Private Paradise pt 13 (The End)

She was drifting, her consciousness floating in that wonderful place somewhere between being asleep and awake.  The feel of the cool sheets beneath her bare skin gave her a more tangible grasp on reality and she smiled as she realized this was no dream.  Last night hadn’t been something she’d imagined, even if she had dreamed of it many times before.  Last night had been real.  The smile grew wider as she drew in a deep breath and stretched out her arm, searching for the warmth of his body.

Her arm found nothing and her eyes opened slowly, almost afraid to confirm her suspicions.  She was alone.  No one lay beside her in the bed.  She sat up quickly, pulling the covers up close to her.

“Billy?”

“Yeah,” he called out immediately, alarmed by the tense tone of her voice.  He stepped into the room, pushing the room service cart.  “What’s the matter?”

Relief flooded her body and the air left her lungs in a deep sigh as she reached out to him.  His warm hands took hers just before he pulled her into his arms, his lips immediately pressing against her forehead.

“You ok?” he asked gently, looking down at her after they sat still for a moment.

“Yeah,” she whispered, feeling a little silly at her overreaction.  “It’s just I woke up and you weren’t here.  I thought maybe I’d imagined the whole thing.”  She looked away, feeling even more embarrassed to hear the words out loud.  She sounded needy and desperate—two things she’d made a point to never be.  Her entire life she’d prided herself on being strong and independent and here she was—admitting how much she needed someone in her life.

She felt his hands on her face, his fingers gently turning her chin back toward him.  “Don’t look away from me,” he commanded softly.  “You know you don’t always have to be brave and strong and stoic, right?  You’re allowed to need me sometimes?  You’re allowed to have feelings, to have weaknesses, to be vulnerable?”

Phyllis smiled, the thought of it making her a bit uncomfortable.  “You sure about that?  I’ve never heard that part of the speech.”

“Well you’re hearing it now.”  He pulled her tighter against him.  “I formed my opinion of you a long time ago.  No one could have gone though everything you’ve been through in the last few years unless they were tough as nails.”  His eyes stared into hers.  “I know how strong you are.  You don’t have to keep proving it to me.  I don’t want you to feel like you have to be some version of yourself…you can be whoever you want to be.  You can feel whatever you feel.”  He paused for a moment, allowing her to consider the words.

“I guess I’m kind of scared.”  Her voice was barely above a whisper.

“Of what?”

She lay back on the bed, smiling as he lay back beside her and wrapped his arms around her.  There was something about being next to him—something that always made her feel more at peace.  “You know today is it, right?”

Billy nodded.  “So that’s what this is about?”

“Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it?” At first it had been utter perfection, but as each day passed, they were one day closer to this moment.

“What exactly do you think is gonna happen, huh?  You think this is going to change something?”

“Come on, Billy.”  She pulled herself up and out of his arms, swinging her legs off the bed and reaching for a robe.  Wrapping it around her, she stood, walking over to the balcony doors and opening it slightly.  The sea air was warm as it wafted into the room.

Billy sighed, pulling himself off the bed as well and following her over to the door.  He felt her body lean back against his as he walked behind her and they stood for a moment just admiring the view.  “Things only change if we let it,” he whispered.  “We just won’t let it.”

~

“Honestly, Billy.  Aren’t you tired?  I really think it would be better to do this another night?  Maybe next week?” She shot him a look with hopeful eyes as she watched him bring in the last of the luggage.

“You aren’t tired,” he smiled, pausing to give her a quick kiss on the lips, “And you’re not getting out of this.  Remember what we promised.”

Phyllis sighed.  “Yes.  I do remember what we promised.  We promised not to let coming back to Genoa City change anything.  We promised to put our happiness and our relationship first and, in the interest of that promise, I would like to suggest that walking into the Athletic Club together tonight is a sure fire way to disrupt the peace and happiness bubble we’ve been living in.”

Billy nodded slowly, his face a little more serious.

“What?” Phyllis said, slowly, watching his expression.  “Billy? What is it?  I know that face.  That face is not a good face.”

He took her hand and slowly led her to the sofa.  “Why don’t you come sit down over here with me for a second?”

“Billy—What have you done?”

“Don’t get all worked up.”  He smiled sweetly at her, recognizing how worked up she already was.  “It’s just…it’s about dinner.”

“What about it?”

“Well, I know I told you I wanted us to go to the Club tonight…kind of a rip off the band-aid kind of thing.  Get the first public appearance over with…”

Phyllis nodded, her mind still reeling over the absurd suggestion, “Right and I tried to talk you out of the insane idea, but you are hell bent on being the stubborn one in this relationship.”

“Right, and I just thought since we’re doing, we might as well do it right.”

“I don’t follow.  I probably don’t want to follow, but seriously I’m lost here.”

“My mother has been after me for weeks to have dinner with her, so I kind of called her and told her I’d meet her and Colin for dinner and that I was bringing a woman I’d been seeing.”

“You aren’t serious.  You cannot be serious.”  She stood, immediately beginning to pace the floor.

“Hey, wait…just think about it for a minute.  The plan actually has merit.”  He followed her step for step, trying to stay in front of her to check her expression.  “We’ll have her in public so she can’t have a complete meltdown.  You know how worried she is about bad publicity and keeping up appearances.”

“That won’t matter, Billy because she’s going to have a stroke or a heart attack or worse.  She may die…right on the spot.  We’re going to be having dinner with a corpse.”

“Don’t you think you’re being a bit dramatic?” He grabbed her shoulders gently, looking into her eyes.  “Look, I’m doing this for us.  I want to get everything out in the open.  I want to show my mother, my brother, the entire town how much I love you.  I want them to know that nothing they say and nothing they think is going to impact the way we live our lives.  I want them to see that we’re not going to be ashamed of our feelings, that we’re not going to hide.  Isn’t that what you want too?”

She sighed.  He was right.  She wasn’t hiding, not from anyone—certainly not from Jill.  Not anymore.  “What time are we meeting them?” she said with a smile.  “I’ve got to find a dress.”

~

Billy watched her as she walked through the doors, the skin tight black dress certainly not meant for fading into the background.

She turned around to face him and smiled.  “What?” she cooed, knowing all too well that he’d been staring at her.

“Just looking at you,” he smiled, “I’m gonna guess by your choice of dress that you’re no longer worried about what everyone is going to say when they see us together.”  He dropped his head, his lips meeting hers for a moment.

“Well, I figured if they’re gonna get a show, it might as well be one worth watching.”  She took his hand in hers, squeezing it lightly.

Billy glanced down, feeling the ring press into his hand.  “I was afraid you might take it off,” he whispered, bringing her hand to his lips.

“Not a chance,” she smiled.  “I want everyone to know how happy we are…especially your mother.”

“Well, here she comes,” he hissed through a fake smile.

The smile on Jill’s face faded immediately as her eyes fell on Phyllis.

“What’s she doing here?” Jill turned to Billy, completely ignoring Phyllis’ presence.

“Her name is Phyllis and she’s here as my date.  I told you I was bringing the woman I’m seeing and I did.  Phyllis and I are together.”  He held her hand out towards her.  “We’re going to get married.”

“The hell you are,” Jill spat.  She whirled towards Phyllis.  “I will not allow you to ruin my son’s life this way.”

Phyllis started to speak, but Billy interrupted.  “Actually Mother, you don’t have a say in it.  Phyllis is going to be a part of my life and you can accept that and continue to be a part of our life or you can choose to continue to be bitter and angry.”

Jill stared at him, her eyes shining with tears.  “What are you saying?”

“I’m saying that if you can’t accept my relationship with Phyllis and treat her and us with respect, you don’t need to insinuate yourself in my life or our lives anymore.”

“I am your Mother, Billy.  I love you.  I want what’s best for you.”

“If that’s true, Mom…then you’ll be happy, because this..”  He held up their clasped hands, “this is what’s best for me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, we have dinner plans.  You’re welcome to join us, if you’d like.”

Phyllis walked slowly beside Billy over to the table.  Colin nodded politely as he stood up and joined Jill over by the door.

