Authors: Tierney O'Malley
Tags: #Erotic Romance Fiction
June was having a marvelous dream. The sand felt cool on her back, the crisp air enveloped her hot skin and the birds singing drove away her fear, sorrow, apprehension and pain. She didn’t want to get up and leave her spot under the heat of the sun. This was lovely. But something blocked her sun.
“No. Move away,” she said.
She tried to move, but couldn’t. Someone loomed above her. Annoyed, she pushed hard.
“June! Open your eyes. You’re dreaming.”
June blinked, trying to reorient herself. She wasn’t on a beach, but in Henry’s yacht.
Oh, my God!
“I’m sorry. I forgot where I was.”
“It’s all right. You okay?”
“Yeah.” As soon as Henry moved, she sat up. “What time is it?”
“Just a few minutes before five. Honey, you should put your clothes on. Right away.”
June’s heart sank. They were leaving. Maybe Henry had changed his mind about sailing for three days. “Uhm, okay. I’ll get ready and pack my things.”
“Pack your… No, silly puss. We’re not going back to the marina. We’re just going up. Put your pajamas on. And this. It’s a bit chilly out.”
June looked at the oversized coat. She would probably disappear in it. “Thank you.”
“I’ll meet you above.” Henry planted a loud kiss on her mouth then left the bedroom. She wondered what he was up to at this early. Letting out a tired yawn, she quickly dressed.
* * * *
Stacey had been calling and texting Henry since she’d left, but he’d sent only a couple of brief replies. Someone had told her that he had left the marina with a woman. Was he really that busy with the bitch that he’d taken her on his yacht? Fuck! She dropped her briefcase so hard on the glass table that she heard it creak.
Goddamn it! She thought…shit. What had she thought? That Henry loved her? Stacey paced around the room. Yes, damn it. He wouldn’t stick with her this long if he didn’t.
The manager at the marina’s club couldn’t tell who the woman was. For all Stacey knew, the bitch could be his friend or someone he needed for his business. But no matter how hard she’d tried to convince herself that Henry wouldn’t cheat on her, pain still lacerated her heart. She’d never felt this green-eyed monster toward any woman—only with Henry.
Maybe he wasn’t happy with her because she’d turned down his offer of driving her to Olympia, but she’d done it many times. This had been the first time that she’d heard of Henry taking a woman to his yacht.
As soon as her meeting was over, she’d see him. She’d apologize if she had to. Fishing her phone out of her purse, she dialed Henry’s number again. Her call, however, automatically went to his voicemail.
* * * *
June couldn’t have had prepared herself for the shocking view that greeted her. The yacht sat in the middle of a thin mist floating on water. Dark clouds veiled the tips of the mountains and the islands looked as if they wore a fog skirt. The stars still littered the sky. There was no sign of other boats. It was like being in a mythical place, away from civilization.
“Hey there.” Henry walked toward her. His hair was mussed, his long-sleeved shirt wrinkled and his low rider jeans rode low on his hips.
Lord, what a seductive man.
June noticed a small table covered with a white cloth. There was a white coffee pot and a basket of bread on top. “What’s this? A picnic at five in the morning?”
Henry actually gave her a shy smile. It was so endearing. As soon as he stood close, she gave him a kiss. “Something else?”
“You have to wait a few more minutes.” Henry pulled her in for a tight hug. “How are you?”
“I feel like I’m in a fantasy land. I love the view.”
“Me too. Now, look at the horizon. This is my surprise for you.”
June pointed her gaze to the thin black line that separated the sky and calm water. Then, before her eyes, the sky turned a pale orange. Right in the middle of the horizon a tiny orange dot appeared. June gasped—the sun was rising.
“Oh, wow,” she whispered.
The tiny dot produced short and long rays, turning the sky into breathtaking colors of yellow mixed with blue and purple.
So this was how a day was born to breathe a new life. It was as amazing as a beating heart.
What a beautiful reminder that she had made it another day. Instinctively, she touched her belly. What would be the chance of her baby witnessing a miracle like this? Would she even conceive? If she didn’t, it would be a sad fate.
