As Helen and Rick approached the dock, their boat awaited, bobbing gently on the water. Ever the gentleman, Rick helped Helen onto the boat and then jumped on himself, climbing in the driver’s seat. With a flick of his wrist on the key, the engine hummed to life, and as he pulled away from the dock, she grabbed her hair, securing it in a ponytail.
One thing about island life was she had to forget about perfect hairstyles. One way or another, it was always messed up by a boat ride or a dip in the ocean. Two inconveniences—if she could call them that—Helen wouldn’t trade for anything—especially her old life back in San Francisco.
The boat set off across the tranquil waters of Bora Bora, headed toward the St. Mont Royal Resort. Helen glanced at Rick and smiled.
“Are we headed to the resort?” she asked.
“Maybe.” He winked and laughed, pressing his foot into the gas pedal a little more. The boat sped up, bouncing through the waves until they reached the resort's dock. Before Helen could muster any words about them returning to the resort, Rick jumped from the boat onto the dock, tying the boat to one of the rails before helping her climb out.
“I have to say, Mr. Stark, you are starting the night off right,” she asked, cocking her head to the side as she teased.
“That was the plan.”
Walking along the softly lit pathways, the air around them was filled with the scent of tropical flowers and the sound of the ocean.
Helen felt the soft sea breeze brush against her skin and exhaled a deep sigh. “This year has been like a whirlwind, hasn't it?” she mused, watching the distant lights of the resort draw nearer.
Rick nodded and reached for her hand, intertwining his fingers with hers. “From San Francisco to Bora Bora. It's been quite the journey.”
“I remember showing those expensive houses, feeling like they were worlds apart. And now, here we are, in a world I never imagined I'd be a part of and living in a place I could only ever dream about.”
Rick squeezed her hand gently. "Life has a funny way of surprising us. Who would have thought that Lisa and Ben’s wedding in Bora Bora would change everything?"
Helen laughed. “It wasn’t just the wedding, though. It was the whole trip—swimming with and feeding the stingrays, the dinners in my villa, the conversations and—”
“And me peeing on your leg.”
They both laughed.
“I would like to forget that moment; thank you very much.”
He laughed again. “I’m just kidding. In all seriousness, though, it was magical.”
“You are the only person I want to go anywhere with.”
He stopped and moved her around to face him. His hands slid up her neck, and he kissed her. “Right back at ya kid,” he whispered.
They continued down the pathway toward the resort.
“So, have you thought any more about our wedding plans?” he asked.
She scrunched her face and closed her eyes, only opening one as she looked at him. She didn’t want to answer even though she knew she had to. “Not lately,” she finally admitted. “I know I've been putting off the wedding plans. I just . . . I just don't want a big event with lots of people who don’t mean much to us.” She closed her eyes and scrunched her face again. “That sounds terrible for me to say.”
“I don’t think it does. Honestly, the only ones I want here are my parents.”
“What about Logan?” Helen twisted her voice to sound as though she rolled her eyes even though she didn’t at the mention of Logan Hunter.
“I highly doubt he is interested in coming here for a wedding. Besides, he made so many local women mad that I think they’ve permanently banned him from the island. I swear, the damage that man did in just the week and a half he was here . . .” Rick blinked and shook his head as he let his voice trail off.
“You know what else I’m struggling with is the location. I know it would be a lot to ask everyone to come here, but the thought of going back to the States . . . I know we must visit, but I don’t know if I want to get married there. There are no venues I want to look at in San Francisco or Texas. It’s just messy.” She paused, taking another breath. “The only ones I want at the wedding are Lisa and Ben.”
Rick listened, his eyes understanding. "What about your mom?"
"She said she can't come if it's in Bora Bora or Texas, but I'm okay with that, and so is she. She loves me and supports me no matter what I choose. I just want something low-key, you know?"
Rick nodded. "It's about us, not the event."
"Exactly.” Helen glanced over the horizon, watching the waves roll on the sandy beach. “I told Lisa that when we were thinking of getting married here, and I called her to ask if she’d find a dress for me in San Francisco. I sent her the ones I liked the most, and she said that even though she thought they were pretty, they were plain. I told her that was kind of what I was going for. Plain and simple. It’s about the marriage, not the wedding . . .” Helen's voice trailed off, a hint of frustration in her tone before she continued. "I think all that is why I’m having difficulty getting the plans in place. I’m just not the type to dream about a big wedding. It's not that I don't want to get married; I just want to be married, not plan a wedding.”
Rick reached his arm around her waist, drawing her body into his. "We'll make it work. Whatever you want, however you want it. That's what matters."
To be continued . . .