“Billy,” Phyllis began.  “Are you sure this is the way you want to leave things with your Mom?”

He smiled at her across the table.  “I’ve never been more sure of anything,” he said quietly.  “My entire life I’ve been looking for approval, from my mother, from my brother.  I wanted acceptance from my family and I’ve worked like hell to try and felt like I was worth it.  I’ve done what I thought was right and ended up right back where I’ve started.  I’ve screwed up more than a couple times and vowed to do it better the next time.  I’ve jumped through all the different hoops before finally realizing that I don’t need all that.”

He took her hand in his, a genuine smile spreading across his face.  It was as if a weight had been lifted off his shoulders.  “I don’t need my mother to approve.  I don’t need my brother to tell me my choices are ok.  I don’t need some business to be profitable to prove that I’m successful.  That’s not the kind of success I want.  You’re what I want.  This is what I want.  I want a home and a family and a life.  I want someone that knows me and accepts me with all my crap.  I want to know that at the end of the day, whatever happens will be okay because I have someone that understands, someone that will live this life with me.”

“I sure hope you’re talking about me,” she giggled.

“It’s always you,” he smiled.  “I know you were worried about coming back to town and about facing everybody, but sitting here with you right here….I don’t see anyone else.  Anywhere we’re together, we’ll always create our own private paradise.”

The End

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Private Paradise pt 12

Billy sat on the edge of the bed, his eyes fixated on the ring in the box. It wasn’t perfect, nothing like the ring he wanted for her, but it was the best he could do under the circumstances. He’d find the perfect ring later, right now he would settle for the perfect moment with the perfect woman.

The ring might not be perfect, but his words should be. What could he say that hadn’t been said already? He wanted this to be something she’d remember—something special, something that let her know that this was about her—and only her. His mind raced through thoughts, moments, memories. He thought of things he’d said to her, of the times he’d felt they connected. The words needed to mean something because this did. She did.

~
Phyllis leaned up in the tub, the steam that built in the room beginning to become uncomfortable. She craned her neck, trying to see his reflection in the mirror, to hear his movement, to see a shadow, but instead she saw nothing—just the light from the interior room as it filtered into the bathroom. Sighing softly, she carefully stood up, grabbing a towel as she climbed from the tub. She wrapped the towel around her and crept towards the vanity where she’d laid out her things.

Smiling to herself, she dried  off before slipping into the nightgown. She took a look in the mirror before adding the robe. Lingerie certainly hadn’t been something she’d packed for this trip. Frankly, she hadn’t expected to need anything of the sort, but she’d managed to sneak away for a few moments earlier in the day to peruse one of the ship’s boutiques. From the moment she saw the white, silk nightgown, she knew Billy would approve.

It wasn’t sexy in an obvious way, but the sheer black lace embellishments on the side and slit across the thigh were definitely details he’d appreciate. She’d quickly made the purchase along with the matching robe in hopes of having an opportunity just like this—a chance to surprise him and show him a life with her would never be boring.

In total stealth mode, she crept into the living area where she spotted him sitting on the edge of the bed. “What are you doing?” she said, her voice shattering the silence in the room.

Her own body jumped as he bolted upright, one hand immediately shoving something into the pocket of his robe.

“I uh,” he stammered. He took a few steps toward her before stopping and smiling as he took a long look. “I thought I told you to stay in the tub.”

“Well you did,” she cooed, stepping closer to him and smiling as she felt his arms wrap around her, “but you know I don’t follow instructions very well.” She leaned back slightly, her eyes finding his, “Besides I thought I might be able to make up for my disobedience somehow.”

The mischievous glimmer in her eyes made his heart beat faster. There was a reason he was having so much trouble coming up with the words to explain how he felt—there simply weren’t any that could adequately express it. No words could explain to her how much she meant to him. There were no phrases that could encompass the way she made him feel, what a simple look from her did to him, how the simple thought of her could make anything and everything okay.

“Come sit down,” he said softly, taking her hand in his and leading her over to bed.

“This sounds kind of serious.” Phyllis hesitated for a moment before sitting down. She looked at him, her eyes betraying her own insecurity. “Is something wrong?”

He shook his head. It was hard to even know where to begin. His eyes lifted up to meet hers. In the emerald pools where he’d just moments ago seen mischief and playfulness, he now saw confusion and concern. Maybe the words weren’t so important. He reached into his pocket, pulling out the box and holding it out in front of him.

Swallowing hard, he licked his lips nervously before beginning. “I’ve been sitting in here trying to figure out what to say to you.”

There was a tremble in his voice as he spoke and she now recognized the look—it wasn’t the seriousness associated with bad news—he was as insecure and as afraid as she was. Their own individual scars ran so deep that they had forgotten what it meant to hope, to believe, to trust. This was new and different and excruciatingly terrifying for both of them.

“You can say anything to me,” she said softly.

He’d never been afraid to say things to her, but this particular thing—this particular question—it came with definite risks. Somehow in the heat of the moment, in the romance of it all, he’d managed to forget the fact that it was, in fact, a question. That, by the very nature of the process, there was a chance she could say no. Was it too fast? Would he scare her away?

“Billy,” she said softly. “what’s in the box?” Her heart raced as she stared at his hand. She was almost certain she knew, but she couldn’t let herself completely commit to the thought of it because if she did, and she was wrong—if she believed the question was coming and she opened that box to find earrings, she wasn’t sure she would recover.

This wasn’t in her plans. It wasn’t even on her radar. Nothing about their relationship seemed to be leading to this—especially not this soon, but somehow, seeing the box in his hand hadn’t frightened her. Somehow, as she stared at his hands, her mind began to imagine the possibility of a future, of a life, of a family—of all of that with a man that she loved, that she trusted, that she respected, and most of all that she knew loved, respected, and trusted her—the real her..not the her he wanted her to be.

As she turned her attention back to the box, she realized it was open. His eyes were wide now, staring at her. “You like it?”

It wasn’t at all what she’d expect from an engagement ring.
“It’s beautiful,” she breathed, smiling up at him.

“I know it’s not a diamond,” he said quickly, “but I didn’t want to buy something here and not know what I was getting. I’ll get you something better as soon as we…”

“Don’t you dare.” She felt the tears as they began to streak down her cheeks. “This is perfect. I love it.”

He smiled. “It’s jade and black coral,” he said quietly. “I thought it was different and unique. It just…it seemed like something you’d like.”

“It is,” she said, leaning in and kissing him quickly. “It’s perfect. I love it.” She paused. “I love you.”

He sighed as she sat down on the bed beside her. “This isn’t the way I envisioned this going,” he said dejectedly. “I wanted to do this right…better…something.” He looked down at the ring, shaking his head. “You deserve better than this.”
He shrugged. “I just…I couldn’t figure out the right words to say to you. I couldn’t figure out how to tell you how much you mean to me and how happy you make me. There are all these grand gestures I could have done. I could have written things in the sky or hired bands or planned some elaborate dinner, but nothing would have been big enough. I wasn’t looking for this. I thought my life was set. I thought I had found what I wanted and I was ready to settle down and then you blew into to my life and everything changed. You turned everything upside down in the absolute best way.”

“You challenge me, Phyllis. You don’t let me get away with anything. You know me better than I know myself and you’re not afraid to call me out on my bullshit. I can be exactly who I am with you and, even though I know I can drive you crazy, I also know you’ll never judge me for my faults or my imperfections because you understand. You know what it’s like to be knocked down by life and how you have to keep getting back up, but you also know what it’s like to need someone in your corner. There’s no one else in the world I’d rather have in my corner than you and I promise you—if you’ll have me, I’ll always be in yours. I know this won’t be easy. There are gonna be people who don’t understand it, people that don’t like it, people that are gonna have plenty to say about it and about us, but I don’t give a damn about any of that. As long as you’re beside me, I can face anything and as long as I’m beside you,” He paused for a moment to smile at her, “well, they better watch their mouths.”

