“The next ferry is due in around ten minutes,” Braam said as they walked past the stalls that lined the quay. A watery sun had appeared, even though dark clouds seemed to signal that it wouldn’t be around for long. Even so, several stallholders had taken the opportunity to remove the makeshift plastic covers from their wares and were entreating anyone who went past to ‘come in and look’.
Braam’s emphatic shake of the head and his reply in Cantonese was as if an invisible signal passed down the row of stalls. After the first two or three, no one else bothered them.
“Hell, I’m sorry.” He looked at Debra. “Did you want anything? I’m so used to saying no thank you, not today, I forgot you might want to look and shop. Slap me now.”
Debra tapped his bum. “Naughty. Seriously, though, I’m fine. I made a vow at the beginning of my travels that it’s one souvenir per place. It’s certainly made me think before I part with my money.”
Braam rubbed his arse with an exaggerated gesture and Debra rolled her eyes. “Aww, poor thing. Do you need me to kiss you better? You, not your arse.”
How he loved the way they could act both silly and mature. Oh, and sexy. “You can kiss me and my arse any time you know. I’m agreeable.”
She sniggered. “In your dreams.”
“Oh, yeah.” He twirled an imaginary mustache. “Oh, shit, here it comes. Can you run for it?” The sun disappeared behind one of the dark clouds that rolled over the horizon and joined those already nearby. “It’s about to chuck it down.”
Debra hitched her bag across her chest as Braam grabbed her hand and they ran like a pair of school kids toward the cover of the terminal. The surface was covered in puddles left behind from the last shower and they splashed through them, kicking up the water and laughing like a pair of idiots. By the time they reached cover and the rain came down in earnest, they were both soaked from their toes to their mid calves.
“We might have well walked and been wet all over,” Debra said as they joined the end of the snaking queue.
“And probably not got on this ferry.” Braam nudged her. “Look.” Even in the short while since they’d taken their place, the queue had almost doubled. “Hold on here, I’ll nip and get our tickets.” He waved away her offer to buy them and walked briskly to the nearby ticket machine. Today was his treat. He stood not quite patiently whilst two Portuguese tourists tried to fathom out the instructions. At this rate, the ferry would have been and gone before he got their tickets. And the next one as well. He turned to the guy who was jabbing buttons like they were the enemy and spoke to him in his native language. The guy about fell on him with gratitude, as Braam showed him how to get tickets by buying his own and Debra’s.
“What was that all about?” Debra asked him as he rejoined her. “That guy looked almost ready to give you his firstborn. Or offer his partner for sex. And he was about seven foot and eighteen stone.”
“Yeah, I said thank you, but my wife wouldn’t approve. Ah, they couldn’t work out the instructions. Just in time.”
The ferry approached the pier and the engines rumbled as it docked. The queue swayed like a bow wave as people jostled for position. Braam held on tightly to Debra’s arm. It would be all too easy to become separated.
“Hold on, this could get uncomfortable.” He lifted her off her feet and used his elbows for leverage.
It helped to know the local customs.
“I’m not sure how you managed that, but it was
well done,” Debra said as they squashed onto a bench with a person who smelled of cheap cologne and an abundance of it at that.
The air was fuggy and redolent of damp people and wet dogs. The windows were steamy and streaked with rain. The waves were rolling and Debra hoped to hell she didn’t get nauseated. On the way across she’d been too involved with Braam to even notice they were on water, but now it would be hard to miss the fact.
“Practice. The ferries from there are always busy, and with the rain I knew it’d be everyone for themselves. Even if there is in theory a queue, it soon disintegrates into a crowd. Oh, the boat will never be overloaded, not these days, but I’d rather us sit in reasonable comfort together, even if the atmosphere is a bit pungent. Anyway, we’re almost there. No need to hurry. We’ll take our time and let the crowd get off first. The ferry won’t set off again with us still on it. They’d demand another fare before they did that.”
Debra didn’t doubt it. It was very popular. Braam had explained that the bigger village attracted more visitors than elsewhere on the island and therefore their ferries were always popular.
Several passengers stood, gathered bags and pushed each other in their eagerness to be first off. Why, Debra had no idea. The ferry wasn’t even near the pier it docked at.
