Welcome to Fragrance Lingers, a Love in the City Romance. Mara Cross has a high powered job as an architect. She works hard, with the promise of a partnership dangled in front of her like a juicy carrot. Taking a much needed vacation, she flies to an island paradise, little knowing that something more alluring than a suntan, awaits her.
Mara Cross walked into her hotel room, tossing her shoes aside. Her luggage was piled by the door where she'd dropped it, hardly able to believe she was actually on vacation. She had two weeks to relax, unwind, and forget about the office. It was a wonderful, liberating feeling. The sun was shining, a gentle wind was blowing off the clear, blue water, soft music played in the courtyard of the hotel. It really was paradise.
Closing the door with her heel, she undressed quickly, digging for her swimming suit, sun tan oil and sandals. Her primary goal was to lose her city pallor and that could take the entire two weeks. Back home it was cold, raining, windy and gray. She hated the idea of having to return to the weather and the stress.
Shoving that aside, she picked up the phone and called her mother to let her know she was all right. No matter how old she got, her mother still worried about her. Three rings and her mother answered breathlessly. Rosalind Cross always seemed to be breathless as if she had run a race or climbed a mountain.
"Mara! How was your flight?"
"Blissfully uneventful. We made good time, we had tail winds."
"Wonderful! Now, you aren't allowed to talk about the office or even think about it. Go down to the beach, have a few of those lovely drinks with the pink umbrellas and relax! Get a tan, go dancing, all that vacationy stuff!"
Mara giggled despite her fatigue. Her mother had such joy of life, it was contagious. Nothing ever stopped her or slowed her down much, even her health.
"I promise, Mom. I'll call you tonight and let you know how the first day of tanning went."
"Oh, wait till morning, dear. It's Canasta tonight and I'll be out late. Now you run along and enjoy yourself! Don't worry about a thing!"
"I love you, Mom."
"I love you too, honey. Bye bye now!" She hung up with a happy click.
Mara slathered oil on her body, grabbed her tote bag and headed to the beach. An endless array of beach chairs extended to her left and right. It was still early, so she pretty much had her choice. She found a spot not far from the water and fairly near one of the cabana bars.
She had just arranged her towel, removed her sandals and was sitting down when a slim and attractive waiter approached her. He was smiling and carrying a tray in one hand.
"Good morning, Miss. I am Julio and I will be your waiter. What may I get for you?"
Mara remembered her mother's advice. "One of the drinks with the little pink umbrellas," she grinned.
"Certainly, Miss. Would you like some help with your oil? A lady alone can't reach her back. You don't want a sunburn."
"No, not on my first day. Thank you, that would be fantastic!"
Julio rubbed oil on her back with enthusiasm. He brought her drink and started a bar tab for her.
"I'll check on you later, Miss, to see if you need anything else."
"Thank you, Julio. I'm set for now."
Smiling, he bowed slightly and walked back to the bar where he engaged the bartender in pleasant conversation. She could hear them laughing quietly as she closed her eyes and lay down on her stomach. Before she knew it, she was asleep.
The beach filled gradually, but nothing bothered Mara who was used to the noises of the city. Her apartment was in a loft unit downtown. It had once been a warehouse, back in the Prohibition Era. The historical society prevented its destruction, and her architectural firm redesigned it into apartments for young, upwardly mobile executives. She'd liked the results so well, she bought the top floor for herself.
"Miss?" It was Julio. He was bending over her looking slightly concerned. "It's been half an hour since you fell asleep. If you don't turn over soon, you're going to be toasted on one side and blank on the other."
Grinning at him, Mara obediently rolled over and ordered another drink. Julio brought it gladly, smiling happily as she added a handsome tip to the bill.
"I go off duty in an hour. If you sleep again, shall I wake you before I go?"
"Thanks, Julio, that would be great."
She was grateful for her olive toned skin. Had she been fair skinned, she'd already have been fried. She didn't fancy tending a burn for the first days of her vacation.
Mara tipped the chair up slightly and took out her book. It was a science fiction novel she'd been hoping to read for some time, but hadn't gotten past the first few pages. She flipped back to the beginning and started reading. She was just getting into the story when a volleyball landed heavily in her lap, dropped to the ground beside her and knocked over her drink. Mara looked up angrily and saw a man waving to her apologetically. He was medium height and build, with medium length, medium brown hair. He trotted up the beach, hand extended.
"I'm so sorry," his tone was sincere with a hint of a Southern accent. "I guess my friend hit it harder than he needed to. We haven't played in years, but he still thinks that he's the king of the spike."
He pointed down the beach to a short, squat, freckled, redheaded man in orange swim trunks. He looked embarrassed and his face was so red, it rivaled his hair.
©2021 Dellani Oakes