“I guess what I’m trying to say is…” He reached down, pulling the ring from the box and holding it out to her in his trembling hand. “I want a life with you and I hope you want that too. I know we have to wait and that’s fine because I’m in this with you forever. Will you marry me?”

For a moment, her mind couldn’t even register the question. She was too overwhelmed with love for the amazing man in front of her. Then, as she felt the weight of his gaze on hers, she realized he was waiting for an answer. “Of course I will,” she managed, the tears nearly choking her words. “Yes..I’ll marry you.”

It amazed her that she could see the tension leave his body and he still trembled as he slipped the ring on her finger, bringing her hand to his lips for a gentle kiss before looking into her eyes again.

“Did you honestly think I’d say no to you?” she asked softly.

“I hoped not,” he said, his hands clasped loosely around the back of her neck. “I just knew this wasn’t something you were expecting…I mean I wasn’t expecting to ask so I wasn’t sure what you’d think…if you’d think it was too fast or if you’d think we hadn’t thought it through…”

She sighed, sliding closer to him as she felt his hands slip from her neck down to her shoulders, his fingers slowly beginning to knead at the muscles there. “Maybe it’s something about this place…I just don’t want to over think anything. I love you. I want to be with you. I want a future with you. Nothing could be more simple than that.”

She closed her eyes as she leaned her head back, “And, if you keep doing that, you’re going to find yourself with a much more compliant version of me.” She opened her eyes to flash him a smile. “You’ve been holding out on me with those magic hands. You could have been talking me into all kinds of things in exchange for massages like these.”

Billy’s eyebrows shot up as he stood and moved behind her. “Really?” He laughed as he felt her shoulders shake a bit with the giggles that he loved. “So there’s more—that’s what you’re telling me?”

“You have no idea,” she smirked, an evil smile slowly playing on her lips. “But you know…” She leaned back, her back against his chest, her head turned so she could see the look on his face. “Since we’re engaged now, maybe we should talk about something.”

“Okay…sure…What do you want to talk about?”

Phyllis sat up, taking a breath and doing her best to keep a straight face. “Well, you know since this is kind of a fresh start for both of us, I just think maybe we should try and do things a little differently than we’ve done them in the past. I’m sure we both can see things that we’ve done wrong, little mistakes we’ve made…that kind of thing.”

Billy nodded. There were certainly choices he’d made in relationships that he didn’t plan to make again—mistakes that weren’t going to be repeated. He had no plans of losing Phyllis, certainly not as a result of his own stupidity.

“Right,” he said, a bit confused as to where she was going.

“I just thought maybe since we’re planning on getting married and this is something we want to look at as a forever commitment, we might want to think about not sleeping together until the wedding…”

She fought the urge to laugh as she felt his intake of breath.

He studied her face, looking for any trace of a smile, a glimmer of suspicion in her eye—anything. She seemed completely serious, but surely….She couldn’t seriously think….

“I um…well…yeah..that’s um…that would uh definitely be different. Have you uh…done anything like that before?”

“I can’t,” she managed, collapsing onto her side as her body shook with fits of laughter. “I thought I could do it…I really did, but I just can’t. I wish you could see your face right now.”

Billy shook his head, a knowing smile on his face. “Okay…okay…you got me. Enjoy it. You had your fun. I’ll have you know that was a traumatic moment for me. I thought I was engaged to some kind of sadistic sociopath, coming in here dressed like this to tell me she wants to be celibate until the wedding night. I thought you had some kind of deep rooted desire to make me crazy or worse.”

He pulled her back up, her body now facing his. “That wasn’t very nice,” he whispered.

“I bet I can think of a few ways to make it up to you.”

~

They were nothing like the conventional couples, those that had the luxury of dating, sharing a first kiss, cuddling on a crisp night and easing into an intimate moment. Their moments together had always been shrouded in secrecy. They had always been rushed, both of them too fearful of being discovered to be able to enjoy simple things about being together. The luxury of time, of privacy, of normalcy was something that seemed foreign and almost incomprehensible to them. Yet here, they were just like everyone else. There were no stares, no judgmental whispers, no one to scold them. They were free to live their lives on their terms.

She hadn’t realized how accustomed she’d become to their frenzied pace until he’d covered her hands with his and looked into her eyes. “There’s nobody here but us,” he whispered, as he pulled her close to him.

Immediately, she relaxed as she felt his arms wrap around her, the warmth of his body soothing her and she couldn’t remember any other moment she’d felt so totally and completely content. He held her for a moment, simply enjoying the feel of her in his arms. It was the simple things—things like this—that you never realized you missed, until you had the luxury of the experience.

His hands gently stroked her back, then her shoulders before they finally moved to her neck stopping there to cradle her face as he stared into her eyes. He was quiet for a moment, simply looking at her and, just as she was about to open her mouth to inquire, he covered her lips with his.

There was something different in his kiss, in the way he kissed her. It wasn’t as it had been before, the frantic pashing that had left her with swollen lips and breathless. This was gentle, but still as passionate—as if now things were different—they were different—so this would be different too. She felt his lips move from hers, down her cheek, his face now planting soft, quick kisses down her neck. One hand fumbled with the clip in her hair, the fingertips quickly rustling through the now free tresses as the clip hit the floor.

She wrapped her arms tighter around him, using her face to nudge his robe off his shoulder, the tan skin a perfect spot for tender kisses of her own. Neither wanted to rush things tonight. There was plenty of time. After a moment, she felt him pull back, his hands now reaching for the tie of her robe. His fingers made quick work of the loose knot and she felt the cool, silk slide down her legs and pool at her feet.

“You certainly came prepared,” he whispered, the warmth of breath on her ear making her squirm and she yelped as he nipped her earlobe.

“Actually, I bought that especially for you…from the boutique just the other day. I thought you might like it.” She leaned back a bit, smiling slyly at him. “Was I wrong?”

“You were definitely not wrong.” He ran his hands down the sides of the gown, pausing to take a long look before moving his gaze back to her eyes. “You’re beautiful. You know that, don’t you?”

“You always make me feel that way..always,” she whispered.

He smiled, his arms wrapping around her again as he pulled her to him and kissed her softly. She felt his body gently nudging her backwards and her feet easily moved back towards the bed. She didn’t look or feel the need to—She simply knew she was safe in his arms. His strong embrace held her still as he gently lowered her to the bed, her hair fanning out onto the pillow.

Softly, his lips brushed hers again. He loomed over her as she pulled at his robe, smiling as she threw it to the floor. Her hands moved across his back, loving the feel of his warm, bare skin beneath her fingertips. His hands were on her now, exploring her body in quick succession, her face, her shoulders, her back, her thighs. Things were fast approaching the inevitable conclusion and as good as that was, this—the feel of his skin on hers, the way his fingers ran through her hair, the softness in his touch—this was wonderful too.

This was different she realized, as he loomed over her, his lips falling onto hers once more but he still made her breathless.

Private Paradise pt 11

She leaned back against him, his arms wrapped tight around her waist, a warm breeze rustling through the trees in the distance.  “Everything seems so simple here,” she whispered.

Billy turned his head a little, catching the relaxed look on her face.  He smiled.  “I know.  It’s like time just moves slower.”

Phyllis nodded, smiling as she felt his lips brush her temple.  “I wish we could stay like this forever, you know?  I wish we could just forget everything and just be like this…”

Before he could answer he heard the bell sound.  “That’s the boat,” he said quietly, taking her hand in his as they stepped back towards the landing.

The small boat pulled up towards the landing where about four other couples waited.

Phyllis stared at the boat suspiciously before looking up at Billy.  “That’s a really small boat,” she whispered.  “You sure this is a good idea?”

“You don’t want to go?” Billy tried to discern the expression—it wasn’t exactly fear—more like hesitation.

“No,” she said quickly, “I do want to go…I just…it’s a really small boat and…”

Billy pulled her closer to him.  “Don’t you worry…if we capsize, you’ll be the first thing I grab.”