An oversized holdall, it couldn’t be called a bag, swung perilously near her head. Debra ducked and Braam said something in what Debra had in mind might be Cantonese. Whatever language it was, it sounded annoyed. Cussing was cussing and she’d bet a pound that Braam had said something uncomplimentary.
“Arsehole. He needs a bag up his arse, because that’s where his brain is. That poor kid on the other side of the aisle nearly got his ear removed. Yeah, I’d bugger off as well, you idiot. Before annoyed dad over there moves you with his boot.” Braam shook his head. “Shit, ah, sorry, forgive my language, but sometimes. Anyway let him get off and out of the way. You never know, he might miss the gangplank, slip over the side and get some sense washed into him.”
Debra glanced out of the window. “I don’t think he’ll need to slip over the side. It’s raining like stair rods out there.” Maybe she’d better get her rain jacket out. It was as well that earlier she’d owned up to having one. Then it was fun to ignore it and she wouldn’t have missed the outcome for anything, but now she didn’t relish a soaking.
The ferry commenced its forwards and backwards shuffles as it lined up to the dock and soon the crowd thinned.
“Got your coat handy?” Braam asked her. “We’ll never get a taxi around here and to be honest, I love walking in the rain.” He gave her a look, which Debra could only describe as enigmatic.
She tugged her cost out of her bag. “Yep. You?”
“I will have before we get out of the terminal. Okay, let’s make a move before they do demand another fare from us.” He stood up and propelled Debra forward with a hand on her butt. That gesture might be innocent, but the suggestive squeeze that followed wasn’t. How on earth she didn’t wriggle back into Braam’s touch, Debra had no idea. She must have made some sort of noise because he bent his head to whisper into her ear.
“Later. Hold that thought.”
“Oh, I intend to,” Debra said as she stepped off the ferry and onto the gangplank that went up and down with the swell of the waves. “Where shall I hold it, though?” She looked over her shoulder at Braam and staggered as one wave bigger than the others suddenly lifted the gangplank and threw it back down again.
“Woops.” She spread her legs a little farther, regained her balance, took hold of the rope that ran up one side of the swaying planking and hurried onto dry land.
“Careful or it’ll be you getting a ducking, not arsehole.” Braam joined her and they made their way up the steep slope to street level. Behind them the ferry was already filling up rapidly with its new passengers.
“Give me a minute to get my coat on and we’ll brave the elements.” Braam took a black waterproof out of his bag and put it on. Then he turned to Debra and pulled her hood over her hair. “There. Shall we?”
“Okay.” She shook her head until the hood slipped back and landed on her neck. “I hate my head covered. It’s rain, not hailstones or anything nasty. Now, if it were my arms it would be a different matter. Which way?”
“Across there. If we walk toward town we might hit lucky and grab a taxi. Otherwise it’s squeeze onto a tram or an MTR.”
“Or walk.” They linked arms and set off. Once they were away from the water, the wind died down and the rain didn’t seem as heavy.
“It’s a long way,” Braam said with a note of warning in his voice. “And we’ve done a fair bit already.”
“True.” She sniggered. “And we’ve walked four k as well. But I will if you will.”
She punched his arm. “Idiot. I mean I’m okay to walk.”
“What else,” Braam said gravely. His eyes were full of devilment. “Well, let’s see how we go. At least I know some shortcuts.”
Not only did he know some shortcuts, he knew some deserted alleys where a kiss and a very satisfactory grope, all above board, or as Debra thought to herself above clothes helped them on their way.
The rain stopped and the humidity—and her libido—rose. It wasn’t long before Debra was sweating, although whether that was owing to the humidity or Braam’s words and actions she couldn’t decide. A bit of both probably.
Braam stopped to take her jacket from her and stow it with his in his bag. He put his finger over her lips. “No arguing please. We’ve not got long to go now. Look.” He hesitated. “As much as I’d like to spend the evening with you, I have appointments I can’t get out of and tomorrow is going to be hellish busy. Will you meet me in the gym in the morning?”
Is this the start of the end? The beginning of ‘it was nice to know you, in every sense of the word and don’t let the doorknob hit you in the arse on your way out’?