June’s chest tightened, the back of her nose began to sting. Part of her wished Doctor Sanders was wrong, despite the numerous results that he’d showed her. A second opinion would be great but where would she get the money? Oh, God. If only she’d witnessed another miracle—her cancer disappearing.
“June? Baby, what’s wrong?”
She blinked her tears away. She avoided Henry’s gaze. “I’m just happy,” she whispered.
Henry let go of her waist then forced her to look at him. “You’re happy. Kind of scary to think what you’d look like when you’re sad. Anything you want to tell me? Maybe I can help.”
Forcing a smile, June shook her head. “In such a short time, you’ve shown me the best things, things I never thought I would experience—dinner on this yacht, seeing the view of the San Juans. But this”—she nodded toward the sunrise—“is beyond what I expected. And it has made me feel so fortunate to be alive. It has made me stop feeling sorry for myself. I am here breathing and living. I can still walk and dream and…everything. This has made me appreciate what I have and not cry over what I couldn’t have. I am lucky. I read Browning’s
Cheerfulness Taught by Reasons
. She essentially said that we shouldn’t complain when things go wrong or even during the worst day of our lives. Even if our journey is not what we expected it to be, despite the obstacles, we should be happy because the life God has given us is short. Now I understand her.”
“We have to be happy because our lives are short?”
“Yes, because in the end, Paradise will be waiting for us.”
“Honey, I don’t think I like that poem. I want my journey to be long, especially if I’m walking beside the woman I want to share my life with. Here on earth I want to grow old with my mate. When the Seattle’s cold weather is too much for her weary bones, I want to be there to wrap her with a blanket. I want to be there to make her coffee when her knees are too weak to support her. And I want her old self to be beside me when I’m ready to go to Paradise. I want to see her grandma face when I’m ready to shut my eyes forever. I must sound corny to you, but that’s just my two cents.”
“Believe me. I want the same thing…”
“But?” Henry placed a finger beneath her chin and forced her to look at him. “But?” he repeated. “What can’t you have, June?”
A long life.
“Just…things. Oh, I’m sorry. My skill ruining a perfectly good mood is showing again. I’m a Debbie Downer.” June met Henry’s blue eyes. “So, do you like Elizabeth Barrett Browning?”
“Not as much as I like you. She talks kind of funny.”
“She’s English, right?”
“My friend Julian’s wife, Joanie, is into reading poetry. A big fan of Browning from what I’ve heard. Julian gave her the first edition of Browning’s book. It belonged to Julian’s grandma. A gift from her husband.”
“You collect books?”
“Cookbooks, yes. I’ve found awesome copies from second-hand stores and garage sales.”
“The Internet is loaded with free cooking recipes.”
“True, but I’d rather use a real book. I use the margins to make my notes. It’s easier. In some of the books that I’ve bought, there are notes already written on some pages.”
“You got me there, chef.” June laughed. “Thank you for sharing the sunrise with me. I’ll never forget this.”
“Me too. Here…” Henry removed a signet ring from his little finger. “I want you to wear this.”
“What? No. No, Henry. You told me this ring belonged to your great-grandfather. I can’t take—”
“Yes, you can. Whenever you’re in need of help, you’re in trouble or something, I want this ring to be a reminder that you can come to me. You’ll find me at the marina or someone there can tell you where to find me. Someday, when you’re ready to create new memories with someone, send this back. Then I’ll know that you are fine, that you’ve moved on and won’t want a reminder of me anymore. How’s that?”
“Henry…” June tried to mask her inner turmoil with a smile, but failed. Tears blurred her vision. Oh, God. Why did he have to be so wonderful? She felt horrible for lying, for making Henry believe that she was a paid woman when in truth she was just using him to get pregnant. All that she represented was a lie. But how could she tell him?
“Promise me, hon, that you’ll come to me when you need help?”
June watched Henry slide the ring on her finger. “I promise.”
* * * *
Standing by the E Dock, Henry watched June walk away.