~

The clear bottom of the boat made it easy to see the fish that swam in the clear water beneath her, though she quickly determined that wasn’t the best way to spend her time.  She tried to find a spot on the horizon on which to focus but the gentle rocking of the boat made it difficult to focus on anything.

Billy leaned in close to her.  “It’s beautiful isn’t it?” he whispered, extending his arm out towards the sky?  “Just look at the colors.”

She nodded, swallowing harder. Another deep breath would hold her for another few seconds before another wave of nausea would take over.  She remembered the trip to Italy, specifically the look on the face of the poor gondolier, as he watched her heave over the side of the gondola into the Grand Canal.

Despite the looks, she’d have gladly leaned over the side of the boat now, but she wasn’t sitting beside the boat, she was on the inside row, seated beside a man who hadn’t so much as smiled since he boarded.

“Billy,” she whispered, grabbing his hand.

He turned to her, “yeah?”

“I don’t feel…I’m going to…”

“What the hell?!” The man jumped up, his hands flailing in the air.  “What’s the matter with you?”

Her cheeks burned hot.  “I’m sorry,” she said quietly.  “I’m so sorry.  I’ll pay for the damages.”  Apologies weren’t her thing, especially public ones, but she didn’t exactly make a habit of vomiting on other individuals either.

She stood, reaching into her purse for tissues.  “Here,” she said, reaching out her hand.

He slapped her hand away, pushing her back towards the seat,  “Just sit back down would you?  If you weren’t such a damn lush you wouldn’t be puking on everybody!”

~

“And what happened after that?”

Phyllis sighed, rubbing her temples before taking another slow slip of water.  “I already told you.  Everything happened so fast.  All I know is they were fighting.”

The man eyed her suspiciously.  “And you don’t know if Mr. Abbott struck first?”

“I know that asshole put his hands on me before Mr. Abbott so much as looked at him.  I know that,” she snapped, pausing to breathe before continuing.  “When can I talk to him?”

“He should be back shortly.  They had to take him down to the offices for an official statement.”

“They aren’t going to arrest him, are they?”

The guard smiled.  “I don’t anticipate any charges being filed.”

“I’ve seen this kind of thing on tv you know….people on vacation and they end up in these island prisons.”

“This isn’t Dateline, Mrs. Abbott.”

She shook her head, her eyes darting to the open window as she saw the ferry near the dock.  “That’s them,” she said with relief.  She ran to the doorway, throwing her arms around him when he walked inside.  “Are you okay?” she asked, stepping back and looking at him.

“Yeah…I’m fine…the ferry’s waiting outside to take us back to the ship.  You can get your things.”  Billy waited as she gathered her purse and hurried out behind him.  He paused for a moment to take one last look at the setting sun.  Today could have been an absolute disaster, but he was about to make it one of the best days of their entire lives.

~

“I have to give you credit.  This is the best way to end a day like today. I swear it’s like I don’t have any bones,” she whispered, giggling as he blew a clump of bubbles off her shoulders.

“That’s the point,” Billy smiled.  “Total relaxation—that’s what you deserve.  I don’t want you to worry about a thing, I don’t want you thinking about anything else except being right here, right now, with me.”

“Mission accomplished,” she smiled, taking a sip from the crystal champagne flute.  “After a day like today…”

“Hey,” he scolded playfully, “What did I just say?”

“What?”

“I don’t want to talk about today?”

“Oh come on…it’s kind of our thing isn’t it?  Every fairy tale needs a white knight and you certainly were one for me today.” She grinned as she nuzzled closer to him.

“I think most white knights ride off into the sunset—not to the island police station on an police escorted ferry,” he grinned.

“Details, Details,” she whispered. “The point is you stuck up for me and that means something to me…it means a lot.”

He could hear it in her voice now…she was serious and he knew what she meant even without her saying it.  He was here for her in a way his brother hadn’t been.

“You were here for me today..just like you always have been and I don’t think I’ve thanked you enough for that.  I don’t think I’ve told you enough how much I’ve come to count on you for that….how much I need that.”

“You don’t have to thank me for that,” he whispered.  There were a million ways to do this and he’d thought through all of them.  There were the grand gestures, the romantic set ups, the elaborate hunts, but none of them seemed right.  He wanted it to be real, authentic, honest—everything they were to each other.  No bullshit, no facades.  “Stay here.”

“oooohhh-kay,” Phyllis said with a slight laugh.  She watched as he climbed from the hot tub and grabbed a robe.  She could hear him rustling around in the other room.  “What are you doing in there?”

“Just stay in the tub,” he called back.

He clenched the box tight in his hand.  The guard had been hesitant when he’d asked him to stop but, once he’d told him why, he’d relented and let him off the ferry for exactly half an hour.  Afterwards he’d told him he’d been married for only six years before his wife died in a car accident.  Billy’s eyes had filled with tears when he said “Cherish it…every second…time is the most precious gift you have.”  And that’s when he knew for sure—he wasn’t buying the ring to go back to Genoa City and wait for the right time.  He wasn’t waiting any longer.  Time was precious and he’d wasted enough.

 

 

 

 

Private Paradise pt 10

“Billy,” Phyllis hissed,  swatting him playfully.  “I might have guessed this was what you had in mind.”

He shook his head.  “Once again, you underestimate me,” he smiled, reaching for her room key.  “I’m just bringing you back here to change.  Think beach casual,” he grinned.

“Beach casual?,” she giggled.  “You know I’m not even sure that’s a thing, right?”

He leaned in, placing a quick kiss on her lips.  “I have total faith in you.  I’ll meet you back here in ten minutes.”

~

Billy slowly walked in the door.  He stopped, listening as he heard the sound of what he suspected was shoes being hurled at the wall.  “Phyllis?” he called out.  “You ok in there?”

“Billy?” Her voice was tense.  “You’re already dressed?”  She sighed loudly.  “I swear..men have it so easy…pick a shirt, pick pants and you’re set.”

He laughed, the smile spreading across his face as she continued to rant.  He stood, walking slowly into the room.  “I guess you could say…”  He stopped, his mind suddenly void of all thoughts.

“What?” she said, her hands brushing down the front of the shift dress.  “Is it too casual?  You won’t tell me what we’re doing, so I’m not sure what I’m dressing for. I…”

“No…No..” he stuttered, stepping closer to her.  “It’s..it’s perfect.  You look perfect.”

The dress itself was simple, more of a slip than a dress really, with thin straps he couldn’t help but imagine pushing off her shoulders later.  Overtop the solid slip  lay a sheath of thin, intricate lace work.  Her hair was down, her sunglasses pushing the tresses out of her face as they perched on top of her head.  She stood, still staring at him, earrings in hand.

“Are you sure?” she asked again, walking over to the mirror and turning to look at herself as she put on the final earring.  “If I need to, I can change.”

“Don’t you dare,” he whispered, walking over and catching her to quickly kiss her cheek before she went back to the shoes.  “I can’t imagine you could look any more beautiful than you already do.”

“I need shoes,” she whispered, turning back to the pile on the floor in front of her.

Billy grinned.  “What are you doing with all the shoes here anyway?  It’s a five day cruise?”

Her eyes darted back at him dramatically.

“Forget I asked.”

~

“Have I mentioned that control is one of my buttons?”

Billy laughed softly.  “A couple times.”  He reached over, grabbing her hand as she walked beside him.  “I promise…this is something you’ll like.”

“Billy..” she whined.  “This is all very romantic and I know that most women love surprises, but I’m not most women..I’m really not.  In my life, surprises really haven’t worked out all that well and I kind of like to know what I’m walking into.”

“You haven’t had experience with my surprises.  I give great surprises.”

She sighed.  “You’re not gonna tell me anything, are you?”

He stopped for a moment, turning towards her and leaning in for a quick kiss.  “I love you,” he said softly.  “How’s that?”

Phyllis smiled.  All her life she’d wondered what it would be like to truly feel secure, to not wonder and worry about how she would handle the next crisis, the next betrayal, the next fallout.  What must it be like to live in a world where she simply let all that go?  Where she simply just focused on the here and the now?  Where she just focused on being happy, being loved, being safe—where she just focused on being with Billy—Could she do that?  Was that even possible?

