Olivia could have sworn he looked directly her way... ""Don Juan", himself! No way, I'm looking for you!" Maddeningly, he'd gotten her attention...she was having trouble taking it back!
"Wait here with everything, will you?" they said, even as they walked away.
So, lovely Olivia waited and stood, like a well-placed statue, beside the potted palms at the entrance to the hotel lobby. Her long hair tied loosely with a plain silk scarf, she, sweet-faced twenty-something, looked disarmingly fresh in a simple white sundress in spite of the wilting heat. Surrounded by assorted luggage, she studied the brochures she'd picked up at the front desk.
"Might as well look-see what there is to see," she said to herself, mentally noting an intriguing island day trip.
Meanwhile her girlfriends joined the lineup to look after checking in. More vacationers spilled forth from airport mini-buses and filed in behind them, including Bryan, a button-down means-business type and his buddies, who'd noticed her on the plane.
Staccato laughter rang out suddenly from the adjacent reception area. A cluster of poolside patrons, followed by two attentive Directors of Sports & Recreation, entered through wide-open patio doors.
It would have been difficult for the new arrivals not to notice. A half-dozen bathing beauties with sleek bronze bodies, scantily clad, but loosely covered in sarong, towel and gauzy Indian cotton, joked and jousted with the good-looking, tan, trim, shorts-n-tee-shirt attired, muscular males.
To Olivia's keen eye it appeared to be a bit of a show. Well, one that didn't impress her much. A performance for tourists' benefit? Displaying fanciful recreational fun for 'Love Boat' love-match enthusiasts as featured in dream vacation advertising? She almost turned around to look for the camera crew.
A striking tousled-hair honey-blond unabashedly clung to the arm of one of the resort reps, and wrapped hers around his neck, whispered in his ear. He preened, cat-like, whispered something back; she responded with a lilting laugh. As he did so, he appeared to gaze around ever so casually, taking everything in. For a moment Olivia could have sworn he looked directly her way. "Oh, puleeze!" she thought to herself. "'Don Juan', himself! No way, I'm looking for you."
She wanted to get away from everyday reality, yes, from mundane worries and lingering emotional numbness. A long-term relationship had ended six months ago. She, lover of life, still dead inside, was tired of feeling half-alive. In truth, her ex-boyfriend wasn't worth it. His life hadn't stopped. A sunny resort getaway sounded like just the prescription for end-of-summer, end-of-affair malaise; but she had little inclination for the swinging singles scene. This place was supposed to offer something for everyone: families, singles, retirees. She needed relaxation and fun, an opportunity to forget herself, or find herself, feel like Olivia again.
Her girlfriends' slightly breathless summons brought her back to more agreeable thoughts. "C'mon, Liv, we're done! Let's grab this stuff and go find our suite. If we hurry, there'll still be time left to catch some sand and water and sun."
The next afternoon found them enjoying the pool, intoxicated with fresh air and sunshine, having just got back from a sizzling windswept walk along baked-sand beaches. One was swimming, another semi-snoozing, Olivia reading. She was thoroughly enjoying the erotic romantic thriller-cum-page-turning bestseller she'd brought along. When she got to the end of the steamy chapter, she paused, put down the paperback, and sipped from her tall tumbler of ice-tea.
Observing everyone and everything, was cool, clean-cut, Bryan, fellow traveler, vacationer. While he remained aloof and footloose, thoroughly enjoying the passing parade, he was single - divorced - and, when he admitted it to himself, definitely looking. Here was a scene to attract guys like him like bees to a honey-pot. He watched while a beautiful blond lounged on a bright yellow inflatable mattress in her flowered bikini, a flotilla of admirers floating and bobbing nearby - including his buddies. He saw Olivia laugh and wave to her, then touch her sleepy friend's arm and discreetly point. The brunette shrugged at first, but stirred, rather provocatively from her slumber. Slowly, she stretched, stood up, and with long elegant strides swiftly moved toward the deep end and dived in. The two water nymphs were quickly encircled, as if by sharks.
When Olivia looked again, she noted the on-duty lifeguard suppressing a smile at the scene and their exchanges.
Good. He was alert and watchful, as a lifeguard should be. In case someone like herself, who couldn't swim, should happen to slip and fall in.