“I can see the cogs whirring,” Braam said as they turned into the street where the hotel was situated. “I pushed and shoved to get today off. Yes, I was due several days, but various developments mean I’ll have to postpone them. And as I’d like a couple of days—and nights—with you sooner, rather than later, if I get this crisis sorted, we’re more likely to get them. Bear with me, love, please?” He kissed her nose and stroked her cheek.
Now if you nuzzle my neck, I’m a goner.
He nuzzled her neck.
Debra moaned and gasped. Braam laughed. “You’re a mix of shows and tells, love, and I’m beginning to understand them. I’m not looking for a get out clause, I
pissed off at having to work, but it is my job. I’ll come and kiss you goodnight.”
“Now that’s an offer I can’t refuse. Will you tuck me in as well?”
“I might even tell you a goodnight story. Right, are you walking in with me or doing your cloak and dagger skulking?”
“Skulking? Ha, skulking indeed,” Debra said, very tongue in cheek. “There I am, trying to protect your reputation as, as a, whatever it needs protecting as and you say I’m skulking. Which is an archaic word anyway.” She poked him in the chest. “And no, you can take yourself back. I’m sure you’ll manage. I’m going in here.” She pointed to a tiny mini market.
For the first time since she’d started to tease him, a frown appeared on his face.
Oh shit, he thinks I’m serious and annoyed.
It was her turn to kiss his nose, even though she had to hold onto his shoulders for balance and stretch up on her toes. “The reason I’m going in here is because I have no lemon for gin and tonic and I want to get something snacky and gluten free. The hotel I’m staying in charges an arm and a leg for a gin out of the mini bar and they don’t even think of lemon. My lover deserves the best, even if he is simply popping in to give me a goodnight kiss.”
He snickered, but his relief was evident. “And tuck you in and tell you a bedtime story.”
“And that. Seriously, though, I don’t want to do anything to ruin your reputation.”
“Honey, you couldn’t, but I understand. I feel that about you. Okay, then I’ll hopefully see you later. If I can’t make it, I’ll ring you.”
“Let me give you my mobile number.” Debra rattled it off and he blinked.
“Give me a sec. I don’t have a great memory for instant numbers.” He took out his phone and as she repeated them, tapped it in. “Great. Right I’ll leave you to your lemon buying. By the way, I like salted popcorn and plain crisps.” He kissed her again and walked down the street, a tall, blond, good-looking man, who had more than one woman staring as he passed.
Debra walked into the shop deep in thought. That would always be the effect he had on people. Why then had he singled her out? He could get anyone he fancied, surely, even if he didn’t want to get serious. She picked up a lemon and some popcorn and checked the packs of crisps for gluten as she gave herself a strict talking to. She had to get over the why me and think wow me, instead.
What else should she buy? Debra accepted that even though she wasn’t hungry, she needed to eat out of her room. Therefore she’d go to the restaurant and have a salad or something light. There was no way she would go until the morning without her tummy rumbling. The thought that she might get a glimpse of Braam didn’t influence her choice. Well, not too much.
Another shop across the street caught her eye and she smiled. Oh yes. She’d been meaning to go in there for ages. Perhaps—no amend that, definitely—time to open her purse. She’d buy two souvenirs from Hong Kong, not one.
* * * *
As she sat on a soft settee after her meal and listened to the pianist playing, Debra kept one eye on her eReader and the other on the lookout for Braam. Her meal had been superb—she thought. Now, an hour after she ate, she wasn’t sure what had been on her plate. Rosemary potatoes and something chickeny? Probably. She’d given the salad a miss but did have a glass of a dry Sancerre and declined a sweet.
Now she sat with a coffee, because she thought another glass of wine and she’d fall asleep. The day of fresh air and fantastic sex had tired her out. Debra masked another yawn and finished the coffee. If she didn’t leave the lounge, she’d fall asleep where she was. That would cause a stir.
Every bone in her body ached and she winced as she stood up. All the unaccustomed exertion of every type was now reminding her why she said exercise was a dirty word. She either had to do more or do none.
Maybe it best be more. After all, it was never too late to get fit, especially if it involved a younger, sexy, hot bod man who could tell you what to do and how. As well as appreciating your input.