“Here we are.”

Phyllis blinked, looking out, the smell of fresh sea air suddenly overtaking her.  “Billy,” she breathed.  “This is absolutely beautiful.”

He smiled.  “See, I told you you’d like it.”

~

Phyllis smiled as he pulled out her chair.  She took a seat and waited for him to walk around the table.  “What is all this?”

Billy smiled.  It was so good to see her happy.  For so long, he’d felt that was what Phyllis needed—to truly find happiness again.  She’d suffered so much in her life, at the hands of her father, Victor, the men in the life, and yes, of her own choices, but the suffering had so far outweighed the chances for joy.  Phyllis deserved joy.  She deserved happiness.

When others looked at her and saw anger, volatility, and vengeance, her saw passion, unpredictability, and a sense of justice.  He loved the fire in her—the way she fought for what was right, at all costs, the way she loved so deeply and completely.  And yes, she was complicated, but that made her fascinating in all the wonderful ways.

Even now, even as he looked at her across the table, her eyes full of wonderment; he could hardly believe how lucky he was to be with her.

He reached out, taking her hands as he had so many times before.  “I just wanted to do something nice,” he said softly.  “I saw this excursion in the itinerary and I thought you’d enjoy it.  We’ll have dinner and then they take a group of us out on a glass bottomed boat for a sunset boat ride.  You can see the fish and everything.”  He smiled as he saw the smile on her face.  “No jellyfish this way.”

She giggled.  “That sounds amazing.”

“I wish we could have gotten a private boat, but apparently there are other people here.”  Billy rolled his eyes playfully.

Phyllis smiled, her eyes sparkling at him.  “I think I can squeeze in some one on one time for you later.  So…what’s on the menu?”

Billy’s smile widened, his eyebrows raising slightly.

“For dinner,” she chided, shaking her head.  “I can’t take you anywhere, can I?”

“That one’s on you…you can’t make promises like that and expect me not to have impure thoughts.”

“I’ll have to remember that.”  She paused, staring at him for a moment.  “Hey,” she whispered, a little more serious.  “Thank you for this.”

He heard the sigh leave her lips, almost as if the weight of her worries were finally leaving with it.

“I don’t know how you knew what I needed, but this was it.” Her eyes looked deeply into his as she spoke again.  “You always know.”

Her hand was warm as he brought it to his lips for a gentle kiss.  “You’re welcome,” he whispered, “but you know you never have to thank me.  All you ever have to do is be here because all I need is you.”

Private Paradise pt 9

“Thank you,” she whispered smiling as Billy wrapped the oversized towel around her shoulders.

“You’re welcome,” he whispered, stealing a quick kiss before taking her hand and leading her over to the oversized deck chairs.  “You know what? I think your shoulders are getting a little pink.”

Phyllis smiled.  “I think that’s pretty close to impossible considering you’ve umm…helped me apply sunscreen about four times in the past two hours.”

“I’m very vigilant about skin health you know.  I work in cosmetics and this is an issue very close to my heart.”  He looked at her, giving her his best impression of earnest sincerity.

“Uh huh—well while I appreciate your sincere concern, I think my hydration is a bigger priority here.”  She grinned at him, batting her eyes and running her fingers up and down his bare chest.  “I saw a tray of drinks walk by earlier that looked to die for.”

He brought her hand to his lips, kissing it quickly before standing up.  “Any specific request?”

“Surprise me.”  She stared up at him, the look in her eyes almost enough to make him forget his entire purpose.

“Back in a few,” he whispered.  She watched as he headed over to the freestanding bar across the deck.

The sun was warm and so incredibly relaxing.  She could hear the gentle music playing from the speakers and the idle chatter from the upper decks, but despite the number of people around, she somehow felt like she and Billy were in their own idyllic, private paradise.  The warm hand on her arm broke her though and she smiled, turning on her side to make room for him before opening her eyes.

“Oh,” she said in surprise as her eyes fell on the face of a stranger.

“I’m sorry,” he said, taking a seat on a lounge chair beside her.  “I didn’t mean to startle you.  I’ve just been waiting for you to have a minute alone.”

Phyllis sat up, pulling the towel a little closer around her.  “Oh,” she stammered.

“It’s just…I saw you earlier this morning and I wanted to ask you for a drink later.”

“I….Well, thank you, but I’m with someone.”  Phyllis looked over at the bar.  Billy still stood in line about two people deep.  “He’s actually just getting us some drinks now.”

The man smiled, shifting a little closer to her.  “You know there’s a private par over there for resort members—We could walk right up to the bar and have a drink right now.”

“Look, I appreciate the offer, but I’m with someone.  I’m not available for drinks..not now…not at all.”  She watched the face of the man, whose mouth curved into a smile.

He leaned in a little closer, his knees almost touching hers.  “Come on—you look like a smart woman—the kind that likes to keep your options open.”  His hand touched her bare leg.

Phyllis stood up, pushing his hand away.  “Ok!” Her voice was raised now.  “I’ve tried to be nice, but you really don’t seem to be hearing what I’m saying.  You’ve clearly already visited the bar today, so I’m going to give you one more chance to walk away from me before…”

“Phyllis,” Billy stood behind him, a drink in each hand.  “Everything ok?”

“Yeah,” she said standing and taking the drink from him.  “I was just explaining to this gentleman that I couldn’t have drinks with him because I was with someone and he was just getting ready to go back over to the bar.”

The man looked up.  Billy glared at him, stepping closer to Phyllis, hand now resting on her shoulder.

“Yeah,” he mumbled, standing slowly and walking away.

A puff of air escaped Billy’s lips and he settled in beside Phyllis.  He took a sip from his drink before sitting it down beside him.  “Sorry,” he sighed.

“For what?” she asked, her eyes confused.

“I know you don’t like me acting all jealous…and possessive. I just..I don’t like seeing some guy hitting on you.  It kind of makes me a little nuts.”

Phyllis smiled.  “You know what, in most cases, you’d be right.  I’d hate it if you were jealous and possessive, but this time, it was okay.  In fact, it was more than ok…it was kind of wonderful.”

“Really?” His eyebrows raised as his lips curved into a smile.  “You’ve decided my needy, insecure streak has merit?”

She laughed softly.  “I guess I kind of like that you think someone else would want to take me away from you.  It keeps you on your toes.”

“Seriously? Baby every guy on this ship has noticed you.”

Phyllis ducked her head, resting it on her shoulder.  “Really?” she breathed. “And umm..I guess I’m not supposed to notice the little groups of women that almost break their necks every time you walk by?”

“What?” he smiled.

“Oh, please,” she giggled, “Like you haven’t noticed.”

“Why would I ever notice any other woman when I’m sitting here with the most gorgeous woman on the face of the planet?”

She sighed, peppering his chest with tiny kisses.  “You’ve very good, Billy Abbott.  I’ve got to give you credit.  You know just the right things to say.  I think you could talk yourself out of just about anything.”

He grinned, his dimples peeking out in a way that made him look both adorable and slightly impish.

The fit of laughter started deep within her.  “That look,” she giggled.  “I’m afraid to even ask what that look’s about.”

“Well, I was just thinking—you said I could probably talk myself out of anything.  I was just curious could I also talk you into anything?”  His smile grew wider as he stared at her.  The look on her face with a mix of confusion and intrigue.  This was the part of her he loved most, the free spirit, fun loving, adventure seeking, devil may care woman that still kept that fire in her—even though it had been contained for so long.

“That depends,” she whispered.  “What exactly did you have in mind?”

“Follow me,” he grinned.

If it had been anyone, she might have hesitated, worrying that agreeing to something without any details would have been foolish, but with Billy she had no doubt it would be something she’d never forget.  The truth was, she’d follow him anywhere—without so much as a second thought.

 

Private Paradise pt 8

“Morning gorgeous,” He’d been awake for nearly an hour, but it had been easy to stay still and quiet. The restless, anxious energy was gone and in its place was a comfortable peace. He never felt more at home than he did in her arms and having her here, wrapped up in his made him complete in a way he couldn’t quite explain.

