“Well…” He shrugged. “If it’s any consolation, I wanted to wear my light-colored shirt with pink flowers, but it’s dirty.”
She laughed and reached for his hand. Donnie’s heart soared. “So where are we dining tonight?” She looked at him. “And let’s just get this settled right now, I’ll be picking up the tab for dinner tonight. You have treated me grandly over the last couple of days. I want to return the favor.”
“Well actually, I have something a little more private in mind,” he said, tugging her toward the elevators. “And it’s already taken care of.”
“Where are we going?” she asked with reservation, but still she willingly followed him.
“Listen, how would you like to have dinner on the lanai of one of the penthouses?”
“One of the penthouses?” She looked at him oddly.
“The night manager assures me that one of them is empty.” That much was true. He didn’t dare take her to his penthouse. If she saw his family photos before he told her the truth, it could be disastrous. “I can assure you that my intentions are completely dishonorable.” He chuckled and pulled her to him once the elevator doors closed them inside.
“Are you sure we’re not going to get into trouble? And by we, I mean you.”
“It’s fine.” Donnie buried his face in her hair and whispered against her ear, “I want tonight to be incredibly memorable.” And it was true, he did. He wanted her to experience the luxuries he could provide, before she found out it would be the norm for them. He wanted to be sure she wanted to be with him and that the rest was merely an enjoyable perk.
“Oh, I don’t think you’re gonna have to worry about that.” She giggled and then kissed him, long and hard and deep.
The elevator doors parted at a penthouse that mirrored the one Donnie lived in on the floor above. Marla lived across the hall from this one, and Sammy (who worked the nightshift) assured Donnie that she wouldn’t find out they were there. Donnie didn’t know for sure what might happened this evening, but whatever it was, he didn’t want his mother barging in.
The lights had been turned low. Soft music played in the background. It seemed more romantic that way. He guided her toward the lanai, where candlelight lit the table housing their dinner in covered dishes. A bottle of champagne was chilling on ice at one corner of the table.
Genie had mentioned that she loved a good steak, and Donnie had brought in the best the island had to offer, but all she did was pick at it.
After several minutes of silence, he asked, “Everything okay?”
“Yeah.” She nodded and glanced up at him. “I’m gonna miss you,” she added with a lonely smile.
Donnie pushed himself up from the table and went to her side, offering his hand. “Will you dance with me?”
Genie gazed up at Donnie. Her heart ached a little that he didn’t return the sentiment, but she took his hand and let him pull her into his arms. It felt good there. Memories from the beach flashed through her mind. Images of his chiseled body urged her to glide her hands up his arms and around his broad shoulders. She held him tight, wanting to memorize every inch of him and the way it felt to be pressed against him.
“Are you sure you have to leave tomorrow?” he whispered against her ear.
“I wish I didn’t.”
Genie looked up at Donnie. “Leaving here, leaving you, is the last thing I want to do, but I literally can’t afford to stay.” Shaking her head, she added, “I have a business back home that’s not going to run itself.”
“Move it here.”
Genie stopped dancing. “My heart says, yes, yes, yes.” She drew in a deep breath. “But my mind, which is dictated by logic, says, how is that supposed to work?” She shook her head. “I have no business contacts here. How in the world would I get my business off the ground and make it successful enough to afford to live here?”
“You can stay with me.”
Genie went silent for a moment. How did she inquire tastefully about his living arrangements? She hoped he didn’t live with his mother. “Where do you live exactly?”
“Here,” he said cautiously. “At the hotel.” The look on his face said there was more. She stayed quiet, waiting for him to tell her the rest.
She’d heard about large resorts in expensive, out of the way places having “staff quarters” akin to cruise ship quarters for their employees benefit. She could see herself building a life with Donnie, but not in an eight by eight room.
“Maybe we’d better sit down,” he said, guiding her toward the sofa on the terrace.
Uh oh. She drew a deep breath and prepared to let her logic come pouring out. “You know, I’m not going to try to deny that there’s something very real and powerful between us.”
He nudged her closer to him on the couch. “I believe it’s called love at first sight.”
“I don’t know what it’s called.” She shook her head. “I just know that my life’s going to be pretty empty without you in it.”
“It doesn’t have to be that way. You and I can choose to spend the rest of our lives together.”
“Okay.” She nodded. “But where will we live? Here? Back on the mainland?” Frustration and a sense of hopeless desperation pounded through her. “But shouldn’t we look as this logically? Where can we make the most comfortable home for ourselves?”
“Do you like this penthouse? Would you like to live here?”
He flashed her a tempting smile, and Genie tried hard to ignore it as she shook her head in denial.
“No?” he asked as if he didn’t believe her.
“This has been a fantastic day and a wonderful evening. A lot like a fairy tale.” She blew out her exasperation in a sigh. The fairy tale had to end, and soon, didn’t it? “But the reality is that we’re here under false pretenses. The night manager is your friend and he let you into this empty suite. “It’s hard to build a life when you’re hopping around in the vacant hotel rooms, and in secret.”
“Okay!” His voice boomed as he straightened and stiffened. “There’s something you need to know.”
“All right,” she said cautiously. She couldn’t imagine what could be worse, but he had grown uptight and that always meant worse.
“The night manager is not my friend…exactly.” His gaze withered away with his confidence. His voice was whiskey rough as he forced out the words, “He’s actually my employee. I own this hotel.”