Back to her book. Next time she put it down, several pages later, she caught 'Mr. Fitness', not looking, but studying her. He was pacing slowly, smoothly, circling the pool, with the supple, rippling movements of an exotic cat, a stealthy jaguar, a sensuous but dangerous species; reminding her in a not-so-negative way that men belong to the animal kingdom. She forgot herself for a minute. Her book was fascinating, but suddenly she couldn't concentrate properly. How? She was looking at sheer, perfectly fashioned masculinity. One surprisingly attracted to her. Hard to ignore the compelling fact.
"Who says men aren't sex objects?" she was thinking. She started to enjoy watching him - when he wasn't watching, naturally. Then it hit her: this was the guy she'd seen flirting, the day before, in Reception!
"Oh, no! Oh brother - What a fool I am! How'd I miss that? You'd think I was born yesterday!"
She gave herself a pep talk and returned to her book. Maddeningly, he'd gotten her attention...she was having trouble taking it back!
Their chemistry was palpable. Bryan couldn't help but pick up on it. He was jealous, not so much of them, but of never having experienced personally such mutual attraction. Too bad. Olivia sure appealed to him. How he'd love to have someone he was attracted to, like her, see him the same way, really look back. He accepted that his luck and timing were off with this one. With plenty of vacation left, he could still work on a new game plan...
"What the hell. There's plenty of fish in the sea. Especially here!"
He got up, went for a vigorous swim, and plunged into the thick of things with his companions.
She seemed to keep seeing him -'Mr. Fitness' - Alex - after that. He seemed to turn up most places she went. It was only natural, she supposed, given the small world they moved in. In the following days, when he wasn't with this female or that, including the one she'd first seen him with - sometimes, even when he was - he was watching her.
In spite of himself, so was Bryan, though she didn't notice.
Olivia's friend, the brunette, had taken a fancy to Bryan, while he was annoyed with himself that he didn't appreciate it as much as he ought.
What a lovely time she and her girlfriends were having - sightseeing, cycling and swimming, lazing by the pool, dancing and partying into the wee hours, sleeping in. Olivia, like a tightly coiled spring, was beginning to unwind. The inner tension of too much self-containment, too much patience, and too much tolerance for the absence of a meaningful relationship, was loosening its grip. Plenty of carefree, harmless fun did a lot to soothe her spirit. A little romancing, pursuing, and being pursued, didn't hurt a bit.
That special evening she would never forget, Olivia was slow dancing to undulating Latin rhythms, in the dim recesses of flickering candlelight and pulsating strobe lights at the resort's most popular nightspot. Her dance partner had steered her toward the darkest corner and was holding her a little too close and too tight, when Bryan tapped him on the shoulder. Her partner was feeling a bit too amorous; her displeasure was obvious. Bryan had noticed and moved in at the right moment. She was relieved. She knew and recognized Bryan, thanks to her girlfriends, from that first day at the pool. She knew he was really nice. She knew too, that one of them fancied him; that he was friendly, but rather than encourage it, preferred to play the field.
Bryan was a good talker and even better dancer. He was so smooth - dipped, spun, led her so well that other couples stopped dancing, to watch.
When the tempo slowed down, a powerful presence suddenly appeared and cut in on them - tall, dark and handsome, himself! All at once, she felt giddy and a little weak; her heart beat faster; she lost her step.
"Hey, here you go, Alex..." Bryan, a gentleman, handed her over and backed away, obliging, with a wink in her direction.
She faltered, trembling. She couldn't get the tempo at first.
"Relax," Alex murmured. "It's all right, Olivia - Just follow me," he whispered in her ear softly, sending shivers.
He folded her closer in his arms. Her slim frame enveloped in his firm grip, she felt the warmth of him radiate through his thin silk shirt, softness exuding strength; breathed in his subtle, clean, citrus scent. With a supple but strong hold around her waist, he seemed to almost lift her off her feet. She began to move with him effortlessly, gently sway, almost floating, light as a breeze. She felt like his very weight and solid hold is all that kept her from falling, losing touch with the floor, slipping. What had happened to her center of gravity?
They continued like that for more than one long, rhythmic song. She was lost in it, but eventually the music stopped. The disc jockey was saying something, but she didn't hear. Alex stared at her intently, his dark eyes fathomless pools, drawing her in.
"Let's go outside for a few minutes, get some air - The night and the stars are beautiful from the ocean-side terrace," he whispered in a soft, low voice.