“Morning,” she whispered, her eyes barely opened, a sleepy smile playing across her face. “What time is it?”

“A little after 7,” he smiled, basking in the warmth of her skin on his.

“Uhhh..it’s early,” she curled up closer to him, pressing herself tighter against him. “You have some big plans this morning or something? Because I don’t know about you, but I’m good stay right here with you all day.”

Billy sighed as he felt her lips brush against his bare chest. “You know…”. Her fingertips danced up and down his arms, the look in her eyes almost impossible to ignore. “We can do other things together,” he whispered.

She smiled, rolling into his arms, “You’re absolutely right…we can, but why would you want to?”

He wrapped his arms around her as he gently moved to loom over her. HIs lips softly brushed hers once more. “How the hell am I supposed to argue that?”

“You’re not,” she smiled, “You’re supposed to shut up and kiss me.”

~

“I’m pretty sure we can’t even call this brunch anymore,” she grinned as she took backwards steps towards him. She grabbed her hair, holding it up for him to tie her bathing suit top.

She sighed as she felt his warm breath on her neck. “Billy,” she scolded, her tone, good-natured. “We are going to the island. We are. We are on a private island. We’d be crazy to stay holed up in this room all day.”

Billy gently turned her around, his arms wrapped low around her waist. “I’ll take crazy with you in this room over normal and sharing you with the world any day,” he grinned.

“There are white sand beaches, private cabanas, a rum bar…”.

“Private cabanas, huh?” Billy’s eyes lit up.

“Uh huh…with hammocks and beach massages.” She smiled as he grabbed her hand. “Wait a minute,” she giggled as he gently pulled her towards the door. “I’ve got to get my shoes and my bag.”

Phyllis slipped into her shoes, flashing a flirtatious smile at Billy as she completed her look with her sun hat and glasses. “How do I look?” She grinned.

“Like I should watch my back,” he sighed.

She stepped into his arms, and leaned in close. “No one else even comes close,” she whispered.

~

“Come on, you love to take risks…you love to get your blood pumping…what better way?”

“It’s not gonna happen, Billy. I’m not even almost drunk enough. In fact, I don’t know that I could get drunk enough.” She took another sip from her daiquiri. “Though I swear you must have told them to make this triple strength.” She blinked at him with a smile, “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were trying to take advantage of me, Billy Abbott.”

Billy laughed, “I think you need to loosen up. Look at that couple over there. Don’t they look like they’re having fun?”

Phyllis stared. “Actually, I’m almost certain she’s holding his stuff for him while he goes.”

Billy glanced back again. She was right. “Oh well, see…she’s missing out. YOu don’t want to miss out do you? I mean you really want to have to sit and listen to me go on and on about how much fun this was while you sit back and think about holding my phone and sunglasses?”

Her eyes widened. “You’re not seriously going to do this?”

“Why not? I think it’ll be fun. It’s an adventure and life is short. I just wish you’d do it with me. They send two up at a time. I’d be right there with you.”

“Somehow dying together doesn’t sound as romantic framed around plummeted to your death in a parasailing accident. You really need the Shakespeare thing to pull it off.”

Billy laughed. “That’s a little dramatic, don’t you think?”

“Billy,” she whined, “Just don’t, please. Do we really have to take risks right now? Can’t we just enjoy this?”

He sighed. “Of course we can and if you really don’t want me to go parasailing, I won’t. If you want me to stay right here with you all day long, that’s exactly what I’ll do.”

“Now I never said anything about staying here all day…I just thought we might try to find our adventure a little closer to the ground.”

“Really?” He raised his eyebrows. “As fun as that sounds…I’m not sure it’s that kind of beach.”

“You,” she scoffed, jabbing him lightly in the ribs, “Actually,” she reached into her bag, pulling out the brochure, “I was actually thinking about this…”

~

“I have to admit I”m a little surprised you want to go snorkeling.”

“Why? The outfit’s totally hot,” she giggled as she struck a pose in the mask and flippers.

“You’d make anything hot,” he whispered. “No, I just…I didn’t picture you as the type that wanted to spend as much time in the water as you did on the beach.”

“The beaches back home maybe, but have you seen this water?” She waded out a bit, his hand in hers, “look at this….it’s crystal clear. Look at those fish.”

She’s as right. After only wading out into the water a bit, the beautifully colored tropical fish could be clearly seen as they moved through the water. Somehow though, that wasn’t what captured his attention. It was the carefree tone in her voice, the happiness in her eyes, and the smile on her face that had his focus. “I can’t take my eyes off you,” he sighed, “the fish will have to wait.”

He leaned in close to her, pulling her towards him and nudging the mask away from her face. He felt her relax in his embrace before tensing suddenly.

“Ok,” he sighed, pulling away slowly, “I get it and you’re right…we have plenty of time for this later…Let’s..”. He stopped as he saw the look on her face.

“Hey,” he said quickly, “What’s wrong?”

She was still. “I don’t know..that was weird. It was.” Her breath caught and she gripped his arm, her face contorted in pain. “Owwww,” she yelped.

Billy grabbed her, immediately wrapping his arm tight around her and helping her out of the water. A quick glance down at her bare leg confirmed his suspicions. “Yeah, it got you pretty good,” he sighed.

Phyllis breathed heavily. “What got me? What in the hell is that thing?”

“A jellyfish,” Billy grimaced, still looking at her calf. “And judging by this…a pretty big one.” He lifted her up easily, carrying her back to their private cabana and placing her in the hammock. “You stay right here. I’m gonna go get something from the first aid shed.”

~

Phyllis lay back in the hammock, her head resting on Billy’s bare chest.

“Feeling better?” He asked his voice as soothing to her as any lullaby had ever been.

She nodded, turning her head to look into his eyes. “Thank you for always taking care of me. Sometimes I don’t know what I would do without you.”

Billy smiled at her, his lips gently brushing against her forehead. It amazed him sometimes–how she thought that she needed him, when in truth he needed her far more than she’d ever need him. “You’ll never ever have to find out. This is the way it should be…just us…just like this.”

Private Paradise pt 7

The credits rolled across the screen. Billy turned to look at her, surprised to see her staring up at him.

 
“I can see what you mean about that ending. It definitely needs a rewrite.” She smiled at him, one of her smiles she reserved for the very special occasions, the ones that could light up a room.

 
“Well,” he whispered, kissing her lightly, “We’ll have to see what we can do about that.”

He watched entranced as her eyes sparkled and she leaned in closer to him, her lips brushing his ear as she whispered, “I have some ideas.”

She reached down, finding the blanket that lay across their legs. Pulling it up overtop of them, she reached behind her neck, the halter tie of the dress resting between her fingers.

Her smile grew as she felt his hand on top of hers. “I think you’ve had too much champagne,” he whispered. “And as much as I’m gonna kick myself for this later, there are people right over there.” He pointed to a small group of people just outside of the sectioned off area. “Trust me, I want you, but I don’t particularly want to share you.”

Phyllis grinned, “I’d be offended if you weren’t so damn honorable.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever been called that before.”

Just when he thought he loved her as much as he possibly could, he’d see another side of her, another aspect of her personality that was so irresistible to him that he could barely comprehend the reality that she existed. Sitting here with here in public, joking, teasing, flirting—it was something they’d never been able to do. It was fun and simple and easy. It was what they needed, what they craved. Seeing her like this, so free, so open. This was Phyllis, the real Phyllis. This was the Phyllis he’d told his brother about all those months ago. The one that needed to be able to fly.

He couldn’t help but smile at her.

“What’s that smile for?” she asked him, her fingertips still trailing up and down his chest.

“It’s always about you.” The smile he got in return would have brought him to his knees if he’d been standing. “Why don’t we take this somewhere more private,” he managed, afraid if they didn’t relocate he might soon give in to her advances regardless of what kind of audience they might have.

“You room or mine?” she teased.

“Young Phyllis,” he smiled, “Your mind is still deep in the gutter.”

