“You work for your dad, right?” he asks.
I wait for him to make a snarky comment about how nice it must be to have a cushy job at my father’s company, or how easy it must have been to get the job since I’m related to the owner, but it never comes. I almost wish he would say something to piss me off, something judgmental and rude. It would make it easier for me to shut my mouth and not share personal things with him. It would make it easier for me to remember this is a vacation fling and not something more.
“Yes. I started working for him right out of college.”
Declan pulls his arm back from around my shoulders, brushing my hair out of the way to wrap his hand around the back of my neck, massaging it gently. His hand is warm and his fingers are magical as they work to ease the tension from my body, turning me into a pile of mush until I feel my shoulders droop and I lean into his side.
“You don’t sound very happy about that,” he replies.
I turn away from the concerned, imploring look on his face to look back out at the ocean and shrug.
“It’s not exactly what I wanted out of life. I never planned on going to work for him, and I never thought I’d find myself stuck there almost five years later,” I tell him, wishing I didn’t sound so sorry for myself.
It’s my own fault I’m in this situation. Even though it was initially my father’s plea that I don’t leave him or the city in search of what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, it was still my choice.
“So, what do you want out of life?” Declan asks, grabbing my now-empty bottle of beer from my hand and trading it for a new one our waitress just brought over.
“Honestly? I have no clue,” I tell him with a humorless laugh. “I majored in graphic design and photography, with a minor in business management. I love being creative and artistic, and I guess I get to do that working for my father in the graphic design department, but designing websites and brochures wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. Sitting behind a desk all day in an office building, doing all my work on a computer is as boring and mindless as it sounds. It doesn’t make me happy, and lately, it’s given me zero free time to have a life.”
We both take a drink of our fresh beers as Declan continues to massage the back of my neck.
“I think it’s rare for people to know what they want to do right out of college, so don’t beat yourself up over it. It took me a lot of years, working a lot of miserable jobs before I figured things out,” he explains. “I have a younger sister that I needed to help take care of after our parents died. I did what I had to do to pay the bills and keep a roof over our heads until she became an adult, got her own life, and told me she didn’t need me to take care of her anymore.”
A wave of sadness washes over me hearing Declan say he lost both of his parents, and I can’t help looking at him with newfound awe and respect knowing he took care of his sister after they were gone.
“I still take care of her, sending money home to her whenever I can, which pisses her off to no end,” he says with a chuckle. “But once I stopped having that weight on my shoulders, I started figuring out what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I got my first job working on a yacht four years ago, and the rest is history.”
Hearing him talk so easily about himself and learning these new things about him is not helping me remember this is just a vacation fling and we’re supposed to be keeping things light and easy. I want to know more. I want to know everything. I want to ask him all about his past, and I want to know all about his plans for the future. It makes my heart beat faster and my hand shake around the sweating bottle of beer I hold tightly in my grasp. I bring the bottle up to my mouth and drink to avoid asking questions.
“That’s all you need to do,” he says, looking out at the water with a shrug. “Find what makes you happy and get the life you deserve. Find a guy to settle down with, pop out two-point-five kids and live happily ever after.”
His words make my chest tighten and tears start to tickle the back of my eyes, but they’re just the reminder I need that I have to stop pretending this is more than what it is. We might have spent a perfect day together like a normal couple, and we’ve shared a few personal things with each other, but this isn’t going to turn into anything serious. We’re not a normal couple. We’re a vacation fling, period. His life is on a boat traveling the world, taking care of his sister when he can, and mine is back in New York, trying to save my father and his company from ruin, far away from the peaceful tranquility of the Caribbean.
“What about you?” I ask, finally finding my voice and clearing my throat to keep the quiver of sadness out of it. “Now that you’ve discovered you’re a rule-breaker, and you seem to excel at it, what are you going to do to be happy and have a life?”
He smiles down at me at the mention of him breaking the rules and my heart gets caught in my throat thinking of how much I’m going to miss that smile when I no longer have it shining down on me.
“I have a life. It’s working on a yacht. I don’t have time for anything else and it makes me happy enough, although, it was definitely fun breaking the rules with you for a little while,” he tells me with an easy wink, dropping his arm from the back of my neck and looking away from me to give Ben and Brooke a wave as they walk over to the stairs of the deck and make their way up to us.
I paste a smile on my face when they join us at the table, ordering another round of drinks while they try to convince us to go back down to the beach with them to dance until it’s time to head back to the ship.