Three days had gone by like a dream. He’d wanted to extend their trip and take June to Alaska and even Europe, but June hadn’t jumped at the idea. She’d said her parents would worry if she didn’t come home. Surprise and disappointment settled in his chest. For some reason, he wanted to know where she lived and to meet her parents, so he’d offered to give her a ride. She’d refused, so he’d let her go. But no matter how hard he tried to convince himself that it was over, he couldn’t make himself turn around.
He couldn’t take his eyes off her. With every step June took, a sharp pinch inside his chest became more painful. Damn it to hell. He didn’t want her to go.
“Turn around, hon. Look at me. Just look at me one more time,” he whispered to himself.
June did. Henry’s breath caught in his throat. She looked so beautiful with the sun shining down on her, hair in a messy bun with strands dangling everywhere. But even in the distance, he could see her eyes. They were sad. She was crying.
Henry left the bench where he’d sat three days ago waiting for June and started walking toward her, but June shook her head. She gave him a wan smile and a short wave before turning around again—to walk away from him.
He watched until June disappeared around the building. From the very beginning, she was just a woman someone had paid to keep him company for one night, a gift for his enjoyment. Nothing more. So why did it feel like he was letting something special slip out of his fingers?
It had been over two months.
June splayed her fingers on her little bump. That same overwhelming happiness swept over her again. She would become a mother. Oh, goodness. She could hardly wait to meet her little Jelly Bean. After rinsing her mouth with mouthwash, she looked at herself in the mirror. Her cheeks had hollowed now that she’d lost weight. Didn’t pregnant women usually gain weight? But then, she wasn’t just carrying a baby. She also carried a problem so big she couldn’t sleep or eat right. Worse, her back pains had been stealing her breath lately.
Taking a deep breath, she shook her head in disbelief. She wasn’t that unlucky. Her romantic rendezvous with Henry had resulted in a miracle growing inside her. Now, she had a baby to fight for. If she lost her battle with cancer, a part of her would still live.
She thought about what had transpired on the yacht and the three days that she’d spent with Henry. They had done things that should be illegal in the state of Washington. Henry had touched her everywhere, buried his erection deep inside her and his fingers…
Her cheeks flamed. Whenever she thought about those hot and unforgettable days, she felt like she was coming down with a fever.
Stop it, June. Just stop thinking about Henry.
Opening her cover-up case, she took the small sponge and applied a little dab on her dark circles.
Her morning sickness had been getting worse. Mom and Dad were bound to notice that she’d been losing weight and was sick all the time. She wouldn’t be able to hide her pregnancy anymore. It was time to come out. Besides, it wasn’t really her intention to hide her pregnancy. It was just she was having a terrible time telling them.
Mom and Dad believed her when she told them that she must have caught something—a flu bug or she’d eaten a bad fish at the marina. Mom hadn’t let her work for a week. When she’d refused to go to the clinic, Dad had asked his friend, a vet, if he knew some quick remedy for food poisoning. They were so caring and would fuss about anything. But that had been over a month ago, and they weren’t stupid. The way they’d been looking at her seemed as if they wanted to ask questions but they never did. This must end. She didn’t want them to worry too much.
She must tell them tonight.
It had taken Mom and Dad years before they’d finally conceived. They were both in their late forties when their wish had come true. And as far as she could remember, her parents had been her biggest advocates—an ally, a strong force behind her. Two perfect souls who believed in and loved her without reservation.
Each of her parents had been an only child. Her second cousins from her dad’s side were in Florida and they were practically strangers to each another. She knew only one old aunt on her mom’s side. Kind Aunt Jinny who lived in Oregon and was a hermit. So, it was just the three of them in this world. Always three during the holidays and birthdays.
Now, if luck was on her side and her cancer hadn’t progressed, in seven months, there would be another lovely soul to join them.
They could still go on vacation to Las Vegas, the three of them, just as they’d dreamed for years. A once in their lifetime chance to go on a trip for free. How could they pass that up? Oh, yeah. They would go because once little Jelly Bean was out, they would be too busy to do any vacationing.
Excitement bubbled in her chest. She was so overwhelmed by the thought that tears blurred her vision. When the time came to face her cancer, her parents would have their grandbaby to keep them company, to keep them busy.