“As if yours isn’t? But I mean we could go bowling or something. I heard the bowling alley is open all night.”

“My room,” Billy said quickly.

“Thought you might change your mind,” she whispered, standing up and blowing him a kiss over her shoulder before walking towards their hall.

Billy stood slack jawed for a moment as he watched her in total and complete awe. This was her. This was who she truly was. He’d seen glimpses of this woman in Genoa City, when she’d been on his motorcycle with him, when they’d spent hours together scheming, but this—to see her like this. It amazed him that his brother had been able to let anything stifle her. If he’d ever seen this in her, to lose it…it should have been unthinkable.

He shook his head as he finally jolted into movement, realizing he’d been standing still for far too long. Ever second he spent thinking was a minute left he had to spend with the woman he loved. There wasn’t a second to waste.

~

“I have to say, this is far more wholesome than I gave you credit for.” Phyllis smiled as Billy wheeled in the cart of fruit and cheese.

“You know, I’m beginning to take offense at this. You think I bring you back here to just have my way with you?”

She smiled, grabbing a few grapes and popping them into her mouth, pausing for a moment to chew. “Kind of.”

Billy huffed. “Actually, I thought we could have a little something to eat and maybe soak in the hot tub. Just relax for a bit.”

“Really? Just relax for a bit…in the hot tub?” She stared at him, her eyes narrowing. “If I were the suspicious type…”

“What?” His voice broke into laughter as he watched her.
“What exactly do you think I’m trying to do here? I planned a very nice evening. I’ve got some food and the room has a hot tub…”

“Okay…Okay…lead the way.”

Billy stepped towards the back, the steam from the hot tub already warming the small room. “See.” He looked back at her, with a satisfied grin, “Doesn’t this look nice and relaxing?”

“It does,” she admitted, stepping closer to the tub and bending down to dip her hand into the water.

Billy stepped up behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her back towards him. He lightly kissed her neck. “And of course, we’ll be naked,” he whispered, grinning as he felt her body shake with a giggle.

“See now that makes more sense,” she smiled. “That’s the Billy Abbott I know and love.”

She said it before she thought about it and it was the natural ease of it that made it so strange and so completely perfect. For a moment she considered not acknowledging it, but the look in his eyes told her she couldn’t do that—not to him, not to them. This wasn’t some slip of the tongue and it wasn’t some turn of phrase. This was truth.

“What did you say?” he asked, almost stunned.

“I said…” she stepped back a moment, the heat of the room and the intensity of his eyes on her making her dizzy.

“I heard what you said.” He held out his arm, steadying her easily. She couldn’t walk away from him, not now, not when he was so close.

“Then why did you ask? Why did you ask me if you heard?”

“I need you to say it again. I need to know you mean it. I need to hear it..”

She could hear the break in his voice, the pure sincerity and knowing how real it was for him, knowing the emotion it brought for him made it all the more real for her. She reached up, placing her hand on his face, her eyes looking into his.

Her own heart beat wildly as she struggled to catch her breath. “I love you.”

Private Paradise pt 6

Billy?”

Phyllis stepped out of the small bathroom, scanning the empty room for any sign of him. “Where’d you go?”

She glanced in the mirror to check her hair. Maybe he’d gone back to his room for something. In the reflection she spotted the white envelope sitting up on her pillow.

Pausing briefly to slip on her heels, she stepped over to her bed, picking up the envelop and opening it. Her lips curved into a slight smile as she read the words.

Phyllis,

I thought it might take you a little more than ten minutes…Didn’t want to rush you. Don’t worry, you’re worth waiting for. Meet me on the main deck.

Love,
Billy

Phyllis sighed, clenching the note to her chest. Billy was a true romantic and always had been. Tonight would surely be no different.

~

Phyllis made her way down to the deck, smiling politely at the few groups of people she passed. She looked out across the deck, suddenly spotting Billy standing in front of a lounger. She walked over to him, watching as his eyes sparkled at her.

“This is an interesting choice,” she whispered, stepping in closer to him. “In fact, I think this area is closed.” She pointed to a sign that noted hours of operation.

Billy still stared at her, his eyes not yet able to leave hers. He’d tried to picture her in the dress when he’d seen it in the small boutique, but his best fantasy was nothing in comparison to the reality. She was a vision.

“Don’t worry about that,” he smiled, “I know a guy.”

She giggled, “Oh? You have connections?”

“You have to when it’s important.” Billy reached out, touching her face, “And this is very important. You want to sit down?”

Phyllis stepped forward, noticing for the first time that there was food and champagne spread out on a buffet in front of them. “You’ve been busy,” she smiled.

He said nothing, simply stepping over to the table and pouring some champagne for her. He handed her a glass. “You haven’t seen anything yet,” he whispered.

She sat down beside him, curling up against him, feeling content in that moment to just be in his arms, to feel safe and loved and valued. She loved the way he made her feel–as if the entire world stopped when she walked into the room. They hadn’t talked much, neither of them needing to say what they felt with words. He said it in the way he held her, the way he gently stroked her back, the way he looked at her, really looked at her, as if she was the most important thing in his life.

There had been times in the last few months where he’d wondered if he was alone in this. If perhaps the words he’d spoken to her in her office months ago had been true–maybe this was more real for him than it was for her. She’d pushed him away, insisting they were a mistake, insisting their relationship was a mistake, claiming she didn’t love him, that she didn’t want him. And then there were moments like this.

Moments when he heard and felt her sigh in his embrace–that simple action showed him she was at peace in his arms. She looked at him, her eyes so full of trust, of hope, and most importantly of love. She could say all the hateful things she wanted. She could push him away a million times, but just one of those looks, just one of those sighs, and he was hers again…hopelessly.

“Don’t you want to know why I brought you here?” Billy whispered the words in her ear, the smell of her hair making him linger there a little longer than necessary.

She pulled away, smiling at him. “This isn’t why?” Phyllis snuggled closer to him again closing her eyes as she felt his lips press against her forehead. “This would have been enough.”

“Why don’t you take a look up there?” Billy pointed to the giant screen, watching her face as the movie began to play.

“You didn’t?” She turned, staring at him with wide eyes. “How did you manage?”

“I wanted us to have some time to just be together. We don’t have to talk about us. We don’t have to decide how we’ll live our life. Right now we just enjoy being together…we remember what it was like to live in the fantasy, to just be in each other’s arms. What better way to do that than to go back to Neverland…back to where it all started.”

She felt the tears building behind her eyes, but she refused to let them fall. “Billy Abbott, you never cease to amaze me,” she whispered. She leaned in, eagerly accepting his kiss and allowing her forehead to rest against his for a moment.

“I hope I never do,” he smiled.

“You still think we can rewrite that ending? You think happily ever after is possible?” She looked at him, her eyes hopeful.

“With you?” He kissed her again. “That’s what I’m counting on.”

Private Paradise pt 5

She leaned back against the shower wall, the steam relaxing her neck and shoulders. The streams of water that poured down her face made it difficult to tell if her tears still fell–she simply knew her heart was still breaking.

Billy was exactly what she wanted, that had never been the question, but she wasn’t good for him. She destroyed his life and no matter how much he claimed she had been worth it, she still saw the pain in his face every time his family rejected him.

She wanted him to be happy even more than she wanted him. That’s how she knew, for sure, that she loved him.

The water slowed to a stop as she leaned forward and turned off the faucet. The warm robe was nothing compared to the warmth of his embrace, but it would have to do. She had to learn to live without him. She was strong and capable. She’d never needed a man before but God did she need him.

She crawled into bed, pulling the covers up tight around her. Sleep should be a refuge, and for most people it was. For her, it was an entrance into he dreams and fantasies that could never be reality. She’d dream of their wedding, of their home together, of the holidays they’d spend in. Aspen, in Paris, and more importantly in each other’s arms.

She felt the tears begin to stream down her face again as she clenched her eyes shut tight.

~

Billy waited by the small stand, shifting his weight from foot to foot, his nerves getting the better of him. He looked up as he heard footsteps approaching.