She nodded without demur and he led the way. He was right. It was balmy, breezy, aromatic and absolutely breathtaking. He held her gently but firmly by the shoulders. Almost a foot taller, he looked down at her, hungrily, tenderly. He touched her cheek, gently lifted her chin, gazed, for a long lingering moment, into her eyes.
He took her in his arms and kissed her, then and there, a deep, sensuous, searing kiss.
She felt a wave of hot, electric current where his lips and fingertips met her flesh.
She didn't know how long it was when she finally pulled away reluctantly, breathlessly, from his embrace.
For all her erotic fantasies and anticipation, this interlude was more than she expected or imagined.
He understood. His reaction appeared to be reciprocal. Urgently, emphatically he responded:
"Listen, Olivia, we've got to get back now - I'll meet you later --- When you leave tonight, I'll be waiting for you here. -- Look for me at closing time."
He took her back to her friends.
She watched as he walked away and rejoined his table, where a small group was seated. As he sat down, a couple returned from the dance floor, the male partner surrendering the blond bombshell to the seat next to him. She rubbed shoulders, leaned into him, and played her barely-sandled foot against his leg under the table. He didn't act like he minded.
Olivia struggled with her feelings.
"Get a grip, girl! Silly, admit it to yourself... What you're suffering from is lust. A pure and simple case of animal magnetism."
If there was anything more compelling than mutual attraction, she surely needed to know about it!
She didn't intend to tease him, but she'd known she simply had to kiss him. She had to have that much.
She wanted it to be different. She wanted to have an intimacy that was wildly physical, but more than that. Not, apparently, he.
Perhaps, not true? Perhaps, unfair to judge him. Perhaps, he just knew that couldn't be?
Whatever...She decided, not without regret, she couldn't go out to the ocean terrace later to look for him.
A little after closing time Bryan was heading back to his room, alone, on the path by the ground floor units. He was surprised to find Olivia outside the suite she shared with her girlfriends, sitting by herself. What a welcome, unexpected, fortuitous development... He'd seen her leave the club with Alex and recalled his disappointment, then relief, when they came back so soon. Now, he took a deep breath and summoned his nerve to let her know he was here.
She was in the darkness on the patio, with only the inside lights filtering through the half-closed blinds, as he approached. She appreciated the quiet and didn't want her friends to see what she was feeling. Never had she felt so torn. Ironically, now, one thing she knew - She wasn't numb anymore; far from 'dead'. She was alive and well and her mood bittersweet.
"Olivia." Bryan called softly.
Startled, she stood up, but did not respond. She stepped forward to face him, outside the wide rectangle of shuttered window light. He couldn't see her expression.
"Olivia, I didn't expect to see you out here. Are you all right?"
She didn't answer.
"I don't mean to intrude... it's just that I saw you by yourself in the dark..."
"Thank you for asking...I'm okay, Bryan...
"Well, more or less. Just not ready to go in yet."
He detected wistfulness in her voice.
"Ya, you're right. It's a beautiful night..."
His tone considerate, but hopeful: "Shall I leave you alone? Is that what you prefer? Or, maybe you'd like to talk?"
"I'm probably not good company, right now..."
"I know about you and Alex, if that's what you're worried about. I understand. I know what you're feeling."
"Really? You've felt this way about someone?"
"Yes -- I have."
She was interested. She needed to talk.
He saw she was receptive and joined her on the patio. They talked long into the night. It was almost surreal. In the inky darkness they sat side-by-side, speaking without seeing each other, but sharing a kind of out-of-body communion.
"I think the gods like to play with us, sometimes," she said. "Why else -- the right person, at the wrong time and place? Why else is one fascinated by someone who's fascinated with somebody else?"
He didn't have an answer but he didn't disagree.
Over the remaining days, the melting magnetism between Olivia and Alex remained, while the hard, raw edges of their emotions softened. She, perhaps he, accepted the uniqueness of their situation. They were like passing planets sharing the same galaxy, the light of each, attracting, holding, containing the other, for as long as they were caught in it.
Bryan had his consolation. He always knew the day would soon come when she'd be leaving --- going home --- to the same destination as he. He traded seats with one of Olivia's girlfriends and sat next to her on the plane. When they landed, he made a date to celebrate their having met, and, with the gods still willing, recapture the mood of that memorable night.
As for Olivia, her healing process was much improved.
She was not there yet, but, for the first time since she'd parted with her ex-boyfriend, she felt the stirrings of optimism about her future.