her. She felt alive for the first time in years, and a contented smile stole its way across her face. The band had slipped into a slow but recognizable Lambada. The sexy music was too much for Jayme to resist. She moved sensuously against Mark, then away, smiling at his reaction. Again she moved in, hands on her hips, being careful of her injured arm, and dipped to one side, brushing her long hair across Mark’s shoulder. His eyes lit up with delight and hunger. God! She’s sexy! He thought, and reached out to take her hand. Jayme caught it easily, allowing Mark to take her into a spin. Now gripping his hand tighter, a signal for Mark to hold on, Jayme leaned back, rising on one foot, her right arm held straight by Mark. Taking a step forward, she arched her back and pivoted, twirling her silk skirts alluringly against her slim legs. The move had its effect and she slid into the crook of Mark’s waiting arm. He took his cue as she loosened her hold on his hand, and he slid his other arm around her waist, forming a circle. Jayme smiled and leaned all the way back, her long hair nearly sweeping the floor, and Mark spun her in a half circle. As Mark began to ever so slowly bring her upright, he leaned forward, searching and found her eyes were dark pools of green desire. He brought his mouth down on hers, gently at first, softly. He didn’t want to rush. His tongue gently teasing the edges of her mouth. Prodding and probing, coaxing her lips apart, and when she succumbed, his tongue moved quickly, deeply into her mouth, tasting the honeyed recesses there. He withdrew as he felt her take in a startled breath, then he claimed her lips again, more demanding than before.
Jayme’s response was instantaneous. She kissed him back with the same searching, tentative passion. Passion that was building into a raging fire. Warmth spread throughout Jayme’s body. She brought her hands up to his forearms, feeling the easy tension in the muscles as he held her. Exploring, her sensitive fingers felt the energy, the heat as they continued their journey, ending as they met behind Mark’s neck. She pulled herself up closer to him, oblivious of the strain in her left arm from the recent injury.. Mark moaned and deepened his kiss even more.
Moments passed. Mark and Jayme didn’t hear the music come to an end. When applause and whooping yells broke out in the audience, they parted, startled by the ‘way to go, doc!’ and ‘somebody get of bucket of cold water for those two!’
Jayme pulled back, embarrassed, suddenly afraid of the sensations being aroused in her. “I think I need some air.”
Mark said nothing, just led her off the dance floor to the open French doors, out into the cool, crisp evening. As soon as Jayme turned to him again, he pulled her back into his arms, claiming her mouth once more, not gentle this time, but frantic, pleading, taking what he wanted and needed. Jayme hesitated, then met his passion, and a low throaty moan escaped from the doctor. His hands moved up and down her bare back, exploring the wonderful silken realm that was now his. He wanted to feel, to taste, to know every inch of her. The approaching moonlight caressed her face, shadowing her features, emphasizing the fine cut of her cheekbones, the gentle slope of her nose, the sculpted eyebrows, the smooth outline of her lips. He breathed in her perfume, a light spicy floral scent. It would forever remind him of this moment. The moment he realized he fell in love.
Jayme’s head felt clouded with new sensations, yet it was remarkably clear. Mark’s touch turned to liquid heat, leaving searing trails down her back, her arms, everywhere he touched her, her skin ignited in passionate flames. She felt dangerously close to losing control. The turbulence going on inside of her was thrilling yet agonizing. Needs and desires long dormant were now fully awake and alive and raging to be set free. The fierceness of her emotions finally caused her to pull back. Jayme searched Mark’s face for a clue as to what he may be feeling. His gray eyes were dark and clouded with want and need. Jayme was suddenly frightened. Would she be able to stem the flow of his passion? Did she want to? No, she didn’t want to, but she had to.
“I think we should leave,” Jayme almost didn’t recognize her own voice, it came out ragged and breathy, difficult through kiss bruised lips. She felt herself blush, thankful for the dusk induced shadows to hide in.
Mark’s eyes glistened with pleasure as he smiled down at her. “Wait here. I’ll get your camera and purse. No need for you to put up with …. Whatever my friends might say.” Mark was soon at her side again, guiding her across the slick docks where his boat waited.
Jayme stood behind the windshield, protecting her silky dress from the salt spray. The crisp night air helped to clear her thoughts. What was she doing? Acting like a teenager in heat! That’s what! It felt wrong, yet right. How could that be? This was the first romantic involvement she’d had at all since Donald died. Why was she doing this? She didn’t know why, but she knew she couldn’t, didn’t want to stop. And some romantic involvement. She was forty three years old and they hadn’t done anything more than kiss. She knew she wanted more, much more, but not yet, not now, not tonight. Jayme felt trapped. She wanted to pace, to work off the nervous energy building inside, but the deck of the boat was slippery and pitching in the waves. Jayme shifted silently from foot to foot, until Mark pulled along side of the slip at the Holm Cay marina.
Jayme didn’t wait for Mark. She jumped out of the boat and began pacing the dock, her stride long and graceful, but looking strangely out of place. Mark wouldn’t try to force her, would he? No, he wasn’t the type, but he was highly aroused, of that she was sure, and she had led, not followed him through a maze of erotic sensations. She was so preoccupied with her thoughts, she didn’t see him climb onto the dock.
Mark had noticed a change in Jayme on the boat ride over. She seemed distant, edgy, almost afraid. Perhaps she changed her mind or just wasn’t ready. As much as he wanted her, ached to make love to her, he knew he’d leave her if she wanted him to go. He reached out to take her hand, to stop her pacing.
The moment Mark’s fingers encircled her wrist, Jayme’s training took over her reactions. An outside flick of the wrist broke his hold; the momentum of the movement brought her hand up to now grip his; a step backward put her in position to deal a disabling kick to his ribs. Her foot had barely left the boards, when Jayme’s mind kicked in and realized what she’d done. What she’d almost done. She looked at Mark with stun filled eyes. Sorrow quickly took over. She let go of his wrist.
“Oh, Mark. I didn’t mean.. I’m so sorry.. I… I… “Jayme stammered, tears threatening behind her lids.
Mark didn’t move. Didn’t say a work. After what seemed like an eternity to Jayme, he reached for her hand again. This time she didn’t resist. He opened the clenched fist, one finger at a time, kissing each finger as he went. He then kissed the sensitive palm, and closed her hand again.
“I would never hurt you, Jayme. Never. And I would never take what you don’t want to give.” Mark stared at her, long and hard. It was a look full of frustration, hurt …and love. With a profound change, he smiled and jumped down into the boat.
“I’ll see you about noon for our trip to Hope Town. You’ll love the lighthouse!” Leaving her with no opportunity to protest, he sped away over the waves into the night.
Jayme lay staring at the ceiling well into the night, tears flowing freely, silently down the sides of her smooth face, soaking the pillow.
“Oh, Donald,” she sobbed, “let me go. I will always love you, but you’re gone and I’m still here! I want to live again, and love again! Please, please let me go,” and she turned into the wet pillow to muffle the sobs that now racked her whole body.