“Good evening, Mr. Abbott.”

Billy shook his hand. “I’m sorry to bother you so late”.

The man smiled politely. “It’s quite alright. That’s what the job’s about. They call it guest relations for a reason, right?”

“Well, yeah I suppose they do, but my request is going to seem a bit unconventional.”

“I doubt that,” the man scoffed. “I’ve had my fair share of strange requests.”

Billy smiled. “Well…”. He gestured to the large screen behind him. “I’m assuming that’s used for the family movie nights, right?”

“That’s right,” the man said, his face a bit confused.

“What time do those movies end and what time does the area close to the ship’s guests?”

“We started the last movie tonight at 8,” he replied. “The area closed at 10.”

Billy nodded. “I’m gonna need to rent that screen and this area tonight if possible..all night if I can get it. Money isn’t an issue…just give me a price.”

“Mr Abbott,” the man protested, “The thing is the movie content is controlled by our corporate office. We have no control over the content that plays. We can’t change what’s going to play or show on a given night and day.”

Billy pointed to the screen. “But that’s what’s playing now, right? That’s what would play tonight?”

The man looked up, checking the screen. “Yeah, it is.”

Billy sighed. “That’s absolutely perfect.”

~

Phyllis sat up, the knock on the door startling her. Room service was scheduled for the morning and it was far too late for the ship attendants to be making complimentary rounds.

She got out of bed, softly padding to the door. “Yes,” she said softly, leaning close to the door’s opening and waiting to hear the response.

“Phyllis, can you open the door?”

She stopped breathing, her hand frozen on the door handle. She wanted to let him in. She wanted to tell him that nothing else mattered–nothing except how much she wanted him, how much she needed him, how much she loved him.

“Phyllis,” he implored, “Just open the door, I just want to talk to you.”

She sighed, pulling open the door, her eyes widening as she looked at him. He wore a classic black suit but left off the tie, making him seem just casual enough to be comfortable. In his hand he held a garment bag, which he held out to her.

She smiled, taking the bag from his hands. “What’s this?”

“I know you said you wanted to go back to your room, but I saw something tonight…something that made me believe there’s something really special here…something that’s meant to happen between us.”

Phyllis looked at him, the sincerity in his voice rendering her speechless.

“Just look in the bag,” he smiled. “I think you’ll like the dress.”

She slowly unzipped the bag, revealing the sleeveless emerald green gown with a low back.

“It matches your eyes,” he whispered, “Do you like it?”

“Yes, thank you. I love it, it’s beautiful.”

“So are you,” he said softly. He smiled at her gain before continuing. “So tell me, you think you can put that on and come down to the deck with me?”

“Billy…I…”.

“Come on, Phyllis…it’s just us here. We can be anything we want to be. We don’t have to live up to the talk or the rumors or the hype as long as we’re here. We’re just Billy and Phyllis.”

Her mind flashed back to a day not too long ago, a time when she’d been wrapped up in his arms listening to his calm, sweet voice lull her into security.

“Two strangers? Two different worlds?” She asked, her eyes sparkling hopefully.

He reached for her hand, bringing it to his lips and kissing it softly. “Come with me tonight and I promise you won’t regret it.”

Phyllis picked up the dress with a slight smile. She leaned in quickly, allowing her lips to brush against his cheek. “Give me ten minutes.”

Private Paradise pt 3

Billy made his way across the deck, weaving through the small crowds of people, grabbing on to the backs of lounge chairs for support. This is the public service announcement you should give about drinking, he thought. It’s impossible to track down a women when you can barely stand upright. He glanced up at the balconies, all of them now empty, his eyes searching for any sign of the woman he’d seen–the one he was almost certain was Phyllis.

He made it to the corridor, his body pressed against the wall. After struggling with his keycard for a moment, he opened the door, heading straight to his own balcony and stepping out. Looking down, he could see the bar. The vantage point was right. The voice he’d heard earlier…was it even possible?

“I must be really losing it,” he whispered aloud as he let his body relax into the empty chair. He stared out over the ocean. The night sky seemed to fade into he dark ocean waves and he tried to lose himself in the tranquility of it all. There was only one problem, his mind was otherwise occupied–as it always was–with thoughts of her. The bar below them looked almost empty now, the small groups of teenagers slowly drifting away and only a few stragglers remaining. He watched a few couples swaying in time to the rocking of the ship. What he wouldn’t give to be with her like that, to have her pressed up against him, her arms wrapped around him, her head resting on his shoulder.

Instead he sat here alone, imagining crazy scenarios in which the two of them separately booked the same cruise at the same time and ended up mere feet away from each other. It was crazy and intellectually he knew that. In his heart though, he didn’t want to believe it. He wanted to believe crazy could happen. He needed to believe it. He needed to believe in the fantasy. That was what they were. That was what they did. It had been crazy, but it had also been wonderful and no matter what anyone said, it had also been real.

~

Phyllis slowly walked to the bar, her eyes scanning the people there. She looked for the man she’d seen from the balcony. In her mind, she knew it couldn’t be him. It would be an impossible coincidence, but somehow until she knew…until she laid eyes on the person and saw it–she still had this nagging hope.

The bartender smiled at her as she wandered by. He held out the bottle of tequila in his hand. She nodded and took a seat. She stared at the shot glass in front of her. This might help her forget for tonight, but she’d still remember him in the morning.

“I really shouldn’t.” Phyllis leaned back a little, her body feeling heavier, her bones limber and soft. By the third shot, the tequila had stopped burning her throat on the way down. If only the pain in her heart was as easy to numb.

The man sat close to her, close enough for her to smell the oil he’d slathered himself with. She’d seen him sitting by the deck pool when she’d approached the bar and he’d quickly joined her, picking up her tag and happily encouraging her to continue matching him shot for shot.

“Aww..come on. You don’t want to leave yet. Shots are on me.” He smiled at her, his eyes roving over her bare shoulders. Her ring sparkled under the moonlight. “Your husband must be plenty confident.”

Phyllis glanced down at her hand, the thought of another shot suddenly more appealing. “Oh,” she sighed. “Right.”

“I just mean, letting a woman that looks like you come to a bar alone…it’s not exactly the best way to ensure she comes home.”

“I’m divorced actually.” She saw his eyes light up. “But I’m not looking for anything here. I just came down here to get a drink. That’s all.”

She felt his body slide closer to hers as she saw the smile on his face grow. “Sometimes the best things in your happen are found when you aren’t looking for them.” He leaned in closer, his mouth just inches from her ear. “How about we take this party somewhere a little more private?”

“No…I can’t,” she whispered, leaning away from him. “I’m actually seeing someone.” She looked up at him, relieved to see him back off.

He held up his hands. “I hear ya,” he said, putting some space between them. “I’ll say it again–I’ve got a lot of respect for any guy confident enough to send you out alone.”

“So do I.”

She saw him turn too, a sure sign she hadn’t imagined the voice. Her body turned slowly, the tequila causing the room to spin a bit as she swiveled on the stool to face him.

“Billy,” she whispered, “What are you doing here?”

The man beside her eyed him suspiciously, then turned back to look at her. “You know this guy?”

Billy stepped closer, his hand resting on the small of her back. “Yeah she does.” His voice was calm but his face showed his seriousness. “Does she know you?”

“We uh…we’ve been getting acquainted this evening,” he smiled, his eyes looking back and forth between them.

Billy turned back to look at Phyllis. “Really?”

“I was just having a few drinks. He was here at the bar. I was just telling him that I wasn’t looking to meet anyone.”

Billy nodded. “Well, then, I guess you were probably getting ready to leave then, right?”

She shifted his hand a little, his fingertips dancing up and down her spine.

“Yeah,” she whispered. She nodded as she carefully stood to her feet, the feel of his warm hand on her back steadying her while simultaneously making her weak. She smiled slightly at the man at the bar as she walked slowly beside Billy.

“Where are we going?” She said softly as he led her away from the bar.

He looked down at her. “You’ll see.”