Strangers of the Past: Chapter XIV
Posted on 08/12/2012
Jonathan steeled himself from pulling the woman into his arms. Her eyes, her pursed lips, those stubborn tendrils of thick dark hair framing her heart-shaped face, was all he could think about since the first time they’d met on the island.
She hadn’t changed much, except for the slight lines around her eyes and the corner of her mouth. Of course her voice seemed deeper and huskier, causing his blood warm at the memory of her voice against his ears from long ago. How he’d missed hearing her voice and the soft touch of her fingers trailing along his arms and face, missed the twinkle in her eyes as she gazed up at him. Now she did everything in her power to evade his gaze, to stand close to her. In fact, she seemed more comfortable talking to Marcus and even Hapta than him.
Swallowing the hardened lump forming in his throat, Jonathan reluctantly removed his gaze from hers and met Marcus’ sympathetic eyes. He held back a sigh when the man raised both brows in silent pity. All he could do for now was just to wait, even if his whole body and heart strained to be near her.
A clearing of throat from Ameya brought back the men’s gazes on hers and Jonathan solemnly noticed that she trained her eyes on Hapta. “Since these two won’t budge, where would you like to go?”
Hapta shrugged his shoulders, shoving his hands into his pockets. “It doesn’t matter to me…” He hesitated when the woman narrowed her eyes at him and laughed, lifting both hands in mock surrender. “You’re the tour guide. Why don’t you tell us where to go?”
She eyed him surreptitiously before dragging her gaze back to Marcus. “I see you want me to work hard for my money, hmm?”
Marcus offered her a lazy smile. “Hey, the money is yours… Whether you want to show us the local scene, a dead-end road or a dumpster.”
Jonathan glanced warily at his brother-in-law from the corner of his eye, pushing back the ill feeling rising within at the ease their conversation flowed. He tamped a sigh and waited in silence.
Ameya rolled her eyes and heaved a sigh. “Fine. Let’s go.” She spun on her heels and stomped to the driver’s side of the van.
“Where are we going?”
“Babonneau!” she threw over her shoulder, opening the car door before climbing in.
Marcus chuckled heartily and patted Jonathan’s shoulder, beaming with pride. “She’s exactly the same…”
Hapta clucked his tongue incredulously. “No wonder they’re twins,” he said to Marcus as they walked slowly to the tourist van. “She and your wife are both sassy.”
Jonathan couldn’t even crack a smile as Marcus cheerily swung open the passenger door. Then as Marcus started to climb into the van, he quickly grabbed the man’s arm to stop him.
Ameya paused from adjusting her rearview mirror, noticing the three men still standing outside the van. She raised a brow. “Problem, gentlemen?”
Marcus glanced over his shoulder at Jonathan whose brow was furrowed. “Uh…”
She looked to the empty seat beside her and smirked. “One of you can sit in front, if you need room…” Ameya caught herself wondering just how tall the quiet man was with his firm long legs. Feeling her cheeks warm, she quickly shifted in her seat and returned to fixing her slanted mirror. “Hurry,” she groused in annoyance at herself. “I don’t have all day.”
Hapta frowned at both men still hesitating to enter the tour van. “What’s wrong?” he whispered fiercely at Jonathan whose jaw was visibly taut.
Marcus sighed and turned to Hapta. “Do you mind sitting in front?”
Ameya’s fingers stilled as she heard the exchange of whispers from the men and glanced up at the rearview mirror as the men scooted into the car. She watched the lowered head of the quiet man as he shifted into his seat, folding his legs uncomfortably in the seat behind her. She clenched her jaw, feeling strangely slighted that he’d chosen to sit behind. “Comfortable back there?” she casually asked, already turning the ignition on.
“Hmm,” Marcus grunted from the back and managed a smile when Ameya’s gaze swept the mirror. He nodded for good measure. “We’re ready whenever you are, Ms. Ameya.”
“Yup, so much room here,” Hapta stretched his scrawny legs in front of him.
Ameya smirked before she put the car in reverse and turned her head to glance behind her. Cheeks warmed instantly as her gaze fell on the silent man staring back at her, his solemn grayish eyes steady on her face. She wrenched her eyes over his shoulder to the back window and pressed the gas pedal.
“Whoa!” Hapta exclaimed as the car jerked backward.
“Sorry…” Ameya mumbled as she pulled the car out of the parking spot. Without meeting the man’s eyes again, she turned back to the front and switched gears.
Marcus and Jonathan exchanged glances and Marcus managed a smile at his brother-in-law before facing the front again. “So Ameya, can I ask you a question?”
“Hmm…” Ameya said distractedly as she merged onto the main road.
“How long have you lived in St. Lucia?”
Ameya shrugged her shoulders. “Eight years or so, but trust me, I know this island like the back of my hand.” She signaled to switch lanes, noticing a queue of cars on the middle lane. “You made the right decision coming to St. Lucia.”
“I’m sure we did,” Marcus replied softly.
Jonathan swallowed hard and pulled his gaze from staring at Ameya’s profile, his heart twisting in agony that just more than the back of a driver’s seat was a barrier between him and his wife. Her casual acknowledgment of him and her evading eyes shook his resolve that he’d made the right decision to find her.
Rising fears gripped him as he sat in the backseat of Ameya’s sputtering van, wondering if she would ever look at him the way she’d once before, so many times in their years of marriage. Would he ever hold her again, breathe in her alluring scent and feel her warm lips caress his own?
“Jonathan…” Marcus muttered beside him, a firm jab poking his side jarred him from his daydream.
He quickly jerked his head from the window to see Marcus looking at him with concern, Ameya glancing at him from her rearview mirror and Hapta staring at him with bemusement on his ruddy face.
“Pardon…?” Jonathan finally spoke, his voice wavering. The disapproving furrow of her brow made his blood turn cold, as he realized he’d managed to upset the very person he’d never wanted to offend in all his life.